Greetings from land of giant golden turd

Greetings from land of giant golden turd.

In the timescale of a little more than my life, Japan has transformed itself from our most abominable World War II enemy, as it was when I first remember hearing about it. Next it became our most honorable trading partner, taking our rocks and selling them back to us as toys and Toyotas. Then when China surpassed it buying rocks, it went back to being what it has been to the west for centuries- an enigma.

What else but an enigma would allow an object like this to sit on the top of a prominent city building, one that is only a short distance from Tokyo skyline’s latest greatest pride, the world’s current highest tower, the Tokyo Skytree.

This post-digestion shaped object was placed in 1989 as a sculpture on the Asahi brewery headquarters, and claimed to represent the foam on a beer glass. It has become known locally as kin no unko, or ”golden turd.” Designed by French sculptor Phillipe Starck, it is a tangible lesson in why one should never let the French get their hands on one’s skyline. Or is it a lesson in never allowing a sculptor to design beer froth when he comes from a country that mostly drinks wine?

The Japanese to us have a strange attitude to bodily emissions, they tend to regard public sneezing as more abominable than waste from the other end, perhaps explaining their acceptance of the sculpture. But there are other strange anomalies regarding excrement: for example the sign in the toilet of the Shinkansen, their very fast train- “Please do not put anything in the toilet bowl except paper.” Hmmm? I can only conclude this means the Japanese are not merely anal retentive- they must be re-absorbative!

Then there is the Japanese toilet. I don’t mean the traditional ones you come across in some places that are a bit like the squatters in other Asian countries. No, I mean the ones with electrically warmed seats that will squirt a jet of soothing body temperature water, accurately aimed at the orifice of your choice. Then it will gently direct a waft of warm  air onto those washed bits to dry them. It could be said the Japanese have automated the toilet blow job.

I have gone on too long about the final centimetres of the Japanese alimentary canal, but as any gourmet (or viewer of Iron Chef) will know, the possibilities that can be chopsticked into that canal’s beginning, such as deep fried jellyfish, are far more diverse than anything coming out the nether end. Most peculiar are the Tokyo restaurants specialising in the delights of the deadly puffer fish or fugo. It requires specially trained chefs and presumably a very good public liability insurance, all for an exercise that seems little more than gastronomic Russian roulette.

Our alimentary extravaganza was more conservative, (and more expensive) consisting of a traditional banquet in our Tokyo ryokan at $200 for the pair of us- our most extravagant meal of the trip. There were dozens of different elegantly presented dishes, many containing those staples of Japanese cuisine: shellfish, crustaceans and mushrooms. Unfortunately Jill hates shellfish, crustaceans and mushrooms. She hates them as much as I love them, so the banquet was a very lopsided affair, as were the indentations in our futons when we finally got to bed.As for the enigma, what other country would market cigarettes branded “Peace” and ”Hope”- short for ”rest in Peace” perhaps or ”I Hope this one won’t give me cancer?”
To enlarge, click on first photo and then on arrows to move them.

Apologies to any readers of this blog for the time it has taken to prepare this entry. Now that I have taken redundancy and have as much time as I want to do such things, I find I am not doing them.

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