Adventures in Japan Pt. VI
Today we woke up around 10-ish and headed out toward Akihabara Station. Our friend came to meet up with us at the usual spot. By the time he got there it was around noon and we haven’t eaten anything yet. We decided to get a little bit of conveyer belt sushi before heading out. The sushi joint was close by and very small but there were a few people inside. We didn’t want to splurge here or waste too much time so we were in and out in 45 minutes tops. Then we proceeded to go to our destination by Tokyo Bay. I want to see the giant Gundam Statue at Diver City. On the way, our friend explained that there are 3 subway systems in Tokyo. One is privately operated, and the other 2 are government operated. The government operated systems look nicer and have escalators practically at every stop. The private ran system looks more old and worn. It’s evident which receives more funding.
The train system we got on was built by the Tokyo Government for the specific purpose of tourism. It gave a very nice overview of Tokyo as well as the waterfront. The train moved really fast so I couldn’t get very nice shots of the city which was a bummer. The old Tokyo Tower was visible for a certain stretch of the ride but it was far away, a bit too far for me to capture on camera. Before coming to Tokyo, I had always thought that the Tokyo Tower was the one symbol that represented the city, but that was also before knowing about the Tokyo Skytree. I guess what I want to say here is that it was a bummer that I couldn’t go see the Tokyo Tower up close and take pictures. Once we arrived at our destination, we hoped off and immediately began looking for the Giant Gundam statue. The station in which we got off was Daiba Station in the Minato Ward. This area and ward is known as a tourist attraction and a business district. Not far from the station is the building that houses the Fuji Television Station. The building has a very unique design and is probably very well known by architecture aficionados. Towards the harbor was a very scenic view of some park and the Rainbow Bridge. There is even a miniature Statue of Liberty. From a distance the scenery slightly resembles New York City.
After snapping a few pictures there, we headed back inland, off to find the Gundam Statue. We took a wrong turn and walked through Diver City Mall, but there was no Gundam Statue sight. We took a big detour around the entire mall and finally there it was, the Giant Gundam Statue that I had wanted to see so badly. It was like a dream come true. The official name of the statue and the accompanying exhibits inside is called Gundam Front Tokyo. The Statue is the main attraction outside, many people walk around it and snap pictures. Inside Diver City Mall on the 7th floor is a small medium sized museum-esque attraction. Towards the front of the attraction is a glass case exhibit on all of the previous and current Gundam Models. They are referenced as Gunpla in Japan. I’m not gonna go into details about the Gundam franchise but basically some guy. (renowned animator by the name of Yoshiyuki Tomino) created the concept of a sci-fi military universe where Gundams (Giant robots piloted by people) are the weapons of choice by different factions. Subsequently, plastic models based on the units in the series were made and the rest is history. From the first models from 1979 to the most current models, I can dare say all of the plastic models were on display in the cases. Being a rabid Gundam fan, I was almost drooling with delight. I took some pictures on my favorite models and moved on. The next part of the attraction featured a dome like room with multiple projectors and they showed a short 3D movie inside. It was loud as all hell when it started. But basically it’s about 2 transformable Gundam units sortieing out and sparing. It was pretty intense for a short movie that only true Gundam fans would appreciate. Outside of that attraction was a dark hall that had a life sized statue of a Core Fighter, the bust of Freedom Gundam which you could climb up to the cockpit and have your picture taken, a timeline of all of the Gundam series on the wall, and a interactive table that lets you explore all of the characters in the Gundam meta verse as well as all of the mech. Outside of the this main area, is a smaller area which features a small exhibit on how Gundam models are made. They use plastic injection molding and let you touch the small plastic pellets that are used for the plastic. There is a mold machine there too but it operates at random times. Next door is a small classroom like area which the attendants give you a box and let you decorate it. Afterwards, they give you a small plastic model kit as a souvenir if you bought tickets for the attraction. Further down the hall is a exhibit of Gundam Video Games over the years and on different platforms. Some of the older game consoles were on displays too and I took hella pictures of that. Towards the exit of the exhibits was the gift shop. Countless model kits and other souvenirs were there for purchase and I was very tempted to purchase some of the exclusives but I had fallen sucker to such marketing tactics before. I should have at least gotten a T-shirt but I thought, no need to buy anything here cuz I had already gotten the souvenir kit from earlier, and besides, the prices here were a bit more expensive that what I would have gotten at Akihabara, despite some of the items being Gundam Front Tokyo exclusives. After walking out of the attraction, we were pooped and grabbed a bite at McDonalds. We stayed there for about 50 minutes to rest up before proceeding to our next destination.
The next place we went to was a factory outlet mall called Venus Fort in a neighboring ward in Koto, Aomi. Much like the factory outlets in America, this place had many of the same stores that would be found there with the exception of some local brands and local food joints. It was also completely indoors and had a very nice interior décor. It felt like you were wandering in small town made of stone.
We walked around looking for a place to buy a luggage case. Since we have 2 more days in Japan and the next day would be dedicated towards purchasing stuff to take home, we needed additional carrying capacity for more stuff. Eventually we found an out let store that sold luggage items and bags. I found a suitcase that I thought would be big enough for our needs and proceeded to explore the rest of the outlet mall. Next up we went to a Nike factory outlet. I bought a Nike x Tokyo T-shirt and a Jordan tank top. Afterwards we went back to the luggage store because we realized that the luggage case we bought was too big and the airline would fine us a ridiculous amount so I had to exchange the luggage case for a slightly smaller one. By this time we were starving and wanted to eat but didn’t want to carry the case with us. The sales people at the luggage store were nice enough to let us stow our stuff there while we ate. We found a restaurant in the outlet mall and ordered 2 types of noodle dishes and Japanese pancakes. Needless to say we were stuffed after dinner. We talked over dinner and our friend said he would not be able to hangout with us the following day due to classes. We thanked him for his hospitality and for showing us around but most importantly for taking his time to hang out with us. We grabbed the luggage case after dinner and headed home. Tonight we probably stayed out the latest out of any other day in Tokyo and we got to witness first hand how hectic the nightly rush hour after work was.
It was pretty hot in Tokyo and all my clothes were sticking to my body due to the sweat. The large number of people getting on and off the trains did help. At one stretch of the trip, someone had hit the emergency stop and the train sat idly by for about 20 minutes. We joked and said either someone had seen a ghost on the tracks or someone and jumped. As horrible as it sounds, it might have been plausible in retrospect. Due to the certain factors in Japanese culture, many Japanese people actually experience an unfathomable amount of stress and some people commit suicide by jumping in front of trains. We only hoped that this wasn’t the case this time. After what seems like an eternity on the train, we finally got to Akihabara Station. We said good-bye to our friend and went our separate ways. Hopefully it wont be another few years before we see this guy again. On the way back to the hostel, I suggested to my cousin that we try some crepes. We bout one each near the small shop near the train station and walked back to the hostel. I had my backpack on and the crepe in my right hand, and pushed the luggage case with my left. By the time I got back to the hostel, my back was drenched with sweat. My legs were lead weights and I was much relieved as I crawled back into my capsule.
And that concluded day 6 in Japan.