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Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Vikings, traditional gear and theater


Katya has what she calls a "random goofy question." She wants to know why it is that a buffet here is called "viking."

"My husband suspects it has something to do with Vikings," she says. "As I am unfamiliar with their eating habits, can you please confirm or deny the history of the word usage in Japan?"

My favorite explanation is one I came across when conducting research for my book "Insider's Tokyo" (2001), 45 stories about the history of the city from prehistoric times to year 2000, and available from Good Day Books in Ebisu.

Here is the direct quote:

"Many hotels now offer 'viking' service, meaning an open buffet.

"The style dates from around 1957 when the head chef of the Imperial Hotel wanted to name a Japanese-style Scandinavian smorgasbord.

"One story goes that he got the idea after seeing the film 'The Viking,' starring Kirk Douglas, advertised at the (then) Ernie Pyle Hall, just across the road."

"So Katya, you can tell your husband he was right and wrong."

For general interest, the site of the Ernie Pyle Theater is now home to the five troupes of the new Takarazuka Theater.

Used books

Mike reminds readers that those who bring their used books to Good Day Books ( www.gooddaybooks.com ) will get vouchers in return for their estimated value to spend on more reading matter. In GDB, naturally.


Martin writes: "I have been looking -- without success -- for Jikatabi shoes in Tokyo. Can you help?"

The traditional split-toed shoes used by construction workers, gardeners and craftspeople are generally available but not so easy to locate.

One good source for visitors to the capital is Myogaya, 2-27-12 Asakusa, to the far side of Sensoji temple from Asakusa station. This shop is a treasure trove of traditional matsuri (festival) goods and clothing. Call (03) 3841-6440.

For a fantastic range of "tabi" (but not "jikatabi"), head for Musashiya, dating from the Taisho period and where all the split-toe socks made for wearing with traditional sandals are handmade. The shop is at 7 Sakamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (03-3351 7359) near Yotsuya Station.

Finally, if you are visiting Kyoto, why not pick up a pair of jikatabi sneakers made in fabrics ranging from denim to zebra stripes? Sou Sou has four outlets in the town.

One sells furniture and furnishings; another "samue" (traditional casual clothing); the third, items made from Ise cotton; and finally, the funkiest footwear in fabrics ranging from denim to psychedelic patterns and zebra stripes.

Head for the P91 Building, 565-72 Nakano-machi, Shijyo Noboru, Shinkyogoku, Chukyo-ku Kyoto-shi (075-212 8005).

Note that most staff will not speak English, though you may strike lucky.

Having a laugh

Want a good laugh? For those seeking to lighten their mood ahead of rainy season, Sometimes Y Theatre proudly presents the play "Vigil," starring Michael Naishtut and Doreen Simmons, at the Canadian Embassy Theatre at 7-3-38 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo.

Described as "a hilarious black comedy," the play is structured around what happens when an extremely self-centred and shallow nephew visits his dying aunt.

Dates for the show are: May 28 at 7:30 p.m.; May 29 at 7:30 p.m.; June 4 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; June 5 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For tickets (4,000 yen for adults; 2,500 yen for students), call (090) 3802-7124 or e-mail sometimesytheatre@hotmail.com

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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