Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japan Day 5

After being wiped out from the previous night's train debacle, we decided to leave Kyoto at a leisurely pace.  We reached Tokyo station in the afternoon.  Our hotel was fantastic, in a central location, directly across from a train station.
It was getting dark by the time we went out.  We went to Akihabara, the electronics district. It should really be called the electronics/porn/anime district.  It was overwhelming. Bright lights everywhere you turn, cramped stores packed with every action figure imaginable, j-pop, and American top 40 blasting on the radios, and sales people yelling in the most nasal tone you've ever heard come from a human.
A big striking difference between Kyoto and Tokyo is the people.  The Kyoto people dress conservatively and speak in quiet tones.  Tokyo people (13 to 25 year olds in particular) dress wildly and shout everything.  The current style for women in Tokyo is knee high boots, black sheer tights, shorts or a skirt that barely covers the business.  I couldn't really tell what shirts they had on because they were all wearing short jackets.  The hair is light red, long, curly and teased.  They had a lot of makeup on, making some look like porcelain dolls, and others look like hookers.
Another huge trend I saw was this little bo peep thing.  I saw hundreds of girls dressed like these little bo peep.  They were dressed like dolls head to toe.
The guys wear their hair like Japanese comic book (manga) characters, and they dress really well.  I also saw my fair share of guys dressed like 50s greasers.
Manga is everywhere and everyone reads it.  I saw everyone from kids to adults reading the comics on trains with intense focus.  On the trains people either read manga, or text on their cell phones.  Their phones are a little longer than ours and everyone has ornaments hanging off their phones from little strings.  No one takes calls on the trains.  It's understood that talking on your cell phone on the train is rude.
Everything here is clean and effective.  I think things just make sense and work well, although there is one thing that as an American, I just don't get.  About 1 in every 5 people wears a face mask.  It seems prudent to want to prevent the spread of germs, but when people sneeze or cough here, they don't cover their mouths.  As an American that can be very off putting.
Anyway, back to the trip.
After a while, you need a break from looking at PS3 games and power rangers, so we went into a shop that had 4 floors of porn and sex stuff.  They literally has every part of the body in latex form for sale.  I bought a boob shaped stress ball to commemorate the experience.
We took a break for some food at a small dumpling shop.  The food was good and cheap, which was welcome change after paying through nose for every meal.
Next we walked into a 5 floor SEGA arcade.  They had rows of linked fighting games.  I played some Virtua Fighter which was fun.  The games are linked to the other games in the arcade, and the Internet, which makes for an interesting competitive experience.  They're also into unconventional controllers here.  Gigantic joysticks, motion simulators, wands etc...   If a game has a weird control scheme, they'll play it, no matter how crappy the game is.
Ann Marie and I also tried one of the many photo booths.  You match the pose on the screen and the computer identifies your faces and then applies cosmetic alterations.  The computer smoothed out our skin, made our lips brighter and gave us big black anime eyes.  The creepy thing is that it looked real, not like amateur photo shop, but it looked like we actually had big eyes and were wearing makeup.  I was tempted to take a promo photo in there and save it for the day when I decide to make a glam album.
Another thing worth mentioning is the Japanese love of heat.  Every building, and train in Japan has the heat cranked way up.  Add that to the temperamental weather we had, and it gets frustrating to find the right balance of layers.  I noticed a lot of Japanese people wearing heavy winter coats on the train when it was like a sauna in there.
After Akihabara we went to a Sushi restaurant by the hotel and it was pretty terrible.  The fish wasn't fresh and the sushi was prepared sloppily.  This made me worry, that perhaps Japanese sushi wasn't better than American sushi.
The food in general is not exactly what I expected.  Sure, there are sushi shops and noodle shops, but almost everything else I saw on the street was fried fish guts.  In fact, I've seen the word "guts" on many Japanese menus.  Remember that scene in temple of doom where they're eating at the banquet at pancot palace?  When Americans see that scene, we go eeewww.  When Japanese see that scene they go MMMMmmmmm.
We were pretty exhausted, so we turned in sort of early.

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