|Back in Japan 2012: Day 4: Akihabara and Nakano Broadway|
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, April 9, 2012 Share
Jet lag was completely gone and the 13-hour time difference between Japan and the United States Eastern Standard was well behind me. I was feeling so good as I woke up Friday morning. I was determined to start the day off right with Mister Donuts. 12-years ago I loved the Tofu donuts, which are fried pieces of tofu that taste like a cake donut. You canít really taste the tofu in it at all.
So I dashed out of the front lobby doors of my hotel and walked quickly to the Mister Donuts. Inside I attempted to order tofu donuts and the cashier just looked at me like I was crazy. I tried explaining that I had them at Mister Donuts before to no avail. Finally I gave up and was just about to pick out a boring glazed donut when she pulled out a menu and showed me donuts made from rice. So I order 1 rice chocolate donut and 1 glazed. Then I ordered a cup of coffee. Mister Donuts has this awesome liquid syrup that come in long tubes. I only use two because the syrup gives you such a sugar rush. I sat down, listening to Jpop, and ate my donuts and drank my coffee that resembled a milkshake after I finished adding everything I wanted to.
Now it was time to head back to Utsunomiya Station and go to the second floor for the ticket office. I waited in a long line. Then I walked up to the ticket girl and she sold me 1 shinkansen ticket for Ueno Station. At Ueno I would have to transfer to another train line for Akihabara. I was really getting excited because this day would be my big shopping spree. Time to kiss my tax refund bye bye.
I canít remember the last time I rode on the Shinkansen so I was uber excited about that. Plus Ueno Station is close to Donald Richieís apartment. The man who wrote the very first book on Japanese cinema and introduced Kurosawa to the West would be walking distance away. Richie has written over 100 books on virtually every aspect of traditional Japanese culture from gardens to flower arranging to food, movies, tattoos, and even the red light district of the floating world.
I sat down in my seat and off I went. I really didnít feel like I was on a superfast bullet train because the ride was so smooth. Finally the train stopped at Ueno and I got on the longest escalator I have ever seen. It was like riding up to heaven just like in the old Led Zeppelin song.
I did see an old American with an elderly woman and I wanted to shout out ďRichie!!Ē but I didnít. It was just too embarrassing, especially if I was wrong. I wanted to tell him to give up on Kurosawa and start embracing new movies like Gantz. That would be my little joke to play on him.
I happened to pick up a guide to Japan newspaper in English. While pursuing it I saw an ad for JR 1-Day Tokyo Rail Pass. I went to the ticket office at Ueno Station to buy it. At first the ticket guy had no idea so I just should him the ad in English and eventually he saw the word Tokunai and it all made sense. It was only 730 yen and covered unlimited travel for the Tokyo Metro area.
The ticket guy directed me to the right platform for Akihabara and I zoomed up there and waited behind the yellow line. Japan is so orderly, that is one of the things I love.
The train arrived and my heart was racing, I was going to Akihabara, the electronics district of Tokyo, for the first time. Nothing could prepare me for it. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity for me, the train arrived at Akihabara Station. I raced out and follow the signs that said in English, this way to Electric Town. Then I was outside and engulfed by the overwhelming size of Akihabara. It was massive and no pictures or Youtube videos depict this. You have to be standing there to see it and experience it for yourself. Right off the bat I knew that this was my kind of place when I saw the giant red Sega building. There were tons of retro and new video games for sell for everything from the old Nintendo, Famicon that used a floppy disk drive, to the PS1, the Dreamcast, and right up to the PS3 and the WII. I didnít see much for the 360 that tanked everywhere in Japan.
First, I did some brief window shopping to try to take up as much pop culture as I could stand before breaking out my wallet and gladly handing over my life savings. There were tons of Pokemon, cute female anime girl figures, and One Piece merchandise. I went into one store and was overwhelmed by all the action figures. I saw Japanese editions of Transformer toys. They were everywhere. I just kept walking up and up and up and finally found the stuffed animal from Usavich the rabbit anime that my friendís children picked out for me to see. I had to buy that rabbit so I could hang it from my car and no one in Tampa, even the anime fans, would have idea what show that rabbit was from. I have to always be one step ahead.
Then I walked down the main street Chuo-Dori. It was amazing, simply amazing. I walked up to a Maid Cafť called Moe Dreaming and got stuck on the elevator because the place was closed. I finally ended up at a manga/internet cafť and jumped right back on the elevator to go back down to the street.
