About Me

My photo
We are what we think & my blog entries reflect how I think. Have a sip of the poison of my mind.. It's not always lethal.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tokyo Trotting - Day 3

My hotel room

The day that I've been waiting for is finally here. Today, we will be going to Akihabara. Making my hair & donning the clothes that I've pre-planned for visiting the local Otaku town and wearing my nose ring to bring out the Otaku in me, I'm delighted how Tokyo, along with places like Taipei, allow me to dress up according to my taste which might probably draw scorn in my own frogs-in-a-well country. The fact that the shitty humid tropical weather back home limits the extent one can play with clothes doesn't help either.

Meeting up with my colleagues downstairs at the hotel lobby, I find myself drawing inquisitive stares from them. I love to shock. Bite me.

Making our way towards Akihabara, our first stop of the day is Asakusa Kannon Temple (Senso-Ji), the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The weather today is really cold and the clothes I'm wearing can't keep me warm enough. But hey, the locals who love dressing up do sacrifice fashion for warmth too, just look at the short skirts & stockings some of their girls wear which are as good as offering them no protection from the cold. Just trying to have some empathy with the locals here >:)

Ken, Angela & Clarissa
Anyway, this place is one of the best places to buy handcrafted souvenirs from the stalls here and I bought some. The good thing about packaged tour groups, no matter how small, is that you can dump the stuff you bought in the tour coach or van, proceed to another area to shop again without the encumbrance of having to haul with you the things you've bought before, then dump everything you've bought again in the ride. Rinse, dump & repeat.

When we are done with this place and the souvenir-buying, we proceed to Akihabara while my eyes are peeled & my heart anticipates with glee. Finally, I'm about to step foot in person on Japan's Otaku town that has always made me wonder with wonderful wonder.

At Akihabara

Strolling the streets of Otaku Town
The funny thing is, I didn't realize we are now already in Akihabara until our tour guide announces that we are right smack at the place. Hopping out of the van, I begin to scan the surroundings in a 360 degrees sweep while inhaling Otaku air. According to the guide's heads-up about where Otaku town begins and where it ends, the place isn't big at all, much to my honest surprise. Therefore, I tell myself to hold on to the 'Quality Over Quantity' notion and see what I can discover for myself here.

Angela, me, Jace & Lily

I'm expecting to see cosplayers here but according to our guide again, most of them gather at Harajuku instead. Surprise number 2. Hhmm. This fact is the biggest surprise of the day for me which is something I've been expecting otherwise all along for years. One more eye opened for the frog in the well.

That's the good thing about traveling; you discover if the conceptions you've had all along about a certain place turn out to be misconceptions upon being there in person.

The kinky costumes even have male versions

Going into the malls, we see lots of curiosities. There are things like cosplay costumes galore, sex toys, pornography, figurines & stuff. Along the streets are also maid cafes. I wanted to try out one of these maid cafes where kawaii waitresses dressed in maid costumes play masters & servants with their customers. But probably because I'm with the girls and we don't have too much time, we decide not to in the end.

Angela & Jace posing with the locals

My take on Akihabara is that this Otaku haven is not a big area. I'm glad I've had the opportunity to experience it. That's one wish of mine I can now place a checked mark on. As I dwell on that with a sense of satisfaction, I made a mental note to bring my Lioness here to partake in the experience should we come to Tokyo together again someday.

Outside Meiji Shinto Shrine

Next, we arrived at the Meiji Shinto Shrine dedicated to the Meiji Emperor & his consort, Empress Shoken over at Harajuku. We didn't go into the shrine. Our objective in coming here is to check out the branded boutiques outside the shrine area instead. I'm not sure we can be allowed to enter the shrine anyway.

Upon reaching the area outside the shrine after traversing a serene road lined with tall trees, our guide says: "Now this area just outside the shrine is where the cosplayers hang around. But you won't see many cosplayers nowadays. I don't see any of them right now," he continues, "maybe later if we are lucky. We'll check out the boutiques first, let's go." I hope we get to see them later as they are supposed to be one of the highlights of the day for me.

At Harajuku

The branded boutiques are what everyone else is looking forward to and here I am looking forward to the local cosplayers instead. Jace, my colleague-sister is the only one who can understand why this is so for me. She told me before she appreciates my weird tastes. The Capricorn is supposed to be the Scorpio's best mate anyway. Jace herself is into manga & anime.

Outside along the stretch of boutiques

We went into lots of boutiques and on this particular stretch, we went into all of the boutiques along that stretch where there are both high-end, mid-range & lower-end range of boutiques like Uniqlo, among others. It's basically a mishmash of boutiques across the luxury to street spectrum. That's what I call 'contained, complete abundant choice'.

At Burberry's Black Label

Hanging around outside the boutiques with Lily, our guide & Clarissa, I can see well-dressed people wearing clothes from classy & elegant to funky cool. Some of the ladies strutting the street do cause me to take second glances at them.

I begin to imagine how it would be like to live and work in such a place. I think that would please me as I could have a heck lot more room to play with clothes than back home because of the better weather for most part of the year here.

By now, everybody is split into seperate shopping groups and since it's near the appointed time when everybody should gather back outside the shrine area and I'm with Lily, she & me started to walk back to the rendezvous point.

