3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 19 – Tabasco In The Orange Juice

From Iroha slapping her brother with a wet towel when he accuses her geeky boyfriend of dragging her down to his level, to Hikari showing that he’s grown into a far better boyfriend than Iroha’s boyfriend could imagine, I loved every minute of this episode.

It was full of instances of friends leaning on one another in times of need, quickly sorting out misunderstandings, and, of course, Ishino gettin’ some legit attention from a guy other than Takanashi! The only major mark against this episode is that there’s no Ayado, but that allows the episode to maximize its time with everyone else.

First, a brief rift between Itou and Hikari emerges when Itou asks Takanashi for advice on how to proceed with Ayado. Hikari knows he’s not the one to go to for advice of that nature, but is still embarrassed enough to avoid Itou, until Itou himself calls him out and they sort it out together.

Itou assures him every couple goes at its own pace, and that if Hikari doesn’t even intend to go all the way with Iroha (as Itou suspects he will with Ayado, very soon), Itou respects and will support him. It’s some very mature conversation between best mates, clarifying that this isn’t a race!

Speaking of early bloomers, Kaoru comes to Takanashi’s house to apologize for keeping Anzu out late, but manages to pierce Takanashi’s innate distrust and loathing for All Things Tsutsui with a heartfelt monologue about why he loves Anzu and wants to help her big brother keep her safe. Still, Takanashi is frustrated enough with Kaoru’s shrewdness that he decides to take it out on Hikari, who after all only wants some of the same advice as Itou.

While heading back downstairs from the roof, Takanashi very clearly tries to get the attention of Ishino, and ask her if she’s free for…something. But his friend, who met Ishino at the maid cafe, asks her out first, having already gotten a half-hearted okay from Takanashi to pursue her. It’s clear despite his aloof attitude, Takanashi doesn’t like his friend spending all this time with Ishino. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve had until you’ve lost it!

Hikari and Ishino have been just humming along, but with another three-day weekend coming up Iroha wants to go on a trip…an overnight trip—to eat and see the sights in another town. But Hikari is overwhelmed by the possibility that they may end up doing it, and gets so stuck in his head he appears outwardly opposed to and stressed out about going on the trip, and Iroha drops the issue and heads home.

For her part, Ishino told Hikari before he met with Iroha to just get fucking laid already…though at the same time no one reinforces Hikari’s own insecurities and sense of non-worth than Ishino, even though she’s just messing around.

But Ishino now finds herself in a bit of a love triangle. I doubt this new guy (I didn’t even hear his name) is anything other than a means to show Takanashi that he actually does requite Ishino’s feelings, at least to some degree, whether it’s true love or he’s simply pleasantly accustomed to having her around.

Ishino assumes the worst; that he’s some kind of playboy just trying to get in her pants. I’m not 100% convinced that’s not the case either. Good luck, Ishino! As for Takanashi, he should take after his friends and reconcile his feelings.

Hikari, good man that he is, doesn’t spend days worrying about what a shit he is, and corrects himself almost immediately, actually taking the time to look at the travel books Iroha marked, then running after her, embracing her from behind, and agreeing that it will be a fun time. He just had to get out of his own head, and put himself in her shoes: she must have been excited to tell him about the trip, and was looking forward to it since the last three-day weekend.

Unfortunately, due to Iroha’s poor test scores, she has to take remedial classes over the weekend, but Hikari assures her they’ll go the next time. Here’s hoping there is one—it would be a great step forward for their relationship.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 04

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I said I might have to drop this show now that I’ve discovered AGK, but I haven’t done so yet. That could be because there isn’t another show this Summer that has me as much in the dark about as many things. I’m eager for some answers, but only get more questions. And yet, on I watch.

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The unfortunately named Platinum Jail; its developer, who ends up in the same limo as Grams earlier in the episode; the disappearance of Dry Juice, and the painting over of all their tags with Morphine tags; Trip and Virus’ involvement; Clear and Noiz’s obsessions with Aoba; it’s all just floating around in one big cloud of mystery.

