所沢！ Tokorozawa! (Living in Tokorozawa, Japan)
So, I couldn’t find my camera cable, but this picture looks EXACTLY like the place (Shogundzuka, right by [as in two steps away from] my house) I went up yesterday (actually multiple days ago by the time this post was posted). The humidity and heat seems to match exactly too.
Ok, what follows is a needlessly particular account of the first two weeks of my stay in Japan. It is the definition of a TLDR – so for the first time ever, I’m going to use a more tag. If you are extremely bored, feel free to read – but this is more just for people that know me personally :D
(July 4th ~ 21:00 JST)
So, now that I finally have time, and am completely exhausted and have a reason to shut myself up in my room for a few hours, here now starts the manifesto, the epic – of what homestay in Japan is like, and Japan in general.
I have been here since the 23rd of June, so I’d like to try to remember that far back and recap what’s all happened thus far.
June 22->23rd (Tuesday->Wednesday)
My first real international flight. It was with Korean Air, and after I made my way out of LAX where I was yelled at and into LAX International, I was showered by … what’s this? Kindness! Americans are all rude, let’s face it, because the standard level of customer respect and overall just being nice, is far higher on this half of the world. But I degress – On the flight I sat next to a person that can only truly be described as an awesome old Korean dude. He just looked awesome, somehow. He couldn’t figure out most of the dashboard in-flight mechanism stuff, so we communicated a lot via hand motions and such. I got a bit worried that that’s how it would be like with my host family too, but let’s face it – after 10 or so hours of flight, your nerves calm themselves down. We had designated sleeping times, like five meals, and Japanese and Korean flight attendants always coming with wine, tea, and coffee. There were lots of movies and quite a few that I thought I wanted to see, but most of the time I just rested and listened to my iPod. I find that I can do that for an absurd amount of time without getting bored, and it’s really come in handy. I watched Alice in Wonderland again, but with Chinese subtitles (it was really amusing when the Mad Hatter was listing all these types of hats, and the chinese was ~~hat, ~~hat, ~~hat again and again and again). We had constant World Cup updates from the pilot, and because Korea was winning we got lots and lots of cheers all around the plane. It was pretty cool. Oh, the one thing that was tough was getting woken up in REM sleep by a baby right behind me, so I had a couple of hours where it felt like I was in a desert gasping for water – the cabin was all dry air too of course so that didn’t help much, but it was kind of a cool experience getting through it. While reading about some French desert pilot or something or another in the in-flight magazine.
When we first landed in Japan, I just kept thinking, I can’t believe I’m in Japan, I can’t believe I’m in Japan, about a couple dozen times. It was raining, but it was interesting – all the polite people at the airport, the roads being strange, and not having a direct line to the airport but instead a ladder and bus. Then I got to start going through the airport, made it to immigration… but then I got stopped, questioned and thrown in a room for interrogation (politely). (I got searched at LAX too XD). Well apparently the officer that I went to at the booth didn’t know about the visa rule, the officer in the interrogation room was like that guy’s an idiot – you’re fine. Then I got a special little “permission to land” slip and went on my way. Customs was much easier. A nod towards a pretty woman with a smile and a walk on through and that was it. Then we got to meet up with everyone else. I thought I was going to be late, but quickly grabbed some money (I brought none) from an ATM, and found the group just at the designated time. However apparently one of the people that was supposed to be in the program had lost her passport while changing planes on the way to Tokyo and of course couldn’t get out to the main part of the airport. So, we waited about six or so hours, partially for her, partially for some of the late people, and partially for the buses. I have no idea if that incident got resolved enough, but to be honest, at the time I was just thinking about how that made my day longer. Then we got on a bus and set off for Tokyo. You people in America, especially you people in Texas, especially you people in DFW and Houston, you wouldn’t believe how the roads work here. The speed limits are all much much lower (absolute max is 80kph). Everyone, and I mean like 99.5% of the people on the road, drive politely. Also, most roads are extremely curvy and one lane. There are many roads that are two way-one lane for both. (Somehow it works, trust me). So despite not much traffic, it took quite a long while to drop everyone off at the places here and there, and me and my buddy Scott Fuhrer (ok, his actual name is Furer, but I mean, come on. He’s the Fuhrer!) had the last stop. In Tokorozawa (所沢).
