According to our plans, today was the day that we were to visit Hakone. Unfortunately, the hurricane carried over to this morning and the heavy rain continued to fall. Our only consolation was that the weather report promised no rain tomorrow. With no achievable plans for the weather, we ended up spending another day shopping. We did however promise to seek a better meal this afternoon.
Our first destination was to be Akihabara where Wilson needed to pick up something. One purpose for the closet otaku in coming to Japan was to purchase an expensive Black Rock Shooter statue. Since we were going to be traveling to many places today, we decided to head to the Hongo-Sanchome station in the morning to get an unlimited day pass for the Metro lines.
I wanted to get a scratch card to see if I could cover the expenses of the trip. Every morning, we would pass by a cart selling lottery tickets at Suidobashi station and many more scattered around Tokyo. Each time time some other interesting thing popped into sight I would forget this plan. This morning I lost focus again. The elderly ticket seller squeezed into the tiny meter wide box, comfortably protected from the elements.
Metro didn’t have a direct train to Akihabara, so we had to take the long way there despite only being two stops away. The train passed through Shinjuku, so we made a quick stop there to draw more money from the nearby Citibank.
Returning to the shelter of the Metro station, my umbrella refused to close. After been put through yesterday’s cyclonic winds, the umbrella’s mechanisms had finally given way. I bid farewell to my comrade at the nearby trash bin.
At Akihabara, we left Wilson to his impulses. MJ and I entered the Aoki store where each of the 5 floors were lined with racks of suits. They had suits in every possible combination of measurements, so you didn’t have to wait for one to be tailored.
MJ spotted some nice smart casual jackets on the first floor. The well made jackets cost only $70. Once again I cursed our decision to purchase jackets at Shibuya. Outside, we embarrassingly took some touristy shots with the store’s advertisements when no one was looking, photos with MJ.
Left without an umbrella and with MJ too lazy to use his, we ducked from cover to cover in the rain towards the Don Q building. Apart from being the home of AKB48 it also sold variety goods which were of more interest to us than anime figures. Along the way, we passed by many stores with AKB48 advertisements on display. In one MJ saw a One Piece figurine that he considering buying. His sister Gin wanted something One Piece from Japan, anything.
Don Quijote (aka Donki) is a retail chain of departmental stores that can be found throughout Japan. The Akihabara one was unique in that it was home to the AKB48 theater. It also contained a floor dedicated to cosplay where a new AKB48 shop had recently been opened.
The last time I was here, the theater floor was really packed during performances. Fans who didn’t win tickets would stand outside the hall to watch the live feed making it difficult to squeeze through. Moving the store outside the theater was a good idea. Somehow, having the store separate removes some of its charm though.
Not much was on sale here today, just the regular AKB singles and concert dvds. I was hoping to find the fashion book that we saw people buying at the Yokohama Arena yesterday. I was pretty sure I saw it selling at the bookstore in Cubic Plaza but neither the official AKB48 shop or the other stores we saw in Akihabara today carried it.
We wanted to take a look around the theater today to see how different it was since we last visited. Unfortunately, the floor was blocked off since all the staff and girls were still over at Yokohama. We took a tour of the arcade below the theater, where they had the One Piece figures in some alternative type of claw game. Just for the heck of it, we decided to give it a try. I ended up leaving 200 yen poorer.
We met back up with Wilson downstairs, who had already purchased his statue. He brought us to a couple other stores to see if MJ could find the One Piece figure at the cheaper price. I looked inside for a couple of figures that a colleague wanted but couldn’t find them anywhere. Not familiar with any of these things myself, I had printed photo references of the models. Wilson confirmed that he didn’t see the figures in any of the stores he visited earlier either.
Unable to find his One Piece figure here, MJ returned to the previous store that was cluttered with AKB48 advertisements. I looked around the second floor. It turned out that while the first floor of the shop was filled with anime and AKB goods, subsequent floors sold adult videos.
At the adjacent Taito Station amusement center, Wilson saw some Vocaloid figures in a UFO catcher that were worth catching. They even had figures exclusively designed for the arcade. Wilson and MJ didn’t manage to win anything here though, even after spending $20 combined.
Japan have long been famous for having the highest grade of beef known to man. Known as Kobe beef, a limited amount of cows providing meat of this caliber is farmed each year. Getting a taste of Kobe Beef was among the list of things to do for this trip. Prior to leaving for Japan, I had researched on some of the possible outlets where we could find the legendary meat. According to a certain food blogger, Shinjuku was home to one such restaurant known as Misono.
