Ikebukuro

Now we are on a flight from Hong Kong HKG to London Heathrow LHR. We’ve spent the last 5 days in Hong Kong, being busy end-to-end, without time to recap our trip to Japan. I shall use this time to complete this task.


Last Sunday we spent a full day in Ikebukuro in Northwest Tokyo. Japan-Guide.com has an excellent overview of the area so I won’t re-invent the wheel. For me, it was a centralized location containing various attractions that I was interested in, and the last station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line (for easy access). Cool!

Our first stop was the Yamada Denki electronics megaplex. Ever since I had stumbled into a Yamada Denki in Akihabara, I had been reminiscing about this tower of electronics featuring floor after floor of gadgets, computer parts, cell phones, and even washing machines. The one in Ikebukuro also happened to be the flagship store so it was an excellent opportunity to visit as well as purchase the portable document scanner that I had been pining for.

Rainy Day in Ikebukuro

It was a rainy Sunday and the store staff had prepared plastic umbrella bags for everybody. We bagged up our umbrellas and fun time began. The first floor was the cell phone and camera floor. Interesting, but since I bought my first smartphone recently and didn’t have the funds for camera stuff, it was straight on up for me.

I had already seen a lot of the computer accessories inventory at the Akihabara branch (see haul post), so I went straight to the scanner section and picked out my scanner, and then spent time in departments that I hadn’t yet seen, including the computer components section, where I saw loose computer parts such as motherboards, CPUs, hard drives, etc., the Blu-ray section, where I saw Blu-rays of Japanese trains and scenery, and the toy section, where I saw model railroads and race cars. I enjoyed observing which brands and components were popular. For example, Buffalo appears to be a big brand for hard drives in Japan, and brands like Elecom and Logitec (not Logitech) seem to be big brands in Japan that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The Blu-rays were fascinating as well. Some of them were cab-point-of-views of popular routes in Japan. A fan could pretend to be a train operator driving a popular route, all in 1080p glory. Lastly, it was great seeing old-school Tamiya model cars, some of which I had played with as a child in Hong Kong, still being sold.

I would have loved to get my hands on one of the Blu-rays, but of course we’re traveling around now and I don’t even have a Blu-ray player. I am definitely going back to Tokyo some time, so I will keep that on my list.

Our next stop was the Tokyu Hands department store. I will continue in a separate post.

Baseball Game

Last Friday, September 21, 2012 we attended a baseball game between the Yomiuri Giants and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Tokyo Dome
The Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants.

Upon arriving in Japan, one of my first thoughts was to attend a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. It was pretty easy to buy tickets from the Giants website, and I selected the last few remaining seats down the left field line. It was the first of a three-game homestand against the Swallows, and I figured that Friday night would be a good time to watch a game.

I’ll never forget walking into the stadium and seeing the field. It was breathtaking and unbelievable at the same time, a giant, open, airy space smacking you right in the face. All indoors!

View of the Field

We went in a couple of hours before the first pitch and just sat in our seats watching batting practice and taking in the surroundings and the interesting sights. It’s been a while since I’ve been to an MLB game, but I don’t remember there being staff on hand to warn you of impending foul balls with an LED device and a noisemaker, like this fellow here:

Alert!
The thing in his hand is used to flash a light at you in case of foul balls.

A little later on, the Swallows fans started streaming into their designated area in the left-field bleachers. The trumpeters and drummers rehearsed their fight songs. In right-center, the Giants’ trumpeters and drummers did the same thing. During the game, each side sang songs and chanted to the beat of the drums, but of course Giants fans were throughout the stadium and much louder.

Swallows Fans
Swallows fans and band designated area in left field…
Giants Fans
Giants band designated area in right-center…
Stadium Panorama
…and Giants fans all over the stadium

In addition to the atmosphere, another difference between MLB and NPB games is the vendors. I noticed only young women vending items, each wearing brand-specific outfits. The girls selling beer wore kegs on their backs, like this Yebisu girl here:

Beer Girl

As for the game itself, it was very entertaining. There were 10 runs scored, and the game was tied at 4-4 for a while. There were a lot of pitching changes (something common in Japanese baseball?), and I was happy to find out that we were watching a Central League game, in which the pitchers go to bat just like the San Francisco Giants in the MLB’s National League. One player, catcher and cleanup hitter Shinnosuke Abe of the Giants, really caught my attention. In his first at-bat, he blasted a home run into right-field. In his second, he almost did it again, but settled for a single instead after the ball hit the fence. In terms of on-field action, we definitely got our money’s worth.