So, we arrived at Tokorozawa Station at about 23:00 (11pm, but I’m going to start using 24hr from here), and it was kinda pitch black all around so I couldn’t see much, and we both waited for our host families to come pick us up. This means that up to this point, I had been awake for 32 hours. (I never fully fell asleep on the plane so I’m not counting it). I found out that Scott and my host families were related, which I’ll explain more in depth later, I was picked up and drove off a little ways. I was tired but I was able to converse ok – I got into the bath (why don’t they have Japanese style bath/showers in America? I felt like I was being reborn!), then I was sent off to bed pretty quickly; I stayed up a little bit putting things here and there, then fell asleep around 00:35 on the 24th.
June 24th (Thursday)
I woke up at 4:15, less than four hours later, to birds chirping, and the sun shining through the window and into my eyes. WHAT!?!?!?! I haven’t even yet experienced anything I can call “culture shock” but if I was shocked about anything it was that. However, I felt strangely refreshed and fine, and I got up and went to breakfast. At this point, I had already met the grandmother, mother, and the two kids, but I met the grandfather in the morning. The father was off on a work trip or something so I wasn’t going to meet him for a few days. I’ll take my time now to describe the family.
Yamada Sanae (O-kan) [Host Grandmother]
Probably the nicest person I’ve ever met. Ever. She’s the mother of three daugthers and one son whom I haven’t met. One of the daughters is my host mother (Kaoru – whom I think is the eldest of the daughters), then the second eldest (or eldest if I was wrong before) lives right next door, and Scott is staying with the youngest daughter. – Anyway, O-kan is a housewife so she does the cooking and cleaning and makes sure everyone is up in the morning. She always smiles and probably talks directly to me the most out of everyone. She’s the only adult in the house that doesn’t drink or smoke. I think it’s funny how impressed the whole family is that I seem to be able to eat just about anything – the most common thing she says to me has to be 食べな (Go ahead and eat ^_^) She plans most of the ventures and everything when we go out as a family, and I’ve always felt really bad when I’ve come back a bit too late (usually because I’ve gotten lost D:) There’s a gigantic white cat (Non-chan) that she often carries to and fro when it tries to get out, and into a box if it’s looks like it’s frustrated (when it goes nyaaaaaaa nyaaaaaa). (A cardboard box is that cat’s special happy place. o.o)
Yamada Sankichi (JiJi / NOT JiiJii) [Host Grandfather]
He seems to work for a construction/cleaning something or other, and leaves pretty early in the morning and usually comes back by mid-evening. He looks pretty cool ^_^ – especially when he laughs. He’s very thin and pretty tall for a Japanese man. He doesn’t talk to me directly as often, but he’s very funny and we often laugh together. Once the family learned that I drink, he’d often offer me the stuff he likes – Shochuu, and this light (5%) alcoholic drink that tastes mainly like fruit soda – can’t remember the name.
Iwamoto Kaoru (Kao-chi (what her mother calls her), Okaasan?) [Host Mother]
Didn’t exactly fit my first expectation, because her hair is dyed light brown and is permed so it’s curly/frizzy – but she’s nice just like O-kan. She works at some or another company, but she’s almost always been at the house while I’ve been here, so I’m not sure when/where she works. She ends most of her phrases with ね or さ and likes to include me in whatever joke’s floating around. She probably talks directly to me the second most, after O-kan. She’s a bit more of a picky eater than I am, so she probably celebrates my ability to eat all forms of Japanese food the most. She’s probably also the most interested in my random stories about what goes on in America, in front of O-kan who likes to gossip a lot about some of their previous exchange students and about who’s gay (still amuses me more than anything else – I was told dozens of times about this one guy that they had stay that came on to a cross-dressing maid in Akihabara.) Anyway, because of Kaoru, ね has come up slightly more in my sentences.
