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Browsing Posts tagged Akihabara

I went to the shopping in the Tokyo

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Yes, those grammar errors are on purpose; I hear that exact sentence at least 3 or 4 times a week from students when I go through the formality of asking how their weekends were. Anyways, after a fairly normal week at work, it is yet again the weekend; the oasis in the desert wasteland of having a regular job. Actually, before I get too far into the weekend reports, I should mention that the one irregularity of this past week was that one of my coworkers caught the Norovirus, which is apparently becoming more and more of a problem here in Japan, and was out of work from Monday through Friday, which included a three day stay in the hospital on an IV. I did a quick search online for the norovirus earlier in the week because I wanted to know exactly what it was; it’s some kind of stomach flu I think, and is likely to outbreak in places where there are high concentrations of people. Cruise ships, for example, seem to be having tons of norovirus outbreaks. Of course, working at an AEON school where you have students coming in sick ALL THE TIME (seriously, I don’t want you coming to class if you’re sick, even if you wear a stupid face mask), I’m not really surprised that someone caught this sickness. I think Matt, the other foreign teacher at my school, might have had a norovirus a few weeks ago also when he was really sick as well. The amazing thing is that no one else at my school caught the norovirus, since when we had the Christmas/year-end party last week we shared a lot of dishes at the Korean restaurant and I’m sure germs were passed around through that. I seem to be perfectly fine, which may very well be helped in part by the fact that I’m conscious of sleeping a lot every night (mainly out of laziness), and also because I keep a bottle of Purel sanitizing alcohol gel in my desk drawer. It doesn’t seem so OCD now, does it!?

Oh, right; weekend. After reading through my Japan guidebook randomly this week to get ideas for the upcoming Kansai trip, I started feeling more adventurous and decided that it would be worth hitting up Tokyo this weekend, something I haven’t really had any desire to do recently. Anyway, for 1910 yen, I can buy a JR Tokunai Pass (都区内パス) from my home station that will take me to and from Tokyo, and also allows for unlimited train travel within the city. Which actually is a pretty good deal as long as you’re going to 2 or 3 places in the city. Woke up insanely early for a Sunday, 10AM, then met up with Blanchard in Chiba, and off to Tokyo we were. Embarrassingly, our first stop was Akihabara, mainly because it is the closest part of Tokyo but also because it was lunch time and I wanted to go to the Oedo kaiten sushi place I used to go to whenever I visited nerd town. The cheap sushi place is in the Akihabara Department Store connected to the station, which is being demolished at the end of the year so they can build a super futuristic new department store. It was probably my last chance to eat at that sushi place, but it was busy so we decided it wasn’t worth the wait and instead got cheap ramen. It was not a bad alternative at all. By the way, if you didn’t know this, I love ramen. And miso ramen is absolutely amazing. And if it’s cheap, even better.

Other reason for Akihabara was that I needed some blank DVD+Rs, which for some reason seem much rarer in stores here. I need the +s because those are the only kind my laptop’s burner will accept, which is a pain. I figured of all places, Akihabara, the famed electronics area of Tokyo, would have mountains of DVD+Rs for my burning pleasure. I was finally able to find some at the super giant mega Yodobashi, although couldn’t really even find a 50 spindle. I asked the worker guy and finally learned why +Rs are so hard to find here. It’s an American standard! That makes sense, and I am slightly less bitter about having to hunt for these rare +Rs to amass my burned DVD collection. It might be worth either having spindles of +Rs send from the US, or maybe even buying a new DVD burner for my laptop. Either way. Oh yeah, and Akihabara has really lost whatever appeal it had a while back. The maids, weirdos, and anime otaku have really warped that place from it’s semi-warped state a few years ago. There are very few stores in the area that I even want to go to, and even less stuff I want to buy. I doubt I’ll be going back there very much; it’s just too nerdy and desolate. The super giant mega Yodobashi, however, is a good electronics store if you ever need one.

