It’s insane how the time differences between countries. We both woke up about 4 am and walked outside to sit in the cool air. Weirdly, there were people already traveling up the street toward the train station, even when it didn’t open until 6 am. Maybe they were getting their morning bike in?
After fighting with the weird shower/bath setup, we were ready to go. I should say that the shower situation was crazy! If you hit the wrong lever, the floor would flood. If you didn’t have the moving wand (it had two stands on the wall above the bath), the floor would flood. So basically, there was a lot of potential flooding. If you forgot to turn on the hot water, good Lord, you’d freeze to death! It only took a few days to figure this out, thankfully (A few days is better than a week!).
Wes on the train
Instead of being typical tourists and finding a super cool place to eat, we ended up wandering around aimlessly looking for food. Finally, we ended up at a McDonalds. Let me tell you- that was an interesting experience. Everything was neatly presented on a tray delivered by the attendants. We were also stared at quite a bit. I was very thankful that it was cold enough that we needed to wear sweaters. If you read my About Me section, you’ll see that I have several tattoos. I can’t imagine how that would affect the situation. While Japan is more modernized, and many accept tattoos, some older generations do not accept them. They are considered a nuisance, or distracting, as well as correlating to local gangs.
Either way, breakfast was amazing (and super cheap!). Traffic in the part of town we were was insane- several people would shoot across the street between speeding cars, but we were not about that life. I’ll avoid being hit by a skinny car, thank you very much.
Our first order of business was to go to the one place I was adamant to visit while in Japan- Akihabara! So, let me talk a bit about this place. It is a techie’s dream- electronics, various shops with strange devices… if you needed it, this district had it! Radio Kaikan, Yodobashi Camera, JANPARA… it’s insane. If you liked anime, J-POP/K-POP, video games, or just strange things, this is the place to go! Containing three SEGA arcades, there is no lack of things to do.
Akihabara- Electric City
Our first train ride was interesting, to say the least. A 45-minute ride packed in a small space. It was hilarious seeing my husband on the train! He is 6’ and has very wide shoulders. He is also of Scandinavian descent, so there was no resemblance between him and other riders. Everyone was so much smaller than him, and he often would stand a foot or taller than the other passengers. A giant among the locals.
The scenery was insane. During our ride to the house the day before, it had been dark. Periods of vast rice fields and other vegetation would separate the condensed apartments and shopping malls. I remember being amazed at the marshes and bridges that we would pass on our quiet ride. We were both incredibly excited, but we were not ready for foot traffic that we would encounter.
Getting off the train was intense. The people moved so quickly that it was hard to keep up at first, especially since we were looking for the Electric City exit with no experience on how stations were laid out. It ended up being on the other side of the building! Making our way (very slowly) to the other side, we would bob and weave when we saw the sign. It was hard at first to get used to walking on the left side of the station versus the right.
As we came up the final escalator, there was a row of roughly 10 Gashapan machines. If you don’t know what those are, think of a huge vending machine filled with small toys, bags, and snacks in round capsules. They were all different and interesting in their own way- full of Pokémon, animals, coin purses, and weird little figurines. Specifically, we went for the Pokémon and small figurines. Wes went for a small section full of soldiers inside strange things (matchboxes, food, etc.) By random chance, he ended up with a small soldier inside of a pink macaroon. It was hilarious and weird. Mine was a Pikachu that you could hang on the side of a glass. It was adorable! I can see how these machines are so popular.
I remember turning the corner and seeing the vast stretch of the street before us. Then the buildings. I can’t even explain the heart-stopping sight. A huge, red building stood tall before us- the first SEGA arcade. I don’t remember how long we stood there, just staring up at that building in awe. It reminded me a bit of Atlanta, only without road traffic. We went mid-day on a Tuesday, so the streets weren’t incredibly busy, but it was obvious that this could be one of the most populated places that we would visit. Around every corner were huge signs with different anime, video games, and various J-Pop/K-Pop advertisements. And a LOT of Maid cafes.
There were several places that we popped into, but there were so many shops to explore! Some of the shops reminded me of some of the small ones we have at home. However, one huge thing that I noticed was the aisles in the stores were skinny. Some were so narrow that only one of us could walkthrough. Mind you; I have wide hips because of my German heritage. There were several times that I had to turn sideways to avoid knocking things off the shelves and bumping those ahead of me. I can’t imagine using a wheelchair in Japan- I don’t know how you would get through stores!
Some stores were like thrift shops, but for figurines and video games. We found some really cool things that we loved. I bought an Aegis figurine (from my favorite video game, Persona 3: FES), deciding to come back later for more. (Good Lord, I think we ended up in Akihabara four times during our trip?)
