Narita Airport is about forty miles from Tokyo. When our flight arrived, full of punchy international travelers dazed from 12 hours of "Mad Men" reruns and the abandoned-two-thirds-of-the-way-in film "Adventureland", we still had that forty mile march between us and our final destination, "Demon City" Shinjuku.
It was always daylight during the flight. This meant we could look forty or fifty thousand feet down and clearly see chunks of unidentifiable somethings floating in the large bodies of water that make up Canada's extreme North. Logs? Ice? Floating eddies of windswept plastic garbage? Who knows. All I know is that I'd rather be having lunch above them than among them.
Our friend Roy met us at Narita after Customs (which didn't take long at all) and was immediately of vital assistance, namely because we didn't have the faintest idea of where we were going or what we were doing. He got us tickets on a slick JR train that whisked us through the lush, rolling countryside past fields and farms, through Chiba and right to Shinjuku Station. Even if you think you don't know Shinjuku, you actually do, because that's where that great big Studio ALTA video screen building is -that same Studio ALTA that was in the background of all your favorite anime hits of the 1980s, if your favorite anime hit was "Megazone 23". We took a cab from the station to the hotel, even though it isn't that far, really, but we had luggage. You know we've just arrived because we're trying to close the cab door by ourselves. Silly tourists, in Japan, cab door closes for you!
At any rate, we got to the hotel and checked in and the first thing we did was to turn on the TV, and the first thing on that Japanese hotel room TV was a rerun of Mach Go Go Go, or Speed Racer to us, which was very apt, as it's cartoons like Speed Racer that got us interested in Japan in the first place.
And we soon were back out onto the street, back to Shinjuku station, to try out our Suica cards and go to Shibuya! Shibuya, the heartbeat of young, wild-haired, shopping crazy, love-hotel addled Tokyo, is home to the famous Hachiko statue of the faithful dog, but it's also home to a Mandarake store which is where we was goin'. Mandarake is a chain of Japanese stores that exist to torture me and my bank account, being full of vintage robots, anime books, Roman Albums, manga old and new, doujinshi, DVDs, toys, model kits, advertising memorabilia featuring the little girl in my LJ icon, posters, if it's a crazy anime/manga thing and they can slap a price tag on it they will sell it and the prices aren't bad either. Immediately I found stuff I've been looking for for years. Had a great dinner in a traditional shoes-off place on the 8th floor of a shopping center, wandered around Shibuya for a while, took the train back to Shinjuku and Roy squired us around Kabuki-cho to scope out the tiny narrow streets full of tiny narrow bars that virtually cry out for you to belly up and down a shot in each. How could you not get sloppy weepy drunk in a bar decorated with famed prizefighter, the doomed Joe Yabuki?
|Ashita No Joe themed bar in Kabuki-cho|
From there we went to Akihabara, the famed "electric town" nerd magnet moe capital of Japan and therefore the world. If you are looking for sexy body pillows featuring doe-eyed girls in underwear, or little plastic figures of doe-eyed girls in underwear, or dating simulation video games starring doe-eyed girls in underwear, or generally any sort of merchandise that can be made starring doe-eyed girls in underwear, Akihabara is the place for you. Judging from the girls in maid outfits standing on street corners in Akihabara, there must not be an unmaid bed or a dirty bathtub within fifty miles!
Seriously though, what they're doing is handing out flyers advertising maid cafes where girls in maid outfits will serve you two-thousand yen cups of coffee. This is appealing, apparently. We went into a bunch of stores, most of which were very excited about the new season of Haruhi Sazumiya and K-On! and whichever version of Evangelion is currently being sold to people who already have other version of Evangelion. However, there are a few places that cater to the Showa-era nerds such as myself, with display cases full of vintage Spectreman toys and X-Bomber robots in four different sizes and Jumbo Machinder super robots of all shapes and sizes and prices far beyond what I'm willing to shell out.
There is a Mandarake in Akihabara, though, and the bottom floor is full of guys who are choking back bitter tears as they sell their prized toys to the soulless, unfeeling claws of Mandarake. The upper floors are full of really awesome stuff, display cases of early pay-library Tezuka manga, used DVDs and Famicom games at reasonable prices, and doujinshi starring doe-eyed anime girls so unbelievably grotesque you'll want to claw your own eyes out. I had some Ultraman ginger ale from a vending machine, we witnessed hundreds of people playing the new Dragonquest on their Nintendo DSes on free wi-fi in front of a giant electronics store, and we met my old pal Jim at Mos Burger for a Mos Burgery lunch where we had burgers and Licca-chan shakes.