On the second last day of our trip, A, J and I woke up early, packed all our stuff and checked out of our Osaka place. We caught a train to Osaka station and caught the shinkansen back to Tokyo (obviously we must not have done a thorough job of cleaning our room, because the Osaka host said that we left our room messy).
While at Osaka station, I saw a woman at a stand selling boxes of Tokyo Banana so I went over and bought two boxes for 1,100 yen each.
The train trip took about three hours from Osaka to Tokyo. It was a smooth ride and not bumpy like Sydney trains sometimes are. The seats were comfortable and everything was top quality. We felt completely at peace with the air-conditioning keeping us cool. The gap in between the seats in front of us was also big enough to accommodate our luggage and keep it in front of us (pretty handy since A had the idea that thieves could strike at any time).
We arrived at Tokyo station around 3:30pm. It was sweltering, and we began to sweat as soon as we stepped off the cool bullet train. There was a long line for the taxi stand, and there was nothing to do except wait, as A didn’t want to catch a train in the heat. We had booked a room for our last two nights at Shinjuku Washington Hotel Main. The wait for the taxi didn’t take long at all, and it was only about a 15 or 20 minute ride from Tokyo station (Google Maps was right on this occasion).
We had spent a good amount of the day travelling already, so we pretty much dumped our luggage, freshened up and left the apartment. J was keen on going to the Kit Kat store in Ikebukuro, so that was our first stop for the day.
I was fumbling around with the camera settings at this point, so please excuse the blurry photos. It was our first time in the district of Ikebukuro. Ikebukuro station is said to be one of the busiest in the city of Tokyo, and it was filled with office workers during the time we got there. From the station, all we had to do was walk underground and we were in the Seibu Department store, where the Kit Kat chocolatory was located.
Contrary to our beliefs, the Kit Kat chocolatery was not a separate store of its own, but a small section of the Seibu Department Store. J and I were severely disappointed that it was not a separate store, and also that the Kit Kat chocolatory lacked variety of flavours. From what I remember, the flavours on offer consisted of Sakura Green Tea, Strawberry Maple, Cream Cheese, Chilli, Dark Chocolate, and another Green Tea flavour. I also thought it was a little expensive, about 400 yen (around AUD $5) for each small box, which consisted of 4 mini kit kats. Nevertheless, J and I lined up to buy some anyway, but couldn’t help feeling disappointed with the small range of flavours.
As well as selling Kit Kats, the Kit Kat chocolatory also offered soft serve with baked Kit Kat from 1pm every day. J and I got one for 600 yen each and enjoyed the chocolate flavoured soft serve, but the baked kit kat was a little plain.
After eating our soft serves, A, J and I walked around the ground floor of the Seibu Department Store, which was known as ‘Food Show’ because it was full of pre-made food. As it was peak hour, the department store was packed to the brim with office workers and other customers looking to buy a fuss free dinner. A, J and I were at a loss for words as we roamed the ground floor endlessly, our eyes feasting on the countless options of delicious ready-made food before us. As well as Japanese food, they also had Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai pre-made meals on offer. The three of us did many rounds of the ground floor before finally committing to one choice. There was no area to sit and eat, even outside of the department store, so we took our meals home and ate in our hotel.
The bento box that J had bought and the sushi box that I bought were presented beautifully and cheaply at less than 1000 yen per box (less than $10 AUD) and were delicious as well. After eating, we got ready to go out and caught a train to Shibuya on the JR line. Ruling out spontaneity, A had already picked out a few bars for us to go to that evening.
The first bar of the evening was known as ‘Planetarium Bar’ and was situated in a district called Shirokanedai, which was about a 15 minute walk from Shibuya JR station. For any bar to be located this far away from the main area of the station was quite unusual, but A had researched the places she wanted to go to thoroughly, so we walked there. Although she was using Google Maps to navigate, we still got lost and ended up having to catch a cab there. When we arrived at the bar, the three of us were a little surprised that the bar would be located in an area that wasn’t busy.
