The best thing about any city are the things that don’t fit neatly into a listicle or a 5 minute youtube video. The best things a city has to offer are secrets, places that aren’t perfect, and off-the-grid moments that aren’t going to get any likes on Instagram.
Gundam Cafe in Akihabara
The Gundam Cafe isn’t great for food. It’s not going to win any awards for service or cuisine. But, it is a fun place to rest your feet after going up and down multiple reps of six-story buildings. There’s no line, no weird reservations and no wait.
Sadly the noodles I ordered were lukewarm, I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be served cold, or hot, or if I was just an idiot, but I didn’t care that much because I was able to watch Gundam theme song intros on repeat with several of my fellow easily-bedazzled Americans.
As a 14 year-old I watched Gundam Wing secretly on my grandparents’ tv in Houston via Adult Swim. Our channels in Colorado didn’t even have Cartoon Network (which is also how I got hooked on Pokemon, but, different blog for that). Anyways, at the Gundam Cafe, I didn’t care if the noodles were cold, in fact, the cold noodles made sense. They felt good in a desperate way, like eating McDonalds in Kansas after driving a thousand miles. Even though the drive across Kansas sucks, you’re still a million years ahead of the pioneer who died on the plains trying to get to San Francisco. You’re still taking Xanax instead of getting thrown into an asylum.
The menu design and coasters are the reason to go to the Gundam Cafe. Art and your Gundam Memories are the reason to go to the Gundam Cafe. Just order whatever, swoon over the menu’s design, not the food, watch the Gundam theme songs on the big screen and call it good.
Ideally Gundam would be better served by a museum somewhere, but there can’t be a museum for every anime.
Or can there? Prove me wrong … ;)
Godzilla Store Tokyo in Shinjuku
I thought I had seen all of the Cherry Blossom fever, until I was floored by this cherry blossomed-themed Godzilla diorama at the Godzilla store in Shinjuku.
One of the coolest things about Tokyo is the hyper-specific stores. There isn’t a Godzilla shelf in a Target, there is an entire Godzilla store for all of your Godzilla needs, hopes, and dreams.
The diorama above the gachapon machine is pretty cute! Even Godzilla loves gachapon!
Maruzen, a bookstore chain, is worth checking out in any location. It was fun to visit Maruzen in Nihonbashi and catch up with what everyone was reading.
I loved how books for adults had illustrated covers. The most serious subjects had cartoon covers.
In addition to Harvard Business Review and Radical Candor, Strengths Finder is in Japan!
I saw the ‘Life Shift’ book several times on bookshelves in Tokyo and thought several times about picking it up. I thought it was the Aleta St. James book, but, I couldn’t figure it out for sure.
The most interesting shelf of books was this one, dedicated entirely to manners and grooming for men. There were similar areas for women, but I’d never seen such a focus on this in any Western bookstore. Where other cultures might be trying to say ‘looks don’t matter!’ right now, urban Tokyo is unafraid with admitting that looks do indeed matter - the hallmark book on this being “Class Act: Appearance Matters for your Success”
The lint brushes and shoe brushes almost did me in, but they’re not as surprising as the entire 200 page manual dedicated to shoe care.
Women’s magazine’s were pretty par for the course, they looked to me a lot like women’s magazines in the States or in most of Western Culture.