I went into Tokyo having throughly planned a list of stores I wanted to visit, mapping their locations using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth software. For pretty much any other country, this level of preparation would be overkill. But if you’ve ever been in Tokyo before and wanted to find a specific address, you’ll know how difficult it can be to arrive at your destination.
Tokyo blocks and buildings are organized very haphazardly, and hardly anybody besides the government uses the address system, preferring instead to navigate using landmarks. If you get into a taxi and give an address to the driver, chances are he’ll have as much of a clue how to get there as you do.
Let’s take a look at a sample address: 2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. This says that the store is in the city of Tokyo, in the ward of Shibuya, in the area of Dogenzaka. That’s pretty easy. Going deeper, the store is in the No. 2 chome (sub-area) of Dogenzaka, in the 1st building on the 29th block.
Without a detailed city map, it would be nearly impossible to figure out which block is the 29th (let alone where the 1st building is) as there aren’t any signs posted on the streets or on the buildings. None of the maps I have go into sufficient detail to label individual buildings, so the best you can do is find the 29th block using a map by orienting yourself with nearby landmarks, and then walk around the block until you see a sign for the store.
It just so happens that this address is for Shibuya 109, which is a major landmark in Shibuya where trendy teenage girls shop for clothes. This place would be easy to find even without a map.
Anyway, here’s the multimedia goodies I picked up on vacation. Even though I went to all this trouble finding stores, I actually didn’t have specific things in mind that I wanted to buy and just browsed around. This was probably a bad idea going into Akihabara, the electronics neighborhood of Tokyo and the “gaming mecca” of the world. I’ll explain in a future post.
(clockwise from upper left)
Phantasy Star Online artbook, purchased at Mandarake in Shibuya.
Railfan: Taiwan High Speed Rail, purchased in the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi shopping mall in Tainan, Taiwan. This is the PS3 game that I alluded to several posts ago. I bought this even though I don’t even have a PS3 system and have no plans to get one anytime soon! But I did ride the Taiwan HSR twice last month, which was pretty cool. This game lets you drive it.
Bomber hehhe!, purchased at MediaLand in Akihabara. This is an obscure game about blowing up skyscrapers and one I’ve been wanting to get for years. I believe this game was released after 9/11, which is surprising in itself.
Pro Yayku Team de Asobou! (Let’s play pro baseball team!), purchased at Super Potato in Akihabara.
Frame Guide, purchased at Super Potato in Akihabara.
An assortment of music CDs purchased at Book Off in Harajuku and HMV in Shibuya. (clockwise from upper left)
melody. “Be as one” album
melody. “Lovin’ U” single
melody. “Ready to go!” album
Genki Rockets “Heavenly Star” single
Nobuchika Eri “nobuchikaeri” album
Leah Dizon “Koi shiyou” single
Most of these games and music CDs were purchased used, which has none of the negative connotations associated with it in the U.S. In fact, I prefer buying used goods when I’m in Tokyo. The conditions are graded with labeled tags by the stores, and you get high quality merchandise at the low prices. For example, I found a used copy of the melody. “Ready to go!” album a few days after its official release in stores. I bought it for $10 less than the new price and the condition was pristine.