Tokyo Day 3 – Akihabara

[DATE: 2013/10/14]
Alright, I’m lagging behind these big time. Luckily, I’m now at the airport with over 7.5 hours to kill, so I’ll just knock all of these summaries out right now.

Breakfast

I was starving and lazy, so I decided to hit up Denny’s in Tsukji just to see if the family diners in anime were anything like their real-life counterparts. As it turns out, yes the restaurants are exactly like the ones portrayed in anime, with the exception that the staff doesn’t wear maid outfits.

Akihabara

Early Bird

After eating the most mediocre breakfast ever, I decided to travel to Akihabara. It was around 1050 and the first thing on my list was Mandarake, but nothing in Japan opens until 1130. What the hell is up with that? The only places that are open are cafes and large fast-food chains.

Anyways, I decided to skip Mandarake and dicked around until Animate was open because it was a hella busy the day before. Seriously, you couldn’t even stop to look at a poster without having a deluge of fanboys plow you into a corner.

After getting my fill of anime merchandise, I quickly made my way to a cafe to plan my next method of attack.

Cat Cafe – Nekojalala


After a quick pitstop, I decided to hit up the famous Nekojalala.

The cafe’s entrance is quarantined from the rest of the cafe to prevent escapes. After taking off my shoes and shelving my backpack, I was led to the back and asked to read a list of english rules.

Rule 1: Do not do a cat violently

Bwhahaha. Seriously, that was the first rule. Not sure if that’s due to a poor translation or if it’s based on an anecdote. I’m gonna say the latter.

After washing my hands, ordering a compulsory drink, and reading the rules, I was allowed to play with the cats. I also ordered some tunafish to feed to the cats.

3 of the 12 or so cats were asleep and most of them were currently playing with some other guest. I just sat there and took pictures of the cats until the cafe attendant came out with the tunafish I ordered, after which all of the cats either woke up or stopped playing with whoever and bum rushed me.

The moment I started scooping tunafish into my hands I had cat paws and mouths scratching and biting my fingers. Especially this little fucker:

This gray little bastard literally stuck his face and paws into my hands the moment I presented any tunafish to any of the cats. I was barely able to feed anyone else. Once I exhausted my supply of tunafish, I chugged my beer and took a thousand photos of the cats.

After my 30 minute time block expired, I made my way out of the cat cafe and ended up paying somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 to 2000 yen. That’s fairly expensive for a drink, some tunafish, and 30 minutes to play with cats. FML. Why didn’t I think of that?

Anyways, have some kitty pictures:

Kitty Cats

IMG_1709

IMG_1717

Aimless Wandering

I wandered the residential neighborhood of Akihabara and ran into this sign:

I immediately thought:

Despite the tendency for everything to be “happified” in Japan, maybe this was going a little too far

At this point, I figured I’d kill some time before I worked up the courage to go to a maid cafe. I pulled out my travel guide and found out that there’s was some sort of modern-art museum in the area. I figured that would be a good way to kill an hour or two.

Finding Musuems and Shrines

I spent 30 minutes wandering around the Chome trying to find this phantom museum and eventually gave up and settled for a random shrine instead.

I suppose a modern-art museum would be just as useful as a shinto shrine; the allure of either of those two things fails to phase me. After watching the shrine’s pet goat take a shit (not even kidding), I decided that it was time to go and made my way to the @Home Maid Cafe.

@Home Maid Cafe

I labored up 7 flights of stairs to get to the entrance to @Home Maid Cafe. I knew that it had locations on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floor, but they were fairly crowded, so I opted to go to the top floor in hopes of a shorter line.

My hopes were fulfilled. There was only one party in front of me and I was able to secure a seat in 10 minutes. After being greeted a bajazillion times with,

Okaerinasai, goshujinsama~!

I was bombarded with more rapid-fire Japanese, most of which I didn’t understand. From what I was able to gather, you can purchase various “sets” of food and activities. I simply purchased the “Dessert Set,” which included: a dessert (duh), a drink, and your choice between a photograph or a game with the maid of your choice.

I ordered a big-ass parfait (think Working!!), a mocha something or another, and opted to take a picture with a random maid, which I won’t be showing you.

Unfortunately, guests aren’t allowed to take photographs in the maid cafe, for obvious reasons, so you’ll just have to go to Akihabara and experience the cafe for yourself.

A word of advice: nobody there speaks English. Well, nobody I talked to spoke any English. The little amount of Japanese I had accumulated from Rosetta Stone, Anime, and my Japanese Phrasebook was barely enough ammunition to get through the experience.

The good news is that there was an American couple there that I was able to talk to. Their Japanese-fu was also super weak so I didn’t have to feel like a complete moron alone.

After exchanging email addresses, I decided to head back to the hotel and crash for the evening. I don’t remember what I had for dinner, but it was probably another bento from 7-Eleven.

-helios

Tokyo Day 2 – Ginza & Tokyo Station

Day 2 – Recon Ginza and Tokyo Station

[DATE: 2013/10/13]

I’m getting more and more lazy so these posts are going to get pretty terse.

