continued from part 3!
On Tuesday our mission was to investigate the Used Bookstore neighborhood of Kanda/Jinboucho (or Jimboucho or Jimbocho, however you feel like spelling it, we saw all three)! We slept late again but were out of the hotel by noon. So, after consulting Tim's information we hopped onto the train and soon we were walking down Hakusan-Dori past bookstores and record stores and a coffee shop where we had a light lunch. Kanda Jinbo-cho is a university neighborhood and there are a lot of publishers there so it's just a real booky sort of place. The record stores have a lot of jazz LPs. And of course the streets were filled with political candidate sound trucks:
There is a tall thin building near the intersection of Yasukuni-Dori and Hakusan-Dori that is called the Kanda Kosho Center; it contains a record store, a shop filled with movie stills, posters, program books, and other paper ephemera, and a store called Nakano Shoten which was mind-blowingly awesome; walls decorated with original manga artwork, original manga pages for sale (including a Tezuka page), tons of old manga tankubons and weeklies dating back to the 1960s, anime magazines and books, anime cels, LPs and 45 singles, and more incredible stuff than I can describe.
At any rate we spent a lot of money in that shop, and then we wandered around the neighborhood and went to another of Tim's recommendations, a shop called "Book Dash" next to a crazy lookin' movie theater. Book Dash had a lot of 80s anime books and magazines and manga; their prices seemed to be a bit higher than elsewhere, but they did have neat stuff and it's worth a look if you're in the neighborhood.
Afterwards we went back down to the train station and got some lunch. I looked at the map and noticed that if we just walked up the Sotobori-dori next to the Kanda-gawa (river), we'd be in Akihabara again! The river is in a steep ravine and is lined with trees and the cicadas were ear-splitting on occasion, but it was a gorgeous walk. We went past a truck apparently owned by a Miyazaki fan:
There was only one shop I really wanted to hit again in Akihabara, a store called "Golden Age", but of course it was closed on Tuesdays. So we wandered around some more and watched the packs of foreign otaku tourists investigate the vending machines, and then we went back to the train station and back to Shinjuku. We had dinner in a little place near our hotel that was all pork dishes: we established early on that the wait staff did not speak English, but they had a menu with English and handy photos for us barbarians. Afterwards we wandered around Kabuki-cho and got a bit lost but found our hotel by approaching it from the other direction, which was kinda neat. Saw the first vending machine with beer. And that was Tuesday in Tokyo!
So on Wednesday we got up and over to the station and met Roy in front of that ubiquitous Studio ALTA sign. And it was off to Mitaka Station (named after the Maison Ikkoku character) to go to the Ghibli Museum! This mecca for anime nerds is of course on the must-see list for every stinking roundeye tourist and we're no exception. Fun fact: buy your Ghibli tickets way in advance. Don't just fly to Tokyo, take the train to Mitaka station, take the cat-bus to the Ghibli Museum, and expect to walk right in! Here's the bus, by the way.
They don't allow photos inside, and unlike the Schulz museum I actually obeyed their instructions. I was a GUEST in that country, soldier! So you don't get pictures of the amazingly gigantic zoetrope, the enormous soft cat bus that children can play in, the huge pile of every single drawing that went into making PONYO, the reproduced studio and office, or the iron staircases, little cubbyholes, and whimsical platforms to nowhere that give the building character. On the roof they do have a garden accessible by a spiral staircase, and this garden is guarded by...
AAAA! Giant Laputa robot!! It's a great reproduction, it's not just a solid cast but is metal fitted around parts, so when you thump it it feels just like a real robot. So if you make it to the Ghibli Museum don't forget to go to the roof. There's also a gift shop and a cafe, of course.
After the museum, we took a stroll through Inokashira Park (you used to be able to see Miyazaki jogging in this park on a regular basis!) and boy, the turtles are totally looking for handouts in this park.
It's a popular cherry-blossom viewing park in the springtime and it's right next to Kichijoji, where we wandered around the shopping arcade and got some lunch. We then went across the tracks...
...yes, the pedestrian crossings you've seen characters waiting around in every anime show ever, the ones you do not want to try and beat because those trains are FAST... to Shimokitazawa, "one of the trendiest and most looked-after area to live for young Tokyoites." This funky hipster neighborhood features trendy boutiques, coffee shops, and toy stores owned by guys who will follow you out the door giving you free Ultraman finger puppets. It's also home to a store called "Grown up Tabatha" which has a giant mural of the "Bewitched" character as an adult decorating its storefront and sells fashion and fashion accessories. We hit three toy stores and then had very good coffee in a wood-paneled coffee shop accented by the owner's collection of lanterns and dolls.
From there we got back on the train and went to Harajuku. Harajuku, of course, is the crazy young people fashion capital of Tokyo. It being a weekday there wasn't a lot of public exhibition going on, but the crowds were still overwhelming.
Yeah, that's just people, all the way down. Harajuku is home to extremely fashionable shops and high-end botiques of all kinds, as well as "Kiddyland", a multi-story toy wonderland for kids of all ages. We picked up some gifts and learned that Monchichis are back and this time they're dressed as your favorite cartoon characters!
Having dispensed with Harajuku, we got back on the train and went to Shibuya and wandered around gaping at the love hotels and the seedier side of the Japanese Economic Miracle, including this adult accessories shop whose warning sign was really amusing:
We hit Mandarake again and I found even more cool stuff that I'd missed the first time around, and then we got some dinner, and then we said "goodnight" to Roy and got back on the train and went back to Shinjuku and went to bed because we were beat! And that was the way it was Wednesday August 26 2009.
More to come in part 5!