Posts Tagged shibuya

January 11, 2006 part 1 – Finding Capsule Land

Disclaimer: UPS is the nickname of one of my friends visiting Japan. This post has nothing to do with United Parcel Service.

After an eventful evening in Roppongi where we drank at 5 different bars, UPS and I were looking for a place to sleep for the night. I was happy to find a nearby hotel, but UPS insisted that on his last night in Japan he wanted to stay in a capsule hotel.

A capsule hotel is a cheap option for a place to sleep if you don’t have a problem with small spaces. Instead of a room, you rent a small capsule to sleep in for the night. I had heard of capsule hotels before I moved to Japan, but had never stayed in one. In the interests of being a good host and trying new things, I agreed and decided to use my Japanese language skills to find us a capsule hotel.

We walked towards the big Koban across from Roppongi station. The police officer at the front appeared a bit nervous as we approached, probably because he had interacted with more than his share of drunk foreigners in English before. He appeared to relax when I greeted him politely in and managed to ask him where the nearest capsule hotel was in decent Japanese. This was particularly impressive considering the amount of beer I had consumed over the evening. The officer told me that there were no capsule hotels in Roppongi and that I would have better luck in Shibuya. Since the trains had already stopped, he pointed out where the nearest taxi stand was. I thanked him and we were on our way.

The taxi driver did not seem too pleased about transporting two obviously drunk gaijins somewhere after 2:00am. We were fascinated by the street level view of one of the world’s biggest cities. The cab ride didn’t take long and cost about 1200 yen ($12).

We got out at the Hachiko exit at Shibuya station, and I asked directions from a nearby Koban while UPS hung out at the famous dog statue. Hachiko is a well known meeting place, and after explaining the story I got a picture of a very tired looking UPS next to Japan’s most loyal dog. We set out for a large capsule hotel building called “Capsule Land” which was just up the street.

Hachiko

On the way we had another interesting encounter; UPS managed to get propositioned by a street prostitute. For real.

I didn’t even think there were any street prostitutes in Japan, so this was all the more surprising. As we slowly walked up the hill, she said “hi”, put her head on his shoulder, and said in an adorable voice “Sex? Sex??”. UPS said no thank you. She nodded her head yes while saying, slightly more confidently, “Sex! Sex.” this time as a statement, not a question. We somehow politely removed ourselves from her rather pleasant company and laughed about the ridiculous situations we had experienced during the evening while we continued walking to Capsule Land.

There aren’t too many other situations where talking to two police officers and a hooker would constitute a good evening. I love having visitors!

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December 15, 2004 – Immigration office master

My Weezer shirt that I bought in Harajuku

My Weezer shirt that I bought in Harajuku

Today I went to the immigration office in Shinyurigaoka to get my re-entry permit for my passport. I now feel pretty confident in my skills at navigating the immigration office, and can usually be in and out in about 10 minutes.

Like most people, my work visa expires after a certain period of time (one year for me), and will also expire if I leave the country. To prevent the visa from expiring when I go home, I needed to buy a re-entry permit. The permits are available as one time permits or unlimited times for the period of one year. Since I am only planning to leave Japan and return once in the next year, I bought the cheaper one time permit.

Immigration officers are not allowed to handle cash directly, which is a nice way to prevent anything shady from happening. I had to go to a small convenience store in the same building to buy a voucher for a re-entry stamp. I then returned to the immigration office, where they exchanged the voucher for a sticker in my passport.

After finishing up at the immigration office, I spent most of my day exploring some cool stores in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku. I bought some books for my flight home at Kinokuniya, and a cool Weezer shirt in Harajuku.

In the evening, I met up with Okonomi in Noborito. We went out for Okonomiyaki for dinner and then went to karaoke. Since I was traveling back to Numazu, it was a much more reserved karaoke experience that the last time. After karaoke I gathered up all of the Christmas presents that I couldn’t bring home on my shopping trip to Asakusa, and then returned to Numazu. It was a fun day, but the highlight was explaining to a taxi driver at Numazu station where I lived in Japanese, and having him drive me to the right place!

