Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Otaku" tour of Tokyo! Day 2

Day 2 (Sunday, October 11th) we headed out to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka!! Even though it was my third visit there, it was still a lot of fun. Plus, I got to try out the autumn menu in the Straw Hat Cafe!! I had the Open Sandwich with Meatloaf and Cheese (麦わらぼうしの手作りミートローフサンド), Sunset Cream Soda (夕焼けクリームソーダ), and Pumpkin Chiffon Cake with Ice Cream (かぼちゃシフォンケーキ)!! Nate had the Katsu Sandwich (くいしんぼうのカツサンド) and Mikan Juice.

As usual, I ended up buying a fair bit at both the gift shop and book shop. In particular, there was a book, Asobi no Fuukei (秋田、遊びの風景) written and illustrated by Oga Kazuo (男 鹿和雄) that was about his childhood in Akita Prefecture. Since Akita Prefecture is right below Aomori and part of the Tohoku area, I simply had to buy it! Of course, it will probably take me a really long time to actually finish reading (even with the pictures, it's a lot of text!), but it's good Japanese practice, so I'll do my best! ^___^

Oh, and when I went there in spring with my mom & dad and friends Brenda & Cecilia, my parents bought me a set of (5) Totoro glasses and coasters. This time (with Nathan), I bought myself a set of (5) Totoro pudding bowls! =P I don't expect to actually make pudding, but I can always use them for ice cream or something. 

Apart from things that I purchased for myself, I also got an awesome present from Nate: a Totoro necklace!! I'd actually wanted the necklace since the first time I visited the museum in April 2008, but since it was a little over 10,000 yen ($100) I could never justify the cost to myself. But since Nathan offered to buy it for me, well... ^___^ I'd say it's probably my favourite piece of jewelry right now.

After Ghibli, we headed to Odaiba to check out The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). Unfortunately since we got there fairly late in the afternoon, the really cool-looking simulator rides/experiences were already closed. There was still plenty to see/do, but it was pretty busy and I think neither of us felt like waiting for all the children to finish playing with various exhibits so we could try them out, so I think we didn't get as full of an experience of the Miraikan as we could have. 

But still, I learned about bioplastics--plastics produced by plants. It's pretty cool. I guess I had heard of it before--water bottles made from corn--but hearing about it at the Miraikan I was still like "Woah, that's really cool." Of course I'm sure there's probably a big debate about using plants to make plastics instead of using them (or the land used to grow such plants) for food, but it was interesting to learn more about the science behind it.

After the Miraikan we wandered around Odaiba for a while. We stopped by the Fuji TV building (although we didn't go inside), saw a replica Statue of Liberty, and wandered through the Aqua City and Decks Tokyo Beach shopping centres. We had sushi/sashimi for dinner at a restaurant in Decks Tokyo Beach. 

Once we were done at Odaiba, we headed to Tokyo Tower. It was a lot more crowded than I expected it to be. @_@ To get tickets to the Special Observatory (250m) you had to buy tickets for the main observatory (150m), go up and then buy the tickets from there. I can't remember exactly how long we waited, but I think it was probably close to an hour and we barely made it to the last admission time (although I think they extended it that night since there were lots of people who were in line and were able to come up after us... But the view from the Special Observatory really was a lot better than from the Main Observatory, so I guess it was worth all the waiting. ^__^

Oh, and apparently we were also lucky to see a "Special Day Only Light Veil, Diamond Veil: New light up performs in the Tokyo night. On special days the Tokyo Tower glistens like it is covered in a diamond veil."

Diamond Veil illumination

Regular illumination

After Tokyo Tower, we went to the National Diet Building.(国 会議事堂). This is where the "otaku" part really becomes obvious...

The reason we went there--and why we went specifically at night--is because my brother (well, I am, too) is a big fan of the manga/anime series "X" by CLAMP. The Diet Building is a prominent location in the series since one of the characters, the dream seer Hinoto is employed by the national government and actually lives (and works) in the basement. Since the characters usually visit the building at night, my brother also wanted to see it at night! 

As we were walking to the building, we saw a police/security guy walking around the perimeter of the grounds. Then when we got to the main entrance, we saw a police car parked in front of the gate! With the car there, it was a little intimidating to go right up to the gate, so we went across the street and stood in the median area and took pictures from there. (Which was probably more suspicious than if we'd simply gone up to the gate, but oh well...) As we were finishing up with our pictures, we saw a man and a young boy (presumably father and son) run right up to the gate, pointing excitedly before running off.

