Things seemed to be looking up. I gave VISA a call, and they informed me that there ARE bank machines in Japan which take VISA cards. Not a lot of them, but they can direct me to one if I call them.
Grabbed a train to Akihabara at around 8 a.m. in the morning, and started to explore. Nothing in Japan opens until at least 10am, so my exploring at this point was basically limited to investigating vending machines to get something to drink. Seeing as how Anna Exter seemed to enjoy it so much, I gave Pocari Sweat a try. Didn’t care for it, it tasted kind of nasty (in my opinion). At around 9:45, people started opening up their shops, and I began to get a feel for Akihabara. The “feel” I got was basically “love at first sight” (I have “OH-WOW!” written in my diary). Thousands of shops, all carrying every conceivable type of electronic gizmo, gadget, computer program, device, book, CD, etc. Smaller alleys containing electronic booths, crammed with every model of microchip, resistor, capacitor, fan, transformer, wire, etc., that you could ever want. You could construct just about anything with the parts and tools you can find in these places. For example, one shop was dealing only in cables; every size, colour and gauge of cable you could ever want. One shop over, another guy was selling nothing but power transformers – thousands of them!
I had my first good look at minidisc player/recorders here. Nifty little gadgets around the size of a Walkman, which record on special 2.5″ CDs. As soon as I saw them, I knew that I had to have one. I also went looking for cameras, and was rather shocked at the prices. If anything, Japan is no-longer the “camera bargain-hunter’s paradise” (at least, not with the Japanese economy in the present state). I saw fully automatic cameras (of the point-and-shoot variety) selling for well over $300). If anything, cameras (particularly used cameras) are cheaper in Canada!
Trouble struck again. After leaving Akihabara, I went back to Shinjuku Station, and attempted to make reservations for the Shinkansen. The ticket agent (an older man) didn’t look terribly pleased to be dealing with a foreigner, and appeared to be doing his best to be unhelpful. After trying for around 10 minutes, I just smiled and gave up. I figured I could take care of it later without too many problems.
I was beginning to get a feeling for why Nami doesn’t really want to have to return to Tokyo. It’s really not a very nice city as far as appearances go, is packed with people rushing around, and is very noisy (all of which probably explain why it always gets blown up in anime programs. Heck, after three days in Tokyo, I wanted to blow it up).
At this point, I was really beginning to question if this (Tokyo) was what I was expecting of Japan. The cold weather (3 or 4 degrees Celsius), and overcast gray skies certainly played a part in it – it was all a little depressing. I’ve never really liked crowds that much, and Tokyo certainly qualifies as one of the most crowded places in the world. I was writing my thoughts here while sitting on a park bench in Yoyogi Park , watching ducks swim by, and joggers and kids pass by on the path.
When I returned to the hostel, I found another Canadian named Paul, who was on vacation from his job in Quebec. We went out to grab a bite to eat, then went to see the Shinjuku night-life. The hostel had a 10 p.m. curfew, so we had to make it fast. Paul knew what he wanted to see, and immediately started asking shopkeepers where to go to see “the girls”. We had some rather amused reactions, but were eventually pointed in the right direction, and we wandered off that way for a while. The cover charges for some of the club Paul was inquiring about were over 5,000 yen (around $70 cdn), so that ended our clubbing ideas really quick. We just wandered around for a while, noting the rather odd architecture of the “soaplando” in the area, briefly looking at some of the pictures of what rooms had to offer and noting the clientele wandering in and out of these gaudy buildings. A number of the young couples didn’t look at all happy when they left the establishments… (Hmm?).
We got back to the hostel shortly before they closed for the night, and sat around drinking pop, eating chips, and watching TV, until a grouchy security guard kicked us out of the lounge (some things are the same around the world, and the attitude of security guards seems to be one of them).