Day 7: Ryogoku & Akihabara

This was our latest start to a day yet. It was raining ~again, and we didn’t get going until after 10. We took the train to Akihabara and then transferred to the Sobu Line. After only two stops, we got off at Ryogoku Station. You can see both the Kokugikan Sumo Arena and the Edo-Tokyo Museum from the platform.

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The roof of Kokugikan Sumo Arena is visible from the train platform.

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Just to the right, you can see Edo-Tokyo Museum too.

The area of Ryogoku is famous for sumo. The arena is there, obviously, as well as most of the stables (not my word for them!) where the wrestlers live and train, and many restaurants catering to their diets. Sumo wrestlers need to eat a lot and mostly foods rich in protein. One dish that is almost synonymous with sumo wrestlers is chanko nabe – a hot pot stew. (Sad to say, we did not partake in any sumo-specific fare. Maybe we’ll try it out next time.)

We are almost experts at the whole ‘get off the platform to get to the right station exit’ thing now. It was easy. Everything is well-labelled.

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The main entrance area of the station is almost like a museum – it has some sumo-related displays including giant pictures of the current yokozuna (top-ranked wrestler), some height measurements and handprints of famous past wrestlers so you can compare your size to theirs, and some paintings of what the area looked like in the Edo period.

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ukiyo-e (wood block) painting of what the area looked like in the Edo period

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Nihon Bashi (Japan Bridge)

Just outside the station, there are a bunch of vendors selling Ryogoku-themed omiyage, like sumo wrestler-shaped cookies.

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The arena is next door. I had read online that there is a small museum inside that has free admission so I wanted to check that out. It also said that no pictures were allowed so I had no idea what to expect.

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The stairs were roped off so we couldn’t go up to see the top.

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Before we went inside, we took some pictures of a few sakura and I noticed that there were flags on display. I also thought it was odd when we first walked up that there were security guards around. I had no idea but there is a big tournament going on right now. While we were taking some pictures, we spotted two wrestlers.

We went inside and were somewhat disappointed. The “museum” is just one room with some pictures and a few clothing items. The displays set up in the station were actually more impressive.

When we went back outside, there were even more security and men in suits posted at various doors and a lot more spectators lined up at the ticket gate. There were also barrier gates that had been set up separating where we were from the main hall entrance.

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The guy closest to us, who looked to be quite young, dressed in a fancy black suit, seemed to be talking to something in his hand. Turned out to be an injured bird. No idea what events led up to him holding it or how it had been hurt but that didn’t matter. He ended up walking across the courtyard and putting the bird gently into the branches of a bush, after conferring with a fellow suit-man. He spoke quietly to the bird before standing up, presumably some words of encouragement. After hesitating for a few seconds, he bent back down and rearranged the bird a little further back and then returned to his post.

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From there, we walked over to behind the arena to where the Edo-Tokyo Museum is. It’s a bizarre, spaceship-looking building. Pretty cool. It’s somewhere I had wanted to go on our first visit but we didn’t fit it in. Edo is the old name for Tokyo and refers to a two hundred fity(ish)-year period of Japanese history before modernization. (Think Samurai times.)

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The general museum displays are on the 5th and 6th floors. There is a “special” ticket you can get that give you admission to the temporary visiting exhibit but we opted to just see the permanent display.

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Totally worth it! It’s amazing. And huge. There is a large section that is basically a bunch of miniatures of Edo, which is absolutely incredible. Then there are life-size replicas of what certain rooms would look like or shops, façades, etc. A recreation of a kabuki theatre and a mock up of a stage with statue actors, paintings, a model of Nihon-bashi bridge and what the fishing area would have looked like, and an area that runs through the 20th century in a timeline manner with rooms falling into chronological time. A lot of really cool stuff to look at. We ended up spending several hours there – much longer than I had planned for. By the time we left, my feet were aching and I could hardly stand up.

I’m just gonna dump all my pictures with little information ’cause there are so many. And really, they aren’t going to mean that much to anyone other than ourselves.

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Anyone who knows a little about Japanese history will know who Matthew Perry is.

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Hiroshige’s Evening Snow at Kambara – used as the cover of Weezer’s Pinkerton album (as mentioned already in Day 5)

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A museum tour guide that gave a very animated explanation about a moving diorama of a kabuki stage… of which we understood absolutely nothing.

Hubby took special interest in the Subaru – because he drove one. (Not the 1950s K-car, obviously.  Before his current vehicle – Mistubishi Evo – he drove an Imprezza.)

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from an upper floor window, looking down on the station  (Kokugikan is just out of view on the far right.)

We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant called Finn’s attached to the museum. Hubby had the spinach and eggplant bolognese and minestrone and I had the carbonara pizza. It was pretty expensive (over 3000 yen for the 2 of us) but tasty.

It was a good thing that we had made a quick stop in Akihabara the other night, since I had inadvertently cut into our time today by spending over 3 hours at the museum – oops! But at least it was still light out when we got there. We were mostly there for Hubby’s benefit this time around. He did a lot of looking at figures and other otaku goods in various stores. We started back at Radio Kaikan again, where Hubby picked up several new figures, then headed toward the main street – Chuo dori.

