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Golden Week, Part Two

May 10, 2012

Greetings from the 職員室 (shokuinshitsu), or the teacher’s room!

Well, the whole of Golden Week has come and gone and I’m once again at school with my nose to the grindstone. However, I do have some free time where I get to sit down with my computer and start writing up what I did with the rest of my Golden Week!

The morning of Thursday the 3rd, I woke up bright and early to leave at 7:00 for grand adventures. Jess and I planned on picking Becky up in Tsukuba on our way to meeting Joey, Lisa, and Kris at our original destination, but we suddenly got a message from Joey to change course and go to Kamagaya, where Kris lives and whose apartment we crashed at for the holiday. So, we picked Becky up at a different train station, and the three of us drove all the way to the Starbucks in Kamagaya, where we planned to meet the others. That way, Kris would be able to show us how to get to his apartment. We had to wait there a while though, because the others got stuck in Golden Week traffic.

Joey and Kris arrived, and we learned that Lisa suddenly wasn’t able to join us on our adventuring. We went to Kris’s apartment, dropped our things off, and made plans to go to Experiari, which is near Tokyo Disneyland and has an awesome Disney Store as well as a restaurant called Sweets Paradise. All morning I was in contact with my friend Miho, who was the Japanese Language Assistant at Carleton College my senior year, and I invited her to join us. I was so happy when she said she could come!

We took the train into Tokyo from Kamagaya, and quickly made our way to Sweets Paradise. However, when we got there we discovered that it had an hour-and-a-half-long wait! So, we added our names to the list and knew that we had to be there at around 5:00. Since we had quite the wait, we decided to check out the Disney Store. Walking around inside the store was so crazy, and so many things were being sold! We saw things from Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, and, most importantly, Lilo and Stitch. Stitch is insanely popular here in Japan, and you can buy all sorts of products with his picture on them. I ended up buying a beach towel that has Stitch dressed up as various Disney characters, like Mickey from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. Japan having so many Stitch items is especially dangerous for Jess, who is a huge fan.

Jess and Stitch

As you can see, she ended up with a giant Stitch stuffed animal! When Kris, Joey, and I were in the store, we came across him and immediately began searching for Jess. It was love at first sight when she saw him, and hearing that he was on sale meant that he obviously had a new home with her! The giant sleeping Stitch will forever be our mascot at all of our sleepovers now, or so I hope!

Miho found us inside the store, and the six of us went to Sweets Paradise (with a giant bag containing Stitch in hand) which is a restaurant where you pay one set price for all-you-can-eat for 70 minutes. Usually it’s 90 minutes, but since it was Golden Week and everyone was on vacation, they had to cut the time short in order to accommodate everyone. The restaurant is called Sweets Paradise for a reason, because the main draw is the vast array of cakes you can eat! The restaurant also offers rice, curry, pasta, and salad for those who can’t stomach that much sugar. We all ate to our heart’s content, and then resolved to walk some of the food off!

Me and Miho! And Kris’s arm…

Becky, Joey, and Jess.

After Sweets Paradise we wandered about the shopping complex a bit before starting to head to LaLaPort, which is another huge shopping area but it also has an IKEA nearby. Miho said farewell after traveling with us part of the way, because she had to go up north that evening to get to her parents’ house. It was sad she had to go, but she just moved to Tokyo and I only live an hour away!

The rest of us took the train to LaLaPort and wandered around to check out the shops. We also met up with John, who lives and works in the same city as Lisa and Joey. Once we were all gathered, we decided to run through IKEA before it closed to see if it was anything like the IKEAs we have in our own countries. I discovered that it’s almost the exact same layout at the IKEA in Minneapolis, and sells the exact same things! I saw some of the things I bought when I moved into my apartment in Minneapolis, but couldn’t bring here to Japan, and was a bit tempted to reinvest in those particular items. I decided to hold off, though, since maybe it’ll be cheaper to maybe have them sent to me as part of a package from home.

Once we had our fill of IKEA, we got on the train and went back to Kris’s apartment. We sat down for a moment, and then decided we wanted to watch a movie, so we walked to Tsutaya (a store where you can rent CDs and movies) to inspect the stock. We eventually decided on watching Studio Ghibli’s new film, 「借りぐらしのアリエッティ」which literally means “The Borrower Arietty,” but the English title of the film is “The Secret World of Arietty.” It was a wonderful film to watch, and luckily it came with English subtitles for those who are just beginning to study Japanese (as is the case for some in our group). When we got back to Kris’s apartment, the final member of our group, named Ravi, joined us. We all crammed into Kris’s living room to watch the movie, and then figured out where everyone was going to sleep before turning in for the night.

