Lost (and Found) in Translation

By Samuel Smith


The second I exited Harajuku train station, my vocabulary reduced itself to three words: “Oh my god.”  As far as the eye could see, shops thrust their way into the desperate grasp of ravenous consumers. Not unlike high school students at a grade twelve formal, each store was decorated to the utmost level of ridiculousness in order to capture the attention and wallets of eager onlookers. What lay ahead of me made the previous day’s trip to Tokyo seem like a stroll to the local grocery store. I glanced at my travel partner and sheepishly grinned, trying to hold back the full extent of my excitement. My glance was met with a wide-eyed look of awe, as we shared our disbelief and prepared to immerse ourselves in a world of teetering skyscrapers, blaring techno music, blazing neon lights, gigantic stuffed animals, and pink-haired shop assistants.

To my left beckoned a clothing store, fittingly named Mad Hectic. A menacing-looking four-storey building sprawled itself out in front of me, adorned with what would have had to be at least two thirds of Tokyo’s neon lighting quota. In a last-ditch effort to maintain my sanity and the contents of my wallet, I attempted to ridicule its nonsensical title.
“Hah, what a joke!”  I scoffed, trying to keep up a sensible shopper façade. Seconds later I found myself entering the store and mysteriously emerging with five shirts, a pair of pants, and no memory of anything that happened in the previous thirty minutes.

After doing some irreparable damage to the contents of our wallets and getting laughed at by locals for our bizarre tourist behavior—“LOOK AT THE PATTERN ON THE SEWER COVER! LET’S TAKE A PICTURE!”—we decided it was time for a well-earned break in one of Harajuku’s famous crepe cafés. Once inside, Harajuku syndrome struck again. Thirty minutes later we emerged dazed, confused, and wondering why we had decided to order and inhale a ‘crepe cheesecake sensation’ each. If by chance you’re wondering what this specifically contains, I will put my guilt aside and enlighten you. A crepe cheesecake sensation consists of a crepe (sensible enough), covered in maple syrup (slightly sugary, yet acceptable), smothered in vanilla ice cream (okay, enough now), sprinkled with chocolate buttons (time to search family history for diabetes), topped off with a slice of cheesecake. We have no idea how we are still alive either.

We spent the rest of our time in Harajuku asking each other where the pancreas is located, looking up ‘signs of diabetes’ on the internet, and being asked to become hair models by a Japanese woman with a faux British accent. After all of this, we still managed to find time to wine and dine at the BBQ Ranch Wicked Wings All You Can Eat Buffet, which was located on top of a skyscraper, overlooking a twenty-storey high giant robot replica and a mini golf course.

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