Tag Archives: shibuya

TODAY WAS A GOOD DAY

Somebody in Japan had this wonderful idea that there should be at least one public holiday every month. At the moment all that misses out is June, so this means we have wonderful holidays like Marine day and, this past Monday, Respect for the Aged Day. There’s also the Autumnal Equinox and Health and Sports day coming up in the next three weeks, so it’s all coming up sunshine and roses.

As a result, I decided to do something different and go out on Sunday. I was on the train to Shibuya, listening to Dreadzone, when an elderly couple came and sat down either side of me. Normally this wouldn’t be anything special, but the fact that chose those seats over several pairs of adjacent seats in the carriage told me I should prepare for some light conversation. Sure enough, they both leaned around and front of me and hit me with all the English they had.

Nice cellphone! Which cellphones are better, Japanese or Western? Are you from America? Is today your day off? Etc. Of course it wasn’t as grammatically correct as all that – just “today day off?”, for example – and there was plenty of Japanese vocab sprinkled in too, but I could understand and I responded to all their queries with civility. Half the people in the carriage were giggling uncontrollably to themselves; I’m sure the sight of a very tall gaijin being accosted by a typically earnest old couple was a hilarious sight.

After a while they got off, and I was able to return to my soothing, unchallenging music. Upon reaching Shibuya, I soon learned it was the day of the local matsuri. I’d never been to one of these before, so you can imagine my excitement. Teams of shouting, grunting people were carrying heavy mikoshi up and down the closed-off streets and, by the looks of things, having a lot of fun. What I’ve heard is that basically it’s one long day of drunkenness with alcohol flowing beforehand, at several stops during, and long into the night afterwards. I don’t know whether that makes hauling these things around in the brightness and heat easier, but most people seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Several hours and a bottle of shochu later, we picked up and headed off to a club called Womb. I tell ya, I never thought I’d happily pay ¥3500 (around NZ$40) just to enter a complex of darkened rooms, but there it was. It was AMAZING. There was the thumping electro/house, the laser lights glowing over the crowd, the dry ice turning people more than five feet away invisible… the atmosphere was perfect. Most of all, it really felt like everyone was there to have a good time, which gave the unusual effect of a jam-packed dancefloor filled with happy people. Unusual, because back in NZ, you couldn’t have that without the requisite pushing and shoving. Here, everyone was just glad to be in the company of about 750 like-minded people.

What’s more, being taller than pretty much anyone else in the room, I was an obvious visual focus for a lot of people. This meant that, in a very foreign experience for me, they would often follow my lead. I put my hands up, they put their hands up, and so on. I became very excited and was soon taking every opportunity to string people along, which is hilarious if you can imagine me with my lanky, unco dance moves being the leader of the pack. They all kept smiling and laughing, so I carried on until my shirt and pants were so soaked with sweat that I had to leave the dancefloor and re-hydrate.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so disgusting, or euphoric, in my entire life.

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STITCHES OF SPACE THAT SLOWLY COME AND GO

About 1000 JETs have passed through Tokyo in the past week before heading out to their various outposts around the land. When I first decided to come to Japan, the first avenue I explored was JET, and by all accounts it’s the most attractive option for people arriving in this country. The pay is better, the work is more enjoyable, the lifestyle more interesting. Still, I’m really happy with the decision I made. My transition from New Zealand to Japan was near seamless, and that’s almost entirely down to the hard of work of people at the company I work for. Plus a healthy dose of optimism and self-assuredness on my part, of course.

I knew a couple of people from Christchurch in this JET intake, so I headed into Shibuya on Tuesday to have a few drinks with them. A few drinks turned into pitcher after pitcher at nomihoudai karaoke, and various drunken introductions. Here’s the crazy thing: two of the other guys in the group we were with came from Christchurch, and it turned out that they knew some good friends of mine who are now scattered about the globe. Then there was another guy who was taught maths by my friend Marty’s dad. And the other week I met a guy whose brother used to live in my last flat.

That’s the thing about New Zealand. You talk about there being a maximum six degrees of separation between any two people in the world, but in NZ I reckon it’s more like two or three, and often the connection is even more direct than that. It’s a small country, and people move around a lot – around the nation and around the world – so it ends up being pretty easy to find a link with another person, and that tends to be first on the order of business when you meet another NZer. I’ve lived in the Waikato, in Auckland and in Christchurch, plus I have friends from all over the country – and some from overseas – so it really isn’t hard. Still, it surprises me every time.

Last night I headed back into my favourite part of Japan so far: Ginza/Nihonbashi. Shibuya’s cool and all, but you won’t see ganguro girls or hordes of hosts dirtying the streets around here (although I was offered a massage on my way to the station – which I declined). I visited the Tokyo International Forum, which has an extremely impressive glass atrium, and took lots of arty photos. Then we went to 100 Dining, where drinks and food are very cheap (usually ¥100 or ¥200) and pretty nice, and after that to an izakaya called Gohan. Gohan means ‘food’. I love that. Where shall we go for dinner? I don’t know, shall we go to Food? We haven’t been there for a while. They had some really great stuff there…

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HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH ON THE OTHER SIDE

QUESTION from Marty: How long does the train ride from Chigasaki to Shinjuku take? – Well, if I take the Rapid service (which I usually do), it’s 52 minutes. Yes, train times are that exact. In physical measurement, it’s just over 60 kilometres. Including walking times, my daily commute is about 70 minutes each way. Bear in mind that the whole way, the conurbation never stops – it’s buildings from beginning to end with no parks, forests or hilly domains. Thanks for the question, Marty – keep ’em coming, people!

This morning I slept through my alarm. That’s to say, it went off, I grabbed it and pressed ‘Stop’, then settled back into bed – all without actually waking up. I opened my eyes to find the sun higher in the sky than it should be and my phone/alarm clock nowhere in sight. Panicking, I threw my bedsheets around trying to find it. What if I only had 5 minutes to get to the train station? What if training had already started? Very soon I found my phone, and it said 8 o’clock. Training started at 10:30. Not the nightmare I was preparing for, but still quite pressing.

I made it, though. No problem. And I remembered my pen today, which I’m sure you’ll agree was sensible.

After training I found myself in Shibuya, so I met up with the gentleman who writes (or used to write) this website. He’s a Kiwi who’s been over here for a year now. Pretty crazy, hanging out with someone I’ve only previously talked to on the internet. I must say, it was very nice to hear a familiar accent again, even though I’ve been here less than a week. We had a good yarn over a couple of beers; he introduced me to some new terms, like ‘friendsick’ and ‘familysick’ in place of ‘homesick’, as they are very much distinct from each other.

Generally, talking to this guy was massively reassuring – like, now I feel like I’m really here and it’s exciting and my horizons can be expanded, because until now I’ve been wary of exploring too far, or challenging myself too much. His words made me think about why I’m here, and how I’m here, which made me eager to get into things a bit more instead of sitting back, saying as little as possible and keeping to the streets I need. The easing-in period can finish; the grabbing life anew period can begin (as ridiculous as that sounds).

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