Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Big in Japan

Patrick is really not that tall but he stood out in Japan.
On our first day in Japan our friends* took us to lunch and then we visited a shopping plaza. Shopping plaza sounds a bit fancy but it was just like any collection of stores sharing a semi-communal parking lot you would find in the US (think RT. 1 in MA) or Germany (think Real and Baumarkt type, not downtown), nothing special there. we made three stops. First to Uni Qlo which is the Japanese equivalent of H&M and was semi familiar to me from my time in London. Next we went to a 100 Yen shop which I had heard so much about. 100 Yen is traditionally about 1 USD so I didn't expect it to be so different from a Dollar store but it was a bit more chaotic and there were many things over a dollar. I could best describe it as an over packed Family Dollar with some additional neon colors.
A view inside the shop.
While wandering around and trying to control our overstimulated senses I heard giggles. Clearly Patrick and I are foreign and, unlike in Germany, I didn't need to open my mouth to confirm my foreign status. Two young girls were following us and when they realized we were onto them, then they linked arms, marched up to us and said "Hello, how are you?" in the sweetest most polite English. We responded and then it was my turn to giggle - we had groupies. They followed us for the remainder of our stay and randomly asked other questions such as "what is your name?" and "Where are you from?" All of the talking was done by one well spoken little girl named Megan (maybe she spent some time in the US as Megan is not common in Japan and neither is speaking English) who could not have been more than 8 years old. Each time she would come up to us, she would accumulate more giggling children. Before we left, I asked Megan and her first friend whose name I have since forgotten if I could take their picture. hey were happy to oblige and even grabbed another friend for the shot.
Megan is on the left in the stripes and her original partner (sister) is in the cameo on the right.
In case you were wondering - and we defiantly were - there is no reason behind the peace sign in photos. ALL Japanese do it and when we asked no one could explain the motivation, our friends did not even think of it as a sign of peace. We observed photo subjects of all ages doing this and even adopted it in several shots - when in Rome...
The entourage became a bit overwhelming so we left. Our next stop was a brief trip to the Supermarket next door in search of a "Fanta furufuru shaker," an only in Japan half soda half gelatin beverage Patrick saw on YouTube and needed to try. Apparently it is a relatively new product in Japan and was not available at that supermarket so we headed back to base and had fresh edemame followed by coffee and cake with the family before going to dinner (did I mention we just ate lunch).
*Patrick's family has been friends with a Japanese family since he was in kindergarten so when I mention our Japanese friends, it is this family, I only met them on our visit but they were so nice and friendly I consider them my friends now too.

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