Today I spent nearly all day in bed – a primary motivation for avoiding going out drinking on this trip!! Well, I guess moderation would be ok, but last night went way, way beyond that… By the time I made it out properly (having made a brief trip out around lunchtime for basic sustenance) it was 7pm!! Dinner in a nearby Wendy’s was a very slow affair too, I felt like it could have gone either way, lol. Still, after some head holding I headed over towards Harajuku for at least a little sightseeing/making something of my day. I really enjoyed this area too, although I feel I got a somewhat incomplete picture of it being as it was Friday evening – I believe that on the weekends the streets are teeming with the fashion inspired youth, although the stores seemed rather more chic and/or trendy than nearby Shibuya. It was a veritable maze of streets and boutiques and I felt that, with my head being as out of it as it was, that there was a high potential for getting lost :D however my navigation skills didn’t fail me and I succeeded in making a succession of large circuits, taking in quite a few of the main streets. I really liked the exotic feel, trendy, hip vibe around the place and was quite sorry not to have visited at a more prime time. Damn you again, alcohol (or, devil ether, as Rich previously coined).
When I exited from the rabbit warren back to the main street (or at least one of them), I spotted a couple of dodgy looking Americans around 35 or so trying to chat up a pair of teens, but didn’t linger too long as this kind of behaviour is seemingly to be expected! Adjacent to this was an intriguing structure which I felt compelled to explore. It turned out to be one of the most amazing shopping malls I’ve ever seen, although I suppose one would be forgiven for thinking it might be a cryogenic facility on first glance due to the manner and detail of the entrances and information desks, lol. The interior architecture was fantastic and I ignored the ‘please do not take pictures from here’ signs to get some shots. All the floors were sloped and a staircase only accessible from every other floor cut through the interior facing a faux-waterfall, plus there were images of water ripples projected around the ceiling and sounds of a rainforest on repeat over an internal speaker system. It was very blue and calming. An oasis from the world outside. It was called Omotesando Hills if you want to check out their website.
Incidentally, even the toilets in Japan are high-tech. There is a control panel thing to one side of the seat with a number of different buttons (and pictures) on. I was rather surprised when I first decided to test out one of the buttons, although I guess I should have known what to expect from the picture!
After a bit more walking round like a headless chicken it was almost time to go meet Akemi again so that she could introduce me to her boyfriend, Matthieu. I thought that some of the buildings around the place looked familiar so having tried to decipher a local streetmap I thought I might have a go at walking to Shibuya rather than taking the train. I spotted Tower Records’ billboard from a mile off so using that as I guide I managed to locate the Parco mall with no trouble! Excellent. A couple of phonecalls later and me & Akemi were off to Roppongi in a taxi, having stopped briefly to check out the ‘ganguro’ girls – ridiculous bright clothes with excessively blonde hair, fake (or real) tan and panda-esque makeup. Bizarre, but had to be seen. I wasn’t bothered enough to take a photo though, I’d seen them before on the ‘net and thought that would condone their behaviour to them anyway.
In Roppongi (fortunately much less troublesome to my mind than before, although I recognised lots of the clubs from previously) we met a rugby-team full of drunken French guys, with the odd Japanese and international thrown in for good measure. To be fair they were all absolutely wasted by the time we got there, but in their credit kept my glass full of beer and my bowl full of sukiyaki.
Afterwards we went to a nearby izakaya to drop in on one of Akemi’s friends and chat some more. It was a very cosy, friendly place that had a really cool vibe about it. Somewhere I never would have found otherwise, being as it is that every bar/restaurant is pretty much hidden away in the upper floors of an inconspicuous looking tower block. This is something that’s markedly different about Japan – back home we’re used to judging bars by looking through the window at how busy the place is, what kind of people are inside etc, but due to the lack of space everything has stacked up vertically, so in any given 8 storey building there might be a few restaurants, a couple bars, a karaoke lounge and an office, for example. This makes a lot of the places somewhat less airy than in England and also means that you have to actually go inside the place before you have any idea what it’s going to be like! Anyway, the izakaya was a matted affair where you have to remove your shoes at the door. Kinda cool to feel like you’re slobbing about inside a bar, although I’m sure that’s not their motivation ;) Matthieu wanted to get something I hadn’t tried before so we ended up drinking prune wine, which was lovely! Tasted just like vodka apple, except without the vodka (or apple).
Headed back home not too late on the deepest subway line ever (and also witnessed a drunk businessman get the escalator exit entirely wrong and bundle in front of a million people, whereafter he just sat crosslegged looking back up at the contraption that had foiled him, lol) and on the way from Shinjuku station saw a guy in a suit seemingly having a bust up with a girl. I would have thought it might be his girlfriend, but the fact he was in a suit, she looked kinda young and that we were in Japan opens different possibilities. Anyway, they were having a fight about something and she was seemingly having none of it, except every time she tried to walk away the guy blocked her path. This went on for a few minutes (with me watching from a nearby street corner) and ended with the guy physically dragging the girl off wherever he wanted to go. She was quite obviously pulling back, but once again no-one batted an eyelid so, feeling somewhat perplexed, I continued on my way.
Back at the hotel decided to check out Japanese TV and, aside from the fact that they have the most bizarre gameshows ever and that the commercials are hilarious, they were showing porn on regular TV. Haha.