All you can eat jelly and good time!After Akihabara we headed to Shinjuku to check out some stores, mainly Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands. Not much to report, although it might be a good time to mention just how many foreigners there are in Tokyo. I think I’ve gotten used to Chiba, and definitely Goi, where you’re more likely to spot a man dressed as a giant stuffed animal than see another foreigner. So speaking of foreigners, we saw the worst group of foreigners ever while waiting in line to get into Tabasa in Harajuku for dinner, the “all-you-can eat pizza, pasta, hip-hop, goodtime, pancakes, and jelly” restaurant that is cheap and delicious. The quickest way to explain them is to use a certain American slang term for white Eminem-type clones. I don’t think I want to offend anyone, so I’m going to call them “wee gars” in this blog post. However that isn’t exactly correct since only 4 of them were white and the other was some kind of Latino. I think you get the picture though. So yeah, like 5 of them, all dressed in the same way – sweat pants, t-shirt or jersey, stupid hat cocked to the side or something angled. They didn’t speak normal English let alone Japanese, spoke really loud, and acted like they were the baddest mofos in Tokyo. We tried to figure out what their deal was and why they are in Japan, but I think the conclusion was that they’re probably military brats, since they didn’t seem to be of working/teacher let alone university student classification. They had cell phones, so they must live here, so I’m going to assume military kids who have nothing better to do but pretend they’re from “da meen streetz.” The worst was this little blond kid who needed a good throttling, but the funniest was this dopey looking kid who was wearing the surefire sign that you are a social outcast and don’t belong in Japan – the shirt that says, in Japanese “I’m looking for a Japanese girlfriend.” Come on. If you wear this shirt, girls aren’t going to be like “oh wow, he’s looking for a Japanese girlfriend. I am a girl, and Japanese. I should have sexual relations with this person right away.” Listen up mister wee gar; when the people in the restaurant, mainly the young couple, were looking at your shirt and laughing, it wasn’t because they thought you were clever.

No rims; must not be a YakFinished up the night in Shibuya, where we didn’t really do anything but walk around and look at the fancy lights and jumbotron video screens. It was getting pretty boring just walking around the streets, until there was a bit of an incident outside of Seibu. A Lincoln Navigator was parked outside of the store illegally, and was about a foot and a half into the street. A bus driver decided that he didn’t want to risk scraping this HUGE AWESOME AMERICAN SUV MACHINE so traffic on this road was pretty much at a standstill except for the occasional motorcycle. Lots of car horns were being honked, and finally the police were called. Tonight was a great lesson, or shall I say, reconfirmation, that Japanese police are absolutely useless. At first, after we started watching, two cops on foot showed up after, assumingly, someone in Seibu called them. They called fo
r backup, which brought another cop on foot and two in a squad car. The only sweet thing was that Japanese squad cars have the ability to raise their car-top sirens an extra two feet or so into the air. Other than that, they did nothing impressive. They wrote a ticket, took pictures with their digital camera, and documented the situation in a notebook. One of the cops used the megaphone and speakers built into the squad car to pretty much repeatedly say “Will the owner of a Lincoln Navigator with plate number blah blah blah please come and move your car?” After almost 45 minutes of us sitting around with a growing group of bystanders, I got bored and we went to find a vending machine. We were gone for less than 5 minutes I’d say, and by the time we came back the Navigator was gone and traffic was running normally. I really wanted to see how this situation would be resolved, but since it took so little time I’m guessing the guy showed up, apologized and bowed a lot, and they let him go. I was hoping for a yakuza shoot out! The morale of this story is that the police wasted about 45 minutes and traffic in a very busy part of Tokyo was interrupted by a mis-parked car. Why didn’t they get a tow truck!? If this were the states, a tow truck would have been there to haul the car away. There would have been no need for many cops, there would not have been a spectacle, and it wouldn’t have taken 45 minutes. Ah well, it was at least entertaining for a while. I do wish I would have seen the resolution, no matter how boring it probably was.

1 more day of the weekend; thank goodness. Then it’s a short (4 day) week because the entire country has next Saturday off for the Emperor’s Birthday. The only useful thing the emperor does!

Maids and Ero Oyaji

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Further investigation was warranted on this whole crazy maid thing, and not just because I went to Akihabara again on my way back from that side of the Yamanote the other day.

