Japan Trip Day 6 – Ikebukuro
Today’s destination is Ikebukuro. The only place we were able to visit is Sunshine 60, but I think that was enough. There is definitely enough things to do at Sunshine 60 to fill a day, and that’s exactly what we did.
The main attraction of Ikebukuro, the giant shopping center, Sunshine 60. It is one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, with an observatory to view the city from. The whole complex is 60-stories high (hence the name), but only the first three + the observatory are open to public. Like most shopping malls, it has numerous clothing stores, coupled with a few novelty stores that sells random items (like Brookstones). We didn’t spend too much time browsing and shopping, since we can do that at any other department stores. But it wouldn’t be very exciting if that’s all Sunshine 60 is about. Sunshine 60 also has a museum, aquarium, planetarium, and so forth. It also has Namco Namja Town, which is an indoor amusement park, but the main theme is food. I was told that Sunshine 60 was a must-visit, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Observatory – Cosplay
One aspect of Akihabara that disappointed me was the lack of cosplayers on the streets. Sure, there are maids and a few other cosplayers, but almost all of them are criers advertising for a maid cafe or other businesses. That’s why our eyes immediately lit up when we saw that there is a cosplay event going on at the observatory. The entrance fee was 1000 yen, but it was worth every penny (or yen). At first, we were worried that they wouldn’t allow non-cosplayers to enter, but no one stopped us. Almost everyone we saw is either a cosplayer or photographer, so I felt out of place, but at the same time, excited. There are costumes for rent, but none of us wanted to actually cosplay. From what I can see, there are two major types of cosplayers. The casual type that didn’t seem to have put much thought into their costume, and just wanted to hang out with friends. They would travel in groups and take pictures of each other. The other type are what I would call professional cosplayers. Sometimes they travel in groups, but sometimes they are there alone. Sometimes there would be photographers that hang around them for extended periods of time. They would try their best to stay in character, especially when photographed. When no one is there to take photos, they would sit back, wait, and maybe take the time to apply some additional make-up or fix their costumes.
It was a very unique experience, and it was something we all wanted to see at least once during our trip. I only had a camera phone on me so I was embarassed to ask anyone to pose for me. This is the only time during the entire trip that I wished I brought a real camera with me.
Namco Namja Town
Our next stop was Namja Town. Normally, I’d be very excited about going to a food amusement park, but we picked a bad time to go. We had a really big lunch (look below for more detail), and food was really the last thing I wanted to think about at the time, but we just had to check it out. There was an 300 yen entrance fee, but we’ve already gotten used to paying to do anything in Japan. There are several different types of food to try in Namja Town, but two major “attractions” are gyoza street and ice cream town.
Aside from all the food, there are also a few other things to do, but mostly for kids. While we were there, we saw several kids running around with a gadget in their hands. Apparently it’s a device that tells them where to go, and at each stop, they need to perform a certain task (e.g. solve puzzles). I kind of wanted to try that, but I know I wouldn’t get anywhere since my Japanese is too crappy.
Food – Vie de France Bakery
A fairly standard bakery just outside of Yodobashi-Akiba. Nothing special, but I had to eat something for breakfast. 3/5
Food – Jirou Ramen
The most unique ramen I had in Japan by far. You can tell by the picture that it’s a monster in a bowl. The whole bowl is filled with bean sprouts, noodles, garlic, pork, and oil. I have never seen a ramen store as generous as they are. There are ramen shops that give you a lot of noodle, but Jirou Ramen gives lots of pork too. The flavor is quite good too. Although I wouldn’t say it’s the best ramen I ever had, it is great considering what you get for the price. By the way, what I ordered was a regular, you can pay more for a large. I’m sure Americans who have big appetites can appreciate that. There are also options to get extra pork, egg, etc. It’s a must-try if ever in the area. I think they expanded and there is more than one location. Be sure to go early though, the line builds up fast. 4/5
Food – Strange Ice Cream
Out of the various weird ice cream flavors in Namja Town, I chose Garlic. Well, garlic mint to be exact. There is a straight-up garlic flavor, but I didn’t have the courage to try that. The ice cream wasn’t as disgusting as I thought it would be. It was mostly minty, with a hint of garlic. It’s not bad, but just strange. I think the straight-up garlic flavor wouldn’t be as pleasant though. As a side note, my friend tried Shark Fin Soup Ice Cream… I had a little bit, and calling it disgusting is an understatement.
Food – Yakitori
One of the few true yakitori places we went during our trip, and it was excellent. The food wasn’t spectacular, but the service was good. The waitress and cooks don’t know how to speak any English, but they were really friendly. What I liked the most is the atmosphere. There were only a couple of other customers, and they look to be businessmen that just got off work. It’s just like what you would see in a Japanese drama or movie. One reason that I didn’t want to go with a tour guide is so that I can observe the life of normal Japanese people. Lastly – I know this is off-topic, but I have to say – the waitress there is very cute. 4/5