The Kimochi Warui Diary
The first week of the trip was over. Our rail passes were expiring soon. And that meant no more adventures outside of Tokyo—the average bullet train ticket costs well over $100.
Staying in Tokyo for the rest of the trip was supposed to make things much simpler. And part of that simplicity was supposed to come from Torako’s friend and my acquaintance, Noah. He agreed to hang out with us when he wasn’t busy with classes.
Noah had warned us that his apartment was way too small to house us, so that was out—we’d still need to find our own hotel rooms for the rest of the week. On the bright side, having Noah there would give us some needed guidance in exploring the city.
We waited for Noah at, of all places, a kebab stand in a corner of Akihabara.
I pulled out my phone to check on some hotel listings.
The night before, I’d booked a hotel—one with a reputation for bed bugs. It was the only option for lodging on such short notice and within a reasonable distance.
My goal today, then, was to scan the hotel sites to see if anything new might open up. And fortunately for me, something had. It was a little bit further off the trail than expected—a small price to pay for clean beds.
I booked the new reservation, letting the confirmation email fall into my spam inbox with all the other ones. I should probably sort those. Before I could, Noah appeared from around the corner.
Noah looked no different than the first (and only) time I’d met him some years ago.
He was average height, average build, average face, blue eyes, blonde hair, monotone voice… There was really nothing extraordinary about Noah, as far as I could tell. No special talents or abilities brought him to Tokyo—he simply applied to an American school that had a good international program.
Noah and Jotaro introduced themselves to each other.
“So, like… What do you guys want to do?”
Jotaro and I shrugged. Noah suggested killing time in Akihabara before grabbing some dinner.
During the walk, we crossed a large building on the corner of an intersection. Wrapped around it was a giant poster for a mobile phone game from a popular anime franchise. I remembered watching that series years ago before it exploded in popularity. Now there were dozens of new characters and spin offs that I’d probably never have time to catch up with.
“This building is cool,” Noah pointed out. “It’s seven floors of anime goods. We should really check it out later… but not today.”
Jotaro and I nodded. I had nothing against visiting, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at the idea of buying anime merchandise at this point in my life. The last three times I had been to an anime convention or store, I always bought way too many things. Then I’d lose interest in them less than a week later. I’d end up selling it all or shipping it off to my online friends. It felt silly just going through the motions:
Get excited for some merchandise, spend way too much money on it, regret it, and then find a way to get rid of it—or else display it in your bedroom and watch as it clutters your space and collects dust.
Noah took us to a small arcade. One section of it had dozens of UFO catchers—basically like a claw machine or crane game, but with a different mechanism for grasping the prizes.
Also unlike crane games, you don’t typically win UFO catcher prizes by lifting them and dropping them into a hole—the prizes are way too heavy for that.
Instead, the prizes are usually placed on some platforms in a precarious position. The idea is to then use the UFO catcher’s claws to push the prize off the platform and into the prize chute. The inside of the machine can be set up in any number of ways, thus meaning the difficulty can always vary.
Whether it was a crane game or a UFO catcher didn’t matter to Jotaro. He was already fishing through loose change to put in the machine
You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but he really knew how to work a claw machine back home. And, just as expected, it only took him a few warmup rounds on the UFO catcher to start getting the hang of it. He managed to land a prize in less than ten minutes.
He took it out of the prize chute and looked it over. It was a tall box with an anime character printed on it—a figure was packaged inside.
“This from anything we’ve watched?” he asked.
“Nah.” She was from a show that was popular a few years back.
Jotaro shrugged and put it in his backpack.
Meanwhile, Noah was watching the entire thing without a word.
“Wait,” he said abruptly. “I have an idea.”
Noah had us follow him to a store some blocks away. It was a store selling anime figures almost exclusively. Except, at the back of the shop was a classic claw machine with various plastic eggs scattered around the inside.
But there was one peculiar detail:
In the corner was a giant golden egg. The golden paint on the egg’s shell was scratched from all the attempts to claw it up.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You win the egg and you can get one of the anime figures for free, or something?”
“Nah,” Noah said. “It’s a $200 cash prize. There’s literally money inside it.”
CLUNK, CLUNK, CLUNK, CLUNK
Jotaro was already putting coins inside the machine.
He managed to grab the egg on the first try.
But as the claw took hold and began to lift, it was apparent that this egg was heavy. Just as quickly as the claws had grabbed on, they were already sliding off.
The claw couldn’t hold it any longer. In total, the egg barely moved an inch—but it did move closer to the hole.
“This game is horse shit,” Jotaro said as he inserted more coins.
Meanwhile, Noah was looking at some of the anime figures on the shelves. He had his eye on a character who had remained a fan-favorite over the last few years.
“I’ve really wanted this one for a while,” he said. “But I haven’t decided if I actually want to buy it.”
I suppose moving to Japan, living next to Akihabara, and having access to all the anime merch you want is one version of the otaku dream.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a Japanese girl walk into the store.
And this is the other version…
She was a bit taller than the average Japanese girl, with a slim figure and long black hair to match. She wasn’t particularly made up or dressed in any overly stylish way—her natural beauty was enough.
Either way, I was puzzled that she entered the store at all. The only case I could think of were these situations where, supposedly, the girl’s boyfriend is really into anime, so she just goes along with it. Maybe she was here to meet him or buy him a gift?
Naturally, she walked right past Noah and I.
Until she just happened to turn around and glance back at us.
And when she did, she stopped in her tracks, spun on her heels, and headed right toward us.
“There you are!” she said and clung onto Noah’s sleeve.
“Oh, right,” Noah said. “This is my girlfriend, Kumiko. She’s gonna eat with us if that’s cool.”