Harajuku, meeting Akibanana, Asakusa, and my most expensive meal
The days are going by pretty slowly at this point of the trip and with only a week left before I return to Australia, there was so little left I wanted to do. But I still managed to find things to do to keep me and my friends entertained. This post covers my trip to Harajuku, Nakano Broadway, Akiba again, Asakusa and the most expensive meal I’ll ever have. So hit the jump to read on.
It was a Sunday morning and it seemed that the weather had lighten up a bit, but it was still cloudy. The plan for the day was to over to Harajuku as I read in my guide book about all the youths dressed in goth clothing etc that hang around the bridge towards the temple. Upon arriving there we see that there were certainly a lot of people about, and for good reason. There was some kind of festival going on. The path towards the temple had a large stage set up with dancers on the stage performing. Anyway I also managed to meet up with Windbell amongst the crowd.
Eventually I found out that the event was in celebration for youth culture in Japan and that the event was called Super Yosakoi, or something like that. So what was supposed to be a simply walk around Harajuku ended up being walking right into an event day. Though I wasn’t sure if this was a good of events or just bad luck since I actually did want to walk around normally but not have to work my way through a crowd. Anyway we didn’t stick around all that long to watch the rest of the show as my friends and I didn’t have breakfast, so it was time to eat. Walking along the street we picked out a cafe, sat down and ordered.
Although it was close to midday and it was actually time for lunch. I had some kind of hamburg and cheese with a cheesecake for dessert. It was actually quite nice sitting there in a cafe in Harajuku eating lunch as it’s probably something I would do if I ever lived in Japan. Well the eating in cafes part. I’m sure I’ll do this when I move out and get my own place. Anyway leaving the cafe we continued walking down the street as a parade was just starting.
Eventually becoming bored of the main street we turned down a side street and decided to make our way back to the station. Again one of the weirdest things about Japan is finding a shop in the middle of a back street. With us being in Harajuku there are some very prestige shops around, especially in clothing, and just seeing these types of shops there makes one wonder how they survive being hidden away from the main road. Guess this is one thing I’ll never understand about Japan.
Having gotten back to the main road, I wanted to head down the shotengai that is right across from Harajuku station. I forget what this place is called, but I do remember that there are a lot of clothes shops this way, and as usual a lot of people. Walking through here, you can feel the prescence of Japanese youth and their culture and we know that Japanese youth have a stylish sense of fashion. I spotted quite a few nice items of clothing but alas I didn’t have all that much money on me to go and buy them.
There certainly is quite a lot of shops to see in Harajuku, but none of us went into one. Though I would’ve gone in a few, but my friends would’ve walked on ahead not wanting to wait let alone look around in these types of shops. We also came across a few guys selling shoes and tried to rake one of my friends into their shop to buy some but he managed to weasel his way out. Once again it was a short lived trip to Harajuku, just like last time. Next time I plan to come and check out places a bit longer if I ever return to Japan.
Now that we’re back at Harajuku station, we hopped on the train once again to head to Nakano as we wanted to check out Nakano Broadway. Windbell left us to head over to Akiba but I would meet up with him later. Nakano isn’t that far from Harajuku station and we got there pretty quickly. Once we got there I wasn’t sure which exit to go as I only know that Nakano Broadway is inside a shotengai across the street from the station. Exiting out of the south exit we see nothing like a shotengai so walking around to the north side we found what we were looking for.
Walking right through as it started to rain again we see various shops that you normally see in any shotengai. And at least here you don’t have crazy bicycle riders trying to run you down unlike those in Osaka. After a short way we eventually came to Nakano Broadway. It’s not actually a part of the shotengai like I have been told, you just walk through it to get to another building hidden behind it.
