We stopped at Macca’s for brekky first and just had to try the maple syrup infused “waffle” bun McMuffin. Yep, every bit as sickly delicious as it sounds :p

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On the way back to Tokyo we finally caught a great view of Mt. Fuji through what seemed to be a large window at a station along the way…(couldnt believe my timing to catch a shinkansen in the shot as well! :p )

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Harajuku
Yoyoji Park

Not too happy about our other failed attempts at rummaging through a large flea market in Japan, this was our last chance. Weather was good, no forecast for rain, left Osaka early to try and beat the crowd… unfortunately the forecast said nothing about protesters! Not sure what they were on about but they were everywhere along with police and media. Foiled again. The park however was a nice consolation for a walk around and to take in some of the outrageously dressed people, dancers, artists and even a cardboard box town that looked like it was pieced together and built/painted on over many hours throughout the day.

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The park in itself is huge so even though it gets rather busy there’s always a nice quiet spot away from all the action.

Disappointed once again, there was only one thing left to do…. SHOP!

Takeshita Street and surrounds

We’ve covered Harajuku previously and you’d have to be researching the wrong country to have missed any mention of the place in reading up of Tokyo must-see’s so we’ll leave you with the knowledge that nothing much has changed… in the sense that everything changes all the time. They’ve spruced up the building fasades on Takeshita street and the major street that runs adjacent to it. Cat Street has also gotten a face lift and a few different shops have moved in. The best thing, most of our fave sneaker/streetwear stores have all moved together. Undefeated, Kicks Lab, Chapter, La Brea Avenue (and Supreme if you like extra hype with your purchases) are all within spitting distance of each other along with seizure inducing rainbow colour store 6% Dokidoki and Ninja Warrior champion sponsor – Rescue Squad. Also in the area, Nike Harajuku, the massive Harajuku Daiso and the irresistible Kiddyland.

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Shibuya

With Shibuya so close, its worth the walk to discover some new sights and places that you’d miss on the train, and that we did. We grabbed a bite to eat at Teddy’s Bigger Burger, a burger joint from our last destination, Hawaii with a guy serving that could only be classed as “quite the character”, which simply added to the great dining experience and tasty food :-‘9

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Continuing down Meiji Dori sees eye catching landmarks like the Audi Forum “crumpled glass” building, sneaker boutique, Atmos, familiar brands like DC, Burberry and local quirky tee store, Graphix. We also stumbled across a live graffiti art install outside a skate shop and swingin’ rockabilly greaser store, Temmye – Cream Soda on our way to our streetwear faves, KiksTYO and Santastic, then almost got caught in an interview with a lifestyle TV show at the Shibuya crossing.

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While we struck out completely with the markets this time, we at least added a few new “I’ll be back” spots to the list for future visits.

Next up we hit two of the biggest sights in Osaka, Osaka castle and the Umeda Sky building.

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Tamiya HQ
If you can’t make it out to a model kit factory (if you do, just make sure they still have tours! many don’t anymore) then popping into Tamiya HQ in Shimbashi is -almost- the next best thing. Its essentially a store but don’t let that discourage you, their range is extensive covering thousands of their latest model kits, paints and building materials on the ground floor; an RC haven in the basement and a social build event space upstairs. The street level also has a solid selection of built kits on display and a generous helping of branded merchandise including clothing, stickers and nicknacks. The longer night hours (10pm) during the week (and 6pm on weekends) are useful for planning your days when you lose track of time!

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Diver City Plaza

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Diver what? Located in Tokyo bay, Koto, its not exactly a place that comes up in the Tokyo “must see’s ” list and if youre only going for the shopping you may even miss the best (and biggest) attraction, a 1:1 scale Gundam robot! Those that aren’t interested in all things anime/manga are probably already rolling their eyes but trust me when we tell you its as awe inspiring as the Eiffel Tower (and almost as big!…almost :p). The real treat is making your way there after dark when it puts on a light and sound show complete with accompanying movie, CO2 bursts and a bit of movement! Yes movement, sadly not in the walk around, baritone voice, making girls swoon Optimus Prime kinda way but we’d like to think that if Japan did come under attack Pacific Rim style they’d already have a substitute Jaeger secretly ready to lay it down 😉

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Best thing is, the full length show runs hourly and there are teaser previews on the half hour. Times are displayed on a sign. There is also a merch demountable office at its feet with a modest selection of Gundam related items and Gunpla kits. Most however are available at countless other stores (and at better prices depending where you look) so you can give your carrying arms a break and just enjoy the show. Here, you can also buy tickets to the small “Gundam Front” exhibit which houses some scaled real life props from the series and other points of interest.

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Photo Tip:  As you can see from the photos, this guy is huge, so an ultra wide angle (around 12mm on crop, 20mm on fx) is a must.  A mid zoom will help get some close up details.  A tripod is handy but not a must unless you decide to shoot some night city scapes, not much on this side of the bay however.

Afterwards head inside for some food and shopping. If, like us, you got a bit carried away and watched the full show twice before you realise the shops close at 9, you don’t need to worry, just head up to the top level. Thanks to Round 1 – very similar to Timezone in Australia with arcade games, claw machines (skill (aka patience) testers), bowling and karaoke – shops stay open a bit later on this level with a selection of international fast food and local restaurants. We were looking at a menu only to realise the place had closed, but of course, in true Japanese hospitality, the owner came out and asked if we wanted a table and that it was no problem to cook us something. How could we say no? The bento set was delish btw 😉 We also now find it very difficult to go back to fried items sitting on the plate instead of on a mini rack to stay crispy!

