Archive for the ‘CultureCategory

Okay. I’m just a little late to learn about Arby’s March 8th tweet introducingArbysWaifu,” complete withdoki dokiheart flutter.

The concept isn’t entirely new. In fact, Japan’s 2chan message board introduced Bisuke-tan (“Biscuit-tan”) to the world back in 2006.

But Arby’s Waifu seems especially odd to me because currently there aren’t even any Arby’s restaurants in Japan.


Okay. I’m just a little late to learn about Arby’s March 8th tweet introducingArbysWaifu,” complete withdoki dokiheart flutter.

The concept isn’t entirely new. In fact, Japan’s 2chan message board introduced Bisuke-tan (“Biscuit-tan”) to the world back in 2006.

But Arby’s Waifu seems especially odd to me because currently there aren’t even any Arby’s restaurants in Japan.


One odd difference that I suspect a lot of Americans aren’t used to upon reaching Japan is the difference in the way carbonated bottles are sealed. Americans are used to plastic soda bottles opening with a prolonged hissing that sounds likePssshhhhwhen the sealed carbonated air slowly seeps out. Japanese soda bottles are sealed with a sort of intense vacuum seal, so they open with an abrupt, crisp pop, similar to the popping cork of a champagne bottle. Americans who aren’t used to the distinctive opening of Japanese soda bottles may at first be startled and instinctively expect the bottle to explode in fizzing, overflowing soda bubbles. But they don’t (unless the soda has been shaken up).

This video isn’t mine, but it does capture the point I’m explaining.

First some initial reflections and thoughts. Comparing two brief snapshots may not accurately propose a complete contrast and summation, but Tokyo does seem to have appreciably changed just in the two-and-a-half years since Justin, Scott, and I were there in March 2016. Since my first visit to Tokyo in the early 2000s, Tokyoites have traditionally always avoided wearing t-shirts with prominent images. Large text has traditionally been acceptable, but not images. The status quo is still in place, but it appears to be weakening. This trip was, I think, my ninth visit to Tokyo. I believe I saw more Japanese people wearing t-shirts with large images – especially geek culture images including references to vintage anime like Jigoku Sensei Nube and Dr. Slump, to Marvel superheroes – during this visit than on all of my prior visits combined. Similarly, the de facto prohibition against PDA (“public display of affection”) appears to be weakening. One Sunday morning while waiting for the shuttle bus at Shinjuku station’s central west exit, in just a brief span of time I counted three couples walk by while holding hands.

Japan’s respect for order, formality, and pragmatism, въпреки това, is still in sharp relief. Despite being a city of over 13 million, Tokyo remains remarkably clean and orderly. During our twelve day stay, we only once saw a single elderly Japanese man raise his voice in anger during an altercation with a police officer on the street while his daughter tried her best to calm the man. At the Astop rental case store on the fourth floor of the Akiba Cultures Zone store, I stepped up to the cash register to present and pay for my purchase. The cashier gently but firmly directed me to step back behind the “stop here” notice painted on the floor. As soon as I fell into line, he motioned me forward. Ritually Japanese people riding escalators stand on the left, leaving the right side open for pedestrians who choose to climb rather than ride the moving stairs. Common practice at American fast food restaurants is for patrons to clear their own trays. But in Japan patrons diligently pour out their unconsumed beverage and ice into one receptacle, drop the burnable trash (paper tray liner, napkins, wooden chopsticks) into a second trash receptacle, and the plastic trash (cups, straws) into a third bin. At restaurants including Lotteria and Sanuki Udon Hanamaru, patrons slide their trays onto shelves for the dishwasher to reach rather than leave their detritus on the dining tables.

Perhaps the claims of rare, retro, and vintage video game collectors are true that Tokyo has been picked clean of bargains. But I’m not a video game collector. For anime otaku, Tokyo still offers an overwhelming abundance of bargains for those willing to excavate them. Justin, Scott, and I all collect different sub-sets of anime merchandise. All three of us found countless more bargains than we could manage to purchase due to the limitations of our luggage space and the prohibitive expensive of overseas postage. Наистина, many of the stores have recognized the influx and the impact of foreign collector tourism and adjusted their prices accordingly. But there’s literally so much anime merchandise available in Tokyo that supply will always exceed demand, resulting in great bargain prices. And Japanese collectors can be brutally demanding. I found figures with discounted prices because the box had one dented corner. Scott purchased a large bishoujo figure at a steep discount because of a crack in the clear plastic tray that holds the figure in place inside the exterior box.

Figures and toys that are popular at the present time, and brand new releases command premium prices, but characters past their 15 minutes see the value of their merchandise plummet tremendously. As of this trip, Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu’s Rem was particularly popular – so much so that figures of her cost marginally more than matching figures of her twin sister Ram. Kemono Friends merchandise also seemed to be particularly popular. Love Live seemed to overwhelm the otaku scene.

Visiting Tokyo can be affordable. Our round-trip airline tickets on American Airlines from Los Angeles to Tokyo and back were $700 a head. въпреки това, hotel rooms in Tokyo can be prohibitively expensive. Eating in Tokyo is surprisingly affordable. In eleven days, nearly every meal we ate cost under $12, and we ate a variety of tonkatsu curry, ramen, udon, takoyaki, gyudon, and burgers.

In eleven days, we didn’t actually tour a large variety of locations. Actually, we spent the majority of our time bouncing back and forth between Nakano Broadway and Akihabara. въпреки това, the three of us knew in advance that the goal of our vacation was to treat Tokyo like a giant extended anime convention weekend. We didn’t visit Tokyo to immerse ourselves in staid, ancient Buddhist culture, for religious asceticism, or for hedonistic nightlife. We deliberately went to Tokyo to surround ourselves in anime culture and treasure hunt for additions to our collections. We went to have fun, and that we did in abundance in spite of some blisters on our feet, some frustrations, some headaches (both figurative and literal), and a lot of physical exhaustion. But we did experience a lot of new and unique situations and circumstances including eating dinner at an izekaya (order as you go) dinner restaurant specializing in cuisine from Hokkaido, flying into and out of Haneda airport, eating at the limited Cowboy Bebop and Final Fantasy XV cafes, visiting the official Godzilla store, seeing the life-sized Unicorn Gundam and touring the Tokyo Gundam Base exhibition & store, seeing a new anime movie theatrically at a theater we’d never been to, patronizing a Tokyo flea market, for Scott & Justin, visiting Tokyo Character Street and the Ghibli Museum, and in Scott’s case, doing laundry at eleven pm in a Tokyo self-service laundromat.


On the morning of Monday, June 3, Scott called the Hilton front desk to request late check-out at noon instead of eleven. To our surprise, the hotel’s standard check-out deadline was noon. Although Justin & I had largely completed our packing the night before, we still had small tasks to face while Scott likewise finished up his final packing preparations. After waking himself up, Scott took a walk out. He returned with a cardboard poster tube that he’d purchased at a nearby post office branch for 100 yen plus his final onigiri of this Tokyo vacation.

Since I’d arrived with a backpack and two sizeable roller totes, I’d hoped to leave with the same. Although the airlines would allow me to embark with a fourth “personal item” bag, I simply didn’t have enough hands to manage a fourth bag. But considering the number of items I had, I ended up stacking 39 doujinshi into my second daypack. Justin had two glass jars of sake which he had no room for. So I transferred three small figures from one of my plastic crates into the extra carry-on backpack, creating enough room for Justin’s two bottles. Similarly, Scott didn’t have room for his single serving package of habanero chips. So I tucked them into a round plastic container for safe-keeping and put the plastic tub into my second carry-on. I discarded only one pair of unwashed socks. I also left behind two paper bags with the Ghibli Museum logo. Merely as exclusive souvenirs, I wish I’d brought one of them back with me. I do have a “Mamma Aiuto” Ghibli Museum gift shop bag, though. I also left behind two paperback books I’d brought with me – books I’d intended from the outset to abandon. And between Scott and me, we left behind close to a hundred all-ages and adult doujinshi that we just didn’t have space for within our luggage. Atop the two stacks of Japanese comics, I left paper notes with “gomi” spelled in katakana so the maid would know that we’d deliberately left the books behind rather than forgotten them. If the hotel management thought we’d accidentally left personal belongs behind, the hotel would make efforts to return them to us. That effort is not what we wanted. Scott graciously offered to transport my second carry-on bag onto the airliner for me.

At noon Scott went downstairs to formally check out. He returned to the room virtually shocked that the front desk had asked, entirely on an honor system, whether we’d consumed any of the retail snacks housed within our in-room mini-refrigerator. Scott had told the front desk honestly that he hadn’t taken anything out, although we’d temporarily put plenty of our own food purchases in. So we remained in the room until 12:30 when we went down to the lobby. The Airport Shuttle bus from the Nishi Shinjuku Hilton to Haneda airport took an hour due to the bus stopping at multiple hotels, and cost 1,230 yen per passenger. The hotel staff tagged our luggage and saw it onto the bus. We boarded the bus and half-consciously rode to the airport while bidding farewell to the city.

