My day began around 8:30am- despite having gone to sleep less than 6 hours before, my jetlagged body would only let me sleep so much. Still, I felt awake and reasonably rested. Alexander (who was less jetlagged than me since he was coming from Hong Kong) was still asleep so I took the opportunity to catch up on Game of Thrones (spoiler alert: it's great!).
Alexander got up and we put together a short list of places we wanted to hit. They were scattered around town so we tried to strategize a route that wouldn't have us backtracking too much.
First we started with lunch downstairs at the deli- white bean soup and a lovely pastry sandwich. And Lemongina! Which is like Orangina but Lemon flavored (there's a third variety, Blood Orangina, I haven't tried yet).
Our timing was perfect to hop on the hotel courtesy shuttle to nearby Shinjuku train station.
I've mentioned Shinjuku train station a few times before as it's the closest one to our hotel- it's absolutely enormous, comprising several blocks- and buried underneath this department store complex.
Up to this point we'd been buying train tickets one at a time- you're charged various amounts by distance, having to swipe your ticket at both the beginning and the end. Since we planned to hit several destinations we decided to buy an all-day combo ticket that would give us unlimited rides on the metro and subway for the day, at a cost of ¥1590 (about $15). Unfortunately when we got to the ticket machines we simply could not find the ticket we needed. To the Internet!
Turns out we needed to actually go to the ticket office and buy the tickets in person. Alexander bought his no problem, but my determination to use all of my loose change to buy my ticket caused my poor agent some trouble.
First stop of the day was to Toshima, to Ikebukoro specifically, which features a huge and bustling shopping and entertainment district.
We entered Seibu Departkent store, an enormous and wonderful department store featuring everything under the sun.
Unfortunately, the maps and all the signs were only in Japanese. But eventually we made our way to the food floor, a huge department store of delicious food.
Our destination was the Kit Kat Chocolatory. Kit Kat is the most popular candy in Japan, and there are dozens of unique and crazy kit Kat flavors available, with some of the most gourmet and interesting available at the Chocolatory.
For a coworker back home I got a sampler box specific to the Tokyo region- Chocolatories elsewhere in the country have their own unique sampler boxes. This one featured Butter, Pistachio/Raspberry, Green Tea/Kinako, and Strawberry. For myself I grabbed little boxes of Chili/Passionfruit and Strawberry Maple.
We continued to explore the mall, with amazing foods and flavors everywhere.
You might think that going to the Kit Kat store (on a major holiday no less) would have meant tourists everywhere, but it was actually quite the contrary. Whereas our Monday shopping adventures had taken us to very westerner friendly places, here there were no westerners in sight, little English signage and few people who spoke English.
The mall was so big we could have spent all day there, and very crowded since it was a major holiday. Here's one other neat thing we found: a 7-11 Premium, which was a lot like a little Trader Joes.
We made our way back to the train station and headed for Akihabara.
Akihabara is a major center for Otaku- fervent popular culture fanaticism like manga and anime and video games. It's also a well area for electronics and is sometimes known as "electric town."
From the moment we stepped off the train Akihabara was completely overwhelming. Posters and shops and lights were everywhere.
We stopped in this Sega arcade, with 7 floors of video and games.
Crazy Akihabra shops and restaurants:
This used toys, collectibles, games and comics shop (the whole building is one shop) has a bit of everything you can imagine, including two floors just dedicated to anime porn (one for men and one for women):
Based on a friend's suggestion we checked out Don Quiote, a sort of everything type store (think of a cross between cheapo souvenir stores and Walmart). The various floors not only included clothes, toys, electronics, and food, but also two floors of arcade, a maid cafe (Google it), and a dance revue (the arcade floors and up were a no photo zone, so use your imagination).
More Kit Kat!
And Orange Coca Cola!
After the overstimulation of Don Quiote and with my jetlag starting to catch up to me, I suggested we visit a temple. Luckily it seems you're rarely far from a temple or shrine in Tokyo, and there was one just a few blocks away.
In fact, as we headed towards the train station we passed another shrine and checked that out too.
Next stop was Tokyo Station, sort of the Grand Central Station of Tokyo. Lots of great architecture around here.
We couldn't help but visit Starbucks, which had some interesting menu options. I tried the Mango Passionfruit Tea Frappuccino and it was great!
We checked out Daimaru, a huge and utterly exquisite department store. I basically wanted to buy everything in the building.
Walking back through Tokyo Station we reached the opposite side, where the original station building still stands.
And nearby, the Imperial Palace.
Unfortunately visiting hours for the palace had just ended. Next time!
Back on the train, we headed to Ginza, another major shopping district with a very Times Square feel to it.
We visited the Mitsukoshi department store, which will be familiar to anyone who's visited the Japan pavilion at Epcot...although the actual store has a very different feel to it than its Epcot counterpart.
Nearby was the Apple Store- the first Apple Store ever built outside the United States, in fact. Four floors with a very cool all-glass elevator with no buttons.
Evening came early- it gets dark around 5/6pm- and Ginzu looks great at night.
I finally got to see one of those familiar all-neon signs, which there don't seem to be many of in Tokyo these days.
Alex, who took us out to dinner Monday night, suggested a sushi restaurant back at Tokyo station, so we headed back on the Subway. The restaurant was located inside the Kitte mall:
The bad news was that there was a long line for the restaurant (one of the first negative consequences we'd experienced of today being a national holiday)...
...the good news was that there was a fantastic chamber orchestra performance happening in the mall atrium:
The restaurant was well worth the wait. It was of the conveyor belt variety, of which I am a fan, and surprisingly inexpensive- I ate sushi until I physically couldn't anymore and only spent a total of about $15.
Full and tired, we took the subway back to Shinjuku and caught the courtesy shuttle back to the hotel.
We ended the night at the New York Bar, a lounge at the very top of the Park Hyatt Tokyo building. It's featured a bunch in Lost in Translation, but it's even cooler in person:
Well, now it's 3am so it's definitely time to call it a day. Plan for tomorrow is to take things a bit slower and lower key— maybe hang out by the pool a bit. I'll definitely be needing to rest up (and not be up until 3am) because starting Thursday it's gonna be early mornings for Tokyo Disneyland!