The worldwide Augustana College experience

Lost in Shinjuku

Yep I got lost. If it was going to be someone, it was going to be me. But before we get that, the Hitachi Research team decided to use their last free day doing a whole slough of things. The first thing we did was go to Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. This place was beyond amazing. When you first arrive, there are large, at least 3o feet tall, tori gates.IMG_0002 Once you walk past them all sounds of the outside world simply vanish. It isn’t as if the shrine is hidden away either. In fact, it’s right next to a busy road and shopping district. There was this sense of serenity as you kept walking. The real fun is when you get to the shrine itself. I have never seen anything like this. The architecture was breath taking. It was truly an amazing experience. Before you walk into the shrine, you must wash your hands to remove spiritual impurities. Once there, all of decided to make some prayers. First you throw a coin into a special wooden box. Then you bow twice, silently make your prayer, clap twice, then bow once more. I’m assuming Shinto prayers follow birthday candle rules where telling your wish prevents it from coming true, sorry about that.

Afterwards we went to Takeshita Street, a narrow, mile-long street filled with nothing but stores. Sadly most of the main street stores are aimed towards women so I couldn’t really buy anything, but I found a neat antique shop on of the side streets. There was this little old woman who helped me try on yakatas (Japanese summer kimonos).

It feels a lot like this

Let me tell you, being 6’4 in Japan has been a great source of entertainment and annoyance. I have bumped my head, legs, arms, you name it, repeatedly. In our current hotel, my head touches the bathroom ceiling and I can see over the shower rails. Anyway, this woman even found me a yukata in my size, something I never thought I would say in Japan. I would have bought immediately if it weren’t for the fact that I bought a 90,000¥ (roughly $103 with tax) camera. I felt awful for wasting this woman’s time, but I was able to practice my Japanese… so there’s a silver lining.

While we were in Shibuya we went to actual urban area. For those of who don’t know, Shibuya is known for being a popular shopping area with a very iconic crosswalk where hundreds of people cross in numerous directions at once. Think of it as a Japanese Times Square.

This does not due Shibuya justice. Please look it up.

This does not due Shibuya justice. Please look it up.

There are numerous jumbo-trons advertising numerous products due to the heavy foot traffic in that area. So far Shibuya has been my favorite place to be in Japan. It has such a distinct personality that really appeals to me. I like how modern and stylish it is. Every corner you turn there is music playing or a new place to explore. Not to mention the shopping. I actually found some clothing that I liked, but not in my size of course.

From that point on, we all had to day to ourselves. Myself and two other students decided to go the Shimokitazawa, the Japanese Bohemian District. There, we went a cat cafe, a coffee shop where you can play with cats.

This one's name is Nero

This one’s name is Nero

This is also the beginning of me getting lost. After walking around Shimokitazawa for about two hours, I decided that I wanted to go back to the hotel. The other two students wanted to do some more sighting so I left on my own. I made to the train station there even went to Shinjuku, where our hotel at the time was located. My only problem was that I didn’t go to the correct Shinjuku. See our hotel was is Nishi Shinjuku, a part of the area. When I got off I thought I was in the more party centered portion of Shinjuku, which was very close to our hotel. After walking around for 30 minutes and not recognizing any landmarks I went to the information desk. My Japanese was not and still isn’t as good as it should be, so we had some communication issues. I gave what I thought the name of our hotel was, I was only off by one character, just my luck. When that didn’t work, I pointed out that a Bic Camera was near the hotel, which the assistant located. What I didn’t know what that were two Bic Cameras in Shinjuku. So I ended up going to the wrong place. When I returned to the information desk I was told to find the subway that would take me to Shinjuku. Now the instructions she gave me to find the subway were the same as the ones she gave for the Bic Camera, so I continued to be lost. I even asked some security and they told me to go to the police. I am far too stubborn to even consider having the police escort me so I threw that option out. Finally I noticed an American couple and they helped me figure our where I was going. At each checkpoint, I asked staff if I was going to the proper. What should have been a 3o minute trip at most turned into a 2 hour circus. Even telling the story is exhausting.

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