Iwamoto Keisuke (Kei-san/chan? by some members of the family) [Host Father]
I hadn’t met him yet at this point, but I’m going to go ahead and describe him now. My first impression of him was when he got home really late, I think a day later than he said he was going to be – and was really tired, and I pretty much just introduced myself and let the conversation flow on to other people. I thought for a second that my worst fears had been confirmed and I was about to make contact with a stereotypical company worker that wouldn’t say too much and just work day in and day out. – Next morning. I’m greeted on the stairs by Keisuke in a bright pink shirt smoking by the window and smiling. Fears vanished in an instant. This guy is the embodiment of one of those cool young fathers that still show a lot of their adventurous pre-fatherhood in them. He’s very stylish and occasionally wears quite unusual clothing, and is really really nice. He’s occasionally hard on the boys (like any father) which makes me feel a little awkward, but he’s all in all like a mixture of the other three adults. He talks to me just as frequently as O-kan or more, though because he’s around for less time it comes out to be a litle less than Kaoru. He often tells me to eat this or drink this, and because of him I’ve probably had every type of Japanese alcohol XD. He uses っす when he talks, and now I use it – more or less because I liked and kind of wanted to use it before, but hearing it makes it come up a lot more. He gossips about the other exchange students, laughs like JiJi and likes history, so I’ve heard a bunch of things about this or that that I don’t quite remember – and he laughed a lot when I said I wanted to go to Akihabara and said he might scout some places out for me.
Iwamoto Kaito (Kaito, occaisionally Kai-chan) [Older Brother (age 8->9)]
Typical older brother. Tries to act tough a lot, beats up on the little brother a little bit, holds back his tears – currently on a little bit of a diet, but not by much. Kaito’s learning English but he doesn’t use it often, just sometimes to act smart (because he probably knows more English than anyone else in the family – for example, O-kan knows about 10 words, one of them being “watermelon”, the only full sentence I’ve heard out of Kaoru is quoting “this is a pen”, and a “no English” with a laugh, and I’ve never heard JiJi try. Rarely he’ll confirm what an English word is in Japanese or he’ll ask me “is this right” or something. He’s a cool kid, likes pokemon a lot – and I can understand him pretty well when he speaks to me.
Iwamoto Kazuki (Kazu/Kazu-chan) [Younger Brother (age 5->6)]
Typical little baby brother, really likes shows on television like pokemon, power rangers, kamen rider and stuff like that. – He often asks questions like, are there “strawberries in America?” and likes repeating things and being picked up and stuff like that. I can understand him most of the time, but it’s a little harder (in the same way that it’s rather hard to understand my little cousins sometimes). He cries a bit more easily like any kid, and is much more easily amused than Kaito.
Well anyway, like I said – I woke up extremely early, so I got ready for class, ate a very healthy and variety filled breakfast and went to the Shogundzuka bus station with O-kan (showing me how to work the bus payment mechanism), Kaito (he had class), Scott, and Scott’s host father (whose name eludes me even now.) We took the bus (which prints a ticket for you when you walk in, and you throw the ticket and some coins in the same slot when you get off) for about 10-15 minutes (the roads were so curvy I’m still not sure I could find the station easily on a bike), then got to Tokorozawa Station, which is one of the larger stations on the Seibu Shinjuku line. We did the whole ticket gate thing (which was very cool then, but slightly more mundane now) and got on a semi-express train set for Seibu Shinjuku Station (you wouldn’t think, but all the trains and subways in Tokyo are run by about 6 different companies, so transfering can mean walking a long way or having to get completely separate tickets and stuff – though now I have a passmo card that I use whenever I’m not using something I specifically have a ticket for) – which took 40-45 minutes. The first two days or so I got a little train sick, which resulted in a light headache/nausea, but I’m used to it now and it was never really that bad – I think it had more to do with diet/time adjustment. The trains really are pretty efficient. Every now and then you get packed in pretty tight, but not that often and about 40-50% of the time people will make a tiny ring around you (because I’m a foreigner?). At any rate, it’s a commute and the people are commuters – they aren’t going to bother to talk to you. Still, everytime I’ve interacted with someone on the train they’ve been really nice. One time I even dropped a water bottle (full) on someone’s head and was about to freak out about it, but he was like “ok, ok – ouch” in pseudo English and then smiled and waved with his hands to say he was fine. >.> The workers at the train station are very efficient and more all together than most places in America. After Seibu Shinjuku, we could walk to Shinjuku and take a subway a couple blocks down to the school – but most of the time we just walk (it’s about 15-20 minutes). Like I’ve said before, Tokyo’s just like a solid downtown block the size of the entire city of Dallas – most shops are on one of 8 floors of a random building, or like Kinokunia all 8 floors.