Checking in and handing over our check luggage at Haneda airport was painless. Although we’d previously confirmed that Justin & I were stuck with middle seats in subsequent rows, upon check-in at the airport, we discovered that Scott had the $157 legroom seat upgrade he’d paid for, and Justin & I were now arranged beside each other in an aisle and middle seat. To pass through the security inspection I had to take my laptop out of its bag, and we all passed through full-body x-ray scanners. But we didn’t have to remove our shoes or belts. Likewise, passing through customs inspection was a bit time consuming due to the line but otherwise painless. Once into the gates, we passed by a Tokyo Souvenir Shop that had a prominent Gundam RX-78 figure on display at the shop’s entrance. We decided to grab a bite from the Dom Pierre Jet restaurant counter. Once again, since I had no Japanese currency left, Justin ordered us both a tonkatsu curry for 1,200 yen plus one fried jumbo shrimp each. Scott ordered a tonkatsu curry with egg & beef curry sauce containing large chunks of simmered beef. During our meal, Justin & Scott heard a PA announcement regarding our gate & flight. Scott & Justin both interpreted the garbled, muffled announcement as possibly a poor Japanese attempt at pronouncing their respective names. So Justin left the final few spoonfuls of his rice to me and advanced to the departure gate. After we finished eating, Scott & I followed along. At the gate we confirmed that the attendant had been summoning a “Robert,” but not our Robert Scott Semple.” So we sat until boarding.

Justin sat on the aisle. I sat next to a young Jamaican man whose father sat on the aisle in the row ahead of us. I don’t know whether the young man spoke any English because our only communication through the entire trip was done with gestures. He gave me his potato salad. I took and handed his trash to the flight attendant and woke him when the second meal service came around. On the flight’s personal video screens, Justin watched Hostiles and Journey’s End as well as sleepily watching Maze Runner: Death Curse and most of American Hustle. I spent as much of the flight as I could attempting to sleep. Against my better judgment, I watched Jackie Chan’s latest film, Bleeding Steel. It was largely incoherent and terrible, characterized by awfully expository dialogue and gargantuan sized plot holes. Scott watched Game Night and a few episodes of the Crash television series.

Unexpectedly, our scheduled twelve-hour return flight took only ten hours. Also unexpectedly, the plane landed on the LAX tarmac well away from the airport terminal. The passengers exited the plane via a portable zig-zag walkway then boarded busses that drove us to the terminal five minutes away.

Fortunately, due to updated immigration control technology, as returning US citizens, we didn’t need to manually fill out paper customs declaration forms. The entire re-entry approval was processed through computer terminals. Then, as expected, we were waved through customs because none of us had dangerous or prohibited belongings, nor did any of us declare more than $800 worth of goods being patriated. The LA airport provided luggage carts for free. So Justin & I loaded our suitcases onto carts. Scott wheeled his two hard-side suitcases since both had four wheel bottoms. Unfortunately, Scott noticed that the Sanrio Pochacco luggage tag he’d purchased for 100 yen at Can Do had separated itself from his suitcase and vanished. In a convoy, we walked the length distance on the sidewalk from the Bradley international terminal around to terminal one where we entered at baggage claim at took the elevator up to departures. We checked in at the Southwest terminals but found that we could only check baggage four hours in advance. So we literally stood at the machines for three minutes until the clock hit 11:30 and we could check in our bags. Unexpectedly, after the self-service terminal printed the first of Justin & my four luggage tags, the machine presented an error message. So the staff directed us to a human attendant while another staff person cleared the paper jam from the kiosk printer. After handing over our luggage, we had nearly four hours to wait for our next flight.

So we found the gate and took seats. I purchased a 20 ounce bottle of Coke Zero for a staggering $3.32 including tax. Scott spent an even more outrageous $21 for a plain, underwhelming cheese burger, single-serve bag of potato chips, and a bottle of soda. Shortly before boarding our gate was changed from Gate 16 to Gate 17B.

On our Southwest flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Justin & I were boarding numbers B2 & B3. So Scott pre-boarded and sat in the first row. Justin & I sat in the row behind the middle exit row, initially in the aisle and middle seat. When the plane filled, I moved to the window, leaving an empty seat between us so we had some breathing space. The flight to Vegas literally seemed to just go up and down. At the Las Vegas airport we disembarked and navigated through the terminal to the “C” concourse. But as soon as we turned a bend the entire atmosphere of the airport seemed to change. Suddenly the hallway was far more populated and congested, and as though the air conditioning wasn’t functioning, the terminal was muggy and the air thick.

Once again, Scott sat near the front of the plane while Justin & I shared a row with an empty middle seat toward the rear of the plane. Scott was unfortunately surrounded by ignorant, inconsiderate passengers for the duration of his five-hour flight. Justin managed to sleep through most of his flight, I a bit less. But I still managed to sleep enough to make the five-hour cross-country flight feel very tolerable.

In Tampa, when we picked up our luggage I noticed that the combination lock on one of my cases was gone. A minor casualty not to be worried over. Just after we wheeled our luggage out to the curbside, Aimee pulled up to fetch Scott. Even before he’d finished loading, Naomi pulled in behind Aimee to collect Justin & me.

With exhaustion setting upon all three of us, we woke rather late. Although we didn’t have a distinct plan for the day, we knew that the day was our final full day in Tokyo. So it was our final opportunity to pick up collectables that we’d been debating or delaying purchase of previously. Via text messaging, we confirmed that my friend Jon would be free in the afternoon, so we made loose plans.

Justin packed a third box of purchases to ship home. Since all three of us were anxious about what the shipping cost would total, Scott donated a 1,000 yen bill to Justin. Despite being a Sunday, the second floor service office of the Shinjuku main branch post office is open 24/7. So Justin & I took the shuttle bus to the Shinjuku station central west exit then walked across the street to the post office while Scott showered and prepared for the day in the room. Justin’s third and final shipment home, again via SAL, cost an intimidating 5,000 yen. Fortunately, Justin actually had 4,000 yen in bills plus the 1,000 yen from Scott, so he just managed to cover the postage cost himself. From the second floor, we took the escalator down and exited the post office’s front entrance. There, we each purchased a drink from a vending machine, and Justin called Scott to arrange our plans. Collectively, we agreed to meet in Nakano Broadway because several days before Justin had spied a Kingdom Hearts Formation Arts volume 3 Urusula figure, loose and priced at 2,500 yen, that he wanted to purchase for a friend back home. The week before he’d begun the purchase process, but when he realized that the store didn’t have a box for the figure, Justin had delayed the purchase. Today we returned to Nakano Broadway with a square transparent plastic clasp storage box that we’d purchased at Can Do for 100 yen specifically to house the figure. So Justin & I first walked up the street to the station then made our way to the J-Market shop where Justin exchanged some additional US currency into Japanese yen before we boarded the Chuo Rapid line train.

Justin & I arrived at Nakano Broadway at 1pm. Justin couldn’t recall whether he’d spotted the figure in a rental case or a conventional store display case. He was only certain that it had been just inside a shop entrance, facing into the store. We started wandering the halls on the fourth floor, eventually working our way down to the second floor with no luck. Since the figure was relatively old and not especially hot and current, it had unlikely sold. But Justin couldn’t recollect where he’d seen it. He did, въпреки това, find a lovely pair of palm-sized Moomin PVC figures that he purchased for less than 400 yen each. While we were searching, we received a message from Scott announcing that he was searching the third floor. So we joined him and made a fruitless lap. But on our second lap of the third floor, by fortunate chance we did stumble into the correct shop, and Justin excitedly purchased the small statue. While we were there in Nakano Broadway, Scott also had a clerk from Mandarake Special 1 open the display case across the hall in order to purchase another Transformers Masterpiece figure. освен това, a poster illustrated by Takato Yamamoto in the window of the Taco Che bookstore caught Scott’s eye, so he purchased a copy for himself.

From Nakano, Scott asserted that Jon’s apartment in Yotsuya was cramped and hot, so he’d take his purchases back to the hotel while Justin & I dropped by Jon’s crib to pick up some additional goods Jon had to donate to me.

Justin & I exited the gates at Yotsuya station and recharged our Suica cards before leaving the station. I put only 500 yen on mine, knowing that today was the final day I’d likely use the train lines. Then we walked up the road toward Jon’s place. Along the way, we could hear drums and rhythmic chanting in the distance. A few paces on, we noticed that we were approaching a temporary shrine tent set up on the sidewalk. I initially thought that perhaps the music we heard had been a recording played by the waypoint. But another two blocks down the road, we spied another such waypoint for the festival parade on the opposite side of the road.

At Jon’s building, we took the elevator up to the eighth floor and knocked on his door. Jon answered and invited us in. Justin stepped in briefly then stepped out to make a phone call. Jon had two large paper shopping bags filled with goods for me. Several months ago Jon had bought out the remaining inventory at a nearby Lawson’s convenience store’s Ichiban Kuji lottery of exclusive X Japan merchandise. I’d wanted to collect the goods Jon didn’t want along with an original retail VHS copy of the X Japan “Rusty Nail” anime music video I’d asked him to purchase for me. The X Japan goods included some two-packs of clear files, several handkerchiefs, a wall clock, and a plaque of a life-sized three-dimensional replica of Yoshiki’s hand print and signature. Jon surprised me because the other bag contained two boxed Fujiko Mine UFO catcher prize figures, an Ichiban Kuji Rozen Maiden drinking glass, a large Panda-Z plush doll, and a bundle of expired Love Live lottery goods that he’d purchased as a 1,700 yen clearance pack, including a bath towel, an SD figure, and several can badges. Regrettably, I had to refuse the Fujiko figures, Rozen Maiden glass, and Panda-Z plush because Jon wasn’t eager to deal with shipping them to me, and I simply had no space left in my luggage to fit the extra items. While Jon had tentatively planned to spend his afternoon cleaning his apartment, he inquired about joining us on our final excursion to Akiba. Justin & I gregariously approved the idea. So Jon slipped on shoes and walked us down the back street – in order to stay in the shade – back to the train station. He explained that the day prior Yotsuya had begun its annual festival celebration of the local shrine. Today the mikoshi would be hoisted and carried through the city. So that explained the music & noise.