If you have only ever spoken one language, this doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but trust me, it felt great.

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July 25, 2004 – Tokyo with the Penpal

Rental boats at the Ueno park duck pond

Rental boats at the Ueno park duck pond

I managed to wrangle a day off, and met The Penpal at Tokyo station. Recently we have always been meeting in either Numazu or Kawasaki, so this was a nice change.

Our first stop of the day was Ueno Park. We walked around the park and rented a swan shaped paddle boat in the duck pond. Yes, it’s cheesy, but it was still fun. After Ueno, we moved on to Shibuya to explore the area.In the evening, we went to the Shiodome building in Shimbashi to look for restaurants. We ate dinner in a sensibly priced restaurant, and then decided to check out how expensive the restaurants on the 46th floor are.

In big buildings in Tokyo, you can usually find restaurants in both the basement and the upper floors. The restaurants in the lower levels are more likely to be moderately priced. The restaurants on the upper levels are likely to be expensive, especially in skyscrapers. Shiodome was no exception – one of the restaurants near the top offered a multi-course meal for a fixed price of 10,500 yen (not including drinks).

The best part of the evening was the glass elevator from the basement to the 46th floor. We got an amazing view of nighttime Tokyo as it fell away from us. Highly recommended.

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July 7, 2004 pt1 – Final adventures

Today was the last full day of my family’s visit to Japan. It was another scorching hot and humid day. Since we had no set agenda, we discussed possible plans for the day over breakfast. My dad and sister were both looking to go to Tokyo, and my mom was tired, hot, and just wanted a day off.

After breakfast I talked with my sister and my father to find out what they wanted to do. My dad wanted more sightseeing, and my sister wanted to see something fun and do some shopping. My dad was okay with a solo trip, so I decided that I would drop him off near Meiji Shrine and take my sister to Shibuya.

My dad drinks with a stranger
Armed with a guidebook and some basic directions, my dad left the train at Meiji Jingu-Mae station. He was able to find Meiji Shrine and spent some time looking around. After the shrine, he decided to wander around Yoyogi park. At some point he was approached by a Japanese man about the same age who wanted to practice English. They ended up sitting outside together drinking cold beer and talking about Canada and Japan. Remember kids – always talk to strangers!

When he was telling us about it later, my dad was very proud of making a new friend and finding his way back to Hello House successfully.

My sister and I go to Shibuya 109
My sister and I got off the Yamanote line in Shibuya. There are so many things to look at in Shibuya, but the one we focused on was Shibuya 109; the center of young women’s fashion. The 109 building is a famous Shibuya landmark. Since all the stores inside only sell women’s clothing, I had no reason to ever go inside. Not knowing what to expect, we entered the front door.

The building is tall and filled with small boutiques. Shoppers wind their way though the building from bottom to top. Shibuya 109 was the girliest place I have ever been in my entire life. The interior was an explosion of pink, cuteness, and impractical shoes. I think I may have been the only male in the entire building. It was awkward, but my sister had fun looking at all of the clothing and accessories.

After escaping 109, we did some other exploring in the area before returning back to Hello House to meet up for dinner. Shibuya 109 was not really my thing, but when you are in a foreign country you have to try new things!

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June 4, 2004 – It’s like leapfrog, but nobody’s jumping

Pushing people onto the Keio line at Shibuya Station

Pushing people onto the Keio line at Shibuya Station

I had to work today. The guys went to a sword museum in Tokyo, and then met up with me outside Kawasaki station at the end of my shift. They all requested another night out in Shibuya. We spent our time in game centers and then went back to Don Quijote, this time sober enough to fully enjoy the experience. Green and I both bought small beer chilling machines which claim to cool a beer from room temperature to drinking temperature in 90 seconds. For the price of 2000 yen this seemed like a reasonable gamble.

