Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nakano Broadway +

Well HEY guys!

Matt and I went out to Nakano Broadway today, where LOTS and LOTS of stores are! I don't have many pictures of the stores, because a camera in a store is a no-no in pretty much every country, but I did buy a few things! Namely two manga (the first is an issue of Doraemon, a really popular kid's manga, which should be easy for me to read, and the second is a shoujo [girls'] manga called "Blue Friend" that looks interesting), the soundtrack to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (amazing movie, amazing soundtrack) and this necklace that I LOVE and was on sale for only ten dollars (marked down from 35)~

Here are some pictures from our adventure today~!

This is a typical strip mall in Japan. There aren't doors on either end of the tunnel, but air conditioning is blasting in from all sides. 

OKAY GUYS. OKAY OKAY OKAY. THIS IS A REALLY BIG DEAL. They have entire stores FILLED with crane games. CRANE GAME STORES. They're incredible. I lost like 6 bucks here and it was SO WORTH IT.

Here's one in action:

THIIIIS is the entrance to Nakano Broadway!! It's three floors of a bunch of different stores from movie stores, manga stores, toy stores, CD stores, nicknack stores, stores where you can buy the cell frames of animations, poster stores, etc etc. Very fun, had a great time!

Ten thousand cranes hanging from the ceiling in Nakano Broadway! (Random: I just looked outside and even though it's only 6:30 here, it's already really dark out. Hiroko says we cheat with Daylight Savings Time, because they don't do that here. She's right, but I want more sunlight, dammit!)
I'm not sure what pipi is, I think it's a sound or something, but regardless, it's HILARIOUUUS.

Okay, this next thing I'm about to show you is super cool. There was an arcade in Nakano Broadway and there was this game called BeatMania and this guy was playing it. It has seven keys and it has the same idea as DDR: See it on the screen, press it in the right beat. Only this guy was INSANELY good. I told him so afterwards but he only glanced at me because I was a distraction. Oooops. Anyway, check it:

(That's actually Matt's handiwork with the camera. Good job, Matt!)

Here's one of the 12 hallways you can find in Nakano Broadway!

Here's a turtle we saw on the way through the park back to their house. What are you DOING, turtle? How'd you get up there? You're not a bird, you're a turtle. Get down from there.

This is what I ate for lunch yesterday; ramen with egg and ham. You jelly?

Also yesterday, when we went to Ghibli, this guy was standing on the roof. He's from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, an anime by Miyazaki. 

Also from Laputa: Castle in the Sky!

I also got my shinkansen (bullet train) tickets today. I'm leaving for Nagano not tomorrow but the day after! Not being around Matt and Hiroko for english-speaking is gonna be hard, but I feel like this was a great way to ease into Japan. Speaking some Japanese but not full-time for my first few days was great. But I get to meet my host family soon!! So that's very exciting.

More updates later!! Thanks for reading! <3

Monday, August 29, 2011

How I got lost in Tokyo


So, today I decided that I wanted to have an adventure. Matt and Hiroko went out for a jog (pfff) and left me a key and a cell phone in case I decided to leave the house while they were gone.

Well, I decided I DID want to leave. And I was going to take a train somewhere and have an adventure.

If you've been following my blog, you know that Japan's train system is scary as hell:
That's just the Tokyo area. Also, it turns out that it's even MORE confusing than this looks. Can you believe that? I can. After today, I CAN. 

My adventure started with me going to the train station. Easy enough. Matt and I had gone to it frequently enough that I knew I had to take a left out of the house and...well, it was a little fuzzy after that left but I KNEW it was somewhere on the left. So I took a left out of the house.

After that left, I took another left and then paused at an intersection before deciding I knew where I was going (hint: I did not know where I was going) and went left again. After going down the street for a while, I knew I needed to take a right, and so I did...and the neighborhood was nice, by the way, as I made a fifteen minute trip to a station five minutes away.