Jet Lag

Woke up at around 7ish and decided to get ready. I was starving so I decided to go to the convenience store next door and grab some melon-pan filled with cream and custard. Delicious.

Before heading off, I decided to read my entire Japanese Phrasebook and bookmark important phrases. Took about an hour and a half to finish it off and mark off the most important phrases, including,

I don’t speak Japanese

And

Where’s the toilet?

Critical.

Anyways, after that, I spent another 30 minutes reading up my travel guide about the Ginza and Tokyo Station area and then I set off.

Ginza

Luckily, the weather was perfect in the morning. I decided to walk it to the Ginza district and explore the neighborhood. As it turns out, the Ginza District isn’t all that interesting. It’s basically the 5th Ave of Tokyo. Tons of high-rise, high-priced stores, with the likes of Gucci and friends easily filling out the entire district. There are also lots of large chain restaurants and expensive cafes seeding the area.

The one thing that Ginza does have plenty of are art museums. If you’re into that kinda thing, I would recommend stepping into Gallery Koyanagi and Tokyo Gallery.

I made it to the end of the main Ginza strip and decided to make my way to Tokyo Station so that I can hitch a ride on the Yamanote Line and survey the entire city.

Yamanote Line


It’s about 1100 and, by now, the temperature has kicked it up a notch. Despite the fact that there’s A/C on the trains, they’re surprisingly weak. I suppose the lack of electrical power due to the nuclear accident in 2011 has forced everyone to run everything on low.

I decided to board the Yamanote Line from Track 5, which sent the train in the clockwise direction. The train got super packed since Tokyo Station is where all the bullet trains launch from, so I stood for about two stops. It finally cleared out by Shinagawa and I grabbed a seat. At every single major stop, I tried to observe the surroundings.

I don’t remember anything really specific about the trip except that Ikebukuro and Shinjuku are a hella busy. The train filled out almost immediately at those two stations.

PASMO Issues

So apparently, if you enter and exit to and from the same station, your PASMO card goes bat-shit crazy. In fact, don’t exit and then enter the same station either. I had to talk to the train officers to get my PASMO card fixed.

Marunouchi (Tokyo Station)


Anyways, I was starving because it was around 1300. I decided to jump into some random Japanese food place and it turned out to be the most amazing Japanese lunch ever. I bought some sort of lunch package where they serve rice, grilled bbq chicken, fried something, some vegetables, miso soup, and some sort of sour fruit or something. Costed about 1000 yen. Even though it was probably normal by Japanese standards, in America that lunch would’ve costed me double what I paid.

After that, I began wandering south until I ran into the huge Bic Camera store.

Bic Camera

So, this electronics store is approximately 6 floors of loud, whizzing electronics with two basement floors for whatever home appliances. Any device that consumes electricity is probably sold here. Oddly enough, the place didn’t have as many video games as I would’ve imagined. I suppose that Akihabara fills that market well enough.

Some random store-girl came up to me and started rapid-firing some Japanese in my face and I’m like,

I don’t speak Japanese

And she’s like,

Ohhhh, no Japanese? English?

And then she literally turned around and ran. Fast.

At that point, I’m like,

OK, going to see if I can make my way out of here before she calls reinforcements and forces me to buy a PSVita

After perusing the store for an hour, I made my way to the exit.

Familiar Faces

On the way out of Bic Camera, wouldn’t ya know, I ran into that Japanese-English teacher that I met on the plane and her husband out of sheer coincidence. We literally passed right by one another and then, about 2 seconds later, we both stopped, turned around, and spotted one another.

Turns out, they needed to get some chores done at Bic Camera so they ended up going there right after lunch. We chatted it up for about 20 minutes and then exchanged email addresses so that we could link up in NYC later in life.

Hibiya Park


After parting with the married couple, I roamed into Hibiya park which was having some sort of festival. Since it was like 86 degrees outside, I decided to spend all of 10 minutes looking around. Nothing was going on.

Hmm, it was only 1500 and I didn’t wanna return to the station or explore more of Tokyo Station, so I’m like,

Fuck it. Let’s go to Akihabara and do some preliminary recon

Preliminary Akihabara Recon

I arrived in Akihabara via the Yamanote line without borking my PASMO card this time. I followed all the exits towards the “Akihabara Electric Town”. Seriously, that’s what it’s called.

Once I stepped out, I walked towards the main strip, which was a half a kilometer long. The main road was completely blocked off to traffic, so crowds filled the street area.

Right after I took that photo, I was like,

OMG, there’s the Animate store! I gotta see what this store is all about. It’s only mentioned in about 50% of every slice-of-life anime

Animate

There were about 6 or 7 floors of assorted anime paraphernalia, and none of it sparked my interest. Well, I did take a billion photos of the merchandise, but I’m not actually a collector. Besides, I can’t read Japanese and I don’t wanna have to worry about hauling stuff back to the States in my suitcase. I might end up getting some posters or something, but that’s about it.

Furthermore, that shit is expensive. Like, buying the Fate/Zero BD’s is 180000 yen or something insane. Yeah.

At this point, it’s like 1630 and I decide to head back to the hotel and crash because jet lag is a bitch.

