55 Days in Tokyo

February 3rd, 2007

Woke up with a decent night's sleep although I woke up earlier due to an experiment. My theory is that if I wake up at a constant time that's earlier in the day I'll be able to get off to an earlier start and get more time outside. Naturally, the first night I tried to do this I wound up not falling asleep until 3am and had set my alarm for 10am. So I woke up, got angry at my alarm for this horrific injustice and reset it for my normal 10:45am time. Naturally only about 30 minutes of this time is actually converted into sleep so I was still tired when I finally got up.

I took part in my usual routine (I've gotten tired of writing the same damned thing each time but trying to make it sound differently) and finally got out of the house shortly after 3pm. Naturally I had no idea where I wanted to go so I walked to Itabashi and got on the train bound for Ikebukuro. By the time I got there I decided to get onto the Yamanote and head towards Harajuku to see what I hadn't seen when I was there with Athena.

After I arrived I wandered down what seemed to be one of the primary streets for shopping. It was absolutely packed with people, most of them girls wandering about trying to find deals or screaming over some bloody thing. I noticed several stores whose sole offerings were pictures of various guys. I have no idea who they are but I imagine they're popular enough to merit such an odd store let alone several of them. Other places offered what I considered (in my t-shirt and jeans dressed mind) tacky and woefully mismatched items which naturally makes them perfect for the so-called Harajuku style. I say so-called because it changes repeatedly and only seems to be unified by the constant matching of items that do not go well together. I'm no fashion expert but I know what goes together and what doesn't (dispite my poor taste in clothing. Knowing the path and walking it are two different things) and a good chunk of this style seems to be nothing more than the intentional clashing of styles, colors and pretty much everything else.

All that aside this place is damned funny to walk through. You get to see all kinds of strange costumes and items for sale. One place had a cheaply made (you could see the seams were coming jagged) Kekko Kamen mask. If you don't know who that is, please don't search google for it if you value your sanity or you view this website at work. Kekko Kamen was an older anime/manga series (a classic if you will) made by the same guy who made Cutey Honey which is another sanity damaging concept. Basically, Kekko Kamen is a superhero who imparts justice on villains and perverts while wearing a mask, a scarf, some boots and nothing else. Mind you, it's more of a comedy than a porno or sexual anime/manga but it's still not for children. Well, maybe kids in Japan but not in the USA anyways. Another store had entire outfits for sale that looked like they could be worn to the Exotic Erotic Ball in SF (How's that for a specific description) and unlikely to be seen in public. Yet I know from having seen some people wearing them over on the bridge that they are worn in public, although with more clothing to cover up (it's cold here).

Another staple of clothing were Hip Hop shops, full of massively oversized jeans, chains and jackets. Jackets intended for men my size or larger were being worn by Japanese men who looked like they might weigh 140 pounds soaking wet. Men dressed the part too around here it seemed with many going for the gangsta style. One man had his jeans all the way down to his knees. At that extreme I mean come on, what's the point? A few guys tried to get me into their stores but sadly, I had to inform them that this tall, balding and white fellow did not get into that style. Shocking I know. Can't fault them for trying. There were also a handful of punk stores with tight jeans and ripped jackets, making me feel a little better about this place. At least there something I was a little bit into, even if you'll never see me in tight jeans (NEVER!). I continued wandering through the back streets until I could tell I was off of the beaten path and into the area with stores that are even more specialized. One store had the largest space available and yet, only offered three rows of shoes, one on each side of the building and a tiny row in the middle. The rest was open space. Some of the shoes were identical to all the others save for colors and in that some of them look like they'd just been spray painted. A lot of second-hand stores were to be found selling previously worn clothing at pretty unreasonable prices if you ask me. I don't want to spend $50 on a jacket someone else has worn and tossed aside.

