From Ducks to Gods…

(It’s much harder to keep up with what’s happening than I thought. So I apologize for the lack of updates)

Since I sort of completely ignored the events of last weekend, I think I should talk about them first before my memory completely fails me… Enjoy the following wall of text- Eventually, I’ll figure out a way to add pictures to this confangled technology.

So last Saturday (I think…) I went to Harajuku and it was pretty awesome; after going through the laborious process of getting a phone. Here’s what went down: My friend and I decided to go to the Softbank store in Harajuku because it’s one that they specifically advertise as having English-speaking representatives. The guy who helped us was very nice but it took forever to go through the entire process. See, getting a Japanese mobile is quite different than getting one in America. For one, there’s no such thing as a text or email message limit- You pay a flat fee of about 300 Yen and you have unlimited. The next difference is that there’s no such thing as “minutes”. According to your plan, you pay a flat rate per minute depending on whether or not you are calling a Softbank phone (usually free) or other carriers. On the prepaid plan, it’s something like 100 Yen a minute (That’s over a $1 a minute)- Insane. I decided to go for a postpaid plan as the rate is much cheaper (about 40 Yen a minute for calls to other carriers)  and I assumed (correctly) that my host family would have trouble texting me if they needed me. I got a free phone with signing up for a 2 year contract which will cost about 9000 Yen to cancel before I leave (About $90) but I was convinced it was would be worth it because the cost of the phones themselves are also insane. I think I’m starting to regret that decision.

I absolutely despise the phone- It definitely looks pretty sweet but the method of texting on it is just god-awful. It  takes me a good three minutes to write a two line text- seriously. I’m highly considering getting a new phone cuz it’s so bad. Oh, it also doesn’t hold a charge for more than a day no matter what I do. So much for saving money that way…

After spending three hours (I ❤ italics) at Softbank, , we got to wonder around Harajuku. The”Symbol of Harajuku”; the main road Takeshita-dori.  It was definitely a  a sight to behold. The street is incredibly narrow and absolutely jam packed with people with all the latest (weirdest?) fashion (if you can call it that), and definitely some of the most awesome hair I’ve ever seen (I didn’t know- anime hair could exist in real life) (I also ❤ parentheses). There were some pretty entertaining Engrishy shirts and outright weird store names- (My particular favorites being the “Nudy Boy” and “Store My Ducks”)  Ultimately though, the “no smorking” sign was the winner of the day. After walking along the more upscale, haughty Omotesando-dori, we went to one of the coolest places I’ve been to yet- Meiji Shrine.

Pictures don’t even come close to capturing the feel of the area. For one thing, it is exceedingly quiet- Which is really impressive considering that the train runs parallel to the park. Also, in quite a a big contrast to the rest of Harajuku, it is incredibly spacious- I don’t think I’ve seen so much open space since coming here yet. Even though there were quite a few people around, it did not feel crowded at all and everyone seemed to, perhaps subconsciously, understand that this was a place where you should be quiet.

Before entering the shrine, you are supposed to clean yourself by washing your hands and mouth (First left hand, then right hand, then mouth, then left hand again- And do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around…)- It was neat.  Upon entering the shrine, you walk into this HUGE tiled, open area.  On the left there is an small offertory box in front of a sacred tree (as marked by those white, diagonal strips of paper) and on the right, there is another tree around which, you can hang a plaque with your wishes for the future (I thought the irony of hanging some chunks of wood around a tree was amusing…). What was somewhat interesting to me about this was the fact that many of the wishes we’re not super idealistic; there were very few that wished for world peace,  an end to poverty, or other trivial things. Many we’re very personal wishes for things like good health, to become rich, to become famous etc. I found this very interesting in comparison to teachings in Christianity and such that assert that people should always be giving and never think of themselves.

Of course, this stuff ain’t free. You have to pay 500 Yen for the plaque and of course,  being the cheapskate I am, I passed on writing a wish here but I probably will when I get the opportunity to go to another shrine.  Still, as good gaijin, we still made an offering (With 1 and 10 Yen coins of course.). The process for this is to throw in some money, bow twice, clap twice, bow once again and make your prayer. We made another offering once we went into the inner shrine, where photography is very strictly prohibited (they actually have people standing there watching to make sure that you don’t do this).

Well after getting cultured out, we went back to Harajuku- had some crepes (which are crazy popular here), sat and watched all the freaky people for a while, and went home. It was quite fun- I’d love to go back and actually do some shopping in Harajuku when I’m brave and feel like spending some money (which I have been surprisingly good about so far!)

Since then, I wound up losing my wallet (and getting it back- with everything still inside I ❤ Japanese people), almost losing my scholarship that’s allowing me to stay here (I had to write an “apology letter” for missing the orientation for it- It was a bunch of bureaucratic BS that I hope to not get involved with again), finally getting my classes in order (Taking Japanese, Contemporary Japan: From Ramune to Anime, and History of Asian Music I- Everyday I have school til at least 12:40- On Mondays and Fridays, I’m there til 7pm- I dont know how Japanese kids have any sort of social life…), and many other trivial things.

Since the time of this post, I’ve gone to Akihabara, Mitaka, Kichijoji, and Shinjuku so look forward to my reports on those places soon (…maybe).

Where will I go next…

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~ by evokerhythm on September 17, 2009.

3 Responses to “From Ducks to Gods…”

  1. Did you have to show ID to get the phone?

  2. Stop trying to beat me on Bejeweled Blitz (a futile attempt anyway) and you’ll have more time to update your blog 😀

  3. WOW… I just noticed the name of your Contemporary Japan class… That’s HORRIBLE.

    Also, what’s the context/content of your Asian Music class? Does it just look at classical artists or does it actually look at structures? I’d rather like to hear about THAT! 😛

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