The heat is unrelenting. Contents of the old brainpan seem to boil. Keeping dry and crisp is possible only for the few minutes after a morning shower. Tokyo is an adventure in survival amid air rigorously polluted and super-heated in Hades. Summer is testing, friends, mighty testing.
There are fun things to do, however. And August is one of those times when there are slightly fewer people around to get in the way.
The Moat Swim—The idea is for a noon start—probably a Friday—at the intersection in Hibiya where the big road going toward Ginza intersects with Hibiya Dori. No dilly-dallying at the start (stretching, adjusting goggles or posing). The police in the station across the street occasionally look out their windows.
Get out of the car, jump in and go like hell toward the AIU (AIG) building about a kilometer straight ahead. The designated driver proceeds to the Palace Hotel with the dry clothing.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT dive deep. The moat is anywhere between four and seven feet deep along there, but that depends on what you consider the “bottom” to be. Several centuries of rotting vegetation, duck goo and Imperial Swan Droppings have resulted in a fluffy, futon-like composition down there, and if disturbed, the odor is one which will stop conversation when you enter a room even after months of dedicated bathing.
Take a hard left when you reach the AIU building and swim the final 30 meters to the rear entrance of the hotel. Push the turtles off the rocks just under the surface and climb out. At this point, you might turn and briefly acknowledge the gathered crowd—there’ll be a couple helicopters (TV news), a dozen arm-waving policemen on bicycles (most from the police box along the street) and about 100,000 fellow city-in-the-summer slaves cheering madly.
Dash into the hotel to change. Sensible people will have reserved a room for showers, etc. Others should zoom up the escalators to the toilets on the mezzanine level for a less-satisfactory wash-up at the basins. In either event, it makes the afternoon go faster and gives a lot of people something to talk about when they get home that night.
The Hot-Enough-to-Fry-an-Egg-on-the-Sidewalk Gambit—I’ve always thought this is most impressive in the new building area in Shiroyama, down the hill behind the Okura Hotel—close lo the new Kamayacho Station, if possible. Again, Fridays seem like good days for this kind of thing, but, of course, it has to be a particularly hot Friday.
Now, when you think about it, no sidewalk on this planet ever gets hot enough (yet) to fry an egg, but people don’t always think about it. The thing to do, then, is to fry up several eggs at home and bring them and several strips of fried bacon wrapped carefully in aluminum foil to the office with you.
Go out to the sidewalk at noon, spread out the foil, drop a pat of butter on the eggs, position the bacon, then begin fooling around with the spatula. The first people on the scene might notice that the eggs were already cooked, but the thousands who join the group within minutes won’t know that. A nice touch is lightly toasted bread on its own foil.
When the moment is right, make a sandwich and eat it. An “atsui, desu ne” will make certain everyone is on the same wavelength. (And there’ll be more things to talk about at home that evening.)
Going to the Beach on the Yamanote Line—The more astute among you may know that the circle line does not go to any beach. Correct. It’s one of the nice things about it. (Beaches in Japan are hot, gray, sooty, polluted and crowded during “the season” beyond civil decency.)
No, the trip to the beach is IN the train—as it goes ’round and ’round. Pick a car, the best ones are near the center since most JR exits are at the ends of the trains, and spread out. It will take perhaps one loop for everyone else to clear out, but eventually there’ll be plenty of room for boom-boxes, blankets on the seats, coolers for drinks and just laying back in moderately air-conditioned comfort. Nothing radical, mind you; just normal beach-wear and lots of laughs. Oh boy.
The Mt. Fuji Fifth-Station Quest, complete with wetsuits, flippers and huge fish on a string, will be covered in a future column, along with the Shibuya Snowball Fight There’s only so much space. And time.