KCP was cool – most of the first day was just telling us stuff we already knew and then showing us around the building – then we took a pretty easy group placement test. I say easy because I got put in the top group :). After that I sort of meandered around with some people I met and bought some books at a shady looking bookstore, including Kokoro – we walked around quite a bit but after not too long we went back to the station so we wouldn’t be late. However, I thought that there was only one bus on the west side of the station and so we ended up taking the wrong one and going north. At the final stop we found a sort of strip mall, music store and grocery store, so we wandered around there and it was fun – I almost bought a few things but I was hesitant about that (don’t spend everything your first week!) thing. So I held back. Then I navigated us back home (Scott apparently has no talent whatsoever for navigation) – and because it was kind of a long day, when I got back I just went to sleep after dinner and a shower.
June 25th (Friday)
We had orientation on Friday and I found that I was put into the highest level group woo :D – which was tasked with aiming for level 4 of 6 (completing 6 means you’re ready to integrate yourself as a citizen/ordinary university student). It was cool, there was free food – and then we had our first class and stuff – My conversation level was pretty bleh, but that put me sort of in the middle of everyone else, my reading level was great – but I didn’t feel like I was being underpowered or anything so it was good. Scott said he got into a group aiming for level 1.5 and that he felt that he was the top of the class – so he’ll probably make level 2. We pretty much just wandered around Shinjuku this day – but after being sort of late I wanted to be perfectly on time the next day I didn’t stay long – and just went back.
June 26th (Saturday)
Went with Scott and my host family to Asakusa, famous for Ajisai (hydrangeas) and other such things and mainly just walked around – almost picked up a few things as o-miyage, but I didn’t find anything I thought really fit. It was nice to walk around a more touristy town with a lot of the older buildings and stuff. There were bells and such. We also got supplies for a bbq – but it rained, so we ended up having sukiyaki inside all together (Scott’s host family plus mine)
June 27th (Sunday)
Went with O-kan to the grocery store and to a 100-500 yen store for souvenirs and got some tea cups and fans and stuff. – We then visited a buddhist temple somewhere in Tokorozawa and it was really cool. A really young priest explained about the parting of the two main Japanese buddhist sects, and I understood a good part of it ^_^. Sunday afternoon I walked up Shogundzuka and took a few pictures, throroughly drenched because it was so humid outside and walking up a hill doesn’t exactly cool you down – but it was very interesting. The forest was supposed to be “Totoro’s forest” or something or another, so that added to the cool factor.
June 28th (Monday)
What can I say? Long. This is the first time we had had a full days worth of classes (8+ hours D:) because we have to double up in the group session time for the summer short program. It was long. But I got to know the students in the class a little bit better so that was good. After class I wandered with Scott through convenience store after convenience store and then around the west end of Shinjuku. Where Scott (who has a girlfriend) was like “Ah!!! Red-light district!! Red-light district!!!” sort of half distressed. It was pretty amusing. Picked up a few “interesting” flyers, but I don’t know what I’ve done with them. Then we stared at the large gigantic mass that is the ultimate pachinko parlor in Shinjuku – damn it’s gigantic. It has nice air conditioning though, so it’s nice to stand by the doors. :D Then we heard a lot about the new Evangelion pachinko machines and I even picked up a whole magazine that talked solely about it. We got home a little late, but not too late, so it was fine ^_^
June 29th (Tuesday)
This was actually a pretty regularly boring day – I think I have alternate days where I was adventurous and risked being late, and other days when I wanted to get home early to correct my lateness of the previous day. A few convenience store browsings – nothing special, I dropped my change on the floor when I was paying and it was a spectacular fail *>.>* I remember my constellation thingy receiving a bad luck that day – lol. However, on the bright side – though it seemed to always be raining, whenever I was outside it wasn’t raining. So good luck mixed with bad luck.