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Travel Tip: There are a few ways to Diver City from Tokyo station but there is no direct route so you will need to change trains and do a bit of walking between stations.  Allow about 30min all up and remember to keep some change on you for the local trains that don’t accept the JR passes.  Full list in english on the Diver City webpage.

Next up we hit the shinkansen early for a day trip to Yokohama, you know, the place where all those tyres come from :p

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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Aki’ba, THE geek mecca (and mecha!) of the world. We covered a few spots on our last visit but its one of those places that you can continually go back to and not only find something new every time but you’ll never cover all of it! It’s a bit hard to reference each store, especially when a lot of them don’t even seem to have any obvious naming (having rubbish Japanese reading skills doesn’t help!) but know that if you work your way north from the station keeping within a block or two of the main drag you cant go too wrong. The best part is uncovering hidden treasures in stores that, at first glance, don’t look like they’d have what youre looking for.

A couple of our fave stops include:
The Gundam Café – exactly what it says on the box. A café celebrating all that’s Gundam with Gundam referenced food and drinks and nifty décor. Also a good place to grab a couple café related souvenirs – mugs, biscuits etc. as well as a small selection of Gunpla. Next door is AKB48, the girl band, the theatre, the hourly shows. Sick of waiting years to see your fave act or missing them because they didn’t come to your city? AKB48 has you covered where you can go to them and see them play any day of the year and even in different parts of the country on the same day! How is this possible? Well having 48 members (now into the hundreds!) helps. Though if you’re not a tweenage girl or business man it may not be your cup of Miso.

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Mandarake – Big black building. Toys. Cosplay. Old, new. Lots. If you’ve read any of our posts about Japan previously, you’ll know how much we champion this place, go there.

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Gashapon store – A whole shop just for gashapon! While the thrill of the hunt is always fun, I’m finding I’m more inclined to just pay a slight premium to get the “discovered” pieces and either cherry pick or buy the whole collection that someone else has taken the time to collate. If this sounds like you as well, the rear of the store and upstairs has display cases and shelves full of the ones you’ve been chasing, didn’t know existed or have been out of production for years.

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Sega – There are plenty of multi storey gaming buildings but none stand out quite like Seee-gahh (cue sparkly shine). Many hours and thousands of Yen can be spent without blinking an eye. But of course if you cant master the “giant metal nail punching holes in the paper” or “push the pig through the bars” technique, there’s always the cop out of simply finding a store that stocks the prize you’re after and buying it 😉

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Super Potato – Wall to wall retro console gaming, even if you’re not after a cartridge or console there’s plenty of items that would make great wall/desktop display pieces.

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Robot Robot – Thankfully this was one of those times judging a shop by its name paid off! With no street frontage and only a sign to go by, it was always going to be a gamble but the trip up the elevator was worth it not just for Robot squared with its extensive range of Hot Toys style high end collector products with leanings towards horror movies and gore in general …and vagina-like monsters (why are they always vagina-like??)  but for the smaller accompanying stores on the same floor with a great selection of new and used toys and collectibles. Want to see a fair chunk of Coca Cola’s history as a yoyo? Yep, you see that here too!

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Of course there’s also the plethora of electronics stores like LAOX which really need no description, if it’s a new gadget, they’ll more than likely have it. Pricing is however average or slightly better with greater bargains to be had online but finding a JDM only model or colour can be worth it.

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We stumbled across a “Rollertarg” a bit further down so lunch was an easy choice :) continue walking and you will end up in Ueno. However, unlike last time the market gods were not kind to us and a lot of stores that we previously come across had moved on, though its always a good place to walk through, you’ll never know what you’ll find and the nearby park is more than worth the trip.

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Kichijoji

In true Japanese fashion of revamping and renewing just about everything every couple years, Kichijoji had copped a bit of a touch up in parts and is in the process in others. Our main reason for coming out this way last time, Skit, had also changed or more precisely, moved a couple blocks away – actually not too long after we were there. Their new store now sports a street shop front and actually looks more like a store than a hoarder’s cluttered apartment! But never fear, Its still wall to wall, floor to ceiling of shrink wrapped sneakers of all kinds from super rare to garden variety and brand new to turning-to-dust just minus the creepy slum factor.

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I struck it lucky last time with a pair of Baltimore AF1’s in mint condition and as it turns out, that same strike of lightning struck again years later for the same pair but $20 cheaper! Perfect timing since the previous pair are on their way out.

Shopping tip: The website is still the best place to start with a mostly up to date inventory of stock and prices for a pre-visit recon mission. You can also check out stock in their other stores to see if its worth the trip out to them.

LA Avenue aka Napsize was another great place for us to stop last time but it too had moved, all the way to Harajuku! So the only other place left that sparked our interest was one that was missed the first time round, PX Megastore. There’s a few reviews online that speak rather highly of the place but unfortunately, to us it seemed a bit junky, kind of like rocking up to a garage sale a day later, its all been picked through, the half decent stuff is gone and you’re left with stuff you could easily do without. Its not a complete loss though, there is a large range of new and (mostly) used brand name street wear including sneakers, G Shocks, endless amounts of Supreme branded items and a huge selection of clothing, a lot of which can be viewed on their website. There’s also racks of clothing and sneaker basket bins at clearance prices at the front.

