Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Small Adventures #14

It's Golden Week as I write this (May 1 to be exact), and Japan is in the middle of its big spring holiday period. I've been writing about maid cafes in Akihabara for almost a year now, and along the way I found the "otaku map of Yokohama". The otaku map lists over 30 anime, video game and figures shops, and even had an entry for Honey Honey, a maid cafe. I've been to anime stores like Yellow Submarine and Animate before (in Ikebukuro and Akiba), so I chose to seek out the new stuff. Along with Honey Honey, this meant Jaburo, a Gundam-themed bar close to Sakuragi-cho.

First, to start requires taking the Nambu line from Noborito towards Kawasaki and then transferring to go to Yokohama station. Looking at Google maps, I knew that I wanted Musashi-something, and when I looked at the line map on the train, I saw a Musashi-something station that had a couple of connecting lines. So when I got there after about 15 minutes, I exited at that station and felt that something was wrong - there weren't any signs pointing the direction to Yokohama. I went upstairs and at the station office I said "Yokohama" and the woman pointed me back down to the platform I'd just left. I returned to the platform and a few minutes later the next train arrived. Two women were about to get off when they looked startled, backed up into the car again, and one of them said "Musashi ooii ne!" ("there are lots of Musashis!") Turns out that this is true. We were at Musashi Mizunoguchi. Next comes Musashi Shinjou, then Musashi Nakahara, and then finally Musashi Kosugi. It's this last station that we all wanted, and it just goes to show that even Japanese people can't figure out the train system here.

About 20 minutes later I'm in Yokohama, and I bumble about trying to get to some spot that lines up with the maps I've hand drawn, and I'm realizing yet again that I'm better off just printing the google maps out because my hand-drawn ones aren't helping me any. Fortunately, I also have the otaku map, and it shows me that my being in front of Yellow Submarine at the south end of the station puts me fairly close to Honey Honey. I just have to follow the big drainage ditch down past the station a couple more blocks.

I get to H2, have lunch (go over to Maid Runner on Friday for the details) and get told that there's a second maid cafe as well - Dear - that's in the same building as the cat cafe that's shown on the map (the fact that the map was sponsored by H2 might have something to do about Dear not being included on it) so I go and check them out for coffee and a snack.

It's now about 2:00 PM and I want to try to find Jaburo. I head south from Dear, get to the first big cross street and head east towards the bay. A couple blocks later I find a construction site guard and I ask him where highway 133 is. He doesn't know, and he calls out to a young couple just pulling into a nearby parking lot to see if they can answer. The couple's reply is "go down this street and when you get to the police box, ask there." Fine by me, except that when I get to the next big intersection, there's no police box. According to my hand-drawn map, 133 (running east-west) will take me towards Sakuragi-cho station, which is my first real landmark. I can either head right (south) from where I am, or left (north) at the current cross street to see if I can run into 133 by accident. I mentally flip a coin and go south. A couple minutes later, at another intersection, I encounter the same young couple in their car. They were just going out to try to find me and offer me a ride to the station. Naturally, I discover that given a 50-50 chance of going in the right direction, I'd gotten it wrong. The upside was that the couple wanted to chat during the drive, and they'd saved me about 2 miles worth of walking.

They dropped me off in front of the station and then returned home to watch "Avatar", which they'd rented on bluray. I set out southwest from the station in what looked like the right direction. Now, I've been to this station before. In fact, it's one of the first places I ever went to back when I first came to Japan in 1992. And the neighborhood I was facing looked nothing like what I was expecting. At a minimum, there should have been a big ferris wheel somewhere, and I couldn't see it. But, it was a nice, warm sunny day (one of the first so far for the year) and I was still walking off a big lunch. I knew that I could retrace my steps to the station so I wasn't going to get lost. I just didn't know if I'd be able to find Jaburo based on my map.

4 hours later, after discovering Yokohama's red light district, the piano district, and the street arcade district, I still hadn't found Jaburo. However, I did get some nice photos, and I did manage to burn some calories with all of the walking. I turned around and made my way back to the Sakuragi-cho station, and as I started crossing the final intersection, I spied the ferris wheel past the station building. Now that I was facing north, I knew where I was (the problem was that I was exploring all new terrain for me, and the surrounding buildings blocked off the view of the ferris wheel). From there, and three stations, 2 transfers and about 45 minutes later, I was back home.

As I typed this up, I brought the google map back up. I could easily retrace my steps on the screen, and I had been in exactly the right spot for Jaburo. Therefore, the reason I couldn't find it wasn't because of my map, anyway. I did see one place that had a 4' tall Gundam next to the front door, but there was no name out front and it was in with all the strip joints and soap lands and I'd thought that I had the wrong place. Maybe that was my mistake. There doesn't seem to be a URL for it but here's the address if you're in the area: (Bar ジャブロ - 横浜市中区長者町8-133、TEL 045-231-3035). If you find it, let me know.

One final comment. The statue here is along the main street leading south from Sakuragi-cho station, about 1 kilometer out. It's of Misora Hibari (1937-1939), a famous singer-dancer that started out as a child actor back in the 40's. She was born in Yokohama, hence the tribute. Youtube has a number of videos for her if you want to learn more about her. My favorite is "Kappa Boogie Woogie".

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