The shoes I got in Shimo-Kitazawa didn’t really work, they turned out to be way too small. So this week I went back there to exchange them. I did still have the box, but I couldn’t find the receipt no matter how I looked. I decided to give it a shot anyway and I’m pretty sure that not knowing the language worked to my advantage because the clerk just got a pained look on his face, likely as he was trying to figure out how to tell me that it would be impossible to exchange the shoes without a receipt. Instead I not only got to exchange them for a cheaper pair, I also got the difference back in cash! I guess that in courteous and non-confrontational Japan, playing the stupid foreigner card works very well.
Just like last time I hang around in Shimo-Kitazawa for a few hours just because I like the mood of the place. I find this fabulous, tiny café when I decide to find out what’s up those tiny stairs in an alley. It’s run by a guy who’s an absolute movie buff and has covered the place with vintage movie posters. So I sit down at the counter and just sew for a couple of hours, looking at the other two guests out of the corner of my eye and just enjoy the quiet competence of the owner when he prepares my coffee.
Another thing on my list of things to do while in Tokyo has long been to visit the Ghibli museum. It is a few subway changes away from central Tokyo though, and you also have to reserve tickets since there are a limited number of visitors allowed in each four-hour time slot. Hopping off the train you also have to walk a couple of kilometers through a rather cozy, upscale neighborhood where I found the residents to be rather excellent at English. After a couple of wrong turns I finally find the museum and is greeted by a live sized Totoro behind the ticket counter! I soon realize that this isn’t the real entrance though and that I have to go around to the other end of the building. It isn’t big though and once inside there is all sorts of wonderful things to look at. I am politely admonished when taking pictures though, because for some lame reason photography isn’t allowed.
The place is filled with wonderful little things that you only notice the third time you pass them by, much like the films they produce. There are hand painted three-dimensional scenes, wonderfully weird architecture with mysterious little shortcuts you can take throughout the place, a terrace where they sell their own branded beer and strange ice cream. I get the chili-flavored one and it tastes as you might imagine chili ice-cream would; hot and cold at the same time, not very good actually, but certainly worth trying! There is one part decorated like a cluttered office that has original scene sketches from all the movies we know and love, but the thing that stays with you is when you enter one of the rooms and find yourself eye to eye with the giant cat bus from Totoro! Leading up to it is a line of little kids all waiting for their chance to climb around of the wonderful thing. Too bad they have this stupid rule about having to be less than five years old to get to climb around on it, otherwise I would totally be in there with them!
The cat bus room leads out to a little balcony connected to a spiral staircase that takes you up on the roof. Here you find a lush garden, probably modeled after Laputa – Castle in the Sky, complete with the wonderful sad-looking robot. Topping it off is probably the best gift shop I’ve ever been to, packed with quality souvenirs. Hell, I spend almost half an hour just in there, rummaging around the knick-knacks, trying to decide what I can fit in my bags going home. Easily the best museum I’ve ever been to!
On Friday a bunch of us at work have gotten baseball tickets at the Tokyo Dome to see the Yomiuri Giants face off against the Saitama Seibu Lions. The arena is huge and we had pretty nice seats. There are these cute girls going around selling chilled beer out of tanks on their backs, so of course I have to buy some just to get a picture with her. The game is just as boring as baseball usually is, until the very end where it actually gets rather exciting. The Lions end up winning anyway and we make our way out of the arena. It’s really cool to walk by as they fully open the doors to the arena because since it has a roof, all those people in there have been shouting, farting and breathing for an entire game have built up quite an air pressure. So walking by, there is a really strong gust of wind coming out of those doors.
We finish up by eating at the galleria connected to the Dome. Overhead is a really cool-looking roller coaster and I decide to go back here there on Sunday and check it out. Saturday morning I manage to oversleep for my diving outing (it didn’t have anything to do with the girl Mariko-san was bringing, promise!) so I just do my usual wandering around in Tokyo, looking at people. I send a Facebook message to Sachi, telling her that I’m going to check out the roller coaster on Sunday and maybe she wants to tag along. I never hear back though so I have to explore it on my own. Turns out the roller coaster is closed though, apparently since an accident back in 2010, where a 25 cm long bolt fell from it and hurt a kid. Too bad, it looks really sweet.
The Tokyo Dome City – as it’s called is rather cool though, so I still have a good time wandering around the various shops filled with weird little things.