Touch down! Blam, I’m in Tokyo. 11am, fully refreshed and fully in Tokyo’s time zone. No jet lag thanks to strategic use of sleep deprivation and Nytol. My first hint as to how the Japanese mindset operates happens as early as the baggage reclaim. Some markings on the floor around the revolving bag-o-returner ask people to keep a respectful distance to ensure more people can reach their luggage more easily. Amazingly, everyone does. Also amazingly, people keep all their gear behind them so as to take up as little space as possible as they crowd around this line. This amazes me (and I imagine would amaze anyone who frequently flies to and from Heathrow). It’s as if everyone actually wants the world to be a better place. Then I go hire a phone, have a heart attack at the price, then realise how little money it is (this will be a recurring theme as I attempt to convert yen into pounds throughout the trip), get on the bus and I’m off to TGS.
On the highways there is practically no traffic. This will also be a recurring theme as I travel around Tokyo, making crossing streets very easy and making breathing MUCH easier than is reported.
As we travel along I keep an eye out for a sprawling metropolis in the distance. I envisage a solid wall of concrete and glass marking the boundary of Tokyo, though I’m not sure if I’ll see the city yet, since Tokyo Game Show is not in fact in Tokyo. Of course.
I get to TGS, it’s very small, and there are no queues for anything bar Devil May Cry 4. Well, there are queues but we’re talking three or four deep. In three hours I’ve played everything I care about and seen everything else. Several things surprised me -
There were a LOT of US-developed games on show which quite clearly will never sell in Japan.
Microsoft’s games were everywhere simply because they had the biggest bags and therefore were clearly on show on people’s shoulders at all times.
There was NO COOL TAT on offer anywhere (wtf?!).
There were loads of mobile phone games.
Everyone was taking pictures of the J-hot girls, but nobody wanted to be in the pictures with them. It was a strange sort of voyeurism, with some guys being overheard saying things like “you were a Capcom girl in 2004, why the change?”
There really wasn’t any cool tat.
Then I meet up with Adrian, a friend of a friend who is fluent in Japanese and French, but alas not really English. He takes me into Tokyo on a train, when he tells me he is a drag-performer at his night, Tokyo decadence. As we travel along, I stare out the window as much as possible. We’re mostly over ground, and I’m hyper-excited about seeing Tokyo in the distance. We start to enter suburb type areas clearly defined by large areas of grassland and forest. No skyscrapers, no flying cars, no robots. No city. Soon we get off to change to another line. I ask how long before we’re in Tokyo. Adrian replies, “we are ‘ere.”
We’re clearly NOT in the largest and most technologically advanced city on the planet, but I don’t say anything. I put it down to his poor English and my non-existent French and Japanese. We change, I see some school girls who don’t look like as hot as I’d hoped (in fact, they look like, well, school girls, but more on pedophilia later), and then we arrive at my stop. I thank Adrian, get out, get confused at the barriers (which start open but shut on you cruelly if you have the wrong ticket, which I did) and then I’m outside. Outside into fresh air, wide open space, and what looks like the outskirts of a city. I think there must be some mistake so I drag my near-empty suitcase back inside and check the name of the stop, which is still Yotsuya. I am in the centre of Tokyo. I go back outside and take careful stock. The roads are HUGE. There is space everywhere. There is loads of green, very little traffic, and every person I ask for directions from speaks English (a statistical anomaly, perhaps). Later on I find out that most of Tokyo is like this - expansive, clean and really quite green. There is next to no pollution, no litter (and no bins either, which doesn’t quite add up), and transport and food are both very, very cheap. In fact, it’s possible to live in Tokyo for only a few pounds a day. Unless you play Virtua Fighter, that is.
In fact, at this stage I realise that everything I think I know about Tokyo is wrong. Very obviously wrong. Later on, Adrian tells me that the stories of Tokyo being massively over-populated and expensive and difficult to navigate are all propaganda spread by Japanese to keep out foreigners. I can easily believe it.
I check in to what is the biggest hotel I have ever seen. To get from the reception desk to my room takes nearly 10 minutes. There is a shopping mall on the first two floors of the hotel as well as countless restaurants. My room has slippers I can take home and a rubbish hairdryer. I chuck everything on the floor and race out to meet Daniel, who will ensure that over my three day stay I see and do everything in Tokyo that I want to.
We go to a restaurant with Adrian and his friend and a dancer called CoCo. CoCo tells me (via Daniel as she speaks no English) that next week she is having a catfight on stage at Adrian’s fetish night. I laugh and ask if it will be a real fight and she tells me it will. She makes clawing gestures and snarls. She asks me if I think she is cool (she is). We then grill our own meat on the mini-BBQ in the middle of the table and get drunk on sweet cocktails made from things I haven’t heard of. Then Daniel takes me to meet his friend David, who takes us to a Belgium-themed bar where beer is SUPER expensive and there are no J-hot girls to look at, so I retire to my hotel.
Thus ends my first day in Tokyo.