We slept in on Friday morning, and once again made チョコ焼き(chocoyaki) for breakfast in Kris’s たこ焼き(takoyaki) maker. Instead of cooking pieces of octopus in batter, we cooked chocolate in pancake batter! I think it’s a superb idea. We also had loads of fruit and yogurt to eat as well, so it was quite the feast. I hope this becomes a tradition, but Jess and I will have to decide who buys the たこ焼き maker when the others come visit us in Koga!

Friday’s adventures consisted of a lot of walking in various parts of Tokyo. We first took the train to Akihabara, and then went to Shibuya and Harajuku. Before leaving Akihabara Station, we stopped at a store that sells mochi.

MOCHI.

You can get all sorts of flavors of mochi there. I ended up choosing a black sesame one, which was delicious! I need to remember where this store is so I can go back. At this particular store, however, they serve it to you chilled and you have to wait fifteen minutes before eating it so it can soften. It’s as hard as a rock otherwise!

Going around Akihabara was a lot of fun. We stopped in an arcade to take some プリクラ (purikura), which was crazy given the fact we were cramming seven people in one booth! It was raining cats and dogs when we left the arcade, though, so a few of us (myself included) decided to invest in some small umbrellas. We stayed fairly dry after that. Our next stop was a store called Don Quixote, which is a store that has a crazy mish-mash of all sorts of things. You can buy electronics on one floor, and colored contacts on another. Another two floors are dedicated to another arcade.

We went to Shibuya after Don Quixote and decided to eat lunch first before going shopping. Many of us were craving pizza, and Kris (who is from England) began talking about this good pizza place near the Shibuya station that he visited before. I laughed a little bit when I heard that we were going to Sbarro! It was a strange feeling to go down the line and say what slice of pizza I wanted. I felt like I was wandering in two worlds at the same time. I was in Sbarro, which reminded me of the Oakwood Mall in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but I was in Japan! It was weird.

It was really great to eat pizza again, and once we were all done we began heading in the direction of H&M. Several of us had things on our lists that we were hoping to buy, and while I wasn’t as successful I did end up buying this really neat straw hat for 1000 yen (a little more than $10). It sounds really expensive, but it’s pretty cheap compared to other hats I’ve seen here in Japan. After H&M was Forever 21, and then we walked to Harajuku to see if some of those stores were still open. We finished the evening back at the Starbucks in Shibuya, and then went back to the apartment.

When we were planning on what to do with our Golden Week, Jess and I agreed that since we would be near Yokohama, we definitely had to visit. Youko, Jess’s mother-away-from-home, lives there and I was definitely looking forward to see her again! Kris had other plans to go with friends to Kamakura and John decided to go out on his own before heading back home, so it was only a group of five that went: Jess, Becky, Joey, Ravi, and myself.

Youko met us at the train station and we all ate lunch at a cafe that was affiliated with a store called Village Vanguard. It was quite a bizarre experience, because they served food that seemed to be a mixture of American, Mexican, and some sort of Caribbean cuisine and all the while Disney music was playing. It was weird, but quite the experience!

After lunch we quickly visited Village Vanguard and then took the train to Yokohama’s Chinatown, which was quite busy since it was Golden Week! Joey and I were on a mission to find and buy a panda hat for Kris, but the one we found was too expensive at the time. I highly doubt that the price will go down anytime soon, but it sure would be nice! We visited all sorts of stores, and went to a big Chinese temple located near the center of Chinatown. The temple sold 絵馬 (ema), which is definitely not a Chinese tradition. I bought one anyway to add to my collection!

Inside of a panda-themed store

In front of the temple in Chinatown.

We walked from Chinatown to Yamashita Park in search of ice cream, and eventually found some. Since we were right next to the bay, we also took the chance to walk alongside the water for a short while. We then went to Youko’s apartment, where we all dined pizza that she was kind enough to order for us. We spent the evening resting our feet and relaxing and we were treated to a great view from Youko’s balcony. Youko is working on getting her license to teach Japanese to foreigners, so we had loads of questions for her. She was nice enough to lend me a manga, and she also gave me a book on Japanese theater. I tried saying that I would bring it back but she kept telling me that it was too advanced for the people she currently teaches and that it would have a better home with me. I really need to find an awesome gift for her in order to thank her now!

Yokohama at night, taken from Youko’s balcony.

Since the post is getting a bit long, I’ll end it here. Stay tuned for Part Three, in which we continue Saturday on into the wee hours of Sunday morning in Shibuya! Remember to leave a message in the comments if you ever have any questions for me.

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