Prices were very hit and miss, more along the lines of miss which didn’t help, but if you like a rummage sale in a bad-part-of-town discount store feel and are in the market for some vintage street wear then its worth the several blocks walk from the station.  You may however have better luck at one of their other stores.


Nakano

From a tourist’s point of view, Nakano for all points and purposes is just Nakano Broadway mall, which is pretty much all there is at this small station but if you want a toy, electronics, games and anime mecca outside of Aki’ba then this is the perfect stop. In fact, you wouldn’t feel too bad if you had to miss out on the latter after spending a fair portion of the day here.

Travel tip: take the north exit from the station and its just across the awning covered street.

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The first section of the mall is actually Nakano Sun mall, over 200m of branded shops and restaurants in a similar vein to the B grade retailers from your regular Westfield. Uniqlo is there for some well priced basic clothing along with a range of mobile phone and small electronic shops. Continue along till you reach the escalators, this will take you up to level 3 and is where the fun begins!

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So in the vein of Aki’ba its an anime and toy heaven and judging from the number of Mandarake stores it really should’ve just been called the Manadarake centre, seriously there’s more than 12! Some aren’t branded or are focused on only one type of product but the price tags all have the name. So basically if you want any kind of model kit, anime figure, manga book, RC toy or general electronics, you’ll be hard pressed to not find it here. The catch slight however is a fair portion of the items are used or of vintage status which is a blessing and a curse for some (actually if you’re looking for latest and greatest this is probably not the best place to start). There are also a large number of gashapon hoarding stores (basically they collect (possibly by buy, sell, trade) pretty much every gashapon “prize” new and old and individually package them) so if you’re after that chaser you’ve spent forever looking for, more than likely they’ll have it here, usually at a premium. Its better than having to pour money into a machine on a prayer but granted its not nearly as much fun.

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The stores themselves are reminiscent of the multi level bargain market style buildings in China, no real décor or order other than shelves to hold stock, usually floor to ceiling. It took me hours to get to the point but eventually they did start to all blend together, only the odd few with something different to sell (or a big strip of mech-waste bolted to the store front) stood out. But again, if you have the time and love the hunt there’s plenty of treasures to be found.

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Stairs take you to adjacent levels with more of the same with a change in ratio of cutesy clothing shops to toys and vice versa.

There are also little electronic stores that sell bits and pieces of computers and radios etc. and vintage consoles and games. I’m not too sure on how they go with haggling but a couple stores automatically gave discounts for multi buys, one even slipped in an extra game cartridge with a wink and a “shhh”! Nice one! 😀 FYI, Fonzy’s “eeyyy” finger guns have the same “you’re awesome!” translation in Japanese as well 😉

Travel Tip: stores open till around 7 but many begin closing from 5 or 6.

The supermarket on the lower level is a good spot to grab some supplies of fresh fruit and veg and snacks before heading back to the station.

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Part of the haul ;)

Part of the haul ;)

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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If you don’t know what Studio Ghibli is, stop reading and head down to your video store and at the VERY least hire out Ponyo. Its one of the most readily available works and is easily digestable with some big name Hollywood actors lending their voices to the characters. For the uninitiated it’s a good place to start for a peak into the world of the creations from co founder, animator and director, Hayao Miyazaki and Japanese anime in general (that doesn’t involve Mecha or demon tentacle rape).

Yes it’s a kids cartoon but it and the Studio Ghibli philosophy of wide eye wonder and innocence is something many would say is missing from today’s society. Where Disney portrays a lot of things happen by magic, the SG way of things is much more whimsical in a simple acceptance that there are many worlds and realms within our own and characters from each interact freely.

This simplicity and untainted wonder can be traced directly back to what some might say “eccentricities” of Hayao Miyazaki. Very much a traditionalist in the art of animation with most bar a couple of his recent works being all drawn, coloured and animated by hand and he has on many occasions voiced his displeasure with technology, not owning a computer or DVD player and even going as far as saying people using iPads are making masturbation gestures (though isnt that just Apple users in general? 😉 ). This rejection of technology is imposed at the museum where absolutely no photos are permitted. Some (including myself at first) will think this is a bit of a jip feeling like you’re back in an 80’s theme park without film and stuck having to resort to buying your overpriced memories from the giftshop! As true as that may be it adds to the wonderment and for once in a long time (apart from those nights where you’re too drunk to take photos (or ones worth keeping)) many will not have a minute by minute running commentary of their outing and will have to rely on their other body’s sensors not the one in their camera. So this reduces our usual story by pictures account of events but it just means you’ll have to go experience it for yourself 😉

Travel Tip: All tickets are prepaid and are limited to a certain number each day to maximise your experience and comfort (if only all tourist spots did this!). For international tourists, the best way to secure a ticket is to purchase them through authorised dealers/travel agents in your home country, they are also available via some convenience stores in Japan but this choice would be for those with a flexible schedule. Tickets go on sale 3 months in advance so you have plenty of time to plan your stay if you’re on a tight schedule like we were. In Brisbane we used H.I.S. travel in the city.

Getting there:

The website suggests a couple different ways of getting there, namely shuttle bus, but we recommend leaving your hotel a little earlier, catching the train to Kichijoji station and walking. Head south out of the station, through some lanes of boutique stores and follow the signs to Inokashira park (a highlight from our previous visit, with a rather different look in the summer), then on to the museum. The walk takes about 30-45min which includes regular stopping for photos through out the park but once you hit the major road it’s a straight run to the unmissable destination.

