While I only have one day left here in Yokohama, it still feels like home already. Yoko-san has been so wonderful by taking care of me. She treats me like family and we have fun together. Not to mention, she is hysterical! I also practice my Japanese with her, and it has improved immensely since arriving. A lot of what I learned in college is returning and I am learning some other useful things (like jishin meaning earthquake). Speaking of! My first earthquake! I was asleep during the 4.0 in San Francisco last week, so this was the first earthquake I was aware of. It was kind of terrifying for this Florida girl. Mostly because it woke me up in the middle of the night and I could hear the entire structure moving.
Aside from earthqakes, not a whole lot has happened! I’ve spent a lot of time practicing Japanese, English, and finding my way around Yokohama. The hardest part was buying my Suica (subway/light-rail card) which wasn’t very hard at all. Each day, I ventured father and farther until I felt comfortable enough to go all the way to Harajuku on my own. Yoko-san was so cute to help me figure out where to go, what to ask if I get lost, and things to watch out for.
The first few days here were spent looking around stores I could never afford ($300 scarves!) along with catching up on assignments and chores I’d became behind on. I’m incredibly social online now, as I don’t really know anyone in Yokohama yet. If Yoko-san is out, I’m at a loss. I’m not big on TV and I haven’t bothered to unpack anything from my suitcase that might provide entertainment because I’m leaving tomorrow. So, lots of Twitter and Facebook.
So far, my favorite thing to do is walk around the basement of Sogo, which is a huge thoroughfare for commuters as it provides access from the East side to the Yokohama station. That level of Sogo (a large department store) is all food. The smells that waft around are so incredible, I could stay there all day. It’s extremely busy, filled with hurried shoppers and commuters alike. There is so much to look at, between cakes of all shapes and sizes, and dishes of all manner of ingredients. It’s amazing anyone cooks in Japan, I want to buy everything and give it a taste! For a basement, it’s so brightly lit that it’s almost a sensory overload.
My favorite stands are (of course) the dessert stands and the bread stands. The bread is baked right there! There are sweet breads, breads stuffed with meats and cheese, and basic breads like baguettes. Often I walk through just to fill my ole’ factory with the heavenly smell of fresh bread. I love Japanese cakes because they are lightly sweetened and look amazing. The Japanese care very much about presentation and it shows in everything they do. I don’t know why I thought I might loose weight here, I’m just eating all the sweets I can find! Yoko-san enjoys them too, so we are always getting cake.
View the video I made of walking around Sogo here.
Other places I like to visit are the 100yen and 300yen shops. The dollar stores in the states don’t have anything on these shops. Not only are the 100yen shops affordable, they contain everything you could possibly need and it doesn’t look like junk. Mind you, some of it is junk, but it’s a far cry from the junk in the American dollar stores. The plan is to shop only at 100yen shops to get started when I have my apartment.
Harajuku, was an entirely different experience. While I’ve been before, it was four years ago. I’ve matured, making Harajuku relatively less mature. Regardless, the clothes are affordable and fashionable, not to mention there are crepe stands everywhere. If you can look between the tacky shops, there are some amazing finds. Not to mention, so many different kinds of socks. I couldn’t resist, so I nabbed a pair of thigh-high socks. Now I just have to stop eating so much cake and they will look OK on me.
Despite the weather today and yesterday, Harajuku was busy as ever. All the shops were open, with clothes and items on display and adorable girls calling out deals to passer-bys. It can be quite the tourist destination, but it also attracts plenty of locals as well. In other words: it’s crowded. I find that it’s easier to avoid using an umbrella all together, as maneuvering with one between all those people and their umbrellas is virtually impossible. Not to mention, it was absolutely freezing. The weather report said 10 degrees Celsius but it felt more like 7 degrees. I’m going to need a better coat.
Last night, Yoko-san showed me how to cook Sukiyaki. It was super easy and I can’t wait to give it a shot on my own! She explained that the traditional way to eat sukiyaki is with a bowl in front of you filled with raw egg. You grab a helping of sukiyaki and dip it in the egg. In the states, we are taught to avoid raw egg, unless we enjoy contracting salmonella. Japan is another story. Turns out, they actually inspect their eggs for viruses, so you can eat them raw! Amazing. If you’d said a week ago that I was going to eat raw egg, I would have laughed. I’ll admit, it was pretty delicious.
Another amazing food experience was going out to a traditional Japanese restaurant and ordering cold soba. I’ve had soba in America, but apparently we do it all wrong. There were so many steps involved, but it was spectacular! One of my favorite parts was when the water the noodles are cooked in is brought to the table. Traditionally, you mix your soy sauce with the buckwheat water and drink up. It tastes much better than it sounds! After lunch, we enjoyed fried manju (red bean paste) which was amazing, too.
Anyways, this post ended up being longer than I expected, but I hope you enjoyed it! Tomorrow, it’s off to Narita for training. I’m nervous but excited. Wish me luck! Ganbatte!