55 Days in Tokyo

January 12th, 2007

Woke up at 4am. I hate jet lag. Forces me to go to bed early and wake up at horrible hours. A time so early even the nocturnal animals are going to bed, when the sun has not yet crossed the horizon but is beginning to make its presence known. Still felt tired, but not able to sleep. Turned on the TV to see what early morning Japanese entertainment could offer me. Not surprisingly, there was nothing to watch. My lack of understanding of Japanese did not help things either. They kept showing a photo of a somewhat young girl and were discussing her or something about her with a grave inflection in their voices. Occasionally they would show a photo of a man, but his relation to her was unclear. I switched between the channels until an hour had passed and I was willing to give sleep another shot. Thankfully, I was able to convince my body to rest for a few more hours.

Around 7am I awoke and got myself ready to venture out into the city. I had to check out of the hotel by 11am, but I figured I had enough time to fly over to Akihabara to get an adapter for my laptop so I could charge it. Since it was going to be a long day of moving around Tokyo, I thought it would be best to get this done with rapidly and I could focus on getting myself settled into my room in Itabashi. Ate a light breakfast down at the cafe of the hotel. Well, not really breakfast seeing as how it consists of toast and tea. Still, something is better than nothing and it only cost me a whopping 350 yen. After asking the front desk the best way to get to Akihabara I set out onto the street.

Cold. Bloddy cold. Mind you, I just spent the last three years of my life in Chico, a place that experiences two seasons: hot and cold, so when I say it was cold I know what I am talking about. It was not so bad that I could not stand it, but it still gave me pause as I walked outside. The city was still getting itself out of bed and ready for work. Small food shops here and there were open, as well as the ever present convenience stores, but everything else was still shutdown. I had a ten minute walk to the JR station that would take me directly to Akihabara so I got the chance to get my legs warmed up and ready for a long day of walking. Businesses were either still shut down or were beginning their morning routines. One oddity that struck me on this street was the positioning of two AV factory stores across the street from one another. For those of you unfamiliar with Japan, AV means Adult Video, which means porn. It was kinda funny to see two porn stores right across the street from one another. There must be enough business to keep both of them open, so I guess it is all good. Still, I wonder if they ever get into little wars with one another...

I finally arrived at the train station and bought the cheapest ticket possible as the rate map was only in Japanese. One of the best tricks I learned (okay, so it is not really a trick, just shut up and let me have my glory) was if I did not know how much it cost to get to a destination, I just buy the cheapest ticket and when I get to my destination I put it into a fare adjustment machine and it tells me how much I owe. Akihabara was only two stops down the line so the cheapest ticket actually covered it. I made my way down from the train platform and exited the station into the electronic down.

Akihabara is a beautiful place, if your mind is somewhat bent like mine is. Unfortunately, I had arrived before anything was open. I had arrived at 8am, well before anything opens. I spotted the store that my hotel had told me sold adpaters and thought I saw a sign that said they opened at 9am. I figured I would walk around for an hour, get my adpater and get back to the hotel with plenty of time to spare. So I set off down the main avenue, looking at the iron shutters and promotion signs that were up. Even managed to spot this little store that someone had shown me the last time I was in Tokyo that specialized in selling retro games. I also discovered that there were buildings being built just off the main street, inbetween the street and the JR line. Not just small buildings, but tall, monsterous buildings. There was one that I swear was not there two years ago. I walked around for about 40 minutes, but decided to stop off in a little resturant that served curry to get some real food and warm up. The best sign that you have been walking around in the cold for too long is when your testicles start to feel numb. That is a sure sign that you need to warm up. The curry was decent, although Indians would be confused by this strange looking sauce that looks little like the curry that I have seen. Warmed up and my stomach full, I headed back out into the cold and toward the store.

When I arrived, I discovered that the store closed at 9pm, but opened at 10am. Damnit. Next time, I will read the sign from up close and not base my decisions on long distance readings. Since I had another hour until anything opened, I opted to go to an internet cafe and relax in the warmth and check my email. Got email from my mother, father, girlfriend and another one of my friends. Geez. I may have to re-think my stance on not responding to emails unless I have to respond (read: if it is from my girlfriend). Send out emails and cruised the internet until my hour was up. One of the nicest things about these cafes is that you get unlimited beverages and they all seem to have melon soda, a wonderous concoction that I cannot find anywhere other than Japan. I drank probably a liter of the stuff in that hour. Then I departed, found the store, got my adpater and was free to return to my hotel. I was somewhat worried since now I had only an hour to return to my hotel and check out.