From what Windbell had told me, all the otaku stuff is on the 2nd floor, but we explored a bit more than just the 2nd floor. I even played a bit of Wangan Midnight MT3 though I found my card couldn’t be used on Japanese machines. A bunch of kids also challenged me as they realised I would be an easy win since I drove a stock car. Damn I really hate kids like that. So wondering upstairs we finally came across a number of cabinet stores selling various otaku goodies from the most recent stuff, to stuff even dating back to the early 90′s. This is definitely the place to find really old stuff. I myself found a DVD volume that I’ve been looking for since other stores in Akiba didn’t have it. Though I was also surprised to see this:
Yeah, a Games Workshop. For all I know it could be the only one in Tokyo. In the end, the trip to Nakano Broadway was short lived. My friends and I were in no mood to buy anything too much, but we still walked away with something in our hands. I parted ways with my friends and headed across to Akiba yet again, but to meet up with Windbell. There’s a good reason for me to head over to Akiba once again, and no it’s not to buy stuff, but to watch Windbell get interviewed.
Meeting up with Windbell and two of his friends, one being a Japanese friend of his, and the other turned out to be KiddoKenshin from HongFire. I was actually surprised to meet another HF forum member as I have only met a select few of them. Eventually we met up with the person who is to interview Windbell, KｲKｲ of Akibanana. We walked around Akiba for a bit trying to find a suitable place to sit so Windbell could be interviewed but unfortunately it started to rain. The most annoying thing was the rain was an on and off thing. We took refuge inside a coffee shop somewhere on the backstreets of Akiba where we sat and talked. One of the things I enjoy and don’t get to do often is just sit at a coffee shop and chat away. Yeah, I live a life pretty eluded of social gatherings. Damn for me living out so far from friends.
It was a great chance to find out more about each other as well and where we each come from. We talked about our blogs but I do admit that I never heard of Akibanana until that afternoon. But anyway, KｲKｲ pitched a few ideas to me about their site, and being a web developer, I gave my slight 2 cents about what they could do. Though I don’t personally see myself as a pro, I do like to help out. Also go here if you want to check out the interview with Windbell.
Leaving the coffee shop after some unknown amount of time, it was time to do some more exploring around Akiba. One of the great things t having someone knowledgeable in the land of otakus is that they can show you many of the “hidden” secrets. One of the things we caught was a small exhibition for Tinkerbell’s works. It’s simply a public showcase of some of the artist’s works available for public viewing, but more importantly for those with enough cash to actually purchase these artworks. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside, but having seen some of the prices, most seem relatively cheap. Then again, I consider a lot of things cheap when in Japan. One of the works I had my eye on was only ¥310,000. Though I can’t find a picture of it, it was relatively similar to the photo above.
Another place that KｲKｲ took us was also a hidden away shrine not that far from the main street of Akiba. Like I’ve mentioned before, seedy looking alleys can lead you to great things in Japan. We also checked out a few other places that I never been to, some things I’ve seen before, and some rather kinky places, but lets not go there. It was also a prime time to do some night time photography since I brought along the DSLR with me.
For dinner we went a standup sushi bar. I haven’t been to many places that require you to stand up and eat, but my legs were sure killing after a while. Though it was rather amusing since everyone could speak Japanese, and I’m standing there only understanding a portion of it, but I didn’t attempt to speak Japanese. A simple dinner, and lots of photographs of the same piece of sushi later, it was time to head our separate ways. Though just outside Akiba station I saw this on the ground:
Yes Engrish embedded in the land of otakus forever. Or until they realise the mistake and fix it.
Ah yes, another unplanned day. I was rather stumbled on what I wanted to do this day and with the recent poor weather in Tokyo I didn’t want to go all that far away. My good friends also had nothing they wanted to do but didn’t want to stick around the hotel either. Once again, it was upto me to find something to do. Then it struck me. One of the places that I’ve wanted to go for a while had a large lattern as a part of the gate, and that was none other than Asakusa. Good thing for us Daimon metro station was on the Asakusa line.
Arriving at Asakusa and making our way to the main street, the place was bustling with visitors to the shrine. And with good reason as there was a street market along the way. But first thing first, breakfast. Wondering around and not wanting to eat sushi, we came across a nice looking place just off the main street and ordered our meals. What I got was a chicken katsudon set with soba noodles. OMFG, this was the best katsudon I have ever eaten. I can’t quite explain it but I have eaten quite a lot of katsudon before but this was beyond anything I’ve had before. It was quite a filling meal as well and certainly a place I’ll remember to come back to.
