Good morning from Ikebukuro!
Matt and I finally experienced the effects of jet lag last night. I had begun to think we’d escape its clutches, but we did receive a visit after all.
Yesterday we decided to explore the Ikebukuro train station, because it’s enormous – it’s a station and a mall and a food court and a grocery store. Craziness. I got fresh taiyaki which I sadly didn’t eat right away, because I didn’t see anyone eating on the go even in the food court area, so I figured I’d follow the social cues and not eat while walking.
We both started to get a little snappy around 14:00 when we realized we hadn’t eaten since some toast in the morning. So we found a noodle bar in the station. It was the kind where you “place your order” by feeding coins into a vending machine and making your food selection (pictures on the buttons are key here for non-Japanese speakers). The machine spits out a ticket, which you bring to the counter, and all you have to do then is tell them whether you want soba or udon. I got soba noodles with some kind of tepura’d thing that was white and very dense – I’m guessing it was some kind of fish cake, though it didn’t taste like much at all. Despite burning my lip and my tongue (not badly, don’t worry) on the hot broth, it was a wonderful meal. By far the best “fast food” I’ve ever had. Plus it was my first time sitting in between Japanese people at a noodle counter, and the slurping really is a thing! It’s one of those things that you read about and know to expect, but it’s different when you experience it. It made me smile. And it definitely does cool the noodles down.
We did a tiny bit of shopping at the train station. I bought a gift for someone very important back home, and one for myself – my travel wallet doesn’t have a change compartment, but coins are a big part of the currency here. I found a kawaii pencil case with little cat faces on it that’s doubling as a coin wallet while we’re here. Then we found a seven-floor (nine if you count the two basement levels) department store accessible from the train station. The toy floor had a huge row of vending machines. I spent 600 JPY there for two Sailor Moon figurine keychains, and another 650 JPY on a moon wand cell phone charm – AND I DON’T CARE BECAUSE THESE THINGS ARE NECESSARY FOR MY LIFE, BISHOUJO SENSHI SAILOR MOON FOREVER!
Ahem. Anyway. Really neat toy section. I also thought about buying a hair dryer, because the one I borrowed from our hotel’s reception desk wasn’t very powerful. Good thing I decided not to spend the money, though; I borrowed a different dryer from the desk this morning – the model I almost bought yesterday – and the power was just as unimpressive. I’m guessing it’s the lower voltage in Japan. I’m not willing to spend more than $20 on a hair dryer I’ll probably have to leave behind, so I’m just going to suck it up, deal with the slower drying time, and keep on borrowing dryers from reception. I can spend that money on other things. ^_^
We attempted (and failed) to locate the giant (6-floor) UNIQLO store here in Ikebukuro, but we gave up because we were both hit with a heavy tiredness right around 16:00. We headed back to the hotel for a quick rest, fell asleep, and that was it. I woke up at one point to wash my face (because as a lifelong acne-sufferer, washing my face before bed is hard wired into my behavior), and woke up briefly a couple of times during the night, but we basically slept for 12 hours. We got up at 5 and Matt got us some onigiri. Yum! I could start every day with rice, I have decided.
I think we’ll try again tomorrow to find the UNIQLO, as it’s supposed to rain. Today we’re going to hop on a train and go see something amazing. We haven’t decided what yet, but it’s around 08:00 here so we’ve got plenty of time to figure that out.
Right now we’re sitting in the Sakura Cafe. It’s the earliest we’ve been down here yet, and it’s nice to just take part in the quiet morning rituals of people sitting at tables, having their coffee. Maybe it’s like this in all cities and I just don’t have any city-living exposure, but I feel like there’s a quiet here even in the midst of people that you don’t get in America, regardless of the time of day. It’s just now starting to get active, with a couple of guys hosing off plastic things across the street – looks like they might be air filter mounts. Students in uniform heading for school, other tourists coming down for breakfast.
One funny thing – I’ve heard summers are brutally hot and humid here. It must be true, because it’s consistently been about 70 degrees (F) here and everyone is wearing sweaters. The outfits here, by the way, are adorable. Tokyo does fashion in an epic way – and not just because it’s different from America. Everything just looks more classy, more chic, more put together. You think shorts and tights and a blouse sound like a stupid combination? Come to Japan and let me know what you think then. Amazing.
See you again soon! ^_^