hello japan! (backlog flush #67 and travelog)

March 16, 2008
Travelog of the Moment
Another amazing day with Josh. I'm going to be traveling to Hiroshima and Kyoto on my own by rail, so I might not be posting quite so extensively for a bit...

This is what a Tokyo rail and subway map looks like. It is not a simple thing:

You do see more uniforms in Japan, I imagine it's an aspect of the pride in their work. This lady is one of those folks I mentione meant to warn people getting off the train about the construction:

Shin-Matsudo station, near where Josh lives:

First glimpse of Akihabara, the electronic district of Tokyo. We met up with my old college buddy Alex who lives in Tokyo.

The first thing we hit seemed to be a bit of a hobbyist center, 5 or 6 floors, each about a different hobby. Here is a racetrack on the second floor, one of the model builders behind:

Next floor: guns! CO2 and battery powered.

Some political commentary on the gun floor:

The basement was about, well, porno. Though I can't imagine what this was, must be some kind of novelty cup holder.

We then went to the grand department store Yodobashi-Akiba, like 9 or 10 stories. Here's what it looks like on the outside, including the electronic billboard.

An on the inside, you can see it's pretty hopping!

On the ninth floor we went to "Pepper Lunch". You place your order using a vending machine that gives you the appropriate coupon which you give to the waitstaff. Like many vending machines here, especially ones that have products at different prices, a light shines next to each selection for which you've inserted enough yen.

My meal, which was some tasty pepper steak, served raw-ish on a hot skillet, so you get to cook it yourself... fun, and tasty!

Typical Japanese hand drier... almost a matter of trust as you hold both hands in the mouth of the thing:

Back to the department store! A few places around the district I saw these kid-sized arcade games...

Including Pokemon, where you could battle people at other machines.

So this store tended to have vast selections of many things, like dozens and dozens of Playstation Portable cases. Or in this case, LOTS of watchbands:

Near some other exercise/health equipment, some kinf of vaguely obscene-looking saddle things that would shake and shimmy. Kind of like a small scale mechanical bull:

Josh and Alex indulging me in a goofy photo, holding a very odd one handed keyboard device designed for gamers.

So on Sundays certain streets in Tokyo get blocked off, and they have things kind of like street fairs. (Corner of one of those streets, mostly I just liked the banners.)

More buildings:

More buildings and a fearsome Space Invaders. (I remember hearing how the original Space Invaders caused a shortage of ten yen coins...)

So one recent addition to the scene are "maid cafes" where you can be attended to by highly attentive young ladies. (I guess it ranges from the innocent to the err...more detailed services.) We thought these gals were advertising one of those but no, they were just playing dressup, which happened a lot at the Akihabara street fair thing:

As amusing as the girls in dressup, all the men taking their photo...

Another cute girl:

Alex and me at the The House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel.

I liked the sci-fi vibe of these escalators:

And who doesn't like Snoopy? "Snoopy Towns" seemed even more prevelant than "Disney Stores"

Gate for Takeshita Street, super-fashion-trendy...

But don't take my word for it:

Fairly crowded:

One of the more common jobs are people outside of stores saying "welcome welcome" and otherwise trying to interest you in the store. Often they have megaphones. Lordy, the Japanese seem to love their megaphones.... in the department stores, you have the same thing, only for individual products.

I didn't know Chevrolet made bikes:

The ritzier high fashion district Harajuku: so many people!

Alex and Josh outside of a Wendy's

This photo doesn't show it well but it was the most hopping Wendy's I'd ever scene, very youth-centric. Also smokey despite the signs against it.

There was actually some kind of Irish festival going on: (I saw a small Irish group, complete with some hooligan lookin' fella shouting at random intervals to the music.)

Errr... buildings. I liked the billboards.

Injoke: "pedobear is that you?" (It actually might be where the infamous parody character came from.)

I'm very fond of corporations co-opting hippy-ish sentiment. Maybe they even mean it!

Funky building. An Audi dealership I think.

What does it say about Americans that I want to call any any big construction vehicle that's not a crane or a dumptruck a bulldozer? Anyway, these cute purple vehicles were all over Japan.

The Hummer and the Zen Temple.

Famous Scramble Intersection... this is under the same billboard with the giant walking dinosaur in "Lost in Translation"

Random cultural note: most restaurants give you a oshiburi before your meal, a hot wet facecloth for your hands and face. Refreshing!

The universal sign for exit in Japan:

Tokyo at Night.

Finally two examples of kawaii, "Japanese Cute". Josh notes that it seems to be losing popularity... now you see more computer rendered 3D characters. Still, I dig this aesthetic a bit more, like the peanut I posted yesterday: