Michaela kept a daily blog so most of the text is from her, my additions are in colour - Matakishi.
So day 1 didn't start off too great, I had had basically no sleep the night before and needed to be awake to say goodbye to my mum before she went to work. Thankfully once I did I managed to get a few hours sleep but I was feeling pretty crap. Especially as the stress from the day before was still pissing me off.
Anyway I finished packing and Dad came home and we both eagerly waited for the taxi while watching dull daytime telly.
The trip to the airport went really smoothly, our taxi driver knew all the tricks to miss traffic and we were outside of Heathrow T2 within 30mins of leaving home. Terminal 2 has just been redone and only reopened a month ago. It's lovely and really nicely laid out.
We were actually too early for baggage drop and had to wait a bit but were both in high spirits so we didn't care. We got through security very quickly and went to go eat in the appropriately named Eat. The next two hours were spent waiting and generally being too early for all the next steps.
Finally at 19:05 we were able to board the plane.
We've currently been flying for 5hr 26mins and I haven't slept a wink. The man in front of me insists on having his window cover open lighting up the whole area. My eye mask isn't helping at all either. So right now I'm pretty pissed off.
I did enjoy Day 2 of the surprise wa arimasen concert on my laptop earlier though before I decided to try and sleep.
The dinner was also really great! Super tasty and good quality and the staff are lovely too. I just want to murder the man in front of me with my eye mask.
Anyway only 5hrs 39mins until we reach our destination and writing this has at least wasted 15mins.
The time Is almost 2am I have 5hrs 10mins until we reach our destination and I have still not slept. I hate this seat so much. I have a stupid fucking arm rest that I can't move and it's digging into my thigh and is actually a little painful. If I could just move it up I'd be 100000X more comfortable. I've also just lost my blanket as it fell onto the man behind me. And I gave dad my pillow earlier so now I have nothing to try and use as a pillow.
I'm so tired and so close to crying right now tbh. I know this trip will be worth it but right now I just want to be back in my bed. Also the dickhead still has his window cover open.
Okay it's now 9am Japan time (1am to me) and I am feeling much better. I didn't sleep at all on the plane and it really was super uncomfortable but the staff were lovely, the food was amazing (no really it was!) And the landing was so smooth you could barely tell we had landed.
For my part the flight was interesting enough but a little uncomfortable. I'm too fat for plane seats. Getting off the plane at Tokyo the heat hit us like a wall. I have never been so hot.
Customs and the entry bit went all well and I was able to buy our Suica cards and bus tickets to the hotel no problem.
We were planning on taking the monorail to the station near our hotel and then walking the final part, there's a dedicated tunnel that takes us right there. However, we were tired and the luggage was heavy so we chose to use the airport limo bus service instead.
This was my first time with formal Japanese culture. The staff at the bus stop loaded our luggage and then boarded the bus to thank us for using it with a short speech and a formal bow. As the bus pulled away all the staff lined the pavement and bowed formerly again.
An hour and a half later we were at the hotel. The room is small but has got all we need in it and the beds are comfy. Dad didn't sleep too well I heard him wake at 4 but thankfully because I didn't sleep on the plane (or the night before) I am well rested and already adjusted to Japan time. We ended up having dinner from a convenience store but it did the job.
Japanese toilets are amazing. I love Japanese toilets.
The SKE+sweets thing I got was amazing! Not sure what we'll be doing today but I'm feeling a lot happier now that we're here. Just gotta wait for Dad to get up.
Dinner from the 24hr shop in our hotel.
Japanese pillows are also amazingly good. The top pillow is standard stuff but there is a bottom supporting pillow filled with plastic tubes like macaroni which keeps it firm but still has a decent amount of 'give'.
We are in Japan!
It finally feels like it now that the travel stresses are over. It also feels very very very humid. I’m not great with heat but we’ve had the same temperatures back home and I had been better with it….turns out I can’t deal with humidity at all. Both Dad and I need to sit down in a cafe regularly to rest our feet and enjoy their aircon. But it’s not stopping us enjoying ourselves!
Today we explored Shinjuku (this time further than just the family mart down the road) and also went to Shibuya!
One of the back streets in Shinjuku behind our hotel. This is what I came to see!
Shinjuku is mainly an administrative area, holding the metropolitan building and lots of businesses, however the closer you get to the station the more shops there are. We got to walk through some proper Japanese side streets filled with neon and instantly felt more like we were in Japan (or at least the Japan from the movies we had watched and the games we had played!)
