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Settled In; Time for some fun!

I’ve started my internship here in Tokyo, and I’m having a great time. For those of you who don’t know, I am working with the Run for the Cure Foundation to help plan and execute some events to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer research. My office is a very international group. I work in an office with two other people – both speak English and Japanese, and my boss also speaks Spanish. Upstairs (where I don’t go much) are people from France, Ireland, Italy, Taiwan…and everyone speaks English. But everyone is familiar with Japanese culture, and they’ve all been warm and welcoming. We celebrated my boss’s birthday on Friday night with snacks, cake, and beer.

Most people think of interns as the person in the company responsible for doing all the stupid stuff – getting people coffee, standing around making copies all day, etc. To some extent, I take care of general office duties here and there, but right away I was put in charge of a number of things related to the events we’re doing. The two events I’m helping with are the Run for the Cure/Walk for Life, and the PiNK ball (a big party/gala/fundraiser dinner). As of now, I’m in charge of:

  • Keeping track of runners that register online for the run
  • Keeping track of donations that come to the office
  • Maintaining a list of volunteers for the run
  • Updating the website as needed in English and in Japanese (my translations are checked by our wonderful office manager)
  • Keeping tabs on the “group registration” forms for the run (companies will sometimes register as a group to run)
  • Assisting with the planning of the ball
  • Doing research as needed – this has been anything from event entertainment to finding information about breast self exams to what’s the fastest way to get to a meeting elsewhere in Tokyo.
  • Attending sponsor meetings with my boss – I don’t do any talking at these meetings. They are sometimes conducted in English, sometimes Japanese. I listen and take notes, and if my boss thinks of anything while we’re out and about, I write it down to remind him later or I do research on that.
  • I also have been reorganizing/maintaining the inventory in our office. I’ve been doing a lot of counting lately.

That about sums up the majority of my big responsibilities – little things come up from day to day. I’ve been really enjoying myself at work so far. Like I said, I work with some really great people that are all working together for a good cause. My day goes by very fast and I often have to be reminded that it’s time for lunch or time to head home. I’m having a great time so far and feel like I might actually have a chance to do something good for someone out there in the world, even if they don’t know it.

I have one more small recap post to make from my trip with Gram – it feels like it was ages ago now! I’ve been here three weeks but the time has just been flying by. This is a photo of the place we went to check out in Osaka. This is Osaka-jo (or, Osaka castle) and it was a few minute’s walk from our hotel. It was a very hot day when we went to check it out, so we enjoyed the park area surrounding the castle too.

Osakajo

We were disappointed to find that the castle had been turned into a museum on the inside. There were old sets of armor, intricate wall paintings depicting battles, and historical videos discussing the history of the place. Unfortunately, this was yet another destination where pictures were strictly forbidden. Oh well. We didn’t spend much time here because it was pretty crowded and not really what we were expecting.

After checking out of our hotel, we headed back to the station and hopped on the shinkansen back to Tokyo – it was about a three hour trip. We came back to my apartment, where I did some grocery shopping to stock up on a few things. We got Gram a hotel room and I sent her off in a taxi. Then I got an email a little while later telling me she had some of my things. My suitcase wasn’t quite big enough for all the stuff I wanted while we were traveling, so I had put my toiletries in her bag. I kind of needed them. So I hopped a couple of trains and was at her hotel within about 15 minutes. I was amazed at how easy it was! I looked up what station I needed to go to, and bam, I was there. Much cheaper than a taxi, too. Probably a lot faster.

I said my final goodbyes to her at the hotel and headed back home. The next day it was off to work! And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since (I get to venture out on the weekends, though). I work in Shibuya. Everyone tells me that there’s a very famous scene in the movie Lost in Translation that was filmed in Shibuya, but I can’t remember it. Anyway, I go to Shibuya station every single day (not a big fan of that station, to be honest) and have about a 15 minute walk to work. It’s not so bad.

At night when I head back to the station (often with my boss or coworkers) the streets are lit up with neon lights and people shopping and all kinds of weird/crazy/interesting stuff that you don’t really see during the day. I have started to put together a little bit of footage of what Tokyo is like at night, but I want to get several different areas in the video – Shibuya and Akihabara are easiest for me, since I live there. They’re also some of the more famous areas of Tokyo. Watch for that video soon!