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Unmissable in the sense that…well, it’s a castle! Despite this, with help from plenty of wall crawling natural follage, it blends well into the surrounding cityscape bar the pseudo ticket booth manned by everyone’s favourite keeper of the forest, Totoro. Its not until you head inside does it feel like you’re truly stepping into one of his films. Descending a grand stair case like royalty lands you on the ground floor which houses a cinema and an open floor where you can see up three stories to skylights and a ceiling fan made of airplane wings.

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Rooms branch off from the center with one housing a selection of basic animation techniques. A large carosel houses a fully detailed scene with Totoro figures sequenced like stop motion but more like a flip book where the preceding “frame” is a short distance behind the current. The characters come to life as the wheel spun and a strobe flickered. These types basic principles and methods used in animation are displayed in varying forms of timed live “shows” and hands on exhibits as you work your way up to the top level.

Here you’ll see a re-creation of several of his work areas, which looked pretty much like a fair portion of his house. Anyone who’s dabbled in anything artistic in the way of painting or drawing would instantly recognise the chaotic yet “I know exactly where that is” layout of clutter over desks and shelves. An airbrush sits at the ready like a six shooter, sketches with annotations, scrawls and correction sit to the side of a current half completed work, piles of loose pages are on top of sketch books propped up on big jars full of pencils which have been sharpened down to a “roach” sized nubbin in amongst ash trays full of butts surrounded by shelves of coloured paints of all kinds of mediums while every last inch of wall and shelf space is covered with all matter of completed works, art, figures, toys and other kinds of inspiration. The room exhibit themselves being a work of art… in a haphazard Hoarders TV show kind of way. All that was missing was a framed “Bless this mess” cross-stitching to tie it all in together 😉

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Also on this level you’ll find the kids play room with a third scale Cat Bus and Soot sprites! (only for kids tho ): ). Before you get too bummed about that or embarrass yourself by yelling “My turn! My turn!” before pushing them out of the way, head out the door and climb the spiral stairs to the roof to visit another friend you might know from Castle in the Sky. Hes sneakily hiding amongst the trees (quite a feat considering his size) and is barely visible from the ground. Grab a photo of him by himself then get the person behind you to take one of you together. It was pretty much an unspoken production line for those waiting. People behind would shoot for those in front, it worked out quite well and the line moved quickly for the most part. Note: the path behind the sculpture goes no where.

Finally, if you’re chasing refreshments, there is a coffee shop and restaurant on site however the restaurant had a long queue the whole time we were there and getting a table inside or out was pretty much impossible. Better to just pack some snacks and pop into one of the restaurants back towards Kichijoji station.

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That pretty much wraps it up, though you could easily go here 10 times and spot something new each time in the restrooms alone! (seriously check them out) The best part is that its not just a collage or library of the studio’s work but a homage to the art of traditional animation, the man behind it and the inspiration he and his work has had on numerous movies and big Hollywood animators.

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Travel tip: Like most museums, your outing can take anywhere from a couple hours to the better part of a day if you choose to read all the info plaques and watch whatever is screening in the cinema but generally budgeting half a day including the walk out and back is enough time to get you back to Kichijoji station for a late lunch.

Travel tip: While there are literally hundreds of choices to eat, we found a chain store (only because we ended up seeing the same restaurant everywhere) that had the perfect balance of variety and value for money. Not having any skills in reading Japanese we aptly named the place “Rollertarg”. Why? Because the first symbol in its name looked like a rollerskate, very similar to the Chinese character “ma” for horse and about ¾ along there was a red target just like the logo for… Target. Ingenious! Yea we thought so too 😉 It was quite distinctive and made it easy for many last minute decision makings through out our trip. You want value? Try this on for size – 2x Miso soups, a meat and vegetable dish, a fried rice dish and a side of Gyozas …for around $14AU! Yep we were completely stuffed after that effort and no Cat Bus anywhere to be seen to chauffer us around! But it was welcoming to have the strain was on our bellies and not our wallets! Note: this particular restaurant (and many others in Japan) allow smoking. Its usually in a separate section or designated tables but this place had it after a certain time in the evening.

So with the extra Yen we saved burning a hole in our pockets we waddled off for a wander around Kichijoji.

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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After finally getting to ditch our luggage at the Yaesu Fujiya hotel a couple blocks from Tokyo station, we once again had time against us as we rushed out to Gotemba, home to the Premium Outlets mall and the last day of “Golden Week”, a nation wide sale which only happens a couple times a year.

It’s a bit of a hike – made longer with the wait and change to local trains then a (free) shuttle bus before you actually get there.

Travel tip: budget about 2 hours (door to door) to be safe (should be less if you get the right connections) from Tokyo station. Once you get to Gotemba station, walk down the stairs and out to the car park, you’ll see a big sign for Premium Outlets with times for the shuttle bus, which runs about twice an hour. Remember to plan your return trip so you aren’t left stranded out in the sticks!

Travel tip: kill a bit of time at the small store which sold a bit of everything. Cool vintage cameras adorn the windows.

