Anyone Can Join Meguro Library - Lending Library Tokyo Japan
Sunday 30 July 2006
My wife somehow discovered, how I have no idea, that anyone can join the Meguro library system, regardless of where in Japan they live or work.
All you need is ID from which your address can be verified. If you are a foreigner residing in Japan, then you will have such ID in the form of your alien registration card.
My wife was of the opinion that I had previously been a member of the Meguro library system, but I had no recollection of ever having done any such thing. But, yes, I certainly wanted to join.
Yesterday, Saturday, having parked our two-year-old daughter Cornucopia at the daycare center for a few hours, my wife and I took the train to Meguro station then walked to Meguro library. On the way, I recognized nothing, not the station precincts and certainly not the big outdoor swimming pool that we walked past. This was, as far as I was concerned, unknown territory.
Then, when we got inside Meguro library itself, I realized that I knew this building, and knew it very well. Yes, I had been here before, not once but many times, and I knew that the foreign books were up in the top right corner, and I knew, also, that the library held stocks of a range of English-language magazines, including THE NEW YORKER.
But I could not remember at what phase of my life I had visited the library, or how I had made my way through the streets to this place.
Revisiting Meguro Library was like arriving at a building which I had explored not in this life but in a different life, in some prior existence remote from this one.
As my wife was filling in an application form on my behalf, a librarian approached us and handed me an English-language information pamphlet. The section headed "For whom who use the library for the first time" included the message that "You can make a library card if you don't live in Meguro City, too."
A couple of minutes later, my wife handed me my new card to sign, and I realized that, yes, I had previously had just such a library card, adorned with a picture of a long and slender fish, which the library's English-language pamphlet informed me was sanma-kun, aka Mr Mackerel Pike, the Meguro City public libraries' symbol. Sanma-kun means something like "Master Sanma," "kun" being an informal variant of "san", a label you might apply to a schoolmate friend rather than something to use with an adult's name.
One picky little English teacher point at this stage: I don't think that Meguro can go round calling itself a city, since, to get technical, it is a ward, Meguro Ku being better translated as "Meguro Ward" rather than "Meguro City". The actual city of which it is a part is the city of Tokyo, which has 24 wards, one of which is Meguro.
Meguro Ward, then, is a part of Tokyo.
Similarly, I live in Kohoku Ward, and it does not go calling itself "Kohoku City" but, rather, acknowledges that it is part of the city of Yokohama.
Living in Kohoku Ward as I do, I have a card for the entire Yokohama city library system, one branch of which is within toddler distance of my house.
If you live in the city of Tokyo there is, really, no Tokyo city library system which you can join. The Tokyo city administration only runs two libraries, one a big reference library which I have never visited, and the other a lending library which is, I think, the Hibiya Library. Most of the citizens of the 24 wards, then, are dependent on whatever library system their ward provides.
While I have indicated that Meguro cannot legitimately term itself a "city", it is, nevertheless, enormously larger and more complex than some of the hamlets in New Zealand which go round calling themselves "cities", an example of such a place being the little town of Whangarei, which, when I was a child, was calling itself a "city" even though it had barely thirty thousand people.
Having borrowed five CDs and five copies of THE NEW YORKER, very much my favorite magazine, I left the library with my wife, who led us to the French restaurant where we were to dine.
On the way, we passed a distinctive overbridge which spanned a road which was heading downhill, and suddenly I clicked, and realized that I knew where I was, and knew how to exit Meguro station and get to Meguro library, the place we had just visited. Go down the hill until you reach the river, turn right just after you cross the river, and you will find the library on your left.
I had made that trip not once but many times, though, once again, I could not remember during which phase of my life I had visited it. Nor could I explain to myself why, if I had previously been a patron of the Meguro library system, I had somehow quit using it.
The restaurant was very nice. A pleasure to eat without a widget at the table trying to lay its hands on your uneaten tomato, the capsicum you were saving for last or anything else it fancies.
