First Days In Tokyo

Posted in: Ryan Kopf's Blog
Less than twelve hours after my flight lands in Tokyo, and I found myself with enough to write an entire novel of my adventures... if only my memory would serve me so faithfully. However my first time out of the country, and for my very first day, it has been quite an adventure.

I started off landing in Narita Airport, and was quickly immersed in a new Japanese world as it was filled with vendors selling Japanese-style foods (in short, there were Daikons - giant radishes!). Customs and immigration were uneventful, so my first stop was to exchange enough currency so that I could get around, and eat, without worry. So several thousand yen richer, I am off to the train country to buy a pass on the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno.

Thankfully, the skyliner's stop, in Ueno, was a mere 10 minutes walk from my hotel, which turned out to be rather interesting, as I passed by dozens of buildings with names I couldn't read.

Hotel
The hotel was definitely better than I expected, and the front desk manager understood perfect English. It wasn't quite as hard to find as the internet suggested, also, and there is a subway less than a minute away.

Trains
Taking the subway was tricky, however. The first thing you do is buy a ticket, by selecting a price, but nowhere does it give you any hint as to what amount you need. I assumed that since I was going only one stop away, I would need only the cheapest price, and I was right - easy enough. So then I took a second train to Mickey House!

Mickey House
Mickey House
おもしろういですよ! It was very interesting. Finding the place would have been tricky without my GPS and internet, but soon enough I found a place with a yellow "Mickey House" sign outside. You may be thinking this is something related to Disney, with "Mickey" in the name, but I actually have no idea why it's called that. The place is an English cafe, where Japanese people can come and have conversations in English an practice improving English.

The place turned out to be an excellent stop for me, as about half the conversations were in Japanese, and half in English, so I had the chance to learn without worrying quite as much. While there I met several people; Ryoko, Takaharu, Tatoe, Yukii, Atsu, and Luke; some from Japan, some from Korea, and even Luke from Britain.

Karaoke
So five of us went to Karaoke, which was right across the street. We got a private room, which I believe cost a couple thousand yen an hour, with unlimited free soda. It was interesting to sing so many English songs with their not-always-close Katakana translations.

Home
After Karaoke we were invited over to Takeo's house, which was a $7 (700 yen) taxi ride away. Everything I had heard about living in Japan was true, as we entered we took off our shoes and changed into house slippers. We were made an interesting dinner that seemed very Japanese (I don't think I remember it well enough to describe it... kind of a soup made mostly of lettuce/cabbage and onions). We got to see a real, rusted old Samurai sword.

I was lucky to have on hand a two dollar bill to give as a memory in thanks for inviting us over; since they're pretty uncommon in America, I'm sure it would be neat here.

Second Day
The second day had a lot more looking-at-things and walking around than the first. I went to Harajuku and saw several of the stores and huge crowds of young people, but there were very few cosplayers and lolitas outside - it was really windy and looked like it could rain at any time, so I bet several stayed home or wore only normal clothes today.

I did wander into the Bodyline Lolita store on purpose... even though I'm definitely not the dress-wearing type of guy. It was actually pretty interesting to see, though from what I know there are more "upscale" Lolita stores that I think would be cooler to visit. Some of the butler/men's style outfits looked pretty interesting.

After that I stopped by an udon noodle shop, which was easy enough to spot from the flags outside waving うどん. A large is definitely more than I can eat here, though I find it quite... sad?... that there's little soda during lunch. Lunch with water is so strange!

The next stop was the NHK Studio Park, the studio theme park for the largest broadcast company in Japan. The stories about the largest Domo-themed merchandise collection may have been true, but sadly it was not an impressive amount, as I was expecting to walk through the legs of Domo into a store filled with giant Domo plushies and weird Domo outfits.

After that, Pachinko! And I still don't know how to play even to this very moment! Actually, it appears to be quite simple: hold the lever to a certain spot so that the balls bounce into the "Start" place. I still don't know how many balls you win for getting into the "Start" place, or what to do if you win a ton. Meiji Shrine was closed by the time I got there.

Thoughts
Tokyo is awesome! It's quite interesting to see just how many people are walking around in surgical face masks so they don't get sick or get other people sick - nearly every single person working in a popular place is wearing one, from the train conductor to all the train employees. It makes everyone look like it's the same one guy running the whole train network. I think having safety or information guide staff at the conventions wearing train conductor uniforms and those masks would be pretty unique and super authentic.

Karaoke in Japan is very neat as it's usually in smaller groups and there are several rooms divided for people to sing, which makes me think it would be cool to be able to do something like that at the conventions; if we find a location that has several small rooms then I would love to look into the idea. I've seen at-con Karaoke waiting lists that go on for three hours, and I would love for people to have more opportunities to sing and participate.

Today's schedule includes Kabuki (traditional Japanese theater) and Akihabara.
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