Sep 15

Japan 2015: Walking around Akihabara and Ginza

Date: March 22, 2015

After spending way too much time at Yodobashi Akiba, I moved further into the heart of Akihabara district.

Akihabara underbridge Tokyo Japan

Ahh, wide footpaths

Gundam Cafe Akb48 shop Akihabara Tokyo

Yup, that’s a Gundam Cafe and next to it the official AKB48 Cafe & Shop :) For the uninitiated, Gundam is a popular mecha manga/anime/videogame franchise and AKB48 is the biggest (literally) girl group (literally) in Japan. And both cafes had long lines outside.

Akihabara building Tokyo Japan

Akihabara maybe the home to otaku/nerd/geek culture, but there are plenty of offices around

Akihabara Road Tokyo panorama

When I reached the main road, I just stood there with a smile :-) An area with so many videogames, anime, gadgets… couldn’t believe such a place exists, but hey, I’m finally in Akihabara!

Club Sega Sofmap Akihabara Tokyo

I was tempted to enter Club Sega, but I turned around instead

Akihabara electronics store Tokyo

This was a complex of stores selling spare parts, electrical components and retro gadgets

Electronic components market Akihabara Tokyo

Definitely a place for electronics hobbyists

Wires spare parts Akihabara Tokyo

I just wonder how many still build stuff from scratch in the days of easy consumption

Cosplayers Akihabara Tokyo Japan

I crossed over to the main hub of Akihabara district

Akky One Gigo Sega Akihabara Tokyo

There were so many enticing buildings, but I had to get around quickly

Doner kebab Akihabara Tokyo Japan

I knew it was time for lunch, but I somehow thought I’d finish walking around Akihabara first

Hirose game Akihabara Japan

Lot’s of girls trying to entice men (mostly) to enter maid cafes

Street sale Akihabara Tokyo

A few stores had street sales but I didn’t find all the prices as low as they were claiming it to be

Computer parts PC store Akihabara Tokyo

Most computer stores look like this and advertise product prices as such

Kotobukiya Akihabara Tokyo Japan

This is the famous Kotobukiya store

Kotobukiya Studio Ghibli toys Akihabara

Kotobukiya is a popular retailer and manufacturer of licensed collectible toys, model kits and other merchandise

Inside Kotobukiya Akihabara Tokyo Japan

Kotobukiya is five floors of anime, video game, and manga pop culture goodness (Floor guide)

Kotobukiya anime toys Akihabara

I wasn’t familiar with some of the anime and manga

Kotobukiya figurine floor Akihabara

I went to the 4th floor to check out the action figures and model kits

Kotobukiya figures toys Tokyo

It was pretty awesome to see some of the figures!

Pacific Rim comic action figures Kotobukiya

It’s not just Japanese characters too. You got Western pop culture favourites too, but the figures are mostly created by Japanese companies

Transformers figures limited edition Kotobukiya

Like these really detailed limited edition collectibles based on the Transformers movies. Super expensive too!

Ultraman action figure Kotobukiya Tokyo

But you still have famous Japanese characters, like Ultra Man and Gojira

Metal Gear Solid action figures Kotobukiya

Lot of models from the Metal Gear Solid games

Metal Gear Solid snake Raiden Kotobukiya

Really wanted one of these Raiden figurines, but a lot of the models on display have already been sold out

Armored Core toys Kotobukiya

These mecha were from the Armored Core videogames. Awesome, aren’t they?

Anime exhibition display Kotobukiya

The 5th floor is an event space for exhibitions and live events

Anime girls Akihabara street Tokyo

I left Kotobukiya after realizing I spent too much time in there

Animate shop Akihabara Tokyo store

Animate is a large manga and anime store

Maid cafe Akihabara Tokyo

Maid cafes are all over Akihabara

SSD hard drives Akihabara shops

I was checking out prices for SSD and laptop hard drives. Prices weren’t that much lower than what it costs back in India.

Taito game station Sofmap Akihabara

I wanted to spend more time in Akihabara today, but i knew I was going to be back here towards the end of journey

It was already well past what is considered ‘lunchtime’ so I had to eat something, but where? There weren’t too many restaurant options in Akihabara and so where did I end up for my first lunch in Japan?

McDonalds prawn burger Tokyo

McDonalds. I know. But I didn’t want to spend time wondering where and what to eat when it was already late. So I had a prawn burger meal, costs ¥650 (Rs.350/$5/€4)

Live stage Akihabara Tokyo

As I sat above and ate my meal, I noticed a stage show going on across the road

Teenage DJ girl Akihabara Japan

I had to check it out. It looked like some teenage DJ playing some tunes and her fans were doing co-ordinated dances.

