My work has a lot of good things and bad things going for it. Possibly the biggest pro has to be that they sent me to our Tokyo office to do some work. Oh and in case your wondering, you can be sure there are Big Giant robots involved… oh yes… and Pirate Ships too. This was business first and vacation second although thanks to my colleagues Yugo and Yuichi I managed to go to a fantastic couple of figure shops Thursday and had a great night drinking with Yugo in a traditional Japanese bar on Friday night which leads to where things really get going.
Saturday 27th August 2011
Transferred from hotel in Narita to one in Shinjuku via the Narita Express, missed it by minutes and had to wait almost an hour. Finally made it to my hotel and although it was too early to check in, they took my luggage into storage so I could go out. I met up with Yugo and Yuichi again at Akihabara and went to the anime centre. Big display of some anime that didn’t interest me but the concept artwork was good and it had some nice merchandise in the shop but the Prince of Tennis movie trailer really got my attention.
Next we went to a couple of shops and then a maid cafe. I joined in with the crazy magic heart routine but will do a kamehameha if anyone that wasn’t there tries to get me repeat it lol. Yuichi got an AMAZING rendition of Gundam in tomato ketchup by maid, almost a shame to use the ketchup. That is saved somewhere on my cameras internal memory and I didn’t bring the cable so I’ll post that when I get back. There was a horrible english video you could dub with a maid. Seriously you are a bunny who worries over opening your new cafe when your new maid has not shown up and you get to have a mini rage at her being late. I could never rage at someone so cute. I would rather dub the Japanese video with a perverted old man doing drunken kungfu before getting blasted team rocket style out the cafe. At least that was entertaining unlike bunny’s but my Japanese is nowhere near that good. The animation was hideously bad for all the videos but enough of that, it was a very fun place and thanks to another of my co-workers (Koji) I got a group picture of me, Yugo, Yuichi and our maid Aki. I love it and it will always bring back great memories. I got lucky there were cute maids in and the green tea cake was very good.
We visited more shops and then we went to Daiba to see the Thousand Sunny (closed but still visible) and went in the Jump Shop. We then watched fireworks from the upper decking mexican restaurant and Yuichi gave me a lift back to the hotel. My nose was running constantly by the time I got back to the hotel and so I had a long bath and then bed
Sunday 28th August 2011
Got up late due to illness which had progressed to not as bad nose but chesty cough. Realised I had left my wallet in the hotel when I got to the checkout of the mini mart, along with having to walk round a drunk woman passed out on the floor was quite an experience. Went back and got my wallet and then my stuff from the mini mart. I tried to be cheap and avoid the taxi fare that the route to the Bandai Museum from Shinjuku had by going from Asakusa. Except that line isn’t jr so I couldn’t use my pass. It was a lot of changes to get from Shinjuku to Asakusa and then had more changesto get to the museum from there. Luckily I had been given instructions to follow. Thank you Yasu-san. The Bandai Museum is in the middle of nowhere and everyone else there was families driving for good reason – it is a pig to get to and from the station is a 10 minute walk in blazing heat through a desolate town. It was worth it to complete my hattrick – I’ve seen the 1:1 Gundam, the Gundam Cafe and been to the Bandai Museum. The museum has a timeline of Bandai Toys from beginning to present and also a decent selection of super vintage toys from the world over. It also somewhat oddly has a section dedicated to Edison, the lightbulb guy. Yes he did a lot of other ingenious stuff but I was there to see toys. There may be some connection but the only english in the place is on signs saying stuff like photo spot so I didn’t really get the most out of everything. There was a Fantastic couple of Gundam displays, the scale White Base is amazing. Shame about the lack of a shop.
I was totally in the mood to buy some Gundams but all they had were… Capsule toys. Seriously what were they thinking. Then again, they know their target audience 1/4 of the place was a play area for proper kids not grown up kids like me. I am glad I went but if you only have a limited amount of time in Japan do not go. There are Far better attractions are out there considering the time involved in getting to it.
To get back I took a taxi to the nearest jr station which ended up costing a little more than the fare from Asakusa but the simplicity of the journey was worth it. I slept past the station I was supposed to change to Shinkansen so took the local line all the way to shinjuku and then went to nakano broadway for some price checking. Stopped off at Hubs English pub where not a single person speaks english but caught the end of the Liverpool Bolton game. I headed back to the hotel and picked up some instant ramen and strawberry milk on the way. Sometimes I am so cheap and lazy I amaze myself.
Monday 29th 2011
I managed to get up on time to get to shinagawa in time to book a ticket and board the 8:40 Shinkansen to Osaka. Long journey with an aisle seat so no view and a woman with the world’s loudest keyboard on her prehistoric laptop.
