Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Later That Evening...

So After a little downtime in the cool Air Conditioned Bliss of my hotel room, I decided to head out again. It was about 6PM and I figured I should find some dinner. I decided to check out Shibuya, a district known for it's GIANT crosswalk and as the hip fashion center for Japanese youth.

Well Known Fact: the giant crosswalk is named Hachiko. It's really amazing, you may remember it from such films as Lost in Translation or Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off! Tons of people are crossing EVERY time the crossing light turns green I have no idea where all these people are going or how they got there. As I siddled up the first time, the crossing light had just turned red. The crowd in the intersection thinned and I was fairly alone on my side of the street. Ass traffic resumed, I suddenly felt surrounded. Looking around, I realized I was enveloped in a sea of humanity. The light turned green and everyone starts crossing, It's like the most chaotic game of Red Rover ever.

Now, the part I find interesting is there is another story about a different Hachiko, but also taking place in Akihabara. Now, I may have the finer details wrong, but a nice man told me this much as I took photographs of a statue of a dog not far from the crosswalk with the same name.

The story goes like this. Somewhere in the black mining hills of
Akihabara, there live a little dog named Hachiko. Hachiko would walk every day to the train station to meet his owner at the end of the work day. Like clockwork, the dog would be waiting at the station for it's owner. Then one day the owner died. For seven years following the death of his owner, Hachiko would return to the station at the end of the day loyally to wait in vain. It's such a touching story that when the dog finally passed away, it was big national news and they built a monument to the dogs loyalty in the form of a statue.

I'm not sure the cross walk and the dog have anything to do with one another, but I'd like to think so...

Anyway, back to Shibuya. So everyone told me I had to come to Shibuya and make it at night. I had no idea why until I got here. Shibya is the hip fashion capitol of Tokyo. It's endless rows and walkways of clothing stores. If your a girl looking to spend some hard earned Yen on some fashion, Shibuya is where to come. If your a guy, Shibuya is where to come to get an eyeful, and let me tell you, the girls are dressed to kill. This was a Monday night, mind you, and girls were dressed like it was time to go clubbing at the hottest club that clubbing kids club at. Many of them wore improbably short skirts and thigh high stockings (a look I whole heartedly hope makes it to the states) - skirts so short they were practically giving it away for free. Oddly enough, the guys in Shibuya look like guys anywhere else in the world. Jeans and T-shirts - still cool looking, but not in the same class as the ladies.

I made my way into 109, an 8 floor building filled with boutiques of all types. It wasn't clear to me if 109 was a department store, or just the name of the building as every little fashion nook inside had it's own name and cash register. Anyway, I entered wondering if there was any men's fashion to be had. I basically made a circular pattern from the escalator around the floor seeing what I could see. Around the 3rd floor, I realized I was one of the few men in the whole building - the others that were there were in the presence of a fashionable gal. So it seemed pretty obvious that there was not a men's department, but by this point I didn't care, there were hot Japanese girl's milling about. If you're single (or just want to ogle) Japanese girl's I give 109 high marks.

After looking at other shops, ones with men's fashions, I found myself aimlessly wandering. I had no agenda and no destination, so I would just turn whichever way down whichever street. There's really no better way to guarantee getting lost then not paying attention and hopelessly turning at every intersection. I did happen across a very cool looking shrine. I took some pictures and headed out. I suddenly realized tht the bustle and din of the huge crowds had faded to silence. I was actually alone somehow. I wandered a bit back the way I came, or the way I thought I came and quickly realized I had no idea where I was or how to get back to the Train Station. It was like a scene out of a zombie movie. The night grew quiet, the air grew still and the streets were morbidly empty. It was then that I noticed I was in a graveyard of Love Hotels.

A Love Hotel is a hotel that charges either by the 2 hour block or the overnight block. Think what you may, but I don't believe the main focus of these hotels is to aid the prostitution racket. I believe it's because privacy is at a premium. Even in my hotel, the walls a way thinner than I would believe or am comfortable with. So for a few hundred yen, you and your significant other can check in to the posh confines of a Love Hotel. Some of them are just like a normal hotel, bed, desk, bathroom, etc. and some are themed! I saw Moroccan and Egyptian themed ones as well as ones that specialize in CosPlay. I couldn't make out the squiggles on the sign, but there was clearly an image of a white plug suit from Evangelion and the english word costume on the sign. Alas it was too dark to take a good picture, that and the fear of being lost in an empty area of town with not being able to read signs or speak the language led my mind to race. There were dark silhouettes aprroaching me from ahead. Was I going to get mugged? How safe is this part of Shibuya at night for a foreigner? I picked up the pce and briskly walked straight in a direction. Every once and awhile I would come across another lonely soul and every time, I wondered how I let myself get lost. Luckily, the little winding road I was on dumped me out onto the main street with some stores I recognized.

I wandered around a little, trying to regain my calm. I finally came across a ramen house. I decided to go in and get a bowl of noodles. This was a traditional styled restaurant. Wood stools in front of the wood bar and the chef handing you your order over the divider. I went to sit down and a lady came up and spoke quickly in Japanese. I said I didn't understand and she pointed behind me. In the front corner of the restaurant, there was a vending machine. each button showed a different dish and had a price attached to it. Oddly this is how I was to order.

I handed the receipt from the machine over and took my seat waiting. In less than 5 minutes, my food was ready. Now I can't tell you the finer points of what I ordered as I ordered based on picture alone. I do know this - it was egg noodles in a miso broth with green onions, bamboo, a slice of pork and 1 sheet of nori (seaweed paper) as garnish. Let me tell you, in this unassuming hole in the wall ramen shop in Akihabara, I had the best bowl of ramen I'd ever consumed (and we have some pretty fine ramen in LA). It's like they really know what they are doing over here. My only gripe was the pork was a bit dry and tough, but who knows, maybe that's exactly what I ordered.

After finishing dinner, it was close to 11PM, so I decided to head home as I had tickets to the Ghibli Museum the next day and had no idea wha time I had to be there or even how to get there.

I returned home to the Andon and checked some email and loaded some more pictures to facebook. It was then that my stomach started to ache. I thought nothing of it and went to sleep. I awoke a few hours later with a bad case of diarrhea. what an excellent way to spend a vacation...

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