In Kyoto, locals of all ages stared at me. Someone said that it was my light hair and eyes – the sign of a demon. Not your average bad guy demon, but a sort of spirit. The idea still made me uncomfortable. However, when we got to Tokyo, I was the one doing the staring. I couldn’t believe there were so many people in uniform and the same dressed in crazy shoes, wigs, even revealing their butt cheeks in tiny shorts. I could people watch for days. I could play intense arcade games for months and I could fall in love with a city, time and time again, for a lifetime. I could not be much more different from the Japanese yet I felt at home, or maybe it was just a wishful thought. Tokyo put love and detail to even the smallest things. They did they unthinkable in the most enchanting ways – an honest real-life wonderland. I was lucky to take a stroll through and be a part of the story, just for a few days.
Tokyo had different districts or neighborhoods. It took a while to navigate from the subway system, but I had to see Shibuya, Harajuku, the bright electric town of Akihabara, and the Alice restaurant in Ginza
We checked into this adorable boutique hotel, which of course gave us robes, slippers, an electric tea pot and mugs. After the 3rd hotel providing these, I guessed it’s pretty standard. I loved this hotel because it wasn’t too expensive for being right in the heart of Shibuya, while having serious character. The station and Shibuya Crossing (Japanese Time Square) was an easy walk. Our first hotel in Tokyo, you could just barely walk around the bed. Even between restaurants and stores, space was a constant issue, but here I could open my suitcase.
We chose Shibuya as our home base, as it was easy to get to the bullet train and other subway lines, not to mention there were endless things to do at all hours. We spent an entire day just visiting arcades and random stores. Our favorite game had always been air hockey. Come to our surprise Tokyo had a 4-way air hockey machine that would randomly spit out a ton of pucks. We HAD to try it for ourselves and dragged a poor helpless couple who didn’t speak English to the table. Game On.
The lights signaled to walk and it was go time. People from every direction, diagonally, wherever, made their way across somehow without getting trampled and landing themselves in the hospital. We were off to discover badass manga displays and high-tech vending machines, spitting out hot coffee on command.
109 Shopping Center
The 109, the fiercest of all shopping centers, contained floors and floors and floors of small boutiques, each incredibly stylized. You could probably spend an entire day here, it’s so overwhelming. If I lived here, I would no doubt wear crazy 6″ platform sneakers and all the pom-pom apparel I could find.
I honestly tried to avoid department stores. I was looking for that old falling apart wooden shop that had a prosperity medallion waiting for me. Those shops were not easy to find, but desserts were in the plenty. I often had to settle for a nice cup of complimentary tea as I sampled fresh cakes and cookies.
We tried every food we could from Japanese Italian, Argentinian, to the fast food, noodles, and of course, gyoza. The first one we tried was a traditional tatami room, where we had to check our shoes in and eat sitting on the floor. Surprisingly, we ordered through a machine and the yummy food kept coming.
I unfortunately didn’t to see a ton of “harajuku girls” in Harajuku. They seemed to be spread out throughout the districts or hanging out in the park. The Kawaii purchasing options were still amazing. I loved the gothic Lolita clothing stores. I had never seen anything like it. I wondered what their Halloween looked like. Maybe it was just another day of self-expression.
We went to the Hello Kitty store, which had to be THE Sanrio capital of the world. I wished it had been just slightly bigger though. I had imagined Tokyo would have its own 109 floors of Hello Kitty merchandise floating up to the heavens.
A few minutes from the eclectic streets of Harajuku, you’ll find a beautiful peaceful park. We were short on time to discover its well-known ponds but enjoyed a short stroll, suddenly craving some sake.
Ginza, the 5th Avenue of Tokyo, was a little more upscale, a little more designer, a little more commercial, and truthfully slightly more boring than the other districts. The pristine streets had its own twinkle but I didn’t come to Tokyo to see the Apple Store. In any case, the Alice in Wonderland restaurant and Ice Bar happened to be here so I enjoyed it anyway. For more quirky restaurant pictures, please visit my Maid Cafe post here 🙂
Akihabara – Electric Town AKA Nerd City
My geek of a fiancé was incredibly excited to buy a comicbook in the nerd capital of Japan. We walked into a shop that looked promising – nope, porn. Floors and floors of just comic book porn, even young girls were reading them. We tried other comic book-looking towers. They surely had to have one non-porn comic book section. We went were unsuccessful in this side quest but we did find some interesting games, a set of Magic cards, and of course Gao Gao.
At Akihabra station, you’ll find maids with signs, all trying to recruit you to their maid cafe. We had our share of fun-filled awkwardness. Please read my other post for all the juicy details.
Our iPhone cameras couldn’t exactly capture how electric the “town” really was but this car could be a nice start. I loved the bright lights, the colored details. I bet it would be incredibly easy to turn Akihabara into its own comic – just insert some black lines.
I didn’t go to go to the insane ninja restaurant, the Christian restaurant, the robot restaurant, the prison restaurant, or the other wonderlands and karaoke spots. I couldn’t afford a legit Kobe beef steak or my own harajuku wardrobe. Regardless, I had the trip of a lifetime and hoped to be back very soon. I tried not to frequent countries as I had too many on my bucket list, but there’s just way too much here for one trip. I’d have to make an exception.
© Faith’s True Tales 2015. All original words, images, and video by Faith and Nathan Brady.