Day 5, Anime and Edo

After Yoko’s legendary toast, egg and yoghurt breakfast and aching from the my walk in the shoes of emperors, I left for Shinjuku Station.

Catching the Yamanote Sen (circle line) to Akihabara and then the Soba line, I arrived two stops later at Ryogen station, home of sumo in Tokyo.

Unbeknownst to me when I booked my trip in early February 2015, it turns out that May is one of three months in Tokyo in which sumo takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan:

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Downtime between travelling around the city was largely spent in front of my rather nice LED TV, some of which was spent trying to fathom the complex and weirdly fantastical world of sumo wrestling- which mainly comprised of two rather large, scantily clad gentleman grappling for 20 seconds or so, before one of them is thrown out of the ring.

Turns out, it’s rather addictive.

Yet, not as addictive as watching Japanese baseball.

Go Yokohama Baystars!

One odd observation I made of Japanese television shows is that there’s an apparent need for view members to be able to see the expressions of show hosts at all times. Imagine for a moment you have the unfortunate pleasure of being made to watch BBC One’s, the One Show. Now, dear reader, I want you to imagine during one of their featurettes on the hobby’s of middle aged highland cattle farmers, that you can see Alex’s face in the top right hand corner, reacting in real time to this prime piece of investigative journalism.

If anyone knows why this is, please comment below, because it’s left me utterly dumbfounded.

After passing through the throngs of Japanese sumo supporters, I reached the Blade Runner-esque, the Tokyo-Edo Museum.

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The flags representing the sumo wrestlers outside the Ryogoku Kokugikan
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The Tokyo-Edo Museum. A concrete goliath, straight out of the set of Blade Runner.

Edo and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan between 1603 and 1868 before the Meiji Restoration saw the redesignation of the capital from Kyoto to the newly named Tokyo.

This sprawling museum pays homage to this transition- an absolute must see for those of you thinking of visiting Tokyo.

Spanning over two, open plan floors, the permanent exhibit was a sight to behold.

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The first thing you see after exiting the lift is this huge Edo-era bridge
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Just left of the bridge is a traditional ‘entertainment’ house.
For the next two hours, I mooched around the museum. Particularly fascinating were exhibits of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which lasted around 4 to 10 minutes killing around 142,000 people, and how WWII reformed and shaped modern Japan, just as Meiji did 50 years previous.

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An account of Dutch traders settling off the coast of Nagasaki
From Ryogen, it was only two stops back towards Akihabara- the final destination for anime pilgrims.

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There were certainly some…interesting characters to say the least.

Even though I didn’t spend too long here, Yoko had informed me of the maid cafes, which exist abundantly in this zenith of anime culture. Essentially, women (yeah…you guessed it) dressed as maids serve you food. Perhaps not the most progressive thing I’ve witnessed during my stay here.

Catching my newly crowned ‘favourite inter-city rail line’ (the fun never stops folks), I stopped off at a Starbucks for a caffeine boost and a bite to eat, providing the perfect excuse to continue with Peter V Brett’s, The Skull Throne.

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Tucking into my daily 7/11 Bento Box
That evening, I met Yoko and Aki’s (almost) permanent resident, Matthew. Born in Australia, he moved by himself to Japan when he was a mere 16 years old to follow his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

Now, at 17, he’s signed to a local club and trains 5 days a week. Speaking briefly over dinner, I couldn’t believe he was the same age as my younger brother and had struck out with the support of his folks to live with Yoko and Aki. Truly inspirational stuff!

We even spoke about Sheffield United.

The less said, the better.

 

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