Connie: Shopping sprees & nattō

October 18, 2010

Saturday was my second trip to Hiroshima city. On Friday the recipients of the JASSO scholarship got their money, so naturally Saturday had to be a shopping day.

Now I know I’m supposed to be using this money for research or something like that, and I know my father keeps telling me I’m in Japan to learn, but there’s something about Japanese goods that beg to be bought. Maybe it’s because everything that isn’t unbearably cute is incredibly cool. This country as a whole is terrible on my wallet. I think it’s terrible on all our wallets.

There is a rather large shopping district in central Hiroshima. We looked through plenty of stores with expensive merchandise (of course, it’s Japan) but eventually we came to two stores that were more than reasonable: the 390 yen shop and a store that was basically the Japanese equivalent to Ragstock.  I bought… more than I should have.  It was amusing to me that right away the two girls I was shopping with picked up on my sense of style.  「カニっぽい」とか。

The one thing I hate about clothes shopping in Japan, however, is the fact that women’s shoes don’t go up to my size.  I can’t dress a certain way because I can’t wear women’s shoes since the LL size is only 25 centimeters. My feet are 26.5 centimeters.  Is that really so unusual? I guess in Japan it is. I bought men’s shoes and the employee there didn’t believe I would fit in men’s shoes.

Speaking of stores, the service in Japan is as a general rule amazing. I’ve noticed this everywhere, but in the shoe store I was struck by it more than usual. The man literally would not let me take off my own shoe. He told me to sit down and then put the new shoe on for me and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Then he kept asking me if the size was okay, and making me walk around to make sure it was okay, and then asking me if they wouldn’t get too warm…  But somehow all of this was delivered in a way that wasn’t annoying. In America you seem to only get one or the other; a shoe store employee who leaves you to your own devices or an overbearing employee at somewhere like Suncoast who bombards you with stupid questions.

The group had quite their fill by five, so they headed back to Saijo. I had a friend who didn’t get off work until six, so I stayed a bit longer to meet up with him. Since I hadn’t eaten since lunch and he hadn’t eaten all day, we went out to get dinner.  It was your typical delicious Japanese cuisine.  The important part of this tale is that I was coerced into ordering 納豆 (nattō).  Nattō, a dish of fermented beans, is notorious for being something people either like or hate, and nowhere in between. It’s also notorious for being something foreigners hate except for in rare cases. Me being adventurous and typically not a picky eater, I thought I would be able to handle it even if it looks like…

Well, I always think of  this Gai-Gin comic when I think of nattou.

Anyway, I’m glad my friend was nice enough to tell me I didn’t have to finish it.  I was expecting a much more bean-like taste than what I got. It was very bitter. That’s about all I can really describe it as. An unbelievable bitterness covered in an unappetizing sticky exterior. Of course, I’m glad I tried it. I think it’s one of those things you simply have to do while in Japan.

My final impression of today: Pokemon Black. Actually, I’m playing it myself. Even so, I didn’t expect my friend to tell me, “Just a second,” whip out a Nintendo DS, and challenge me to a battle. I didn’t expect him to tell me there are plenty of students who play it on campus. I also didn’t expect to sit on the train behind a middle-aged salaryman who played it the entire way to Saijo.

Just between you and me, his strategy was awful.


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