This is a faithful record of my one-month trip to Japan in December, written post return. In case you missed it, you can check out my diary for the day I arrived in Japan.
After going to bed at a reasonable 10 PM on Friday, I work up at a reasonable 7 AM on Saturday, my second day in Japan. Even my fiancé wasn’t up yet, which is unusual because he always wakes up before me as he sleeps only about 4 hours a night.
After getting ready to go out, we went to his parents’ house to greet them and eat breakfast together. His mother prepared breakfast for us and this was my last meal as a guest in their home. Since I was being accepted as a (future) daughter-in-law, after this meal I was now expected to clean up after myself and to help with meal preparation. I’m not very good at eating breakfast; it’s really not a meal I enjoy and I often skip it all together in favor of a big lunch. I have a hard time eating foods with strong flavours in the mornings but I made sure to eat all the food served to me, even though there was motsu (cow intestine) soup, fish, and miso soup. Luckily I had lots of rice which helped to offset the strong flavours. Depending on the way it’s made, motsu can be really strong or not that strong. Luckily, his mother made it not very strong or I wouldn’t have been able to eat it for breakfast!
The election was right around the corner so the news had coverage of the candidates and political parties. I have a vague understanding of Japanese politics, but I’m not up to date on the candidates. However, his father and I discussed the election and the candidates while watching the news this morning, so I feel a lot more informed.
His father was allowing us to borrow the car again, so we drove to the train station and then rode the train until Ikebukuro. Our purpose in Ikebukuro was shopping! It’d been ages since I’d been to Ikebukuro, but it was only a 40 minute train ride away and there are lots of department stores there. It was my future mother-in-law’s birthday so we had to buy her a present. I’d talked to her twice on Skype, but the previous night was my first time actually meeting her, so I had no idea what to get her. I only know that she is quite picky and seems to have a longer list of things she doesn’t like than things she likes. My fiancé was less-than-helpful because he didn’t have any good ideas for presents either, only a long list of ideas for what not to get her.
After riding up and down the escalators endlessly in the Seibu and Tobu department stores adjacent to the train station, we finally found some bath salts in the currently trending yuzu (a citrus fruit) scent. Since she enjoys taking long baths, we decided that it would be something she could use and enjoy. With that daunting task out of the way and some time to spare, I wanted to go explore Ikebukuro outside of the department stores.
Since it was Saturday, Ikebukuro was crowded with people shopping and enjoying the weekend. It’s still weird to me to see students in school uniforms on the weekends, but students often go to class or activities on weekends in Japan. In the US, the majority of public school students don’t wear uniforms, and unless you have sports practice it’s unusual to go to school on the weekends. There were also lots of different fashion styles represented in Ikebukuro, like gyaru and Harajuku style, but not as many lolita girls. I think I prefer lolita style because it’s so cute, and if I was in high school and had the money I would totally wear that style. Right now I’m trying to be an adult so I go with OL (office lady) style!
I checked out Uniqlo (pronounce “yoo-nee-kloh”), which is a clothing store that has inexpensive and trendy clothes (similar to H&M), and a few other surrounding stores, but I didn’t buy anything. I was really waiting for the New Year’s bargain sales that start on the 2nd of January and can have up to 50% off regular prices. Since my fiancé hates shopping and crowds, but braved them both for me, we made a detour to the game center so he could play the Gundam build game before we headed back.
Politics in Ikebukuro
Near the train station there was a lot of political campaigning going on. The way political campaigning in Japan happens in the street is the candidate or party will stand up on a platform and talk through a bullhorn. Today it was the Komeito political party platforming at Ikebukuro. There are also cars that support the politicians, where the supporters drive through the street and announce the politician’s views and campaign promises on a bullhorn. Other supporters wave out the window while the car drives through the streets. The women who make the announcements from the car are called uguisu, which is also the name of a Japanese bird with a very distinctive call. Apparently, my fiancé’s mother was an uguisu when she was younger.
We returned to give his mother her birthday present, which she seemed quite happy about, and then we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Chapey (茶平). I really enjoy the Japanese version of Chinese food, because it has a bigger range of flavours than the American version of Chinese food. Even the scallops (ホタテ) were amazing. I’ve never had a better scallop than at Chapey – it was like a steak rather than having a chewy texture. I’ve still not had authentic Chinese Chinese food, but I wouldn’t mind living my life just eating Japanese Chinese food.
It’s interesting that the time leading up to my trip seemed to pass so slowly, but once I arrived in Japan the time started flying by. I packed a lot of things into my day, but it still seemed like my second day flew by. In the US we say “time flies when you’re having fun” and in Japan it is said 「光陰矢のごとし」 “kouin yanogotoshi” or “time flies like an arrow” or “life is short.” It seems to be very true!