OPERATION: DOWNFALL (The Invasion of Japan for Otaku Purposes [aka ODTIJOP])


Day 5: Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Mehve and I were able to crawl out of our beds by 8AM that Sunday, basically only through sheer willpower. We were both exhausted from all the walking during the previous day, but we knew that Sunday was to be one of the main reasons we even came to Japan: it was Akihabara Pedestrian Day.

Now, to back up a bit, months prior to our setting foot on sacred Japanese soil it was up to me to contact a few free "Goodwill Guide" groups in order to get a college student studying foreign languages, or an old English-speaking retiree to walk us around the towns we'd be in, helping us find specific locations, and assist us with translating our very American English into Japanese in order to communicate with the locals, and vice versa. I was able to register with two groups: one with a college kid as our guide in Tokyo for that very Sunday, and one for another city the following week. Mehve and I were really excited about the Tokyo student guide since our plans for that day included visiting the birthplace of the loligoth movement, Harajuku, and the geeky otaku capital of THE WORLD, the aforementioned Akihabara district. We thought a young Tokyoite would be able to lead us to the best places for photo ops and hidden anime memorabilia purchases. We were fighting dreamers, and dreamers gotta dream big...

Rollin, Japanese style!After taking our time washing up, watching some morning TV, and me eating my Kit-Kat and Pocky breakfast, we walked down to the Prince Hotel's main lobby to meet our translator/guide Cami at 9:30. Then we waited a bit... Then a bit more.... Then a bit more. Finally, at 10:15 I got kind of pissed. The only contact information I had for either Cami or her Tokyo guide group was an email address... And there was no (free) wi-fi at all in our hotel or any of downtown Tokyo. Which is a goddamn crime. So I collected ¥400 in coins between us, ran to the "pay by the minute" computer by the main check-in desk, and went to work sending off a quick email to Cami-san addressing her horrible time-keeping skills and our inability to wait any longer. Well, after accidentally using proper English punctuation on my computer and inadvertently changing my keystrokes to kanji I then frantically spent 8 out of my 10 minutes ticking away on the pay computer trying to switch the settings back to English to little effect. It wasn't until I stopped a hotel manager and said, "Sumimasen! I broke-u computer! Baka gaijin! Onegaishimasu, fixu to En-gu-rish-u!" that anything got done. He bowed very politely, pressed one quick button on the keyboard, and all was well again. Unfortunately he walked away before I could have him show me WHICH key he selected to set things back to English, so I just typed my letter to Cami-san without any punctuation at all. It read as follows:

Cami san

My friend and I waited in the hotel lobby until ten thirty but you never arrived

We went out walking on our own

Seriously what the fuck

I know this was a free guide service but that just sucks monkey balls and cock

I finished typing and hit SEND a second before my time ran out and the computer kicked me out of its ancient IE5 browser (seriously, Japan, I'm really wondering how far you've truly slipped in the hierarchy of global technological superiority after all this bullshit. IE5 died at least seven years ago). When I got back to Mehve he asked if I wrote Cami-san the entirety of War and Peace. I didn't even bother to explain, and I just told him we were on our own that day. This, in hindsight, turned out to be the BEST fucking thing that happened to us that trip... But of course since we didn't know that at the time we both just grumbled under our breaths as we walked to the train station to head to Harajuku.

It was a short ride to the Harajuku stop, and the first thing Mehve and I did was to look at a local map, find out where the giant Meiji Jingu Shrine was for later (half the map was green indicating the woods surrounding the shrine... it was easy to pick out), and then we started walking down the burg's main street across from the 'Juku station entrance in the hopes of finding some of the dressed up girls parading their bizarrely insane fashion styles around. See, we knew all about Harajuku's reputation (it's THE Japanese teenage girl hangout, where they love to dress up in wacky "stylish" gothic-loli costumes, put on cat ears unironically, and simply walk the sidewalks in order to be noticed and photographed [you can see why I'd love the place]), but that very morning on the panel show we were watching as we got ready, Mehve and I saw some interviewers casing the streets of the 'Juku talking to the costumed girls; and the profiled girls' clothes, hats, makeup, and 6-inch platform shoes made them out to be the most unintentionally goddamn hilarious thing either of us had ever seen! So we started trolling for these girls, hoping some would be as colorful and zany-looking as the ones on TV earlier that day. Nothing. Nada. Nyet. After walking for half a mile away from the Meiji Jingu Shrine, down what the map showed to be the main boulevard in the 'Juku, we saw no crazy costumes at all... Just normals. Confused, and wondering if Sunday was actually the wrong day to go sightseeing there, we slowly marched back up the big hill and went into the enormous shrine grounds instead.

Harajuku wish


Harajuku reality

Harajuku really threw us for a loop at first. Looking down that main boulevard from the train station it just looked like a very nice, family friendly, clean, non-kooky suburb of Tokyo-major... Not at ALL what we had hoped for or expected. TV was now lying to us in a foreign country too! Damn you, TV!


Meiji Jingu Shinto Shrine (THE Imperial Shrine) was quite impressive in its own right (no, there were no cat girls there, but there WERE tons of miko!). The torii that we saw there were big enough for Kong to walk under, and the trails that wound all around the place were wide, clean, and very well shaded (it was proving to be a warm and sunny day, and as my T-shirt will attest, I was already melting by this point).