Feather stage show fans Akihabara

There was another stage show happening further up ahead for the same promotion. It was for something called Feather. I don’t know if it was an anime, manga, or a video game? But still, funny to watch otakus dance in solitude with so much fervour

Model flyers Akihabara Tokyo

And they had all these girls dressed in white sweaters and tartan skirts giving away pamphlets and buttons

Tokyo Anime Center Akihabara Japan

I made a quick visit to the Tokyo Anime Center

Akihabara map anime center Tokyo

You can get free maps of Akihabara, guidebooks and even hire English-speaking tour guides from here

Inside Tokyo anime center Akihabara

Besides that they also sell merchandise and souvenirs at this store

Kirin vending machine getting refilled

I didn’t feel like leaving Akihabara just yet, so I walked around some more

Trader Akihabara Tokyo Japan

I entered Trader, another popular Akihabara store. Trader, as the name suggests, specializes in second hand video games and DVDs. That said, you do get the latest stuff on the ground floor.

PS3 Dreamcast Gameboy games Trader Akihabara

The upper floors are where the real gems are. Old games, all neatly packed, from the previous generation of consoles. Sega Dreamcast, NES, PlayStation 1 to 3, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo 64 and many more!

Videogame cartridges Trader Akihabara

They also had tubs of cartridges for NES games and Game Boy/GBA. I spotted a Captain Tsubasa game (Captain Majid in the Gulf) :-)

Classic DVDs Trader Akihabara Tokyo

The floor above it was full of anime DVDs, both classics and recent shows

Trader also had a floor for adult DVDs but no photography allowed there.

Club Sega Akihabara Tokyo

I couldn’t leave Akihabara without checking Club Sega, a massive arcade

Hatsune Miku UFO catcher Akihabara

Hatsune Miku UFO catcher :-)

UFO catchers Club Sega Akihabara

In fact, they had several themed UFO catchers

UFO catcher stuffed toys

All those stuffed toys waiting to get picked

Girl playing dressup game Tokyo arcade

They had all sorts of unique arcade games. This was some sort of dressing up game?

Wonderland Wars arcade Akihabara Tokyo

This was a MOBA called Wonderland Wars, in which you use a stylus and touchscreen

Project Diva Club Sega Tokyo Japan

More Hatsune Miku games, this one in the Project DIVA rhythm game series

Mai Mai Taiko drums arcade Akihabara

Taiko Drum Master (right) still going strong. To the left was this fast-paced rhythm game called Mai Mai.

Check out how well some girls play this game:

Arcades Club Sega Tokyo Japan

The top floor was mostly filled with arcade games that make use of readable cards

Card strategy arcade game Tokyo

I don’t know how the games work… ‘cos it was all new to me. I have never seen arcade games like this before.

Fighting games Club Sega arcade

That said, you still have you popular arcade classics, and it’s not all by SEGA

I got to see Tekken 7 in action:

Mario Kart arcade Club Sega

Mario Kart, 4 player arcade

Afterburner Climax Club Sega Tokyo

SEGA’s classic Afterburner

House of the Dead arcade Club Sega

And The House of the Head railgun shooter. Man, SEGA should revive Virtua Cop and The House of the Dead franchises for VR devices!

Akihabara shops Tokyo Japan

Alas, it was time for me to step back out into the light

Akihabara open space Tokyo Japan

It was time to finally leave Akihabara. I did visit some more stores but didn’t photographs because there wasn’t anything new in there. I didn’t find Super Potato, a famous store for retro videogames.

Subway Ginza line Tokyo train

I hopped on the train and decided to go to Ginza

Kabukiza theater Ginza Tokyo Japan

I came out the exit near the famous Kabuki-za theater, where a Kabuki dramas are staged

Kabuki theater Ginza shows

Ticket prices aren’t cheap

Ginza buildings Tokyo Japan

Not that I came to Ginza to watch a Kabuki play

Seiko clock tower Ginza store Tokyo

Ginza is the premier shopping district in Japan

Ginza shopping street Tokyo stores

You can find the flagship stores of many of the world famous brands here. But I wasn’t here to shop at Prada.

Uniqlo flagship store Ginza Tokyo

I came to Ginza mainly to check out the 12-storey Uniqlo store here, which is the largest in Tokyo

Tokyo was a lot colder than I thought, and so I came looking for more clothing to keep me warm throughout the rest of my journey. I ended up buying a fair bit as the sale was pretty damn good and I got a clothes (including a pair of winter pants, two sweatshirts, a shirt and a pair of socks) all for ¥4405 (Rs. 2420/$36/€32)!

Uniqlo Ginza store Tokyo Japan

This was the top most floor, which was for co-branded Uniqlo clothing

Abercrombie & Fitch store Ginza Tokyo

Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store

Ginza shopping district Tokyo

There was a Citibank branch here, so I made the most of it and withdrew some money without any transaction fees charged to my card

Dior Giorgio Armani store Ginza Tokyo

I did walk around Ginza a bit and visited the GAP and Zara stores, but didn’t end up buying anything. I quite liked the architecture of some of the premier brand stores.

Ginza subway station Tokyo

But it was time to head back to Ueno

Ramen shop Ueno Tokyo

Near Kinuya Honkan was a ramen shop. Saw it packed with people, so I figured the food must be good.

