So on to Akihabara, or Akiba as everyone calls it here.
First, I stopped at Asakusabashi station again, as I transferred from the subway to the JR line. I had a wait, so I took some more photos of Asakusabashi station:
My train came in, and I made it to Akihabara.
First off was Yodobashi Camera. It’s just.. wow. A 10-story monstrosity full of electronics. It’s where nerds go after they die. It’s like 4 or 5 Best Buys stacked on top of each other, only with really cool stuff, and no lame junk.
No joke, it’s big:
But since I didn’t have a point card there, I decided to search for Bic Camera in Akiba, because I do have a Bic point card with a lot of points on it.
Thus begins my Fool’s Errand.
You see, there isn’t a Bic Camera in Akiba. But I didn’t know that… yet.
Before I started searching, I had some business to attend to. As you exit the JR Akihabara Station on the Yodobashi Camera side, off to the left you’ll see a small glass building called Oasis. It offers two things. A smoking room and a 100 yen pay toilet.
You might scoff at a pay toilet, but it’s a damn fine pay toilet. That was easily the best 100 yen I spent in Tokyo so far.
You enter, and a receptionist greets you with a polite bow. Then you head to the bathrooms, where you can deposit your 100 yen coin or just tap your Suica card and it’ll deduct the 100 yen automatically. Then the frosted glass door opens, and you walk into the nicest public toilet in Tokyo. (Well, the nicest I’ve seen so far.)
There aren’t stalls so much as there are small rooms with sliding, locking doors, and plenty of room to maneuver. You also get a powered-up shower toilet, soft fluffy paper, and a touchless sink. You can wash your hands and dry them without touching anything. So nice.
Then it was off to Chelsea Market in JR Akiba for a burger. Nice, but kind of odd. Had a weird curry-based sauce on it, but pretty good.
After that, it was time to begin my Fool’s Errand! As I was walking around Akiba, I found the Toranoana Main Store. Oh, look! Manga! So I started climbing the stairs.
Hmm… they sure do sell a lot of comics here with guys with no shirts on hugging other guys… with no shirts on.
Oh, wait– comics without shirtless guys are next door. I guess that would explain some of the looks I got from some of the patrons on that side of the store.
So I looked in next door– ah, this is more like it! No more shirtless guy comics! Stuff I might actually read!
But before I started to load myself down with more manga, I needed to make a trip to Bic Camera. (Which still doesn’t have a branch in Akihabara, but I didn’t know that yet.) So more walking around.
My Fool’s Errand completed, I went back to Toranoana, where I loaded up on manga and light novels…. you know, to help me improve my Japanese. I got into manga while learning Japanese. It’s really handy to read, because the language is usually pretty simple, and some titles (usually aimed at younger audiences) provide furigana readings over the kanji, so you can look them up more easily.
Of course, I also like electronics, and the weirder, the better. So Akihabara is a natural sort of place for me. I found some stores selling all kinds of weird old stuff, and some stuff that brought back good memories.
I could spend a week in Akihabara and not have spent enough time there. All kinds of electronics, video games, and books. Fun.
Then it was back to the station to pick up some dinner for later at Vie de France, then on the train back to Shinjuku.
JR Akihabara platform:
Densha no Koto
A word about trains (again? Yes, again.) As you go from Shinjuku to the east, the Chuo and Soba lines run parallel until you hit Ochanomizu, then they split. The Chuo goes on to Tokyo Station, and the Soba goes to Akihabara. So in order to go from Shinjuku to Akiba, you need to switch lines at Ochanomizu.
It sounds like a pain in the butt, but it’s actually amazingly smooth. As the Chuo Rapid pulls in, a Soba local is pulling in the other side of the platform. So just hop from one train to the next. Smooth as silk. Same for hopping from the Soba to the Chuo. That’s brilliant.
Tonight I’m going to hit Kinokuniya one last time, then hit Bic to buy stuff. (And an extra suitcase. Yeesh.) If I’m careful about how I work it, I’ll be able to plow through all of my remaining Bic points. *Fingers crossed.*
Tomorrow is…. well, that’s something I’ll worry about later tonight. I’m going to stop by the japanesepod101.com studios to say ‘hi!’ (they said I could), then I’ll try to hit Shibuya to get a photo of Hachiko and see 109. Then… MORE AKIBA! Maybe I’ll go to City View in Roppongi tomorrow night, too. Dunno.
For Wednesday, I’ve already scheduled a late checkout for 2PM. It’s a little expensive, but worth it. That way, when I check out, I can just head straight for the airport and crash at the Admiral’s Club until my flight leaves at 7PM, and I don’t have to mess with having to find a place to put my bags for 4 hours. I’ll probably just take the Chuo to Kanda, then the Yamanote to Ueno, then the Keisei Skyliner to Narita Terminal 2. Or I could just take the Narita Express from Shinjuku, huh?
A few hours later…
At 6 or so I headed to Ikebukuro to the Bic Camera store there, because it’s supposed to be the biggest one in Tokyo. It’s actually in 2 different buildings. In one of the buildings, they have some stuff, and in the other, they have more of the same stuff. The difference is that in the newer building, they have luggage on the 8th floor. I should have bought it there. I should have, dagnabbit.
But I figured that if they had it in Ikebukuro, they’d have it at Shinjuku. So anyway, after futzing around in Ikebukuro for a bit, I couldn’t seem to find anything that I wanted.
Don’t Worry, that Stunned Look is Normal
So I went to Shinjuku. And helped a Norwegian guy buy a Suica card. The poor guy was so lost… he said, “I just came here from Kobe, and I’m totally confused.” I reassured him– Tokyo does that to everyone. It took me a little time to digest Tokyo as well. But now that I have a basic grip on things, and the Tokyo Street Map by Kodansha (in EN and JP), I’m okay.
Seriously, if you’ve never been to Tokyo, you’ll have that same stunned look on your face, too, when you try to navigate it. Eventually I got the hang of it, but at first, I felt like I was walking in mud as my brain tried to process everything. It felt good to help someone through that, even if it was only a little bit.
After helping the poor lost dude, I went to the Bic there. I found one of the things I wanted, and some privacy screens for my DS and my PSP. (Ah, privacy!) But no luggage.
By then it was 8:45, and everything was closing, so I headed back to eat some dinner, crash for a few minutes, and then head out to find the laundromat in Yoyogi they told me about at the front desk.
It took a little figuring out, but thanks to the street atlas, I actually found it. Right next to the neighborhood sento (public bath). Fortunately, it was open til midnight, so I could get all my laundry done. It was getting fragrant. Not like a flower.
When all was said and done, I got back around midnight.
But I had to have my clothes clean– I was down to the emergency clothes, and they were a little… ripe.
Rick Steves talks about doing laundry on the road. He says it’s a good thing to do, to meet locals and get local flavor. I agree this time. While it can be a bit of a nuisance to find a laundromat in Japan (or anything else that isn’t a tourist attraction), it’s totally worth it to see daily-life Japan. And by doing laundry and packing less, you save money on expensive hotel laundry, and you save space for those important souvenirs. (Or books, in my case. Lots of books.)
Tomorrow I’ll get up extra early to make a quick run to Ikebukuro to buy a suitcase. They open at 10, and I plan on rushing the door.
Then I’ll run back to Shinjuku, and my day can actually start.
In 42:30, I’ll be on a plane back to the States.