Today we went to Harajuku. There were lots of people with incredibly bizarre costumes and wardrobes and plenty of shops selling unique japanese clothing which was all cool and neat. But, the place was sooo crowded and so loud it was just way too much to deal with. There is a major shopping street, this street was packed to the brim and it was crazy hot out. Then we went inside the major clothes store in Harajuku and this place was just utter insanity. People were yelling at every store about sales, they were holding up giant signs and screaming out of cones while dozens of people poured in from every which direction. There's a video of some of the craziness but you had to truly be there to understand. We also met with Asami in Harajuku and she guided us around much of the area. Asami went to rutgers as part of an overseas program and became friends with Amanda who was a part of the same program, I met Asami while she was in the US twice in NYC. In any case she helped us get around and also introduced us to this really good food, these cooked squid balls with different toppings on them, very good!
Then Asami led us to Asakusa which is a more traditional part of Tokyo. They had a long shopping strip similar to Harajukus except that all the stores sold traditional japanese merchandise and the whole place had that old Japan vibe to it. It was pretty neat to see this side of the city but there wasn't really anything that we were particularly interested in buying.
We then said our goodbyes to Asami, hopefully we will meet her again next year in Tokyo or the next time she visits the US.
Then we met up with Yuki for our last visit with her, she treated us to an amazing Yakitori restaraunt. Really great food! Afterwards Yuki took us to an equally amazing coffee place. Everything inside was very fancy and seemed to be antiques that had been cleaned up. It was a very nice end to a very tiring day. For our last two days here we are going to just do a little more shopping and hit up the hot springs once. So there will likely be only one more post before I get back to NJ as we will be taking it easy for the end of our vacation.
It's been amazing and I plan to put together a polished complete video of our trip in time with all the great footage I haven't been able to post here.
Today we went to the Tokyo International Toy Show in Odaiba. We were pretty dissapointed when we found out it was a toy show for little kids, we were under the impression that a toy show in japan would have some kickass grown up toy stuff. Well to make the trip worthwhile I got to see a live performance of people in giant pokemon costumes enacting a battle... i think... or something like that. Anyway it made me very happy, the video is too long to put up here but here's a short clip from after the battle.
On our way back we spotted this beautiful giant clock which I recognized from something I had read online a while back. It was a clock that Hayao Miyazaki designed himself. We got off the train and checked it out up close, a nice Austrian guy told us it would turn on in ten minutes and be quite a sight to see; this guy had also been waiting a hour and half for this clock to turn on so I figured it had to be good. Again, the video is too big to put up on here but I assure you it was worth the wait. This was the most elaborate clock I have ever seen, at 3 o clock everything on the clock moved, lights turned on, music played. Obviously a Miyazaki creation.
We then met up with Yuki and Joey and made a long journey to the actual Studio Ghibli. To my surprise the studio was located in a rural area in the middle of the street, literally in the middle of a plain old town surrounded by average homes and shops. Nothing spectacular. However they did have their own personal farm and there were vines and vegetation crawling up every single side of the building. I was also surprised that the studio was so small. It was a very humble studio thats for sure.
I then remembered I had my buisness cards with me and Yuki did the most amazing thing for me, something I will never forget. She talked the security guard into giving my buisness card to Hayao Miyazaki! I'm sure nothing will come of this but just the thought makes me incredibly happy :).
Maybe he won't even get it but what Yuki did for me I am incredibly thankful for. It was not an easy task either, the security guard was very hard to convince since the studio was so incredibly strict and they were given such specific instructions. But it happened.
Today we went to Kamakura, a good hour and a half away but because of that it really is outside of the city and has a different feel than all the places we have been to thus far. We ventured through tight rural areas which were incredibly quiet and empty with vegetation growing out every where and moss climbing up the walls of nearby houses and trees. We walked SO MUCH today, we were passing out on the train ride back.
Our first stop was the Giant Buddha! Which is pretty self-explanatory but up close it is a truly epic site. You also can go inside of the buddha which is kinda cool i guess.
