Monday, December 22, 2014

The SSEAYP Diaries: Japan, Land of the Anime (Day 2),

With the experience of such a long flight, in addition to a late night after going around the area, we had an early morning. Mornings are not my cup of tea since I am a self-proclaimed night owl, but I was greeted with such an incredible sight as I opened the blinds in my room.

It was as if I had walked straight into a Japanese garden, and right in my own backyard. The trees were so lush and green with hints of orange and red signifying the change of season. The sunlight seemed to hit the scenery in all the right places. I was in awe.

Even the view of the Tokyo skyline left me speechless despite it being so faint in the distance. The view beat the breakfast buffet I had hands-down. I was only able to enjoy the gorgeousness of the view for a short while, and then all of us had to suit-up and run down for the inauguration of the program and then we had to wait for the refreshment ceremony. You heard me right. Ceremony for refreshments.

With the long hours of standing, I felt like court shoes should never have existed. I had my first stand-up cocktail lunch, and I realized that Singaporeans are really not as kiasu as we seem to be. Or maybe it’s just me, because I didn’t manage to inch my way through the crowd toward the food. On a positive side note, we managed to exchange our namecards with other youth and mingle a little with them while waiting. In addition to that, we had a somewhat successful attempt at a massive group selfie.

Obviously, more selfies were taken because "standing ceremonial lunch". 

We had yet another photo-taking session before the refreshments, and then the gift exchange. Thankfully it was a seemingly quick session before we had free time. Regardless, the standing around did give us a chance to interact more with others though we stuck more with each other.

Thankfully free time came around, and we were all amped up to tour Japan. The Japanese youth had already made plans to show us around Japan, and they gave us options so that we could pick which areas we were more interested in visiting. Some of us wanted to get lost in translation so we didn’t take up the tour offer, but I did, and I chose to go to Akihabara.

Akihabara is named after a former local shrine; Akiba, as I soon found out. One other aspect that it’s well-known for is all it’s electronics and it’s vast anime and manga culture.

All of us were told to bundle up warmly, and the hotel even allowed us to rent winter coats for the duration of the entire program which I felt was really thoughtful.

It was about 5pm, or early evening, and yet the sun was already setting leaving a pink blush across the evening sky.

I managed to survive without a winter coat (I refused to loan the ones the hotel was providing), and all I had was my leather jacket and thermal wear.

Let's just say I wore that leather jacket to death.

The walk to Yotsuya Station wasn’t far from the hotel and we had to buy tickets which I found the most fascinating. With it being my first trip to Japan, the currency is literally foreign to me. Thankfully one of the Japanese youth helped me with buying my ticket before I got myself lost. If you’ve ever seen a Japanese train station’s map, you’d feel as if you’re looking at a maze thicker than the one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It’s worse when you don’t reach Japanese or Kanji.

The gantries use the little ticket things (see above), and for entry, you're supposed to insert it, and collect it after you enter the turnstile. Dinni had no idea, and then the mad rush to retrieve the missing ticket happened. 

In the subway, it’s mostly similar to Singapore – crazy overcrowded with the reserved seats. However, people don’t talk loudly on the trains, and I definitely did not see a potential flash mob happening any time soon. You’re not allowed to use your phone or speak at the top of your voice if you’re near the reserved seat section either. I think the whole group of us were being judged by the entire subway carriage, because we were probably excessively loud.

It didn’t take us long to reach Akihabara station.

It was seemingly crowded, and cold when we went out of the exit. The first thing that greeted me were the tall buildings all lighted up. Of course we saw the infamous AKB48 Cafe and Shop, and the Gundam Cafe. Both cafes are equally as popular, especially AKB48 since it’s is a well-known idol group.

Apparently the cafe serves food inspired by the idols of the group and even has a theatre where the cast actually hold scheduled performances daily.

I think the one thing that a few of us (okay maybe just me and one other person) wanted to do was to play gacha. Gacha machines are really popular around Japan and is actually one of the top contributor of income. Probably because so many people are avid gamers and gacha is not only available as a machine, but in popular online games as well. After our attempts at the gacha machine (I actually got something!), we took a walk down to the SEGA Building.

The Japanese youth then took us to a quaint cafe downtown. 

The Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi commercial complex resides in what used to be the former Maseibashi station. It is located between Ochanomizu and Kanda stations and it’s a short four minute walk away from Akihabara station. This commercial facility is home to retailers and cafes, and the view from this complex is amazing. We took the elevator up to the top floor after walking through all the shops located inside this complex. Had amazingly rich hot chocolate while watching the trains pass us by.

Imagine being able to sit by the large windowsill with a good book while the trains go by. It's like something out of Enid Blyton, or the St Clares series.

The post is getting slightly too long, so I'll be back with a separate one. My lively dining experience awaits!

Watch my vlog here: 

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