industrial robots
Cranking out widgets in search of meaning...

Tokyo 2018


I was looking forward to returning to Tokyo once again, and this time, I got to share the city with Chris. He also made some great suggestions of places to go that I hadn’t seen before.

Chris and Earl selfie on the plane.


The nerd capital of Tokyo, and arguably the world, Akiba is an anime, game, and manga paradise. There’s also a small “secret” shrine behind the main street in a tiny alleyway.

Selfie of Earl in an Akihabara intersectiontall, skinny buildings, one is under renovationa small buddhist shrine

There are giant electronics stores to explore as well, and even the PS Vita was still getting a lot of love. You can also shop for more personal items as well at Don Quijote. I was surprised to see how many payment systems are being accepted now as well, considering how common cash still is in Japan.

shelves of playstation vita gamesa sign showing ten payment methods such as visa and google paya hand-drawn sign with lolita style illustrations of women that says SM & Anal

Arcades are a focal point here as well, and one of the best is Hey, owned by Taito. I played some classic shoot ‘em up games here and it’s well worth a visit.

The doorway and signage of taito Heya radiant silvergun cabinetthe game rayforce by taito

Fast food is plentiful, from burgers to ramen, and vending machines are even more plentiful than a typical Tokyo neighbourhood.

a sign outside a ramen shop with a model of ramenDr. Pepper can in front of vending machine

We also made our way over a nearby bridge to check out the “sketchy vending machines” that we’d heard about online. We bought one of the many boxes available wrapped in a strange typewritten story as a souvenir.

view from one bridge to another with buildings on both sidesa series of run down looking white vending machinesa vending machine containing boxes wrapped in paper with typed text

The street scene is lively with colour and lights as various shops vie for the attention of the crowd.

a large building on a street cornera series of colourful buildingsa tallbuilding with a large illustrated advertisement


Returning to our ryokan after our first afternoon out, we were asked if we were interested in a walking tour of Asakusa the next day. We figured it would be a great way to learn about the area and agreed.

After taking a bus to a meeting spot, our guides brought us to a building outlining the history of the area that has a great view as well.

Chris walking to our meeting spottour guideslooking down at the shrine area

We walked around the neighbourhood for a bit, playing “spot the ninja” and much like in Toronto, you can see SkyTree from almost anywhere.

a ninja figure on a building roofthe back of a pair of signposts covered with stickersskytree and other buildings from a distance

We then went through Kaminarimon Gate on our way to Senso-ji temple. It wasn’t too crowded yet, so that was a plus. We were lucky enough to arrive at the same time as a wedding party as well.

Kaminarimon Gate's giant lanternSenso-ji templewedding party with large red parasol

After a quick break, we checked out the five-story pagoda and got our fortune slips before disbanding our group.

rest area with canopy of greeneryfive story pagodadrawers of fortune slips and dispenser

Chris and I then took an older subway line to Skytree, taking advantage of the “Fast Skytree Ticket For International Visitors” and skipping the line.

otemachi station sign z08interior of an old subway car with amber cloth seatingfast skytree ticket information signlooking up at sktree from the base

Skytree has two viewing levels and it’s worth the price for both. I was able to get some great shots of the area, as well as find the Ueno neighbourhood we were staying in, as well as a decent shot of Mount Fuji.

the sumida river areathe ueno areamount fujichris and earl at skytree

There’s also a mall (of course) at the bottom of the tower and they were selling many types of goods and souvenirs, including “Tokyo Skytree Tomato Juice”, which we didn’t really understand.

kirby store
a store called dadwaydel monte tokyo skytree tomato juice display

We went for brunch at Hoshino Coffee and had some excellent souffle pancakes before checking out the most accessible washroom ever and then catching the bus.