When I made it to the tracks where I thought the station should be, I realized I should stop being stubborn and ask for help, so I stopped a woman and asked in Japanese where the train station was. She pointed down the road where, sure enough, about a block and a half away was the station. LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT I SHOULD HAVE STOPPED THEN. But, due to my nature, being unable to navigate the little neighborhood did not dissuade me from believing that I could navigate an entire train system.

I went to the station and, like Matt showed me, looked at where I wanted to go. The closer a stop is to where you start, the cheaper it is. I decided to go to a stop about 5 stations away, Hamadayama, for 130 yen (around $1.60), so I got my ticket from the machine and started on my merry way.

As I was walking up to the station, people were all getting off the train and it left before I got there. But really, I didn't know if that was the train I wanted - that is to say, I didn't know if it was going one way to Kichijouji, or to Hamadayama, which is where I had decided to go. Mostly because I recognized the last two of the three characters in its name (浜田山)。Just in case, I took a picture of my destination (which at the time I thought was brilliant, and as it happens, it helped me out a lot in the future).

The beginning of a journey gone wrong.

I'm at the red area, and I was going to the place on the far right. SO CLOSE.

Right. So I waited for the next train. It came in and that was when I realized I didn't even know which direction I needed to go. (Note: There are computerized boards everywhere saying which train is going where, but I was oh-so-naive at the time that I decided to just guess and do it). So I hopped on the train and hoped it was going the right way.

Weeeell, it wasn't going the right way. Fortunately, it was only going one stop away, which was the last stop on the line before it was going to turn around (if you look above, it went to the stop on the far left). So I waited for the train to get to the stop before it started back in the direction I had just come.

On the train, too, there's a little computer screen over the doors that says which stops it'll be headed to. It quickly became apparent that Hamadayama was not actually one of the stops it was going to. It would be passing it and go to a few stops after it. In hindsight, I now know that train was an express train, which only goes to a few stops for convenience.



Anyway, I was like, "well that's just fine, I'll just get off at this stop and explore this area instead." So I do as my brain decides and go to the ticket gate, where you put the ticket you bought from earlier into the machine and it eats it. 

Nay. It didn't eat it. The gate doors shut in front of me and a woman ran into me and suddenly I was FLUSTERED.

So I just decide to go back to the trains and try to catch one back the other way to get to my first goal, Hamadayama. So I hop on a train that I think is headed the right way and wait for it to start moving. 

NAY. I am now, in fact, at this point, moving in the same direction I had been moving earlier; which was, as it happens, farther in the wrong direction.

So inside I'm kinda laughing and suppressing worry because I have cash and a phone and millions of people to ask for help if it comes to that. I decide to get off at the next stop and ask for help.

So I rehearse the lines in my head as I go to a station attendant and I ask him in perfect Japanese how to get to Hamadayama, because I'm still determined to get there. And then he answers. And because I am American and have already decided before he even answered that I could figure it out better than he was telling me, I didn't actually listen to him. Hai, hai, yes, I understand, wakarimashita. HA NO. I wish I could explain why listening to people is impossible for me (though, if you've ever met my mother, perhaps it's the apple not falling far from the tree. Hi, mom! Love you!), but it was like before I even asked I had decided I could do it myself.

So I go in the direction he was roughly pointing to and decide to board another train more or less blindly.


So it's at this point that common sense starts to kick in and says, "Haley, you're a college student. You studied at one of the best (read: the best) schools in Wisconsin and studied in one of the best Japanese programs in the U.S. Stop dicking around ("Dicking" doesn't count as a swear, dad) and actually try to go in the right direction."

So I get off the train. I take a deep breath. And I open my eyes. I decide that I will do this. And even though I could call ask and Matt, I decide to do it on my own.

I follow signs that tell me how I can get back to the station I started at and go up an escalator in the right direction.

Well then all the signs were different and I didn't know where to go. So I went back down an escalator. I took a picture out the window.

