Impossible to See it All
Hello~! Hola~! こにちは~! I hope everyone who is reading is doing well, as I have been trying to make sure I do the same! Since I've been here in Japan, one thing has become rather clear to me—I literally can't see it all. There is just an experience around every corner, every weekend is booked and my body can only handle so much in a day. This isn't something I'm disappointed by, but just a realization I've been coming to terms with for a few weeks now after visiting a few different locations. I've felt satisfied with the locale I've managed to see, and at the end of the day that's all that matters~! So today I'll be recounting my journey to two different places and then finishing off with a flash of smaller experiences and thoughts to cap off this little regaling of my life. Let's start off with Harajuku~!
Harajuku and Meiji Jingu—Peace Within a City
First off I should explain that out of everywhere I have been so far, this was the furthest away physically from where I am staying—A good hour and a half by train to get all the way over which is a normal commute for some? But it was my first time needing to be on the train for that long but after experiencing the destination? Of course it was worth it! This trip was actually a field trip for a class that I am taking about the History of Tokyo, so the entire class came out to Harajuku station to meet up. It was raining lightly that day, and upon first hearing we were heading to Harajuku, the only information I knew about the location was that there was plenty of shopping to do there and the fashion iconic for the area. But little did I know that on the other side of the city was a gigantic, looming forest that stretched out far beyond what I believed to be possible for being in the middle of a city. The trees hung over a wide walkway and despite the crowds of people there surrounding the grand entrance to the are it all felt so insignificant in it's presence.
We began walking through the area admiring the foliage that enclosed the entire area, almost sheltering it from the rest of the world in order to create this space that was a complete departure from reality. It must be mentioned that upon visiting the museum for a time, it was revealed to me that the entire forest has been an effort over 100 years in the making—all of this forest has been created from the ground up. All of the trees and materials donated in an effort to have the deified spirits of the Meiji Emperor and Empress enshrined in the center of the city with a suitable surrounding. It was even more impressive considering this fact, as I personally was taken with the beauty of the nature despite not even coming during the most regaled season to visit, Spring. Visiting here in the Fall still held beauty to me, as me and a friend (Hey Hadley~) decided to go visit the Iris Garden. For 500 yen a pop we got in and walked around the serene landscape that had been tailored to have these different natural enticements that all flowed into each other rather seamlessly at times.
Within the garden there was a specific location that of course took me aback from just the entrance to the area, and that was the Iris Garden itself. Although the irises were not there, the changing colors of the leaves created this muted but stunning palette of colors on this rainy afternoon that I personally enjoyed. The best part was the photo I captured had not a person in it, so I could just enjoy the way everything came together in the moment. This may just be me being a poetic person, but it is the type of location that you would have a rekindling of a relationship with someone with, walking through the barren flower fields yet still enjoying the other aspects around you. Fall is always symbolic of things coming to an end so it would just be such a cinematic locale for such a scene, and I could see it all play out in my head in a flash from just standing there at the beginning of the path. Regardless of my own imagination, it was worth the 500 yen to me, and I would enjoy coming back in the Spring to have an entirely different experience with a gentle sun shining down on me.
Akihabara, Maid Cafes and Arcades~!
Now I know what you might be thinking but just hear me out! Akihabara is one of the top destinations for anime lovers all over to congregate, as it was one of the busier stations I had to get through before heading out to the street. For me? It was about an hour train ride to get over there but of course it was worth it of course it was! As an Otaku down to my core, this place almost felt like an overload of everything that I had thought I was well adjusted to, just everywhere assaulting all of my senses in the best sort of way. It was a complete shift from going to Meiji Jingu, as this felt like the culmination of all things that screamed 'Look here!' to me. I went to Akihabara twice at this point, so allow me to tell about how much fun it was to be out and about the city just indulging in one of my favorite pastimes of talking about anime.
The first time going to Akihabara I was joined by two friends who wanted to make sure that I got to go to this place at least once considering how much of an anime lover I was. We went to a ten floor—ten floor Animate which is one of the big stores for everything manga, anime and otaku centered. Each floor had something completely different on it, whether it was figurines, cards, models, key chains—Literally anything you could think of for some of the most popular series of all time but also at the moment. As of right now I'd say within the Otaku culture the most popular (or maybe just well known) song is アイドル (Idol) by YOASOBI currently so I've been hearing it blasted absolutely everywhere. There are goods for all of the really popular series like Oshi no Ko, Bluelock, Tokyo Revengers—just everything you can think of, they have keychains, pins and folders for the series. Not to mention the literal walls of Gatcha Machines that are everywhere with little trinkets you can win as well.
