Monday, April 11, 2005


****NOTE: Be sure and check out Erica's blog for another perspective on this trip. There's also a picture of Donna and I up there as well.****

Again I started the day obnoxiously early: 6am. I had gone to bed around midnight, woke up at 2am, fell back asleep and then I was up again at 6am, this time for good. I'm guessing I won't get the hang of things until next Wednesday, when it's time to leave.
Anyway, we experienced our first earthquake this morning around 7:30am. Donna and I were just laying in bed, when the room started swaying back and forth. At first Donna thought it might be the wind blowing, but even though we're on the 22nd floor, I didn't think the wind could knock around a building like this unless it was at least hurricane strength. We weren't quite sure what to do at that point, we weren't being knocked around violently, just the room was swaying back and forth, like we were on a boat, only sped up quite a bit. Halfway through the quake, which lasted about 5 -7 minute, I got up and went to the window. On the street below I saw people walking and cars driving as if there was nothing going on, so we figured it wasn't that big a deal. The hotel soon had a message broadcasting in the hall touting the earthquake resistant design of the hotel and that the building suffered no damage.
The earthquake hit outside the city, about 50 miles, according to this, and registered 6.1 on the Richter scale. Erica estimated that we got a 3 here in Ikebukuro. Clearly, nothing to get all worked up over.

****UPDATE: As I finished this paragraph, we just felt what I'm guessing was an aftershock. A quick little thing, about 30 seconds.****

Since we were all up after the earthquake, we went out for breakfast. Today is rainy and overcast, and we're expecting more rain tomorrow. The Japanese sense of style carries over here too, we saw a lot of the clear plastic umbrellas and lots of colorful and patterned ones, not a whole lot of black umbrellas. When you enter a store on a rainy day, you're expected to either leave your umbrella in the umbrella stand outside the store, or use the "umbrella condoms" as Donna coined them. The bigger stores, since they expect more foot traffic, all have these little machines where you stick your umbrella in and puts a plastic bag around your wet umbrella so it doesn't drip in the store.
We ate breakfast at Cafe Pronto down the street from our hotel. Donna and I had this eggs on toast deal and a chocolate filled pastry, both of which were delicious. The 7 of us, Janice, Gideon, Lorelei, Erica, Patty, Donna and I all sat at the front of the store by the entrance. Most people don't pay us any mind, even when we're being loud, and as Americans we are generally loud, because nobody else is talking at all, but we saw two older Japanese businessmen come to the front door of the cafe, see us there and then walk away. Erica tells us its usually the older generations that have the most problems with foreigners.
After breakfast we all decide to go wander the streets of Ikebukuro, and we end up in what Gideon tells us used to be the red light district, and generally we got the sense that we weren't supposed to be there. There are a lot of Pachinko parlors in this section of town, at least one every 50 yards or so. And we see plenty of signs of the area's past, mostly soaplands. There was one Pachinko parlor we passed that had a line forming outside for when it opened.
Erica had some business to attend to in setting up for the Yuri Revolution event this Saturday, so we split up at this point.
Donna was in the mood for shopping so Janice and Gideon suggested Shibuya and the Mandarake (WARNING: Some pages on this site may not be work safe.) store there. So, off on our first trip using Tokyo's public transit system. As most of you know, Septa sucks, but what you don't know is how much it really sucks compared to a first rate mass transit system. Everything runs on time, the trains are spotless and high tech -- above every door are two LCD screens giving you information about the system and other information like weather forecasts or commercials, and best of all, there's no urine smell.
Tokyo's transit system is at least two orders of magnitude more complex than Philadelphia's, but you can get anywhere by using either the trains, or the subways. and I mean anywhere, All the neighborhoods have a train station on one of the gazillion lines in the city and if you know where to transfer, you can get anywhere, unlike Philadelphia which only serves some places and isn't 24 hour, and is more expensive.
Ikebukuro is on the Yamanote line which is the largest and most heavily trafficked line in the city, since most of the popular areas, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, etc are all on this line. Our waiting time for a train, non-rush hour, was under 5 minutes.
The trains weren't crowded at all, so we didn't encounter any gropers. Not that I have to worry about it at all, but the girls were all concerned about it, naturally.
Outside of Shibuya station is that famous intersection with the giant TV screesns; everytime you see a shot of Tokyo, if it isn't Tokyo Tower, it's usually Shibuya and this corner with the giant screen TVs. Check out my pictures to see what I'm talking about.
Remember how I said it was easy to get lost? We got a bit turned around in Shibuya looking for the Mandarake store, but we didn't really mind, there was just so much going on and so much to see that we were just entertained trying to soak it all in.
We eventually made it Mandarake just in time for it open for us, and we spent about an hour or so in there shopping, but honestly it felt like six. This place was in the 2nd basement floor, and took up the entire floor, and it was pretty large. I'm guessing just a bit smaller than Springboard in size, and it was chock full of anime and manga goodness.
Shopping for stuff is weird, as I mentioned before, I have a hard time reading titles, and I tend to use the "I'll know what I want when I see it" method of shopping. Plus, most of the manga and doujinshi are sealed in plastic so you can't thumb through stuff to see if you really want it. So, it becomes a guessing game, and frankly that makes me less inclined to buy something, especially if it's expensive.
After Mandarake, we head back to the hotel, mainly because Lorelei is starting to get a bit cranky and hungry. Which suits me fine as I'm also a bit tired and hungry. Instead of going to a restaurant, we go to Tobu's food court in the 2nd basement of the Tobu department store at Ikebukuro station. We pick up some prepackaged food, which I'm not sure what it is or what was in it, but it all looked very tasty, and headed back to our room.
Right now Donna and Kelli are sacked out on the bed, Donna because she's Donna and Kelli because she only just arrived yesterday afternoon.
More to come later.


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