A night's sleep had done a lot for me, and I was more than ready to face a new week, on my own in Tokyo. There were lots of places to check out, but for my first trip, I chose the Washinomiya Shrine, just a little ways north of Tokyo. That's right, that's the Lucky☆Star shrine. Another day, another anime pilgrimage!
I started by walking to Akihabara, because I couldn't wait any longer to see it, and I wanted to see how far of a walk it was. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, the dorm I was staying at was extremely close to the nerd mecca.
Walking around in Tokyo is definitely a whole different ball game than Osaka, or even Kyoto. There weren't a whole lot of people in the streets at this time of the morning (around 9:00), but the sheer quantity of tall buildings and the narrow streets practically made me feel like I was in a different country.
|A playground surrounded by tall buildings.|
A pretty surreal sight.
There was a lot more English in Tokyo, too. Foreigners were not nearly as uncommon a sight, signs were translated, and shopkeepers didn't seem uncomfortable when I approached them.
The first thing I came across in Akihabara was the huge Yodobashi Camera department store. It wasn't open yet, but people were queuing up to get in.
I then passed underneath a bridge near a 7-Eleven, and came out to a familiar sight. The iconic giant screen I had seen in several anime shined high above traffic, where I of course saw an itasha stopped at an intersection.
I saw the Excelsior Caffe on my left as I passed underneath a pedestrian bridge towards the main street.
What I saw around the corner was a magnificent showcase of commercialism and otaku goodness. There was no way to escape the bright rainbow of colorful advertisements glaring from every direction, but I had no intention of running.
As glorious as it was, most of the shops were still closed, and I had places to be. I circled around the block and found myself back in the opening where I had previously emerged from the tunnel. I would be back later, but first, I was headed to Washinomiya. I turned my back on Akihabara and showed the gate attendant my JR pass.
Washinomiya station wasn't very far. I only had to make one transfer, and it was the next stop from there.
For the most part, it was an ordinary shrine. Lots of trees, stone paths, tied up fortunes...
It was this tree surrounded by ema which really stood out. These were no ordinary ema.
Gorgeous manga art permeated 80% of the hanging plaques.
|"I wish for good luck to all people who see this ema."|
I spent more time reading these than I would care to admit.
Next, I set off to explore the shrine. It was a pretty cool place, otaku interests aside.
There was a huge ring in front of this building, and instructions for how to "use" it, which involved stepping around the outside of the ring a few times and then entering from the center.
Towards the back of the area, there was an arch leading to a grassy pathway, where a small shrine was hidden. It was pretty mysterious and cool-looking.
There were some animals in cages, too, for some reason. This peacock was sleeping.
I had long since had my fill of Shinto architecture, so I headed out the other side of the shrine, where the famous gate towered over me.
I took a picture of myself walking away from the gate. It was all from memory of the last time I had seen the anime, which was several months prior, but I think it came out pretty well.
|...After I cropped it.|
I had seen a few cats wandering around on the shrine grounds, but this was the first one that didn't run away before I took its picture.
The building on the right had a few lucky star posters, among other things.
I ventured down the street, but I was feeling a little unsatisfied with the trip, and was feeling a bit bold, so I decided to stop by a local shop that had some Lucky☆Star stuff in the window. I thought that, with some luck, I might get tipped off to something else to see.
I consider myself extremely lucky for having made that decision. While I did get stared at like an alien by a few guys enjoying lunch, the place was a gold mine for Lucky☆Star fanart, and I got some delicious takoyaki.
The takoyaki was very hot. So hot, in fact that it melted the Styrofoam. I think I might have accidentally eaten some. Oh well. I was already sick!
Much like the gift shop in Toyosato Elementary, there were many figures and art decorating the walls. There were several types of sauce on sell with anime branding as well.
I washed up, gave my sincere thanks, and left the store, much more satisfied than I had been before. It wasn't a long walk back to the station.
|These banners were everywhere.|
In front of the station, there was a small shop I hadn't noticed before.
There was lots of Lucky☆Star stuff on display there, as well. There was a 500 yen raffle to win one of the prizes, but some of the things on display were way too big to take home, so I declined.
Before I left, I bought some candy, and the shopkeeper pointed to a framed art board on the ceiling. It was signed by none other than Kagami Yoshimizu, the author of the Lucky☆Star manga.
That made a good finishing touch to my time there in Washinomiya. I headed back into the train station, took a couple more pictures of this display, then headed back to Tokyo.
It was time to explore Akihabara for real.