Afterwards we were heading towards the station when we came upon a random giant staircase, Tom insisted on going up them to see where they went. We ended up on a 1.6 kilometer adventure through what felt like the middle of forest in Japan which I guess is exactly what it was. The trail was really unique in that it used lots of natural elements to create stairs, you'd be walking up steps made of wood and mud with roots weaving all around the steps. Many times it felt like you were walking up a tree. We eventually found our way out into a really nice area which overlooked much of kamakura it seemed.
We stumbled upon another Temple which you had to travel through a tunnel in a rock wall covered in moss to get to. And also a massive temple atop a giant staircase with people walking around in kimonos and other traditional japanese clothing.
Tomorrow Tokyo International Toy Show & Open Air Museum
This will be a short post since we gotta head out to Kamakura real soon. But yesterday we went to Odaiba, a man made island in Tokyo. Quite a site to see! You have to take a special train to it and cross over the "Rainbow Bridge" It's a very nice ride.
The whole area of Odaiba is really cool, your at the Tokyo waterfront and there is a nice big upper board walk with tons of shops and restaraunts. Also everything is connected by skywalks, some having nice very nice gardens. All in all it is just a very nice area.
We checked out a lot of sweet stores and then the Toyota Showrooms where they showed some sweet new cars they were making, along with some new ROBOTS! We even got to see a special presentation of a Robot playing a trumpet! It kinda hurt my ears honestly, the robot could use some more practice. But i'm guessing the trumpet playing is just a front for the Robots true objective, to kill us all and John Conner.
We got to do a mini "Ninja Warrior" at "Muscle Park". It was so much harder than I thought and so much harder than it looks. I failed miserably cause I am totally out of shape, I felt the BURN afterwards. You can see me failing the last challenge of the course in the video below, i'll put up the rest of the video so you can see all of my failures when I get back home.
First stop today was Ueno Park, a huge park housing giant lotus ponds along with various old japanese shrines/buildings. It really was quite incredible to see, the ponds were so littered with lotus plants that you could barely see any of the water underneath and blooming lotuses could be seen sparatically across the ponds. There also were a shitload of turtles.
Then we checked out the Sony Building in Ginza, here they showcase new Sony products that you can test and see for free. Probably the coolest part would be when you first go up the stairs to the showroom floor, these stairs play a musical note with each step you take up them. The faster you go up the stairs the faster the tune is, its pretty sweet. I'll save the video of that for another time. At Sony we got to check out some kickass cameras, computers, and 3D Tvs. The 3D was a bit of a letdown though, we thought it was going to be a lot more impressive.
Probably the coolest part of the day (Literally, lolz) would be going to the Ice Bar. A bar made entirely of ICE. Yes, the whole bar is made of ice, even our glasses were made of Ice. We were given heavy big fur coats when we entered so we wouldn't freeze to death. The bar is kept at a steady -5 degrees so that the Ice remains frozen. The drinks we got were also really really good and it was a nice break from the scorching hot weather. Honestly, the whole time I felt like I was in The Penguins lair, it was another realm. I'm sure Arnold would have a field day using Ice puns all day at that bar, probably pick up all the chicks with Ice lines like "Ice to meet you".
Today we went to Akihabara; Anime, Manga, Videogames & more. In other words, the nerd center of Tokyo. And it definitely delivered on that title. First we went to the "Gundam Cafe" which honestly wasn't all that special, we got these really cool looking coffees there, but they were really just plain coffee in the end and cost more than a coffee any where else. The cafe itself was pretty small and there were just some gundam statues and figures strewn across the place. When we were about to leave some guy stopped us and told us to check out the bathroom, this man was a savior as the bathroom was the sweetest part of the cafe. You pressed some button on the wall that said "activate" and the whole room went dark, then two giant gundam eyes began to slowly glow brighter and brighter as the sounds of a mech coming to life grew louder and louder until the toilet seat mechanically rose itself up and you prepared yourself to lay a steamer into the Gundam's waste receptical.