Our first meal of the day was at a coffee shop, I fumbled a bit with my Japanese and instead of a cappuccino and a latte we ended up with a black coffee and a latte….my latte was very nice, not sure about Dads ‘cappuccino’. I had bought a melon pan from the family mart in our hotel and Dad had a tiny sandwich from the cafe, which lasted about two bites.
This was the view from the cafe window. The sandwich was tiny and the coffee was pretty awful (somethng that was going to become a recurring theme for the trip) but it was great to be able to watch the cars and people go by and realise that you were somewhere completely different from where you were yesterday.
So when we came upon a McDonalds ordering a Big Mac meal with Coke was A, much easier and B, much needed.
You order the meal and someone makes it for you. It looks like the photo on the wall and hasn't been standing around on a warming plate for an hour. Funnily enough it doesn't take any longer to get either.
I didn’t have anything but Dad said that the Big Mac tasted better made and it certainly looked a lot more like the photo and commercials! (It didn’t last long enough for me to actually get a photo though, so just take my word for it).
Now fully charged we began to explore the side streets of Shinjuku, starting with an arcade!
Sumikko Gurashi, they were everywhere. More on these later.
This was a lot of fun though I didn’t win anything (I TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE WON THE LOVELIVE BADGE THOUGH!) Dad has video proof of me failing….that’ll be posted later I’m sure.
Here it is :)
We didn’t come away with nothing though, Dad got a cute Gacha cat thing that holds your phone up (sort of). We then continued to look around the shops which is where I got my colour changing light stick! Now I am prepared for any concert
We soon felt a little tired again though and needed a break so we went back to the hotel for a bit before heading out to Shibuya! We walked down what we thought was the entrance to a tube station but was actually an underground walkway. Also known as our new best friend. Its much cooler down there and takes us straight to Shinjuku Station (not somewhere I’d like to go again though its very busy and all sprawled out).
I wanna ice cream! waaaagh!
The walkways do have lots of shops and the first book shop I found I bought the AKB48XDog book, because why the hell not. It's super cute even for a cat person like me.
After figuring out where the hell we were going we got to Shibuya and found the Shibuya 109 exit (which incidentally was miles away from where we were). From our travels to Shinjuku I had found that my angel wing backpack was actually a giant pain in the ass. So we went to 109 to go and buy a new bag! Very exciting, even if I don’t wear anything remotely J-Fashion, I do love it and have always wanted to go there. All the girls (both customers and staff alike) were super cute and fashionable. I felt really unfashionable in comparision ;3;. I ended up with this bag from Ober Tashe, not a brand I had heard of but the girl was really nice and happy and cute and the bag was just the right size and is pretty cute too that I couldn’t resist, it was also in the sale!
The bag itself is great but the engrish on the plastic bag it came in was priceless.
Next we went to see the crossing and found a lovely cafe called L’Occitane (I didn’t know they did food I thought they just did smelly bath stuff) that looked down on it. The food was really good and the view was excellent! (even with the tree in the way).
L'Occitane was a great place. We got a place on the top floor in the photo below, above the sign. Japanese restaurants have baskets by your table where you can put your bags, hats etc so they're not in the way, another brilliant idea.
The food and drink were excellent. Japanese restaurants and cafes also provide free, endless, iced water which they hand out along with hand wipes as soon as you enter. These were a life saver as our trip progressed because the heat never let up.
We had a pretty good view of Shibuya crossing (apart from the tree). This is a famous crossing, seen in many movies and games. Shibuya station is a massive underground complex full of people, not the busiest station in the world- that honour goes to Shinjuku station, and every 15 minutes or so it disgorges thousands of people, many of whom then stream across Shibuya crossing.
Japan also has cute busses.
Here's Michaela after we crossed the crossing ourselves. We crossed it a few times and, later on, we drove across it in a taxi for the full crossing experience. You can see L'Occitane behind her.
After the crossing we had an important stop to make at the bus station, the very bus station that Jet Set Radio & JSR Future base their bus station off. This was a must see for Dad and I as we loved the games, and it looked almost exactly the same! We took loads of photos on the raised walkways despite all the people and the way the walkways bounced.
Here's L'Occitane again, at night.
We then took a walk down some side streets in Shibuya where I bought a lot of AKB stuff and finally after a sit down in Starbucks and a look round the Donki we got a taxi back as we were too exhausted to move.
