How To Meet People From ‘The Internet’

Last night it rained, and it was still cloudy when I got up this morning. It isn’t cold enough to snow anymore, and I don’t know if I’m glad or disappointed about it. I had a bit of a slow start this morning, having nothing planned until 5pm, when I would meet a new friend for coffee. So I answered emails and browsed the internet for interesting non-touristy things to do. Eventually I decided to visit a gallery near Akihabara, which I’d been meaning to go to for a while. It was having a uni graduate art exhibition about ‘bio art.’ Sounded interesting, and regular readers will know how I love a good graduate exhibition. So I set off for the hike to Akihabara, carrying my macbook this time; both for hiking practice, and because I’d need it later on.

It was really cold today, and I was glad I had layered up. I stopped at a Lawson en route to buy some lunch for later, then walked all the way to the far side of Ueno park, where the huge lake is. The trees in the park were starting to sprout tiny pink sakura flowers, and teams of park workers were busy hanging strings of lanterns between the trees. Near the lake, I found a bench to eat lunch at. I had a salad with chicken, edamame, hijiki and grated daikon, as well as an ebimayo onigiri. I’m really loving this flavour at the moment. However, this one was mostly rice, and contained only a tiny piece of prawn (maybe 2cm long and half a cm wide), and a dab of mayo. The verdict: 7/11 make better ebimayo onigiri. A lot of pigeons were bobbing around me whilst I ate, but I managed to keep my cool and not scream in front of everyone. The pigeons hovered just outside the barrier of acceptable presence. I thought I was very brave.

Next, I walked along a main road toward the gallery. The sun had come out, but I was still freezing, so I went into a convenience store and pretended to read the nutritional labels of the hot drinks, just so I could touch them and warm my hands up. A little further along, I bought a hot coffee in a can from a vending machine, because I really needed to warm up inside. It was a Tully’s branded cappuccino (kind of the Gloria Jeans equivalent), but it tasted terrible.

I found the place where the exhibition was, and it turned out to be a whole building full of art. There were four floors, all with different little galleries to explore. There was a large section about the Kobe Earthquake, as well as a corner gallery dedicated to a store that is similar to IKEA. There was also a whole room full of inflated things, and weird machines that spun or made noises, as well as giant inflatable hand that moved when air blew into it.

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The second floor held some graffiti art, and some colourful abstract paintings, as well as a white room filled with black and white printmaking pieces. This room also contained a sculpture work called ‘Seed Dish,’ which I thought was pretty cool. I loved the tones and the incorporation of the plants. I think the plates were made of cloth or bread or something. I have no idea. I suppose pictures describe it better than words, so here you go…

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This floor also had the ‘Bio-Art’ exhibition that I wanted to see. It held more inflated things, as well as art incorporating microscopes and petri dishes. But the one thing I really liked were a collection of tiny pointed glass balls, hanging from fishing wire at different lengths. They each had a tiny specimen inside – a bug or a twig, or dirt. I thought they were beautiful.

I also quite liked a 3-screen documentary about goldfish breeding. It was very genetics related, but I liked how the three screens showed different images that interacted with each other. I watched that for quite a while, and it was even educational!

The basement floor had a gallery of works which (I think) were created by disabled people (mental or physical disabilities, I’m not sure.) I’m only guessing this because the gallery was named ‘Able Art’ or something like that, and featured slogans that alluded to ‘equality for all through art’ or something similar. I actually thought this was one of the most interesting galleries of the lot. There were some crayon drawings on one wall, and a video of the artist creating them. Then in the centre there were these sculptures of food scraps, which looked like they’d been modeled from the insides of real rubbish bins. This was my favourite piece of the day. The way the food pieces were laid out seemed chaotic but organised  Perfectly placed, but random at the same time. It just worked.

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I had a quick look in the gift shop and bought a postcard, then sat down at a little table to write on it. As I was leaving the gallery space, I passed this one tiny room that was filled with stuff. Ball-pit balls were all over the floor, and the walls were covered in paintings. There were things hanging down everywhere, and bursts of colour exploded from every corner of the room. It was like a kinder-kid had overdosed on sugar and raided the art cupboard.

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After the gallery, I kept walking towards Akihabara, and stumbled upon a tiny store crammed full of new and used gameboy and Nintendo games, consoles, and controllers. I was really tempted to buy a gameboy and a couple of games for the 6 hour transit I will have to face in April, but decided against it.

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Then I walked around Akiba a little more, and posted a few items at the post office.

