26
Jul

Kit Kat Review: Strawberry Cheesecake

By: muttler

Dipping into the bag tonight gives us…

Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kat

“Really?” I am sure you are asking. “Strawberry Cheesecake?!”. I almost wasn’t going to buy these as they aren’t particularly strange. But they ain’t here in Oz, so of course I would bring some back.

Boring flavour, but no doubt super tasty

The box says they are a Yokohama special. They came from the airport on the way out so it is kinda cheating. But that is cool… I will take Kit Kats however I can get ’em.

That old familiar white chocolate

Yet another white chocolate based kit kat. Enough already! This could have been normal chocolate, but I guess white chocolate makes a little more sense. But I was a bit worried how sweet this might be.

You can see that the colour is just white. No nice pink colour for strawberry, just plain old white. I guess that is the cheesecake influence. It certainly smelled quite strongly of strawberry.

Sweet sweet strawberry

The taste was certainly strawberry. There was a hint of cheesecake, and maybe that added to the overall sweetness, but if it was simply called strawberry then it wouldn’t have surprised me.

Overall a nice desert Kit Kat. Certainly tasty. Not my favourite Kit Kat… I certainly prefer the more different flavours, and a little less sweet if possible, but I could definitely eat a box of these. Well I will be eating a box of them.

Taste: 3.5 / 4

Strangeness: 1.5 / 5

19
Jul

Kit Kat Review: Aloe Yoghurt

By: muttler

Two Kit Kats tonight. Another dive into the Kit Kat bag produced…

Aloe Yoghurt

Aloe Yoghurt Kit Kat

This was the first strange flavour I found. I happened to wander into a supermarket in Kyoto and found a bag full of these. That’s more like it! A bag full!

On the wrapper it has the initials TBC which I found out later from Ayako was a cosmetics brand. Kit Kats made in conjunction with a cosmetics brand? Hhhmmm. But I have had aloe before… aloe drinks are not uncommon, and I have drunk some with chunky bits. So while I know the idea of eating aloe would be strange, I knew kinda what I was in for. But I guess it is still a strange proposition in a way.

My skin will be radiant

Yet another white chocolate based Kit Kat. I can’t imagine aloe in normal chocolate so I was thankful for that. You can see the colour is just pretty white. It has a fair off white colour getting close to creamy.

Just a little funky

Eating it I get the hint of yoghurt, but it is the aloe that jumps right out. It is definitely the dominant taste. And again, while I know aloe taste, I can’t say this was that awesome. I didn’t not like it, but it was pretty sweet. And boy, the aloe taste hangs around for ages. So much so that I can’t say I was the enamoured with these in the end. I didn’t mind while I was eating it, but the aloe taste lingered too long for my liking.

Bummer I found a whole packet of these and not some other flavours. Oh well. Any wacky flavour is OK by me.

Taste: 2.5 / 5

Strangeness: 3.5 / 5

19
Jul

Kit Kat Review: Miso

By: muttler

I have actually been pretty slow getting into my Kit Kats. It has been quite hectic getting home and I have just wanted to put the feet up and savour them. Well, I dug my hand in the bag and pulled out…

Mmmmmmiso

Miso Kit Kat

I can’t profess to be a miso expert. My knowledge is mainly from miso soup and miso based ramen. So I won’t be an expert on how this lives up to its heritage. But I can comment on the kit kat.

I found this one in Takayama. I am pretty sure that the miso flavoured variety is from that district… not necessarily Takayama, but that area. It came in another mail pack. I wish I just could have found the big boxes! Anyway…

What's with all the white chocolate?

Another white chocolate based kit kat. That seems to be the go. To be honest I am not sure why. It certainly highlights the sweetness… maybe the regular chocolate flavour messes with the flavours too much.

Yum

As you can see, the wafer is pretty stock standard. But how does it taste? Good. Great in fact. Not in a strange way at all. It reminds me of the Soy Sauce flavour (which I will properly review later). You think it might be funky, but it isn’t. In some ways that is a disappointment, but it means that I am more than happy to polish off the few that I have.

