Japan Trip 2013 Journey and Ikebukuro Chapter

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It’s been almost a month since I have returned from my Japan Trip, with the primary objective to attend Dolpa 29 in Tokyo, to secure the incredibly popular limited Dollfie Dream Asuna (I will do my DP29 report in a separate blog post), shopping and sightseeing in the surrounding area.  While the weather condition has been excellent prior to DP29, but it has taken a turn for the worst in the later half of the trip, thus some of the sightseeing objectives kind of fell short in a sense but it was a rewarding experience nonetheless (I will get to that later).  While short of a complete success, but I have to say I have completed over 80% of the objectives!

I have decided to break up my trip report into different chapters, with each focusing on different aspects of the trip,  so, without further ado, allow me to get started!


I am not sure if I have ever said it before, but I have never been a traveling person by nature; it’s not that I hate traveling but it cost a lot of money to travel… to prepare for this trip alone, I could have adopted 3-4 Dollfie Dream at least already…. But ever since I have gotten into this Dollfie Dream hobby, I have started to feel compelled to travel with my lovely DD waifu … hahaha.  In addition, this trip has special meaning because I timed it with a doll party in mind with the objective to secure DD Asuna on site, to visit the Dolpa vendor booths,  to visit the newly constructed Gundam Front Tokyo, to eat at the Gundam Cafe, and to watch the Steins;Gate movie, etc.  There were enough time sensitive events that made this trip worthwhile for me.


While I have always traveled with United Airline in the past because Chicago is the main United hub, but since my destination is Japan this time, I have decided to book an ANA flight.


I have a pretty good feeling that the flight was rather empty before I boarded but the reality is that half of the Economy section was empty!  It was a great idea to book this flight even though it’s more expensive!  Lesson learn: Travel in low season and you might get more bang out of your buck!


Since the adjacent seat was empty, I immediately started to spread myself out like a boss!


The inflight menu, I like how they show picture of it so I can see what’s in it first.


Flight attendants were serving in flight meal soon after.


There were other reasons why I picked this ANA flight, one is to see what kind of programming they would have for inflight entertainment..


And sure enough, there are plenty of Japanese programming, I think this is a parody of the 12 Angry Men(1957 film)?  It was a pity that they didn’t offer subtitle service.


The other reason was to try out their Boeing 777-300ER plane, which is equipped with USB and AC Power outlet.


I fell to sleep soon after the meal since I hardly slept the night before, so I never got to try out the AC outlet for that matter.


Thanks to my advanced planning I was very sleepy throughout the flight, I think I have intermittently slept for about 6 hours or so?


One great way to pass time on a trans-pacific flight is to eat whether you wake up, so I already stashed away some breakfast burrito before getting on board.


Reading the DP guidebook? hahaha


Looking outside the window…


Playing with other inflight control… not sure if other flights have them, but it’s kind a novelty to be able to look outside the plane?


At first I wasn’t sure what this is, but I think I just happened to have spotted another plane flying under my plane!  Which is actually pretty cool!


Filling out the custom entry form.


Since I am already used to flying back to Hong Kong, which is a even longer flight, so flying to Tokyo isn’t that big of a deal to me nowadays; but it always help to be prepared for this kind of flight.

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Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean I think?


Another meal was served prior to landing~


Final approach to Narita Airport~

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And after 12+ hours flight time, I have landed in Narita International Airport~


It finally hit me that I have arrived in Japan when I saw this out in the runway LOL, Hello Kitty Eva Air, not sure what airline that is.


Some day I am going to take my DD waifu to Kinkukuji Temple~  Secretly wishes for a Kyoto DP soon~


After 4 years, I am back in Japan again!  I was incredibly lucky in a sense that there were literally no queue at all at the custom counters thus I was able to get through to the baggage claim area in record time, I think I might have spent about 5 minutes getting through the Japan custom!


The first order of business was to pick up my pocket wifi at the 4th floor post office since I have reserved mine ahead of time with Global Advanced Communication (I think it worked out to be about 1000 yen a day for my 4G LTE + extra battery), I showed my passport and here come my package, it was quick and easy.  In this digital age, it was absolutely essential that I stay connected throughout my trip and Google Sensei played a big part in my daily routine as well!


Since I was able to get through custom in record time, I was able to pick up my pocket wifi and catch the 3:00pm bus from the Airport to Ikebukuro with 5 minutes to spare!

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Some scenery along the way.


After an hour plus bus ride, I finally arrived in Ikebukuro; but there is still a fair distance away from my final destination.  In retrospect, I should have taken a taxi since it will help preserve my energy for the day.  It wasn’t exactly easy or fun to carry my luggage and have to walk for about 30 minutes.


I was so happy when I finally seen the sign of the hotel XD, my legs were ready to give out and I was sweating like a pig too XDDDD


Coincidentally, there is this “community cafe” next to the hotel… I never quite made it in there though XD


And the first order of business is of course to setup my temporary workstation and get online first!  Luckily they have wired connection available for free since the pocket wifi was still charging up.


After giving my tired legs some rest and the pocket wifi charged up, it was time to head out.  Promotional poster of the Steins;Gate movie can be seen everywhere.