You have to change to the JR Kyoto line to Osaka and then I took the long way to Den Den Town aka missed the turning and got lost. Still I got there and enjoyed the amazing displays of figures and character merchandise. They didn’t have the Brave Police figures I was after loose in a good enough condition (that train is supposed to be white not yellow lol) and the boxed ones were OMG expensive! Ebay will be my friend I think. I did find a Figure from Basquash which I’d been after and not afforded last time. It isn’t the best anime by a long way but I like the robot’s design. I think I regret not blowing £100 on a Lina Inverse figure but for a non transforming plastic kit with no articulation or shading, just coloured plastic, it seemed a lot. Then again I have spent way more on Slayers DVDs hence the regret.
Next was trapsing around Osaka in a crisscross, zig zag somehow missing the Mandarake Grand Chaos store I was after while getting so close a taxi refused to drive me and said walk and pointed right then left. At this point my identity changed into Ryoga Hibiki – the directionless idiot from Ranma 1/2. I walked round and round not finding it in sweltering heat and humidity which to be honest didn’t bother me as it was a nice day to look around and it its nice to lose weight the easy way by walking and sweating it out rather than my usual system of tedious exercise in my home gym. I stopped off for a MacDonalds – every travellers friend, big mac is the same globally and McD’s usually have a decent toilet and price. Caught the Shinkansen back to shinagawa and went straight back to Shinjuku while writing this blog.
I went to Daiba to the United States of Odaiba 2011 festival. While I don’t know anything about Japanese live action tv shows, one of the main focus points of this event is a fairly large replica of the One Piece ship the Thousand Sunny.
It was another blazing hot day and a long queue mostly kids, brutal but oh so worth it. I love how it has a couple of slides coming out the rear, even most of the adults used them to get out instead of the boring stairs.
After some time wondering around the Aqua city shoping mall I had lunch in an Hawaiian overlooking the Statue of Liberty. The picture is from outside but it was still cool to eat lunch looking at it.
After that I headed to Shibuya and the Mandarake store there, found a fantastic Tenchi TV art book, full of concept work and designs. I gambled on it as it was sealed and had no description other than the logo and tv series and a picture of the cast. It made my day when I opened it that is for sure. I came back to Shinjuku for dinner and some local shop browsing and to get a card reader so i could pull some of the pictures off my camera and now its time to get some rest for another day’s adventures.
The day started out slow with a walk in Shinjuku park and sat there and read the two manga I had brought the day before. Two volumes in and Toriko is a well done shonen manga, not ground breaking but entertaining. I brought it because at the Odaiba fair they were pushing him with One Piece X Toriko cross over images and a very expensive crossover figure gift set of Luffy and Toriko. The characters are perfect for a crossover too, Toriko hunts the world’s most dangerous creatures to eat them and Luffy will eat anything.. Here’s a picture I didn’t post but took while I was there.
Anway in the afternoon I shifted into gear and went back to Akihabara to visit the Mandarake and any other stores I had missed and to pick up a few things I had noted to get last time. I agonised over whether to go for one hugely expensive but awesome toy (Macross SDF-1 transforming battleship) or a number of cheaper ones. In the end I grabbed a couple of cheap Gundams and went to Nakano to see if I could find something of almost as good quality but less size as even if I could get it home, I can’t imagine it fitting in any of my cabinets…
In Nakano I picked up a Medicom Fujiko set and some grade A tack. A One Piece bath mat and a Kid Goku figure dressed as Santa – perfect for this years tree. I then made the mistake of going into the Mandarake bookshop. I came out with 4 art books which isn’t a lot but then you feel the weight and remember you have to carry this and pass weight limit. When I got back to Shinjuku it was raining hard, and warm. A most uncomfortable kind of weather so rather than go to the restaurant by my hotel like I had planned, I stopped in KFC as it was closer. Strawberry Krushem in Japan has Banana in. Suprised me and wasn’t as good I’d say. My hands were full with shopping so I didn’t go into any of the convenience stores to check for more strawberry milk and now I’m getting withdrawals. My regret about the Lina Inverse figure is abolished as the Slayers art book I picked up is fantastic and way cheaper too. I checked everything would fit into my luggage (two bags naturally, I’d stowed a bag inside my main suitcase for such an occasion as me buying too many toys which always happens. I then felt very Roger Murtagh. As soon as I got my huge orrange sports bag full of toys on my back I thought I’m too old for this shit… Friday morning shall be interesting. I am going to be sweating buckets lugging all this stuff back to the train station.
Thursday 1st September
I am my own worst enemy, you know how yesterday I was soo happy with that Slayers artbook I didn’t need the figure anymore? Well I went out to go to Ueno zoo, got on the wrong line, changed at the wrong stop and walked into the Akihabara branch of Volks and brought that Lina figure. I can’t really explain it, but I guess I really did want that, or maybe it was from looking at pictures that made me want it more. Either way I had wound up in Akihabara again so while I was the I picked up a few more gundams then headed back to Shinjuku to drop my bags off and check in online.
