Monday, Oct 24 2022 (Day 3)
Table of Contents
ට Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara (You are here)
Today was my first full day in Tokyo without any concrete event plans — I do have a good number of events I want to hit that are still coming up, but there are days built into the itinerary either for general sightseeing, shopping, or just sitting down and working or catching up with some miscellaneous blog writing or personal stuff. This is supposed to be a working vacation after all, and I’m here for such a long stretch of time that I don’t feel an immediate need to go rush off and do everything at once, I have a week or so left in my itinerary that I still have no idea where I’ll be going or what I’ll be doing, so I can always spend that in any place that I feel I needed more time in.
So with that, I started the day writing about yesterday’s events in my Day 2 post, and by the time I was ready to leave my inn room, it was already past 11 am. In addition, it had been drizzling all morning, though it wasn’t heavy enough that I felt compelled to buy an umbrella even though I didn’t own one yet. It was chilly though, something like 12-14 degrees Celsius as I was leaving the house (and that was the temperature it remained at for pretty much the entire day and evening), so I threw on my light jacket before heading out.
I planned to spend the afternoon in Akihabara, the renowned mecca of anime and manga, and do some treasure-hunting there. Akihabara was on the other side of the 30-station Yamanote Line train loop, 12 stops away in one direction and 18 in the other, and it was slightly over half an hour no matter which direction I took the loop in, so I took the longer way to start, planning to take the shorter way home at the end of the day so that I could figuratively check off the remaining 7 stations on the other side that I hadn’t passed by yet (which happened to be Akihabara and the three stations on either side of.. her? it? Let’s go with her because I’m sure there’s an official moe personification of her somewhere).
Akihabara Station itself was a little vast, though it was not as crowded as many of the other stations I had been to for some reason, Perhaps the time of day or the gloomy weather contributed to this, but nonetheless I managed to somehow follow the wrong crowd of people and end up on another platform, before backtracking and wandering around lost for a bit before finally finding a small one-door side exit from the train station that led into an adjoining mall, with a warning that the gate was fully automated and could not be used if you needed fare adjustments, or needed to manually wave a pass at a station attendant or something to get through. It wasn’t until the end of the day when I was on my way back that I noticed that the station itself had some other things to offer as well, like vendors in the middle of the station, but I never actually fully explored the station this trip around. I’ll be back for sure though.
Anyway, I walked out from Akihabara station through the Atre 3 exit, and ran right into a small Uma Musume: Pretty Derby pop up store. Seren really likes this series, and I quite like it as well, so I took a number of pictures of it.
Too pricey and/or garish for my blood though. I found my way out of that building and out onto the streets, where I was approached by a Chinese tourist girl who asked me for directions to Bic Camera, and we looked it up on my phone before she waved and headed off. I did take a few general outdoor pictures of Akihabara and area, but not a whole ton of them, so I put them together in a gallery here so as not to fragment them too much. The main bulk of Akihabara’s commerce seemed to be within a couple blocks of the train station anyway, especially to the north and west, although there were definitely smaller shop that tried to get into the Akihabara anime/manga-esque theme even outside that range as well. But even within that range there were so many buildings and shops that exploring them all at my preferred pace would have probably taken over a week. I didn’t really have a plan as to which shops to visit either so I more or less wandered where my feet took me.
The first store I went into was a store called Volks. There was a Yuuki Yuuna sign out front which called out to me, as I really like that series — the only anime keychain/tag I currently have on my shoulder sling bag that I carry everywhere is a Yuuki Yuuna one, and even this blog is named after that show. So that showed promise. On the second level, I saw a small section devoted to Yuru Camp△, one of my top tier shows as well, with merchandise that was different from the usual fare of boring keychains and badges, I was tempted by this and almost bought a mousepad. Almost. Maybe I still will. They had cups and lunchboxes and shirts and scarves and more.
I also took pictures of several random things in the store that seemed more transitory than everything else. Like this wall with fan messages for characters in High School Fleet which were having their birthdays this month. I haven’t actually watched the show, though.
And this display of autographs from the same show:
And this IDOLM@STER General Election (fan votes) thing:
And finally a board of business cards representing IDOLM@STER fans acting as producers of their own. I’m not really sure what this particular thing was all about.
