Thursday – April 20, 2017
We had booked our MariCar tour for today at 11. Knowing we wanted to get breakfast before hand, the initial game-plan was to get to Akihabara by 10. But, as is the case most days here, things never go according to plan. We ended up leaving late and not getting to MariCar until 10:50. Cutting it a bit close if you ask me.
We then paid for our “tour”, signed the waiver, got on our costumes -Pete was Mario, Dan wore a Yoshi hat and I didn’t bother- and headed out with four other rando’s to the go karts.
For those who don’t know, MariCar is a company that takes people on 1, 2, or 3 hour tours of Tokyo while driving in formation on go karts. It is supposed to be like the video game Mario Kart and so they have costumes you can put on to dress like the characters.
Pete, myself and Dan (back) driving through Tokyo in go karts
After a super brief tutorial we selected our karts and started the tour. We chose the 2 hour tour which took us over the Rainbow Bridge, to Odiaba (where we stopped for a bit for a photo op), back over the Rainbow bridge, past the Tokyo tower, through Roppongi and then back to the store.
It would be impossible for me to account for all of the things that went on during the drive becuase the two hours flew by and it was all a blur. I will say that driving across the Rainbow Bridge at 70-80kph was definitely the coolest and scariest part.
The on-ramp to the Rainbow Bridge felt like Toad’s Turnpike from Mario Kart 64
Also being amongst downtown traffic, you realize just how small and vulnerable you are. Plus because it is an open air vehicle and you are so low to the ground, 40mph feels like 100mph. The only complaint I have is because you are sitting so low, exhaust fumes go directly into your face. Thus, I’m pretty sure I now have the black lung.
Oh well, totally worth it. This may have been the most fun thing we did the entire trip. We all loved it and it was worth every Yen (it cost 6,000 Yen or ~$55.00).
Hanayashiki Amusement Park
After finishing MariCar we grabbed a bite to eat at Mister Donut, a chain we had been seeing but had yet to stop into. Pete and Dan grabbed a quick bite where as I was going to be eating in. Since we all had different plans, they wanted to spend MORE time in Akihabara (I literally don’t know how that is possible) we once again split up.
Hanayashiki Amusement Park
After finishing my breakfast I headed to Hanayashiki Amusement Park, the oldest amusement park in Japan. There, I was on a mission to ride their roller coaster. It is tiny and barely worthy of note. However, if I’m not mistaken, it is the same roller coaster feature in the film Enter the Void.
Being the movie and roller coaster and movie nerd that I am, I had to ride it. After getting off at the nearby subway station, walking the short distance to the amusement park and figuring out after minor confusion how to get in, I paid the 1000 Yen entry fee.
Once inside I had to buy five tickets (at 100 Yen a piece) in order to ride the roller coaster. I literally rode it, filmed the entire thing, got off, took a few pics of the park and left. One more thing to check off the list.
Next I made my way to the Snoopy Museum which, despite the fact that their hours are 10:00 – 20:00 seven days a week*, was closed when I got there. For whatever reason I am having shit luck with museums on this vacation.
However, to be honest, because I knew I had other things to do with my day, I didn’t really mind. In the distance I could see the Tokyo Tower and since I had yet to get a close look at it, I decided to start making my way there.
*I should know, I’m the reason their hours are posted on Google. I checked the website, submitted them to Google Maps and they were approved by Google. I even have the emails to prove it.
However, along the way I got side tracked by a familiar site. Down some side street, off the main road I was using to head to the Tokyo Tower, I caught a glimpse of a temple I had put on my list to check out. Thus, I made my way over to it.
The Reiyuka Shakaden is a Buddhist temple/community space that is open to everyone from 6 to 17:00. I arrived a little after 16:00 and thus decided to head in. Apart from a police security guard and a few janitors, there was no one out side the place.
I slowly made my way up the ominous stairs and, at the top, pulled on one of the giant doors. It opened and I entered like the fellowship of the ring entering the doors of Durin. When I stepped inside there was no one there either.
I was in a lobby and so I made my way through a second set of doors into the main hall. I was floored by what I saw there. The hall was massive and beautiful. Again it was filled with no one but me and the 204 empty benches. It was absolutely silent.
I walked as lightly as I could trying not to disturb the silence. After walking to the front of the rows of benches I made my way back to the back and took a seat in the last row. I closed my eyes and reflected on the trip the far and the trip (what little left there was) to come.
After a few minutes of peace, I exited the main hall and then walked around the rest of the facility before heading to the Tokyo Tower. I was a truly excellent experience.
By the way, before stopping at the temple, I knew I was near the Hard Rock Cafe so I made a little side trip to grab a pic of the temple before heading on my way.
The Tokyo Tower was a short walk from the temple. To be honest, I really just wanted to see it up close and get a few unobstructed pictures of it. I had read that the top observation section was closed which, to be honest was fine with me. After doing the Skytree I was basically done with observation towers, simply because they are all the same.
I did however pop into the gift shop which was multiple levels and filled with restaurants as well. I found a bench and plotted my route to the nearest subway which would take me to Ikebukero. I then left and walked to said subway station.
I made it to Ikebukero a little before 18:00. I had three main goals here. The first was to find Tokyu Hands because it is a store featured in Durarara, an anime I enjoy. The second was to find more locations from Durarara and the third was to go to the Kit Kat store as Kit Kat is known for having Japan only flavors.
After a bit of walking around aimlessly, I made my way to Tokyu Hands. This muilti-level department store has literally everything. Each floor is a different “topic” and it is stacked wall to wall with a little something to everyone.
I gravitated to the stationary section where I found a beautiful little Field Notes sized notebook. Despite not needing it, I decided to buy it. Made by a Japanese company called Delfonics, what drew me to the notebook was they livery.
There were several colors to choose from but this one was yellow with deep blue typography on it. In addition the logo and the typeface that had been chosen -Helvetica- reminded me of the airline Lufthansa. To top it of there were some words and phrases on the front that were in German so it just added to the the feel of Lufthansa.
Kit Kat Chocolatory
After getting the notebook I made my way to stop number two, the Kit Kat Chocolatory. Despite what appeared to be straight forward directions on Google maps, I was having a tough time figuring out where to go. Eventually, after a bunch of walking around and digging a bit deeper I found the Kit Kat place.
Rather than being a store, it was more of a kiosk. Slightly disappointed, I grabbed a variety pack to bring back as a shareable souvenir.
Though I wanted to try and find sights from DRR, I had done no prior research on the matter and my feet were simply too tired. Thus I decided to head back to the room to rest for a bit and do a some blogging.
Once Pete was back, we headed out to Roppongi to try Brewdog Roppongi, a bar I had found on Google maps while researching the trip. After a few stupid subway screw ups we made it to the bar. I had no idea how Westernized it would be. When we enter we were greeted in perfect English by a young woman whom we later found out was American.
Most of the patrons were caucasian and spoke english. All of the waiters, though not all Amercian spoke English. The bar was rad and felt like it had been transplanted from Central Square in Cambridge or from Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
The music was great too. They played Do I Want to Know by Arctic Monkeys, followed by either I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself or I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends (I forget which) by The White Stripes, followed by Supermassive Black Hole by Muse.
I ordered a Chili IPA, and a kabab. Pete got a burger, typical, and a curry chicken app which we split. The food was great and we ended up finishing up around 23:30. I headed back to the room afterwards because I was so tired from the day. Pete wanted to stay out longer, so he did.