Japan: Harajuku girls, arcades and musical loos

The next day I decided to get a travel card for the Tokyo Metro and take in various neighbourhoods that were famous individually for something or other.  The first was Akihabara, or Electric Town as its known.  This is where to head if you want to buy the newest gadget to hit the market or indeed just about anything you can imagine that involves electricity.  Any ideas I had about picking up some cheap Asian electronics were quashed when I went in one of the supposedly cheapest megastores only to find even the Japanese-made electronic brands were selling at about 25% higher than the UK rate.  I later heard that Tokyo had nothing on  Hong Kong and Singapore in the respect, but nevertheless was interesting to browse the seemingly endless rows of headphones, digital cameras etc..

The area also has its fair share of arcades which themselves are a cultural experience.  Seemingly another area of sexual segregation these places were like 18-30 clubs for geeks.  There are rows upon rows of young men puffing away on cigarettes whilst bashing furiously yet controlled on 3D beat-em-ups, space-invader type games, fishing simulators and footy games.

One of the many video arcades in Tokyo Electric town:

The lads in Tokyo love their arcades. And cigarettes:

One thing I found hilarious and slightly worrying was the phenomenon of hostess (and host) bars.  These places, which are widely accepted socially, offer men (and women) the opportunity to chat to girls for about £35 an hour.  One of their marketing techniques (like many business in Japan) was to hand out free tissues with their advert on:

After leaving Akihabara I headed to Ginza which is like Bond Street with all the expensive brand names like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani etc….  It was here I stepped into a really swanky department store and found probably the best toilet I’d ever sat on.

Ginza. Posh:

Ginza department store loo.  You could eat your lunch off it:

Man clean. Woman clean. Music. Obvious stuff really:

However, other than loos, I had come to Ginza to check out the Sony tower which showcases all the newest Sony gizmos for free.  I had a go on a camcorder which recorded in 3D and a headset that played DVDs straight to your brain.  What’s nice about this place is the staff, like everyone else in Japan, are super friendly and even though they know you’re not buying anything they do everything to help you out and make sure you’re sorted.

Later I headed back to Shibuya to check it out at night-time with all the lights on and the hustle and bustle of people meeting with friends or going for a bite.

Cross-street at night:

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The next day was Sunday, and I’d been told by multiple sources that I should check out hip-and-trendy Harajuku where, on Sundays, certain girls from the sleepy suburbs of Tokyo come into the centre and go a bit mental with Cosplay; parading up and down the high street.  These Harajuku girls have been made famous in recent years after Gwen Stefani nicked a few and made them dance with her in all her recent videos.

The doll look is in:

Cheeky pose:

The following day was my last day in Tokyo and there were a few more places I wanted to check off the list before catching my night bus to the cultural centre of Kyoto.

I’d met a very lovely Japanese lady called Kokoro at the couchsurfing place I was staying and in true Japanese style she offered to take me to the Imperial Palace and show me around.  The Imperial Palace is next to the financial centre of Tokyo, Nihombashi, and as she was married to an investment banker and had various fingers in pies herself, she knew the area well.  Unfortunately the Imperial palace was closed but I was able to get glimpses of the traditional Japanese architecture.  Nevertheless, the area surrounding the palace is a large open park which overlooks the gleaming towers of Nihombashi, and therefore pleasant for an afternoon stroll.

Wide-open spaces, overlooking Nihombashi, financial centre:

Kokoro was very interested to hear about my history in finance and was suggesting I should try to get a job in Tokyo; this was very tempting as I was falling in love with the place and its people.  Again, surpassing any normal concepts of hospitality for a random tourist she took me to the top of one of the towers in Nihombashi and treated me to a traditional Japanese lunch at a very swanky restaurant!

My next stop was to take the driverless train over the rainbow bridge to the commercial area of Odaiba.   Here there are various malls and attractions such as the Toyota Megaweb where you can test-drive Toyota’s newest cars (but only if you have an international driving license grrrrrr..).

Rainbow bridge over to Odaiba:

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Not quite right with the translation here but amusing nonetheless:

Before I caught the night bus I ascended to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building to have a last look of the lit-up sprawl of Tokyo:

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