A Japan trip: Okinawa and Shikoku, Day 2

My strategy for avoiding the jet lag almost worked, but it started raining strongly in the middle of the night so I wake up at 4:00 more or less. I could scrap some sleep until 7, but after that I just get up and started planning my day. I will stay one more day in Tokyo before heading to Okinawa the next day. I had to since the best connection only existed on Monday.

I have no plans whatsoever for this day so I just open Google and decided to go with the first things that came up: Odaiba. I want to take a look at the bridge from the observation area, the Odaiba Beach. When I get there I see a reasonably big accumulation of people. Apparently they are celebrating the National Triathlon Championship and I get there just for the start. I decide to take a look closer and follow it for a little bit. They are swimming not far from the beach and there is full coverage with cameras, big screens, etc. so people can follow properly. A lot of them are cheering for the athletes, I guess something big is in play here, I’m guessing olympics!

Everything is super well organized, as I walk the Odaiba zone there are people everywhere making sure nobody can step in the bicycle course and guiding people around. I’m heading now to the Ouedo Onsen Monogatari (王江戸温泉物語) which is a hot spring facility located in Odaiba that has real hot spring water (if you are wondering how they get spring water to such a massive city, well, they drill underground until they find it!). This place is the typical tourist trap, but the hot spring themselves are quite good. It’s expensive though. I really like the onsen and I spend around 1 hour in there. Not so much people, there are 4 different kind of baths, outdoor baths and the typica complements like sauna, cold water bath, etc. I see a lot of westerners in here. There is a group of two, a around-50 Japanese man and a westerner of the same age that seems to be having his first experience in an onsen. This must be an awesome place to relax after closing a business deal!

Onsen Monogatari

So this complex is also filled with places to eat, gift shops, relax zones and the like. One of them is a massive “TV room” with individual seats with their own TV, so people can sit down there and just watch TV. The best part is that you can pay for food, beverages, etc. by using your bracelet and everything will be added to your tab. Oh, and people wear a traditional yukata so it seems like you are in the pre-Meiji Japan. Since I was only interested in the onsen I don’t spend much time wondering around and just leave for my next destination.

My next destination is somewhere I had wanted to go for a while but couldn’t in my previous trips. It’s the Kawasaki Warehouse, an arcade and games complex with an amazingly decorated building that looks out from a cyberpunk movie. Before that I have some lunch in a pizza place in a massive mall in Kawasaki. It’s full people as it’s sunday, even at around 3PM there are people doing lines for eating.

I stay like a couple of hours (really!) in the warehouse because I’m having so much fun with Nostalgia. My skills are improving bit by bit, what a shame that I cannot play this back in Spain. A Japanese guy comes next to me and start playing, he looks very professional, cleans up the machine (there is cleaning stuff in each machine) and to my surprise he is even worse than me! Not what I expected :)

Kawasaki Warehouse

After the arcade session I decide to go to an art exposition titled “Audio Architecture” and is located in a very hipster neighbourhood of Roppongi Hills, in a museum called 21_21 DESIGN. I didn’t expect to see anyone since it was almost closing time, but there was actually a line. Lots and lots of hipster Japanese guys and girls with immaculate and pretty well designed clothes, and me with my typical travel apparel mix of North Face and Merino clothes :)

The exposition itself is not bad. It’s a multi-author exposition in which every author reinterprets via images and vídeos the same song. One exhibit is specially god: it’s a place where people can step up, point their face to the camera and generate a real-time simulation with their face in it in sync with the music. It’s quite funny and it might actually pass for a real, professional video clip of any random song. I’m left with the curiosity as to what are the technologies involved in this exhibit.

I feel like walking to start heading towards Shibuya. You can reach Shibuya from Roppongi Hills in about 45 min. I pass through some pretty high end fashion stores and cafes, and decide to have an “American Lemonade” in a nearby place. I’ve had a lot of lemonades in America and I’m pretty sure they don’t have any alcohol! But this one has, so I’m a little disappointed, but actually it’s not that bad. I keep walking and finally reach Shibuya.

Audio Architecture

It’s getting late and I’m pretty tired for the day, so after visiting a couple of favorite stores in Shibuya, including (how not) an arcade :) I just want to go back to the hotel and have some classical konbini dinner, a very typical Japanese thing if you ask me. My favourite are the sushi assortments of Family Mart; normally at these hours they are already gone from the shelves, but I’m lucky to find some. I say goodbye for the day eating sushi in the kotatsu 炬燵. This one is not like the modern ones which are just tables with stoves underneath and a comfy blanket, but a real hole in the ground where you can put your legs and functions pretty much like a table + chair in the western world, just offset by the chair height.