One thing Aya loooves to do is go shopping.  It doesn’t necessarily mean she loves to buy things, but she loves to look at things.  She can be out all day, come home with one $5 purchase and be content.  She loves going out, browsing and checking out all the new products, the new fashions, home goods, books, magazines, anything.  She loves the experience and the hunt.  And one thing she likes to do a lot of while in Japan is to go shopping.  Because from what I can tell, this is the place to do it.  But with Ellie around this time, it’s been a bit of an adjustment on how far and how often we can venture out.  We made sure we waited long enough for Ellie to settle in and be comfortable alone with Aya’s parents, and Aya and I got to go out on the town solo for the day.

I don’t hate shopping, especially in Japan.  There is a lot to look at and keep me amused.  WOW!  Look at that!  I’ll say to Aya a million times.  But for me, if I’m not buying something, I get bored really easily.  And when you are out all day long, that can be a bad thing.

Most of the major stores in Japan are more vertical than horizontal.  Most malls are a cluster of buildings with 10 or 11 floors of stores.  But each floor has a small footprint.  There is usually a grocery store in the basement, then purses and jewelry on the first floor, women’s then men’s clothes on the mid floors, and then CDs, books, and electronics on the upper floors.  The places we went to are connected to, or within walking distance from the train station.  Most stores have fitting rooms, but they are only one or two and you have to take your shoes off before going in.  And most stores don’t take credit cards and have a no return policy.  If you buy it, you better like it.  Aya and I usually start out together, but before the ‘shopping full moon’came out and she changed form, I headed off on my own for a few hours so I didn’t slow her down.

I’m always amused at how cute everything looks.  It seems no matter what the product is, there is always some sort of cute little smiley face character on it.  Whether if it’s a toy or a product that helps keep you regular, there is a cartoon face on it.  I always want to take tons of pictures, but I feel like a creep doing so.  I’m not a big camera guy to begin with, especially in public.  I try to snap pictures when no one is looking, or after I make sure the coast is clear.  If they made invisible cameras I would buy one.  I always want to ‘blend in,’with the surroundings.  I know it’s impossible, but I don’t want to be that American guy with stonewashed jeans, a Budweiser T-Shirt, and dirty high-top sneakers and a backpack.  I don’t want to look like a “tourist.”  I even carry a man bag like every other Japanese guy does, except mine holds my giant tourist guy camera.  Despite of my covert efforts, I think everyone knows though.

While off on my own, I stopped at Mister Donut for tea time.  Every time you make a purchase, you earn points and I’m on a quest to earn 150 points so I can get a free Mister Donut mug.  I’m making major progress and feel confident that I can reach my goal before we return.

I was excited to be out on my own, and was confident standing in line for donuts.  Most Mister Donuts have the donut case open where you select the donuts you want yourself and put them on a tray.  Then slide up to the cashier to check out, kind of like cafeteria style.  I knew what to do.  I’ve done it many times before.  But this Mister Donut had the donuts in a closed display case and you had to tell the clerk which ones you wanted.  Uh oh.  I don’t speak Japanese.  As I stood there in line, I noticed that each type of donut was numbered.  I can order by number!  I can count in Japanese!  Yes!  I can do this!

I picked the donuts I wanted only by the numbers I can say confidently out loud.  I really wanted #115, but I can’t count that high.  I ordered #22 (ni jyu ni), #62 (roku jyu ni), and #43 (yon jyu san).  But when I approached the counter and said these numbers, he looked at me puzzled.  “Ni jyu ni?”  Oh no!  Did I say it wrong?  I pointed to the sign behind him and said again, but less confidently, “um…ni jyu ni?”  He had to come around to my side and make me point to the ones I wanted.  Ugh.  Blending in = major fail!  Ah well…at least I am now halfway to my goal though!

After my tea time break, I walked around looking for something to look at other than food.  I didn’t want to look at clothes, because I would end up buying something I don’t need, want, or look good in.  “Hey Aya, check out these purple plaid pants!  They were only 2,000 yen!  I was too embarrassed to try them on so I don’t even know if they fit!”  A few trips ago, I found something that can keep me entertained for awhile though.  A place where Aya usually has to come bug me to get going; the music store.  And that’s where I headed.

I love listening to music at the listening stations in the music store.  I find that I’m completely unbiased in what I like because I can’t understand the lyrics, and I have no background on the artist.  I don’t know what’s considered trendy, or lame.  Like, I found that I like Enka music, which is considered “old people” music.  I didn’t know that.  If I like something, I like it.  And each trip, I try to find one or two new CDs to buy.  I bought one so far, and it turns out it’s a girl group from Korea called Girls Generation.  It’sd be like my dad saying he liked Britney Spears.  You wouldn’t know what to say except, “Oooh…” with shifty eyes.   It’s catchy and has a good beat though.  I don’t care.  I like some of the heavy metal bands, too!  Like I said, I don’t discriminate.

After our small solo excursion we met up with Ellie and Aya’s parents for dinner.  This was Ellie’s first time being left alone with Aya’s parents all day and she ended up having a ball with them.  And we got to have some time to ourselves without our baby and it was fantastic.  But I sure did love seeing her smiley face when she rolled up in her stroller.  It’s been difficult to balance everything this trip.  Time for Aya with her parents, family time, alone time, me and Aya time, time for Ellie with Aya’s parents, etc.  But so far we seem to be doing okay, and this day out shopping seemed to work out for everybody too.

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