We had a proper adult conversation for once, and my wife asked me if I was handling things okay, managing to both take daughter Cornucopia and do my job. And I said, sure, I can handle three hours a day, though that does take me pretty close to my stamina limits.
"I'll be okay unless they fire me," I said.
And explained about the problem that I have with finding files in a timely fashion.
If I do lose my job, it's not a catastrophe. There are other jobs. There is, in Japan, no large pool of unemployed Westerners, since you can't afford to hang around jobless in Japan on a long-term basis unless you're in some kind of job. Plus, I have a spouse visa, recently reviewed, so I'm legal to work at any job in Japan for the next three years, so I can walk into any job for which an employer needs a worker suddenly.
At the last company I worked for, which did quite a bit of corporate teaching, one fiftyish teacher teaching in Yokohama unexpectedly dropped dead of a heart attack. The client was appropriately sympathetic, but asked if they could have a replacement English teacher. Next week, please. And that put our recruiters under real pressure, because it's not easy to magic up a spare English teacher out of nowhere.
Usually there's quite a lead time in recruiting people, and, when I first came to Japan to teach at Waniguchi Gakko, the Japan-based company which recruited me did so on the basis of an interview which one of their recruiters conducted with me in New Zealand in January of 1997, but I did not arrive in Japan until early May.
On the way back from the restaurant I had another recovered memory experience, and asked my wife if this was the area which, years ago, we had visited to seek out the manuka honey from New Zealand which we like so much. Yes, we did come to Meguro for that purpose, and found the honey in a cake shop, on sale in extremely small jars at an extremely high price.
So that was, all round, a successful day, a trip back into the past, with the library card setting me up for the future.
On the way home, my wife told me she would show me how to use the library's website, and would be able to pick up any items that I ordered online at the library's Nakameguro branch.
Once you've joined the Meguro library system, you can borrow a generous twenty items at a time, versus the six which the Yokohama city library system allows us. You can keep items for two weeks, returning them to any branch of the Meguro library system, and, if they're not overdue and if nobody else wants them, then you can renew them twice online.
I saw in the English-language pamphlet that you have to "register a password", but my wife told me that you can do this online.
Items that you can borrow include books, magazines, sets of comic books and CDs.
I borrowed an eclectic set of CDs, including one heavy metalish CD by god knows what band. It was labeled in a gothic script which I could not read, heavily Germanic. I borrowed this one by accident because I dropped a bunch of CD covers and, recovering from this minor mishap, accidentally took to the library counter a cover the gothic script CD, which I had not intended to borrow.
I also borrowed, amongst other things, PILGRIM by Eric Clapton; a jaunty CD of some kind of jazzy African music called Folon, apparently by a Salif Keita.
Also a CD which seems to have the title "Alice Cooper" and so is, presumably, by Alice Cooper, who, up until now, is just a name that I have seen in passing in magazines such as ROLLING STONE.
I took Alice for a spin and did not hear anything that I immediately recognized.
As far as THE NEW YORKER goes, I enjoyed reading a review in the May 29 issue which has, on the cover, amongst other things, the rubric "The movie from Hell," glossed as "Anthony Lane on 'The Da Vinci Code'".
The review would have you believe that this is, if not the very worst movie ever made in the history of the world, one of the very worst. Which it is.
I didn't understand most of the movie, and I couldn't figure out why we were supposed to care for any of the characters.
It was a hideously murky movie, most of the action unfolding in the course of a single night. It reminded me very much of the American version of GODZILLA, another movie which was incredibly murky, presumably because it is easier to get away with special effects if you keep the lights turned down low.
THE DA VINCI CODE has cropped up on a number of occasions when I've been teaching English, and none of my students has given it a recommendation, though those who have read the book say that the book is much better than the movie. That, in my opinion, wouldn't be difficult.
Have played most of the Alice Cooper CD by now without recognizing anything. All things considered, I rather prefer Fat Freddy's Drop, this being music from New Zealand, a kind of laid-back Samoan reggae. Very big in New Zealand while I was there in 2005 through early 2006, topping the charts, but probably not major on the global scale.