Many of the venues were geared toward card games. A lot of them we had never heard of, though of course there were your mainstay ones (Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc.) Looking up at the buildings, you could never tell how many floors there would be. Maybe there were two? Maybe there were ten! Many levels were themed differently, and there were times when we didn’t know if we were in the same building that we entered. Japan is so tightly condensed that buildings are on top of one another, and it wasn’t always easy to recognize one from another. On another note, some did not have elevators. So hiking up and down stairs became common.
Persona 5 (and unknown) Figurines
The buildings were sprinkled with small food vendors at the foot of them, and the smells were tantalizing. Curry, sweets, breads- There weren’t many points where we weren’t hungry. The venders were all very sweet and understanding that we didn’t know the language. Many spoke basic English, which was a blessing for us.
One of my favorite places was Don Quijote. Oh, how do I describe this place? Imagine needing to do some grocery shopping, but also wanting to buy Christmas decorations. Do you want to do some dollar shopping for strange things? Maybe you want some video games or anime. Don Quijote has got you covered!
Alright y’all, you know I have to mention the taboo places… sex shops. Yes, sex shops. Even on the outside of some of the buildings, video screens were showing several ‘products’ and how to use them. Honestly, how can you not go in out of morbid curiosity? So that’s what we did. They were honestly anxiety-inducing with how tight they were, so we didn’t stay in them for too long. But the amount of sheer insanity can’t be put into words. Wes and I would pop in and leave very quickly. Japan, you sex wildin’.
After a bit of tourist trekking, exhaustion caught up with us—deep exhaustion. Instead of heading back to the house, we rested on the top floor of a SEGA building. There were five floors in this SEGA, but the top level was an arcade/smoking area. Adults only. It was empty, save a couple of people playing a game together. We set up, figured out how to use the coin machine (It’s hard when you can’t read kanji well, okay) and played some weird games. I couldn’t even tell you the names of some of them, but I played some BlazBlue. It is something I own, so it was familiar. But the arcade version was hard. I don’t know how much I spent playing that game!
SEGA Arcade- Akihabara
We spent a few hours at the arcade, resting and playing games. The atmosphere was very relaxing and helped to rejuvenate us. At this point, it had gotten late, and we hadn’t eaten much that day. We had no idea where we should go, but we wanted what anyone wants when you go to Japan… Ramen and sushi! After a bit of Googling, we found a few ramen shops in the area. However, many of them had lines, and I’m not about that line life. I’m too impatient. Finally, we ended up on a side street and stopped to look at a small ramen shop to read the menu (thankfully, it was in English). Unfortunately, it looked closed. As we began to walk away, a man burst through the doors, saying his hellos, and asked if we were hungry. So, we went into the unknown shop. Kyushu Jangara Ramen-Akihabara.
The place was extremely tiny. As you walked in, the bar curved across the small space, only having about ten seats. There was a small table for two at the door as well. We were sat close to the door and had the menu explained to us, putting in our order. Itadakimasu!
Itadakimasu is a phrase said before a meal. It translates to “I receive this food.”
Gochiso sama deshita is said as you are leaving. It translates to “It was quite a feast.”
This was the most delicious meal I have ever had in my life. Everything about it was perfect, from the al dente noodles to the runny egg to the tender meat and miso. On top of the meal, the chefs and server were incredibly sweet and helped us with anything we needed. Small water taps were between every few seats, and we were able to serve ourselves. We also ordered a Sapporo with two glasses. I honestly didn’t know why a Kirin needed glasses, but I agreed. It turns out it was a huge bottle! Ramen and beer. You can’t beat it.
Kyushu Jangara Ramen-Akihabara
After the meal, we were beat. We wandered around for a short while after that, seeing the lights that had been strung for Christmas (the Christmas season was taken very seriously. I have never heard so much Christmas music in my life). Trains shut down at midnight, so we hopped on a train back. We stopped in the FamilyMart (you know this is my jam) and grabbed a couple of rice balls to bring to the house for snacks. For as condensed as the neighborhood was, it was incredibly quiet. After a quiet trek, we sat on the small porch and called our parents. I believe it would have been about 11 am in America.
Our third day ended beautifully. Akihabara was one of my favorite destinations while we were in Japan. It had everything that you could want- food, gadgets, anime, and games! We lived our best life that day. It was overstimulating but in a good way. If you go to Japan, please make sure that you visit. You won’t regret it.
Thanks for reading lovelies!