Monday, June 11, 2012

Pulled From The Pages: Old Town = Granny Underwear

June 7th

Another weekend with nothing to do. Sometimes Japan felt exactly like home. I kicked at the couch leg.  “I’m bored. Take me some place new and exciting.”

Midori rolled her eyes. “Why must I always entertain you? I’m not your personal tour guide.”

In spite of her attitude that’s exactly what she’d become. “Come on. You enjoy showing me around your hometown.”

“Fine. How about I take you to Sugamo.”

“Haven’t heard of the place. What’s exciting to do there?”

She gave me a mischievous smile. “It’s kind of like Harajuku. Great place for your favorite pastimepeople watching.”

I’d known Midori long enough to recognize that smile meant trouble. But a little trouble was just what I needed on a boring Saturday. “Okay. I’m game.”

 We hopped the train and headed for Sugamo. I brought my camera in the hopes of seeing some crazy outfits like the ones the girls wore in Harajuku.  But as soon as I stepped off the train I knew something was up. I faced a sea of gray haired old people.  “Midori, you sure we got off on the right stop?”

There went that crooked smile again. “Oh yes. This is the place. They call it Harajuku for grandmothers.”
I could see why as we pushed our way through a mass of little old ladies and men chattering away and shopping until they dropped. Maybe Sugamo really was Harajuku for grannies. Midori led me down a labyrinth of streets until we hit a large series of markets.

We stopped in front of a lingerie store. I pointed to the old lady underwear dangling like mobiles from the ceiling. “Why are all the panties red?”

She chuckled. “Old people believe they keep them warm and promote good health.” 

 “I knew the Japanese were superstitious but that seems nutty.”

Midori nodded. “I know, but we must respect our grandparents.”

I pointed to a line of women headed toward the local temple. “What’s the big attraction?”

“They are going to Kogan-ji  to heal themselves by bathing the goddess of mercy.”

 “Let me guess. They wash the part of the statue where they have pain.”

“Very good. You are learning Japanese ways.”

I stopped in front of a familiar sign. “Yes I amand I know what this sign means. They have Love Hotels here? Most of the people look like they’re in their 80’s. I can't imagine them fooling around.”       

Midori gave me that smile again. “Remember, the red underwear gives them health.”

I chuckled. “Maybe I should pick up a pair.”