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Just got in a few minutes ago from a day wandering around Shinjuku and Akihabara neighborhoods.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

This place was positively gorgeous.  A huge garden right smack in the middle of town.  I spent probably two hours there, never walked the same path twice, and certainly didn’t see all of it.  I didn’t find a map that I could read until I was on my way back out.

Shinjuku Ward

Wandered around here for a couple of hours, found myself some lunch (REALLY got adventurous with spaghetti with salmon in a cream sauce, but it was very tasty).  Discovered an electronics store that I managed to kill an hour or so in.  Some people can lose hours in shoe stores, some people in motorcycle shops…  For me, it’s electronics stores.  Everything and anything you could need or imagine, and a few things you probably couldn’t.

I covet Japanese kitchen appliances.  Such creative use of space, great functionality, reasonable prices.  Why do we have to have a separate washer and dryer?  Yes, it allows one to start washing the next load while the last one dries, but if you’re an apartment dweller, why can’t we have the combined units like they have available here?  Oh, right.  Why sell one item when you can sell two at twice the price?  The store had 8 separate floors, each floor a different department.  It felt huge, but probably more that it was densely filled with product.  If it were a single level, it probably would have been the size of a Best Buy.

Found a nice little shrine using the TripAdvisor app on my phone.  Just kinda tucked away in the middle of a residential and commercial block.  Walked up and paid my respects.  Didn’t think it would be appropriate to take pictures of the inside, so I didn’t.

Akihabara Ward

Spent about 3-4 hours wandering around Akihabara.  This ward is the main place for electronics and otaku (um… Japanese cartoon fan).  Stores with 5 levels of video games, capsule machines, and claw machines with a wide variety of prizes.  Found another electronics store much like the one in Shinjuku, but didn’t spend near as much time in this one.

Every sidewalk has about a half-dozen girls in maid or sailor suit costumes handing out flyers.  Not entirely sure what for, maybe maid cafes, maybe something else.  Lots of stores with model kits, comic books, art, etc.  Even found a couple of stores specializing in ham radio equipment (stores, plural).

Common Sense

I was impressed that common sense was an expectation in much of the building design and train stations.  Rather than design for the lowest common denominator, there’s an expectation that one will look before they leap.  Lots of small steps in odd places, the fact that the trains don’t quite line up with the platform and there’s sometimes a significant gap.  I could see this being a problem for people in wheelchairs, but I don’t think I saw a single one all day.  Wonder how that’s managed…

Hipster Level 80

Saw a guy who leveled up in hipster.  Fedora, one riveted cuff, snake ring…  And 3D glasses stolen from the movie theater with the lenses popped out.  I couldn’t help but be impressed with that one.

Wrong Bookstore!

While walking around Akihabara, I found a sign for a bookstore.  Simple enough, right?  I follow the signs, go down the stairs below street level, and find…  A store wall-to-wall with hentai manga (adult comic books).  Must’ve been upwards of 30 customers in there, all male, all in their 20’s to 40’s, and the only women to be seen were working the cash registers.  Haven’t these guys ever heard of the internet?

New Money

My pockets are full of change.  Seems that anything under 1000 JPY (approx $10 USD) is in coin form.  So far, I’ve gotten 500, 100, 50 and 10 JPY coins.

Ubiquitous Vending Machines

They’re EVERYWHERE.  I don’t think I’ve seen a single block that didn’t have a stand of 2 or 3 vending machines with sodas, juices, energy drinks and cold coffee drinks.

Ease of Being Foreign

So far, my experience as an outsider has been pretty good.  The rail system is pretty clear (having a mobile device with Google Maps helps a lot, though!)  Signs often include English in addition to Japanese.  Menus have English descriptions or pictures of the food, so I know what I’m ordering.  As a 6’4″ man, I did find that I had to do a fair bit of ducking of signs inside stores and some of the aisles were so narrow that I could not have passed another person without feeling like I should buy them dinner first.

I was happy to have Patric walk me over to the train station and help me find a daily JP Rail pass for a reasonable price that’s good for an entire day on the entire JP Rail system.

One Comment

  1. That looks like an excellent first day. The signs had me laughing.

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