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Pens vs. Clothes: which is really more necessary?

JAPAN | Saturday, 6 February 2016 | Views [207]

Saturday, I caught a train to Umeda for lunch and some probably-needed clothes shopping. Even though I could have sworn I'd exited the train part the same way I had last week, I emerged somewhere completely different. Which kind of ruined my plan of going to the dining court near the top and finding a reasonable place to have lunch. Especially when I noticed a sign for Tokyu Hands.

Tokyu Hands was the store that I'd gone to all the time while I was in Tokyo. It had been relatively nearby where I was living, and was just generally a really cool store. It was a department store, but a really interesting one (it describes itself as a “creative lifestyle store”), and I'd liked just wandering around there. For literally hours. I'd checked at some point that Osaka had one, and then kind of forgotten about it. And now here was a sign pointing to it. I had to follow it, because who knew if I'd be able to find it later.

Now, I am not a stationary person. I say this because it's easy to think I am. I'm very, very particular about the kinds of pens and notebooks I'll get for personal use, and still kind of picky about ones for school. I've lost track of the number of different places I've looked for unlined, spiral-bound notebooks and thin pens, and basically need to special-order the latter. But I'm not a stationary person because I've met people who are. People who are content to just look through stores full of notebooks and pens and highlighters and folders. People who find all those things intrinsically interesting.

I’m not a stationary person… except in Japan. Japanese pens are everything that I look for, and some of the more unique items you can find in the stationary section in Japan are a lot more useful than what you see in the US. Like the stapleless stapler that Suzuki-Sensei uses. (I want one of those. They keep sheets of paper together, and you never need to worry that you’ll run out of staples.) So when I found myself looking at the rainbow of pens available in Tokyu Hands, I forgot about lunch and clothes shopping. I was content just looking around and trying them out.

There are three reasons I like Japanese pens. First, they come in sizes smaller than .5. Second, they come in a full spectrum of colors that tends to include 4 or 5 different shades of blue. Finally, they’re the highest quality one-dollar pens that I’ve found that meet those above requirements. Every other pen I have tends to bleed if you expose it to water, but the specific brand that I’m fond of can have coffee spilled directly on it, twice, and you’ll still be able to read the words. If, like me, you carry around a notebook everywhere, there’s a decent likelihood you’re going to spill liquids at some point. And if you write as small as me, that can mean that you lose a thousand words with a single clumsy motion. Pens that don’t bleed are super important to me.

The thing about having pens that don’t bleed around water is that it’s really hard to know this without writing with the pen and exposing it to various levels of water to see what happens. Can you set down a glass of water near the notebook? Directly on the page of writing? Empty the contents onto the page of writing? Which goes first, the paper or the pen? (It is not recommended you do this with a notebook you care about. Or, for that matter, a notebook at all. A single sheet of paper in the kitchen sink will make the point equally well.) And, although I’m currently happy with the type of pens I use, are they really the best? What if there are others that are even better, I’m just ignoring them in favor of comfort? Clearly I should buy all the pens and do a comparison!

In addition to the normal pens, Tokyu Hands also had interchangeable pens (you click for different colors) and erasable pens. I’d used both. In elementary school, since the quality of both were low enough for me to not want to use them later. (When I talk about “quality,” I don’t mean they need to be great pens. I mean they need to write smoothly and, if they’re supposed to be erasable, erase cleanly. That’s all I expect out of school pens.) The pens on Saturday were a different story. The ink for the interchangeable pens was the same as it is for the regular pens I’d come to know and love over the last four years, and the erasers actually seemed to work well. I could devastate Dr. Jensen so much by using pens for math next school year…

Eventually, my hunger caught up with me, so I went to find a reasonably priced lunch on the food court of the mall. I kind of succeeded in a place that sold okonomiyaki, one of Osaka’s specialties, so I got a table and ordered. The food was prepared away from me, but I was sitting at a counter with a table immediately in front of me and a warm metal area just past that. The warm metal area appeared to be to keep the food hot after it had been made. I think. I was trying to surreptitiously watch a couple sitting at the end of the counter to see how they were eating. It didn’t entirely work, but I think what I was supposed to do was use a spatula to transfer parts of the okonomiyaki to a plate, and then use chopsticks from there. And repeat.

Whether it was the “right way” or not is still up to debate, but it worked to get the meal eaten. So I paid, left, and continued looking for clothes shops.

Clothes shopping is not something I’m good at under the best of circumstances. Which is why an hour later I’d found a book store, a home store, and several jewellery stores, but no stores that sold clothes I’d want to buy at prices I’d want. I was giving up and on my way back to the train station (actually, Tokyu Hands to buy some of the pens I’d been looking at) when I saw a store that appeared to have sweaters on sale. So I went in.

All I wanted was a sweater. I found one that looked nice, looked around to see what other customers were doing, found another one that looked nice, and noticed that people were trying on coats there. The sweater that I needed to be pulled over my head, but it’s still a sweater to go on over other clothes, so I figured I could do so out there. And if I was wrong, I was a gaijin, so I had an excuse.

I was wrong, and a salesperson came over to take the sweater and bring me to the dressing room. She opened the curtain, and I went in. She didn’t hand back the sweater, so I went farther into the dressing room, stepping up onto a raised platform. Which is not what I was supposed to do, because she immediately communicated that I should get back down and take off my shoes. (Important when you’re putting on a sweater.) Once I did that, she handed me the sweater, so I could try it on.

It turned out to be too small. After briefly trying to convince myself that it wasn’t that tight, and I could probably wear it if only to keep this whole ordeal from happening again, I came to my senses. So I took the sweater off, stepped down, put my shoes back on, and went out, where the salesperson was still waiting for me. She asked if it worked, and I think I said yes but meant no and handed her back the sweater. Then I fled the store.

At least I know how to buy pens.

Tags: clothes, food, pens, shopping

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