The part I always forget about when it comes to travel: exhaustion – and it kicked in on Day 3.
Another thing you wouldn’t think to consider when going to Japan is that there just aren’t a lot of places to sit down. Even when you’re waiting for trains, there aren’t a ton of seats, and the trains themselves might not have any spots to sit down if you’re riding during the right parts of the day.
The pace of TGS the other day ended up pushing me harder than I would’ve expected; walking slowly is somehow way more taxing than walking at full speed, and by midday on day 3, walking was starting to get painful.
It didn’t keep me from enjoying most of the day, though. We started out by heading to Asakusa. It was raining, so we picked up umbrellas. Everyone has umbrellas in Japan, and now I do, too.
Our first stop after that necessary move was to go to a hole-in-the-wall spot for melon bread. I learned that melon bread is called that for its shape, not its ingredients. It seemed so obvious before! But I got some steaming hot melon bread with cookies’n’cream ice cream and it was great.
Then we headed to Sensoji temple, which you’ve definitely seen before, even if you aren’t an avid anime watcher or anything like that. It’s one of the biggest and oldest temples in Tokyo and it’s a huge tourist destination. There I prayed, got my fortune (things ain’t lookin’ good according to Sensoji, y’all), and even bought a good luck charm. Gotta balance things out, right?
Our next stop was the man-made island of Odaiba. To get there from Asakusa, though, we hopped on a river boat. The boat’s look was designed by famous manga artist Leiji Matsumoto, known for stories like Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999. Indeed, the outside of the boat looks cool as hell.
The inside is… basically just a boat. While you’re rolling down the river, recorded voice actors tell you in Japanese about the river, which is probably pretty cool if you speak Japanese but I haven’t been anything close to fluent in a long time, so mostly I just had a craft beer and chilled out. It was a smooth ride, though the air was incredibly humid thanks to the constant drizzle of rain and the fact that we were, you know, on a boat. Also of note was the fact that the boat service had put cardboard air directors over all the vents on the boat, which would seem to suggest that maybe after an anime designer makes your boat design, an actual designer should take a peek at it, if basic airflow is a problem.
We made it to Odaiba without trouble. The island was originally meant to be inhabited the same as any other district, but the development kept that from happening. Eventually, it was turned into a giant tourist attraction, filled with malls that look more like American malls than you’d think, as well as museums, arcades, and other activities.
The main attraction for us on Odaiba is the life-size Gundam statue. It’s an awesome, if nerdy, sight to see, and it gives a true sense of scale to all the mech battles we’ve seen in video games, movies, and anime over the years.
Located in the same entertainment complex is Gundam Base, a superstore that houses just about every Gundam model you could imagine for sale. There are pre-built models that you can look at to tell if you want to get a particular figure, as well as bunches of award-winning builds from people who put countless hours of work into bringing a model to life. They have both stand-alone displays of the models and full-on dioramas. They’re really cool. You can pick a boxed, unbuilt model and take it home or build it right there in the shop in a dedicated area with all the tools you’d need. Some of these models stand over a foot high and retail for upwards of $300, so it’s not a cheap trip if you decide to go that route. I bought a t-shirt, because I haven’t built a Gundam model in almost 20 years.
Around now is when exhaustion started to kick in. We visited the Sega Joypolis which was ostensibly an arcade, but it was more like an indoor amusement park complete with rides – something I was a little too tired to handle. Couple that with the fact that it was a holiday – Respect for the Aged Day – and it was time for me to take a break. And yes, that is a real holiday, and things get real crowded. There was a museum I’d been curious to check out and the line was out the door.
And so I hopped on the train and rode a few stops from Odaiba to Oimachi. I picked up some more lemon drinks – I will try every lemon drink in Japan, so help me – and settled in to relax. The exhaustion set in hard at that point, though, and on Day 4 I realized I needed to take a full day off, so I hung back from my tour group to spend some time in the hotel room and in the area around the hotel. I walked around a little, and found a good ramen place.
Here’s to hoping day 5 is a little more action-packed.
Disclaimer: This trip was paid for and organized primarily by tour company PacSet Travel.