Well, I made it to Tokyo after leaving Boston Saturday. We’re (all of the JETs, maybe 1200 of us) staying in a massive hotel in Shinjuku, and although we didn’t get here until around 9, a group of us decided to head down a couple of stops to Harajuku for some food. Almost everything was closed, but we found a small place down some stairs and I accidentally ordered liver (oops). It wasn’t too bad though, and the vegetables were good, so it worked out. Afterwards, since it wasn’t too far away, we decided to walk because we wanted to see a bit of the city and it wasn’t too far from the hotel. We ended up getting a bit lost, but not too lost. Just enough to have a nice little tour of a bit of a few districts. We saw girls in cosplay (and one goth) hanging out by the closed entrance to Meiji Shrine around midnight, which is apparently fairly common.
There are already a lot of differences I’m noticing from anywhere I’ve ever been before. For one thing, the streets are so clean. There are cigarette butts, but virtually no other trash. And there are vending machines every couple blocks, which was just what we needed after walking for awhile through the heat and humidity, even at midnight. Another big difference was that cops at construction sites were actually directing traffic (unlike in Boston), and not just the cars. They helpfully pointed out small wires that we should avoid tripping over, pointing us in the proper direction with a wave and a “kudasai.”
I guess I always thought of Tokyo as a massive crush of people during the day and at least a semi-constant stream even late at night. But as we walked our way back to the hotel, the streets were virtually deserted. It was actually kind of beautiful-- such a nice night and no one really around as we admired the architecture and various shops.
I also had the privilege (along with a guy with whom I’m rooming) of heading out early to get some dress shoes before our first meeting because we had both accidentally sent them ahead in our checked baggage. The hotel worker we asked wasn’t sure we’d be able to get something so early, but he directed us to a 24-hour store several blocks away that had 3 floors of stuff. Lots and lots of stuff, ranging from the very nice dress shoes we found for $30 (2,999 yen) to pieces of luggage to porn mags (both regular and manga) to pillows in the shape of breasts (complete with nipples). Lots of stuff that we didn’t have any time to go through. The clerk who sold us the shoes was so happy when my companion put his 1 yen in the “take a yen, leave a yen” basket, and thanked him very enthusiastically. He didn’t seem to care when I had done it, but I think it’s because I speak very little Japanese. I think the store was called Hippo something, but my katakana is terrible (although my hiragana is good-- go figure).
On the way over we were handed cardboard and plastic fans with advertising on them, that were very much needed at the time. Leave it to the Japanese to innovate a way to get people to want their advertising, and not just because there’s something written on a stupid (albeit perhaps cute) stuffed dog or something. Everything around here is making me feel really happy. I initially didn’t think that I’d like living in Tokyo, but now I’m pretty sure I could get used to it.
Anyway, I’d ask what I should do here (and you can still let me know, as I plan on taking a trip back), but since I won’t have any real time before leaving, I’ll ask if there’s anything I should do in Aomori. I don’t have a car yet, but I hope to get one in the next month or so. Anyone had any experience with northern Japan? Should I definitely go to Hokkaido? I’m just excited to be here and am just trying to take in everything around me. Now if only there were some faster way to do kanji than just rote memorization, everything would be perfect.