A picture of desperation.

I find another sign.

A sign that may lead me in the right direction. 

So, using signs and common sense, I navigate my way around the huge station in Meidaimae and actually get on a train going the right way.

This is when I learned about express trains. It was going the right way, but it was actually skipping the stop I needed to get off AGAIN.

I take the train to the end of the line, all the way back in Kichijouji, the first stop I had made on my adventure. As everyone gets off the train as it has come to it's last stop, I stand on the train, torn as to whether or not I should get off the train because I don't know if it will skip my stop again.

A picture of lies and deception. 

A woman comes on the empty car and I ask her in Japanese (great practice, by the way) if the train we were on was going to stop at the next station, Inokashira-koen station, where I started my journey to blindly and naively go to Hamadayama. She says yes, I nearly hug her in gratitude for being so kind and smiley, and then I sit down. Soon enough, I'm at the right stop, and I get off and am super duper happy that even though I didn't get to explore the city, at least I was able to navigate my way back to my original station, even if it took an HOUR.

(My journey started in Inokashira-koen, went to Kichijoji, passed Hamadayama to go to Nishi-eifuku, then Eifukucho, Meidaimae, and finally back to Kichijoji before I could end at Inokashira-koen, precisely where I began) 
The computer on the train telling me I was in Kichijoji and that the next stop was the one I could get off at. A picture of hope. A picture of success. A picture of an hour gone by spent on the train line. But as you can see, I went like ten stops out of my way, as I made it all the way to Meidaimae before starting over.

I tried to get through the gates again but they shut me out again, so I just went to the attendant, explained my situation (again, great practice), and he let me pass without a problem. 

I navigated back through the neighborhood, using my knowledge of where the tracks lay and the park Matt and Hiroko have taken me a few times lay, and made it back to the house virtually unscathed.

And that, my friends, was my attempt at an adventure in Tokyo.


Okay, so Matt just posted a picture on his facebook:

And one of his friends, the director of The Bouncer by Square Enix liked it. 
WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MANY COOL FRIENDS?? Between the guy who translated Final Fantasy X and X-2 to the guy working on people's movements in the new Resident Evil game to the famous manga artist that lives around the corner, Matt and Hiroko are friends with everyone in the video game and entertainment industry!!


Anyway, today we went to the Ghibli Museum! For those of you who don't know what Ghibli is, they're the main supporting company of Miyazaki. And if you don't know who Miyazaki is, then it hurts to be your friend. He's the director of many impressive anime movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Naussica: Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, more recently Ponyo, Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Howl's Moving Castle and MANY more. 

This museum was seriously cool. On the first floor they had a whole room dedicated to showing how animation works, with the flashing white light as film whirs by to show how it makes a movie. Of course, now everything is digital, but shhh. 

It's a museum so I couldn't take any pictures, but I did get a brief video of one of their animation machines (will post later). Perhaps one of the best things about being white, blonde and blue-eyed is that people hesitate to tell me if I'm doing something wrong, and I'm learning how to manipulate that while also looking innocent. Ahh, the American way. But then I just apologize and put away my camera, secretly happy that they treat me like a gaijin (foreigner).

But the museum was filled with all these pictures and frames from all of the famous Miyazaki movies. What I found really interesting was that these pictures weren't even behind plastic or some sort of red gate or anything; they were right up on the walls, totally able to be touched. The MORE surprising thing was that it looked like they still weren't touched, and looked to be in perfect condition. Not to mention that still frames worth about a thousand dollars were right within reach, just hanging there.

Japan is weirdly trusting.

And then on the roof was the robot from Laputa, Castle in the Sky, and we got to take pictures of that! 

