Tomorrow is Valentine’s day, and I’m cooking up something special- but until then…
Today I went to Korien shopping district. I intended it to take just an hour or two- there was a bookstore by the train station I go to every day, so I was going to check it out- but I ended up spending all day there!
Korien’s shopping district is one of the coolest places I’ve been to so far. It’s two or three square blocks choc full of mom-and-pop stores, boutiques, and restaurants. Whereas Nanba, Kyoto and downtown Hirakata are big and swanky and glittery, Korien has a street-market charm (and street-market prices) that just can’t be ignored! Well that along with the chirpy elevator music pumping through speakers on each telephone poll. And the 5 or so Pachinko parlors within minutes of each other. And the 17 or so takoyaki stands. And the karaoke/arcade/bars. And another 100 en store! And, and, and…
There are pictures posted on my facebook page, along with descriptions, however I definitely plan on taking some friends up there next weekend and haunting this place in more detail. Be prepared for the inside of both Cafe Oriental AND the Kimono Shop (for example!).
My journey finally led me to the bookstore Tsukaya, which to my chagrin was very similar to Borders or B&N (complete with starbucks inside). The magazine section was really impressive, though- I wandered into the foreign section and just as my eyes fell upon a cover with F4’s Jerry Yan the music began to play “Do I love you because you’re beautiful” I kid you not. I almost bought that magazine then and there I was so starry-eyed (there was also ISWAK’s Joe Chang and Devil Beside You’s Rainie Yang) , had it not been for the price tag. The second floor also left me drooling and green-eyed, as it was full of DVDs, video games, and CDs. Unfortunately DVDs here won’t work in the US, and I’m not good enough at Japanese to play a video game in that language, so I spent most of my time in the CD section. Here are my favorite artists from that search:
- K (or Kei): A Korean artist who, after suffering from low sales in his home country, made it big in Japan. He’s got a voice like butter, and looks that would make you melt.
- Superfly: I love the music of the 60s/70’s, and this artist definitely has that Janis Joplin/Rolling Stones vibe about her. She’s even sung with Jet and Big Brother and the Holding Company! Japan+Hippie+Rock=W1N!
- Judy and Mary: One of the most popular J-bands of all time, this multi-genre band sung the theme to Ruroni Kenshin. These guys rock HARD CORE!!!!
- YUKI: After Judy and Mary broke up in 2001, the lead singer Yuki continued solo, and is STILL one of the most popular artists around.
- Crystal Kay: Another popular artist, Crystal is of mixed Korean-Japanese and African-American descent. Born and bred in Yokohama, Crystal has been singing popular R&B for 10 years! And she’s only 23! Like Michael and Janet? Check her out.
- ARASHI: Well, DUH I’m gonna put them on here! Wonderful J-pop boy band lovelies ARASHI are still going strong. They also act (Jun Matsumoto has won several awards for his skillz). Ahhh, so handsoooommmeeeee!
As I stood there, my ears blessed with time-tested genius, I noticed a tall gothic building in the distance. A church! I thought, and decided to go check it out. I hadn’t been to church in a while, and was interested in seeing what art and architecture Japanese churches contained. Upon reaching this building however, I discovered it was not a church but the church-shaped hall of a hotel! A very very fancy hotel at that! The church shaped thing was for weddings, I think.
The area around this hotel (or is it an apartment building?) was suuuuuper swanky though. It was set on a steep hill, and all of the houses were humongous old-fashioned Japanese architecture that you could barely see over the humongous gates they had all around them. I’d never seen a gated community in Japan before (most of the neighborhoods I’d seen had rich and poor crammed right up against each other) and wanted to take pictures, but this area struck me as an old-money-Japanese-version-of-WASP kind of place, so for safety reasons I declined. This area was on the opposite side of the station from my house and the shopping district, and it was interesting to think of my family as being from literally “the other side of the tracks”. We’re not that bad off though, I don’t think. We’re around the same level as at home, I’m pretty sure.
After that slightly off-putting venture I decided to return home, but got distracted with the neighborhood on the other-other-side-of-the-tracks. Turns out this neighborhood is worse than mine. It wasn’t nearly as bad as American-standard-“bad neighborhoods” but it was sunset and something about that place gave me the creeps, so I left quickly.
Just in time for dinner! Family dinner time is one of my favorite times of day, and not just because Okasan’s food is so tasty. It gives me a chance to get to know everyone better before we settle down in front of the TV, fall asleep (Otosan), or go to work (Okasan and sometimes Naoki). I’ve gotten a lot better at Japanese, and was even able to have a decent-sized evening, talking about sports and my plans for tomorrow with Okasan (I’m going to Kyoto with some friends from Softball Circle), tease Naoki about his cake decorating skills (he said it was broccoli, but I think he was trying to make a face), and discuss alcohol with Otosan (what?!?).
Also, tonight was the opening of the Winter Olympics. I cry whenever I see the opening ceremonies, be it winter or summer (I love it when the world comes together!!!), so it was a little difficult to hide my sniffles. But I soon recovered at the commercials. Japanese commercials are both catchy and bizarre, and this series of commercials for Softbank Cellphones’ family plan is no exception. I laughed out loud!
Anyway, pictures will be up in a bit (check the V-day post). Woo, Japan!