continued from part 4...
Thursday our plans were (a) shop in Shinjuku including the Sekaido art supply store, and (b) meet K. for dinner somewhere and (c) not much else, because we had to be packed and ready to go on Friday, and to be honest after a week of marching all over Tokyo we was tired. I got ahold of K. using the hotel's lobby computers which were still equipped with Windows 95, and then we set out for breakfast and Sekaido.
Sekaido is a great art supply store, and I'm not just saying that because they have three aisles of screen tone. It's three floors of just about everything; pens, pencils, brushes, inks, papers, wood, glue, computer software, light tables, guidebooks, hot glue, plaster statuettes, and official Toei animation company brand cel paint.
Because they still use cel paint! I dunno, maybe they do. Their three aisles of screentone includes screentone of buildings, clouds, cityscapes, rural and urban backgrounds, interiors, crowds - as Ed Wood would say, "Why, you could make a whole comic with this stock footage screen tone!" And there was always somebody shopping in the manga accoutrements aisle, too. You can pretend it's famous manga-ka stocking up on supplies or a gofer from a big studio stocking up on supplies for famous manga-ka.
After that we went to the Shinjuku Tokyu Hands. (We went to the Shibuya one previously with Roy on Wednesday night but I forgot to mention that). Tokyu Hands is the local Target/Wal-Mart/Honest Ed's - hardware, sporting goods, toys, stationery, small appliances, USB drives that are little mechanical humping dogs, you name it, they got it. So if it's coming close to Halloween and you do not yet have a costume, Tokyu Hands can supply!
This being the knockoff Detroit Metal City costume it was just a wig and face makeup. The official DMC costume comes with a mask and is more rockin', IMO. Either one will likely shock and horrify your friends.
After Tokyu Hands we figured it was time for some nature, so we headed to Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens and joined other picnickers with our combini box lunches. Shinjuku Gyoen is a beautiful breath of fresh air after the noise and confusion of Tokyu Hands and Shinjuku in general. It's another one of those spots that's quintessentially Japanese. You're literally walking through souvenir postcards here!
And the carp... when they see you coming towards that bridge they come from all over the pond. You can see their fins leaving wakes as they charge desperately for a few crumbs.
Entrance is 200 yen, a bargain at the price; if you're in Tokyo I highly recommend getting a bento and wandering through Shinjuku-Gyoen.
After a lazy afternoon in the park we dropped our stuff off back at the hotel and then set out again for the Studio ALTA sign to meet K. for dinner! On the way we wandered around Shinjuku/Kabuki-cho again and got some Chip Chop at the combini based solely on their hallucinatory TV ads. We also witnessed a karaoke bar apparently endorsed by Satan.
We met K. right under the ALTA screen, and after hellos and some discussion we hopped onto the train and went back out to Shimokitazawa, which is even trendier at night! Dinner was curry and lots of beer at a funky place three floors underground that has a giant lizard on the ceiling. Oh, you don't believe me?
We kept K. out way too late talking and catching up, but all too soon it was time to get back on the train for our last trip through the maze of Shinjuku station, time to get back to the hotel and get packed up and ready to head out.
In the morning we checked out and took a taxi to the Airport Limo bus stop outside the Keio Department Store in Shinjuku. It was a beautiful clear day and it was sad to say goodbye to our vacation and return to the 'real world'.
That's a Friday morning photo of the Cocoon Tower, one of Shinjuku's newest landmarks and a controversial architectural choice in a city filled with questionable architectural choices. As a Toronto resident I quickly learned to orient myself downtown with a quick glance towards the CN Tower, so it's nice to have something distinctive on the skyline to get your bearings with.
The bus ride took us through downtown Tokyo, past the Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Disneyland and generally a lot of the city we hadn't had a chance to see. We had time to kill at the airport so we got lunch at McDonalds, which for a limited time was serving the "Tomago Doburu Mak Setto", a combo meal featuring a Big Mac enlivened with an egg. That's one thing that stands out about Japanese cuisine, if they can put an egg on it, they will put an egg on it. This particular sandwich is advertised with a friendly-looking, slightly dorky Caucasian man.
Not a bad burger, but you can feel the cholesterol surging in your bloodstream within minutes. I would not recommend this on a regular basis.
Anyway, we boarded and the flight was uneventful, for the most part. We landed in Toronto at around the same time we left Tokyo. Customs informed me my Permanent Resident card has expired, which was an oversight on my part, really, and then we got back in our car and drove home and went to bed, which wasn't really the best plan because of JET LAG KICKING OUR BUTTS. It took me the better part of a week to get back on a normal sleep schedule.
Big thanks go out to Roy for being our guide and spiritual leader, for Tim and his essential shopping information, and to Jim and K. for taking a little time out of their lives to be a friendly face to a couple of tourists. You are all wonderful people. Look out Japan! When our bank balances have recovered and our jet lag combat techniques are more developed, we will return!
We did return to Tokyo in 2012 and you can see a little bit of our trip at Let's Anime. Our next trip is hopefully not too far off!