Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tokyo 2013 Trip Highlights: Day 7 Part 2 - Artnia (the Square Enix Cafe), Tokyu Hands, and the Ikebukuro Animate Store

After looking at all of the modern art and media at the Mori Museum and National Art Center our party split in two (always a bad idea in horror movies, but fortunately we aren't living in a Resident Evil type of world).
Previous post is linked here.

We all took the Oedo Line subway from Tokyo Midtown together.  I continued onto Tochomae Station (E28 on the subway map), while the others left before me at Yoyogi Station to transfer to the Yamanote Line to head to Ikebukuro.  I actually left the train at the wrong stop - Shinjuku Station (need to read the maps better), but got back onto the next train to continue onto Tochomai as the Oedo line completes a loop at this station and northeast bound trains start here.  You basically can swap from the southern leg train to the a northern leg train here. http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/index.html

From Tochomae (Station E28) or from Shinjuku (Oedo Station E01) you ride the train just one or two stops to get off the train at Higashi-shinjuku.  There are signs directing you to Shinjuku Eastside.  Follow the signs and exit.  You will appear in a cool Tatooine-like open court area that you must cross to reach Tokyo Eastside.  Pass through the Eastside building and out to the front of the building.  Here you will find Artnia, the Square Enix Cafe and Shop.  I previously blogged about Artnia here.  I tried to visit previously on a Thursday to find out they are closed Thursday so I visited again today to check the cafe and shop out for myself.
Artnia Cafe from the outside.  (If your hotel isn't near a real supermarket (not the department store food floors) do check out the Maruetsu supermarket right across the street for more reasonably price fruit and other food items such as instant ramen or candies you might not find otherwise.  Better selection than a konbini too.
Like many of the character themed shops, it wasn't quite as large as I imagined, but it is worth a visit if you are a real Square Enix, Final Fantasy, or Dragon Quest fan.  They do have exclusive merchandise, jewelry and clothing here, but many of the other items can be found at Animate, Gamers, Yodobashi, etc.  If you are in need of refreshment the cafe seemed pretty inviting and all the tables were full when I was there on a late Saturday afternoon.  I'm glad I went and saw it, but I couldn't find a Chocobo that I wanted (I was fated to find a Chocobo though - read on to find out).  The jewelry and figure showroom at the back of the cafe is pretty nicely done with a great display of blood red mana crystals as a centerpiece.


Cactuars and Slimes anyone?  Very nice shop space, but not huge.  Cafe is right behind the slime shelving on the right.
Jewelry and Product Showroom.
After browsing through the store I headed back to the train station.  This time I took a train on the Futukoshin Line up to Ikebukuro - easy transportation back to my home base area three stops later.  From Ikebukuro Station (which is a huge underground concourse area to encompass all of these train lines) I had a long walk out to the Central Exit East to get to Tokyu Hands / Sunshine City.

Sunshine 60 Dori
This is a very busy pedestrian route through an entertainment area full of large arcades, bars, restaurants, and shops.  Exiting the station you head east towards Sunshine City down the main street  there then head NE down Sunshine 60 Dori which the Tokyu Hands is on.  In the evening it is pedestrians only it seems.  There are plenty of good food smells and such in the air to entice you to eat.
The route from Ikebukuro Station to Sunshine City is highlighted in Yellow.
I previously blogged about the Ikebukuro and the Animate Flagship Store here too (map included).


On Sunshine 60 Dori
Tokyu Hands near Sunshine City  (there is also a big Toys R Us in Sunshine City)
I caught up with everyone at the Tokyu Hands (which is an awesome craft / stationary supplies / cool goods store with an extensive selection of anime / manga merchandise at this store on the second floor).  Tokyu Hands is a good place to go to find nice pens, Frixion erasible pens, stickers, cool scissors, and other lifestyle type special items.  On the top floor is the Nekobukuro cat playground.  It is not a cat cafe as there is no food or drink.  Here, there are some 20 well cared for cats that hordes of people will pay money to watch, play with, or pet.  It was really busy when we were visiting to get our fill of Japanese cats.  There is of course the customary gift shop with large amounts of cat souvenirs and cat toys.
Nekobukuro - the cats have public areas to interact and private areas to get away from it all.
Cat! Observing human visitors from high up.
It was starting to come up to 5 PM now and dinner time was fast approaching.  Our previous experiences this trip indicated that there is always a wait and sometimes it is a brutally long wait.  So if you can eat earlier, then do so, to miss the line.  Mall areas are also quite busy (but you are there so go with the flow instead of marching off to find some place and possibly being miserable if you can't find a good place to eat).  If there is one piece of advice I would give for dining in Tokyo, it is eat pretty much anywhere you want as the food is generally pretty good.  If you are on a budget, beef bowl or cheaper food chains are available, so you don't have to eat from the konbini.  Also, many malls have not only restaurant floors, but food courts where you can eat for a reasonable price (say under 1000 yen or $10 per person) with a nice variety of Japanese food.