We soon made it to the main shrine grounds and fell in love with the scenery: the classic Japanese buildings, the huge and ancient good-luck/wishing tree, and all the cute little girls (we're talking adorable 3-5 year-olds) dressed up in their best child kimonos, going to a Japanese-style wedding being held in the more modern-looking and air-conditioned building on the side of the main courtyard. This was the first time that I truly felt that I WAS IN Japan. That was a pretty cool sensation. I wasn't participating in an English-speaking tour group walking through busy Tokyo streets, nor looking down upon a modern metropolis from a steel structure based on French architecture... I was in a shinto shrine in the middle of a forest, surrounded by nothing but Japanese people (some of which were in traditional clothes). I screamed out "THIS is Japan, motherfuckers!" to nobody in particular. As it turned out, that moment was also the start of me cursing out loud in English in public. Cool! (The phrase "Dicks and BALLS!" soon became my exclaimed catch phrase of the trip whenever anything bad happened.)

Japan. Eet is funny.

Japan fucking LOVES their giant torii... It's almost as if they're all trying to make up for something.


Japanese Kids... So fucking cute

Holy fucking shit! All the hot women in ceremonial kimonos, and all the absolutely adorable kids in tiny, pint-sized kimonos were an Asian sight to see!


Esca. Flowne. Esca. Flowne.

Oh man, I was so worried I'd meet up with that torii-stepping land dragon from Escaflowne, but in truth, he was a pretty okay guy. He even ate that annoying butch girl who wouldn't shut up about how she could "foresee doom! DOOOOOOOM!", so he had that going for him too.


Mikoooooo!We hung out at the shrine for a while, priced some shriney souvenirs, took lots of postcard-worthy shots of the place, paid to write out our wishes and hopes on wooden plaques and then hung them around the holy good-luck tree, and then we left. We walked down and out the ass-end entrance/exit to the shrine, and eventually (after a mile hike) found our way back to the train station that we started out at, but coming from a different direction. THIS was key to finding the infamously cheezy Takeshita Street! It's a block over from the main boulevard that we had originally marched down upon first arriving at the 'Juku, but even still, I don't know how the hell we missed it... It's nothing but bright rainbows, crepe shops, Japanese Hot Topics, and teenagers walking and laughing and gabbing for as far as the eye could see. Seriously, all we had to do was turn our heads left a little as we first exited the train station and there's no possible way we would have missed it.

Anyway, Mehve and I didn't waste any time before we ran the Takeshita St. gauntlet, and our eyes almost exploded from all the Hello Kitty clothes that abounded. Sadly though, we couldn't find even one teenage girl wearing anything loligoth, or cat earsy in the packed outdoor mall. We DID see a shit-ton of middle aged Japanese men standing at the tops of stairways, and on top of trash cans, all with giant telephoto lenses aimed at the supple japanese cuties walking around. Seriously creepy. What surprised me the most was there were no used panty vending machines ANYWHERE... I thought those things made up 5% of the total GNP of Japan's economy.

Big torii, big trees.

I loved this crazy, giant, uber-shrine tree! The mikos however didn't love me shouting out "Sheetaaaaaaa! SHEEEEEEETAAAAAAAAAAAA!" every five seconds as I ran around it, looking frantically for my crystal-wearing sweetie.


Mehve's wish

Mehve got all serious for a moment and dedicated a shrine plaque wish to all his friends and family who couldn't be with us on this most excellent trip. This in turn got me to get all solemn and serious too, and I felt it would be a nice thing to send some good ol' pleasant vibes out to the world myself. You know, get karma flowing in a beneficial direction for once.......


Guess which is mine!



Then as we walked out the back end of the Imperial Shrine I saw something that I hadn't seen since entering Japan: beautiful graffiti!... No, I don't mean that the graffiti itself was particularly nice to look at, just that it made me smile to know that Japan has at least SOME minor problems with urban pollution too. Let's all point at Japan and laugh! Ha ha!


As strange as Takeshita St. was to a grown gaijin man's eyes though, I must admit that if I was a teenage kid living in Tokyo, I would totally hang out there quite a bit myself.... Well, I WOULD have said that before I bumped into Hello Kitty Freakageddon.

Hello Kitty Freakageddon is the stuff that nightmares are made of. You see, after Mehve and I walked down, then back up Takeshita St. we were in a multi-colored (but mostly pink) Japanese haze of protoculture the likes of which neither of us had ever even dreamed existed. That's when I tapped Mehve on the shoulder and said "Whooooooa, man... I think... I can't tell for sure, but I think that the ghost of Hello Kitty is waving at us.... Holy shit I've got to go meet her!" And so I ran up to the pink-clad freak in the painted drama mask, foofy wizard party hat, and strange puppet on its hand and yelled in its face "Hory shit-u! Daisuke Herro Kitty! Banzai!" Luckily though, before I went in for the hug that the Hello Kitty Freakageddon was silently but openly offering, I looked down at its hairy knuckles on the hand that didn't have the nightmarish puppet creature on... Then I looked at the exposed back of its neck to see the curly back hair creeping out all over. I think my smile faltered for a half a second, but I caught myself and said "Awwww, what the hell!" and posed for this picture with him/her/it. Viva Nippon!

Harajuku wish

If anybody ever goes over there and meets Hello Kitty Freakageddon, please kick him in the balls. And take a picture of it.


Harajuku reality

And here is the infamous Takeshita Street. It seriously was a buttload of fun, and would have been even more fun had I been a 16 year-old Japanese girl... Of course then I'd be living a whole 'nother life style, and probably would be engaged to a tentacle monster already, but you get my point.



And then, just as we were heading back into the train station to leave Harajuku forever, we saw it... Nekomimi.... Nekomimi modo. Nekomimi modo-desu!


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