Friday, August 17th, 2001:

I conquered the subway, but the streets conquered me.

My first subway ride was an exhausting, white-knuckled affair. Why, you ask? Well, for starters have a gander at this map. Then realize that no less than three different companies lay claim to some part of the system, so transferring lines ain’t easy, and is in some cases impossible. Then there are the fares. Passengers wishing to buy tickets are presented with a large system map, with a specific fare listed for each station. So just buying tickets is daunting in itself, even for locals!

Luckily, the subway database on my Palm was an accurate source for any subway line and direction that I needed. Also, had I purchased an incorrect fare (I didn’t), I could have paid the difference in the fare adjustment office that every destination station has. Once on the subway itself, the air-conditioning provided some much-needed relief for my cold sweat, and a reassuring voice announced each station through the intercom as we approached it. Whew!

My first of two stops was Akihabara, the electronics mecca. The best way I can describe it (to Canadians) is if you took Toronto’s Active Surplus, knocked the roof off of it and spread it out over several city blocks. I got my copy of the Tokyo Bus Guide video game, but couldn’t find the maracas for Samba de Amigo, though I’m very proud of the pantomime I did to explain to the shopkeepers what I was looking for…

Feeling some hubris, I then proceeded directly to the Ginza area… Shopping for tourists and the well-heeled, big deal. When I passed the Warner Brothers store I knew it was time to leave, but not before a return visit to the Ginza franchise of the Japanese fast food chain I had discovered the day before. Five minutes of frantic pointing and either saying “hai” or shaking my head “no” rewarded me with a combo meal featuring the Japanese version of the Big Mac — two layers of beef, a regular burger patty below and teriyaki on top — now that’s good eatin’!

After a brief return to command central (my hotel room), I set out on foot to explore Harajuku and Shinjuku. I found a site that some designer-guy made for his visiting friends, and planned to use the bigger stores mapped out on it as landmarks to guide me. The sun was just starting to set, so by the time I got to Shinjuku I would be able to see it in all it’s Blade Runner-like glory.

Unfortunately I never made it. Harajuku was easy to find, and I would have been happy staying there if I was interested in overpriced vintage clothes from the States. But I took a right instead of a left at the Diesel store, and ended up near a baseball stadium.

Today I’m meeting up with an acquaintance who visited my nerd school class at the Film Centre; I’m looking forward to having an extended conversation in English!

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