For dinner we wanted sushi and went over to Sunshine City.  Sunshine City is one of the older big malls in Tokyo and there were many American brand stores here along with mostly Japanese shops.  On the restaurant floor we found a sushi restaurant that had good sushi.  Only one group was ahead of us in line and we were inside in 10 minutes.  There were conveyer belt sushi places back out in the entertainment district, but we would have to backtrack to find them and risk the possibly longer lineups to boot.  Another important safety tip for Tokyo - if you're not exactly sure where the shop / restaurant is - then be prepared to not find it or find it after a long search as places are hard to locate in Tokyo.
The sushi restaurant
Sushi Set that came with a warm dashi custard in a little bowl to start.
Chirashizushi  bowl.

The waitress at the restaurant was great and the food was really good.  It was fresh fish, happy sushi chefs, and everyone had a great meal.  Fortified we then went back to the entertainment district to head to the Animate Flagship Store.  I also stopped by the old Animate Store on Otome Road and it is mainly for cosplay goods now with exhibit spaces on the upper floors.
Old Animate Store seen from Sunshine City.
The Animate Flagship Store was awesome!  All shiny and new with seven large floors of anime and manga goodness.  Even the first floor with the new magazines and such had a great selection of souvenir items such as Ultraman mini-cup noodle, Evangelion UCC coffee six packs, and plenty of other themed cookies and such.  Here I found another art book, the Encyclopedia of Dragon Quest monsters, and a really nice Chocobo stuffy with a spell book.  They had a great selection of merchandise on all the floors and there were tons of female shoppers, something I hadn't noticed as much in Akihabara.  We must have spent an over an hour in there, with everyone finding stuff they wanted to buy.
New Animate Store
We made another stop at the Tokyu Hands to buy a few more things then also briefly visited the Gamers in the area (which is right next to a Love Hotel and a 7-11).  We did load up on snacks that night to help keep us nourished as we had to pack everything up to be ready for our flight the next day.  This was our last full day in Tokyo with just a few hours the next morning to look around some more in the area.  On the way back I noticed that a theatre was still showing Evangelion Q and that a pachinko place had these great large scale Evangelion figures in the lobby too.
Evangelion Slots Billboard.
Evangelion Figures!
The next day we checked our luggage with the hotel porter and had one more great breakfast of delicious pastries at the Anderson Bakery.  We just checked out the department stores over at the station like the Seibu and Tobu before collecting our luggage from the hotel.  Leaving in the middle of the day on a Sunday made the ride on the Yamanote Line pretty easy with bags.  The only mix up that happened was that we went all the way to Ueno Station instead of Nippori.  If you are taking the Keisai Skyliner back to Narita Airport - transfer at Nippori as it is WAY EASIER as everything is in the same station.  At Ueno you have to leave the JR Station then walk a block and half to another train station!
The last breakfast in Tokyo.  Pizza bread, flaky croissants, and great little apple turnovers with half of a very tender apple baked in.
Cute little firetrucks zipping around the area with sirens on and the driver shouting into a microphone constantly.  That has got to be a kid's dream job with mike!
The Tokyu Hands had these very cute mini toaster ovens.  I'll have to see if these are carried back in Canada.
 Anyhow, at Narita Airport, there are some great shops there too.  And a McDonalds where I finally had an Idaho Burger.  I also picked up a Newtype and a Hobby Japan magazine to burn off some extra yen.  I certainly wished that I had a few more days as I was boarding the plane.  My second trip to Tokyo was over, but it was a really fun time.  Tokyo is still my favourite city to visit for all of the pop culture, cool architecture, and just have a great time touring and eating.  You can blitz it like we did in the last week, but you're still only scratching the surface!
Idaho Burger with bacon and hashbrown at Narita!
Some of the souvenir haul from Japan.

View the Tokyo Travelogues Master Page here.
THE END...

 

2 comments:

  1. Amazing photographs. I really need to take a trip to Japan... I'd love to visit Tokyo and the other major Japanese cities, and the countryside and castles too. The food is so amazing from what I've heard.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked the post. We didn't really eat out at high end places but we didn't just eat out of convenience stores either. It is possible to have good meals at convenience stores as the freshness and quality are far better than in North America. However, there are also many things this approach would miss including the reasonably priced fast food restaurants with Japanese food (ramen, burgers, beef bowl, curry, sushi, etc). I haven't wandered much outside Tokyo myself, but just google map everything as you need to know exactly where things are.

      For myself, I'd probably do a Tokyo, Kyoto, Fuji, Osaka trip next at some unknown point in the future. I'll post a little more about dining in the future, so subscribe to my twitter or feeds to stay tuned. Have to work on my sci if writing now, but best of luck on any future travel!!!

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