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I hope something gives soon. I don’t mind lingering mysteries, as long as something comes of them, but the show could throw us a bone here or there. After a police patrol cuts Koujaku and Noiz’s fight (ostensibly over Aoba) short, Aoba comes home to find his Grams gone, replaced by a couple of unconscious Morphine members and Mink.

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Whether Mink is a friend or foe, and what if anything he has to say to Aoba that might shed some light on all of this stuff, we’ll have to wait another week. But with all these elements listed above in play yet presently isolated from one another, I imagine at some point some dots will be connected. Some point soon, hopefully!

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DRAMAtical Murder – 02

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With most of the characters introduced, the plot gets a chance to thicken this week, as a mystery surrounds Aoba and Ren’s impromptu trip to Rhyme, and none of his elaborately-dressed buds can shed any light on it. There’s a ton of questions asked, but its slim pickings, answer-wise, which combined with the leisurely pace of this episode, made it more of a drag than the first.

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The entire first half consists of a rehash of the Rhyme battle with that annoying bunny thing, which I really didn’t need to see again. Turns out the outdated Ren’s initial attacks are no match for the foe, but Aoba instinctively busts out some kind of orders that win the day. He wakes up where he passed out, is excused from work, and goes home to rest and repair his Allmate. Things are very slice-of-lifey.

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That’s not a lot an awful of ground covered, by the standards of some of the better-paced shows out there, but it’s also arguably admirable the show is still keeping its cards close, preferring to show Aoba interacting with his friends and grams more and let subtle clues trickle out one by one. It’s obvious, for instance, that Aoba has played Rhyme before; he even has a handle: “Sly Blue.” The popularity of Rhyme is also sapping the ranks of real-world gangs.

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But due to an unspecified “accident” a while back, Aoba’s memories must have been messed with, the same way the data in Ren was damaged. He also must have been a player of no small accomplishment, since he not only seems to have some antagonist on his trail, but also has an apparent fan who reverently calls him “master”—that’s Clear, the gas-masked fellow we thought was behind that first battle but turned out not to be. In any case, Aoba’s a popular guy right now, and there’s a lot more to him than even he knows.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 01

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Bodacious. Stylish. Crisp. Zany. Rad. These kinds of words swirled through my head during the OP (with a catchy theme by techno rock band GOATBED) and those descriptors served me well all the way through a very introductory episode to the ED (also a catchy theme by techno rock band GOATBED). On further research (Wikipedia) I learned this show is based on a BL visual model, which explains the lack of any female main characters, along with the reliable attractiveness of all of the male characters we come across.

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The gender of the various players isn’t of much consequence in the first episode; but what is evident is that they all cultivate extremely elaborate, colorful looks; clearly a lot of effort was put into giving them very memorable, eye-popping appearances. One could even throw around the word flamboyant without fear. The setting is similarly impressive; as the protagonist Seragaki Aoba and all his pals live in the somewhat rundown”old city” (let’s say it has “character”) on an island now dominated by a massive, pristine arcology-looking thing.

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We follow Aoba through a pretty typical day in which he crosses paths with many different folks, from a trio of neighborhood urchins, to his hairdresser friend Koujaku, to his gang leader friend Mizuki, two the non-twin brother yakuza duo of Trip and Virus, and finally, some big dude he bumps into who drives off on his motorcycle without a word. There’s also a kid with a gas mask on, Zvezda-style, but Aoba doesn’t run into him. The whole time, his pet Japanese Spitz Ren is by his side, who happens to be able to talk, serves as a mobile computer, and takes human form in game fields. Everyone seems to have a little mecha-animal on their person. Wish I had a mecha-animal…

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While Aoba’s clearly done a few unsavory things in his past, he seems content with a quiet, honest living at the Junk Shop “Mediocrity” and living with his battleaxe Grams. But he’s also a lad being pushed and pulled by his pals to doing something more with his life; something he’s capable of doing. The final straw comes when he’s drawn against his will into the VR combat game “Rhyme” that’s all the rage in the city. While he pleads with the guy who instigated the game that he’s never played Rhyme, he’s clearly played something before, because he uses something called a “Jubilation Set” to defeat him.

