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Amparo Bertram

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07:45 am: Tokyo Weekend Trip Report
I arrived in Chiba to be greeted by an announcement at the train station that a union strike over the weekend will result in various trains being delayed or canceled entirely. This is a first for me. It didn't have too much of an effect on the trains I would be taking, but due to the influence of the strike, certain lines wound up being more crowded than usual.

After I dropped off my copious amounts of luggage at wednesday_10_00's apartment, we went to pick up mangaroo from the airport. We were going to take the bus directly to her hotel, but we changed our plans to take the train instead, since it's half the price and (we thought) would get us there faster. Unfortunately, the crowding from the strike made our transfer difficult and meant we got to enjoy sardine conditions along the way.

We had plans to meet my uncle for supper at 7:30 in Ikebukuro, but because of the strike and various other factors, we wound up not meeting until 8:40 in Shinjuku, by which time we were all starving. My uncle had his hotel locate an Indian restaurant with vegetarian food for us, and we all trooped over there. It was a relatively small place near Shinjuku Station called Taz Mahal, and the food was absolutely excellent. If I'm ever dining in Shinjuku again, I'll probably go back there.

Early the next morning, the three of us headed out to Yokohama for a violin concert. Upon exiting the station, we were greeted by the sight of an outdoor wedding across the street. As we walked up and down searching for the concert hall and spotted such evidence as a statue of two people locked in an embrace, we concluded that Yokohama is definitely the City of Love. (It is also the City of Seagulls, which you can tell because they play seagull cries over the intercom at the subway station.)

We attended the first half of the concert, during which we got to see the performance of the son of one of wednesday_10_00's acquaintances. When we had met the woman in the lobby so she could give us a ticket, she gave us a textbook example of Japanese humble speech by telling us that her son is really a very poor player, he just likes to go on stage so he can be the center of attention. In actual fact, his performance was (to our amateur ears) quite wonderful.

We tried to sneak out of the concert at intermission, since we didn't know the performers in the second half and we wanted to go to Chinatown instead. Our sneaking was not very successful, because although there was an escalator leading UP to the auditorium, there wasn't one leading DOWN to escape the building. Thus, our attempt at subtlety was for naught, and we had an usher show us the way to the stairs.

We made our way to Chinatown, which you know you have found because all the entrances to the neighborhood are marked with large, elaborately decorated gates. We roamed up and down the streets, dodging sweet chestnut vendors, and occasionally stopping to shop for souvenirs. I dragged the others into every clothing store I saw, where we picked out which dress Nishiwaki would want the doctor to wear admired the merchandise. Unfortunately, though there were many lovely items, I didn't run across the store that had the kind of Vietnamese outfit I bought last time I visited. I did, however, buy a Chinese-collar top from a woman who sold her designs off racks in front of a parking garage. Unlike the fancier designs elsewhere, it was simple enough that I could wear it pretty much anywhere.

One thing about Chinatown is that you're never left wanting for something to look at. There are fancy designs on street posts, buildings, and even (as in the picture) recycling bins. After shopping for a while, we walked up and down looking for a place to eat. It was rather difficult to locate a restaurant that had any decent vegetarian items on the menu, but we eventually settled on one and managed to order several dishes with the meat excluded.

After eating, we wandered back to the station...shopping some more along the way...

Sunday was our designated anime shopping day. (mangaroo was extremely patient to wait so long before invading the Animate across the street from her hotel.) When we got to the hotel in the morning, we noticed that there was a line in front of Animate, even though it wouldn't open for another 45 minutes. We found this curious, but we figured there was probably an event of some kind going on.

The hotel is in the Sunshine 60 building, which is one of Tokyo's landmarks. The tall building is also a shopping mall and has amusement places for families, so it is a popular destination for those with small children. After having our brunch, we crossed the street to indulge ourselves at Animate. It was the release date for the newest volume of a comic called G-Defend that we all wanted, so we were all looking forward to buying it. Tragically, by the time we arrived at the comic floor (an hour after the store opened), they were evidently sold out. There was a big empty space in the new release section for that publisher. ;_; We concluded that the people lined up outside the door must all have wanted the same thing.

