The Kimochi Warui Diary
Yuno had us meet her outside the gate of Mito Station. I immediately knew it was her:
Five feet tall, a bob of short black hair, and a dainty blue bow on top.
But unlike any of the other girls in the crowd, she was the only one wearing a school uniform—beige blazer, pleated skirt, ankle-high socks, and black loafers.
“Here!” she said. “Gift!”
Yuno handed me a bag full of rice crackers. The bag was nearly bigger than her head. Should I have brought a gift for her? I’m an idiot!
Then she looked over at Jotaro. He’d activated his stoic mode and radiated his menacing, purple aura.
“This is my brother!” I said.
Yuno bowed. “N-nice to… meet you!”
Jotaro gave an uninterested “Yo.”
We didn’t have anything planned for our meetup, so Yuno suggested we go to Starbucks. She said I could help with her English homework.
Nearly all the seats in the Starbucks were taken by groups of young people enjoying their time off from school. We managed to find a table while Yuno ordered herself a drink. Once we sat down, I whipped out my phone and messaged Torako on LINE.
“Just met Yuno. She gave me a gift!” I sent a sticker of an anime girl swooning. “And she’s wearing her freaking school uniform!!!”
Torako replied with a sticker of an anime girl, a question mark above her head.
“A school uniform? That doesn’t sound right…”
“Yeah, it’s true! She had to do a makeup exam just an hour ago.”
Torako sent a sticker of an anime girl with squinted eyes. “Let me get back to you on this.”
I thought Torako would be more excited for me, but I ignored it, because Yuno was back…and she had an enormous drink in her hands. It was a sugary concoction full of chocolate syrup and whipped cream—more a dessert than a coffee. The sleeves of her blazer covered up most of her hands, making the cup look even bigger than it actually was.
Yuno pulled out her English homework and showed me some of the problems. I could easily tell her the right answer, but when she asked why it was the right answer, I had no idea what to say. I tried my best to explain, but it was becoming clear that her English comprehension was about as good as my Japanese comprehension.
Our conversation was quickly devolving into pointing and nodding, and it was going nowhere fast. Meanwhile, as Jotaro sat next to us with his arms folded, his purple aura began to spread.
But what else was I supposed to do? It’s not every day you can meet your online friends in Japan. He’ll just have to stick it out!
And then, out of nowhere, Jotaro decided to blurt out loud:
“Can anyone here actually understand what I’m saying right now?”
A few people nearby stopped talking and looked. Even Yuno looked shocked. She probably didn’t understand any of it, to be fair.
It was rare for him to have an outburst—but I saw what was going on. He was bored. And truthfully, I was being selfish by making him wait all this time.
“Look,” I said. “Just give me an hour and we can go.”
He took a book out of his backpack and got comfortable. “Go do whatever you’re gonna do.”
Yuno took me down to the first floor of Mito Station, which I didn’t realize existed—there was an entire mall down there!
She brought me to a 500-yen store where everything only cost 500-yen. She’d pick up random trinkets from the shelves, present them, and then say, “500-yen!”
They say that when it comes to human interaction, online can never beat reality. But here in the 500-yen store, I couldn’t help feeling that IRL was nothing like our online conversations. Without the help of our translation apps, we had nothing.
Did I really knew who Yuno was at all? While she presented a sushi-shaped eraser to me in an aisle of stationery, I began to question everything:
Does she have friends? What are her parents like? Do I even know how old she is?
Suddenly, I thought of Jotaro by himself in the Starbucks.
“Hey Yuno, I think maybe it’s time that I—”
“Let’s go purikura!”
Yuno brought me back up the stairs and over to a corner of Mito Station that Jotaro and I hadn’t noticed on our own. Through a set of double doors, we passed through a small arcade with crane machines and games. At the end of the arcade was a barrier, and behind it were several purikura booths.
Purikura is essentially a type of glamour photo that you can get through select photobooths, and it’s a huge trend in Japan. You’ll rarely see a Japanese girl’s social media profile without at least one purikura photo.
If you live near an Asian neighborhood, you might even be able to find a purikura booth there. But in Mito Station, I learned the main difference between the Japanese booths and the Western ones. A colorful sign posted on the barrier’s gate made it so even a foreigner couldn’t misinterpret:
Girl + Girl = ◯
Girl + Boy = ◯
Boy + Boy = ✕
I got a flashback of our hotel clerk.
Two men… Very bad.
An arcade employee stood outside the barrier to enforce the rule. He looked us over and gave us the OK to go inside.
In this purikura booth, we had four chances to take photos. The screen inside the booth shows you where you stood in the frame. Then, the timer began—we had 10 seconds to choose our poses.
The camera flashed with each photo. We put up any pose that came to mind. For the last photo, Yuno put her fingertips on her cheeks—just like the top maid from the café. Suddenly, I was getting a bad feeling about this.
Once the photos have been taken, you’re instructed to leave the booth and visit the touchscreen on the other side of it. That’s where you can edit the photos.
I let Yuno take over for this part. She took the attached stylus and drew smiley faces, dragged clipart into the frame, and chose the perfect backgrounds for each photo. At the end, she tapped a button to confirm the changes.
The screen then instructed us to wait while the photos printed. Knowing what happened the last time a Japanese girl took photos with me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the outcome of these photos.
But it was too late: the booth began to buzz as our photos were being finalized.