Shopping heaven (for nerds)

We woke this morning to cold weather and rain which is not a good combination when you want to get out and explore. Denise and I started researching how to obtain tickets to the Sumo wresting as we are in Japan in the middle of their January tournament. Rather than buying unreserved seats on the day which are at the back of the arena, we spoke with hotel reception about purchasing some reserved tickets who gave us the information we needed and sent us off up the street to book it. We soon had tickets in hand for tomorrows tournament, but unfortunately Scott will be unable to join us given the current situation with his leg and his inability to move through large crowds in the arena. Now in search for something to take back for breakfast, we realised what little choice we had in the adjoining streets. Most are noodle and sushi bars, and although some of these items can be common for breakfast in Japan, I draw the line before I get to this. We were hoping for a few items from a bakery, however with none in sight other than prepackaged items from the convenience store we sadly had to resort to bacon and egg muffins from McDonalds to take back to the room. Last night we had been trying to figure out an easy way to get out and see some of the sights of Tokyo with Scott while trying to avoid mixing with the large crowds of the trains and subways. Although previous reviews of the red double decker tourist buses in Tokyo similar to other cities in the world were very negative, it seemed like a reasonable option in our case so we were aiming to give it a go. Being quite reasonably priced (approx $25 for 24 hour pass, or $33 for 48 hour pass) when compared to other versions in the world, if it turned out to be a big flop it was not going to be the end of the world. The buses run 3 different routes around the city, and with your ticket you can hop on and off at any stop along the route, and also change buses where the routes cross over. With the rain still not letting up though and still needing to walk to the stop at the nearby Tokyo Tower to begin the journey, Scott decided is was probably not a good idea walking on the slippery pavement so sent Denise and I on our way to continue exploring without him. Even though Denise and I could have reverted back to using the trains, we decided to continue with the bus and give it a go for ourselves. Waiting at Tokyo Tower the bus arrived on schedule, and upon climbing aboard we found we were the only people on it. This wasn’t a good first impression, but we had now committed to it so paid our money, collected our headphones for the automated running commentary, and off we went. Reviews on the internet had said what a waste of money it was, and with such poor commentary (particularly the English version). Within 10 minutes I came to the conclusion the people who wrote the reviews had no idea what they were talking about. The commentary was passing on information and history of important or interesting buildings and sights, then returned to playing elevator type music. I thought it was great, and I much prefer this than having someone talking in my ear for over an hour with information I won’t remember or don’t care about. It is also such a different experience seeing Tokyo from the streets, rather than just around subway stations where you get off and come above ground. The route we took has given me a few other ideas for places to visit in my coming days, especially Tokyo Bay with a handful of large shopping and entertainment complexes. After finishing the route we were on, we had planned to jump over to the next route and head to Akihabara, however given it was another 40 minutes before it departed we jumped straight onto the train and decided we would continue the bus tour later. Akihabara, also known as Akihabara Electric Town, is a major shopping area for electronics, computers, anime, and games. After arriving in Akihabara we were presented with brand names everywhere on shops, buildings, and billboards. Strolling around some of the streets and browsing at some of the shops seemed to present 2 distinct types of shopping, the first type being major stores over many levels offering all sorts of things from watches, computers and cameras, perfumes, to whitegoods, while the second type reminded you of junk shops you would find at the local markets back home. Over all it was interesting to see so many items and types of items in one place, however given todays society of various shopping styles and trends, including the internet, we didn’t see many new items we had not seen before anyway. I also found most of the items to be fairly equal in price to what I would expect to pay in Australia, sometimes even more expensive. It definitely made for a good browse though, and if I had a thicker wallet I am sure I could have come out with lot’s of shopping bags. The other thing Akihabara offers is shopping to Japan’s anime or manga fans. There were quite a few shops selling books, comics, magazines, cards, toys, and figurines. Akihabara is also a place known for maid cafes where waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants, and treat customers as masters and mistresses in a private home, rather than as café patrons. You soon know when you are close to a maid cafe as they often had one of the waitresses dressed up on the street handing out brochures and trying to drum up business. Given it was a cold day most of them were wearing jackets, however they still looked pretty cold standing out there, especially given I was cold and I was fairly rugged up. Being late afternoon we decided we would start making our way back the hotel, and although we could have jumped back on the bus we decided to head straight back by the train. In the end we spent more time than we had expected in Akihabara, however the later than usual start this morning also didn’t help our timing. Back at the hotel we met back up with Scott and had a bit of a break, which gave me a chance to do my day’s blog compared to yesterdays late night effort. Dinner tonight was a bit of a mission with many restaurants quite full, and with others not having an english menu and not having any sort of pictures that we can simply choose from. After quite a bit of wandering we ended up in a italian type restaurant ready to choose from the pictures in the window, however luckily the menu did end up having an english translation. Having pizza in Japan is not really traditional, however after wandering for so long, and not wanting to resort to McDonalds or similar, it was an easy option.