3/08/2008 – 5/08/2008 (Last day)
After spending nearly 10,000 yen on foodstuffs in Hakodate and packing my bursting backpack, I headed back to Tokyo via Shinkansen. The temperature is worse than when I left for Sendai… I sweated as I lugged my bags to the hotel building but before a drop of perspiration could touch my shirt, it evaporated from the dry heat. (xAx)
After checking into a splendid business hotel in Ueno (my god, the room is immaculately designed with wood and parquet!), I left for Akihabara to go pen tablet hunting with chihaya san. When we met and headed out to the streets, the heat… was unbearable…We were just fanning hot air into our faces… But Akihabara is really an otaku’s heaven! There were manga/ anime shops all over selling 801 manga~~~where I began to burn some cash.
There’s also tons of electrical goods shops. chihaya san brought me to a 2nd hand book store called Book Off which sells mangas at 150 yen! Game software prices were also a bargain with some slashed to as low as 30% of the original retail price! Again, I burnt some more cash. Later chihaya san brought me to a cosy restaurant famous for their chicken dishes.
We were ushered into a softly lit enclave with a Japanese style table inside and a Japanese sliding door to ensure the privacy of its diners. It was fun talking with chihaya and somehow the topic moved from food to ghost stories… She told me of a beautiful spot in Hakone where people commit suicide by the waterfalls. Photographs taken of the spot sometimes reveal ghostly human forms wading in the waters…that really sent shivers down my spine. (><;)
We did not buy any pen tablets from Akihabara in the end because chihaya san told me we could get better deals at Yobodashi Camera in Ikebukuro (yay!).
The next morning, I met up with chihaya san and her husband, Nao san in Shinobazu exit of JR Ueno station. I was a little late after getting lost… again. We strolled down Ameyoko street well known for the old shops selling all sorts of provisions like dried fish, seaweed, fruits etc. The smells that wafted around us was as expected…
Then we took the Tokyo Metro to Asakusa. We tapped our Suicas and passed thru the gantry and realised both tracks go on the same direction, away from Asakusa. The station attendant issued us a ticket with ‘Wrong boarding’ written on it in Japanese. Hmm, we haven’t even boarded the train yet… But it was really a surprise for chihaya san and her husband as they’ve never gotten a ticket like this before.
I’ve been to Asakusa and the famous Kaminari gate about 8 years back (?) on a family tour package with Ying san. It was a cold evening during winter and I did not have much of an impression of it except the giant lantern that hangs over the gate and the shops in nakimise dori. In the day, nakimise dori is full of stuff to see! From yutakas to flying ultramen to ningyoo cakes, it’s a nice sensory experience (minus the heat). We strolled to the main shrine where tourists are fanning choking incense all over themselves. I remarked they could just try sticking their head into the incense urn to get the maximum blessing…hohoho
We went to the cleanse our hands at the stone water basin where ladles are used to scoop the water. chihaya san scooped some water for me to wash my hands with and after the refreshing ritual was performed on me, she scooped some water to purify her husband’s feet. (ie wet his shoes)（゜Д゜；）
After paying our respects to the Buddha residing in the shrine, we walked towards the Sumida river. The heat was unbearable and we decided to stop by a dango shop called Kaede for some shaved ice.
The freshly made dango was so delicious I couldn’t help getting excited. At 100 yen a stick for 5 balls, it was very cheap too! chihaya san ordered nori dango which is wrapped with a piece of nori. We sat on the bench slurping on our shaved ice before continuing our journey to the river.
On the way, we sought refuge in a department store. After 30 mins of strolling around, chihaya san’s husband led us to a popular Monja restaurant for lunch. We were famished and relieved to be sheltered in an airconditioned restaurant. Monja is a gooey version of okonomiyaki and it’s the customer who will be doing the cooking. chihaya and her husband wanted me to try cooking for them but I told them unless they want to die, then I would do so. (after so many previous failed attempts in basic food preparation) The only guy in the trio became the chief cook.
