Warriors of Legend - Tour
 
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Warriors of Legend Tour Diary - J. Navok
 

DAY 3: 6/28/06 (Shifting Modernity)

After the sightseeing-packed second day, where we went all over parts of Minato ward scouting out Sailor Moon locations, the third day was supposed to be a bit of a breather. We'd be looking at different aspects of the city's modernity, starting out with a concrete, steel, and glass testament to tomorrow and beyond- Tennouzu Isle, better known to some as Infinity Island, the setting of Sailor Moon S.

We walked from the hotel down the main boulevard, moving away from the Tokyo Tower but toward the waterfront. There, we caught the monorail to Haneda airport, getting off at its first stop, Tennouzu Isle.

We were awed by the Infinity Academy building, went inside and around, then across the street to check out other series-relevant locations such as Sea Fort Square (the inside of the academy), the courtyard and concert hall, and more.


Series veterans may recognize some of these places

By the time we were finished, it was already time for lunch. We ate sandwiches in the shadow of the Infinity Academy.

Following lunch, we jumped back on the monorail (which was, incidentally, also seen in the manga) and then began the long transfer to our next destination, one that I was particularly looking forward to.

It's a bit hard to get to; you have to change subway lines a few times then walk around in the high city maze of Akasaka, but once we accomplished all that, we were rewarded by the sight of the Akasaka Hikawa Shrine, the shrine with a long staircase that anime Rei's Hikawa is based on.

On the way there we also caught sight of the headquarters of TBS broadcasting, who showed the live action Sailor Moon series.

We spent quite a while at the Akasaka Hikawa shrine, which was very quiet, pretty, and dignified. We also bought many Hikawa Shrine charms, the story about which you can find at the bottom of the page. I thought I'd manage to survive through the day but after performing all the translation work for the charms I wasn't feeling well. The stress of running the tour had gotten to me; during lunch that day I wasn't able to eat as my jaw had tightened (apparently from grinding my teeth out of stress the night before.)

It was decided that I'd part ways for a while, head back to my apartment to get ready for the second half of the day while Hans would take over the group for two hours. The members took a vote on whether they wanted to head to Akihabara (the evening's final destination) early, or go to Arisugawa Park in Hiroo for a few more Sailor Moon-related sites. The latter won.

I rode the subway uptown, examining the red amulet I had bought from the Hikawa shrine to kill time but eventually falling asleep as is wont to do on Japanese subways. I slept with the bright red object in my outstretched hand, and just before my stop, woke up and quickly put it into my backpack, to the amusement of two gold-tanned Japanese twenty-somethings, who laughed at the sight of this foreigner falling asleep with a shrine charm.

The group, meanwhile, headed to Hiroo, near Azabu-Juuban and Roppongi, and saw Sailor Moon sites ranging from a wooded park that appeared in the show (as well as its fountain), to the school that Mamoru's is based on in the manga, and in whose spot the girls' middle school is located in the anime. Hans did a great job of leading everyone on his own.

 
In Arisugawa Park. To the back is the Central Library of Tokyo.

We all met again in Akihabara station, where the rest of the day's festivities were to begin.

The first place we went to was the massive Yodobashi Camera Akihabara store, a giant multi-floor wonderland of electronics which also has a good selection of anime goods (including creepy "character pillows" the size of people), video games, figurines, and all sorts of other items anime fans enjoy.


In Yodobashi Camera Akihabara

From there we moved to Akihabara's main "Electric Town" square, where girls in maid outfits were handing out flyers.


The group walking through Akihabara Electric Town's main square

We walked into Gamers and went together through the famous anime shop's various floors of goods. Wherever possible I tried to help people translate the name of this or that CD or DVD, or attempt to find what they were looking for.


Shelves in Gamers are full of goodies


Outside Gamers


Walking around Akihabara

After Gamers we went to a maid cafe for tea and cake, served to us by girls in those cute maid costumes. This was a welcome break from the heat and the crowds, and everyone enjoyed it. Plus the cakes were pretty good.


Kevin, Hans, and Ignatius finish their (iced) tea and cake at the maid cafe. Ignore the halo of light that
was the result of my poor photography skills.

