Yesterday I had what I believe was the very strangest moment of my whole entire life. As those of you who have read my memoir know, that is saying a lot.

It all began when we went to Asakusa in the hope of finding traditional Japanese handicrafts, or something like that. But when we exited the subway station, we were surprised to see huge crowds crowding along the road, with police keeping order. Clearly, a parade was about to begin.

I asked the police what was going on, but as has been my all-too-common experience lately, I knew enough Japanese to ask the question, but not enough to understand the answer. I tried asking, "Is it a festival?" The word I used for festival, "matsuri" does mean literally that, but generally means "Traditional Japanese festival," like the one where they parade a giant wooden penis down the streets, or the one which the guidebook mentioned without explanation as "the bean-throwing festival."

"Yes, a matsuri," replied the cop.

"Which matsuri?" I asked.

The cop said what I thought was "sanban"-- "number three." "The third festival?" I repeated bewilderedly.

Stephanie rescued me. "Samba," she explained.

Indeed, we were just in time for the Japanese samba festival!


We could not see the samba dancers through the crowd, so we wandered off, and then saw some warming up in an alley, and photographed them. Later, we were in the front row as the same group danced down the main touristy knick-knack shop row. Then we saw them again parading down the street-- the same ones.

Japan has many samba dancers. Some of them have a gigantic tiger float with half-naked samba girls on a swing on top.

After we extricated ourselves from the Samba Festival, we headed out to meet [livejournal.com profile] m00nface and her friends for a dinner at an izakaya in Shinjuku. We got on the train at Ueno, Shinjuku bound. It is incredibly hot and humid, and I was pressed between two hot sweaty men in my seat. Stephanie was standing in front of me. I took no notice of the en, as they were utterly ordinary. But the girl in front of me had an amusing shirt, so I took out my notebook and wrote down what it said:

Happily
Sport of the USA
Camp in Summer
Green
It flies Apart
Indefinitely


When I finished writing, Stephanie snatched pen and book from me, wrote me a note, and handed it back. Her note read:

The guy next to you keeps kissing the pole.

One of the men beside me, indeed, had his face pressed to the pole. But his lips weren't touching it, and he seemed merely to be cooling his face against the steel. As I watched, he sat back up. He seemed perfectly normal: youngish, a bit geeky but not bizarrely so, with a camera bag. I decided that Stephanie was insane. Mad from the heat. It happens.

But about ten minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man move forward. I turned my gaze just in time to see him lean forward and quickly kiss the pole.

Yes.

I could hardly contain myself. I could not meet Stephanie's eyes. Wild with suppressed laughter, I tried not to visibly stare at Train Man. He then got up and moved a bit off to the side, in front of two schoolgirls in sailor suits. Then he looked around, rather furtively. When he was sure no one was looking (but we and the schoolgirls definitely were) he kissed the pole. A different pole. A long, loving, passionate, unmistakable kiss.

The schoolgirls clutched each other in terror and fits of giggles. Train Man reached into his camera bag. What would he pull out?! A gun? A knife? A model train? A tube of lube?

What he removed was the last thing I expected: a white handkerchief, or perhaps a Kleenex. With it, he carefully, slolwy, lingeringly, wiped down the pole, pausing once to scrape off a bit of something.

By then everyone was openly staring. Train Man hastily sat back down. Just then the train pulled into Shinjuku. "Damn," I muttered. "We have to get off here." We'd miss the end of the drama.

As the train stopped, Train Man, without even bothering with the furtive bit, gave the pole one final farewell kiss. Then he hopped off the train. Stephanie and I met eyes with the schoolgirls, and we exchanged the international gesture for "Oh my God, I can't believe that just happened, the world is full of freaks!"

Actually, that was not the end of the day's oddness, but I will have to write up the rest later. Except for one thing, because it's short: when we were returning to the hotel, we passed a group of teenagers. The girls all wore Mickey Mouse ears with tiaras, and one of the boys wore pink fluffy kitten ears.

From: [identity profile] incandescens.livejournal.com


That is just . . . strange.

(I also now have the image of Ichimaru Gin, Samba Captain of the Gotei 13.)

From: [identity profile] lnhammer.livejournal.com


Me, I keep thinking of the "canary festival" version of Rei from Maria-sama ga Miteru.

---L.

From: [identity profile] minnow1212.livejournal.com


ah, the sweet love of a man for his pole.

From: [identity profile] wintersweet.livejournal.com


heehee! I'm always amused by the samba thing, and as for the pole, the presence of the schoolgirls really made that anecdote!

Don't forget the ever-awesome Matsuken Samba, performed by people in wigs and sequin-covered kimono: http://youtube.com/watch?v=_trV0pv24ZQ&mode=related&search=
(instructional video...)

From: [identity profile] dsgood.livejournal.com


Certainly qualifies as a strange day.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter


I have been cracking up at your and Stephanie's reports! Also, I am jealous of your $125 Harajuku outfit!

In conclusion: pole kissing! It's the new thing.

From: [identity profile] joemorf.livejournal.com


This post kicks the ass of every post I wrote from Japan with one arm tied behind its back!

~j

From: [identity profile] klwilliams.livejournal.com


I can't wait to see your samba festival pictures. And why do I never see pole kissers when I travel? (I suppose that's a good thing, all in all.)

From: (Anonymous)


ew, ew, ew, ew, ew

And yet oddly.... pleasingly weird.
ext_3152: Cartoon face of badgerbag with her tongue sticking out and little lines of excitedness radiating. (Default)

From: [identity profile] badgerbag.livejournal.com


ew, ew, ew, ew, ew

And yet oddly.... pleasingly weird.
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com


I wonder if possibly you dreamed it all?
.

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