Food order vending machine Japan

You pay for your meal using these vending machines

You first pay an amount based on the food prices. For example, I wanted a spicy pork ramen which was ¥650 (₹350/$5/€4). After you put in the ¥650, the buttons for all the dishes that are priced ¥650 light up. The machine accepts coins and notes. You then select the dish you want, collect your change and the token. You just hand over the token at the counter and they prepare the ramen. It’s quick and served piping hot.

Pork ramen Ueno Tokyo Japan

It was delicious, and I was quite satisfied!

Back in Kinuya Honkan, I re-packed my bags and called it a night after a hot bath. Tomorrow I was going to leave Tokyo and head to Kyoto. My first journey in a bullet train!

Previous posts in this series:

Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba

Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time

Sep 15

Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba

Date: March 22, 2015

I woke up at around 8AM. I wanted to sleep some more since it was cold and all, but I was excited to go to Akihabara, the electronics and otaku district!

Kinuya Honkan hotel lobby Ueno Tokyo

I had to come down to the lobby to get my clothes as I had to leave my big suitcase in the room opposite the reception. No big suitcases allowed in the dorms due to lack of space. It was a little inconvenient, but… oh well.

Kinuya Honkan hostel Ueno Tokyo

This is the entrance to Kinuya Honkan

Ueno street Tokyo morning Japan

This street and the surrounding areas are choc full of bars and small eateries

Ueno lane Tokyo Japan

Saw a lot of people riding bicycles, which was nice

Cyberspark pachinko Ueno Tokyo

A few pachinko arcades on this street

Pachinko queue morning Ueno Tokyo

There was a queue forming outside this pachinko arcade. Some new game based on the Ultraman franchise was launching today.

Ueno shops Pachinko lane Tokyo

This is the entrance to the street Kinuya Honkan is located on

Pedestrian crossing Ueno Tokyo winter

Right across the road is Ueno station, one of the largest hubs in the Tokyo train network and a major interchange station. I always choose my hotels and hostels near a metro station.

7-11 food Tokyo Japan

I went to a 7-Eleven to pick up some breakfast and coffee. I was amazed to see the variety of ready-to-eat meal boxes on shelves!

Pedestrian overbridge Ueno station Tokyo

I climbed up a pedestrian over bridge to get a look around

Ueno station train Tokyo Japan

Trains, it’s how most people get around in Japan

Smoking bays Ueno overbridge Tokyo

Those were designated smoking bays

Steps pedestrian bridge Ueno Tokyo

I went back down and entered Ueno station (the black cars are taxi limousines)

Continue reading “Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba” »

Sep 15

Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time

Finally! It happened! I made it to Japan!

Ever since I was a small kid I was fascinated with Japan. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Japan’s influence — especially its pop culture — was quite strong on me. Be it Macross/Robotech being the very first anime/cartoon I remember watching, to the ‘Made in Japan’ products we so revered in those days. Heck, even a pencil box I had with the bullet trains on the cover is still etched in my memory to this very day. And to think, nearly three decades later, I would actually ride the shinkansen this time!

I planned my journey around the sakura season, which in itself was a challenge. It’s hard to predict when the cherry blossoms would fully bloom. I went by this sakura calendar, and decided to travel late March. At the same time, I couldn’t afford to stay in Japan for too long. For the simple reason being… Japan is expensive! Yes, because of the value of yen right now, it’s cheaper, but it’s still a pretty damn expensive country compared to its neighbours.

None the less, this being my first time in Japan, I obviously wanted to spend more time in Tokyo. Outside of Japan’s capital, my initial plan was to go to Hiroshima, but everyone recommended Kyoto over it. So it was going to be Tokyo -> Kyoto -> Himeji -> Tokyo. I just hoped the sakura would bloom in full by the time I got back to Tokyo.

But I had to get to Tokyo first!

Date: March 21, 2015

My flight to Haneda airport was via Bangkok, which meant I was going to be flying Thai Airways.

Thai Airways chicken meal

I have taken enough photos of flights from Bangalore to Bangkok and at Suvarnabhumi Airport so don’t expect anymore photos from this route. But here’s what I ate on my flight to Bangkok.

Thai Airways pork meal Haneda flight

And on the flight from Bangkok to Haneda

I was okay with flying to Haneda because my return journey was going to be from Narita. This way, I would get to see both airports that service Tokyo. In a way I was happy I got Haneda for this flight due to the late arrival at Tokyo. Haneda Airport is located in Tokyo itself, unlike Narita which is quite far out.

Haneda Airport night landing Japan

I landed in Tokyo past 9PM

I didn’t spend too much time taking photos from inside Haneda airport as all I saw was halls and halls of travelators. Being the second largest airport serving Tokyo, Haneda is still pretty huge! Immigration had a queue but it moved fairly quickly, and they had English-speaking staff on hand to assist visitors. Continue reading “Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time” »

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