After a leisurely brunch of vegan ramen, gyoza and mapo tofu, we indulged Man's geeky side in Akihabara. I've been to this area a few times but not really explored it very much before.
The main streets leading from the station throb with bright, flashing lights, video screens and loud music as each building competes to attract the attention of young people eager to try the latest arcade games and buy electrical goods and collectors' models. Our attention was caught by the multi-storey Sega building, which had about four floors crammed with grabber machines offering various prizes.
I spotted a machine with the chance to win small yellow rubber ducks for 100 yen and got all excited because I need a replacement one to use as a bathroom light pull since my other one broke. Man (who grew up playing funfair games) skilfully managed to grab me one.
On the top two floors were arcade games, mainly populated by teenage boys and young men who obviously spend a lot of time honing their skills. We had a go at the taiko drumming game which was fun.
For refreshment, where else would we go but Becker's coffee shop!
It was raining and miserable so we didn't want to be outside too long. Next stop was Man's choice as she wanted to compare one of her favourite guilty pleasures with the UK version - KFC. There was a branch under the railway arches, but before we had a chance to enter, we were stopped by a TV crew and asked to give an interview about the food we were enjoying in Japan! Apparently they had been asking foreigners all day and everyone had said the same thing (sushi, ramen...) but we said warabi mochi sweets so they interviewed us for quite a while for a programme due to be aired in March.
Eventually, Man got to enjoy her piece of chicken.
I wanted to show Man a lovely indoor food court where small stalls sell specialities from each prefecture in Japan, and there is also a small vegan cafe selling shojin ryori - monk food, which is typically a meal made up of lots of tiny, vegan dishes all perfectly balanced and healthy.
Man spotted a gachapon (capsule) vending machine containing hand-painted papier mache daruma dolls of all different colours. She had wanted a daruma doll ever since Emiko told her about how they are sold with blank eyes and the idea is to paint one eye in whilst making a wish, then put your daruma in a suitable place and paint the other eye in when the wish comes true.
As we are both huge lovers of yellow, I knew which one she wanted and had a good feeling about it. Before she could stop me I put in 500 yen, turned the handle and out popped...a yellow daruma!
Man was still full from her chicken, so I tried to order a meal set from the vegan cafe, only to be told that sharing wasn't allowed and each person had to order a meal. Grudgingly, we ordered two meals and some hot amazake rice drinks.
The food all looked amazing with lots of variety including miso soup, brown rice with red beans, several tofu dishes and vegetables. Unfortunately, only a few dishes were really tasty and we ate what we could but were ultimately left feeling a little disappointed.
The disappointment couldn't last long though as I knew there was a model train shop just up the road! For Christmas, Man had somehow procured a Dr Yellow model train and starter N-gauge track for me, but the set only included carriages 1, 2 and 7, so I thought I'd see if I could find the others in Akihabara. The shop we went in had lots of exciting sets and accessories, but unfortunately no Dr Yellow this time. I didn't mind, and bought some models of Japanese shops and a cinema instead. Come the day we have time to actually set these up, we will probably have collected a whole city's worth!
We were both struggling with tiredness and the dank weather by this point, so we went for a mooch around Ueno station before a quiet evening napping and catching up on our respective work back at the hotel.
we are social
I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.