It was fun watching Nao san keeping the highly viscuous cheese monja batter away from the soot at the side of the hot metal plate. The monja soon turned into a gooey mass which is eaten by scraping the goo with mini teppanyaki spatulas. The burnt, crispy parts are the most delicious which chihaya san scraped for me. It’s a fun and unique dining experience! Next was bacon okonomiyaki which is a pancake made of cabbage, batter and other ingredients. Chef Nao skilfully shaped the pancake and drizzled lots of magic sauce (sweet and tangy soy sauce) on it. The couple then requested I oekaki on the pancake… which I did with the mayonaise bottle. Bonito flakes were scattered onto the pancake and more mayonaise was spread over it and were done! It was so yummy!
We had mushroom monja and as I waited to let the food settle in my stomach, I took the chopstick and started to oekaki on the soot covered part of the metal plate by scraping the black soot off. Umeee~
It’s back to the scorching heat and we finally reached the edge of the river where I could see the famous golden flame of Asahi building. The heat was so forbidding, even the pigeons are scuttling really slowly under the shade of the trees. We decided to head for Ikebukuro (yay!) to shop for pen tablets.
As we walked about, we came across the latest Vocaloid software called Gacktpoid. (eh?) Yep, the user can compose music with the vocals of music celebrity Gackt.
I got an A6 intuos which is priced at 22,900 yen (abt SGD 240). That’s almost half the retail price in Singapore!!! Furthermore, chihaya san redeemed 2000 yen worth of discount points so all I paid was 20,900 yen!!! Arigatou!!!! (TwT)
After that, chihaya san asked me where I would like to go. The answer was Otome Road! We walked to Mandarake where the famous butler cafe Swallowtail was located. I felt really apologetic towards chihaya san’s husband because he told us he’ll be in the convenience store while we shop for BL doujins. Gomenasai… I can’t resist my fujoshi desire to purchase gay manga.
We probably shopped for nearly an hour in the doujin paradise. I saw delicious FF7 doujins by kiki priced from 630 yen to 2,500 yen. I bought the cheapest one and yum yum, it’s as erotic as promised on the item tag.
I also saw a thin, B5-sized Blood+ Hagi anthology priced at 8,400 yen (abt SGD 86)!!! I bought a few FF7 doujins which are full of gag and we headed back up to find that it was raining outside.
We went to Tokyu Hands to check out the coolest and craziest accessories and hobby supplies.
The Humping Dog USB… imagine hundreds of them humping away at the front display.
I was impressed by the food key chains, fake facial hair, coin banks with creepy moving faces, pets etc. We were particularly amused by the ‘Humping Dog’ USB which when it is plugged to the computer, the dog starts to hump against the computer. (-\\\-)
We continued on a drizzly journey to a popular ramen shop where we picked up investment brochures along the way to shield our heads from the rain (I picked up ‘Grand China’ while chihaya san took ‘Maharajah India’). After we reached the shop, it started to pour like there’s no tomorrow. It was such a relief for us~
The ramen was fabulous-!!! The thick pork broth was divine and the char siew meat was so soft and juicy. Plus, it’s all for around 650 yen regardless of the serving size of the noodles. I ordered 1.5 serving of noodles. If a franchise were to open in Singapore, it could probably spoil the ramen market here. (>w<) (I am confident to say that the ramen I had in Asahikawa was crap (can’t even hold a candle to Beppu Ramen in Singapore). )
And that was my last night in Tokyo.
I really didn’t want to leave so soon. Uchi koishikunai…(‘Koishi :’a verb learnt from chihaya san which means miss)
The train ride to Narita airport was full of grey clouds and rain began to fall over the city. (the news reported flooding in Shinjuku -eeks!)
As the plane was about to depart, I thought of the 1st day I touched down in Tokyo and meeting chihaya san for dinner. Tears started to well up and I started to cry. (Oh my god! So embarrassing) My heart was full of mixed feelings. I was touched by the kindness of the people I’ve met along my trip and the many things I’ve experienced in these 17 days. And these tears are tears of gratitude to all who made this trip so beautiful and meaningful. And that includes my family and friends who are not on this trip with me. (the Japanese air stewardess said ‘thank you’ in Japanese when I left the plane. She probably thought I was Japanese leaving for Singapore for good. 恥ずかしいー!!!)
I would do this one more time.
Maybe autumn next year… for Comiket in late August!!! (^w^)