Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 12 – Tokyo)

Wednesday, Nov 02 2022 (Day 12)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukicho (You are here)

Today’s adventures largely involved visiting the same places I visited yesterday, but in the reverse order, with the morning and early afternoon being dedicated to Sophia University, and the proper Day 1 of its Sophia Festival 2022, whereas the night saw me (briefly) walking around Shinjuku, specifically its Kabukicho neighbourhood. In between, and in the evening, there was a bunch of upkeep that I had to do, for example trying to figure out how to book Shinkansen tickets online (it seems that I can’t use the online booking website, unless I had ordered the JR Pass specifically from them in the first place and not through a travel agent, which is weird), and working on actual work tickets, as apparently my team is getting swamped due to certain changes that the powers that be implemented at work. Fun.

I woke up nice and early, finished my blogging for the day, and then headed off to Sophia University at around 10:25 am. The university isn’t very far from where I’m staying, so I decided to just walk there instead of taking the train, which took me about 20 minutes or so at a leisurely pace. I brought along my booklet from yesterday, resolving to hit as many club displays as possible in what would be my first ever school festival.

Sophia Festival 2022

Upon arriving, the first things on display were the food and refreshment stands, 19 of them in total, with stores selling everything from french fries to churros to yakisoba to chocolate bananas to burritos to soup and more. There wasn’t really any crossover between food stalls that I remember seeing, implying that there was a level of coordination in terms of what stores were selling so as to offer as wide a variety as possible. However, this also meant that even though the festival ran from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on this first days, many of the stalls were actually sold out of their food by 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm. But I had skipped breakfast, so I had started off my excursion by targetting those food stalls anyway, so this wasn’t a problem for me. Specifically, I started off with…

Oden from the Diving Club (400 yen):

Fruits Anmitsu from TFT Sophia (300 yen, with 20 going to charity):

and Fries from the Sophia Times newsletter club (250 yen):

There were benches to sit on and enjoy the food, and large curated bins to toss the recyclable cups and stuff in afterwards, with staff watching people like hawks to make sure they’re using the right bins.

Much later on in the afternoon, after I had made my round of the clubrooms, I also grabbed a meat bun for 200 yen from the Smash Tennis Club. It was scorching hot!

The central festival grounds area, between where the two groups of food tents and the outdoor stage were all set up, was filled with club members picketing with signs or handing out pamphlets promoting their food booths or classroom. I picked up some to scan later, but definitely did not collect them all, as it was quite chaotic with everyone constantly wandering around. Here are some outdoor pictures of the festival:

After I was done with that, I went into the buildings where the clubs were having their displays, one club per classroom, with 55 of them spread out over 14 floors in 3 different buildings, plus some random one-off locations. I walked across all 14 floors, looking at what the various clubs had set up, though I skipped all the performances (largely by the musical groups, though there were a few other groups doing things like comedy skits too, I think). I could still by and large hear the performances from outside while I was passing by though, but they only started at certain times, and the doors were usually closed while the performances were taking place, preventing people from entering or leaving, so that would have been a time commitment that I didn’t have, to wait around until a performance was starting and then committing to the full length of the show. Some were free and some were not.

Other clubs had displays, from things like books and art to posters to elaborate structures made out of I’m not even sure what. There were also cafés, easily a dozen of them, a couple where the stuff were dressed up in traditional costume, or cosplay of some kind. I went into one, run by the Kinomaru(?) Literature Research Club:

Where one of the nice girls in pretty costume explained to me what the menu items were (mostly cookies, sweets, and tea), and offered me a small book that they had published (I think.. not like I can actually read it without a dictionary and poring over words very closely) to read while I ate/drank. I had a cookie themed after Natsume Sōseki’s famous “Tsuki ga Kirei desu ne” quote, plus a small bottle of tea, which came to 300 yen in all, and also came with a little free bookmark with his famous quote printed upon it. The quote literally translates to “the moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” but in the context of the work, has transcended into an intertextuality that everyone knows is also a declaration of love. Anyway it literally was just two cookies shaped like the moon, but it was extremely cute. I ended up buying their book for 300 more yen as well.