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Keeping track of so many new faces on new shows is often, to borrow a word from Aoba, a “hassle”, but DMMd at least makes it easier by making them so distinctive, and there’s a nice flow to Aoba’s travels around the huge, surging city. I can’t say much about Rhyme, except that Ren looks really cool in human form and their evil bunny rabbit opponents were lame as hell. Between Grandma throwing death flags and the gas mask guy, I’d bed on Aoba’s quiet, unassuming life getting a bit louder and more assuming in episodes to come. And by all means, keep rockin’ those moon boots.

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Car Cameos:

Natsuiro Kiseki – 08

Saki packs up the things in her room as the moving day nears. The group decides to visit the place where she’s moving, which is technically Tokyo but in reality it’s Hachijo-jima, 178 miles from the city proper. Saki’s dad tries to reassure her, but she has distressing dreams in which her friends can’t see or hear her. They soak in a couple of Tokyo sights before boarding the overnight ship, which they run around until lights out, when they huddle under a blanket. Yuka gets seasick, and if the waves get too rough, the ship will turn around. In the morning, though, the clouds are gone and Hachijo is in sight. Natsumi finds Saki on the deck and confronts her about whether moving is what she wants.

Every episode of Natsuiro Kiseki has had some form of supernatural phenomenon brought on by the wishing rock…until now. Even so, this may be the best episode yet, capturing the excitement and adventure of a voyage, exentuating how that journey can be the destination. To Rinko and Yuka, it’s enough that it’s an adventure with their good friends. But to Saki, it’s almost a dry run for her actual move, since they decided to visit her home in “Tokyo”, which is actually the most southern and isolated of the Izu Islands, which are indeed administrated by Tokyo. Moving from one’s friends is always tough, and it’s definitely starting to sink in for Saki, now that she’s packed everything in her bedroom away (making her sudden awakening from an unsettling dream in the empty, lonely room all the more unnerving). The episode perfectly captures the bubbly sense of awe one gets from visiting a great city for the first time, as the Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge make brief cameos.

Despite it’s distance, Hachijo-jima is still Tokyo. Despite not wanting to move at all – signifying a difference of intent with her father, for whom working on an island is his dream – Saki is willing to submit to her father’s wishes, not wanting to hurt or disappoint him by voicing her discontent with the decision to move. Natsumi picks up on this; it’s Saki’s M.O. to just “live” with things she believes she can “do nothing about”. Natsumi insists Saki fight for what she wants, and if she doesn’t, then Natsumi will do it for her. The island is a gorgeous paradise at first glance (and in the preview), but the first local they encounter (who has to rescue an un-stretched Yuka from the sea) takes an instant dislike to the “mainlanders”, unaware Saki may be a future neighbor. This was an all-round brilliant and beautiful episode, and we can’t wait for the conclusion.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Tokyo Trip Journal 8

11 June, Heisei 22 (Fri)

So the final day arrives. Check-out is a 10 AM but I’m packed and ready to go, giving myself time to soak up a few parting shots of this weird, gorgeous, kinetic city before taking the N’EX to Narita and back to America. I had grown accustomed to this place, and shall miss it for sure.

Here I am, at 2 PM waiting to be bourne to Houston George Bush Airport, to wait another 3-4 hours for my flight back to Philly. Not looking forward to either flight, but I am excited to be heading home. Next week is supposed to be grey and rainy in Tokyo, and I hate days like that, so I think this is as good a time as any to depart, for now. My timing was perfect, as this past week had a couple real gems of nice days. Whatever the weather, I know for certain I’ll be back as soon as I can. After all, I now know Shinjuku and much of theToei and Tokyo Metro lines like the back of my hand (sort of) and in a month, there’ll be a faster means from the airport than even the N’EX, knocking a half-hour off the travel time from the airport to Tokyo. My main mistake was walking around too much too soon, and the resulting soreness and pain i experienced could have been avoided with better preparation (and sturdier shoes.)

