55 Days in Tokyo

January 20th, 2007

Woke up earlier than normal today to make certain I would have enough time to get ready and meet my friend Athena in Ginza. Immediately after waking up I took my shower and got dressed. Talked with my girlfriend online for about 40 minutes before leaving. Had to take the subway for the first time since I arrived in Tokyo and wasn't certain exactly of the route I needed to take. Only had to junction off once and made it to Ginza ten minutes late. However, Athena was also delayed and wouldn't arrive for another 30 minutes so I looked around. Right next to the exit I was supposed to wait at was a display room for Nissan. Inside they had one of their concept cars and I got the chance to snap a few photos of it and watch a demonstration. The concept of this car is that the main cabin can rotate 180 degrees so you never have to do a U-turn. This must mean it has a transmission that can run easily in both directions. Kinda neat, but is making a U-turn really that difficult?

Athena arrived at about 20 minutes to 1pm and we set off to Princess Heart, a theme resturant that she had been to before. When she described it to me I was curious and figured what's the worst that can happen? It isn't like its easy to embarass me. When we finally arrived we were seated in the main room. I can only describe it as somewhat odd. The lighting was blue and there was a giant fake tree in the middle. All of the waitresses were dressed up as (I think, my memory fails sometimes) as somewhat gothic lolita maids. Very odd. We both decided to get the meal set which wasn't too unreasonable and shortly after our food started to arrive. Naturally, given my odd eating habits I wasn't able to eat everything but in general what I could eat was very tasty. The soup was good, the pasta tasty and the chicken (or was it quail) was not overcooked, a good sign. We chatted away about the insanity that exists in Japan and how marvelous and disturbing it can be at the same time. When dessert arrived it was funny to note that it was this tiny, tiny little piece of cake that had I used a regular sized fork, would have been consumed in one bite.

After we ate we left the resturant only to discover that the main entrance to the building had some kind of strange noise machine that, we surmised, was intended to drive teenagers away and not loiter about. Supposed to work because only young people can hear it. If both Athena and I can hear it, must mean we aren't as old as we think we are. We headed for Ginza station and took off for Harajuku. En route to the station we discovered that my google weather report lied to me since it was now starting to randomly rain.

We arrived in Harajuku and headed for the Meiji Shrine. For those of you who don't know who Meiji is... go look it up on Wikipedia. Not gonna explain it. Suffice it to say though that this strine is the largest in Tokyo and is really quite beautiful. I had been there once before on my first trip to Japan on New Years day. I got to experience being in a moving block of people and watch almost all of them hurl coins into the temple for good luck. This time, however, I was able to look around the area and see just how nice the place is. When we finally got the main part of the shrine Athena and I walked around the tree where people can leave prayer boards. Basically, the idea is that you write down your wishes on the board, hang them up and later they will be burnt in an offering to the Kami of the shrine. We mostly wandered around reading different peoples wishes. Sometimes they were funny or presented in an odd manner, such as a numbered list. Almost like the person is saying "I'd like prayer number one, but if that is not possible here are others in my order of preference." Does laughing at some people's prayers make me a bad person? I imagine so...

As we got ready to leave I found out that you could get your fortune for the year and how Athena had gotten the worst possible fortune the last time she got one. With that possibility in mind, I had to get my fortune. At first when I went up they had a special english box and I don't know if I got a fortune but instead got a poem. Bullocks to that, I went back and got a Japanese fortune. Athena said that it looked more or less like a good fortune. Damn. I'm the kind of wacko that if I had gotten the worst fortune, I would have framed it and put it on the wall. On our way out Athena got some special pencils for some of her students who are getting ready to go off and study for their college extrance exams.

By the time we got back out of the shrine area we crossed over this bridge that goes over the train tracks and saw that many of the people who dress up had come out now that the rain had somewhat lightened. Basically, Harajuku is where youth go to dress up and show off their own unique style of costumes. Some dress gothic, others lolita and still others combine the two into a well known style called, you guessed it, Gothic-lolita. Don't ask me, I'm not clever enough to make this stuff up. Often times these people are more than willing to be photographed (I have no doubt many do it for specially that purpose) but I only two took photos at a distance, as that is all I am currently willing to put into this strange behavior. Like being a FAnime, only not as creepy and much cleaner. Over the bridge Athena took me to this store that is entirely devoted to the Peanuts gang, although most of the store is dedicated to only Snoopy. Athena wound up buying some cookies for her students and teachers.

Walking further down into Harajuku Athena ran into two of her fellow JETs and they chatted for a little. I imagine it must be kinda nice to see some familiar faces in what is usually a sea of unknown faces. We departed their company and headed towards a toy store that had a very nice and broad selection of things. The most enthralling thing I saw was this dvd of all these neat little setups with marbles rolling along complex series of obstacles. Think falling dominos but with a marble setting things off and following a track. It kept drawing us back into watching it until we finally managed to esacpe it. Almost like a black hole.

Next to the toy store was this little dessert place that we stopped at to have some mini cakes and chat for a while. Athena got a small chocolate cake that had some kind of candy/jello/fruit stuff. I got this large puffy looking thing that was actually incredibly hard and forced me to use a knife to get at it. Inside was this softer layer of paste along with something that tasted of almonds. Very crunchy. During eating and afterwards we sat there, relaxing and chatting. I think we talked for a pretty long period of time, so long that eventually they took away our plates and we took that as a sign that maybe they wanted us to leave. We left, walked about a block back up the road and departed company. She was going to a store that was having some kind of big sale and was going to see what she could get. I knew that I would be getting hungry soon for some real food to calm my stomach down after dessert and since I wanded to walk and knew the direction, I set off down the road towards Shibuya.

Once I got to Shibuya (about 10-15 minutes of walking) I headed for my favorite rotating sushi bar and ate my fill. I swear, they have the best Saba. Wandered around Shibuya for a little before going back towards home to rest and get some sleep. Getting up earlier than normal only made my tossing and turning worse so that I needed rest. I also need time to write about the previous day since, due to my early departure, I did not have time in the morning. After I finished writing I fell asleep shortly before 1am.

Photos for January 20th, 2007