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Lively if not Live from Japan
by Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea
E-mail Addresses
April 6, 2006 11:22 JST
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Now I have survived the first 48 hours in Tokyo, Japan, I'm in good enough shape to discuss the first 24 with you. I'm eating some BIG Cup Noodle Curry from Circle K in Kanda (神田).

Here is my list of goals for the first 24 hours:
Primary

  1. Eat (食べる [たべる] taberu)
  2. Get onto the Internet (インターネット inta-netto)
  3. Find Asakusa (浅草)
  4. Get key (鍵 [かぎ] kagi) to room
  5. Get to room (部屋 [へや] heya) in Asakusa
Secondary
  1. Get lost (迷 [まよう] mayou) in Tokyo
  2. Get unlost (見当たる [みあたる] miataru) in Tokyo
  3. Find Akihabara (秋葉原)
  4. Read Manga (漫画 [まんが] manga)

On the plane I met a nice Japanese man who lives in Tokyo. We talked about Tokyo and a few things. When I got off, I went through customs quite easily. They speak English and they are quite helpful. Before exiting the airport I met a nice American who was in a similar position as me trying to find an ATM to buy a ticket. We found a confusing atm that gave us our money eventually. Note to traveller: 1 yen (円 [えん] en) is approximately 1 penny, so 30,000 yen is $300 US depending on the exchange rate.

Airport Train Entrance
I took the JR train to Tokyo Station (東京 [とうきょう] toukyou 駅 [えき] eki). It cost ~$30. My Japanese friend told me to take the Keisei to Ueno since I was headed to Asakusa, but Tokyo Station is probably the best for anyone. The view from the train is spectacular. It can't be reproduced with a camera. When I got to Tokyo station at 3 PM it was shock. Everyone was wearing black suits. I will put a picture up in the next few days to illustrate this. I was a bit too embarrased to take a photo of it, but it's quite impressive. It was the first thing to actually shame me in my current lifestyle. Soon after, I saw my first Japanese punk, who was wearing slightly cooler version of my clothes. That lifted my spirits. I left my two bags in the lockers near Yaesu. This is a good idea if you are going to be out and about. Don't worry, if you come back to get them in 24 hours, there's only a 500 yen charge to get them back.

Tokyo Station Exit
So I walk out on the street and I am quite amazed. The buildings outside Tokyo Station are very tall (高 [たか] taka). They are tall and have very bright advertisements. But unlike Las Vegas, these ads are completely packed into every square meter. A short walk in a random direction shows me that there is a lot of excellent things downtown. My first three goals go totally unsatisfied in the first 2 hours. The sun goes down at 5 PM. My first two secondary goals are easy to complete.

The vending machines catch my eye. They're selling simple drinks mainly (tea (お茶 [おちゃ] ocha), coffee, soda), but many also sell cigarettes. I go up to one to check the prices: holy moly! Cigarettes for 300 yen! I am very hungry and a bit tired at this point, so I buy the cigarettes. I decide that I won't smoke until I'm desparate. Japanese girls don't like men who smoke. I go into a 7i and ask "Doko wa chizu desu?" (where is the map? (地図 [ちず] chizu)) He pointed toward the refrigerated food (cheeze). I replied, "iee, map wa." He finally understood, so he pointed toward the magazines, where there are maps. Cross 1 off my list. The map I got was absolutely horrible for the American tourist. The only English characters in the entire book are the ku (Tokyo, Shinjuku, Ueno, Taito, etc). I use it and the maps on the street poorly to get back to Tokyo station. Many maps on the street have up as north, so you have to look for the black circle to ensure which direction is north. Cross 2 off my list.

Akihabara
So I go walking and I eventually find Akihabara and Ueno, which is close to Asakusa. Akihabara at 5-9 is really a sight to see. It's quite wild. The people, the shops, and the bright lights are sweet. Cross 3 off from my secondary goals. I pass right through the place and head to Ueno (上野). But when I go north from Ueno Station, I get to a dead end. I mistakenly take a left which I should not even thought of. Asakusa is East of Ueno. This mistaken left turn takes me to Toudai and Ueno Park, which is quite a sweet place, but very residential instead of commercial. It also has windy streets that take you increasingly west. This is when I buy a lighter and smoke 2 cigarettes. They made me very tired and nervous, which didn't help. Chiyoda Map

Manga!
Eventually I ended up at Suidoubashi, which is a very nice place for 24h. I found a manga internet place (see the picture). It says internet manga night pack (11:00pm-6:00am), 1500 yen ($15), 4th floor. If you read katakana, you would have no problem reading that. Cross off 2 from my primary list and 4 from my secondary list. I stay there 6 hours. In that time, I read and responded to a few e-mails. When I see the sign that says "Be quiet in respect of other users that might be reading or sleeping", I fall asleep (眠り込む [ねむりこむ] nemurikomu). A few cat naps later, I read a Shonen Weekly Jump. I print my deposit agreement in case they weren't willing to print it out. I ask "Printout mo ii desu ka?" He doesn't understand at first, but then he says "Douzo." After a few hours it hits me, I forgot the verb formation of printout. Printout is a noun. To make it a verb, I need to add "o shite". The proper way to ask permission is to say the sentence, conjugate the verb with the te form and add "mo ii desu ka?" I will remember this. It sounds difficult, but it is extremely easy.

