Sunday, March 16, 2014

Journey to Japan (Part 2)

I woke up the next day much earlier than I have in years. It was about five in the morning and I thought I could get back to sleep, but the day ahead was exciting me too much. Instead, I showered and made myself presentable for the day. Spending the rest of the time updating friends and family about my adventures the day before, it eventually became time to set off towards Tokyo for a day of cat goodness.

This would be my first time on a train in Japan. The trains are notorious for being on time by the minute, and it held true for nearly all of the trip. The only times they were off was due to snow or incidents (Which could include a number of different things going wrong.) The train was pretty quick and arrived at Kawasaki, in Kanagawa, in no time. Here, I would have my first taste of Ikumimama's famous animal donuts! I got a tiger (pumpkin flavored), cat (plain), and shiba inu (chocolate glaze). They were really tasty. My only advice is that if you don't like almonds, don't eat the ears. The outside is crunchy like cold chocolate is crunchy and the inside is a little more stiff than a western doughnut but I understood that they would be different than western doughnuts when I planned on having them. I had these alongside the hot banana cocoa I had picked up from a vending machine in the train station. It was a very interesting drink; it tasted like someone had melted a chocolate covered banana and marketed it as a drink.


Ikebukuro


Visiting a book store and a 100yen store before taking a train towards the Seibu in Ikebukuro, I finally found myself looking at the KitKat store.

I think first I should say that department stores are very different in Japan. Here in the west, we separate our shops with rooms, four walls. In Japan, you usually don't have walls separating the stores in the big department buildings. You could walk into one store from another and not even know it! But it does make for a lot more space and therefor a lot more shops.
The KitKat store was no different. Well, except that it had a huge line! It was lunchtime, too, so we had lunch in hopes that the line would be shorter when we got back.

The lower floors are usually dedicated to food stalls. Since it was so close to Valentines day, most of the bottom floor was for chocolates and other Valentines day gifts. The second floor was to more meal like dishes. Some of the floors are dedicated to restaurants, and I stopped in for some Ramen. I'm not a huge fan of Ramen and this place didn't help it. You order your meal through a machine, much like a vending machine except you get a ticket. You take that to the counter and hand it over, they'll serve your lunch based on what you purchased. It requires no talking, which is really great for me because I can't speak the language. I had the first choice on the machine after it was recommended (apparently their most popular dish). It was thick cold noodles and a piece of pork on top. There was a separate dish for the broth, which you poured over the noodles. It didn't make things hot, it just brought everything to lukewarm. The noodles were very difficult to chew through! .・゜゜・(/。\)・゜゜・.

The meal was cheap though at about $3.

Then it was back to the KitKat store...Except the line was twice as long now! We decided it would be better to wait for Valentines to be over before trying to get in, so we left.

From here, it was a short walk to Nekorobi, the cat cafe.


Aisha
A lot of people I've mentioned cat cafes too have turned up their noses ("Wouldn't that be unsanitary?!") but it's really quite clean. It's not a sit down and eat cafe anyway. There's a single table in Nekorobi and two vending machines. One serves drinks and the other serves snacks and noodles. Once you pay the small fee to get in ($10 on a weekday, $12 on a weekend for the first hour ($3 more for each 15 minutes after that)), all those drinks and snacks are free. The focus isn't on those though, it's on playing and interacting with the cats. I met so many kitties while I was there and they all didn't have a care in the world.


You have to put up your things and wash your hands and change into slippers before you can even touch any of the cats though.  Kiyomori and Aisha were the two kitties that I spent the most time with. They were really sweet and we even got Kiyomori to play a bit! The people who worked there would make toys for the cats in downtime for them. I watched as the guy making each one tested it with one of their cats, judging how fun they thought it was, before finishing the toy and giving it to someone to play with the cats with.  There was this one cat named Bart who was in a bad mood; he wasn't ill tempered, no scratching or hissing or biting. He just didn't want anyone to touch him or to see anyone so he hid underneath the rug and it was really cute. Eventually people got him to play though.

Kiyomori

After I said goodbye to all of the kitties, I left for Akihabara. For those of you who don't know, Akiba is the place that many anime and manga and video game fans call home. It's filled with arcades, book stores, maid cafes, and general anime/manga/game stores. It also has a lot of electronics shops to visit. There's more, but these are the main attractions of the area.

 
Akihabara
Here, I got to visit my first arcade in Japan. They are several stories high and each floor is dedicated to a different kind of genre. The first floor was purely for UFO catchers (or crane games). It's not like just cheap plush toys that the company buys in bulk like it is over here. Instead, it's always something that has a name to it. Most of the stuff is from a video game or an anime. What seemed the most popular was Vocaloid stuff and Dangan Ronpa things. There are floors dedicated to fighting games, rhythm games, gambling type games, and the bottom floor is for women and couples only; It's the purikura (Photobooth) section! Here, you can take pictures and edit them to make you feel as pretty as you like. They also do costume rentals for free in most of the arcades I went to.

I also got to go to plenty of other stores; mostly book stores. But don't let them fool you, they have a lot of merchandise that aren't books as well. If you're a Touhou Project fan, this place is heaven. Touhou is huge in Japan and it shows. A lot of the products that I saw mentioned that they were sold at comiket, either last year or up to a few years before. Most of the things you'll see are doujin (self published manga/artbooks/games/music) as far as Touhou goes, but there will also be a lot of keychains and card holders. Other places will carry more Touhou music CDs than you could ever listen to in your life. Of course, the official manga, guides, games, and music CDs are always an option. Of course, if Touhou isn't your thing, there's plenty of other anime and game goodies to be found!


Lot's and Lots of Touhou

And Even more Touhou

And I ended my day with a dinner of curry (again) from CoCo Ichibanya. Mine was a plate of beef and veggies prepared as amaguchi (sweet). If you don't like spicy things but want to enjoy curry, then order the sweet version. If you do like spicy, though, their scale goes up to ten. Don't choose ten thinking this is western spicy because the spice levels are much different! Things in the east tend to be spicier than what a lot of people in the states are used to.
Curry is very tasty though, and CoCo Ichibanya's is my favorite Japanese curry so far. <3

I had to rest up when I got back though because the next day we would journey to Sendai to stay in a huge Japanese style house for the next few days! 


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