We then went to a Maid Cafe, one that we were escorted to by one of the many maids handing out flyers in the street. At the cafe we paid for overpriced food and drinks that had a cute unique design to them. We then were told we had to do a spell over the food to make it taste better, we had to cup our hands together like hearts and say some voodoo chant about love and food. Then we were given a chance to dub an anime with one of the maids. Me and Alex did the two main voices and Tom narrarated the opening, we had another maid with us doing the third voice. I'm not sure where she was from but she was neither American nor Japanese. Whatever it was a good time, lots of fun dubbing it over. We got a DVD of the final version with the voices synced up but watching it again later we realized it really sucked... whatever it was fun to make. I have the footage but it is a bit too long to post on here.
Of course we came across tons of anime, manga, and hentai shops every which way. Even being there for a good 6 or so hours we didn't go to probably half of the anime/manga/game shops there. There's a lot to see! Another one of the highlights was "Super Potato" a retro game store with 5 floors of games from every video game console you can think of and even with a retro arcade at the very top floor which had an arcade version of "Moonwalker"!
We checked out the arcades in the area afterwards but it seemed as though the arcades in Ikebukuro were bigger and better. In any case Akihabara is everything I dreamed it would be and more, so much to see and do!
Tomorrow, Sony building + Hakuhinkan Toy Park + Ueno Park
We went to the Imperial Palace today with Yuki and Joey. From outside the palace was amazing! You could see an old japanese house resting on the corner of the emperor's own personal island complete with a moat surrounding the entire area. We crossed a bridge to get within the palace walls and from here the tour was not quite as exciting. Honestly the palace was a bit more stunning from the outside, it was still interesting to walk around within it but it was a rather short tour and it seemed there were many more modern buildings within its walls.
We then went to a really neat sushi conveyor belt restaurant. It had a touch screen menu at every seat where you could order specific sushi plates, once you ordered a little Train raced through the middle of the restaurant with your sushi plates on top of it and came to a stop in front of your seat. You pressed a blinking red button after you had taken your sushi and the train returned to where it came from. Necessary? Maybe not. Really awesome and unique? Yes.
Next we went to a massive anime/manga thrift store-ish complex. 3 Floors of endless manga and anime merchandise. Much of it marked down from being opened and repackaged. We were overwhelmed once again and spent about 2 hours roaming the stores. There also was a giant Warhammer store. Here the clerk there showed me and Joey how to play the game. He walked us through an intense battle. Joey used orcs and I used space marines, of course I kicked the orcs asses but it was an epic battle and I can now say I learned to play Warhammer in Japan!
Today we went to the Pokemon Center and then to see the new 13th Pokemon Movie! Tom had a Pokegasm throughout the day. I don't blame him though, the Pokemon Center was overwhelming. Decked out with pokemon merchandise from top to bottom, playing pokemon music and videos on TVs over head. With big plastic Pokemon figures hovering overhead. There was an area where you could do something with your poke walker but unfortunately Tom forgot his.
The movie was... incredibly confusing. It seemed to me to be one of the most complicated Pokemon films I had ever seen and the fact that it was in Japanese just made it utterly impossible to understand. There was something about this guy who used crazy technology to make it look like some pokemon was there when it wasnt and to make it look like some town was destroyed when it wasnt and then he could see into the future randomly with his weird eyes and there was these two new pokemon that could transform into any person or pokemon it touched... i'm surprised I even figured that much out. The coolest part about it was that you get a sweet Pokemon Keychain of the new Pokemon just for going to the movie, you also are supposed to get shiny legendary pokemon on your DS. Me and Tom attempted to do this at Toys R Us but it didn't work most likely because I was using a bootleg version and Tom was using an English version. Also we noticed from the trailers before the film that it seems like for every movie you go to in Japan you get some free cool gift to go with it. Seems like a better way to get people to go to theatres than making everything 3D. You also reserve specific seats when you go to the box office which is a cool idea. After the movie there was tons and tons of Pokemon Merchandise to be bout right in the theatre, again a very clever maneuver to make going to the theater more of a unique experience.
