Team Tokyo gained 2 new members on Monday…Matt and Jennika. I say gained, but then the team actually split for the day and ended up playing tag team across Tokyo. Nikki and Matt set off in the direction of Akihabara to quench Nikki’s thirst for a ‘maid cafe’ experience while the rest of us stuck to Plan A and went in the direction of Shibuya.
We were in Shibuya for 2 reasons; 1. to witness/experience the spectacle that is Shibuya Crossing…the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and 2. to shop.
As a self-confessed ‘people-watcher’ I found the former fascinating, albeit tame due to the timing of our visit. To experience the full madness of Shibuya Crossing you have to be there during peak hour on a week day…I am saving that for a special occasion…
The latter wasn’t too bad as shopping goes (given my low tolerance for the activity). We saw the weird and wacky with the likes of a face massager and tomato flavoured breath mints at ranKing ranQueen and Tokyu Hands supplied us with items of…well…just about everything you can imagine, including an awesome selection of sunglasses!
In a country where fashion seems to be stuck in the 80’s/90’s (think Blossom meets New Kids On The Block), I was surprised to find Tokyo housing all my favourite clothing stores…H&M, Gap, Zara and Uni Qlo are all here! Having said that, the biggest challenge would actually be finding something in my size on the racks.
The most thrilling for me is the plethora of stationery stores this country has to offer and Tokyo was no exception. It has become abundantly clear in my short time living in Japan that this country runs on paper so it’s really not surprising to discover that they have an envelope, clip, pocket or pen for every possible stationery emergency you might find yourself in. For someone like me, the experience of the stationery store ‘Loft’ in Tokyo left me speechless with happiness and of course with a sizable hole in my wallet!
Post ‘Loft’ and lunch we decided on a change of scene (before the boys became shopped out) and made our way to the other side of town to meet with M&N (as they will now be called) in Akihabara. Akihabara is know for a few things; it is the electronics district of Tokyo, houses innumerable games arcades and manga/comic stores and as M&N discovered, very expensive maid cafes!
While the pair were fondly referred to as ‘Master & Princess’ during their short time in a maid cafe, their narrow escape from an expensive bill left them a little disillusioned by the event and wanting to bust out of Akihabara. So they did, leaving the rest of Team Tokyo so experience the sights and sounds of the area.
When I say experience, I should really say that our senses were assaulted. All of them. Repeatedly. From the smokey, loud and bright games arcades where we failed to procure photo stickers to the overpopulated footpaths…every sense copped a beating. Needless to say we didn’t last long in Akihabara, stopping only for a caffeine hit and to discover ‘Pan in a Can’ (bread in a can) at the Tokyo Anime Museum. Random, yes. Japan, yes.
Team Tokyo reunited back at base camp to prepare for a night out. With the group of gaijin together again it seemed appropriate that we head for Roppongi, renowned for being the preferred location for foreigners in Tokyo. Tokyo Tower was first on the agenda, promising views of the city in it’s night time glory.
The natives (or in this case, the gaijin) were restless standing in queue for tickets. With Helen and I the only ones to have experienced English queuing, the others thought the 30 minute wait felt like a lifetime…especially on an empty stomach! Thankfully a crepe stand was situated nearby and the Japanese queuing system works far more efficiently than the English one (no surprises there).
A short time later we all had our profile pics snapped at the summit of the tower and were feasting on dinner, planning our next move. With a few karaoke virgins in the group, we decided it time to pop their cherries! Sadly Roppongi didn’t come through with the goods though and we somehow ended up in ‘Bar Milwaukee’ dancing for a few hours before splitting to catch the last train.
I found myself back at the hostel and unable to sleep after the night out. Only fetching 2 hours rest I suspected day 4 would be a rough one…