Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day 9 - Tokyo Day 2

(I know, it's been almost two months since the trip, though I wrote this early last month, but I plan on finishing up all my blogging on it in the next few days)

Friday started sluggishly. Mum and I blame Tech Support. Our aim was to be at the Ghibli Museum at 10am, but instead we left around 10am. The train ride out takes a fair amount of time because the museum is in a Tokyo suburb area called Mitaka. Getting there wasn't too difficult because me and Tech Support had been there before.

We introduced Mum to the natives.

As before Ghibli was a little magical. Certainly being under 13 probably makes it all the more wonderful, but there is still something about the construction that calls to my whimsy. The tight little metal spiral staircases and thin wooden bridges across the open third floor. Of course you can't take pictures inside, but there are pictures worth taking outside.

After exploring an exhibit on the Aardman Studios and nearly being crushed to death (and drained of all money) in the tiny gift shop we got to go to the little theater and watch a short movie. Last time it had been a fairly easy to understand adventure about some young kids that was reminiscent of the Muppet Babies. This time it was a strange story about a kid who gets some seeds which grow a planet from a mole and a frog, and then he has to go back to the city but then he... Yeah, it was confusing. But pretty. My Japanese is just good enough so I can understand some of the side comments (such useful things as "I feel sick" and "64 years"), and enough to get confused.

After Ghibli we headed back across the town to check out some of Ginza. Ginza is another trendy, shopping area of Tokyo, but first we needed somewhere to eat. Last time Tech Support and I had explored the streets of ginza for hours before eating at a strange Korean place almost entirely because we were waved in by a member of the staff. Luckily this time it was far easier, as we found a restaurant in our guidebook just a few feet from where we were. A german beerhall. It was different.

The type of place where when you say "non-smoking" you are put across the aisle way (about 4 feet away) from the smoking session and the staff need to flagged down. The food was very tasty anyway, and Mum managed to spray herself with soy sauce.

Afterwards we went and found another Uni Qlo, and did a bit of damage but not as much as before. While I adore how everything fits me very well, the fact that I was now a common size meant that all the Sale Items in my size were gone, and Mum left the real winner with three pairs of pants. I still got a fantastic pig... dog... shirt. And a hat.

A brief rant: Mum has already blogged about this, but taking your Hiking Boots Off so you can stand on a 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 piece of carpet (and not NICE carpet) and try on some pants, is very, very tiresome. Day 2 was no better than Day 1.

Anyway, poor Tech Support had suffered well through the shopping and it was now his turn. First we hit the Mac Store which was fun, though really just another Mac Store, only with a lot of Japanese customers. We played around with the macs and checked to see if there was anything really cool and unique (nope) before going to the Sony Building. At the Sony Building we could play around in the show rooms with Sony Products - tomorrow, because it was still under renovations today.

Throughout the day I'd been feeling a bit crummy, I was catching a cold from my boy, and by the end I was feeling pretty bad. We went back to the hotel, at which point I had a bad headache, and I crashed, curling up in my futon and falling asleep before it was even 8pm.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Day 8 - Tokyo Shopping

The rigors of splitting one laptop three ways overtook us in Tokyo, along with the simple exhaustion that come from trouping across a metropolis and spending large amounts of yen everyday. Finally, the truth is that blogging about yen flowing through my fingers like water isn't quite as interesting as say, a Japanese wedding. I can only imagine that reading about how "I found my perfect size AGAIN" and then "We went to ANOTHER STORE with fabulous clothing I LOVED" is rather obnoxious.

But I'll try my best anyway.

We set out Thursday morning with the bright gleam of shopping in our eye. We had a guidebook and money at an exchange rate that we weren't sure of, and that was all we needed.

Of course this neccesitated a first stop at Mr. Donut for some sugar to rev us up.

Our first stop was the department store nearest us, one of a branch mentioned in our guidebook with a convenient location right at our subway stop. When we arrived though it hadn't opened yet. This led to one of the delights of the day, something I'd heard about at some point in my life and forgotten about.

The grand ceremony that is opening a department store in Japan.

Mind you, this was a Thursday morning in a branch (not the main one) of a department store in Tokyo. I'm pretty sure they do this everyday. It starts with us, a great many older people, and a few others standing in the small front area of the store keeping our eyes on both the friendly uniformed woman standing by the enterance and the clock, five minutes until ten.

