I prefer to limit constraints on my behavior with too many rules. Therefore, I operate under a general set of guiding principles which can be altered if circumstances require a quick adjustment. There is one that has remained constant, has required no alterations or revisions, has never failed and is a prime candidate for stone etching. When the Offspring have had a particularly long stretch of good behavior, I seize upon this lecture dry spell, hoist myself upon the kitchen table clad in my Socrates costume and shout:
I `m not interested in your career or that of your husband`s, the hideaway location of your lake house, little secrets such as both your lips and boobs are a double D, or if Wills and Kate serve tea themselves or have a butler do it- I only want friends who entertain me.
If you`re fun, we`ll get along fine.
If you`re funny- bonus.
Otherwise, I don`t care.
My entertainment value, on the other hand, is highly variable and not suitable for most audiences.
So when the Social Chairman (the friend always cooking up fun things to do) and a new friend to this post- Famous Funny Author (Author of the hilarious book-“Getting Genki in Japan: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Family in Japan”) invited me on a guided bike tour of Tokyo`s cultural highlights led by locals I gladly hitched a ride. The promise of a stop at one of the local sumo stables (Practice rings) ensured that I kicked or punched all kids off their bikes as I peddled toward the front spot in the line of bikes.
The Social Chairman brought rubber bands for her pants. Didn`t people stop worrying about pants getting caught in the chain when bell bottoms went out of style? The guide was so embarrassed she provided something Lance Armstrongish for the pants.
Being a responsible biking company, we were required to wear helmets. These performed several duties- protected our heads and advertised our status as tourists since we were the only 8 bikers out of 6 million that day wearing one. They also alerted traffic to our novice status thus an additional 15 feet was allocated by taxis and buses on all sides. We could fall off a curb or run in to the biker in front of us at any moment causing either a front or sideways mass collision domino style. I had a cow bell on my bike for added safety. The incessant bonging warned pedestrians of my impending arrival. Unfortunately for the elderly man in the pin stripe suit, the 14-year-old in our group did not have a cow bell on his bike and was therefore not forewarned to the youngster baring down on his backside. Alas, he was rear ended. The Social Chairman and I had a rare opportunity to snicker behind our hands since neither of our Offspring had caused the ruckus.
Even these kids identified us as outsiders greeting us with choruses of “Herro” and “Nice to meet you.”
Our first stop was Nihonbashi- Japan Bridge. Several roads intersect at this bridge and walking each will lead to one of the major cities in Japan. The center marker is the starting point for mileage and has been since 1603.
“Kilometer 0” Marker. For some reason we didn`t see it so I had to borrow from Wikipedia. We were still early in the tour and full of vigor. Later a chance to stare blankly, while not peddling, at a plaque, or lie down on it, would have been welcomed.
From there we cycled through the area of town housing the Sumo stables. Watching a sumo practice at a stable is a difficult accomplishment due to the strict rules around behavior of the guests. After our group roared through the district accosting the young sumo I feel certain the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour will be forever banned from the area.
“Ahhh- young grasshoppers. A lesson in experience versus strength. I`ve got much experience hanging on to screaming, squirming, slimy, stinking urchins who, like you, tried in vain to escape my vice like grip. Be patient. You too will learn the ways of the Ouisar san.”
They were not allowed to go in peace. The Social Chairman wanted pictures.
If I don`t leave the ramen noodles alone I`ll be able to join a sumo stable.
We tried to harass the big guys at the Sumo stadium. Nothing but a two foot fence separated us from Los Jeffes Grandes. A minor hurdle followed by a quick sprint toward the wrestlers with both cameras firing could get a few good shots before they collapsed quaking in fear at the helmeted middle-aged woman shuffling hurriedly their way. Could the Funny Famous Author block the policeman watching before he drew on his inner Ninja and threw a billy club into my feet thereby ending my quest for blog pictures in a tumble followed by a collapse of glory- cameras still blazing? The next vision stopped my paparazzi impersonation cold. I saw myself hollering instructions from the paddywagon to the Social Chairman as it sped off, “Tell the kids there`s pasta in the cabinet. Call Andretti-san – tell him to impersonate Spouse and spring me from jail. Don`t tell Spouse I`m in the clink! Tell him I went on a last-minute
Hangover III vacation girls weekend to Hong Kong.”
From there to the latest addition to Tokyo`s skyline- the Tokyo Skytree. This giant antenna is the second tallest building in the world at 2,080 feet and the latest craze about town. Impossible to get tickets.
Yawn. Stretch. Scratch.
It was built because the old one- the Tokyo Tower- at half that height- is now blocked by too many buildings and suffers the same fate as the rest of us. Not enough bars to send and receive a message.
Killing three birds with one stone, I took this picture of the famous Asahi brewing company`s headquarters with the Sky tree in the background. The gold building is supposed to look like a beer mug with froth at the top. The other- well- yea-you can eat in it.
On to Asakusa- home to the oldest shrine in Tokyo.
Famous Funny Author and I were most entertained when the Social Chairman spotted two Maiko. (apprentice Geisha) She pounced- snapping pictures of the two maiko as they took pictures of each other. Odd. These two maiko looked like they`d been in a cat fight. One`s make up looked whitewashed with some skin peeking through and her hair was just slightly off-center. The other one tripped over every crack as she lunged and swayed toward the pagoda.
“Fakes!” pronounced the guide, “too clumsy.”
The Social Chairman was now jogging backwards in front of the faux maiko taking pictures and smiling like a Cheshire cat. She figured it out when she saw us laughing. Now that`s what friendship is all about right there.
Laughing at, not with, friends.
Don`t feel sorry for her. She let me ride through Tokyo flashing posterior cleavage. It`s the only cleavage I have, so best to shake what my mama gave me. I am somewhat concerned about numbness to exposure preventing me from noticing. Must be the insulating effect of the fat.
The guides stopped at a department store basement where we selected whatever looked good for a picnic lunch. One item that was recommended to our new friends the “Hermosa Beach Hotties” was chicken yakitori.
A safe choice and one which most people find preferable to the other Japanese menu items. Funny Famous Author pointed out the various options, “Beef, Chicken, Chicken hearts, chicken livers, chicken skin, and plain chicken.” Most Americans gasp in disgust. Not the Southerners. We know the offering isn`t complete without gizzards. Rumors abound that chicken “unmentionables” are also served on the yakitori stick but I`ve yet to see it. When I do, I`ll offer it to an unsuspecting visitor. Don`t worry, I`ll take pictures.
No one picked this.
Next we visited Tokyo University- the Harvard of Japan. One of our guides just graduated from TU and will be moving to the US for graduate school. Kids go to private “Cram High Schools” in order to pass the entrance exam for TU. Instead of taking pictures of the historical school, I took several of this tree with a few brilliant students sitting underneath.
We ended at the Imperial Palace where several rules were broken by our group. SC walked on the gravel, one of the Hermosa Beach Hotties stood on the curb, Funny Famous Author parked her bike in the “no parking zone” and our guides allowed our pictures to be taken with a sign “advertising” their company.
We rode 40km. We completed 9 hours of biking. We only burned 200 calories. We stopped to eat 6 times. We saw many cultural highlights and picked up a few new facts. We laughed. We have new Facebook friends. We met a group who like to see a place from the inside. We briefed our new friend Mitch on what to expect in America. (Next blog post) We will do this again- here and every new city we visit. We know we`ll find entertaining people from all over the world.
Please check out “Getting Genki in Japan” by our own Funny Famous Author, Karen Pond.
Tokyo Great Cycling Tour– Read about them Here