Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 5 - Akihabara Electric Town, Maid & Neko Cafes, and Harajuku again

In the morning, our stomachs were feeling like a non-weird breaky, since we did super-JP dinner of fugu last night. On the way, we saw a man having a little rest after the festivities from the night before. Hehehe, welcome to Tokyo-Kabukicho! Hahaha, I've seen much much worse in the club district in Toronto. What I thought was interesting was that his wallet is sticking half out of this pants (the wallet itself is normal, all the guys wear these huge long wallets that stick out, and lots of them wear chains attached), and it was still there while being in the supposedly most-seedy part of town, etc. Heheh, Japan feels ridiculously safe.

We got mad cut-eye from a lady while we were taking this pic. Apparently taking a picture of a man passed out on the sidewalk from being drunk is more rude than passing out on a sidewalk from being drunk.

After a comforting McD's McMuffin and some morning blogging and reading in bed, we headed out to Akihabara Electric Town, or Akiba as the locals call it. This neighbourhood is a shopping mecca for all things Japanese nerdy. Computers, electronics, anime, toys, robots, models, manga, cute stuff... basically anything that a 12 year old Japanese boy would be into, is found here.

This place was much more our speed vs. the shopping in the Shibuya district.

We walked down a few streets to get the feel for the place, then decided to try a Maid Cafe. Neither of us knew much about them, other than they were cafe's were the servers dressed up like little anime maids. Aaron the Wytze had wanted to go to one while he was here, but ran out of time before we could, so we decided to try one out in his honour... not knowing what we were about to get into.

This *seems* innocent... there's no 18-only signs... -gulp-

We go up a dingy elevator and are greeted by a young perky girl in a maid uniform. Most of the conversation is in Japanese, and Carey does the negotiating to find out how it works. We get handed the following:

No pictures for our rest of the time here... man, I wish I had some kind of visual proof of what happened next, because it was surreal beyond imagining.

We get led to a long bar facing the front of a small curtained cage. The floor in front of the bar has been lowered, so the maids can serve you. All the server girls are wearing bright pink maid outfits, have danglies and sparklies and are covered in glitter and hangy toys, etc, and are basically just pure positive perkiness. Ugh, this is going to get interesting.

Before we even have a chance to go over the menu, annoying J-pop starts blasting (and will keep blasting at various levels of volumes throughout our timed stay) and a spinning disco-light ball starts up, shooting kaleidiscope laser light at our retinas. Two girls pick up mics and head onto the stage, shouting in screechy young girl japanese, singing songs in unison, and shouting to the audience in supposedly "cute" teen speak. It was some kind of show, but I had no idea what was going on... and apparently Carey was having a bit of a time keeping up as well. They brought a guy onto the stage whose birthday it was, had him answer some questions and basically look awkward, before having some pictures taken with him.

Finally, thankfully, the J-pop was turned down to a reasonable level (is there a reasonable level for annoying thumping preteen techno?), and we got to order. We had omurice (omelette on ketchup rice) and coffee, and while we waited for our order we got to take it all in.

It's hard to really understand what this was about. You had normal looking young guys, in their 20's, some in their teens, and even some girls in groups or couples, who come here. The maids spend a bit of time with you at your table, chat you up, flirt with you, and basically give you attention. The one next to us was talking to the guy about some portable video game he had, he was showing her how to play it, and she was pretending to be interested. The guy on the other side of us was playing a table game with her, and it sounded like they were having a flirty conversation, like one a 13-year-old would have with a girl in his class. You can pay them to play table games with you, like Rock-N-Sockem Robots or Hungry Hippos... and it's so weird, they have these little clocks that they started when you start playing the game, and when the alarm goes off a few minutes later, your time is up, she smiles and arigatos, and heads to the next table. You can also pay to have your picture taken with them on stage.

Our food came, and our maid talked a bit to Carey, and she drew cute animals on our omelettes, in ketchup. She also poured the cream and sugar in my coffee for me, and I had to make a cat noise ("Nya Nya", which is meow in Japanese) when I had enough cream. o_0 We ate it relatively fast and our time was up, and we got the boot. We had no problem booking it out of there. We wanted out, it was way too "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Wonderous Boat Ride".

Hehehe, didn't mean to spend so much time on it, but it was just too weird to gloss over. In our final analysis, it seemed to be like more immature version of a hostess club. In hostess clubs, the girls don't actually do anything sexual - they just light your cigarettes, talk to you, flirt, and give you attention... but that's in a club type situation. At the maid cafe, it's basically the same, but for a man-baby who's in a state of arrested development. It was like a Hooters for a 13-year-old anime dork.... only the guys and girls going seemed like normal japanese! We paid, got handed some loyalty/frequent visitor points cards (!!!), scrambled out of there, laughing our butts off as soon as the elevator doors closed. To be honest, it would have been *less* creepy and dirty-feeling if it had been overtly sexual and attended by perverts. -shiver-

Our next stop was a huge Gachapon place. Gachapons are those toys in the plastic bubbles you used to see in front of grocery stores. Only in Japan, as usual, they take it to the next level. They're about 3-5 bucks a piece, and very detailed, and a toy for any kind of niche genre of toy, anime, or manga you could think of. The one we went to was one of the largest ever, and had about 400 all under one roof.

