Friday March 19, 4:44 p.m.
In this year of self-whimsiness, I decided this morning to head back to Shibamata. I say head back, since back in 1994 when I had first gotten here for my current tour of duty in Japan, I had stayed in this sleepy neighbourhood of Tokyo for about a month before moving into my apartment in Ichikawa. Since the move, I hadn't been back.
Shibamata is known for two things...one is the Taishakuten, the local temple. The other one has far more far-reaching appeal. It's also home for the legendary Japanese movie character, Tora-san from the "Otoko ga tsurai yo" series (It's Tough To Be A Man)...perhaps the longest running movie series in the world in terms of movies made if not in actual time elapsed (and yes, that includes the Bond series). The actor, Kiyoshi Atsumi, passed on nearly 15 years ago, but he's been immortalized in bronze in front of the station in his characteristic uniform of an itinerant peddler. But while he was still on this mortal coil, he managed to get out 47 films...all having the exact same plotline of him coming back home to Shibamata to his long-suffering family, then storming out after a huge fight, finding the girl of his dreams (or Madonna) somewhere in Japan, and then losing her once again. It probably had no chance to win any Japanese equivalent of an Academy Award, but for millions of Japanese of my generation and those of the previous, it was the cinematic version of comfort food.
Pretty much all of Shibamata can't help but be tied up with Tora-san. There's even a museum made in his honor, and unlike the John Lennon Museum, I was able to take shots inside. It was rather reminiscent of going to the Ramen Museum in Yokohama since there were mockups of old Shibamata of the 60s and 70s.