Samantha in Japan

It’s about time I updated.

Posted on: March 29, 2009

I apologize for the absolute dry spell as far as updates have gone these past few weeks. I’ve been incredibly busy, and putting together a blog entry always takes several hours, so it’s been near impossible to do recently. From March 14-22, I was on spring break and travelling the entire week, and last week has been midterms week at Kansai Gaidai.

By the way, dear Kansai Gaidai, the idea to have all the classes have midterms the WEEK WE GET BACK FROM SPRING BREAK is one of the stupidest ideas… ever. It was an absolute week from hell last week; I had five midterms and an hour-and-twenty-minute presentation. I’m pretty sure 95% of Kansai Gaidai’s student population went out drinking Friday night after all of that nonsense.

Anyway, let’s backtrack to spring break.

Even my pre-Tokyo travels became adventures. I had to take a night bus from Umeda to Shinjuku on Saturday night, and for some reason, one of the friends I was going with wanted to get there… two and a half hours early. We met up with her at Kyobashi station, got lost in the JR station, made it to Umeda, wandered around, found the bus place, realized we still had a ton of time to spare, and decided to find some food.

We stumbled upon a pirate-themed Italian restaurant. Could you pack anymore awesome into one eatery? I don’t think so. It was just sheer, luck, too. My friend and I spotted an Italian flag, and we were like, “Ooh! Yes, Italian food! We’re going!” We followed the signs and found ourselves in front of this… HEAVILY, HEAVILY themed restaurant. A big, wooden door with a skull in the middle was closed, there was some cannon going nuts outside the entrance. We skittered in, got the shit scared out of us by waiters who mess with their customers before taking them to their table, and got to enjoy a pizza-tossing show. Amazing.

The night bus to Tokyo was so much better than I expected. My friends and I decided to forego comfort in order to get the cheapest tickets, but it didn’t matter at all. I slept most of the way to Tokyo; it wasn’t very sound sleep, but I managed, and the seats weren’t uncomfortable at all. I’m lucky to have a very, uh, sturdy bladder, so having no bathroom on the bus wasn’t on my list of concerns in the first place.

The minute we got into Shinjuku, we had things to do. It was around 6:30 in the morning, and Tokyo was desolate. I had planned to meet up with someone in Harajuku that morning because we were both fans of AKB48, and they were having a handshake event in Harajuku that day. Yeah, why the hell not, I figured. He warned me that I may have to line up early in the morning– no problem! I was going to be there anyway! Before that, we stumbled out onto the streets of Harajuku, and when we headed down into the streets, we wondered why Tokyo had died. We were virtually the only people on the streets. My friends wanted to grab some breakfast before we went to line up, so we darted into a 24-hour McDonald’s. There were SOME people in there. 90% of them were fast asleep. I’m not even kidding.

After breakfast, we wandered around Harajuku until we found the place where we had to line up, spent about an hour and a half out in the cold, being gawked at by other people (yes, Japan, we like your musics), and trying to keep warm. Bought a couple CDs that got me tickets into the handshake event, and then headed off to drop of my luggage at the capsule hotel.

The capsule hotel doesn’t officially open for check-in until 5:00 PM or so, but they accept luggage for storage at 10 AM. By time we bought our CDs, it was ~10:30 or so, so we headed over to Akihabara, found the place, dropped our luggage off, and then headed back to Harajuku. We spent most of the day wandering around, people-watching (Sundays are BIG in Harajuku– lots of people dress up in crazy fashions; or so we heard… I only saw a few people looking REALLY decked out in crazy Japanese fashion here and there, but it was more concentrated there than elsewhere in Japan), visiting the Johnny’s store, looking in on shops, and getting absolutely SQUISHED in Takeshita Street. Around 4 PM, it was time for the handshake event we’d bought tickets for before, so we ended up MASSIVELY DELAYED by the human traffic jam that was Takeshita Street. The guy who I was meeting up with earlier was waiting for me at the event, and he ran me to the back of the line when he spotted me, informing me that the place had suddenyl EXPLODED with people, and no one had any idea why the line had gotten so big. I spent the next… two hours, I believe, stuck in line. It was insane. There’s too many irrelevant details I could list, but I ran into REALLY, REALLY bad luck. The “timeslots” I wanted to attend were at 4 and 5, and I didn’t even make it in until 6; things changed with the event because of that, so I was totally bummed.

