Day 17 : A different side to Japan…

We left at about 12 to go to Tokyo Comike. I didn’t know what it was even though I had heard a lot about it from Tom who really wanted to go and I had heard there would be a lot of people so I decided to come along. However, I didn’t realise it was a fan fiction and cosplay convention! Everywhere inside were stands selling manga “romance” fan fictions called Doujinshis and outside were half naked chicks dressed as their favourite anime characters being photographed. A scene straight out of a playboy mansion… I guess it was interesting and it opened my eyes to a different perspective of Japan but it definitely weirded me out! The family we were staying with just kept laughing XD! We ate at the convention then we went to Akihabara to visit the electronics district. We separated at Animate, a manga related store and I left to walk around. I stumbled across an arcade filled with pros. (I couldn’t help but think they dedicated their lives to the arcade). I just ended up looking at a few of them since they weren’t going to let anyone else play XD! The 3rd floor was for the smokers and I left. There was a yoyo competition in Akihabara but we left before it could start. Bought a yoyo though, however I didn’t realise it was for pros so it doesn’t retract… Then we went to Asakusa to see the most famous temple in Tokyo and maybe even Japan. It was really impressive! It had a giant red lantern at the entrance welcoming people in. We did the same ritual as in the Meiji shrine and left (very touristy). We then drove to sunshine city again (remember the giant department store?) to have dinner. Went to a tonkatsu restaurant (serves breaded deep-fried pork cutlets). It was delicious. Went back to the house and went to sleep.

Day 16 : Swallows vs Tigers!!!

Met up with Chihiro and her cousin Mayu as well as Muraiyama san (who would be our host father for the rest of our stay in Tokyo) and waited for Chihiro’s friend Aya. Then we left our bags with Muraiyama-san. We took the train and went to the Meiji shrine.

   

  

  

  


What a beautiful sight! It was very crowded with tourists too. After walking past the entrance, we came across a mound of sake barrels.

   


On the opposite side of the sake was an other mound of barrels but this time with wine.

   


We arrived at the shrine and we decided to read our fortune. You basically shake a box full of mikado sticks with a number on them and one comes out at random. Then you pay 100 yen to read the fortune linked to the corresponding number. Mine said if I have a goal, I shouldn’t give up and keep trying and it will be fulfilled…so I’ll get on that…

At the shrine, we did a “ritual” everyone can do. You throw any coin in a large crate (although the 5 yen coin is considered to be the luckiest) and bow twice. Then you clap your hands twice, keep your hands together and pray for any wish. You then bow a final time and be on your way! 

   
Then we ate at a Japanese/Korean barbecue restaurant which was a first for me. It was really good! Had beef’s tongue and intestines for the first time too! I must say, the consistency was quite pleasant. 

    
   
Afterwards, we walked through Takeshita street, the teenager/hipster street. Most of the shops were clothes shops. 

 
It was hilarious reading the English words written on some of them. (Adorable pleasure? Here comes the fat animals?) Anyway..afterwards we went to the top of what I think is called the city hall building. We had a look at the view from the top floor.

 
Then we walked the streets of shinjuku and went in an arcade, went in a photo booth, I bought some ds games super cheap! The girls showed us the big Godzilla statue. (Can you see it?)

 
Then Mayu had to leave and as it was time, we went to the baseball game. Tokyo swallows vs Osaka tigers! 

    
    
   
It was super fun. We met 3 more of Chihiros friends. Tomuhashi, Sosuke and Shinji. We were on Tokyo’s side of the stadium but they lost 3-6 if I remember right. One of the Swallow’s signature cheer is the Tokyo Ondo. Have a look. 


We went back to Ikebukuro and met up with Muraiyama san who drove us to his place. We introduced ourselves to his family. Went to bed.

Day 15 : Walking the streets of Tokyo!

Today we are alone in Tokyo so we decided to do some walking around in some of the famous places. Firstly, we went to Ochanomizu to look at some of the shops. Tokyo is divided in different districts, that specialise in different sectors. So, we had a look at the music, sports and book district and had a quick shoyu ramen in between. We then just looked for the nearest station from where we stopped (Jimbocho) and went to Shibuya. This is the place with the giant street crossing and I really want to cross it; so we crossed it.

     

Then we just looked at some shops. I bought a tshirt and we went back to the hotel. We had dinner and went to bed.

Day 14 : Pokemon Center Fun!

After waking up, we had breakfast at Starbucks. We met with Ohmori-san and he introduced us to a 19 year old girl (for which I cannot remember the name…shame on me) who would show us around Tokyo. We wanted to go to a Pokemon centre since we were in Tokyo and walked to Sunshine City, a giant department store.

   

We entered the store and bought a few things and found out they were holding an event related to a new Pokemon. It was a sort of treasure hunt where we had to find secret passwords in order to get to the final word. Naturally we chose the hard option and took about an hour to get to the end. It was a lot of fun though!
   

  

(Btw…the final password was pikachu, go figure) After that, we entered the Studio Ghibli store where I thought I would go crazy and buy the shop. But I managed to control myself (barely) and only bought a few items.

 
At that point it was noon and Ohmori-san and the girl had to leave. We said goodbye and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I ordered way too much food but managed to sort of finish everything. Went back to hotel. Bought takeaway at a nearby 7/11 and ate it at the hotel. Got caught up on all my manga and went to sleep.

Day 13 : The Terrific Tokyo Tower!

