In Tokyo people do their best to make the most of any little space they can find and recently the space underneath the elevated rail lines are getting some much needed revitalization by the Japan Railways Urban Development Corporation. The spaces underneath the railway lines have always been used for various things, storage areas, shops, restaurants and even galleries. The 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan is the latest of these multi-use spaces, underneath the Yamanote line between Akihabara and Okachimachi stations. Well, it is not all that recent actually. The space is shared by a number of artisan shops and craftsmen, selling everything from kaleidoscope kits to plastic art. If you are into crafts and handmade items it is great place to visit.
The name is the usual portmanteau that Japanese corporations love! 2k540 is a railway term for the distance from Tokyo Station, two kilometers and 540 meters. Aki is short for Akihabara and Oka is short for Okachimachi (the place is about 1/3 of the way closer to Okachimachi station than to Akihabara station). Right now there are about 46 shops and galleries and 4 cafes and restaurants. I couldn’t try any of them out since they were all full when I visited on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The official website is here, unfortunately no information in English so far. The stores also do not allow photography so the photos are little limited!
It is very easy to find your way here even without a map. Just get off the JR Okachimachi station and walk towards Akihabara along the elevated railway. Or the other way around.
The convenience store chain Familymart released a limited edition nikuman hot bun snack in the form of the famous comic book super hero Kinnikuman (キン肉マン). It was the third in a series of nikuman snacks in the shape of comic book characters. Kinnikuman is the story of bumbling super hero that has been going since 1979 and has by now sold well over 53 million books in Japan alone. Despite the super hero getting his power from garlic, that particular onion was not heavily featured in the recipe, strangely enough. Although nikuman are usually about 110 yen, this one came in at 180 yen.
You can see another character inspired nikuman at the end of this post, and a couple of photos of the real thing in Yokohama Chinatown.
2013 saw a record high in the number of foreign tourists, probably helped more by the record low yen (thanks to Abenomics) than any number of “Cool Japan” tourism campaigns. These days of sharing, on social networks and websites (not to mention blogs!) require good Internet access though, and that can be both expensive and difficult to find here in Tokyo. There are plenty of spaces that offer free wireless Internet access but few that also offer the use of computers to actually access the Internet on. So in the service of the tourists that plan to visit Tokyo in 2014 I’d like to present one of my favorite Tokyo cafes that offers all the computers you need, Cafe Salvador right in the middle of Tokyo’s own Wall Street, Nakadori. The place, considering the location, is very reasonably priced and you couldn’t ask for better service. If you are in the area and need to rest your legs or update that blog, this is the place to visit!
It is located on Nakadori between Tokyo and Yurakucho station and apart from coffee, snacks and computers, there are also lot of magazines to chose from.
One of my favorite cafes in Tokyo right now is the Manseibashi Station cafe, called N3331, right on top of the old Manseibashi Station platform, between the present day Chuo Line tracks. The unwieldy name comes from the cafe being run in tandem with the closeby 3331 Art Chiyoda art center project in the converted building that used to house the Rensei Junior High. You can read my blogs about this project here and here.
Understandably, this cafe is popular both with older people revisiting their old station house, as well as young couples into a slightly more cultural cafe experience, as well as train maniacs and kids who get a thrill out of sitting next to the trains rushing past ever couple of minutes on both sides! The coveted table next to panorama window at the end is taken quickly and even though I rushed to be the first one through the doors at opening time I had to settle for a lesser table until the lucky couple who got it first left. Still, it doesn’t really matter because all the seats are good, as is the food, the soups, the coffee. Not the cheapest cafe in the city but not over expensive by any means.
Best part though is role reversal, usually I am in one of those orange trains zooming past looking out the window. At this cafe I can relax and enjoy seeing them from the other side! Just remember to turn of your flash if you take a photo – don’t want to accidentally blind one of the train drivers!