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The mall is very unassuming amongst the trees and mountains on the small roads leading to it. The complex is split across two sections divided by a scenic bridge and river (see first image). Two reasons why we chose to come out here, first, the Golden week sales – which were sadly disappointing, most stores had sales but nothing even close the the fire sale that’s hyped about online. The second reason was sadly also a little disappointing – to see Mt Fuji without having to go to it but thanks to the ever present haze it was completely invisible until just after sunset when its looming prescence was revealed as a silhouette.

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Travel tip: Mt Fuji is viewable from many spots around the mall and from the shinkansen travelling between Osaka and Tokyo, however its most likely to be shrowded in cloud and haze, but if you’re lucky, you might get it on a good day as seen here, photoed from the shinkansen by one of our friends, thanks Troy!

So, back to the shopping. First stop is the information booth to grab your travellers discount booklet which sports coupons for percent off or after purchase bonuses. Most excellently, these worked on top of the already reduced items. Golden Week may have let us down but these made up for it in a small way, especially at the Nike Outlet store, which was definitely a highlight and some of the best bargains we came across on the whole trip. However, being the first day we were reluctant to fill the suitcases so early on. Turns out that helped A LOT but let’s just say, next time we’re just going to bring an extra one 😉

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The rest of the stores are what you’d expect from the Premiun Outlet chain(and very similar to other branches around the world (re: Hawaii 2012)). Stand outs for us included Adidas (nice variety of stock and generously discounts); G Shock (a couple items were slightly reduced but nothing you couldn’t get online for a lot less); Bandai (all full RRP but the coupon helps a bit with the decision making, although we found quite a few items were cheaper outside of Tokyo – most noteably Den Den Town in Osaka); Lego and Sanrio are always fun to stop in, the former requiring just that bit longer with all their displays 😉 (see bonus photos below); Nikon– prices were like the G Shocks – cheaper online but it was nice to venture into a mothership, Reebok, Puma and The North Face are worthy of a quick look in as well.

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There’s also the swanky labels that put the premium in to “Premium Outlets” like Armani, Anna Sui, Burberry, Bvlgari, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Harrods, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Ralph Lauren but far out of reach for our modest wallets and tastes!

Finally, the foodcourt offers a nice variety of western and eastern eats and desserts covered mostly by local brands.
Note: it closes before the shops do so you may want to eat first if its coming towards the end of the day, but of course you can always count on Macca’s (off to the side of the complex) if you miss out!

Next we catch the Catbus to the Studio Ghibli museum!

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

12.29.2013

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As much as people tend to rag on Jetstar, their discount flights to Japan are undeniably good value, if you can put up with their “quirks” it more than makes the hundreds of dollars in savings worthwhile.  The most common mistake many make when flying a budget airline is to expect it to not be a budget airline!  Yes, they will nickel and dime you to death with fees for everything, right down to threatening the possibility couples may not even sit together if they don’t pay for a preselected seat!  However even with these fees it still works out much cheaper, the real problem lies in the other passengers that fly on the cheap.  The new family with screaming kids, the private primary school excursion class on a plane for the first time, the bogans that stand by the “why walk to a person to talk when you can just yell out to or at them?” mentality and of course the uni students kicking on from whatever mischief they got up to the night before.  Just put in your ear plugs and hope the kid kicking the back of your chair wears themselves out.  All that aside, the flight was thankfully on time and reasonably event free.

The age old problem with travelling is when to go, easy if you’re not timing it to an event but the event we had in mind was the Tokyo International Toy Expo.   At the time of booking there was no official confirmation of the date and having spent our last trip to Japan solely in Tokyo, we thought this time Osaka could be our base with a couple shinkansen (bullet train) trips to Tokyo, that idea however quickly disappeared when the date was confirmed.  We were set to arrive on the Saturday night with the Sunday being the last day of the event!  We could have pulled an Amazing Race and legged it to catch the last shinkansen to Tokyo 40min after landing but not wanting to stress ourselves out the first night there, we decided to take an overnight pit stop in Shin-Osaka (right next to the station) then catch the first service the following morning.

Travel tip: If you’re doing the same or are staying in Osaka and need quick access to the shinkansen, we recommend hotel Hotel Shin Osaka, literally across the road from the station (follow the long corridor) very reasonably priced and with a few eating places and picturesque street scenary near by.

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Travel tip: If you plan on catching the shinkansen more than a couple times you cant go past a JR Rail pass.  An almost* unlimited pass to travel on all JR branded transport.   For more info and prices see their website here.  The initial outlay may seem a little steep but after some rough sums you’ll find a 14 day pass pays for itself after about 2 runs between Tokyo and Osaka. Cheaper and more convenient than dealing with transfers to and from the airports.  Also note that unlike the Suica or Pasmo cards you never need to top it up.  Simply flash your pass at the manned ticket gate and away you go (we were only asked for our passports once on the first use).  The slight downside to this is having to deal with people asking questions blocking the manned gate but don’t let them slow you down, show the pass clearly, pause, wait to be acknowledged, head nod bow, thank them and be on your way.

* – pass only available on JR transport, not available in some private subways and buses in further out areas and smaller cities like Kyoto.  Also not available for booked seats on the shinkansen, this option however is available at purchase.

Travel tip: purchasing the JR Rail pass  – this can only be done outside of Japan.  If you’re going through a travel agent they will organise it all for you but if you want to save on price and add ons like $6-8 for registered post from Sydney then finding a local dealer is the way to go.   In Brisbane the place to go is H.I.S. travel in the Brisbane arcade, they can also arrange tickets for Studio Ghibli.

