April 29, 2006

Shopping Spree Shibuya

Last month when I was in Tokyo, I didn't buy anything. Not really. I can count the number of things I bought in the 3 weeks I was here with 1 hand. Sad, I know. However, yesterday, I broke the mold and went shopping in the crazy hip area Shibuya. I should have taken a picture outside of the Shibuya Station (although that I not how I got there). It was also a marvelous site because it was raining and there were tons of umbrellas. The pedestrian crossing occurs over a large area, so when the cross walk light turns green, a mass of umbrellas take over the street, meandering its way from one corner to the other. Somehow, all the umbrellas arrive safely to the side walks before the cars come. Similar to the van of political protesters shouting out things I do not understand in Shinjuku the last time I was there, there was another group at the Shibuya Station broadcasting political messages over their PA to the umbrellas on the street.

I was among the umbrellas. I had to purchase one on the way from Omotesando Station because it started pouring. Not knowing when the next convenient store would be (they sell cheap umbrellas for about 399 Yen), I stopped at the first shop I saw selling umbrellas and ended up buying a cute green decorative umbrella for 1900 Yen. Yeah, shame on me.

After passing Shibuya Station, I headed for the famous shopping building 109. Why is it called 109? Perhaps there is 109 shops inside? I don't know really. Just a guess. But there seemed to be atleast that many. There are about 9 floors. The top floor is a couple of restaurants. Each floor has about 10-12 tiny, cramped shops selling fashion wear, lingerie, hair accessories, jewelry, bags, and shoes. 85% of the shops were clothing. 2% bags. 2% shoes. 5% lingerie. 3% hair accessories. 3% jewelry. Of course most clothing shops sold a little bit of everything.

I went through the entire 109 building twice. First time was to see what everyone was selling. The second time was to make my purchases. I had to go through all the floors a second time because I had forgotten where some of the shops were. The clothing here are at a moderate price because they're not designer, so they are half the price of what you would find at the department stores. My travel book said that the average age of girls who shop here is 20, but I disagree. It's more like 25. Most are very made-up. Caramel hair, tons of makeup, and dressed up fashionably.

In total, I spent about $150 USD today: ~$20 for umbrella, ~$20 for black skirt, ~$60 for funky peacock print skirt that could also be worn as a dress (sweet!), ~$40 for a slip to wear under my bridesmaid's dress, ~$7 for a hair ornament that looks like something a geisha would wear (has two strings of small flower hanging down with a bell at the bottom). Wish there were more of these, but I only found 1 on the shop. Most shops in 109 don't sell things this old-school.

How was my shopping experience, you ask? I wouldn't be able to do it all the time for sure. I am a bit claustrophobic... but phobic is probably not a precise way to describe it because I don't feel terror in closed spaces; I just get annoyed. The ladies working the shops always try to talk to me, telling me things I don't understand, but I just nod, smile, and go back to my shopping. The shop where I bought the funky peacock print skirt/dress explained to me in Japanese how I can wear the garment as a skirt or dress, but they also used some hand signals, so I figured it out.

One suggestion I'd like to make for these girls is: Don't bring your big purses with you to a cramped shopping place like 109. But perhaps it is I who made a mistake by not have a big purse of my own to protect myself with. Seriously, though, I got stabbed and wacked by big purses.

Another suggestion: Don't bring your boyfriend with you shopping. That is if you are planning to do some serious shopping. If you're going to 109, you are doing serious shopping. I was a bit ticked by this guy standing around in one of the lingerie shops. About 10 minutes later, I realized his girlfriend was trying something on, but still that guy was in my way! If you know how small these shops are, you would get annoyed by someone standing in your way while you're trying to shop too.

I was probably inside 109 for 4 hours. Luckily, it was not time wasted.

Afterwards, I headed towards Takeshita-dori. By this time, it was already dark, about 6 PM, but the shops were still open. I went into the Daiso 100 Yen shop to pick up a few items. Then headed back to the Omotesando Station. I felt gross and worn out by the time I arrived at the hotel. At around 9 PM, I went to sleep.

On the way to the Nogizaka Station in the morning, I saw an old lady walking her pug who was wearing a t-shirt. They stopped in front of a pet store near the Roppongi Crossing. I couldn't resist, so I inconspicuously took a picture.

When it started raining, I stopped to purchse this umbrella. It was out of necessity. Seriously. As you can see in the picture, it came with a little carrying bag.

Soon after, I walked pass the LuluLemon store on Aoyama-dori, towards Shibuya. They are based out of Canada and make great yoga-workshop clothing. Very cool and very expensive. Yasmin is a big fan.

After my 4 hours of shopping at 109, I walked a bit around the Shibuya area and saw this restaurant.

On my way back to the Harajuku/Omotesando area, I saw this sign. Please don't cut your poodle's hair like that.