The taste for me was kind of a caramel/maple kind of flavour. A deep, sweet taste. It tastes like a regular chocolate might. In many respects it is less strange than the citrus one since they are flavours you wouldn’t normally associate with chocolate, whereas this tastes fairly natural. If you are looking for strange, this isn’t for you. But for tasty? For sure.

I think I need to have some miso ramen.

Taste: 4/5

Strangeness: 2/5

12
Jul

Kit Kat Review: Golden Citrus Blend

By: muttler

Here is the first of my Kit Kat reviews of the Kit Kat’s I bought while in Japan. I picked one at random, and it was this…

The Golden Citrus Blend Kit Kat.

Golden Citrus Hiroshima Mail Pack

I picked this one up in Hiroshima. It was in one of the special Mail packs that they have. Just like most Kit Kats there, it is a regional flavour, which means it was probably only Hiroshima that I would find it.

Golden Citrus Mini

So, in the mail pack is 5 mini Kit Kats.  Here is the wrapper of the actual mini bar… it is pretty obvious what you are eating. What I can tell is that it is meant to be a blend of orange, lemon and lime.

Golden Goodness

Here is the actual Kit Kat. It is a soft orange colour, not a bright orange. The smell is definitely orange too… while I guess it does smell citrusy, it is the orange that is dominant.

Mmmmmm

The orange is certainly the main taste too. There are hints of the lemon and lime, but the orange dominates. If it was not called a citrus blend, I would just guess orange probably. The white chocolate base makes the chocolate fairly subtle, so it is not like a darker chocolate jaffa flavour or anything like that. In fact the orange has a bit of a sherbet like buzz to it. Looking into the wafer I couldn’t see any evidence of sherbet or anything like that, but I am guessing there may have been a little bit hiding in there.

I dig this flavour. It is quite distinctive actually. I certainly wouldn’t call this a wacky flavour at all… it is one that the average kit kat eater could get into. Maybe not as strange as I would normally like to eat, but certainly very tasty. With this flavour I think that mini bars would definitely be best… I have a feeling that the citrus and sherbet vibe would be a bit much after a few fingers.

So thanks for a great Kit Kat Hiroshima. A nice blend of different, but really tasty.

Taste: 4/5

Strangeness: 2.5/5

11
Jul

The Recap Episode

By: muttler

Since a few people have asked what my favourite thing was, what I didn’t like, what I would have done differently, here is the inevitable wrap up posting. Also it will end the Japan trip nicely before I go on to blog about all my Kit Kats (yes, you will get detailed posts about each flavour), and also before I sporadically blog about other things.

I will try not to create definitive lists or anything like that… just my thoughts now a few days home have passed.

Highlights?

My list of highlights will probably be easy to guess from my postings and those of you that I have spoken to. So, in sort of an order but not really…

Climbed a mountain? Check.

Mt Fuji Climb – This is obvious. Most of you know it was my big goal for the trip, and to have such a smooth climb with a good bunch and great weather was almost too good to be true. The climb was tough but manageable, and the fact that I avoided altitude sickness I was very chuffed. But to see the sunrise on top of a mountain? That is truly something I may never do again. Magic.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle – This is a combo of being something I dreamed about seeing, and also that the renovation work I knew was happening was not as far along as expected, meaning I saw the castle in its glory. Add my own guide leading me through the twists and turns and it was an amazing historical visit.

More on this guy later

Ghibli Museum – As mentioned I am a fan of Ghibli, but not a full on devotee, but this museum was gorgeous. I wandered for hours soaking up the magical detail provided by Miyazaki and was awestruck, even though I couldn’t jump in the big Neko-Bus. It has made me want to go back and revisit those films I only thought were OK.

