Today was a pretty spectacularly busy day.
It all started in Akinhabara Electric Town, a district once known for its many electrical stores but now better known for being the home to anime, manga and videogame geeks. I met Sumie at the station and we had a look around the various comic book and action figure stores, looking to get some merchandise relating to some obscure manga or other as a gift for my brother.
The stores were mostly five or six storeys high, sometimes more, with floor after floor of comic books, DVDs, toys and accessories. The breadth of merchandise available was staggering, with too much on offer to be able to decide what to buy. We had a walk around outside while we waited for Mari to join us, looking at the bustling streets with girls dressed as maids handing out flyers for nearby maid cafes. In the end, we decided to kill time by heading to the Taito arcade, where we had loads of fun playing on guitar and drum-based games, despite the fact that the only song I recognised was 20th Century Boy. There were loads of great arcade games to play, but I think the one we enjoyed the most was completely free of charge at the front of the building and involved racing each other to see who could tap a button the most.
Mari met up with us and we decided to go ahead and visit a maid cafe, something we were all a bit nervous about. I was worried that the whole thing sounded somewhat fetishistic and sordid but I’m happy to report that it was a delightful and incredibly sweet experience. I’m sure that some people would get kicks from the girls’ dress (in this particular establishment, half of the girls were dressed as French maids with kawaii cat ears, the other half dressed as policewomen) but there was a real sense of innocence about the whole thing. The girls were almost like children’s entertainers, playing games and engaging in playful banter with the diners. As you can see below, even the food was cute. Some of the more expensive things on the menu included recipes where the maid would draw you a picture in ketchup and mayonnaise on top of the meal, or come to your table and stir your noodles for you. Even when describing it now, it could be construed as something a little more kinky, but in reality it was very adorable and the overall feeling was that it was nothing more than a bit of fun. I can totally understand why overworked okatu would go there to unwind and feel pampered. Our maids were lovely, one got very excited when she found out I was from England because it’s where David Beckham is from and the other made us cast a different “magic spell” each time she served us to make our food or beer taste better. We posed for a Polaroid photo with them, which they decorated.
After the visit to the maidu cafe, we ventured into one of the nearby shops which was full of machines which dispensed Kinder Egg-like toys for 100 Yen each. We wondered what to do next and the subject of Tokyo Disneyland came up. It wasn’t somewhere I’d planned to visit (why come all this way to see the same things I could outside Paris?) but there was a special cheap ticket after 6pm and it was very inexpensive and easy to get to from where we were.
So, we spent the evening in Tokyo Disneyland and I have to admit I had a pretty amazing time. I finally got to go on Space Mountain, after my visit to Disneyland Paris as part of a school trip at the age of 15, when the ride was broken all day until our coach started to leave the site and we saw it finally open. I really enjoyed it, and also loved the new Monster Inc ride and old favourites Big Thunder Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, which had been completely changed to incorporate Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Although it’s only September, the entire park was decorated for Halloween. The three of us had a great time and I really enjoyed the excitement in the air around a Disney park.
After that, we started to make our way home, but got out at Tōkyū station, the main hub in the very centre of the city. We found a lovely bar which had a fondness for playing Oasis songs where we had some drinks and bar food. I attempted to use some chopsticks – the results were mixed. It was a very nice evening and a great way to end a busy and fun day.
We then said our goodbyes and headed home. I think I’ve pretty much got the hang of the transport system and feel like Tokyo is definitely a city I could happily live in. As my stay has gone on I’ve grown to realise that it is a little more expensive than London, but it’s an incredibly exciting place with so much happening all of the time.
My plan for tomorrow is to not set the alarm and wake up whenever I happen to (since it’s my holiday I suppose I can have a lie-in if I want), have a little look around Shinjuku and then meet up with my friends in the evening for dinner and drinks – and with Thursday being a public holiday, we can stay out as long as we want without having to worry about the next morning.