After Pokemon we went to "Namja Town" which we had heard was really neat and was in our area of Ikebukuro within Sunshine City. We had only heard a bit about the place and didn't expect too much. But holy shit this place was HUGE! Two floors of insanity. Much of it was designed like Old Japan but than other parts were creepy and eerie and then other parts were just well... I can barely explain it was a whole other world in there honestly. There is a place called Ice Cream city in there with the weirdest flavors of ice cream you will ever find, we bought Sea Urchin Ice Cream. Also had an amazing Ice Cream Bowl that looked like a panda's face! There was a huge area that was just tons and tons of Dumpling restaurants. The place often felt like a giant maze, we'd walk down some weird alley with all sorts of weird things on the wall and sounds yelling at us and come out in some entirely new area. It was really really cool and I hope to return.
Tommorrow we meet up with Joey and Yuki again to go to the Imperial Palace! We may be partying in Shibyu afterwards, we are not sure just yet.
Today we went to the Ghibli Museum. Yuki, Tris's neighbor when he had lived in Japan, met with us at the Shinjuku Station and then we continued on to the museum. Yuki was incredibly helpful and kind to us the entire time, she has been helping me a great deal with our vacation in Tokyo.
NO cameras permitted inside the museum but I got some footage outside, of course i'm not uploading it all at the moment.
The museum was beautiful and a unique experience. In no way your traditional "Museum" the whole place feels like something right out of Miyazaki's mind. Truly something to experience first hand. The film we got to see was cute and simple, it was the story of a puppy who became lost from it's owner.
I drew the Laputa Robot but it was just sooo hot I couldn't stay out drawing it for very long. I'm not all that proud of the drawing but I will put it up later.
Later on we met up with Joey, Tris's younger brother. We went out to eat at a Sushi Conveyor Belt place which was rather cheap (120 yen a plate! and that was the same price for all plates!). We then walked around a bit and eventually parted ways but it was certainly nice to speak in english with another american outside of our group. We plan to meet up with Joey and Yuki again when we visit the Imperial Palace on Monday.
Later on in the night we ventured back to the Sega Arcade and played some really neat games once again. Also found a 24 hour hot food vending machine, it microwaves your food and everything! You can even get Lo-main, its cheap and good! Just really hot and you have to wait a like 2 minutes after you select your food.
I played the "Metal Gear Solid Arcade Game" which was truly an advanced arcade game. It was in 3D which you wore glasses for and it tracked your head movements so that where-ever you moved your head your character would look that way. It was not easy to get used to but felt really neat and immersive. I have no footage of this or the other cool stuff we played at the arcade but we hope to return tomorrow and I will definitely film then.
Today we went to Shinjuku, we went to the Park there which was really impressive once you got to the Japanese Gardens. There was a really cool old japanese house with a nice pond in front of it filled with GIANT fish which swarmed towards you when you came close begging for food. We found another arcade that was 5 floors or so. We played "Elevator Action Death Parade" which I wish I could upload the footage from but it is too big for blogger. We had a group of schoolgirls behind us clapping and watching intensely. Also bought a pack of these cards called "Lord Of Vermillion" with these cards you can play this videogame where you use the cards in the game, its kinda hard to explain but its like real life Yu-Gi-Oh if that makes sense. The cards are from all different card games INCLUDING Magic the gathering! We then played this super fun and difficult Rhythm game called "jubeat".
Also these two guys stopped Alex in the street cause they saw his Passion Pit shirt and got excited, they then put on "Sleepy Head" by Passion Pit on their boombox, made us all very happy. We then had a ten burger high Burger that we split three ways, super yummy.
We had a long adventure in pouring rain trying to find the Seiyu Grocery Store in Ikebukuro, we were forced to buy umbrellas because of the deadly rain. We did eventually find it and got shrimp chips, green pea chips, and cheetos things. Tom got some cereal that came with a pokemon card, I got a big thing of this awesome apple juice, also got plum and banana juice. They had really cheap premade meals there too, each of our meals were only about $4! Wasn't the best food but good for the money. Oh and I got "Sweet Potato Liquor" also known as "Shouchu Kaido" I believe. Have yet to try it.
Unfortunately a lot of these videos are just too big to upload. I plan to edit a nice video together when I get back home though, for now enjoy these little pieces.
Tommorrow is the Ghibli Museum, unfortunately no camera's are allowed :( But we also plan to hit up "Namja Town" afterwards so i'll be sure to capture some of that on video.