Day 5

We dashed off to a business meeting in downtown Tokyo. Obviously I can’t go into detail about it, but the whole thing went extremely well. I can usually tell when a business meeting is pomp and circumstance or something of actual value and this one felt like substantial progress and a real desire to have our companies work together on cool future projects. Both Erik and I walked away feeling pumped about its potential.

Not knowing how long that would take, we left the afternoon open and had some free time. Heading to Shibuya (basically the Tokyo equivalent of Yonge Street in Toronto), we wandered the massive streets. There’s something surreal about pedestrian crossings so massive that they have no border – cars must stop all directions and masses of people just flood out into the intersection to cross vertically, horizontally or diagonally – amazing.

City streets.Gathchapon (tiny toy) vending machines.

Erik steered us towards another Mandarake anime/manga store in Shibuya. While not as impressive as the multiple Mandarake in Nakano, it was still quite huge. I asked the staff for help finding a few things and was struck by the incredibly cliché otaku behaviour they exhibited. Keep in mind that the term otaku over here doesn’t just mean “anime fan”, it’s a negative connotation meaning “no life degenerate freak obsessive”. The staff at this location were that to a tee and it actually creeped me out a bit. The plump and sweaty otaku guy with puffy cheeks who walked with uneasy loud footsteps and the stick-thin otaku girl in thick glasses who nervously ran about like everything she was helping you find was her only link to life – this was the realm of the anime hardcore.

Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel to drop things off. Erik had promised he’d take me to Namjatown and tonight was the night we could fit it in.

Yeah, Namjatown. I don’t even know how to describe it properly…

Namjatown is like a Japanese Chuck E. Cheese restaurant on some serious acid. It’s a sprawling labyrinth of food outlets, whacked-out themed areas, toys and games, a massage spa and an ice cream parlour. Um, yeah. It was so tacky/weird/blasphemous and over the top it was awesome. The photos I’ll post will only give you a vague idea of how maze-like and strange the whole thing is.

About to enter the acid trip.

– The “Gyoza Stadium” where various gyoza vendors yell at you to try and steer you towards their booth to try their wares amongst a supernatural cave/old Tokyo-circa 1940 backdrop.

– Themed areas like a Japanese haunted village, classic European theatre, a catholic church altar, Chinese temple, Italian cafe, cutesy fantasy forest, American military bunker and a Willy Wonka-esque ice cream factory. Every area had chirping cute anime voices and music blasting out of speakers, occasionally punctuated with english words like “Okay!” or “Good time!”. The haunted village had a babbling female ghost video projected onto the bathroom mirrors. The ice cream store carried wacked out flavours including hazelnut, rose petal, garlic-mint, shrimp, crab, mixed vegetable, soy sauce, corn and cow tongue.

– An extensive spa/massage parlour slammed right into the middle of the above areas.

– Hundreds of permutations of the monocled cat mascot that represents Namjatown.

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