Still, I never got really lost (or more lost than I wanted to be) or robbed or got into a fight or cultural misunderstanding, and didn’t sprain or pull anything, and saw most of central Tokyo, including everything/where I wanted to see, had some local cuisine, and had a decent hotel room, if unflashy. I feel like I got my money’s worth and didn’t spend too much in the world’s second-most expensive city to live in. Overall, I’ll call this trip a success!

Tokyo Trip Journal 7

10 June, Heisei 22 (Thurs)

This morning heralded in a clear, warm, sunny, and absolutely perfect day to visit Tokyo’s waterfront district, a reclaimed “Inner Harbor/Harbor East”-like area known as Odaiba. The ruby Uedo. line took me form Shinjuku to Shiodome, and then I only needed to hop on the Yurikamome monorail to take me across the part of Tokyo Bay to Odaiba. As I write this I am enjoying a Georgia Iced Latter (a Coca-Cola product) with the Rainbow Bridge across the bay from me, Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Hills visible behind it in the distance, the eccentric Fuji TV Building at my back, and, oddly enough, a third-scale but otherwise exact replica of the Statue of Liberty to the right.

Odaiba is also home to Toyota Mega Web, the largest Toyota auto salon in the country, but less stylish than the one in Ikebukuro. It is also home to a gallery of automotive history, containing some real gems I had not had a good look at in the flesh before (E-Type, De Lorean, Isetta, Spider, Mustang, Biarritz, etc., along with some notable specimens from Toyota’s storied racing history. At least at the hour I was there, I was apparently the only one interested. From Aomi I dashed to the next station to get an up-close look at Tokyo Big Sight, described as either an upside-down version of the Pyramid building from Blade Runner, or your average convention center flipped upside down and suspended on stilts. It is an insane piece of architecture, very sci-fi. Btw, each monorail station has a unique color and pattern decoration derived from Japanese art and design history. What significance this holds alludes me at this time, but its still neat, and I appreciate the attention to detail, as always.

After sightseeing in Odaiba, I finished the Yurikamome monorail loop to get my 800 yen’s worth, ending at Toyosu station on the Yurakucho line, which conveniently connected to Sakuradamon, on the side of the Imperial Palace grounds I hadn’t been to yet. First I took a quick look at the National Diet building, a handsome structure combining elements of Japanese and Art Deco architecture.

The gardens and plazas surrounding the palace moat were gorgeous and impeccably tended. I wondered what life was like up there on the raised stone ramparts, and whether the Emporer ever walked along its perimeter, gazing out onto the modern city beyond his moat. I had to wonder, because you cannot see much; the main gate was firmly closed and under heavy guard, and the one of the only good views in, while picturesque, still didn’t allow visual access to the palace residences themselves. No biggie though, it was cool just to get as close as I did.

Hungry, i went east to the modern city to find a place for lunch. I found one in “Banri”, another no-nonsense value-for-money place, where I stuffed myself on a miso-like stew with cured pork, mushrooms, bok choy, bamboo shoots and scallions, with excellent pork fried rice on the side. Portions at these restaurants tend to be huge, and people typically eat quite fast. I take my time cleaning my plate, again so as not to offend. Ometachi station was right next door, so I took the now very familiar red Marunouchi line to Shinjuku, where I decided to satisfy my curiosity regarding the “Toto Super Space” on the 27th floor of the Shinjuku L-Tower. The fixtures on display were quite slick…and expensive.

After a brief rest in my room and a shower, I head somewhere I haven’t been before – Ebisu – on the Hibiya line. Ebisu is apparently a diner’s haven; as soon as I emerged from the station I was assaulted by hundreds of places to eat. Choosing where to eat when there are so many good choices can be excrutiating, but I bit the bullet and chose somewhere. I’d eaten Japanese-style food essentially every night I was here, so I decided to switch it up and try out an Italian place called Palermo. They made a mean Margherita pizza.

Tokyo Trip Journal 6

9 June, Heisei 22 (Wed)

I’m a sucker for landmarks, which is why I went to Asakusa on this slightly rainy Wednesday. Asakusa has some awesome-looking old-fashioned Japanese architecture, along with a couple of honkin’ huge red lanterns that mark the portals to a bazaar-market type thing. Were it not for all the schoolgirl sailor suits and other tourists (both Asian and Western) the place would be a dead ringer for a Samurai Champloo setting.