Seeing them we got the courage to go up to the gate as well and so we took more pictures from there. While we were taking pictures, the two (or possibly just the boy? I can't quite recall...) reappeared with a woman--presumably the mother. Who knew the Diet Building was such a popular night attraction? I mean, it was around 11pm when we were there! =P 

After that we went back to the hotel where we packed our bags (in preparation for checking out the next day)  

(See my complete album from Nate's trip to Japan at

"Otaku" tour of Tokyo! Day 1

I started writing this post a long time ago, but wasn't able to complete/publish it because I was "distracted" by the accident and my crazy busy Nihonbuyo practice schedule (among other things) after that...

And yes, I'm aware that "otaku" has more negative connotations in Japan (i.e., a hardcore fan obsessed to the point that it's pitiful/weird/scary) than it does in Canada/America (where it's more a badge of honour--i.e. a highly dedicated/knowledgeable fan), but I'm Canadian so... *shrug*

So yes, we arrived at Tokyo Station around 10am on Saturday, October 10. After dropping our bags off at the hotel (check-in wasn't until 3pm), we headed for the Square Enix Character Goods Shop Showcase. Nate only bought a key chain, but I ended up buying a Chocobo keychain (a number of my Kirita students were impressed/envious when they saw it =P), a chirping Chocobo chick toy, and a Final Fantasy Mascot Umbrella. I was tempted to buy a necklace (a FFVII Materia Pendant--either Meteor or Holy) and Nate, being the nice brother that he is even offered to pay for it, but I knew I probably wouldn't wear it that often and so I refrained.

After that we had lunch at a ramen shop--Keika Kumamoto Ramen-- near Shinjuku Station that was recommended by my Tokyo Encounters (Lonely Planet) guide. It was fast and tasty. (Plus Nate got to see what it's like buying a ticket from a vending machine for a restaurant food order.) After that we decided to check out Sweets Paradise. I thought it would just be a regular cake shop, but it turned out to be a dessert buffet (you could also eat actual meal food, like spaghetti, salad, sandwiches, and curry). Despite having just eaten ramen, we both managed to have two plates of desserts each--credit goes to the "betsu bara" i.e. separate stomach (for dessert).

Then we went back to the hotel to check in. After a short rest, we headed back out to hit the Taikokan (Drum Museum). Although it was smaller than I expected (it was on the fourth floor of a shop), it was still pretty fun since you could bang away on various drums and other percussion instruments from different countries.

After that we went to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Even though it's supposed to be open until 7:30pm on Saturdays (with last admission 30 minutes before closing), it was already closed/closing when we got there around 6:30pm. =(  So we just snapped some photos of the Sumo Hall and then wandered over to the Yokoami-cho Park for a bit. (Nate had noticed a pagoda structure while we were at the Edo-Tokyo Museum entrance and wanted to investigate.)

Even though neither of us was particularly hungry, we headed to Tsukishima's so-called "Monjayaki Street" for dinner. Monjayaki is apparently a local specialty of Tokyo, and it's kind of like okonomiyaki, except that when it's cooked it doesn't have any particular shape and is just kind of a blob of ingredients on the grill (which you eat off the grill using a mini spatula). Unfortunately I'd forgotten that Nate wasn't so good with cabbage (a main ingredient of monjayaki), but at least he was able to have a truly "Tokyo" experience.

After that we headed out to Shibuya because Nate wanted to see some of the places--the Hachiko Statue and Shibuya 109--seen/featured in the Nintendo DS The World Ends with You (すばらしきこのせかい) game. The Hachiko Statue was surprisingly difficult to find. I was expecting lots of signage and a fairly large statue, but we had to look around for a bit to find it.

It turned out to be a good thing that he went to see Shibuya 109 with me instead of waiting to see it on his own/with his (guy) friend when he returned to Tokyo the following weekend because Shibuya 109 was the most girly mall I've ever been to. It was pretty much just female fashion/accessory stores inside. Though it was somewhat interesting observing the various fashions of the people in the store, it was WAY too much for me. *shudder*

We walked randomly around Shibuya for a while before going to Tower Records--where Nate bought Tokyo and Kyoto guidebooks--and finally heading back to the hotel.

(See my complete album from Nate's trip to Japan at