Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Finding Stuff in Tokyo

The weather's rotten right now, and has been for a few days. Frankly I've stopped being surprised - Tokyo weather comes in two main varieties, rotten and worse - but it has left me in a bit of a funk which is why I haven't bothered updating the page until now. Thankfully the rain should let up by Thursday, though I'm not holding my breath.

Right now I'm trying to put together my Hallowe'en costume, and the difficulties involved are actually somewhat illustrative of the general difficulties of life in this city. On Saturday, I decided that I'd try and make a Bender costume (that's a Futurama character, for those of you who don't watch enough cartoons.) The costume should be relatively easy to make: all I need is a bucket, some flexible ventilation duct, a few plastic or tupperware (or foam or whatever) bowls, and a sheet of flexible, hard plastic, kind of like a Krazy Karpet. And, of course, duct tape and silver paint.

In Toronto, I'd go down to the local hardware store and probably come out with everything I need. Don't know where the hardware store is? No problem! A brief interlude with google, and I'm set.

Here, that isn't possible. I'm sure Tokyo has what I'm looking for - it's the biggest, richest, most consumerist city on the globe - but finding what you're looking for can be all but impossible. First the language barrier: I'm not even sure what the Nihongo for 'hardware store' is, and if I saw one it would probably be marked with the kanji for hardware store, which I don't know. Then there's the street plan issue: unlike North American cities, which are laid out in a regular grid, Asian cities are basically an organic growth dating back to the first footpaths. No such thing as parallel streets here ... or for that matter street names ... OR even an intelligible numbering system (buildings are numbered in the order in which they were built, not the order in which they appear.)

None of this is insurmountable (though I might just give up and buy a pre-made costume at the Tokyu Hands department store.) But, it gives you an idea of what a gaijin has to go through whenever they try to find something in this city.


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