Japan Trip 2 – Daikanyama and a robot show

It’s the last day of my trip! Boo. I’m really sad to be leaving – although I think on reflection I’ve tried to cram too much in – meaning I haven’t had much time to relax – I have had an amazing time. I wanted to make the most of my last day, so got up at 7.30 and headed off to Daikanyama, It’s a little enclave in Tokyo full of boutiques, stylish stores and cool cafes.

I’d read about an eaterie called Ivy Place a couple of times, so headed there for breakfast.

With a piping hot coffee, I sat at the bar and had smoked chicken and potato hash. It was the first time in a while I’d eaten vegetables that were recognisable and not stewed or pickled, and I savoured their taste!

The place had a cool laid back style, as did the rest of the area. I headed into another Tstutaya book store for a quick browse. Honestly, I can’t understand why bookshops at home aren’t like this. They’re really cool and funky, as opposed to feeling a bit like a library.

I wandered the streets a bit, then headed back to Shibuya (home of the scramble crossing) and ventured to the headquarters of NHK – Japan’s equivalent of the BBC. They’ve got an attraction called NHK Studio Park allowing you to ‘see behind the scenes’. So although it meant turning my trip into a bit of a busman’s holiday, I thought I’d check it out. Maybe I was unconsciously missing TV or something.

Domo-Kun – NHK’s mascot – was absolutely everywhere! Unfortunately, inside, most of the displays were in Japanese, so I wasn’t really able to make out that much about NHK’s offerings. I think a visit could still be fun if you went with kids, as they get to try their hand at video editing, dubbing and reading the news, but there wasn’t very much ‘behind the scenes’ stuff – just a programme rehearsing.

There were studios you could look into, but the curtains were drawn when I went. So probably best to go after lunch, when I think things are a bit busier. All in all for 200 yen, you couldn’t complain! I was hoping to pick up some NHK branded souvenirs in the shop, but they didn’t have any, so I made do with a small Domo-Kun figure instead.

By now I was getting a bit hungry, and I was determined on my last day to have a tonkatsu curry. That’s breaded pork with curry sauce. Japanese curry is completely different from other curries – kind of fruity, but very tasty. I headed to Shinjuku, but the nearest I could find to a tonkatsu curry was curry udon noodles with tonkatsu, so I ordered that.

Absolutely stuffed after that, it was time for my Tokyo finale. I’d seen Robot Restaurant advertised last year when I was in the city, and it gets pretty good reviews, so I thought it would be the perfect way to end my time in Japan.

Eventually finding Robot Restaurant (it’s not in a particularly upmarket bit of Shinjuku), I walked in and handed over my ticket. Then got in the most eye dazzling lift I’ve ever been in.

Then came out in the most eye dazzling lounge I’ve ever been in.

I took my seat, and was told it would be about 30 minutes before the show began. In the meantime, you could buy drinks and snacks. I think the feeling in the lounge was one of general apprehension – no-one was quite sure what we’d let ourselves in for.

Then weirdly two ladies came out – one playing the piano (who looked very serious) and one playing the violin. They played classical versions of 70s easy listening tracks before they were joined by two men dressed as robots playing electric guitars and the violin lady swapped for a saxophone playing lady.

So that was the pre-show entertainment. It was interesting!

Then we headed down into the basement, and were seated on two sides of a long narrow room. I decided to buy a beer as buy this point I thought I was probably going to need it.

The show began. With piano and saxophone lady playing their instruments on a massive metallic horse while another lady sang Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” on another massive metallic horse.

It was brilliantly weird. I won’t give the whole thing away (although the show’s content does change often) but some of the things I saw included: a panda riding a cow, a member of the audience fighting a robot, a gorilla being carried by a dragonfly and robots. Lots of robots. Who danced, and were pretty impressive.

Those are the stand out bits for me. At the end there’s a chance to get your photo taken with the cast and robots, but I completely forgot somehow about the robots and just ended up getting my photo taken with one of the dancers.

All in all it was an experience that I just don’t think would work anywhere else in the world, and the perfect way to end my trip. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in Tokyo. It’s like 70% professional maybe, and just a bit amateur around the edges, but that just adds to its charm.

It was time to make my way back to the hotel. I’d already packed up most of my stuff, so just quickly gathered the last few things together in a bag (by now very heavy), had one last drink in the bar, and then headed to bed after one last tonkatsu sandwich.

I’ve really loved my trip, and will miss loads about the country – the people, who are so polite and friendly and eager to help; the food (although I was beginning to get a bit fed up of it); the dynamism and excitement of the bigger cities; and just the feel and sights of the place. I won’t miss walking so much though, and am looking forward to giving my poor feet a rest.

The only thing I regret not doing this year is visiting a Beard Papa – I’ve read loads about them, but whenever I stumbled across one, it was never a good time. Who knows – maybe if I’m back next year, I can cross it off my list then…..

さよなら日本!