Since my hotel was pretty close to the Sunshine Cinema, I was able to quickly verify the screen time for the movie!


But my first real objective was to verify the location of the Citibank Ikebukuro branch since they can accept foreign ATM cards!

Ikebukuro Map

Since I have already mapped out all the locations I wanted to visit in Google Map, it was pretty easy to navigate through Ikebukuro, but if I were to not have internet connection, I would most certainly got lost in the maze of Ikebukuro.  See below for the embedded version of the map.

View Japan Trip 2013 in a larger map

After securing the necessary funds from the ATM, it was time for my second objective, which was to acquire a Suica card.


So it was time to head down to the Ikebukuro Station~


What exactly is a Suica card?  Well it is actually a rechargeable contactless smart card used as a fare card on train lines in Japan, the main advantage for me is that I don’t have to worry about carrying a load of changes to buy JR tickets and since it’s also accepted at most convenient stores like Family Mart, it really help reduce the amount of pocket changes I have to carry!  Some ramen shop in Akihabara also accept Suica as a form of payment at the ticket machine, overall, it will just make the whole trip a whole lot easier, and less pocket change is always better!


Putting my name in for the My Suica card, since it doesn’t cost any extra to do it, why not?


Following the recommendation of fellow DD comrade Syaorankun, I proceed to head back to the hotel and have dinner at Ichiran, which is located exactly in the same block of my hotel (the close proximity of the location played a big part why I wanted to try that as well).


Most of the Japanese restaurant would have a vending machine like this, which makes it easy for gaijin like myself to buy food~


Here is a ticket for a bowl of ramen + 替玉 which means additional noodle.


There was a panel here which tells you when there is empty seat inside, which is very convenient.  I should add that each customers get their own booth to sit so you can focus in enjoying your ramen to the fullest!


They also have some merchandise for sale as well, probably original noodle made by the shop.


I have always heard about how the Japanese are picky about their ramen, here I can see first hand how much they do care, every customer are handed with a form like this so the chef can tailor the ramen to the customer’s liking.  I don’t understand everything on the form, so I just kind of stick to the middle XD


It tastes alright, but not significantly better than the local Santouka 火頭山 in Mitsuwa Marketplace close to my workplace.

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Since there was still time after I finished dinner, and I doubt I would be able to navigate through the town at night so I ended up heading back to Sunshine Cinema to watch the Steins;Gate movie afterward.  I couldn’t understand the dialogue obviously but I was able to grasp what the movie was about, which is good enough for me; I will watch it again when subtitle is available.


It was always going to be difficult to get a full night of sleep after spending 12 hours on a plane so I hit up the local Family Mart for some supplies.


Here is a closer look at the Sucia card I acquired earlier in the day.


I instinctively bought a Nissan Curry Cup since that’s what I always do when I am on trips but in retrospect, since there were several ramen shops opening 24 hours a day next to my hotel, it was pretty dump of me to have bought cup noodle instead going for a steamy hot bowl of ramen XD


Good Morning Japan, my first morning in Japan with my lovely DD waifu Sakuya マキシマ・サクヤ ~


Around 7:30, I headed down to the 2nd floor Salvatore & Bar for the included breakfast buffet.


The selection was limited but since my hotel fee included breakfast buffet, I think it was adequate.  The scramble eggs were silky smooth, the pasta was al dente, the veggie curry was ok.


Though at 8:00 am, hardly any of the shops had opened but I was able to bear witness to the great Salaryman march from the direction of the Ikebukuro station eastward, I wish I had taken a photo of that, it was definitely quite a sight to behold.


And since there was an hour or so left before any of the shops would open, I ended up headed back up to my room and take some photos first.


Around 10am, shops began to open and since animate was literally right across from my hotel, that was my first stop.  The animate in Ikekukuro is not as big as its Akihabara counterpart but it had a good selection of character goods though not as many as I would have liked.


I absolutely suck at this UFO thingy, I am sorry to say that I have spent way too much money on this and walked away with empty hands….


The Gamers store is significantly smaller, I didn’t think I was able to find anything I wanted there.


And last but not least, I have got to visit the Volks Ikebukuro SR!  As my only other experience in Volks SR was 4 years ago before the Radio Building was taken down and Tenshi no Sumika in Harajuku, it was kind of an eye opener to see the SR is more or less just a toy shop with a dollfie dream section and toys from other brands.  It is absolutely essentially to mention that if it hadn’t been for Google navigation, I would most certainly have gotten lost on my way to the Volks SR since it is quite a bit further east from the rest of the entertainment district and away from the train station.


And of course I had to sneak some photo inside the Volks store XD


And marking my target, T-2 days!


And just before I left the store, I noticed that they have the Steins;Gate prize lottery there… while I have somewhat refrained from spending money so far, I finally decided to go for these!  Luckily the sale person on duty quickly realized I am a gaijin and spoke English to me, he also kindly explained to me that all of the Feyris’ A prize had already been given out (I was aiming for Kurisu anyway)  But in the end, I was unable to obtain the A prize >.>;

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Here are the loots I managed to secure during my Ikebukuro excursion and I will continue with my Gundam Front Tokyo chapter next time~






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