Friday, August 27, 2004

Greetings from jet-lag hell. I really tried to tough it out last night, but I ended up gong to sleep at 7:30 PM and waking up at 5:00 AM. I am a bad, bad traveller, and I will pay for it by falling asleep before sunset tonight, too, probably.

Anyway, I have so much to say about my trip to Japan that I don't know where to begin. I think I won't try to discuss it in any systematic way: I won't give you a day-by-day report of what I did and saw, for instance. I'm just going to post whatever comes to mind.

So anyway, you know that thing I said about how Sapporo is easily negotiable and Tokyo is not? Well it turns out I may have slandared Tokyo a bit. Only a bit, though, because truth be told, Tokyo is very hard to navigate. For instance, the addresses make no sense. It's not just that I am an ignorant foreigner and therefore don't understand how addresses work: Japanese people can't make heads or tails out of addresses, either. Global positioning systems are popular in Japan not because they're a neat gizmo, but because it's extremely difficult to find anything. But I probably tend to exaggerate this, because it turns out that my brother's neighborhood, Jiyugaoka, is one of the most confusing neighborhoods in Tokyo. It's apparently a bit notorious, and my brother said that it took him two months to stop getting lost.

Anyway, Jiyugaoka is a very cool neighborhood. The guidebook describes it as "hippy", but I can't quite see what they're talking about. (The guidebook is a few years old, and maybe the neighborhood has changed.) For one thing, it's a little upscale to be "hippy". My brother says that it is known as a "ladies neighborhood," which kind of makes a bit of sense. If you were a reasonably-wealthy at-home mother, this would be a nice place to take your kiddies. There are many shops, including a bunch of little boutiques that sell all manner of adorableness like baby clothes and toys. There are lots of little coffee places where you can buy the kiddies a sweet when they get tired of shopping. And there's the Anpanman store. (And can I just say that I could not dislike a country where the big superheroes are anthropomorphized breakfast food.) It's much less hectic than more famous neighborhoods like Shibuya and Shinjuku, and it's a good place to stay in Tokyo if you want a nice, non-overwhelming experience.

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