Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Japanese New Year Trip 2014 - Day 3 (Reunions)

At the start of the day, Ryan and I had arranged to meet with Masami. We both knew Masami from Leeds Met where she was one of the Japanese students involved with the study group we joined. Last year, after finishing her course, she had returned home to Japan so we were looking forward to a reunion.

With both our very busy schedules, today would be the only day we would get to meet, so we seized the opportunity after some careful planning. The weather did not start out so great as the rain did not stop all morning. This proved to be a little problematic for Ryan and Kyle who ventured out to buy much needed supplies. Sure enough, upon their return they resembled survivors of Noah's flood (bringing with them a breakfast of hamburgers - we haven't really had a Japanese breakfast yet).

But true to form, Ame Kami (Rain God) answered our prays and the rain stopped. Unfortunately this came too late for Ryan and Kyle who were looking at me with with worryingly angry expressions.

And now for something completely different (Miis with cat ears)

 Upon arriving at the station, and successfully navigating the stations, we made it to our rendezvous. This did involve a little heated debate regarding whether we needed to get to the east exit or the Seibu east exit. Ikebukuro isn't quite as complicated as Shinjuku (that station has more exits than any other station I've seen, I wouldn't be surprised if there were more exits than lines!) but still has enough exits to make it difficult to arrange meetings at. Sure enough, Ryan was proven correct although in my defence, the two exits are next to each other (okay, that's not much of a defence).

It wasn't long after lunch time and none of had eaten yet (well other than our "breakfast" of hamburgers) so lunch was the first order of business. Masami suggested a ramen restaurant called Hakatta Ippudo (http://www.japan-food-kitchen.com/index.php/view/158). In stark contrast to some of my previous trips, I'd so far avoided the ramen diet so it seemed like a nice change.
Ramen!
I can strongly recommend Hakatta Ippudo, I've been told by Masami that they've opened a branch in London, definitely going to have to check that out some time.

We chatted about how things were going and what we all had gotten up to over then past year. After finishing our noodles Masami offered to show us around Ikebukuro. Our tour started with shopping, Masami suggested checking out the Hello Kitty shop (yes, there is such a thing!). We had to see it to believe it, seriously, I don't think I've ever seen so much Hello Kitty related merchandise in one place! Next on the tour were an electronics store and an alcohol shop. The latter was quite interesting, there was an apple flavoured sake and a sparkling sake available to try. The sparkling sake was nice, I decided against buying a bottle after being told that it's popular with young women (a point that Ryan and Masami found hilarious) but did opt to buy a bottle of the apple flavoured one.

Ryan was interested in buying a sushi cover for his suitcase (I'd love to see a baggage carousel filled with those!) so Masami suggested the Tokyu Hands in Sunshine City. Unfortunately the covers in question were nowhere to be found, Masami seemed to think that they might only be available in Haneda Airport.

Time was running out (we needed to return for the evening activities Kyle had planned) so we finished up at an arcade where we were treated to a display of Masami's Mario Kart skills. I was introduced to Taiko no Tatsujin. This is a music game that involves beating a drum to the players choice of song (think drum version of guitar hero/rock band, with cute drum mascots). Let's just say that I have absolutely no rhythm whatsoever.

Before parting ways at the train station, a kind gentleman helped take a group photo. We said our goodbyes then Ryan and I left Ikebukuro for Minami Koshigaya and the evening of entertainment Kyle had planned. Hopefully we'll be able to meet up again sometime, it was a nice afternoon.
Reunion

In Minami Koshigaya we met with Kyle and his friend Mizushima San (a friend from the local reading circle). Once again, I had met Mizushima San earlier in the year whereas this was a new introduction for Ryan. Kyle was hoping to get a drink and some food at the standing bar (I don't think this was it's name but that's what he called it). Unfortunately they were full so they helpfully suggested that we try Yamachan for some yakitori.

The food at Yamachan was great and the restaurant had a great atmosphere. We chatted for a while over food and drink, the next activity was Karaoke (something that I required a little liquid courage for). Readers, you may consider yourselves fortunate that I'm typing this and not singing this. You see, I have absolutely no singing abilities whatsoever. The fact that Kyle insists that I try to sing a few songs each trip suggests to me that he must be a complete masochist.

Karaoke did provide an opportunity for a little humour. Mizushima San is doing very well with English but doesn't know much about the cruder side of the English language so we decided that he needed to learn more about English (or at least British) swearing. Bearing this in mind, I opted to sing "Going Underground" by The Jam but with some... different lyrics. The lyrics in question were "London Underground" by Amateur Transplants (I pretty much had the lyrics to that particular song memorized). Here's a video of the song in question, please be aware that it contains very strong language.

After my ritual humiliation (and the punishment of the eardrums of all present), things had become a bit quieter at the standing bar so we went for a drink there (it was close to last orders) before returning home.

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