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Akihabara Station Electric Town Exit on the far right, looking down the street towards Onoden

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Sega, LABI, and Radio Kaikan

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Radio Kaikan sign – It’s mezmerizing to watch.

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just trying to rest my feet – and got in trouble

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And no one steals them!

On a whim, we popped in to a maid café. Actually, we were somewhat accosted by a maid on the street who convinced us to “go upstairs with her”. That just added to the whole seedy feel of it. LOL. We had already decided we were going when she approached Hubby and she seemed surprised we took the bait. She spoke a little English and that was her hook.

MaiDreamin’ is one of the most prolific maid café chains but this location was … underutilized.  From our experience, how it usually works, is that the company will have several locations around the Akihabara Station vicinity and a few actual cafés in each location. For instance, this building had one on the 2nd floor AND 3rd floor. I think the 3F one was the main café. We were at 2F.  There was ONE other customer. And only one maid at first (until the one who spoke to us on the street came up to join her). It was… unsettling. But our waitress/maid, Kiriko, was super genki and spoke English well enough for Hubby to converse a little bit with. OR at least place an order with.

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This is Saya, the English-speaking maid, not Kiriko, the maid who served us. We found it strange that they took the picture with my phone rather than with the standard mini-Polaroid.

After our somewhat awkward maid encounter, we continued with Hubby’s wishlist of stores to visit. Pretty much the whole trip to Japan is for me, so I let him enjoy the bits he actually takes an interest in… no matter how bored I get. Haha.

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We walked across the street to Laox first but it was closing. The metal gate was actually halfway down and still going but Hubby didn’t notice and tried to go in. LOL. We got several ‘batsu’. 🙅🏻 Instead, we went into Onoden next door. It amused us that Weezer’s latest hit “Back to the Shack” was playing.  =W=

Onoden has a cute animatronic-type moving mascot outside and plays a theme song that’s really catchy. IDK why but I didn’t take video of it. There are only shitty versions found on YouTube from other people but at least you can get an idea. We had fun taking pictures anyway.

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This store was unbelievably cramped and panic attack inducing. I left after about 15 seconds and waited outside.

I love this little Inari shrine in the middle of Electric Town. We’ll take better pictures during the day when we come back.

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This is another MaiDreamin’ location with a balcony where maids entice you to come in by bellowing into megaphones. Not sure about the genius of that plan.

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Lots of maids from various different cafés and chains will be in the street, handing out ads – but they all turn their backs on you when you are taking pictures. They’re quick!

Kotobukiya is a really cool store. When we were here last, it was located in the ground floor or Radio Kaikan, I think, but when the building was torn down and rebuilt, Kotobukiya moved out on it’s own. Hubby wasn’t into figures in 2010 but he sure is now.

I’m enthralled by Japanese parking garages. What an ingenious use of space!

My friend had told us at lunch the other day when I brought up Gundam Café that it was a huge disappointment and not worth it. By the end of the night though, I was starving and it was on our way and I was still curious, so we went in with low expectations. Maybe that’s why, but I ended up really liking it. Yes, it IS overpriced for regular food, but as a theme café experience, it was kind of awesome. I’m not a Gundam fan but I wish I was because it would have made it that much more enjoyable.

Hubby was impressed by the light-up bathrooms. I thought that was the least impressive thing there. Watch this video. It was filmed when the café first opened. The bathrooms are featured at the 9:35 mark.

All the staff seemed to be able to speak English fairly well, so that was nice at the end of a long day. Sometimes it’s hard to understand and make yourself understood in another language and when you’re tired, even more so.

I ordered a drink called ヒイロ・ユイ (Hiro Yui) that was milk and, I think, matcha flavoured syrup (750 yen), a ハロドラ (Haroldora) – a matcha dorayaki (210 yen), and assorted ice (580 yen). Hubby got apple pie (680 yen) and the hot latte (390 yen). It was very expensive and the portions were teeny, but tasted good. (Actually, the green tea dorayaki thing I ate was one of the most delicious things I’ve had all day.)

We peeked into the AKB48 Café, which is right next door to the Gundam Café, but didn’t go in. It looked… creepy-ish and we had just eaten and it was time to go home.

One downside of Tokyo is that things aren’t open late. Apparently, there is quite a lot to do in certain areas for night life, but since neither of us are into clubbing anymore and since neither of us speak Japanese enough to converse with locals at a pub, we aren’t able to really enjoy the few things that are still open past 8 o’clock. All stores close around 8 (some earlier) and most restaurants aren’t open past 9 either. It’s like the active, bustling city you spent the day in just dies after the sun goes down. I have heard about this amazing Tokyo nightlife, but I’ve never seen it. So after we left Gundam Café, there wasn’t much else to do but go home again – which really is fine. By the end of our days, we are both so exhausted and in pain that that is all we want to do. But it makes me feel better that I don’t feel like I’m missing hours where I could be out doing more.

 

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One Response to Day 7: Ryogoku & Akihabara

  1. Pingback: Japan Trips Index | blah blah blah

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