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First week in Japan!

On my birthday, this year (Nov. 19) I got on a plane to the land of the Rising Sun, a long time dream of mine. I had originally planned to go there in early 2015, taking advantage of the time that Junicorn would still be living there before returning to the states; but she pointed out I could come sooner and stay for a longer time!


And so my adventure began! The 19 hour flight was grueling and uncomfortable and something I'm not looking forward to when I have to take the flight back. I only got to see Tokyo in passing while I was riding the Shinkansen, it was also night time and I had to get to Nagoya which is the city where Junicorn lives.

The view from the balcony
The weather was a little chilly but sunny on most days, so it was pretty nice my first couple of days here. The apartment is 2 train stops away from the main downtown area, so it's a quiet town with mostly family homes, apartments, and of course convenience stores (conbini) sprinkled every couple of blocks.

To get to most places we either take the train, ride a bicycle. The last time I rode a bike I was probably 11 years old, I stopped riding after I badly scraped my knee trying to be cool... I thought I would have some sort of muscle memory to pick up this skill again, but the first day I tried to ride, I utterly failed, not being able to even push along the bike for 1 straight second, I also bruised myself all over my legs and even my crotch was hurting. Every couple of days I would attempt riding the bike again, to hopefully get a little better. Still, seeing pedestrians or other bikes close to me would freak me out and I would lose my balance.

It's been really interesting to see Junicorn again after such a long time, and how she's completely adapted to life in Japan, all the while completely avoiding to become fluent in speaking or reading the language! On the other hand, my "intermediate" knowledge of Japanese feels elementary once I actually go here, and honestly, I would have no clue about the "proper" way to do things around here without her. On my first train ride I lost my ticket, which I didn't realize I had to use to EXIT the train station by feeding it to the gate.

Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers
On our first trip to downtown Nagoya, I was overwhelmed by the OCEANS of people walking all around the station and the MILLIONS of shops selling food and clothing inside the station itself. Most girls in Japan dress fashionably, but the interesting part is that most people pull off a SPECIFIC type of look, which you can see clearly reflected in the clothing stores. Fashion styles rarely mix, and people hanging out together are all wearing a similar style, if not downright to the same brand clothing, or matching outfits.

Yulie petting a guiding dog for the blind
One aspect that has made me a little sad, is that I haven't seen many animals around town or in the city :(  Maybe it's a Miami thing that many people own pets and go out jogging or shopping/eating with them. Dogs have been a rare sight so far, and cats even more so!

One thing that was not completely surprising but still amusing to experience in person, was the level of politeness that Japanese people have (well, specially those that work in service jobs). Compared to how the quality of service is seriously declining in the U.S., it's super impressive to see how in Japan they take your customer service experience to the next level.

Buying a beef bowl ticket from the restaurant machine
Another point I gotta give to Japan, is the level of convenience for fast food / cheap food joints. All the menus have pictures, which is a major bonus for gaijin like myself, and many unnecessary steps are removed from the ordering process making it super easy and fast to get your food. One aspect that has bothered me, is how flimsy (or nonexistent) the napkins are... You are expected to have your own tissues with you or a little handkerchief/towel wherever you go.

Gyuudon meal!
Servings of rice come with almost every meal. In fact, it's been difficult not to find food that isn't loaded with carbohydrates (rice or noodles or some variation of these two staples). The eggs have incredibly orange yolks, and more traditional foods have very subtle flavors. It's not surprising that for someone with an Americanized palate (like me) foods need more salt or sauces. Also; cups, utensils, tools, etc are exceptionally tiny.

coffee and cake @Dotour
I remember one of the things I worried about coming to Japan, was if they would have good coffee (I'm hooked on Cuban cortaditos). Of course, Starbucks has invaded here as well, but there's another coffee shop chain with is Yulie's favorite and is becoming mine as well: Dotour. There are almost TOO MANY bakeries and coffee shops around every corner, and you can see people pretty much settling themselves into their table and reading books, studying or chatting with their friends for hours inside eating establishments.

Well Romy, but what about cosplay and anime!!? The stuff you really care about!!?

Sailor Moon, still as popular as ever.
Right now, the two most popular anime for children are AIKATSU! and Youkai Watch. It is almost guaranteed that ANY store I walk into will have merchandise from these two shows. Closely following these two is the ever popular One Piece, Evangelion, and then whatever the current Sentai show is. Besides that, novelty stores that carry character and party goods will have some sort of assortment of Sailor Moon goodies, Dragon Ball, Ghibli stuff, Sanrio and San-X, Disney, as well as other (usually weirder) local characters based on each city's local attractions.

When it is imperative that you dress up as Japanese food.

People in Japan really like costumes, and you can easily acquire Christmas theme costumes, school girl outfits, masks, wigs, and the fuku for the main five Sailor Senshi. Of course, the sizes run a little small, and the quality is similar to a "Party City" Halloween costume.


Another collectible that Japan appears to be obsessed with: PUZZLES. In stores that sell character goodies, there will always be a section dedicated only to puzzles and I personally find it pretty flipping crazy how complex and beautiful some of these puzzles can get.

For a close-up of that Luffy photo collage puzzle, you should checkout the my full Japan Trip photo gallery on Flickr.

Mini Sailor Moon puzzles
 Just because you're in Japan, it doesn't mean things are cheaper. Some character goods you can only get at the arcade (from UFO catcher machines) and in those cases, you have to be ready to throw your Yen at the machine until you get the goody you're aiming for. Coming here made me realize we don't really have it that bad when we import goods.

Christmas Illuminations
While it's a little sad that I'm going to miss out on viewing the beautiful cherry blossoms in Spring, the main areas in downtown are decked out in Christmas lights (which are simply referred to as Illumination) and they make for a very pretty sight (yup, JUST like you see in Christmas episodes in anime).

BEST COUPLE

One thing that Yulie is (kinda) obsessed with and I will probably get into as well, is PURIKURA!! On our first trip out we took pictures at a photo booth machine and then sprinkled them with silly stickers and phrases. These Purikura machines are super high tech devices!! They have special camera lenses to make your eyes huge and sparkly, even out your screen tone, and a gazillion post editing options. I felt like I needed a Purikura course to figure out how to use all the features.

Our first weekend out, immortalized in Puri.
I'm a little sad that the Puri sheet is so tiny, and I don't have a Japanese phone account to receive the Puri to my e-mail U_U. You're supposed to cut out the photos and stick them in places, but I can't bring myself to cut up this sheet!

Click to view high res photos of my First Week in Japan.

What are some cool things I should do while I'm here? Live vicariously through me, tell me your ideas!

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Post a Comment Default Comments Disqus Comments

  1. ......girls and photo booths...........when will it die?!

    How did you forget how to ride a bike I can't even make a joke it might come out wrong but I legit kinda feel bad 4 you.

    ReplyDelete

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