Tokyo Hands…and on feeling attractive in Japan.


I woke up absurdly early today—anything less than double digits on a day off is early to me, but this was like 5.30 am—so I had a lot of time to prepare for my lunch date at 11am. The person I was meeting had jokingly asked me before I left if I could bring along “the most popular dessert in New York”, but the only quintessential New York dessert I could think of was cheesecake, and my rational little brother wisely prevented me from rolling the dice and seeing if it would survive the plane ride. It wouldn’t have. I got him some dark truffles and chocolate covered oreos from Li-Lac in Grand Central instead, because I knew they would at least arrive in one piece , and every other chocolate place I thought of was European. If anyone has any ideas post trip, let me know! What is New York famous for?

I wanted the sweets to be a little more special than the crappy packaging LiLac offers (for REAL, why so ugly?), so I went to Tokyo Hands at 9am after breakfast  to buy a gift bag and some proper paper.

Tokyo Hands opens at 9.30, though, not 9, and I had nowhere else to go,  so I bought an English newspaper and joined the rather surprising crowd of people waiting at the store’s entrance for the opening. This is not at all uncommon in Tokyo. When the store does finally open, all the floor staff stand at the doors and bow to us, the cries of Irrashaimasse almost deafening. I’m really glad I waited! It was like a party.

A small note on Tokyo Hands, for anyone unfamiliar:it is a ‘lifestyle’ oriented department store that is half crafty paradise, half drugstore, half Home Depot, and half novelty shop. It’s 8 or 9 floors of assorted stuff, and you’ll be surprised by how often you end up there during your stay. Don’t think you’re too good for it. You need stuff! I wanted a mini straightening iron and wrapping paper one morning and ended up spending 20000 Yen on toothpaste, black tights, journals, nail polish, and valentines day stickers. There’s one in Shinjuku, one in Shibuya, one in Yokohama, one in Ikebukkuro (I think?), and probably one close to wherever you’re going, too. Just go.  Everyone will love it.

So, I finally get all my stuff together to meet my friend, and we have some coffee together as planned. He brings me a great gift, and we talk about music and life for a while in some kind of broken English/Japanese/pictograph hybrid that he is a lot better at than I am. All of the Japanese I studied—and I studied a lot—must have been stored in my short term memory. I remember almost nothing of what I spent hours and hours going over, and I am fairly worthless holding up my end of the conversation as a result. I’m heartbroken. After he leaves, I realize that I’m not nearly pretty enough to get away with being so stupid, and I immediately assume that he hates me. At least he liked the chocolate.

It was an inevitable blow to my ego. As a woman in Tokyo, I realize that I am underdressed, undergroomed, understyled, and overfed. I know drop dead gorgeous women of all sizes and types, but I am not one of them, and when I catch myself in the full length mirror by the hotel elevators for the first time, it’s like a scene out of Hitchcock. I spend the rest of the night half-heartedly sightseeing in Shinjuku and catching my reflection in every window with a wince.

Before I head home for the night,  I stop off for a delicious kinpira “burger” at Mos burger, my favorite fast food chain.  It’s yummy—I love, love kinpira and could eat it every day—but its woefully small, too. I’ll be perpetually hungry after meals for most of the week, until I finally get used to smaller portions at around day 6.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: