Forgot my camera today, so there be no pictures…
There were, of course, so many things I wanted to take snapshots of. Today, I walked around in the neighborhood where my host family lives. I think it’s called Kitaku and the station is just called Shimo, but I’m not quite sure. It’s sort of out of the central area of Tokyo, and it’s residential. It’s pretty amazing that you can be in a city of this size and have areas like this that are pretty quiet at night. It’s not really a suburb; it’s still Tokyo. But yeah, it’s pretty mellow — and what that means is that there are only ten thousand people on the streets rather than a hundred thousand.
People were not joking when they said that Tokyo is dense with people. My first few nights were spent in the hotel near the Takadanobaba train station (in the Shinjuku ward), and it was sort of the first lesson of the flow of Tokyo streets. It’s a dense thicket of people that you have to maneuver around, and people generally ride their cruiser style bicycles (known as “Mama-Chari”) on the sidewalks. So, you’re navigating people and bikes on, generally, streets with smaller widths than American ones.
Speaking of bicycles, Tokyo is a bike culture. Just about everyone seems to have a bicycle. Old men and women use them still; the Mama-Charis have baskets for groceries. I think every school kid has a bicycle. Yesterday, my host mother was showing me how to get to the train station near her house, and she had her bicycle with her. Right before the station, she just put the bike up against a railing, and then we went into the station together and rode the train to another district. No lock. And I noticed that: hardly anybody uses a lock, even on relatively expensive bikes. I guess the Mama-Chari style bicycle is so common that their would be no re-sale value, or whatever, but still….this is maybe second to New York City in terms of population. It’s kind of incredible.
Before I wandered around in the neighborhood today, I had to purchase a cell phone. This was not fun. Japanese explanations are bureaucratic-like, long and detailed, and so the whole process took about an hour just to get a cell phone. I had to register as an alien in the ward near my host family’s house, as well as show proof of my acceptance into the national health care system, and my passport. Then, the plans. These were long speeches about email, mail, internet, monthly charges, extra charges, my options on where and how to pay. And, you know, my Japanese is not that good. It’s one thing to practice for an hour in an American classroom, but then being here and trying to accomplish things that have to do more with residency than travel is quite difficult. One of the Waseda students accompanied me in order to help ease the process. Bless her heart, she was very patient…but I wasn’t quite understanding her, either. I did purchase a cell phone, but for all I know it could be an expensive-ass plan with way more gadgets than I’ll know what to do with.
Yes, I’m still negotiating my way in Japan. It’s still very confusing, but this will surely pass. The trains are very cool; very efficient. They are on time and they come every ten minutes or so. It’s the way to get around Tokyo, but it’s a byzantine maze of red and blue and green squiggles when you look at it on a map. However, I’m finding it to be much easier than it looks. Plus, the train is great people watching. Tokyo is very fashion-conscious, and I’ve seen some very strange and funny things people have decided on for daily attire. Girls might have shirts that read “EVERYBODY See People,” or I think I caught a guy’s shirt that read “Are you a backpacker?” There’s stranger ones, for sure, and I’ll capture these moments with the camera soon enough. I got a little while over here.
Okay, slowly but surely working out the jet-lag. Probably need another couple of nights before everything is back to a normal schedule. Still hotter than a motherfucker though!
The weather, that is.
[insert: rim-shot then cymbal-choke for that one]