Tuesday, 28 June Yesterday morning I finally arrived to Tokyo. From the main train station, I caught another train to my suburb and about half an hour later I finally arrived to Ikebukuro. As I walked out to the main square, I was simply stunned. I don’t know what I expected from the city with a population of 13 and a half million… I mean, I knew it will be big, but still, it exceeded all my expectations.
Not just huge, Tokyo is shiny, loud, crowded and fast-paced. The railway system is superb. Train after train, metro after metro, always on time. Using a subway at a rush our, is experience on its own. I never imagined you can fit that many bodies in one little space, simply noone stays outside. Crowds, masses of people, walking in all directions, yet noone is in your way. If you are in a hurry you simply follow the line of fast walkers. Japanese queue for everything anyway. Food (ha ha, talking about food again)… you can probably be here for a year and you still wouldn’t manage to try all that Tokyo offers. Entertainment is fantastic and goes way beyond your imagination. Parks, even though you are in the middle of this chaos, you will still find peace and quietness there interrupted just by birds singing.
I started the day at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Apparently over 2000 tonnes of fish is traded here every day. Walking through you can see all sorts of ocean creatures, however what you need to be careful of are the handcarts and forklifts, they are just rushing by as they would miss something if they arrive to the point B a few seconds later. Stalls with fresh sushi are the most popular ones, however you can also try all sorts of veggies, snacks, varieties of tea, grilled food and more. For some, you need a certain amount of courage before you set on trying it :).
Harajuku is my favourite suburb. I could spend days on Takeshita Street, which is just a few hundred meters long and not particularly wide. The shops you can find here are hilarious, yes, that’t the word! Harajuku is a hub of “Lolita Fashion”, a Japanese fashion subculture based on Victorian and Edwardian clothing but upgraded so it fits (well?) in today’s world. If Lolita is not quite your thing, go for punk, cosplay or dolly styles instead.
I walked in one of the shops, only to come back out an hour later. I couldn’t believe the pieces I pulled out. Bling bling? Rainbow? Dark? Panda? You choose, the options are endless. And when you finish with the clothing, don’t forget about the underwear (unless you wear this as a main piece anyway), shoes (the higher the platform the better, comfort is not exactly what you’re after), wigs, hats, glasses and of course accessories. Simply unbelievable!
After my fashionista hour I walked into a maid cafe – a cosplay restaurant. I didn’t stay, because I felt a bit weird being served by young girls dressed like maids who call you master (or in my case mistress) and treat you like you are in a private home instead of in a restaurant. Basically they are your servants dressed like anime, manga or computer game (maid) characters.
Instead, I chose an animal cafe. Hanging out with owls? Maybe rabbits or cats? Or would you prefer snakes? Tokyo has it all. Basically you sit in a cafe and while drinking and/or eating you are playing with these (cute) animals. I’m not sure how this resonates with animal welfare protectors, but it is quite an experience (and I guess the animals are not suffering any more as if they would belong to a private household).
If you are really bored, purikura, Japanese photo booth, is the ultimate fun. Mainly girls would visit them. You choose among a variety of photo booths, each offering slightly different style. First, you have a photo shoot, where you need to show your top poses. Second, you bring out your best photoshop skills to make your photos looking as “pretty” as possible. Well, the machine does most of the work and there is only one sort of style, that baby-doll-looking-style, which Japanese girls are crazy about. In the final stage you print out the photos or you send them to your email so you can upload them on your Instagram account (and start collecting likes, which is the main purpose of the whole activity). Yeah, Japanese are a funny bunch…
Shibuya is just a short walk from Harajuku and is described as the centre of Japanese teen culture. So, whatever you have purchased in Harajuku, whatever style you have opted for, Shibuya is the place to show it off to the world. Literally to the world. It is one of the busiest intersections, probably in the world. It is estimated that over thousand people cross the intersection in one green lighting and way over million in a day. I have no idea how you would count that, but watching the action for a while it seems about right. When lights turn green, people from all sides approach the intersection, going in all possible directions. However, despite such crowd, there is no jostling at all. Everyone somehow manages to get over without any inconveniences or incidents. Massive shiny neon signs and loud music of all sorts coming from all directions just add to the whole “spectacle”.
I was walking aimlessly along the streets, when I passed by a group of fancy looking guys surrounded by cameras. I stopped to see what’s happening. “Hey, welcome, come, come!” and before knowing it, all cameras were on me. “Where are you from? Do you know who we are?” Hm… “No, sorry…” Not very impressive, I guess 🙂 “We are the Japanese superband (superband or supergroup means that the band is made of different artists who are already successful on their own)! And we have a concert tonight, right here! Come, will you? You promise?” I promised, so I had no choice but return to the place a couple of hours later. After all, God knows who the cameras belonged too, quite possibly I made a promise to the whole nation…
Jealkb (pronounced “juarukeebe”) are a visual key rock band. Visual key indicates the special make-up (very strong), hair (all over the place) and dress style (flamboyant costumes) of musicians. At first I thought they were just some Japanese version of Backstreet Boys. I was quite surprised when I heard them playing nothing but rock and punk.
I have never had sooooo much fun at the concert before! There were three guitar players, one drummer, one lead singer and one… hm, how to describe him… a back vocalist/dancer/”aerobics instructor”… I guess. Each song had its own (simple and very limited choreography) and this guy showed the moves so the audience could follow them. Basically, you are at the rock concert where the whole crowd is performing the same moves. I was laughing all the time! The crowd consisted mainly of 12-year-old girls with an occasional mother or father accompanying them. There was a lot of screaming, dancing, obviously, and laughing. The guys spent quite a lot of time talking in between the songs, as it turned out that they are comedians as well.
The show was one of their promotional concerts, a teaser for the big concert being held later this year. At the end of the show, all guys came out selling tickets for their main concert, taking photos with their fans and chatting with them. They recognised me (which I guess it wasn’t hard as I was the only foreigner in the club), started hugging me, shaking my hand and thanking me for coming. “Wait a minute, I should be the one thanking you, you have put on the show even better than Robbie!” They promised they will come to New Zealand one day and I will surely be in the front row (again 😉 ).