Chris with souffle pancakes and coffeeroomy public bathroom with many accessibility featuresview of tokyo tower partially obscured by its shopping mall

Central Tokyo

We only went to Tokyo station on our way to Ginza, but it’s definitely worth exploring the station itself. It has architecture that’s rather unique in Tokyo and there’s a lot of shopping and food to be had within the station itself.

tokyo stationtokyo station grounds

Nearby is the Hibiya area, where you can visit Hibiya park, which we skipped as we were passing through. We did find a small Godzilla statue and it was interesting to see smoking areas being set up outdoors.

sign for godzilla square, hibiyagodzilla statue in hibiya square


Tokyo’s high-end shopping mecca, Ginza, is worth a visit even if you aren’t rich.

giant outdoor bonzai

We went to the Uniqlo flagship location, where you can find extra unique items and even customize some of your clothes.

my uniqlo customization display with hats, gloves, and bagsa uniqlo shopping bag showing a glimpse of items

Then we were off to the Sony Building to meet Aibo the robot dog, and I was very tempted (again) to buy one.

aibo signEarl petting aibo

The Sony Building also has a Nissan display on the ground floor, showing off some amazing concept cars.

Nissan IDS concept in purpleNissan concept 2020 vision gran turismo in red

Our final stop was the Kit Kat Chocolatory, which sells exclusive items not available anywhere else. Note: This location closed since then, and there is only one Chocolatory location open year-round.

kit kat halloween displaykit kat chocolatory exterior


I’ll admit to not really exploring this area but we decided to check out the replica Manekin Pis statue on display at one of the subway platforms. They dress it up in various costumes related to various calendar events and seasons.

Manekin Pis statue dressed as a witch for halloweenchris and earl selfie with Manekin Pis statue

Imperial Palace East Gardens

A nice way to escape the busy urban landscape, these gardens are a great way to relax for a couple of hours.

sign for the east gardens of the imperial palacewater-filled moat with tall modern buildings in the background

It’s well manicured in places, as is to be expected with the occasional building providing cover from the sun, and some refreshment options.

manicured trees obscure a traditional buildingrows of hedges line a hillside

The bamboo groves are impressive and quite varied.

green bamboo stalkstall brown bamboo with green leaves

There’s a surprising amount of open space as well.

a flat grassy area with trees in the distancemanicured trees and hedges line short gress

Indoors, historical photos are on display as well as several bonzai plants.

photos comparing the gate area in the early 1960's to 2018japanese white pine bonzai, 190 years old

Even the surrounding walls and gateway are impressive, separating the gardens from the modern world.

chris standing in the wood and metal entrance gatewayexterior of the entrance with traditional tiled roofing and stonework with modern skyscrapers in the background


We went to Shibuya a couple of times, once for a concert and again for shopping.

AA= The 010 Day at shibuya rsutaya o-east 2018/10/20 (sat) sold outJR shibuya station billboard with text google pixel = softbank and an image of a robot holding a smartphone

The concert was the tenth anniversary show of my favourite Japanese band, AA=. Lead by Takeshi Ueda, you may have heard of his previous outfit, The Mad Capsule Markets, or the music he did for some of the Ridge Racer games.

stage with banner for the 010 dayTakeshi Ueda on stage

The show was absolutely incredible and it was good to see Japanese letting loose as well.

stairwell with art from the band's albumswide shot of the stage and crowd

I scored some excellent merch and later on bought the blu-ray disc. It was very cool to be able to find us in the crowd and also hear myself cheer after one of my favourite songs.

shirt, stickers, and cd with a toy figurechris and earl in the crowd

Our shopping trip consisted of the usual suspects, Uniqlo (pink jeans!) and Mega Don Quijote.

folded pink jeansmega don quijote sign at entrance

We also did explore Tokyu Hands as well, which was interesting. There was a floor full of “boy’s love” manga and I bought a purple puyo.

standee with two young men, one with his shirt half-removeda purple puyo game character

There was a store dedicated to anime studio Production I.G. where replica tachikoma are available. Sadly, the giant one wasn’t making appearances that day and there wasn’t anything there I was interested in buying. This would be remedied later on our day trip to Chichibu.

I.G. store signmodel of a tachikoma

A new shopping mall, Shibuya Parco, was being built while we were there. In some fit of genius, the hoarding was decorated with illustrated panels from the Akira manga. Simply amazing.

