Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day with Yukari

Today I met up with Yukari, one of my Japanese friends. We met at a GL lunch chat session. She is really sweet and speaks unbelievable English. On her suggestion we went to Sunshine City mall at Ikebukuro. In the mall they have a place called Namja. Its really hard to explain, but basically you pay a few dollars and you get to enter the establishment.

It is kind of like a theme park in that the decorations and set up are portraying like an "old Japan." Idk what Namja is exactly, but there were samurai dressed animated looking cats that I believe are their mascot/trademark. Yukari said that the Namja at Ikebukuro is the only one, its not a chain. There were a lot of kids there but also a lot of couples and young people. Apparently Ikebukuro is really popular with young adults. Even though it is a stop on my way home from school, this is the first time I have gone outside the station. Lol.

I don't know exactly home many floors Namja was, but it seemed like it had to be at least 3 or 4. Each floor had some specialty on it. One had multiple gyoza stands. The room was set up to mimick a crowded street filled with street vendors and it surprisingly looked the part. Little stores lined the zig-zagging street. And every place had various versions of gyoza with different fillings, gyoza in soup, oily ones, non-oily ones, basically every kind you could imagine. We ate at the one that was the first to establish itself there. There was a little grandma who was welcoming people to the stand. Her picture was everywhere around the booth, so we assumed she was the owner. We chose their best selling gyoza and it was delicious :)

The next floor had an ice cream museum. A ton of weird and strange flavors. They came in really small dixie cup sized pre-packaged dishes. For between $3-5 you could buy ones that tasted like nori, wasabi, tako (octopus), sakura, azuki, an unbelievable assortment. There had to have been at least 100 different flavors. Further in there were shops that sold ice cream from various parts of the world. Italian gelato, Belgium, Hong Kong, soft cream, and Hokkaido ice creams. We went with Hokkaido, which was like soft serve in a crepe. Really really good. I cannot get enough of the ice cream they have here.

There was another area with desserts like cakes and various other sweets that we had to pass up. Also a floor with services like massage and other beauty related sorts. However, we did stop at the arcade. The prizes they have are so cute, but nearly impossible to win. Disappointing but to be expected.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the mall and eating/chatting at McDonalds. The service at McDonalds here is really fantastic. The place was crowded so one of the employees found us a table, another person was clearing people's trays for them, and yet another was directing customers to the shortest line at the counter when they were ordering. McDonalds is much more hip and clean here then it will ever be in the US.

Learned a lot about Yukari and Japan in general today. She is really quite amazing. She has studied in California and Australia. Her dad lives more then half the year in Hong Kong, due to his job at an international company. So she has also visited him there and traveled to China and Korea. She's gone to private Catholic school her whole life. Furthermore Yukari will be studying at a language school in Vancouver during summer break. People here amaze me. And it is great to have a Japanese informant.

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