I still don’t think I want to go into a maid cafe, but right outside of JR Akihabara station, there were plenty of maids handing out flyers and stuff. One such flyer was actually for some service where you can “Go on a date with a maid,” and she’ll follow you around and go to restaurants, arcades, and the other places in Akihabara that the nerds love so much. Not prostitution, I guess, since at least according to the flyer, those kinds of services aren’t included. But it is Japan, so I’ll bet there’s something even more shady about it. The cost was like 6000 yen for an hour, so for a buck a minute, only the rich and super-pathetic nerds can afford it.

Back to my observations outside the station. I was there around 7:30PM, and hanged around the outside of the station for about 15 minutes. During that timespan, I saw the following:

  • 6 maids “working” handing out flyers.
  • 4 maid cosplayers, i.e. dressed up just for fun.
  • 1 person dressed as a cat. I couldn’t tell if it was a male or female.
  • 1 wannabe idol singer, trying to peddle her CD by shaking her ass.
  • 1 old man sweeping the street (more on him later)

diagram

eroThe old guy I was talking about was the resident floor-sweeper I guess, maybe a groundskeeper. There is also a possibility that he was a homeless guy who just likes to sweep. Either way, he was wearing a sweat towel and a Moe~ (萌え) shirt that also said “Akiba in Japan.” After sweeping once, he took a break and went over to the little kiosk near the station and bought a flask of whiskey. While drinking his whiskey, he went over to talk to some chicks, who surprisingly didn’t run away and instead talked to him for a few minutes.

That was pretty much the end of my short investigation into Akihabara again. I don’t understand it really, and will likely never try.

Please also note that it seemed like the average age of the maids was like 15.

Woke up this morning around 7:30AM. Apparently my weird “sleep from 6AM to 1PM” lifestyle made it really easy to adjust to Tokyo time. I don’t think I’m jetlagged, but who knows. I started off the day by trying to get free breakfast at the Executive International Club here in the hotel, which I knew I wasn’t entitled to since I’m paying Expedia rates on the hotel rather than normal expensive-as-balls rates. I thought I’d give it a shot anyway, but they actually checked with the front desk and I was denied my free food. Instead I went to the nearby conbini and got a sandwich, tuna onigiri, and some cafe au lait. All the old favorites. All that was missing is one of the weird Japanese sandwiches, like a yakisoba pizza roll sandwich, composed of at least 4 different types of carbs. I have time though.

this wasn't here 2 years agoThis is going to sound so majorly dorky, but I was trying to figure out what I should do my first full day in Japan, and ended up wasting a lot of time at the hotel and then finally going to Akihabara. There wasn’t really anything I was going there for inparticular, but it’s close and seemed like something to do. So cut me some slack! The big plaza area outside of the station, which is what the picture to the right here is of, was under construction when I was here in the Fall of 04. I saw it mostly done last summer, but now it’s in full force. Seems like a pretty sweet place, with stores and some other stuff. A big open plaza/concrete park kind of area, which seems a lot less crowded than a lot of places here in Tokyo. But anyway, I had lunch at the Edo Sushi place in the department store connected to the station, that I go to every once in a while. It’s cheap and good, which is probably why I go there. I had so much sushi for less than 10 bucks; it would have cost at least three times that much back in Bloomington, and the quality isn’t even comparable. I had some salmon for lunch here that pretty much melts in your mouth.

I went to like two or three different arcades trying to find the Mario Kart game, but no luck yet. I went to a few stores, including the Liberty store that has sweet Kamen Rider stuff. Spent more money than I planned on, just on stupid little things that I tend to accumulate randomly here in Japan. The weirdest thing I noticed today was how big the whole maid and “moe~” (萌え~) stuff has gotten. I don’t even remember ever seeing stuff like this last year. Moe~, to the best of my understanding, is the way that hardcore anime and Akihabara nerds (Akiba-kei, アキバ系) talk about those anime porn girls. Or something like that. Theres also a lot of products that have either Moe or Akiba-Kei on it, I guess it’s becoming like a trend in itself. They had like shirts, hats, coffee mugs, buttons, and even stuffed animals that look like the 2ch ascii art cats. I have a feeling the whole Densha Otoko fad Japan had last fall is partially to blame for this.

