Monday morning I wake up at 5:45am to play poker. Sunday is the big day for online poker tournaments and here, 14 hours ahead of the American east coast, that means Monday morning. I grind poker on my netbook whilst drinking a hot can of coffee, today choosing the 'Super Relax Blend' (some may be pleased to know that my obsession with canned coffee is now past its peak) and eating a tasty instant noodle snack.
Poker doesn't go very well today and I finish disappointingly early. It usually happens that way.
After freshening up, I head out to Asakusa, the area I got lost on the way to a few days earlier. This time I take a direct train. This area contains several preserved shrines and temples and is firmly on the tourist trail. The temples are beautiful and I wander around and hang out. It is much warmer today and more pleasant to be outside.
There are several rituals going on which I observe. Firstly people can purify themselves with ladles of water. Then there is a small fire which people add to, creating smoke. People waft the smoke on to parts of their body. Wafting actions vary from the halfhearted, to the intense and concentrated. You have to get the smoke all over you and that includes your legs, face and so on - at least if you are dedicated to it and not just making some half hearted attempt to purify yourself.
There is a street market and I wander around and find a most excellent hat stall. Now I've already discovered that my head is larger than almost any Japanese person, but this shop has it covered with sizes progressing s, m, l, ll, lll and llll. With a trial and error I discover I am lll size and pick out a nice new hat. The old lady running the stall is, well lets say overbearing, hovering an inch behind me and making an audible intake of breath when I take one down from the shelf. She issues me with a piece of crate paper to put in the hats when I try them on and watches very closely to make sure I use it. I make my purchase and head back to take another look at the temples before heading back to the station.
Next stop is Akihabara 'electric town'. This is the place you come to buy every single computer or electrical part you can think of. There are shops dedicated to telescopes, fridges and much much more.
A worrying trend in this neighbourhood is for 'Maid Cafes' I've read about this, and sure enough, on the street every so often there is a girl in some sort of maid style outfit, handing out flyers and trying to tempt you into their establishment. I believe they are just cafes where the staff dress as maids and nothing untoward goes on. Even so, I find it all a little odd and don't partake, with the young girls who dress to look even younger, making me feel more than a little uneasy.
Instead I go on the hunt for food. I've marked down the addresses of a couple of noodle shops I'd like to try, but after pounding the streets for 15 minutes or more, I know they are really close, but I simply can't find them. Finding somewhere specific is so confusing here in Tokyo. I do however find the Post Office which is the only place foreign bank cards work in the ATM machine.
I end up opting for Freshness Burger, one of the most popular Japanese burger chains. Upon entering I spot the guy at the counter swiftly flips the menu over to the English side and he greets me with a cheery "hello". I order a veggie burger, pay and he tells me to "take a seat and I'll bring that shit over to you Sir!". You don't get that in Wetherspoons.
After that it is on to my third and final neighbourhood of the day, Shibuya. Well I don't really go exploring around the area too much, instead I go upstairs from the station to Starbucks, order a smoothie, take a window seat and spend a couple of hours enjoying a panoramic view of THAT pedestrian crossing. It is an awesome view and a great place to people watch to end the day.