Akihabara and Hanami Festival

Yesterday I went to Akihabara for the first time with Shekinah, one of the girls from my home university. We went to places like Animate, Akihabara Radio Kaikan, Mandarake, and other anime related places. Then today I went to Yoyogi park and the Kuromegawa festival with several Japanese students to see the sakura blossoms.

Yesterday morning I did laundry for the first time. At home I never did laundry, so not only was it my first time doing laundry, but I also had to figure out how to use the washing machine. All the buttons were in kanji and I couldn’t ready any of them! Thanks to Google, I managed to figure it out. At the very least, I managed not to ruin my clothes, so I guess that counts as a success.

At 11 we headed to Akihabara. We took the Tobu Tojo train line to Ikebukuro, and then took the JR line to Akihabara. I can’t wait to get my Student Commuter Pass. Sure, the commuter pass costs money, but overall it will be cheaper than paying every time I go to Ikebukuro. Too bad I have to wait until April 11th to get my Rikkyo student card (I need a student card to be able to buy a commuter pass).

Once in Akihabara, we got some lunch at the Aki-Oki Caravane, which was basically a section of the street that was lined with food vendors. You have to purchase what you wanted to order from a vending machine. The machine gave you a ticket which you then had to take to the corresponding vendor. We ended up sitting outside to eat, but it was a little cold. We hurried to eat and then made our way down to Aki-Oka Artisan, which was an area with a bunch of shops specializing in handmade goods. There were a lot of leather items, woodcraft, and ceramics. Since everything was handmade, most of the stuff was pretty expensive, but it was cool to see.

From there we went to Animate, but similarly to the Animate in Ikebukuro, most of the items were from the more popular anime and manga (whereas the stuff I read and watch isn’t as popular). After striking out there, we stumbled upon Don Quijote, which had a wide range of items. I think the most exciting part of Don Quijote was that they had an entire section dedicated to Japanese souvenirs, and they were relatively cheap. I got a keychain for about $3.50, whereas if you bought a USA souvenir keychain it would probably cost anywhere from $5-$15. I’ll definitely have to go back there and check it out more. After that we went to the Tokyo Anime Center, which I’ll admit was a little disappointing. I was expecting a big anime store, but it was only one floor that displayed life-size cutouts of different characters and stills from the animation process of different animes. From there we made our way to Mandarake, which is a store for used books, DVDs, and the like, however I was also disappointed by this because I couldn’t find any of the manga I normally read. Book-Off was way better for the stuff I was interested in. From there we went to Akihabara Radio Kaikan, which was exactly what I was expecting when thinking of an anime store. It had floor after floor of anime related things, and even other random stuff. However, a lot of it was figurines of characters from different animes, and I’m not really into figurines, so I left empty handed. Lastly we went to Book-Off, which was fun only because it was the biggest Book-Off I had been to yet. They had so many books, even the lesser known series.

Overall I was kind of disappointed by Akihabara. Before going to Japan, anytime I mentioned that I was into anime or manga, everybody was like, “Oh you should definitely go to Akihabara!” Yet, when I went to Akihabara, while it was full of anime and manga stuff, there wasn’t anything that caught my attention, not to mention that it was pretty crowded. I think the only thing I was excited about was the size of the Book-Off.

Today was much more fun. I met up with Tomo, Nobu, Hiromi, and Gabriel (all people from my dorm) and then we went to Yoyogi park to see the cherry blossoms. Unfortunately it was raining, so I sort of had to choose between holding the umbrella and taking pictures with my camera. If it wasn’t raining too bad, I would just stand under somebody else’s umbrella while I took pictures, but after a while I just gave up. Maybe I’ll have to go back when it isn’t raining. Plus, I think the blue tarps on the ground kind of took away from the cherry blossoms. However, I’m free all this coming week, so maybe I’ll see if I can get better pictures this coming week. Other than the rain, it was actually an enjoyable walk through the park. It’s a nice change from the busy Ikebukuro city.

After that we walked around the area a bit and I got to see the Shibuya Scramble, which is an intersection known for being insanely crazy. I also got to see Hachiko, which is a statue of dog. Legend says that the dog waited at the station for his master everyday. The statue is now a popular meeting place for people and quite a popular tourist attraction. We also stopped by Shibuya 109, which is a huge shopping complex mostly of clothes and accessories. I’ll definitely be stopping back there when I have more time (and won’t be dragging a bunch of guys through women’s clothing stores, haha).

After, we went back to the Asakadai area and stopped by the kuromegawa river where they were having a festival. It was definitely a lot busier than when I was there the other day, and it was daylight so I was able to get more pictures. It sort of reminded me of the festivals back home with all the tents and food vendors that were set up, but this was busier than what I’m used to, and obviously the sakura blossoms made it much prettier. We also stopped by a local kids park which had some cherry blossom trees that were really big.

Overall, it was a super relaxing and laid back day. It was enjoyable to just walk around with some of the Japanese students even though I couldn’t understand a lot of what they were saying. A lot of times I’ll get the topic of conversation, but I usually can’t understand exactly what’s being said. If they directly asked me a question, I could usually figure it out, but only if they spoke slowly, and even then I struggled, but it’s alright. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do this more. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love hanging out with the exchange students, but when I’m with them I naturally use English because I know they all understand, and they usually use English too. However, going out with the Japanese students like this gives me much more Japanese practice, so even if I don’t understand what’s going on now, hopefully I will soon.

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