At almost ten another woman comes and speaks over a speaker, I couldn't understand what she said but the words were spoken with a pomp befitting Disneyland. When she was done some signs were moved, but no one made a move towards the displays yet. No, the music hadn't started yet. Yes, music. Cheerful, lets-go-shopping music.

The uplifting tune played as we were once more spoken too, and then finally bowed to and allowed inside. As we walked through the rows past counter after counter of expensive cosmetics and clothing we weren't interested in, as everyone bowed and gave us a good morning, the music played. I felt a bit like I was in my own movie, in that triumphant montage before I finally show just how beautiful I can be with the right clothing, and this was my theme song.

Tech Support, Mum and I laughed quite a bit amidst our bowing.

The department store was a little disappointing at first. Formal clothing, beit Japanese or American, is really not my style, and not cheap. But then, I think on the third floor, we made one of our best discoveries, Uni Qlo. The prices were like Target while the styles were like Urban Outfitter or Giant Robot or something. The absurd post modern T-shirts were just my style, and the sizes fit me perfectly. In the end I walked out with four shirts and a pair of sandals for something like $35. Tech Support and Mum did not indulge quite as much as me, but also left with their own bags.

After exploring the department store further and discovering only expensive quality items of no interest to us we took the subway into Ueno. There we explored another department store right at the station. This one proved to have many, many dresses that I would have looked adorable in, never had the proper occasion to wear them on, and then when I finally did would get food all over them. The fact that the average price of them was about $150 also helped from making me even itch to take out my wallet. There was a Muji on the bottom floor however, where I got some socks and a cute bolero.

Next stop was Harujuku, a young, trendy and upscale section of Tokyo that took about 1/2 an hour by train from Ueno. Tech Support and I had explored the main drag previously, but were definately up for hitting it again. Our first stop was Condomania, which promised and delivered unique and interesting condoms. Our next store was a toystore we'd been to previously but was worth wandering around. I found one wall of US magnets that caught my eye.

I think I stood there imagining a skinny Japanese car adorned with a red-white-and-blue "Support Our Troops" magnet for quite some time.

Lunch was a difficult affair to figure out, three hungry grouchy people are hard to satisfy, and then we stumbled across a great little place. Odd bits of American Coffee House sat around us as we enjoyed a combination of Chinese and Japanese food.

Finally we ended our shopping expedition in Shibuya. There we wanted to go to a department store called Tokyu hands. Our guidebook directed us to leave out of one exit, and when we asked someone at the train station they directed us out of the wrong exit. We climbed through a strange dirty section of Shibuya, following Tech Support who seemed to understand the map the best.

Despite this however, alleyways and streets were still confusing, and we actually found ourselves in the Love Hotel section of Shibuya.

Here you can rent hotels by the hour. While still sleazy they still aren't nearly as sleazy as the equivalent in the US. People who go to these places generally live with their parents and just want to get away. Plus, apparently if you go late enough that the hourly rate is done it's quite cheap to stay the night. Someday, but not with my mother and boyfriend.

Finally we found Tokyu Hands, which was indeed a wonderous department store. Floor after floor of everything under the sun. Unfortunately, nothing that I was really interested in purchasing, or maybe that is fortunately?

We found the train station a lot easier this time, and as it was growing later it was getting really busy outside, the streets were flooded.

Back in our hotel's neighborhood we walked for quite a while looking for somewhere to eat and finally settled on a fast-food tempura place. Mum was quite happy with it, but me and Tech Support found the shrimp a bit... limp.

Back at the hotel Mum and I tried out the public bath, Tech Support had tried it the night before and recommended it highly. It was far nicer than the Ryokan in Kyoto. The walls and tub were all wooden, and the water drained between the slats. After showering we relaxed in a reasonably hot wooden tub and gazed out at Sensoji's Pagoda, lit up in the night. It was a serene way to finish the day.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Last Day In Tokyo

Today is our last full day in Tokyo and though I am behind in my blogging, I am opting for an early start rather than a full blog post. Still, I leave you with these two pictures to give you an idea of what I've been up to:

Fuller posts too come.