Wandering through the random little side streets and passages of Tokyo is an interesting experience, especially up in the northern parts of town. There isn't nearly as much commercial opportunity since most of this area is residential. All those people have to live somewhere and they seem to be packed into tiny apartments in random parts of town. The only commercial operations were tobacco and small market stores unless you happened to find a shopping area. The random twists and turns show how Tokyo grew without much city planning. I found more than one dead end that could have continued another 15 feet to connect to another road but instead was blocked by a series of tiny houses. Found a college and walked around the outside of the campus. I still find it odd that the schools here often have fences and bars surrounding them. Are they there to keep people out or keep the students in? When I finally found an entrance I could have easily walked in.
Stopped for a bit at a telephone to call up my father. He wanted me to get a phone card so I could call him up and I figured it was a good a time as any. We chatted for a little while. He's heading back to the states to help someone with some health issues. After that I continued walking until I found another station, one whose name I cannot recall. Near it was another shopping area that I walked through but found nothing special or unique about the place. Spotted another public bathhouse but resisted the urge since I knew I still had a lot of walking to do. Spent some time walking along what seemed like a main road. It felt very much like being back in Europe for some reason. You're going along a road that doesn't seem to have much on one side and then BAM large buildings dedicated to one specific product. Hard to describe. Finally figured out just where the hell I was and how to get to Akabane station. Walked through a few more side streets and made an observation that I've since seen repeatedly.
Unless you're in one of the main areas of the town or one where things are constantly being kept up, many of the buildings show their wear and tear quite severely. I've seen more rust stains, cracked and peeling stucco and rotted plastic tubes here than I've seen in other cities. Granted, perhaps I merely never noticed it before but it seems very common around here. You can see large black stains under the junction between a pipe and a building. Many of the apartment complexes I've noticed seem to be smaller than I had thought imaginable. What I find odd is that all these complexes are spaced far apart from one another. I saw a series of apartment buildings that were no less than 50 feet apart from each other. Surely they could have extended the buildings somewhat and put that empty space to work. It wasn't even as if the area was being used as a park or garden, just cracked, ugly, barren soil. Maybe it has something to do with earthquake safety codes but from what I've seen in other areas I doubt it.
Finally arrived at the Akabane station area and walked around for a while, looking for some place to eat. Some of the places seemed alright but only listed their menu items in Kanji and I hate going outside with the waiter to point at my food. Also finally found an arcade that had the porno games that I had remembered from my first few trips to Japan but hadn't seen on this journey. Allow me to explain. Basically, people play at Majong or some other game and when they win they get to see something, either nude artwork or a picture or sometimes a video. Now the first two I've seen already but I hadn't seen the games that offered full out clips of live action (as opposed to animated) porn videos. Finally saw them. Can't say I'm exactly happy or sad or anything of the sort. Just reminded me of the first trip I took to Japan and how amazed I was such a thing existed. Anyways, I walked around but eventually came to a familiar chain of Ramen resturants that I've eaten at in Akihabara, Shinjuku and now Akabane. It was good food, but I can only allow myself to eat Ramen so many times in a row (unless it's from Ichiran Ramen, the place next to the Kodokan), otherwise my body starts to get upset. Walked around for a while more and aside from seeing a few aspiring musicians and lots of women randsacking stores for cheap chocolate nothing caught my eye.
Decided to head back towards the main part of Tokyo and took the Saikyo all the way down to Shinjuku. Walked around and visited the arcade that I usually go to and found that they were having a Gundam Card Builder tournament. All 16 slots were filled and I honestly think if I had been there earlier I probably would have entered. Doubt I would have won as the people who made it to the upper levels of the tournament seemed like very skilled and experienced players. A lot of the EFSF players liked just putting tons of points into one character, Amuro Ray and just trying to win using him. That character is the primary hero for the Gundam series and I think that he's pretty damned overpowered. He tends to get hit less and dodge more often than his point cost should allow. Still, in the end a Zeon player defeated an EFSF for the tournament. The Zeon player played wonderfully with his smaller force. Basically, his opponent fielded four gundams to his two, but he used his two to effectively pull off hit and run tactics, dodging and picking off his enemies until they were all dead. Very interesting to watch.
Left the arcade for a while. I can't be in them for too long due to the massive amount of noise and smoke. My ears are usually ringing by the time I leave. I set out for a coffee/tea shop to get something to snack on. As I crossed one of the crossways I noticed a guy in a suit with a long coat running up to girls to give them cards, most likely trying to recruit them for hostess or some other kind of job. This guy also started running up to this person with long, black hair and got almost next to them before realizing it was a guy. He stopped and just seemed relieved that he hadn't just given a guy this card for female work. I thought it was the funniest thing and the guy heard me laughing at him. Shortly after I found a little cafe offering a slice of cake and coffee for a decent price so I sat down, enjoyed my cake a coffee while reading my history book. Kinda relaxing except for the times when the guys next to me decided to light up. Really starting to get sick of all the smoking. After that I stopped in Don Quixote to get some Cherry Coke and then returned to the arcade. Played some more Raiden 3 and I think I'm slowly starting to get better.
Only stayed in the arcade for about an hour before heading back to the train station and for home. Accidently got onto the wrong line (Shounan-Shinjuku) but it still took me to Ikebukuro where I hopped off and got onto the Saikyo. It was packed as usual and this time I just held onto the ceiling bar and refused to move. That meant I stopped the squish of people and royally pissed off some jackasses who kept insisting on trying to ram themselves into the train. Granted, I know that people get smashed into trains here but there is a limit on how much one area can take. They finally gave up and headed towards another car on the train. Got off the train and headed home to relax and try to get to bed at a decent hour. Naturally, I failed. Turned off the lights at 2am but didn't fall asleep until close to 3am.
Photos for February 13th, 2007