Crazy Japan: Shibuya, Akihabara, Harajuku

Our first trip as a group (though not everybody made it, we were about 20 out of 30) was on Saturday, through the busy streets of Shibuya, starting from the Statue of Hachiko the Faithful Dog and going across the famous street crossing. Walking through town with so many people is hard, since everybody wants to stop and see different things or check out different stores, and little by little, small groups started splitting off throughout the day. After looking for some electronic dictionaries, we decided to go to the Electric Town of Akihabara, where there would be plenty of models to choose from.

Akihabara: Electronics shops, small market-like stands selling everything from light bulbs and laptops to copper wire and every cable/adaptor imaginable, girls in cute outfits inviting us into one of many Maid Cafes (from simple maids, to vampire and mermaid-themed , and of course, game arcades. The variety of games in there is amazing, and so is the mad skill of the people in front of the machines. There are musical games (one á la Guitar Hero, but with around nine buttons to press!), fighting games, toy machines, some games we didn’t even bother to try to understand, ….
My absolute favorite though, was the “Table flipping game”. You stand in front of the machine, which consists of a small plastic table, and a screen. After selecting a character, a small movie plays, in my case, a businessman coming home and finding (probably) a disgusting dinner waiting for him. To express his frustration, you must now bang your hands on the (physical) table, and on the screen you will see the effect, in the form of bottles falling over, and dishes rattling. This repeats several time, until your “anger” reaches a maximum, and you simply flip the table up, sending your virtual food and dishes flying through the air. As they crash into other household items, you see how much damage you create (breaking a cup: 500 yen, smashing a window: 20000 yen) and view multiple replays of the destruction taking place. Your anger is now relieved, and you can walk away knowing that those 100 yen you put into the machine were money well spent!

In the evening we went to check out the local supermarket at Takadanobaba. My first impressions were that white bread slices here are about double as thick as the ones at home, and everything seems a bit more expensive, though we may not have yet found the cheapest place. To give you an idea, four bananas, a pack of five (!) slices of bread, some ham, milk and cereal (which comes in tiny tiny bags of just below 300g) came out to be about 950 yen, or 8 and something Euros. Back home, we noticed that, while we have exactly one bowl, plate, spoon, pot, pan, meat flipper, and even a rice cooker, knife and fork are missing.

Sunday started with a trip to Harajuku, to see the funky shops and interesting people walking around Takeshita Street, the bridge to Yoyogi park and the park itself. From Cosplay to Rockabilly, this place reminds me of the “Chopo” in Mexico City. Of course, a visit to the Meiji Shrine came next. To see the sunset, we decided to go up the tower of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to the 200m high observatory. But because of the heavy clouds, and humid air, the view was not as satisfactory as it would probably be on a clear winter day, so the photo session there was postponed.

Coming back to Takadanobaba after dining at a Kaitenzushi restaurant (the ones with plates on moving conveyor belts), we stumbled across some funny teenagers (one guy, two girls), who thought James (one of our group) was “handsome and kawaii (cute)”. We ended up talking at the station while they waited for the next train, they gave us some “purikura” stickers of themeselves posing in various funny ways, they started dancing when James and Diederik revealed they knew some dance moves from Korean and Japanese pop music, and were just generally very lively and overly friendly. In the end we exchanged e-mail addresses, so they might join us for Karaoke or something in the days to come! Fun stuff!

As the title suggests, the pictures are to show you the wild, crazy and hyperactive side of Japan.

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