Day 4: In Which Kai Discovers His Priorities

17Sep13

Okay, I’ma put this right out there. If you were expecting some sort of gift from Japan, there’s going to be a problem. I spent all the money. All thousand dollars I had saved for this trip. All of it. Gone. Uh, yeah.

Somewhere between the Fire Emblem Awakening Original Concept Art Book and the Matched Super Rare Scanty and Kneesocks Figurines, I kind of lost control. I suggest either acclimating your tastes in gifts to my interests or preparing to be disappointed.

Did I need to buy a Japanese translation of “The House at Pooh Corner”? Need is such loaded word. What matters now is that I have more stuff than can comfortably fit into two suitcases. If worse comes to worse, the first thing I’m leaving behind is the pants. Then the underwear. No exceptions.

I now sport the Japanese equivalent of twenty dollars in my wallet for food purposes over the next two days. And, honestly, I have thought about buying another figurine with it. I said in my head, I said, “Self. How badly to we want this Haruhi figurine …Uh huh. Okay. Wow, you would do all that and more to her huh? Damn, okay. Easy, boy. And how badly do we want to eat? Huh. Really? Ummm…” I swear to you that if perchance I had seen the one of her in a bunny suit playing the guitar, I would have starved for my beliefs.

Also I don’t want to lose any pervert internet cred here; I have a reputation to uphold. Don’t think I didn’t look for a dakimakura (don’t Google that, mom). I did. Found a bunch, but the good ones, the ones with popular characters and the naughtiest of poses – TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

WHAT.

Anyway, today I went shopping.

First, I deftly evaded a packed train full of commuters by ducking into a ramen store at 8:30. The Japanese resturaunt had a machine for a menu, natch, and, natch, I happily took the opportunity to avoid human contact.

I paid 500 yen and got two bowls. One full of something like miso soup, the other full of the foulest-tasting cold egg noodles you could’ve imagined. Turns out you’re supposed to dip the egg noodles into the soup and wash off the nasty coating that makes them all bitter. Thanks, guy who sat down at the table in front of me two minutes into me putting on the Stupid Foreigner Show for the cooks.

See you want to think, “Well why don’t they just put the noodles into the soup in the first place. That would make NO STOP IT. Take your reason and go negotiate peace in the Middle East or cure cancer or something. This is the land that invented the anachronism and they’re very content with how things are, thank you very much.

Anyway, with how cheap food is here, I should have known not to buy any meal costing more than 400 yen. I cannot tell you how difficult it was to finish both bowls of that concoction. There are no words for how much I suffered. #firstworldproblems

I ended up in Ikebukuro, which is kind of like a microcosm of all Tokyo, but, more importantly, also the setting of Mawaru Penguindrum.

I spent hours in the used bookstore, relearning the Japanese sylabllary and picking out manga and novels that I can read. And by novels, I mean children’s picture books.

I tell you what, paper must be cheap. Everyone reads in this country. Old men, women, young boys. Everyone reads manga, too. Old guys, women, young boys. I bought a manga collection for 100 yen. A dollar. A book. A dollar.

I think I recall considering that loading my backpack up with heavy books early in the day might not be a wise move, but it could just be hindsight misremembering once again. Whatever.

I stopped off at the anime superstore in Ikebukuro, got offended by their prices, bought something, and left for Akiba.

I realized four days into this trip that no one drinks or eats on the go. I think it’s Article 45 of the Constitution that protects an American citizen’s right to stand on a street corner and eat a hot dog, but that shit don’t fly here. The only weird looks I’ve gotten since coming here when I decided to down a liter of mugicha (barley tea) on the train. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, however, and I didn’t drink or eat unless I was at a restaurant or the apartment for the rest of the day. Also, mugicha is awesome.

Listen, I spent the next six hours staring at figurines and doujin. It’s not fun to read nor is it funny. I checked the famous places, I checked the back alleys. I kept on going. And then I ended up on the seventh floor of a unlabeled black building with no working elevator and the fire escape outside the building as the only access.

And there, where time stood still, I found the good shit. I found full-on, perfectly accurate, Neon Genesis Evangelion cosplay suits costing the equivalent of $2,000. I found long out of print Sailor Moon figurines from the 90’s each costing over 12000 yen ($120). I found everything I ever wanted and more. I grabbed the Demon Sisters from Panty and Stocking and counted myself grateful that I hadn’t stumbled into the Arc of the Covenant or the Holy Grail somewhere in the darkness and paid with my life.

And now I retire in my room while the sun is still up for the first time this trip. It’s one half because I ran out of money, one half because I can’t lift this backpack anymore. Whatever muscles and ligaments connect my shoulder proper to my neck have given up sending pain signals and are instead conspiring with my wallet to destroy the part of my brain that handles decision-making.

I write these posts as sumo wrestling plays on the TV in the background. I must stay awake late tonight, for I must be wide awake for the Sailor Moon musical tomorrow at 8 PM.

Thought of the Day

Tokyo’s Fashion. It’s hard to describe it and let’s face it, I’m no expert here. Maybe Jess said it best: “The people in Tokyo like to think they’re fashionable.”

I sure couldn’t tell whether they are or not, but it was apparent even the sloppiest Japanese homeless man (I saw three today!) dresses way better than me.

I’ve already discussed how Japanese people seem to have extremely high amounts of money floating around from working 70 hours a week, but did you know that many women like to buy apparel instead of video games, porn and anime figurines? And in Japan, this abnormal behavior sometimes extends to males as well.

I think it especially odd considering absolutely no one in this country gives a damn what you wear. There were some freak shows happening every ten hundred meters and not a one had anyone looking strangely at him. A girl in what I can only describe as purple and green motley existed today. I say existed because any other verb you do after putting on those clothes kinda pales in the shadow of the outfit. She could have been doing cartwheels and I wouldn’t have noticed.

With a blank slate, no regulations and infinite possibilities, shit gets weird. I mean, might-actually-be-cosplay levels of unusual. I’m fairly certain I could wear a Charmander suit, light my tale on fire and run around the train station screaming “CHARR! CHAARRR!” and the only thing that would happen is police would kindly remind me that the station is a no smoking zone. And then apologize for the inconvenience.

It doesn’t help that most people ostensibly revere David Bowie as some sort of fashion guru. I walk in a country where men use more hair product than women. Dyed, feathered, spiked, done up like Cindy Lou Who, I saw it all. Thank God the work week came and forced these hooligans to trade in their pink pants and Crocs for standard suits and ties.

And though I have a picture of a woman wearing a Beetlejuice-esque black and white striped leotard, it really isn’t as bad as I make it out to be. The women of this country look great. Sun dresses, skirts, makeup, all that jazz. It’s incredibly apparent that these women, even the older ones, put an amount of energy into looking good that dwarfs most every American girl.

Their fashion does expose their frailty though. When you have an arm so thin that it looks as if it would break it if I were to stare at it hard, you should probably cover that up. It’s not attractive.

Speaking of that, either these women don’t have breasts or the pushup bra has not made it overseas yet. High necklines abound. If you take all racks and racks porn I’ve seen as an indication of what the men in this country are after… ah, I think I just rationalized Japan’s declining birthrate.

So all it boils down to is effort and money. Money is prevalent. Many Japanese people have a desire for individuality. The expression of those two factors… well, you’ll have to wait for the pictures.

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