concrete animals


26 July, 2005

I met Ayako Matsukawa a few weeks ago at Shot Bar Orugan (named after the ancient organ in the stairwell) when I was out with Murakami-sensei one Friday night. Aya-san is a trumpet player and a member of the orchestra at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, where she studies music. Although I was very sad not to be able to make it to the performance that she invited me to (Liszt, Saint-Saens, and Zoltan Kodaly), we did end up going out to dinner in Ishibashi at an izakaya that I’d been to once before with Richard and Bob. The food at this izakaya is really good (and so is the sake). Especially delicious is the tuna-jaw special. You get a large portion of a tuna jaw and you slowly pry the bone apart to pull out the incredibly rich and tasty pieces of dark meat that hide inside. Also good was the aji, and the onigiri in green tea.

After dinner we decided to get some dessert somewhere, but unfortunately the “Waku waku shotengai” (‘Exciting Shopping Arcade,’ as the lantern advert at the entrance to the shopping street would have it) closes down fairly early. We decided to walk the tracks to Hotarugaike to see if anything was open near the station there, but by the time we got to Hotarugaike, everything was closing up as well. It was a nice walk, though — a pleasantly warm summer evening, and trains — which at night are metal boxes full of light — punctuating the walk at comforting intervals. On the way back from Hotarugaike we bought ice-cream at the local convenience store and stopped at a playground to eat it. The play structure at this playground was incredible — it looked somewhat like a giant, green-faced dachshund with two concrete slide tongues lolling out of its mouth. The head was a giant green globe that you could crawl around inside and, connecting this to the hindquarters (a blue Swiss-cheesed concrete sphere), was a metal rung ladder, laid out horizontally. Aya-san and I crawled around on the play structure, wormed our way through the Swiss cheese, monkeyed across the ladder, and sat on top of the dachshund head listening to the cicadas. As we left the park I also saw concrete snails and other animals, reminding me of the lyrics to my favorite Shonen Knife song, “Concrete Animals”:

Generally speaking every park has them
Commonly they are at the sand box
Occasionally they are vandalized by someone
They are painted many colors

Elephant, Raccoon, Tiger

Concrete Animals,
Can I ride on your back?
Concrete Animals,
Let’s take a picture together!

They are too big to carry back home
They are too heavy for me to move
After the sun sets they have a secret party
Nobody knows they dance together

Pony, Rabbit, Zebra

Concrete Animals,
Can I ride on your back?
Concrete Animals,
Let’s take a picture together!</blockquotec


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