You’ve rustled up a couple thousand dollars.
You’ve told your mother and endured her lecture about safety while traveling abroad.
You’re about to depart for Tokyo, the land of incredible robots, super-smart scientists, and… let’s face it, hot girls and guys. (And really weird fetishes, but I don’t judge.) It’s the Mecca of geeks everywhere. Of course you’re excited.
So what are you going to do there besides glee yourself silly and look for geisha? This mini-guide is the jumping-off point to help you plan your perfect vacation. These are just a few flavors of geeks, but even if you don’t take a special interest in these types of geekiness, you’ll probably enjoy the destinations I’m covering… so read on!
Has anyone not seen a Miyazaki film? If you’re a geek, you need to visit the Ghibli museum. The museum isn’t a typical, boring museum… it has places to rest if you just happen to get sick while visiting, a no-photography policy instituted so that you remember to experience the museum with your own senses rather than through a camera viewfinder, and a set of principles that revolves around creating a place to explore, enjoy, and feel. You won’t be disappointed!
You probably know the name of Osamu Tezuka, also called the “God of manga” by fans of manga worldwide. The museum consists of permanent exhibits, short film screenings, an animation workshop for you to try it yourself, and a library for you to read manga in. A manga fan’s dream come true.
Finally, don’t forget to visit Comiket if you’re in Japan at the right time. It takes place over three days, and occurs every August and December. Imagine the biggest comic book fair you possibly can, then imagine over 500,000 people attending it. Yeah, that’s Comiket for you. If you can read Japanese, all the doujinshi you can imagine are open to you. To look for specific retailers or genres, just get the catalog (in book form if possible, so you can bring it along while visiting Comiket).
Riding the shinkansen is practically mandatory for train geeks visiting Tokyo. All five of the main shinkansen routes start in Tokyo, so depending on where else in Japan you want to travel, you can choose the appropriate line. One runs between the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata, another goes north, a third goes north-west, a fourth goes to central Honshu, and the fifth takes you to Nagano. Enough choices for your geeky satisfaction?
On that note, you’ll probably want to pick up a Japan rail pass if you’re going to be traveling outside of Tokyo much, or riding the shinkansen – though it doesn’t include the nozumi (super-fast) shinkansen. It has to be purchased before you travel, but it will save you a lot of money.
And finally, if you’re a train geek, you can’t go to Japan without visiting the Saitama Train Museum. It’s located in Saitama and focuses on history, education and the preservation of the heritage and physical elements of Japanese trains… and admission is just 1,000 yen! How can you say no to that? Some of the exhibits include Japan’s first locomotive, early passenger carriages, locomotives from the end of the Meiji era, and more train cars and locomotives all the way through to the shinkansen era and rail freight system.
Have you noticed the destination that’s missing above? If you answered, “What about Akihabara?!” then you’re right (and if you’ve been thinking, “This z doesn’t know what she’s talking about, Akihabara pwns all!” then I apologize for leading you on like this). That’s because just about every flavor of geek can find something to entertain them in this famous “geek district” of Tokyo. Heck, maybe it’s the primary inspiration for your trip to Mecca – er, Tokyo.
Go to maid cafés, or the equivalents that exist for ladies, too! Don’t restrict your visits to the daytime, either… going at night can yield many memorable experiences, too. Huge department stores full of manga, small used video game stores, and little electronics and computer part stalls will all draw you in and fascinate you. It’s impossible to list everything about Akihabara that a geek will find heavenly. Just go.
Don’t pretend you didn’t have one long geekgasm while reading this article. Now you know the must-visit places, so start saving for that plane ticket… and the suitcase full of weird, random, and high-tech stuff you’re bound to bring back.
What places in Tokyo are you planning to visit on your dream trip? I’d love to hear your itineraries!