There was even an 18+ section of Adults-Only Gachapon in the back! Wait, OF COURSE there was an 18+ section of Adults-Only Gachapon in the back!

After that, we stopped to say hi to Colonel Sanders' long-lost cousin.

They removed the glasses from the statue (I called him 'Daimyo Sando-sama) so that he had holes in his head.

We hadn't had enough J-P weirdness for one day, so we went to a Neko Cafe. This was a nice companion piece to the Maid Cafe. Instead of paying to spend time with weird preteen-acting creepy girls in maid outfits, we paid about 10 bucks a piece to spend time in a room with 20-or-so cats. You basically spend time (we paid for 30 minutes) in a living room-like playroom with more than two dozen cats.
There were playtoys, cat pillows, and cat jungle gyms everywhere.

There was soothing music playing, and while you can't see it in the pics, there were cat carriers lining most of the walls, and the majority of them were snoozing. There must have been over 2 dozen cats in the room. When we got in and got comfortable on some low pillow stools with our coffee and soda, the lady running it gave us a little booklet that described all the different cats at this location, their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. It was like a model's portfolio.

Turn ons: Catnip-dusted pipecleaners. Turn offs: Water spray bottles and vaccuums.

Actually, it was very cute, but a total tease. They're very clear that you can't pick up, cuddle, or even really touch the cats yourself, but you can play with them using little fishing rod type chasey toys. And while they had some amazing-looking cats (one huge Norwegian Forest Cat being the size of a small dog), they were extremely cool and standoffish. Like, they would walk around and not hide, but they really didn't give a shit about the people there, for the most part. No cuddling or rubbing against you.

They would walk near you, plop down in front of you, and give you a look that said, "I am God here."

I suppose this is what happens when you give the cats the run of the show. They preen, they strut around like the divas that they are, and basically amp up all their narcisstic qualities up to the max. Hehehe, they did have some really beautiful cats, though.

This is by far the strangest day I've had in a long long time.

Getting late, so we called it an afternoon... we were supposed to go to the Imperial Castle at Tokyo Station, but we were getting tired and hungry and over-stimulated from all the flashy lights and blingey noises... but on the way to the train, let's do more UFO Grabber Games! (I told you, she's addicted!)

Carey is getting good! She got 2 more prizes this time for less money than yesterday!

That evening, we went back to Harajuku to get to the Evangelion Store. On the way, we got side-tracked by a 50's pinup fashion store on a 2nd floor shop. The guy running the shop was crazy! He was this awesomely animated guy named Elovis "Jack" Sato, and he took us all through his shop, pointing out all the cool items in broken English. "Look, vintage jacket. Sugoi, ne? Look, 50's records. Sugoi." He had some really great stuff there, and while we were talking, he showed us some Japanese vintage magazines he's been in... apparently he must be a big deal, because he was in all the magazines, showing off his personal collection of vintage clothing and memorabilia. He was extremely excited and showing us everything, inviting us to events, etc. It's too bad we only met him now and weren't staying in Tokyo longer, because he seemed so friendly and excited to meet some younger people into the retro thing... I'm guessing that maybe it's an older japanese person thing, the pinup/rockabilly thing is already played out? Or maybe since he's such a super-fan of Western culture, we get instant street-cred! Yesssss, being a gaijin suddenly working in our favour!

At first we thought he didn't want us to post these pictures on the Internet, but it was the opposite: he was very excited for us to post them, and to friend him on facebook! He seemed to really like the attention, and was going through all his magazines saying "Watashi, watashi" (meaning "that's me"), pointing out all the articles and photo shoots he was in, all the events he was involved with. Hito sugoi desu, ne?

Anyway, we finally talk our way out of the store, buying some courtesy items, and make our way down the rest of the Takeshite Dori, but the Eva Store was closed. Ah wells, no making Mike jealous. Anyway, we looked in the window and it seemed like a cheesy designer-type luxury store - there wasn't a lot of toys or models, it was mostly tee shirts and clothing items. So before the frantic subway ride through rush hour, we got crepes off a street shop.

As per Carey, not as tasty as those in Fukuoka... we'll need to get more later!

So Day 6 will be the final full day in Tokyo before taking shinkensen (bullet train) to Fukuoka on Kyushu Island. We plan on it being a relatively calm day: some more UFO Catcher Games (there's a ton of different places in the city - I'll try to get some video of her winning, she freaks out!), we want to see what it's like to watch a movie in Japan, then a night out at a nearby dance club in Kabukicho! Until next time!

This vendy pic is actually from a couple days ago... The Coke-branded station had little seats for hanging out to finish your drink, because drinking or eating on the street is SUPER DAME! Hehe, it's totally a thing to not eat, drink, or smoke on the public streets... and because of that social contract, there aren't any public garbage cans anywhere on the streets.