Today was Shibuya and Harajuku. We have been seeing a lot of historical stuff so far, so we decided it was about time to check out some of the shallow, modern stuff that so fascinates me. These hip, youth-oriented areas are very crowded. Plus it's the weekend now. Our neighborhood, Asakusa, has gotten crowded too, but that may have to do with the fact that the city's biggest festival has just started here. Something to do with the founders of the local shrine. We saw their three shrines being carted around yesterday by guys in yukatas and no pants.
Back to today. Thought it would be cool to get some Japan-trendy clothes. The thing is, once you're in the stores, you realize this is pretty much the same junk you find in American hipster stores, equally overpriced. What makes it Japanese is putting it together in combinations you'd never think of, and then wearing them on your Japanese self with unnaturally dark skin and artifically light hair. One thing they do great is making sneakers colorful. But the cool ones are like \15000 (over $150!). But the US is starting to get on board the colorful Nike and Converse thing, so I can always catch that train later.
We did eventually find a store selling "California style" T-shirts in the "vintage" style, but with distinctly Japanese slogans that made no sense. These, too, were expensive, but we let our amusement prevail over our tight wallets and reminded ourselves that we're in Japan, and even in America, a stylish T-shirt will set you back more than it has any right to.
Also, I picked up some J-pop I'm very excited about at the Tower Records in Shibuya. Not so much the cutesy stuff this time, but that's okay. I can get Morning Musume in Little Tokyo over on Sawtelle anytime. You'll see. Some of it was from the J-indie section, and the disc sampler was labeled "future pop," so I think that's the style. Very electronic and uses 8-bit sounds, but really well.
I only saw a few Ganguro girls, and only one of them was really hardcore grotesque. Saw a couple of Gothic Lolitas.
Then the bad news:
Stephanie has fallen ill! I would have liked to see Harajuku at night, but we had to leave. Stephanie was suffering from exhaustion, like a movie star! Just like Lindsay Lohan on the set of Herbie. We've been doing a lot of walking. I don't know how the people of Japan do it. There are more stairs in this country than I've ever cared to notice anywhere else. Oh, did I complain about stairs yesterday? Well, I'm doing it again. That'll happen when you climb a hundred flights or so a day. Even using the subway, you're constantly going up and down, from one platform to another, and there are seldom escalators. Anyway, to put this on top of all the walking and climbing we did yesterday, our legs are shot. Our feet were shot as of two days ago. We thought they couldn't get any more tired. Maybe we were right. But our legs have gotten more and more fatigued. Our calves are tight.
Also, Stephanie is suffering from the cold I gave her. I have a rich tradition of getting sick right before I go on major trips, from England to China and so on. If I didn't go on trips a little bit sick, I'd never leave the country. I was a bit sick all week before we left, but I was too busy with writing and working and entertaining Stephanie's family when they visited for her graduation, to get any rest and beat it. I'm still sick, but getting better (knock on wood) and totally functional (knock on wood). But Stephanie and I are developing our own rich tradition, where my pansy-ass immune system gets sick and she seems fine, then just as I start to come out of it the cold hits her and hits her harder, making me feel extra bad for passing it on. She's been a bit sick too, so we thought she'd already caught the brunt of it. But today, combined with exhaustion, it really started to take a toll. So we're back at the ryokan and she's resting in bed.
On the upside, we got a bigger room. On the night we arrived, the ryokan proprietor informed us that there had been a "mistake-u." We had requested a room with its own bathroom, but for our first three nights, we wouldn't have one. The shared bathroom turned out to be not bad at all, and only shared with one other room, the inhabitants of which we never saw. Our room was tiny and cozy, just big enough for two futons, a table and a TV. Now we moved into the room we were supposed to have. By comparison, it's huge. Extravagant and luxurious. When we were first moving our bags in there were four futons set up--apparently a whole family had been staying there. Not only does it have its own bathroom, it's got two sections--one for sleeping, one for the table and TV, and it's got a fridge. Even chairs! And floor pillows for sitting! It makes me feel spoiled.
So when we got back I ran out and bought a bunch of food for poor Stephanie to fight her cold. We'll take it easy tomorrow instead of killing our legs running around and hopefully that'll help. She's a tough cookie. I think she'll make it. We're supposed to meet Stephanie's friend Marcel, who's been living in Yokohama, tomorrow.