36,000,000 + 1 / by Deborah Clague

Japan. Land of the rising sun, Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, and the future in all its tangible forms. 

Also, land of extremely weird shit. 

I'm surprised I made it here. I didn't think I would. Choosing to stop-over at Calgary International Airport was a mistake I will not repeat. The physical layout of it is, itself, problematic (some of which could be blamed on current construction at the main terminal), but add to that confusing signage and staff that aren't really sure what's happening and it's a wonder more people don't miss their flights. The following is an actual conversation I had with someone employed there: 

"Excuse me, where do I go to make an international, non-U.S. flight connection?"

"Well, ensure you have your U.S. customs forms filled out and stand in this line right here."

"Uhm, but I'm not actually going to the U.S. though. I'm flying direct to Tokyo, Japan on Air Canada. Is this still the right line?"

"You still need to have a customs form filled out."

"Okay, but I'm not sure why. I'm not traveling to the United States."

"Yes, but you are flying over it."

"…"

As this was the fourth person I asked where to make my connection, none of which knew where I should be, my patience was running as short as the time I had. I didn't have the heart to say anything though, as I'm not convinced this person actually knew where Japan was. 

It would take two more people to tell me where to make my connection. 


Tokyo is a shopper's paradise. And as it has been raining non-stop since I've arrived, this is how I've been spending my time thus far.

I spent day one in the Shibuya district which is a great place to watch your money magically disappear. High-end shops, such as Chanel and Burberry, line Omotesandō, a main boulevard comparable to the Champs-Élysées in Paris. While nearby Harajuku showcases the best, comparatively affordable, trends in youth culture. I personally enjoy walking around this area to observe the cutting-edge street-fashion; Tokyoites are famous for being nonconformist. In a city of over 36,000,000 people, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. Style favours the bold. 

Thrift stores line the side-streets of this area. These are a great place to get high-end, rarely worn clothing at a fraction of the price if one is willing to spend time combing the racks for it. For example: I had always wanted a cowichan sweater but they are incredibly expensive in Canada, averaging a couple hundred dollars for a new one. During a previous visit to Japan, I bought one that was in pristine condition at a thrift store for the equivalent of $30 CDN. 

My haul from day one included clothes, a wood iPhone case, clothes, Japanese paper products, clothes, figurines of a Japanese cartoon character that looks like my dog Monty, and more clothes. Let day two begin! 

View from my hotel room at the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku (©Deborah Clague)

View from my hotel room at the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku (©Deborah Clague)

Takeshita Street, the gateway to Harajuku (©Deborah Clague)

Takeshita Street, the gateway to Harajuku (©Deborah Clague)

Shopping mall entrance in Shibuya (©Deborah Clague)

Shopping mall entrance in Shibuya (©Deborah Clague)

The ultra-contemporary Audi building in Shibuya (©Deborah Clague)

The ultra-contemporary Audi building in Shibuya (©Deborah Clague)

Interactive display outside an aromatherapy shop in Shibuya (©Deborah Clague)

Interactive display outside an aromatherapy shop in Shibuya (©Deborah Clague)

North America needs more "cute" food (©Deborah Clague)

North America needs more "cute" food (©Deborah Clague)

From Daiso, an item that is truly "only in Japan" (©Deborah Clague)

From Daiso, an item that is truly "only in Japan" (©Deborah Clague)