Tokyo is the largest metropolis in the world; when the whole Greater Tokyo Area is taken into account, it has a population of over 38 mil.—bigger than all of Canada. At the center of it all, downtown Tokyo has grown into a bustling maze of skyscrapers; train tracks; crowded streets and walkways; neon lights; and more shops, bars, and restaurants than one could ever hope to visit. And to top it all off, the city's cultural output has been far-reaching for decades.
Point is, I was ecstatic.
After Toshimaen, we were free to do whatever we wanted. While a trip back to the hotel wouldn't have been uncalled for, it certainly would've been a waste passing up this opportunity to roam the streets of Tokyo City itself. Besides, we were clear on the other side of the city anyway!
Ikebukuro is a district in Toshima Ward. While not the most famous area we'd be going to…
…it's still jam-packed with cool stuff!
Just look at the view outside the station!
After getting a rundown from Robb and Elissa, we were on the prowl….
You know, I'd gone to NYC a few years back, but Tokyo really pulls out all the stops when it comes to sensory overload.
What other city outside Japan would have multiple giant Sega arcades??
Naturally, we went into an arcade, so of course we had to pay a visit to our favorite membranophonic friends!
This is some bizarre rhythm(?) game. These guys were insane at it!
This arcade has a casino on the second floor, and it had this strange horse racing… thing… which I guess you bet on??
It was nearing dinnertime, so we decided to go looking for a good place for ramen. It wasn't a hard task. (I didn't take any photos of it, but rest assured, it was good!)
Huh, quite a lot lot of Starbucks 'round these parts, isn't there…?
Cool karaoke tower
After dinner, we decided to move on to our next destination…
Shinjuku is essentially the "capital" of Tokyo, although that can be a little hard to discern because it's just as brightly colored as everywhere else! It's also arguably the "sketchiest" part of Tokyo (read: still safer than the U.S.) and is the home of the city's red light district.
But a few hookers can't stop us intrepid gaijin!
It's hard not to be impressed by the spectacle of dozens of stores and such duking it out for attention
We even saw the Tourism Ambassador of Shinjuku!
Oh, you thought I was joking….
"Lemme offer you a deal: 4 girls, whatever you want, ¥50,000 an hour. How's about it, ey?"
Sadly, we had to decline the old kaiju's offer; we still had more places to hit!
Harajuku is one of the most well-known spots in all of Tokyo and is famous for being arguably the kawaii capital of the world. The district is particularly notable for its more extreme fashion scene, especially in the 2000s. Look it up; you'll see what I mean.
So, this was the first thing we saw stepping out of the station…. It turns out you could do tours of a few Japanese cities via Mario Kart! I would've needed an international driver's permit, but Taylor did this if you wanna check out his TR! Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), the company doing this got C&D'd by Nintendo and so won't be continuing with the Mario theme. RIP
Also, there was this DJ guy.
And here's the backbone of it all: Takeshita Street!
Random "ghetto-style" wall for people to look badass by
Wow! This store just don't give a gosh dang flippin' heck!
Okay, so we were technically already in Shibuya, but what this ward's really known for is its giant crosswalk (supposedly the biggest in the world, as a matter of fact!) So we headed further along until we reached what is essentially the Times Square of Tokyo. We never actually crossed, but the view was enough:
Ah, who am I kidding? The whole city's a giant Times Square!
And that's probably the most striking thing about Tokyo: Everywhere you go, there are bright lights and amazing sights! I think everyone should come here at least once in their life!
Next up: Yokohama Cosmoworld!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
We had gotten lucky with the weather so far—maybe some clouds and overcast, but nothing too serious. Today was kind of the other side of summertime in Japan: cool and rainy. But that wouldn't stop us!
Day 3.1: Yokohama Cosmoworld(and some of the surrounding area)
Yokohama is just south of Tokyo, but you'd be forgiven for thinking you were still in Tokyo…
…just look at that skyline! This right here is the Yokohama Landmark Tower, the fourth tallest structure in Japan at 972 feet! (It looks way taller in person!) But we weren't here to gawk at architecture…
…we were here for the famous Cosmoworld!
Now, it had been predicted that it would start raining right around this time, and, sure enough, a few drops started falling as we headed towards the park. It seems even the weather's punctual in Japan!
Luckily, we had Mr. Kitagawa on our side! Mr. Kitagawa's from Senyo and has a high profile in the Japanese park biz, and he's a longtime friend of TPR's!
The first thing they wanted to show off was this funky little VR thing. Unfortunately, the ride has a below-American weight limit, so I didn't end up riding.
Our next session was on the ever-popular "airtime log flume." What I didn't know was that they had added this thing that measures the volume of your screams and puts them on a scoreboard! I'm happy to say that Sporty Steve and I were the leaders (for all of 30 seconds)! The ride itself is pretty fun, although I ended up getting wetter from the rain rather than the ride!
The narration on the Ferris wheel said that it's the largest Ferris wheel in the world… with a clock on it. I suppose only the Japanese would care about that record!
