Day two was a busy one, we decided to try and find the nearest cat café to have brunch in before getting onto the metro and heading off for the day. Unfortunately, Kyle had some money issues with the weird Japanese ATMs and we also had to head back to the hostel for warmer clothes (it was actually snowing a little and we weren’t prepared for a day out in the city in the cold!). After a bit of a frustrating morning, and a trip to our local bakery, we got down to the metro and headed to the world renowned Akihabara.
We didn’t really have a set destination in Akihabara; it was more of a place we just wanted to experience. There are 100s of themed cafes in Tokyo and we knew of a few in the area that might be worth a visit (and the entrance fees). We wandered around for a bit, and then a bit longer, and then even longer, until we eventually stopped to try and get our bearings as there was nothing of major interest on the streets we were meandering down… Turns out we’d been heading in the wrong direction for god knows how long, so about turn and back to our original starting point we went. Once there, we continued in the right direction and the difference was insane. The buildings were huge, streets were crazy, and the shops were infinite. There were sooooo many figurine shops selling everything from cute little creatures, to giant complex beast figures, and yes, unfortunately, even sexualised cartoon characters in skimpy little outfits in provocative poses. We had a look around a few, amazed by the vast amount of things on offer, and then, we happened to stumble upon somewhere we had read about, and seen on YouTube… an absolutely huge sex shop. I won’t go into details here, all I’ll say is that there was something for everyone’s tastes and needs, covering 8 floors I can guarantee anyone who walked in there would leave feeling mixed emotions and levels of shock, horror, amazement, and a little unclean… but hey, it was an experience and we got a selfie with a sexy mannequin with a wolfs head (check out the pictures on this post).
Our next stop was something which was on our list to tick off before leaving Tokyo, a visit to a maid café… The concept of these places really messed with my head, they seemed a weird (not ok) mix of a little girls dream, but also the dream of a creepy lonely middle aged man… Never the less, we happened upon one on our wanderings and headed up in the teeny tiny little lift to experience this well-known themed café, MaiDreamin. As soon as the doors opened we were slapped in the face by as much pink and frilly things as you can imagine, including a number of Japanese girls/ladies dressed in cute little frilly maid outfits sporting various animal ear headbands. We were sat down and handed the menu, while being asked to repeat some cute little Japanese words, and do some weird little action things with our hostess lady. She also made us blow on a fake little candle thing to mark the start of our experience at the café. It all felt a little uncomfortable and surreal to say the least. As well as the entrance fee we had to buy something off the menu, we both chose an ice-cream sundae and a cup of tea (much to Kyle’s upset the tea was Earl Grey, not English Breakfast). In our package we also got to choose a MaiDreaming gift (I think the options were: keyring, magnet, documents folder, or a set of animal ears), Kyle chose the very pink document folder, to help keep all his tickets and bits and bobs in one place, and I chose the animal ears, opting for the white bunny ones over the little bear pair. After finishing our ice-cream and tea (me at least), we were then taken onto the stage to pose for our free Polaroid picture with our hostess, Kyle had one of just him and her, and I chose to have all three of us in mine. Unfortunately, the photo is hideous so I’ve covered my face on it for here, but she decorated it in bright pink marker pen with hearts and cute little drawings. We headed back out onto the cold streets feeling a little dazed and overwhelmed.
Walking around Tokyo that seemed to be our most common state of mind: slight confusion, completely overwhelmed, and constantly in awe. The city really is somewhere you should experience if you’re ever in the position to do so!
We decided to just keep walking around taking it all in as best as we could, and we came upon a Gacha shop (a shop full of little mini machines where you pop in a few coins, turn the handle, and out comes a plastic egg/ball with something weird and wonderful inside. Mum had brought me a couple back from her trip to Tokyo in 2016, including some pants for water bottles, and a little bunny that hangs off your mug.) It was only a hole in the wall type shop, but I don’t even know how many Gacha’s there must have been! We met a couple of different people in there, a European girl who was travelling and asked us to take a photo for her, and a girl who was living and loving like in Tokyo. Kyle’s little brother had asked him to bring him back a lucky cat, so he chose to try out the Gacha that would give him one of those, and he also lucked out on another machine and got the best bread-face-cat of all time (again, please see the pictures to understand what I’m going on about here). After a long time and much thought, I chose my Gacha; a weird little dumpling man figurine, I got the one that sits on your cup while you drink. Looking back, this was a panic choice and I could have chosen something much better, but, it’s weird, it’s creepy, and seemed to fit well with my Asian experiences so far!