We took about a mile walk to get there and back, but on the way back we got...RAMEN! Real Ramen! With an egg and pork and noodles where you can add all sorts of ingredients if you want!! (I added a little garlic.) We also got GYOUZA (little boiled or fried packs of vegetables and meat but so much oil is in it that it's not actually as healthy as it sounds)!! But after eating all that ramen I was seriously full, so Matt ended up eating like ten gyouza plus his ramen and then couldn't figure out why he was so full for the following three hours.

Matt and Hiroko are going out for a jog now (I don't DO jogging in sunlight...cue princess dress) and left me a cell phone and key so if I feel like it I could go out. And you know what? I just might. I hope I don't get lost. Or maybe I'll find something interesting if I do!!

Jya ne!

The Worst Movie ever created

After we went to Harajuku, I went with Matt and Hiroko through a market and picked up some sake (alcohol), and some other fruity kind of alcohol which name escapes me, and bought alcohol legally for the first time EVA. Pretty cool.

We made our way over to Matt's friend's house where I met Andy, Go, and Patrick. Patrick (Macias) is apparently kind of famous for his online Japanese show, which is directed to the otaku (geeks, nerds, people deeply interested in video games, manga, etc etc) of the world. Anyway, they were all super fun and we watched three movies.

The theme of the night was "Japan in American movies," but by the end of the night it seemed like the theme was, "Japanese girls that will have sex with you even though they don't like you." First, "You Only Live Twice". Yeah, the James Bond movie. I hadn't seen it before tonight, I thought it was pretty decent. Old, but decent for its age.

Then, "Mr. Baseball," the story of a baseball player who gets shipped off to Japan to work with the Dragons. He hates it and learns to love it, the end.

And last but not least, the worst movie I have ever seen in my life, "Night Fall." No, seriously. NO, SERIOUSLY. Forget the fact that it has no plot or that 120 minutes of the 125-minute long movie could be cut, or the terrible acting or lack of lighting, the fact that the camera is clearly held by a four-year-old, the forced sub-love-plot or the lack of fluidity in conversation, no, forget those things and you have a fantastic movie. It was hilarious to make fun of though, and for that reason I request everyone goes to see it. Now. Ima.

I need so much sleep after all that laughing. Oyasumi!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Harajuku Day!

Saw lots of things today! Quick blog because time constraint!

Thiiiiis is a video of some dancers we saw! The first ten seconds isn't so good because we had to get adjusted, but the last 10 seconds are pretty good. It was like a festival/competition, hard to say.

This is Harajuku!! I didn't get a chance to picture any of the crazy outfits - also people are kinda anal about pictures being taken of them, even though they dress up in like outfits you don't see everyday, but whatevs! There were a ton of stores in here, lots being clothing and the like, but another popular type of store was a store filled with pictures of celebrities. In Japan, the industry has a tight hold on who does what, and they try really hard to not let a lot of pictures of singers and bands get online so that they can sell them to teenagers. And the store was CROWDED so their plan is actually working.

Just an interesting ad I saw.

Wisconsin (Madison specifically) said "HEY!" in t-shirt form today. I'm not sure how this ended up in a Japanese store, but it was really weird how of all the places in the world that could end up on a t-shirt, this one was displayed when we walked past. 

A street in Japan where there were lots of big stores like Gucci and Forever 21 and even a Claire's. It was kind of the higher-end part of Tokyo.

Giant stuffed animals in a store called, "Kiddy Land", each one running for about 1,000 bucks.

Staircase in Kiddy Land.

Matt and I went to a shrine today and there was like a festival going on (video above), here are some of the dancers!

Pretty shrine thangs~

A place where people hang up their wishes at the shrine.

By chance we got to see a wedding procession at the shrine! Really lucky.

Here's a wider shot, lots of people trailed after them (the wedding party).

HOOOGE gates that led us to the shrine. Inside there were really wide, long paths that led to the shrines (above...not sure why I disordered all of these. Obviously to confuse the hell outta you.)

I forgot to flip this...it's upside-down. But basically it's a little good-luck bag (specifically for school) that you carry around with you for...good luck in school. Haha.

