Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

It’s our last full day in Tokyo and in Japan as a whole. Jason and I woke up a bit late and started our day a bit later than I anticipated. Though at the time it felt very much worth it, we really couldn’t afford to waste any time…

… today was our shopping day.

We could have bought stuff while we were in the other cities we visited, but we didn’t want to cart a bunch of stuff with us all over Japan in our already oversized and heavy luggage. We did, however, bring a third piece of luggage to Japan that we purposely brought with us for our shopping trip (though during our travels we just shoved my suitcase in it so we would only drag around 2 pieces).

After we shower and get dressed, we walk over to the Ueno train station and hop on the train to Akihabara.

Akihabara is a district in the Chiyoda ward in Tokyo. Known as Electric Town, this district has a variety of businesses ranging from electronics, anime and manga stores, to sex shops and cosplay/maid cafes.

The first thing we do is go to a Sega Arcade and walk around to play some games. The arcade is on 6 different floor with a variety of games and a smoking area. Now, this might not seem too interesting but there is a huge difference between the arcades in North American vs the arcades that are in Japan. Here’s a trailer for a documentary about the Japanese arcade experience:

After we spend about $15 and walk around the building, we leave to find some sex shops. One of the main reasons was due to this text message I received from a friend of mine before we left Edmonton.

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he's listed as "Switchblade Mike" in my contacts (it's a very long story).

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he’s listed as “Switchblade Mike” in my contacts (it’s a very long story).

I’ve been told that you haven’t seen a messed up sex shop until you go to Japan, and some of them are frightening and disgusting. Before we left for Japan, Jason tells me about this porn we should get Mike to regret his request (I will save the details of what this porn is, as it is literally terrifying) and I’m horrified but onboard. We were not entirely sure it would be legal to bring back (and it’s pretty obscure so we couldn’t find much information about it on the internet [well Jason couldn’t, I was too scared to look it up due to what it was]) but we decided to chance it and buy it for him anyway.

The first store that we hit up is called M’s, which call themselves a Pop Life Department store. It has 7 different floors and sells anything from blowup dolls, cosplay costumes, to a variety of sex toys.

We go to all 7 floors, but I noticed that there wasn’t really much there that was different than the sex stores back home (except for the blowup dolls that were kinda creepy, and a lot of Lolicon items). Jason tells me there is a particular store we need to go to in order to find Mike’s gift so we keep on shopping in Akihabara.

Noticing the time, we decided to stop for lunch. After walking around trying to decide on what we should eat, we decided to stop at McDonalds so I could try this.

"Ebi Filet-O" -- shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish

“Ebi Filet-O” — shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish that we have in North America.

It was… interesting, to say the least. Though I probably wouldn’t seek out eating another one in my lifetime, but if it was offered to me I necessarily wouldn’t deny it.

We started hitting up department stores to do our shopping. What I found kinda interesting (and somewhat annoying) is that a lot of the department stores broke everything down by brand; you go to this floor to buy Nike, this floor to buy Coach, that floor to buy Burberry. Though it was kinda nice, it was super annoying when you are just looking for a particular item by any company.

After going to a discount store to buy alcohol, beverages and snacks that we wanted to bring back to Edmonton, we return to our hotel to drop off the goods (4 bottles of sake, some plum wine, shochu, chu-hi, Royal Milk Tea, etc), quickly pick up some items in an Ueno department store, and take the train back to Akihabara to continue our shopping.

For the amount of time that we spent shopping, we sure didn’t buy too much. Shopping in Akihabara is a spectacle in itself and you can’t help to just window shop due to all the cool/cute/weird things you can find.

The last store that we go to is another sex shop. Jason tells me that this is the place we are buying Mike’s gift. Entering the store, it didn’t look any different than the other sex shops we went to. As you continue to go up the floors, the contents get more weird and disturbing.

There are 2 floors for DVDs; the first floor we were on was nothing out of the ordinary, so we walk up to the next floor to take a look around.

Contents on the second DVD floor were highly distressing for those who are faint of heart. I walked through the hardcore S&M section (hardcore to the sense it looked like it could have been associated to snuff), scat section, golden shower section, beastiality section and this DVD is nowhere to be found. Walking through another section, I look up and there it was…

… I immediately call Jason over to tell him that I found it while I’m walking out of the aisle, literally gagging ever so slightly in my mouth. I couldn’t handle looking at the DVD cover.

