Japan: A Loner’s Nook

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Japan is a country with a dwindling population, with more elderly than live births. However, looking at videos of rush hour train service and the famous Shibuya crossing, you might think that Japan’s population is huge! This is simply not the case.

Japan is an island with a terrain that is massively mountainous. As a result, the cities and towns that have livable terrain are densely populated. Hence why cities like Tokyo seem so full of people.

To combat this, the Japanese create cities that are vertical. This means that buildings, whether they are commercial or not, are built up. Even a super store like Costco (yes there is one in Japan) is made vertically. The parking deck is on top, while the escalators drop at about a hundred or so feet to the actual store below. Even the shopping carts, which are just as massive as they are in the States, are able to be placed on the escalators for ease.

Even with densely populated cities and vertical buildings, nature is not neglected. Tokyo has many parks and places full of green. The buildings also have places full of foliage too!

Believe it or not, but if you want peace and quiet from the bustling city, you don’t have to find parks or temples, you can simply go to the top of the biggest mall high rises.

Let’s take Futako Tamagawa, a city where I lived for a year while I taught abroad. Futako Tamagawa is located in Tokyo, and easily accessible from the Den-en-toshi line. With easy access to other places in Tokyo such as Shibuya, and Jiyugaoka.

This is a town for mainly families, as you can’t go far without seeing a mother and her child going about their day. There is a park where you can enjoy a stroll. However, during the day, it can be quite busy. I personally liked going to one of the malls called Rise. There are about four distinct malls in the center of town. You can’t miss it!

In rainy weather, you can go underground, which has a ton of eateries and shops. Yet, if you are in search of solitude, head to the top, and I mean the very top of the high rise mall. Since there are about four different malls, access to each roof top varies.

So, let’s start with the mall, Takashimaya.

Picture from att-restaurant.net

With a unique design, this mall has several floors dedicated to shops, eateries, and a wonderful roof top terrace. As you can see, above the brown siding, there are many green shrubs and trees. You can access the roof from the elevator, or from inside via the escalator until you reach the top floor. There are small man made ponds and even a seating area. You may see some mothers with their children, but if you go in cold weather, you are more likely to find it absent of people all together.

Me in a walk way on the roof
Roof Top of Takashimaya from tokyourbanbaby.com
Notice the green escalator on the middle to the left. Now look below.
Going up the green escalator from the street.

You can also get to the mall from the street level via an outside escalator. Just traveling to the malls and navigating them is an adventure I am sure you can enjoy.

From Takashimaya’s rooftop, you can go into the main mall next to it and go up a few more floors from the elevator. These are positioned on the left side if you were to view the building from outside. Going up to the very top floor, you will notice the quiet, almost deafening sound of silence. Here is where many restaurants are located. (I’ll be sure to post a future article on the structure of the Japanese mall).

On this floor, in this particular building, there will only be a handful of restaurants, so there is little traffic. Go to the right from the elevator, and go towards the front of the building. From there, you will see perhaps two more elevators, which give you access to the rest of the mall. This area will only have two elevators and large windows. You can see the beauty of the landscape.

I didn’t know about this place until a week before I had to leave Japan. So I am sure to stop here in the future. There will be no place to sit here, so if you don’t mind being on the floor, sit and relax in complete solitude. Or until someone tells you, you can’t be there.

View from the top floor of the mall next to Takashimaya

Looking at the picture above, you can see the brown windows of the mall I mentioned earlier. The building I am in now is taller. This building also has a green rooftop terrace a few floors down. Their rooftop leads to the one in Takashimaya. Basically they’re both linked.

Now, if you go down the elevator from where I am, you can go all the way down to the street level. Across the street, you may see KFC. On the left of that, is the area that leads to the train station if you were to make a right. You will also be on the low level of the mall called Dogwood Plaza, located to your left. This mall has several floors and includes many stores, and restaurants. The restaurants are located on the top floor. There is no roof access here.

If you go further into the area that is close to the train station, but keep going forward, you will eventually pass a bus terminal. Going forward you will encounter stairs. Go up and look to the left or right.

In this picture, you are coming from the bus terminal and you can go up more stairs to the left or right. From there you can choose the roof top which usually has little to no people. I suggest the stairs to the right above the movie theater. There are high winds so please be careful. There is also a seating area that many people use for quiet relaxing time. Rarely will you have someone on the phone, or using the space to hang out with friends. So if you don’t mind people being around, this can also be a place of quiet comfort.

