My camera's battery died. I didn't bring a charger, because I use a USB cable. Ellen was relying on me for photography work. Thus halfway through our Tokyo trip, we were without a camera. Earlier on the Saturday, I'd had a genius idea. Japan is, after all, famed for its superior technology - think Sony, Panasonic, Fuji et al - so surely there was some place in its sprawling capital city that could help me out? Oh, there is a place for all this stuff. It's called Electric Town.
Not very creative, but it gets the point across a lot better than the actual name of the area, Akihabara. Akihabara, abracadabra, same same really, and I was hoping for a bit of magic. Or, more specifically, either a replacement battery or a very kind person who would charge it up for me. It took us a while to get settled in our place for the night, and we were staying in Shinjuku, so I had a fair distance to travel. Ellen wanted to crash out - we had had a very long day already at this point - so I ventured solo and got to Akihabara a little after 10.
Now, I don't know about you, but I had a few preconceptions about this place, and one of them was that the lights would be on and active 24 hours a day. The non-stop country's non-stop hub. Not quite. A little after 10, there were few of these neon lights I'd expected, and even fewer people milling around. The shop in front of me is open, however, so I walk in and point to my camera. Down, he points, so I head onto the basement floor. I walk over to a guy, but before I get close he does the 'no-no' gesture of hands sweeping, which stops me in my tracks. 'Closed', he says. I laugh nervously. There's no way this can be true. It's electric town, after all.
Turns out his English was acceptable, and that he wasn't lying. 'All shops close 10pm', he announces. Ergh. Over half an hour commuting (which ate into the remaining cash: Japan's subway system is proper expensive) for nothing? He said to come back tomorrow, which I noted. I then decided to have a wander, which led me to an area which was certainly not on our list.
It was certainly a more populated area than Akihabara, so I ambled along staring at the lights and people. People here certainly looked more dressed for a Saturday night, especially the women. I keep walking, and then an older woman starts walking by my side. She says something, but I hadn't really realised that she was talking to me, so was in a state of blissful ignorance. Her arm then brushes me, which makes me turn. 'Sake?' she enquires. I wasn't really wanting to drink - imagine if I had gone back to the hotel and had to tell Ellen that I had blown our last remaining yen on drinking - so politely declined. But she thinks that she is onto something. She keeps asking questions, and then says a word. The word that she had opened our conversation with, but when I wasn't really listening. I heard it this time.
'Sex?' Call it naive, but I was caught off guard by this, so only responded with 'what?' The woman then repeats, and it dawns on me. I've wandered into what seems to be some sort of red light district. Okay...'No sex' I say, and quicken my pace. She keeps up, and I'm too tired to accelerate further. Her accent was quite comical, almost Dutch, when saying sex. 'Shexx'. It took me almost 200 metres of brisk walking before she finally stopped, shouted a bit in Japanese, and spun off into the night. At least I knew what I was dealing with now.
I opted to carry on walking in my current direction, mainly to avoid the woman who had just irritated me. I thus saw a bit more of the red light district, and was able to snuff out any negotiations by saying 'no'. I may even have dropped the 'I'm gay' line once. The boards outside a lot of places had the word 'system' written in English, with two further options underneath - 'rest' and 'stay'. I don't need to go into those for you, do I? Use the internet if you're confused. Though be careful and wary of the images.
Soon after I found the subway and headed up to Roppongi, which is the clubby part of Tokyo. I wasn't overly keen on actually going out; I wanted a look to see how it jumped on a Saturday night. Also, I was hoping for a sports bar, as Cardiff were playing Blackpool in our £90million game which would kick off at 11pm J-time. I walked around for a bit, was surprised by the number of foreigners (particularly Afro-Caribbean, a lot more than I've ever seen in Korea), and then got very annoyed when I found the big sports bar showing a rugby game between two South African teams. There were a lot of South Africans present, yes, but I was more annoyed at the fact that they were showing this when they had a giant WALES flag behind the bar. No RSA flag there, a Wales flag. But no Welsh pride on the TV. Rubbish.
On my way back to catch the final subway I got a glimpse of the illuminated Tokyo Tower. I fumbled to get my phone out - camera phone was plan B - but when I looked up it had gone. I didn't go insane, they turn the lights off at midnight. I walked closer to get a couple of snaps, and then headed back to Shinjuku.
Sunday was the final day of our amazing Japanese adventure. Next time I'll let you know what we did.
Love you all