Greetings from Tokyo!! Hi everyone, my name is Eric, a BTMM student from Temple University. Having lived in Philadelphia my entire life, I have never left the country (vacations to the Bahamas don’t count). Studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan is the first time I have ever ventured into a foreign land. People have asked me, why study in Japan? Why go so far? The answer is really simple: I want to grow out of my comfort zone. I thought that the best way I could do that was to implant myself into an entirely different culture, whose language I barely know. Over the next few months I will be telling you all about my experiences here in Nihon. So let’s get started:
Coming here to Tokyo I had an understanding that it was a huge, megacity. It didn’t really hit me until I visited Shibuya. This city really is massive! From our dorm in Ontakesan my friend Amelia and I took the Tokyu Ikegami train line and transferred over onto the JR Yamanote line to Shibuya. The subway and train lines are your best bet to getting around in Tokyo. They literally go everywhere in the city, and all the maps and signs are in both Japanese and English. As we followed the exit signs out of the Shibuya Station, I could sense the swarm of people around us getting larger and larger. Before I knew it I was walking through Shibuya Crossing, one of the largest intersections in the world. It was almost too much to take in, so I savored as much as I could before the street light changed. From that point on, the streets branched out and winded further. I felt like I was at the entrance of an amusement park. We decided to continue straight ahead and hit the other streets on the way back.
One thing I noticed about Tokyo, is that on some streets (particularly those without sidewalks) it is perfectly fine to walk on the streets themselves. Since so many people were out that Saturday, the streets were filled with more people than actual cars. After a few blocks of walking we decided to go into Book-Off: a multi-floor book/videogame/movie/used clothing store. Book-Off is known for its vast collection of used products. We worked our way through the music on the first floor and then made our way to the second floor, which was filled with movies. A significant amount of which were in English, or English-dubbed. I’ll definitely be back to pick up a few animes before the semester ends. The third and fourth floors were filled with books and manga. Coming from a country with a dying a comic book culture, I could not believe how much manga was here that never reaches the states. On top of that, these floors were the most populated. Children were reading Naruto, businessmen were reading Bleach, women were reading romance mangas. The comics section of Barnes & Noble is probably the last place I’d find my parents, and I bet you could say the same about yours. Yet in Tokyo it is the complete opposite.
Scooting our way around all the intent readers in the manga section, we finally made it to the elevators and hit the streets. Eventually we stumbled upon the Bape Store. Short for “A Bathing Ape,” the Bape brand was brought to the States and popularized by Pharrell and his N.E.R.D band mates. Having and interest in street fashion, I could not help but enter the legendary store. It was truly one of the more unique stores I have visited in my life.
Well, that pretty much sums up my first visit to Shibuya, there is still so much more that I have yet to explore. Be on the look out for next week’s blog on “otaku” culture in Akihabara!