As I promised, I would get all of the pics from my trip to Japan last June up before Christmas, so here is one humongous mega-post on my 4th and final week in Japan. This was by far my favourite week since we covered almost everything related to anime and visited some very cool places this week.
At the start of the week we took the famous otaku pilgrimage to the Lucky Star Shrine, officially known as Washinomiya Shrine. The village/town of Washinomiya is way out in the boonies in relation to Tokyo so it took most of the morning to get there.
Surprisingly, the first (and only) anti-chikan (train gropper) posters we saw were at Washinomiya station. You’d think that with everything that you hear on the internet, these would be plastered all over major stations in Tokyo, not a dinky little town in the middle of nowhere. I guess the stereotype that otaku are perverted creepers is still very strong in Japan.
Since Washinomiya is in the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t find a map of the area beforehand. Luckily for us though, there were directions to the Shrine, and it was even in English.
For those people who are hopelessly lost no matter how simple the directions are, there are even Lucky Star posters that line the streets leading to the Shrine. If you just follow those, there’s no way you can miss it.
I’m not a fan of small towns. This ditch looks like it could hide some dead bodies…
If you happen to go on the pilgrimage, I highly suggest stopping by this restaurant. As far as I could tell, it’s the only restaurant around and it looks really really shady, but the katsudon (pork cutlets on rice) I had here was the best I had in Japan. The lady that owns the place doesn’t speak English though, so you’ll need to know how to say “katsudon” to order it and “mizu” to get water. My friend says the ebidon (shrimp on rice) was good too.
Below is the famous scene in the opening of Lucky Star where Kagami is strutting down the street.
Along the side of the street was a little plaque with the Hiiragi sisters on it.
The posters lead you straight to the entrance of the shrine.
At first the shrine seemed pretty normal for a shrine. There was a gate, some lamp things, some trees…
Then we came across the wooden plaques with all of the anime drawings done by others who have made the pilgrimage.
Now, I have over a dozen pics of these things so I just picked out a few at random. Some of the pictures weren’t that great, but others were amazingly detailed.
After spending about half an hour just looking at the drawings people had made, we took a look around the rest of the shrine.
In case you didn’t know how to purify yourself at the fountain, there’s some instructions.
For some reason, there were peacocks locked in a cage on the shrine grounds. It smelled like crap, but at least the birds were pretty.
We wandered around town after leaving the shrine. The whole place was surprisingly plastered with Lucky Star posters.
At first we thought that all of the stores here sold Lucky Star merchandise, but after visiting a few of them, we realized they were just putting up Lucky Star stuff on display for the heck of it. None of it was actually for sale.
Here’s a better shot of the restaurant I mentioned earlier. They gave us some kind of Lucky Star stamp sheet which I later figured had something to do with all the shops having Lucky Star posters. I’m guessing if you visit each store on the stamp sheet, you get a stamp. I don’t know if you get something at the end for collecting them all though.
There wasn’t really anything else to see in Washinomiya so we got back on the train and stopped at the next city, which happened to be Kuki. At Kuki we stopped at a store called Cookie and bought some cookies ^.^
This place has some weird signs.
We got back to Tokyo late in the afternoon and since there was nothing planned for the rest of the day, we naturally headed to Akihabara for more anime goods shopping and gaming.
I actually remembered to take pics of Akiba this time around. Before I was too busy grabbing whatever caught my eye.
You can’t visit Akiba and not visit the Gamers store. I’m glad to see that they still have the DiGi Charat characters around even though the anime ended ages ago.
You can find gachapon machines all over Japan, but they’re 10 times more concentrated in Akiba.
The Hirose Entertainment Yard is one of the largest arcades in Tokyo, but the amount of smoke in there made me want to puke. Apparently Japanese gamers smoke a LOT, even more than pachinko addicts.
You also can’t visit Akiba without getting a shot of the big-name stores on Chuo-dori.
I also came across tons of stores selling eroge. I swear that there was just as much eroge stuff in Akiba as anime stuff. It’s not a bad thing though, the girls in eroge are usually a lot hotter than your average anime girl.
Anyone interested in anime art will want to find the Akiba Place building. On the 4th floor is the Art Jeuness gallery. There you can find official (some signed) high-quality prints and original art from famous artists like Tony Taka, Tinkle, and Carnelian. The staff there are all very professional and wear suits, and for good reason. The art they sell can go upwards of $10,000. Don’t feel intimidated though, I walked in wearing a t-shirt and jeans and they treated me very kindly (I even got a free gift), and they speak English. There’s also a maid cafe on the 6th floor if you’re into that kind of thing.
I thought this was a cute poster.
This place was in one of the side streets of Akiba, near White Canvas. It’s an entire store full of gachapon machines, some dating back to last decade. If there’s an old set of gashapon toys you’re looking to complete, you can probably find it here.
