This week, I have mostly been watching films, particularly old black and white ones that I don`t understand. Most of my life is spent not understanding, it`s normal, but even I was shocked at how little I understand of this film below – and it doesn`t even have words for me not to understand.
Today was meant to be another black and white day. It started well, with a visit to Mori, a tea shop in NishiOgikubo, where I ordered a pot of tea and a pound cake – the true meaning of treat.
The lady in Mori has a small problem, she hasn`t had any cream delivered since the March 11th disaster. The tsunami washed away cattle and rendered many farms unworkable. Fortunately this is Japan, not the UK; the absence of cream is an inconvenience not a nationwide crisis.
The film I planned to watch was Onibaba, a black and white 1960`s erotic horror. I tried to watch it on Channel 4 a few years ago but the opening credits scared me so much I switched the TV off and ran upstairs to bed.
This week I read Onibaba was showing at Shinjuku`s Teatoru Cinema. If I stumped up my own cash and had strangers nearby to hold my hand I`d surely be able to bear the horror and eroticism.
Onibaba roughly translates as old witch, so effectively, I asked the pretty girl at the cinema desk for one for the old witch. She looked shocked and confused. I`m used to this reaction, so I tried again. “We have no such film”, she said.
I`d got the wrong month. I ended up watching Yuya Ishii`s, Azemichi no Dandy, a film about a widower who fears he has stomach cancer. Stomach cancer is a big killer in Japan, the disease killed his young wife. Despite the gloomy sounding theme, the film was light and amusing. The main character, Miyata, a delivery worker on yasugekkyu (low salary), was grumpy and cynical enough to be familiar and funny.
Miyata doesn`t talk much, he`s described by his best friend as karaminikui (difficult to engage with). His innocent eccentricities reveal his character, commentating on himself cycling between the rice fields “izen to shite kohyo ( lightning fast as ever )”, dancing alone in his room, drowning all his unspoken frustrations with first beer and then tears while verbally abusing his best friend at every opportunity.
Miyata finishes the film as a Japanese dandy, a cool and polished father figure who doesn`t yowami wo misenai (show weakness in front of his children).
I left the dark theatre to walk past the Kabukicho red light district where it always seems everybody is having fun except me. Shamefully consoling myself with the thought they`ll all get stomach cancer if they carry on like that, I headed home on the orange train.
I strolled back to my guesthouse in flip-flops, even at 10pm it`s still hot. Popping into the 100yen Lawson conbini for a beer-substitute sugar snack, I found of all things, a fluffy white cream crepe. Praise the Lord, Japanese cow udders are still working. At this stage, I can`t prove that cream prevents cancer, but while no-one is demonstrating otherwise, I`ll be tucking in.