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Ice Cream at the Tallest Tower in the World

June 25, 2012

This weekend was a lot of fun.

It started Friday after school, when I went home and immediately threw some laundry into the machine and spent some time unwinding. A little after 6:00 I received a message from Courteney asking if I wanted to go out to dinner. She picked me up a half-hour later and we drove to get Eric and meet Rob at Saizeriya, which is a Japanese family restaurant’s take on Italian food. The nice thing about family restaurants in Japan is that the food is delicious, but cheap. After we finished eating, we headed across the street to check out a little setup we spotted in one of the alleys. There were two small tables set up in the alley with some chairs next to a car with loads of what looked like coffee equipment inside. It turned out that it was a small cafe called Joyce Cafe, and is run by a man outside of a car specially equipped with coffee-making supplies. He sets up between two buildings every day between 7:00 and 10:00 and makes some really good drinks. I ordered some honey lemonade, which was quite tasty. The shopkeeper spoke some English, and since we were the only customers we chatted with each other in a mixture of English and Japanese. His wife also stopped by and she and I talked a little bit about Osaka since that’s where she was from and my host family lived in that prefecture.

After coffee we all went to Eric’s apartment to watch a movie called Birdemic: Shock and Terror. It lived up to its name, because it was shockingly terrible. It had to be the best worst movie I had ever seen and if you are looking for a good film to watch, it is an hour and a half of your life wasted. However, if you like really bad movies with terrible special effects, horrible sound quality, a worse script, and even worse actors, this film is right up your alley. That being said, we watch it the whole way through and spent our time making fun of the film. What surprised us the most is that when we looked up the film, we discovered that there is a sequel! I have a feeling that it will be part of a future movie night.

Saturday morning I got a text message from Jess and took the train to Funabashi, where she, Becky, and Lisa were going to go. Getting there was a bit of a hike, because there was an accident of some sort on the line. As a result, my first train became really late. There was one point where we were even at a standstill for seven minutes or so! Subsequently, I missed all of my transfers and had to wait for the next ones. Overall, I ended up being twenty minutes late.

Once I finally got to where the others were, we walked around Funabashi, shopped for a bit, stopped to buy some bread, and then headed to Kris’s apartment in Kamagaya. Kris and Joey were already there, having just returned from their second scuba certification class. We sat and talked for a very long time (a couple of hours at least), before some of us began getting itchy feet and wanted to go out and possibly get dinner somewhere. Lisa and Joey passed on going out and instead decided to head back home, but the rest of us got on the train to Kashiwa and first tried to go to the Hub, which is an English pub. (Becky and Kris couldn’t stop talking about getting fish and chips) When we arrived, however, we discovered that there was a soccer game happening, so the pub was quite crowded. We passed on going in and instead went to get dinner at a Hawaiian burger place. It was so good! I actually ended up getting a roast turkey sandwich instead of a hamburger, because how often do you come across turkey in Japan? Not very often, let me tell you. Hamburgers are definitely a little more common. I’ll probably get one the next time we go, though, so no worries. After dinner Becky headed home, and Kris, Jess, and I went back to Kamagaya and went to bed.

We had a very lazy Sunday morning. There was some difficulty in deciding where we wanted to go, but we finally decided to go to the Tokyo Skytree, which recently finished construction. It’s the tallest tower in the world, standing at 2,080 ft, but not the tallest man made structure. That honor lies with Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is 2,723 feet tall. The tower itself isn’t open to the public yet, but the shops and restaurants on the first seven floors are.

It’s really difficult to really show just how tall the tower is. It’s huge!

The whole area is called Solamachi, meaning “Sky Town,” and it’s so big that there’s an aquarium on the fifth floor, and a planetarium on the seventh floor. We didn’t stop in the aquarium, but we popped in the gift shop for a short while. Jess and I each bought a plastic animal out of a vending machine that you have to put together on your own. However, you don’t get to choose what you get! She got a pink hermit crab, and I got Peary, my new walrus. I used part of my break time during school today to assemble him.

He’s named after Robert Edmund Peary, the first person to reach the geographic North Pole. Isn’t he great? He currently sits on the bookshelf above my bed.

After wandering around and checking things out, we went to lunch at an Indian restaurant on the sixth floor (amazing food) and then went to the fourth floor to have Coldstone (Yes! They have a Coldstone!) for dessert. Very Japanese, I know. Now, Coldstone in Japan is a bit different than Coldstone in the States. For one thing, a lot of the ice cream sundaes you can get in the States are ones that you don’t often see in Japan. For example, in America you can get a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup-themed sundae. It doesn’t exist here in Japan, because Reeses Peanut Butter Cups aren’t very common. Instead, a lot of the sundaes are fruit-themed, because fruit is considered to be a dessert item here in Japan. So, if I pack fruit in my lunches for school I have to make sure I eat it last. If I decide to eat my orange first, it’s equivalent to eating dessert first! Japan also has green tea ice cream, so some of the sundaes are designed around that flavor scheme. It’s absolutely delicious.

Another thing that’s different between American and Japanese Coldstone restaurants is that the workers don’t sing after getting tipped. This is because Japan doesn’t have a tipping culture, so if you work in the restaurant industry you don’t make your money off of tips but get paid a set regular amount. So, when do the workers sing, you ask? Actually, they sing almost all the time! They ask if you want them to sing while your sundae is being made, and if you say yes, they immediately burst into song. And they sing well, too! They even harmonize on some of their songs, which made the choir part of myself happy. We found out that they also sing for birthdays, but we found out a little too late. It was Kris’s birthday on Friday, so it would have been neat if we had them sing for him. The three of us did joke that the next time we go we should tell them that it’s someone’s birthday just so they would sing for us. Who knows, it just may happen!

After eating our fill of Coldstone, we checked to see if there was a show playing at the planetarium, but the next one wasn’t for another forty-five minutes and we had already talked to Kate about meeting in Ginza in a little while. The next time I go, though, I definitely want to go to the planetarium!

We took the train and the subway into Ginza where we met Kate. The four of us wandered up and down the main drag in search of a coffee shop, stopped to check out a few stores along the way, and eventually stopped at a nice little place up on the second floor of a building. We all knew that the Ginza area is a little more expensive than other areas of Tokyo, but we were a little surprised when we saw the price of the drinks. We decided that if we had to pay so much money for a drink, we had better go all out. Therefore Kate, Jess, and I each got an Almond Au Lait, which cost ¥975 (around $12 with the current exchange rate) and Kris got a smoothie. The Almond Au Lait was really good, but I don’t know if it was quite worth ¥975!

Kate had a dinner with another friend scheduled, so we all went in the direction of Kamagaya. Jess and I then got in her car and then came back to Koga. All in all, it was a great weekend. This Saturday we’re officially celebrating Kris’s birthday with a potluck picnic in the park. I’m really looking forward to it. Be sure to keep an eye out for a post about that!

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