This week I got an email from my former boss/mentor at the U.S. Geological Survey saying that he was on his way to Tokyo for a few days. Steve was planning to stay a few days before he headed further east to do some teaching. He has been to Tokyo so many times that he knows his way around far better than I do. He was staying at his usual hotel and, the first night, he invited me along to his favorite bar/restaurant Sumire, which I guess he frequents every time he is in town. As soon as he stuck his head in, the owner and many of the customers all welcomed him by name and the owner pulled down the bottle with his name on it that she had been storing. Just out of coincidence, another one of the regulars Ed (or Edo-san as they called him) had 3 visiting astronomers in town. Us plus them plus one of the locals meant that 7 out of the 10 chairs in the restaurant were filled with gaijin. This is very unusual indeed for this tiny, family-owned restaurant located off a narrow alley, so the owner and even some of the other patrons started snapping some photos.During the weekend, Ryan and I went with Steve to the Edo-Tokyo Museum housed in this huge building (apparently it was designed to be the same height as the old Edo Castle).
In addition to the special exhibit on wood block prints, which were fascinating, the permanent collection of the Edo museum consisted of a bunch of artifacts and recreations from the Edo period of Japanese history. This is the post-samurai era during which life changed from small farm-based villages to the city (named Edo) built within the walls of a castle. Edo later became known as Tokyo.
So the museum shows the different walks of life that dwelled within the castle-city, including merchant stores and life-sized mockups of craftsmen making their wares. Lots of tiny models of city floor plans complete with binoculars so that you can really get all the details. The homes even had tatami mats the size of sticks of gum.
Speaking of tatami mats, one of the exhibits gave you the opportunity to take your shoes off and walk through a traditional Japanese style room. Funny, it looks extremely similar to another room I know (our bedroom).