Dispatches from the back of the sock drawer of life

Category: Japan 2015

Posts on our trip to Japan in August 2015

Two Geeks in Japan – Tokyo (Part the Second)

Friday 14th – Akihabara and Asakusa

Akihabara – also known as Akihabara Electric Town – is the mecca for the otaku (the ultimate Japanese geeks, obsessive followers of manga (comics), anime (animated  versions of manga), and gadgets of all varieties). So we just had to come visit…

Yodabashi Camera, Akihabara

Yodabashi Camera, Akihabara

We wandered through Radio City first, a rabbit warren of small stalls selling every variety of electronic and electrical components imaginable. Then around some of the manga and anime shops, before finding the motherlode – Yodobashi Camera’s largest store in Japan.

It has 9 massive floors filled with electrical and electronics goods, games, toys, models and much more. Here are just a few pics from the interior, along with James’ ultimate purchase – a Gundam Mobile Suit model – I think it’s going to take a while to build…

After so much modern technology, we wanted to find more of the traditional old Japan. Since so much of Tokyo was destroyed in the Second World War, there are few ‘old town’ districts left – Asakusa is the centre of Tokyo’s shitamachi (literally “low city”). We headed there to stroll the Sensoji temple complex, grab some lunch in a Tokyo pub, and look around the local shops that still supply fans, kimonos and other essentials to the remaining geisha community.

After all this shopping excitement we headed back to Shinjuku for dinner at our first find. Then decided we had to see Shibuya crossing at night – really starting to feel I was in Bladerunner territory here. Not chucking down with rain, but the amount of sweat I was producing in 33°C and 90% humidity made me feel just as damp. This gallery also has some general views of buildings in and around Shinjuku, and from our hotel.

No more Thomas...

No more Thomas…

(PS One last photo: Japan is the only place in the world to have a Thomas the Tank Engine theme park. This photo shows James’ deep and lasting attachment to the little blue engine. )


Saturday 15th – Leaving Tokyo…

Suited and booted

Suited and booted

Our final task in Tokyo was to secure suits for James for sixth form. Luckily we had a branch of ‘The Suit Factory’ just around the corner from the hotel, and the friendly and efficient staff soon had him sorted out.





One last photo of one entrance to our station – Shinjuku station is known as one of the busiest in the world. This photo doesn’t really do it justice – it really does process an average of 3.5 million people per day!

Two Geeks in Japan – Tokyo (Part the First)

(… with apologies to Héctor Garcia, http://www.ageekinjapan.com/)

Tuesday 11th – Arrival

Breakfast at 37,000ft

Well, KLM turned out to be a good choice to fly to Tokyo. Nice easy connection through Schiphol, Japanese and Western food on the plane to get us in the mood, and the Chief Steward getting us off to a good start by addressing us as ‘Mr and Mrs Kavanagh’ before immediately rolling his eyes and apologising profusely :-).

What everyone should (not) do when arriving in Japan

On arrival in Tokyo airport, we headed to get our Japan Rail passes (JR Pass), and then did what everyone going to Japan should do – got coffee at Starbucks.



The Narita Express was our first introduction to Japanese trains – fast, quiet, bang on time.


Not sure about introducing James to the concept of five star hotels though – something tells me he won’t be settling for anything less in future… (but wait until you see our Fuji hotel in the second part…!). The Park Hyatt in Tokyo has reception on the 41st floor of the second of 3 towers, then swimming pool and gym on floor 47, and a bar on the 51st. We were on floor 49.

After a few hours sleep we decided it was time to head out and find some food.
Shinjuku is reminiscent of Manhattan or the City of London, but somehow shinier and more futuristic looking. But it has a great little district near the station with lots of small restaurants, bars, Karaoke clubs and arcades. We found this restaurant (name not known, apart from the sign in Kanji!) and it turned out to be a winner – set meal with a selection of protein (fish, meat), rice, Miso soup and pickled vegetables.

And so to bed.

Wednesday 12th – Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

We had a good lie-in to stave off the jetlag, then headed for one of the most famous crossroads in Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing, also known as “The Scramble”. Just as crazy in real life as in the movies, it’s an intense area that leaves you thinking ‘yup, I’m definitely in Japan now!’. Went browsing for comic books (manga) in the streets around Shibuya, it’s also a very busy nightlife spot as seen in the gallery of pictures below. Found a great exhibition of cat photographs (cats from Aomori Tsugaru, photographed by Mitsuaki Iwago) in a nearby shopping centre.

Dinner: very traditional Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku, manage to get a menu with some English, dinner of Seared Chicken with Yuzu Pepper sauce, salad and rice – very good. James not so convinced by the chicken, too much dark meat for his liking.


I went to a local corner bar (‘izakaya’) and got chatting to a couple of Americans from Minnesota – turns out they were part of a ukelele band visiting on an exchange trip. We shared similar views on the menu at the bar…


Thursday 13th – Pokémon, TGI’s and Lego

Headed to Ikebukuro station to visit the Pokémon Mega Centre. As you can see from the gallery below, I think we’ve reached peak Pikachu…. then we bumped into my newfound ukelele playing friends from the night before!



Then hunger got the better of us and as luck would have it there was a TGI Friday’s over the road for lunch.




Fuji TV building

Fuji TV building

On to Ginza to try and find a Lego store – that no longer existed – so we then went on to Odaiba Island for the Lego Discovery Centre shop. Odaiba is an artificial island with lots of shops and attractions, it also has the Fuji TV building – amazing bit of architecture.

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