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Dead umbrella day / 23 April 2011

Rain. I wake to a tremendous storm of rain and peer out of the window. I can only just make out the river through the vast quantity of water that falls through the air. Sumida is flat and black; the usual reflections battered away by the sheer force of the rain. I had hoped we would visit Tsukiji Fish Market today, but this does not look promising.

However, as soon as the rain eases a little we wrap ourselves in waterproof gear and set out. Before we are anywhere near Tsukiji the rain increases again and the wind picks up. The wind gathers in my rain gear and blows me along like a kite. I do feel a little anxious on the bridge, but all this weather is exhilarating and we laugh our way to the market.

The site is almost invisible through the rain, and the traders have nearly all gone. I'm sure they've packed up early, but then the rain has also made us late. There are masses of stalls selling all sorts, mainly food, and I want to look around.

The wind is so blustery and everything is wet. Stalls are closing up since there are hardly any customers, SP has had no breakfast and we decide to shelter a while and have brunch. We seek entry to a tiny shop with a counter and one table; the owner makes no objection to having most of his space filled by a wheelchair and we order food. We peal off layers of wetness, and settle to drink green tea while we wait.

We have sashimi, of course, on a bowl of rice, served with wasabi and soy-sauce. I have eel and as usual the food is fantastic. We watch the rain while we eat and decide to go on to Shinjuku, where the weather might be different and there will be more shelter. We take the metro to Roppongi, where we need to take an elevator up to street level and find the right elevator to take us back down to the Oedo line.

Sp worries about the inconvenience, but I'm just elated about the freedom to move around; how very different to my life in England.

Shinjuku has the same rain and we head for "Tokyo Hands" a kind of.Hobby-Craft, B&Q, and Ikea rolled into one. In the same building is Takashimaya, selling traditional Japanese Kimono, with all the accessories, as well as fabric and yarn. I want this store.

Several hours later we emerge; the weather is unchanged, but now it is dark. Even with power-saving Tokyo still gets lit up in a modest fashion and the lights sparkle in all the wetness. There are dead umbrellas everywhere; the wind plays with them.

Slender black limbs
ragged and bent;
twisted and tortured
to incredible shapes;
they lie in the shelter
of a wall, until the
wind catches them again;
rips at their wings like
dead butterflies, grabs
at their clear membranes
and drags them away
to a new resting place.

Identical before the storm,
they are now, each one, unique
except for the J they still have in
common: their white plastic handle.

The streets are packed and its fun to be part of the Tokyo that one sees on film; there is so much life and atmosphere. In spite of the weather, people look fantastic and a little crazy. This is where new fashions are born.

Eventually we find Shinjuku-sanchome station and take the metro to Kasumigaseki where I ride an elevator set up for wheelchairs,in order to change back onto the Hibiya line and the metro home.

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