Returning back to the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) it once again started to rain. Ducked into a random shop and bought an umbrella. So nice knowing that I paid only ¥300 for it. But we wouldn’t need it for too long because just past the gate is a sheltered street market full of tourists and locals about. Many things to see and buy but one has to be wary of the price of certain items. I spotted a number of shops selling yukatas for men and as I wondered further down I notice that the prices were dropping. Been wanting one for a while as well and I bought one later that day.
Finally reached the end of the street markets only to be greeted by another gate. On the other side of the gate I noticed a big patch of woven straw hanging up on each side and was dumbfounded at what it was, until my friend pointed out it was a giant sandal. Moving along we got to the main temple and I had a go at a kujibiki fortune. What you do is pick up the canister that contains numbered sticks. Shake the canister until a stick comes out, read the number and get the fortune from the numbered draws. My luck only amounted to good fortune. I didn’t buy any charms from this shrine as I thought the fortune was good enough.
Heading into the temple itself, I was surprised to see many people taking photos inside. At all the shrines/temples I’ve been to they have prohibited photos and had signs stating so. Here, none whatsoever. But I still didn’t take photos in fear of angering the gods. Leaving the temple, we headed back to the street markets to do some more exploring and to see what was available and eventually headed back to the hotel. The rest of the day was relaxing at the hotel, catching up on some anime, email, and some world news.
Now as many of you have read from my previous posts of the extravagant types of food I have eaten. Well this day was a special day and with a special day required a special meal. It was in fact one of my friend’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate his birthday than going to eat expensive steak once again. You read how we ate ¥15,000 steak, well I can say this meal hands down beats that in terms of price.It was down to a choice of Kobe steak or whale, and since it was my friend’s birthday, he decided to have Kobe steak. Actually we were all curious to see how different it would be to the one we had in Kyoto.
The place we went to is known as Shinjuku mon cher ton ton, which is one of the branch restaurants of the Seryna Tokyo line of restaurants. Firstly, this is really one of those high class restaurants, and I mean REALLY high class. For one it was on the 52nd floor of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building. I’m actually glad I dressed appropriately for the occasion … my friends on the other hand…. lets say they dressed reasonably average. When walking through a place like this you can tell that you are out of place just from the atmosphere, the people dining there, the amount of waiters and waitresses ready to serve you. It was surreal.
We got ourselves a private room and with a place of this level of class, they had people speak English. Having a look at the menu made my heart stop for a bit, but then all was good as I expected it. They had a range of courses to choose from, but this is a time for celebration, so we each got the most expensive course each. Yep and each course was ¥21,000. That’s right, ¥21,000. Just like the place in Kyoto, we had our own personal chef to look after us and just seeing him cook in front of us was like artwork in the making. Everything was done with such precision yet grace. Such force in cutting up the ingredients, yet such tenderness in cooking them.
A shame I don’t actually recall the name of these dishes or what was in them, but I can say, they were quite delicious. And it should be especially the price that is being paid. I have never tasted food this good before and to think that I thought I lost my taste for food. Well only Chinese food. Normally I don’t get overally excited about food but this is a different case on a different level. But if I do compare this Kobe beef to the ohmi beef I had in Kyoto, ohmi beef stands out in terms of flavour. However one thing for sure, I certainly won’t be able to eat anything like this ever again. Or until I return to Japan.
Normally at dinner I’d be drinking water, Coke, or some kind of beer. But this is a time for celebration and I can say my friend knows how to go all out. He got us a bottle of Dom Pérignon Rose, 1996 vintage and this bottle costs ¥70,000. I never thought I would be drinking Dom Pérignon in my entire life so this would certainly be a night to remember. So as we sat there drinking away and chatting, I noticed the service here was remarkable as well. We pretty much had a waitress check on us every 5 minutes to see everything is ok, plus she was cute.Having finished everything, the waitress lead us outside to the lunge room where dessert was waiting for us. A slice of melon and some hot coffee. The view from the lounge room would have been beautiful if not for all the rainy weather, but it was certainly a great place to be after such a wonderous meal.
Paying the bill off we left the restaurant and headed back to the hotel. Though the birthday boy drunk the Dom Pérignon a little too fast and wasn’t feeling too well, so we took a taxi back instead of taking the train. A great dinner for a great day. I guess Japan does have some things enjoyable even this late in the trip.