Today might have been our latest start yet. We didn’t get up until 10:30 and slowly got ready for the day. We had no real plans for today except we knew we wanted to get some more ramen. I watch a youtube series called “worth it” by BuzzFeed and the hosts did a trip to Japan where they covered ramen. On this show, they do three versions of the food including a cheap, mid-range, and super expensive option to see which is the most worth it for the price. The cheap version of ramen they did was at a place called RinRin in Arakawa, Tokyo and the price was only 300 yen ($2.70) for a bowl of ramen which is unheard of in Tokyo. The cheapest ramen we have seen before this was 800 yen. It was only a 30-minute train ride away which is about average for Tokyo. So, we hopped on a train and headed that way. Once we got to Arakawa, it was a 15-minute walk to the restaurant. It took us a bit to find the place because it was a small 8 seat bar in the corner of a triangle-shaped building. We sat down and they showed us a menu which had 3 options: ramen, gyoza, or yakisoba. It was a tough decision but we ordered two ramen bowls and two gyoza plates (7 pieces each). The chefs were incredibly friendly, and it was fun to watch them make our orders fresh. They even gave Haley a hair tie so she could easily slurp her ramen broth. This 300 yen ramen rivaled Afuri for flavor and noodle texture, and the 300 yen gyoza might have been better than the famous gyoza restaurant in Kyoto that we waited almost three hours for. All for 1,200 yen in total. For reference, Haley’s ramen at Afuri was 1,350. It was definitely worth it and we would go back there every day for that meal. After lunch, we walked around the town taking in the sights. We wandered onto a street that had dozens of murals painted on the metal garage doors they use to lock up the shops at night. We walked past a bakery that had some delicious looking cake by the slice and we got a piece of the strawberry layer cake to go and took it with us to the park at the edge of town. We knew nothing about this park before we got to this part of town and still knew nothing about it as we walked towards it, besides that it was on a river. When we got there, we were shocked at how pretty the center of it was. There was a semicircle of rainbow-colored bricks and flower beds that encircled a sitting area on the edge of the river. We found a bench and took a seat to eat our cake and relax in the sun.
After a while of sitting there relaxing, we continued on with our day. We headed back into the heart of town to go to an arcade that had retro games. On our way to the arcade we came across a crowd of people, not the usual crowds we saw all day, this crowd was different. They were standing around a sign taking photos and as we got closer we saw that it was a huge sign for SEGA and there was an anime character and Sonic the Hedgehog in front of it. Past the crowd we saw that there was more than just this sign there was a small convention going on. They had giant Nintendo with controllers the size of a smart car, electronic darts were you could win prizes, and best of all a human-sized claw machine. The claw machine was ridiculously entertaining. They picked someone from the crowd, strapped them to a platform and gave them scoop shaped gloves. Once their claws were attached they hoisted them 15 feet in the air above a rotating prize pool filled with candy, towels, stuffed animals and action figures. Then they were lowered and had one shot to grab as much as they could in the scoops and then they were slowly brought back to the starting position. Just like the real claw games, the trip back to the starting position feels like an eternity as you pray the claw doesn’t drop its precious cargo back into the sea of prizes, we could see the people doing their best not to drop their cargo either. after playing some darts and watching the claw machine for a bit we continued on to the real arcade.
The arcade was called “Super Potato” and just by the name alone, we knew it would be a good time. When we arrived, it was all the way up on the fifth floor of a building and the space was so tiny I was shocked they could fit a whole arcade in there. The first game we played was a mashup of the most retro game, pong, and some new technology that turned this once pixilated game into a physical one that looked like a small air hockey table. We controlled the rectangle with a wheel that spun infinitely in either direction and shot the square with a button. Haley beat me in our best-of-three tournament, but I still had a good time. Next, we played a game that was tennis with a disk and you tried to score goals by throwing your disk past your opponent. It was fun but took a game or two to figure out the controls. After we tested our skill at the retro games, we left Super Potato for a more modern arcade. This modern arcade was a lot of fun. On the first floor, they had a lot of games ranging from speed piano playing to train operator simulations. The second floor was dedicated almost entirely to claw machines that had manga and anime action figures. We spent about $20 and almost an hour trying to win an action figure of a Celtic warrior woman named Scathach. After some guidance from a frequent visitor of the arcade and a worker, we finally got her! We were so excited that we had to get out of there before we committed to trying to get another one.
With all the claw machining we worked up an appetite, so we looked up a tonkatsu place and headed in that direction. When we got there, we ordered the pork loin and the filet dinner set and a couple beers. This might have been the longest we had waited for a meal after we ordered, but it was worth the wait. It was some really tasty tonkatsu, and I would go back if we are ever in that area again. After dinner, we wanted to go out and see the famous bar street in Shinjuku that is known for being super narrow and the bars are just wide enough to sit (if you are in the back of the bar, you aren’t getting out unless everyone in front of you gets up and goes into the street). We knew that having our backpack and an action figure would be a big annoyance to us and the other people at the bar, so we made a quick pit stop home to drop off our stuff and then headed back out before we got comfortable and didn’t want to leave. After the pitstop, we hopped on a train and headed to Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho. Once we got out of the Shinjuku train station, we ran into some street performers playing some incredible jazz. We stopped and listened for a few minuted and then continued to the bars. I was expecting this street to be off the beaten path and kinda away from the main stretch of downtown but I was so wrong. It was tucked away, maybe 5 minutes from the train station, and just one street off the main drag. Once we were on the street, we could see why this place became famous. In this 100 yards long street, there are at least 50 bars all with maybe 15 seats on the main floor. Some had more room upstairs, but I would say at least half of them were totally full and the others were pretty close. We found one that had an open table upstairs. We had a couple drinks and some skewers of charcoal grilled pork and took in the experience. After we finished our drinks, we decided it was time for home because we wanted to get up pretty early tomorrow to get to the fish market. On the way back to the train station, we saw a hardcore rock band performing on the street. We enjoyed them and their energy so much that we bought a 500 yen CD from them and then continued to our train. Once we got back to the hostel, we watched a couple of videos on my laptop and called it a night.
Until next time,
Justin and Haley
All photos by Justin Ruck