Japan is a romantic place.
During the winter holidays they take great pride in illuminating their cities with string lights, creating a magical atmosphere resplendent with glittering lights. Neighborhoods throughout Tokyo will go the extra mile with elaborate installations that send you winding your way through department stores to their roof top terraces and back to see it all. While absolutely stunning to view solo, it's always lovely to have company, so when a sweet young local boy named Kazu asked me to accompany him for an afternoon stroll and a bit of light-gazing near Tokyo Station, Hibiya park and Marunouchi it was with joy that I accepted his invitation.
Locals always give the best tours and insights, don't they? ^_^
Kazu was busy with classes during the day so we agreed to meet at Marunouchi, which is accessible from Otemachi & Tokyo Stations via a labyrinthine structure underground. Kazu was attending Tokyo Medical College and his entire family were doctors, from his great grandparents to his aunts and uncles. Something of a family tradition, evidently, huh? After meeting in the underground we emerge surface side to stroll in the late afternoon sun.
Hibiya Koen, near the Imperial Palace, is a short walk from Ginza or Tokyo stations. We walked through the park and shared a chocolate & macadamia bar from a two-storied 711.
Marunouchi is a beautiful neighborhood full of ritzy buildings, statues, immaculately dressed men & women and high-end restaurants… I hadn't really planned ahead for that and wore my beat up old Converse, which earned me some gentle teasing. ^^;
When it was time for a meal Kazu chose a French restaurant/bakery he and his classmates had previously visited as he was eager to share the experience. I ordered a savory crepe made with buckwheat flour.
After our wonderful meal the sun had gone down enough to afford us better views of the city lights. Kazu knew of a building with free admission to an observation deck, so after passing this mysterious green being in the lobby we caught the elevator.
The viewing deck was so quiet and empty I almost had to wonder if we were even allowed up there ^^;;
Upon further research, I came to realize he'd shown me the interior of the Marunouchi building, aka Marubiru. The Japanese have a propensity towards shortening words to make them easier to say and cuter, so why bother saying "Marunouchi building" when you could just say "Marubiru"? Much cuter!
Makes sense, then, why we met at Marunouchi station, huh?
His not so sneaky shadow. :P
It was this photo that actually helped confirm the location for me, as other's have taken quite similar shots from the same location and Tokyo Tower peeking out in the background in the same spot gave a bold visual clue. It's not always easy to pinpoint locations in my travels, as I tend to just wander the cities as I go.
After taking in the view, we walked this beautifully lit street back to the station where we caught the Tozai sen back towards Chiba. My stop was before Kazu's but he let me sit and stood in front of me to help barricade me against the evening crowd of commuters, a gentlemanly gesture. The Tozai line is one of the primary commuter lines for people who live in Chiba but work in Tokyo, so the trains tended to get very crowded! Morning commutes along the Tozai line stops often involved those famous gloved station attendants who'd help cram people into the trains… ^^;
Once in Urayasu, I thanked him for a lovely day and we parted ways with Kazu off to his destination in Gyotoku, a few stops down.
On my way home I popped into the Japanese Wal-mart to find Nausicaa playing as their demo DVD! Fun.
And yes, they do exist and they're quite different from American versions!
I had no clue it was even a Wally World until I found Reese's Peanut Butter cups, which I knew were only available at Wal-Marts in Japan at the time. Maybe that's changed since? I sure hope so!
As it was getting quite cold out, I picked up this fuzzy heat-retaining blanket at Wally World.
Fun fact: when I first moved into my apartment, there were no coverings on any of the windows. I didn't think much of it as the window panes had a fogged effect, but the sliding glass door to my balcony faced my neighbor's front door and was completely clear…and directly across from my closet. Any time I'd go to get dressed after a shower I'd have to hope my neighbors weren't outside or remain covered…not the biggest of inconveniences, so I didn't think too much about it…until one night.
On that fateful night I found myself sprawled across my little black sofa near the open patio door in some skivvies, a heavy tome of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction resting upon my chest. At the time we were still in the grip of the late summer rainy season and leaving the door open allowed a fresh, cool breeze to sweep through the otherwise muggy apartment, providing much needed relief.
But then the crawling feeling of dread the fiction inspired was washed away by something much more insidiously unnerving, the distinct awareness of being watched. Alarmed and uncomfortable, I looked up to see a Japanese man crouching no more than 7' away from me in the rain, his black suit drenched in the downpour. Our eyes met and horrified I jumped up and slammed my door shut as he took off around the corner.
I didn't even know the number for the police! How stupid!
What if he had tried to hurt me?! I was absolutely mortified.
Panic stricken, I reached out to the company.
With my sense of security and safety stripped away by the realization that crouchy McCreeper could have easily jumped over the small barricade between our balconies at any moment, I slept uneasily with a kitchen knife within arm's reach.
When the manager stopped by my location the next day to discuss the incident with me, he laughed and gave me a pat on the back.
"Maybe if you weren't so pretty they wouldn't look?"
Because of that incident, the company agreed to buy me some curtains.
You know, I'd only been living in Japan for a year and all by then. ^^;
Prior to going out with Kazu, my boss took me to a department store to pick out some curtains for my patio door and one set for the 3 windows between the living area and bedroom.
Well... it was better than nothing, right?
I kind of have to wonder how many times that guy had watched me over that year?
This wasn't the last time I saw him, either…
another evening I saw someone creeping around outside my patio- and it wasn't my across-the-way neighbor, because she was a quiet older lady who kept to herself.
By then I had bought myself a bat, and despite wearing little more than some wool leggings and a tank top in the chilly night I rushed outside like Chun Li in an effort to scare or shame him into buggering off for good…to no avail, though, as I think the guy may have been another neighbor who could rush into the safety of his own apartment before I could ever confront him.
I also had a neighbor who would always shower with his windows wide open, bare butt exposed to all who dared enter our front entrance corridor, but that's a story for another day. ^^;;
Have you ever had any creepy experiences while abroad?
Ever had a peeping Tom?
How would you handle it?