***This is part 12 of my “Fat and Furious” trip report detailing a recent trip to Japan which included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Matsuyama***
2. Star Alliance First Class Lounge at LAX
3. Singapore Airlines Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo
4. Conrad Tokyo
5. Eating Tokyo Part 1 – Department Store Hopping in Ginza
6. Funaya Ryokan In Matsuyama
7. Living The Onsen Life In Matsuyama
8. The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
9. Eating Kyoto – The Search for Matcha and Geisha
10. Kaiseki Dinner at 3-Michelin Star Kikunoi Honten
11. The Peninsula Tokyo
12. Eating Tokyo Part 2 – Maids, Robots, and Cosplay
13. Eating Tokyo Part 3 – Cherry Blossoms and THE BEST STEAK EVER
14. ANA Business Class Lounge at NRT
15. ANA Business Class Tokyo to San Jose
At Kyoto Station we hopped on the shinkansen for a very pleasant 2-hour journey to Tokyo. Even by the lofty standards of train systems in Asia, the shinkansen is truly amazing.
We had received some mixed signals from the hotel concierge on whether to book our tickets in advance. Perhaps the they assumed that we were using the Japan Rail Pass, in which case you will want to make reservations ahead of time. Since we weren’t, we simply purchased tickets at Kyoto Station for the next Nozomi train which left every 15 minutes.
We found our assigned seats, and the car was no more than 1/4th full. The seats were extremely comfortable, and featured a table, footrest, and in-seat power.
The highlight of the ride were the views of Mt. Fuji, for which you’ll want to sit on the left hand side of the train in the Kyoto to Tokyo direction. We had assigned seats on the left hand side of the train, and during boarding I remember thinking that it was peculiar that everyone was seated on that side. It all made sense later on, and space permitting, I think the default is to seat people on the Mt. Fuji side of the train in each direction.
With 4 days remaining on the trip, we had an ambitious list of things to do in Tokyo. After checking into the hotel, that night we jumped on the metro and headed over to Akihabara to check-out the nightlife.
First stop, the maid cafe. Japan has several interesting and unique cafes, with themes ranging from jail to toilets to ninjas. There were a couple different maid cafes in the area, and we ended up trying Maidreamin’.
For the record, this was my wife’s idea more than anything, and I got dragged along begrudgingly.
As soon as you walk in you’re swarmed by several Japanese girls dressed in French maid costumes. The maid cafe is all about cute-sy stuff, and the girls certainly play to that theme with over-the-top high pitched voices and gestures. I walked in thinking that this would be a tourist trap, but funny enough we were the only tourists in the whole place, and one of the largest groups appeared to be there for some kind of company off-site.
Everything was way overpriced as there was both an hourly table charge, and minimum purchase of 1 item per person. Even though we heard that the food here was just OK, I have to give an A+ for the presentation, as my rice omelet was almost too cute to eat.
Overall this just wasn’t my type of thing, but could be worth it if you’re looking for the type of experience that you could only find in Japan.
Afterwards, we walked around Akihabara a bit more and stumbled into what appeared to be an Oktoberfest celebration. It certainly looked authentic, with its Spaten beer, bratwursts, and German pretzels.
Outside the Oktoberfest celebration there was a huge group of cosplayers hanging out and posing for pictures.
Not sure what’s funnier – stumbling into an Oktoberfest celebration. In March. In the middle of Japan.
Or running into a girl dressed in a tomato costume next to a life-size plastic cup of beer.
The next day we headed over to Shibuya to do some shopping, but stopped outside the Shibuya metro station first to check out famous Hachiko statue.
And my pathetic attempt to capture the famous crosswalk.
My wife dragged me around the Shibuya 101 stores for a couple of hours, and we must have walked out with at least 10 bags which I of course had the honor of carrying for the rest of the day.
After shopping we decided to head over to Harajuku, and on the way stumbled into this pet store. These little guys could melt your heart.
We continued on, and stumbled upon a long line of people. By now, it was almost second nature to just jump in line to see what the fuss was all about.
As I wrote before, I had fallen in love with melon buns while in Japan. But what’s the only thing better than a melon bun? A MELON BUN ICE CREAM SANDWICH.
We arrived in Harajuku and waded through the busy Takeshita Street which was by far the most crowded place we encountered during our entire trip. It was literally wall-to-wall people for about half a mile.
There was a screen on the banner under the street sign and it was fun to try and capture a picture of our picture.
And the best part of walking around Harajuku was checking out all the interesting outfits.
In general we love walking when on vacation, but I have to say that Tokyo isn’t a very walkable city because it’s so damn big. We stubbornly stuck to walking as opposed to taking the subway, and averaged about 10-15 miles per day.
So my feet were howling at this point as we began the walk from Harajuku to Shinjuku. But as much as I was complaining during that walk, this scene made all of it worth it.
In fact, this is probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life, a real life Mario Kart crew! These guys took their costumes seriously, and even had a stuffed power-up mushroom with them (or is it an extra life, I must be getting rusty).
And a special shout-out to my go-to character, Yoshi. But minus one point for not being 100% in character with the surgical mask.
We took another break shortly after and hopped in a Mitsukoshi department store for a snack. I took another opportunity to marvel and just how freaking expensive some of the fruit was. For example, this melon below cost $200. In my mind, there is no way that a single piece of fruit could possibly justify that price tag.
And now, one of the biggest highlights of our time in Tokyo which was just as amazing as the cherry blossoms, but in a completely different way.
Following our friend’s recommendation, we decided to buy tickets to the Robot Restaurant, which to clarify is really more of a show than a food establishment. I’d recommend getting tickets well in advance, as we booked ours a week out and at that point only had our choice of a single showtime across 4 days.
Everyone there was a tourist which I was actually fine with and sort of expected.
Our friend described the experience as “sensory overload”, but that’s the understatement of the century. We walked into the waiting room, which looks a little something like this.
The waiting room alone had enough mirrors, colors, and neon lights to give you into a seizure. At the back of the room was a small stage, and later on a robot quartet came out to play a few songs.
Even the bathroom was “robot-ized”.
About 30 minutes later we were led down into the basement for the main show. From the moment you walked in, there really was no break from the theme, and even the walk downstairs was entertaining.
The show itself was about 90 minutes long and passed by in a flash. It was an entertaining and eclectic mix of robots, music, and sexy costumes. They definitely have the marketing part down to a science, and every 15 minutes there would be a break where people would come by to sell refreshments.
Not everyone may have felt this way, but I walked away feeling like I got my money’s worth and would definitely recommend the show. I mean, where else in the world are you going to find dancing robots?