That’s where I realized that I’ve lost my credit card.

I looked in all the pockets in my wallet, but it was nowhere. It must have slidden out somewhere. I was just grateful that it wasn’t my main bank card, or my pre-paid card, which can never be recovered. I was annoyed, but surprisingly I didn’t panic or get all upset like I would have in the past. Anyway, getting stressed wasn’t going to solve anything. I had to meet my new friend in Ikebukuro, so I took the train, vowing to search all my pockets and bags for the missing card when I got home.

In Ikebukuro, I planned to meet someone I met online. This might sound stupid and like I was asking for trouble, but before you file a complaint to my mother, hear me out. There is this popular thing called ‘Couchsurfing,’ which is an online community where people offer their couches (or spare beds, or bedrooms, etc) to travellers for free. You can host people, or stay with people, and there are Couch Surfers all over the world. When I was looking for somewhere to stay in Tokyo, I went on this website just to look. I would not normally ever stay with a complete stranger from the internet, but there was one lady whose profile yelled out to me. This person is a real and normal person and not a creepy internet freak! Said the profile. (Not literally, I mean, that would be weird and would most definitely make me avoid a person.) This lovely lady, who I’ll refer to as J, is a teacher at an international school in Tokyo. She likes photography, cooking, and hiking. Wow, I thought, we are the same person! So I got in touch with her asking if I could possibly stay a few days in her apartment. Unfortunately, she couldn’t host me, but by that time I had already found my own apartment in Tokyo. But we got talking online, and decided to meet up whilst I was in Tokyo.

Which brought me to Ikebukuro. I waited at our designated meeting point, and before long, J came up from behind me and asked if I was Steph. We clicked right away! We found a coffee shop and ordered drinks, and talked about anything and everything. There was never a lull in the conversation, and within half an hour I felt like I’d known J for years. What an incredible lady! She was so friendly and smart and funny, and so adventurous! We looked at some of the photos I’d taken on the trip so far (J requested I bring them, which is why I lugged my laptop around all day), and chatted away like we were old pals. She told me lots of funny stories about adventures she’s had in Japan, and gave me some tips on train and bus travel- some that will save me a lot of money (which can be used to buy more Japanese goodies!!) Also, randomly, we worked out that we had seen each other in Tokyo before. At the film screening I went to last week (The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom), I actually sat right in front of J. How did we work this out? I mentioned that I had been volunteering with HOT, and J said she did too! Then she asked if I went to the film, and I asked where she was sitting. She described the area near where I was. Then she said maybe she remembered seeing me. I was by myself  was fiddling with a camera, and talked to a Japanese man, and ate chilli from one of the stalls. Oh my god, that was me! We had been less than a meter from each other! I even remember that I had looked J directly in the eyes when I turned around one time. I couldn’t believe it. How funny.

Before long, it was dark outside, and then we realised it was already past 8pm- we’d been talking for 3 hours! It had only seemed like an hour or so, I was so surprised at how the time had passed. J had to pack for a holiday (for which she was leaving tomorrow), so we both headed for the train station. We both caught the same line, so we had a few precious minutes to keep talking, and say a brief goodbye. My station was further away, so I watched J get off the train and disappear into the sea of people on the platform. And then she was gone.

It was a really brief meeting, but I am so glad that I got to chat with such a wonderful, kind individual. The world needs more people like J. Such a genuine, amazing lady. I really really hope that I can meet her again in the (not too distant) future. I enjoyed her company immensely. I felt a bit sad when we parted ways, like I was saying goodbye to a friend I’d known since childhood. Perhaps I get attached to people too easily, or perhaps J is just so easy to like.

I returned home, braving the freezing cold night, and cooked a quick dinner of veggies on rice, with leftover miso eggplant and oden. Then I had the mochi-anko pan (bread bun filled with mochi and red bean paste) that I bought at the station earlier. It was weirdly good. I spent the next 2 hours trying to find out how to cancel my credit card, which is really difficult when your phone can’t make calls. I tried making reverse calls, free calls, calling with area codes, + codes, Australian codes, Japanese codes. It was really frustrating and pretty much impossible. Then my boyfriend had the brilliant idea of using Skype to call, but I don’t have Skype either. He let me use his account, which, again, wouldn’t work for ages, but I finally got through and was able to cancel the card. Sorry to the person who found it and planned a massive shopping spree.

I bet I find the missing card in a sock sometime next week.

Thoughts?

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