Everything stays open until 10:00pm. The heat's a little less oppressive but the noise level is unbelievable (in a good way, it adds to the atmosphere immeasurably).
Here I am amidst the bustle.
Still amidst the bustle but staying cool and calm thanks to the millions of vending machines selling cold drinks.
Dinner, strawberry milk, melon pan and a pot noodle. Fantastic!
A great first proper day in Japan and I’m very excited about the next.
Today was a day full of geek. So it was of course spent at Akihabara! We started the morning off at a cafe in our hotel and had bacon and eggs, which was quite nice despite the small portion size.
Once again the people were so nice. The breakfast was a strange mixture of traditional English (the bacon is under the egg) and Japanese with added courgette and greenery. It was very nice though (except the coffee, again).
We then headed off to a different metro station (not wanting to walk 3 miles around all the tunnels in Shinjuku station) which took us past the Metropolitan building.
This is our hotel, the Shinjuku Washington. It's 25 stories tall and we were on the 13th around the back so you can't see our room from here. The windows on the top floor are for the restaurant.
The tube journey was stress free and we arrived at our destination ready for the day. As we avoided going to Shinjuku station and took a different line we actually arrived at the other end of Akihabara, but that worked to our favour as we weren’t completely overwhelmed.
The first shop we entered sold lots of anime figures. Most of which Dad knew nothing about however I managed to finally get my hands on Nendoroid Strength from Black Rock Shooter to complete my set!
I spent a lot of the morning hanging around under air conditioning fans waiting for my daughter. I was often in the way as Japanese shops are very small and cramped. They make up for this by all having many floors though, and lifts, thank God for the lifts.
Next stop was to AKB photo shops almost directly next to each other. This is not a place to let me stay long as I can spend way too much on AKB photos as many of my wota friends will know.
I restrained myself though (no really Dad I did) and only bought a few Myao and Sakiko (as well as Momo for Ali) and also got some coasters and another photo album (for a complete bargain! Hoping I find more as spending £15 on the ones on eBay do not compare to 380yen here). Oh I did also managed to get the 1830m Concert DVD for a bargain too, something I have wanted for ages!
After a quick stop at Excelsior Cafe (fast becoming our favourite stopping point) we continued on, the shops now becoming larger and much more obviously anime or game related.
Since I used it in the cafe I'm going to mention the wifi. Not wanting to run up huge international internet browsing bills we rented a wifi dongle from a local Japanese supplier. We ordered it through their website from our hotel room (the Shinjuku Washington hotel provides free wifi which was a major reason to choose it as our hotel) and it was delivered to the hotel about an hour later.
We received the dongle, allowing unlimited 3G download, and a spare battery pack with all the attendant wires and a little carry case for about £1.00 a day. There was also a prepaid envelope to put it all in when we were dome so the hotel could post it back to the supplier. Just brilliant! This, along with the Japan Rail iPad app was our most useful tool of the trip (apart from Chick maybe, see later).
LoveLive music was blasting from every shop, which coupled with the giant posters on the sides of buildings made me even sadder the 2nd season has ended. I ended up getting two LoveLive CDs in a sale and resisted buying the rather expensive concert DVD that was playing on a screen at the front of most stores.
We soon ventured off into a side street in which my Dad said “Quick, make the maid give me her leaflet”.
10 minutes later we are sat in a toy room themed Maid Cafe (Alone might I add) clapping our hands together to perform the magic that makes the food tasty.
I only wanted a bloody leaflet, not a trip to the cafe. Oh well...
However creepy that may sounds, and how weird my Dad found it (very weird) I actually loved the experience. Even with my broken Japanese I managed to have a decent conversation with our Maid and the food was really great too!
I also got a 2shot with her on a polaroid that she then decorated herself! Dad amused himself with the Sylvester and Tweety bird cartoon on the TV.
It was a very strange experience for me. I felt very out of place and uncomfortable. If we hadn't been the only patrons I probably would have felt better. The maids were very nice and professional and obviously didn't mind their costumes or their jobs but it still had overtones of 'dirty old man' to my uptight western mind.
Here's the outside of the cafe.
We continued on through the heat looking in a few more shops (and spending all our 100yen coins on Gacha machines) before we decided it was time to visit the AKB Cafe & Shop and the Gundam Cafe.
Having not eaten at the maid cafe Dad had a meal at the Gundam Cafe, neither of us follow Gundam but it was a nice atmosphere.