Matt, meet Todaiji Temple

Nara / Southern Higashiyama walk in Kyoto – It is impossible to split these two, since they both consisted of long walks through beautiful temples. Nara would have the edge with Todaiji, however the long walk through temples in Kyoto was breathtaking.

No witty comment here

Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima – It is just such an amazing and haunting place to visit. You know the enormity of what happened, but until you see the actual consequences of it in your face, I am not sure it can ever be appreciated.

I even pose like a local now

Baseball in Tokyo – I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world, but I am a sports nut, so to go to see a sport where the folks are so crazy was fantastic. Yes, many of you have commented I was hypnotised by the beer girls, and yes I was, but it was the atmosphere overall that was great fun.

What Will I Miss?

There are the little things I will miss…

My gracious hosts

The People – I know I didn’t understand what people were saying 99.9% of the time, but everyone was just so freakin’ nice!

Black Gold from a Vending MachineCoffee in a can – Yep. I got hooked on it. I already miss my morning cold coffee hit. I need to get it happening here in Oz.

I still think the Pakenham line is worse

A Train System and Travel Card that works – It astounds me that our train system can be so crappy, and Myki does not work, when I have just used a system in Tokyo that handles millions of people a day without a hitch. Oh, I know problems probably happen, but I never noticed.

The Holy Grail

Getting good cheap food anywhere – That means good noodles from small stores, wildly different okonomyaki, fresh sushi, all pretty cheap. I now have to try and perfect an awesome ramen. Oh, and of course… Kit Kats.

Just telling ya who's boss mate

Wandering parks – I think a default thing to do everywhere I went was to just to wander a park, even in a megalopolis like Tokyo. Usually a temple would poke its head up, or a deer would stick its nose in your pocket.

What didn’t I like?

Someone said to me “You couldn’t have liked everything!”. Well, almost everything sorry, yeah. I won’t say I was disappointed by anything, but some things were not as I expected maybe.

Where are all your friends?

The main thing is probably Tokyo itself. Now let me clarify, I really dug Tokyo. Ghibli! Record Stores! Akihabara! But Tokyo probably didn’t “wow” me as much as I thought it might. It was probably the place I just expected to be picking my jaw up off the ground from either the craziness, the awesomeness, the confusion, or just the sheer scale of it all. But I didn’t really get it.

Sure the train network was overwhelming for a couple days, but then you work it out. Yep, the trains and stations are packed, but you get used to it. There are strange folk, but not the volume of them as I expected. Maybe I was expecting Blade Runner, but I just got another cool city. But would I go back and hang out there? Of course!

I did get Blade Runner’s relentless rain though. But I knew that was coming. Given with work these were the only weeks I could visit this time of year, it was always going to happen. As you can no doubt tell, it didn’t stop me doing anything though. Plus it just makes me want to go back in winter.

What would I have done differently?

I gotta say, for a first trip to Japan, I wouldn’t have done much differently at all. I checked all the big things off my list, and did heaps of things I dreamed about doing. I would maybe have taken a day or two off Tokyo, and popped them on to Kyoto so that I could catch some things I missed and also visit Osaka. But next time hey?

Time to start learning Japanese.

08
Jul

So long, and thanks for all the Kit Kats

By: muttler

The Holy Grail

I was going to call this last post from Japan (well technically not posted from Japan, but I am writing it as I wait for my plane and I am posting it from home) something like “Sayonara Japan”, or “Japan I Miss You Already”. But Japan really is the place that keeps on giving… right until I am about to board a plane outta here.

But let me start this morning.

Catching a late flight is both great and strange. Great in that you actually have another day that you might not normally have. But it is also strange in that you are kind of in limbo for the day too. I checked out of my hostel and said goodbye to Taka and the crew. As I have mentioned, what the guest house lacked in facilities it more than made up for in the location and especially the folk who run it. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Serenity in the heart of craziness

I didn’t want to shop today, since my bag was packed and all I would do would be to buy more records. So I decided to visit what I think was the last place on my list, the Imperial Palace and surrounding gardens. You can only get into the palace on like 2 days a year, and no I wasn’t that lucky. But I did spend a couple of hours wandering the lush gardens.