Jon, Justin & I went to Akihabara station then headed directly for the Jungle 1st store on 3 Chome because Justin wanted to pick up a bagged M-1 vinyl figure of Shin Hayata, the Ultraman SSP member, for 6,500 yen. After Justin’s purchase, we waited in the building’s shade while Scott caught up to us. When Scott arrived, we decided to stop for food. So Jon led us back toward the station, finally stopping at the Menya Musashi restaurant. Първо, the restaurant with two counters with stools facing the kitchen appeared to be nearly full to capacity. So after sticking our heads in, we tentatively urged Jon to select a different restaurant with more space. But one of the restaurant’s cooks appeared on the sidewalk from out of a side door and encouraged us to stay, assuring us that seats would open up quickly. Scott then noticed a large poster in the window offering Japanese noodles slathered in melted cheese with pulled beef. That temptation was enough to change our minds. So we crowded in and purchased meal vouchers from the menu machine. Jon, Justin, and Scott ordered the cheese tsuke-bab noodles. I ordered the house specialty tsukemen noodles with pork. Initially Jon & I were seated against the wall while Justin & Scott were seated at the tip of the triangle formed by the two counter tops. The division was the same seating arrangement we’d had days earlier at McDonalds. So in order to give Jon a fresh conversation partner, Justin & I initially switched seats before more patrons finished and left, and all four of us shifted to sit adjacent to each other. Even after the meal we still weren’t certain whether the cheese noodles were meant to be dipped in the accompanying soup. But since I dumped the final strands of my noodles into the rich, thick accompanying soup I realized that I was supposed to have been dipping the noodles in the soup all along. That would explain why I thought the taste of the noodles alone was a bit bland and the taste of the soup alone excessively strong.

When we exited the restaurant, we went down to the basement floor of the Laox department store to browse its toy section, since we were right next-door.

And after our late lunch, Justin wanted to purchase some gachapon figures for a friend back home. So I suggested that we venture up the street again to Liberty no. 8. Since the day was Sunday, Chuo Dori was barricaded off for pedestrian traffic. I did notice periodic signs standing in the middle of the road that reminded patrons that live demonstrations (“flash mobs”) were prohibited. Jon pointed out that not only were pedestrians walking the street or posing for photos in the middle of the street as usual, but quite a number of people were also sitting, resting, or even eating in the middle of the closed-off street.

At Liberty’s store number 8 Justin purchased a Godzilla gachapon figure and a cute Digimon monster figure for friends back home. Likewise, for a friend back home I purchased a dis-assembled gachapon figure of a mean-looking handgun. On our walk back toward the station Scott stopped by Mr. Donut. He was hoping to find a selection of unique and gourmet pastries comparable to Krispy Kreme, but he was disappointed to find the Mr. Donutsselection tasty but very conservative. Out on the sidewalk, eating strawberry icing donuts, Jon mused over the curious mystery of how the Mr. Donut franchise had originated in America but failed yet managed to secure a permanent foothold in the Japanese market partially because it was one of the few restaurant chains that offered free coffee refills.

At the Surugaya in the alley adjacent to Radio Kaikan, Scott noticed that the 6,900 yen KanKore “Yamato Kai heavy armament version” figma that had been on the “junk” shelf the previous day was no longer there. Presumably, since it was half priced, someone else had also noticed the bargain and jumped on it. Scott decided that he wanted to try his luck at the Sanrio-themed cat hat gachapon machines. Justin, I think – perhaps it was Jon – gave him an extra 100 yen coin which slipped from Scott’s hand and sank into the abyss of a seemingly bottomless crack in the concrete street beneath us. I expressed my intention to go upstairs to purchase more random packs of doujinshi. Scott handed me some coins. I then accidentally allowed another 100 yen coin to fall into the seam in the street. Scott tried the 400-yen gachapon machine and got a “Kirimi-chan” fabric cat hat. None of us was certain what the character was, although I was vaguely conscious of having seen an anthropomorphic slice of salmon mascot character before. So Jon researched the character on his phone for us. Scott tried again and successfully got the Hello Kitty cat hat. I dashed upstairs and grabbed four large bundles of 30-for-300-yen doujinshi. The shop clerks had to put two bundles in each bag because the shop bags wouldn’t contain more than two bundles. I came back down to the ground floor while Scott ventured into the 8-story card shop next door. Justin & Jon patronized the 7-11 on the opposite side of the alley, inside the Radio Kaikan building. I noticed that a service door along the wall had a series of three ascending steps, so I sat down on one step and transferred one of the bundles of doujinshi into my daypack. I’d asked Jon to purchase a bottle of Mets Zero Cola for me, but the 7-11 didn’t carry it. So Jon instead purchased a bottle of J-Flavor Pepsi for me to try. I’ve long been preferential to Coke over Pepsi, and my palate isn’t especially delicate or discriminating, but the J-Flavor Pepsi did seem just a bit less syrupy sweet to me than normal Pepsi. Jon also purchased a bottle of “Mets Samurai Blue” blue cola for me to try later. Scott mentioned to Jon that I must have been exhausted because, as Scott said, “That’s the first time I’ve seen him sit down during an excursion all week.”

At this point in the early evening I suggested that we all head back west and part ways at Yotsuya station. So we said goodbye to Jon on the train at Yotsuya station and returned to Shinjuku station. In the station, we descended into the basement of the Keio department store. Justin purchased a gift box of assorted flavored manju for his in-laws, and both Justin & Scott purchased a beautiful omiage square of small fruits suspended in clear jelly. Then we returned to the hotel for a 30-minute break.

After recovering some stamina, we ventured out again around 8pm to the Can Do store diagonally behind the hotel. Scott was looking for a poster tube because he & I had seen plastic poster tubes offered at a 100-yen store. But evidently not at our local store. I purchased another five B5-sized folders of sheet protectors because the books are exactly the correct dimensions to display shitajiki. I also found a screw-on bottle cap with a long snout designed to be used as an analog squeeze-bottle bidet. The invention was too uniquely Japanese for me to resist for a dollar.

Next door at the 7-11 Scott purchased the shop’s final two fried chicken balls from the hot foods case. Justin had a longing for comfort food, so we crossed the street to the McDonalds counter that faced the sidewalk. The restaurant’s dine-in tables were located on the floor above. By this time, because I’d carefully planned my spending, I had 262 yen left of the $1,000 dollars I’d exchanged so far. In other words, I didn’t even have enough Japanese currency left to afford a meal at McDonalds. So Justin used his credit card to purchase a “double egg burger set” for himself, consisting of a two-beef patty burger with “special sauce” and a thick fried egg. Justin discovered back in the hotel room that the “special sauce” was a Japanese original – not the Big Mac sauce Americans are familiar with. I ordered a teriyaki chicken burger set which I thought was quite tasty because the chicken was very tender and juicy. While we ordered, Scott announced that he was going to walk to the other nearby 7-11 in hopes of finding more remaining “balls” of flash fried chicken. Justin & I marveled that the McDonalds had a cardboard drink holder specifically designed to hold two cups and a bag of burgers and fries side-by-side within a clear carrying bag. The thoughtfulness of Japanese design pragmatism extends to literally every facet of Japanese existence.

Back in the hotel, Scott was crestfallen that the second 7-11 had been sold out of chicken balls. I watched the week’s episodes of Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory, Amanchu Advance, and Uma Musume on TV.

Scott went out Pokemon hunting while going to a nearby 24-hour laundromat. He encountered a pair of late-night Tokyo cats roaming Shinjuku City Park. While he was out, I opened one of the four bundles of random doujinshi. To my dismay, only one of the 30 books was hentai. But the pack did include some nice books including a 2005 Koge Donbo calendar, Tex-Mex’sNatsu Nanode Burakura Mizugi Hon TokaBlack Lagoon doujinshi, and the lovely Copoyomogi Vocaloid original illustration bookRe: Poemy Poemy.When Scott returned, he opened and skimmed through his three stacks of books. His stacks had a far more favorable percentage ofHmaterial, but many of the books dated from the late 90s and early 2000s, and none of them appealed to Scott’s tastes. So I ended up selecting as many of them to keep as I thought I could carry.

The Mets Samurai Blue soda tasted like “beautiful celebrity athlete sweat.” I only managed to drink half of the bottle.

The morning started late when Justin was still asleep at 10:30. When he woke and prepared for the day, the three of us took two medium-sized, fairly lightweight boxes to the Shinjuku main branch post office to mail home. Justin was nursing a hangover from drinking too much Japanese whisky in the hotel room the night before, so he realized on the shuttle bus ride over that he’d left his coin purse with his money in the hotel room. Moreover, because he was partially drunk, Justin’s handwriting on the postal customs forms was sloppy to the point of near illegibility. I re-wrote new customs forms for him, but in doing so, we missed the call for our number in line. So as quickly as we could, we approached the teller counter. The three of us had debated mailing purchases home, but I was particularly hesitant to do so due to the cost. At the post office, Justin chose to send his packages home by SAL, a slower option than either air mail or EMS. We were both stunned when the SAL postage cost of both boxes came in at 3,850 yen each. Moreover, the post office refused to accept a credit card. I paid in cash with the remaining bills in my wallet. Justin later paid me back. Since we were at the post office, on the ground floor Scott purchased a commemorative sheet of Japanese postage stamps.