June 30th (Wednesday)
This is one of those days when I made a mistake. I left Scott alone. After class I found Kinokunia and thought I had ascended to heaven. Scott said he had to go home early – and I was like “eight floors. EIGHT FLOORS!” – so he was like – yeah I’ll just go on ahead. D: Poor Scott took a local train. I was in Kinokunia for over an hour – and then I tried to call my host family to say I’d be a bit late, and I got a wrong number and had an awkward conversation :x – (because I had Japanese service I had to dial the call locally, not as if it were international, and I dialed international.) So I decided to rush home, I got on a quick express train and zipped off to Tokorozawa. I got to the station, ran towards the bus stop, and guess who was also at the bus stop? Poor Scott. – Anyway, I said I was sorry for being late and said I tried to call but it somehow didn’t work, and how I found Kinokunia and stuff – and I helped ready Scott for explaining (it’s a bit hard for him to communicate with his host family though they all know more English than mine). That was a day. Still, it was worth it. I bought the novel Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei and another book the “#1 novel according to college student polls” by the same author :D I was ridiculously excited. I also got a book of a hundred spooky tales, a cloth book cover (to protect the book and also serve as a book mark – it’s what I had seen dozens of people on the trains use), and book called Ushinawaru Monogatari, by Otsuichi. Well worth it.
July 1st (Thursday)
Thursday was another of those in between days – After class I wanted to get home early to make up for being late the last day, Scott wanted to go buy a pre-paid phone (to double as a watch too because he didn’t bring one) so I went and bought a manga magazine in a convenience store (it had something interesting in it about a goldfish mermaidy thing) and went back home. I gave Scott my number to call in case he got into trouble on the way home. That was pretty much a day.
July 2nd (Friday)
Friday we had the morning off, so I went over to go visit my UT friends (who were still in class unbeknownst to me) ._. I wish everyone had brought phones at least to text with. – Twitter was being really slow and unreliable with sending me texts so that failed too – but we visited where they were staying (Scott and I), but since we didn’t feel like sitting around and doing nothing, we walked around Yoyogi and visited the Meiji Jinguu (Shinto Shrine) I was a little disappointed because I didn’t see any Mikos (>.>), but there were some cool priests in the light blue with paper charm wand things (I should know what those are called…) – we did the cleansing steps and threw coins in the Saisen-bako and prayed and heard the drums and bought poem mikuji (we couldn’t find the regular ones) and then we walked around some more – then we went to class in time – which was the same as ever. After class both Scott and my family got together for dinner at our house and the food is good and we weren’t late and all was well.
July 3rd (Saturday) AKIHABARA!!!!!!
Saturday we still had class, but we had the afternoon off, so right after class me and Scott decided to go for it – (me navigating). There are several ways to get to Akiba, and still quite a few from where we were at, but I went for the cheapest way, which ended up being one of the more interesting ways. We hopped from Shinjuku-gyoenmae and took the Marunouchi line with some of the already paid for tickets we hardly ever use over to Shinjuku Station (if I haven’t stated before this place is HUGE, it’s not overly complicated, like many people say, but it still is HUGE) That was about 2 floors or so underground. We then went to the Oedo line, 6 floors further down, (B8F !?!?!?!?) the lowest line in Shinjuku. We took that to Ueno-okachimachi and walked around 300m or so underground to the Hibiya line and used our cheap pre-paid tickets from there to get to the Akihabara subway station. Well as it turns out, the Akiba subway station is actually a bit far from [the heart of] Akihabara (unlike the slightly larger JR station which is right on its edge) so we had to walk a ways and like a foul omen I went first in the wrong cardinal direction, but quickly corrected myself and soon we were in the middle of it all.
