Monday, March 29

Korea-Japan, Day Seven: Going At It Alone

We woke to find that we were a man down as one of our three didn't make it out of bed due to illness. The remainder went to Asukusa to check out the temple there, although to be honest the market street leading up to it seemed more interesting than the temple itself, especially seeing how it was completely covered for renovation. I was beginning to understand how those who had seen Japan before me could claim that sightseeing got a bit samey; I suspect only those with a personal interest and relevance can keep up the enthusiasm after the first handful of religious sites.

We then tried something different, and walked to the Ryoguku area to see if we could spot any sumo wrestlers. Unfortunately all the stables were empty as their inhabitants were in Osaka for a tournament that had ended the day before; this meant we had no one in Tokyo to even watch train.

After dropping me off at Ginza, my remaining colleague decided that she was feeling a bit rough too and decided to head back to the hotel. Ginza didn't hold my interest for long; apart from the mildly exciting Sony Building there wasn't really much to do there if you're not into designer gear and brands. I decided to cut my losses and head to Akihabara.

For me, Japan was always about Tokyo, and Tokyo always about Akihabara. This was where the gadgets and videogames were, where the otaku and nerds hung out. Needless to say I spent forever there, and could have easily spent a couple of hours more... Although I did chicken out from going into one of the many maid cafes there. I think the concept was weird enough to go as a group let alone on my own. And besides, I much preferred watching the many kids in the arcades there trying to get a 100% in whatever music game they chose to be an expert in.

Revelling in my solitude, I decided to head back to Harajuku for a spot of people watching. I was still disappointed that I hadn't seen any yesterday, and although it was a long shot I thought it would be nice to see the area during a weeknight, when it wasn't as busy. After hanging out for a while (still not seeing any cosplay) I decided to walk back to Shibuya instead of taking the train, where I stopped off at that crossing again for more pictures.

I took up position on the second floor of the Starbucks overlooking the area when I was approached by a random Japanese guy who wanted someone to practise his english with. After realising such stuff was normal in a land where people find it safe to talk to strangers I managed to humour him for thirty minutes or so. The whole experience reminded me of the stuff I tend to like most about travelling nowadays; the randomness, the checking out of the people rather than the places and the creation of my own story instead of the retelling of one from a guidebook.

Unfortunately this only seems possible when I'm on my own.

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