The (less) bright lights of Tokyo, part one: Behind bars

The wake of an unprecedented national crisis may not be the best time for a Tokyo virgin to visit the big city. It is, however, the time we chose. Our trip was planned well before the horrific events of mid-March, and while we thought of cancelling it, closely monitoring the news and hearing reports from others who’d recently been there assured us it would be fine. Just a little… dimmer.

Now, I wasn’t really a Tokyo virgin. I’ve been through the city once before, but as I never made it out of the hotel district in Shinjuku, and barely even out of the hotel as our orientation occupied most of our time, I still felt relatively innocent of Tokyo’s ways. So this was my first real, unencumbered visit to the big city. I was accompanied by astroviper, and two other friends from our area of Mie.

Our first stop was Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. As our hotel was nearest this area, it was a natural starting point. Akihabara is known for being the electronics district, closely followed by video games, manga, and… other things that coincide with those pursuits. One of those “other things” is themed restaurants, most of which are tailored to the predominantly nerdy male “otaku” culture. We first sought out the Gundam Café for some after breakfast snacks:

The official Gundam Café in Akihabara

The Gundam Café features Haro-themed food and lattes!

A top secret, highly technologically advanced process turns Gundam suits into… waffles stuffed with red bean paste!

After an epic battle, astroviper wins the upper hand and gruesomely beheads the Gundam, suffering merely a burned tongue in the process.

Another popular theme is maid cafés, where you can go to be served food and drinks by cute Japanese girls dressed in French maid costumes. While some are renowned for the various “services” they offer, it is possible to find ones that are legitimately non-sketchy. So after wandering some of the many, many electronics, video game and character shops Akihabara has to offer, we rested our feet in one such maid café before continuing our Tokyo exploration elsewhere.

After Akihabara we headed to Shinjuku for an afternoon of some much needed foreigner-size-friendly clothes shopping. We then rewarded ourselves for a successful venture into the foray of shops with dinner at a traditional Japanese Udon shop. After dinner we headed into the adjacent district of Kabuki-cho, one of Tokyo’s most well-known red light districts, but one which is primarily frequented by Japanese people, and is reportedly much less dangerous than the districts catering to foreigners. Go figure.

Despite Kabuki-cho’s supposed safe-ness for foreigners, we found ourselves behind bars in no time. And by bars I mean, in a haunted prison-themed bar called “The Lockup.” A tiny, cute Japanese girl dressed as a prison guard met us at the door and said politely in English, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to arrest you now. Please kindly follow me to your cell,” at which point she slapped astroviper in handcuffs and escorted us to our table, which was indeed a cell, encased in concrete with a iron bar-covered window and a loud metal door.

Everything was going fine, and we were just about to order our drinks, when the lights went out and the sirens came on. There had been a prison break, a haunted one of course. Frightening creatures dressed in prison garb ran through the halls, throwing open cell doors, terrorizing the other “prisoners,” and forcefully slamming the doors shut again to create terrifying bangs. After this went on for awhile, the cute guards got their act together, gunshots were fired, and everything returned pretty much to a semblance of normal. We then ordered our drinks, which were anything but normal:

Lychee-infused juice or… blood?

Long Island Iced Tea or… Zombie potion of reanimation?

Coconut, Apple, Blueberry, Strawberry, and Orange? Or bionic mutant poison of death?

Blueberry Lemonade? Or malicious scientific experiment about to go very wrong?

The temporary superpowers we acquired from the chemical experiments performed upon us gave us the strength we needed to break out of prison and escape back to our hotel, at which point the effects wore off and our bodies, not accustomed to existing in such an elevated state of consciousness, collapsed with exhaustion. Alas, recounting the experience here has brought the vivid horror back to mind, so I must continue this Tokyo tale at a later time.

To be continued…

Continue to part two!


5 thoughts on “The (less) bright lights of Tokyo, part one: Behind bars

  1. Hi J & J: so glad to know that you are broke out of prison & even survived the grueling evening! I have been in close contact with Patrice & Jim to know how are going behind the scenes & also in reading your amazing accounts. I especially enjoyed the very scientific examination of what has taken place or potentially could take place with those reactors (guess they have that name for more than one reason). The irony of reading the details was that I was having rack of lamb dinner alone at a lovely little Greek restaurant. When I shared with the waitress what I was reading & from whom, she told me her father works & lives part-time in Japan and had opted to leave until things settle.
    I am so grateful you are both doing well & clearly have not lost your senses of humour or adventure.
    Sending you big hugs & lots of love, Auntie Maddy

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