Thursday, December 30, 2004

Marunouchi, Marui Men again, and Price Level in Tokyo

It was sunny today. This is what I miss a lot in London: winter sunshine. Sunbathing on the tatami mat floor in my house in the morning is a very comfortable experience. Nyanko, our family's cat, does this everyday in winter time. She's been a bit icy to me since I came home. My parents say that she is just shy. :-) But when I started sunbathing next to her, she walked away to another room in the sunshine through windows. Boo.

Day three in Tokyo featured Marunouchi (the area on the east of the Imperial Palace) to meet up with Ono-san, an econ PhD student at the University of Tokyo.

The Marunouchi area has recently been rejuvenated to become a trendy area, featuring, as usual for any redevelopment areas in Tokyo, two new shopping and restaurant complexes (Marubiru and Oazo), stylish cafes/restaurants and fashion boutiques on Marunouchi Naka Dori Street. But the area looked astonishingly inorganic, partly because it was the end of a year when office workers entirely disappeared. But, I don't know, something was missing for this area to be attractive.

Anyway, we had lunch at Brasserie Aux Amis, ordering today's two course lunch (1050 yen, or 5 UK pounds / 9 US dollars): pumpkin soup and sea bass with risotto. Having this kind of lunch in London at this price is impossible. You have to pay double the price or you have to end up eating sandwitches by paying the same amount of money. The taste? Not as bad as lunch in London at all.

Then we went to Oazo, which was pretty much uninspiring except for the entrance hall. So we took away a cup of coffee (350 yen or 1.75 pounds / 3 US dollars) and sat down at a table in the hall.

We talked about each other's pieces of research, the English language, etc. He told me that it is difficult for him to get an PhD because his research is different from what professors at his university are interested in. So his strategy is to publish his paper in an academic journal first. He needs acceptance of his research by academics outside the university.

Ono-san is a very smart guy. I hope he will get out of rather unfriendly research environment for him as soon as possible.

After saying goodbye to him, I headed for Marui Men Shinjuku, one of many Shinjuku branches of Marui department store chain. As I wrote on 4th April 2003 and 3rd January 2004, this is the place I always go to in order to get cool men's gears. The idea that the whole eight-storey building serves for fashion-conscious young men is unbelievable, something you can never imagine in London.

On the way to the store, I felt thirsty. If it had been in London, the only option would have been to get into a supermarket to buy soft drink or to take away a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. But I was in Tokyo now. What I could do was to buy a canned soft drink, priced at 120 yen (60p or 1.1 US dollar) at a vending machine! I got Kirin Beverage's Gogo No Kocha, meaning afternoon tea. With 60p, you never get a cup of tea in London.

In Marui Men Shinjuku, I got a pair of trousers (15800 yen or 80 UK pounds / 140 US dollars) and a red mohair sweater (at 14700 yen or 73.5 UK pounds / 130 US dollars) at Rupert and a long black trench coat (36750 yen or 183.5 UK pounds / 330 US dollars) and a black round-neck sweater (12390 yen or 62 UK pounds / 110 US dollars) at Tornade Mart. You never get cool men's gears at these prices in London. Also, I love Tornade Mart; no other shops sell long coats because they are out of fashion right now. But Tornade Mart always doesn't care about trends. They always sell what they think is really cool. I always appreciate it.

The Marui Men Shinjuku building is packed with many casual fashion brands targeted at young men like Rupert and Tornade Mart. There's no such middle-ranged fashion house for men in London. I told a shop assistant at Tornade Mart that they should come to London. Londoners will love them.

Another impressive thing was the kindness and friendliness of shop assistants. When I bought the clothes at Rupert shop, it was already after eight in the evening, which is a closing time. They never rushed me. What's more, the assistant who served me took me to the exit of the building to see me off. You never expect this at garment shops targeted at young men in London. When I told this to him, he said, "My service isn't that good." Can you believe this?

Did you notice that I obsessively wrote down prices of a variety of things yesterday and today? This has a reason. Tokyo is believed to be the most expensive city in the world, even more expensive than London. When it comes to rent, it may be true. But when it comes to eating out and shopping, this is certainly not true at all. Nobody living outside Japan understands this. So I'm trying to give you an idea of how much it actually costs by living in Tokyo.

Well, maybe public transportation in Tokyo costs more than in London. Today's train ticket fees were (1 UK pound = 200 yen; 1 US dollar = 110 yen): Koiwa to Tokyo (17 min by overground) for 210 yen; Tokyo to Shinjuku (18 min by underground) for 190 yen; Shinjuku to Koiwa (33 min by overground) for 290 yen. What's inconvenient in Tokyo's public transportation is that there are several different railway companies in operation and whenever you change to a different railway company, you have to buy another ticket. And these different railway companies issue different one day pass tickets. So buying a one-day pass doesn't pay; travelling around different parts of Tokyo costs you a lot. Plus bus services are not as good as London's, including the fact that there is no night bus service.

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