Keeping an eye over Tokyo

It is crazy to think that only a couple of train stops away is the craziness of Akihabara when you are surrounded by beautiful gardens.

This garden has everything

There is not much to report except that the gardens were as good as you would expect any royal gardens to be. It was a nice way to spend my last day really.

So once I had done my wander, I headed back to Shinagawa one last time to pick up my stuff and head to Narita. Being the expert Tokyo train user, I just grabbed the local train rather than the express. It is funny to think how spellbinding the train system is when you arrive, and a week later it becomes second nature. Melbourne… it is shameful we can’t have a working train network or swipe card system when Tokyo must manage 20 times the people each day and my Suica card never missed a beat. Get your act together.

If you have been playing count during my blog (assuming you are still reading!) you may ask “hey Matt, isn’t your blog called Man versus Kit Kat? There hasn’t been that much Kit Kat talk?”. Well, you would be right. But it is not for trying. When arriving in each city I would go into every store that looked like they may sell a Kit Kat and checked. But I wasn’t really having any luck. Well my dear readers, things changed today.

Mmmmm... soda

Things turned this morning actually. I popped into a convenience store (none special, just a regular one I go into a bit) near Tokyo Station and OMG. There was a new Kit Kat. I am not 100% sure what it is but it looks like Cola or Lemonade or some kind of soft drink flavoured one. I haven’t eaten yet, but bought two. A nice piece of Tokyo for when I get home.

But a couple of paragraphs ago I was arriving in Narita? What gives? Well, I heard rumour about this, but it turned out to be true. It seems Narita Airport was the home of the Kit Kat. Well, not crazy amounts, but enough for me to spend probably 50 bucks on Kit Kats. What did I find?

A big box of Holy Grail

WASABI.

Yep, my holy grail was there. In big 12 packs. Oh yeah. I almost cried.

There with it was the same 12 pack but some other flavours…

Sweet, not salty

Soy Sauce (the old favourite)

Intense you say?

Intense Roast Soy Bean (their words, not mine)

Boring flavour, but no doubt super tasty

and Strawberry Cheesecake. So which did I buy? All of them of course. 48 mini Kit Kats in total. I couldn’t see them and not buy them.

They also had some singles of the Cherry Blossom Green Tea (the one I found in Kyoto) so picked up another one. They had some Green Tea too but I have eaten tonnes of those so gave them a miss. So it was something like 3500 yen in Kit Kats. Worth every yen.

So I wandered the airport shops, looking for any final presents, but nothing jumped out. So parked myself for a minute and decided to sample some Wasabi Kit Kat.

OMG.

It was wasabi, in Kit Kat form! It tastes EXACTLY like that sounds! So what did I do? I went and bought another 12 pack of course. I figure you folk at home will want to sample, plus I had a 1000 yen note in my wallet, so why not spend it? I am about to leave Japan loaded up with Kit Kats and 200 yen in change in my pocket. Perfect end to an awesome trip.

(I will post a recap episode or two over the next few days, stay tuned… thanks for reading!)

07
Jul

The hardest working girls in Tokyo

By: muttler

Can Japan get any more awesome?

Get those dirty thoughts out of your mind. I’ll get to the blog title later.

As I said yesterday, my plan was to visit the Tokyo National Museum. “You’re in Tokyo and you’re going to a museum?!” I hear you ask. Well, I am not that into shopping unless it is LP’s or toys, so yep, a museum.

The museum is in Ueno, an area of Tokyo I hadn’t been to yet. It is interesting how while it all feels like Tokyo, each district has its own feel. Ueno was no exception. A gorgeous park houses a number of museums as well as the zoo. Apparently the zoo is only so-so, so it was off to the museum for me.

