Tokyo Revisited Day 11

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The venerable Tokyo Tower straddles a three-story building that houses a visitor’s center, numerous pop restaurants, and even a small aquarium. I’ve visited the historic structure twice before but never gone up to its observation decks. Although Tokyo Tower is now no longer Tokyo’s tallest structure – that designation now belongs to the more recent Tokyo Sky Tree – Tokyo Tower remains an iconic symbol of Tokyo, and I decided that since I had time and opportunity to see its peak, I should do so before a giant monster lays waste to the structure.


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Per our routine, Jon & I stopped for lunch before fully committing to our day’s adventure. This time, we stopped into a second floor Chinese restaurant facing Shinjuku Dori.

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My order of “twice cooked beef” arrived with a large entrée, a bowl of white rice, side servings of lightly sauced bean sprouts, tofu, egg drop soup, and a bowl of apricot tofu as a dessert.

Marunochi_line

To reach Tokyo Tower, we took the Tokyo Metro Marunochi line train to Kasumigaseki, where we switched to the Hibiya line that took us to the Kamiyacho Station. From there, we walked the 7 minutes, including the final uphill incline to Tokyo Tower.

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I’ve noticed that highball mixed whisky drinks seem to be immensely popular here in Tokyo. In some restaurants a highball is cheaper than a glass of Coke. The Tokyo Tower eagerly indulges the predilection by elevating the typical “beer garden” to a “Highball garden,” allowing patrons to casually rest in the shadow of Tokyo Tower and get wasted on whisky mixers.

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Just past the whisky garden, to the left of the ticket counter, I was shocked and bemused to see a large photo backdrop that allowed visitors to snap a photo of themselves against a photographic backdrop of the Tokyo Tower. Why would anyone come to the literal Tokyo Tower then settle for a snapshot with a photo of the Tower instead of getting a photo with the actual structure itself in the background?

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The Tokyo Tower has a primary observatory at 150 meters and a 250 meter “special” observatory 83 meters beneath its peak. Tickets to the special observatory were 1,600 yen, so I purchased two, and to my surprise, found no line at all inside the building, so Jon & I were able to proceed directly into the elevator waiting to take us up to the 150 meter two-story observatory. The recorded message that played in the elevator warned passengers that the loud “crack” sound we heard was a normal safety mechanism and not a sign of our impending demise.

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At 150 meters up, Jon & I circled the tower, passing by the gift shop while feeling like the giddy girls from Magic Knight Rayearth. Signs pointed us to the entrance of the “special observatory,” a ticket taker and initially a narrow one-person escalator leading to several flights of stairs that led to another, smaller escalator on its own tiny observatory platform. The second elevator took us up to the higher of the two primary observatories. Although the day wasn’t cloudy, the atmosphere wasn’t quite clear enough for us to see Mt. Fuji in the distance. However, the expanse of Tokyo impressively stretched around us for as far as we could see in practically every direction, broken only by Tokyo Harbor.

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Unfortunately, the bright exterior light made interior photography difficult.

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When we descended back to the 150 meter observation deck, I browsed the gift shop and purchased a plastic bottle of water shaped like the Tokyo Tower.

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Besides the stairwell leading down to the elevators that would take us to the bottom of the tower, I noticed and stopped at a vending machine that offered 600 yen blue or red Hello Kitty commemorative Tokyo Tower metal coins. I purchased a red one to correspond to the color of the Tokyo Tower itself. Then I noticed that the adjacent machine would engrave the coin for an additional 50 yen. So for an extra fifty cents, I had my coin engraved with my name and the date of my Tokyo Tower visit.

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On the second floor of the tourist building, Jon mentioned an eagerness to try the McDonald’s cordon bleu burger. Unable to thrive for two full weeks without an infusion of greasy beef hamburger, I ordered a double-quarter-pounder “set” with medium fries & drink. Jon was disappointed to find that the McDonalds didn’t offer the World Cup commemorative French burger, so he settled for an order of chicken nuggets. My burger was quite greasy, and a bit to my surprise, larger and more substantial than I anticipated. It also tasted the way I remember McDonald’s burgers tasting during my childhood, before America’s McDonald’s restaurants turned to crap.

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On the ground floor, I grabbed a photo with the plush Tokyo Tower-kun before leaving.

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At the train station, Jon decided that he’d go to the gym while I’d return to Akihabara, ostensibly, to see if the Tokyo Anime Center was open for business. We both got on the Hibiya subway line. Jon got off after just a few stops. I stayed seated for much longer. The subway dropped me off on the far side of Akihabara station, on a side of town from which I couldn’t even see the iconic Chuo Dori. Naturally, with my blundering sense of direction, I set off wandering, immediately forgetting my purpose for coming to Akiba in the first place.

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Eventually I found a large street sign over the road that stated Chuo Avenue was a right turn at the intersection. So I followed the sidewalk and found a Book Off store that advertised anime DVDs and games on the first floor. I stepped in and browsed a bit but didn’t purchase anything. Several doors down I came across another anime figure shop – this one at least two blocks away from its nearest sibling store. Perhaps due to being so far away from the core concentration of Akiba anime stores, the prices at this shop were surprisingly appreciably lower than any other store I’ve seen in Akiba.

Finally reaching the main otaku district, I found the Jungle Anime store and entered, intending to purchase, for a friend back home, the three new Ultraman figures priced at 217 yen each that I’d seen there a few days before. One of them was gone, so I purchased the remaining two.

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In the Akihabara Culture Zone building, I discovered K-Books selection of used H-doujinshi on the second floor. To my dismay, I found that the Saigado doujinshi section contained two early 90’s doujinshi by artist Ishoku Dougen prior to his adopting the “Saigado” moniker, and one of his comics published by the Moriman Shoten circle. However, the books were a bit pricey, and my collection focuses strictly on the books published under the “Saigado Publishing” name. The Jingai Makyo Club section had two comics, but neither of them the Dirty Pair books I wanted. Similarly, the Studio Katsudon section lacked the Dirty Pair comics I wanted. The Mental Specialist section lacked any Dirty Pair books. So despite spending at least an hour searching the shelves with my terrible grasp of Japanese written language, I left the store without buying anything.

I did go back to the new Tora no Ana store to pick up an additional six doujinshi because six for five bucks is a simply unheard of bargain to American ears.

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While passing by the Gachapon Kaikan store on the ground floor beneath the Cure Maid Café on the second floor, I took a close look and realized that the back of the store was rental cases. I’d previously thought that the entire store was just floor-to-ceiling capsule toy vending machines. I popped into the store and noticed an adorable 600 yen gasshapon figure of Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko’s Maekawa character wearing a fish costume. I pointed out the figure to the gruff, perturbed-looking store attendant and said, “Sakana,” the Japanese word for “fish.” I was relieved that the elderly cashier was far more friendly than his companion was.

Maekawa

Several of the 2005 Solid Works Collection Ichigeki Sacchu!! HoiHoi-san gachapon figures are exceedingly rare; they were rare in 2005 when they were released; they’re nearly impossible to find today even in Japan. I spotted the rare red maid outfit figure in a rental case at A-Zone. The figure was priced at 3,680 yen.

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Creator/director Seth MacFarlane’s character Ted is very popular here in Japan. By coincidence, as I was walking up the street toward Jon’s apartment, I noticed a plush Ted keychain figure stuck on the top of a large electrical box on the sidewalk. “Ted’s just hanging out on Shinjuku Dori,” I thought to myself as I snapped a picture before continuing on home.

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