Tokyo Travels and Japanese Arcades

So I’m feeling a lot better today! I wish I knew what caused these mood swings so I could stop them. It hasn’t been perfect today but generally it’s been good, for the first time in a while.

I was in Tokyo for four days, and arrived in Sapporo yesterday. I’ve been in Tokyo before, for Meiji University’s Summer Language Program last year, but that was a real course with homework, tests etc so while I was doing touristy things, I did have to do work too. Plus I was living with a host family and, while amazing, this did restrict me a bit in terms of coming and going as I didn’t want to be a nuisance to them, and also that their house was around 45 minutes from central Tokyo.

My brother and I stayed in Akihabara which is famous for all the anime and game stuff there, and is also very conveniently located just four/five minutes from Tokyo station and within 20 minutes of all others we wanted to see. It’s an anime-lover’s paradise with anime music blaring from the main street, anime advertisements as far as the eye can see, and figure stores galore. There’s also a good amount of electronics and games, and at least six arcades! It was a perfect place for us both to stay, especially as we got our own private room for a very reasonable price.

I’ll need to do a separate post about the Pokémon Café in the future, it was one of the highlights of the trip! Aside from that we explored the Japanese Sword Museum, the park and shrine nearby, Ikebukuro, the Pokémon centres there and in Tokyo, the imperial palace, and a few Japanese bars. We caught up with one of my friends from undergrad who I haven’t seen in three years, and it was so nice to see her, and it was one of those times when it really doesn’t feel like much time has passed.

Our main entertainment still in the evenings is the arcades. In Japan these consist of crane games, other such prize games, and video game machines. Our favourite is the piano one where you can play along to your favourite anime songs! I would recommend buying one of the cards you can use to store your progress; if you’ll be playing a lot anyway you may as well get something out of it.

Unlike back in the UK, in Japanese arcades you are supposed to be able to win. In addition, there are many instances where you are not supposed to win in one or two gos. There are many machines with prizes worth tens of pounds that you can play for. It’s 100 yen for one go or 500 for 6, and I think in hindsight I should definitely have just used 500 yen coins for the most part. If you persevere with the machines the staff will even come and offer advice on how to win, or even re-position things if they get stuck. This was what thankfully happened to me after I’d put a lot of money (around 2800 yen) into a machine to get a plushie of possibly my favourite anime guy of all time, and he kept getting stuck, and as he was almost at the edge, he was magically put hanging over so I could easily topple him over and win him. On the other hand I took just two goes to win a Fate/Stay Night Archer chibi plush keyring, and just four tries for a Kizuna AI plushie.

It’s also worth remembering just how little money it is and how much the prizes are worth. Even my expensive plushie cost around £20 and wouldn’t sell for too much less, and the average price per plushie is less than £10 so far which is a huge bargain. It’s one of the things I think that was basically causing me panic attacks internally for a few days (especially as my rent is due so I lose money rather than earning it this month and so definitely have to dip into my savings to afford it).

One strange type of game we don’t get in the UK is one where the prize is attached to a plastic loop (or two loops). How you win this, the staff member told us, is to hit the loop such that it rotates and the plushie falls, or you can alternate sides to shuffle the plushie towards the edge. And eventually it worked!

Aside from the arcades, I can recommend anything I visited. The Sword Museum was stunning. I never knew that sword crafting was still practiced today, and all the pieces there really were stunning. I always love parks and Japan has so many nice ones, I can strongly recommend any of the ones in Tokyo, and shrines are always a nice piece of history to visit. it’s so strange seeing them just surrounded by concrete though!

The food is also amazing and really cheap if you know where to look. You can find small, bar-style restaurants which just have a counter you sit at and order from which will specialise on a dish (so far we’ve had curry, soba, and gyoza) which will not cost more than 800 yen, usually less (I spent less than 500 today) and the portion sizes are so much better than back home! Also amazingly good value (and delicious) is Sushiro, which is Japan’s most popular sushi chain restaurant and it’s easy to see why. We met my host family there and had around 40 plates between us with drinks for around £35, and there was a 2 hour wait if not booked!

An update from Sapporo will be coming in the next few days when I finish my trip there!

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