If you need another place to relax alone, there is an open seating area not on a roof, but going towards the park. Come from the bus terminal, and keep going straight. Looking below, you can see the area is not very busy. Usually this area is empty even with people walking around. The seats are the grey round mounds on the ground. Awkward at first to sit on, they are not too bad. If you have a bad back, I suggest finding somewhere else to sit.

Many cities offer these types of quiet places of refuge. However, Futako Tamagawa is different in that this place is mainly for families and has little to no tourists. So it is not actually as crowded as other places. Going about your day is easy.

Going through the area on the weekend can be a bit more challenging than the weekday. However, I aways say explore and see what you can find. There are always nooks for lonely people, and you never know what you can find.

I hope you enjoyed my post, I hope you can use it for the future. Also, any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

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A Calm State of Mind

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The following are from the countryside in Chiba, Japan.  Just enjoy.  * Play music at the bottom of this post before going through the pictures for an awesome experience.

 

 

The Convenience of Japan

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Hello Groovy People.

This will be a multipart blog series about Japan and all things Japan related.  Since I lived there for a year, I have discovered many things that may help future travelers.  Each section is about different things one may encounter while living abroad in the land of the rising sun.

Trains

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Getting around in Japan can be easy depending on where you are.  If you were in a rural area, or countryside, going places requires a car.   If you live or vacation in Tokyo, then you are in luck.  All the hot spots are just a train stop away.  The best part is that it’s really cheap.  For example, my former town was Futako Tamagawa.  To go to Shibuya, Roppongi, or even Mitaka, cost less than or about 10USD roundtrip.  I guess I can compare traveling from Maplewood New Jersey to New York, which costs 15USD roundtrip.  The best thing about the trains in Tokyo, is that round trips are very cheap, even if the destination is 10 or 40 minutes away.  You basically get more for your money.

Time

The Japanese are known for their attention to detail and punctuality.  Most people in the world like to be one time.  The trains in Tokyo are always on time.  I mean always on time!  It is rare when they are late, and even so, they will apologize to make up for it.  There’s also no guess work about where you get on the train.  The doors always open in designated spots, which are marked, on the station floor.  If you are running late yourself, then there will always be another train ready to take you within minutes.  The massive system that is Japan Railways, is the most organized system around.  I would compare it to the Metro in Washington.

Convenience Stores

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Japan, like America, has many small stores such as 7eleven.  However, while most shops have candy bars and very limited food, Japan’s stores have an abundance of yummies that exceed any other in the states.

Japan has 3 convenience stores that I frequent during my stay.  There was 7eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson.  There are many more, but for now I’ll only speak about the ones I went to.  Each of those 3 stores had delicious, and healthy meals.  They served perfectly portioned bento boxes, which are lunch boxes.  Not the type your mom used to make with the cartoon characters on the side.  These are meals that can vary from rice, meat, and vegetables, or soup bowls, which can include noodles.  There are different types of noodles you can eat.  You can have udon (thick noodles), soba (which is normally eaten cold), or thinner noodles (like ramen).  These soup bowls come with vegetables and/or meat, such as seafood.  There’s normally a sauce or broth that can be heated up by the store clerk at the counter.  They will even ask you if you want your food heated up.  This will be in Japanese, but the sentence is “atame masu ka”.  If you are quick to eat it, then say “hai” which means yes.  Or if you don’t need it heated up, you can say “daijoubu” or that’s ok.

The best thing about convenience stores, is that they all sell similar foods, and many other different ones.  Rice balls are a great lunch or snack.  There are many kinds, like shrimp, salmon, salmon roe (fish eggs), natto (fermented soy beans), and much more.  The variety at these stores is endless, and I only mentioned 3 that I went to.  Trust me when I say there are many more that sell even more yummy options for food.  Did I mention they’re not that expensive?

Daiso

If you are lucky enough to find one of these, then you must go inside!  Daiso is what a dollar store should base their existence around.  They sell anything you need for the house.  You need a small garbage bin, Daiso has it.  You need garbage bags?  Daiso.  You need a belt?  Daiso.  You need picture frames and a yoga mat?  Daiso.  Markers and other stationary for work?  Daiso.  Cups, plates, mugs, bleach?  Daiso.