After we’d had enough of the Gacha’s, we headed for the Gundam café, yes, another themed café, trust me, this was a theme for the day and the rest of the trip…
Gundam Series, is a science fiction media franchise created by Sunrise that feature giant robots (or “mecha”) called “mobile suits”, with titular mobile suits that carry the name “Gundam.”
Obviously I had never heard of this cartoon series and knew nothing about it, but Kyle was pretty excited to find it, and we were about ready for another hot drink! After warming ourselves up and taking some photos of the robots, we set off trying to find another cool little area around Akiahbara we’d heard about. After much walking and guessing and map checking, we asked for some directions, and still couldn’t find it. Getting a little tired and frustrated, we meandered down the cool little back alleys until we found a whole shop dedicated to selling cards, as in, like Pokemon cards, games that involve swapping and collecting different cards. There was about 4 floors of them, most in glass cabinets, but some just in plastic boxes which were super cheap. We both bought a random card each and decided it was time to move onto another location for the evening (after a much deserved Kebab wrap!).
Our next stop (after a pretty busy metro ride) was Shibuya, best known for that crossing. As soon as we reached the top of the escalators coming out of the metro we went over to a wall sized window to see what the view was like. We were definitely in the right place… the place was crawling with people. We took a deep breath and headed outside to join the crowds. We came out to the statue of Hachiko the dog who waited years for his [dead] master to return, very sad story (if you don’t know it I suggest you click on the link I just added in here). We hung around there for a while a little bit shell-shocked that we were casually stood at Shibuya, Tokyo, and people watching as everyone crowded around to get photos with the statue etc. The buildings were towering over us and lit up with different advertisements and videos etc. One of the buildings had a huge screen that showed a giant beer glass being filled to the top until the whole side of the building looked like a pint of beer. We decided it was time to head further into the bustling bundle of people, and find our way to the crossing, or should I say, one small part of the crazy huge race track across the street. We stood there, at the front for about 3 crossings, just watching the people weave in and out of each other, watching as people stop in the middle and wait for their friends to take photos of them at this iconic landmark. We tried to get a few photos like this ourselves, but it just felt really awkward and like we were getting in the way of everyone’s daily lives, so we finally took the plunge and joined the herd as we crossed the street with about 100 other people. This is where I am going to be brutally honest. It wasn’t as busy as I expected it to be, at least not on our crossing! I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was crazy, there were a stupid amount of people, but, on our crossing, we weren’t shoved and pushed and lost in the sea of people, which is kind of what I expected to happen. But, none the less, it was pretty cool to cross and be able to say I’ve done it. We then headed into Starbucks on the crossing, grabbed a hot-drink and waited patiently for 2 seats to free up which looked out over the crossing. We sat there, taking in the view and people watching from high up for a long while. We were completely amazed that we were actually there and experiencing it first-hand. We made use of the free Wi-Fi and got up directions to our next destination…
Before I get to what was possibly one of the weirdest experiences of our trip, we did a mini little beer pit-stop at a Hooters bar. I’d been to a Hooters once before, in Beijing, and it’s safe to say Kyle thoroughly enjoyed his first taste of the American bar, we have a few photos to remember our short time there, and one or two of the beautiful waitresses….
Anyways, we left there and made our way down some back alleys and to one of the strangest food and drink experiences I think I’ll ever have: Alcatraz ER…
Now, looking back, I’m suddenly realizing just how sexualised Tokyo was. I know that sounds strange, but at the time, when I was fully immersed in it, I don’t think it struck me just how bad it was, but now, sitting in the comfort of my little apartment, reading back on my notes of our trip, it’s really shocked me and disturbed me how sexual they made everything. This café was no different.