Now I was going crazy. I walked into the store next to the building where the cafť was and it happened to be an idol store. So I looked around and asked the clerk for a Shoko Nakagawa Blu Ray. Japanese Blu rays are the same region as the US so it is a better choice to get the Blu ray over SD DVDs that are region locked for Region 2 unless you hack into your player and make it region free or buy a region free player. He finally figured out what I was talking about and directed me to the Blu Rays that were all up front by the cashier. He was really laughing at me now. He said something to the cashier and they both laughed. I didnít care because I needed to see Shokotan, as she is called in Japan. She is a cute idol singer but unlike most she can really sing. She sings songs about fantasy and anime songs. She changes costumes often during her concerts and looks beautiful each time. We have a lot in common. We both like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Final Fantasy VII for the PS1. So I had my Blu ray concert and it was time to do more damage in Akihabara. The next store had tons of manga, anime Blu rays and I took the escalator all the way to the top and there were all the Gundam toys. These were the toys that American fans would be willing to kill to get their greedy hands on. Tons of toy robots everywhere, all kinds of Transformers, more cute girl figures, that made me sick to look at because the cuteness level was to the max and it could really turn your stomach just staring at it all. I had to go back downstairs and take in some fresh air. I walked up and down the street looking for cosplayers but mostly seeing guys that were in their 30ís, still living at home in the basement and no chance of ever getting married, shopping for the same things I was drooling over. In the US you can still be an anime fan or even a comic fan and still have a girlfriend or be married. These guys I saw were the creepy guys who show up at comic cons in the US with no social skills at all. In fact, in Akihabara, several cashiers were women and there were probably the only women these guys talked to besides their mothers and sisters. One cashier was superhot with bright green streaks in her hair. I did buy something at that store just to get a closer look.
I saw the building that had the AKB48 theater. AkB48 is an all-female idol group with membersí age ranging from 12 to 24. They sing cute songs and dance. They got they start in Akihabara catering to otaku fans. I was disapponited that I couldn't see their concert but I couldn't make it to my next stop and see a concert. I really needed an extra day.
After all that shopping, walking up and down stairs, and staring at price tags for toy robots it was finally time for lunch. There is no better place to eat then the Maid Cafť. A place where cute girls dress up as anime maids and are not afraid to talk about nerdy geeky stuff like what anime do you like or what manga do you read? I saw the cute maid outside Moe Dreaming and had to go inside. Nothing could ever prepare me for that experience. Inside were bright pink and red colors everywhere. All the chairs and tables looked like something from a kidís room. There was a heart shaped stage in the front. My maid came out to me and brought me a bunch of different menus. I had no idea what I was doing. I know I wanted curry. First I was thirsty so I order a drink popular with children called Melon Soda. It is a bright green super sweet soda that is unlike anything in the US. I guess it is a little like a cream soda with a honeydew melon flavoring but that is really not it exactly. You have to try it for yourself. So the maid walked off and brought me back a melon soda. She was so lovely. I wanted to take pictures of everything but there were multiple signs in English saying no pictures including the sign with the picture of a camera with a red circle and line through it Ghostbusters style. So my beautiful maid came back, wearing a mini skirt with black spandex to cover her legs. I order a beef curry. After waiting around I saw that there was a nice assortment of customers eating here. The guy next to me had to be in his 60ís and he was chugging sake and beer. There were high school boys sharing an ice cream parfait. There were even young girls giggling about everything. Truly, a magical place for special people. Now the maid returned with my hamburger curry rice. She was armed with a ketchup squeeze bottle. Either I would have to take a shot in the face or this was for something else. She explained that she wanted to teach me the Moe song and that if we sang and performed the hand motions correctly that the words and her presence both had magical powers that would cause my food to be magical and help me accomplish my dreams. We both put our hands in heart shapes with palms forward and fingers bending down. Then we went from right to left saying Moe Moe and back to the right for the third and last Moe and then at the center were the plate was we both said Cuteto. So we practice this a few times and then we did it. I did feel a little bit of magic but the best was yet to come. In the middle of my curry was a scrambled egg, she arranged cherry tomatoes into eyes and took the ketchup bottle to make a cute bear face. Then I was happy and I could finally eat. It was really good and I did feel the magic inside me. Then I watched as more maids came in, telling jokes, shouting out anime lines from popular shows and getting customers to walk to the stage. There they were hand out props and direct customers on how to look cute as they took pictures with the maids. After all that cuteness and moe all over me like a bright fuzzy rainbow, I had to get out. I think I was coming down from my cute trip. It was time to see the city again. I walked up, paid my bill, and walked out. It was so much fun and I would gladly go back. Now that I know more than I did, I would order a lunch set that included a photo. I wanted a picture with cute girl Japanese writing on it. The maids take your picture and use markers to make little pictures and write cute words.
By the way, the word moe means to have a deep, intense feeling for something that makes you feel good like a cute anime character or a person dressed up in a cute costume. It doesnít have a sexual meaning just a fantasy of feeling good.