We continued our shopping spree down the block, visiting such stores as K-Books and Mandarake, among others. This particular road in Ikebukuro has turned into a comic shopping heaven for women.

Next we all went back to wednesday_10_00's apartment, stopping at a bookstore in Chiba to buy the comic we couldn't get at Animate. We spent the evening feasting on potatoes and watching the draft version of my Hunter X Hunter musical subtitle. We followed that up by a quick-version viewing of last year's Meitantei Conan movie, which is essentially "Everything That Could Possibly Go Wrong on an Airplane--And Then Some!"

Monday we headed out early to the Spring Comiket event at Tokyo Big Sight. This was a scaled-down version of the usual Summer and Winter Comikets. We were surprised when we arrived and lined up, because the staff announced that we each needed a catalogue as a ticket to enter. (This hadn't been a requirement at the previous two Comikets.) We quickly bought catalogues and obediently held them high on display as we marched into the building...and marched...and marched... They had us walk all the way through the building, out the back, and around to the side entrance before letting us loose.

We roamed up and down the rows of tables, squealing over doujinshi. It wasn't long before we were all rather loaded down. We decided to skip the afternoon session, since there weren't any series we wanted, so we finished our browsing at lunchtime. We had seen an advertisement that included a picture of curly fries, so we went to some effort to hunt down that particular restaurant...only to find that not only did they not actually serve curly fries, they didn't even sell *regular* fries except as part of a hamburger set. (They specifically refused to sell just fries. How rude.) So we tromped back to the food court and went to a different place instead.

Tokyo Big Sight is located on a small island called Odaiba (which may be familiar to anyone who has seen Odoru Daisousasen). A couple blocks over from Big Sight is a small amusement park. We strolled over to the park and took a ride on the ferris wheel. (We got a pink car. Very springlike.) Afterward, we hung out in the game center for a while, getting purikura pictures taken and playing the Odoru theme song on the taiko (drum) game.

We left from Tokyo Teleport Station. This is also famous from Odoru, so we indulged our fangirliness a bit. wednesday_10_00 had bought a small outfit (intended for a stuffed animal) typical of Odoru's main character, Aoshima. We got her to pose in front of the station with her purchase in honor of the occasion.

We returned to Sunshine City and hung out for a while looking at doujinshi before calling it a day.

On Tuesday, wednesday_10_00 had to work, so that just left two of us for most of the morning. I used the opportunity to check my email quickly, at which point I noticed a number of people asking if I was okay after the earthquake. I was like...what earthquake? ^_^; Apparently there was a level 7 earthquake, but it must have been pretty distant, because I didn't feel a thing.

The two of us designated this Mandarake Day. We started by going to the branch of Mandarake in Shibuya. On the way, we encountered a McDonald's that REALLY knows how to advertise. You can't go wrong with showing off your potatoes.

We spent a couple hours there before meeting up with wednesday_10_00 at the Nakano branch. From there, we continued on to a vegetarian Indian restaurant nearby. The meal was good, but although we said we didn't smoke, they sat us in the smoking section so we could see the stage. Apparently they were having a live music performance later that evening. We saw the musicians setting up, but we finished eating before they showed any signs of starting. By that point, we had to evacuate to get away from the smoke.

Wednesday was the last day of my Tokyo vacation. We spent the morning mainly talking about G-Defend and how nice it would be to be rich enough to live in Tokyo and do nothing but buy all the manga we wanted.

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Comments

[User Picture]
From:nitasee
Date:March 23rd, 2005 03:21 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious: is smoking more popular in Japan than, say, in the US? I know you see smoking a lot more in anime and manga than you would in American films and tv. Also, I've noticed a lot of our Japanese students smoke. In fact, I'd say most of the students I see smoking are Japanese. (It's technically a non-smoking campus, but in the parking lot and at the on-campus covered bus stop, students smoke like fiends.) Do they have anti-smoking campaigns like we do here? I would think cigarettes would be rather expensive in Japan since, I would imagine, they're mostly imports.