You can walk across Akihabara in 5 minutes. It’s not that big. But there are dozens upon dozens of stores, stacked on top of each other for 8 floors and many going down underground – outside I found a used JIS keyboard – my first purchase, 105 yen with tax included and I was ecstatic – the first real store we went into had 6 floors, 2 of which were a little too H filled for Scott to manage but it was really cool – it was a primarily a video game store and I saw Love Plus, but I figured if I was going to make a purchase like that (when I don’t even have my DS with me) I’d rather make it near the end of my stay. I was tempted by previews of Hatsune Miku Diva 2nd and such, and wished I had a PSP (there are many more PSP games in most of the stores than DS games – it’s more popular here though it’s not like the DS is losing by any means, I think it’s still ahead overall in Japan) – but of course I wasn’t going to buy something that expensive. Then I found Kotobukiya :D – I found a few things for family, a Miku Hatsune T-shirt and a cheap random Evangelion trading figurine (I was lucky and got Mari which is who I wanted :D) and then I wandered upstairs and looked at a lot of impressive looking figures. (I told myself I wouldn’t buy 1/8-1/6 scale figures while I was in Japan, because I should have already pre-ordered them if I wanted them anyway). Scott said he was going to go to some game centers and I wandered further upstairs and found comics and DOUJINSHI :D
I apparently spent the next 4-5 hours (though I think it was a bit shorter myself) searching for this and that within the treasure pile that was doujinshi. Out of all my time in Japan thus far I haven’t seen anything more variably priced. I saw a few rare issues in display cases for 31650 yen that looked like they were less than 10 pages long, and 40 page magazine-ish looking ones for 210, and you could find the same exact issue for multiple prices if you searched hard enough. If you found what you wanted, you keep searching to see if there’s one with a lower price tag (price bag/shrink wrap really) that you could switch it out with. I had amassed a huge pile of them when I decided I really should start cutting this down. The non-ero was mixed with the ero – so I figured someone like Scott would suffocate in a place like this, but there were both men and women (though fewer women) fishing through doujinshi and taking their pick. When I was struggling to find a good balance of expense and amount, going hmmmmmmm I got a call from Scott saying he had combed all of Akiba trying to find me. – “Oh, I’m in the same store, just a floor or so up” – the reaction. lol. Anyway – I got 18 issues, altogether 9800/10290 with tax (4 for 1000, 5 for 600, 5 for 400, 4 for 200) – have I mentioned that every item in Japan has the amount of what it costs with tax included on it, and that the tax is 5% so it’s easy as hell to calculate? :D Anyway, after that – we went through game center after game center – I went to melon books – we passed by maid cafes (Moe Moe Kyun~~~~!!!!!) When I first heard that I had the simultaneous reaction of cringing and being filled with joy from the bottom of my heart. I picked up a flyer from one of the maids in the street for “dates with maids” – it looked purely non-sexual, but it did have a …. by the options column so I guess if you asked specifically they could “work something out”. I heard some people complain before about ugly maids, but I don’t know what they were talking about – they were all cute girls and filled their roles perfectly, from general motions, to picking up things on the street if they dropped them to hopping up stairs so there was a faint hint of a possible panchira. But all in all they looked less red-district than what we encountered down the alleys of Shinjuku so maaah… What was cute was because it was sort of barely showering on and off the maids would every now and then flick up an umbrella and then back down, and then back up…
Anyway, by this time, no need to say – my feet were saying kill me now…. kill me now…!! Also, it was getting a bit late, so we decided to get a meal ticket dinner (instead of a maid cafe which would have been a bit too expensive after my doujinshi splurge) and go home. This was around 7:30 ish. We planned to be back by 9-ish, which was good. However, it took a little while to find Akiba Subway again (because it’s a bit farther from Akiba than I think it should). We found a Ginza station that would have been useful to take, but we didn’t. Anyway, back at Akiba subway which we found after not too long I decided it would be best just to go back the way we came, so we wouldn’t risk getting lost, because it was late. (Mistake #1, this alternate route would have taken us directly to Seibu Shinjuku Tadanobaba, which is on the way to Tokorozawa.) Anyway, we had come this way before so it was no problem. In 15 minutes we were back at Shinjuku Station, and a 5 minute walk would have taken us to Seibu Shinjuku Station. However, I lost my bearings underground – I knew where I was in the station, but I didn’t know what direction was where. I figured it would be easier if I just went above ground and got my bearings (Mistake #2, I should have just looked for a map of the station – stupidly though there are signs for every line go this way sort of thing in Shinjuku, there AREN’T any signs for Seibu Shinjuku – there’s just a vague arrow and that’s it [the vague arrow eventually comes to a stair a little off center, but of course I missed that]) Anyway I saw a map above ground, and I looked at it, corrected my bearings and set off. (Mistake #3, in Japan, maps are hardly ever North-South, they’re more often positioned in respect to the direction the person is looking when looking at the map) Therefore, when I thought I was going North, because the map was upside down, I went south. For an hour. (Mistake #4, I should have realized that however big Shinjuku station is, we should have been on the North side, so walking north shouldn’t have taken but 10 minutes at the most. I found another subway entrance. Overjoyed I ran down, and found I was at the southern most tip of Shinjuku Station, which isn’t connected directly by rail or walkway, but more in a sort of rail loop, which would have been difficult to traverse – so I told Scott, who was like x.x by now – and we walked back. I then dove back into the station until I found the places that we usually traversed underground. But I had never yet come up at Shinjuku station, just down and transver, so trying to find the original gate (the west entrance) we walked down by was an utter UTTER pain. Moreover, the West exit is not labelled “West Exit” underground like it is above ground, but rather Exit B14. o.o D:<<< As we were passing over to Seibu, because I now knew exactly where we were – I saw a direct stair from the Oedo, to the main street right in front of Seibu Shinjuku. What should have taken 5 minutes, this stair as proof, took over 2 hours We hopped on a 10:15 express train back to Tokorozawa, arriving at 11, past the time where the bus runs, and were picked up by Scott’s host father.