The whole maid thing is even weirder though. This started a while back, with the maid cafes. I remember once or twice trying to find these places, and I never did. They were like secret or something. The whole deal is, you go into a coffee shop where all the girls are dressed like maids, they call you “master” and stuff like that. Nothing really sex related at all, it’s just for the Akiba-kei guys who get off on girls who act like they’re 5 and/or are from an anime. At some point between last summer and now, the maid fad got even worse in Akihabara, because just walking around the street, a lot of places (at least 6 I saw in one stroll down the main street) now use girls in maid outfits to hand out flyers, invite people into the shops, etc. They’re not exactly French maid outfits, and they’re not really revealing or anything. Again, the Akiba-kei guys love this. There are apparently more Maid Cafes all over the place, and I found one today somewhat inadvertently. I was browsing around Don Quihote, this multi-level department store that pretty much sells just random stuff, and I went up to like the 7th floor. Only instead of the usual random DonQui products like oversized sombreros and cheap neck ties, they had a Maid Cosplay store. An entire little area selling all sex toys, videos, and of course hundreds of maid outfits for a few hundred bucks a pop. You would think that guys buy these for their girlfriends, but something tells me that they’re instead either wearing them themselves or putting them on their life-size blow up dolls at home. Here’s a pic I took, super secretly:
weird
The rest of the floor was arcade machines where you can win maid-related prizes, complete with 2 female attendants dressed in maid outfits, and a huge Maid Cafe that reminded me of a theme park ride because it was walled off from the rest of the floor. There were two creepy chicks dressed as gothic maids outside of the cafe, trying to get people to come in, and one of them was probably the ugliest Japanese girl I have seen in a costume ever. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but I was afraid if I did she’d blow fire on me or something. But either way, the whole maid thing has gotten more abundant and it’s started to weird me out. I have no problem walking down the street and seeing nerds drool over anime porn and creepy model kits of the girls from Evangelion, but something about the whole maid thing just creeps me out. Maybe it was just the super ugly maid that did it to me.

After that, I came back to Shinjuku and did some browsing in the areas around the station, which are huge to boot. I’m going to hit up the department stores and like Takashimaya Times Square soon, maybe tomorrow. For the rest of the night I think I’m going to relax and make up a tentative schedule of when and where I’m going and doing stuff for my work assignments. On a closing note for this day, I would like to say that writing three long travel blogs in a single night is difficult and taxing, overshadowed only by the physical exhaustion I felt when I got back to the hotel a few hours ago to write these entries. They always say that you use totally different muscles when you’re in Japan, which may be true, but I think it’s just because you do so much damn walking around this country. Compared to life in Bloomington for the past year or two where I drove almost anywhere, my body just aches as if I ran a marathon. Well, maybe not that bad, but I’m tired.

And since I now see how much text I’ve written in these three entries, I’m thinking of not doing complete summaries of what I do here; maybe I’ll just pick one interesting thing a day and talk about that.

BIG SIGH OF RELIEF

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Well, looks like earlier today, my wife used my credit card and tried wiring about 925 bucks to my friend Mohamed in Cairo, Egypt. …What’s that? Weird? Well that’s because some gonad tried stealing my money! Identity theft! It can happen to you.

Somehow they got my debit card number and used Western Union to send money to Egypt. Luckily, Western Union called my folks’ house to confirm, and Mom called me, and I got everything figured out. Had to wait until night to call Bank One and Western Union, since their customer service lines open in the morning back home. Well, after about 6 hours of worrying about losing all the money in my bank account, everything is good now. Transaction was canceled before it was complete. New debit card is being mailed to me.

I have a feeling the clerk at the Softmap in Akihabara stole my card number. I ran both of my Visa cards (including the Bank One card) and he said they weren’t approved. That’s weird. So, I ended up using another card. The twip must have taken those numbers and sold it to the Yakuza or something, I dunno.

I’ll call the Embassy or something tomorrow and tell them what happened. There’s probably some kind of thing against this. I suspect this is a scam used on foreign tourists. If I wouldn’t have been contact about this, and it would have been another day or two, the transfer would have gone through and I would have been broke.

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