CK in Japan Spring 2015 FINAL…The Otaku Shrine, & Other Nerdy Hangouts

A quick elaboration on something I mentioned in the previous post.  I injured my right foot, specifically the two smallest toes tripping over a barrier outside my hotel in Kameido.  It was bad enough that I was limping significantly over the next two days, and for the last week I have not worn shoes. (Sandals are more comfortable)  Luckily nothing seemed to be broken, and my toes are slowly recovering.  By the way it isn’t the first time this has happened as a tore up my knee a couple of years ago tripping over a curb in Yokohama.

It was my first time staying at that particular hotel.  In fact, for the three hotels I stayed in on this trip it was my first time for all of them.  I have a knack for finding hotels with crazy good deals, and then using them until the deal runs out.  After that I search for more good bargain hotels.  Over the years I have stayed at eight different hotels in Tokyo, two different hotels in Osaka and Fukuoka, and I have stayed once each in Nagoya and Hiroshima.  The Smile Inn in Hakata (It isn’t called that anymore, they changed their name for the 2nd time in three years) was definitely the strangest hotel I ever stayed in.  The most luxurious being the Shinagawa Prince.  Anyway…

Let’s Henshin! for dinner!

I had two nights left before I returned to the States, so I met with a friend to have dinner at one of the two restaurants left on my “to visit” list.  We had decided to head over to IWA, Uchida Mayumi’s AKB-themed Yakiniku restaurant in Shin-Okubo.  Along the way we met up with three other AKB fans, all of whom I knew online but only one I had ever met before in person.  Arriving at IWA, we were met at the door by Uchida’s mom (as well as Nonaka Misato, who works there) who profusely apologized and informed us that the restaurant was booked solid for the evening.  She even offered to book us for the following evening, but my friend wasn’t sure he could make it.  So we went to our second choice, and perhaps a better choice since I had never been there before…

I haven’t mentioned this on my blog, but over the last year I have become quite the fan of the Kamen Rider television series.  I have managed to watch every single Heisei Era season, my favorite by far being Kamen Rider Kabuto.  I also loved Kuuga, Agito, Hibiki, and Kiva.  When I found out there was a Kamen Rider themed restaurant in Ikebukuro I just had to check it out.  Luckily Kamen Rider The Diner wasn’t booked.  In fact, we were seated immediately.

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It was quite a spacious restaurant for Tokyo, featuring tons of Kamen Rider momentos, scenes from the series playing on the television screens as well as the various theme songs playing on an endless loop.  All of the menu items were based, at least loosely on the various characters from the series.  The fun part happens when they deliver your food, the waiter will quote a line from whichever character your dish is based.  And sometimes it will trigger a scene to be played on the monitors.  I absolutely had to order the Kamen Rider Fourze parfait as it was known to trigger one of the most fun waiter/guest interactions on the menu…

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PARFAIT, KITAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!

The food was decent, I would say it is slightly better than the AKB48 Cafe.  It’s a bit pricey for what it is, but I think you are paying for the experience more than anything else.  I would probably go back, although I can’t say it made it to the top of my personal Tokyo restaurants list,  That said, Im glad I got to experience the place.

On my last evening in Tokyo I looked forward to hitting IWA, but those plans were dashed in the mid-afternoon.  What to do?  I first decided to head over to Gyukatsu Ichi Ni San since I did enjoy it last year.  However, the line was down the block.  After standing in the queue for over a half hour I realized it would probably be close to another hour before I was seated.  My second choice was an Izakaya across from the AKB48 Cafe that I had always wanted to try for dinner.  In fact I had gone to Rose and Crown for drinks a few days earlier.  But their signature dinner dish had always intrigued me, especially for Tokyo…

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I must say their prime rib wasn’t bad at all.  Not the best cut of meat I have ever had, but it was prepared very well.  Tobe honest I was kinda sad that I was spending such a lonely final evening of my trip.  But just then I received a text message from my new Wasa-buddy Kenji, wondering what I was doing for the rest of the evening.  I was so happy he had contacted me, and he had an excellent suggestion for something interesting to do…

Kanda Myojin (The Otaku Shrine)

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After all these years of going to Tokyo and spending so much time in Akihabara, I am somewhat embarassed that I have never visited this place.  Just a short walk from central Akihabara, and a block away from Ochanomizu Station, Kanda Myojin is a beautiful shrine sandwiched between various apartment and office buildings.  It is also the location where many AKB48 members, including Wasamin, have had their coming of age ceremonies.

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Visiting the shrine late at night was a special treat, even though it was tough to photograph many of the shrine’s features becase of the darkness.  There was a certain serenity that isn’t present with a daytime crowd, and it was really neat to see all of the lanterns lit up.

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I enjoyed visiting so much I had resolved to return the next day to take more photos.  I wanted a better shot at some of the architecture as well as some of ema, many of which held prayers for various Anime characters, as well as prayers for AKB members.  I am guessing there will be quite a few AKB fans visiting between now and the upcoming Senbatsu Sousenkyo.

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They were also preparing for the upcoming Kanda Matsuri, which is a major festival in Tokyo occurring every other year in May.  I was lucky enough to be in Tokyo for Kanda Matsuri 6 years ago.  This was another chance to see some of the Mikoshi they use in the parades.  Quite impressive.

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After one last Tokyo sushi lunch, I grabbed my bags an headed to the airport.  I was able to switch to a direct flight home, which cut my travel time by about five hours.  What a relief!  Anyway, another successful Japan trip in the books.  So happy I got to spend some real quality time with Wasamin.  I am glad our “relationship” seemed to level up this trip, due in part to my commitment to communicate with her more in Japanese.  I’m not sure when I will see Wasamin again in person.  Hopefully it won’t be too long.  I have been home for a few days now and I miss her already.  I will root for her in the Sousenkyo from afar.

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CK in California