Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Japan Experience Part II: Ueno, Akihabara & Shinjuku

When I was five my imagination of Tokyo was only limited to buildings being busted by Ultraman when he accidentally sat on them while having his usual evening fight with dinosaur-like creatures. When I finally step foot on the city itself 20 years later, I realize that Tokyo is a lot more than that. It is a hectic, neon-lit megalopolis with out of the world street crowds. It's a city that has full ability to overload your senses with sights and sounds. It is a city where people move fast all the time. Crazy as it seems, Tokyo is remarkably safe and reliable where everything runs on.the.dot. With tons to offer fans of design, anime, technology art or culture alike, it is impossible for someone to discover even half of Tokyo in a day. But that is what me and my friend tried to do anyway (and failed miserably). However did cover a lot of the highlights around Tokyo. Let me tell you about our whole day journey
Neon-clad Shinjuku at night
We first went to Ueno Park. We didn't really plan to go there, but we had to activate our Japanese Railway Pass (a pass that allows us to use the trains as we like for 5 whole days!) at the Ueno Station, and we passed by the park that looked inviting. So we just went in and learned that it is one of the oldest parks in Tokyo and has a lot of museums in it: Orient Museum, the Shitamachi Museum, the Tokyo National Museum and the National Science Museum, to name a few. There are statues scattered throughout the park as well, but I liked this one the most:
Trying my level best to imitate this Thinker
This is where I am supposed to disappear into the mist
 I remembered that my SSM research supervisor, Prof Shamsul told us that there used to be Pandas in the park zoo, but too bad the last one died a couple of years ago. We had a good walk around the park. It was still early morning, so we went to a Starbucks for a quick pick-me-up and studied the subway map before continuing our journey whole day journey around Tokyo
Nice exteriors!
Studying the subway map with the aid of glasses and caffeine
So after getting relatively smarter about the subway maps, we hopped on to the subway and head towards Akihabara, Tokyo's 'Electric Town' crazy Otakus back in my hometown are dying to go to, and for a good reason too. It is a heaven for them with hundreds of stores specializing in everything related to anime, manga, video games, figurines, and card games. One of the recently popular attraction around here is the 'maid cafe' where the waitresses dress up and act like maids in animes. Here's an example of one who's too shy to be taken picture of, or maybe she's scared her mom would read my blog and ask what the heck is my daughter there: 
''Oh dang, I should be in school''
For those who has no idea what Otaku is and cannot name even more than 3 anime characters, don't fret. Akihabara also offers a wide range of electronic items, which is actually why it got the name 'Electric Town' anyway. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk. 
Young and old people come to buy electronic stuff
After Akihabara, Electronic Town, we went to Nippori, Textile Town. My friend had a lot of Japanese cotton to buy for his family. Compared to Akihabara, Nippori is relatively quiet. People don't buy textiles on weekends I guess. As boys, we had no idea which cottons are good, which are not, which are beautiful, which are downright ugly, so we just selected some random ones and moved on to our next destination: Shinjuku
At one of the crossroads in Shinjuku
Shinjuku was a place so convoluted with people. Even the streets are closed for cars to let people walk. It houses one of the busiest train station in the world, which explains the crowd. There's an enormous shopping centre in Shinjuku, the Times Square. If you think that Kinokuniya in Kuala Lumpur is big enough, you have seen nothing yet. The Times Square is connected to a Kinokuniya bookstore which has 7 floors! Yep, 7 floors full of books. My kind of place! Too bad I we could not spend too much time in Kinokuniya because there is a lot more of Tokyo we have to see. I will continue my Tokyo journey in my next post. Coming up: Meiji-Jingu, Harajuku, Shibuya and Yokohama. Till then! ;)
Bookstore with 7 floors. How cool is that?
The bridge that links the Times Square to Kinokuniya