Misono claims to be the originator of Teppanyaki in Japan. The establishment was highly praised by the blogger. According to the blog, while the servings were small, the restaurant served some of the best Kobe beef at only about $70 during lunch. I confirmed this information at many other food blogs all describing their experience with the delicacy. So off to Shinjuku we went.
The restaurant was located in the Sumitomo building. Apart from this, we had no clue as to how to get there so I asked a counter at the station. The building turned out to be almost a kilometer away. Fortunately like at Ebisu, the entire distance was bridge by a continuous stretch of travelators.
It turned out that the Sumitomo building was one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo standing at more than 200m tall. The restaurant we were headed for was located on level 51, the second last floor. We were effectively even higher than were were at Tokyo Tower. After my encounter with the Tower of Terror at DisneySea, I had a hard time keeping my legs steady near any windows.
We found the Misono restaurant here. Because we had arrived late, I checked out their menu outside to see if they were still serving lunch. The waitress told us that the last order for lunch would be in 10 minutes. Lunch sets were about 7000 yen here, more than expected but nothing to be alarmed about. However, looking through the different sets, it occurred to me that there was no mention of Kobe beef anywhere in the menu. Just to make sure, I asked the waitress if they served Kobe beef here. She said no.
It turned out that while the restaurant certainly originates from Kobe, Kobe beef was never part of their menu. Thanks to a whole bunch of worthless food critics, who not only couldn’t tell the difference between Kobe and regular beef, but also couldn’t comprehend the slightest Japanese to even read the menu we had just traveled all the way to Shinjuku for naught.
Disappointed, we searched for something else to eat. We eventually settled for a cheaper restaurant on the 50th floor that catered to the working crowd. Wilson and MJ were attracted by the plastic food display outside.
MJ had some sort of rice bowl while Wilson ordered the Saba fish. Half a mackerel costs $7 in Singapore but this restaurant offered a full fish for only $12. Wilson and MJ also ordered a raw Mackerel.
I ordered the the set that came with Chirashizushi. It arrived with a side of fritters, a jumbled mess of deep fried prawns and crab shells. The rice was fine, but I didn’t feel too good after eating the fritters.
None of us had ever been to Roppongi in our previous trips to Japan so we decided to head there.
Roppongi is famous for offering the best night life in all of Tokyo and is home to the more prestigious clubs, pubs and cabarets. It was the middle of the day though and MJ wanted to do yet more shopping so we headed for the commercial district, Roppongi Hills.
Completed in 2003, Roppongi Hills is supposedly one of Japan’s largest urban developments. It is also home to one of Japan’s largest buildings the Mori Tower. Coming from the Sumitomo building, some of the grandeur of 54 floor Mori Tower was wasted on us. The building did turn out to be much fatter than expected though, its girth was the equivalent of 4 separate towers. Among other things, the Mori Tower acts as the home to TV Asahi, Konami, Rakuten and The Pokemon Company.
The most expensive residences in Japan are located in Roppongi. This meant that the Mori Tower would be filled by high end boutiques that were clearly out of our budget. The shops here made even Ginza look cheap. Sure enough, MJ and Wilson decided to head back to Ginza to continue shopping. Not wanting any of this insanity, I went my separate way.
I wanted to get a certain crazy something from the gift store at Tokyo Tower back when we there on Monday. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we got down from the tower. I decided to take this opportunity to return to the tower at Kamiyacho.
Although my only line of defense against the storm was my red converse jacket, the waterproof insulator provided ample protection from both the rain and harsh winds. In the words of Yan who had previously borrowed the jacket for his journey to mountains of Alishan, the jacket effectively “+cold resistance”.
After making my purchase, I messaged to check on the status of the other party. MJ and Wilson had only just started their shopping at Ginza. With time to spare, I returned to the hotel to drop off the bulky package. According to the news, the current temperature in Shibuya was 6 degrees. The better news was that the rain would stop before midnight today.
We would meet back at Akihabara later at 7. Since it was still early, I warmed up in the room before taking the Metro over to Ochanomizu.
Walking over to Akihabara, I met back up with the two who were already at the Aoki store. After much deliberation, MJ decided to buy the couple of jackets we saw earlier in the morning. Wilson purchased a white one too.
Dinner was the main thing on our mind, so we set out to find a suitable place to eat. I remembered the nice cozy restaurants at Ochanomizu. We decided to head over to check them out. We passed by one maid handing out pamphlets in the rain. She was somewhat frightened to see us since we looked positively creepy walking around hooded in the rain.
Struggling to carry his new purchases from Ginza, MJ requested to eat at the first place we came across. We didn’t pay too much attention to the shop. It seemed like a quaint French restaurant with a nice ambiance. Having heard good things about French dining in Japan, I complied. Seated, we looking at the menu to discover that we had actually entered a Spanish restaurant.
We ordered a whole bunch of dishes to share. It took us a while to place our order since the menu was in Spanish, we had a hard time making out what was what. At the opposite table, a young European woman was dining with her local friends. She spoke perfect Japanese. She snapped away with her bulky DSLR so I didn’t feel so embarrassed about taking photos inside the restaurant.
The dishes came really slowly, nice for enjoying company by the riverside but not so great for the three tourists who were starving after having braved the cold the entire day. After our first few dishes though, I began to enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant.
Our first dish, was some sort of omelet with potato bits inside that Wilson had ordered. The serving was small but it was quite a heavy combination. In hunger, it was something that I could appreciate.
Next came some mussels marinated in wine I called. In my opinion, the sauce was too light and relied more on the pepper bits for any taste. Once again, MJ refused to eat the shellfish.
I also ordered a soup side. The thick concoction was not soupy at all. It turned out to be more of an awful combination of egg and lard.
The cuttlefish slices were nice and tangy. MJ doesn’t like cuttlefish either. If not for the various skewered meats he ordered, he didn’t have much to eat.
Finally, our main dish of Paella arrived. It was made known on the menu that it would take half an hour to prepare the dish. It was well worth the wait. Each bite was filled with so much flavor. I never knew rice could taste so great. We ended up scraping every last bit off the pan.
While I waited for my last order of beef stew, took count of his spending thus far. More than $5000 so far, with another $2000 invested in Morning Musume tickets and requests from the online forum.
After a long wait, I was worried that they had forgotten my order. Wilson remarked that they might take offense to me asking about my order if it was really still being cooked, instead we decided to ask for the bill. It turned out, the waiter didn’t get my order. I decided to pass on the order and we returned to Akihabara for a final round.
Almost all of the shops had closed. Maid cafe girls still hung around every corner to hand out pamphlets to people making their way home. Just like the news predicted, the rain had reduced to a light drizzle. Without our hoods pulled over, the girls were more inclined to approach us with brochures.
Apart from the first girl near Ishimaru that smiled dearly at us, the rest of the maids looked rather tired from the long day. One of them even made a tsk when MJ ignored her brochure while walking by. She glared at us when we returned in the direction later. Akihabara maids, scary.
On hindsight, I don’t really blame her. Having to wear a short skirt in the middle of the rain, anyone would be cranky. The least anyone could do was to take a handout so she too could go home. I would had taken the brochure had she offered me instead but alas I was standing further away.
Wilson returned to the store where MJ had bought the One Piece figurine in the morning to get something.
On our way back to the station, Wilson and MJ lead the way to this store specializing in pink health goods. The store’s banner, Pop Life Deparment M’s and its eco color scheme is certainly misleading. The store had 2 floors of adult videos, 2 floors of sex toys (of every conceivable design), a floor dedicated to lingerie and a last floor dedicated to costume play. In addition to the uniforms for SKE48, the shop had AKB48’s Iiwake Maybe and RIVER costumes. They were really well made, no doubt since the costumes would go through much abuse.
A young couple shopped for adult videos to watch together. Looking through all the floors I found all sorts of interesting stuff. It felt a little strange to see how seriously some of the men here contemplated their purchases though. Some stared at the toys intensely for long stretches of time.
This evening, I learned from online accounts that that AKB48 performed completely different songs in each of today’s concerts in Yokohama. SKE48 wasn’t there today but instead they performed many more recognizable songs that I enjoyed, one of them was Bingo! Wished I had gone to today’s concert too/instead.
With today’s unfriendly weather, I was once again feeling rather down. Days were ticking away in which none of my plans could be fulfilled. I also didn’t have much of an urge left to shop after the mistake of shopping on the first few days so most of today seemed in vain. Our attempt to try Kobe beef was foiled. The stuff in Akihabara were also of little interest to me. Looking back, I regret not having checked out the pubs in Roppongi before heading over to Tokyo Tower. The rain completely stopped this night though, with luck we could visit Hakone tomorrow.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.