Armed with nothing but a few pieces of Yukichis and a weaboo level in spoken Japanese, we arrive in Japan on a cold Saturday morning. After completing all the necessary immigration procedures including the newly implemented one whereby photographs and fingerprints of all foreigners are stored into the database, we head off to our hotel in Ikebukuro.
Being told that we could check in after 2:00 pm, we decided to head out for a stroll to explore the vicinity. As luck would have it, just a 2 minute walk from the Sunshine City Prince Hotel is home to a branch of Japan's largest anime merchandise retailer. Being an otaku for the first time in Area 11, we knew we had to drop by a take a quick look. Entering Animate was an euphoric sensation as it was a sight never seen before by us, as it was filled with droves and droves of anime and manga stuff. Spanning 7 floors of cool shit and the 8th one being the event floor, we knew we had to return here another time to do our shopping.
Animate's flagship store in Ikebukuro
Just some of the merchandise available at the many floors in Animate
A section dedicated to Minami ke
I bought my Tsutsumi Akari H Manga from Animate too lawl
The Animate Tenchou. Last seen in Lucky Star.
For first timers, the Japanese rail transport system can be daunting, as it as an intricate and complex web of a transportation system. Thankfully, for us, my good pal Hoshi-kun assisted us by providing a schedule of sorts which lists down what trains to take to get to our destination and the fairs for it. By day 3, we had everything down pat and made full use of Japan's sophisticated transportation network which allowed access to virtually every corner of the country. Having said that, even if we were to screw up, there are fare adjustment counters at every station, so you can just "fix" your ticket accordingly and be on your way.
Finally, we arrived at the holy city of Akiba. Despite having seen this place many a times through various visual medias, nothing beats being out here in the flesh, but I guess that goes without saying. Since we were an about an hour early for the New Discovery Of Akihabara tour, we enthusiastically explored the surrounding area, and just as we did so, I felt a sense of (otaku)enlightenment and the feeling of having "returned home" Walking around, we resisted entering any of the shops, as we knew we would most likely blow all our expenditure on stuff and have nothing left for the rest of the trip, and just made a mental note of the places that we will come back to some other time.
Newly launched lineup of Gundam 00 plamos
New Discovery Of Akihabara Tour
The highlight of our first day here. Jointly organized by the Japanese National Tourist Organization and the retailers in Akiba, 15 lucky people who sign up on their official site will be taken on a tour of the Electric Town by an English speaking guide. Meeting up in front of the Radio Kaikan building just a minute from the JR Akihabara station. We were given number tags and a earpiece so we can listen in on the guide from afar without sticking to her like glue. Yes, it was a she, and from the way she spoke to her co-guide in Mandarin, she was Taiwanese. In any case, after everyone had gathered(the group strangely enough consisted of old people more than anything else), we proceeded to the first location on the itinerary, which incidentally was in the Radio Kaikan building itself.
Registered participants are to report at this counter
- Kotobukiya- For figurine enthusiasts, this name might sound familiar, as it is one of the better known manufacturers, alongside Max Factory and Atelier. Having pretty much what you'd expect from them, they had floors of figurines and other related merchandise, though we didn't stop for long as the tour was moving along pretty quickly.
- Akky II- Part of a chain of duty free shops specializing in electrical equipment and souvenirs, we made a brief stop here, although I was hardly interested, as none of the items sold here were too expensive or are, as I said earlier, stuff you get for people back home, like the guy I promised to go out with to the newly opened mall on the very same day I left for Japan....
- Tsukumo Robot Kingdom - A showcase of Japan's advancement in robotics were pint sized mechanical humanoids that were commercially available, and as you'd expect, comes with a hefty price tag that runs into thousands of dollars. At least they had a robot Hello Kitty which responded when you spoke to it.
- Yodobashi Camera Multi-Media Akiba - Easily the largest electronics store in Akihabara or anywhere in the world for that matter, it has the every audio/visual equipment you can ever think of, and also houses the largest commercially available television in the world(according to the guide) which costs around 6 million yen.
- Tokyo Anime Centre - Located in the UDX building at Akiba Crossfields is this facility which was supposedly set up to market anime to the masses, be it locals or foreigners. To be honest, I expected it to be much larger and looking more like a museum, but it was still a good place to visit. The most unique thing about the anime centre would probably the recording room, where you can voice act to a muted anime clip and live out your seiyuu fantasies. You can then purchase the DVD containing the scene with your voice on it.
Our guide explaining stuff in barely audible Engrish ><
This little punk costs a bomb
You can buy a house in Malaysia with the amount they're charging for this.
A glimpse of the Tokyo Anime Centre
I wish to take the Saber mannequin home ._.
Although the estimated time for the tour was to be 2 hours, we were done in under an hour and a half. After rendezvousing back at the Radio Kaikan building, we were given a goodie bag which consisted of a phone strap, a disc cleaner, a DVD of the various sights in Akiba as well as a Cosplay magazine. Next stop in Akiba(we're still avoiding shops) was the much talked about @home cafe just short walk from where we were. I felt my heart break, when we got there, as it was full and we had no chance of entering. Mind you, the maid cafe is located on the 6th and 7th floor, with the queue starting from all the way down the 2nd floor. We decided to hang around outside the cafe, as I was still unsatisfied, but was told by the maid to leave, in something Japanese that sounded like "Get the fuck out kudasai, Goshujin-sama" or something to that effect. So I replied with just "Sumimasen" and left the outlet in tears. Definitely Fission Mailed, but I guess it can't be helped, since even if we managed to get in, I do not possess that level of conversational Japanese to truly savor the maid experience. Maybe some other time then...
The time was around 4pm but it was already dusk, so we decided to head over to the last stop for the day(since everyone was tired from the airplane trip) We were to initially meant to get there through the Ginza line after visiting the Imperial Palace, but decided against it and took an alternate route instead. Unfortunately for us, at the stop we got off, it was an awfully long trek to the tower itself, although we got to see a shrine at the foot of the tower, which we would have probably missed if we took the first route. Adding to our woes, by the time we got to the tower, there was an insanely long queue ahead of us. I thought we'd never get up the tower, but thankfully the line was moving pretty quickly, and we managed to go up the main observatory after about an hour of waiting. The entrance fee was about 820 yen, although with an additional fee, you get to visit the other attractions in the tower itself, including a wax museum and optical illlusion museum of some kind. Boy, were we glad we decided to brave the queue to get up here, as the view of the cityscape of Tokyo at night was magnificent. After taking a few pictures, we head back down to return to our hotel.
2 landmarks for the price of 1
View of Tokyo Tower from the bottom. I won't include any of the cityscape images since they turned out pretty bad...
After a long dip in the tub and toying with them new fangled high tech toilets in our room, we turned for the night at about midnight, which concludes the first day of our pilgrimage to Japan. つつく。。。。。