Sunday, April 10, 2005

Tokyo Day 2

Woke up this morning at 6 am and could not get back to sleep. Donna woke up too, but since she's Narcolepsy Girl, she went back to sleep relatively quickly, I stayed up and watched Sunday morning Japanese TV, including a show where the hosts, a guy and two girls, traveled to Osaka and explored the area, the Sunday morning "Super Hero Hour" featuring Mahou Sentai Magiranger and Kamen Rider and finally Futari wa Precure Max Heart.
Mahou Sentai Magiranger is a sentai or team show. If you ever watched Voltron or G-Force as a kid or recently any of Power Ranger incarnations, you've watched a sentai show. Each team member is a primary color -- Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Pink (OK so pink really isn't a primary color, but you need to have at least one girl on the show) and they usually get mechs which will almost invariably combine to form a large robot. Not to be geeky or anything, but most of the Power Ranger incarnations use footage from several different sentai shows, with footage of American actors in place of the Japanese ones.
Kamen Rider or Masked Rider (Kamen literally means mask) would be familiar to anyone who ever saw Ultraman as a kid. Regular guy transforms into superhero when trouble is afoot. Kamen Rider doesn't fight giant monsters like Ultraman did, but the result is the same. Though Kamen Rider appears to have a very complicated and ongoing plot with many characters, it was hard to follow really. Both of these shows were aimed for young boys as evidenced by the commercials we saw attached to them, and when Super Hero hour was over, on came PreCure for the girls, anime, of course. PreCure is a magical girl show, (think Sailor Moon or Card Captor Sakura) about two junior high girls who transform into magical girls to fight bad guys who create evil living appliances. I couldn't make this up if I tried.
After these show came the variety shows, which were basically the talent talking about something for a while then breaking into song. These really are the quintessence of Japanese TV, earnest yet fabulously cheesy. I think we could probably stay in all day and watch Japanese TV and be thoroughly entertained.
I was watching this when Erica called and we made plans for breakfast and walking around Ikebukuro. So 20 minutes later we met up in the lobby with Janice, Gideon and their baby girl Lorelei and were out the door and walking around the area of the hotel.
Check out the photos here.
It was really a splendid day, bright, sunny and temperature into the 70s I think, with a stiff breeze that really picked up later in the day.
I really think I need to take more pictures, because I think I should really share what I'm seeing here, but Donna told me to lay off since I started to seriously lag behind the group.
Anyway, Ikebukuro is a shopping mecca, just one of several in Tokyo. And while it wasn't crowded when we started our little journey, by 3pm it was pretty packed. One of the things you notice about the city and shopping is that it's kinda 3 dimensional. In the US, most stores usually only occupy the first floor of a building. Here it's rare to see a building that isn't a least 4 stories, and busy shops on multiple floors. If you only look at the ground floor, you'll end up missing a lot. Some of the bigger stores, like department stores and the like usually end up occupying several stories. And every large department store has a food market in the basement. We saw line of people waiting for the Seibu market to open at 11am while we traveling through the Ikebukuro train station.
Ikebukuro train station was pretty packed, if you've ever wandered around Suburban Station in Philly, it was kinda like that only bigger, much, much cleaner, and really colorful. That's another thing you notice about Tokyo, it's really colorful.
We ended up at this little cafe, I forget exactly where, and have breakfast. And looking at the menu was the first time today I felt like an illiterate brute. I mean, thank god it had pictures on the menu, otherwise I probably would have stared at it for hours trying to figure out what was on it. As it was we just pointed to what we wanted and the staff took care of the rest.
Another thing to note about shopping in Japan, at every place we visited someone always said the equivalent of "welcome" and when we purchased anything they always thanked us, and always said goodbye when we left. Again, this was at every store, Ev would love it. ;) Other retail quirks: At the registers there is usually a little dish by the clerk in which you are supposed to put your money, the clerk will then hand you your change and your receipt with both hands and usually say "Thank you very much for shopping with us" or something to that extent. If you move from one floor to another you are expected to pay for the stuff you picked up on that floor on that floor, other floors won't ring up items you picked up on a different floor.
After a light breakfast and a heavy geek conversation, (Stephen Chow movies and Dr. Who) we headed to a part of Ikebukuro with 3 anime stores for our first, of many, shopping sprees I expect. It was kinda overwhelming and difficult actually, again I felt a little frustrated by being nearly completely illiterate in Japanese. The Animate store in particular burned me out, as it was 8 floors of anime goodness and I couldn't hang. Though I expect it was the lack of sleep that was doing me in.
Around 1 pm I was feeling exhauste, and while Patty was shopping for Yugi-oh yaoi doujinshi, Donna and I waited outside soaking in the sun and people watched. We could have probably done that all day.
We ran into Janice, Gideon and Lorelei on the way back to the hotel and went with them to Shakey's which is apparently a West Coast pizza chain, and we followed them there for lunch with Japanese "American" pizza. Some Japanese pizza toppings: corn, mayonaise, potatoes and seafood. And of course, the all American dessert pizza, with custard and chocolate. Other ubiquitous American chains we saw: Wendy's, McDonald's, and Starbucks.
As I mentioned earlier, around this time the streets were packed, midday Manhattan packed, but a big difference is that I could see over most of the crowd.;) We headed back to the hotel after Shakey's as I was beat, and I crashed hard, I managed to nap for about 2 hours, before waking up and starting to write this. We had intended to go with Erica to Shinjuku to meet Kelli who was getting in today, but I was really in no shape to do so. When we got back to the hotel, I was having trouble breathing, so took some meds and had that nap. I felt much better after waking up.
Other random observations in no particular order: It's ridiculously easy to pick out foreigners. Janice and Gideon's daughter Lorelei attracts the most attention out of any of us, usually elicting a delighted cry of "kawaii" from girls or "She looks like a little doll." Comparatively, nobody really gave us a second look, which is not surprising since I had heard that most Tokyoites are used to seeing foreigners. Cars can be ridiculously tiny here. Bikes are everywhere, and nobody locks them up when the park them. Everybody here has a sense of style, I don't think we saw anyone who looked bummy or slovenly. No homeless people or panhandlers and no pigeons. No street numbers or any sense of addressing like we're used to either, it would be pretty easy to get lost, and no one is quite sure how mail gets delivered here.
All right, it's quarter to 9, time to meet up with Janice, Gideon and Lorelei and do something about dinner. More later.

***Update*** Janice and Gideon are following Lorelei's sleep patterns and stayed in. We wandered down to second floor and had dinner at the Italian restaurant there. Very upscale, but not as expensive as you would think. Very delicious. Donna says the mussels were better than Monk's. Another observation to note here: food portions are small compared to back home.


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