When the flight co-ordination team at Qantas were deciding on an appropriate time to fly Sydney to Tokyo, I’m sure they must have consulted a sleep deprivation expert;
“Be sure they are their most uncomfortable right when their bodies are usually hitting deep sleep mode. Hold off their main meal until they are near starving, then wake and feed them again at 4am, after they’ve endured around 3 hours of fractured, contorted half-sleep”.
Leaving Sydney at 9pm and arriving in Tokyo at 5:30 am may save business men a night’s accommodation (and gets them to meetings in Japan nice and early), but there’s NO way they’d be fresh. We were four crumpled piles of clothing dragging luggage on arrival. Somehow the Australian women’s basketball and Western Force Super Rugby teams that were also aboard our flight didn’t suffer the same fate. They were all fit and pumped and healthy looking. It’s either their great genes, their vitamin supplements, or they didn’t eat the hideous feta “bread” that passed as our breakfast.
It was pouring with rain when we arrived. First step was navigating the airport toilets, There were motion-sensored wave sound effects to muffle embarrassing movements, and a multi warm-water-squirting device to REALLY wake you up! Second step was collecting luggage, nodding our way through customs, and sorting out train tickets. Third (and irritatingly unnecessary) step, was madly searching for Avalon’s Nintendo 3DS which, it turns out, she left on the plane. I went to the info desk, and calmly explained the story. A phone call was made, and two sweet young and eager assistants bolted through the airport, notebook in hand, to help out. No DS, but hopefully it’ll find its way to us on the flight back.
After prodding at the train ticketing machine for about 20 minutes, we finally worked it all out, pack-horsed it up, and navigated our way to Akihabara Station. The other annoying thing with arriving so darn early, is that check in is generally at around 3pm. An our apartment doesn’t have a handy lobby to keep bags in! So we found lockers at the station, prodded at THOSE machines for a bit until we worked it out, and left them tucked away for 500 yen (about $6) each. More machine prodding at a self-ordering ramen soup kitchen for a second breakfast, and we were set.
Akihabara is Tokyo’s electronics/manga/anime hub. There is high-rise store, after high-rise store filled with every geek’s fantasies. There are cutesy “kawaii” anime characters everywhere. Transformer-like robots painted on windows, local girl band AKB48 plastered over the walls, gaming card stores, anime figurine stores, maid-cafe spruikers in their frilly dresses handing out coupons, smokey loud pachinko parlours (like evil pokie machines), and row after row after row of vending machines, and 300 yen toy-in bubble machines.
If there is one thing we learnt after just one day strolling around the sensory overload that is Akihabara, it’s that this “otaku” or geek subculture just doesn’t want to grow up. It wasn’t kids looking at the colour-saturated anime collectables. It was all adults. Adults buying from the toy machines (like the ones you’d beg your parents to drop 20 cents into out the front of Coles as a kid), and adults playing the floors and floors of claw prize machines. And they were all totally cool with that! The stores were all super squishy and windowless, and became slightly claustrophic after a while. The toys were fantastically cute (the adults sure loved them!), and we spent hours wandering around, slightly delirious from exhaustion.
Finally at 3, after 2 more subway trips, we arrived at our apartment in Asakusa. It’s small, but clean and perfect, and overlooks a park and temple. A welcome flash of peaceful green.
Our next adventure was the supermarket, one of my favourite places to visit in any country. Because I cook a lot, I like to see what I’ve got to work with. And to be honest, I think I’m going to struggle! Not only can I not read ANY of the ingredients on any packet, I have no clue what any of it is! Bizarre vegetables and meats (is it cooked yet, or not!) and LOADS of tofu and noodle varieties. I may attempt a basic noodle soup tomorrow.
OK. our 3 hours of sleep is taking its toll. Time to sleep and ready ourselves for a full day of Tokyo goodness!