Moving along, I took the Ginza line to Ueno, then the silver Hibiya line to Akibahara (Akiba), which was once know for being a center for electronics, but has become a haven for otaku, or lovers of the anime/manga/video game culture. I didn’t want to miss seeing such a massive concentration of a specific culutral phenomenon unique to Japan. Even the vending machines, numerous here as well, contained “dinner in a can” for those who were too busy gaming, gambling, or gawking at the maids or whatever obsessive activity to sit down to a proper meal. I saw a lot of posters and flyers advertising the imminent video release for many anime I’m currently watching, which strangely enough was a nice connection to home.

For lunch, I headed to a familiar place, another McDonalds. This one had an eating area in the basement as well as one floor above ground level; I went up. What is amazing about fast food in Japan is that while it is incedibly fast, it still manages to be neat and tidy, exactly how it looks in the pictures, not like someone sat on it. It’s perhaps a little thing, but I appreciate it nonetheless. I didn’t buy that canned soup, though because I was scared of it.

Done with Akiba, I backtracked to Ueno. Ueno is characterized (by me) as being dominated by a huge park. Containing gardens, a zoo, and several museums. Unfortunately the Metropolitan Museum of Art was closed for repairs, but the Japanese National Museum was opened, so I took a look. Its exhibitions chronicled the roughly 5,000 years of arts and culture of Japan, from simple pottery to impossibly detailed and accurate map scrolls to early modern Japanese art influenced by the West. There were also some exquisite swords and armor.

After a leisurely walk around Ueno’s park, I head not back to Shinjuku, but to Ikebukuro for supper. Today’s choice of eatery was much easier for some reason, despite being just a random one. I got a whole roasted fish with some kind of horseradish-type garnish, rice, and miso. After dinner I checked out the nearby Toyota Auto Salon, the second-largest in the country. I saw such unsurprising models there as the Camry, Corolla, and Prius, but also many quirky and interesting models not sold anywhere but Japan, or at least not in America. Six floors of tire-kickin’ goodness. Probably only an automotive fanatic such as myself would car about such a wealth of proverbial fresh meat.

From the Auto Salon, I made for the nearby Sunshine 60 building in Sunshine City. This building is prominent in both the beginning and ending credits of Durarara!! and shown throughout, and is so-called because it has 60 floors. It was also built on the site of a former prison where prisoners such as HIdeki Tojo were executed, and is believed by some to be haunted. Anyway, an elevator shoots you up at 600 meters a second…which is fast. It puts on a very dramatic show, too, as the elevator’s lights go dim and switch to a cool blue planetarium atmosphere with constellations and dreamy music; why I don’t know but it’s cool. I imagine Hitachi or someone makes them. Can’t imagine them letting Koreans build their elevator, but who knows. The top floor had excellent views of the city, from a different perspective than Shinjuku or Roppongi, as well as an elaborate display for an anime I haven’t seen called Hetalia World Series.

When I came back down to earth I wandered around Ikebukuro a bit more. It really is something to behold when the sun is down and the lights are up. Most people seem to be wandering around like me too, sometimes stopping at some store like Bic Camera, which seems to sell nothing but white signs with tons of red or blue writing on them. Also everyone seems to always be in need of a new phone from Docomo, SoftBank, Apple, or the like, despite the fact everyone already seems to be covered phone-wise.

The typical cell phone in Tokyo is a flip-phone; rather large and rectangular with squared-off edges and stuff hanging from it like charms. Anyway, I think I may know why everyonee’s out wandering around, eating, drinking, buying big cells and playing Pachinko: because Japanese TV is, on the whole, not that great (at least the analog feed I was getting in my hotel room; an HDTV would have cost extra.) To avoid it, and the creative if structurally repetetive ads, they go out. Such practical people.

Anyway, from Ikebukuro I take the long way home on the Marunouchi line. Shinjuku is 18 stops away, but I paid for unlimited subway service and I’m going to get it; not like I’m in any particular hurry.