Look at the picture on the right. See the picture of the girl under the word 'Condomania' at the shop across the street? That's Mihiro Taniguchi, one of Japan's most famous porn actress, I tell Lily as we cross the street.

View of the protest march from Jingu Bridge
Crossing the overhead bridge (Jingu Bridge) leading back to the shrine area, I can see a mass of protestors below. I was half expecting a riot but I reminded myself that the Japanese people (Nihonjins) are disciplined folks who have societal values. So nah, there shouldn't be any riot out of this.

On our way here to Harajuku earlier, there was this car with loudspeakers outside the Korean embassy blaring speeches in Japanese with serious, aggressive tones and our guide interpreted the speech and told us that they were protesting against Korea over some island ownership dispute.

There was another quirky sight we saw: this old Japanese man marching back & forth along the streets dressed in nothing but a white t-shirt, white shorts and a helmet, with a Japanese flag tucked in his shouldered backpack with a sign that says "日本军" (The Japanese Army). The weather is so freaking cold & it makes me wonder if he would freeze in his tracks before long.

The crazy fucker. I've read stories about how Japanese women from the older generation adore the idea of marrying a Japanese soldier from World War 2, so perhaps Mr Cold-Defiant Crazy Muthafucker is using this method to find himself a wife. Too bad I didn't have the chance to snap a picture of him because he was moving so damn fast despite his age.

Coming back to the rendezvous point across Jingu bridge, I can see buskers and finally, the elusive cosplayers I've been hunting for. But there are like only 2 or 3 small groups of them and one group is holding up a sign that says 'No Photography'. So I have to use stealth to take a picture of that group with my iPhone and I did (which explains why the pic on the left is kinda blurred because I had to hide my phone quickly after snapping). No way I'm gonna come all the way here and not at least take a picture of the cosplayers.

I took a picture of myself with a cosplayer from another small group that is more obliging but I won't put the pic up here because I think I don't look nice in it. What a waste.

The ice-cool mysterious girl
Arriving at the tour van, there is this girl hanging around outside our ride whom I'm thinking is a cosplayer. Looking at her closely again, I don't think so. Here she is in front of me, standing there with a cigarette in her hand all dressed so uniquely and she seems to be lost in her own world, ignoring & not looking at everyone else (except this split instance when I saw her looking at me. It was just a split second).

There is something mysterious about her and she seems to have an ice-cool personality. She piqued my interest and so I took a picture of her. She does seem troubled and she resembles 舒琪. I really wonder what's the story behind this girl. Hope she will be ok.

Along the way to the place where we are going to have dinner, we stopped by this Hard Rock souvenir shop outside Hard Rock Cafe. There are only 2 Hard Rock in Tokyo and I know that one of them has the Washburn N3 electric guitar of my Guitar Hero Nuno Bettencourt displayed. Wanting to know if I'm lucky enough to be at the right Hard Rock and see Nuno's N3 with my own eyes, I quickly let our guide know where I'm going and I started to dash into that Hard Rock Cafe while everyone else remains in the souvenir shop shopping.

I'm inside in the blink of an eye. I have to hurry because we are about to leave this place for dinner. I do not care if the waiters try to stop me, I begin immediately going through every inch of the premise looking at every single guitar hanging on the walls.

Some of the waiters are looking at me inquisitively but I just ignore them and continue my search for that N3 in a hustle. I think I'm getting almost to the point of controlled desperation. Now there's a guitar belonging to Bon Jovi hanging over there and other guitars of other stars here & there, but I'm here solely for that N3.

I know the N3 isn't here after I've gone through every inch of that place and looked at every single guitar in there. Leaving the place in disappointment, I suddenly miss my N4 back home.

Dinner time

Freaking awesome BBQ
Dinner tonight is barbecue assorted meat in this restaurant run by Taiwanese folks and I'll let my tastebuds do the talking here: "WE ARE HAVING AN ORGASM, YO!!"

Seriously, this dinner is one of the best, if not the best BBQ I've ever feasted on. No exaggeration. It's in the way they marinate the meat, I believe. Top notch & thumbs erect. Curious about the Taiwanese here, I asked our guide about them and he told me the staffs here are students studying in Japan.

Tokyo Tower
After dinner, we came over to look at Tokyo Tower which has lighting on it that changes colour slowly and subtlety if you observe patiently. Hanging around the tower and chit-chatting with our guide who has a Japanese wife, I asked him how one says 'I Love You' in Japanese. He taught me how to say it in the formal and traditional way which no modern Japanese uses anymore as well as the less formal modern day way of saying it.

The traditional formal way translates to literally mean 'I Love You' while the modern way simply means 'I really like you a lot.' Seems like the expression of affection has degenerated in Japan. That's sad. I prefer the traditional way which sounds better to my ears and memorized it.

The final event of the night is a one-hour karaoke session before going back to the hotel. The KTV session seems a bit rushed for us and the room we are singing in is a little too small for us.

Affirmation of 'The Alliance'

The last time when I was here in Tokyo, me & my Lioness stayed in the Prince Hotel vicinity of Ikebukuro where a Sanrio shop is located. The guide told me that area is within walking distance from our hotel and he gave me rough directions how to go back to that vicinity on foot.

I have to find my way back to that place. By hook or by crook. And I mean it. I want to go back in time.

I will start the hunt for the memories tonight.

- De Lion Speaks

No comments: