Eye-opening otaku experiences12 January, 2013 by Chad
Yan and Eri would be heading off earlier this morning for Tokyo DisneySea. In the meantime, I had made plans to have lunch today with my company director last evening. He gave us the option of choosing between a novelty cafe or proper restaurant, love the high you get from trying out new experiences, so we decided on the former. It turned out that we’d be visiting the Biohazard (Resident Evil outside Japan) cafe, Biohazard Cafe & Grill S.T.A.R.S.!
Met up outside the Shibuya Tsutaya. Randy would be joining along too. So it turned out to be a pleasant surprise when the director, Akiyama-san revealed that we would be visiting the Biohazard cafe this afternoon. Akiyama brought us over to the Parco shopping mall where the restaurant was located. It was a little awkward that he was in a suit today, while the rest of us were very casually dressed. He stood out a lot from the crowd of younger fashionably dressed youths in Shibuya and with the odd company, a few people stared at us along the way.
At the cafe, we went with the recommended lunch buffet. The boss didn’t seem to know what was going on, so asked him if he had been here before, to which he exclaimed “of course not”. Still, you could tell that he was excited to be here today. Just like Randy, he’s a fan of the Resident Evil series too. It would had been impossible for him to visit such a place with his older associates, so was probably glad that we provided the excuse.
It’s been and is quite a long trip and still only getting used to the fatigue from going out everyday uninterrupted. Ordered some iced coffee, to hopefully wake up a little. First time having coffee in a couple of months. Been trying to cut down on that for health reasons. The syrup and milk were served in separate test tubes.
The lunch was an ala carte style buffet. Appetizers and desserts weer single serve but everything else could be ordered as you wish. To start you off, the staff came around with one of everything. There was one male staff who attended the register, while the rest of the cafe was operated by 4 other young girls.
Had to double check if we could take pictures, since we were given some sort of warning at the entrance but didn’t quite catch it. Turns out that it was fine, no videos however.
In keeping with the theme, all of the food were served in metal canteens and dinnerware. One of the staff took out some sort of aerospray and applied it onto the salad while serving it. I guess we looked surprised or (in my case) confused, so she explained that it was some sort of “health potion” and that it’d make us “genki”. Typical maid cafe stuff I guess.
The boss loves his curry, so ended up getting seconds. Throughout, the girls would take turns to bring roasted meats on a skewer rodizio style. We were requested to hold onto the slices of meat with a tiny pair of laboratory tongs while they cut it. Part of the “saabisu”.
Boss asked what we though about that. To which we replied that it was amusing. As usual, he commented that there were hardly any “beauties” in Japan to which I commented that one of the girls was quite cute (well in an Inoue Mao kind of way I guess). He went “naruhodo”. She was probably new, since she did most of the serving, while the rest of the staff stood around. There weren’t too many customers.
Oddly, the rest of the cafe patrons this afternoon were mostly female. For some reason, statistically there are a lot more female fans when it comes to horror themed games than many other genres. There were a couple of distinctly otaku girls in the adjacent table, a teenage couple and a young woman at the opposite table. She looked normal at first glance, being dressed properly and such. She ordered just a drink and sat there alone. Perhaps she just wanted to take a look at the cafe?
About halfway through the meal, after enough people had gathered, the cashier from before came over to turn on some music. That was about as involved in the performance as he’d get, throwing our theory that perhaps some of the fangirls had come for his sake, out of the window.
The waitresses finished serving whatever orders were on hand, then collected their plastic weapons from the shelf. The lights dimmed and they started parading and dancing in the isle to Spice Girl’s “Spice Up Your Life”. We were taken by surprise by both the performance, and the choice of music. In all honesty, they weren’t any good at dancing. The woman on the opposite table look thoroughly entertained though.
After the dance, the lights completely went out and an alarm was sounded. There was a mock scenario where the statue of the one of the Biohazard monsters had begun to break lose. I guess it was annoyed of having to watch us eat this entire time. While not the least realistic, the lighting and projected images assisted in telling the story.
Being part of S.T.A.R.S, which I can only assume is like S.H.I.E.L.D except for zombies, the waitresses assembled in front of the statue to open fire with their plastic pistols. Apparently that didn’t prove to be very effective, since it only made the statue angrier.
It became quite apparent at this point that the seemingly normal woman in the opposite table had just been here for this part of the show. She became super jumpy and excited, shifting to get a closer view of the statue. But encountering a tyrant statue oshi, was just the tip of all of the strange stuff that we would run into today. Wondered how many times she’s actually been here, but the fact that she only ordered a drink suggested that this wasn’t her first.
At this point, the waitressing invited the patrons to join in the action. One person was taken from each of the nearby tables to assist in the heated battle against the life-sized statue. Since he was seated outside, we let the boss have a go at it. He went “is this alright?” but you could tell he was quite enjoying it.
Basically the guests and waitresses would then hold the guns together with one hand each and fire more shots at the zombie. Thanks to 3d project mapping you can see the statue sustain injuries and eventually become deactivated.