Justin needed to return to the hotel room to collect his money and Suica card. So I suggested that Scott get a late breakfast in the station while I accompanied Justin back to the hotel while taking Scott’s stamps back to the room for him. On the way back to the hotel, I noticed from the bus window that a Mottainai flea market was in swing in the Shinjuku City Park just a block away from our hotel. Before departing for Tokyo, I’d researched the event dates and locations for the Mottainai flea markets and learned that they were all on hiatus during May. When I saw the “Mottainai Flea Market” banners from the bus window I realized, “Oh, it’s no longer May. It’s June now.”

In our hotel room Justin collected his money then chugged another glass of Kirin Fuji-Sanroku whisky before we headed out to investigate the flea market before rejoining Scott. As soon as we reached the flea market vendors, most of whom just laid their wares on a sheet or tarp spread on the ground, Justin spotted an ugly necktie that he purchased for 100 yen. Throughout the week we’d been keeping an eye open for Japanese Stitch merchandise for a friend & collector back home. We noticed a tote bag from the Japanese-exclusive Stitch TV series. Justin offered to buy it. The elderly Japanese lady owner quoted a price and made a numerical gesture on her hand, but we didn’t comprehend what she was saying. So between Justin & I, we kept pulling out 100 yen coins until finally I held out my hand full of change and the lady, somewhat indignantly, took my 500 yen coin, saying to me in Japanese the equivalent of, “If you had one of these, why didn’t you just hand it over in the first place.” Then she took an additional three 100 yen coins from us. Eight hundred yen seemed a rather steep price for a used tote bag at a flea market, but Justin was in a drunken amicable mood and didn’t question the price. The lady with a spread adjacent had a stack of brand new women’s sun hats. Justin decided to purchase one for a female friend back home. The lady asked for only 200 yen. At another sheet spread on the ground, we spied a large but rather poor condition alarm clock consisting of an SD Ultraman & Baltan Seijin; a tagged 1991 Kanegon monster figure, and a large, roughly 18 inch tall vinyl Ultraman figure. We asked for prices. The lady quoted 2,500 yen for the Ultraman, 2,000 yen for the clock, и 1,000 yen for the monster figure. Justin immediately said he’d take all of it. So the lady asked for 5,000 yen. I immediately thought that the alarm clock was priced at double its value, but the large Ultraman figure at 2,500 yen seemed like a bargain. If we’d paid about 500 yen too much for the Stitch bag, we got a 500 yen discount on the toys. While one of the toys was over-priced, another was under-priced. We began browsing the other vendors who offered clothing, household knick-knacks including plates and cups. Some young people appeared to be selling bootleg recordings of old Japanese punk rock concerts. Then Scott called to ask where we were and what was keeping us. So I assured Scott that we’d meet him at the bus stop ASAP.

Justin & I took his flea market purchases back to the hotel room, where Justin finished off the remainder of the bottle of whisky. When we reached the lobby, we coincidentally found the shuttle bus parked and waiting for us. We rejoined Scott at Shinjuku station then weaved our way through the Shinjuku station crowds to the Chuo Rapid line. When I saw the train at the station, I dashed aboard only to have the door close behind me. The rapid line stopped at Yotsuya then stopped at Ochanomizu. At the later stop I disembarked and waited for the next train to arrive carrying Justin & Scott. By this time Justin was literally stumbling drunk. We switched to the Chuo-Sobu local line and rode the train one stop to Akihabara. We exited the station and made our way to Chuo Dori where Justin bowed out on us, telling Scott & I to continue exploring while he went back to the hotel. Scott & I repeatedly asked Justin if he was absolutely certain that he wanted to face Tokyo alone. Justin adamantly insisted that he was capable of returning to the hotel, so we let him go. I took Scott to the third floor Toranoana outlet store. The entire floor consists of manga and manga erotica plus one incongruous rack of Warhammer rulebooks and supplements. Scott purchased a copy of the Hobby Japan magazine that featured a primary article on the Warcraft franchise. We decided to look for the Warhammer store in Akihabara but on the way look in on the Yellow Submarine store on the 8th floor of the building next-door to the Akiba Cultures Zone building. To our surprise, we hadn’t actually been in this building before. At the Yellow Submarine’s top floor, Scott found the Japanese exclusive Warhammer figures he’d been searching for. Two floors below was an Ami Ami second-hand store with the largest selection of adults-only anime figures we’d found anywhere in Akiba. I found an “Eroid Rino-chan” figure from manufacturer Daiki priced at only 700 yen and had to buy it. Scott purchased a Wonder Woman Nendoroid figure for his girlfriend. We browsed the first of two floors of Ami Ami as well as “Top Gun,” an odd store that had sections for PC parts, American pro wrestling goods, and American superheroes. Back on the ground, Scott tried to call Justin to check up on him, but the call wouldn’t go through. So we headed back toward the station, first stopping at the Surugaya next to Radio Kaikan. The “junk” figures included exceptional bargains including a Revoltech Vox Aura robot from Rinne no Lagrange for only 500 yen, and a Queen’s Blade Merona 1/4.5 scale figure from A Cross for only 2,500 yen. I purchased a cute and somewhat sexyMoeru! Pro Wrestling no SusumeHotaru Rikiishi VS Chihatan 2-go German Suplex version” 1/8 scale figure set for 2,000 yen. Then I went up to the third floor and purchased one random grab bag of 30 doujinshi. Obviously, this time I didn’t set off the store’s door alarm.

Scott & I returned to the hotel to discover that despite roughly two-and-a-half-hours having passed, Justin still hadn’t returned to the room. Sitting in the room, Scott tried to call him, but the phone eventually went to voice mail. Scott rationalized that Justin was a 40+ year old adult with money, a room key, and a cell phone. He ought to be able to take care of himself. I speculated out loud that Justin had probably boarded a train, fallen asleep, and was simply circling on the train route, unconscious. So we decided to go out for food. Случайно, just as we exited the hotel’s front door, the shuttle bus pulled in carrying Justin among its passengers. We were relieved that he was safe. Justin opted to return to the room to sleep. Scott and I initially walked the few blocks to the Meshiya restaurant only to find that Meshiya doesn’t serve katsu curry. We looked at the curry restaurant up the street that we’d passed by, but it was an Indian curry restaurant rather than a Japanese-style curry restaurant. So Scott used his phone to look up the nearby Go Go Curry a third of a mile up the road. Go Go Curry is the restaurant chain recognizable by its African gorilla mascot. So we walked there. Using the automated ordering kiosk, I ordered the second to largest chicken katsu curry for 780 yen. Scott ordered a katsu curry with egg. We sat at the table next to the kitchen, poured ourselves glasses of water, and waited until our meals were served in deep silver oval bowls with a serving of shredded cabbage. I was glad to find that the size of my portion was exactly ideal, as I had just enough appetite to finish all of it but nothing more. On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at the 7-11 we made a nightly routine of patronizing. Scott purchased several 100-yen onigiri to put in the hotel fridge as midnight snacks. He also purchased an egg salad sandwich for Justin. I bought two bottles of Mets Cola Zero for myself and Justin. Mets Zero tastes like a slightly sweeter cousin to Coke Zero, making it highly preferable to the rather atrociously awful tasting Pepsi Nex.

Back at the hotel, Scott & I woke Justin upon our entry into the room. Justin & Scott packed purchases, and Justin realized that he needed to package and mail home another box because his suitcases were just too small for all of the collectables he’d purchased. We turned on the TV to find a live broadcast of the Yomiuri Giants playing the Orix Buffaloes.

Justin & Scott went out to catch monsters in Pokemon Go and ended up wandering the Kabukichou area of east Shinjuku around 10pm. I opted to stay in the hotel room. I ran a hot bath and soaked for an hour. The Buffaloes beat the Giants 3 to 2.

Justin & Scott woke fairly early, but at 10:30am I was still asleep, so they woke me. We left the hotel bound for Odaiba to see the Gundam Unicorn and to visit the Toys’R’Us store. While I was used to taking the above-ground trains to Odaiba, this time around we took the JR Saikyo line, which turned into the underground Rinkai line. We boarded the train’s 10th car, and by carefully walking up the aisle of each train car and switching cars, we were eventually able to reach the train’s first car. Initially, each time the train stopped at a station, we would dash the length of the train car and pass through the connecting doors into the next car. When we realized that transitioning by one or two cars per station wouldn’t get us to the first car quickly enough, we began changing rail cars while the train was moving. Our goal was to reach the head of the train for the view of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge. But upon reaching the first car, we realized that since we’d taken a different train route, the train we were on was underground, eliminating the spectacular view but also considerably reducing our transit time.

When the train stopped next, we realized that we were at the Tokyo Teleport station. So we got off and began to discuss which exit would be more practical while looking up at the giant illustrated map on the station wall. An English speaking female station attendant approached and asked where we wanted to go. We replied, “Gundam,” so she handed us a map of the island and directed us to the escalators that would take us above ground. So we headed up, finding ourselves not too very far from the highly famous Daikanransha ferris wheel.

