Shimo-Kitazawa


I had another thing on my list of stuff-to-do-in-Tokyo that I hadn’t gotten around to yet.clock A few years ago i came across this article about a Japanese guy making these totally outlandish watches and after seeing that I knew that I had to try and buy one if I ever found myself in Tokyo. So I enlisted the help of Okamoto-san to figure out where this guy is located and she told me that I should go to an area called Shimo-Kitazawa. It involves a fair bit of train-hopping but when I finally find myself there I’m treated to a really cozy neighborhood with cramped, snaking streets, small shops and generally a relaxed mood. Talking with Ken the following day revealed that I accidentally stumbled over one of Tokyo’s prime sights in his opinion. He compared Shimo-Kitazawa to Stockholm’s Söder (the most bohemian part of Stockholm) and where a lot of new bands are discovered and so on. Anyway, I had a very good time just walking around and taking in the atmosphere and the fact that the store selling the handmade watches didn’t currently have any for sale hardly mattered.

Another thing I’ve had on my to-do list was to get a Docomodake phone charm. But anytime I’ve been into a Docomo store (or a regular phone charm store) I haven’t been able to find any. This time I decided to actually ask a staffer and he excitedly disappeared and then reappeared with a whole bunch of them. I’m was rather happy and annoyed at the same time at how easy it had been. They were even free! I also bought some really cool clothes, a pair of shoes and had a special kind of iced latte where you got a glass of regular milk filled with ice cubes made out of coffee, really nice!

MorayWalking back to the station I notice a little crowd sitting on the sidewalk around some dude that in the light of a flashlight is reading aloud from a manga while doing voices for all the characters. Even though I don’t understand a thing it is hugely entertaining and I stay for the entire time. I sure lucked out when deciding to to Shimo-kitazawa!

Come Friday my fika is an unmitigated success, the Japanese love the novelty and all the Swedes love the familiar taste of home. Me, Thomas and Horiguchi-san go out for AW in the Bay Quarters and end up at the hilariously named “Ask a Giraffe”. Unfortunately the name is about the only thing that is good about that place, for instance we get to wait like 40 minutes for a 80 sek pizza that is 20 cm in diameter and doesn’t even taste very good.

The Saturday brings another dive trip, this time to Zushi. This is a very nice site and actually accessible by regular train right out of central Tokyo without having to switch trains even once! But we take the car as usual. Claudia and Enrique are also tagging along since they will be doing their first pool dives at the same place. Mariko-san have been bugging me about having too much weights so this time I try with as little as 2 kg (with a 5 mm full wetsuit and steel tank), which turns out to be juuust enough to get down if you breathe properly during the descent. This is a boat dive and the site is almost like a miniature underwater mountain range teeming with life. I see lots of yellow morays, nudibranches, various fish I’m unfamiliar with and also some supposedly poisonous sea urchin that we take care to stay away from. The layout of the site gives you all manner of environments all rolled into one; you get wall diving, shallow plateau with lots of light, sandy bottom where you can peek under rocks. The only bummer is the somewhat poor visibility.

We get lunch at a nearby, very cozy, restaurant with tasty tempura and go back to the dive shop to log our dives. Mariko-san had earlier asked me if I wanted to hang around for that evening’s fireworks display and in accordance with my yes-policy I agreed. That meant that I had to spend the entire afternoon awkwardly conversing with Umeda-san since Enrique and Claudia left after we were done logging and took the train back.Fireworks Mariko-san hangs around for a while though and takes the opportunity to tell me that she knows this really nice Japanese girl that I should meet. This deserves some background though: My colleague Tore, the guy that told me about Mariko-san, actually met his wife when working for Mariko-san as a dive master. So now, devious and business minded as she is, Mariko-san has a plan. She will hook me up with a nice Japanese diver girl and then I will settle in Japan and work for her as a dive master. Foreign dive masters are very popular in Japan for two reasons; it’s easier to get foreign customers if they know that there will be someone who speaks good English along and you also get more Japanese customers since they like the opportunity to practice their English. There is a good reason behind that Mariko-san has kept the picture of an English guy who briefly worked for her years ago up on her homepage.

The evening finally arrive and we go out with boat in the middle of the bay and wait for the fireworks. The fireworks turn out to be really stupendous, they clearly haven’t been stingy when buying. I have no idea how long it went on to be honest, but it felt like a continuous barrage for upwards to half an hour with really beautiful arrangements. After a while I got bored though, some kind of sensory overload I guess. When I finally get back to the dive center, at around ten in the evening, Mariko-san phones the girl in question up and simply hands me the phone! What follows is probably the most awkward conversation I’ve ever had. Turns out that the girl barely knows any English beyond “Hi” and “My name is”, so after a lot of humming and other fruitless attempts at conversation I hand the phone back to Mariko-san who claims that the language barrier is no problem at all! I will see when I meet her next Saturday when we go on another dive trip!

On Sunday I hang out in Shinjuku and find a really cool OIOI store (OIOI is a department store chain) which basically has one floor per fetish. You have the creampuff thing, where the girls dress up in huge platform shoes, pink dresses with lots of petticoats, lots of makeup to make the eyes bigger, elbow gloves and sometimes even a little umbrella. The entire staff are dressed like that and it’s just adorable. Another floor has the goth lolita getups and a third one has the rockabilly outfits.

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