Weill in Japan Jason Weill Web Productions
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a day of rest

weill in japan: day 39

Week 5 was a rollercoaster week to say the least, and week 6 will be no less stressful. That's why I'm grateful that I took a day off to catch up on sleep.

The day started fairly late as I slept in, making up for the late nights and early starts of the past week. After a quick shower, it was off to Akihabara for the third and last time. My tasks were simple but clear: find a few used games for a friend of a friend, and buy a small watch-type battery for my desk clock. The latter task was quickly accomplished at one of the many small electronics shops just outside the station, but the former took hours out of the day.

Navigation in Japan is somewhat tricky, especially for someone like me who gets lost easily in the U.S. Only major roads have explicit street signs and names. After that, addresses are given by large administrative districts (chome), block numbers, and building numbers. There are area maps posted near stations, but they are often confusing and littered with ads posted by local businesses. Since I didn't have any particular shops in mind, this didn't bother me too much. The complicated nature of addresses might be a clue as to why in-car navigation systems are so plentiful and popular.

My third trip to Tokyo's electric town brought me a lot further out than in the past, as I sought smaller used-game stores. Naturally, low-profile shops include some of the seedier shops, which stock knock-off merchandise and untold acres of pornography. There were several stores where I consulted the guide, went to the floor labeled "games," and failed to notice the word "adult" on the sign before entering a completely pink showroom. People are discreet about this sort of stuff, so I just nonchalantly made my way out.

One nice feature about not being Japanese: I can pretend not to know the language to get people to stop bothering me. This almost worked at one of the small shops I visited early on, but then the store owner started spitting random English words at me instead. I left.

Akihabara is a popular destination for electronics-crazed foreigners, but I didn't really notice that until today. Everywhere I went, I noticed crowds of Americans, Australians, Europeans, and people from elsewhere in Asia. A couple of the duty-free shops hire fully bilingual employees, which surprised me when I heard a customer talking with a salesman in fluent English. This area is a nice place to go to buy electronic goods, but not to learn Japanese immersively.

Another thing I hadn't quite noticed until today: Akihabara seems to be the center of Japan's inventive PC modification scene. Many of the stores I visited had elaborately modified PCs to draw in crowds. One of them had a completely clear case, a drive-bay-mounted fan control, and a camera mounted in a hole on the side. Common accessories like rounded cables, lighted tubes, and fans of all shapes and sizes are on display. Prices are comparable to what you'd pay in the U.S., since nearly all the goods are made in China or southeast Asia and subject to import duty. Seeing that I'm running light on cash, I managed to peel myself away from these stores before I bought anything.

Dozens of shops, miles of walking, liters of drinks, and one Mister Donut later, I left Akihabara with little to show for my efforts. The six games on my list were all available, but for more than I was willing to pay. I bought only the small battery mentioned earlier and a headphone adapter for my SwanCrystal. The adapter, about ¥1700 ($14.20), adds a volume dial and headphone port to the right side of the unit. It's annoying that Bandai didn't include this in the unit itself, since I have to unplug the adapter when I want to use the internal sound. At least the quality is good, and the store accepted credit cards. I also found that I could have saved a few thousand yen on the three games I bought this week had I bought them in Akihabara, but the used games I bought for a friend of a friend in Kichijoji were a fairly good deal. Used games are hard to compare, since price is based largely on condition.

The day ended with a nice dinner at a family-type restaurant near my home with my host parents. Amusingly enough, my host mother struck up a conversation with the family next to us, goading me into helping them out with the English translation for kabutomushi ("rhinoceros beetle" according to my dictionary, but most Americans would just call it a "beetle") and saying "Hello" to their very shy son.

It was a tiring day to cap off a very tiring week, but there's no time to rest on Sunday. I have a test on Monday that I have to study for, and a few assignments to take care of in the meantime.