Anyway, just curious. I tend to be rabidly anti-smoking for various reasons, not the least of which is that I'm very allergic to it.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:March 23rd, 2005 04:20 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious: is smoking more popular in Japan than, say, in the US?

Smoking is wildly popular here. It drives me bonkers, because the smell gives me a headache. They're starting to have more non-smoking areas in places like public buildings and trains, but with restaurants you have to take your chances. Even the ones that have non-smoking areas, they're generally just tables in the same room that don't have ashtrays on them. Some, where space permits, are generous enough to have non-smoking floors...but even then, we encountered one where the non-smoking floor was like a balcony over the smoking floor, so the smoke just rose right up to us.

Do they have anti-smoking campaigns like we do here?

They do. I usually see anti-smoking posters around train stations. However, the message of the posters isn't "don't smoke, it's bad for you," but rather, "don't smoke, it bothers other people around you, especially young children." (The posters often show a picture of a man casually holding a cigarette in his hand, with his hand down at the level of a child's face.)
[User Picture]
From:nitasee
Date:March 23rd, 2005 04:44 pm (UTC)
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Sounds a lot like my experience living in England. Everybody smoked, everywhere. And the non-smoking section at a restaurant? The table closest to the door. Only, I don't remember any anti-smoking campaign of any sort.
[User Picture]
From:basicblack
Date:March 24th, 2005 12:32 am (UTC)
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They're banning smoking in pubs soon (or rather I think they have done but it's not in effect yet,) and in everyday life here I don't think the smoking is really that bad... when were you here? Where? Hopefully things are different now.
[User Picture]
From:nitasee
Date:March 24th, 2005 06:30 am (UTC)
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They're banning smoking in pubs soon

Wow. That's amazing. I was in college there around 1983-4. I came back for a visit in the early 90's - 1992 I think. So, yeah, it's been a while. Oh, and I was living in London.
[User Picture]
From:basicblack
Date:March 24th, 2005 06:31 am (UTC)
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Ahh, I think probably every country has changed since the 1980s. Given how expensive cigarettes are here I expect it's actually one of the better countries for smoking these days.
[User Picture]
From:melf42
Date:March 24th, 2005 01:48 am (UTC)
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I TOTALLY ROCK at the Odoru song on the taiko game, thank you very much :)

My friend from New Zealand (a smoker) says it's harder for her to cut down in Japan because cigarettes are a lot cheaper and guilt-free to get here (she doesn't have to ask anyone, she can just get it from the vending machine.)

I would normally wonder why anyone would think Tokyo was anywhere near the earthquake in Fukuoka, but my mom told me that the news never showed a map of Japan, so she didn't know where I was in relation to it (I was close enough to feel it, though).
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:March 24th, 2005 04:53 pm (UTC)
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I TOTALLY ROCK at the Odoru song on the taiko game, thank you very much :)

Can you beat it on hard? (I don't think I've even tried that song on hard...Hard scares me. ._.)
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:March 24th, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC)
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By the way, when we went back to Animate on Thursday, there was a healthy supply of G-Defend 25. So either they got a new shipment really fast (the store I go to only gets Tousuisha stuff in once a month), or their original shipment was just late to begin with.

We also discovered that Mandarake has a G-Defend section, and K-Books has a Tousuisha section. Both were pretty much empty, but it's good to know for future reference.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:March 25th, 2005 01:21 am (UTC)
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So either they got a new shipment really fast (the store I go to only gets Tousuisha stuff in once a month), or their original shipment was just late to begin with.

If they were late, Bad Animate, no cookie.

If they got a new shipment really fast, Animate, banzai!

I was pleased to see I got the next Silver Diamond calendar in with my G-Defend. I had totally forgotten about that.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:March 25th, 2005 08:49 am (UTC)
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I was pleased to see I got the next Silver Diamond calendar in with my G-Defend.
! I didn't. Unless I accidentally threw it away...? Ah, I probably did. T_T Hopefully, they'll have some left over like they did last time; I managed to snag a whole stack of them in the end.
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