Either way, I finally made my way up to the 6th floor and found a Yuuki Yuuna pop-up store, running from October 22 2022 to November 06 2022. As far as I could tell, this replaced a Yuru Camp one that had just ended. This was gorgeous and I liked it very much. I ended up buying my most expensive purchase of the day, an acrylic stand for 1320 yen, from here. I was seriously considering an umbrella as well for 5500 yen — not the one with all the garish pictures on it (even though I like the characters) but the one with outlines on it instead, although I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry the umbrella back home on the planes due to it being a full-length umbrella and not a foldable one. I’ll think about it and might come back here later next week or something when I next return to Akihabara. I’ll let fate decide and also let that big of a purchase sit and stew on my mind for a bit. It doesn’t actually fit in my bag so it’d have to be a separate carry along item. It’s rather nice, though.
I then wandered down and out and onwards along the street. I went into an Animate store but after going into a couple of them (one in Saitama and one here), I definitely rate this store as pricey — sure, they sell the newest CDs for full price, but all their “second hand” CDs don’t have a price tag on them, so I have to assume they’re being sold for full or near full price as well, and most if not all of them are marked in English with “Pick Up”… which means what? They’re reserved? Or a weird term for they’re second hand CDs and you can pick them up at a lower price or something? Many of their character/show goods felt very sterile as well, like they heavily concentrated on just the most popular shows and barely carried anything that didn’t have huge fan bases, and a lot of the goods were your usual badges and pins and keychains and gacha boxes. I just haven’t jived with the Animate stores, and would not currently recommend it unless one was only into the most popular franchises (or wanted brand new and recently released CDs). They did have some cooler and weirder character goods here and there though, like these weird Genshin Impact fragrances:
I don’t know. I don’t think “Hey, this person smells like a video game character” when I catch a whiff of their cologne or anything like that, soo.
After leaving the store, I started to check out some side streets as well as I was hungry and wanted to find some lunch. I ran into a number of weird vending machines:
… but walked on. There were recycle boxes at the base of the machines for people to put their opened loot containers in though, and there were plenty of opened ones.
Lunch eventually came in the form of Pork Ribs in Dandan Noodles or something like that from Nikujumen Susumu, it was hard to translate though I got the gist of it. The name of the dish was 肉汁パーコー坦々麺, but the first part of the name comes from the shop itself, the second part from a loan word from Chinese (this one) and then the third part a Japanese version of and semi-literal homonym of a Chinese noodle dish. It was kind of tasteless though, maybe because I was expecting spice from it, but it was not spicy whatsoever, even after I added curry seasoning to it. It looked better than it tasted, though it didn’t taste bad, just a bit bland. It was not nearly worth the 980 yen I paid for it, even though I hoped to get a better deal by seeking out a back alley store instead of one on the main thoroughfare.
After lunch, I went into a joint 2 in 1 store named Hard-Off and Hobby Off, a store that sounds very similar to BookOff, which I had been to back on Day 1, but which was apparently owned and run by a completely separate company. Plagiarism. Anyway they were a second-hand store too, specializing in games, electronics, and even a few CDs, so I went in to have a look around. I spent a few minutes agonizing over an unopened copy of a CD/Bluray from their small music section that was going for 4000 yen (Roselia’s Wahl) but left it alone in the end, but ultimately most of my hour or so here was spent in the basement which the floor guide succinctly labelled as just “Junk” without any further explanation. Junk was a potpourri of miscellaneous items they had that didn’t pass muster for the “better quality” goods upstairs, but they were also heavily discounted, so I had fun looking around here as well and eventually picked up one CD for 330 yen. This felt like rummaging through a garage sale. I also wish I could have brought that koto (in the first gallery picture) home with me. I looked into getting one for kicks a couple years ago in Canada and they’re prohibitively expensive there.
i was outside of the main Akihabara area by this point due to my lunch excursion, so as I was walking back, I eyed the outside of or poked my head into some of the more interesting shops along the way.
I then reached and explored one final shopping mall, which was definitely my favourite one of the day, Akiba Cultures Zone. The first floor was occupied by a posh second-hand store named Lashinbang, and they had tons of manga, DVDs, CDs, and various other things there. Similar to BookOff, and to a certain extent that much smaller Hobby Off/Hard Off spinoff, they also had a regular CD section, as well as a discount bin for overstock or unsellable or slightly mishandled products. Even though the selection here was smaller (as BookOff was so gigantic), it still felt large enough for me to easily spend a couple hours here hunting if I wanted to, and the prices were actually reasonable while not being so cheap that one starts to worry how the company stays afloat. Usually around 20-25% of the original CD price, I think. I took a set of photographs of the anime CD and (I think) female CD shelves since they were back to back with each other, for future perusal and/or stock sample interest.