Game Action

The crowd erupted and tossed out streamers at the end of the game, and flashbulbs lit up the stadium. As it turns out, the Giants had just clinched the Central League pennant! Wow! Everyone was going crazy screaming, chanting, and cheering. The team lined up in the infield and the manager gave a speech and accepted a couple of trophies. I couldn’t believe that we were a part of such a momentous occasion.

Winners
Yes, they did play “We are the Champions”.

We crowded back onto the train, happy that the home team won. What began as “just another Friday night game” ended up being the first time the Giants won the pennant since 2009. Awesome!

Here are a couple more souvenirs from the game:

Ticket Program

And, a link to a summary of the game.

Making Out Like a Bandit

Toys

We stopped by Akihabara today. The first thing I saw coming out of the metro was a Sega amusement center. I’m a long-time Sega fan so I was giddy, of course. We played one of the crane games and won a little toy, as seen above. Other goods that I made off with:

  • A mini wifi hotspot that will allow me to use my phone with the hotel’s wired internet (the wifi in the hotel has a weak signal).
  • A bigger wireless mouse to replace my tiny and overly-sensitive Logitech. Unfortunately, this new mouse has a feature called “Touch & Go” which turns off the mouse automatically after 3 seconds if you don’t touch its right side. It’s supposed to save power, but I have found that it doesn’t always respond properly. Before I found out more online, I thought that the mouse was defective. I’ll have to train myself to touch the right side of the mouse before I use it. It would have been a great mouse if not for this issue.
  • HDMI cable for connecting my laptop to the hotel’s LCD.
  • Extension cord so I can use and charge my phone at the same time when I’m in bed. If I use the phone at night without charging it, then I’ll have less than 100% battery to start the day, and that’s not something you want to do with a Galaxy Nexus.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog wet-nap for cleaning your hands after playing crane games!

In addition to a shopping haul I also spent some time in an arcade to play some Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It’s an older game so I pretty much played against the computer. Once I got to Akuma, however, someone decided to challenge me with his/her Chun Li (I didn’t see who was on the other side of the cabinet, but probably a he). I lost quickly just because it’s been so long since I’ve played against a real person and the adrenaline rush was a bit overwhelming. I got him on the run-back, and then again when he picked O. Ken. So, I can now say I played Street Fighter in Japan, and even beat a local player!

Since arriving in Tokyo I’ve been hacking my lungs out and having problems sleeping. That’s such a shame because I’m really liking Tokyo and there’s so much to see and do. I’ll just have to savor the few hours per day that I have when I’m not super tired, like today with Akihabara. I got to walk around the electronic stores and check out the women dressed in maid outfits, nice!

I suppose the one benefit of being unwell is my appetite. I’ve been eating like a pig. I think I need to eat more to replenish all of that energy lost to coughing and tossing and turning in bed. Below is today’s highlight, ramen that makes me salivate just looking at it:

Ramen

Finally, a sunset that you just can’t get anywhere else:

Dusk

I can’t wait to get better.

Man the Internet is Fast!

Wow!

We’ve finally made it to Japan. Although I’ve transit through the airport before, this is the first time I’ve actually set foot outside of it.

So far I’m happy just to be here, observing the Tokyo skyline, watching people in the subway. We already bought a bunch of food from 7-Eleven, and last night we had room service.

I’ve been sleeping like a baby, worried that I might be under the weather a bit. I shall rest up and feel better, then take in the sights during our 1+ weeks here. This afternoon I bought tickets for Tokyo Game Show 2012. I’ve read about the show in magazines, and it’s going to be awesome to go there in person.

Now I will go use the bidet…

Room with a View
Room with a view