Photo Tip: The scenary between Osaka and Tokyo is littered with photo opportunities from the shinkansen with mountains, rice fields, industrial areas and commercial buildings. About 45min out from Tokyo you may even get the chance to see Mt. Fuji if its not blanketed in cloud. Best advice is to find a seat next to a clean window.

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Mt Fuji on a good day :p
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So with that, we arrive in Tokyo and hit the muggy and drizzling ground running towards the Tokyo Toy Expo.

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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Did they just skip a whole entry and jumped straight to #2? You betcha. You’re not going crazy, we’ve had a few requests for a review of this event so we’re skipping the prelims and are jumping straight into it!

Getting there: The website for the Tokyo Big Sight venue has quite clear instuctions and caters towards foreigners well with detailed maps and directions in English. Even without a major event on, when you arrive at Kokusai-Tenjijo station (Rinkai line) its pretty much a straight run to the venue. There’s a lot of open space and the unique architecture of the building makes it hard to miss (keep walking past maccas), but with something like the Toy Expo on the cards it was as simple as following the slews of scantily clad cosplayers. Done and I mean done!

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Travel tip: The event is a trade expo which goes for 4 days, first 2 are for resellers and the second 2 are for the general public. Getting there before doors open and beating some of the crowd is the key to maximising your viewing time.

Travel tip: Lockers – Having jumped straight off the shinkansen at Tokyo Station with all our luggage, the choice was either to spend time looking for our hotel to ditch our bags or head straight there to try and beat -some- of the people that slept in. We were already on the run so we decided to just take our luggage with us. In hindsight we probably should have just left them at Tokyo station but of course there’s never a locker when you need one! (or one big enough for our 30kg suitcases!). Not to worry, the venue has plenty in various sizes, as long as you get there before lunch you shouldn’t have too much problem scoring your choice. There is a change machine nearby in case you havent stocked up on Y100 coins.

Travel tip: Plan ahead – head to the event website before hand and find out which exhibits you want to see first. I recommend doing the big ones first then back track through the smaller vendors that don’t have any queues.

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First thing to keep in mind is that this is a trade expo, a lot of stuff you see is not for sale (yea, bunch of dirty teasers they are!) but where you cant buy, you can try. At least half the items are out of their cardboard prisons and are available for you to add your grubby fingerprints to. Ever wanted to see how that RC controller fits in your hands? Go for it, grab your fave car and take it for a spin while you’re at it. Or how about what you’d look like with a giant inflatable hat and dreadlocks? Throw it on and take a tote of your imaginery spliff, Cypress Hill style. Best of all you don’t need feel guilty or rude and you definitely wont get “the look”, in fact its quite the opposite, you’ll have someone on hand to show you how it works so you can nag your mum for it for xmas 😉

The major draw card AND biggest downside of the event is that its free. This means every man and his cosplaying kid dressed as a dog is there. Think of it like Disneyland or any major theme park for that matter, you will spend the majority of your time queuing…and queuing and just when you think you’re on the final stretch… some more queuing. The plus side is, unlike park rides, once you get in, the “ride” lasts longer than 5min! So back to the queuing, you thought Londoners knew how to queue? You havent seen anything till you add Japanese effeciency to the mix.

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Welcome to Line Town, population, you. First queue is to get in, these were reasonably short as there were several halls to enter. We enter the downstairs one first, simply put, if you’ve ever been to Japan before, its like entering a Pachinko slot arcade for the first time, or for the less initiated, think of hearing every radio station and seeing every TV channel all at once to a backdrop of a 1000 fireworks while drowning in skittles and you’ll be getting close. Take it in for a moment but don’t let it consume you, and it will, find your bearings then make a bee line to… the line.

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One of the main attractions for us and just about everyone else was the Bandai exhibit occuping the most real estate of the whole event and this is where the real queuing starts. Don’t be misled by thinking you can just waltz in the exit, even by accident, security are quite strict (it was an accident, I swear!). Tour group style signs and town criers on megaphones are most likely giving clues as to where the queues start and how long the waits are but that wont help for a second if you don’t understand Japanese, following the branding is much easier. A bit of pre-trip research found the wait was about 30-45min but finding the end of the queue with a mere 10-15m from the entrance I thought we were in luck but then the queue started to zig zag like a bank queue. No problem, 15min in and we were on the last “zag”, but …hang on why are we turning away from the entrance?? Dishearteningly the line took a tangent and headed off behind the vendor stalls and just kept going.

The distracting and time passing sights of people watching and spotting stalls to add to the “must see” list disappeared and we were left with the cold white walls of an event hall and rabbit runs for staff. Like the speeding up and changing into third of a traffic jam there’s glimpses of hope as you spot the entrance and try to estimate the amount of time left but its as much a mirage as a handicap carpark at the shops. Unless you arrived as the doors opened, save yourself a trip on the emotional rollercoaster and just go by your watch. 30-45min is a pretty good time estimate, we took around 40min, however the wait is well and truly worth it starting with a sample bag on entry, perhaps a “thank you, for not slapping the parent of that screaming kid or punching out the guy dragging his feet and staring at you the whole time” more than anything else but like a kid with ADD you’ll quickly forget those woes as the complete Bandai catalogue comes alive and tries to eat you.