But my only purchases from this place were actually from the discount bins, where I picked up 3 more items, including a DVD with a bonus booklet, for 550 yen total.
After that, I went upstairs to check out the rest of the building. It was actually really interesting, with a very “indie” feel to it, with passages that looked like this and little shops catering to things like mecha figures or idol goods springing out from them. It reminded me of those independent shopping malls in Singapore that I talked about in my Singapore travel diary.
I ended up buying a couple small things from here as well. I had 2% battery health at this point, so I really needed to return home. I did snap a picture of this on the way out:
Apparently there was a Jashin-chan Dropkick popup store appearing here from October 25 (i.e., tomorrow) to November 13 2022. They were setting this up on one of the levels and I had actually accidentally wandered into it while exploring on my way up the building, before I was shooed out by one of the attendants about halfway in. They had left one of the side doors of the display area open for profit purposes because it contained some sort of game or claw machine or something, and had cordoned off the front entrance to the popup store with large folding screens, but hadn’t done so from the side with the game machine at all, so I wandered in that way without realizing it after checking out the machine. Sneak preview get.
On the way home, despite the 2% battery life, I snuck a picture of another train calamity notice.
Trouble on board. Very descriptive. The funny thing is, I took the short route back toward Takadanobaba from Akihabara to complete my circuit of stations, but the train stopped and idled right at Nippori, the stop after I had completed my loop, for about ten minutes or so due to a line delay, so the entire transit time ended up being practically the same anyway. I didn’t get to capture it, but I did see our train delay eventually end up on the information screen just before I alighted at my station as well, with the reason listed as “Train inspection”.
For dinner, I wanted to stay in the area as I was tired and it was quite late by then, over 9:30 pm by the time I left the house. I talked to Eiko, the inn owner, about nearby supermarkets to get cheap bento boxes from, as I had heard about them going on sale past a certain point each evening and wanted to check them out. She said that she had just returned from some cheap evening supermarket shopping herself, showing me some discounted bananas and other things that she had bought, and pointed me toward a couple nearby supermarkets. I ended up doing a big loop of the neighbourhood to visit 4 of them using my now-recharged phone, more than enough to identify what they looked like and where they were located even though this was my last night here and the ones that were left were just 10-20% discounted.
Basically the word to look out for was 引, the word for discount (but taught to most foreign students as the word for pull, i.e. pulling a bow), usually preceded by a number in yen or in % form on a sticker placed on the item in question. Convenience stores apparently also sometimes did these sticker discounts, but less so and with less of a discount compared to supermarkets, which had to get all the stock out before the end of the night or risk throwing away all the leftover fresh food and produce.
I didn’t end up buying anything from here, but I did take a couple pictures of the neighbourhood during my hour long loop around the place, weather be damned. Eiko had asked me before I had gone out if I wanted her to lend me another jacket, not knowing that the jacket I used was the same one I use when I go out in -30 weather in Edmonton anyway, since it is (or at least looks just like) a light jacket.
Pretty, long canals and streets. Convenience stores everywhere too, and I stopped in several of them to walk around in, in addition to the four supermarkets. For dinner though, I ended up walking back to the street nearest my house and eating at what turned out to be a Chinese eatery there, the very first shop I ate at in Tokyo that didn’t use food ticket machines and didn’t take payment until after the end of the meal, just like a normal Western (or Singaporean) restaurant/eatery. This store was called Ichibankan Takadanobaba, and I had their Chinjao Rosu/Beef and Green Pepper Stir-fry, which was a really interesting and neat dish. Apparently Chinjao Rosu is a Japanese adaptation of a Chinese dish and they also borrowed and transliterated its name into Japanese, similar to the Dandan Noodles from lunch.
It cost just 650 yen and was quite good, if simple. I then walked the fifty steps or so back to my inn and cleaned up for the night, while chatting to Ran, my friend from Osaka who I am going to visit later on on this trip, as she had reached out for some help and discussion around a linguistic topic that she was researching for her thesis. I went to bed fairly early afterwards, as I was moving inns the next day and wanted to make sure I had time for this blog beforehand, as well as some time for work tickets, once I woke up.
This was my loot from the day, minus a few random brochures. It cost 3024 yen, with the bulk of that (1320) going to the acrylic character stand at the bottom. Also, I managed to successfully navigate my way through my first purchase that included recognizing the word for plastic bags (rejibukuro) and declining it without having to shift into English partway, so success!