Thursday December 8th
Today was the day I was most excited for, for a number of reasons. We had a bunch of things planned and ticketed already, some revisits and some brand new. So let me get to it…
First thing was something I had been on the ball with before coming over, and that was tickets for one of (if not) my favourite places in Japan… the Ghibli Museum! It had recently reopened after a minor restoration (mostly new coats of paint) so tickets were in high demand. I managed to snag some and so Kate was going to get to experience it for the first time, and me my 3rd. Yep, I think I will try and go every visit I make to Tokyo. So early in the morning, we jumped on a train out to Mitaka to visit.
I have written about the museum quite a bit in the past, so no need to bang on. Needless to say the walk to the museum along the water and through the park was glorious in the sunshine and at about 9:30am we arrived. A handful of people were already lining up, so we jumped in the queue and waited for 10am to arrive. The doors opened and in we went!
It was so good visiting with Kate, who had not been before. She got to experience the delight of Miyazaki’s work room, the Cat Bus room, the dioramas and maquettes, and all the other magic. We even got to sit on a Cat Bus, which was the same one I had sat on 5 years earlier. It was the best.
Their no photos policy means you can do nothing but just enjoy yourself which we did. On the rooftop though we could bust the camera out and Kate was stoked to get photos with the robot from her favourite Ghibli movie, Laputa. The beautiful sunshine meant it was turning out to be a perfect day. A trip to the gift shop was our sat stop before heading back to Tokyo. I made a purchase I had been wanting to make for years but not seen the right one. Well this time, they had a hand painted cel of Kiki from possibly my favourite Ghibli film, Kiki’s Delivery Service. It was a bit pricey (not too pricey) but this was to be my one big souvenir from this trip and something I would always stare at fondly back at home.
With that were were done, and we were on the clock to make to back to Tokyo Station by 1pm as we had an important person to meet. Kate’s sister Madeline was joining us for 4 days! Tokyo Disneyland was under last Disney park to visit, so she decided to join us. Shenanigans!
It was great to see Mads waiting for us at our planned meeting spot in Tokyo station. She had also been delayed but not nearly as bad as us, so all was good. She needed a coffee to keep going for the day so I took the opportunity to introduce her to the joys of canned coffee… and she was hooked 🙂
We made our way back to the hostel so she could drop off her bag. We didn’t rally waste much time there as we had to make the most of our few days, so we decided to head to Tokyo Skytree to get views of Tokyo and beyond. The light was fading so we had to leg it for any chance to see Mt Fuji.
A quick diversion…. So as much as I didn’t want to spend too much time staring at an iPad, I was determined not to leave Japan without their region specific Pokémon. Farfetch’d was waiting to be caught but I had yet to find the little critter. Well, just near Skytree, there he was! Escaping one pokeball made me nervous, but with the second ultra ball he was mine. YES! Mission accomplished. I could leave Japan extra happy now.
It was about 3:30pm when we were heading up Tokyo’s biggest structure. It was relatively quiet so we could head straight up and soak it all in. And there waiting for us was Mt Fuji, in the yellow fading light. I forgot to mention we had actually seen Fuji fleetingly on our train out to Mitaka so we were certainly having a charmed run. Here it was a little hazy, but we could see it there staring back at us.
We spent some time as twilight settled in, but decided it was time to move in as there was another scheduled activity to make. On our way to the train station my good fortune kept rolling… Pokémon Centre! The girls rolled their eyes as I bustled in very quickly. I asked an attendant if there were any Porygon items about, but sadly there wasn’t. Oh well, he’s hard to catch in the game and seemingly hard in real life too.
Next thing we had arrived in Shinjuku where at 6pm we were meeting more people! Yay! This time in a crazy coincidence of timing, we had a chance to meet up with my pals Craig and Erin for a night of fun. Meeting friends in foreign places for good times is just the best thing ever. And boy did we have some fun planned.
But that was not to start for another hour so we headed into the nearby Golden Gai bar area to grab some eats and a drink. Sadly many bars had not opened yet, but we found one cozy one (big for the area, holding about 12 people) and had some drinks and skewers for eats. But it was 7, and time for the main event! Both my previous trips to Tokyo I had thought about visiting our destination, but just had not done it. But this time there were five of us so it was time… to visit the infamous Robot Restaurant! I picked up tix for us all before coming over so we were super excited. I had read and seen lots about this, and the reviews were either “it’s ridiculous and overpriced” or “it’s ridiculous and it’s awesome!”. So we were in.
It is hardly a restaurant, as the best you can do are some snacks and maybe a bento box, so we just opted for our included drinks. We knew as soon as we’re in the waiting area that we had chosen wisely. There alongside the girl playing piano was two robots playing lounge music with their bass and guitar. Imagine Daft Punk but slightly more gaudy and low rent. We were all beaming. Next it was into the main arena for the fun to commence.
The main arena was fairly small, only being about 4 rows of maybe 40 people along each side. In the middle was an open area where the action was to take place. Showtime! What followed is not indescribable, however words and pics will not do the sheer awesomeness and joy of it all. We were tested to a series of short acts that either involved robots or small float-type vehicles being suitably robot themed, as well as people dressed up in sci-fi garb and generally acting it up and dancing. The first act was a “traditional” drum type performance, but with suitably garish sci-fi costumes. We then got a bizarre mini story involving some forest based creatures being invaded by evil robots and we had totally outlandish robots and fighting go in. Looking over at everyone we were just having the best time. It was even funnier to think this was Madeline’s introduction to Japan!
The final act was a Christmas themed performance that was just more over the top robot action (compete with audience glow sticks) and a barrage of neon and lasers and robots and music and just everything that makes Japan my favourite place in the world. And then at a bit after 9pm we were done. We made our way out of the bright cavern and into the Shinjuku streets. I looked at the others. We all had looks of utter bewilderment and joy on our faces. We all LOVED every second of it. We couldn’t believe what we had experienced, and to do it all as the 5 of us will be one of the great travel memories ever, it was just so over the top and unique.
I was still relatively early, so we found another nearby bar for more drinks and eats. This one was slightly smaller again, holding about 8 people and the proprietors were very welcoming and we ate and drank and laughed some more. They even had Back To The Future 2 playing on a tiny TV in there which just added to the insanity of the evening.
Sadly, with the laughs still flowing it was time to say farewell to Craig and Erin, so we could catch one of the last trains back across the city to our hostel. So with that, Kate, Mads and I left our buds and went hunting for our train station. As can be the case in Tokyo, it is not always easy to find your station. For example, there are two Shinjuku stations, and the exit we used arriving was now closed. Oh dear. But that is to Google Maps we sorted out our new best way home and legged it back, arriving back to Asakusa around midnight. We were exhausted but it was one of the best days ever.