Monday, December 06, 2004

Shop 'til you drop

It seems very strange to be shopping for Christmas presents in Japan this year. Last year at this time, I had no idea I'd be living in Tokyo when the next Christmas rolled around.

I've ventured out twice now to shop for gifts to take home when I leave on vacation in a couple of weeks. What do you take to friends and family in America?

One of the places I just had to go to shop was Shibuya. There are Christmas decorations everywhere, and it looked very festive. Even though it was windy today, the temperature wasn't that cold, so it was quite comfortable. Well, that is until I walked into the stores. While it's around 50F (10C) outside, the stores maintain an even 80F (26C) inside, which might be fine for the lightly-dressed shop clerks, but for the people wearing coats, mufflers and gloves, it's unbearably hot.

Even at work, the Japanese staff want to keep the building at 80F, which is their comfort zone but certainly not the comfort zone for most of us who come from other countries. In America, almost all business offices keep their thermostats set at 68F (20C), all year long.

I was happy to get a good part of my shopping completed in only two trips, the one today to Shibuya and Harajuku, and the one last week to Harajuku. Next week I'm going to Shinjuku to shop with another friend who will show me some of her favorite places.

In Harajuku, while walking down one of the narrow streets today, I noticed quite a few people running out of shops carrying t-shirts and marking pens. It seems that somebody famous was shoping there, which stopped traffic everywhere while people asked for autographs. I didn't recognize him, but he looked African-American, was very large, and dressed in a silver-colored jogging suit and baseball cap. I figured he was either an athlete or a rap singer, but don't know for sure.

Harajuku is, so far, one of my favorite places in Tokyo. Its wide, tree-lined streets remind me of cities such as New York or Paris. It's also where I've seen the most foreigners. It seems very beautiful and cosmopolitan, and there are so many interesting shops, including a plethora of retro 80s shops. Remember those leggings I mentioned last summer? Well, I guess they're just part of this hugely popular retro look. I suppose big hair and shoulder pads will soon follow.

No comments: