Enjoying ourselves in geek heaven02 May, 2013 by Grace
Still reeling from the disappointment of missing the Tsukiji tuna auction in the morning, we took the train for tech gadget and anime paradise Akihabara, which would hopefully make the day better. Since it was still pretty early when we reached, there weren’t too many people.
Initially looking kind of sleepy, my friend, Etine, quickly perked up upon spotting a To Aru Kagaku no Railgun billboard poster in the distance. It was a little amusing. We headed for the Akihabara UDX building first as it was the closest to the station exit we had come out from. Etine, being an anime otaku, wanted to visit the Tokyo Anime Center in the building. We found out we were a little too early as the center hadn’t opened yet, so we loitered around until it did.
I’m a pretty casual anime watcher myself, but I gotta say I expected more than what we were greeted with, which was basically a bunch of flat TVs showing various anime, a small goods shop, and an exhibition for the hot anime of the moment, Kakumeiki Valvrave. Actually I didn’t know of the anime before, but seeing the number of seiyuus’ names I could recognise off the autograph board, I guess it’s quite a big production.
After looking through the place a bit, we went to the Tokyo Anime Center official shop which was a few floors down. This was much better, but still any anime shop around the vicinity could easily win it in terms of goods variety and amount. Etine ended up buying quite a lot of things anyway. We moved on to another anime shop, Animate, which was just around the corner in another building. Animate apparently spans 8 floors if I remember right, and we spent a fair deal of time in there. I still didn’t buy anything since nothing actually caught my eye.
By the time we were out of Animate, all of us had started to feel hungry. We didn’t have to decide what we wanted to eat this time, because we had it already planned in the itinerary, and it was the highlight of the day! @home cafe, one of the bigger maid cafes in the area, was our dining choice for the afternoon.
Once we were shown in to our seats by the cute maids, Etine and I became super excited. While I initially thought we would be the odd ones out, there were actually other female patrons in the shop. The maid serving us was named “Pyon” and she was really cute. My attention was mainly focused on Pyon, Etine was admiring every single maid in the cafe, while her mother didn’t look all that interested but it was understandable.
Etine ordered a banana milkshake while I ordered mocha latte for drinks, while her mum was fine with plain water. All of us ordered set meals as they were the most value-for-money on the menu. The drinks alone were already pretty expensive, because of the fanservice that comes with them. To be honest, I usually stay away from coffee on non-school days due to its particularly strong effects on me, but this was an exception.
My mocha latte came with the fanservice of the maid drawing with chocolate sauce on the foam of the coffee. I was asked to pick between cat, bear or bunny, and I chose bunny because the maid’s name was Pyon. With Etine’s banana milkshake, Pyon mixed the drink in a shaker, and while shaking it she required us to say the “magic words” along with her, which consisted of mostly cute-sounding onomatopoeic Japanese words, and then finally “Become delicious!”
The mocha latte tasted like any other coffee and the bunny was ruined within the first sip, so nothing special there. I also had a taste of the banana milkshake, and it was not bad but we both agreed it was a tad too sweet.
Following which, we were pretty much left alone for maybe 30 minutes. It took a long long long wait for the food to actually come. In the meantime we observed the neighbouring patrons playing games with the maids (chargeable). One of the maids spoke to us in broken English upon realising we weren’t local and asked where we were from. When the food finally came, it was another maid that served us because Pyon was taking a polaroid with another patron (chargeable). We were asked to pick a toothpick flag with a design we liked, so I picked a bear design because it was the cutest one. Etine ended up getting teased because she picked a flag that said “fujoshi” on it. Since Etine doesn’t really read or speak much Japanese she was a bit clueless.
So, after waiting that long for the food, how did it fare in the taste test? All 3 of us felt it tasted surprisingly good. It’s not that the food was amazing, but it was decent. And against our low expectations, it being a maid cafe (expecting a rip-off), it was good. Also, looking at the amount of different things on the plate and how detailed the decorations are, one can guess what took so long in the kitchen.
With our stomachs filled, we decided to pass on dessert and pay the bill. A pleasant surprise was that the entry fee was actually 300 yen for females instead of 600 yen. This wasn’t displayed on their website so I didn’t know beforehand. And then after we paid the bill, the maid presented to each of us a loyalty reward card of sorts where you’d get stamps for every visit after. It has a different front design for males and females.
