When winter decided to show up in early November for the first time I realized that my current running gear of capri tights and short-sleeve wicking shirts probably wasn’t going to cut it. After living in Japan for four years, I was finally determined to get myself a warm up suit. If you aren’t sure what living in Japan has to do with warm-up suits, let me explain. Warm-up/ tracksuits are the unofficial business casual wear of Japanese schools. I can wear track pants and a hoodie to work if I don’t have classes or if we have anything mildly athletic happening at the school, but under no circumstances can I wear jeans. It’s an interesting hierarchy.
- Business Casual
- Warm-up/ Tracksuits
- Wearing a costume (if the event calls for it)*
- Wearing jeans
*A quick note on the costume point. For some reason, the Vice Principal seemed to think that I would be wearing my Snow White costume to the school’s 100th anniversary despite a)it not being Halloween, b)it not even being October anymore, and c)it being a formal event during which all of the other teachers would be wearing suits. It took me a few moments to process what he was suggesting, during which time I was probably looking at him like he had just grown an extra head. I politely responded that no, like everyone else, I would be wearing a suit. He seemed surprised that I even own a suit, (which probably says something about what he normally sees me wear to work, but I decided not to get into that) despite the fact that he has seen said suit at least five times in the two years he’s been working here.
The reason I have avoided buying a tracksuit for so long is a) I don’t look in all one color b) I don’t enjoy swishing when I walk and c)it’s hard to find pants here that fit me. The first time I went back to the US after moving to Japan I even went to a sports store where I knew I could find something that would fit, but I still couldn’t justify spending the money on what I figured I would only wear twice a year. So I have put it off time and time again, secretly harboring a growing jealousy every time I see all the other teachers in their coordinated outfits, often way too covered up for how hot it is. Other that the fact that I would rather be in shorts and a wicking shirt during our summer sports events, I had to admit that they all somehow managed to make tracksuits look, well, not quite cool, but at least well put-together.
My mismatched yoga pants and 7 year old Ben and Jerry’s tie-dye t-shirt just weren’t going to cut it anymore (despite how much everyone here loves the cows on the shirt). I could finally justify buying a tracksuit because I would be using it at least once a week (depending on how often I do laundry and how long things take to dry). With this new goal, I asked my friends in the area if anyone was interested in taking a road trip to the nearest Sports Authority (about an hour and a half away by car). Instead, Suzu, one of the first year ALTs suggested we go to one slightly further away, but in Oita.
I live far enough north in Miyazaki that our capital and Oita’s capital are almost equidistant from me. Miyazaki City seems so much closer than Oita City just because it’s cheaper to get there. By some trick of the train company it costs about 2000 yen to get to Miyazaki City, but it costs twice as much to get to Oita City, even though it’s only about 20 minutes further away by car.
With our new destination in mind, Chris, Suzu, and I set off one Saturday morning for Oita City. Our first stop was an organic restaurant that Suzu knew of a little ways outside of Oita City. It was good to try a new place, but the food took forever and was incredibly expensive for how little we got. After about 4 hours of road tripping, I was as a little low on social currency, but I was trying hard to keep on my best behavior. One of the best parts of getting older is that it’s easier for me to identify that I’ve been over exposed and that’s why I’m on edge. While I can’t make the frustration go away, I’m able to better moderate my reactions.
Still, when we hit the next stop on our list, a mall Suzu wanted to go to, I couldn’t deal with the crush of people inside. The mall was long and skinny, making it difficult to get around without ducking and dodging just to get around. Combined with the fact that I had never been there before, I did a loop before I realized there was no way I could get any shopping actually done. I was too on edge and frustrated. Instead, I retreated to our rendezvous point and waited for the others to finish.
Finally, after five or six hours, we were headed to the one reason I had asked to go to Oita in the first place. I had been to that mall before, three years prior when I was on my Golden Week road trip with Cassie. I had a basic idea of the layout, knew there was a Sports Authority, and best yet, it was an open-air mall out in a more suburban part of the city. This meant fewer people overall and fresh air even when I had navigate around the ones there.
In Sports Authority I found not one, but three pairs of pants that fit. I even found coordinating, but not perfectly matching (which is what I wanted) jackets to go with them. In the end, though, I only bought the one set that was on sale and a new pair of insoles for my running shoes. Feeling good, I even ventured into Gap and picked up a few new shirts as well, also on sale.
The shopping trip was so successful so far, I even treated myself to a stop in Kaldi, the foreign food store, and got myself a pack of dates as a snack. The only thing I didn’t check off my list was a stop at Starbucks to try their seasonal drink. The line was nearly out the door when I had walked by, so in the end it wasn’t worth it.
So even though I arrived back at home mentally, physically, and socially worn out, it was a very successful shopping trip overall.