kingstreasurebox1

Journey in Japan Part 55: Conspirators of Treasure

Today I have found treasure. The treasure is hidden away in the middle of a residential area in Minowa, down a side street that looks like it leads to a dead end, and sits inside a vending machine beside a car park.

The ¥130 saké cup vending machine by my house that doesn’t require age verification, the vending machine selling lead pipes in the Asakusa View Hotel, and the vending machine selling plastic toy animals at the platform as you get off the Sōbu Line at Akihabara Station (plastic toy animals the first thing on my mind when I exit a train), can all only be described as very odd. But this is Japan, land of the prizing sun, and the prize today is stashed away inside a different type of vending machine; the King’s Treasure Box.

A sticker on the front of the machine displays the English text, “Let it get.” I can’t hold back anymore. I insert my ¥1000 note into the treasure box. Above the note slot reads, “One dream, One note!” Some of the prizes include a Nintendo Duel Screen, a PlayStation Vita, and even a product vaguely labelled as, ‘Famous car’. I follow the instructions, “Press any button and your dream will start.” I hear an exciting clunk, before reaching into the lower chamber to retrieve my prize.

My treasure sits quietly waiting for me on the machines inner fake grass. Disco Glasses. Made in China. These glasses aren’t something I would normally describe as treasure. They feature no lenses, cheap plastic, and voice activated flashing red lights. I have no way of knowing if this machine actually stocks the ‘good’ prizes; for all I know, the machine could be 100% Disco Glasses. Bitter and disappointed, I scour the machine for refund information. My limited Japanese ability understands that I can follow the ‘King’s Blog’, if I so desire; any information about a refund isn’t quite as forthcoming.

Miserable from my prize, I decide to take trains. I head to Aoyama-itchōme Station. Today my friend is having an art exhibition in the basement of Club Edition. ‘Colorful is Power’ is the name of her display; and I have to admit, it is rather colourful. The venue itself is nice; it looks more like a bar than an art gallery though. I have a little chat with my friend. She is a live painter, and having previously witnessed some of her live art first hand, I can say that she is an amazing artist. Her work is mostly created at trance parties or raves; often inspired by the mood and music of the event. I offer her my Disco Glasses, but she gracefully declines.

After the gallery/bar, I head outside to find it is raining, heavily. I head through the rain swept streets and to the station to grab a train to Komagome. Today is the opening ceremony for an event at Rikugien Gardens; an evening of autumn illuminations. I pay my ¥300 entry fee and enter the darkness. These three hundred year old landscape gardens have been the subject of many poems, and it’s been a while since I wrote a haiku, so here goes:

Hollow darkness welcomes me,
To black rain singing,
And decaying leaves screaming.

As I stumble through the woods, I eventually see some maple trees lit by red and green lights. The path is sodden, my shoes squelch as they walk over the thick wet mud. Little lanterns mark the path. I follow it around, admiring the beauty but feeling the cold. Some ducks play in the lake, trees sway in the wind, and steam pours from the spotlights; their heat creating contrast to the strong winter air.

After walking around for about an hour, I find that I am lost. A maze of trees lit by sections of lights. Other times I find myself stumbling around in the silent darkness. Eventually I spot a steward; he doesn’t have an umbrella, and is subsequently soaking wet. As I approach, he doesn’t say a word, instead, he just lifts his arm and points to a small gap between some trees that seemingly lead directly into a void. I quietly follow his directions. Ten minutes later I arrive at what looks like a different planet.

Blue light glows, softly illuminating the fallen autumn leaves. It is a tremendous but somewhat spooky sight, shrouded by mystery and trees. A small speaker nearby plays calming music. The falling rain inadvertently adding to the chorus. I watch the patterns of blue smoke for a while, finally enjoying some illuminations. After witnessing the spectacle, I head ten minutes through quicksandlike mud, before eventually finding the exit.

Back in Asakusa, I drink until midnight, before heading to Tori-no-Ichi part two; the second day of the rooster this month. Once again people have flocked to the streets, and are wandering around carrying massive rakes. I am here for one reason though, the street food market. I buy some Korean style yakisoba; a huge portion of vegetables and noodles, topped with kimchi. Afterwards, I join a rather short queue for a ¥300 bag of hot baked kasutera. As I devour my favourite snack, I treasure every bite. It is at this moment that I discover that the batteries in my Disco Glasses have died.

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