Last week, a couple of my friends and I decided to go to out on an adventure to a section of the city that we haven’t visited yet. One of my friends brought up the idea of going to Harajuku. Since it was Sunday, cosplayers would be at the Jingu Bridge. So we all decided hop on the train to Harajuku, and check out all the crazy costumes and possibly get some pictures with the cosplayers.
Cosplay is very popular in Japan. In a way, it provides some Japanese youth an outlet of expression in a highly polite and conservative culture. I have noticed in my short time here that fashion in general plays a huge role in how Japanese men and women mold their identity. But I’ll save that for another blog. Unfortunately, when we finally got to Harajuku the cosplayers had not arrived yet. Lost on what we should do next, we noticed that waves and waves of people were walking towards the entrance of a huge shrine across the Jingu Bridge. We followed the crowd to see what was going on.
In this huge metropolis, it was nice to be around nature for once. Trees towered above us, and streams flowed off into the distance. Five minutes into our walk we reached an area filled with paintings and tapestries documenting the life of the late Emperor Meiji. Come to find out it was the 100th Anniversary of his death. As we walked deeper into the woods, the already marathon-sized crowd got even larger. We finally got to the Shrine, it was an amazing site. We did not have a enough time to enter into the inner sanctuary (it was a 2+ hour wait) but just seeing the gardens and the Shrine itself left us more than satisfied.
We must have been in the Shrine complex for hours because by the time we got back to Jingu Bridge, most of the cosplayers had already left. We figured that we should come back another day and head to another interesting part of the city: Akihabara. Akihabara or “Geek City” as I call it, is an overload on anime, technology, videogames, and anything else you might need to fulfill your inner おたく(prounounced otaku which means nerd). Once we got there, we saw the massive Club Sega arcade. As we walked down the street we saw another huge arcade, and then an even larger one! Arcades were everywhere. There were shops seven stories high consisting of nothing but manga and anime. Other shops sold all different types of computer parts and pieces, new and used. 18 wheelers with gigantic televisions on each side were periodically rolling down the street, displaying ads for new artists as well as blasting their music.
We all were hungry, and the sensory overload was only making our pangs worse. So we decided to get some crepes (which tasted better than crepes at Temple Main) and then head to the Taito Game Station. The Taito Game Station is a six story arcade filled with classic arcade titles, new games which you can’t play in the US, and crane games. I just could not get over the fact that arcades are still extremely popular here, whereas in the States they are pretty much nonexistent. You would expect in an arcade a bunch of young kids and teenagers hanging out but surprisingly there were a lot of salary men and young adults as well. Some were playing rhythm games, others were playing Street Fighter. After working our way from the top floor down we headed across the street to one of the Club Sega arcades. Expecting to see some of the same games in the previous arcade, there was actually more of a variety in this one. I sat down an played a few rounds of Virtua Fighter until I was shamefully beaten by an unknown opponent (the systems are set up so you cannot see who is sitting across from you). We stayed worked our way through the various floors and got ready to head back to Ontakesan.
What a long and eventful day. It seems as if there is always something going on here in Tokyo. A lifetime wouldn’t even be enough to fully experience the city for what it really is, and I only have four months! Well until the next post, peace!