Planetarium Bar was located on a dark street, with no other businesses around. Other than a sign on the wall that heralded its existence, there was really nothing else conspicuous about the bar. Due to this, J and I felt a little wary of the place that we were going to, but proceeded anyway as A had her heart set on going to this place.
What we found upstairs though, was an absolute travesty. The bar was small and had glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. It was in no way the kind of ‘planetarium’ that we had been expecting.
In addition to that, there was only one other couple in the bar, and a man working who seemed to be at once, the owner, bartender and host for the evening. A was in shock due to the bar not being what it had proclaimed itself to be. The website link is here <http://www.planetarium-bar.com/special/index120427.html> just so you can see what it was advertising as, and what it actually was. Inside the bar, it was dark and difficult to see, and the place looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the early 90’s. After uncomfortably placing drink orders, J and I then decided that we didn’t want to spend our second last evening here and hurriedly rushed out, with an annoyed A in tow. We made our way back down to ground level in the dimly lit elevator and then caught a cab to the Golden Gai district of Shinjuku.
Golden Gai was an area that was much more suited to our taste, and one that I felt embodied the spirit of Japan. It was a weeknight, yet the laneways were filled with drunken, loud businessmen and all sorts of other night revellers. We were lured into a downstairs bar by a Nigerian man on the street, who gave us vouchers for the bar. With the vouchers we got about four alcoholic beverages for 1000 yen, which was surprisingly cheap. The atmosphere in the bar though, was less than desirable. It was more of a nightclub atmosphere with American hip hop from the early 2000’s playing, with only a few people inside, dancing wildly. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.
While walking the laneways of Golden Gai, I spotted a sign on the street advertising a ‘Rock Bar’ so the girls and I followed the cues and ascended the stairs to the bar. ‘Rock Bar’ was not the precise name of the bar, but will be referred to as such as I don’t remember the exact name. Like many of the bars in Japan that I visited on this trip, the rock bar was small, and had only a few seats. There was one bartender who greeted us and served us while we were there. In accordance with its ‘rock’ theme, the bar’s decor was mostly in red and black, and played music by Nirvana. Unlike other places we went to in Japan, I didn’t feel like the customers or bartender in this bar were overly friendly. When we walked in, the other customers kind of leered at us in a half lecherous, half curious kind of way. After ordering, we made small talk with the bartender for a short while. We were also offered complementary beef jerky, which A wolfed down in two bites.
After one round of drinks, the girls and I were ready to leave. After walking down the street, we spotted another hidden bar, that was only visible with a sign from the side of the street. After going up two levels of stairs, we discovered ‘Maniac Freestyle Bar’ which also had the ‘nomihodai’ feature that I had been longing to try since my arrival in Japan.
‘Nomihodai’ meaning ‘all you can drink’ in Japanese, is an option that features in many places serving alcohol in Japan, including karaoke bars, bars, and restaurants. Maniac Freestyle Bar had a nomihodai feature, as well as offering drinks on the regular bar menu. J and I opted for nomihodai as we were eager to try something new, while A decided to play it safe.
Unlike the other bars we went to that evening, Maniac Freestyle Bar was buzzing with energy. It was larger than the other bars we had gone to that evening, and we received a warm welcome from the chatty and outgoing bartenders. J was in stitches over the bartenders who were chatting to us. I was able to understand bits and pieces of what he was trying to communicate to us, such as saying that he was an ‘okanemochi’ (rich person) that we were cute, and that we should get married.
A got hungry during the time we were at the bar and the bartenders were nice enough to order takeaway takoyaki for her and also to run down and get it for us.
It was probably due to my altered state out of mind, but I thought the takoyaki was good, while J thought that it was nowhere near as good as the takoyaki we had eaten in Osaka.
We were literally laughing all night. From what I can remember we paid about 1000 yen each and had 3 drinks each that night at Maniac Freestyle Bar. At about 1 or 2 am, J and I decided to call it a night, and left the bar feeling tipsy.