In the last two weeks I’ve gone out here and there. You may have seen my video on YouTube where I visit the Don Quixote store in Akihabara. That was an adventure in itself, despite it only being a few minutes’ walk away. I’ve had my first (and second!) bowl of real ramen. And man, was it good. There’s a place just downstairs at my apartment and this weekend I chatted with the chef a bit. It was more him asking me questions than anything. His last one was to ask if I had a boyfriend in America. I said I did, and that I missed him very much. He replied with: “yeah, it must be lonely.” I agreed. He didn’t have much to say after that. Hehe. All else aside, he makes a mean bowl of ramen. I had half finished this one before I thought to take a photo. It doesn’t look so good here, but trust me, it’s awesome.

firstramen

My first week at work brought some interesting things to do. We reserve the Imperial Palace grounds as our place to host the run each year, and you can only reserve it three months in advance. My first weekend, we had volunteers camping out at the imperial office for an imperial campout during the imperial rain. I took a shift with a Japanese volunteer on Sunday afternoon for three hours. She was very patient with my Japanese and very friendly. We chatted about American and Japanese schooling. I learned that I have a Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionary on my cell phone, which was extremely helpful when I didn’t know the right words. If nothing else that day, it was a fairly nice park to look out over.

imperialcampout

As I mentioned before, I have been doing inventory of all the stuff we have. I take everything out of a box, count it, write it down, put it all back in the box, and then stick a label on the side of the box listing everything inside and how much we have of it. I don’t mind doing this – it’s something to do. I like to stay busy. Here’s the contents of one box that I counted: tape.

IAMTHECOUNTER

I also ended up counting hundreds of these one day. There was a whole box full of balloons and I thought: eh, why not. I’ll count them if for no reason than I like to be precise. So count them I did. But I had to take a picture because these color balloons reminded me of liver. Plus, they smelled funny. And not the way that balloons in America smell funny.

balloons

More recently, though, I’ve been spending time updating stuff on the computer or going to meetings with my boss. On the weekends, however, I’m free to do as I want! My first weekend I didn’t do much – I had some work from home to finish up on and I took a day just to relax and sit around, which I think was much needed.

This weekend, however, was a very different story. I walked up the street to the duty free shop to get a backpack because I anticipate going on a lot of little day trips, and my purse and briefcase just weren’t going to cut it. I got this for about $11. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was.

cheapbackpack

On Saturday, I decided to go to the man made island of Odaiba to see the full scale Gundam exhibit. A Gundam is from a popular Japanese cartoon – it’s a giant robot that a person can get inside and they fight epic battles against each other. This Gundam moves around a little bit – its head moves and it lights up and it shoots stuff from out its back. Pretty nifty. It was huge.

GUNDAM

Seeing it made me think: “Only in Japan.” It’s so intricate! Everything down to the feet is carefully constructed and they do a short show where it moves its head and all that. I totally missed it, though. This Gundam is part of a promotion for the 2016 Olympics. Tokyo is a candidate city for the games that year, and this is one of the ways in which the city is trying to rally some support. There’s even a little logo on the shoulder of this behemoth.

olympicpromogundam

I took a picture with the Gundam in the background…it looks like it has set its laser eyes on this poor gaijin. I’d better watch out. It might know where I sleep.

whoalasereyes

You can go up and stand beneath the Gundam and touch its feet, but the line was super long and I wasn’t that motivated to check it out. I mean, it’s a giant semi-functioning robot. What more do you want? It’s cool from a distance, too.

gundamfeet

It is my understanding that the Gundam is only going to be around for a limited time. Rumor has it that it will be dismantled at the beginning of September. Too bad. This is a super cool addition to Tokyo. But the Japanese sure don’t mess around with their “limited time only” stuff. When they say that, they mean it. Not like in the US, where something comes around each season. They have it once, and then it’s gone. Forever. Too bad!

As I mentioned, Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo bay. From here, you get an interesting view of mainland Tokyo. You can really see how smoggy it is here. The “sky” is perpetually gray. I actually remember looking out my window this morning and seeing bright blue off in the distance and feeling excited. I miss seeing the sky and the stars every day and night at home.

tokyoview

The buildings on Odaiba are also very cool. Many of them are very futuristic looking, some are just plain odd. I didn’t get to see them all because I wanted to get out early. There were a ton of people visiting that day to see the Gundam and I was burned out pretty fast. Here are a few neat looking buildings. There’s also a ferris wheel and an upside down pyramid on the island.

odaibaarchitecture

I’ve just finished putting up the video on YouTube about my trip to Odaiba, if you’re interested in seeing all this in motion.

Sunday (today, for me) was spent in Harajuku. I thought I’d take this picture and share it with everyone, though. I was making my breakfast and got a kick out of the bread I purchased. I spent about $1.35 on this loaf of six slices with no heels. It’s very thick and very white. I have yet to see any wheat bread here (except at Subway).

sillybread

I had a bite to eat, then I went and got my Suica card, at last! Suica is a prepaid card that you use on the transportation systems here in Tokyo. It took me maybe 30 seconds to get it. I walked to a nearby station, went up to a machine that dispensed Suica cards, pushed the button saying “get a suica card”, put in 2000 yen (about $20), and voila, I had one. There’s a 500 yen deposit you have to pay (you have to be responsible with this thing – you’re only allowed one), and then 1500 yen was loaded onto the card. You use this card by passing it over the turnstile on your way in and out of the stations, and the required amount is automatically deducted from your card each time. The turnstile displays how much is left, so you know when to recharge it (at the machines, very easy). You can just leave your card in your wallet and touch it to the turnstile – it’s very fast, very easy, and much less hassle than figuring out how much to pay and trying to find the change in your wallet. I can’t believe I didn’t get it sooner!

