Halloween weekend (plus).

Halloween night in Shibuya. Best avoided.

October was largely uneventful until the end. I made plans to go see Hercules with Aki-chan in Shibuya on the 31st — Halloween — not fully realizing just how bad it would be there. When I stepped out of the station, I was greeted with a sea of costumed people all moving different directions in such a tightly-packed mass that forward progress was genuinely difficult. (By contrast, Akiba’s turnout had been pretty typical.) I’m glad I was early; it took me at least ten minutes to fight my way to a First Kitchen for a quick bite. Next was a quick push to Family Mart for some Cokes, and then through the crowd to Toho Cinemas. Fortunately, the crush was much less as I got farther from the station. Aki had the same problem I had getting to the theater. She’d already bought the tickets (since I’d paid for us to see Guardians of the Galaxy), but we had plenty of time before it started, so we stopped in at the Krispy Kreme right next door and had a doughnut before going up.

After the movie, we found it much easier to move around, though it was still fairly congested near the station. The Yamanote, however, was uncomfortably packed with people pushing both on and off the train. Next Halloween, I’ve decided to stay away from Shibuya.

Meanwhile, my work schedule was entering a state of flux. Akabane had its permanent replacement, meaning I’d be moving to Ooimachi on weekends, but not right away. See, I had been offered a chance to have Sunday the 2nd off in exchange for working Monday the 17th in Ginza. A Sunday off meant I might be able to make plans with friends who were usually busy, so I took it. As for that Saturday, I’d be in Monzennakachou (“town built around a temple”), another school I’d taught in once during training.

Saturday in Monzen went pretty well. I had met one of the instructors from before, and one of the people from my training sessions was also there. My lessons were good, too, with attentive students (including one energetic little girl who eagerly did her lesson and then chased me around the room once we’d finished). Sunday was a bust, though; my plans fell through, so I puttered around the city with no real direction.

Satoshi and I taking advantage of the free photo service.

I’d managed to get hold of Satoshi, my friend who works at SMBC, who had moved to Tokyo a few months before I did, and we’d decided to hang out for a while on Monday — at least until he had to go to a friend’s wedding ceremony. We met in Shinbashi, but walked to neighboring Ginza. Satoshi wanted shabu-shabu for lunch, and he knew just the place. Monday was also a holiday (Culture Day), so there were plenty of people out shopping. We found the building with his shabu-shabu restaurant, and I was surprised at how much different it was from when I’d gone with Yumi in Okazaki. This place was higher-end, with a simpler broth for the meat (rather than multiple flavored choices), and the extras were predetermined (rather than a food bar off to the side). We got one plate of beef and one of pork and shabu’ed our way through a pretty tasty lunch. (If I’m being honest, though, I liked the one I had two years ago better.)

Satoshi and I walked around a bit before deciding we needed to actually do something, so I mentioned I’d never been to Tokyo Tower. A couple subway trains and a short walk later, and there it was: Tokyo Tower. I’d been close twice, but just didn’t have the time to visit. There was some sort of live event outside of the entrance on a stage set up to one side, but we were on a mission. It cost 900円 to go to the first observation deck, which was about 150 meters up and afforded a great view of the surrounding city. (Going to the second deck cost an additional 700円, which I wasn’t keen on paying and Satoshi said wasn’t really worth it.) I got some good photos from the deck, and then went down one level to an area with glass windows in the floor (called “Lookdown Windows”).


It had been three years since I’d run across this view.

After that, I walked with him to his train station (since that was the extent of my plans for the day). We passed through the grounds of a temple we’d seen from above. They were having some sort of huge event, with a foreign singer (singing in Japanese), crowds of people, and food vendors down by the entrance. As we walked through the massive gate, I turned around and realized that this was the temple Heaven, Warren, and I had walked to three years before on my first trip to Japan! As Satoshi and I walked closer to the station, I also realized I was in Hamamatsuchou. With no reference three years ago, it has never occurred to me to check where I’d been. I bid Satoshi goodbye at the station and walked up toward the Pokémon Center. There was some sort of event happening there as well (Culture Day, remember?), with food stands and a massive bounce-house Pikachu for the kids. I got a couple pictures and then headed into the city for a bit before going home.

Back to my changing work schedule: I had been asked a week and a half before if I would switch my Thursday evenings from Kamata to Oomori (“big forest”) for the month of November. Eventually I figured out that it wasn’t so much a request as it was an order, and it wasn’t so much temporary as permanent. They’d hired a full replacement for Kamata, so I was being shifted to Oomori — two stations and a short walk away, just like Kamata — until further notice. Fortunately, it wasn’t entirely new to me. Besides knowing that part of Oomori, I also knew the receptionist, Nana (who’d trained at Tamachi a couple months prior), and had had kids’ training with one of the instructors. They actually started me with kids, but the day went fairly well.

The final part of my new schedule came on the weekend, when I finally switched to Ooimachi (“big well town”). It turns out that it’s an old school, but in a really new location, and with fairly new instructors. Both days went just fine, but Sunday was unusual in that the new girl from Tamachi worked as the receptionist on Sunday because the regular one was in a wedding. There doesn’t seem to be much in Ooimachi unless you’re near the JR station, but I think I could find nearly anything I needed there.

That pretty much covers things from the end of October until the new changes in my schedule took place. Now that I’ve been here almost three months, not much new really happens to me any more, and that’s a good thing. I’ve settled into a routine and have familiar places I can visit, which I take as signs I’m getting comfortable with my new life. I haven’t yet regretted my decision to move to Japan.

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