I met up with Michele (pronounced the men’s way, not the women’s way) from Italy today. He’s someone who also posts on the RTK forums, and is really good at Japanese. He’s in town to take the JLPT N1. We had a bit of a mess at first trying to meet up.
We agreed to meet at Kings Cross/Saint Pancras, since that’s the neighborhood where the test is going to take place on Sunday. What neither one of us realized was that there are two national railway stations there: one is called King’s Cross, and one is called Saint Pancras. (Hence the “/” in the name.)
So when I asked him where he was, he said he was in front of the Starbuck’s in the station. That’s odd, I didn’t see a Starbuck’s. But I did see a Burger King. Well, he didn’t see a Burger King at all. So I moved to the wicket in front of platform 2, and he agreed to move in that general direction, thinking that maybe we were just on different floors. We even tried waving. After 10 minutes or so, we finally broke down and started asking around for ideas. Then we found out why we couldn’t see each other.
No, we weren’t in parallel universes, although that would have been far more interesting.
He was in Saint Pancras railway station, and I was in King’s Cross railway station. One is right next to the other.
See? Parallel universes would have been more interesting!
Mitsukoshi and Japan Centre
After finally meeting up, we headed over to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) campus of the University of London at Vernon Rise, where Sunday’s test will be. It wasn’t too hard to find.
Then it was off to Piccadilly Circus and Mitsukoshi for lunch. Yes, that’s the same Mitsukoshi that’s a famous department store chain in Japan.
Mitsukoshi has a nice restaurant. The food presentation is very attractive, and very standard Japanese. I get the feeling that the intention is to make Japanese tourists feel like they’re “home,” more than it is to bring a taste of Japan to London.
I had the steamed vegetable and sashimi set meal for £14, and that was one of the cheaper ones. It was very good, but not cheap.
After lunch, we did some browsing around Mitsukoshi’s book shop. What’s interesting about Mitsukoshi is that they don’t really sell a lot of “Japanese stuff,” instead they sell a ton of English souvenirs to Japanese tourists.
Again, it’s the whole, “Hey, if you’re Japanese, then this is a store that caters to you” vibe. It was kind of disappointing, really. They had a good book store, but the prices were hideous. It was yet another case of, “Don’t you mean dollars instead of pounds?” A lot of cheap books, 1800 yen books, were going for £35.
After being scared away by the expensive books, we headed over to the Japan Centre, to look at their smaller selection of books. Japan Centre is neat, because they actually have Japanese products.
The downside, again, are some crazy high prices. Also, their book selection is much smaller than Mitsukoshi’s, and the prices aren’t much better.
The upside of Japan Centre is that it has a lot of Japanese products, like food and other things. It also has a restaurant that I’ll have to try later.
We looked around a bit more, and then headed back to the Piccadilly Circus tube station, and called it a day.
I headed back to the room, crashed for a bit, studied some, then headed off to Nando’s, a Portugese-style chicken chain. That’s some good chicken. The store is a little chaotic, but the chicken is tasty. It’s in some kind of sauce, but it’s delicious. The downside is that it’s not too cheap. £9 ($14?) for a meal.
Welcome to London. Empty your wallets, please.