Once again the food was a fusion of the commonplace and the downright bizarre. Stew, rice, salad, noodles and...see the white stuff at the top? Soft cooked cold egg. Very odd.
Sadly my video of the Gundam toilet was too dark. Once inside you hit the 'power on' button and the lights dim, the engine sound starts ramping up and the toilet lid lifts automatically as the 'pilot ready' sign comes on. Brilliant stuff, I cycled it three times it was so good.
Followed shortly by Me spending stupid amounts of money of merch from the AKB shop that had Myao’s face on it. This was all good until I realised later that the lady had not given me the posters I had asked for (and paid for). Bit pissed at that but there was no way I could prove she hadn’t even if I spoke perfect Japanese. The cafe itself had a huge line and at that point I was too hot and tired to eat more overpriced food (even if it was for AKB).
Here's Michaela paying for stuff (some of which she didn't get). Never mind, we were so overloaded with stuff by the end of the holiday...but that's another story.
Finally we started to walk back towards the station, looking in a few more shops and listening to LoveLive fill the streets. I didn’t have the energy to explore Donki, but I’m sure we’ll be going back further on in the trip.
Our day ended with a short walk from the metro to the hotel in a huge thunderstorm. I welcomed the rain having been horribly hot all day but it did put a stop to anymore adventures for the day.
We finished off with a videocall with Mum (and the cats) and a convenience store dinner.
Day 4 started at 4am for us. Both of us woke up at 4 and neither of us could get back to sleep. (Though no lack of trying) We managed to entertain ourselves until 7 when we finally got out of bed and had an early breakfast from the cafe downstairs. I managed to get my first cup of black tea since I got here and it was a welcome break from the mass of coffee we’ve been drinking.
We ventured out into Shinjuku for a little more exploring a bit too early though. Most of the shops were shut and were accepting deliveries.
You know when you stop for a coffee and see a picture of some food on the display and just want it? Here's my early morning avocado and cheese hot dog.
We did manage to explore one store at least where Dad finally bought something! (hurrah it’s not just me buying stuff anymore). He got a few presents and a little thing for himself while I bought Free! keychains, sweets and a Pokemon purse. (I needed the purse as my usual one is the same size as my new bag. Now I can actually fit things in my bag! Also its cute and has Pikachu on it!!).
We also bought Chick today. We didn't realise it at the time but Chick (the larger of the two bags in this set) would become our pack mule as the trip continued. Chick carried everything we bought from now on.
It was a lot sunnier and hotter today than it had been and although we are adjusting to the humidity more and more each day the sun made it just a bit too unbearable so it was back to the hotel for a rest. While Dad slept I watched Youtube videos.
I lured Dad out of the room with the promise of a cat cafe and onto Ikebukuro we went.
Though the journey wasn’t stressful finding Sunshine City was a lot harder than expected. We originally came out on the wrong side of the station and continued walking that way for a little while before we turned back.
We did stop at a Moss Burger though, which was delicious.
Indeed it was, and easy to order because the ordering counter has pictures of everything on it, in every size so you can just point to what you want or the staff can point to the options if you have a choice.
After trekking back and consulting many maps we managed to finally navigate our way through the station (all of Tokyo’s stations seem to be huge and have between 4 and 50 different exits in each) and found Sunshine City.
This isn't our first view of Sunshine City, this is actually one of the roof sections we found later, but it's got the sign in it. This area had, plants, seats and, thankfully because it was still blisteringly hot, vending machines.
Of course it was time for another break which this time involved anime cake! I had that strawberry cake that is in all the animes (or at least the ones I watch) so I feel like I have unlocked an achievement. Dad had a Lemony cake, it looked good.
We knew the shop sold 'anime cake' because, like many Japanese cafes and restaurants, it had a display of wax food outside.
Here are the actual cakes.
Finally we began looking through Sunshine City, we had kind of missed all the shops leading up to the shopping center as we were looking for somewhere to sit and eat, so we’ll probably go back to visit that street (you can see the street in the last video as we walked back through it). Sunshine City is really just a large shopping mall with two theme parks in it.
40 years of Hello Kitty, here's to the next 40!
We had a little shop in which I spent way too much on soft toys.
(Pen and the boys from the Sumikko Gurashi range of merchandise - The height of Japanese cool, it has to be said.)
and then happened to walk out of what we thought was very high up but seemed to just be street level (this was the roof area shown above). It was from here that I saw an Animate shop and insisted we went over to look.