Today, after having breakfast, we helped Sumika’s family with the construction of a new shed. We started by getting rid of what was in the way (trees, shrubs and rocks) and opened all the boxes. Laying the foundation was harder than we thought because we had to get the first couple of beams perfectly straight so we needed to add or take away dirt accordingly. In the end, we pretty much only got that done. By that time, it was time for lunch so we ate, packed our bags and said goodbye to the parents.

 
Then Sumika drove us to the station and we met up with her grandfather at the same time. We introduced ourselves and jumped on the train. The first train took us to Koreyama. We then changed and took the next one to Tokyo. We arrived in Ikebukuro where our hotel is.

   


There, we met with Akemi who was staying with Yukiko-san (I think) and Ohmori-san, the man who would be our guide for our first days in Tokyo. We said goodbye to Akemi and joined Ohmori-san. The first thing we did was go to Tokyo Tower.

  

It’s basically the Eiffel Tower, only this one is painted orange and white (apparently to ward off any blind planes who can’t see a giant monument in front of them) and has a floor dedicated to One Piece (a manga)! We bought the tickets to go to the top, as well as visit the One Piece floor and went to the observatory deck. I wanted to climb the stairs and forced everyone to follow me (>{}<) hehe!!!
   
  

  Over 600 steps in total. The view from the top was great! We could see really far out and since it was already quite late, the building lights shone brightly against the night sky. We even saw a few random fireworks. We wanted to go to the peak of the tower but the queue was way to long and it would have taken us an hour to get through…

   
  


After that, we went to the One Piece floor. It was pretty fun! There were models and arcades we could see and play at!

        
We then went to the resultant with Ohmori-san and ate soba noodles for dinner. Went to bed.

Day 12 : Charity Concert!!!

Beautiful day today! Had breakfast and walked the dogs. We stopped off at one of their neighbours and had a drink.

 

Went back home and practiced for the concert scheduled for 4pm. We then went to a soba restaurant close to the house.

   

  

  

  

  

It was really really good! Really cool place and great food. I think soba noodles are my favourite now. I love dipping them in the broth and slurping them like crazy. It’s really tasty too! People say you shouldn’t drink the remaining broth once you’ve finished since it’s really salty but I love it! 

 

After we finished eating, we went to Goshichi Numa (literally meaning 5 colours lake). It was beautiful! It was such a vivid blue too! It’s hard to believe a volcano eruption less than 200 yeas ago created this lake!

 
  

When we returned home, is was nearly time for the concert so we quickly prepared. About 10 people were invited but I was still nervous. Tom and I alternated between our pieces and we managed to collect 10000 yen (about 50£)! The concert went better than I expected!
We all ate dinner (curry) then North and Akemi prepared to leave. We accompanied them to the station and said goodbye.

 
(They’re in the train btw). Tom wanted to send his guitar to Aomori at the same time so he wouldn’t have to lug it around Tokyo and so we stopped at a nearby convenient store where we sent it away. Here, we found some really neat anime merchandise and couldn’t resist buying some! We all went back to the hot springs and stayed a little longer at the arcade this time. We then went back to the house, then back to the springs again to retrieve my wallet which I had left on one of the games…(-_-) Went to bed.

Day 11 : Meeting Manami and Maria!

Woke up early so I could have a swim in the hotel pool. Since it opened at 8:00 am, I had breakfast first then swam for about an hour. There was no one there so I had the pool to myself! I met up with Akemi at 9:45 and we all left the hotel to go to Sendai. There, we first met Manami and her grandma. Both very nice. Manami was really shy but her grandmother was very lively! (^_^)

Then we all took the train together to go to Maria’s orphanage. There, we introduced ourselves. We went to a department store and the girls went shopping, so we stayed in a restaurant to have lunch. I had pasta napolitana. When we all met up again, it seemed to me Maria was a lot happier so that made me feel better and we all said goodbye at the station. We took the train to Fukushima where we met up with Sumika’s father (remember Sumika? The girl from Yakushiji that helped with the charity?) who drove us to their holiday home in the mountains. It is amazing over here! The air is so pure you would think it was made in heaven! Their home is in front of a National Park so there is forest everywhere! Also, they have two beautiful dogs that I love (Sophie and Lily). We arrived just in time for dinner and ate sushi. It was great! I even got to make my own nigiri! After eating, the family proposed to bring us to the hot springs nearby and we all went. The hot springs belonged to a hotel. The men and women went their separate ways and we went to the changing rooms, got naked and entered the baths. To be honest it’s not that weird…I mean it’s a bit shocking seeing a bunch of naked men everywhere, but if you don’t look it’s fine… (*~*)

As we entered we had to follow some steps so I’ll just list them all :

First, you rinse yourself using a bucket of water. Then you step into the indoor spring for a few moments. Then you go outside in the outdoor spring and soak for as long as you like. When you come back inside, you must wash and scrub yourself completely clean. Then you step into the sauna for 5 minutes and then the cold water bath (which is freezing after the steam room!) and finally you soak in the indoor pool for a bit before leaving to change. Then you can groom yourself in the changing room (shave, brush your hair…) and change into your comfortable clothes/pyjamas. Finally there’s a place where you can sit down and get a foot massage and back rubs (with machines) and voila! I’m completely relaxed! It feels really good I must say!

At the entrance to the springs is an arcade so we played a bit while we waited for the girls. We then went back home and went to sleep.

PS : Sorry! No pictures today…My phone had no battery… (>#<)