We walked the path across the island, passing a pair of Japanese ladies who pushed around their pet dogs in baby carriages, eventually reaching the Diver City shopping mall and its new guardian, the life-sized Unicorn Gundam. We all snapped photos of the robot statue. I lay down on my stomach on the brick ground in order to get a wide, angled photo of Justin & Scott along with a group of Japanese school kids who joined the photo shot.

At 12:40pm, we entered the Gundam statue gift shop trailer. Justin purchased a model of the Unicorn Gundam in a limited edition box labeled with the “Life-Sized Unicorn Gundam” and “Gundam Base Toyko” logos. Finally, at 1pm, the Gundam’s audio speakers powered up, shouting, “Banagher Links, Unicorn Gundam ikimasu!” Then the statue’s knee joints followed by chest panels flared, the face swapped, and the forehead horn split in half, and the mecha illuminated internally in red. The entire transformation was brief. And after the background music ended the Gundam reverted back to its standard form for a moment. Then it silently once again reverted to “Destroy” mode to allow more time for photographs.

An English-speaking Asian young man asked Justin to take his picture posed with the Gundam. By coincidence, when Justin & I found ourselves on the west sixth floor of the Diver City mall, the same young man was by our side. While Scott examined the restaurants on the sixth floor, Justin & I took the elevator up to the seventh floor where we found a skate park themed café and a camping themed café, and a bilingual sign announcing that access to the Gundam Base Tokyo was limited to the elevator & escalator on the east end of the mall. So we rode the elevator back down one floor, just catching Scott before he went up. Then we walked across the mall to the east side and took the escalator up to the seventh floor, which consisted of a large “Battle Colosseum” video game arcade and the extensive Gundam Base Tokyo exhibition.

The free-to enter Gundam Base Tokyo opens with displays of plastic models of historical titular Gundam robots and their primary antagonists as well as displays of limited edition “Gunpla” kits available only at the Gundam Base Tokyo exhibition. The entry of the exhibition area also features life-sized statues of the Gundam Build Fighters characters.

Past the initial exhibition lies a massive Gunpla store touting the largest selection of Gundam plastic model kits available anywhere. A side outlet specializes in limited edition Gundam apparel including shirts, ties, shoes, bags, and briefcases.

The center of the expansive Gundam Base Tokyo is a curtained-off exhibition titled “Future of Gunpla.” Every 20 minutes an audience is led behind the curtain, and the host shows off a large 1:20 scale Gundam Unicorn plastic model kit that’s fully illuminated and completely transforms from its Unicorn mode into its complete “Destroy” mode including extended beam sabers over its shoulders. The demonstration suggests that Bandai is aggressively at work on developing both larger plastic model kits and also robotic, interactive model kits. Of course, since the display is a prototype, photography of it is strictly prohibited.

Past the main store floor is a display of a selection of prior Gunpla World Cup winning models, and also a walk-through exhibition explaining the development process of Gundam plastic models. The exhibition reveals that employees in the Shizuoka Gundam model factory all work while wearing Gundam style uniforms with rank badges designating their status from workman up to general manager. The exhibit also illustrates a die used for injecting molding models, the colored plastic beads that are melted to create the colored plastic pieces, the hand-crafted tools Gunpla designers create to sculpt prototype model kits, and the considerations that affect packaging design. The exhibition also includes a motorized, interactive scale model of the Shizuoka production facility, an injection molding machine for illustration, and even a 515-yen plastic model of Bandai’s injection molding machine! Customers are limited to five purchases per day due to the exclusivity of many of the exhibition’s offerings. So Justin purchased four of the injection molding machine kits, and Scott bought another for a friend.

The back of the exhibition space contains a room with tables where patrons can assemble their freshly purchased kits, a second work space for painting the kits with assistance and advice from professional modelers, and a studio stage where modelers tape and live-stream their plastic model building.

After spending considerable time in the Gundam Base Tokyo, we descended a few floors and browsed the “The Odaiba” gift shop. I noticed and had to purchase a 410 yen rubber keychain depicting Golgo 13 in his underwear holding a pistol while standing next to Tokyo Tower. The contoured and textured rubber keychain also has a back side that depicts Duke Togo’s backside. When I pointed out the keychain to Justin, he purchased two of them.

We crossed the hall and snapped pictures with the Hello Kitty Robo statue at the Hello Kitty store. Then we descended to the first floor’s food court. I spent 1,150 yen on a large bowl of fried, sliced pork katsu curry and a Coke from Kimukatsutei. From the same restaurant, Justin ordered the bonito gyudon. At one counter, Scott ordered a serving of fresh takoyaki. At another counter, he ordered an omrice with brown gravy. Justin didn’t like the taste of his fishy beef bowl. Scott didn’t like the taste of the zesty rice in the omelet-rice, so Scott ended up eating Justin’s bonito rice while I finished off the omrice. Justin ordered a bowl of soy broth ramen that he ultimately considered “just okay.” Scott ordered a serving of the same rolled sliced pork fried then added to curry. To finish up, Justin ordered a pig-in-a-blanket and a serving of mini-pigs-in-blankets from Auntie Anne’s while Scott selected a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme, including mango flavor, banana flavor, and matcha flavor.

At that point, Justin, Scott and I decided to go separate routes. I’d go hunting for ero doujinshi while Scott & Justin would stop by the Tokyo Dome to search for Yomiuri Giants souvenirs for baseball fans back home then return to the hotel. At Osaki station I left Justin & Scott. I got on the Yamanote line and promptly began to nod off. I distinctly started when I woke with a start, realizing that I was at a station. Thankfully the stop was Shimbashi, four stops ahead of Akiba.

I exited the Electric Town exit and instead of heading directly toward Chuo Dori went straight ahead, past the M’s tower before turning right. In the alley before the Radio Kaikan building I discovered another Surugaya goods store. The shelves outside the store, in the dark alley, consisted of “junk” figures at especially bargain prices. The first floor consisted of used figure toys. The second floor is devoted to bishounen and fujoshi interests. The third floor is adult doujinshi including a table that offered packages of 30 random doujinshi for only 300 yen.

With a brisk pace, I browsed Melon Books, K-Books, Toranoana, and the Toranoana outlet store across the street from the main store, where I purchased, at last, the Azasuke Wind “Dressing Room” Black Lagoon doujinshi and the URC “Ao o Yuukai Ryoujoku” Pretty Cure doujinshi.

I also browsed the stores off Chuo Dori, leading me to find the Serial Box Bulb rental case store below a Comic Blister store that specialized in American comics. I was surprised to discover that the White Canvas shop carried not just Japanese doujin goods but also full cuts of genga from anime series Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls, Queen’s Blade, Bleach, and Naruto. I paid 1,587 yen for a full scene cut of genga from Samurai Girls. Genga packs from Naruto were around 4,900 yen apiece.

At the end of my excursion, I went back to the Surugaya store next to RajiKaikan, intending to purchase a grab bag of doujinshi, but the alarm at the front door beeped. I stepped back and forward again, confirming that it was me setting off the security alarm. I don’t know what was causing the alarm. A young man staffer of the store came to the door and said to me, “Another store, please,” clearly suggesting to me that I patronize another store rather than his. So I gave up and walked across the street to the station and went back to the Shinjuku Hilton because I didn’t see any coin lockers outside of the station’s turnstile gates where I could temporarily leave my backpack. Случайно, just as I walked into the hotel lobby, I spied Scott & Justin walking out.

After separating from me on the Rinkai line, Justin & Scott had somehow ended up on the train going in the opposite direction, but after some delay they returned to the hotel. They considered going to Tokyo Dome City but discovered it was closed. Scott & Justin realized that while the three of us had visited Odaiba in the morning, we’d left the island completely forgetting to also stop at the Toys ‘R’ Us store. So Scott & Justin looked up the address for the store in Higashi Ikebukuro. Justin also packed a box for mailing. Scott & Justin were on their way to the post office & Toys ‘R’ us when I bumped into them. So we all went upstairs where I dropped off my purchases, and we went back out.

The 24-hour postal service counters on the second floor of the main branch Shinjku post office were very crowded at 8pm. Justin took his waiting number. The numbers cycle from 600 to 999. The numbers were around 950. Justin’s number was 650. After waiting for 15 или 20 minutes, we gave up and instead took the train to Ikebukuro station. Once there, Scott showed me his phone and told me that we were going to take the Marunochi to Yurakucho. So when I spotted the gate for the Marunochi subway line, I tugged Justin and passed through the gate, only to find that Scott wasn’t with us. We got him on the phone, and he asserted that the Marunochi didn’t go where we needed to go. I was confused. Based on Scott’s verbal instructions, I’d thought we needed to take the Marunochi subway line to Yurakucho. Scott found us and explained that he’d misspoken and misidentified “Metro” as “Marunochi,” and that we needed to ride the Yurakucho subway line, not literally go to Yurakucho city.

We managed to find the rear entrance of the Sunshine City mall at 8:45, fifteen minutes before the store’s closing time. A security guard directed us to the Toys ‘R’ Us store in the basement. While browsing the store, the PA began playing “Kumbaya” signifying the store’s closing. Justin selected a pair of Godzilla monster figures and a handful of Ultraman monster figures. He also purchased a Star Wars “Rey” S.H. Figuarts figure to take home as a gift for a friend. For that same friend, I purchased a Japanese exclusive small “Darth Vader in a barrel” game and a child’s Yomiuri Giants bib that would be ideal for wall display.

