Xara had gone ahead to Ikebukuro to do a little shopping, and Claire and I would meet up with him a little later to get something to eat. When I was about to leave the apartment, I heard some Japanese which I thought was coming from Justin, our friend upstairs. Instead, what I got when I opened the door was a Japanese woman talking to Claire about a local Buddhist. After I locked the door, she started talking to me… in Japanese.
What followed was a weird exchange of understanding and speaking parts of the conversation in both English and Japanese, along with the occasional moment where the woman entered something into the Google Translate app and showed us the result. After introducing herself as Shinagawa (like one of the local station names), she wanted to talk to us in greater detail about this buddhist. We communicated that we were leaving but would be back in a while. We “agreed” on coming back by 4pm, at which point she would ring our doorbell and we would hear what she had to say… probably in Japanese.
The idea behind this exchange we would have in the future was weird, because explaining something in greater detail in a language we didn’t fully understand sounded pretty much impossible.
Anyway, we made our way to Ikebukuro in search of a donut shop. Claire wanted to go to Krispy Kreme, so we went to search for one that was supposedly in the area. What we ended up finding was a small donut stand in an underground station, and the stand had overpriced donuts. You could get a variety dozen for ¥2000, which seemed pretty expensive.
Instead, we went to Mister Donut where their location and selection were much better. We grabbed donuts off the racks with tongs and placed them on trays, then brought the trays over to the cashier. They took our donuts and placed them on actual plates, offered drinks, and handed a different tray back with the plate (and drink) on it. I got a strawberry glazed donut and a chocolate donut. They were really good, and they were more reasonably priced at around ¥80-120 each.
After spending a couple hours in Ikebukuro, and missing our date with the Buddhist missionary, we headed back to our apartments where we got ready for the evening’s festivities. This event was sort of sprung onto us quickly by Claire (what we’ve been dubbing “Koi and the Fast Ones” as this sort of thing has happened a lot during our trip), but it was relatively local. In fact, the Mita line to get back to our apartments received such high traffic that during my trip back, I got the authentic “stuffed into a Japanese subway car like a sardine” experience that I’ve heard so much about. Simply put, you sacrifice your personal space along with everyone else. I bumped shoulders with around 5 or 6 people around me over several stops from the Yamanote line to my stop.
Xara and Claire worked on figuring out how to put on a Yukata, with part of this process involving tying a wrap around the waist and over a shoulder, and ending in a pretty bow tied at the back. I ended up leaving ahead of them to walk about 6 kilometers down the road towards a large green space where people would be gathering. Fanzy ended up joining me for the walk.
As we walked there, we could hear and eventually see the fireworks over the tops of the buildings. We counted the number of seconds from when we saw the burst of a firework to when we heard the boom. 5 seconds. We were still a ways out.
Eventually, we could see a few stalls on some of the small roads leading up to a staircase. At the top of the staircase was another staircase that lead down into a grass valley. This was the green space that everyone gathered at. We were near the Arakawa River. Thousands of people were seated on the hill which we walked down, and the hill stretched as far as we could see into the night. There was a large field on the other side of a barrier which people were also seated at. We eventually found a place to stand inbetween the two areas to watch the festivities.
Walking back droned on longer than it should have due to Fanzy leading us down the wrong road, and we eventually found the Mita line after everyone else had left on it to ride the rest of the way back. I had put in over 24,000 steps today, a new record.
We swapped some things around before turning in for the night. We’ll want to take a look at our plans moving forward and re-evaluate some things to make sure we’re using our passes to their fullest. I’m sure we’ll get things figured out.