After getting settled into my hotel, I went out to find some food in Ikebukuro. I found this great little nook of a noodle shop. I was advertised as a Ramen place, but I ordered the Mori Yasai (ã‚‚ã‚Šé‡Žèœ) which was pretty interesting. It was a thicker noodle closer to soba. They gave me a bowl full of cold noodles, and a bowl full of broth with veggies in it. I put the noodles in the broth and then ate them up. Tasty. Add to that the 600 Yen (around $6) Asahi beer which was a 633ml bottle (that’s a lot of beer for $6), and I was satisfied. The meal was 800 Yen, so the whole night was $14. I strolled through a Pachinko parlor, but I was too tired to figure out where to get balls to start playing, I’ll work on that another day.
Well, after a decent night’s sleep in my hotel closet-I mean room, I got up ready to hit the town at like 5:30am. I avoided most of the jet lag, but since I went to bed at like 9:30 I’m just a bit off still.
I walked out of my hotel, turned the wrong way, and started wandering. After about an hour, during which time I walked in a circle at least once and bought myself a can of cold coffee from a vending machine, I found my way back to Ikebukuro station. I have pretty good spatial reasoning, but it is really easy to get turned around in this city. Side note, I have seen many cigarette vending machines, but they all have this new “Taspo” system installed, which is a card you’re supposed to get to prove you’re old enough to purchase cigarettes. I haven’t seen a beer or used underwear vending machine yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time.
Figured out the ticket-buying process after studying the maps above the ticket kiosks for a few minutes. Managed to buy a ticket to Shinjuku for the exact amount and got on the JR Yamanote line.
After I got off the train like ~8 minutes later in Shinjuku it was pouring out. Luckily I had my umbrella along. I was heading for the Kinokuniya book store, to see how it compared to the one in NYC. Funny thing about using an umbrella, you can’t really look up all that well. After walking about 10 minutes I figured I should have already found it, so I checked the map and looked up and realized I had walked right past the enormous (I mean really enormous) Docomo group tower which was past the Kinokuniya. So I went back, turned at the correct place, and walked up to Kinokuniya just as they opened the doors.
This store was 6 stories. That’s a big bookstore. Anyways, I found one manga that I had never heard of before (ç¾Žå°‘å¥³ã„ã‚“ã±ã‚‰-infernal paradise) about a HS girl who has wicked strength and poor impulse control. It’s pretty amusing so far (about 10 pages in). I also picked up a couple elementary school kanji practice pamphlets. They’re full of 5 minute exercises, perfect for doing on a train or when I have a spare minute.
Walked through the Tokyu Hands department store, bought some postcards and had a nice soba and tempura lunch. One thing I’ve learned about Japan so far, forget about getting diet soda. They have cola (Coke) and if you’re lucky Coke zero. At least that is my experience so far from vending machines and restaurants.
Next I went back to the station and hopped on the train for 4 minutes to Harajuku. I walked over the bridge where the goth girls hang out (but it was a Tuesday and had been raining, so no action) on my way to Yoyogi park. This is where the Meiji Jingu Jinja (shrine) is located. This shrine is dedicated to the Meiji Emperor (reigned 1867-1912) and Empress Shoken. For those who haven’t studied Japanese history, the revolution in the name of the Meiji Emperor is what finally ended the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600-1867) and reinstated the Emperor to power, also fully opening Japan to the outside world.
After that I finished walking through the park and continued to the Yoyogi train station. There I went to the green reservation window (Midori no madoguchi) which is where you can do basically anything JR and purchased a Suica (train card) so all I have to do is swipe the card on the way in and out of the station and I can add money anytime. Much easier. Since it was barely after 12, I hopped the train to Hamamatsucho, which is on the opposite side of the city from Ikebukuro. Hamamatsucho also happens to be the closest station on the Yamanote line to Tokyo Tower.
So I walked over to the tower and headed up. The main observation deck (150m up) was cool, but for an additional 500 Yen (the main deck was 800 Yen) I could go up to the special observation deck (250m up) so up I went. The views were cool, but unfortunately it was too overcast to see Mt. Fuji that day, maybe I’ll go again sometime.
I don’t have much in the way of photos from Akiba because you can’t take pics inside the stores, and pictures of storefronts are lame. But maybe I’ll save up to buy one of those tiny cybershot cameras so I can take some stealth pictures at some point.
I went into the Sega store, which was a giant arcade. 7 floors, each floor dedicated to 1 or 2 types of game. The first and second floor were crane game floors, the third floor was full 180 degree panorama gundam fighting games. The only lame thing about all the games nowadays are you have to buy something just to play them. So I spent 300 Yen to buy my pilot card (thanks to the friendly guy to clued me in to even needing to do that, and walking me through it), I chose the ESEF side (as opposed to Zeon) and hopped in my machine. It was a 4 on 4 linked battle, and though it was my first time, I scored the highest in both games, leading my team to victory. I guess I still got it (used to rock all challengers at the 3D arcade tank game where your tanks could jump and use homing rockets, etc. back in the early 90’s).
After that I went through Gamers (7 floors of Anime/Manga/CD/Figures/TCG) and just about had a nerdgasm. It took everything I had not to buy anything. Although I don’t think I’ll be buying much Anime here. I saw Utawarerumono there. To get the entire series it was 4 box sets of 3 discs each. Each set was 18000 Yen, making the entire series about $670. For 26 episodes. Yeah, I about had a heart attack just looking at the price.
Then I wandered through a random electronic supply market. Lots of little booths with everything electronic you could ever want. Superconductors, fuses, wires, connectors, pinsets, there was even one booth that had nothing but older, used Nikon cameras.
Finally I found a computer hardware store, and picked up a USB-powered lightweight DVD writer drive for under $100. Now once I get Japanese DVD’s I can actually watch them.
Movie stores: there are a lot of movie stores, and most have Anime and other movies. But it’s not unusual to have over half the store dedicated to Idol videos (or porn). It was interesting being in an isle looking at National Treasure 2 on one side, and naked women on the other side. Nicholas Cage… Naked Women. Nicholas Cage… Naked Women. I had to walk away.
After that I realized I must have walked miles and miles, because my feet were actually sore. So seeing as it was after 6pm I hopped back on the train to Ikebukuro, had some Udon for dinner, and came back to unpack and figure out how much I have spent so far. All in all, not too bad. If it wasn’t for the hotel room and the DVD player, I’d be well within budget. So I’m feeling pretty good so far.
What will I do today? I’m not sure, but it will probably include more exploring of Akiba. Wish me luck!