Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chuo line fun.

After a few days of new year's action, I decided to lay low for a while. The 4th, while peaceful and relaxing, was rather unremarkable. With almost every one of my friends out of town, Friday nights don't mean as much.

Saturday, however, I got the itch and had to leave my home in fear of going crazy. I spent some time the day before fooling around on the internet, and I came across this website that talked about a few apparently amazing vintage game stores right in my neighborhood. So, I contacted my friend and we headed out once again to Kichijoji.

In Mitaka, there is some shop that I believe is associated with the Japan national soccer team. This isn't a normal gift shop, as they have fliers down the street and a lot of fanfare devoted to this place. It's something I pass by every day, but as I'm not a soccer fan, I've never really cared. However this time, they had mats out and a soccer game playing on a TV. Maybe they do this often and I've never noticed, but it was kind of an unusual site.

You might notice that there are significantly more people standing on the sidewalk than sitting on the mats. There are a few people sitting down, but the view is obstructed in this picture.

So, on to Kichijoji. While waiting for my friend at a train station, I took a look at the map available. While I don't make it a habit to post Engrish very often, as there are whole websites to that and it's something I see very often, I found this one particularly odd.

I guess they mean "Public Organization", but there is a significant difference between what is written and what is meant. While I'm at it, here's one more.

Besides the lacking of a much needed "a", this isn't so bad, but what is mysterious about Japanese paper? How is it that different from other papers from around the world? I guess I'll have to go sometime to find that out, if I really care.

Having previously ranted and raved to my friend about the hamburgers at Village Vanguard Diner, and feeling hungry, we headed out there. It was PACKED! We had to wait to get in, but in the end it was worth it.

I ordered the "pepper bacon cheeseburger", and I was impressed with the monster that arrived.

I've said before that high-quality burgers in Japan tend to run on the small side of things unless I get a massive two or three patty beast. This was no exception, however that 'bacon' was massive, and far beyond my expectations. That is the thickest-cut bacon I've ever eaten in a burger. It was amazing.

Anyways, off to find this game store. After a while walking around and going places I've never been before, I found it...

But it was closed. Don't let the picture fool you. This wasn't that late at night, and I actually found it an hour or two before this. I just couldn't believe it was closed on a Saturday afternoon. But, then like I said earlier, most mom and pop shops are closed around New Years, and it most certainly still was around New Years.
Damn. Oh well. As we've both been walking around for a long amount of time, we headed home. Time to try the other store tomorrow.
The day wasn't a total loss. We found this awesome tiny record store and thumbing through their rather bizarre 7" collection, I found Brainiac and Rage Against The Machine for 105 yen. The Brainiac record was the exact one I paid about $6 before I move, and the Rage Against the Machine was a numbered, limited edition vinyl that I'm sure is worth way more than what I paid.

After a nice rest, I woke up Sunday morning and bugged my friend to meet me in Nishi-Ogikubo to try to find this other game store. It was a gorgeous day.

If you squint just right, you can see one of the many bored security guards in the center of the road. On the weekends they block off part of the main street for a few hours. It's a great time to walk around comfortably and go shopping, get exercise, or just stand in the middle of the road taking pictures. There's my local convenience store, Sunkus, on the right.

So, off I went to Nishi-Ogikubo. I've never been there and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew about the place is they had a supposedly good vintage game store and a quality Mexican restaurant. Quality Mexican food is something that I ate a lot of in California and for some reason is almost impossible to find here.

Anyways, I liked Nishi-Ogikubo. It was a cute little neighborhood. Not nearly as big as Kichijoji or even Mitaka, but it had a charm of it's own.

Unfortunately, like I had feared, the game store was closed for the day. According to the sign on the door, it was going to reopen the next day. Damn.

It sure looked interesting, though. On the same street as this game shop was a few really interesting vintage goods shops. In America, stores like that have American goods, with the occasional leak from another country. In Japan, they seem to have stuff from all over the world. This one had several American items and a really odd (and Expensive) lamp from a posh hotel in Luxembourg in the 60's. How they get this stuff is beyond me.

There was also an international grocery store run by two really really old people. There was an old Chinese man there who was happy to tell us how much he liked seeing Americans in his neighborhood and that he really wants to go to America to visit, so he's studying English. It was a bit of a surprise, but quite delightful.

So, the good news is I DID find the Mexican restaurant despite more than one map showing me it was next to a phantom 7/11. Although, to my dismay, it opens for dinner only at 6 PM and it was closer to 2:30 when we were hungry. It seems I mixed up the hours for the game shop and the Mexican place, so it was time to forage for other food.

After a bit of walking, we found this incredible Thai place.

The staff was not Japanese and they weren't speaking Chinese or Korean, so I can only assume they were Thai. Nothing makes me more pleased when I find a tiny ethnic restaurant run by people who are from where the style of food is.

I had their lunch special, and man, it was amazing.

It was just the right spicy to make me sweat but not hurt. Everything was great, including the shrimp inside my soup, which is not something I normally liked. If I lived in Nishi-Ogikubo, I'm sure by now we'd be on a first-name basis.

Since Nishi-Ogikubo was only one stop from Kichijoji, my friend and I decided to go on an adventure and walk. Normally I stick to the train stations and major areas, as most of the places in between are just residential areas. This was no exception, however there were two things that caught my eye.
First was a vending machine selling all alcohol from a single beer to whole bottles of wine, whiskey, and sake.

From talking to my friends, these vending machines are a dying breed, as laws are making it harder to put them up (If they still go up), and the few I've seen have usually been quite old and weathered. This was of course no exception.

Another thing that took me by surprise is an old-style continence store. It was quite a shack.

It seemed like I had stepped in to the past, to a time when Sunkus, 7/11, or any of the other dozen or so chains weren't around every corner. I'm not quite sure how this place is still around, but my guess is it's in the middle of a residential area, and I'm sure everyone around knows this place well. It's kind of humbling to see a convenience store that has most likely been around significantly longer than I've been alive.

Well, that was my adventure on the Chuo line. I have much more to write, but as school started today, I now have to go to sleep in order to make it up on time. Thanks to everyone for reading and stay tuned for more robots.

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