Being the jaded cynic that I am, I didn't expect to take much away from a recent business trip to Japan. With only 5 days, 3.5 of which were booked solid with meetings, I suspected I'd mostly be seeing conference rooms. My plane returned Saturday @ 5, leaving me with a few morning hours to explore, plus what I could steal between meetings. Though not what I was expecting (Blade Runner, but flashier), and even with the extremely limited time, I was blown away. The scale, the people, the food, and the sightseeing all impressed me.The view from my hotel was great: it overlooked the busy square at the heart of Shibuya with throngs of people crossing at any time. A quick walk the first night confirmed the chaos. Even on a Monday night @ 9:30pm, the area was packed with throngs of teenagers eating, drinking, and having a good time.The next day I got a glimpse of Mt. Fuji during a ride to Osaka on the Shinkansen. Fast, comfortable, and all we might ever wish for from the attempts here in CA. After a number of very productive meetings over the next few days, I finally got my freedom 11am Friday. First stop: Akihabara.It's like Fry's, only bigger. OK, multiple city blocks bigger. I checked out a couple of the larger stores, but saw nothing of interest. It was just an electronics store really. It was in the smaller alleys that I found
this guy's stand. an 800 foot long arcade packed with people
this guy's stand.Nothing but resistors and power cords and somehow he makes a living. Perhaps if he was the only one, I could understand it, but with 10 guys competing in less than a 100 yard radius, I have no idea how they do it. With hundreds of little shops selling very specialized stuff (used oscilloscope parts in one it looked like), the Tokyoites must really like their geek components.A quick stop for lunch proved interesting. With a line out the door, at the least I figured it wouldn't kill me. They even had pictures of the food! So, armed with the # of the item I wanted, I walked inside... and saw people handing tickets... that they bought from a machine... that had no pictures. Hrm. Luckily, my chosen item was 420yen. Check the ticket machine for 420yen items--only 1! Bought my ticket and 10 seconds later had my Udon noodles with a tempura cake on top. Yum!With a full and happy stomach, I subwayed over to Asakusa. Home to a 1063 year old gate (built in 1950) housing a giant lantern, it's apparently a very popular tourist attraction with hundreds of people snapping away on their camera phones. Behind the gate,
an 800 foot long arcade packed with peopleleads to the Sensōji temple. Any and all tourist crap is available here--somehow I avoided buying anything. A brief walk around the surprisingly small public parts of Sensōji and I was ready to move on. Looking at my trusty map ( available from Amazon and STRONGLY recommended for anyone going to Tokyo), I noticed that Kappabashi-dori was just a few blocks to the West.
Selling restaurant/kitchen supplies and the finest plastic food, it's a really shockingly fun place to walk around. I even managed to find something to buy: small foil cups (for truffles) and cookie cutters! Bad souvenirs, but much needed supplies. As I was working my way over to Kappabashi, I happened to walk right by "Rokku Broadway,"
a strip of theaters along a broad pedestrian street. A play was just letting out and I noticed that the actors shaking hands and taking pictures with people in the crowd, so I joined in. Dinner with my Japanese work hosts (involving much subway confusion--a topic for another post) closed off a great day.