Photo by Robb Finally, it was time for the world-famous Diving Coaster: Vanish! Now, normally the ride wouldn't run in rain, but Mr. Kitagawa was determined to let us get in our rides, so thanks to him!
And here it is: one of the biggest pieces of clickbait from any coaster! Real talk, though: The ride itself is nothing special and is even bumpy inside the tunnel, but it's not bad by any means.
After the ERT was over, Mr. Kitagawa gave us all these surprisingly realistic keychains of various Japanese foodstuff!
We were then free to do whatever we wanted until moving on to the next park, and since it was still raining, checking out the indoor attractions seemed more than reasonable. See, Cosmoworld isn't just an outdoor amusement park; it also has a multilevel arcade with dark rides alongside it!
Their dark rides are pretty funky. One is a "scary" ride in a cage, and another is an "augmented reality" ride where you tap these "smoke monsters" onscreen to kill them. I don't know what to think of the augmented reality; I think it kinda distracts from the rest of the ride.
But hey, I got this lil guy from one of 'em!
After all that, a couple of us decided to go on the giant Ferris wheel. Of course, you've got your usual capsules, but there was a twist:
…some of them were clear!
The viewing conditions weren't the best, predictably, but you're at least provided some cloths to wipe off any condensation. I'll have to do this at night at some point!
After crossing the water to whore out the kiddie coaster (the spinning coaster was closed), we decided to walk around the surrounding area of downtown Yokohama and try and find some food. Now, none of us were too interested in the Hard Rock Cafe, but that metal sculpture's pretty cool!
There's also this cool dry dock that you can now go inside!
It looks like some sort of Roman amphitheater in this state….
Photo by Barry "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?"
We went into the Yokohama Landmark Tower to find ourselves some grub. Once again, I don't think pictures do this plaza any justice!
We ended up going to a French restaurant (there's a surprising amount in Japan), where I got a pretty damned good pizza.
After lunch, it was time to head back to the station to go to our next park.
Cosmoworld may not be a huge park with 10/10 rides, but its location is absolutely stunning, and it's well worth a visit, although I'd recommend going at night!
Next up: Sea Paradise!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
By this point, the rain had lightened considerably, but it was still pretty chilly out—chillier than you might expect for summertime in Japan.
Well, these guys are clearly very honest with their image! (Although it does say "Family Restaurant" below it….)
Sea Paradise only has one credit, but it's a fun one: Surf Coaster Leviathan.
Appropriately enough, much of the coaster juts out over the water.
Surf Coaster used to have OtSRs, but thankfully they replaced those with lap bars, so the ride is quite comfortable overall, although the seats are a bit small. The ride itself isn't too intense, but it's more fun than, say, your average jet coaster. At certain points throughout the ride, they would fire these big water cannons up into the air, and, depending on where you sat, you might have gotten a couple drops on you!
Next we did the fan-favorite Blue Fall, which is one of the tallest drop towers in the world! By the time we had come around to it, though, they were only running one side—one with the "fake-out" drop. While it was novel, I prefer the normal single-drop mode, because the fake-out doesn't let you build up the butterflies in your stomach that you normally get from these things.
On another note, the ride ops handed out these orange vests to, I guess, protect from oil that might be dripping of the ride from the rain(?)
This train, bored of the straight-and-narrow life of the tracks, sought out a new life on the open road.
Lastly, a few of us decided to do this big wooden obstacle course thing where you crawl through ropes and narrow passages trying to collect stamps on a card.
I got most of them, but I got stuck by the end of it. We had originally planned to do the Splashchute, but this whole maze thing took us way longer than we'd expected, so the ride had closed by that point. And since it looks to be shutting down for good, I guess I'll never get to ride it
Okay, so story time: As Barry, Steve, Jason, and I were heading back to the train, we crossed over a bridge. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there's this whooshing sensation and some commotion to my left. I then looked ahead to see that a big-ass eagle or something had swooped down and stolen Jason's TPR poncho! I guess it'd thought it was a rabbit or something? Anyway, I probably could've taken pictures of the scene, but, frankly, I was just too damn floored by the situation to do anything! I just hope that eagle made good use of that poncho….
So after that ordeal, it was time to move on. Some on the tour group decided to go to a shrine further down south, but my group decided it was time to head on back and get prepped for the tour to start in full….
Overall, Sea Paradise is a nice little park to visit if you find yourself in the Yokohama area, although it's not the must-see that Cosmoworld is.
Next up: more Tokyo! I'll be going to Akihabara and Tokyo Tower!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
I visited Cosmoworld on my own a few days later and am thankful they were operating the Dive Coaster in a very light rain. The spinning mouse was a no go though.
I also agree the regular drop side is better. I felt like I was in the minority for thinking that after riding Blue Fall. I feel like the fake out would have been a whole lot better if I hadn't known about it.
The pre-trip had now drawn to a close, but the trip was only just beginning! Today was the day when everybody else would be arriving, leaving us early birds to do whatever the hell we wanted! I decided to set out on my own to explore some sights at my own pace….