Now lets try that Ueno zoo again… So I’m on my way towards Shinjuku station and figure I have been the same way every time, lets takea different route and what is that – an Animate store in Shinjuku! Damn it’s turned Christmas already. Animate is a store that sells character merchandise, DVDs and CDs for all the latest anime. Anyway I somehow managed to only spend a few minutes in there and then, yes I made it. Ueno Zoo at last! It is odd, some animals seem to have huge areas and others like the panda’s and penguins are tiny. One of the pandas kept walking around in a circle the entire time I was there. That poor panda has my pity.
Anyway after the zoo I went back to Shibuya to look at the art books again and I got a little carried away. Macross Frontier character designs, yes I’ll take one of those, oh wait, that one is just the guys, ah yes there’s another for the girls. Cool, I’ll nab that as well. Sheryl Nome is a goddess. Hang on what is that, Brave Series Design Works! Great Fighbird I have to have that. I picked up some One Piece art books for Brian and while I was there, the whole store was treated to some excellent One Piece karaoke by a cute pink haired shop worker. Awesome. I realised when paying I had gone too far and left myself with under a fiver to last me dinner and breakfast and until my flight left the next day…. D’OH! So then I headed back to Shinjuku and this time I took my time in Animate and grabbed some Toriko crisps as well as a Tiger & Bunny art book and a few bits for other people. Why the crisps and how, easy, unlike much of Japan, Animate takes plastic. I made use of a convenience store for some chips and a sausage on a stick that was being advertised by Toriko (I said he was getting a push didn’t I) and was down to 275 yen to last me till my flight left at 11:30 the next morning. Cutting things close…
Friday 2nd September
Now I had a fair amount of stuff at this point and expected it to take me a long time of slowly shuffling along the road in the heat. what actually happened was despite my concerns, I’m not too old for this shit yet and fuelled by a snickers bar and with my walkman hammering out inspiring tunes, I was somehow overtaking the locals despite carrying a massive sports bag on my back, a rucksack on my chest and dragging a suitcase. When I finally stopped 25 minutes later though I knew why. While normal people arrived at the station looking ready for work, I was dripping with sweat and looked about to collapse. I used 100 yen on a drink leaving me with only enough for one more drink and waited for the shinkansen to the airport and I slept the entire way there. Thankfully the airport had those luggage trolleys which saved my life. I had checked in online so I dumped my bags and then went to the duty free shop to do something I had been meaning to do and now couldn’t do any other way. I always buy a copy of Shonen Jump magazine when I go to Japan and Duty Free shop takes cards, oh yes, and damn, if it didn’t have the Weibritter from Super Robot Wars. I couldn’t resist even though I know it was expensive, it was another figure I had wanted and not had the cash for. I grabbed a bottle of sake while I was a it and then carded the lot. Me and my bro, sake and rockband is going to be worth the pain comes that credeit card bill oh yeah haha. Now t this point I really wanted a Pepsi but there was a problem, Narita airport is a Coke zone. Not one Pepsi machine or store selling Pepsi in the place. Crap. A smart person would have brought water and not been dehydrated but I’m way from that and thought it’d be useful to keep my change for next time. Dumbass. No matter how many drinks they gave me on the plane it was already too late and I felt crap not helped by some kid throwing up every half an hour. Nice. anyway the flight ended and I got my lift home and I was jet lagged as hell. Two days later I’m fine though and I have table full of Gundams waiting to be put away, a loft that seems to be stuck closed so I can’t put my suitcase away and a whole lot of anime to catch up on.
This was far more a shopping trip than my normal trips to Japan but hey, I did a whole tourist trip in February. That I haven’t posted anything on that is I suck, I have a bit of a post stuck in drafts I never got round to finishing. If you are going to Japan, do more than shop, and as I did this time, write up some notes as you go.
These are all from Shinjuku
- If staying or visiting the Kabuki-chou district of Shinjuku, then you wn the East Exit of Shinjuku Station
- Tower Records – Shinjuku Station South East Exit
- To get to Akihabara – chou (red) line towards Tokyo then change at Ochanomahi to the yellow line. It is straight across the platform or you can take yellow the entire way but that’s dumb and slow.
- to get to Daiba – Chou line to Tokyo, Yamanote line to Shimbashi, Yurikamome line to Daiba. Note Yurikamome line is not JR, JR railpass won’t work. 320 yen each way or you can buy a day pass.
- Shibuya – > Yamanote (Green) line. For Mandarake and the decent night life, head towards the Hachiko exit, cross the road to the right and go up the path to the left of the Tsutaya building with Starbucks in.
- Nakano – Chou (red) line to Nakano from Shinjuku.
- Ueno – Jr Chuo (red) line to Tokyom change to Keihin-tohoku negishi line to Ueno or take the slower Yamanote line.
- Animate Shinjuku – Moath 5th Street. Up the road by Baskin robins and first left.