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how to travel with a smile

the [perfectly calm] adventures of david-andrew

fashion robot games (日本 3)

I didn’t set out to have a specific experience in Tokyo. I just wanted to run into whatever 日本 had to offer. Somehow, this day filled with all the typical Japanese things you see in popular culture in the US.


We paused outside Harajuku Station to get our bearings and decide which way we were going. Our friend guides were looking for a specific restaurant. I was too busy looking at the chaos we just entered to notice we were circling in on our target. Somehow, it seemed like we were always going uphill in this area. We would turn a sharp corner, headed in the opposite direction, and still be walking up a hill. It was worth the climb when we found とんかつ まい泉. Maisen Tonkatsu seemed small upon entering the lobby, but there are more areas than first seen. The lobby has a colorful flower garden and displays of the dishes offered in the restaurant. All over Tokyo we saw detailed artificial food models made for restaurant windows. Inside there are waiting benches against the window and a counter to get a quick lunch. There is an upstairs as well that has a more traditional table setting. We took off our shoes and sat on zabuton cushions. After sitting there for an hour, we decided we need more practice sitting on the floor before returning to 日本.


Once again, I used the point-at-a-picture method of ordering food. It’s easy at tonkatsu because everything is the same. You only have to decide if you want it round, square, heart-shaped, sliced, or on a stick. It came with a mountain of shredded cabbage, rice, miso soup, and a sauce that had similarities to barbecue sauce. I braced my veggie-loving mouth, and took a deep breath. “When in Rome!” I said as I prepared to take the second bite of pork I’ve ever had in my life.

If you are looking for reasons to believe that Tokyo is real and not just a cartoon dream, you won’t find them in the 原宿 (Harajuku) area. There is a cave of mirrors at the Tokyu Plaza. Above the mirror cave is a forest in the sky. Past the mirrors, water flows out of a glass fountain several blocks up the hill. Next time we visit I will know to turn left at the glass water feature to get to Maisen.
harajuku_mirrors_cu harajuku_fountain


I want to live in the forest.

It’s driving me a little nuts actually. I can’t find any evidence beside my own photographs that i didn’t dream most of this. I’ve become obsessed with revisiting Tokyo through Google Street View. Right now I’m looking for all these sights and they aren’t there. Apparently in 2010, the last time Street View updated Tokyo, there was a Gap where the magic mirror cave is now. They traded up, way up. That corner is interesting now. The other possibility is that I totally blocked the Gap from my mind. Let’s hope I really have that power.

One thing we saw all over Tokyo, but more prevalent in Harajuku, was clothing with random words and expressions in English. On one of the trains, we saw a young woman with a T-shirt that said “Gallery Times.” One of my favorites was the honest cap that says “nonsense.”

harajuku_randomenglish_666beerbride harajuku_randomenglish_carve

Harajuku is a colorful area that is easy for pedestrian wandering. There is a good range of shops, both local and international, high-dollar and more accessible. I would like to explore it further on future trip to Tokyo.


“Snoberry” – no hiding the agenda here



resilience = lone urban tree

harajuku_smilecamp harajuku_cpyrt


possibly the world’s worst salad


It was finally time to return to Mitaka with the tickets we purchased on our first day. There is a special bus that goes straight to The Ghibli Museum from the Mitaka stop. Remembering the pleasant, tree-lined street from our first time, we opted to walk again. Hiccup and Sister split form us at this point to visit a family friend in Mitaka.

Positioned between a park and a zoo, The Ghibli Museum is a magic getaway in the quieter Mitaka area. トトロ (Totoro) welcomes you just past the front gate. Below his window, the ススワタリ(soot sprites) crowd into a small opening to get a look too. The stained-glass windows of the building depict the wonderful films of Hayao Miyazaki. It’s like looking into the imagination of the storytelling master. Inside there are bridges, doors, and hallways obviously made for small creatures. You can explore the workspaces of the animators. Pinned on the wall are sketches with notes and inspirational research materials. On the top floor there is an actual Catbus with Mei’s name in hiragana (as a young child would write it in Japanese) set as its destination. If you get past the Catbus, there is a lovely roof walk up through a spiral staircase on the outside of the museum. On the roof, there is a wooded trail to the giant robot from Castle in the Sky. In the museum’s theater, we got to see a short film continuation of the Totoro story called Mei and the Kitten Bus. Alone, it was worth the price of admission.

Ghibli_totorossign Ghibli_front
Ghibli_gate Ghibli_mosaic
Ghibli_gmbus Ghibli_gmbus_cu
Ghibli_roof_robot Ghibli_roof_tunnel Ghibli_roof_box
 Ghibli_waterfountain Ghibli_bench
 Ghibli_roof_spiralstairs  Ghibli_roof_spiraltotop
Ghibli_vane Ghibli_gazebo Ghibli_courtside

I’m watching もののけ姫 (Princess Mononoke) while I write this. It started my Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki obsession years ago. If you haven’t seen it, you need to stop everything and watch it now. Then watch My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo

We met back with Hiccup and Sister and a little tea shop below the Mitaka station. It’s really cute inside and the proprietor was warm to welcome us and patient with our ordering.

Here’s a survival lesson for those needing caffeine in Tokyo. The red banner says “コーヒー” (kōhii) in katakana. It means you can get coffee here!

The sun is starting to set, but our day isn’t over yet. There’s still so much to see and it’s already time to return to the US tomorrow. We said earlier Akihabara is a cool place to see lit up at night.



playing SEGA MaiMai

MaiMai is like DanceDanceRevolution for your hands.
The music video during this level is “Candy Candy” by Kyary PamyuPamyu.
You need to see it. It’s quite distracting for game play.


ThePilot found a game made just for him.

We thought we were doing pretty well at the SEGA MaiMai game. Then we saw this guy.

We reluctantly said goodbyes to Hiccup and Sister in front of the Gundam and AKB48 Cafes (Yes, that is a cafe all about AKB48). We all agreed that we need to come here again.

I won’t have any trouble sleeping tonight. This day exhausted me. I still need to make one more stop on the way back to the hotel. I have been drooling over those cakes since we got here and I have to try the coffee jello before leaving.

mmmm sweet dreams!

Next: our last day in Tokyo is relaxed and quiet

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Posted in art and food and media and travel by dA on May 17th, 2013 at 11:24 AM.


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3 Replies

  1. Anonymous May 28th 2013

    The desserts were Great!
    … except for that cream puff thing that tasted like FISH! dang — fish in everything :)

  2. oh yeah! that was so weird. It’s so evil to disguise that taste in the shape of a cream puff cookie sandwich thing. =P

  3. peacelovingyippie Jun 7th 2013

    So rad!! I want to hear more about that mini movie and continuation of totoro. The whole experience sounds so magical. And I can totally relate to feeling like you dreamt it all up-I feel the same way about some of my out of country excursions! I think it’s because it’s so different from our lives at home, it’s hard to find ways to relate to it all once were gone and then we are second guessing ourselves like, “did that REALLY happen?” Love all the visuals. So glad you are sharing!