January 2010 Archives

January 2010 Archives


This image pretty much sums up why this device is useless (to me, anyway).

Personal Tokyo: Day 5

Our last full day in Tokyo.  The plan: take it easy.  So we slept in a bit and immediately followed up breakfast with a stop at our hotels Yahoo internet cafe.  It's set up like a diner, and has a bunch of computers with net access, but oddly no wifi.

We had decided the night before to do separate things for the day.  Amber had some serious shopping to catch up on, and I wanted to hit up Akihabara again.  It was a scary and exciting proposal, as having two people had helped immeasurably up to that point.  But hey, these colors don't run.

I got to read my pocketbook on the train ride over, which was fun.  I kept looking up at commuters, with a "look at me! I'm one of you now!" smile.

DSCF0218.JPGIn Akihabara, I was on a mission.  There was a trinket store we hadn't been able to find on Saturday, which I was determined to cross off my list.  It's barely worth mentioning; I found it, and it wasn't really worth the trip, just a large collection of what are basically quarter machines you find at supermarkets, except they carried a wider variety of toys and things, and cost $2.  By this time though I was more excited to immerse myself in the electronics stores looking at computers and parts.

DSCF0219.JPGAfter a quick Mos Burger burger - which was very tasty - I got distracted by game centers.  I lost 200 yen ($2) on a game that apparently required a proprietary game card, but I wasn't interested enough to figure that all out.  I hit up a driving game, a Gundam fighting game - which was hilariously short - before discovering Street Fighter IV.  I played SF2 back in the day, but never the new SF4, so what better place than to jump in than Tokyo.

My $1 went a long way.  I either selected an easier difficulty, or the game is set up to naturally give you 2 or 3 gimmes; regardless, on my first play I plowed through 5 guys with Guile, a familiar character.  My American PC somewhat ironically beat Japans Ryu (soooo satisfying; no one likes Ryu), but then immediately lost to Japans E. Honda.  Peculiarly, the Japanese SF4 machines have the names mixed up on a few dudes; M. Bison, Vega, and another two names are all switched around.  I'm not sure if those got lost in translation to the US and we're wrong, or if they double-translated and Japan has it wrong, or if it's just a glitch.  By the time I was done, my hand were cramping far more than my feet.  I miss arcades.

Playing games require sugary nourishment, so I grabbed a Crazy Crepe on the way to a recommended bookstore, which turned out to be nothing but porn.  (Thanks for that one, Lonely Planet.)  I ducked into another game center and found that the games were all starting to look pretty much the same despite them being different game center companies (unless they're all co-owned, I'm not sure).  I hit up some more SF4 anyway, this time with E. Honda, and less success.  Gamed out, I finally turned my attention to the electronics stores.

It was hard to tell whether or not Tokyo's prices are better than the US because about 80% of their in-store inventory is (I think) mostly unavailable in the states.  If you went to a Best Buy in the US, you might find one or two Acer laptops, if any; in just about every reputable electronics store in Akihabara, they had what seemed like every model across every Acer line.  For a computer junkie, it's a dream come true.  All of the Asus Eee PCs I've read so much about (and lusted for) on Gizmodo were right there in person.  Floors packed with components, organized by type and brand, all at my fingertips for in-person assessment.  Everything I've ever looked through online on Newegg.com was there at my disposal.  I might be completely out of the loop of in-person electronics shopping in the US, but I've never seen anything like the stores of Akihabara.  I was very, very tempted to grab a netbook; I wasn't sure, but the prices did seem very good.  Ultimately, I couldn't drop the money on something I wasn't sure would even work that well in the US, compatibility-wise.  So I bid farewell to The Greatest Place On Earth, and headed back to the hotel to regroup with the missus.

DSCF0228.JPGFor our last night, we both wanted to again dine in Shibuya, our new nighttime area of choice.  We had stumbled on some interesting looking eateries in the alleys the night before.  Of course we couldn't find our way back to the exact locations, and instead found ourselves in some more questionable alleys.  We did stumble on a pet shop, which was awesome.  It was incredibly small, maybe 10'x10' with cages.  (Amber remarked that, like most of Tokyo, the store reminded her of one big pet vending machine.)  The kittens and puppies were of course adorable, surprisingly lively, and their cages very clean.  They were also insanely expensive, costing between about 100,000 - 200,000 yen ($1,000 - $2,000).  I thought I heard once that in Tokyo (or all of Japan) they treat pets as a luxury and a rarity, and price them to stave off overpopulation and lackluster adoptions.  Either way, from a cute-to-cost ratio, they all seemed worth it to us.

We settled on an appealing tapas restaurant after much hemming and hawing and tummy grumbling.  The staff was really nice, but their food was just not very good.  We realized we let our stomachs get in the way of our heads; what were we expecting from a Japanese tapas restaurant that served very little Japanese food?  However, it was the one and only eatery on our entire trip that had any traditional Japanese no-shoes-and-kneel section (which we weren't invited to).

The mediocre meal did give us just enough energy to stumble back to the hotel and pack for our leave the next day; at the time, a bittersweet notion.  We were utterly exhausted and satisfied with everything we experienced, in terms of crossing off agenda items.  At the same time, for me, I felt like I was leaving a city to which I was maybe more personally aligned than any other.  I love my Brooklyn, j'adore Paris, and I really can't admit to having seen as much of the world as Amber or many others.  I also can't attest to having seen all that much of Tokyo beyond the tip of a very vacationing tourist-centric iceberg.  But I loved what I saw, and I can honestly say that a big part of me belongs to this city now.