Finally got out of the side streets and walked down the main street that leads up to Meiji temple, except in the opposite direction. On this street you could find all of the mainstream stores offering purses for $150 and jeans for $200. Also saw a few chocolate stores and they're all very busy gearing up for Valentine's Day. Walked all the way down until the street pretty much stopped being a commercial area and started being residental. Headed back down the other side of the street, looking for a place to get a cup of tea or a little snack. No place had anything to drink for less than $6. Finally found a place that had a nice panini sandwich that cost less than a cup of anything hot so I got a snack and relaxed for the bit. Couldn't really stay there for long since the only free seat available was on the second floor where smoking was seemingly compulsory. I can withstand some smoke but I dislike being in a haze for very long. I then headed towards one of the crepe places where I think I found the only place in Tokyo that offers crepes with anything other than vanilla ice cream (chocolate! yay) and placed an order. I thought the young lady was going to make it in front of me and I asked her not to put this strange white shreded thing on top, fearing that it was coconut. Without realizing, I said this just as she was handing me my crepe that someone else had made. This impiled to her (and the entire staff) that the order was wrong. This group of lean, mean, fast working crepe machines literally broke down before my eyes as everyone stopped at the merest meantion that an order was incorrect. They just looked at me, the girl in front looking at me with her mouth open. I quickly said it was alright and almost had to snatch it from her hand before fleeing the scene lest they do something drastic.

It wasn't coconut by the way. I have no idea what it was since I didn't taste it in my crepe. Maybe paper flakes? Rice flakes?

At this point, I thought that perhaps my time in Harajuku should end, lest I frighten more service people and send them crying or worse, to their knives with the intention of slaying me and offering me at a large markup. I did stop in the underground of La Foret, the place that Athena had been so keen to visit for their sales. I tried going to their bottom floor that had books and music since that was probably all that would interest me in this place. Of course, both the books and the CD's were lacking in their variety (I've seen more choices at the local 7-11 actually) so that ended quickly. I decided to start walking towards Shibuya since it was nearby. Took an alternate route that was actually very quiet and pieceful whenever the trains weren't roaring by. I find it amazing how quickly the noise from one area can disappear when you move maybe 200 meters from it. Had some time to think about random things while I was making the short walk towards Shibuya. Damned if I can remember what I thought about or if it was anything profound (doubt it) but I got to Shibuya feeling a little bit cold and tired.

Made my way to the only arcade I know of it Shibuya that has the Gundam card game and played a round to take the edge off of walking and warm myself up before eating. I find that if I sit down at some place feeling very cold and try to eat that the meal is never very good. Then I hopped across the street to my favorite rotating sushi bar (I think they recognize me now. I know. It's so hard to spot me here) to fill myself with the best damned sushi I've yet found in this town. Wandered back to the arcade to watch some of the guys playing this soccer card game. Basically, you collect cards and manage a European soccer club. One guy was actually there before, during, and after I went to sushi, a period of no less than 40 minutes. Not only that, but he was taking his sweet time playing. After one credit ended I watched him just sit there, twiddling his thumbs (not checking his phone, I've seen that as a common delay) and doing nothing. Man also had more cards than everyone else put together. Man would light up like a roman candle with all that cardboard on him. I sat and watched for a while before walking back down to the main plaza. It was too early to go home but I didn't know where I wanted to go. I wasn't in the mood to stop into a bar nor did I have the cash on me to do so. Instead I went towards one of the less popular areas of Shibuya to two other arcades and watched some virtual combat. After leaving the first one I nearly borked by ankle by not notcing a short drop as I was leaving and nearly fell into a couple that I would have almost certainly knocked out. Try explaining that one to the cops.

I watched people play for a little while at the second arcade before finally heading home. My ankle wasn't messed up but it would need rest and without the ability to walk I'm pretty much screwed here in Tokyo. On my way home I discovered that the new 7-11 had opened and the old one simple vanished. There was almost no trace of it ever existing and it was only by comparison of nearby stores that I figured out where it was. One day, it was here and the next it was gone, forever forgotten. I stopped in and decided to try out one of Kirin's beverages that wasn't beer. It was a lemon drink that was supposed to be 6% and I figured what's the worst that could happen. It tasted exactly like someone took low end sparkling lemonaide and poured in some cheap rubbing alcohol. I finsihed it up before doing some reading online before finally going to bed.

Photos for February 3rd, 2007