This week we are off to Shinjuku, a shopping district of Tokyo. My transportation specialist and I were guided by Kan, a Thai student in her second semester at Aoyama Gakuin University, who had agreed to accompany us on this expedition. Both her command of the Japanese language (far outstripping my transportation specialist’s), and her specific knowledge of the Japanese train system helped smooth over the few difficulties we encountered along the way.
We boarded the train at Fuchinobe station, near the Global Residence where we are staying. After changing trains at Machida (where a fellow passenger called me kawaii, which means cute), we arrived in Shinjuku station. After getting our bearings and straightening out some confusion about which exit to use when leaving the station, we were out in the ward itself.
I was searching for some card or board games I might be familiar with from home that I might share them with the students in the lounge at the Global Residence. While the pool table is fun, not all can play at once, and I suspect the deck of cards that is floating around to be a card or two short. With this goal, my transportation specialist discovered Yellow Submarine, a gaming shop that specializes in various gaming supplies, both foreign and domestic.
While it took some wandering around to locate, even with Google Maps, this gave Kan and my transportation specialist time to observe the different lunch offerings available in the area. When we found the shop, the layout was another surprise. The store is laid out on 3 floors connected by a tight spiral staircase, a basement level, Second floor and third floor, skipping the first floor, which was occupied by a different business. Each level was lined with display cases and shelves for product, with a register and clerk on each level, taking up an amount of space that felt like a good sized walk in closet, even if it was likely larger in truth. The basement level was devoted to role playing games, with Warhammer 40k and Call of Cthulhu RPGs being ones I recognized. On the second floor I found a number of card games, mostly being of Japanese origin. My transportation specialist selected Crooks from White Goblins Games (instructions in Japanese), however he hasn’t had a chance to spring it on the locals yet. On the third floor, card games were the order of the day, with a selection of Magic: The Gathering displayed just as prominently as the Pokemon cards. In addition were many smaller games, based off of various anime and other properties. It was here that we found an Japanese ID card for the Snorlax that was left behind.
After this both Kan and my transportation specialist were getting hungry, so they stopped at a local eatery specializing in serving raw fish.
I’m always amazed at the attention paid to food presentation by the Japanese.
All of the food pictured here, bowl of rice, succulent cuts of various fish Kan, my transportation specialist or I were able to identify in English, salad, a bed of diakon radish cut to resemble very thin spaghetti, miso soup and vegetables for garnish, all cost exactly 1000 yen. All taxes are paid on the merchant’s end in Japan it seems, at least at most places, and the listed price is the price you will pay for each item. The fish was served on a bed of rice, in order to address concerns over consuming raw fish. My transportation specialist assures me it was tasty, and he suffered no ill effects from eating it. I believe his comments regarding taste, if for no other reason that he failed to offer me even a morsel to try!
As we wandered Shinjuku we stopped at Tokyu Hands a large department store near the rail station. There we found many interesting items for sale, both similar or familiar from home, or items unique to Japan. My transportation specialist picked up a copy of UNO with Japanese directions to share with the other residents. Kan picked up some baking supplies.
We headed off to find an electronics store, where Kan hoped to find a router to provide a wifi signal in her room from the wired access provided by the Global Residence. While she talked with the clerks to find something that would serve her needs, I looked at the smaller end laptops that were available. What I was looking for was a device that ran Windows, but had a Japanese/English keyboard on it. While using the IMA to produce Japanese text using romanji is completely functional, I would like a device that I can type directly in Japanese characters, as an aid to fully adopting the language. I found models for around 30,000 yen, which would equate to around $300US. Something for a later time, perhaps. In the meantime, Kan found her router, and we returned to the streets.
After a while we stopped again, this time in a local coffee shop (NOT a Starbucks) for cheese cake and tea. The line for non-smoking was quite long, so we opted for a spot in the crowded smoking section. I had some concerns that there might be lingering effects from the environment, but it appears no permanent harm was done.
Once again however my thoughtless transportation specialist had no difficulty eating right in front of me, even stuffing me and my transportation pack under the table to be kicked while he ate! I truly do love him, but sometimes he can be so inconsiderate! He assured me later that the cake was indeed divine though.
After a full day of being out and about shopping in Shinjuku, we headed back to the train station for the return trip home. Everyone made it home safe, with treasures in tow. Stay tuned for more of my exciting adventures.
Until then, Hippo Hippo!