As a tourist in Tokyo most people are pretty much limited to getting around on trains and subway, with the occasional use of taxis, trams and ferries. My dream of a zeppelin passenger service connecting Hakone, Odaiba (in Tokyo) and Odawara still hasn’t won the approval of the Japanese government! Actually though, there is also a pretty excellent bus service in the city, filling the gaps between hard to connect stations. For example, the most convenient way of getting from Shibuya to Roppongi, to major centers inside Tokyo and not far away there is no trains or subways and you’d have to do a lot of tricky detours to stay within the subway system to get from Shibuya to Roppongi, if it wasn’t for the excellent bus service! Things have become even more convenient in the last few years as you can now use your train passes on buses as well. In Tokyo’s tourist destination number one, Taito City (home of Asakusa, Kaminarimon, etc.) there is a loop bus system aimed exclusively at tourists, the Taito City Loop Bus, or Megurin for short. Consisting of small frequent buses on three interconnecting routes and tickets for 100 yen per ride or 300 yen for a day pass it’s easy and convenient for local tourists to travel around Taito, and especially the route connecting Ueno station with Asakusa station. Taito is also full of other more minor things to see and do and if you’re into the charms of downtown Tokyo but want to spare your legs it is a good way to just loop around and see so much more of the city in these slow buses than what you can see from the subway or trains. The only trouble is that most of the information is in Japanese! But if you have a local friend to help out, or if you are a local and want to show visitors around, this is an excellent way to spend a day in Tokyo. Besides, the buses are really cute. Here’s a map in Japanese of the routes – pretty impressive!
Last weekend I spent in Yokohama (as previously blogged) and I wanted to share these photos from the 25th floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel. I am sorry for the blurry shots but I shot them leaning out of the balcony totally handheld with my trusty old Nikon D90. What you see in the photos is a place called Minato Mirai and is a commercial district built on reclaimed land. In the evening it is full of fun loving couples and young families enjoying the scenic ferris wheel and other attractions. If you have more than a week in Tokyo or Yokohama I really recommend going there. By train, take the Toyoko line (from Shibuya) and get of at Minato Mirai Station, exit 5. Enjoy!
It used to be that Japan was all about Samurai and Geisha, the Ginza and sushi. In other words, history, food and high style. These days it seems that nothing has been able to capture the minds of foreigners and Japanese as well as Akihabara. You must have heard of it by now, the electronics and geek capital of Japan. Well, today I am going to tell you a little about the other Akihabara, a place you might never have heard of: Nakano Broadway.
Nakano is a city in Tokyo located in the western part of town. It is famous for being one of the least developed areas of Tokyo and has a reputation for being a cheap place for foreigners and students, even though it is also the home of the first Marui department store (or OIOI department store as many foreigners know it). The streets are crowded and relatively messy. The clubs and shops cater to a less monied class of Japanese. But it is also the home of the greatest shotengai (shopping street) in Japan: Nakano Broadway. Consisting of two parts, a covered street and an indoors shopping arcade it is very popular with locals and savvy people from all over Tokyo.
So what makes this place the Other Akihabara? Well, Nakano was the first and foremost place for geeks and nerds from all over Tokyo, they had toy and figure shops before anywhere else. They also had some of the very first maid cafes in Japan. About ten years ago Akihabara culture started picking up both in Japan and abroad and naturally most geeks diverted their attention there, hence Nakano Broadway suffered and several shops went under, most of the upper story arcades were deserted during day time. But as with most actions there is a reaction and as Akihabara started to become exploited and crowded, under the attention of too much capital and developers, people started returning to Nakano Broadway and sometime this year the place has blossomed again being bigger than ever. This is where the serious geeks and collectors go, the serious foreign fans of anime culture and cosplay. It’s a place where few tourists find their way and hopefully it will be a grow even stronger in the years to come. Tomorrow I will post part 2 of this post, going even further into depths of Anime geek heaven! Stay tuned.
This is the place to go if you are looking to buy a lot of everyday goods, food, clothes and electronics at dirt low prices. You’ll find some of the cheaper brand stores as well but most of it are shops catering to the budget minded.
These kind of shopping streets called shotengai (商店街) are quite common all over Japan but arguably the best ones are in Osaka, stretching for kilometers! Nakano Broadway is not that long but even here you can get anything from prescription eye glasses (the examination is a DIY affair: peek into the box, answer the questions and hit print to get the results. Once inside the shop the staff will fit your glasses into the frames of your choice for less than the price of a cocktail at a fancy Yokohama hotel.
But you’ll also find more expensive electronics, antique stores, gun shops, etc. One of my favorite places (related to work of course) is this fantastic shop for school uniforms. It is getting better and better every year. New this year is a complete selection of Benetton uniforms. Great stuff.
For aspiring DJs there are also a fine selection of shops selling second hand gear at bargain prices. Being Japan, you can count on second hand stuff being very close to mint condition – Japanese people know how to take care of their stuff.