To celebrate the victory, the waitresses went around all the tables giving out high fives (hi-touches in Japan), which caught us by surprise again. There are probably patrons out there who visit the cafe for the sole purpose of this invaluable “skinship”.
After everyone got to touch the young girls, it was suddenly back to normal business in the cafe. We were asked if we wanted more food, and when we had enough dessert was served in a small petri dish. Not the most appetizing presentation, such that the boss needed to check what was inside. Thankfully it wasn’t zombie love juice but plain old almond pudding.
We had our fill, so didn’t stay long after. Randy took the opportunity on the way our to shake hands with one of the waitresses he liked on the way out, while the boss settled the bill. For the truly rabid fans, there were some cafe exclusive souvenirs for sale.
We still had a few hours to kill before our plans in the evening so Akiyama took us on a tour around the adjacent Shibuya Tokyu Hands, exclaiming that it was his favorite place. “It has everything” he remarked.
The boss lives nearby so we had actually caught him while running an errand. He searched for some household goods but didn’t have what he was looking for. It was convenient, since we were actually looking for some binoculars. The boss was interested what for, to which we explained that it was for the concert at Yokohama Arena that we’d be attending tomorrow. He laughed but brought us on a search for some.
This probably wouldn’t be the last I’d hear of it though. Whenever I meet our client company bosses for the first time, he always makes it a point to bring up my interest in idols.
We eventually found what we were looking for in the basement of a Bic Camera outlet. Managed to snap up a bunch of decent 8x magnification ones for just 980 yen each since they were on sale. More than half what a similar pair went for at Tokyu Hands.
We parted ways with the boss, but then made a U-turn back to the main streets of Shibuya since we still had more time. Stopped by a book store at the entrance to the street but there wasn’t much of interest there. All the tiny bookstore carried were magazines and on the go reading like self-help books. Decided to check out the Tsutaya instead.
As luck would have it, I managed to pick up a copy of the aquarium book which I had missed in Nagoya here.
I even finally found the book I was looking for. twitter.com/supermerlion/s…
— Supermerlion (@supermerlion) November 10, 2012
Some years ago, I introduced the Starbucks at this Tsutaya as a nice spot to grab a coffee, while watching people pass by along the famous Shibuya crossing. These days, the cafe’s reputation has far exceeded common logic. This afternoon, there was actually a queue downstairs made up entirely of tourists looking to get up into the cafe.
Upstairs, the Starbucks itself was filled to the brim. There wasn’t even enough space for people to sit around so the foreigners were just standing there pointing their cameras to the street. It looked pretty silly.
Randy and I tried looking around Shibuya for some place where we could take a break as Randy needed to get some coffee. After searching around the streets and Mark City in vain we entered a chain cafe along one of the branching streets called Segafredo. Strangely, it was packed with mostly tourists inside too, but there were a couple of free seats so we decided to settle here.
Usually in Japan, you’d place your order at the counter then get a seat. The disgusting practice of reserving fast food seats with handbags, tissue packets or a spare party member’s butt does not occur here. Unfortunately for us, none of the tourists knew that. Just as we were walking over to our seats, a middle-aged ethnically Chinese women squeezed through and planted herself at both tables and while waiting for the rest of her crude friends who had yet to even arrive.
The rest of the tables were occupied by more foreigners, most of whom had already long finished their drinks but were just sitting around spacing out. We stood around with our tray for a while, but no one got the idea. It was a good 15 minute wait before a Singaporean couple finally decided to leave, though at no consideration to us.
If these are the only foreigners that the common Japanese person ever comes into contact with, perhaps you can’t really blame them for being as xenophobic as they are? For all the complaining that Singaporeans do about expats not following their nuances in Singapore, they do very little to observe the basic courtesies, let alone local cultures when overseas.
Downing two coffees within a matter of hours, after the months of abstinence didn’t turn out to be such a good idea. It hit me like a brick and felt really zoned out and thirsty for the rest of the evening.
A friend had invited us to a birthday party for another close friend of hers this evening. The bunch of them also happened to be idols, so it was really a birthday concert instead. Soon, it was time for us to head to Akihabara once more to attend the birthday live.
These day by day encounter posts tend to be pretty detailed, at least from reader feedback but in this case I’d keep things brief. Honestly, I’m not too sure what I should or can write about the entire event. So the rest shall remain a mystery.
The entire evening ended up being really surreal though. We were no strangers to concerts, but it was still a very different experience given the circumstances. It’s all fun and games when you’re attending any other concert but when you do know someone performing personally, it kind of feels like we were intruding upon her work. Perhaps she wasn’t so aware of such things but she did seem happy to have us around.
It turned out to be quite a day, and while perhaps not the typical idea of fun, the novel adventure were indeed quite priceless. The kind of situations you would encounter in those quirky documentaries about Japan. Randy commented that today felt more like his actual birthday celebration. And while we did make plans after the concert to meet up with our idol friend again on another day, at this time we wouldn’t really know what other surprises the trip would have in store for us.