I woke up early on day two of my Tokyo Tour. It was 7:30 in the morning, and I switched from Pajamas into jeans before heading into the lobby for a nervous breakfast. I still didn’t have the confidence to speak in long sentences, so my back-and-forth with the staff of Andon was limited to "Hai, Hai" or "Kore wa nani?" I ordered the "Regular Set" breakfast: Eggs, Tomatoes, Bacon, Toast It would be the last time. Mar-san was the chef, and despite his culinary authority with French Toast, he could not cook bacon to save his life.
The evening before, at the Udon restaurant, my eager-to-please waitress had suggested I go to some festival that was happening over the weekend. After breakfast, I asked for a map of the Minowa area, and headed out on foot towards the traditional area of Asakusa.
Though I had no idea where I was going, the entire neighborhood was walking in one direction, so I put away my map and herded along. Everyone was carrying umbrellas or wearing towels on their head to protect them from the sun. I hugged the tree line, and groggily arrived at the Sanja Festival.
I suppose I could look up on the internet what the festival was all about, but I’d rather not know the details. The locals carried shrines on their shoulders to the Asakusa-koen, and children played drums and flutes while they were wheeled around in carts through the city streets.
At the Asakusa-koen, hundreds of cramped booths hawked plastic masks or vegetable pancakes or fans. The air was choked with the smoke of cooking fish or incense. I watched one group deliver a Japanese Arc of the Covenant to the huge temple near the 5-story pagoda. Next, crept through tombs and memorials, and headed back towards Minowa after I had purchased my fourth bottle of water.
Along the way back, I stopped in an Arcade and beat Street Fighter III while waiting for a challenger. This would not set the tone for future arcade visits.
Back at Andon, I grabbed my subway map and headed to AKIHABARA.
Akihabara is heaven. If anime is my religion, then Akiba is Mecca. For six blocks in any direction are 8-to-10 story buildings filled with Character Goods, Costumes, Posters, CDs, video-games. In-between these Churches Of Anime are huge amounts of electronics. You want a 1971 SLR camera that has a retro-fitted digital preview screen? Akiba has it.
At first, the volume of titles was so overwhelming that I simply lost my taste for Anime. For so long, Anime has been something personal and special; to suddenly find myself surrounded by it was a little sickening. What should I look at? What makes a character stand out in a sea of pastel eyes and squeaky cheers? I was dizzy and uncomfortable. And I didn’t want to buy anything.
This would change. I went to Akihabara four or five times during my trip.
On the street, I was stopped by a Japanese guy who asked me if I was lost. I told him that I was fine, and he said, "I’ve never seen a blond girl in Akihabara before."
Exhausted and a little sad, I decided to leave Akiba and get some dinner. I hadn’t eaten anything but eggs, so I wanted my meal to be something special. My guide book had listed Kakiden as the best in traditional Japanese Art-Food. It was at the top of a department store in the shopping district of Shinjuku.
I got off the train and was turned my map in every direction to try and get oriented. I asked for help; none of the locals even knew where we were. So I followed the neon-lit walkway and was shot out into the 24-hour Shinjuku City!
I found my building, and headed to the top floor. Behind rice paper doors was a woman in a Kimono, who greeted me with a startled bow. Another set of Paper Doors and my party of one headed into ... the completely empty restaurant.
Just me, sitting at a table. No one else in the entire place. This was a Saturday Night, and this famous restaurant was EMPTY. Awkwardly, I ordered the 15-course-traditional-dinner, and began to receive tiny plate after tiny plate of smoky fish heads and sock flavored soup. The sake was great, and the staff was friendly, but I was still the ONLY PERSON THERE.
After a while, another table showed up. The three of them stared at me like they had reserved the place for the evening. Maybe they had. I finished my final plate of fish head or stones or grass or whatever, and rocketed out into Shinjuku again.
I shopped for a bit (because I could! Nothing was Closed! Take that, Holland!!) and then mustered up the courage to go to a lesbian bar. I needed to know if the international standard for Lesbian was Ugly, or if it was just a western thing. Gay town was warm and friendly, and a few gay guys helped me find the door to the unmarked lesbian bar.
What do you know? Lesbians are allowed to be cute in Japan! I guess the dyke police don’t attack you if you wear your hair long in Shinjuku. It could be that most of them were still In-The-Closet at work and home, but here was a room full of decently attractive girls! One of them, Chris, asked me out on a date for the next day and I agreed.
Then I got to know her. Never trust a girl in Tokyo if she doesn’t know Ghibli.