Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 38

Oof, I am not posting as much as I had expected I would. My time in Japan is already more than half over.

Lately I've been hanging out in camera stores around Tokyo. I finally figured out that the Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku is a compound spread around several streets within a small area. Despite that, they did not have the stationary component which their Akihabara branch posesses, where Friday I caved in and bought a folding fan to compensate for the end of the rainy season and the the true start of summer.

Somehow, despite wandering aimlessly through Electric Town, I realized that more than anything I want to buy a camera, and old camera. One that uses film. Imagine that. Yodobashi and Bic both carry the overpriced Holga and Diana crap-boxes that I could find in the Urban Outfitters in New Haven, but they also both carry 135mm, non-SLR, extremely expensive Fujifilm rangefinders. I was taken with them, and thought of buying the cheaper Natura Classica until I realized that I had subconsciously removed one zero too many from the price in yen, thinking a $330 camera a steal at $33. Damn. The more expensive, "professional" (I suppose) camera was about double that.

Yet in a strange, long-but-extremely-narrow store in Electric Town, a store devoted to selling the most unglamourous of electric (not electronic) components, there was a second floor filled with fascinating used gadgets. National brand radios, a Famicom in the box, an ancient portable Sony b/w set, those tin robots (replicas?), it was a retro-nerd's paradise. Amongst it all, there were even used cameras, from the horribly useless earliest of digital cameras to a Nikon F, still a pricey and high-quality device. In one cabinet, there were several old rangefinders, Olympus and Canon, and a sign stated that all of them were... something unreadable. I hoped that such beautiful toys were not... broken. I asked the man in the store. "Over there there are cameras; there's something written but I cannot read it.... I don't know if they work or not...."

Ah, the fine line between directness and impoliteness. I didn't know the polite way to ask directly for help, so I had to rely on vague statements until the man eventually helped me out. Naturally, the $30 vintage cameras did not work. Just as well, I have a digital camera that serves my needs just fine.

Japan is teaching me the truth in the statement that small is beautiful. I am a country boy at heart and any city, especially one as big as Tokyo (as big as they get) will wear me down after all. Yet I love that Tokyo strikes a balance between compactness and sprawl. The city may stretch out for as far as I can see, even from the top of the Metropolitan Government Building, yet it's so incredibly developed. The city is dense - if it had been an American city it surely would cover the whole of Honshu. After a rough introduction to dorm life I am learing to love living in a small space. Even now, I can barely remember my family home in California. When I showed my host family a satellite photo they all thought it was quite big. Though we live in a much less dense rural area, the house itself is smaller than average, and I assured my host parents that my home was modest by American standards. That may be so, but I am slowly forgetting the American standards.

My host family lives entirely in a tiny apartment, bigger than the one I am alone in, but undoubtedly with less space per person. My host mother seemed desirous of more space and I can certainly understand why, but personally I am more and more interested in living in a small space. The problem arises when I wonder where I want to live in the future. I appreciate the conveniences and the excitement that a city like Tokyo has to offer. Unfortunately, there may not be any other city in the world that can possibly live up to the standard Tokyo has set.

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