Since we were already using the subway lines this evening, we continued to do so, taking the Yurakucho line to Ikebukuro, then the Fukutoshin line to Shinjuku-Sanchome, then the Marunochi subway line to Nishi Shinjuku, which exits on the street just a few blocks behind the Hilton. So we started walking back toward the hotel when we decided instead of go in the opposite direction to the 7-11 to purchase late night snack food including nikuman and pizzaman hot buns, and egg salad sandwiches.

We returned to the hotel and caught several anime episodes on TV including Comic Girls, Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori, and Hisone to Masotan.

For reasons unknown, I woke especially early – around 6:30am. At 9:45 I walked downstairs to the breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby while Justin & Scott slept in. Around 11am the three of us caught the shuttle bus to Shinjuku Station then walked to Kabukicho. We first found the Okadaya Shinjuku Honten, a fabric and sewing store. We went up to the fifth floor so Justin could look for Japanese buttons for his wife’s collection. Attractive Japanese clothing buttons turned out to be rather expensive. When we inquired about fabric, we were told that the Okadaya store next-door specialized in fabrics. So Justin went next-door while Scott and I wandered the neighborhood. As Justin browsed and purchased lengths of Japanese fabric for his wife back in Florida, Scott and I poked our noses into the Lammtarra idol store then across the pedestrian street into the anime and adult Lammtarra store. I pointed out the Don Quijote store across the street, so Scott & I walked over to the store and began browsing. The Don Quijote franchise is akin to America’s Spencer’s Gifts store franchise. Each store is a bizarre mixture of kitsch, practical, luxury, and unnecessary items all mixed together with seemingly no discernable organization. While we were browsing the store, Justin texted notice that he’d finished his excursion and was ready to meet us again. So I went down to the street level to find him.

I found Justin and brought him into the “Donki” store. Justin purchased a handful of magnets as Japanese souvenirs for co-workers at home. We then collectively decided to walk back across the street again to have lunch at the Yoshinoya. We climbed the stairs to the second floor and ordered. Justin ordered the chili sauce curry with beef. Scott ordered the same with an egg. I ordered a large gyudon.

After eating, with the help of Scott’s phone GPS we managed to walk to the Shinjuku Wald 9 theater and its adjacent OIOI department store. Just inside the “Marui” department store, on the ground floor corner, is the official Godzilla shop. The selection included several vinyl monster figure toys, t-shirts and embroidered jackets, mugs, towels, post cards, and reference books for each Godzilla monster. Justin purchased a tiny glass Ebirah figure and a set of four museum exclusive Godzilla sake cups. I purchased a commemorative Godzilla Store clear file. Across from the Godzilla selection was a display of Japanese exclusive Kit-Kat flavors. So Scott purchased a few more bags.

Since the theater was right next-door, we rode the elevator up to the ninth floor theater lobby and loaded up with multiples of many of the promotional “chiraishi” for upcoming films. On the way down we realized that the fourth floor was another Surugaya store with a tremendous selection of used character and mecha figures. The store even had an entire aisle of 100 yen anime goods, including small plush figures, postcards, small tins, keychains, clear files, and other odds & ends. I’ve had the 1999 Banpresto Toru Toru Item DX Galaxy Express 999 Maetel figure for years. I found the matching Harlock figure, with his plastic clamshell so yellowed that it was nearly opaque, for only 500 yen. The figure itself, though, was perfect.

We returned to the hotel to drop off our bags. Then after a short rest we ventured back out to Akiba. Certainly some observers may criticize us for traveling all the way to Japan then spending so much time in so few locations. But for us, a trip to Tokyo is like an extended anime convention. We enjoy ourselves most when immersing in anime goods & culture.

One of Scott’s close friends asked him for photos of the Final Fantasy Eorzea Café. The pop-up restaurant is located on the second floor of a high-rise tower just west of Chuo Dori in Akihabara, across the street from the Animate Girls’ Station store. The café typically requires advance reservations, but since tables were open when we arrived, the staff allowed us immediate entry so long as we stayed for no more than an hour. The staff handed us a sheet of café rules and a digital tablet then led us into the smallish, dimly lit Final Fantasy-themed room. The restaurant has three Playstations connected to the game and replica Final Fantasy weapons and art adorning the walls. Shortly after we were seated, another café patron placed two plates of deserts before us. He explained that his party had ordered more than it could eat, so he was sharing the left-over food with other patrons. We thanked him then placed our order by looking at the printed menu and imputing our order on the digital tablet. We each ordered a drink – mine non-alcoholic. And Scott also ordered a plate of four chicken wings. For each item ordered, we received one exclusive drink coaster. Since I’m not very familiar with Final Fantasy XV and Scott paid for our refreshments, I donated my exclusive coaster to him to pass along to his business partner that wanted us to visit the café.

We then walked up Chuo Dori, intending to clean up “needs.” We skimmed through the Volks Hobby Tengoku store, but Scott forgot what he was looking for there. We browsed the toy floor of Bic Camera. We also browsed through the Chuo Dori Don Quijote store. Finally, I lead us to Liberty 8. I immediately stepped into the elevator to rise to the fourth floor, but Scott & Justin trailed behind me and missed the elevator. I’d intended to purchase used, boxed Megahouse Pretty Cure Black & White figures for 3,500 yen. But I realized that a matching Shiny Luminous was also available for only 800 yen to complete the trio with interlocking display bases. So I purchased all three figures then took the stairs up to the fifth floor. On the clearance shelf along with wall, one of the plastic 3D Sonico posters I’d been interested in appeared to be gone, but I did purchase two others. Neither Justin nor Scott had appeared to find me. So I went down to the entrance of the store and still didn’t see them. So I then walked up all five flights of stairs, quickly scanning each floor for them. When I still didn’t find them, I returned to the street, perched on a railing, and waited for twenty minutes until Scott & Justin came back from the Surugaya store facing the street where Justin purchased a pair of Mothra vinyl figures. I then led the three of us to the Akiba Mandarake complex. On the 7th floor Justin inspected then decided to purchase the vintage Marusan Godzilla figure for 12,000 yen. I purchased a Kagerou Days shitajiki for 150 yen and a Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku shitajiki for 100 yen.

When we returned to Shinjuku Station, Justin volunteered to transport our bags of purchases back to the hotel. So Scott & I, now unburdened, walked across the street into the Nishi Shinjuku shopping area. Scott spied and suggest that we eat at a Hanamaru restaurant. So we descended the stairs. Scott ordered a bowl of udon. I chose the “mini” curry set with a bowl of udon. Since I’d previously chosen “large” size and had difficulty finishing it, I ordered today’s meal medium-sized yet still couldn’t finish all of the udon noodles after consuming the curry rice.

After dinner, Scott suggested that we go separate ways so that I could return to the hotel while he roamed the busy area around the bus terminal playing Pokemon Go.

After getting back to the hotel room late after the movie and composing the blog record of the day’s events, I didn’t get to sleep until 5am. So I was quite tired when I woke at nine. While Scott went to exercise in the hotel exercise room, Justin & I went downstairs for the breakfast buffet. Then we all met in the room and left the hotel together at 10:45. After arriving at Shinjuku Station via the hotel shuttle bus, we took the Chuo Rapid line to Mitaka. The Mitaka station is moderately sized and contains a number of attractive restaurants. We exited the station, took an escalator down to the ground floor, then began searching for the canopy signifying the pick-up point for the Ghibli Museum. A considerate local woman speaking relatively confident English directed us to go back the way we’d come until we saw the canopy and the machine selling tickets for a ride to the museum.

At the automated machine, each of us paid the 360 yen fee for a round-trip ride to and from the museum. Then we waited a few short minutes until the bus began loading. The guide directing the bus embarkation from the sidewalk encouraged us to separate our single perforated bus ticket into “to” and “from” tickets before boarding. We boarded the Mitaka City bus, which was painted in white and yellow with the images and name of the Ghibli Museum on its exterior, dropping our paper tickets into a small plastic box beside the driver.

The bus wound through dense residential areas and for quite a while followed alongside a stream separating city from dense forest. After several stops, the bus pulled parallel to the Inokashira Park. When we exited the bus and walked the several yards back toward the museum’s entrance, a lengthy line of the day’s guests was already waiting. The line stretched from the ticketing house back to the exterior restrooms and a canopy tent, around the side of the building, all the way back to the life-sized O-Totoro inside a replica ticket booth. Благодарно, the line moved quickly. A pair of employees compared patrons’ legal identification cards against the names on the museum tickets. Our tickets were scheduled for a noon entry. We arrived in the line nearly 15 minutes early.

