Monday, July 23, 2007

Shopping In Ginza

I don't often go shopping in Ginza, and, in fact, prior to my recent visit, had not been there since 2003, when my parents were visiting Japan. On that occasion we didn't buy anything.

On Saturday July 21, when I took a train to Gina, I didn't buy anything. But my wife did. She bought me my birthday present, a pair of Asics shoes for my new post-cancer all-cured-now-maybe running program.

My running program has already started, but the start was a bit shaky. I planned to go by way of the sacred carvings, but the route I had in mind proved to be impractical, for the simple reason that it didn't exist. It was imaginary, a spurious figment of my damaged brain.

Finally, I found the carvings themselves, as the photographic evidence shows. One photo shows the guy's business premises, with some read-for-purchase-for-your-graveyard stonework sitting in his street level garage. The other photo shows part of the clutter of finished objects he has parked by the public road directly across the street. Totally illegal, I'm sure.

Both photos show typical features of suburban Japanese streets. While big city areas such as Ginza have proper sidewalks, pavements are lacking in most urban streets. What you have, instead, is lines painted on the tarmac to delineate a sanctuary for pedestrians, which will, in practice, be routinely violated by parked cars, moving cars and lawless cyclists who will come at you from either direction.

Given that the road that goes past the sacred carvings is quite busy, I thought it best to walk it first, to get familiar with the route, before trying running.

If you head on down the road you eventually come to a track or road or path or set of steps or something which leads you up to the top of a hill, from where you can descend, making a circle. So far, although I've found many ways to get up the hill, I haven't found the route that leads to the top, so I plan to tackle the hill from the other side, because on the other side I do know (or think I know) a road that goes right to the top.

For these preliminary explorations I've been going forth in an old pair of running shoes which have pretty much had it.

The reason my wife took me to Ginza was that Asics has a shop there which has high-tech gadgetry which will measure your feet so the shoes you buy will be shoes that fit.

A lot of places in Tokyo do not open up until ten in the morning, or even later. But my wife had researched the Asics setup online and had discovered that their Ginza shop is open from 0900 on Saturdays, so, with three-year-old daughter Cornucopia at the daycare center, and not due to be picked up until 1400, we went forth, arriving at about 0930.

The Asics shop is very white, with whitish steel steps leading up to the second floor (in Japan, the floor one floor up from the ground floor), and with a bloody potplant, of all things, sitting in the curve of the stairs.

The stairs are pretty wide and, because the plant had green leaves, I could see it against the general whiteness, but I did think it was pretty stupid, in principle, to put an obstacle on a stairway. In my opinion, safety considerations should trump interior decorating.

To measure your feet, you take off shoes and socks then put your naked feet, one at a time, in a special compartment. A store clerk applies some stick-on dots to each foot. A cover is placed around your foot, shrouding the interior, suggesting that something dangerous is inside. When I asked what scanning technology was used, I was told, lasers, in conjunction with four cameras, combined to give a 3D image.

As your foot is scanned, you see the scanning image emerge on a display screen right in front of you, and, if you want, the shop will give you a printout when you leave.

Asics has sizes to 32 centimeters. I came in wearing a shoe 27 centimeters long but the pair my wife ended up buying for me are 27.5 cm.

Asics is open from 0900 on Saturdays

It turns out that my left foot is four millimeters longer than the right, and that the right foot is wider than the right, something I found out years ago when my mother said, "Oh, Hugh, did you realize you have a huge bunion on your foot?" I didn't, had never been conscious of its existence, but as soon as my mother drew my attention to it, the thing immediately began to ache, and continued to ache for some weeks until I forgot about its existence.

After going to Ginza on Saturday, my wife and I then took the Hibya Line to Nakameguro and went to a French restaurant, where we had an 1130 lunch booking. I had the minestrone soup and spicy lamb with couscous, and I believe my wife had fish. And we both had a glass of sparkling white with the meal.

The next day we did food shopping in the basement of the cheaper of our two local supermarkets, then went upstairs so my wife could buy hand towels. Daughter Cornucopia found a computer amidst the children's toys so I bought it for her.

It's only 920 yen and it's a suitable toy for a child. It has a keyboard which has a key for each of the letters in the Japanese hiragana syllabic alphabet, and each key speaks itself when you press it.

The screen is a kind of magic slate. You run a stylus across the clear plastic at the front and, magically, gray lines appear. Then, if you move a lever, all the gray goes away, and you are left with the off-white screen.

I first saw this update of the slate and stylus idea in my parents house, where such a slate was on hand for the use of my sister's kids when they come visiting. I have no idea how these things work, and, to be frank, I find them pretty magical.

On the Saturday, my daughter had been asking what kind of computer she could have when she finally got her own. Could she have a strawberry one? And was there a Snoopy one? I answered, quite simply, that I had no idea.

The one that she found in the supermarket, and that I bought, is strawberry-colored.


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