Day 4

Up until now Erik and I have been going to areas not very tourist-heavy but yesterday was all about the popular spots.

Hitting the mall connected to the hotel we’re staying at, I went to an official Studio Ghibli store and went a little crazy getting items and gifts for friends and family. I love the Miyazaki films, so finally having access to great quality stuff that wasn’t crazy inflated import prices made my spending brain go to town. Still, that took care of most of the gifts I needed to get for people and a few mementos of Japan for myself that will look great at home, so it was well worth it.

My Neighbour Zubby.

After that, we checked the local K-Books chain store to grab a few art books we couldn’t find at the discount places on Day 3. Then, we dropped off all our goods so we wouldn’t be weighed down when we went to the Asakusa Temple.

Asakusa is strange. Like any tourist hub, it was bustling with sightseers, which is to be expected. But the idea that this beautiful temple area is sullied with hordes of vendor booths selling cheap tourist crap and candy made me kind of sad. What must have been an incredibly serene area at its height has been reduced to a money grab. It was still very impressive and I took a lot of photos, but the whole thing felt out of place.

Asakusa Temple.

Planning to meet one of Erik’s friends who is currently living in Japan, we needed to head down the river through the Tokyo Bay to O Daiba. We figured we could take the ferry boat down there, but kicked it up an extra nerdy notch. One of the ferry boats is called the Himiko and it was designed by famous manga artist Leiji Matsumoto… so obviously we had to take that one instead of the standard. The Himiko is an amazing little ship with glass bubble domes on the top so you can see all the way around you. There are even standees of Matsumoto characters from Galaxy Express 999 on board – the voice actors from the show narrate as you journey down river. Needless to say, it was quite cool.

The famous Himiko ferry boat.
Click on the picture above for a video of the ship arriving.

Standees of the anime characters inside the Himiko.
Click on the picture above for a video of Erik explaining about the Himiko and Calpis Water.

O Daiba is a manmade extension of land that’s grown up out of nothing over the past ten years. We wandered around an extensive multi-tiered mall called The Docks killing some time until Erik suggested something out of left field: the O Daiba Onsen.

Onsen is a public bath/spa. It’s a deep-seated Japanese tradition and definitely something that North America doesn’t understand. Erik had never been, we were out on our heavy-duty tourist day so I thought “Why not?” and we gave it a shot.

This is not just some large public bath. The Onsen is a huge sprawling complex of Edo-style culture mixed with restaurants, massage, many types of baths, saunas and a fair ground to play games and relax. It was awesome. After entering and paying your fee, you choose a Yukata (robe) and enter the communal fair ground/restaurants area, which is all done up like an traditional Edo-area village.

Jim’s looking intense and silly in a traditional Yukata.

There you can socialize and play games while eating. Your regular clothes and things are in a locker by this point, so a small wristband that can be scanned by vendors is used to keep track of food or item purchases. From there you can go to all kinds of massage/bath areas separated by gender – mineral baths, heated baths, oscillating bubble jet baths and outdoor bath grotto areas. The whole thing is amazingly relaxing and serene. By the time we left we were both felt pretty awesome and refreshed, though the whole thing woke Erik up and made me far more sleepy.

Jim hanging out at the Onsen eating area.
Click on the picture above for a video of Jim throwing a ninja star. Seriously.

Meeting Erik’s buddy afterwards, we had nice conversation at a Mexican-themed restaurant called Zest. I was slowly losing the sleep battle though, nodding off from time to time as Erik and him got caught up on personal and business stuff. By the time we got back to the hotel I collapsed straight out and didn’t wake up until about 20 minutes ago. It was an ultra deep and relaxing sleep.

Odiba at night.

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