About a half hour train ride on the Yamanote line (this is the train that makes a big loop around the center of Tokyo) and I arrived at Harajuku station. This place is known for trendy young people fashion and people in crazy costumes. These people, called cosplayers (short for costume play) hang out on a bridge near the station. Unfortunately, there were no cosplayers worth of picture today. There was an older balding guy wearing a tutu and he had a pink bow on his head, but that was just plain sad. I’ll have to go back another time to try and catch some neater costumes.

A couple blocks down the street is the entrance to Takeshita dori, the street where all the trendy clothing shops are located. I took this picture right at the entrance before taking a deep breath and diving into the bowels of trendy Tokyo.

takeshitadori

I moved along at a slow walking pace just looking around at everything. It was hot and people were everywhere. There were quite a few tourists visiting too. I couldn’t imagine trying to keep a tour group together in this area, though. It was insane. Nobody pushed or shoved or anything – mostly people calmly made their way around, but there were just so many bodies and it was such a hot day that the need to just get out of the madness for a minute was pretty important. I wandered a little ways from the main street and found some silly stores:

storemyducks
usedclothingstore
goocy

It started to rain shortly after I arrived, which I was thankful for. I had my umbrella, but most people did not. They took shelter in the stores while I walked down the emptied streets and enjoyed some fresh air. There are some neat little boutiques all along this street and I visited several. The staff were accommodating to me, and everyone I encountered spoke the required English phrases: “Do you want to try it on?” “Did you like it?” “Thank you!” I could speak to them and understand them in Japanese just fine, but at least they were nice enough to try to speak to me in my own language. I made a couple purchases here for much cheaper than I expected. I got a long tunicy-capey shirt that is kind of in the Japanese fashion and some flats that almost look like ballet slippers for about $45 total. I expected this place to be a lot more pricey, but was pleasantly surprised.

I wandered around here for a while but when the rain let up the people came out. They gather in swarms at the stoplights waiting for the light to change to walk across.

toomanypeople

I started to make my way out and checked out little stores here and there as I exited the area. I walked to the neighboring shopping district of Omotesando. There’s a GAP store here. I walked in just to see if it was any different than American GAP stores – it was. While the atmosphere was much the same and the clothing was similar, the staffing was different – they bowed and said “welcome!” when I walked in, but other than that, nothing. No “is there anything I can help you find?” “Can I get a dressing room started for you?” I think the deal here is that there’s just so many people that they can’t start a dressing room for you. Their dressing rooms are just full all the time, so you have to get everything you want, and then go and get your dressing room. On my way out, I swear I ran into the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. The band played at a huge summer festival in Tokyo yesterday, and as I was leaving this guy comes in who looks just like him wearing all kinds of black leathery clothing with tons of unnecessary zippers. He was definitely foreign and looked WAY too warm in all that clothing. I just happened to glance up and make eye contact and after a second I think my eyes got big when I realized who he might be because he looked away as he waved at the woman who said “welcome!” as he entered. I can’t be sure if it was him or not. It’s a mystery! Maybe he was coming in to get a change of wardrobe for the hot weather. Oh well, even if it wasn’t him, at least it was somewhat exciting to think I ran into a famous person.

I did some more shopping and left Omotesando with a new sundress and two new shirts for work in the hot weather. I am very happy to have a few additional things to wear because I’m finding that I need to wash things a lot more often since I get hot and sticky just about every day. So I’m trying to space out the things I wear so I don’t have to wash them each every week. I think these new things will help – thankfully everything was surprisingly affordable.

Tomorrow I head back to work! I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about who we have meetings with…but I’m excited about tomorrow’s meeting: MTV! Wee! I’m sure it won’t be anything beyond meeting a businessman or businesswoman in an office, but the thought of going to a global entity like that is pretty neat.

I’ve got another video on the way from my trip to Harajuku, so keep your eyes peeled on YouTube for that! My screen name is arishaintokyo, so if you search for that, you’ll find me. Click on “ArishaInTokyo” in blue just under the video descriptions to get my channel page. That’s where all my videos are listed. You can make a YouTube account and subscribe to me, too, so you don’t miss any videos (if you find them particularly exciting).

I hope you enjoyed these pictures – I’ll write again soon!

2 Comments

  1. Gram Gram August 10, 2009

    Hi Lish
    Great commentary on your work and sightseeing tours. Take care Tuesday, we hear there might be heavy flooding in Tokyo. Stay on high ground.
    Love You.

  2. Kolesnik1722@gmail.com Kolesnik1722@gmail.com March 13, 2010

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