Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Japan 2011 Day 2: Shopping & Train Tickets

Well, Charlie managed to sleep past 4:00 am today- he took melatonin & it worked! Brendan & I woke up between 4:00 & 4:30 & read until 6:00 am :(  I think I'll try the melatonin tonight...

Breakfast was pastries that we got last evening when we bought our dinner, from a bakery that, rather surreally, had all of the pastries labelled in Italian (in Japanese katakana) & then the English name below, also in katakana. In the picture above is my cappucino bread- it was delicious! It was made like a melon pan, which is yeast bread with a layer of sweet cookie on top, but coffee-flavoured. I also had cold green tea & part of an orange. Also in the picture is Pikachu & the cute socks Momo gave me yesterday that are okapi-patterned.
The bottle on the right was supposed to be Charlie's breakfast beverage, to go with his cinnamon-raisin bun. Unfortunately, I didn't read the label very well, which says that it's orange-flavoured jelly... in a bottle. He put it in the fridge, so it was nice & hard when he tried to drink it :D Only in Japan will you find jello in a bottle.

Today's major goals were to get our Japan Rail passes & to shop. We bought the rail passes in the US & then you have to turn them in at the right office, along with a bit more paperwork & show your passport, after which you are issued rail passes that work on all of the JR Line trains. We decided to head out to Shinjuku Station around 9:00 am to see if the ticket office was open. On the short walk over there, the incredible mass of humanity streaming from the station made us think twice about even going in that direction, so we stopped off at our nearby Starbucks instead for a hobbit-like second breakfast. After about half an hour the people thinned out (there were a lot of people running out of the station as we watched, clearly late for work) & we felt we'd successfully be able to swim upstream, so we went to the office & found that it opened at 11:00 (it was then a little after 10:00).

So, we went shopping instead! I had some definite shopping plans, based on yesterday's excursion to Tokyu Hands & Takashimaya, so we split up & Charlie & Brendan agreed to meet me at 11:00 & then decide what to do next. I headed to Yuzawaya, by way of Uniqlo (which I just wanted to see), & had a great time looking at yarn & crochet books.
I got an amigurumi book & a tawashi book. Tawashi are scrubbies that are very populat in Japan because they're reusable ("eco"). The book has some absolutely adorable patterns- all sorts of shapes & themes. I also found bamboo crochet hooks, which I can't get at home, & a couple skeins of gorgeous, sparkly yarn.
That shopping took me to 11:00, so after we met up we went to the stationery department of Tokyu Hands & bought stickers, pens, notebooks, & origami paper, mostly for gifts.
One thing I find fascinating about shopping in Japan is how beautifully everything is wrapped. The paper bags in the picture above are the pens & stickers all neatly packaged.
The bags are sealed with tape at the top:
For lunch we went back to the tenpura restaurant we went to yesterday because it was so yummy. I regretted not taking pictures then, so I got some today:
Sooooo delicious!

The other thing I really wanted to photograph yesterday was a sign that had Brendan in absolute giggles yesterday, after coming back from a bathroom trip while we were at the restaurant:
These are the instructions for using the "washlet" toilet that is pretty standard everywhere you go.
A close-up shows the source of Brendan's hilarity. How often to you see the word "buttocks" on a sign in a department store?

After Lunch we went back to the train station, discovered that the office that was closed at 10:00 wasn't the right office after all, & so one map & two inquiries later, found the right place! We got our rail passes & also reserved our seats on the trains tomorrow, for the next leg of our trip, going to the southern island of Kyushu to visit friends. The ladies in the train office were lovely & very helpful.

It's another hot, sunny day in Tokyo & I'm really glad that our hotel is so close to so many cool things to do! I'm also glad of the sun, in small doses :) Brendan & I are both pleased by how easy it feels to communicate this time. For example, I bought 2 copies of one of the crochet books, one for a friend & one for me, & when the checkout lady asked me if I wanted 2 copies, I not only understood her question, but was able to explain why I wanted two. I am really enjoying the smiling faces of the people we speak to :D

This afternoon we're taking it easy. Charlie & Brendan want to try the ofuro (Japanese-style bathtub) & it's too hot to go far outside right now anyway. Later we'll go back & get dinner & breakfast across the way at Takashimaya, just like yesterday. Tomorrow at 9:30 am we board the shinkansen (bullet train) for Kyushu, & after one train change & ~6 hours, we'll get to see friends we haven't seen for 4 years! 

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