Playing with the sand at the side of the road

Japan 2017 Redux: Day 1 "NEVER TRY CRANE GAMES AGAIN"

Day 1: 2017-04-28 Friday

Fresh off the plane from Helsinki, suddenly we’re in Tokyo. Or more accurately, we’re in Narita. It’s one of those airports that is nowhere near the city it mostly serves. According to Google, it’s a cool 66km to Tokyo from there.

You’ll be happy to hear though, that “London” Southend Airport just about has it beat, at 68km.

Sorting out Internet access

Pick up Wi-Fi router from Post Office (3F T2 International Departures)

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The first order of business was to pick up a portable Wi-Fi router from the Post Office. I’d used CDJapan at the time, but there are plenty of operators out there. At the time, this cost me ¥4340 for 10 days at standard speeds.

I think if you have a phone with a second SIM slot, getting an actual SIM card might be a preferable option rather than having to carry around a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. Other than potentially being pricier and more difficult to obtain, US and European mobile phones are sometimes tailored to the mobile signal bands most prevalent in those areas, which aren’t the same bands available in Japan. This can mean potentially slower speeds than a locally procured hotspot, but check your own phone.

These days, E-sims might also be an option if your phone can indeed use frequency bands available in Japan.

Getting out of the airport

Buy Narita Express Round Trip ticket JR East Travel Service Centre

2017-04-28 Narita Express 12 10:18 - 11:48 Narita T2 - Ikebukuro

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There are other, cheaper ways to get into Tokyo other than the Narita Express, but it is the most hassle-free way.

It’s especially useful if you happen to be travelling to a destination on the line past Tokyo station, as the N’EX Round Trip ticket has a flat fare for all destinations while the full price tickets get more expensive the further the distance.

As mentioned, the JR East Travel Service Centre at the airport is able to sell these tickets with reservations, which are required.

The Japan Rail Pass is accepted on these trains (with a reservation also being required), but I wasn’t using that ticket this time. The queue to redeem Rail Pass “exchange orders” at the airport was so long I think it would have added an extra hour or more to my journey anyway. Make sure to factor this time in!

I’m on the Narita Express heading straight to Ikebukuro. The train looks like a concept car style train but from the early 90s.

My train to Ikebukuro was incredibly empty, and each seat has enough space to hold my large suitcase with plenty of legroom to spare.

Going through proper countryside on the train to Ikebukuro. Rice paddies everywhere.

The rural cyclists have a real ‘I don’t give a fuck’ grace about them.

My notebook

Rice paddies from the train to Tokyo
I didn't think there were rice paddy fields this close to Tokyo

Having just come half way around the world, I was a little dismayed to see the news on the train.

Even the TV screens on the train are running news about Brexit…

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I was staying near Ikebukuro, but had most of the afternoon to go out and play, and reading back on it I’m amazed I had the energy to do everything I did after travelling for hours on end.

Coin lockers are easy and good. The one in Ikebukuro even seemed to do multiple days.

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Having arrived at the station with a giant suitcase, I was able to put the whole lot in a coin locker at the station and forget about it for the rest of the day, and for only ¥600. It’s one of those things that Japan just gets right, and it makes you wonder why the rest of the world can’t do this really simple thing well. Left luggage at King’s Cross station probably would have cost around 7-8 times more.

Well I’ve got my ticket for the Kemono Friends cafe. Let’s hope the 49 here is minutes rather than hours

First order of business was checking out the limited-time Kemono Friends cafe, which just happened to be in the area, and just happened to be on while I was there. Honestly! After taking a ticket and scanning the code, the provided URL gave me a rough time to come back at, negating the need to waste time queueing up.

Kemono Friends Cafe

(From Sat 29th, selling clear files)

(Opening Hours: 11: 00-21: 00 Hood LO 20: 15 Drink LO 20: 30)

Ikebukuro PARCO 池袋PARCO B2F,139.7122454,20.69z

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Real life Japari buns
Real life Japari buns

Red bean japariman are much better than curry.

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There’s also a Pokemon Centre in Ikebukuro which was very big and very cool, though past me must have been a little jaded, calling it “obviously just a big old shop.”

Pokemon Centre,139.7190318,19.51z

Open 10AM - 8PM

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I couldn’t wait to hop over to Akihabara, even despite this being my first day. It’s one of those places that feels unreal initially—there are huge billboards, superstores, and street criers for this normally niche interest. I lost count of the number of literaly double takes I did at, well, everything.

Kanda Myojin shrine & steps,139.7683999,21z

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Yeah, I went to that shrine. No, not the war criminal one, the other one. The one that’s featured in all the anime.

The steps to Kanda Myojin shrine, perfect for some early morning exercise
The steps to Kanda Myojin shrine, perfect for some early morning exercise

The passers by probably thought I was crazy for taking a picture of some steps, but scoping out settings from various media properties and then visiting them in person is a legitimate tourist activity now. Right?

A staple of Akiba are the arcades, and I made sure to try to get to a couple of them.

Taito Game Centre,139.7710991,17.94z

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Tried Magical Pop’n at Taito.

It’s really fun, but hard without having ever practiced on it before.

Felt better after only 3 plays, but most of the beats were on melodies, so song knowledge really is required.

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I really made the most of the arcade rhythm game availability today. There’s a place in Angel in London called Vega that has a basement full of rhythm games that I hope can weather out the pandemic, as the next nearest place to play these machines really does feel like Akihabara.

Club Sega is cool.

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I’m really sorry to report that this particular branch of Club Sega closed in August 2020.

The thing I was really excited to try at Club Sega was the Love Live! School Idol Festival After School Activity arcade rhythm game, with it’s button configuration mimicking the mobile phone game’s semicircular controls. It had also just recently came to arcades, so the initial hype was still strong.

Queueing to play the new Love Live! arcade game
Queueing to play the new Love Live! arcade game

LLSIF ASA is nice. Massive queue for it. They even seem to have a printer gacha. Literally printing money.

The beatmaps are unfortunately much different, and hard to see (though there is a setting to dim the background) so I did pretty badly. Could easily pour money into this one.

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Yeah, really. A sticker printer that would print out cards of varying rarities. They’d even set up a poverty stand where you could leave your filthy R stickers for the plebs like me to enjoy.


It will not work without the skills.

My notebook

This log entry was clearly written in a fit of passion. I think I’d half-heartedly started trying to get a figure from a UFO catcher before realising my folly. Dedication and not worrying about the monetary costs are essential for this endeavour. What really hurt was that others came and finished the job after I gave it up.

Always gacha responsibly.

Tomorrow we leave Tokyo just as quick as we arrived. Where to? The frozen north…