So I went back to Akihabara Station, I really should have spent the day there, and went on my next shopping spree at the famous otaku shopping district called Nakano Broadway. I went back to the ticket office and got the information for the right platform for Nakano Station.
Then after a lengthy train ride I was there. I still had to meet my friend for dinner in another prefecture. I was having so much fun. I finally made it to Nakano Broadway and had to ask several people how to get there. After a few spoiled attempts I found the shopping arcade and just walked on and on and on. Off in the distance was a big sign that said Nakano Broadway. I entered it expecting Otaku heaven, what I got was regular stores. Then I took the stairs to the second floor and had a complete nerdgasm. There were so many vintage toys robots for sale, Ultraman toys, and tons and tons of both current and retro manga.
First, I went into Mandarake and asked the clerk for the Dr. Slump manga. He walked me to the right section. Dr. Slump is a gag manga that satirizes Japanese and Western pop culture, so you can see Ultraman and Superman in the same panel together. He is a doctor who always wanted a daughter, so unable to get married; he decides to make a robot daughter. This leads to crazy comic adventures for both of them.
Next, I went to Robot Robot and bought the Jet VTOL flying spacecraft from Ultraman. Two girls were struggling to get something from the top. I am not tall but I was just tall enough to help out. Those girls knew their stuff about anime because I overheard them talking about Macross and One Piece and listened for errors and heard none, assuming I interpreted the Japanese I heard correctly. These girls didnít have big black horn rimmed glasses with acme either. They were young, energetic, and normal girls who know their geek subjects inside and out. This was so nice.
I found a retro toy store and broke down to buy rubber toys for Godzilla, Mecha Godzilla, and Gamera. Hardly anyone I know has Gamera. Then I did some window shopping and saw Scarface action figures, the moe anime Strike Witches on DVD for close to $90.00, Dragon Quest toys, Japanese pro wrestling figures, Metal Gear Solid figures, new Kamen Rider figures around $40, a vintage Astroboy, a Doraemon refrigerator for kids, a Doraemon water toy for outside, water shoots out of the top of his head, a vintage Super Robot toy still in the box, a Ultraman Battlezone game from the 60ís, more Transformers, and Starblazers/Space Battleship Yamato toys, and some toys that reminded me of 70ís Shogun Warriors.
Ok after all that toy viewing it was time to get back to the Shinkansen and head back to Utsunomiya. I took the train from Nakano to Tokyo Station and from there bought a ticket for Utsunomiya. After asking several people, I found the right platform and got on the train. Getting back to Utsunomiya Station, I slowly walked back to my hotel and took a short nap. Then it was time for dinner.
We went to a traditional restaurant where you take your shoes off before going inside to eat Hiroshima Yaki. Entering the restaurant I was holding Julyís hand, who is three. He couldnít read the sign in Japanese but I could so I would read the sign and he would explain it to me in easy simple Japanese so we became a good team. I helped him take his shoes off and we met the family for dinner. Because I lived in Osaka for 3-years, I really like Okonomiyaki, which is a seafood pancake made with a batter similar to pancake batter with cabbage, pork, squid, shrimp and different seafood and vegetables inside. There are many variations of Okonomiyaki and my favorite is Hiroshima Yaki, which is stir fried yaki soba noodles that are stuffed inside the pancake. Over the top, you put the sweet okonomiyaki sauce, similar to Tonkatsu sauce, and Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. It is so good. Everyone seemed to enjoy eating it. I got a Ramune soda and July and I said konpai and slammed over plastic bottles together. Since I went toy shopping, I decided to totally geek out by drinking a kidís drink.
Next, Kaori took me shopping at a discount Japanese grocery store so I could pick up a bottle of Yuzu juice, a Japanese citrus fruit similar to a combination of lemon, lime, and grapefruit. I also bought beef curry in the bag. You just put the bag in boiling water for 5-minutes, then open the bag and you have curry, beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions already cooked and ready to eat. I also stocked up on green tea and bought a tea called Houji cha, meaning roasted green tea. Houji cha is good for drinking after eating foods that are heavy in oil and fats. So when your stomach feels queasy after eating fried fish, Houji tea will help you feel better. America has lots of greasy fried foods so I got the big bag of Houji.
We made a brief stop so my friend could show me his house. The 3D TV was nice and we briefly watched a J-horror movie called Real Scary Stories on Blu ray 3D. I remember putting on the glasses and the schoolgirl was right in my face then blood splattered all over me and it seemed so real.
Finally, my adventurous day was over and I was having the time of my life. It was time to relax in my room before my big road trip on Saturday.
Stayed tuned for Day 5.
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.
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