A shot of the entrance to White Canvas. In case any of you forgot (or don’t know), White Canvas is the largest retailer of Touhou doujins, you can find anything and everything related to Touhou here.
There was one store that I liked since the stuff it sold seemed a bit cheaper than other stores. It was located in one of the alleys of one of the side streets west of Chuo-dori, right next to what looked like a porno shop, which was kinda weird.
Akiba looks really nice at night.
The next day was spent in Ikebukuro.
Personally I liked East Ikebukuro more than West Ikebukuro so most of my pics are from that side. On the east side is the Seibu department store, if you go to the west side, you’ll find the Tobu department store.
I already mentioned Milky Way in my highlights post, but I thought I’d mention it again here. This place has really awesome parfaits; I recommend everyone go there and try one. Guys, there’s also a LOT of girls that hang out there, so it’s a good place to try out your gaijin powers XD
Here’s one of their display cases with what they serve.
Anyone who has seen Durarara might recognize this street (I love that anime).
We also stopped by Sunshine City, home of the Sunshine 60 building, which I hear used to be the tallest building in Japan before the government lifted the restriction on building heights.
I didn’t know what to expect when we went to visit Otome Road, the home of crazy fujoshi girls. It looks calm and quiet in this picture, but those girls are as crazy about hot anime guys as the guys in Akiba are about hot anime girls. I bought a present for my (female) cousin at this Animate. Apparently a group of girls was watching behind me when I picked it out and they started giggling. I think they thought I had the hots for anime guys or something >.>
No clue where this pic below is, I got lost.
I did find something interesting though, a roleplaying cafe.
Strangely, it was right next to a love hotel…
and a porno store. I don’t think I need to point out what’s in those blue bags out front.
That night I went up Sunshine 60 to get a night time view of Ikebukuro. Unfortunately, the observatory was closed, so I settled for taking pics out of a window on the 59th floor.
On my way back to Ikebukuro Station, I spotted something VERY surprising: a green Mario pipe. I had walked by this way at least 3 different times before and didn’t notice it before. I was half-expecting a fat Italian in suspenders to jump out of it.
The following day we took a morning stroll down Ginza Street, home of the most expensive stores in Tokyo. Needless to say, I felt too out-classed to actually go in any of them.
The only thing I really wanted to see was the famous Wako store. It actually wasn’t as grand as I was hoping it to be.
I did find a Uniqlo store along the street. This is my favourite clothing store, I wish I bought more stuff from them before I left Japan. The closest store they have to me is in New York, which is probably about 1/7 of the world away.
At the end of Ginza, we found a building which was apparently the old Shimbashi Station.
It really wasn’t that impressive.
We headed back up Ginza Street to head to our next destination, but it had started raining like crazy. All of us got soaked, even with umbrellas. I managed to get one last shot of the Wako store.
Our next stop for the day was the Imperial Palace, home of the Japanese Emporer. I had to book these tickets a month in advance, but it was worth it.
First they showed us a video about the palace grounds, and let us do some shopping in the gift store.
Next they took us out into the palace grounds to see all of the buildings. I was at the back of the group so I couldn’t hear which section of the audio guide I was supposed to be at so I don’t remember what any of these buildings are.
After the tour, we were allowed to see the East Gardens, and since it was raining earlier, all of the plants looked fresh and vibrant.
The fish below doesn’t look like much in the pic, but it was HUGE.
There was a rampart thing near the gardens too.
It’s weird to be in such a big park, but also be surrounded by buildings as far as the eye can see.
Even more weird is when you leave the gardens and your surroundings switch from trees and bushes to skyscrapers everywhere you look.
Downtown Tokyo is a really expensive place to eat, so I recommend going somplace else if you want to save some money.
Next we headed to Shinjuku.
This building looked really cool.
I’m pretty sure this “LOVE” statue has appeared in several anime, including Durarara.
Our target destination this time around was the Tokyo Metropolitan building. I only knew of this building because of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. It looks really intimidating at night.
I was surprised that there was a security check to go up to the obervation tower of the Metro building (there wasn’t even a check at the palace), but it was worth it.
The view of Tokyo from the observation deck was spectacular.
This pic is my favourite, it shows all of the tallest buildings in Shinjuku.
Back on the ground, I took a close-up picture of the metropolitan building. Here it looks even more imposing, symbolizing the power of the Tokyo government I guess.
If you think airports are bad, try going through Tokyo station.
That night I bought a dessert from 7-11. It had some pudding, whipped cream, and fresh fruit. The 7-11’s in Japan are soooooo much better than the ones in Canada.
Continuing with our tour of tall places in Tokyo, we went to the most recognizable structure in the city: Tokyo Tower.
I’ve wanted to visit this place ever since I saw Card Captor Sakura nearly a decade ago. Tokyo should really hire Clamp to do their advertising ^.^
Anyways, I was hoping to see some magical girls flying around (or at least a Sakura plushie somewhere), but I was disappointed when I didn’t see anything remotely related to CCS.
