29 June 2008

Japan, days 7-13

June 21
Traveled from Nara to Tokyo, where we trekked to our hotel over in Ikebukuro, then took the train out to Nakano, to go shopping at Nakano Broadway. Then back to the hotel and sleep.

June 22
More shopping, this time on the other side of Ikebukuro where a bunch of anime fan shops are concentrated.

June 23
This was the day we got our tickets to the Studio Ghibli museum for, so it was off to Mitaka to visit the Totoro and cat bus. Studio Ghibli has made a dozen or so animated films for all ages, including Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. We weren't the only foreigners there, but it was primarily Japanese people. There was a section on how animation is made, and another whole part with storyboards and concept sketches and watercolors. Really cool.

After that, we went down to Harajuku to look for fashion victims and also to poke around in a clothing store. I found clothes that fit me (shockingly, because my Western body is larger in several important dimensions compared to Japanese people.) and had to buy them. It was really expensive. Then finding awesome clothes for Ben made it even more expensive. :P

Then off to Shinjuku to see Kabukicho, which is the red-light district. Plenty of neon, ads for hostess clubs (and well-dressed, attractive men standing outside to get customers inside them, and ads for host clubs (and well-dressed, attractive men standing outside to get customers inside them.) Hostess clubs are generally targeted to straight men, while host clubs have 2 distinct target audiences: straight women and gay men. The 2 types of club are not in the same place. Japan is really weird: mixed-sex excursions into, uh, sexually-tinged clubs are unheard of. So it was hard to tell if no one approached us because we were foreigners or because we were a couple.

Then it started raining like mad, so we fled back to the hotel.

June 24
Off to Akihabara. Akihabara Electric Town is the mecca for people who want electronic devices - computers, phones, TVs, etc. It's also a mecca for anime nerds, though targeted mostly to boys. Wandered around, but didn't spend too much. Then we found the Zeon Bar, but it was closed, so we went to the Feddie Bar instead. (It's located at 8-5 Soto-Kanda 1-chome, Akihabara, for the curious. On the 4th or 5th floor.)

June 25
Being out of money, we went to Sensou-ji, a very large temple in northeastern Tokyo, and the Meiji Jingu shrine (yes, *that* Meiji. See days 1-6.) Then we went *back* to Harajuku to people watch, and buy more clothes. With the real credit card this time.

June 26
Back to east Ikebukuro to pick up a few things we'd missed earlier, then the plan was to go to the old Edo-era palace area and gardens, but it was about 65 degrees and raining, which made the idea of wandering around outside decidedly unattractive. Also, I was starting to feel a little sick, so we went back to the hotel and I took a nap. Then we went to find a karaoke parlor and sang for an hour, then tried to find dinner. Eventually we stumbled on a Y150/plate sushi bar. It was pretty good, for cheap sushi. Then we went *back* to Akihabara, to go to the Zeon Bar. I tried the Kyu Zaku, which was purple and sweet and had a green maraschino cherry (to represent the Mono-eye.) Ben got a Gokk of some sort that tasted like a fizzy Tootsie Roll. It is, in fact, located above a maid cafe, kind of near Asobit City and Super Potato. Cool bar.

June 27
Our flight left at 3:20 pm, so we caught an express to the airport at 10:30 to be there at noon. You can't be too early, I say. Then we got back to Atlanta at 2:45 pm 6/27, regaining the day we lost flying west. Long flights suck.

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