Honestly, it’s still hard for me to believe that I’ve been in Japan for almost fifteens weeks. Looking back, it feels like it was only a few weeks ago that I was getting on the plane to Japan, feeling both nervous and excited to begin my new adventure. I honestly still feel like a tourist when exploring areas off campus, which brings us to this week’s blog post!
The Saturday right before finals, my friends and I decided to sign up for a guided tour around Akihabara to explore and feel like tourists once more before some of us return to the US. The tour was hosted by Hosei University’s Cross Cultural Understanding (CCU) group. The group was created in 2012 to promote cultural exchange among Japanese citizens and those from overseas. Their vision is “Spreading Japanese Culture Overseas.” Their group occasionally hosts free guided tours around popular destinations in the Tokyo prefecture, so for future study abroad students, I definitely recommend attending one of their events! It’s always a fun time, and it’s a great way to get to know local students!
I went a little early to make sure I didn’t miss the event, and I found an unusual sight:
Just when I thought I was getting used to the things in Japan. But then again, I don’t think this is a common sight in Japan either.
Anyway, the CCU group was pretty easy to find since they had a cosplayer in their group.
We begin the tour by visiting Superpotato, a famous retro video game chain throughout Japan. It was well-hidden in the upper levels of another store (when searching for stores in the US, we tend to simply search horizontally. When in Japan, you also have to search vertically!)
Following Superpotato, we visited Kotobuyiya and Manarake, two popular stores in Japan for your anime products.
Then, we visited Busoushouten, a very small but fascinating replica weapon store. The cosplayers and role-players of the group excitedly rushed in, searching props. However, once everyone got in, it was very difficult to get out!
For our next destination, we visited Gachapon, a capsule-toy vending machine specialty store. The store has over 530 Gachapon machines! For 100 Yen (about a $1) you can capsule toy of almost anything!
Next stop, Don Quijote! Don Quijote is a discount chain store that carries a wide range of products from groceries to clothes to toys and much more. Our guide told us that Don Quijote tends to keep very late shopping hours (lots of them are open until 3 or 5 AM, some are even open 24 hours!), which is very rare in Japan, where most places close up by 9 or 10 PM. The closest thing I can probably compare Don Quijote to is Walmart. Okay, maybe a very cramped Walmart with multiple floors. The business plan is very similar, but for some reason, it feels completely different.
Afterwards, we visited Taito Station, a popular arcade chain in Japan!
The original plan was to play some arcade games together, but the girls convinced everyone to take purikura together.
These were all taken at CCU events! The first one was from their Harajuku tour! The other two were from this tour! This particular Taito Station let their customers borrow cosplays to take photos for free!
I think the one of the greatest thing about studying abroad is how it broadens your perspective on the world. At these tours, you get to meet lots of amazing people with different perspectives, and explore places you simply could never find in the US. At these kinds of events, you can really notice and appreciate the differences between other cultures. Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to truly immerse myself in a manner that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was simply visiting Japan, and I am truly grateful that I was given this opportunity!