The main place I wanted to peruse was the famous Akihabara, so I set off to see how well I could navigate this metropolis as a first-time tourist….
Wish me luck, little guy.
Japanese Toilet Protip™:
The top character means "big," and the bottom one means "small." You do the math.
Look! It's the first double-dip of the trip!
So, getting to Akihabara was actually really easy! It's really impressive how smoothly the trains operate in Japan, and it's especially easy when you've got a JR Pass. It also helped that R&E sent us online maps of the train lines in Tokyo.
So, for those of you who don't already know, Akihabara is basically the "electronics district" of Tokyo. But to people like me, Akihabara is the nerd capital of the world! You want some manga and anime? They've got tons! Retro video games? They've got you covered! Wanna go to a sweet arcade? You're in urban Japan; of course there are arcades! Do you want a lewd figurine of your favorite anime character? Well, um, yes they do have those as well….
Oh, and they have maid cafés too. I never ended going to one, but rest assured, they have them!
In the melée that is Tokyo, I somehow ended up stumbling across Dan right in front of this peculiarly named donut shop (which, coincidentally, I had seen in a vlog before).
At Dan's recommendation (and after enjoying a donut), I went into an adjacent electronics store. This wasn't your granddad's electronics store, though; this was a multilevel bonanza of everything the modern hobbyist could ever need!
I mean, I don't know how good the conditions are in Tokyo, especially at this time of year, but they've got your stargazing needs taken care of!
They call him "Bling Boy"
Sure, you could just buy one, but you'd really be doing yourself a disservice in not buying the complete set for the whole effect.
"Okay, okay, I'll make you a deal: ¥40,000/hr. AND I'll throw in some blow as well! How's that sound?"
Tower Records is still very much a thing in Japan! And I dig the attitude!
They had a nice little selection of LPs here, but I wasn't too keen on finding a place in my suitcase for one for the rest of the trip.
After even more perusing through Akihabara, I took a short ride to Ochanomizu, which is a neighborhood known for having many instrument shops. I didn't stay for too long, but there were indeed quite a few of them! I was talking to one of the employees who worked at a guitar store, telling him about the tour, and he said how Ochanomizu was a "theme park of guitars." It's a pretty accurate statement! Definitely a place to go if you're a musician!
By this point, I was ready for a midday rest, so I headed on back to the hotel.
After resting awhile, I decided to head back out to Tokyo Tower—one of the landmarks of the Tokyo skyline.
One of the most impressive aspects of Tokyo is how safe it is. I felt perfectly fine walking through this deserted street at night. It's also remarkably quiet for such a dense city.
It's like a giant laser used to blast down alien spacecraft
On the way, I decided to take a detour through an empty park—another thing I wouldn't dare do in other cities—and I caught a glimpse of this Buddhist temple through the trees!
As I neared the temple I noticed there was a free concert going on! I didn't catch the name of the singer, but she was singing some Bruno Mars when I got there. This whole experience was a great surprise!
Even with its lights off, Tokyo Tower is still an impressive sight!
Tokyo Tower was celebrating its semicentennial, and those pink butt plugs couldn't be happier!
Now, I had thought that this would be a very normal event—namely, an elevator-centric one (you see where this is going). But, as it turns out, Tokyo Tower offers you the chance to climb up and down the stairs from the bottom all the way to the observation deck nearly 500 ft. up….
Unfortunately for me, I am not fit to climb 150 meters straight up. Fortunately for you, I am an idiot.
The whole process was surreal. It involved going on top of the base building; once I was was there, I looked around to see there was no one up there…. It turns out I had to go around the corner to find the foot of the stairs. This felt like the strangest drug deal ever, and the dealer was none other than…
…a pink butt plug.
Well, okay, a guy dressed as a butt plug. But he wasn't wearing a bulky mascot costume; no, he was wearing a pink spandex bodysuit with some weird cone on his head underneath the suit. As if this weren't unsettling enough, when I walked up to him, he was completely motionless, standing akimbo with the craziest of smiles on his face. It wasn't until a few seconds after I'd reached him that he suddenly sprung into life and started giving his spiel on the journey upwards. I should've taken a selfie with him, but I was a bit too bemused to do anything but walk.
And walk I did. Thankfully, it was still kind of cool out from the day before, in addition to it being nighttime. Once again, I regret not taking any pictures of the climb, but, honestly, my mind was focusing all its energy on making sure I didn't keel over. Boy, was it tough.
But man, look at that view! It really does look like it goes on forever….
Here I am being an absolute madman, just standin 500 feet above the ground like it's nbd.
Beautiful, simply beautiful….
Honestly Tokyo Tower was a great experience! It was beautiful, exciting, and much cheaper than I expected (less than ten bucks)! It is a must if you ever come to Tokyo!
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This was kind of unnecessary, but I appreciate it all the same.
So, that was my day out on the town! But it was time now to get some sleep; tomorrow would be our first Shinkansen!
Up next: Osaka!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
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