In the first pic below you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree under construction on the left. It was only at half of its height and it’s already starting to dominate Tokyo’s skyline.
As with most other towers, there’s a glass pane where you can look down to see how high up you are.
While it doesn’t look so in the picture, the glass is actually very thick, I’d estimate about a foot thick (otherwise I would not have stood on it).
The view from the bottom of the tower/the roof of foot-town was pretty cool.
Afterwards, we took the train to Nakano to visit Tokyo’s second anime mecca, Nakano Broadway. After stepping out of the station, you have to enter the mall with all of the “suns” in it.
At the end of the mall is Nakano Broadway, home to a ton of anime stores, card stores, vintage movie stores, and whatever other geeky stuff you can think of. Unfortunately, as with my first visit to Akiba, I completely forgot to take any pictures. When you put a kid in a kid store, he’s not going to remember what he was sent there to do.
The rest of that day was spent at Nakano Broadway. On our second-last full day in Japan, we decided to head to Yokohama. I took a pic of some cute ads at Akihabara station that morning before we left.
After arriving at Yokohama, our first step was to visit the tallest building we could see, which happened to be this one.
At the observation deck we got some nice shots of the harbour and Yokohama itself.
On our way out, we came across a second Pokemon Centre (the first one was in Tokyo).
Just on the other side of the mall we were walking through was a Jump store, perfect for fans of Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach.
I don’t understand this building, but OK.
This building was awesome. It looks like an old-fashioned concrete building, but then you look up and see all that glass.
Our main destination for the day was Chinatown, since it is the largest one in asia. I thought all of the gates and decorations were nice, but it didn’t feel like a Chinatown at all. The store displays were very much Japanese, and everyone spoke in Japanese or broken Chinese. I only recall hearing one old lady actually speaking fluent mandarin.
On our way back from Chinatown, we came across Tsubasa Stadium. It’s apparently a small area near the harbour dedicated to the anime/game/manga Captain Tsubasa.
The football field was pathetically small, but it was just for display purposes anyways.
We spent the rest of the evening at the Raumen Museum, also located in Yokohama. This place is really cool, but it might frighten kids with it’s dark atmosphere, loud noises, and lots of people (well, actually just one extremely loud guy) shouting trying to attract people to play some games.
This is probably the scariest candy shop I’ve ever been to. I thought that old lady sitting there was an old lady, she turned out to be a young girl (maybe in her teens?) disguised as a scary old lady. There were scary posters like the one up and to the right of her, and lots of spooky sounds. I still haven’t opened the candy I bought here, it might be cursed.
This is what the streets of the Raumen Museum looks like.
Of course, being at the Raumen Museum, you can’t leave without having some ramen.
They had an old school Coke machine there.
This was also where I tried my very first Ramune, bought from the extremely loud guy (looks like shouting does work). Personally, I didn’t think it tasted any different from Sprite or 7-up.
On our last full day in Japan, everyone split up to do whatever they wanted. I decided to spend a relaxing day shopping for stuff in Akiba. My first stop was White Canvas. They had a lot of stuff outside that day and a giant Cirno plushie that you could win as a prize. For every 20,000 yen you spent here, you got a ticket. That ticket gave you a chance at winning the Cirno plush. All you had to do was turn this closed wheel thing, allowing a small coloured ball to roll out. The colour of the ball will determine what prize you got. I bought some doujin and gave it a shot, unfortunately, I didn’t win Cirno :(
More shots of Akiba below.
I really wanted that Flandre poster, but I didn’t see it anywhere in the store and I didn’t know how to ask if they had it or not.
This is the entrance to another Touhou store. Lots of ecchi stuff in here.
This is by far my favourite vending machine in Japan. Not only does it have root beer (which is not available in Japan), it even has my favourite brand of root beer (Dad’s). It also has a bunch of Touhou juices, Dr. Pepper and Foco drinks (both of which I like), and a mystery tonic.
I opted for a Yukari drink, which turned out to be fruit punch.
That day the Kotobukiya store was celebrating the anniversary (I can’t remember which year) of an anime called Creamy Mami.
If you’re wondering what the prize I won from White Canvas was, here it is. It’s a pack of tissues.
I also bought a Marissa nendoroid from Mandarake that day. She was the last Touhou nendoroid out that I didn’t have so I got her before it was too late.
This was the very last I saw of Japan.
That sums up everything I did in my month-long trip in Japan. Looking back on it, except for getting the stomach flu and missing out on some sushi, I think it was an amazing trip. I’ll definitely remember this for the rest of my life. As for whether I’d come back, probably, but not for more than a week. I saw all that I wanted to see, so the only reasons I’d go back again is to buy more stuff and buy more stuff :)