consumerism at its finest
weill in japan: day 18
Another leisurely Saturday has come and gone. Today was a holiday
(Umi no Hi, or Ocean Day) so I celebrated the way most people celebrate
holidays in the U.S. and Japan: I went shopping.
The streets of Kichijoji, a shopping and tourist destination just two
railway stops from my home, were packed with people. My host mother informed
me that schools are now on summer vacation, although I didn't see all that
many schoolchildren on the streets while there. Most of the shops in
Kichijoji were similar to the department stores that I've seen around Tokyo,
but most of the smaller shops cater to a younger audience. I was able to find
several toy and variety stores, t-shirt shops, music stores, karaoke bars,
and of course a healthy supply of arcades.
To blend the old with the new, many of the young women in the area were
wearing their yukata, or summer kimonos. That still didn't stop them
from shopping at the many shops in the area, or even working at those shops.
I also enjoyed a doughnut at Mister Donut, Japan's largest chain, which
promises the "best donuts in the world." They aren't, but they're still
tasty. I might have to make a habit of leaving even earlier in the morning
to visit the Misudo near my home station.
One of the big priorities I have here is to play the games that aren't
available in the U.S. Although there's still a healthy supply of fighting and
puzzle games in Japan as in the U.S., the big attractions are games that
involve some kind of physical challenge. I thought I had seen everything,
but Kichijoji has the arcade which trumps them all: Capcom Plaza.
Located in the basement of the Loft department store (which also has an
outlandish assortment of toys and stationery), Capcom Plaza takes its name
from the massive producer of video games but features games from a variety
of vendors. In addition to the usual assortment of slot machines, pachinko
games, fighting games, and driving simulators, I also saw:
- Dance Dance Revolution, the worldwide stepping sensation. I played
once and failed on my third song. The guy after me played at 1.5-times normal
speed and showed incredible moves. Of course, he's probably played the
- Martial Beat, which is basically the same thing as DDR except that you have
to use your hands as well. In time to various songs, you have to punch and
kick as directed on the screen.
- Virtual horse racing, and virtual soccer: in the soccer game, players use
trading cards to create teams. Up to 20 people play at one time, and
spectators can watch on a huge screen.
- A virtual tennis game played on a large screen.
- A virtual dog-walking simulator consisting of a treadmill and a
leash control. I'm not kidding.
Elsewhere, there were all of the other Bemani games, including Beatmania,
Guitar Freaks, and Keyboardmania. Other music games, like Pop'n Music and
Taiko no Tatsujin, were still plentiful. There was even a heavy bag for people
to punch, which reports the strength of the player's punch. At two punches for
¥100, it wasn't exactly the best value.
The main problem with all this gaming, of course, is that ¥100 isn't
exactly cheap. At that much per game, or even ¥200 for some games, the
money starts disappearing.
I didn't buy too much in Kichijoji, but I came up with some great gift ideas
for friends and family back home. I'll come back a week or two before leaving
once my credit card billing cycle rolls over. My only semi-major purchase: a
FlashDIO USB drive. It works just like a hard drive on PCs and Macs, and I've
already used it to move files back and forth between my Windows XP laptop and
the Windows ME desktop downstairs. With luck, it will replace the floppy disk
that I had to buy to save my work at school.
The routine seems to be going like this: on Saturday I can play around, but
Sunday is reserved for work and studying. I have a fair amount of work to do,
but I'm confident that I can get it all done in time for Monday.