Shizuoka City, Japan: A Manhole Cover, Cherry Blossoms, Pizza

Shizuoka City, Japan: A Manhole Cover, Cherry Blossoms, Pizza

He wasn't there.

I had wanted to introduce my cohort of Write of Passage to a local pizza joint near where I live in Shizuoka City, Japan. It is close to my heart and even closer to my stomach. But the shop was closed, so I returned, pipe tobacco in hand, to write this. I had brought a tin of pipe tobacco with me—a tin of Seattle Pipe Club Plum Pudding—to present to the owner, cook, waiter, and bottle-washer of the place. But I couldn't because he wasn't there.

Instead of the place I had intended to share, I will share something a few minutes away that was fitted into a socket in the road; a manhole cover. Not just any manhole cover, but one that had obviously been made with special care in order to take its place in the very special family of manhole cover art in Japan.

Here is a picture of the manhole cover that I took a picture of. It was about five minutes away from the shop that I wanted to visit, but couldn't because it was closed.

I have passed by this manhole cover several times on the way to somewhere that I wanted to go to get something essential: a piece of pizza, a cake, or my car, which is often parked at a parking spot nearby. So I am sharing this with you: a place in the world that is important to me because it is linked to pathways I have walked along. Unfortunately, you might not feel the same about this manhole cover. When I am standing next to it memories wash over me as I pause, have a look, and walk past. This must be true of all places we share with others. We can only share the image, the memories can't be shared as easily.

On the way back from visiting the shop that was closed and the manhole cover which was also thankfully closed, I encountered cherry blossoms blooming along the outer moat of Sumpu Park, so I took a picture of them to share with you. For the next few weeks, cherry blossoms will bloom across Japan. They start blooming in the warmer southern regions and then move north. A wave of flowers washing over the country.

I can't really end this passage without sharing some more pizza. Unfortunately, I can't give you a real piece of pizza, only a picture of a piece of pizza.

It's not perfectly round, like a manhole cover, and it isn't really an authentic Neapolitan pizza. It is the creation of the owner and chef at the small shop that was closed. I think it is really delicious.

Let's return to the manhole cover, now that we have had our pizza. There is a bit more to the story. Manhole covers are big in Japan. There is even a word for trying to locate different examples of manhole cover art—"drain spotting."

In the 1980s a nationwide installation of an underground sewer system took place. Municipalities chose to decorate the manhole covers that provided access to the pipes below with local themes.

My mind and stomach keep returning to An An's  Factory—the shop that was closed. It doesn't say  "An An's Pizza Factory," the way it should. It is a quirky shop. The master is a character right out of the Harry Potter films. He wears small round glasses and is constantly sawing and banging his shop into a different configuration. Inside his shop are gathered old classic movies and knick-knacks. Eating there is like eating pizza in an attic or perhaps on a movie set. That is why I like this place so much. It is not just a place to eat pizza, it is somehow a journey into another dimension of reality. There is something magical about the place.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. Does this story feel a bit disjointed? I wanted to share the different thoughts that popped into my mind in random sequence as I tried to think of something to write. I have been thinking about how certain experiences are very difficult to translate into written text. Is it possible to demonstrate the chaotic experience of trying to think of something to write, or is it just annoying? Would it have been better to just write, "I had a lot of trouble choosing from different topics that are meaningful to me and finally settling down to write something?"

What I want to say is that it does not seem possible to write confused thoughts in any way that accurately represents what is going on. My jumbled thoughts were a pleasant experience for me—cherished places and people kept wandering into my mind for a visit. But I could not find a good way to share this.

Next time I visit the pizza shop it will be open. I will check and make sure it is before I walk over there. Then I won't have to write an annoying, confusing story like this. I will be able to talk to the owner of the shop and hand him his gift of pipe tobacco as he greets me. While I wait for my pizza to arrive, I will take a few pictures of the shop to show just how wonderfully chaotic the inside of his shop is. The chaos of the shop is charming and captivating, unlike chaotic writing.