Things I’ve noticed:
- Cars drive on the left side here. People walk on the left side in the train stations too, and if you’re on the wrong side of traffic, you’re constantly dodging people.
- The white lines at crosswalks are spaced closer to each other here than in Seattle. The width of each line white line is equivalent to the width of the spaces in between them. I know this because the lines on crosswalks in Seattle are spaced too far apart for me to step perfectly on one white line per stride, but here they are just perfect. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the length between white lines and average height of a country’s citizens when the lines are painted, or at least when the standard is decided.
- When the conductor walks through the train to check on tickets, (s)he bows both when entering and leaving a train.
Adventures I had:
- Went to Takeshita Street in Harajuku (原宿), famous for progressive Japanese fashion and shopping, shopping, shopping. I got there a little early, so most of the stores were just opening. As the morning progressed, the street got busier and busier. The stores sold all kinds of clothes, some with hip-hop hoodies and converse shoes, others with heavy metal rock type leather clothing, and yet others with fashion styles I am neither able to understand nor describe. I am not very fashion savvy. I wanted to take pictures of people in interesting clothes, but it felt a little invasive, so I opted for holding the camera down in front of me, surreptitiously snapping and hoping that my aim was good. Some of the pictures turned out alright. There also appears to be a sizable African (South Africa, maybe other countries) population here. They were holding brochures to their stores that sold hip-hop type things.
- Saw the famous street-crossing in Shibuya (渋谷), complete with billboards, light-up neon signs, and two big screens. Strolled around a bit, but the rest was mostly big urban shopping centers, similar to Akihabara (秋葉原) but with less tech focus. I did find a used CD/vinyl store on one of the backstreets, though. They had a small section just for Japanese jazz! I bought a couple records that I’m excited to check out.
- My mom found a “Japanese Sword Museum” on a Japanese tourism site that I was pretty excited to check out. It was pretty difficult to get to. I looked up a map online beforehand, but it looked a little complicated to write down, so I figured I’d get to the nearest subway stop and just start asking people. I had a loose idea in my head of where it was, anyway. After asking directions from a couple train station employees, I finally made it to the right station. I found a map in the station of where the museum was, so I headed out the south exit. There was a second map there, so I checked my bearings. It was then that I discovered that neither map had north pointing up. At this point, I had no idea where I was going, so I asked some passersby how to get to the museum. Most of the people didn’t know where it was. Finally, someone I stopped had an iPhone and pulled up a map. He showed me the map on his phone and sent me on my way. I followed what I could remember from the map and found myself in a residential looking area with really narrow streets. 15 minutes and several turns later, I finally found signs pointing to where I was supposed to go. I got to the museum to discover it was closed! There was a paper sign on the fence saying that the museum was closed because of the earthquake. At least I got to see some of residential Japan!
On the way back, I had trouble finding the station again. I kept walking until I hit this park-looking area with a playground. A group 7 or 8 year olds were running around playing, one of them chasing the others holding a radio like a video camera, yelling in Japanese. I stopped to watch a little, then asked some women sitting on a park bench if they could point me to the train station. They gave me directions in Japanese, and when it was apparent that I wasn’t exactly fluent, they asked me where I was from. When I said I was from the US, the group of kids came around and started peppering me with questions, asking me where I was from and if I wanted to play. They were playing some sort of tag game, which two of the kids tried to explain to me simultaneously in rapid Japanese. I tried to follow as best as I could, but I didn’t follow very well. We rock-paper-scissored and I guess I was “it”. We played that for awhile, then the eldest asked me if I wanted to go on the swings. He pointed and said that it was called “ブランコ”. He told me to sit down and then proceeded to explain to me how to swing. One of the other kids told me to make sure to hold on, and a third told me to kick my legs so I could go higher. Next, they wanted me to see their Beyblade tops. They set it all up and spun their tops, explaining to me all the way. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but they seemed to be happy to chatter on and repeat as necessary. The eldest also handed me a piece of chocolate and a stick of gum, saying “食べてみて!” (try it!) At one point, when I asked them what their names were, they plopped my notebook in the sandbox and scrawled their names in Japanese in my notebook. One of the moms told them they shouldn’t just throw my notebook in the sand, but I told her it was okay. Finally, it was time for them to go with the library with their mothers. The eldest boy asked me if I wanted to go. I told him I had to get back to Shin-yokohama. He replied, “Okay, just for a little while then! It’s not far!” When I said I really had to go, their mothers thanked me for playing with them, and each of them came up and shook my hand goodbye. I had a lot of fun getting a taste of everyday Japan, instead of all the tourist spots I’ve been visiting.