When we entered the museum, we first queued for the short movie screening. The museum was screening Miyazaki’s Kemushi no Boro short film. The beautifully animated short has no soundtrack. Rather, all of its sound consists of manga-style sound effects and reaction sounds like “zawawawa” and “dondondondon” and “shuu shuu shuu shuu” contributed by comedian Tamori. The short film is adorable, of course, and like all good family anime, doesn’t avoid depicting both the wondrous and the crude or harshly amoral aspects of the natural life cycle. After we toured the first floor of the museum, Justin opted to climb the museum’s indoor spiral staircase. Scott and I moved to meet him on the second floor but then realized that the spiral staircase expired at the third floor. Scott & I found Justin in the Kemushi no Boro exhibit. The “Boro” gallery stretched down one hall. The sides of the hall housed samples of storyboards & animation frames from the short film’s production. The hallway itself was adorned with standees of “Boro” characters. Then we made our way through the regular second floor exhibition on the work of Ghibli’s animators. The exhibit rooms featured idealized recreations of Hayao Miyazaki’s work environments, and walls covered in storyboard images, genga, and final production artwork.

Scott suggested that we check out the museum’s rooftop. We walked out onto the porch through a doorway next to the giant plush catbus that small Japanese children were climbing on. The outdoor porch housed a pair of steel “leaf skeleton” benches, a sort of clockwork water fountain, and an enclosed spiral staircase leading to the topmost roof. We took a photo for a small group of American schoolgirl tourists. Then we climbed the external staircase to the rooftop and found a life-sized statue of the broken down Laputa guardian robot. Museum guests stood in a patient line for opportunities to pose before the robot statue for photographs. Since we’d taken a snapshot for the five young women, they returned the favor for us.

We briefly climbed down to the museum’s ground floor interior courtyard.

We returned to the museum’s second floor and turned into the “Taberu wo Kaku” (“Drawing Eating”) exhibit. The exhibit amply demonstrates the extent of the staggering effort Ghibli animators have devoted to drawing Ghibli’s films. The exhibit also included three-dimensional replicas of the foods prominently depicted within Ghibli films. At the sample recreation of the outhouse kitchen from Tonari no Totoro, patrons removed their shoes in order to walk over the tatami floor of the interactive set. The set was followed by a similar replica of the kitchen of Dola’s airship that museum patrons walked through, complete with cabinets fully stocked with cups and plates, preserved spices, and large cheese wheels.

In the museum’s gift shop, Justin & Scott each selected a small, plush caterpillar “Boro” keychain. Justin also purchased an inexpensive charm replica of Sheeta’s levitation stone. I also found a small Boro doll that would shiver and wiggle when its drawstring was pulled. I gave Justin 1,000 yen to purchase it for me at its 972-yen price while I walked to the other side of the fourth floor to patronize the book store. I was relieved to find that the ten Ghibli Museum exclusive movie programs cost 400 yen each rather than the 1,000 yen each I feared they’d cost. So I purchased all ten short film memorial books plus a booklet devoted to the “Taberu wo Kaku” exhibit for 5,100 yen. I’m rather certain that I already own two of the short film program books for the movies I’ve previously seen, but I chose to purchase a set rather than risk not having them all.

We then exited the museum’s grounds and returned to the bus stop, eventually climbing aboard the city bus and riding until the bus circled back around to the Mitaka station. At the station, we boarded the Chuo-Rapid again and stayed on it until it reached Nakano. The overcast sky had begun to rain consistently but lightly. We stopped to investigate Tenma Curry in the Nakano Sun Mall. After being seated, Justin & I each ordered a 500-yen fried curry & cheese bun & cup of homemade ginger ale meal set. Scott ordered the plain beef bun with drink set plus a second curry & soft-boiled egg fried bun. When we finished eating, we took the small clipboard with our customer number to the cashier to pay. Scott generously offered to pay for our light meals.

Several paces farther down the Nakano Sunshine mall, we noticed that the only two patrons within the Genso Zushi conveyor belt sushi restaurant were just leaving. So we took their place. Between the three of us, we selected and consumed a dozen or more plates of sushi with two pieces per plate. When we were finished, I grabbed the attention of the younger store attendant. In a flash, he mentally counted the number & color of plates we’d accumulated, motioned us to the register, and charged us a highly reasonable 1,500 yen for our total. While most of the sushi was merely ordinary in taste, the experience of eating conveyor belt sushi in Tokyo was worth far more than the price we paid.

We proceeded into Nakano Broadway and took the stairs up to the second floor. While Justin & I took a toilet break, Scott entered Mandarake Special 1 and purchased the Sunstreaker Masterpiece Transformers figure he’d had his eye on. Justin came back to the store and first dug through a basket of two-for-108-yen (including sales tax) mini figures of mostly Pokemon & Ultraman monsters. He and Scott pulled out a few figures. Then Justin requested four limited edition opaque color Ultraman figures from the glass display case, along with a vintage soft vinyl figure of Jirass, на 1966 Ultraman monster crafted from a modified Godzilla costume.

I stopped into the Mandarake Deep store and asked for guidance to the selection of adult doujinshi by “Mental Specialist.” Expecting to find nothing, I was tremendously pleased and surprised to find that the selection included Watanabe Yoshimasa’s Dirty Pair Syuku Shinsaku Hatsubaikinen Genteibon doujinshi for 1,000 yen, Prescription volume 1 revised edition doujinshi for 1,500 yen, and Prescription volume 2 doujinshi for 1,500 yen. The selection also included a Prescription volume 4, but I already have a copy of that book. Actually, the store had two copies of the revised volume 1 doujin marked at the same price. I brought Justin into the store to look at them and give me a second opinion. One copy had small but noticeable brown stains on the cover that may or may not be removable. The cover of the second copy was a bit dirty but had no obvious stains. въпреки това, it did exhibit significant chipping on the lower front cover. I decided to purchase the first copy. Although 4,000 yen was a bit more than I’d hoped to pay for three vintage Dirty Pair doujinshi, I’m sure it’s less than I’d pay for them had I found them from a vendor in America.

The three of us collectively decided to depart Nakano and visit Tokyo Character Street. So we re-boarded the Chuo Rapid. At Shinjuku Station, much of the train emptied out, so we were able to secure seats for ourselves. We exited the train at Tokyo station’s Yaesu North Gate and didn’t know exactly where to go. So I asked at the information counter. The lady behind the counter directed me to go straight, exit, then take the left entrance into the basement. Ultimately Scott & I agreed to try the downward stairs next to the Ekiben-ya Matsuri shop. Doing so proved correct, because upon reaching the basement, I began to recognize Tokyo Character Street stores. So we made the loop. In the Ultraman store, I spent 300 yen on a bottle of Ultraman Kodomo Beer. Justin purchased a replica communicator badge and a steel V-TOL paperweight. Just outside the shop, Scott got accosted by a middle-aged Japanese man aggressively eager to practice his English language speaking skills. With great patience and fortitude, Scott carried on an extended conversation until finally exculpating himself by shifting the man’s focus onto Justin.

In the meantime, I crossed the hallway to the Precure store and purchased a booklet of mini-stickers that featured a unique Pretty Cure 15th anniversary logo and illustration on its cover. A lady managing the NekoZakka NyaOn pop-up shop cart confused Justin & me when she said something about “…sold out tomorrow.” With our minimal understanding of Japanese, we couldn’t comprehend if she meant that her goods would be sold out by tomorrow, if she had sold out of the day’s allotted inventory, of if she was closing for the day thus we should return to purchase goods from her tomorrow. In any case, while Scott & I were browsing the Shounen Jump store, Justin went back to the NekoZakka retail cart and purchased a cat-faced purse and a postcard for his wife. At the Jump Shop, Scott purchased a Dragon Ball themed water bottle. We browsed through the Moomin, Tomica (“Takara Tomy”), and Fuji TV network stores. In the Donguri Kyowakoku Ghibli store, Justin purchased vinyl mini figures of Pazu, Sheeta, Dola & her flapter, and Teto.

When we wandered past the boundaries of Tokyo Character Street and moved into the “First Avenue” shopping arcade, we spied a Kit-Kat specialty outlet. Scott purchased several boxes of unusual, Japanese exclusive Kit-Kat flavors. I was disappointed to learn that the box of sake flavored Kit-Kat didn’t include a sample bottle of sake.

We stopped and observed the automated work of an antique manju-making machine in a store window. The vintage cast iron machine would pour dough into molds, squirt a dollop of filling atop the dough, cover the filling with another layer of dough, then press and heat the ingredients into a circular, egg-like pastry. Justin entered the bakery and inquired about purchasing omiage gift boxes of azuki & matcha flavored manju, but the shop clerk pointed out that the confections had a strict week-long shelf life. They’d be no good to consume or give as gifts by the time Justin returned home if purchased today. So Justin thanked the clerk for his honest consideration and reluctantly left the store empty-handed.

We departed Tokyo Station and returned to our hotel. After a short rest, we took a walk out into the light rain. Although our intention was to purchase hot take-out food from the nearby 7-11, I suggested instead that we just eat a dinner at the nearby Yoshinoya restaurant. Scott took me up on the idea, so the two of us entered while Justin decided to wait outside. I didn’t realize at the time that Scott had given Justin the impression that Scott & I were ordering take-out, not sitting down to eat in the restaurant. Scott ordered the curry with beef & egg dish. I pointed out, on the menu, the curry with beef bowl, but the young woman waitress evidently put in my order as strictly a bowl of white rice topped with a thick layer of deep brown colored sweet curry. I paid the 450 yen for my meal then went next door into the Can Do 100 yen store. I purchased two bottles of Coke Zero, a long transparent utility box with a clasp, и, as an experiment, a B5-sized binder with permanent sheet protectors. The transparent box will serve as my means of transporting home a full plastic bottle of Pepsi’s” J-Cola. But I’ll need a second properly sized plastic container to carry the filled aluminum Coke can with the Tokyo silhouette that Scott purchased for me in Shibuya.