We got to Shibuya station a bit early to avoid any chance of missing the last train. Our route home was the always crowded Keio line to Shimokitazawa, and then Odakyu line to Noborito. When we got to the platform we saw the second last train loading up. It was literally wall to wall people. This gave us a chance to see Japan’s famous train pushers for the first time. They are railway staff that push all of the arms and legs into a crowded train car so the doors can close. If you want a true Japan cultural experience, you have to see the train pushers in action.

We went to the front of the line and waited for the last train of the evening to arrive. We were in the last train car standing against the back wall of the car in a row. I regretted my purchase of the beer cooling cube as I had to awkwardly straddle it while the train car filled up. By the time the train was ready to leave, the train car was packed like sardines and we were pressed up against the back wall. Due to my awkward straddling position, a nearby drunk man tried to use me as a seat.

The view inside the last train out of Shibuya

The view inside the last train out of Shibuya

As we got moving, a drunk woman crawled between Flounder’s legs and started looking like she was going to be sick. Flounder described the situation to me as “It’s like a game of leapfrog, but nobody’s jumping!”. Everyone in the area who could understand language was laughing at the situation.

When we got closer to Shimokitazawa station, I instructed the guys that we had to get off the train quickly and run to Odakyu line. I let them know that we only had a few minutes to make our connection before the Odakyu line left. I made very clear to them that if they didn’t get off the train before the doors closed, that they would have no way of getting back to Hello House.

At Shimokitazawa the doors opened and a crowd of people started flowing out of the train. Japan is a usually very polite and orderly country, except on crowded trains. When the train is crowded, anything goes. Hippie, Code Red, Green and I all forced our way off the train, but Flounder was trapped behind a man who stood directly in the doorway with his arms crossed.

Flounder yelled out “I can’t get off the train!”. I replied “you HAVE to get off the train NOW”.

Flounder, hearing the urgency in my voice, decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. He tried to go left – not enough space. He tried to go right – too crowded. He then grabbed the door blocker by his elbows, picked him up, and carried him off the train.

The door blocking man was furious at being picked up like a toy and moved out of the way. He turned around angrily and found himself staring directly into the middle of Flounder’s chest. As he slowly looked up at the giant smiling gaijin, he decided that he wasn’t all that angry anymore and quickly got on the train without a word. The nearby people on the platform thought this was hilarious. Flounder simply shrugged and told me “you said I had to get off the train now”. We all continued laughing as we ran for the Odakyu line to catch the last train back to Hello House.

Description on the beer cooling machine:

Drinking a glass of beer helps yourself release fatigue and mental stress after you come back home. Just pull down the lever and get a chilled canned beer for your relaxing time. COOLING CUBE creates a healing time and space beyond reality for you. Since 2002.

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May 23, 2004 pt3 – Everything is jumbo in Canada

Green meets Shibuya girls

Green meets Shibuya girls

After getting a taste of beer at Shakey’s Pizza, we decided that we would really enjoy some more beer. We boarded the Yamanote line and headed for Shibuya. The area around Shibuya station is always entertaining for visitors. Between the massive crowds of people, the tall buildings, the giant video screens, the lights, and the noise it is a great way to get overstimulated. After wandering around for a while we headed to GasPanic for cheap beer.

As much as some people talk badly about GasPanic (with good reason), it is easy to find, has cheap drinks, and has no problems with five casually dressed, thirsty foreigners. We managed to find a table and ordered two pitchers. Green used one of the pitchers as his own personal drink, while the rest of us filled our glasses from the other pitcher.

We hung out at GasPanic for a some time getting more than a little drunk. It was a Sunday night, so GasPanic was not exactly lively. I convinced the group that while we were in Shibuya, we could be having more fun at Don Quijote. The problem was that I was full of beer and don’t know Shibuya well. It took several wrong turns, but we finally found the giant smiling penguin and proceeded to enter the most fun store in the country.