After our trip inside of the giant Animate we went to one of four or five Gigos which is essentially a giant arcade with about six floors each of different arcade games. Although crane games are great ways to waste your money trying to get one figurine (Which I have done and actually won one~) the place I wished to dump my coins at was a very specific arcade machine called Dancerush Stardom. I have seen videos of people playing this game online and it looked like a ton of fun for someone like me who does not really dance all that often. Yeah, it's a dancing game. Sort of like DDR but there is instead a giant screen to slide and move on, which allows for much cooler moves and tracks to move to. It was a blast playing this game, and every time I see the machine I need to play it until my legs feel like jelly and I'm grasping a bottle of water like it's my last lifeline. It is WAY too much fun and I recommend it to literally everyone since you will certainly burn some calories playing it!
As for my second trip back to Akihabara, I went with a different friend with the sole goal of eating at a Maid cafe, since it is something I wanted to try out for that experience more than anything. There were ladies in Maid outfits on the side of almost every street advertising for a different cafe, some with different themes as well! Since there were so many, I had decided to just go to one at random, dragging my friend in with me in order to just get the experience going. Out the elevator we were greeted with bright pinks, cute music and ladies dressed in very adorable maid outfits. It was a small place, but it still had the vibe I was expecting~! We were shown to our seats and told that if we wanted to get the maid's attention to order our food we had to go "Nyan Nyan~!" or "Meow Meow~!" to call them over. Yet another thing I was expecting, there are rules to maid cafes, or more like rituals that are done to suite the cute atmosphere. This also includes "Going to the Bathroom" now being called "Going to Pick Flowers" and saying "I'm Home!" as a reoccurring customer since that is a pretty commonplace thing as well.
The food was very cute looking, as I got a parfait that I was worried would be a bit too much for my small stomach but ended up being the perfect size in the end. Of course you can order curry or pasta and some other food but I decided to go with the sweets at the time. Although a bit on the expensive side from what I had been used to at the time, it was worth it for the experience. But the price also had to do with me getting a few little memorabilia things from the location like a polaroid photo or doing a little lottery gift thing, so I was well aware of that. Not really a surprise to me! What was something I wasn't expecting was a live show by some of the maids working at the cafe, where the whole room goes dark and one or two of the girls begin doing a rehearsed dance to some really upbeat and adorable songs! You could cheer on with a little glow stick, and I was absolutely living for it! It was a blast and who knows I may be back for a bit more "moe moe kyun~!" in my life so keep an eye out for that!
Quick Thoughts and Experiences~!
Alright its that time again to give a quick list of different little experiences that have occurred to sort of fill up the blank spaces between the extremely large events that have been going on lately! This will once again be a rapid fire stream of consciousness to cap off this chapter so I hope you have enjoyed~!
- I had an incident on my daily bus ride where I sat down on a crowded bus only to realize that nobody was sitting down there due to a giant grasshopper on the window. It soon became a silent comedic moment where everyone around me had noticed the situation I had placed myself in, all of us grinning but not saying a word. At my stop I got a tissue and nabbed the bug before walking off, noticeably shocking those near me in the most hilarious of ways.
- As someone who has some bodily pains I have discovered the absolute life hack that are 湿布 (Compresses). They are really cheap and I can just slap one on my shoulder or my neck or back to help me out when I'm laying down after a long day. They have honestly been saving me quite a bit.
- I experienced rush hour in Akihabara for the first time, as when getting back on the train we were all squished like crazy. Thank goodness I'm short, but I did feel bad for my taller friend.
- It feels quite gratifying when I can read a word that is using Kanji just out in the wild since it sort of proves to myself that the material I am studying is sticking in my head. Almost like immersion is actually aiding in my learning, who would've thought!
- I have realized that attempting to speak Spanish after all of this Japanese practice I have been doing is growing increasingly difficult, as to me the tone in which I speak Spanish is very similar to Japanese somehow? It's a very interesting thing that I've been noticing but I suppose it's just the languages fighting for control in my head.
- The live action drama of Nodame Cantabile is extremely entertaining and I enjoy watching it every night with my Host family at dinner. It's campy, overacted at times and truly just something stupid funny to watch together but also be treated to some nice classical music at the same time. I recommend it!
That's about it for now, and next time I will hopefully have yet another array of things that have occurred, ready to share with all of you~! Everyday is a story after all, and it is my pleasure to recount them all to those who wish to listen~! Until then, Bye bye, Adiós, じゃね～！
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I am an extroverted, amicable and overall goofy nerd who loves throwing herself in the deep end and coming back to tell the tale of how I did it! I love anything about culture, history and languages. I try to write for your enjoyment~