Tag Archives: shibuya

Do as they do

We spent most of yes­ter­day evening in a local Iza­kaya near­by our accom­mo­da­tion in Shi­mo­takai­do. We met the rest of the Finns and so only the Swedes remained to be seen (rumoured to arrived on Mon­day!). One of the guys from Cam­bridge, Tom, had lived in Japan before and was able to speak Japan­ese con­fi­dent­ly enough to order what­ev­er we want­ed. Japan­ese peo­ple are usu­al­ly extreme­ly sur­prised at his lev­el of flu­en­cy and always have a mas­sive grin whilst they are talk­ing to him! We found out one of the bar staff actu­al­ly attend­ed Nihon Uni­ver­si­ty and so she was par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py to see us. We are due to meet a few vol­un­teers from the uni­ver­si­ty on Tues­day, and also take our place­ment test(!) at the same time — it will cer­tain­ly remind me that I’m not here just for tourism!

Bor­rowed image from Kaisa’s blog!

We decid­ed to go to Shibuya and Hara­juku today to check out the sights. The Finns hadn’t been to Japan before and so we showed them the things we liked about it when we last vis­it­ed [Hara­juku girls!]. We are using Suica cards to get around Tokyo, which is pret­ty much the same as an Oys­ter card in Lon­don but you can also use it to pay for oth­er things such as drinks in vend­ing machines. I have no doubt that this is a pre­cur­sor to how things will be in the UK in a few years — I am liv­ing in the future! The staff at train sta­tions all speak pass­able Eng­lish and the sta­tion boards are in Roma­ji, so it is gen­er­al­ly quite easy to get around for tourists. I’m quite sur­prised at how easy it is to get by in Tokyo with­out speak­ing a sin­gle word of Japan­ese; sim­ple hand ges­tures and speak­ing Eng­lish in a Japan­ese accent usu­al­ly gives the desired result!

The weath­er was extreme­ly hot and it made it dif­fi­cult to ful­ly enjoy strolling in Tokyo’s fash­ion dis­trict. For­tu­nate­ly, we were giv­en free paper fans (in the shape of a Google Places/Maps mark­er) and lat­er we were also giv­en free wet tow­els. Usu­al­ly the free stuff hand­ed out on the street in the UK is next to use­less, but in Tokyo they are a wel­come sight! We saw clothes stores to acco­mo­date every Japan­ese teen sub-cul­ture and some to suit West­ern styles also; price-wise they are not sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er than Lon­don.

There weren’t many peo­ple dressed up around Hara­juku, but those that were there received plen­ty of atten­tion.

Phoebe makes friends with the locals.

This was also the only place where we saw more for­eign­ers than native Japan­ese peo­ple! Indeed, we man­aged to find an English/American/European/‘White’ girl dressed up as a maid and par­tak­ing in the same cer­e­mo­ni­al pos­ing as a typ­i­cal Hara­juku girl. Although I enjoyed my time there last year, it was very much a super­fi­cial impres­sion and I wasn’t able gain any depth of appre­ci­a­tion at all. To get a real glimpse into Japan­ese cul­ture I would have to look far beyond just the streets of Hara­juku… We quick­ly made our way towards the Mei­ji Shrine, which I had also vis­it­ed last year.

Cen­tre court of the Mei­ji Shrine.

There are small wells/fountains on the side which allow peo­ple to wash their hands and also drink the water, if they wish. I used to feel some­what uncom­fort­able tak­ing part in this tra­di­tion­al Shin­to hand wash­ing since I (obvi­ous­ly) didn’t share any of the asso­ci­at­ed beliefs. Now I’m choos­ing to approach it with a more open per­spec­tive, do as they do [in Tokyo], and per­haps I will be able to learn some­thing from the expe­ri­ence. What do I have to lose? One of the lec­ture series as part of the JLSP course is called “The Japan­ese Mind” and this is def­i­nite­ly some­thing I am look­ing for­ward to! As a side note, I realise I don’t have pho­tos for a lot of the things I’m talk­ing about, so I apol­o­gise in advance and promise to get bet­ter at this in the future!

Category: JLSP | Tags: , , ,