Crashing Japan
Tour Experience - Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara

by Bamboo Dong,

The second full day of the Destination Japan tour started bright and early with a visit to Shinjuku Station. The busiest train station in the world, this station is also a great hub for those needing to use the JR East Lines. From here, you can go around the Yamanote Line (which has a stop at every major place you could want, like Harajuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Akihabara, and Ikebukuro), or cut straight across to the other side with one of the express lines.

We hopped aboard one of the trains and headed for Shibuya, the fashion centre of Tokyo. From gals to fashionistas, this is the ultimate place for women to be seen. If you want to know what's currently hot in the world of Japanese fashion, this is the first place to go.

After an hour, we jumped back on the train and headed for Harajuku, a place known for its underground fashion. On weekends, Jingu Bridge (to your right as you exit the train station) is crowded with girls dressed in gothic lolita fashion and various shades of punk clothing. There aren't as many during the week, but they can still be seen every now and again on Takeshita Street, a haven of clothing shops that sell all the coolest stuff, like EGL outfits, crazy rocker gear, and some pretty intense shoes.

Harajuku is also a great place to go if you're in the mood for crepes. There are really no words to describe how delicious these treats are, and there's a good reason why everyone in anime shows are always seen munching on one. Of course, there's plenty of crepe stands around town, but there's something to be said about poking about the Takeshita shops and filling your stomach with sweet fruit, whipped cream, and enough gooey chocolate to choke a small animal.

After an amazing ramen lunch, we headed to Akihabara, the nerd capital of the world. Aside from its massive anime stores and computer goods stores, there's something to be said for peeking inside stalls that are filled floor to ceiling with nothing but cables and wires.

One thing that's definitely notable for anime fans is the block that contains stores like Taito, SofMap, Tora no Ana, Animate, and Tokyo's largest Donki Hote, a chain of stores that carry everything from rice cookers to Borat-esque thongs. This block has almost everything an anime fan could ask for, and it's not surprising that this snapshot of buildings appears in quite a few of the scenes in Genshiken.

Akiba is also known for its plentiful maid cafes. Just about any street you turn onto will land you somewhere near one of these places—all you have to do is look for a sign with a cute maid on it. Wait until the evening and you can see plenty of girls dressed up as maids, standing outside the Akihabara station exit, handing out flyers to all the passersby.

Exhausted from a day of exploring, I headed back to my hotel to crash (and prepare for my early morning visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market). Meanwhile, Earl led a group of tour participants to check out the new Evangelion movie. I wanted to go, but I knew I had to be up early if I wanted to check out one of the famed tuna auctions. But the word is in—apparently the new movie is awesome. Should that even be a surprise?

For more pictures and commentary on the tour, check out Destination Japan's flashback page.

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