Where was I? Oh yeah, 2009, Akihabara, Ultraman ginger ale, Mos Burger. We left Akiba and its giant poster of the prime minister proclaiming how much he loves Electric Town, and we went over to Asakusa. This ancient district is home to a gigantic temple, the oldest amusement park in Tokyo, lots of narrow winding little streets filled with shops and bars, slightly shopworn pachinko parlors and movie theaters, and most important, the local OTB where drunk oyaji can bet on the ponies and have important, only slightly slurred discussions.
This is so Japan it feels like a movie prop or something at Epcot. The shrine itself was being worked on so it was covered in scaffolding and canvas, hence no photos. There was a fountain for ritual washing of hands and a firepit burning incense, the smoke of which is supposed to purify your body. There were also kiosks set up whereby you could randomly choose a printed fortune out of a little box, and if you didn't like your fortune, just tie the slip of paper to the handy little rails provided, and it doesn't count! Leading up to the temple was a long street of vendors selling everything from prop samurai swords to festival masks to candy to dolls and everything in between.
|the Kitaro store|
From Asakusa we walked over to the banks of the Sumida river and bought tickets for a cruise downstream to Tokyo Bay and Odaiba.
We had to change boats to get to Odaiba and while changing we noticed something in the dock next to us- It's the Tokyo Bay ferryboat designed by none other than Leiji Matsumoto, famed creator of Captain Harlock, Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express, Sexaroid, and Danguard Ace!
Unfortunately this was not the boat we'd be riding. And there were guys standing around it preventing me from sneaking on board to take pix. And our boat was leaving in a minute anyway. Still, it's kinda awesome.
|the Matsumoto-designed ferry we didn't ride|
So, we got on the other boat and set out across the bay to Odaiba, an artificial island built to defend Tokyo against Commodore Matthew Perry's black ships, but now welcoming tourists and visitors from around the world! This is where Tokyo Big Sight is and where Fuji TV has its headquarters and there's a replica of the Statue Of Liberty, for some reason. Anyway, the whole reason we and millions of other tourists are going to Odaiba is the 1:1 scale Mobile Suit Gundam that was built by the Green Tokyo Gundam Project in an attempt to create the most-photographed object ever built.
You'd think that nearing the end of its display dates, the public interest in the Gundam would have diminished a bit - the thing had been up for months at this point. Would there be enormous standing room only swarms of people crowding around as close as possible to the Gundam, even minutes before the park closed for the night? Yes there would.
|yes, there were cosplayers in the crowd|
And we left the crowds ourselves and went back past the Statue Of Liberty into the giant mall complexes that share Odaiba. One mall contains Shueisha's JUMP SHOP, where you can buy all things Shonen Jump! No, I didn't check to see if they had jump ropes or jumper cables. Though I will bring it up at the next stockholder's meeting. One of the malls is called Decks Tokyo Beach and what makes it special is that one of the floors is a Showa-era museum of popular culture! Showa era means postwar, baby boom, Ultraman, manga, anime, robot, Tokyo Olympics 1964, Godzilla, Kamen Rider, you name it, all the things that made me a fan of Japanese cartoons. So it's like a place built completely out of dreams, literally my dreams.
Yeah, that's an arcade full of vintage pachinko machines and 60s and 70s coin-op games, surrounded by anime posters of anime features from the 1960s and toys from everything from Olympic Sam to Kinikuman to Kikaider to Kenshiro. Watching over all this is a giant 2:1 Astro Boy.
The rest of the floor is candy shops, a store where you can buy LIVE giant horned fighting beetles, a deliberately cheesy haunted house, and little dioramas of everyday Tokyo life circa 1964 and 1978. I say "1978" because of this display:
The famous Yamato Bike!! It actually exists. And after a stroll through the mall and some rehydration via vending machine drinks, we made our way back to the train and back to Shinjuku station and from there Shain and I sort of wandered aimlessly for a while until we found a KFC and got our bearings, and our dinner, and then it was back to Hotel Tateshima for a well deserved rest, because that was kind of a long day.