Tokyo – a million versions of Dixons

So, here we are on the last leg of our adventure! The first thing to hit us in Tokyo is the heat – literally……it’s 41 degrees. The air is thick and its uncomfortable to be in sunlight at all. Thankfully its not as humid as Beijing. The public transport system is all airconditioned – thank God or we would be either dead or marooned in our hotel!!!

The second thing that hits is the newness of everything – from the buildings to the fashion and the technology. Its all “of the moment”.
Lots of under 25’s around looking painfully edgy and super cool, and you get the feeling that there’s loads of money. Tokyo seems to be all about shopping and consumption – local electronics and European fashion.

I was expecting Tokyo to be really expensive – but its not too bad for the day to day stuff – maybe its just that Dublin has caught up.

On our first day we visited the highly fashionable Ginza district, shopped at the much lauded biggest toy shop in Toyko (Smiths is better by far) and took a turn around the Sony building where you see cutting edge electronics and pre- production consumerables – Ciaran and Adam were in their element. We had lunch in a Japanese restaurant specialising in rice dishes in the International Forum, which is a very impressive exhibition centre.

After nightfall we took the train to Shibuya to see one of the famous crossroads by night. The lights, signs and enormous screens were incredible. It was as bright as daylight from the signs and adverts, with thousands of people streaming across 4 and 5 lane intersections. The whole experience was really exciting.

Today (Friday) it was slightly less hot – only 37 degrees! We had learned from yesterday and spent the hottest part of the day in the excellent Edo-Toyko museum. This museum tells the story of Tokyo through models and artifacts….even down to building a replica kabuki theater.
We had a free volunteer guide bring us around the museum. Can you imagine in Ireland free, volunteer guides – no tip, nothing! They do it as a public service.

We then visited the district of Akihabara, which is the electronic retail centre of the whole world (that’s certainly what it felt like to me and my feet after a few millenia had passed as we wandered around a million versions of Dixons). Totally wasted on me, Adam and Ciaran enjoyed it. I kept thinking how much fun my brothers would have here – they could literally get lost here for days. To stop me from comitting hari kari and out of genuine pity for my numbed brain, Ciaran took us off for fish and chips and beer – ah, the sweet sound of western food silting up the arteries!

I do have to admit that at night the whole area was amazing from the perspective of neon lights, frantic flashing lights and electronic noise – a stereotypical Tokyo streetscape.

Intermingled with phones, stereos and every conceivable gadget was some weird stuff. Whole shops devoted to little plastic models of warriors or fantastic beings, stacks of cards of pokemon type stuff and generally cartoon fantasy stuff – aimed at adults. The weirdest stuff though was the porno stuff – very explicit dolls the same size as barbie were everywhere…..mostly dressed up as schoolgirls. This fascination with schoolgirls is pretty difficult to deal with – but it’s everywhere. I’ve seen grown women walking around in school uniform outfits or in little sailor outfits you’d put on a child. It’s all rather uncomfortable. (Ironically, myself and my friends couldn’t wait to bin our uniforms at the end of the leaving cert. No way the good sisters of mercy allowed us to look like anything but great shapeless lumps in our uniforms.)
All I can say is that I have no problem understanding why Japanese women in turn are not demanding their men titilate by dressing up as school boys – men definitely improve with age and good tailoring :)

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