Aside from a slight directional mishap (took the train headed in the opposite direction on the line) I made it back to my hotel with thirty minutes to spare. Used that time to test my adapter and rest my feet. Packed my suitcase, checked out of the hotel and headed for Sakura House's office in Shinjuku. Getting there was fairly easy, except for the fat bastard that I had to drag around. Thankfully, I will not have to move it again until I leave Japan and at that point some of its contents will be packed in another bag and it will not be as fat. On my final walk to their office I spotted and started walking behind another foreigner. I figured she was headed in the same direction so I knew we were both going to same place. Got to the office, signed my life away for the right to a room with heating and basic amenities and took off with my keys. I was looking forward to having a permenant place to stay and being able to put down the fat bastard.

Itabashi is a mere two stops down the JR line from Shinjuku and I was there in less than 20 minutes. Set off down the street to find my house and despite getting lost and wandering into the wrong house (I guess it happened enough that the lady who lived there knew what was going on and she pointed me in the right direction) I finally came to my house and could establish my base for this trip. My room was pretty spacious and most of the items that were supposed to be there were there. A few items are missing and I will inform the main office of this tomorrow. Unpacked the fat bastard and sat down to connect to the wireless internet. Sadly, my laptop could not see that network and I was stuck offline. For a short while I was able to get online using someone else's network and check a few things, but I was less than pleased. I had wanted wireless access in my room and now it was looking like I would have to buy a CAT5 cable and drag my laptop out into the kitchen whenever I wanted to get online. I shall have words with them about this. During this time I think I heard one of my housemates moving around, but seeing as how I was busy getting my stuff settled and I usually choose to ignore people in general, I did not introduce myself.

Once I got settled and rested for a while, I headed out to go back to Shinjuku to wander around and kill the rest of the day. One of the really big problems with jet lag is that the day seems to be extremely long. Much longer than it actually is and it makes you want to end your day early. This is a self-defeating idea that will only extend your jet lag. I had to keep myself awake as long as possible and try to recover quickly. Shinjuku seemed like a good place to go and since it was just down the line, I did not have to figure out any convoluted routes to there.

My time in Shinjuku was mostly spent walking around and seeing what was going on. People were busily walking about, doing whatever it is people do on a Friday afternoon. It was here that I went into my first arcade of this trip. Whenever I enter an arcade here it feels like I am slipping into warm bath, just a place of utter comfort and relaxation, except full of cigarette smoke and salarymen taking out their agressions on pixelized opponents. Whenever I go into an aracde that is not in Akihabara it almost feels like I am cheating on a lover, cheating on my first love. But Akihabara was a long ways away and I was content to relax here for a while. During my walks I was only approached once for sex and was standing next to a tiny woman who was approached by a porn scout and turned him away. That was something new. I also fail to understand the concept of having a small, ugly as hell man walk up to another man and ask him if he is interested in a "massage". At least get a cute girl to do it. Man alive they have no concept of marketing. Around 6pm my stomach began to grumble and it was then I realized I had not eaten since close to 9am. Found a small conveyor belt sushi bar and ate a fair amount of tuna, salmon and a few other fish for less than 10 dollars. Very nice indeed.

After feeding my poor body it began to make other demands. My feet protested against further walking and demanded that they be given a break. I normally do not walk this much and they were not prepared for this endurance trial. I continued my walk around the station area but finally had to relent around 7pm due to extreme pain in my feet. I do not look forward to what tomorrow's walking will bring. Got onto the train and headed for home in an insanely packed train car. I had forgotten just how hard they pack people in. However, as always, I had my gaijin perimeter up and I still had some space around me even though everyone else was smashed together. It was only when I got home that I realized just how painful my feet were and that I should have given them more time to prepare. Oh well.

Used my new CAT6 cable (yeah yeah, so no one sells CAT5 anymore, it is outdated like me) to plug into the router and got online. First real internet access without having to worry about my battery. One of my housemates left their laptop on the table and I tried an experiment. I borrowed their PCMCIA wireless card and tried using it to see if I could spot the network. I could not and I was left to conclude that maybe the network just does not work and I would be stuck using my cable. We shall see. Took my shower and found that I have to turn on an electrical console in order to get hot water. Whatever happened to turning the handle marked "hot"? Did some basic housekeeping online and returned to my room to get some sleep. During that time I was able to figure out that at least one of my housemates is female and is probably Italian. Either that or the guy likes to read Italian magazines and wear high heels. Finally turned off the light at around 9:30pm.

Photos for January 12th, 2007