Spooky

The closest museum I can liken it to is the British Museum in London. It was full of historical artifacts from Japan and over Asia. And it was sweet. This is how a good museum is done. I know we don’t have the history in Oz, but it is museums like this that make you appreciate countries with many centuries of history behind them.

This is why their religion and culture is awesome... everything is so cool looking

The highlights are the art works and of course the samurai related things. But it was all good, and it was so engrossing it threw my plans out of whack a little. I had planned to also visit the Imperial Palace gardens since I had not got there, but by the time I was done, I really only had time to get back to the hostel for my evenings plans. Oh well, they could wait until tomorrow (my last day sniff sniff).

Being my last night in Japan I wanted to do something cool. As luck would have it (and I certainly have had my share of it) I was able to do something I really wanted to do somewhere in Japan… catch a baseball game. Now I have seen baseball in the US, but this was cool, because I had heard crowds here are something else. Plus being in Tokyo I get to visit Tokyo Dome.

When I mentioned my plans to Taka, my host here at the hostel, he got excited. The teams playing were the Fukuowa Hawks, and his team the Nippon Fighters, so he decided he would come too. By the time I got back to the hostel we had a posse of 5 to head out. Oh yeah.

So Taka led the way, and along the way we picked up some beer and food. Yes, believe it or not we could take our own beer in as long as it was in plastic cups. Man the Japanese have it right. We could buy beer in there, but at 800 yen a pop, it was a bit pricey. But their idea of beer at the baseball is the coolest thing I have seen. We’ll get to that.

Welcome to Tokyo Dome

So we arrived at Tokyo Dome, grabbed our tickets and went on it.

The motley baseball crew (Taka at right)

We elected to go the OK seats which were fine with me, round a bit from first base. I was happy just to soak up the atmosphere.

I even pose like a local now

Not being the Tokyo Giants playing, the stadium wasn’t full, but I could tell it was going to be some fun. You know what soccer chanting is like? It goes on all game. This is what we were in for. But this was cooler, as each team seemed to have their own horn section leading the way.

I have no idea what kind of animal it is

We also had the obligatory mascots to add to the fun. But the best part I had heard about, but until I saw it didn’t appreciate the awesomeness of it. You know how at the MCG you have to get up and go buy a mid-strength beer? Imagine if there were beer girls with kegs strapped to their backs that came and poured you beers. Now before you say “Matt, what kind of misogynistic fantasy land are you living in?”. I give you Exhibit A…

Japan, the greatest place on earth

Yep, there are girls with kegs strapped to their backs pouring beer. You even have your choice of the Asahi girl, Santory girl, and the Kirin girl. I kind you not. Suddenly 800 yen for a beer is not too extreme. But I tell you, these girls work. Hard. They are constantly buzzing up and down the aisles. For the whole game. And the game goes for over 3 hours. By 2 1/2 hours they were spent, you could tell. But it has to be better than a stairmaster.

Look more impressed guys!

Oh, there was a baseball game going on too, I wasn’t just fixated on the beer girls. It was good in that there were a lot of runs scored, but not so good in that Taka’s team got done 10-0. Oh well. He had fun and so did we all.

Farewell, so long...

So it was back to the guest house. When we got back I had to say see ya to a couple of the girls who work at the hostel, since I wouldn’t see them in the morning. While this hostel has been pretty basic, the folk who run it have all been awesome, so it is with a sad face that I will be checking out. They have already made me promise to come back. I guess I will have to keep my word won’t I?

05
Jul

Now that’s the freshest breakfast I’ll ever eat

By: muttler

Insert "one John West rejects" joke here

Dang I’m tired today. I think the almost 3 weeks is finally catching up with me. It has taken a while. It has only taken about 12 hours walking each day and the odd mountain climb to get there, but today I was just tired as buggery. Not tired in a Bill Murray I’m tired of Tokyo way, but physically tired. Seems like my trip is just about the right length given I have only 2 more sleeps until Oz.

What probably hasn’t helped today is the lead picture. Can you guess what I did today at 7am? That’s right, visit the Tsukiji Fish Market. The biggest in the world no less.

