Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tokyo: Day 2

First things first a 5.1 tremor rocked Tokyo today. When it happened I actually didn't realize it happened. I was in the subway listening to my iPod Shuffle (by the way Japan is fricken iPod crazy -- it is everywhere - walking down the street in th Akihabara district today vendors were hawking the new Nano left and right) and all of a sudden the train just stopped in the tunnel. I paused the shuffle because the operator began speaking -- then I realized I have no idea what on Earth he is saying so i flipped the shuffle back on. Linkin Park's Numb/Encore remix continued and shortly thereafter the train moved on to the next stop. After I got back from my day of adventuring I found this excerpt in an online news article:

"Subway services in Tokyo were halted briefly, but have now resumed at lower speeds, NHK said." here is the whole article:

So as exciting as that probably was I missed it.

Anyhow, had another breakfast buffet and then I was off and running to the Akihabara district. This district is known for being an electronics store haven. That phrase really has no American counterpart. There is no one part of San Francisco or LA where you go to buy and browse electronics. We have Best Buy and Circuity City. The Good Guys and Frys. Well Tokyo has a whole damn district and its a sight to behold.

As you start walking through the district you pass identical shops (almost), one after another all hawking the same goods: laptops, cameras, dvds, ps2 games, xbox games, anime, anime porn, computers, monitors, you get the point. Pretty much anything you can imagine. Whereas a Best Buy may have one or two models of a certain camera or mp3 player on display these stores have them all and every possible accessory you can buy. I found a whole rack of little sleeves I could put my iPod shuffle in-- try finding that in the states, even at the Apple store. Now you might be saying, "Sweet Stein, you traveled half way around the world to go look at some electronics stores", but once you realize that a large part of the Japanese culture is revolving around this constant need to upgrade, be connected, play, and interact you see why this area of Tokyo exists in the first place. Japan is at the forefront of technology and it really shows.

After perusing a few of these stores I happened on an arcade. These things are a trip. I always liked going to the arcade as a kid, but they were few and far between. There was a Scandia that had mini-golf and an arcade. At the local mall there was a place called Aladdin's castle. To me a big arcade met a trip to Reno. I am convinced that America has no arcades (i have never been to a Dave and Busters though, and I hear those are kind of cool - cause you can drink AND play games ;) - yeah I'm a dork) after seeing the arcades in Japan. Within the Akihabara district alone I must have passed 10 arcades - and I bet I missed 10 more. And these are not just single level arcades, these are 5 story monstrosities. You know how in an arcade you will find those machines where you have to put money in and you get to move the little claw around and try to grab a prize. Okay, well the first 2 floors of the Arcade I went to was run by Sega (or at least sponsored) and was filled with these machines ... wall to wall. By the way, in case anyone gives a shit, over here Sonic the Hedgehog is more than just a little fuzzy character, he is on a bunch of gambling machines too ... (okay so I totally geeked out today). As you go up more levels you find yourself in these smoky rooms that are filled with the sound of tens of machines all chattering at you. Although I didn't play any, just being in the room made you feel excited -- like a little kid.

After getting my fill of games, electronics, and just people watching in this hi-tech little neighborhood I made my way to Shinjuku. This district is supposed to really pop off an night. I came during the day around 2:30. It was similar to Ginza (from my previous mail) but not nearly as big. Whereas Ginza had a huge main drag with big buildings and then really ritzy places in the offstreets, Shinkuju was a mix of both, but overall a smaller scale. To tell you the truth I was kind of tired at this point (already) and needed a little fuel. I went and had sushi (for the 3rd time since coming here) and at a small little hole in the wall place. Took me awhile to build the "courage" to walk in (last night my coworker and I went inside a place, they said "we don't speak english", kind of warning us, so we left -- mostly out of awkwardness). Well they didn't speak English here either, but I knew exactly what I wanted and I even knew how to say the word "bill" now, in addition to some other more common phrases. After polishing off some hot sake, and some salmon and tuna nigiri I bounced and strolled around the Shinjuku district some more.

Some things I have noticed about the Japanese (and Japan) since arriving:

-They name their stores random names ... i wish I could think of some examples off the top of my head, but just weird stuff - i've decided to photograph such places for kicks
-Eye contact is rarely given, someone probably told me this, but I have confirmed it, they must not people watch, because they are always looking straight ahead, men, women, doesn't matter - I have had some kids give me some weird looks though
-very clean city
-all the men wear suits to work - even for jobs where you would think a suit is not necessary
-no one is in the least bit confrontational

Well I had more observations but they escape me now, must be the jet lag ...

Anyways its time for more sushi, although I am still quite full - another member of the party has arrived. Tomorrow is our first day of work, although I have been on email early in the morning and throughout the day off and on (like right now). Right me back and tell me how home (or wherever you happen to be) is going.


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