We were in need of towels. My roomate failed to bring any towels with him to Tokyo, so for the last three days, he had been using a spare bedsheet to dry himself after showers. It is impressive how definitions of things like "towels" or "toilet paper" become flexible when foresight fails us and we are left without. In any event, we had spent the last three days with our eyes out, but to no avail. We actually did find a shop which dealt exclusively in the fluffy little monsters, but it is never open and has a map peppered with moon language that neither of us can decipher. So, the only towels we had found being imprisoned in a tomb enchanted by moon people, we decided to seek information from the wisest person we knew: the Land Lord.
The Land Lord is probably the jolliest person I have ever met. He speaks both English and Japanese and seems to have infinite knowledge about all things(or the ability to acquire said knowledge). He runs the International House with the help of his wife, the Land Lady. I'm reasonably sure that even if I could recollect their names, I would still use the Land Lord and Land Lady because they are important enough that they deserve two capital letters in their names. In any event, we asked the Land Lord to help us find a towel. He knew, but he couldn't remember how to get to the shop, so he asked his wife. She knew how to get to the shop, but speaks only a tiny amount of English, so through some sort of strange 4-way orgy of shared language and information and cartography, we came up with a somewhat decent explanation and a somewhat less decent map to follow to the shop with the towels.
I promise that this story is going somewhere.
My roomate and I followed the directions we were given and found ourselves in a deep, dark alley. At least, that's what it should have been. There was no room between the buildings for much of anything and yet, there were lights. And more than lights: every kind of shop you could imagine and every quality, besides. I even found a shop that dealt in bowls. Every 10 feet or so there was another restaurateur trying to eek out a living selling some sort of cooked meat on a stick or there was someone selling clothes that appeared to be homemade or a shop selling designer bags and wallets. It was like a mall in a sewer, but in place of the smell of refuse and waste, was the smell of delicious food and in place of mindless rats milling about, there were people buying and smiling and talking and yelling, "irrashaimase!" It was an incredible experience and the only thing it was missing was Jackie Chan speeding by on a "borrowed" motor cycle being chased by Yakuza.
I can't help but feel a bit cheesy with my descriptions of some things, but I really want to convey some sort of idea of what I'm experiencing and my camera doesn't work at all.