There were many other clubs as well, and I ended up picking up a bunch of periodicals, journals, and little books from various clubs to bring home and eventually scan and archive. I was very happy about this (as this sort of media greatly appeals to my archivist side) but it did get a little expensive and heavy after a bit, so bringing it all back home will be a bit of an ongoing challenge in terms of bag space. So far so good though. I also picked up some stuff from clubs that I wanted to support, like pride stickers from the Gender Equality for Sophia club, and a banana chocolate chip cookie from the Green Sophia club (I hope the plastic wrapper was renewable though):

As a sister gallery to the one above, here are some indoor pictures of the festival:

I also got to take a picture with Sophia University‘s mascot, who is apparently named Sophian-kun.

Oddly enough, after all was said and done, i didn’t see a single no-photography signs at the event itself, but I just saw a no photography request in the festival guidebook which you had to pay money to receive, while flipping through it for this blog post. Tons of people were openly taking photos anyway and I did ask a couple of the clubs in their classrooms if it was okay and they said yes (one said no and I respected that).

In general, at least at public events, I think the importance of archiving (not necessarily by me — for example, an official recording of a concert or wedding where guests are asked not to record, saved somewhere in some form afterwards, would satisfy this) trumps the importance of privacy, though, so I’m happy at least that this wasn’t enforced.

Anyway, I stayed there until around 1:45 pm before walking back to my hotel and deposiiting my loot into my stash.

Dinner

After recharging both my and my phone’s batteries, I ventured out to look for dinner. This time, I was targetting a certain ramen festival in Shinjuku called the Otsukemen Haku or Big Tsukemen (Noodle) Fair. For this, I took the train to the actual Shinjuku station, and promptly got very lost in it, especially when I tried to first stop by the JR East ticket office to book some bullet train/shinkansen tickets. The office closed at 5pm though so I was too late by then regardless, which was annoying. But there was a large underground mall/walkway area around Shinjuku, which I walked around for a bit distractedly. (The *other* ticket office, which I photographed below, was still open and had long queues, but it wasn’t the one for foreigners and had big signs on the window asking foreigners to go to the other, closed, one that was a level or two up.)

I then hit the streets, heading north from Shinjuku Station to the neighbourhood of Kabukichō, as I headed toward Okubo Park where the event was being held.

Okubo Park itself was ensnared by barriers:

I had to pass a temperature check thing to get in, but admittance itself was free, since one would be paying for the ramen inside. Inside, ten stalls or so were set up along two rows on opposite ends of the park, with a bunch of benches and tables set up in the middle as an eating area (and standing-only tables set up on the sides as well). The actual selection of ramen stores totalled 101 though, they were just spread out over the month or so that this event was running, with each store getting anywhere from 1 day to 5 days of stall time.

I also learnt that they didn’t accept cash OR credit cards though, at least not for the main meal (they accepted cash for toppings afterwards), and only top-up cards like my Suico train card, so I had to exit the venue and find a place to top up my card, as I had less than $10 left on it, and then come back in again. Thankfully there was a nearby station, Seibu-Shinjuku Station, which was different (and on a different line) from the main Shinjuku Station that I had arrived by. I popped in there, topped up the card, returned, and ordered what apparently translates to Rich Miso and Flame-broiled Meat with Soba, the bottom middle poster in the second picture above.

It was 900 yen, and it wasn’t quite worth 900 yen, but it was okay. I then wandered around a bit before taking the train home. Nothing else of note happened along the way, I definitely didn’t wander to the spot where a certain live street camera points at, and asked Jahandar to capture a picture of me waving Tigey at the camera or anything like that. If anything like that happened, it was pure coincidence.

A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t try yakisoba bread too, combining my most hated food (bread) with my most beloved one (noodles) in one bite. It left me very conflicted.

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Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 11)

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