Today is our one day off in the study tour so ofcourse we decided to head out to Akihabara, a.k.a. electric town. Next to the station is the Laox, a Media Markt kind of store but with more variety. We thought the store would be bigger thanks to the description in the Lonely Planet (note: I found out later that they were remodeling the store so parts of it were hidden with walls). Next to the Laox was an anime store with loads of anime and manga, but ofcourse with everything in Japanese – sigh.
After the Laox we entered a random arcade and we played some games. Even though the arcade wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t as extreme as I’d hoped. I heard from others that there should be bigger arcades around but we couldn’t find them. So after a number of race laps and whacking a monkey we followed the road away from the station.
Because lunch time had passed without us being able to find some place to eat, we decided to drop off the main street in Akiba and just try the block behind the crowds. Luckily for us, we found a large modern style building filled with small Japanese restaurants. So Roel, Jorge and me split up with the others that came to Akiba and went for the American Diner where nobody spoke a word English (why am I still expecting so much).
The food was not cheap but very good. We saw outside a mockup of a caesar salad which had a sign saying 720 yen for small and 900 yen for large. As Roel and me were hungry we ordered the large one. The girl who was serving us asked if we meant one large for the both of us. So we explained we wanted each our own large salad. She looked as us as we were nuts but wrote it down anyway. By the time the salad arrived it became obvious why: it was huge. I don’t think I have to explain that we had no problem making it disappear.
After the lunch we walked around for a bit and then we decided to check out the Harajuku girls. These are mostly girls that do cos-play in an attempt to stand out in the society (or rather protest against society by dressing up – whatever, I get to see nurse outfits!). In Japan their costumes might be considered extreme but compared to gothic styles in the Netherlands its not so shocking, rather just cool to see. Unfortunately, when we arrived it was late in the afternoon on a very windy and cold Sunday making it not the best opportunity to see them. The girls ignore all the tourists that make pictures of them but I was disappointed to see that they even a lack a sense of humor: on the bridge some guy was standing with a sign saying "Free Hugs" so Jorge drew his own "Free Hugs" sign and stood next to the girls and even though some saw him, they utterly ignored him. Too bad as we thought it was pretty damn funny.
After a while we decided we saw as much as there’s to see on the Jingu-bashi (the bridge between Meji-Jingu and Omote-Sando) and we decided to move. The people I went with all wanted to check out the "best" onsen in Tokyo but I wanted to find the hotel I would be staying at after the study tour.
So after we split up, I asked a station guard where I should go and he told me to take the JR rail line down the street rather than the subway as it would lead me straight to Shinagawa station. Sixteen minutes later I strolled towards the exit of Shinagawa station and I was greeted by signs telling me there were 2 exits: east and west. As far as I could remember I was supposed to take the south exit but as it didn’t seem to exist, I decided to just take a right and see where I would end up. As the stations in Tokyo are quite large it took me a while to actually leave the station and when I got outside I was greeted by skyscrapers all around – so much for just heading towards the biggest building around. When I walked into a random direction I received a flyer from a girl for some local steakhouse and I decided to ask her where I could find the Prince Hotel. She immediately pointed towards a large building that had just became visible and clearly displayed the name of the hotel, the only thing was that it seemed to be on the other side of the station. So I thanked her and walked the whole damn way back and this time took the exit which was way shorter than the other one.
After a small detour I walked through the main entrance of the hotel. I first found the Guest Service and they told me where I could find the Luggage Service. Here I was told I could bring my luggage to store if I would be a guest, even for a few days if I wanted. After getting some flyers I thanked the staff (who spoke English for a change) and went towards the top floor to the Top of Shinigawa, a luxurious bar with a view. Once I got there I saw a sign telling me only VIPs were allowed that evening so I went back to the second floor for a cappuccino at the bar. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either and for 730 yen I was expecting a bit more. The view on the other hand was fine. After I paid I went back to Jimbocho and the freaking hostel thinking of the time I would spend at the Prince Hotel if I would manage to survive another week there.