We were asked how to write our names, and because it’s in English, the maid wrote it on tissue paper first to confirm with us. Then she proceeded to write our names in permanent ink in a really cute handwriting on the back of the card. It included titling us as “ojousama”s, a simple animal drawing beside the name, and a heart drawn into the visit date. All in all, it made our maid cafe experience a really good one and I’ll definitely return if I have the chance.
Making our way out of the DonQuijote building, we spotted a nail salon on the first floor, doing anime nail art and we were really interested in doing it (particularly so for me because they displayed Evangelion nail art). But we found out it would take 2 hours. Agreeing that it was too long (on hindsight, it wasn’t…), we passed it up and moved on. After walking around Akihabara a bit more and admiring the Gundam and AKB48 cafes from the exterior, we moved on to Tokyo Dome City (TDC).
It seemed we were there too early on a weekday as the place was pretty empty and the rides were hardly in operation since no one was taking them. I actually thought they were shut down or something because of bad weather. In the end we didn’t take anything since it felt really lame and no fun to take rides by ourselves. The star attraction of TDC, the Thunder Dolphin rollercoaster, had also been closed down for more than two years since the Tohoku Earthquake.
What do you do at TDC if not taking rides? Shopping, of course. We headed for LaQua, the shopping mall inside TDC. Here, we spent roughly two hours, including some time chilling at a green tea shop. There was also a CD shop where I found a rather rare Limited Edition of a CD I wanted to buy, but didn’t because I stupidly thought I would be able to find a Used version for less, in the coming days (spoiler: no such luck and am still kicking myself for this).
Although we had planned in our itinerary to spend the rest of the day here, it seemed we had already exhausted the place and didn’t know what else to do here. Then I remembered Etine was saying that she wished we had more time in Akihabara, so I proposed taking the train back there to continue shopping, since anyway from Akihabara we wouldn’t have to change train lines to go back to our hotel later on.
But before we could leave TDC, we stopped by MOMI&TOY’S to try their crepes. Definitely not disappointed. I never knew fresh cream could be this delicious!
By the way, being a Japanese music fan and knowing Tokyo Dome, I didn’t neglect to take a closer look at the massive stadium since we were already at TDC. Of course you can’t walk into the stadium freely, but I looked around the outside area and took photos. Hopefully one day in the near future I’ll be able to attend a concert here!
After that, we made our way back to Suidobashi Station. We were dismayed to find the trains terribly packed. I had forgotten my own warnings to Etine prior to the trip to avoid taking the trains around 5 to 6pm as it would be rush hour. But with no choice since we were already there, we managed to squeeze into the second train that came.
By the time we reached Akihabara again, it was dark. This time, Etine’s mum decided to look at another mall in the area which had clothing stores, so we split ways until dinner. Keeping in mind many businesses in Japan close at 8pm, we quickened our footsteps, heading for Mandarake, another anime goods store. On the way, we passed by an Aoki suits store, with a big Kamenashi Kazuya endorsement poster displayed. Naturally, being a KAT-TUN fangirl, I paused to take a photo of it. However, stopping on a crowded sidewalk isn’t exactly the best idea, so I tried to take it quickly. Unfortunately no matter how many times I took the photo, there was bound to be someone walking into frame.
Mandarake was interesting to look at for the first few moments but due to the amount of things on display it was really cramped and I felt like I had a lack of oxygen. I guess it didn’t help being surrounded by anime figurines, something I’m not really interested in.
We walked around several electronics stores trying to look for a particular model of earphones which was on my to-buy list, because I was expecting it to sell for cheaper in Japan than in Singapore. Find it we did at a much much cheaper price, like about 30 dollars less, but the colour I wanted was out of stock. Sigh.
Afterwards we met back up with Etine’s mum at a Starbucks, wondering what to have for dinner. Finding that everything in the vicinity were expensive and it was late, we made the decision to go back to our hotel area and buy bentos from the nearby convenience store. A rather unexciting roundup to the day, but we were content with it since we were all tired from walking.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.