THIS IS THE FIFTH PART (OF SEVEN) OF MY TOKYO 2016 BLOG SERIES

After two full days of full-blown fangirling on Arashi and Sailor Moon, I still had one more day to explore the city of Tokyo. As part of the original plan, I allocated this last full day to do a little field-trip on specific spots that I have strong interest in. The first area being the campus of Waseda University, and the second area is Jimbocho.

Time for a little bit of background information–I finished my undergraduate studies last year, and ever since then I have been entertaining the idea of continuing my education abroad. At first, I set my goal to the land of America–my degree is in Cinema Studies and I have strong interest in Hollywood history, so I thought if I were to conduct a research related to that subject, I should go to the land where it all began. I’ve actually applied to a couple of schools, got accepted in one, but because one thing and another, I wasn’t able to claim my spot in that school. So, per really wise advice from a number of people, I tried thinking of other options.

At first, I never thought I wanted to go to school to Japan. To me, it seemed like a silly idea, because I know well about my limited ability in the language. Plus, it seemed to me that the Japanese education environment is extremely intimidating. How would I even survive? But then, after asking around and doing a little bit of research, I realized that my impression of the whole thing was probably off the mark. There are various programs taught in English now, in prestigious schools, and I was especially drawn to the ones offered in Waseda University. From all the schools I’ve researched, Waseda was the only that had a program that I thought suit my previous academic background in Cinema Studies perfectly. However, as this was the first time I ever encountered dealing with a Japanese school, I was pretty clueless about how to start inquiring about the program.

Basic information can be acquired through thorough research, but I felt like I needed more. While planning this trip, it occured to me that I could possibly spare some time to visit the campus, not only to talk to an actual human from the institution that can give me more information, but also to check out the place and the atmosphere–would the air there like me?

Main entrace of Waseda University.
Main entrace of Waseda University.

That Thursday morning on my week in Tokyo, I went to Waseda. The Waseda area is actually situated in Shinjuku-ku, and I did stay in Shinjuku three years ago on my first time for a night. However, because it was too brief, I wasn’t really familiar with it. Again, I took the Metro to get there because it’s super convenient. I did get a little bit confused about which way to turn when I exited the station, but after walking around for a while, I found the sign of the campus area and entered it immediately.

One of my favorite experiences during the brief time I spent in Waseda was interacting with the security guards. This sounds strange, but it truly was memorable! I spoke to two guards, both are elderly men, probably past 50s or even 60s, and both were super helpful. Thankfully, all of my Japanese lessons were put to good use and I could understand them just fine and vice versa. To the first guard, I asked about where Building 11 was (the graduate school that I’m interested in is in this building), and he slowly explained the directions to me. He even threw a super understanding “Turn left!” command at me, knowing I was a foreigner. This really shows to me the myth that Japanese won’t speak to foreigners is not entirely true. I mean, someone else would probably try to run away from me, if I ask without paying any concern. The key is trying to meet them on their playing field–use that broken Japanese you’ve been learning. If you meet a nice, decent human, they’ll understand your limitation.

The campus area that I saw is really nice and comfortable. Of course, it is. After all, this is a private school and very prestigious at the same time. (I’m not sure how Waseda ranks in the politics of Japan’s top schools, but from the appearance alone, it is fancy). I couldn’t help feeling a bit jealous for the students that were coming that morning, because there they were in a really conducive place to learn. So far, I could only dream about enrolling in a school like that. When I came, there was to be a festival of some kind, but I missed it by being 1 day too early. Anyway, after I visited the graduate school that I’m interested in and inquired many things to a really nice staff member who apparently had expected me to come, I went out and just sit outside for a while, watching some presumably undergraduate students doing some kind of student activity. It was a really nice day. Then, I was really glad to be coming there on October, when the weather was perfect for chilling outside.

After that, I checked out some other buildings for a bit. There was actually a group of high school kids that were given a campus tour. I thought of stalking them to join the tour, but decided against it because I didn’t have enough guts to be that kind of person (LOL). Anyway, before leaving, I tried finding the campus souvenir shop. This was how I met the second security guard. I was walking towards him, and as I was about to ask him something, he immediately stopped me and told me to get away. At first, I was confused, but then I instantly realized there was a bus coming to our direction, wanting to park. I immediately made my way to save myself from this coming bus. After the bus was parked, the guard came back to me and apologized for shocking me that way. “It was bad timing,” he said to me. I assured him I understood, then proceeded to ask about the shop. He showed me one that actually sells t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other clothing items, but then the shopkeeper told me that if I wanted to get smaller items, like pens and such, there is another shop near the cafetaria. So I went to that other shop and got myself a couple of pens, a phone charm that I’m currently rocking everyday (even if I’m not even a Waseda student yet), and a postcard. I actually wrote and sent the postcard to myself at the post office near the campus, sadly it seems to have been lost on its way to me because I haven’t received it until today.

Before getting myself to the next destination, I spent a little time in a shrine nearby to pray for the second time in this trip. It was Anahachimangu Shrine, which is considerably bigger than Hikawa Shrine I visited the previous day. It seems like a popular site for tourism purposes, too. It also has a little garden that looks really pretty from the outside.

After the shrine, I was back on the train, heading to Jimbocho. I made sure to put Jimbocho on my itinerary after reading up on an article about the famous street. This is that special street in Tokyo that contains bookstores after bookstores. Honestly, when I read about it, I was ready to go into a mental breakdown. You see, I love books. No, I LOVE books. Of course, I enjoy reading them every once in a while, but more importantly, I get the most pleasure in browsing them in stores and purchasing them. So the existence of Jimbocho is extremely important for my existence.

