After a sleep-in the next morning because everything hurt, the initial plan was to go to Shibuya and Harajuku for shopping, which was difficult to organise because we were going to take the train to Shinjuku and the three words were thrown around interchangeably by some of the gaijin participating (hint, it wasn’t me). For the afternoon I was going to return to Akihabara and get the rest of the nerdiness out of my system while Swang went to another district – we would meet up later for dinner at the ninja restaurant, and finish the evening sipping fine Whisky while watching old black and white films.
We got to Shibuya and argued a little about how to get out of the station, which was absolutely packed. I’ve used the word before but imagine more packed. We made it to the famous intersection but first wanted to take a photo of he dog Hatchi – the one whose owner died, but he still waited at the train station every day for him until he also died. Well I mean that’s how the story goes, but the dog was so bloody hard to find it wouldn’t surprise me if the owner just lost him and gave up. We waked all around the centre of he district after picking up a map in a train car/information centre. Upon returning to that info centre we spotted the statue of the dog and let loose the usual laughter at ourselves for being so oblivious and useless.
Shibuya is big. And tall. Like there are massive video screens and posters and things. It’s a terrifying thought that someone’s job is to scale the buildings and change the posters… also it was impossible to visit all the good stuff in one day. You could spend a day in each place – well I wouldn’t know about Harajuku – after lunchtime I decided to leave Swang and go back to Akihabara for the afternoon. But not before we went through a number of stores, and returned to an arcade and played both DDR (dance dance revolution) and played in some Gundam games where you get into a… tank really, and it feels like you are actually piloting a giant robot. And the noise – you never realise how many sounds can play at once until you go to an arcade here.
Akihabara is also too big for a few hours if you really want to see all the porn. I say that in jest but completely by accident I managed to walk into at least three porno manga shops – however if I wanted to I wouldn’t have any trouble finding them on purpose. One was advertised on a banner around the corner and I swear it had nothing about porn on the ad, but when I get into the shop I was genuinely shocked that it was a haphazard mix of not porn and porn… But mostly porn. It wasn’t even hidden from young eyes, won’t somebody please think of the children!
After walking downstairs in one shop, I was greeted by a poster of a woman covered in fluids and decided to leave. However on my way out of this store I bumped into a woman wearing very little, and she bowed in apology so low I thought she was going to do something else.
The next store I bought something from Kingdom Hearts, which I admittedly had been looking for from the start. I went up a floor and was greeted with standard anime merch; figures, t-shirts, DVDs, the lot. Up another floor, it was another sexual perversion floor – a lot tamer than some of the things I had seen this day, but I still had the capacity to be surprised. The next floor up was the first and only time so far I’ve seen Japan’s attempt to sexualise men, but it’s a lot tamer than the female versions. Pillows that have an arm coming out of them so it can ‘hug’ you, men from some anime about a swim club shirtless on posters and such, and even life-sized pillows with blushing male bed-mates wearing very little. Japan has it all.
Across the street I found myself wandering through a comic store, it was some time before I realised I was a lone male perusing the boys love section around a LOT of young females.
It came time to leave Akihabara; I was to meet Swang in Shinjuku to dine at the ninja restaurant. At the station here I used my first squat toilet. I believe I handled it better than some based on stories I’ve been told… however a few things were unclear so I did wing it. Seemed to work alright.. I made it to Akasaka where the restaurant was, and got very lost trying to locate it.
When I finally did, the following exchange occurred:
Oh, English, ok. I’d like to make one for today if possible..
For how many people?
Sorry no room
So I met up with Swang and we trained back to Shinjuku and made it to a restaurant where you can fish for your own food, using a rod is free, and you could buy bait and just go for gold. You ate whatever you caught and could choose how it was cooked – and it was cheaper to catch it yourself rather than just order from the menu. However the fish were obviously well fed because they were barely biting even with bait. I’d like to let you know that -I- caught a flounder and we had it half fried, half sashimi.
On way out of restaurant we were walking and talking loudly in English when a Chinese man stopped Swang to ask (in English) where the Washington hotel was. Presumably the man thought Swang was a local due to his oriental looks… fortunately, we just ate dinner in the building and Swang was able to l direct him.
I think I got a massive headache from all the second-hand smoke I’ve inhaled today, since you can smoke in many restaurants. There are also designated smoking areas in public locations around the city.
Taking the subway alone again for the like the fifth time, I felt like such a pro. Head down, stare at floor or phone. No talking. No eye contact. Push people in the way gently to let them know you want out. And the trains play a victory theme each time they hit a station, which is both uplifting and disconcerting.
Some more things I’ve noted thus far:
The people in Tokyo don’t know or if they should keep left or right. In some stations down is left and up is right. In others it’s the opposite. Hell, I’m pretty sure in one station I saw it switch as we made our way to the other side, where is the order!?
We have had two places now which turned us away after trying to reserve in English, and we aren’t sure if it’s cause we are foreign or not…