But while I was standing in line, my friends and I were planning what we would be doing over the next few days, and we ended up asking/pestering the shy Japanese guy standing next to us in line for information about what’s [such and such place in Tokyo] famous for/what’s good to do. After a while, this guy opened up a little more, or at least got used to the crazy foreigners he got stuck in line next to, and started asking us which members [of this group] we were planning on meeting. My friends barely knew the group at all, and were just total troopers in standing in line with me for this event the whole time, so I answered the guy, and he showed me some of the stuff of the group he had collected, and concernedly checked the internet listing of which member was at which time for me. He said that the 5:00 timeslot was my last chance to meet the person I wanted to meet; at that point, we still had about 45 minutes left before that timeslot was up, and we were SO close to the building that I thought we’d get in.

No such luck. We rushed and rushed, and the Japanese guy literally took me under his wing and PLOWED me through the crowd in a desperate effort to get me into the timeslot, even tried convincing a staff member to let me in– all in vain. Like I said before, I was TOTALLY bummed out about not being able to make it in in time. The Japanese guy said, in English, “Ahh, it’s just bad luck, just bad luck,” and proceeded to give me a PRESENT [part of his collection].

It sounds corny, but I was absolutely touched by the undeserved kindness I got from this random stranger I met in the line. My friends and I must have been obnoxious with all of our questions, and he just seemed so shy for a while, but then he was like, “Hay, I’m gonna take care of you, don’t worry!” and did EVERYTHING he could possibly do [and everything that he did was out of sheer kindness] to get me through, and then gives me a little freebie in the end.

Anyway, I got into the event, met a few celebrities (Maeda Atsuko, Urano Kazumi, Kuramochi Asuka, Katayama Haruka on THAT day, but I met Miyazawa Sae, Takahashi Minami, Kashiwagi Yuki, and Minegishi Minami on the day before, in Osaka, when I went to a mini-show/handshake; if ANY of these names have any significance to any of you, haha), went back outside, ran into the guy from earlier randomly on the street (not the guy who gave me the freebie, the other one, who I know from before), and he introduced me to another [Japanese] fan of the group, who wanted to meet me, and proceeded to show me some of his own collection [it sounds redundant, but he’s been a fan for a while, so he had some really cool stuff to show], gave me ANOTHER freebie, and tried to arrange something else that will take too much explanation here for me.

Just, again, sheer KINDNESS OUT OF NOWHERE. That day was draining– physically from standing in line for hours, dragging luggage around crowded streets, and walking everywhere after a night of poor sleep, and emotionally, from being stressed out and being overwhelmed with the sheer amout of kindness coming my way.

All of this may not sound like much, but I will never forget that Sunday in Harajuku and all the amazing people I met.

On Monday, we went to Asakusa, took a tiny “cruise” down a river in the middle of Tokyo, and wandered around Shibuya. Asakusa was pretty, and the boat ride was interesting (it’s easy to forget that Tokyo has a RIVER in it), but Shibuya was really fun. We got to walk in that huge, famous crosswalk, we took a walk around the famous 109 department store, we went to karaoke in this really swank place, found Krispy Kreme donuts (we got free donuts while we stood in line!) AND TGI Friday’s. After having a big old, American-style dinner, we were planning on going to Roppongi. See, in Japan, almost everything closes at 8 PM. It’s ridiculous. My friends and I figured Tokyo would be different– things would be open at least past 8 PM… right?! Well, Sunday night, after we had gotten dinner, EVERYTHING was closed, and we had nothing to do but go back to the capsule hotel for the night… even though it was only 9 PM. So that night, we researched, and found that Roppongi is apparently the nightlife spot.

So anyway, we were sitting in TGI Friday’s, and one of the waiters came over to chat with us– just about where we were from, how we like Tokyo, etc., etc.

Waiter (W): So, what are your plans after this?
My friends and I (M): We’re going to Roppongi! šŸ˜€
W: *looks down at his watch nervously*
M: …?
W: You all know the number for the police, right?
M: LOLWTF!!!!
W: It’s dangerous in Roppongi! And you’re going now?!
M: Well, that’s where all the nightlife is!
W: True. But… just in case, tell me the number for the police.
One of my friends: 119! šŸ˜€
W: … WRONG. That’s the ambulance! D: It’s 110 for the police! Are you sure you’re going to be okay?!

We assured him that we’d be fine, and as I was waiting outside by the entrance before leaving, the waiter tapped my shoulder, and reminded me of the police number, and told me to stay safe.

Well, the waiter guy had no reason to worry, because we didn’t end up going.

This is another thing I am determined to fix about Japan. (Yes, I am determined to fix it. One day, I’m coming in with a giant hammer with the intention of redoing stuff. Gaijin style.) Transportation. It was around 10:50 when we left TGI Friday’s, and when we got to the subway station, we looked at the times the trains ran, and discovered that the last train stops at midnight. … !!! MIDNIGHT?! It would take some time to GET to Roppongi, and some time to get back to Akihabara, so that would leave us with absolutely no time to actually go out and explore Roppongi.

