Well … what an adventure! I was determined that today I was going to find someplace to get a manicure. My gel manicure was about 7 weeks old and had grown out half the length of the nail bed. I’d being filing my nails and covering them up with other polish, but it was time to do something to at least get the old gel off my fingernails.

I checked on line and found that there was a nail salon near a Starbucks that I had been to in the Ueno train station. That was a good start, because I wanted to go to the Ueno station anyway. I wanted to go there to buy a loaf of bread. Last weekend, on my way to Shoko’s house, I had found a bakery at the Ueno stations that sold a wonderful dense seeded bread and I wanted to go back and get another loaf. Typical Japanese bread is like wonder bread on steroids … the slices are big, squishy soft, and about 1” thick.

I should mention that the Ueno station, and the entire Ueno neighborhood, if not all of Tokyo is in the midst of a “Panda”mania. The whole area is celebrating the first birthday of a baby panda, named Xiang Xiang, born at the Ueno zoo last June 12. I had been following her progress on a video link through a Japanese news site before I came to Japan. Recently posted her picture on Facebook.

When Japan gets excited about something, they merchandise it like crazy. When I arrived at the station, the first store I walked by was a total Panda store. You could buy just about anything you would ever want with a panda image on it … t-shirts, hats, socks, underwear, towels, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, purses, bags, shoes, backpacks, postcards, books, writing paper, pens, pins, cookies, pastries, food picks, a hundred other little trinkets. The stores even gave you a special "Happy birthday Xiang Xiang" sticker if you bought something ... anything ... anywhere in the station.

Of course they were also selling stuffed pandas. I made the mistake of picking one of them up. It was soft, and furry, and it wouldn’t let go of my hand. I figured I would put in on my pillow tonight, play the recording I made of Maxx purring, and pretend I was sleeping with a cat.

(I really need a “Cat”-a-tonic about now!)

Moving on , I put the panda in my bag and headed to the bakery. Of course, they had a few panda themed bake goods ... I only bought the cookie. I also bought the bread I'd come for, and a sandwich for lunch. I ate that while they sliced my bread into slices, exactly 1.5 cm thick. That was an interesting negotiation at the register.

Next stop the nail salon. I found it …. Talk about tiny … a counter with three nail stations bumping up against each other. And that’s about all there was room for. They brought me an English language menu and we negotiated what I wanted to have done. Then they asked me to come back in about an hour and a half. No problem. I was determined to get a manicure today.

However, it meant I had an hour and a half, unsupervised, in a shopping mall, a shopping mall loaded with cute panda and cat stuff, and very expensive clothes.

I thought my smartest plan would be to go to the bookstore, get something to read and then head to Starbucks. Of course, at the entrance of the bookstore … a table full of books, and videos, and cards, and mugs, etc … all about the panda. I restrained myself. I only bought one small book with pictures of her progress through the year, and some postcards.

Then, I got out of there and went to Starbucks.

Looked at my book while I drank my decafe Latte.

She is so darn cute. I love the picture of her mother dragging her inside by the ear.

Finally, headed to the nail salon. Now, a Japanese manicure is a little different than what I’m used to. Why am I not surprised?

First of all, the menu of services is immense.

Polish and cuticle treatments are billed separately.

Brands of polish are billed separately.

You can get an OPI specific manicure.

You can just get clear polish, or a “single” color, or multiple colors, or … You can get nail art.

Lots of different styles and colors with jewels or other decorative adornments.

I was tempted by the cherry blossom style.

I really didn’t want to spend over $120, so I opted for clean up and clear polish.

And as I was getting my plain, clear polish manicure, I was looking at the boards with samples of the “nail art”. Guess what ? You could get pandas painted on your nails.


I didn’t.

Although I did think about asking if I could just get the rear view one done on just one nail.

Maybe before I come home.

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