December 13, 2009
Japan Trip Day 3: Shibuya, Harajuku, Cosplay, Rockabilly, Shinjuku, Ginza
Man! Today was a busy day. I started off with a wander to the roof of my hostel and then to the 7-11 just down the alley from my hostel. 7-11's are super fancy here, and have lots of good breakfast food and "hotteh cohii" (hot coffee). It's really funny, you can get coffee in hot cans or in hot plastic bottles here, it's a bit weird that the container is hot, but I guess as long as they didn't microwave them I guess it's not some absurd health hazard :) The vending machines are everywhere as I expected, and you can choose hot or cold beverages from them, too. So awesome. I got to the 7-11 and almost had to duck to get into the doorway, it was probably about 5'9" tall. Alex (my 6' 4" buddy) would have been buggered. :)
As recommended by people from the hostel, we bought a 1-day pass for the Toei Subway + Metro Line pass for 1,000 Yen ($10), and made our way towards the famous Shibuya crossing area. This was a pretty cool spot, but since it was a Sunday morning it wasn't as packed as it's supposed to be during the week or at night. We went up to the Starbucks that overlooks the walkway, and I bought a "hotteh cohii!" I got my first double-handed and one-and-a-half-handed return of my change from the Starbucks employees. That was hilarious, sooo formal/nice/respectful. It was really funny and cool. Everyone keeps bowing all the time, I love it. I'm starting to bow back a lot already, this extreme politeness is contagious. At Starbucks I busted out my uber-lens and got a couple of paparazzi-style shots of people walking at the crosswalk.
I was hanging out with a couple of guys from San Francisco today which was great. We wandered from Starbucks around Shibuya and then made our way up to Harajuku. I was really hoping to see the big weekly cosplay (costume-play) parade on the Harajuku Bridge, where boarding school kids dress up in insane fashion and crazy homemade costumes and pose for photos and strut their stuff to relieve the stress from a busy school life. So we were in search of the cosplayers but only saw a few people dressed up in some crazy stuff.
There were certainly a lot of crazy t-shirts, though. We went into a few stores and man there is some wild stuff here. The cute wolverine slashing Ronald McDonald across the face has to be the craziest shirt of the day (see pictures below).
From there we went for some breakfast-y food with HUGE toast, and then wandered back to see some more cosplayers. Then we walked around the corner and... there were a ton of Rockabilly Dancers doing their thing! It was totally unexpected and I loved it. The funniest part was the guy with a red comb in his back pocket and he did the splits and then combed his hair back before standing back up. It was a really fun show and there were actually several Rockabilly groups around the park. Very cool. Their act is a bit hard to explain - probably easier to just check out the photos and the video (see next post). :) It's something like Grease Lightning meets James Dean, but in Japan.
After Harajuku we made our way to Shinjuku, a huge, busy area. There were a lot of neon signs there and cool restaurants where you select the item you want from a vending machine and it gives you a ticket, and then you walk into the restaurant and just give them the ticket in exchange for your meal. There were lots of arcades in Shinjuku, and I tried to win a Mike Wazowski (unsuccessfully) :)
We then walked to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which was the tallest building in Tokyo for approx the last 20 years. We went up to the 45th floor and there was an amazing view of Tokyo from there. I got a Tiramisu (I still think that name sounds Japanese rather than Italian) and a Blood Orange Juice (really good) and we stayed there in the cafe a little longer and enjoyed the view of Tokyo.
We then continued to make good use out of our full-day Subway pass, and took off on the Subway to Ginza, the fancy 5th Avenue-style area. We went right to the Sony Building Ginza, and they had 4 or 5 floors of awesome, futuristic electronics. There was a really slick new LED TV, a Sony SLR Camera which took photos like a machine gun! The burst mode was insane, I think it was 5 frames per second, but it sounded even faster. It was called the Sony α500, so cool.