Open up and say ahh

Now I have already mentioned the generosity and overall niceness of the Japanese folks, but the fish market proves that you would be hard pressed to find more accommodating people anywhere. Why? Well, until about 8am the Fish Market is a hive of wholesale fish activity. And here is people like me, a camera round the neck, poking around in the middle of it all.

This ain't no Queen Vic market

And by in the middle, I literally mean in the middle. At any stage you can get side swiped by a truck or guy on a motorised trolley, or slip in some fresh fish guts. These folk are doing their jobs and tourists like me feel compelled to poke our noses in. What awesome folk.

Double Trouble

Anyway, back to the fish. It is pretty nuts. Hundreds of stalls with their days catch. I didn’t arrive for the tuna auction (that starts at a crazy 5am), but this was cool all the same. Cool in a bit of an Iron Chef way actually. By that I mean sometimes the fish are dead, sometimes they are alive, and sometimes you see one get it right in front of your eyes. The eels are the creepiest. My highlight was probably seeing one vendor grabbing what he (presumably) thought were dead eels from one tub, only to have one wriggle out of his hands onto the main counter. I didn’t squeal, but I am pretty sure I did a bit of a double jump. Awesome.

Novel use for a band saw

It was also pretty awesome to see big hunks of tuna being carved up in front of your eyes. Now that is some crazy big fish.

Mmm... fish skewers

The main tradition for a visit to the fish market is to start the day with a sushi breakfast. Who was I to argue? To be honest it wasn’t on the top of my list of things to put in my body at 9am, but then I had a couple beers at that time the other morning, so sushi seemed quite fine.

Gee, the sushi is pretty fresh around here

I found what seemed to be one of the popular spots and lined up waiting my turn. It was all set menu which is fine with me. I went for the smaller collection since I wasn’t really ready to spend about 4000 yen (ie 50+ bucks) for breakfast, and in some ways I regret in now. I may never have a chance to eat any sushi that awesome again. Oh well, mine was pretty darn good.

So with a belly full of fish it was time to head off. My original plan was to visit the Tokyo National Museum, however I found out the night before that it was closed on Mondays. Doh. No probs, that could be Tuesday. What to do though? Since I was close to Tokyo Bay, I decided to jump on the monorail over to Odiaba and visit the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan is less of a mouthful). While I don’t mind shops, give me a good science museum.

NYC in the house

What is a bit odd about Odiaba and the bay area is that there isn’t really that much going on. What freaked me out was seeing a baby Statue of Liberty. Um, OK.

As-i-mo!

So I arrived at the science museum. Now I had a feeling it was the case, and the inner otaku in me was pretty stoked to see that the worlds most famous (real) robot was in the house. Yep, Asimo lives at the Miraikan.

Yes, I was in the middle of these kids. No one noticed.

Asimo did his thing early in the piece. He doesn’t really do too much but it was pretty cool to see him in the flesh (or is that metal?). He is kinda freaky to watch walk, but in a pretty amazing kinda way. Oh, he kicked a soccer ball too. He has a pretty wicked left foot. The kids seemed duly impressed (I was too, I won’t hide it).

The museum was not too bad. I thought there might have been more Scienceworks type hands on things, but nope. The science was actually pretty up there for kids, all genomes and things.

Say hello to Doraemon!

My other stroke of luck was the temporary exhibition that was on. The Contemporary Science of Doraemon. Nice! For those of you not in the know, Doraemon is a robot cat from the future and is hugely popular in Japan. The exhibition was looking at some of the things that go on in the cartoon and how they are now happening in real life. The exhibition was OK, not awesome. In some ways it just seemed a bit of a cash in on the Doraemon name, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

That took me to mid-late arvo and I was stuffed. Just plain tired. It was another hot humid day. I didn’t just want to head back to the hostel, so decided to train it back to Akihabara to peruse some shops. No maid cafes again sorry folks, just toys and video games.

