So, it’s been getting colder lately, and I’ve been noticing that they have these really cool jackets here in Japan which are kind of a cross between sport-coats and trench-coats… Hm… That’s probably a bad description. They’re made of a fairly thick fabric, and they’re built more “professional” looking, so square shoulders and buttons, but they’re also kind of casual, so they have things like extra straps in cool-looking places, etc…
Anyway, I’ve done a decent job of not splurging thus far, so I thought to buy myself a late-birthday present (for myself) and went to Shinjuku (the fashion capital of Tokyo, thus Japan) to look and see. Of course, I realized I wouldn’t be able to get anything at Shinjuku for a low price, but like I said, I really haven’t splurged that much yet, so I was thinking somewhere in the range of $150 or less. Anyone who’s seen any clothes stores in Shinjuku will know just how wrong I was. The t-shirts start at around $50, the pants around $70. Dress shirts run the range from about $65 through to as much as $150. (These are estimated dollar amounts, created by removing two decimal places and pretending I remember the original number to begin with.) Suit jackets START around $300, and the stylish overcoats I was looking for tend to start more around $400, and go all the way up to a full $1000 if you look at leather.
(I did find a store that had some very really nice jackets all within about $20 of $200, which somehow struck me as reasonable. Maybe it was the two hours I’d spent getting to the point of outright just plain laughing at the prices I saw for clothes that had worn me down to that point… I didn’t buy anything. I learned of more inexpensive places to shop and may stop and look there, or may also just wait for spring financial aid and get one of the nice $200 ones, ‘cause I promise they were nice. If I had a million dollars, I’d buy one of those awesome jackets for all of my friends. There were enough types that I wouldn’t really have to repeat any. But I digress.)
It was amidst all this …amusement that I made an interesting connection. Shopping (at least in Shinjuku) here is an awful lot like shopping for armor in Final Fantasy XI. Jake and Ryan understand what I mean, and probly Jeff (and maybe Tisa), but since that’s a small portion of the people reading this, allow me a bit of exposition.
Final Fantasy XI is a Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). To that extent, it has rather repetitive gameplay intended to keep players playing it for a long time. See, they charge you money each month to play the game as well as purchasing the discs to install it, so the longer you play, the more money they make. Most games are just bad in that you have to play forever to get stronger. Well, Final Fantasy XI takes the cake (EVE excluded) for length of time required to play the game in order to progress, as well as for “lack of things to do instead of killing monsters to gain levels”. In fact, the last ten/twenty levels or so take just about a full week of reasonable-to-lengthy play-time each day in order to gain one level. One week of solid play, one level, only slightly better stats. The thing is that this insanity in leveling extends to the game’s economy. Thanks in large part to insane Japanese players who work, play the game, and then sleep on the train going back to work the next morning, the game’s economy is completely shot for casual players; that is, anything worth owning costs far more than someone playing through their first time would be able to afford. And by the time they can afford it, they really should be wearing something better suited for their current level, which costs what seems an exponential increment more.
This is the connection I made. See, I wondered, if it’s all so expensive, how is it that kids at school can afford these things? And I came up with an answer: they grinded. (“Grinding” is a term in MMORPGs whereby one plays for a very long time in order to improve usually one attribute of their character, from aptitude with swords to the amount of money they possess.) So you see, they worked for a very long time, purchasing next to nothing, and then saved up and bought the items they wanted, and that’s about the only one of those items they have. Either that or they had a higher level alternate character… I mean… one of their parents give them money, as they have access to much larger amounts of it with far less work put into it.
And so I understood shopping in Shinjuku. And I also understood why the Japanese both made the game that way, and also why they don’t mind playing it when it is like that. Because that’s what their ACTUAL life is like. It’s not like the Wal*Marts we have at home where you can find decent clothes for low prices, and they don’t look like crap. I actually got the distinct impression that the further down in price (barring the really nice $200 coats I found in the end) you went, the uglier the fabric they used. Like the coats in the major department stores that only cost $300 had the ugliest patterned fabric I’ve seen on a jacket, period. It was just… wrong. And I didn’t even FLINCH at the girl I saw walking around with BRIGHT ORANGE leggings and magenta shoes/jacket. Didn’t phase me, and those jackets were hideous! >.<
Anyway, it’s fun to make connections with seemingly unrelated elements of society. ^_^