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.


Anonymous said...

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Cassie said...

Sounds like an adventurous and tiring, yet very fun shopping day for you.. Mind if you'd post some pictures? :)

japan shopping