So it is all winding down. About time probably, as I am just getting a bit run down. But I have something pretty cool on the cards hopefully for my last night here in Tokyo, so fingers crossed it all works out.

04
Jul

Where are all the crazies?

By: muttler

Where are all your friends?

In some respects today was a little disappointing.

Given it was a Sunday, and the typical Tokyo population is not at work or at school, I decided to go to the home of the weirdly dressed and not too shy… Harajuku. This area is known for not only a fantastic park and a couple of unique shopping strips, but more so the strange folk that come out to play (i.e. like my lead picture).

I was all geared up to see some crazy-ass people preening and posing for the cameras. But alas, it didn’t really happen. Granted it was a 30+ degree day, but there was a distinct lack of crazies. Let me backtrack.

I now pronounce you Husband and Wife (or whatever the Buddhist equivalent is)

I arrived just before lunchtime and decided to wander through part of Yoyogi Park, stumbling upon Meiji Shrine. I guess Sundays are popular for wedding ceremonies, as there was a few taking place, right in the middle of the gawking visitors. Of course I was going to take a photo too.

Bathing Ape? Meh.

I then wandered down Takeshita-Dori, the street primarily responsible for the high (or is that low?) fashion of the area. A fairly narrow strip, it is full of stores with all kinds of weird fashion. Nothing took my fancy unfortunately. I did come across the famous Bathing Ape store, but it was a bit lame to be honest. I think the hundreds of knock off Bathing Ape shirts are a bit more exciting (and a hell of a lot cheaper).

Blythe has the look in Harajuku

That led me to the other shopping street, Omote-Sando. My Lonely Planet guide likens it to the Champs Elysee, and I kinda see why. It is a lovely tree lined street full of your Louis Vuitton etc etc, and is a change from the neon lit streets of Shibuya and Shinjuku. A bit of a breath of fresh air in a way. But alas, again nothing really took my fancy. I did find a Blythe exhibition in one of the high brow shopping centres which was actually kinda cool… about a hundred Blythe dolls dressed in the height of Tokyo fashion. More interesting than the actual fashions I was seeing.

One of the few weirdos unfortunately

So I got back to the park and Jingu-Bashi bridge expecting to be inundated with lots of strange folk in interesting get up. But it really wasn’t happening. There were a handful trying their hardest, but it wasn’t all that interesting. Even the cameras were kept in their bags for the most part. A bit disappointing. Oh well. You don’t win ’em all.

Are you ready to rock?!

So I wandered back into Yoyogi park. At least there was some action there. Not quite as many young hipsters as I thought there would be, but there were a couple of bands battling it out with the park folk. Even though I didn’t understand the lyrics, I knew the main band I was watching were just a little bit emo. It seems to translate pretty easy.

1-2-3 o'clock, 4 o'clock rock.

The one thing that I struggle to understand is not the hipster kids or the “look at me I’m so weird” folk. It is the rockabilly older folk. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! It is just such a strange one. I wonder if they have normal jobs? Anyway, it was fun watching them bust some moves for a while.

Since I was on my way toward Shibuya, I decided to wander down there by foot. Conveniently some park food vendors were there, so with some Tokyo-style okonomyaki under my belt (different again… less cabbage, more egg) I legged it down. I sniffed out another record store (to the surprise of no one I am sure). Boy. Why can’t I buy LP’s like this back home? When I am filling some of my collection for 600 – 700 yen a pop (not even 10 bucks), I  know I am in the right place. Maybe today didn’t turn out so bad after all.

04
Jul

Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama

By: muttler

Do you want to come to our cafe?

Thanks for the comments and tweets on my Mt Fuji post folks. It was a pretty big deal for me as many of you know so the kind words are much appreciated! I have pulled up really well today, just a tiny bit of lethargy, so nothing stopping me from getting out in Tokyo again.