What a day. That was 2 days ago. My feet still feel like sandbags. In fact, my feet hurt so much that I couldnt’ fall asleep until 1→1:30 July 4th – guess when we woke up? 4:15.. D:
July 4th (Sunday) [Happy 4th of July BTW people] Kamakura and Enoshima
We woke up early – I spent as much time as I possibly could in the morning walking on my knees and piled into Scott’s host father’s car and left for Kamakura (3-4 hours away depending on traffic) There was no one around when we arrived at around 8:30ish, and we went to see the Daibutsu (big statue of Buddha, but smaller than the gigantic one in Nara). Then we went to a Shrine that was near by that had some historically significant name that I’ve forgotten – and I saw my first MIKO – just as we were leaving too. She was coming (well to work I guess) with a small bag and swishing by red and white with geta. I wish we had been there later so I could have seen her in action! (ok, that sounds – wrong…) Or at least so that there were more and it was more normal XD. Anyway, I had a otaku moment wash over me for that instant, let it wash over me, took a deep breath, and felt that I had just passed an important moment of my life and into personhood – or something like that. XD Anyway we went shopping, I bought a few family directed souvenirs and some geta with enough of an inclined heel to work with for my feet (so they won’t fall off and so they’ll actually be comfortable). Though I really wanted Tengu geta :<
Anyway after a lot of walking and a lot of resting, and a stop at McDonalds, which was RIDICULOUSLY clean (Japan+Shrine Town=Even McDonalds in pristine holy clean condition) It also makes for one of the largest restaurants I've been in while in Japan, though it's really no bigger than the nicer ones in America. After that we drove off to near by Enoshima, watching surfers and sail-glider peoples, and laughing at the smaller of the three boys (one's from Scott's host family), Kazuki commenting (I forget exactly what word he used) about the girls wearing bikinis. Yeah, but these were surfers, not sunbathers, so you're usually more inclined to say cool over cute.
Enoshima is the wind fish's island from Link's Awakening. I swear – I saw triforces EVERYWHERE. There was a Shinto shrine full of them, and there were these awesome tame stray cats (unrelated) and there were the actual type of ocarina used in the Zelda games (but not referencing Zelda at all), so I feel that another part of my video game quest as a person is also complete. – We had sashimi at Enoshima and did a bit of shopping (this is actually where I got my geta btw – time continuum error! ready the paradox machine!!!!). Anyway, after a lot of walking and feeling my feet scream and the sun burn again we hopped back in the car and on towards Tokorosawa.
Most of the ride I either slept or listened to music on my iPod, but we stopped by a grocery store on the way. Only in Japan would you on a cross city trip think – oooh grocery store! and go – but I also think that that's more that just part of Japan's charm right there. Oh, btw – almost every street that's more than two lanes on each side is a toll road in Japan. In the same way that the subway lines are scattered and owned by several different companies, the highways seem to be that way too. Or maybe the government feels that this is much more fair than taxing, because most people in Japan can't drive and don't need to.
Anyway, I'm tired. I've finished my recap. This is severe TLDR so read it slowly and in sections in parts if you feel that you want to tackle it all.