This is what I ate for lunch! Yum~. It was a salad on top of beef on top of cold soba noodles in a delicious broth. So good.

Okay, this is funny. On the right is Matt and on the left is a Japanese guy who stopped us and asked if he could take pictures of us (while at the shrine). So we got to play models! He took pictures of us together, and then separately. He even directed me like he was serious about it, super random. This is probably not going to be the last time this happens.

From right to left: Me, Hiroko's sister and Hiroko's sister's daughter, Matt, Hiroko, and Hiroko's brother-in-law in front of Hiroko and Matt's house. We got lunch today with all of them plus Hiroko's father. They're very nice! Also the little girl is adorable, it was hard not to watch her during lunch because she'd just take a forkful of noodles and they'd kinda hang outta her mouth and she was SO CUTE.

Now we're going to go to a park where a man actually acts out a manga-story with pictures and everything (I'll get a video for tonight), and then we're headed to Matt's friends house for some movie and (!!!) pizza (but it's Japanese so I'm interested in how that'll turn out).

Anyway~~See you soon! <3

a day filled with a lot of stuff

Hey guyyyyyys! How's it going?? Are you good?? Good!

Today I did LOTS of things and went LOTS of places and took LOTS of pictures. Howwwever, I don't really want to post ALL of them here, just my favorites probably. IN CONCLUSION, I made a flickr account. For those of you who don't know what flickr is (mom), it's a place where I can put all my pictures for the world to see. And YOU GUYS are my world, sooo without further adieu (I seriously spelled that right the first time?), here's the link to my flick account, HaleyRaeInJapan. (Edit: I messed up and I'm not sure what happened but I'll figure out flickr later!)

But OTHERWISE I'd like to share a few things with you guys!! It's late and I have to get up early tomorrow ("early," she says. I'd get nine hours of sleep if I went to bed in twenty minutes. I'm such a baby), so because I'm tired (read: lazy), there may be little description. But if you have any questions on anything definitely ask me about it! Facebook, e-mail, whereever!

Without further adieu (again!), I give you my day adventure in Tokyo with Matt and Hiroko!

Matt and Hiroko's street!

Near the train station

Temple time!

There's all these souvenir shops and food places all the way up this long path to the temple. It smelled delicious. I bought a 300-yen (around $3.50) fan and used it ALL day because it turns out Japan is hot and I've been living in air conditioning pretty much all summer.

This is a luck fortune! You have to put in a coin, take a container full of sticks and shake it, take a stick out and it has a number. You go to a wall of drawers with all these numbers, find the one you picked, opened the drawer, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur. Actually, inside the drawer is a stack of fortunes. You take one and read it. I got the "normal fortune", which out of seven, is number two (one being the worst). But to me it didn't sound bad at all. It was like, "Travel is good. Marriage and education are good." Stuff like that. Neutral. Neutral is good!

This is where people put incense and then wave the smoke on the tops of their heads for good health. It's said it can cure anything wrong with you. I wanted it to cure the light nausea I've had (probably jet-lag mixed with dehydration, though I'm trying to stay on top of that), and so far it's doing a pretty good job.

This is a shrine dedicated to mizuko, literally water-children, but in english are known as aborted fetuses. Here, people hope that the aborted fetus is okay being sent back to the gods before it is returned to them or another deserving family at a later time. 

A. Ki. Habara! The largest electronics area in the WOOORLD! At the end of the movie Densha Otoko (Train Man, really good), the lovers find each other here. <3
Okay, this is funny. There were all these people standing around this cat and Hiroko and I were like, YEAH LET'S TAKE A PICTURE. So we run up there and Matt starts taking the picture when the owner of the store the cat was advertising, or a manager or whatever, runs up and he tells us that it's customers only! I almost like this picture better this way, like Matt said, it tells a story. Hiroko looks great, though. Haha

A claw machine. Full of the same thing. Half the fun of vending machines is choices, people!