Which is a good thing we did as while walking over we passed a park. A park with cats in it! We hadn’t actually seen where the Cat Cafe was during our walk to sunshine city but this was a much preferred option. (even if I did get scratched by one and probably have rabies). There were about 10 cats in the park and the atmosphere was just what we both needed after the long day. We are both cat people and are missing our three from home quite a lot so this was a nice alternative.
After the cats I got to have a look in Animate (Nothing there as its not their main store anymore just their cafe) and the other anime shops near it and bought a LoveLive figure and some other merch. It was much nicer looking around there then the shops in Akihabara as they were better spaced out and weren’t packed!
A shop with Durarara!!! stuff before I knew what it was. A missed opportunity I feel but Michaela said they didn't actually have much. Still, have you seen the eBay prices for this stuff?! Having said that, have you seen the eBay prices for the Sumikko Gurashi stuff? Next time we go I might book a cargo container.
Our final stop before we headed back we went back into Sunshine City to go to the observation level. 60 floors up, after a pretty cool elevator ride,
we had fantastic views of the city. I’m really hoping all my photos came out nicely so I can share it with you.
Here's a selection. Unfortunately the long exposures and the window glass made most of them too blurry or full of reflections to show the real magnificence of the view. Fear not, there are some spectacular day time shots later on in the trip.
After looking from all sides we began the journey back, our feet hurt quite a bit and we didn’t really move once we go to the hotel.
Bye bye Sunshine City...
Hello new friend!
Ikebukuro at night is pretty much my idea of what Japan was going to be like. I'm so happy my dreams weren't shattered by the reality :)
I would love to go back to Ikebukuro to have a look at the main street, visit the aquarium and hopefully go to the cat cafe (or just the park again!) before we leave.
Day 5 started with a test of my nihongo skills. Dad had bought some items a day or two before but they were the wrong thing (I don’t want to be too specific they were presents).
So took them back to the shop in Shinjuku to exchange them for something different…..and we were successful!
Fantastic language skills displayed by Michaela here. I came away with some 3DS covers and accessories that were for the correct models my friends owned rather than the incorrect ones I'd bagged before.
We also got to see a rather impressive (if somewhat phallic) bank.
We celebrated by going to a little cafe for Ice cream latte’s, though the experience was ruined a little by all the smokers.
We decided to venture further on from the cafe and the places we had previously visited when in Shinjuku and found a large underground cafe & restaurant section near the station. (I say near, a lot of things are near the station because it's so big!) We found a nice little Japanese restaurant and had a huge meal. That barely cost us 1000yen each. We both struggled to finish it even though it was super tasty.
This is the display outside the restaurant, more of the amazing wax food.
And here's the real stuff inside. It was really good. I enjoyed myself by watching some local workmen eating their meal sitting crosslegged on the benches whilst I fumbled pathetically with my chopsticks and spilled my tea over the whole table. There's nothing quite like living up to the clumsy gaijin stereotype to give you confidence in a new country :)
With too much food in us we wandered over to a department store, the bottom floor of which was a market (Though it seemed more like a western style market). We stopped for some smoothies before heading to the other side of the station.
It was here that the festival was taking place. Its actually a festival from Okinawa and had something to do with drums.
Just the one photo of a group before the off. All the other photos are of the back of crowds, sorry.
I had hoped it’d be similar to what I’ve seen in animes where there are lots of stalls with games to play and things to eat. But this seemed to just be a come look at us perform festival, which would have been fine had the sun not been blazing down on us and the whole thing taken place outside.
We walked around the new to us part of Shinjuku while listening to the drums, had a quick visit to an arcade (where I won nothing of course) and then got a taxi back.
An air conditioned taxi thank goodness.
The big clock. this is in Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast!
Not my video, got this on YouTube, the clock's right at the start.
Our hotel is in there too towards the end.
A giant crab on the side of a building. Why not.
After a break at the hotel we then headed back out to Shibuya in search of dinner. I had hoped to go to Coco Curry as I’ve heard its very good, but they, like many other Japanese restaurants only had little fixed stalls and bars to eat at. Which just isn’t comfortable for Dad and I. We ended up at Burger King (which was actually pretty damn good) and then had another look round Book Off before heading home again.
Day 5 was more of a rest day for us, which was much needed for Day 6.