i do not know how tokyo manages to produce such gorgeous days but, wow, does it ever! this kind of light makes you want to go out and DO stuff! (regardless of how your feet will protest. XD) so we limped through hamamatsucho
to the train station to begin a YAMANOTE LINE ADVENTURE!
in case you aren't familiar with tokyo metro, the yamanote line is the circular route that will get you to all of the major tourist areas (locals also use this train but it is not usually as direct of a route/is less efficient. it does connect to many other major subway lines, however.)
our first stop of the day was at yurakucho station! i had heard a rumor that people hang out under the tracks and drink from the vending machines after work (it's much cheaper to buy drinks out of vending machines than at bars. trust me.) but either we did not manage to find the right area (entirely possible), we were there at the wrong time of day or this no longer happens.
i believe that it will be worth a trip back to tokyo to further investigate.
it was fine that we could not locate the vending machines we had been looking for as there was ANOTHER reason for being at yurakucho station---THE HOKKAIDO ANTENNA STORE!!
a bit of background info-- antenna stores are small shops centered around regional specialties. they mainly sell foods and crafts and are extremely popular. we visited a hokkaido store so there were lots of lovely dairy items as you will see because...
WE GOT HOKKAIDO ICE CREAM there is ALWAYS a line for ice cream at this shop. FOR GOOD REASON! IT IS DELICIOUS!!
the way to obtain hokkaido ice cream is as follows. 1) insert appropriate amount yen into machine
2) choose a flavor! milk, milk and melon and melon were the available choices (melon is a hokkaido specialty as well!) press the button and get a ticket! (i chose melon, leff picked milk and melon!)
3) hand the ticket from the machine to the nice lady behind the counter ET VOILA!! YOU HAVE AN AMAZING CONE OF SOFT SERVE HOKKAIDO ICE CREAM
i loved everything about this. i do not know how they did it but this ice cream tastes more like melon than a melon does. OISHII!!
there is other prepared food available at this antenna shop. leff snagged a sweet potato and chicken croquette. SO GOOD ALL FOOD IN TOKYO IS *AMAZING*
we wandered around the store picking up different items to bring back (mainly ramen and some REALLY COOL MELON CHOCOLATES that i will write about in a separate post (edit: melon chocolate post is here!) when i felt a slight tug on my arm. you see, there were samples of dumplings being given out and and an older japanese lady (who did not work there, she just enjoyed the dumplings) wanted to make sure that i tried them! "oishii! oishii!!" she smiled and gestured. i nodded and told her that i would like to try them, arigato gozaimasu! and so a path was cleared to make sure that leff and i could try the dumplings. THEY WERE SOOOO GOOD the old lady gave me a thumbs up when i grinned and said OISHII!!!
you see, OLDER JAPANESE LADIES HAVE GOT MY BACK!! XD (also, i think that, in general, if you are appreciative of the food in japan (how can you NOT be?!?) and are positive about things, people will go out of their way to help/make sure that your stay is extra enjoyable.)
a small local food fair was going on outside of dosanko plaza but we were too full of hokkaido goodness to try anything. besides, it was time to board the yamanote line again, this time for akihabara.
sigh, akihabara. the only down side to this trip. it is otaku central which, fine. but IT IS WESTERN OTAKU CENTRAL which, no. no, thanks.
leff and i had agreed to skip this neighborhood but that was before he broke his headphones on the plane. so it was with some trepidation that we set out for yodobashi camera. it is SIX FLOORS OF TECH so overwhelming SO FULL OF WESTERN NERDS god.
this is not even the tip of the headphone iceberg, btw.
there were many, many options available. here i am wearing a set of earmuff headphones.
it felt as if we were there for years (i'm sure it was less than an hour) before leff settled on some sennheiser urbanites (i am jealous of that purchase, btw. love me some headphones).
look, i CANNOT complain about the customer service at yodobashi. it was exceptional. our clerk made sure that we got the gaijin discount (for larger purchases, make sure to whip out your passport. duty free is the way to be.) as well as an additional 5% off. just, he was amazing and filled out all the paperwork that we would need at narita.
but, yes, i was overwhelmed. that store really took a lot out of me. so we took a break next to this banana can for a while (pretty sure i drank a cc lemon)
before deciding to head to laox for kit kats and maybe also the gachapon store. BIG MISTAKE OH MY GOD HUGE MISTAKE
we passed the fucking sega building. look, there it is. woo. no fucks being given by me at this point. i had to dodge too many women dressed as maids handing out flyers to care.
and i balked at crossing the street to laox. i just knew. the crowds in this area were TERRIBLE and i'm not talking about the crush of people. it's just...westerners on vacation. WESTERN NERDS ON VACATION they are so fucking loud and IN THE GODDAMNED WAY and GOD I HATE AKIHABARA it is a real life representation of what i imagine hell to be.
