Sunday 21 November 2010

japan :: tokyo part 2

We returned to Tokyo for the last few days of our trip. One of my ex-JET friends was kind enough to let us stay with her family in their amazing flat, right in the heart of Azabu-juban.

View of Tokyo Tower

The 'Ewok' brushes her teeth before bed

I should point out that at this point in the trip, with only 2 days to go, I had already taken around 900 photos and 20 videos. Two of my camera batteries were dead and my third - and last one - was decreasing at an alarming rate. Why had I decided against bringing my battery charger? I cannot say. I didn't even have the excuse that I would have needed a power adapter; it would have fit into a Japanese plug. I kept my camera in reserve and used my iPhone, but ultimately didn't detail as much as I would have liked.

With that in mind, I convinced S that we should go to Akihabara. Not only is it a geeky mecca, but I thought I might be able to get some extra juice. We went to Asakusa first, where we were swept along the tide of tourists shopping for ichiban headbands, lucky cats, and ningyo senbei.




Outside Senso-ji, people were covering themselves in incense. But just as many were ignoring the shrine and taking photos of this:


The Tokyo Sky Tree is currently under construction, but it is the talk of the town: almost everyone we met asked us if we had seen it. I must admit, I'm not sure I understand the attraction but I felt compelled to take a picture of it anyway.

Bob's distant cousins, hoping for food. Are they ever not hungry?

Speaking of food, we walked through the nearby kitchen goods wholesale district of Kappabashi, where we found a shop selling the plastic models you see outside restaurants.



Continuing on, we found Akihabara in all its neon-and-noise electronic glory, complete with maid cafes.


I'm still bemused by the idea of maid cafes. I went to one last year on my business trip and it was so cloyingly, bizarrely saccharine that we lasted about five minutes before rushing back outside. Perhaps the strangest thing is that it's not all that sexualised; maid cafes are a perfectly reasonable destination for couples on dates, single women looking to attract otaku men, (and the occasional delusional nerd who brings flowers to his favorite maid in hopes of sparking her interest.) I guess I can understand why the first maid cafe was such a sensation, but there are so many of them now that the market seems quite saturated. Maybe it's time for a new concept.

In the end, we didn't buy anything. I found a battery charger but it was too expensive to justify an extra day's worth of photos. We dipped our heads into a few shops, looked at some manga and anime, and moved on. Much of Akihabara baffles me, but I do think it's cool that there is an entire area where people can proudly indulge in geeky interests.


In the afternoon, we met my friend maki. M was the art teacher at the school where I worked in California; now she is back in Japan exhibiting her beautiful floral pieces made out of washi paper.

sassy maki


Over dinner, M asked if we had ridden the yurikamome monorail, or visited the ferris wheel in Odaiba. She described the ferris wheel in such dreamy, romantic terms that we headed straight there the following morning. You might remember that we had seen it from the top of Tokyo Tower lit up at night at the beginning of our trip:


It looked pretty in daylight as well.



With Buzz Lightyear at the LEGO store inside the Palette Town shopping mall...

...with Barbie...

...and with the Statue of Liberty.


On our last night, we had dinner with another ex-JET. It was great to catch up with so many friends - and have a chance to introduce them to S. Overall, it was a different trip from most of our other travels: while it was all new for S, it was like going home for me. He saw a side of me he rarely sees (speaking Japanese, bowing on phones). I saw a side of him I rarely see (breakfast at the local konbini with black coffee). I hope he enjoyed being shown around as much as I enjoyed showing him around. Tanoshikatta...


1 comment:

Sara said...

I'm catching up on your blog today! As to the maid cages and maybe needing a new concept, have the toilet themed restaurants made it to japan yet? I heard about these on a radio show, and they just sounded so incredibly wacky. Everything is bathroom themed, including the seats, which are toilets! It is a chain in parts of china, I think. Totally weird