Today was almost as monumental as Fuji. Well, not quite, but today’s destination was always going to be a bit of fun… Akihabara. My mate Glen said if I went I would never leave. Not quite, but he wasn’t far off. I felt way more affinity with Akihabara straight off the bat than Shinjuku or Shibuya.

Welcome to Akihabara

For those not down with otaku culture, Akihabara is Tokyo’s main anime/manga/video game/electronics/toy/nerd district. Otaku is the term that encapsulates those people into these things. While I am not a massive anime fan, video games and toys oh yeah. This should be fun.

Choose your toy

Let me give you some impressions why I hit it off with Akihabara pretty much straight away. The electronics I could take or leave to be honest. I didn’t see much that stood out or was particularly new. What I did love though were the many stores selling toys and action figures, and the stores selling old school (think game and watch and SNES) video games. This was way more fun than the generic department stores of the other districts and added way more personality.

It is quite mind blowing just how many action figures there are out there, but even more crazy is how many Japanese people are out there buying them. And I am talking every kind of figure possible. So what did I buy? I just satisfied myself with a handful of small Godzilla figures for my desk. They are easy to pack.

Game and Watch! Too awesome (and too expensive)

So it was great fun just trawling through those stores, just as it was great fun checking out all the old school video games. Game and Watch! Pity they were so expensive. And pity my SNES won’t play Japanese SNES cartridges as the amount of old games I could pick up for just a few bucks each was crazy.

Guns next to girls? Only in Tokyo.

I know that this culture starts to cross over into adult territory pretty quickly, particularly with the comics. Boy does it ever. I was browsing through the manga section of one store when suddenly those comics weren’t looking all that innocent. The reputation Japan has for being extreme was right there in my face.

One thing that is also extreme, but in a completely different way is the Maid Cafe scene. There are girls in maid outfits everywhere handing out flyers to visit. Now, I know what some of you must be thinking. “Maid Cafes? That doesn’t sound too innocent”. Well, they are sickly innocent. And I had to visit one.

Welcome home, Master!

The @Home Cafe was my destination. I had heard quite a bit about it and seemed to be the most popular. Like most, you are greeted by a number of waitresses in french maid costumes with “Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!” or “Welcome home, master!” who then serve you some kitschy, cute, cafe fare. Me, I went for an ice coffee and an ice cream waffle, complete with chocolate syrup love hearts drawn on by my maid. I am sure I was being pampered, however again my lack of Japanese and their lack of English wasn’t helping. But they were trying to be very helpful I could tell that. At one point some singing and clapping started, but I couldn’t tell really what was happening. But I just joined in anyway. It was hard not to find it hilarious.

I have an unfortunate lack of photos from this experience, as they have a no photos policy. I couldn’t even take one of my food. But it is all a way you can fork out more money for the privilege of a photo with your maid. 500 yen you say? Why not!

Moe, Moe, Kyun!

I couldn’t resist. Here is me, with tiger ears, hamming it up. I find it hilarious and not at all embarrassing. I’m in Tokyo for crying out loud! My maid very nicely wrote some english on my photo for me, although I think my name got a little lost in translation. I am now officially “Mitt” not “Matt” on both the photo and my @Home loyalty card. That adds to the awesomeness.

I wish the big Gundam was still in Tokyo

So many hours passed in Akihabara. I well and truly got wrapped up in the place. As I was leaving I found the Gundam Cafe. From the look of it there wasn’t much special except for heaps of Gundam figures inside. I was all cafe’d out for the moment, but there is still a few days left, so I might be back.

I decided to jump on the train and swing by Shinjuku on my way back to the hostel. I got wind of some more record stores so wanted to complete my day. Browsing LP’s in a foreign city is pretty sweet.

Lost in the Golden Gai

I also made an effort to wander through the Golden Gai. This is the area in Shinjuku that has all the tiny bars. And I thought there was some small bars in Melbourne. I wandered past one that could fit (and I counted) 4 people. Kinda odd, but cool. That’s Tokyo right there.