Date of Travel: 06/03/2012
Toco Heritage Guesthouse must have the thinnest walls of the whole trip, as the sound of people moving about woke us up quite early. I did not mind it too much since we had planned to get up early anyway, though it did get annoying at later parts of the trip. We had breakfast at the hostel, had a look around the hostel’s garden, then headed off to Uguisudani station.
Our first stop of the day was Tokyo University. We took the train to Ueno station, cut across Ueno Park, and entered the Hongo campus. It was interesting seeing how large in scale the university was compared to those back in New Zealand. Many of its buildings were quite old yet grand. There wasn’t terribly much to do, so we did not stay too long. We did stumble across the Sanshiro Pond, and it still baffles me how such a quiet secluded area could exist in the heart of Ueno!
After exploring the university, we headed back to Ueno Park to have a wander around. As it was towards the end of winter, and that it was an overcast day, the park grounds were very quiet and gloomy. There was a large pond with many foot-pedal boats, and it was very eerie how still the water was and how the whole place seemed dead. There were more people in the areas closer to the train station thankfully, otherwise it would have felt like an apocalypse had occurred, leaving us behind in a deserted park in the middle of the most populated city in the world!
The next stop was the National Museum of Nature and Science, which is located within Ueno Park. There were two distinct sections of the museum. The first, which was located in the same building as the entrance and reception, was based around the environment of Japan, with some exhibits on techniques to observing nature (e.g. seismographs). The other section, which is located in a building hidden behind the first, was based on the history of life on earth, with some exhibits on the physics of the world. While they were interesting, there was not really anything to write home about. It is just a typical museum after all, though I must say that some of the exhibits in the second section were quite well presented. Just a warning that the location of entrance to the second section is not immediately obvious. Jay-C for example did not even know there was a second section! Brownie and I had lunch while waiting for Jay-C to find the place.
Our destination for the afternoon is Akihabara. I must admit that I am a geek when it comes to Japanese animation, so it should come to no surprise that I had been highly anticipating going to Akihabara. I had been there previously on my school trips, but back then I was not into Japanese popular culture as I am now. I had allocated about 3 hours to go around shopping, but we all agreed to extend it out to 4 as there were just so many shops! We all split up and went our separate ways so that we could shop at our own pace. As it was my first time specifically looking for anime goods, I had no idea which shops to hit first. I started with trusty Gamers, which was located near the train station entrance. The mascot of this place is Dejiko, who is the main character of the series Di Gi Charat. I then hit several other places, such as K-books, Robot Robot (highly recommended for small figures and keychains), Ganking, Mandrake, Animate and Toranoana. Safe to stay that I got a bit carried away buying stuff. I mainly regretted buying anime DVDs due to its high price, and that the series I bought has since been released at a much cheaper price with subtitles in my home country! But overall I had a great time exploring the place. Just a warning though, that one wrong turn will lead you straight to the ero-doujinshi/manga/anime/game section, so be on your guard if you get easily offended by these things.
We headed back to our accommodation to drop off the goods we bought, then went around looking for dinner. We could not find a good place that was cheap and that we liked, so we returned to the same family restaurant from the night before. It was the first time this whole trip that we hit the same restaurant twice! I suppose it was coming towards the end of the trip, and we had kind of gotten tired of looking for new places to eat everyday.
After our dinner, we decided to head back to the Shinjuku area, which we had visited a week earlier. This time, we wanted to explore the eastern side, which contains the famous Kabukicho district. This is historically the main red-light district of Tokyo, though Roppongi has risen in prominence over the past few decades. The area was very vibrant, with plenty of neon signs showing that this place is far from dead when the sun sets. The alleyways are where most of the bars and clubs are hidden. It is also where many Africans reside to try and hassle people to go to clubs. One of them approached us asking if we were keen to go get drinks and hang out with girls. Knowing that the club would likely rip us off or steal or money, we declined. Brownie did toy around with the guy for a bit too! The guy got pissed off an eventually left us alone. There were a few others that also tried to hassle us, but we just ignored them. Jay-C did get completely annoyed with them though! We eventually had enough of wandering around the place, as it was nowhere as interesting as Dotonbori in Osaka, and the hassling was just too much. I had always wanted to explore the place though, so I am glad I did. We headed back to our hostel, stopping by a convenience store to pick up some dessert along the way.
Day pass for JR trains within Tokyo city – 730 yen
Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel – 2,800 yen
Breakfast at hostel – 300 yen [onigiri and miso soup]
Lunch at National Museum of Nature and Science @ Ueno– 900 yen [2 hot dogs and a strawberry crepe]
Dinner at Gusto @ Uguisudani – 994 yen [spicy chicken set]
Desert – 393 yen [green tea ice cream sandwich and pudding]
National Museum of Nature and Science at Ueno park – 600 yen
Souvenir from National Museum of Nature and Science @ Ueno – 950 yen
Random anime goods – 33,205 yen [DVD, CDs, figurines, keychains, artbooks, comics]
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
40,872 yen (606,082 yen total)