These are just some of the many things you can buy at Daiso.  The quality is very good, if not out of character for a dollar store.  While some items like a belt may be 2 or 5 dollars, most of the items I mentioned are only 1 dollar.  I bought many things for my apartment from Daiso.  Daiso is what you need for life and yes, you must go.

Wax Food

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Have you ever looked outside a restaurant and thought, can this be a good place to eat?  Then you get inside, sit down, and realize, you hate the food?  Don’t you wish you could see what they are selling like a display window for clothes?  Then Japan has you covered.  Japan has a great way of letting you know what you are getting even before you step inside a restaurant.  There are always wax replicas of the food, usually along with the price.  That way, you can see the portion size and cost, in case you are the frugal type.  Even if you aren’t, reading menus in Japanese can be difficult.  So seeing the food, will let you know what’s inside, and if it’s worth the money.


Japan is a wonderful country.  Not perfect, but the list of convenient things are just breathtaking.  Stay tuned for more information about Japan.  If you want specific blogs about certain things in Japan, please message your comment below.

Until next time…

Readjusting and the Struggle

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Hello groovy people.  It has been a few weeks since I came back to New Jersey and I am busy!  Between working on personal things, I am also trying to find a job.  I started my Kickstarter project, but have very low expectations.  I have been looking at a few editors and places to work on my book.  However, things are at a weird standstill.  Nothing is set in stone, and I’m bored.  Life in New Jersey is very different from Tokyo.

In Tokyo, everything was accessible.  The train station was a five minute walk from my apartment, and it was very cheap to go to any of the other towns.  To get to New York cost $31!  There is literally nothing to do in my current town.  I find myself sleeping more, which is triggering old issues I’ve dealt with in the past.

Overall, I am trying to stay positive, but it is hard.  Although I am lucky to live with my family, and they are supportive, going from an independent woman, to a jobless mooch is hard.  The transition was not easy due to my last week in Japan being a perpetual hell.  Regardless, I will keep making myself get out of bed and complete all of my tasks.

Good news though.  I have recently started working on my fourth book.  It is more science fictiony.  A separate post will be about that book soon.

Until next time…

Hot Tokyo/ Cold Food

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Oh wow I haven’t written anything in weeks. I’ve been adjusting to many things while living in Japan.

We are starting the hot summer months and it is quite humid here.  Being from NJ I am not oblivious to heat or humidity.  We get our fair share of wet days in the summer months too.

I must note that despite coming from a climate that is similar to Japan, I still hate the heat.  It’s not fun and there is no way to relax except for the breeze of an air conditioner.

The Japanese however have made efforts to combat such heat in the form of food.  My friend Naomi had taught me how to make Somen (sow men).  It is a cold noodle dish that is best served with a dipping sauce littered with ice cubes.

This dish is amazing and something that is easy even for me to make.

A great side dish to go with this meal is a fish roll called Chi-Ku-Wa.  Having vegetables with it is also a plus as it will only complement an already healthy meal.

Candles and Things

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It has been a long while since I’ve posted anything.  I am in the middle of Golden Week here in Japan.  I’ve been spending my days hanging out with friends and enjoying my time away from work.

I’ve gone to Harajuku, aka the fashion hub for all the eccentric.  There I went to the Monster Cafe, which is a few minutes from Takeshita Street.  At the cafe there are 4 themed rooms.  Every hour, the “monsters” perform a dance on the moving carousel.  They went to my table and greeted us!  I was star strucked LOL  Even I don’t know why. haha

Another day, I went to Roppongi, aka the foreign hub for all things outsider.  There I was able to get a perm!  Yay!

Today, I went to Shibuya to make a parfait candle.  This is for my mum as she does like the color blue.  I also like the color blue. LOL  I think I will keep this new hobby.

Finally In Japan!

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So a few weeks ago I came to Japan for my job as an English language teacher.  For my free time those first few days, I hung out with my fellow English teachers to a few places like Kyoto and Okayama.  Let’s just say it was so much fun connecting to so many wonderful people.  This kind of support makes living in a foreign country a bit easier.

I’ll try to upload more pictures and write more posts when I’m not too busy.  Working is very busy and now that I have a social life, I find my time for me dwindling.  Finding balance is my goal at this point.  Hahaha