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Something for the Weekend

September 14, 2009

Sooo, I’ve been on somewhat of a shopping spree lately, although I’m not sure if you can really call it a ‘spree’ when all the purchases are for practicality’s sake. A couple of not-really-required items may have slipped into carrier bags at one point or another, but for the most part ’tis been shopping for essentials…

Saturday was the day of my placement exam, afterwhich I met up with Aimee & Angus. We intended to go first for a pitstop lunch, and then get phones from Softbank (apparently ‘the poor people’s company’ ahahaha.). We ended up picking up drifting exchangees, and quite suddenly there was a very large group of us, being awfully unhelpful gaijin forced to face the wrath of scrunched up old salarymen on the bicycles. In the interests of safety and salarymen alike, the mass gathering splintered – our group went to a basement eatery, which was like some kind of covert McDonalds of Japan. They served lots of pasta. Go figure.

Met a girl who had exchanged before, only with Waseda (le shock!), and we got talking about various things including our mutual interest in Korea. She spoke fluent Japanese, and was pretty calm where my nerves were frayed. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to ask her name, but I hope to bump into Worldly Girl again. Meeting her gave me an idea of where I want to get with Japanese, and the vision that once you start to chip through the language barrier, everything stops feeling so isolating, and hopefully, the paranoia somewhat recedes.

Post-Lunch deliberations began, and all four of us (Me, Aimee, Angus & Karen) trotted off to the Softbank by the train station near our campus (田町駅) – seems a weathered crew had beaten us to the bat. I talked a bit to the poor guy at the neighbouring desk, desperately trying to arrange mobile matters – the gloomy faces were those of his patient pals, who proffered quite negative comments about the branch. Which weren’t unduly given, mind you. The staff were slightly baffled by English, the exchanges I overheard were fumbling for both sides, in an unintentionally awkward way.

In any case, it didn’t really work out, so we pottered out to let Angus have a cigarette break while we pondered what to do with the remainder of the day. I suggested, slightly nervous, that we simply go explore somewhere. I think I may have actually used ‘you, know, like, just a wee mozy?’


On Aimee’s reccomendation we caught the train to Ebisu (恵比寿), and it has flown right up in my estimations! Right outside of the station was a small camera store with lenses, DSLRs, some old SLRs, and a basket of seriously nostalgic cameras lovingly labelled “JUNK”. There was even an ancient magazine camera from the shores of Chicago! (Wait, does Chicago even have a shore? Only Google Maps will tell.) I stuttered about in Japanese, “このカメラは古いだけど写真を取ってもうできますかな?” – No idea how BAKA GAIJIN this may/may not sound, but Old Man got the drift. Turns out the junk camera I’d picked out was well and truly busted, but in lieu of the fact I got up & out that morning without taking my Canon, I grabbed a good old disposable instead.

The mozey’ing continued along past several interesting stores – me & Karen we definately feeling the shopping vibe. Poor Angus & Aimee seemed to have found themselves surrogate parents to our whimsical rushing in and out of vintage-y stores. In a second-hand place I saw an old Chanel suit, Prada brooch and generally lots of very swanky things. Snuck behind the main road was the sloping alternate suburbia of Daikanyama, known for being chilled out and fashionable.

There are no words. I can only hope the camera’s photos will come out well, because Daikanyama is my favourite, favourite place so far. Clean, buildings were mixed with ruinous ones, all overgrown with ivy and grass like they’d been there before the city even was. Tucked away behind giant leaves would be an eensy weensy cafe, or a hairdresser’s, or a little store with sparkly things. It was so gorgeous and mysterious, so different fromt the city centre with its towering buildings all squashed up like sardines. The signs jostle for space, trying to be brighter, more luminous, pushing for your attention, whereas Daikanyama was spread out and generally so much less neon. A great escape.

We ended up mozey’ing to such an extent that we got a little lost, and instead of heading back to Ebisu station, walked all the way to Shibuya (渋谷駅)!! Suitably knackered we took the train home, to the dorms, where I collapsed on my bed as the energy of exploring dissapated worringly fast.

Sunday, was a shoe-in lie-in – crawled out at a studently hour of midday, where I went out to buy essential items (more on that later), came back, tried to tidy (and utterly, utterly failed) and spent the rest of my time being gloriously lazy. Later on Aimee rang me (calls are free betwixt dorm rooms), to ask if I wanted to go out for a walk with  her and Angus. I was surprised, having spent mot of the dayby myself, but it was a suprise of the pleasant sort – right now, in this twilight zone of people not having phones, it’s difficult to get together and do things, or arrange going out. I’m hoping the difficulties of meeting dormies, and doing stuff as a group won’t be so tough once everyone is suitably equipped with keitai.

Anyway, it was getting pretty dark already, but the three of us went toward the Hiyoshi campus – a direction that takes you over the Yagamigawa (矢上川), where I’d never ventured before. Suffice to say it was a fair hike, like, but kinda fun. Unfortunately the Canon, with its simple kit lens, doesn’t like low-light conditions without using a killer flash…We eventually reached Hiyoshi Station – everything was so shiny! I really liked it! We looked about the station’s department stores, around the streets and on my behest, into a TERRIFYING arcade centre. It was so full of noise! And the zombie denizens of this arcade were also very, very, very good. Me and Angus watched amazed, and for my part mildly concerned, as a guy clicked away on some drum game with lightening speed and a constant flow of “EXCELLENT” “PERFECT” “VERY GOOD”.

Following this brush with the hypnotic world of arcades, I nipped into the nearby conbini & got myself a couple of magazines. P.S (“Pretty Style”) and Hanako. The former was actually a two-in-one, and I really like the natural style of it. Hanako turned out to be a cafe/restaurant magazine, with examples of 東京散歩 (basically Tokyo mozey’ing!) – “classical” routes in different areas of the capital with photos of the beautiful food and things to do.

We hung out at the communal lounge downstairs, watching Japanese TV. What I didn’t realise it they actually sub the shows – so I could listen to people speaking as well as reading! Helpful much? First there was some kind of city-mouse-goes-to-the-country style of program with celebrities staying in the inaka (countryside) & learning about the lifestyle. After that there was this crazy hyper-emotionalised home makeover show. Tad cheesy, bit still interesting to watch. The kids seeing their new room was tres cute, and seeing them all RUN into their new bathtub, in jeans and socks and everything, with their mum was so funny.

Got talking to some new people, picked up mobile tips (GO TO SHINJUKU’s SOFTBANK!), went to bed contented, with a cup of maccha (green tea) milk in my brand new strawberry mug. Aww.

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