That's all for now.

Woke up this morning with a headache. Drank some coffee, which seemed to help. By the way, this is my first time making coffee with a coffee maker. Amazing, isn't it? I'll be working the rest of the day. More coffee please!

Posted by oneray at 7:39 PM

April 28, 2006

Buy your meal at the vending machine

That's just what I did today for lunch. It was so cool because I had read about it in a magazine... Restaurants where you order via a vending machine instead of ordering from the cook or waitress.

There are different types of food restaurants that offer this. The place my coworker took me to was close to the office. Outside, next to the front door of the restaurant is a vending machine. It's not like a snacks vending machine, but more like ticket machine for the subway.

Here's what you do:
1. Put in your money into the machine.
2. Select the item you want.
Then a ticket will print out.
3. You can select more if there is enough money left, or you have to put in more money.
If you selected another item, then another ticket will print out.
4. Once you have purchased what you want to eat, walk into the restuarant. Usually, these are restaurants with a round bar and the cooks are on the other side.
5. Take a seat.
6. Hand the cook your printed tickets.
7. There's probably a drink machine or a water spiget for you to serve yourself a glass of cold water.
8. Food comes to you and you eat.
9. Leave when you're done.

No need for tipping!

I'll be sure to take some pictures of a restaurant vending machine next time.

Posted by oneray at 12:59 AM

April 25, 2006

Back in Tokyo

Like one of my friends said, "You couldn't resist it could you?"

I'm back in the same Oakwoods residence, in a little studio room. Can't wait to explore some more this weekend. Not sure what I'll do exactly, but I'll figure it out soon.

Funny thing is next week is Golden Week. So most of the guys are out of the office from Wednesday. I guess I'll just have the office to myself. Woohoo! I do like the quiet time because I can get more work done without interruption.

I don't think I talked about the Friendly Limousine Bus last time. From the airport to Tokyo, I've been taking the Limousine Bus. It's pretty like riding on a Greyhound or coach bus, with air-condition and toilets. There's a system, and the guys and girls working at the bus stops are efficient and friendly. They look at your ticket. If your bus is the next stop, they tell you to stand in the first line. If your bus is the one after next, then you stand in the second line. If your bus is the next one, then they line up your luggage and put it under the bus when it arrives. You collect it when you arrive at your stop. The bus driver and luggage/ticket handlers are very polite. I love how they bow when the bus rolls up and leaves. Even if it isn't the bus coming to their stop, if they see it, they bow. One way trip on the Limousine Bus is 3000 yen. It takes about an hour from the airport to Tokyo. I take the ANA Hotel in Akasaka stop because it's close to the office and hotel. This time, I was so tired, I fell asleep on the bus. Good thing they have proper annoucements prior to arriving at the stop.

The previous week, I was in Austin. The weather was off and on. A few good warm days, but there were thunderstorms and hail during the week. I got a little hail damage on Thursday afternoon. I didn't even notice it until Sunday. Thursday night, I danced in the Sabaya show at Copa. Lots of friends showed up. Thanks for coming, ya'll! Friday morning, I drove to Hunt, Texas for dance camp (not band camp!). It was a nice drive. The weather was
super nice. In the evenings there were shows and camp fire with smores! The workshops were really good and the camp setting was really relaxing. I miss it already.

Til next time,

Posted by oneray at 8:06 PM

April 12, 2006

Live Langostines!

At the Borough Market this past Saturday, we decided to be adventurous and get some LIVE langostines. These babies were crawling, not super active, but more like reserving their energy for when they needed to give a good fight.

To prepare them, we boiled a pot of hot water. We dropped one in at a time because our largest pot was really only big enough for one. These guys were flapping their tails, scarying me and forcing Ryan to slide them to their death. They knew it was coming. But I hated to do one at a time because they all had to see a member of their clan go into the pot of death.

They taste like lobster, but for all the trouble, you might as well get a lobster.

langostinesInBag.jpg ... still in the bag ...

liveLangostines.jpg ... still alive ...

ryanWithLangostines.jpg... cooked and harmless ...

That's my last Borough Market trip for a while. We're headed to Austin this Friday. Yay! I haven't been back since I was there for the Xmas-New Year holidays. It's been four months... that's my longest time away from home.

After Austin, I'm off to Tokyo again. Woohoo! Didn't think I'd be going back to fast, but the stars aligned to my favor. This time, I'll pack less and explore more! Already have a short list of things planned. The current plan is to stay for 3 weeks, but it may get extended. However long, I WILL be in Houston for Jenny's wedding. Can't wait to see my bride's maid dress.

Here are a couple of pictures of beautiful London weather this past weekend. Note: I walk by this every day!


Posted by oneray at 10:31 AM