Supermerlion meets giant Gundam10 March, 2011 by Chad
Today was the last day we could use or Rail Passes, so we had to head back to Tokyo before it expired. But first, a quick stop by a quiet city best known for its superb views of Mount Fuji and more recently, the life sized Gundam.
The morning was spent doing some last minute packing and checking out of the hotel before the 10 AM limit. There were no limits to the places we could explore today en route to Tokyo, except the bulky luggage. So the plan was to drop by Shizuoka, as the famous giant Gundam model was just beside one of the stations there.
As usual, we grabbed our breakfast prior to the train ride at Shin-Osaka station. Being our last moments in Osaka, Yan took the opportunity to grab some Takoyaki…with rice. The waffles at Manneken are the most awesome stuff. They also have the most obscene logo. The waffles were thick chewy chunks of batter, baked to a crisp. This waffle was covered with chocolate on one side and flaking off its caramelized sugar coating on the other. Wilson commented that had grabbed a bunch too during his last trip back to Tokyo.
Though I was a little disappointed at some of the stuff we missed during our stay at Osaka, part of me was glad to be headed back to Tokyo where the food and transport was cheaper, people dressed less shoddily and the public toilets actually upheld my mental image of Japanese cleanliness.
Then we switched over to the local (still JR) train for Higashi-Shizuoka Station. The carpark beside the station was used as the temporary site for the hobby fair displaying the 18 meter tall Gundam model. Entry to the fair was free.
There wasn’t much to do around here except appreciate the work put into the structure. There was another paid exhibit featuring some Gundam related paraphernalia but the entry price was kind of ridiculous. Other than that, it was mostly just the typically overpriced festival food stands.
The Real Grade Gundam looked well, real.
A souvenir shop beside the Gundam sold some limited edition goods based off the life sized version, some of which had long sold out. Wilson grabbed a couple of T-shirts for his brother.
The most attractive item here was a detailed photo book detailing the design and construction of the Real Grade Gundam. However it cost 3800 yen, or approximately $60 bucks and far too much for a non-fan such as myself. But the items will likely gain value when the fair ends later this month.
After that was a visit to the neighboring town of Shimizu, which is now part of Shizuoka too. During clear days, you could see the nearby Mount Fuji from anywhere in the city. But Shimizu was famous for Miho no Matsubara, a scenic seaside view of the volcano that was often depicted in paintings.
Sadly, we would learn from a map at the station that the beach was kilometers away. Not that it mattered, as the sky was completely overcast this afternoon anyways.
So it was back to Shizuoka to take the next Shinkansen to Tokyo. There was a strange restaurant come cooking school at the station where customers paid to have a short guided lesson to make their own lunch.
Our hotel in Tokyo was located at Uguisudani Station. For once, we could see our hotel from the station as it was just around the corner.
No sooner had we dropped off our luggage than we headed to Akihabara. The hotel was conveniently located just 5 minutes away from Tokyo’s Electric Town and 10 minutes from Tokyo Station. Next stop, Wilson’s otaku-ing and the marked beginning of Yan and my AKB48 adventure.
Left Wilson to his anime shops while we visited the AKB48 Theater. Nothing much was happening at the time but there was to be a SND48 show later that night. Decided to return again later, both to the theater and to the Don Quijote building itself to stock up on our groceries for Tokyo. But first, we grabbed hold of Wilson and headed for dinner at a nearby fast food restaurant.
The food there was decent. Main selling point was probably the affordability and generous servings. A couple of sumo entered the shop to eat too, while a bunch of wota sat at the table adjacent to ours. You could tell from all the AKB talk.
Since the AKB48 Shop opened on the 5th floor, the theater is only now ever open to the public during showtime so it’s been a while since I was last here. Place hasn’t changed much but instead of the small LCDS, the live feed is now displayed on a large (albeit poor resolution) projection TV. You can hear the real concert going on behind the doors and the fans come here to bask in the atmosphere while watching from outside. There weren’t that many fans around this evening though since it was a SDN48 show.
Decided to check with the ticketing counter regarding the status of our tickets. Yan’s faves were in Team B, while almost all of the members I supported were in A. Still the B5 set of songs are probably the best out of the three new stages so I didn’t mind a B show either. So had sent in an application last month for either team.
Sadly, there weren’t any Team A shows scheduled for this week (or not for a long time for that matter) but there was a single Team B show on Friday. After passing my particulars to the counter staff, he confirmed the worst, we had lost the ballot for overseas priority tickets. I guess some other lucky foreign fans beat us to it. Between Kashiwagi Yuki and Watanabe Mayu, Team B is crazy popular these days.
Staff-san was really nice about it and offered us seats for Wednesday’s Kenkyuusei (training members) show. Yan wasn’t too keen on the research students, so after some negotiations the staff consulted with a mysterious man behind a curtain and offered me the spare super enpou seats for tomorrow’s Team K show instead. Of course we’d take them. Looks like we were coming back again tomorrow!
With that, we returned to the AKB48 shop on the 5th floor where people hung around exchanging photos. Managed to secure some trades and one guy was even nice enough to give me a Kojiharu photo for free as a welcome gift after we established ourselves as foreigners.
It was an interesting experience since they were pretty amused by us. One of them would write down the member’s name they were looking for in Kanji for me and I’d reply “Mori Anna…hmm…nain” and the rest would be like “Ehh! Shiteru! Kenkyuusei Shiteru!”. But even here, no one had Masuda Yuka cards so Yan was out of luck.
After the shop had closed, the folk there continued to hang around outside but we bid them farewell and promised to come again tomorrow. Grabbing some snacks from downstairs was the priority, then back to the hotel.
We had previously hoped to return to the Hotel Wing International Kourakuen but it was fully booked by the time we got around to it but I was really glad with the decision to stay at this hotel.
Apart from being more spacious and cleaner than any other hotel we’ve stayed in so far, the amenities were also good. Proper pajamas provided daily instead of the silly robes that were useless in single digit temperatures and shampoo/conditioner that didn’t tangle my hair for once. ジャージー好き~
It also had a large flat screen TV with free live on demand television of the latest programs. Amusingly, Rinatin was the first thing you’d see when opening the instructions. Also, digital channels instead of the crappy analog ones we got back at Osaka. Couldn’t watch AKBingo last week because there wasn’t any coverage there.
That evening Halcali was on TV! Also, Hirano Aya was singing a duet of Endless Story with Yuna Ito.