Tokyo Trip Journal 5

8 June, Heisei 22 (Tue)

Riding the subway is actually quite fun, especially when you don’t have any set schedule or anywhere in particular to be. Also, you can ride it all you want for 1000 yen (a bit over $10), so I figured I’d get my money’s worth. It threatened to rain all day, but only momentary sprinkles here and there until something resembling a drizzle at sundown.

I took the subway to Roppongi, and to a very trendy (and Westerny) quarter called Roppongi Hills, right next to TV Asahi HQ. Another art gallery sat upon a high place; in this case the 52nd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (Mori owns many towers in Roppongi). The Mori Art Museum made the Sompo Musuem seem a little dowdy, not least the which because it was full of much newer and flashier pieces and installations of audio and video. The prices in the museum shop were, shall we say, optimistic?

I made a brief stop in nearby Akebanebashi to check out the Tokyo Tower, which was tall, white, and international orange. Then to the nearest station, Daimon, which via Shimbashi led me to Ginza, of of Tokyo’s swankiest districts. I took a look at a lot of fancy stores like Adidas and Sony, saw the new Nissan Leaf, and got lunch a a fast-food chain called Lotteria, which had very good cheeseburgers and emerald green Suntory Melon Pop to wash them and the fries down. I also bought a bottle of sake.

From Ginza, I took the Ginza line west, all the way to Shibuya, yet another cosmopolitan/bustling/chic ‘hood full of stores selling stuff no one needs at exhorbitant prices. I’m beginning to see a pattern. No matter; I realize these places need to exist. In any case, Shibuya has some of the largest crosswalks; at one notable intersection all automotive traffic stops so pedestrians in all directions can cross. It’s really something to behold and to experience firsthand. From Shibuya I took the Fukushotin line to Meiji-Jingumae, the station closest to the Meiji shrine in Yoyogi Park. I did a bit more walking than I should have, but it was worth seeing such a serene and gorgeous place.

Back in Shinjuku as night approached, I grabed dinner at a hole-in-the-wall eatery packed with smoking diners…after much constirnation and head-wrining about where to eat. The simple matter is, there is so much choice, it can potentially be paralyzing. This restaurant has a machine that tilts a mug and slowly pours Kirin beer, pauses briefly to let the fizz subside, then tops it off. Also, the average diner was smoking 3-4 cigarettes during their meal, not after. Smoking indoors is very much allowed at most restaurants and bars. The diners here ate very fast, too…and loud slurping of broth is not frowned upon. Dinner was 1000 yen.

Tokyo Trip Journal 4

7 June, Heisei 22 (Mon)

Here’s when I thought things would get a bit…tricky.

I was a bit anxious about using public transportation, not knowing what all the flashing characters were trying to tell me, but after using it all day I have no idea why I was at all; it was easy as pie. There’s a slight learning curve to the iconography, but with a combination of bilingual signage and distinct colors for lines and numbers for stations, I had no problem navigating my way around Tokyo.

First, I followed the enormous mass of suited salarymen (and women) clutching phones and coffee to Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world by daily passengers (more than 3 million) A typicall trip on the Toei or Tokyo Metro subways costs 160-170 yen. I took the Toei Shinjuku line (leaf green) to Kudanshita, a station near the Imperial Palace complex. The imperial gardens and nearby museums were closed, it being Monday, so I hopped back on the subway on the Metro’s Tozai line (blue) at Takebashi bound for Nihombashi. The whole business district area east of the palace is called Marunouchi. The red line is named after it.

Nihombashi had a 19th century stone bridge with intricate bronzework, but was concealed by a highway overpass. In Tokyo, hardly anything save the palace is sacred, and they will build over/around/on top of whatever they don’t feel like tearing down. I also saw the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but couldn’t go inside. After mailing a couple postcards with the help of a very nice postwoman, I got on at Ometachi station and took the Tozai line to Iidabashi (missing Kudanshita from brain fart). That was okay, because Iidabashi was a junction for the yellow Yurakucho line, which I’d take to my next destination, Ikebukuro.