Televisions on buildings everywhere. I can't remember if it's the one that's shown here that's the biggest one in the world, but it's one of them!
Okay, so I see this and I'm all, OH PRETTY, PICTURES LET'S TAKE PICTURES!

And then I realized we had actually walked into the Red Light District of Tokyo. Like Matt said (he's good at explaining things in a way that I can easily understand), it's like animals. Bright, colorful animals attract other animals for mating, well, this is a similar concept. 
You soak your feet in a tub filled with fish, and the fish clean your feet for you.
Shit, Japan. Always outdoing yourself.

Here's Hiroko and one of Hiroko and Matt's friends, standing in an alleyway lined with bars, which does this Wisconsinite proud.

A nice picture of everything lit up with us!

Enough said.

But there's so much that happened that wasn't caught on camera! Like the way people stare at me when they think I'm not looking. Yes, I have blonde hair, yes, I have blue eyes, no, I'm not a celebrity. But I don't think it's annoying at all; on the contrary, I think it's adorable. It's most obvious in kids because they don't realize they're staring/they don't care if you see them staring, but adults aren't as sneaky as they think they are.

And then there was Akiba (short for Akihabara), where we went into manga stores and toy stores (lots of action figures), and stores where there was blatantly porn/naked girls on the front.

Oh, wait, this is big. Today, I ordered food in Japan for the first time. Fittingly enough, because I love coffee, it happened in Starbucks. I ordered three drinks and a piece of cake for Matt, Hiroko and I and it was awesome. Matt and Hiroko clapped afterwards. I only stumbled a little, even! One of my proudest moments.

Also, you don't really get to see it in the pictures, but Hiroko, Matt and I met up with three of their friends that speak exclusively Japanese. We went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered a shitton of food and drinks (beer, some kind of Chinese whiskey that made my face go all screwy, orange juice, tea, etc) and talked about LOTS of things. In the beginning, there was little conversation I understood. I introduced myself and explained that I would be studying in Nagoya at Nanzan, stuff like that, and I did get several full, understanding sentences in over three and a half hours with them, but really I was surprised at how much I ended up understanding. After getting into the groove of listening to Japanese again, I understood several full conversations. My lack of speaking wasn't so much that I didn't understand, rather, I didn't know what to say. That's something I need to work on. Still, I had a great time. They were funny guys and I learned a lot of things with them.

What's also not pictured is the creepiness of the Red Light District. Since selling sex is legal in Japan, that leaves room for a lot of fetishes to develop, and there's all kinds of sex shops from maids to doctors and nurses to men dressed like women and women dressed like men and just a shitton of things like that. Walking down there would be terrifying at night - not like anyone would ever grab me, it's more that it's intimidating to be around people who are trying to get you to come into their "shop". On our way out of the restaurant, Matt and I were a little ahead of the group walking down one of the alleys and a woman literally walked away from the wall and nearly into our path, which is the most forward thing I've ever seen a Japanese person do, and it was SCARY because she looked zombie-like. That makes me sad for her.

Also, Matt and Hiroko were AMAZING and despite my insisting that they were being ridiculous and that I could buy it myself ("It's a present! It's a present!"), they bought me a Japanese-English electronic dictionary. It's pink and hand-held and AWESOME and I'm so excited to get to use it! They're being very sweet on this trip, I couldn't ask for nicer people to be staying with during my first few days in Japan.

Also, I saw Star Wars light-saber chopsticks, along with Harry Potter wand chopsticks. Which is kind of amazing.

Well, I definitely need to get some sleep, so I'm headed to bed. Tomorrow, we're going to Harujuku. Pictures then!

Oyasuminasai! Good night!

Edit: I found the picture I took of Shibuya Cross without realizing it!! For those of you who don't know, this is where Resident Evil 4: Afterlife opened up at, in the beginning scene in Japan when a Japanese girl turns...ZOMBIE