Since the 7-11 was sold out of meat buns, on the way back to the hotel, when we stuck our heads into Family Mart, I purchased two “FamiChiki” fried chicken patties to take back to the hotel room as snacks. Once back in the hotel room, I tried to compose this very document while current episodes of Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori and Juushinki Pandora played on the television behind me. But I was so exhausted that I unconsciously kept typing sentences that made no sense. And I eventually fell asleep in my chair. When Justin nudged me conscious, I shut off the laptop and climbed into bed for the night.

Since we qualified for only two free breakfast recipients, this morning Scott & Justin went for the morning meal while I remained in the room researching the relevance of visiting Asagaya Anime Street (seemingly rather little these days since the Shirobaco café has transformed into an idol singer-themed restaurant).

When we left the room, we took the hotel shuttle bus to Shinjuku station’s central west exit. I exchanged $300 USD at the J-Market store at a 112 yen exchange rate. Then the three of us took the Chuo Rapid train line to Ochanomizu. When the train stopped, we dashed across the platform onto the Chuo-Sobu local, arriving in Akihabara around 10:30am. Our goal for the day was to browse the stores off Chuo Dori. So underneath the rail overpass we crossed the street and headed straight, first visiting Mulan Akiba. The store carried video games, home video, and figure toys – new and second hand. Although the store did carry some items we hadn’t seen elsewhere, the store’s prices seemed a bit higher than average. Just outside of the store, on the side of the street, Scott stopped to purchase the last gachapon “I-shibari” in a 200 yen vending machine. The “prize” was literally a length of white twined rope tied into traditional Japanese shibari intended to enwrap a cell phone.

Returning to 3 Chome, we turned up the alley to the Autum Leaf store. I asked the shopkeeper for the Saigado “Toshimaku Sodachi no Toshima-san” manga. After searching his store’s inventory via PC, he went upstairs then returned with a new copy of the book. So I purchased the book plus a copy of Oda Non’s “Non Virgin” tankouban that was spotlighted on the store’s shelf. Half a block down the road, we came to the Akiba Cultures Zone building which we’d begun to explore two days before. So we went up to the third floor and finished exploring the Robot Robot store. Scott found a tiny Boba Fett figure. I picked up Kodansha’s “Hitagi” mook for 500 yen and the volume 0 DVD of the obscure “Omochi Alien” anime series, complete with a bonus figure, for 500 yen.

Then we took the elevator up to the fifth floor’s Good Smile & Animate Café that was hosting a limited time Cowboy Bebop 20th anniversary café. The airy L-shaped café had wooden tables covered with Cowboy Bebop spaceship themed banners. The walls were adorned with Cowboy Bebop illustrations. The rear of the eating space had large cardboard standees of the characters in their 20th anniversary formal clothing. The menu consisted of foods and drinks inspired by and named after the show. Each of us ordered aSpike” (a strawberry ginger ale). I also ordered a 1,000 yen plate of spaghetti & meatballs since I hadn’t had breakfast. Our order was brought to us along with three of twelve exclusive laminated cardboard Cowboy Bebop drink coasters. I received a second randomly selected coaster when my plate of spaghetti arrived. The drink was tasty. The spaghetti was rather zesty, but a rather small portion considering its price. As I finished eating, Scott & Justin both ordered a “Spike Spigel,” an “Old Fashioned” whisky cocktail served with a handful of peanuts and a small chocolate in the shape of a pistol. Justin initially considered ordering a “Faye Valentine,” a martini. But the waiter confirmed that the martini was made with gin rather than vodka. Before paying for our meal, I picked up two three-packs of thin vinyl cases for the coasters, and an acrylic Cowboy Bebop café “Faye” standee. The “Swordfish” tie-tac was sold out. Scott picked up one of the limited framed three-dimensional illustrations of the Bebop crew lounging in its 20th anniversary formal wear.

To finish off the Akiba Cultures Zone building, we browsed the second and first floors. Particularly worth noting, in a first floor display case we noticed a beautiful 5,000 yen matching set of Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori design ball point pens.

Across the street, we entered the Akihabara Mandarake complex and took the elevator up to the eighth floor. Justin inquired about a vintage Robocop Auto 9 airsoft pistol priced at 5,000 yen. Unexpectedly considerately, the Mandarake staff called the airport to inquire about the viability of simply packing the toy gun within checked luggage. Since the response was unfavorable, Justin didn’t buy the replica gun. On the seventh floor Justin found a vintage Marusan vinyl Godzilla figure available for 12,000 yen that especially piqued his interest. I thumbed through the selection of vintage shitajiki and found one Dirty Pair release that I didn’t own. I purchased it at 1,500 yen. We skipped the sixth and fifth floors. The fourth floor is men’s doujinshi. I spent a few minutes in vain searching for the “Saigado” section before I gave up and asked an employee. He directed me to an entirely different bookshelf than the one’s I’d looked at. I pulled three used comics that brought my collection of Saigado doujinshi to up-to-date completion. I then asked the employee to point out the “Mental Specialist” section. He did. I looked but didn’t see any of artist Yoshimasa Watanabe’s early Dirty Pair doujinshi that I didn’t already own.

Further up 3 Chome, we found the second Jungle store. [Technically it’s referred to as Jungle store 1, and the Radio Kaikan store is “store 2”]. Justin opted to initially browse the basement “monster” floor. He ended up purchasing only a Sonico beverage bottle holder for 540 yen. Digging through the clearance box, I found a copy of Hiroki Yagami’s “G-Taste volume 5” illustration book discounted to an unbelievable 54 yen. At check-out, we were behind a pair of young men studying abroad. The pair proffered their passports and requested sales tax exemption. One of them buying sentai goods requested that the toys be removed from their packaging in order to conserve space in his luggage. The same young man also spent additional time with the cashier staff to get his bill correctly sorted out and his change correct. After Justin cashed out, a Chinese tourist stepped up. He also spent a while ensuring that his purchase was tax-free. So I spent a great deal of time waiting in line for a fifty cent purchase.

After exploring the basement and the above-ground first level of Jungle’s first Akihabara store, we backtracked by a few feet, turned the aisle, and found the entrance to the Monsters Labo specialty store. So Justin & Scott descended and browsed while I shot a brief video commemorating the unusual entrance approach to the store.

Before leaving, Scott pointed out an un-priced Ichiban Kuji Godzilla prize drinking cup in box, After Justin re-introduced himself to the shop-owner he’d first met briefly in 2016, the shop owner insisted that Justin pay only 100 yen for the glass cup. The shop owner then dug out a small pile of kaiju-themed hand towels and a similar stack of Godzilla-themed clear files. A sense of politeness seemingly encouraged Justin & Scott to both purchase a few items from the selected offerings.

Initially Justin forgetfully left behind his printed need lists of Godzilla toys in the Monsters Labo store. So while he returned to the store to fetch it, Scott browsed the neighboring electronics store. Justin rejoined us, and the three of us then returned to Chuo Dori and walked down to the Mos burger store. Requested by the sign in the door, Scott first went upstairs and secured a table for us. I ordered the “Tobikiri burger with Japanese sauce.” Justin ordered a cheeseburger and a hot dog. Then Scott went downstairs and ordered two beef & rice patty sandwiches. The food was delivered up to our seats.

By mutual agreement over lunch, we departed the Mos Burger and returned to Akihabara Station. There we took the Chuo line to Ochanomizu, switched trains to the Chuo Rapid to Shinjuku, then at Shinjuku switched trains to the Yamanote line to Shibuya. Being forced to pack into the trains during the rush hour commute effectively prepared us for the crushing throng of people at the Ningen Scramble crossing outside of the station’s Hachiko exit. By a near miracle, I successfully navigated a passage from the Shibuya station to the Shibuya Mandarake store without having to backtrack, get lost, or ask anyone for assistance.

Unexpectedly, this time around the Shibuya Mandarake store seemed unsatisfying and picked over. In previous years we’d found an abundance of stellar deals at the store. But this time around we all found very little of interest. I was surprised and pleased to see that the men’s doujinshi section now had a placard for “Dirty Pair,” I purchased one Dirty Pair Flash doujinshi that I didn’t previously have.

We left the Mandarake store by its ground floor side-street entrance and crossed the street into the Daiso 100 yen store. Upon recognizing the length of the line of customers at the check-out registers, we decided to forgo the shop. So we stepped outside into an adjacent small parking lot lined with soda vending machines. I noticed one machine offered an aluminum bottle of Coca-Cola with a Tokyo silhouette emblazoned on around the bottle. So I dropped a pair of hundred yen coins into the machine and pressed the dispense button, but nothing happened. So I depressed the coin return lever. Nothing happened. The machine simply stole my 200 yen. Luckily, Scott spotted the same style of Coke bottle in another machine and purchased one for me. Then we followed Scott on a long straight-line walk back to the station that cut out the shorter diagonal navigation back to the Hachiko entrance of the Shibuya station. From our home station, we returned to the hotel. After an hour’s rest, we took the shuttle bus back to the station, and from there walked to the Toho Shinjuku Theater, a multiplex attached to the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, famous for its life-sized Godzilla peeking over the rooftop. We arrived a half-hour early for the day’s final screening of Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. To avoid spoilers, I’ll simply call the second film comparable in quality to the first.

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