Saturday, March 20, 2004

Gloomy Bear in Loft
On Tuesday, Sharon had the morning off, but had to go to work after lunch. Thus, we arranged to have brunch with Kristel downtown, and then Kristel and I would do stuff until Sharon got off work at 6. We had brunch at a new place Sharon and Kristel have discovered, called something along the lines of "Green Organic Natural Cafe," except possibly more Engrish-y. The exciting thing is that you can actually get real bagels there, which is quite the rarity in the land of people who do not really understand the concept of bread.

When we finished brunch, we went next door to what used to be the AMS building. I think this was the biggest and most noticeable change to downtown Sendai. AMS is no more. The entire building is now Loft. This is important because it was the building that had Muji in it, so we were frequent visitors. It is also the building directly across from the front of Sendai Station. Now I have to say that I'm glad Loft wasn't there when I was; I'd have spent far more money.

We went to the stationery floor first. I was supposed to find a weird Engrish pencil case for Alison, another TA, as her Japanese friend had brought her back a tasteful floral one, no doubt putting her advanced English skills to good use. I, on the other hand, got her one that said "Pencil House," with a little bizarre description underneath. She was quite pleased. Then I wandered the rest of the stationery department, remembering why it is not a good idea to turn me loose in such establishments. They had stationery! Calendars! Notebooks! Stickers! And pens, oh, the pens! I really do have a thing for pens. How can anyone pass up super-fine .04 tipped pens in an array of colors? And of course, let's not forget the glitter pens. Though they're Uni-ball, you can only find the Signo Rainbow line in Japan. I am such a connoisseur. I, of course, got a purple one, and Kristel had to have a pink one, our respective signature colors. How Sharon turned one down I don't know. I also found silly "French" and "German" stationery for Amy and Heidi, which they found hilarious. After all, if it's a language written with the Roman alphabet, it's considered decorative; grammar is kind of incidental.

Sharon had to go to work then, so Kristel and I took the pilgrimage to Muji ourselves. They moved it upstairs! It's bigger! They had no currently tempting clothes! I made it out without spending any money. The most important thing we found in Loft that day, though, was discovered as we came down the escalator from Muji to the other side of the floor with the stationery. Over on the other side, it turns out, it where they keep all the weird toys. Loft, it turns out, has a new kind of teddy bear, which they had given a very large display. His name is Gloomy Bear, the adult bear. He is plush and comes in a range of bright rainbow colors. Oh, and he has long white plastic claws on his hands. First I thought, oh, that's kind of weird, but maybe you could think it was cute. Then I walked around to the other side of the display to the other version of Gloomy: Gloomy with blood on his claws and dripping from his mouth. Turns out, Gloomy is a teddy bear who got tired of being a child's plaything, and apparently had a lot of anger to get out. You can buy bloody Gloomy bears, little "hang bear" keychain icons, pencils, pens, pads, and lunchboxes, plus postcards, posters, and videos showing Gloomy violently beating his owner. Lest you be too concerned for the youth of Japan, it doesn't seem any small children are terribly interested in Gloomy. All the people we saw there were teens and young adults. Gloomy also has some non-violent cousins, all little "hang bears" with different themes, such as "Healthy Bear," "Halloween Bear," and about a dozen others in various colors. There also appears to be a futuristic bear, all in metal, with rockets in its feet.

We also discovered the aisles and aisles of vending machines. Yay! I'm quite serious, they had rows and rows of little vending machines full of little plastic eggs containing a variety of prizes. Each one had a different theme. There were Winnie the Pooh machines, Simpsons machines, Dragon BallZ machines, "Frog Style" machines with little rubber frogs in clothes, Thunderbirds machines, and on and on. The best ones, we decided were the Campbell's soup and Homepride machines. Each of these had bigger eggs with tins in which there were two nostalgic magnets and a "mascot" on a hook so you can attach it to your phone. We had entirely too much fun with these machines. Kristel said the clerks probably thought she was insane, because she went back to the desk twice to get more change for the machines. I would have spent a lot more money there if I'd had more change. I wish I could go back, but this might be a sign of addiction, so perhaps it's a good thing I'm on the other side of the ocean, with all the boring, untempting vending machines we have here.

Kristel and I then briefly hit Uniqlo, Beaux Arts, the shoe store, and Comme Ça, all with little luck. I did get a pencil case of my own at Comme Ça, but eventually we went to the grocery store for Kristel to prepare for her dinner the next night, and then went to the coffee place where we were meeting Sharon. We narrowly avoided an encounter with the infamous Cindy, and lived to regale Sharon with tales of Gloomy Bear, and give her the Homepride and Frog Style eggs we had gotten for her.

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