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The first half of the display is targetted mostly to the younger kids, especially girls (and the occassional business man) with classics like Sailor Moon, Anpanman, Power Rangers (and other local tokusatsu style shows), Tamagotchi (and its spin offs like Dream Coffret Salon) to favourites like Monsters Inc. A lot of these sections included make and create tables for the little ones. Continuing around we crossed what you could loosely call the sporting section which housed a variety of weapons that shot, darts, water, pellets or paintballs but what I was interested in was the last sections, namely the very extensive Space cruiser Yamanto and Gundam sections. Basically if it was released or going to be released, you’d more than likely find it here from out of the box kit builds to full weathering and detailed dioramas, its all covered.

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Just off to the side of the exit there was one of our fave artists, Mr. Knucklebear himself Touma putting brush to canvas for a piece that was to be a lucky door prized. The cuter than cute Milky girl had her own section as did our favourite way of getting rid of coins, the toy equivalent of the pokies – gashapon! Just remember, a lot of items are display only so try not to get your hopes up too much if you spot that chaser you’ve been after for months!

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The rest of the event which included kids faves from My Little Pony, Mario characters, Lego and those creepy people-like mice Sylvannian Family (complete with their own stage show for the IRL creeps) to big boys toys and collectibles with air rifles, RC of any imaginable vehicle, Nanoblocks, exquisitely detailed movie characters from Hot Toys and even a stand of musical equipment from KORG all required little to no waiting. Unless of course you head upstairs to the Tomy stall, which of course had a line for the escalator, a line to get in to the exhibition hall, THEN a line for the stall. Needless to say we cut our losses and saved some time, more so because Gotemba outlet mall was calling! That’s up next…

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Travel tip: Exhibition eats: there are several “food court” areas essentially selling the carni’ equivalent Japanese food. Plenty of fried items and traditional event food like hotdogs but they also had rice dishes along the lines of teriyaki beef with kewpi and cabbage and gyozas which definitely left our stomachs with a much less weighed down feeling. Perfect to keep on running!

Tokyo International Toy Expo 2013 highlight photos

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Complete Tokyo Toy Expo 2013 gallery here

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Monorail, downtown Tokyo

If you’re staying closer to inner Tokyo or just want a good view of the Tokyo skyline then head on down to Odaiba. Take the JR Yamanote line to Okachi Machi then switch to the Yurikamome line. This will take you through the city, over the Rainbow bridge (lit bridge that changes colour every few seconds) then into Odaiba.

Odaiba is on one of the many man made “islands” in Tokyo Bay it used to be all commercial buildings but is now home to a selection of tourist attractions. The biggest and most obvious one being Daikanransha, the “Tokyo eye” once the biggest ferris wheel in the world its still packs the wow factor with 360 degree views of the city, on a clear day you might even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.

The ride lasts about 15min and you can choose between a completely clear capsule or a regular ferris wheel style closed in bottom. There tends to be a 10-20min wait on the all-clear ones, while it is a little easier to see out from a sitting position, its no better for taking photos as the frame work gets in the way, not to mention the windows themselves can be pretty dirty.

It is open till 10pm nightly. If you want to head straight to it, stay on the upper level of the train platform and head south to the freeway overpass.

View of Tokyo from Daikanransha, Odaiba, Tokyo

Other notable attractions in Odaiba are: the “interesting” looking Fuji TV studio, Decks Tokyo Beach shopping mall, Venus Fort (Venice themed mall), the Statue of Liberty replica. Entertainment wise check out Tokyo Leisure Land (24hour gaming, karaoke and bowling) and Zepp Tokyo, Tokyo’s largest concert hall playing host to Jamie Cullum and Erykah Badu next week alone. During the day, there are numerous park areas and “beaches” on the edge of the island great for a bbq in the warmer months, though swim at your own peril.

Leaving Tokyo

So here we are in our hotel room looking down at our 2 week bounty thinking how the heck are we going to get all of this back home. Suticases. More suitcases.
After a quick chat to the concierge we headed back over to the Ameyoko markets. One thing that’s for certain is the quality of merchandise is a lot higher than what you would find in say, Hong Kong. However, this is reflected in the price, but like anything, look long enough and you’ll find what you’re after at the price you’re willing to pay. Another suitcase and carry on later, we were sorted.

Not having a budget gives you one less thing to worry about however you must always be weary of the luggage trade off. So Couple tips on packing:

– Bulky items like shoes are lighter but take up more space (try breaking down the shoe boxes and using them in the suitcase lining. You get to keep the box and have a bit of extra protection from those enthusiastic luggage throwers handlers. For extra space, remember shoes are hollow, perfect for storing t-shirts or your ball pit of Gashapon 😉
– Try to distribute heavier items like jeans across your luggage.
– Put delicate items such as glassware, ornaments, model kits and collectibles into your carryon but leave things like snow globes out. Because of the water in them, they are still classed as a prohibited item so make sure you have plenty of bubble wrap and double bagging handy. The store should normally pack them well, if not, pop into a post office for supplies.
– Lastly, if you run out of room, remember jackets don’t have to be classed as luggage. Its easy enough to carry 2 (one on each back pack strap) and spare some precious luggage space.

There you have it, city #1 covered (in a roundabout way) but we’re not done! Stay tuned for the next instalment when we hop, skip and jump over the pond to the city of angels, LA!