but to laox we DID go. and it was miserable. a million floors of cheap tat. i did buy some kit kats and some post cards but, wow, we had to crash next to this mini gundam for a while to rest.
but then two american nerd boys started LOUDLY geeking out over it (of course they fucking did) and i was so irritated that i was all "you KNOW that big one is in odaiba, right, (implied newb)?" which, of course they didn't. of course not. why would you EVER prepare for a trip? they wanted directions. i didn't give them directions other than "look it up". lol
we never made it to the gachapon store. no regrets.
but hey! the yamanote line can get you the hell out of dodge! so we left akihabara as quickly as possible and headed to shinjuku which is WAY more my speed. (i once had a couple of pieces in a gallery in this neighborhood.)
would you guess that the first place we stopped in shinjuku was a park? of course you would! japanese parks are incredible and shinjuku goen is no exception to this rule! the crows were even there to greet me!
sadly, this is the only photo of mine that worked. but i think you can guess at how peaceful this place is.
notes on this park: a large picnic was taking place. so even though it was not hanami season (we missed the cherry blossoms by a few weeks), i DID get to see blue plastic tarps being used on the ground!
also, a group of people all gathered around one specific plant and took its picture. if you see a group of people doing this in japan, it is worth investigating. the plant in question had flowers that were a different color than the norm for its species. i would not have noticed this otherwise.
somewhat rested, we thought it time to tackle shinjuku proper. SO much more fun here. the crowds move the right way and there is no inappropriate western screeching. people still geek out though.
i love shinjuku. we did not spend enough time here to do it justice.
i will admit we got a *tiny* bit lost since we were looking for piss alley but that's ok. here's the view of the buildings near donki (did not go to donki. had seen enough cheap tat at laox, thanks.)
but getting lost took us RIGHT WHERE I WANTED TO GO which was to see if the godzilla was still at the hotel gracery/toho cinema! IT WAS OMG IT WAS!!!!!!
as i have mentioned, i am a godzilla fan from WAY back. you wanna make me happy? just show me the toho logo (man, that's a thing of beauty, isn't it? (i am looking forward to the new toho godzilla next month!))
i am SO GLAD that i got to see the godzilla. (we almost booked at the gracery because of the godzilla room. lol)
but hey! guess what!
we DID manage to find piss alley! :D
i know, i know, tokyo is trying to rename this as "memory lane" but, come on, it's piss alley! you go there for two things: yakitori and beer!
here is our beer.
and here is our yakitori!! SOOOOISHIIIIIII!!! (sooooishii being a word i made up in tokyo by combining "so" and "oishii", naturally. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
that is actually three kinds of yakitori, negi (japanese leek, close to green/spring onion in flavor but more mild), chicken and chicken skin.
the smoke that charcoal grilling produces is the greatest advertisement for yakitori. i am NOT kidding you. (if i wore perfume, it would be one that smelled like yakitori smoke. XD)
the shops in piss alley are very small. and, boy howdy, are we ever americans! XD but we "sumimasenned" like CRAZY so no one was bothered. in fact, everyone was quite fun about it. normally, i would feel claustrophobic in places like this but i had a great time. the beer was super cold, the yakitori was delicious and for the first time on this trip, i started to feel like i was in tokyo.
we called it an early night (the jet lag was pretty bad on this trip. when we go back, we'll be there a minimum of two weeks so we can properly adjust and not feel so disassociated all the time.) and picked up some drinks at lawson.
YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE IT WAS SUNTORY TIME
and spent the remainder of the night watching a great travel show (sadly, the name of which escapes me. it's about three people (one lady, two men (one older)) looking for plaques in rural japan. they drove a large golf cart? if anyone knows the name of this show, i would REALLY appreciate a note in comments as i can't find ANYTHING about it online.) and writing out postcards.
not pictured: the most ridiculous cards that leff could find at laox. he spent the night laughing about writing "hello from japan. we saw NONE of these places."
oh yes! also that night leff thought that a pair of his trousers that were hanging up to dry were a ghost. LOL YUUUREIIIIII XD XD
TOMORROW ON RAKKA AND LEFF GO TO TOKYO: IT IS MY BIRTHDAY IN JAPAN (but not the states, intl date line, ya know?) SO WE WENT TO SHIRO-HIGE FOR TOTORO CREAMPUFFS OH MY FUCKING GOD, we walk around the burbs a bit then head to another garden where HAHAH WE WERE THERE FOR THE EARTHQUAKE (it was fine. no one was hurt) AND THEN A BRITISH PUB IN TOKYO THAT MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS IN A MURAKAMI BOOK IT WAS THE GREATEST BIRTHDAY EVER CHECK BACK TOMORROW!!!