At 5am I set off to find Shinjuku. I take the train from Suidoubashi to Tokyo Station. I decide that Shinjuku is only 1 stop away, so I can walk. Wrong. Shinjuku is a long ways and if you don't know where it is or have a decent map, you won't get there without the train. I ended up getting to Daiba and a train station that totally confused me. A woman asked me if she could help. I told her I was very lost and needed help getting to Shinjuku. She was very nice and spoke English (英語 [えいご] eigo) very well. She showed me that the map shows a number in a circle next to Shinjuku and that is the fare amount (wow, that makes perfect sense) and I just needed to get on the Yamanote (very common route) and wait for Shinjuku. It was probably 12 stops away. I was amazed how far from Shinjuku I was. To get to Shinjuku from Tokyo station, you have to go right through the Imperial Palace, which is probably impossible (or a capital offense, j/k).

Arriving in Shinjuku (新宿), I saw Kinokunia Bookstore (ahh!) and a bunch of cool stuff. I found a soba (蕎麦 [そば] soba) place that uses a ticket vending machine. I bought one that looked interesting and sat down. I figured out that I needed to give the cook the ticket. She asked which type of noodles. I said "kore", which was totally incorrect. When someone gives you a choice, point and say "sore kudasai". The noodles were excellent. There are no spoons, just slurp the tasty soup. What is the correct word for when you enter and exit? Arigatou gozaimasu? Often, I say arigatou. It makes sense to say Ohayogozaimasu in the morning and konichiwa in the afternoon to be more friendly. I'll try to learn from example and report back. At this point it started raining cats and dogs. I'm from Seattle and this is about as much as it rains on a tough day in Seattle.

I found a map that said Nishi-Shinjuku (西新宿) was west of Shinjuku. If you have memorized Level 4, you would know why this is a bit amusing. So I go the way that it shows. I look around for the park that it shows. I know the system of addresses pretty well at that point: Each ward (ku) is separated geometrically into about 8 sections (丁目 [ちょうめ] chome). Each chome has a couple dozen blocks (bun) separated by streets. Each block has several buildings. This gives you a ku and 3 numbers: (Nishi-Shinjuku-ku 7-chome, 2-bun, 6 or Nishi-Shinjuku-ku 7-2-6). Each block has one or more sign that says all these numbers in English often also. I circle the Nishi-Shinjuku 7-chome neighborhood 5 times before I think to call them. I call and say "I'm across the street from Little Spoon." The guy says oh, you're across the street from us. I look around. Yup, this block is 2-bun. So I go to each building on the block and sure enough there it is.

Sakura House is an awesome company (自社 [じしゃ] shisha). The people are very friendly. The houses they rent are spectacular. They are a perfect place to stay. Cross 4 off my primary list.

A note to tourists, if you make large withdrawls or purchases overseas with your credit/debit card, the bank will cancel your card until they can get in contact with you. What if you have no incoming line? You're screwed. They caused me a bunch of embarassment. Luckily they didn't cancel my card before I grabbed 300 yen from it. I used my second card to pay for the room, but now both my cards are cancelled until I call the silly banks (バカバカしい bakabakashii -- 銀行 [ぎんこう] ginkou).

After getting my keys, I headed to Tokyo Station to get my bags (袋 [ふくろ] fukuro). Tokyo Station is big, so you might have a hard time finding your locker if you don't remember any landmark. I put mine near the Yaesu exit and it still took me a good 30 minutes to find it.

Many vending machines take many types of coin, but you'll have trouble with a few machines. The lockers only take 100 yen coins. The bill changer only takes 1000 yen bills (千円 [せんえん] sen en). So the obvious solution is to buy a drink from a convenience store for 130 yen with a 10000 yen ($100) bill which yields: 9870 yen in 9 1000 yen bills, 1 500 yen coin, 3 100 yen coins, 1 50 yen coin, and 2 10 yen coins. You can change a 1000 yen bill to 10 100 yen coins, which produces the solution. I'm doing this math for you so that you understand the coin system. Those 500 yen coins are $5, so don't treat them like a quarter.

I took the train to Ueno Station. By this time it's raining so hard that most people stop at the kiosks to buy umbrellas before going out. This time I turned right at the dead end. This took me directly into Taito-ku, which was to be my destination. I found 2-chome and then I followed the directions to my house. I tried the key. No fit. No way. Absolutely. By the time I checked the picture of Asakusa house a man asked me if he could help. I tried to reply in Japanese, but my ability to converse is very limited. A young girl (少女 [しょうじょ] shoujo) came out and asked me to come in speaking very fluent English. They looked at my soaked map and told me that I was still in Ueno (Taito-ku spans Ueno and Asakusa) and although my map shows streets and such that looks exactly like what I was looking at, I need to go to Asakusa. When they show me the map, they draw a line 10 blocks east. They give me their map and when I exit thanking them profusely, the girl gives me her umbrella. I don't think I could find nicer people if I tried.

I walk with a sense of happiness that is not very common for me. When I get to the correct arterial, I see the landmark for my place, View Hotel, which is taller than the 6 story buildings that line all of Tokyo by a factor of 7 at least. A bit of looking and I find the house. I go in and my room is excellent (素晴らしい [すばらしい] subarashii). It was just then the 24th hour and I fall asleep before I can cross 5 off my primary list. I sleep for 14 hours.

Hooray!

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