I awoke and played on my phone for an hour, and found that Swang had been awake for an hour already also. We decided to get up and eat some food – we got a recommendation downstairs and instructions on how to buy a ticket to the Ghibli museum, and set off.
We found the cafe no sweat (only walking the wrong way for about five minutes) and decided to get the ticked to the museum first so we wouldn’t miss out. It was able to be ordered from a convenience store called LAWSON which seems to be a chain. It was strangely easy to do, and we backtracked to get some food.
So we walk in and stand there awkwardly, realising there is no one coming I serve us. Swang, his eyes like a hawk’s, noticed some electronic machines akin to vending machines to the side. We used a poster to choose our meal and then awkwardly approached the vendors. It was obvious everyone’s eyes were on the gaijin waiting for us to break the machine, but Swang used his knowledge of he kanji (and the poor English subtitle) to order his food. I did the same, but with confidence, while Swang was ushered forcefully into a booth and had his order card taken from him. I followed suit looking like a pro and we were served a meal of rice, pork, miso and salmon. It was about 6 bucks and was incredible value for money, an excellent start to the day.
We then decided to check out the shrines and temples in the immediate area, and finally got our cameras out for the first time (completing be gaijin look). We snapped photos and made more inappropriate jokes, and walked he neighbouring streets looking at the food at merchandise. We visited a chain store (named something like Don Quijone??) which was about 6 floors of convenience, and it was fantastic. I bought a USB adaptor so I can plug my devices directly into the wall to charge – because I’m so smart.
We then spent the remainder of our time in town hitting not up a couple of arcades. I played some Mario Kart, then fought Swang in a Tekken-like Pokemon battle (it was very close, but I won). I watched Swang get frustrated at a claw mahine, and we played a kind of guitar hero but with drums.
Upon returning we spent a good half hour trying to plan the coming days, and had lunch across the road. Unfortunately the menu was entirely in Japanese (despite an English menu on the window front), undoubtedly mistaking Swang for another Japanese person – classic. Combining his knowledge of the Chinese characters with my year of Japanese and knowledge of hiragana, we managed to decipher enough of be menu to order food we might like to eat. Swang taught me how to get more noodles in my chopsticks, and I reciprocated by showing him how to let the chef know you appreciate the meal… By slurping your soup and noodles loudly. I wiped the soup from my chin, cheek, phone and knee, and we paid and left.
Braving the subway again, we asked how to get to a district where the famous Pokemon centre was located – I topped up my Suica card which I could use to tap on and off at various locations as we changed trains and lines, and for the first time in my life I truly felt like I understood train systems.
Finding the Pokemon centre brought us to tears. I don’t know if it was Jetlag – but we walked into an empty open mall, and somehow reached the 5th floor. We took an escalator down which had no exit to the second floor where the Pokemon centre was supposed to be, and saw a girl dressed in a pikachu hat with a pikachu bag. “Excuse me, did you go to the Pokemon centre? Where is it?” She tells us it’s up one floor, and we set off up the nearest staircase.. But it was somehow familiar. Swang spotted a lift and we jumped in, only to find floors two and three were not accessible in that lift. But he lift had begun to move downstairs, and in classic Swang form, he panicked and hit the number 5 button, while I chose to hit the number 1. We stopped awkwardly at 1 with some new guests, then rode the lift to floor 5 where we exited the lift and found ourselves taking the escalator back down to the first floor again. I didn’t want the girls to see us back again so we went the opposite way and found some stairs – success, the Pokemon centre!
In all honesty it was pretty gimmicky and childish, and I wasn’t too impressed. I choose to save my money, which I immediately spend when we got to the ground floor, on an ice cream. Smooth.
The plan was to train to Akihabara, the geeky district, to look around and eat dinner. No hiccups on the train, and we were simply overwhelmed with the size and volume of the district. Electronics everywhere, people who were more fashion statements than human beings, screens and posters lining the sides of buildings and walls, maids in the street shouting welcomes, it had the lot.
A little wandering found us at the Akiba gift shop, inside a mall. I immediately bought a keyring, two boxes of kit Kats (citrus and strawberry flavour) and some mochi. I made my way up to the second floor, looking at every figurine in each display case, and met Swang at the escalator on his way down. “Finished?” He says, having gone to the eighth floor and back. He was not impressed to find I would be here a while longer. So I went up the rest of the floors eyeing everything with wonder and glee, and finally decided I had taken in everything.
I was quite shocked at how calm and collected and.. Normal they were about sex and perversion. On the floor of the mall filled with manga and other books, posters of girls desperately trying to hide their panties hung from the ceiling. The adult manga section was not hidden out of sight, but rather was advertised by a woman showing off all of her boobs (that’s two), and there were people perusing these books, some sitting and reading in plain view, a book with a woman spread eagle on the cover. Nude. Like with no clothes on.
Back when we were checking out he convenience store there was an adult section marked with some low-hanging material signs, however outside this in plain view was a series of magnets marketing the new Japanese Karma Sutra, complete with graphic drawings and depictions of acts between a man and woman that passing children probably shouldn’t be able to study…
Hanger taking over again, Swang used wiki to suggest a conveyorbelt style meal where you take what you want. We set off on our 15 minute walk, which almost had nothing of note sort from a man who asked if I wanted a sekushi massage and then pointed at a suggestive picture of a young Asian woman. “No thank you, I don’t want a sexy massage” I told him.
Swang and I continued to snap as hunger took us, and we finally found the restaurant. It wasn’t at all like the wiki described but we were too hungry to care, so we sat down at the bar table and were given an English menu because of how clearly foreign we are.
We pointed at the meal we wanted and the chef set about preparing it right in front of us. That’s when Swang re-read the wiki and realised the conveyor belt style dining whichever described as ‘foreigner friendly’ was on the 4th floor- we were dining in the more typical traditional bar order setting. It didn’t matter because the 13 types of raw fish we were served were excellent, and the chef in front was shouting all kinds of things, thank you and welcome to customers coming and going, and something that would always get everyone to shout something in response. Dinner and a show!
Finally, we took the long way back to Asakusa because Swang isn’t as good at maps as he thought.