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So eight guys walk into a room…

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No, it’s not the start of some silly bar joke, it’s the Sakura Hotel in Ikebukuro! All I can say is that it’s neat, clean, and would be an absolute blast if I were on a backpacking trip and not carrying 15 days worth of clothes and souvenirs. Guess which situation applies.

Today we met with students from Waseda University. The group consisted of only a few Japanese people, with many being exchange students from China, Korea, and even the United States. One of the students in particular was a Korean native who is coming to Furman next year as part of an exchange program Furman has with Waseda. She spoke to me briefly during a pizza powered reception, and told me that she was learning Japanese just as I was, though I’m guessing she’s quite a lot better at it thus far.

After introductions, we headed over to the Waseda bookstore to get some t-shirts and other swag. Since the shirts were around $40, I’m still only thinking about getting one. Seems like a nice souvenir, though a bit expensive. After that, the whole group split off into interest groups. Some people went to a soccer game, others went back to the hotel, and as for myself, to Akihabara I went.

The Waseda students I went with were quite knowledgeable of the area, and were able to lead our group of 2 guys and 3 girls to all sorts of weird spots in Akihabara. Starting out as a hobby and electronics neighborhood where people would go to buy computer parts, the area has morphed into a video game and “Otaku” style area, but we were lead to a few model airplane shops and a 9-story electronics mall. One of the students commented on technology in Japan and repeated what Dr. Jenkins had stated: Japan used to be the center of technology in the 60s, with Sony being the top-of-the-line in electronics, but over the years they’ve lost their top engineers to Samsung and other companies in Taiwan and such that will pay twice as much and allow the engineers to research whatever they want, unlike the Japanese. I wonder if it coincides with Dr. Jenkins’ argument that the Japanese aren’t as creative as other countries, and aren’t innovating but rather refining.

We visited quite a few arcades while in Akihabara, and as they pointed out, Sega is one of the leading names in the arcade business. We saw a few rows of Gundam piloting simulators, and it would seem that the whole display is similar to an E-Sports layout, in that there are scheduled events and prizes for those who do well. Very competitive arcade gaming.

We went to a few weird shops as well, all ones that the students knew about and presumably had been to before. There was one store that resembled an American flea market, but people could rent out glass boxes, stock their own merchandise and name their own price. When a sale was made, they would get the profit but the store would sell it and take a commission. A bit more organized than in America, but all over Japan there seems to be organized chaos.

For lunch, we had fried octopus. It tasted… interesting. Not very much taste to it, in fact. Mostly tasted like barbeque sauce with a strange texture. I left the students with gifts: Jelly Belly’s. They’re only sold in America, so I figured it’d be pretty exotic. Overall, it was a very fun day!