It’s the same all over Japan, too. The buses around here [Hirakata] stop just before 11 PM, the trains stop at midnight. What the hell, Japan?! I would like to go out and do stuff at night and not be stranded until morning, thank you very much!

Well, anyway, that concluded my Monday.

On Tuesday, we went to the Tokyo Tower, wandered around Akihabara, went to a maid cafe, went back to Harajuku to see if we could get some decent shopping done (it was just too damn crowded on Sunday), and then took another night bus back to Osaka at the end of the day.

I was able to rest for a little bit before heading down in the other direction of Japan for the rest of spring break, haha. I met up with a friend and took another bus to spend a couple of days at his home in Yamaguchi-ken, practically got adopted and fawned over by his amazing family, visited Hiroshima, speed-toured Miyajima at NIGHT (it was breathtaking), explored Yamaguchi-ken, went spellunking (…lol, I love that word), took another boat tour, and just generally had a great time. We took the shinkansen (bullet train) back up to Kyoto (which was insanely fast, but went through too many tunnels!), and by time I got back to my dorm on Sunday night, I had to scramble to study and do all the homework I didn’t even touch over break.

Then this week was all tests and presentations and tiring nonsense.

This weekend was great. Went shopping in Shinsaibashi, went to karaoke around Hirakata, went to Kiyomizu Temple on Saturday night, because they’re open late for hanami (flower-viewing) purposes. Cherry blossom season is big in Japan, and they’re generally supposed to start blooming around now. A friend and I were joking about the whole thing, because at lunch earlier this week, we were wondering aloud when the cherry blossoms would bloom. A friend of ours promptly replied, “March 28,” and we burst out laughing, joking that if we feel the earth rumbling on the morning of March 28, there’s no reason to fear, it’s not an earthquake, it’s just ALL the cherry blossoms of Japan making their grand entrance. Right on time.

But anyway, the weather’s too cold, so the forecasted day got delayed. Either way, we decided to go up to Kiyomizu because it was bound to be pretty when it was all lit up at night. That didn’t disappoint at all. Kiyomizu itself was gorgeous, and the city of Kyoto in the backdrop was equally beautiful.

And finally, today, I went with one of my classes to see a Takarazuka show. It was interesting to see, but I was utterly lost half the time. Ah, well. I mainly went for the experience, anyway. After the show, a friend and I went to a MEXICAN (!!!!!!!) restaurant in Shinsaibashi for dinner. Mexican food is a true RARITY in Japan, so to find that restaurant was like stumbling upon a diamond in the rough.

That pretty much catches you all up to now.

Don’t worry, there will be pictures of spring break/whatnot coming soon. At the moment, I have hundreds of pictures waiting on my camera, and I need to sort through them to find the good ones, upload them, resize them, and get them posted somewhere. That’s a process that takes hours, and at the moment, it’s 4:30 AM, so it just CAN’T be done right now. There’s no way.

To use some Osaka-ben, shindoi (I’m exhausted). So I’m off to bed before class in… a few hours.

(Welcome to Japan, sleep is for the weak.)

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3 Responses to "It’s about time I updated."

Hey:Thought you fell off the face of Japan!! So glad you had a great spring break-too bad about the timing of your mid-terms. Looking forward to some pics. Would love to see one of the capsule hotel. Doesn’t sound like you are too anxious to come home. We miss you. Stay safe. Love, P

Haha, no, I’m still here, just very busy.
Pictures will be up later, I’m not sure when. I had a problem with my camera software yesterday when I tried to upload them and had to reinstall EVERYTHING related to my camera, but by time I got that all settled out, I was too tired to upload them.
And I can’t say I am itching to go home at all, haha. I think I’d stay forever if I could.

“pirate-themed Italian restaurant. Could you pack anymore awesome into one eatery?”

No, I say!

Konichiwa, Sis! That’s so awesome you actually stayed in one of the capsule hotels and that you’re getting your karaoke on. Sounds like you’re having a blast! Also congrats to Japan for winning the World Baseball Classic – haha.

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  • Isa: No, there can't be two ninja dogs in Kyoto. But in April it was in Arashiyama! http://westwards.typepad.com/westwards/2009/05/fashionable-pets.html
  • Paula: Hey: I'm so glad you are swine flu-free. A little over-kill, don't you think? Anyway, I'm so glad you are enjoying your last few days there. Live it u
  • Paula: There's no place like home, there's no place like home!!! Can't wait to see you...we are counting the days.

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