One of Ikebukuro station many exits led up into a Gallery-like mall, where I was surprised to find a Krispy Kreme – they’re all but extinct in Philly. I was fascinated by suddenly being in the same city where the anime Durarara!! takes place, and from what I saw the show portrays the look of the city expertly. In Shangri-la, which takes place in the future, Ikebukuro is a thick and poisonous forest. Here and now though, the place is surging with people and activity. I float around in no particular hurry until lunchtime draws near.

Rather than eat here, I hop on the brown Fukushotin line to Shinjuku-Sanchome, then back on the Shinjuku line to…Shinjuku. After a brief stop at the hoel for a shower, then searched Shinjuku by my hotel for sushi. I espied several businessmen entering a promising place and followed them, and was not disappointed. Utilizing once again the big pictures on the menu, indicated my choice and received large amounts of delicious, dead raw fish and sea creatures, all for under 1000 yen.

As miles of walking in my Nikes had virtually ruined my ankles/knees, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase decent walking shoes with arch support. I went to Keio, one of the massive department stores positioned around Shinjuku Station along with Odakyu and Mylord. Each has at least eight floors, the bottom of which are massive gourmet food markets selling every kind of food imaginable. I wasn’t hungry, unfortunately, but I did need shoes, so I took the elevator up to the fifth floor. The elevators were attended by extremely well dressed and groomed, polite and soft-spoken ladies with white gloves. I found some comfy Gore-Tex Brooks for 15,700 yen, for which I was able to use a credit card.

Thus equipped, and having purchased Buffrin (the only pain medicine with western letters I could decipher; don’t want to be wrong about labels where drugs are concerned) I hoped to lessen the fatigue on my walking bits as the week continued.

Tokyo Trip Journal 3

6 June, Heisei 22 (Sun)

Wake up aound 5:15 AM. Bed is comfortable and surprisingly, long enough for my frame. A/C is not too harsh. I felt a bit killjoyish sleeping through a Saturday evening, but again, I was a walking corpse and in no condition for sensory overload yet. Didn’t have an appetite for anything other than water and sleep…slept about 12 hours total and woke up refreshed and more or less adjusted to the time, somehow. My Verizon phone even displays local time, but is roaming.

After briefly exploring my hotel, I buy a UCC Black Iced Coffee and start out; around 6 AM. Unlike my afternoon arrival, the city is almost deserted and silent, with the crowing of enormous ravens and bus engines being the dominant sounds. The skyscrapers loom overhead like a grove of mammoth trees. Like yesterday, my route is somewhat random…N, E, N, S, NE…but I am hungry so when I happen upon the first of many Tokyo McDonalds, I go there to grab breakfast. The place is three stories, everyone working there is pleasant and affable, the food looks precisely like it does in the pictures, and the portions aren’t immeasurable. An Egg McMuffin, hash brown and OJ cost 460 yen.

After a few attempts, I find an ATM that takes my card (at a 7 Eleven; Family Mart ATMS will only take Citibank) and procure funds for the coming days. Then I continue weaving through the streets of Shinjuku, passing soda/coffee/tea/cigarette vending machines every 100 feet or so. They’re absolutely everywhere. I swear, I don’t see how anyone who has 120 yen could ever be thirsty in this city.

As I walk, my legs grow weary, so I head south to the lovely and expansive park called Shinjuku Gyoen, only to find it’s not open yet (too early) so I do a loop around it, find a smaller park to rest at and then head back to the gyoen. On the way I experience how cars/pedestrians/motorbikes negotiate the narrower streets of the city, and am also absorbed by the feeling of a pleasant, sunny Tokyo Sunday morning.

Shinjuku Gyoen is gorgeous. There’s a Japanese garden, in addition to English and French gardens, and a picturesque asian pavilion from which to view the scenery. There’s a more modern facility under construction near the entrance. There are sun worshippers here, but no dogs allowed. As the morning grows later, more people arrive. I spot an Oriental Stork in a pond, as well as a turtle identical to a friend of mine’s floating in the same. As I write this, we’re closing in on noon. I’ve walked more than two miles, and need lunch.