Jason asked if I still wanted to get it for Mike, but all I could think about is how I don’t want to be anywhere near that DVD and that I wanted to leave the store immediately. Yes, I realize that I knew what we were looking for before I found it, but there is a huge difference between knowing and being grossed out vs seeing it and being absolutely mortified. I tell Jason that I need to leave the store, and I wait outside while he buys Mike a gift that wasn’t the DVD.

The worst part of this shopping trip is that Jason tells me what I saw was the “tip of the iceberg” and that there were even more disturbing contents in that store that we purposely bypassed.

Thanks Akihabara porn shop, for ruining the very last of my innocence.

In complete shock, I silently ride the train back to Ueno with Jason so we can drop off our things at the hotel before we go out for dinner. We didn’t realize how late it was (~22:00h) so most of the restaurants were closing. We did find a place open til 03:00h that served ramen and gyozas. After eating a couple giant plates of $2 gyozas and eating a large bowl of ramen, we walk back to the hotel so we can rearrange our luggage and get ready for our trip back to Canada the next day.

Thing I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The sex stores here are weird and horrifying. If you remove my experience walking through that extreme fetish DVD section, it was actually kinda interesting to see the type of items that they sell and the cost difference (so much cheaper in Japan).

2. If they are selling gyoza for $2 and they are delicious, don’t second guess getting another plate; just get it, eat it, and get yet another plate. Repeat until absolutely full. It’s worth it.

3. Due to that mentality with food, I have gained weight traveling in Japan. Initially lost 5lbs in Osaka but somehow gained that back with an additional 5lbs in Tokyo. I blame the crazy awesome Japanese bakeries, the surprisingly good fried chicken at convenience stores, and just the overall awesome food in Japan.

4. I do really prefer Osaka to Tokyo. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time wandering Tokyo to fall in love with the place, but I feel there are way too many people there for my liking. That, and if I decide “Hey, I want Kobe Beef in Kobe”, it’s less than 30 minutes via Shinkansen from Osaka and about 3 hours via Shinkansen from Tokyo.

5. You don’t see any drunk Japanese business men, or homeless people until after 21:00h.

6. The homeless people here are very interesting; they don’t beg for food or money, and if they want to steal a cigarette butt from an ashtray they wait until there is no one smoking in the designated smoking area. They will also stop looting the ashtray when someone gets to the designated smoking area and wait until they leave to proceed.

7. Pick and choose what you are going to shop for in Japan. Most designer and named brand items are more expensive in Japan (re: clothing, accessories); however, we were able to pick up a camera tripod and new lens for our DSLR at a lesser rate.

8. I’m too fat to buy clothes in Japan; which is okay by me because I think anyone who’s not from Japan is too fat to buy clothes in Japan.

Next Blog Post: Coming Home


Jason and I have been waking up pretty early on our trip to Japan thus far; we were up again at 06:30h and got ready for our day trip to Kyoto.

When we were about to leave the hotel, it was pouring rain. I suggested that we should wait 30-60 minutes to see if the rain stops but Jason was quite insistent that we just hail a cab to the Shinsaibashi train station. I pop into the convenient store next door to our hotel and buy 2 umbrellas at 500 yen a piece. Jason was able to hail us a cab and we were on our way to Shinsaibashi station.

… but of course after we get into the cab, literally 30 seconds later it stops raining.

From Shinsaibashi station, we hop onto the train and head towards the Shin-Osaka station to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto. We booked our tickets on the Tokaido line for the next available train to Kyoto and we are on our way. The trip itself was pretty quick, as it only took us maybe 20 minutes to get from Shin-Osaka station to the Kyoto station. From there we start walking to our destination: Kiyomizu-dera.

Looking back at this now, it was a very poor idea. The walk itself is about 45 minutes from Kyoto station, and the weather was atrocious (and by atrocious, I mean sunny with a temperature of 30 degrees and insane humidity). We stop by a couple stores and Jason found a place where they make chef knives from Japanese steel. We make a mental note of it and continue on our way. By the time we reach the Kyoto National Museum (about 25 minutes away walking from Kyoto station), I start to develop starting stages of sun stroke and become very irritable. We hail a cab to take us the rest of the way.

Traffic was terrible but our cab driver dropped us off as close as she could without racking up our fare for the cab. We thanked her profusely for her consideration. We take a small break in Chawan-zaka (shopping area) so I can grab a drink of water and sit in the shade for a bit, and then we start walking over to Kiyomizu-dera.

Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane), Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple that contains a variety of shrines, and is considered to be one of Japan’s National Treasures.  It was founded in 778 and was built without using a single nail. Though many people may not have heard of it, I’m sure people have seen pictures of the Main Hall and Deva Gate.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall that I’ve seen.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Kiyomizu-dera is quite impressive. There is the Tainai-meguri; I’ve never heard of it before that day and even looking for information about it, there doesn’t appear to be much. When you arrive, you are asked to take off your shoes and provide a donation of 100 yen. From there, they lead you to a dark staircase and tell you to follow the wooden handrail throughout the course of your visit. It made me somewhat uneasy, as it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything in front or behind you. What this is supposed to symbolize is blindly entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu (mother of Buddha). You eventually get to an area where there is a thick round stone the size of a pizza pan with “womb” written in Sanskrit under a small light. They say that Daizuigui Bosatsu could grant wishes, so you are to turn the stone and make a wish. The experience was somewhat frightening (just because you’re literally walking around in pitch black, grasping at this handrail to lead you to your destination) but it was also quite humbling. If you’re not afraid of the dark or claustrophobic, I would recommend checking it out.

After seeing a variety of shrines and the “Love Stone”, I start to feel lightheaded again so we stop for lunch. Again, we eat cold soba. Why? Because we can and it’s fucking delicious!


Beside the restaurant that we stopped at was the Otowa-no-taki; it’s a waterfall of “sacred water” that has 3 channels of water leading to it. They say that those who drink from the waterfall are blessed with longevity, health and success.

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

We walk around for another hour and leave to buy Jason’s chef’s knife. When we initially planned our trip to Japan, we talked about buying a new knife for our kitchen that was handcrafted, and made from Japanese steel. We head back to the knife shop where Jason peruses the knives (while I suffer from full on symptoms of sun stroke). The woman who owned the shop was very friendly and ensured that we were taken care of (not only did she help Jason out, but she provided me a chair to sit on while he was shopping and 2 origami cranes because I looked just terrible). Jason purchases a knife and a wet stone, and asks if he was able to get a picture of her for our trip. She bashfully agrees, fixes her hair and poses in a photo with Jason.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

She looked at me concerned before we left the store, and Jason tells her that I’m ill due to too much sun. She looks at me thoughtfully for a second and then provides me with another gift; a handmade fan to help me with the heat.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

We take refuge at a McDonald’s so I can have some fluids and get out of the evil sunlight, and we start ranting about how delicious soba is. One thing leads to another and the moment that I felt well enough to meander in Kyoto, we hail a cab and head towards Shijo Street, where Jason knows of a good soba house.

Well, we couldn’t find it but we ended up eating delicious katsu. Realizing we are well beyond walking distance from the Kyoto train station, we hail yet another cab and make our way back to Osaka from the train station.

I think we both had way too much sun that day, because we were both in bed and passed out before 8:00pm Osaka time.

Things I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The JR Rail Pass is a definite must for Japan. We purchased a 14 day pass for about $450 CAD each before we left (you have to purchase it before your trip and have it mailed to you, as it’s only available to foreigners), and I first initially thought that we wouldn’t really get our money’s worth from it.

… oh how wrong I was.

Considering all the day trips that we’ve been taking, and that we are going from Tokyo -> Osaka -> Hiroshima -> Beppu -> Tokyo, it was well worth it. The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka alone is over $150 CAD. We are still paying for local transit (aka train rides in the city where the JR Lines don’t go) but $2.50 CAD to take a transit in Osaka is nothing. Also, always book the Shinkansen over the JR lines; it might say “JR SuperExpress” but it will take longer to get to your destination over the Shinkansen lines (didn’t learn this by doing, look at the timetables and you’ll see the difference).

2. I have eaten cold soba more than I would like to admit on this trip.

3. I really really REALLY hate the heat and humidity on this trip. Every day I’m caked in sweat and my clothes feel heavier than they should be. I have never experienced “swass” before but I’m telling you, it has been quite the swassy trip. If I end up losing any weight, it’s not because I’ve been eating healthy and Japan bans GMO’s; it’s because I sweated away all my pounds.

4. Favorite drink is currently either the Cafe Latte by Boss or UCC, or the Royal Milk Tea. Every time I see a vending machine, I’m eyeing that bitch like a meth addict looking for their next fix.

5. Sun stroke is not a fun time in Japan; was hoping to hit up a couple more sites in Kyoto but we both thought it was for the best if we just took it very easy.

… thanks, sun stroke. You jerk.

Next blog post: Day trip to Himeji Castle.