Traveling around a foreign city without speaking the native language can be difficult. So when J's friend, who lives in Japan, came out with us for a day, I was elated. It was good for J to see his friend, but it was even better for my neurotic ass to have some peace of mind. The limitations of the language barrier would be erased with the presence with J's friend. I can hear the angels singing...
M met us at our hotel and, together, we headed out to Ikebukuro. The only reason why we headed to Ikebukuro was because I wanted to visit Namjatown, home of the Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City. Yes, you read that right. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Gyoza Stadium. Ice Cream City. I knew it was going to be a tourist trap, but I didn't care. I was a tourist, dammit. Trap me!
Namjatown is inside the Sunshine City Mall which is pretty big, but you won't get lost. Follow the cat and you'll find your way. Namjatown is basically your food amusement park. The place is kitschy so be prepared for sensory overload. Luckily, there wasn't a large crowd because we went during the week. We went straight to the Gyoza Stadium, reminiscent of old Japan there were many different stalls of gyoza stands to choose from. We picked one and decided to try two different kinds. I honestly can't remember which ones we got, but they were both delicious. Made right on the spot, the gyoza were crispy on the outside and warm on the inside with lots of flavor.
After our gyoza fix, we headed to ice cream city. Since the boys weren't really big fans of ice cream, I only got to try two flavors. There was every flavor you could possibly think of. The flavors ranged from your traditional vanilla to your not-so-traditional. And when I say nontraditional, I mean really out there flavors. I saw eel and bean paste and even uni! Crazy, I know...
honey & wasabi ice cream
I decided on honey and wasabi. The honey was good, but nothing special. The wasabi ice cream, on the other hand, was delicious. It was sweet at first, but had the wasabi finish. It was very interesting, in a good way. If you love ice cream, it's definitely a flavor you should try.
Afterward, we spotted a store called Animate that M had heard about from his friends at school (He goes to school for animation). This store had nine floors of just anime goodness, each floor focusing on different merchandise. One floor was just dedicated to the books, while another was dedicated to figurines and another dedicated to posters, etc. A popular place, every floor was packed with people. I could have enjoyed this more if my feet weren't killing me, but I guess I didn't learn my lesson from the day before. By the time we left and got back to our hotel, my feet were swollen and my toes bruised. Damn you, boots! It didn't help that we got lost and were roaming around outside the mall. I guess you get lost regardless if you speak Japanese or not, especially when it is everyone's first time at Ikebukuro.
Regardless of the usual aching feet, the day was fun and productive. Once we were done at Animate, we found a chain store called Tokyu Hands that has almost everything you can imagine. Okay, not everything, but it was the perfect place to go souvenir shopping. I think we spent a good couple of hours in there just overwhelmed at all the cool stuff. J liked it so much that we ended up coming here again on a different day to finish our shopping. The shopping was mostly for him and his "cool figurines." I swear if I didn't stop him he would have bought everything in the store! Eventually, my feet could not take it anymore and we had to head back to the hotel. We had to rest before we went back out for the night...
I forgot how much "work" going on vacation on was...
3-1 Higashi-ikebukuro, Toshima-ku , Tokyo
Nearest Station: Higashi-Ikebukuro