Tokyo in June

It’s Ueno!

Last weekend (6/18-6/20), I went up to Tokyo for one last time before finishing this job and saying peace out to Ehime. I fly out of Narita, back to Seattle, on Sunday 7/31, and there are no national holidays left till Marine Day about 10 days before I leave, so this really was my last chance. And it was nice! Tokyo stopped being exciting for me a while ago, since my first time living in Japan was in Saitama, which is basically the Tokyo metro area, and I’ve been up there several times in the past year. But I still love the city and my next Japan adventure is definitely going to be Tokyo-based, so I wasn’t bored spending a weekend up there.

Anyway, I went up Friday night after work, on the last train, and it was stupidly packed. I was getting over viral plague and coughing a lot, so that was unpleasant, but I was really lucky in getting a seat on the shinkansen at Okayama because about ten people in my car were left standing. I did get stuck next to a business who splattered me with his chu-hi, but I lived. I don’t know why, but every train was crowded that night. It was really tight on the Yamanote train I had to take from Tokyo Station to Ueno, too.

Saturday, predictably, I shopped. Originally, I’d hoped to go out to my host family’s that day, but I had trouble reaching them on the phone and it ended up being put off till Sunday dinner. Instead, I spent the day bopping around town spending money. I did some shopping at 109, where they were having a sale that was never fully explained to me, and bought a couple of things in between having some nice chats with staff shop. One of the reasons I really like shopping at Gal brand stores is the customer service – most of the shops don’t have that many employees, so chances are good that you’ll see the same people every time you pop in. Since I don’t live in the Tokyo area, I don’t have that so much with 109 stores, but I definitely have go-to girls at the Spiral Girl and Murua in Matsuyama.

Sunday was definitely the highlight of the weekend, though. Late morning, I headed to Shinjuku to meet up with Sara Mari from Moments Like Diamonds and it was so much fun. Sara is delightful and I had a really lovely time chatting with her all afternoon. We went to Italian Tomato (やっぱり) for lunch and ended up sitting there for a couple of hours chatting, then we walked around a bit, including a wander through Alta. I had to go out to Kawagoe at about 4, but before that we, of course, had time for purikura!

Purikura: activity of choice for Japanese schoolgirls and young foreign women.

In the arcade, we tried our luck at the UFO catchers, but neither of us did very well. Unlike my sister, I kind of suck. But the puri was fun – the machines always make you look so good. The newer machines, like the one we tried, also enhance eyes, which is a little hilarious when you already have big eyes like both Sara and I do. This one wasn’t bad, though, I’ve definitely had some make me look like an alien.

Then, like I said, I was off to Kawagoe to see my host family. We had sukiyaki, since they know how much I love it, and I got to see one of my host sisters, and it was nice and relaxing. I always feel really nostalgic when I go to Kawagoe, since I used to live there, and being back at the Minagawas is that nostalgia times ten. Just like when I go home (as in, to my parents’ house), I know how their house feels and smells and where everything is and it doesn’t feel like being a guest so much as visiting family. Which is a good thing – one of the reasons I’m more attached to Kanto than to Shikoku is that I have roots and history there in a way that I just don’t here.

So that was my Tokyo weekend! The last for a while, but I do plan to come back to Japan for language school next year (July, not June, since Mariel’s high school graduation is in June), so it’s not like it’s the last time ever. I would have been a lot sadder leaving without that in mind. Instead, it was a much needed break and now I can try to focus on getting everything sorted here. Almost exactly five weeks till I’ll be back on US soil.


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