Unfortunately the maids were not allowed to be photographed but Hans tried to use Ignatius' dictionary to ask one out.

It being Akihabara, there was all sorts of weird stuff to see.


Jason points


Sakura roots for the Japanese soccer team

After the maid cafe we went to Don Quixote Akihabara, a psychotic Japanese Walmart that sells all sorts of weird goods from Hard Gay sunglasses to S&M Maid costumes.

From Don Quixote we rushed back to the Electric Town district, where we were to have dinner on the 8th floor of a nearby building, overlooking Yodobashi and the rails of Akihabara. Dinner that night was Korean BBQ, another two hour feast.

Joining us this time was Brad from the excellent and long-established website MoonKitty.net. Tonight as with the previous nights the people around us endured a dozen gaijin laughing, talking, and singing songs from the DiC dub opening to the Gummi Bears theme.


The group enjoys Korean BBQ in Akihabara



Brant, Brad, and Big Bottles of Beer

Hans, generous man that he is, left the dinner early with an important mission: to be in my apartment when a special cake was to arrive from another part of Japan. His ears were probably all the better for it, as it was at that point we randomly started belting out our medley of cartoon themes. The only appropriate reaction to this is to put pieces of seaweed in ones mouth, as Jason demonstrates:

After dinner we stuck around Akihabara to go through one of the anime shops that was still open and check out more goods, then called it a night. People would really need their rest for all we had planned the next day.

Gifts from the Gods

When we were at the Akasaka Hikawa shrine, many of the tour members were interested in purchasing omamori or "good luck amulets" from "Rei's shrine." There were no miko around that day, but there was the shrine priest in his office, who opened the store window to sell a dozen foreigners the shrine's amulets.

There was a selection of several general amulets for about 500 yen a piece, bell attachments for 200-400 yen each, as well as specific amulets for things such as traffic safety, then more deluxe charms like arrows or votive plates (called ema, you write wishes on them). I purchased a single red amulet, thinking it'd be enough for myself.


A red Hikawa Shrine Amulet
The gold lettering doesn't come out well
in the photo but it says Hikawa Jinja in Kanji

The other tour members, though, wanted more. A lot more. Some were purchasing five or more amulets, along with bells, because they made great souvenirs to give people back in the states. (A Hikawa Shrine good luck charm does sound like a good gift to me.)

So person after person would come up and make their selection while I translated. It wasn't too long before the priest had to go and open more boxes of amulets. Many were purchasing the generic green or red amulets, as I did, but the priest at one point suggested the votive plates- based on famous paintings held by the shrine he said- and Brant did end up getting one.

Between all the tour members, the transaction took upwards of twenty minutes if not more.  The Akasaka Hikawa Shrine is not one that gets groups of tourists, tucked away as it is in the middle of a mess of modernity, an oasis of greenery in a desert of concrete. Although it is not one of the city's famous shrines, like Yasukuni, it is well known among those who live in the city. During pauses, as the priest was placing each amulet in packaging, he would ask me questions, such as where the group was from. All over, I told him, and I was from the United States. Excited, he opened a drawer and pulled out a letter; his shrine was a notable one, he was trying to show, and he had recently received an invitation from the American embassy to attend a function. I offered praise.

In the end we must have bought several hundred dollars worth of amulets from the priest that day. Over the course of the transaction, his wife returned and he received several visitors, who sat with him in the priest's office and watched this all take place. When we finally finished, he thanked me for the translation work (I was exhausted and dripping with sweat from the humidity), then gave the group a votive group in appreciation of our large donation (as it were) to the shrine. After that he, his wife, and his guests all bowed formally.

We were quite grateful for the gift that the priest bestowed upon our group, and happy that we were able to leave a good impression on the priest of a shrine which meant a lot to us fans.

We wondered what to do with the votive plate- usually you write a wish on it and leave it to be hung at the shrine. But the plates are made of wood and burned after a period. Brant came up with a good suggestion: I'd write a message in Japanese, we'd all sign it, and I'd include the plate in the letter we'll be sending to Naoko Takeuchi (more on this next page) along with a description of how we were given it.


Our Ema, a gift from the priest of the Hikawa shrine


Watch the closing doors!

CONTINUE TO DIARY - DAY 4

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