The Japanese have tow words for shopping place. ‘Ya’ and “mise.” “Ya” is the more commonly used one and can get tacked onto any word to turn it into, that kind of store. “Hanaya” flower store, “Ramenya” Ramen stand, “Honya,” bookstore. Id like to talk about hte speciaity store since those are the ones which are the coolest. Im not talking about any grocery store, no siree. Ramenyas, as I stated before, are ramen stands, or sometimes, actual ramen restuarants. I like the portable ramen stands myself. They seem more intimate, the owners and their wives (in the background) seem more authentic than some guy worrying whether or not his rent is due. They also adore foreigners, or at least the ones I’ve come across in my day. Its good conversation practice. The way a ramen stand is set up, unless i missed something vastly radical in my time, is three sides are devoted to patron sitting. There are usually just benches, and they sit around the center where the boiling water, and boiled vegatble bobble about in their broth. The fourth side is a tall drawered area, where he goes for his spices and whatnot. There is also a mini TV situated at the very top, playing an animal documentary. Always. Its written in the Nippon Ramen Association contract. “Must show footage of lioness chewing unidentifiable mass or else strainer will be confiscated.” Around the side on the outside, are flaps of durable clothe, proclaiming in their katakana’ed glory, “Ra” “Me” “N.” Ramen stands are beautiful, and they certainly taste better than anything Nissin or Top Ramen cooks up back home. In addition to wonderful noodles, you also get a half boiled egg, two pieces of meat (Pork?), long stringy vegtables I’ve yet to find an English name for, and a woderful sense of comradery. Just you, the Ramen-ka and his wife, and the business men not quite drunk enough to stagger home just yet. Yakitori-ya. Yakitori means literally “grilled chicken.” For the most part it is. But you can also get varieties of vegtables added to it or other meats and its just a wonderful site to behold. This is a yakiniku, “grilled meat,” truck that parks outside of selected areas and sells meat made right in front of you. Its immensley popular as a way not to have to cook, since its relatively inexpensive and really tasty and fully Japanese. The setup is that the grill area is built right into the trucks. They unfold them around 4 pm, roughly the right time to snag the hungry kids inbetween regular school and cram school, as well as the wives trying to feed them. Ditto on the tacoyaki-yas, but those are fried octopus dumplings rather than land faring meat. Conveyer belt sushi. I know theres a Japanese word for these things, but I forget at the time of this writing. I adore conveyer belt sushi. It is exactly what it sounds like. A store wide looping belt zips food along while people at tables or booths just reach out and grab what they want to eat. Avoid things covered under a plastic dish in the middle of a slow day; its been there for a while. Usually, most of the sushi pieces cost 100 yen for a set of two nice fish ones, or six vegitarian. You can also order things like miso soup and an unlimited drink bar at a bit of a higher price. Green tea is free and easily provided. You can even order slightly American things, like “Ha-mu” which is actually piece of fatty salami slapped atop some rice, or “Weina,” a halfed hot dog done up in much the same way. Oh, and krinkle cut fries. Usually when a group of us JASIN students come in, someone specially orders one set, and then they alllll order for the nostalgia. Or if not, the conveyer belt will then be filled with bowls of fries along side the tradiaitonal Japanese fare. I dont think the native populus really enjoys the invasion. Hon-yas. These are book stores to the max. They have manga and thick anthologies of popular comic hits and regular books in one specialized area. What makes these noticable is that there will be oddles of people just standing there reading. Seriously. They haven’t bought the manga or book yet, and they probably won’t. They just stand there and read. Most stores have a problem with their abuse of merchandise but these hon-yas are pretty good in leaving you to your reading. And on a similair note, Book-off. I adore Book-off and to a greater degree, the sister, Hobby-off, and a much lesser extend, Hard-off. They are ‘Eco-Recyle’ places. Pretty much used merchandise stores, only these are worth going to. Hard-off is a lot of hardware and such, cameras, dvd players, TVs, ancient laptops from 1989, guitars, video game systems and games. Hobby-off is a pop culture idea area filled with figures, hand towels, keychains, phone straps, most under 300 yen or so. If you want an anime or a media icon figurine, keychain, card, playing cards, full scale models, Hobby-off is for you. Not that I know or anything ::puts away cell phone and the cyptic jingle, as well as purse, littered with the stuff:: Book-off sells used manga and books at a 100 yen and up. Sometimes you find really old series, sometimes the latest issue of Naruto. They leave their books unsealed and just as with the Hon-yas, there are crowds of people standing around and reading. Unlike most of the Hon-yas, people readily buy these becuase the books and manga here are relatively inexpensive considering the already cheap price of manga. Books are so-so priced to begin with. The competitor, Bookbank is less popular considering their books arent as cheap or readily availible as Book-offs. They shut their books closed with plastic wrap and tape. Their figurines are expensive. Bookoff is so muh better than Bookbank and I dare anyone to fight me on this ::rubs hands::. Anime-yas. Since Im on this fangirl roll, I’ve really only discovered one anime place for all those fun manga and bubbly eyed goods. That would be Animate in Hananomachi Arcade. Its half books store, half I-want-to-blow-all-my-money-here-omg-its-so-cute-I-want. The popular series have lots of merchandise such as plushies, pillows, calanders, figureinges, posterboard, pencilboard, keychains, stat-books, mugs, Tshirts in some instances, and wonderful other things that make my toes curl and my wallet slim with the idea “Im only in Japan once.” Fairly cool place and I have purcased … some things from them. Pachinko. Eww. Why is this mob run industry on this list? Lots of myth, waste of money, questionable and smokey insde. Friend Morgan compared it “Walking in, giving them a 10000 yen, smiling, saying Arigatou Gozaimasu (Thank you), and walking out.” Omyiage-shops. Omiyage, the art of giftgiving means there are alway going to be stalls set up hocking wares and that from which ever area you visited. Nagasaki’s prime omiyage is the Kasutera cake, a sweet mixure of sugar, egg, and flower. It ranges from inexpensive gifts to “Well, I’m in Japan once,” sort of logic. Every hotel has the omega of all ift sops in each of its lobby. All the JASIN student with host families were told the first outing to bring back their host family a little something of where theyve been. The ones in dorms rejoiced.
Also, Christmas lights are out in full regalia. Come folks, buy your cakes and your KFC! Christmas tradition you.