Alas, 6am yet again for me, but it did give me a good opportunity to chat with D in Chicago as I got ready for the day. Unfortunately, the rain had not abated since yesterday, but I was determined to brave the inclement weather. On the docket for the morning was Ikebukuro—I’d read something about food theme parks in Namjatown, and I’m always game for investigating such things. Umbrella in hand, I made the walk down to Ueno Station, popping into a bakery there for a quick breakfast of croissants and a donut. I hopped onto a JR local train bound for Ikebukuro, about a 15 minute ride away. I navigated my way out of the station, which apparently is the second busiest in Tokyo following Shinjuku (which I’d believe), finally finding directions out to Sunshine City. The rain had kicked up again, so I manoeuvred my way around puddles and other umbrellas down Sunshine 60 street, a strip of stores and pachinko and other arcade games.
Sunshine City turned out to be a large mall complex, which housed a variety of familiar stores (e.g. Gap, Lacoste, etc.) as well as Namjatown. After paying my little entry fee, I entered a bizarre city within a city—it felt very much like I was wandering through a video game, complete with different levels/worlds. I located my first stop: Ice Cream City! It was a candy-coloured confection of a place, though none of it was in English. This made my ordering of ice cream from “Magic Ice” more interesting. I pointed to the picture of the one I wanted, and she happily obliged; however, when it came to the rainbow sprinkles (yes sprinkles!), she ardently tried to ask me something about the sprinkles. She did know “rainbow sprinkles” in English, but that was as far as she got. Finally, I just said “you choose!”, and that seemed to satisfy her. My ice cream wasn’t just scooped out into the cone; she first laid it out on what was perhaps a heated pan and folded strawberry bits and chocolate chips into it, mixing it up like batter. Ultimately, the sprinkles went over top, and I happily went on my way. It was suitably delicious! From there, I wandered through the maze down to Gyoza Stadium, where every possible permutation of gyoza exists. I refrained my sampling as I was already full from ice cream. After getting slightly lost on my way out, I eventually made it back out to the mall. It was now pouring, complete with thunder and lightning, so I decided to head back to the hotel to try and wait out and rain and get a little work done.
I did manage to get in a bit of GRE studying and article manuscript revising when the rain finally let up. I wanted to get my World Heritage Pass for Nikko, which includes round trip train fare and entrance to several of the major temples. For that, I headed two stops over to Asakusa and popped into the Tobu Sightseeing Center. From there, I noticed what looked to be the river across the street, so I made my way over. The sun was just starting to peek through the clouds, shining down on a gleaming gold building, which I believe is the headquarters for Asahi beer. I walked down the boardwalk, across the bridge to get a better look at the city, poking through the fog. From there, I wandered down the street to the major temple in the area, Sensoji. I’d actually been there before on my last visit to Japan, though only at night. There’s a long strip of market stalls leading up to the temple, a lot of touristy sort of things. I did stop and take a look at some woodblock prints, which I may return to after more consideration. I always love collecting art from my travels. The temple itself was awash with folk, locals and tourists alike. I did manage to get my first picture of myself (that wasn’t a horrifying hand-held close-up), thanks to an obliging British tourist. I wandered back out to the market area, but my shoulder started to hurt from hauling whatever the heck is in my purse, so I hopped back onto the metro and headed back to the hotel.