The general theme, as you may have guessed by the name, was prison/medical. The waitresses and waiters were dressed up in blood splattered nurse uniforms or aprons. The place itself was dark and creepy. In the floor were glass cases containing bodies that had been ripped apart. The seating was arranged into a double levelled prison cell type situation. The walls were grey with writing, blood and peeling posters/medical drawings on them. Me and Kyle were ushered into a cell on the 2nd level (head height if you were walking on the floor), told to remove our shoes, and sit in the end section. We sat there nervously, looking around, reading the walls and trying to peer down to see what was going on in the rest of the place. We checked out the menu, which consisted of some truly horrific themed cocktails and meal sets, and when we were ready to place out order, we had to drag a chained bar along the cell door to get the attention of one of the waitress/nurses. Now, here is where things start to get (unnecessarily) sexual. The cocktails we’d ordered, were some of the more tame, but they were definitely sexually themed… mine came with a banana sticking out of it, and Kyles, well, Kyles came half in a cup and half in a tied up condom which the waitress cut open and poured into his drink, the whole thing was served on a metal surgical tray, and we were given little paper “tablet” cups with nuts in. The experience got progressively weirder and weirder the longer we sat there and enjoyed our drinks.
Down on ground level I could see one of the waitressed being egged on to slap and hit one of the customers while others stood and videoed the whole thing. The (who we presumed to be the) owner was at her side encouraging her, and during our stay we saw three different paying guests get the same treatment. We decided to order some chips (I had to stop myself from writing fried then… American lingo is taking over…) to share, and then this is when things got even weirder!!! The waitress didn’t just stick her head up to the call bars and take our order, she came up to our little section and while we were chatting and trying to order our food, she started to play with Kyle’s chest and things got a little weird as she popped a mini rubber duck into her mouth and pulled out a little “vibrating toy”… Anyway, later on after we’d munched down some chips, the lights went off. What the f*ck is going on was the first thought into our heads and out of our mouths. From what we’d seen in the hour or so we’d been there, we had no idea what to expect, there seemed to be no rules here… The lights stayed off for a while, a good while, there wasn’t much noise apart from other confused/scared customers around us in their own cells. Finally, some of the lower lights came on as a masked man ran around with a big fake machete banging on the cages and going up to some of the others… Honestly, it was a bit lame. It wasn’t executed well and just felt overly cheesy and didn’t really fit with the rest of the place, for some reason. Anyways, we stayed for a little longer, having photos taken, chatting, being confused and embarrassed all at the same time, and eventually we decided it was time to start heading back. We got some photos of the staff and the place itself and left for the exit.
As we left, with a mixture of feelings and emotions, we wandered the streets a little more, the city was nowhere near asleep and we weren’t quite ready to leave it yet. We came across a lot of “adult shops” and such things, as I told you, this place was crazy sexualised… But there were so many cool backstreets and interesting allies to see and walk down too. We came across a giant shop which was a weird mix of souvenirs, clothes, food and beauty products. I got myself some funny little socks with a man on them, and then we walked back to the crossing. Even though it was getting pretty late, it was still as busy as before, if not even busier. It was so cool to see the whole place lit up and covered in neon signs, we took it in for a little longer before heading back to try and get a better photo of the dog statue (without random tourists in the way). Just by the dog statue was a bus/train thing which was pretty cool and all lit up with a clock on the front windows, and a huge mural for the Rainbow Bridge, where all the loved and lost pets/dogs go after this world…
We eventually headed back down to the metro, and slumped into our seats as we prepared for the long (only about 25 minutes) journey home on the super warm and cosy metro, good old Ginza line getting us to where we need to be with no issues…
5 thoughts on “Day 2: Tokyo, Akihabara & Shibuya”
I love that unique cafe, such great experience..
Pleased to say that shibuya and hatchiko dog statue were the only places I visited on your day lol ….sounds insane …..watch the film about the dog with Richard gere in it ….might even bring a tear to your eye too Charlie …… Great blog looking forward to the rest xx
Very enjoyable reading BUT I think I will give Tokyo a miss…..sounds too odd for me. Glad you and Kyle enjoyed it and stayed safe xx
Gosh what an experience ,I think I would have been scared ,You wil have so many memories to look back on ,some quite unbelievable ,thanks for giving us an insight intothis wackyworld of ours ,lots of love Charlie ,Gran and Grandad xxxxl
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Wow Charlie, that was a roller coaster of a blog! xx