Domo Origato! Sayonara! ^__^

Ueno Blossom Festival

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara

Photo Gallery Here

04.28.2010

Akihabara, Tokyo

No trip to Japan would be complete without a (rather big) glimpse of what makes the country tick… and whirl, and buzz. Electronics! And there’s no better place to get your geek on than Tokyo’s CPU, Akihabara aka Akiba aka Electric town. Just picture Jaycar or Dick Smith times a million and you’re getting close. Any kind of premade electronic product EVER from radios, to game consoles, to cameras and computers to the components used to make them, replacement parts, capacitors, inductors, circuitry, you name it, if its powered by electricity, you’ll find it here… somewhere.

The station is only about 1km from Ueno, so it’s an easy walk or a couple minute train ride.

The first obvious places are the larger stores as you walk out of the station’s west exit (follow the signs to “Electric town”) being the multiple LAOX and Sofmap stores. These have an army of staff which are helpful and speak quite good English (some stores even have Caucasian staff) and also have duty free. They have similar style layouts, with a level dedicated to a certain type of product eg. Cameras, computers, watches, home goods etc. and a big index sign on the ground level will help you save precious shopping minutes 😉

While you will more than likely find what you’re looking for in these shops, nothing can prepare you for the onslaught from the mothership on Akiba station’s north east, that being the Akihabara Yodobashi Center.

Yodabashi camera store, Akihabara, Tokyo

Eleven floors of every model of every colour of every electronic item release in the last 5years (or there abouts). They even have sporting goods, toys and a floor of restaurants. I’d say its like Harvey Normal times 1000 but Yodobashi actually has good service and good prices (yea, I went there). Speaking of prices, while they are very competitive to the local AU market, they’re very similar to online (overseas) prices so you may want to save yourself some import fees when coming back through customs by not going all out on big ticket items. In saying that, being able to handle and eyeball similar products for a hands on, real life comparison, is indispensable.

After we surfaced from a sea of electric razors and toothbrushes, we headed to Super Potato (I know, right!). They specialise in retro gaming. Forget about your wifi enabled, pizza ordering, “I’m in a rap video” gaming consoles, its back to the roots with the 3 commandments. Shooting, driving, and jumping and maybe even all three! So basically anything prior to the Playstation 1, wall to floor to ceiling of games and consoles. Since very few cartridge games were reissued, they’re mostly all originals but are all still in good to mint condition.

Super Potato, Akihabara,Tokyo

Atari, Nintendo, Mega Drive, Master System to the ill fated Saturn, Dreamcast and Game Cube are all covered as well as plenty of domestic market releases that never saw the light on the world stage and a bunch of quirky little handheld games and mini consoles. Just remember when buying any mains powered devices from overseas, that it will work on your local voltage supply, if not you will need to purchase a separate power transformer. Anything powered by batteries is fine since DC current is universal.

Back out on the main drag amongst the cosplay girls handing out flyers, you’ll see more “Pichinko” (or “Taito”), no not something Elliot from Scrubs would say, but gaming houses filled with slot machines. Half a block away you’ll hear the deafening wave of bells and whistles as the automatic doors open and close. There are also plenty of gaming places dedicated to claw machines, but these are the same the world over. Only enough tension in the claw to give the prize the gentlest nudge of hope so you continue to funnel in your coins. You seriously have more hope getting a prize from a wishing well, so you’re better off just buying one from a toy store.

What’s that? Toy store? You thought I forgot didn’t you? Not at all! A couple blocks north of the station is another Mandarake store. Multiple levels include buying on the ground floor for those with a bit of buyers’ remorse, cosplay and 2 levels of figures and collectibles. They also have items for the die hard fans, like the actual helmets used in filming Power Rangers and uniforms from local productions.

Mandarake, Akihabara, Tokyo

Over near Yodobashi there is another large toy store called Animate. Unfortunately during another “can’t see the forest for the trees” slash “damn you google maps” moment we couldn’t find it but later discovered it in the background of one of our photos! Anyway, what you need to do is get to this store on a Sunday, when they close off a lane and its filled with performers and cosplayers.

Finally if you’re having withdrawals from sneakers or music, there’s still a few ABC Marts and a Music Vox to appease that hunger, otherwise its Gashapon time!

About 2 blocks north of Mandarake off the main street in a small side lane is a dirty yellow signed store that houses a ground floor of Gashapon and 2 upper levels of toys, figures and collectibles. What is Gashapon? You’ll know them as the gumball style machines at the exit of supermarkets that you nagged your mum for change so you could get a toy in a capsule when you were little. The difference here is the toys aren’t a poorly moulded ring, necklace or keyring, they’re highly detailed and painted quality pvc items. Best thing of all, you no longer need to nag your mum, you can buy as many as you want!

Choose anything from your favourite shows/games like Mario, Star Wars and anime characters to the weird and wonderful of light up poo keyrings, telescopic cat paw pointing wands, tote bags, countless mobile phone trinkets and for the (not so) mature crowd, the X rated figures in various states of undress and positions that will have even Paris Hilton taking notes.

The majority of Gashapon cost between 100-500Y, with dedicated stores like this one having a change machine and recycle bin for used capsules. Depending on how many you buy, it’s a good idea to bin the capsules to save luggage space.

FYI, “Gashapon” refers to “Gasha” as in the crank machine that holds the toys and “pon” the sound the capsule makes when it drops. A lot easier to say than click tic tic tac click tacka!

Gashapon

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

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