One corner of Jimbocho.
One corner of Jimbocho.

Jimbocho offers a lot–and I mean, A LOT–of variations in books, magazines, and every other printed things imaginable. If you’re not easily intimidated by the Japanese writings–because obviously, some 90% of the books sold there are Japanese (Fear not, though; even if it does take more effort, English books are available, too), it is absolutely heaven. There are big stores, but the gems are the small, possibly family-owned stores. Most of them offer great collection of used books; some even have antique, rare volumes that I’m too afraid to touch (plus I can’t read it anyway). Most stores have multiple floors, but because there were so many stores, I made it a policy to myself to only browse the ground floor. This street is so fun, because basically books are laid out on the actual edge of the street, not only in the stores. There are shelves outside the stores, too, and people walking by just casually browse them every once in a while. It’s a magical place, really.

Books galore.
Books galore.

For the idol fangirls out there, there’s also a store that offers specifically used magazines in decent condition (sorry, I forgot the name, but it’s quite easy to find if you’re walking on the main street), and being there is like being inside an archive. But the best discovery I made was actually not the books or magazines. Some stores offer old, used, Japanese-version pamphlets and posters of old movies–mostly Hollywood movies. I’ve never seen so many beautiful ephemerals in my life and the movie geek in me was jumping with joy. I wish I could’ve bought them all, but even browsing them was overwhelming. Seriously, if you love movies and would love to find some movie-related printed goodies, Jimbocho is the place.

I wish I could give a much more substantial overview and recommendations on Jimbocho, but it is one of those places that you just have to see for yourself without being in a rush. I was running against time (and hunger), so I didn’t get to explore the whole street. But the tiny part that I did see was wonderful. Definitely, when I have the chance to come back, I need to spend a whole day here.

After grabbing a quick Yoshino-ya lunch in Jimbocho, I made my way back to Shibuya to revisit Mandarake (yes, more Arashi sins were committed). From then, I moved back to Tower Records, and as I told you in Part 2, I had a bit of coffee in the cafe, while realizing that I was running out of Yen. It was still mid-afternoon then, and I had one more errand to do: Daiso in Takeshita-dori. After the coffee, I walked towards Harajuku, then the magical meeting with Shuu-Uranus and Sayaka-Neptune happened (!!!), then while holding tears and screams, I exchanged money before battling through people to shop in Daiso. After the Daiso battle, I settled back in a small, cute omurice restaurant near Johnny’s Shop and had my last Tokyo supper there.

After finishing up with that omurice dinner, I remember standing in the platform at the subway station, letting three trains to Ikebukuro pass me by. There was a feeling of not wanting to come home already, not even to come home to Ikebukuro. There I stood and it sank in: the past few days have seriously been the best time of my life. How could I ever let this amazing time go?

Reluctantly, I finally came back to  Ikebukuro. Before coming back to my ryokan, I made sure that I went to the Ikebukuro JR Station to purchase a Narita Express ticket to get to the airport the next day. Since I already used the Airport Limousine bus when I arrived, I wanted to try the train this time (plus, I had designed a playlist and I had the perfect song to cry on the train with). The station staff was so nice and helped me to buy my ticket, even went as far as recommending which seat to take for the best view during the journey. He also made sure I know which station entrace to take that would be easy on me and my luggage.

So, that’s the end of my advent– well, not really. Earlier that day, while walking to the station, I had realized that there is actually a movie theater near my ryokan and I saw the poster of 「君の名は」 plastered in front of it. Obviously, I didn’t really plan it–I didn’t even know the movie was still playing, because I thought the buzz already happened months ago, but I thought to myself that maybe that night, if I have time, I could swing by and catch a screening. I had checked the schedule for that day and I thought of going to a 6.30 p.m. screening. However, because I let a few trains go while I was still in Harajuku, I was too late for that showing. There still was one more showtime, though: 9 p.m.

Signed poster on display.
Signed poster on display.

You see, I have never been one that likes to stay up late, especially going out to public places like that. When it comes to watching movies in theater, I always take the earliest showtime. But it occured to me then, I was in Tokyo, it was my last night, the theater is literally 2 minutes away from where I was staying, it should be fine if I channel my–to borrow a popular internet lingo–YOLO-ness, right? Seriously, when else would I find the chance to see a mega-hit Japanese animated movie that I’ve been dying to see in freaking Tokyo?! Realizing all of these, from the station, I went straight to the theater and purchased one ticket for a 9 p.m. showing of 「君の名は」.

It was still 7 p.m., though, so I went back to my ryokan first to finish packing (I had so many things to fit in one little suitcase). That one-hour packing was pretty much 30 minutes of me lying on the tatami mats, feeling tired and overwhelmed and happy and excited and 30 minutes of actual packing. Anyway, because I still had time to kill after packing, I went downstairs, warmed myself up with a cup of complimentary green tea, before finally coming out to walk around the commercial area of Ikebukuro for a little bit.

As I’ve said time and time again, this has been the best experience ever. Having 「君の名は」 as the epilogue to wrap up everything in a perfect bow was the most perfect ending. The film itself is no doubt a masterpiece–I have never seen something so alive and imaginative at the same time. I surprised myself for being able to comprehend the whole thing even when there was no subtitle–proof that the movie is so visually-stimulating. I could go on and on about how amazing this movie is, but the one thing I’d like to mention here is one of the parts of the movie really hits close to home for me, in that moment. You know how Mitsuha was desperate to have a life in Tokyo, and once she switched places with Taki, she became so excited about seeing and experiencing Tokyo? That speaks to me a lot. I was that person, too, at that very moment. I still am that person.


(…to be continued in Part 6/7)
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