Friday, September 17, 2010

8 Days in Japan Day 6: Here, There, Everywhere...

It's getaway day outta Kyoto. After throwing my luggage in a locker and grabbing breakfast I head over to the Museum of Kyoto. Dedicated to the history of Kyoto itself, I just get a gallery ticket and skip the exhibition to save some cash and end up regretting it. With really only one gallery floor on the second and an small display on the third dedicated to the history of film production - the Toei Studio outside town being the primary Japanese production lot going back to the start - the main collection is small on it's own though interesting at least. I spend about an hour here before wandering off to find the local open air fresh food market.

Overshooting it by a mile and having to double back, finding one of the local elevator style parking garages on the way, I finally find my way to to the Nishiki Food Market. A modern open air covered mall occupying the location of a former street market, it's like St. Lawrence Market if it were a street. Everything here is fresh, but frequently also vac-packed to avoid air contamination to compensate for the open air environment.

It's an implementation that's simple, clean and effective at keeping it's roots given the area's been the street market almost as long as the city has existed. Yet, looking at it, I suspect that if you tried to do this in Toronto then Public Health would still go apeshit given how hard it's been to get something other than Hot Dog vendors licensed as concession stands despite that reality just because it doesn't fit the "norms".

I browse the market a bit, then weave my way back through the area to my luggage and jump the subway to Kyoto Station in order to catch a train back to Tokyo. If I had to do things again, I probably would've left myself less of a buffer getting out and spent another day here: there's simply so much historical to see and do and I barely touch a 10th of it, if that.

Arriving back in Tokyo, I check back into my hotel and decide to go see if I can catch a baseball game. One catch to doing this is that, while there's a two teams in Tokyo, there's so few teams in the league overall that you can't be guaranteed to have one in town at any given time. Not only that, but one of those teams - the Giants - are the equivalent of the NY Yankees here and your odds of getting tickets on short notice lay somewhere between nil and none. Grabbing a local english language mag called Metropolis - their rough equivalent to our Now or Eye papers here - on my way out to the trains I'm faced with the unfortunate reality that that's the only team playing locally over the next couple days so I make my way to Suidobashi on the JR line and find myself outside the Tokyo Dome City complex and see if I can roll the dice.

While the Dome is it's centre point, the complex itself is huge consisting of multiple restaurants, some towers, a mall, a seriously huge roller coaster, and an entire section of kids stores to try and make it an entertainment complex for everyone. This stands in distinct contrast to the comparative dead zone around the Rogers Centre in terms of shopping or entertainment here in that there's more than enough reason to be in the area other than just to see a game. Sadly, all the games for my last two days here are sold out so I settle for browsing the area a bit - wandering through a "Jump" store full of One Piece, Bleach, Dragonball, and similar paraphernalia - before deciding to shift Akihabara from tomorrow to today and hit it at night.

Akihabara is a shopping district unlike anything we have in Toronto to be honest and probably best described as a massive multi-block shopping zone for geeks and nerds of all types. Chock full of multi-level stores catering to electronics, hobbyists, entertainment (of all types), and restaurants designed to appeal to those who'd come to such a place... well, if Comic Con is the West's "Nerd Mecca", Akihabara is probably the East's only it runs daily. I mostly end up browsing the area here; electronics are, by and large, no cheaper to purchase once you start doing the math while the movies and games are very rarely region free so, unlike Toronto's "Asian" malls, I'd have to end up getting a second machine to use them. So, I mainly look around for some Macross/Robotech models and browse the DVD/Blu-Ray sections in vain. I do, however, find myself an iPod cable for like 500 yen, or about 1/4 of what Apple wanted for it, and the perfect "gift" for my mom:

I'm totally sneaking this onto the foot or headboard of her bed the next time she's in the hospital.



Embarrassment is walking into what looks like a DVD/Video store on the outside... quickly realizing from what's on the racks and walls inside that you've walked into a 6 story porn shop... then having to turn and wander out while looking like that's what you really intended to do...

At one point Akihabara had a reputation for being the crown of cosplay as well and the area still has the stores to back it. But, wandering the area I found there's very little of that going on these days- this may have something to do with the cyclical downturn in interest towards anime lately or I simply showed up at the wrong day/time - save for the girls in maid costumes advertising the various Maid Cafe's in the area - food establishments where the customers are served food/drinks master/servant style by pretty young things in variations on the stereotypical french maid's outfit.

One location heavily pitches that the Backstreet Boys shot a video at their establishment and you can pay to sit in their booth. "Master/Servant" role-play isn't really my thing, even if it's all an act intended in good fun, so I move on.

I do a bit more browsing of the area trying to get some gift shopping done - unlike some other areas the arcades and many large stores are open really late here - and poke my head into an Arcade where all the adults head to the back while I grab the escalator up. We'll get back to this later. Heading upstairs past about 3 floors of machines I end up on the non-smoking floor looking for the GUNDAM pods again.

Finding them blocked off, I settle into another game alongside them that doesn't require the same amount of setup in the form of getting a combat card called Border Break that makes me regret the death of the arcade here.

Fully multiplayer on a national scale, you're driving Mechs with a slightly odd combination of stick and mouse to control movement and targeting yet, once you get used to it, it's really functional. I play a round dying once while racking up multiple kills mainly on the reality that, being slotted into the "newb" bracket to start, no one else in my game seems to understand the concept of flanking... yet. While I'm using terrain to sneak around get free shots in on them from side angles and the rear and taking no damage many of the opposing players are just trying to power down the middle shooting what's in front of them like the Alliance in Alterac Valley and then wondering why they died at Galv. When I run out of game time, with my side basically spawn camping the enemy base at this point, I watch the player beside me for a while who's higher level and the game becomes very different as more tools and weapons open up to you and the players are more familiar with their maps and controls. Heading down the stairs to get out I find out why all the guys were headed for the back on my way in: the basement is home to an adult manga/magazine store.

I meander for a bit further, coming across a 7 story adult and general cosplay megastore in the process with the kind of "insert your face" photo standees outside you could probably only get away with having out on the street in Akihabara, before hitting one last Electronics/Hobbyist department store, then grab some dinner and head back to the Hotel for the night.

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