For the majority of this week, the weather in Tokyo has been pretty awful. Right at the beginning of the week the city was slammed with a typhoon that continued providing big puddles and rain for days. Lucky for me, my birthday took place on the WORST day of the typhoon. Even still, it is probably the best thing I have been able to experience in Japan so far!
I started the day with being late to Orientation Part 2 because my group took the slower train and then got lost in the train station. We made it eventually but just from the ten minute walk to campus from the station, I was soaked to the bone…even though I had an umbrella. I finished all of my orientation for the day, including my speaking test for Japanese language course placement, but I still had three hours before I would meet my friends to go out for dinner for my birthday! So I walked around in the rain until that time – which ended up being so worth it!
I got to see two friends that I have not been able to see for around 10 months!! It’s incredible to be able to see the two of them in Japan after such a long time. Another friend that recently returned to Japan also came with so that was really great. We went to a really cute place called ペコリ and could enjoy really good food together. They gave me gifts and the birthday surprise in the picture above. I was SO happy…even though the weather was so crazy to be travelling around in.
Then on yesterday I went to Ikebukuro and Harajuku by myself. They are both separate areas in Tokyo. Ikebukuro is where my university is and Harajuku is kind of a centre for cute youth fashion. I stayed in Ikebukuro exploring lots of SEGA stores full of claw machines and wandering around Sunshine City, which is a building that has lots of stores and an aquarium. I saw a lot of cute shoes there that I wanted to buy but I didn’t know how to ask the store clerks for shoe sizes…so I left without shoes. I’m going to work on that! Then I decided to go to Harajuku, which is another short train ride from Ikebukuro. The atmosphere difference between the different areas is amazing. Ikebukuro Station is a crazy hell building but the area itself doesn’t feel as busy. However, Harajuku Station was more relaxing because it’s so small in comparison yet the area itself was bustling if you’re outside of Yoyogi Park.
When I first arrived in Harajuku, the first thing I did was go to Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park! Funnily enough I didn’t know that I could go to Meiji Shrine from Harajuku…I thought that it was a different station. I’m so glad that it was there though because Yoyogi Park and the shrine are both really beautiful! Meiji Shrine is definitely not the oldest shrine in Japan but it is definitely huge and really nice! While I was there I could see bigger trees than I have ever seen in my life (along with an extremely large amount of Chinese tourists), as well as experience writing down prayers, and getting おみくじ. Omikuji are like little fortune papers. I got mine in Japanese because getting the English version got weird so I have no idea what it says…All I know is that I have been told that “Enduring is important.” I’ll keep that in mind!!
After Meiji Shrine I adventured into the downtown area of Harajuku in search of clothes. I had tried finding clothes in Ikebukuro but I wanted something a little cheaper. Before I could even get to the stores I was stopped after I crossed the street by a younger Japanese man with blonde hair who wanted to know if I wanted to be a hair model! What?! I was so surprised. After that I went through some stores I found myself on Takeshita Street, which is an incredibly narrow street with so many shops for clothes on it! I found that a lot of the shops carried the same things under a different brand but I ended up buying a skirt with straps and a cute kitty t-shirt! It was a good day of adventuring by myself.
Today, first thing in the morning I experienced my first earthquake ever! I found out later today that it was a 5.2 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in Tokyo Bay, which while not far from me isn’t that close either – about an hour and a half by train. Beyond that, I went to Ueno to go to the Tokyo National Museum with a group from my dorm. We left around 10:30 this morning and bought Japanese bento at the convenience store (like a pre-made Japanese style lunch box…kind of?) when we left the station. Then we went into Ueno Park to find the museum! We ended up coming across a temple first though, so we explored that first before resting to eat our lunch. The temple was really cool because it was surrounded by what we think is a lake and a huge plant that covers the whole mass of water so that you can’t see it! The museum wasn’t far from the temple and our group got split into two. The museum cost 410 yen to enter after we showed our foreign student ID cards so that was awesome. The ticket gave us access to three HUGE buildings. It actually took us around 3.5 hours to get through everything. There are millions of pictures that I am going to upload to Flickr later after I sort through them, but the museum was really cool. It was all about Japan and other Asian countries with an exhibit on Egypt in the Asia Gallery. Hmm…
We left the museum to go home and found another temple that was closed for the day as well as a little children’s play park with rides. We ended up getting かき氷 which is like a snow cone. For only 280 yen they were huge, came with a slice of pineapple, a slice of kiwi, a chocolate straw, and another mysterious fruit like object. Unfortunately my phone died because of all of the museum pictures so I have no pictures of it but trust me when I say that it was amazing!!! I’ll try to have it again so I can get a picture of it (^-^)
Having a lot of fun, but can’t wait for classes to start! One week of free time left to go!