Obviously, we weren't that interested in the posh shopping, but wanted to take a look at the sights and sounds, and maybe buy a few good souvenirs in really good shops. We succeeded in all that.
First stop was the Hakuhinkan Toy Park: seven floors filled to the gills with toys, games and plush. We found a few great things there, including... the Wangan Midnight game for PSP, within the stated budget! So kees_s, it seems like you will get your game after all! When I was waiting for klik near the elevators, I was greeted by an ear-deafening roar of arcade machines. Something with dancing dogs, something from Kirarin Revolution, and something else that I didn't know. Some of these used "digital cards": physical cards with an RFID chip that you had to enter into the machine to get a special effect. A single play was 100 yen, and the vending machines for the cards (which cost 300 yen) was positioned right next to it... Luckily most of the store was a bit easier on the ears. What a great selection they had! If they had one thing of a certain toy, they had all types. There are 150 Pokemon, and so they had 150 phone straps (one of each type) and 150 statuettes, etcetera. Part of one floor was taken up by a huge electric race track, with the attendant standing in the middle in full race costume... Think Hamleys, but with a typical Japanese slant.
After that, we went into a tiny tea shop and then wandered over to Takumi, a traditional craft shop with a calm atmosphere. After that, we went onto the main Ginza drag, which had been closed for traffic today -- apparently it's a special holiday in Japan. They had set up parasols and garden seats right in the middle of the street, and people were resting their feet there (and one grandmother was fast asleep on a chair, with the bustle of the shopping masses just passing her by). With everyone having a day off, the place was packed with shoppers. We drifted along, to arrive at Ito-ya, a shop specialising in paper crafts, pens and other stationery. Their logo is a giant red paperclip -- not for nothing. klik went all-out with her paper fetish, so we bought lots and lots of stuff. Luckily there was also a small tea salon on the ninth floor where we could rest for a bit. We found some great things there, like the typical Japanese wrapping cloths (the selection filled half a floor!), crayons that spiral in and out of a holder so they don't break, Japanese folded notebooks, felt tip brushes and much more...
After that, we ducked out of the shop again, and I waited outside of a posh department store where klik had ducked inside to make use of their toilets. Some foreigner (it turned out to be an Australian artist) accosted me, and we chatted about this and that. He gave us some tips, we gave him some tips. He said to me that I must be very rich for having bought something at Ito-ya -- but it turns out his girlfriend had shopped for an expensive pen there. Sure, those are expensive, but it's not the only thing they sell! I did give him my discount coupons (which you get for every purchase), and he promised to make good use of it. He tipped us about the kimono exhibit at the top floor of the department store, so we went to check that out too.
That turned out to be... not quite what we had expected. Of course you need to have a new kimono to greet the new year in style, and the whole top floor had turned into one giant kimono sales. Lots of ladies pawing through boxes and boxes and boxes of obi, while the occasional husband was looking on with a mixture of boredom and exhaustion. You tend to think of kimono as important cultural artifacts that are only for special occasions -- but in the end it's also a type of clothing that has to be bought somewhere, and that place also holds regular sales...
Now we're back at the hotel, chilling before we'll be heading out again to grab some food.
Memorable scenes of today:
- The obvious child-like joy of the race-track attendant in his job: watch people race these cars on a giant track, and get paid for it too!
- The ear-deafening arcade games near the elevators. It was only three machines, but they were cranked up really loud. Most of the machines were aimed at young girls too;
- The grandmother sleeping in the garden chair in the middle of the busy main Ginza street. It is true, the Japanese can sleep anywhere. Must be the life-long training of sleeping on jolting trains that comes in handy;
- The kimono sales going on, and the amused looks of the shop attendants when they saw the two weird foreigners checking out the wares.