We then headed off to Akihabara, also known as â€śElectric Townâ€ť because of the enormous amount of electronics for sale, and perhaps because of the tall neon buildings that lined the streets.
One thing that caught me off-guard about this area was the way that the gadgets were sold, which was bazaar style. Brand new laptops, cell phones and handheld video games were laid out onto plastic sheets right out on the sidewalk. It also happened to be raining that day, so they had clear plastic covers over their display models, but they were still getting wet! There were buckets full of used cell phones for sale, and sales people announcing sale prices with loudspeakers and microphones, hooked up to karaoke machines. Aside from the salespeople in front of these small, narrow shops there were also teenaged girls dressed up in unique styles and costumes, for example, one was wearing a skin tight power ranger outfit and several other girls were dressed in â€śgothic lolitaâ€ť fashion. There were several girls dressed up as maids handing out flyers to nightclubs and French maid cafes, which apparently are pretty popular hang-out spots in Tokyo. The area was extremely crowded, and the majority of the people cluttering up the streets were men and teenage boys.
Colorful buildings in Akihabara.
â€śNerdsâ€ť, Kae wrote to us on her translator, and we all laughed. Overall, I donâ€™t think Akihabara is an essential destination for the first-time visitor to Tokyo, but it is truly a paradise for those who love manga, anime and video games- there are arcades, as well as enormous stores that specialize in only manga and anime. As for the electronics themselves in â€śElectric Cityâ€ť, I didnâ€™t see anything that I couldnâ€™t find in the U.S., but maybe that was because I donâ€™t understand Japanese and couldnâ€™t understand the labels on the boxes they came in.
A teenager dressed as a french maid passing flyers to a maid cafe in Akihabara.
Then we went to Ikebukuro because we needed to pick up our JR Pass.
We had bought our JR passes in the U.S and, basically, itâ€™s a train pass that you can use for unlimited travel within Japan on the bullet trains. Itâ€™s actually a really good deal. We purchased the week-long pass, which cost us a little over $200, but it was worth it considering we could go anywhere we wanted in the country throughout that length of time. It actually is a way better price that buying a round trip ticket between Tokyo and Kyoto, which amounts to pretty much the same price. These passes are not available in Japan, so if you plan on traveling there, you must buy it in your home country before you leave. They have a website with a listing of locations worldwide that sell these tickets. We had to go to Ikebukuro to exchange our JR voucher for the actual ticket, however the JR office was closed.
An elevator in one of the many stores in Akihabara, a haven for fans of manga, anime and electronics. "This is a town full of nerds" said Kae's translators as she held it up for us to see.
It was worth coming to Ikebukuro, though, because it was a very busy area with lots of cool clothing stores and very fashionable young people. I wish we had been able to stay there a little longer, but Yasu was in a hurry, so we only walked around for about 15 minutes.
Early evening at Ikebukuro.
Then Yasu and Miho took us to a simple, family-style restaurant in Iidabashi for dinner. This restaurant specialized in chanko-nabe, which we later found out is basically â€śsumo fighter stewâ€ť. Sumo fighters eat this stew because it enables them to put on tons of weight, yet remain healthy since all of its ingredients are actually very healthy. Chanko is served in a big bowl full of broth, onions and other greens, and is set in the middle of the table, over a burner. A large plate is served alongside the broth, with a variety of fish balls, chicken, and vegetables. We didnâ€™t know how to eat it, so Miho showed us. She put the fish and chicken into the bowl, which was actually a heating appliance, as well as the vegetables.
We then each had our own little bowl with which we served ourselves. It was quite good, but extremely different from anything we had ever had. Nicole and Alex didnâ€™t really want to try it because they were a bit intimidated by the fish balls, so they mostly picked at the edamame that was on the table, as well as the yakitori chicken- which was delicious! The other side dish we had was the same â€śegg puddingâ€ť we had tried at our dinner the other night. Needless to say, we didnâ€™t try eating it again.
Ikebukuro, a great place to shop and take a stroll and people watch.