I procure lunch at the park’s cafe. A common means of getting food involves inserting cash or credit (its very much still a cash economy) into a machine, pressing the buttons that light up for what you want to eat/drink, and it prints out a ticket. A waitress shows you to your seat and rips the ticket. When you get your food, which I got promptly, she takes the stub. Wonderful procedure. Soba with Prawn Tempura isn’t bad, either, and quite filling. Along with a bottle of ringo (apple) juice, the whole meal is 1000 yen.

I head out of the park shortly thereafter, passing through what appears to be a mini Barnes & Noble just for anime/manga. When I return to the shopping blocks I’d passed through much earlier, they are all open and bustling. The shops sell clothing, cameras and electronics, watches, anime/manga, and restaurants and pachinki/slot and karaoke parlors are interspersed between them. Whatever the business, most of them have someone outside the entrance beckoning for customers to take a look at their wares and handing out fliers.

All the walking (~5 miles) have taken their toll on my ankles/shins, so I walk back to my hotel to recharge; buying a Kirin Cola and some broth-flavoured chips and relaxing in my room with some televised Go and, I find not soonafter, Japanese baseball, which is quite entertaining. The fans in the stadium are constantly singing/chanting like they would at a European soccer game. The teams are typically named after corporations/holding companies rather than the cities they play in, in this case the Hanshin Tigers vs. the SoftBank Hawks. Teams have the occasional white or hispanic player on their roster, just as MLB teams have the occasional Japanese player. When it becomes an 8-2 lead in the Tiger’s favor, I take a shower and head back out.

I end up on the 42F of the Sompo Japan Building, one of the skyscrapers that make up the Nishi-Shinjuku grove. This floor is an art museum, exhibiting a retrospective of the French painter Maurice Utrillo, as well as three permanent pieces in a special dark gallery – flanked by a Gaugain and Cezanne is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, purchased by the museum during the Japanese economic bubble for 5 billion yen. It’s pretty neat to see it in the flesh, and the views of Tokyo from the observation lobby are well worth the price of admission.

Back down to earth, I find a Japanese barbeque restaurant in the basement of a building (most buildings have 2 or 3 basements with more shops/restaurants, in addition to those above ground) and settle in. The hostess and waitress didn’t speak English, but they were extremely friendly, polite, and helpful, and thanks to a menu with pictures (a necessity for me here) I successfully order a platter containing all kinds of delicious morsels, including grilled marinated beef. With beer, dinner didn’t cost much more than 1000 yen. They provide customer service cards you can mail in, but I don’t seen how service would ever be anything other than exlempary. Three food joints today – McDonalds, the Shinjuku Gyoen cafe, and the barbeque joint…three very tight ships.

It isn’t just cashiers and waitresses though…whenever I asked a random Japanese passerby something, they tried their upmost to assist me, despite usually not knowing any English. A security guard on duty led me nearly a whole city block away from his post to point out where the Art Museum was. There’s something to society here that’s lacking back home; a sense of pride in their work and in themselves and a strict decorum to business that isn’t allowed to come up short. If anyone was unhappy in their jobs, they didn’t look it. Far cry from heart-on-sleave Americans in low-wage jobs, who can rarely contain their contempt for their plight. To that end, I felt it my duty to clean my plate completely, to honor those who served me so well. I returned to the shopping blocks as night fell, getting my first tast of the electric circus Tokyo is famous for, but by 9 PM I had been up 17 straight hours and needed sleep.

Tokyo Trip Journal 2


What follows is the account of my week-long vacation to Tokyo in June 2010, where I stuck to the 23 special wards and got a taste of the people, food, music, art, pace, and culture of 21st century Japan.

5 June, Heisei 22 (Sat)

Arrived just before 2 PM, Tokyo time
after waking up @3 AM Eastern time
Didn’t sleep on plane / dozed maybe 2 hrs total
Immigration/customs were no sweat
Took Narita Express (N’EX) to Shinjuku Station from Narita Airport Terminal 1. Price? 3,110 yen.

Walked through a mass of people on roundabout route to hotel and checked in to Shinjuku Washington Hotel.

Had so many meals and was so tired, took a hot bath/shower and just went to bed in my room at the @ 5 PM.