Day 4 dawned with rain pouring down but that didn’t stop me and one of my traveling companions who happened to be awake from venturing to Harajuku to see what fashions the young people had on display. We took the Yamanote line from Shibuya to Harajuku (Japan Rail passes have come in quite handy this trip!) and soon after arriving we came across a green mascot shuffling up the street.
Do you know what this character is? It’s probably something I should know – I may have to give up my otaku card.
Since it was raining so much, we didn’t expect to see too many people out but Harajuku was actually pretty crowded.
We didn’t see as much fashion as we had hoped but there were some Sweet Lolita girls walking around (like the one in the blue dress above under the Wolfgang Puck sign), some dressed as twins (it’s a thing), and a few who clearly aspired toward Visual Kei. Unfortunately, due to the rain and the crush of people with umbrellas, I couldn’t get many good photos this morning (sorry!), though I did happen to catch a gap in the traffic flow to capture vampire bear.
Moving along, we went down a quieter side street and found some cool shops, including a branch of Polcadot where my friend bought rave glasses (he’ll definitely wear them – he’s an EDC devotee) and a hat for one of our traveling companions.
The shop had a fabulous collection of hats and very helpful staff so it’s highly likely that we’ll be going back before this trip is done. 🙂
We made our way back to the area we visited the previous evening with the high-end shops from Chanel, Dior, and the like. Here is a shot of the Ralph Lauren store, which epitomized the brand’s classic elegance.
Our sleepy companions let us know they were awake so we headed back to Shibuya to stash our loot and get out of the rain for a bit. The rain was letting up a bit so the 4 of us decided to make the pilgrimage to the otaku holy land: Akihabara. There was no doubt of where we were when we arrived at the station with all of the video game, anime, and manga ads.
This game, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, proved quite popular at the various Sega establishments, which I’ll get to in a moment. I didn’t play, but if I did I’d probably want to play as Shizuo Heiwajima.
We took the nearest exit and found ourselves on a side street off the main drag.
Even so, we were still bombarded with sounds, lights, videos, and colors of all kinds. This is also my obligatory shot including a Porsche. Like Taiwan, the Cayenne seems to be the popular type of Porsche here, though I have seen a few GT3s and Caymans around. My friends joke that I have Porsche radar (PorschedarTM) since I can somehow sense when one is near. My family would be very proud; seriously – we’ve been a Porsche family since before I was born.
Ok, back on topic: Akihabara. We saw an anime-themed Pachinko parlor and, since none of us had played the game yet, we thought we would take a look. We didn’t play. It wasn’t because we didn’t know how or weren’t permitted to but the deafening cacophony of pachinko balls clinking, bells ringing, and music playing made such a unique atmosphere that, less than 5 minutes after wandering in, we skedaddled for the open air. I thought Vegas was bad with no windows, loud carpet, flashing lights, and the constant ding of slot machines and clink of coins but that is positively librarian when compared with this Pachinko parlor. Wow. Just wow. Maybe we’re just getting old.
Once we regained our hearing, we started walking down the main street. The Pachinko parlor is the building at the right with the red sign in the photo below, btw.
If we were in any doubt of where w were, all we had to do was look into the various shops and up at the billboards plastered on the surrounding buildings to know that we were in otaku heaven.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, yes, I am an avid anime and manga fan. I know I’m getting along in years but I still enjoy it. My KFC-for-Thanksgiving friend is also a fan, as is his childhood friend who joined us in Taiwan. Our German friend tolerated our eccentricities and learned a bit more than he probably wanted about this world. 😉
My friends have been a bit obsessed with the Boss coffee and even more so when they discovered that Tommy Lee Jones is a spokesperson for it. Here’s one of them figuring out the coinage required for the black version of Boss. As my German friend who doesn’t use cream or sugar says, “I take my coffee black – as my soul.” Like a boss.
While the guys figured out the vending machine, I rounded the corner for a nearby shop and found the most awesome elevator ever.
I think in some circles I’d fit the “fujoshi” moniker and oddly I’m ok with this. Seriously, though, I highly recommend the Free! anime. Funimation has licensed season 2 for home video release in the US (yay!) and they have an English dub cast made up of almost all of the main male voice actors in the game (double yay!). The only problem is that they don’t own the rights to season 1 and the current owner, Crunchyroll, hasn’t revealed any plans to release it. Now if only Funimation and Crunchyroll could work out their differences to release Seasion 1 with the same voice actors (a girl can dream, right?).
With Boss coffee in hand and a spring in my step, we returned to the main road and found the church of Sega.
This is one of several – you’ll see another, Club Sega, to the right down the street. Since 2 of my traveling companions played Street Fighter A LOT in their younger days, they decided to give it a go here and find out who was the better player.
It turns out they both still had what it takes to play and there were a few locals who stopped to watch (or perhaps they were just amazed that people as old as we were playing the game ;).
We finally emerged into the waning daylight and spied the Animate shop across the street – I knew where I was going! One member of our group decided he wanted to get some, er, “special” manga so any poor customs official who decides to go through his bag might get a surprise so he went next door to the 18+ manga section while I and my other anime-loving friend headed to Animate.
I should have taken pictures inside of the store. I didn’t since I was so mesmerized by everything on display. I’ll have to go back. BTW Animate had great elevator doors, too.
Yeah, it’s Free! again. I pre-ordered these little guys from AmiAmi a while back and look forward to my January delivery. They will have a nice life on my desk.
After going through all 7 floors of anime and manga goods, we were at our saturation point and decided we should meet up with our cohorts. Surprisingly, by the time we emerged from Animate it was completely dark out. I hadn’t realized we were there so long!
We met up with our friends at a nearby restaurant for a bit to eat before heading to Sega again. Apparently the men’s toilet has a game one can play while he is, uh, relieving himself, so of course my 3 friends had to try it out. For those wondering, the ladies’ room had no such thing. 😉
It took me a bit of time to process all I had seen at Animate and I decided there were a few books I wanted to get so I headed back there before going a couple of doors down to look for some more manga. Now, remember that all of my traveling companions are men (straight, I might add) so it was quite a thing to have one of them accompany me to this store where there were 4 floors packed full of fujoshi manga. Our other 2 friends had inadvertently wandered in there earlier in the day and were a bit traumatized so I of course had to check it out and see what the fuss was about.
The fact that my other friend came with me and there were no other men on those floors was a big deal – he’s either very stupid or very brave. Some of the women shoppers we encountered had to do a double-take when they saw him since they weren’t expecting to see a guy there but that’s it – everyone was very accepting and the sales ladies were very nice. I’m happy to report that my friend survived. He did, however, get some revenge when he snatched the last Free! fanbook from the shelf before I could get to it. He held it ransom until I bought him several rounds of drinks that night since he needed that to recover. It was worth it. 🙂
And what of my friend who wanted to get some saucy manga for a customs inspection? He succeeded. I visited the many floors of the shop where he found the manga and I can safely say he went above and beyond to find the most extreme possible. God help the poor TSA person who decides to randomly check this guy’s luggage.
And that, ladies and gentleman, concludes our very sophisticated and high-brow day 4 in Japan.