Exchange Student’s Guide to Tokyo, Day 8 & Wrap Up

Before I begin, I forgot to put something in my last post.

We got sushi. From a conveyor belt.

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Now most people reading this will know that I am not a sushi fan, or a seafood fan in general, so don’t you worry, I didn’t eat that. My friend ordered it and it was just too pretty to pass up the photo; it was referred to as the “sushi donut.” This place that we went to was a little bit more high tech than the conveyor belt sushi I was expecting. They seat you at a long table in front of a tablet, and you order on the tablet what you want to eat (with an English option, thank god). Then the chefs make it for you, put it on a little tray, and a high speed auto belt zips it right to your seat; no need to wait for it to come around to you. It zips down the line and stops right in front of you so you can grab it. It was fun to watch, and even though I don’t eat sushi, they had other things on the menu, so I was able to join in on the ordering fun. Including something wacky that my friends roped me into trying; cheeseburger sushi.

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I really hate to admit it, but it wasn’t bad.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

On our last day, Jeremy had already left, so it was just me and the girls. They wanted to go to the Imperial Palace, since they had yet to go, but since I had already gone I decided to do some exploring on my own. Which was the original plan, until my SIM card decided to shit the bed and not give me any access to data.

I had to go into a Starbucks every time I needed to figure out how to get anywhere, so the last thing I wanted to do was go on a wacky adventure alone. I originally was going to go to Meiji shrine, but that was a little too far off the beaten path for a data-less English-speaking nineteen-year-old. My friends who had gone assured me that it wasn’t worth the hype anyways (which I highly doubt, but I wasn’t too upset).

Instead I tried to stick close to what I knew, and close to the subway system, since I had gotten to knowing it pretty well. I decided to hit up Nakano Broadway, an area right next to it’s train station that’s known for it’s used collectible figures and toys, similar to Akihabara. But also so that I could get this.

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Flavors from top to bottom: strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, ramune (a japanese flavor of soda), melon, sesame, green tea, and coffee.

The Daily Chiko, in the basement of Nakano Broadway, is famous for serving a soft serve ice cream cone that has all of it’s flavors. Jeremy and I wanted to try it together, but we didn’t have time to go before he left. I wasn’t going to do it alone, but I was already there, it was only 400 yen ($4 USD), there wasn’t a line, I saw other people eating it alone too, I was already pretty hungry…

I ate the whole thing. And I am proud to say that I did not spill a drop. Damn was it good.

After that, I figured I would head back to Akihabara to kill some time before meeting the rest of the group for dinner. The Nintendo Switch dropped on Friday, and I was looking to buy one before I lost all hope and deemed it perpetually sold out. Still, I wandered through and popped in and out of stores along the block to see if anyone had them in stock.

I wandered around for 2 hours. I had been to every store on the block and nobody had them, and this was Akihabara, the center of all things video games. I was starting to think there weren’t any left in the whole country of Japan.

Most stores in Akihabara close at around 8, and it was 7:30. I poked my head into the last store on the street, and I figured after this one I would go back to the room. It seemed mostly empty, and I assumed it was because it was closing soon.

I asked the man at the counter where the video games were, and he told me one floor down. So I went downstairs, and another worker greeted me, asking me in poor English if I was looking for video games. I nodded, assuming that they had been talking over a walkie talkie or something (retail knowledge kicking in). He sent me to their very small video games section, I did a quick up down, and didn’t see any advertisements for the switch, so I thanked him and went on my way.

However, he stopped me again. “Games?” he asked me again. I wasn’t sure how to communicate to him that I didn’t find what I wanted. “Nintendo Switch?” I asked. He nodded. “Nintendo switch…” he went behind the counter and I followed him, and he asked his coworker something in Japanese. “What color?” he asked me.

I froze. “You have it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “What color?”

I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I was giddy during the entire transaction. I had assumed that I would have to wait until I get to America to get the system, but here I am, getting a Japanese version, for a lot cheaper than I would find it in the US. In the last store that I went to.

The man who had helped me had to escort me to the door with my bag. Apparently they had closed, which is why the store was so empty. “It will be our little secret,” he told me in confidence. “They don’t know we have these.”

I thanked him over and over again in both languages. I was completely giddy. If it weren’t for him, I would never had found it! He seemed excited too. On the escalator he was telling me about how the switch was region free, so I could use it in America too. It was honestly the best interaction of the whole trip.

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Wrap Up

Japan was the closest and furthest I have been from home in a long time. Very few people spoke English. Everything was different. Even the McDonald’s sizes very very small, even compared to Singapore (I laughed out loud when the lady gave me my “small” Coke). Tokyo was the first time that I really experienced culture shock, but I really did enjoy the differences. I was a little uncomfortable with the absence of most things Western, and that’s okay. Singapore, in contrast, is a very westernized country.

However, I was quite literally closer to home than I had been in awhile. Time zones were different, so I was slightly more aligned. The climate was just like Syracuse in March; grey, muddy, raining, sometimes snowing, and cold. I really was only an ocean away. I had to wear my jeans, buy hat and gloves, drink hot chocolate all the time. I just had to order it in a different language.

I spent a lot of this trip wandering around alone. I know that this may worry some of the parents, but Tokyo is a great city to wander in; everyone is polite, crime is miraculously low, and I never felt unsafe. Wifi is everywhere. And if I looked confused for long enough, someone who spoke English would come and ask if I needed help. I hardly ever did, but it was nice to know that people were there to help.

It was okay to be alone a lot. The group I was with travelled at a different pace than I did, and we had different desires and priorities. Clinging to them would’ve meant missing out on the things I really wanted to see and the experiences I really wanted to have, and we would still meet up to do the things we wanted to do together.

I know that there’s things that I’ve missed in here. There’s things that happened, things I bought, and soooo many pictures that I took, that will probably never end up on this blog, partially because I wasn’t good about writing in it (blame the sharing of chargers and the death of our wifi halfway through the trip), but mostly because there is just too damn much. But don’t worry; expect a lot of stories and a lot of sharing when I get home 🙂

Tokyo was amazing, but it’s good to be back in Singapore.

View everyday this week:

Day 1

Days 2 & 3

Days 4 & 5

Days 6 & 7

 

 

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