The word Akira illustrated as if made of neon tubesa monochrome illustrated scene of tokyo exploding


Great for both entertainment and shopping, Shinjuku can’t be missed.

building with I heart kabukicho wordingilluminated street sign for godzilla road

There was a VR installation based on Ghost In The Shell that I wanted to try, so we booked some time at VR Zone Shinjuku. I still can’t believe how immersive it was. You have a mini PC you wear in a backpack and freeroam within a large open area. They measure your height so that they can even map an outfit onto you while you’re in the game. Mindblowing.

VR Zone Shinjukua screen showing people playing the VR game

We went for lunch at the Hotel Gracery, where the giant Godzilla head is. The food was excellent.

8F godzilla head and cafeterrasse bonjoura display of available desserts including godzilla cake

Out on the terrace, Godzilla was about to perform his hourly roar and it did not disappoint.

chris and earl with godzilla's head

The rest of the floor is dedicated to the history of Godzilla films (except that crappy US one from 1998).

model of godzillagodzilla movie posters line a hallway, except for the US film

Our shopping continued at Shinjuku Marui Men, a tradition for me now on every visit. We would return to Shinjuku on another day in the evening to experience the Robot Restaurant. It’s like Medieval Times, except with robots, dinosaurs, anime characters, and lasers.

Shinjuku Marui Men building with large rainbow flag on the siderobot restaurant sign in colourful lettering

There’s a nonsensical plot that the action follows, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s just good, wacky fun.

a float with robots and many coloured lightsrobot dinosaur with taiko drummers

Special tickets get you a selfie. It was a great time but only needs to be seen once.

people on a float singing with a guitaristearl and chris with one of the performers


I found out about a retro arcade here from a YouTuber I follow and it did not disappoint.

game center mikado

I got to play a few of my old favourites and try some games that were new to me as well.

the cockpit version of space harrierhatsune miku project diva arcadepsyvariar delta


I love staying in Ueno, and I was really glad to be able to share it with Chris. We stayed at Ryokan Sawanoya, where I did on the last two trips as well.

ueno subway platform signRyokan Sawanoya entrance

Ameyayokocho market is a definite highlight, and it’s right near relaxing Ueno Park.

a statue at one of the market entrancesa stall selling fruit on a stickueno pond lily pads

On one of our park visits, there was a festival happening, complete with idol singers.

shrine decorated with lanterns and bannersa crowd watches singers perform

Being October, hallowe’en decorations were abundant. Much, much more than on my last trip.

a poster for local halloween eventsa poster for a kfc halloween special

Yanaka Ginza was a great place to shop and we found some kimonos for Les.

yanaka ginza street signclothing store with items hanging outside

We found some great treats, of course. Croissant Taiyaki being a highlight. We also found a small shop that sells excellent mochi.

fish shaped pastries (taiyaki)chris outside the mochi store

The Shitamachi Museum was another highlight, and our guide gave us a great experience.

tour guide presenting an old store displaya mockup of a japanese living room from likely the 50's

There were also some historic items to view and games to try out.

cards and toy figuresan old wooden pachinko type game

We even got to meet up with some of my co-workers. DF Japan!

five person selfieearl and two of his co-workers

Ueno really is such a great place, I can’t hype it up enough!

pandas with bodies made of plants in front of a hedgea grey wall with ueno! written on it in white grafitti

We had an excellent stay, arigato gozaimashita!

the parents and son who run the ryokanchris and earl

Haneda Airport

On my previous trips to Tokyo, I had always travelled through Narita airport, so Haneda was new to me.

our plane at the obervation decka pepper robot promoting sim cards

A historically themed area houses some shopping and restaurants.

wooden fencing and traditional looking laternsa wooden bridge with traditional artwork along one side

There’s also some art installations and a plane piloting simulator for kids.

autumn art installation with lanterns and leavesa plane flying simulator with a seat and three screens

We had a light lunch (last Qoo!) and we were off. A great trip!

some type of wrap and a small bottle of apple qoo drinkchris and earl on the plane