It is not terribly surprising that 5 drunk 20 something males will eventually end up in the adult toy section. The guys marveled at the wide variety of products available. They were particularly interested in the disposable sex cans for men. At this point I decided this would make the best souvenir ever and generously offered to buy some for them to take home. While Code Red, Flounder and Hippie went to other parts of the store, I got Green to hold out his arms and proceeded to stack up 8 sex cans. Since we didn’t want to keep walking around the store while carrying the sex cans, Green and I started to make our way towards the cash register. Finding the way out of DonKi is difficult at the best of times. Finding the way out of DonKi after several beers is even more challenging. On one of our many wrong turns Green dropped the entire stack of sex cans all over the floor. The other shoppers looked on in amused horror as he tried to gather them all up again while I stood by and laughed.

I paid for the sex cans, then Green and I met the others outside.  We were getting pretty close to the last train, so we decided to call it a night and returned to Shibuya Station. From Shibuya we took Yamanote line to Shinjuku, then boarded Odakyu line towards Noborito. On the Odakyu train, Flounder was standing and holding onto the train grip. Two Shibuya girls were standing next to him. For those who don’t know, Shibuya girls are fashionable looking young females with fake tans, coloured hair, and lots of accessories on their phones. Without any warning, one of them reached over and started stroking Flounder’s arm hair. He looked down and said hi. She looked up at him and said “You are jumbo”. Flounder calmly replied “I’m from Canada. Everything is jumbo in Canada”.

Not wanting to be left out, Green reached into his backpack, past the 8 sex cans, to find my copy of “Making Out in Japanese“, a hilarious phrasebook for casual Japanese in different situations. He tried out a few lines, but his pronunciation was so terrible that the Shibuya girls couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Most notably, he attempted several times to say “kiss me” which is pronounced “key-soo she-tay”. Green kept reading the romaji as “kiss-oo shitty”. Green finally got fed up and just pointed at the line in the book. The girls thought this was hilarious and then sat down and started reading the book while laughing at the most ridiculous phrases.

Nobody ended up getting any kisses, but we got several pictures with the Shibuya girls while they were laughing at Making Out in Japanese. We got back to Hello House and hung out with Lux explaining our awesome day in Tokyo.

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May 14, 2004 – The worst word I know

Tonight I went to Hobgoblin pub in Shibuya. It is a pretty cool pub with a wide selection of food and drink. Everything is bilingual so it is popular among foreigners.

During the evening I was talking to different people in the crowd. An attractive young Japanese woman started talking to me in English. Let’s call her Keiko for the sake of the story. Keiko and I were discussing studying languages and noticed that usually the first words people want to learn in a new language are the “bad” words. She had an impressive knowledge of English curse words. I told her that I knew a few good ones in Japanese as well. She asked me to tell her the worst word I knew in Japanese.

Some time prior to this, The Penpal and I had the “what are the bad words in your language” conversation. We went through the usual ones, and then she taught me an absolute shocker. This particular word is not commonly heard anywhere, and is extremely rude.

I told Keiko that I knew a really, really bad word, but didn’t want to tell her what it was. This made her more curious. I tried to back out and tell her that she would likely be offended by the word. Keiko assured me that she wouldn’t be offended. I tried to change the subject. This make Keiko even more determined, and insisted that I tell her the word.

At this point I thought “why not”, leaned in and said the word into her ear. She instantly looked shocked, not just regular shocked, but shocked like someone had just slapped her grandmother.

“WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT WORD!?” she asked incredulously. I told her that a Japanese friend had taught me the word. She still couldn’t believe that I had the nerve to say the word, and found the next excuse to leave the conversation.

To all of the travelers and language exchangers out there: when someone asks you to say the worst word you know in their language, don’t. Also, if you insist that someone tell you the worst word they know, don’t be shocked when it is worse than you expected.

No, I will not tell you what word it was. I learned my lesson already!

(almost complete rewrite of original post to add more detail)

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