Later

Day 3 is far more exciting, which I’ll write about later. It includes a cat cafe, a maid cafe, shrines, and more Akihabara exploration.

It’s actually Day 4 now, so Shinjuku is on the agenda for today.

-helios

Tokyo Day 1 – Flight

[DATE: 2013/10/11-2013/10/12]

Since our team can’t seem to push out any material, I’ll just go ahead and blog about my current Tokyo trip.

New York Traffic

I don’t know if any of you live in the New York City Metropolitan Area, but if you ever have to drive anywhere in it (e.g. Connecticut, Jersey, any of the boroughs of NYC itself), then you know that it’s always a complete shit-storm. This is especially true if you’re driving through the Bronx during rush-hour ever. Yet, I always inexplicably end up taking the Merritt Parkway to the Hutchinson River Parkway through the Bronx when I need to go to any of the airports. So basically, since I moved to the area 2 years ago, I haven’t learned my lesson yet and I’ve just been screwing myself over and over again.

That all aside, I decided to leave at 0600 and I was able to beat traffic to Newark Airport (70 minute drive time). Hell yeah! Now I have 3.5 hours to dick around at the airport, which sounds like a lot of time, but it passes by pretty quickly.

Long Rides

So, the flight was incredibly long—the longest I’ve ever been on. Luckily, I hadn’t seen Breaking Bad yet, so I brought all 5 seasons onboard and cranked through 1.5 seasons of amazing television! And if you ever decide to fly long distance, get Economy Plus and use Seat Guru to figure out which seat is worth paying for. I’m so happy I dumped the extra cash for that business. That and I was able to talk to a Japanese-English teacher who gave me tons of tips on Tokyo and guided me through the airport (that doesn’t come with the package though).

The flight passed by relatively quickly. I suppose the only good thing about getting a day-job is that you learn how to make massive swaths of time go by quickly. So while I can’t even sub Dog Days’ or any other anime for N LogN EG in my spare time, at least I can occupy myself on a 14 hour flight.

Navigating Narita Airport

Narita is surprisingly easy to navigate. Customs was super annoying to walk through, but once you’re into the main area, it’s totally easy. I arrived at Terminal 1 and proceeded to pick up my B-Mobile Data SIM card from the post office, which is actually in the airport.

Data SIM Cards

A little side note here, I decided to buy a B-Mobile Data SIM card so that I could use data features on my phone. It costs about $45 for 1 GB (expires in 14 days), but it’s totally worth it. The alternative would be to purchase 100 megabytes from Verizon for $25 and that wasn’t gonna work for me

Post Office

I walked up to the counter and simply just said,

Pick up

And the staff was like,

Ohh, OK. Passport?

And boom. Got my package after signing.

After that, I popped the new SIM card into my iPhone and made my way back to my hotel.

Trains

I hopped on the Access Express (Skyline Keisei Line) and rode that train all the way to Oshiage Station and then transferred to the Tokyo Metro system. After landing myself somewhere in Ginza, I began to search for my hotel.

Hotel Search

OK, so most Tokyo streets don’t have names. I knew this beforehand, but goddamn that’s the most annoying thing ever. I literally had to use all the major named roads, a compass, and the Chome to figure out where the hell I was. It was not easy. Finding the hotel took me over an hour even though it was less than 1/2 a mile from the station I exited.

The problem with their system is that if you go in “general” directions (any of the cardinal North, South, East, or West directions), you’re bound to drift because the streets aren’t laid out in a nice grid. So you also have to check which Chome you’re in, but that’s posted once every 5-10 light poles and most buildings show their address without the Chome’s district name because they assume you already know which one you’re in. That and I can’t read Japanese. Yeah, it was probably mostly that.

At some point, I was like,

Oh, I’ll just use my phone to navigate this shit

But I forgot to punch in the PAP access code so I wasn’t able to use the data plan. I realized this only after I got to the hotel and actually read the instructions like a proper human-being. After reading the only two instructions on the SIM card, I was able to get the data plan working.

It’s a good thing I decided to pack super light, because lugging around more than 10 pounds of luggage would’ve been exhausting.

Anyways, I figured it out after realizing that I was actually still wandering in the Ginza district when I thought I was in the Tsukiji district.

Jet Lag

By this time, I’d been up for about 25 hours and walking for miles around Ginza, so I decide to crash even though it was only 1830.

The plan for Day 2 (which is actually today) is to stay in the Ginza district and figure out where the hell everything is.

Pictures later. Need to get a bento and more sleep. Seeya.

-helios

End of August/September 2013 Report

Dead Quiet

Yep. Nothing has been done since we published the Gundam 00 S2 batch. Anyways, I’m here to tell you that we’re currently still under crazy schedules and what not. Don’t expect any new releases any time soon, but we should be able to do something by the end of the year.

Tokyo Trip

In other news, I’ll be going to Tokyo this week and I’ll be staying there for 9 days. I’ll be blogging and posting pictures and whatever. So if you’re interested in my escapades, check this site. I leave on 10/11/2013.

That’s all!

-Helios