What a great day, I took SO many photos. Then we headed back to the hostel in Kuramae and just chilled out. I chatted with the guys I hung out with today, and then decided to try the McDonalds down the street from the hostel. I LOVE trying McDonalds in foreign countries - it seems like it should be so similar and comfortable and close to home... and it is... but at the same time it totally isn't. I love the country-specific items like the McOz Burger in Australia and the Kiwi Burger in New Zealand... and now.. the Teriyaki McBurger in Japan! :) haha so funny. There is also something call the Ebi Burger (which I think is actually shrimp, so I'll skip that one!) I went to the McDonalds down the street, presuming it would be straightforward... and, nope. They saw me and instantly flipped the menu over to the English side. "Arrigato Goziamasu" (thank you very much) I said. I found out that an extra value meal (drink and fries) is called a "Set" in Japan, so I pointed to the word on the menu and said "Teriyaki McBurger, Set!" The girl looked at me with a super confused look on her face. "Set", I repeated. She pondered for a minute and then said, "Oohhhhhh... set-o!" hahaha. "Arrigato Goziamasu!" I responded, since I think that's still almost the only Japanese I know. So I had totally messed up the pronunciation of everything, and then I got my food and turned around and tried to exit but the slidy door opened the other way than I expected. I laughed, turned around again and the young staff were all bowing at me and laughing. I said "I have no idea what I'm doing!", followed it with another "Arrigato Goziamasu!!" and bowed and left, laughing to myself. It so funny how easy it is to feel completely lost and helpless when you can't speak a language, read any signs, you just walked for 10 hours during the day, and you're still kindof jetlagged. haha. Traveling is so freakin' awesome, there's nothing like it. :) So happy to be here. I ate my Teriyaki McBurger back at the hostel (also, I think that name is hilarious) and talked to my parents on Skype via my iPod Touch + an external microphone.
Tomorrow will be awesome, I am going to meet Tatsuya, my friend from Texas A&M who now works in Toronto in 3D as well, and he's here for the Siggraph Asia conference and to see his family. We are meeting at Mitaka Station, and then going to see the Studio Ghibli Museum!! I can't wait. Japan is so amazing already.
View from the roof of my hostel in Kuramae
Huge selection of "cohii" (coffee) at "Sheven-Eerevan" (7-11) :)
Vending machines EVERYWHERE
Quick brekkie before taking on the town
Famous Shibuya crossing
Inside the Shibuya Starbucks
Crowds from the 2nd floor at Starbucks
One of my favourite photos from the whole trip (love the mask on the girl on the left)
Big shoe store
Gym building in Harajuku
I love this one too: a man drawing the gym building in Harajuku, his lunch and green tea beside him
An older man painting outside of the Gap, Harajuku
Weird Harajuku shirts
Cute Wolverine goes crazy and slashes poor Ronald McDonald
Tiny skirts, weird Mickey Mouse sweatshirts
Me Rockin' a cool hat
Entrance to main Harajuku street
That sounds pretty Zen :) We ended up eating here for lunch.
"Pure Dog": seemed to be a sort of doughnut shop
Who's the boss
Girls with crazy hair and fashion
Rockabilly guy on his way to a performance
Cosplay girls on the Harajuku bridge
Cosplay and free hugs
Rockabilly dude and a sick Chevy
Rockabilly Dancers 1
Rockabilly Dancers 2
Rockabilly Dancers 3
Rockabilly Dancers 4
Rockabilly Dancers 5
Rockabilly Dancers 6
Rockabilly Dancers 7
Love this car
Off to Shinjuku, this area was SO bright at night
One of those "ticket" restaurants, where you pick your food on a menu, pay into a machine, and then give the ticket to the person inside. A lot of Chicken Katsu (fried chicken cutlet) and Japanese Curry here.
Drumming arcade game
"Claw" games are very popular
Magic cards and video games, together at last?!
Even Grandmas play video games in Japan
People going crazy for some alley cats
Everyone excited and taking videos of the cats
Sweet building in downtown Tokyo, the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
Old and new
Get 'em while they're hot
Tokyo Metropolitan Building, we went up to the top observation floor
View of Tokyo from the Metropolitan Building
Weird hats and hilarious souveniers
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower from on top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building
Miyajima Lego Sculpture at the Sony Building
Cool new Walkman music player
Sound recording device
Absurdly vibrant colours from HD video camera
New LCD touch screen
The lightest weight laptop I've ever seen
School design project with recyclable materials and electronics
Outside of Sony Building in Ginza
Night time in Ginza