Day 4: Ichiran – Tachikawa

Click images to enlarge

Tachikawa city (立川) is also known as “Anime City”. The locations/ settings for various anime are based on places here. You can visit actual landmarks making it a great holy site, although I’m not too sure of the popularity of the place in the eyes of Japanese otaku. What drew my good self to this place is one of the first anime I selected to watch myself – とある科学の超電磁砲 (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, or, A Certain Scientific Railgun). Academy City is based on the futuristic vibe of the city center, with its bright environment, raised walkways and monorail system. Even the pavements look similar with the orange tiles-yellow lines. On my visit, I didn’t know about Gatchaman Crowds yet, another hippish anime which takes actual locations from the station area. I caught up with the series just before the sequel Gatchaman Crowds Insight aired (just finished this summer). With its neon bright colors, shonen action, young cast, and serious subject matter (politics and all) it’s a bit of a quirky show, I’d recommend it for young adults 17+.

Anime City
Anime based on or in Tachikawa city. From top left clockwise: Toaru Majutsu no Index, Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda, Saint Oniisan, Gatchaman Crowds, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun and Hakaiju.

Anyway, the point is, today I came to hunt down certain vending machines. That’s right. Vending machines. This isn’t really relevant to anything but at the time of my visit, the bunny rabbit くるりん (Kururin) was still the mascot around town, then not long ago some kimo-kawaii vegetable dude ウドラ (Udolla) apparently started making his appearance. Weird. If anyone finds news of him on their visit, please let us know.

Mascots
Left: Udolla Right: Kururin as portrayed in Gatchman Crowds with Paiman (the panda looking shit) sitting underneath

The day started off with breakfast at 一蘭 Ichiran ramen in Ikebukkuro, just 10 minutes walk from my hotel. Ichiran is a 24-hour franchise serving ramen fast-food style. You’re able to customize your bowl down to the flavor, richness, thickness etc. on a qualitative scale. Kind of like subway, but more precise. First though, as usual I purchased a ticket from the vending machine at the entrance. The variety isn’t great, but then again, it is fast food. On sitting down I had a sheet to fill out with my preferences (ask for English if you can’t make do), there were instructions in the booth on how to order refills etc. Once I finished picking, I pressed the bell for someone to collect my order. According to a post I found online, there is barely any actual cooking done, most things are pre-made and ready in packets. All the staff have to do is cut them open and mix according to our instructions. Doesn’t bother me ’cause the stuff tastes good. It was nice and quiet in the morning, I was the only one there. Afterwards I headed to Tachikawa via Shinjuku Station. Promise I’ll get that separate ramen review post done at some point!

Ichiran
The tissue looking stuff in the top image are actually disposable aprons. Salarymen wear them to avoid splashing soup onto their work clothes. There’s a partition between seats…perfect for antisocial people like myself (although in some branches they are collapsible).

I exited the station to a fresh and GLORIOUS summer-like day. I put on my headphones and listened to anisongs during the entire visit. The feeling of hearing ‘Only My Railgun’ on such a beautiful day in Japan, in Tachikawa cannot be described. “The otaku in me can now die in peace..”, is what I thought. I was so busy being giddy I didn’t take many photos of the place, so excuse the shitty stills I pulled from a video.

Notice the paving.
Notice the paving.
The monorail can be seen on the right side.
The monorail can be seen on the right side.

As I said earlier, todays mission was to locate vending machines. Specifically those with Index and Railgun images plastered all over them, and which sell the special Coconut Cider soda as loved by the Railgun-sama herself. The inspiration probably came from the idea of machine “7116” in the anime series, which is faulty and gets its butt kicked by Mikoto from time to time (do NOT try this yourself, delinquent, I know you were thinking it). When the cans were first stocked, fans bought so many they were often sold out. Can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same lol  xD. Tachikawa city collaborated with several anime series (mentioned above) to promote tourism. There is an official site which kindly points out the various locations of the machines: http://www.tbt.gr.jp/tachikawa_anime/jihanki.html

I myself only got around to finding 5, I didn’t have the energy for the rest. Especially as I was stupid enough not to make use of the lockers in the early morning and ended up lugging the cans of soda around like an idiot. In fact, I didn’t eat any solid food until nightfall so I was basically running solely on biri-biri juice for the whole day, which by the way, tastes fantastic (think a light cream soda with a dash of coconut flavor in it). It didn’t take me long to spot my first machine – whoopee!

First MachineThere are also series banners dotted around town. It’s nice to see how open they are about it (being outside of Akihabara an’ all). Japan have come a long way from the negative stereotypes of otaku as associated with Miyazaki Tsutomu. Most western fans wouldn’t know about the social stigma attached, but it makes for an interesting history lesson, so have a nosy.

07 - IndexAccording to google the next location was at a shop. I didn’t find a machine in the vicinity though. Not sure if it was because I got flustered and just missed it. On entering 菊川園 (Kikukawaen – a tea shop, as it turns out), I was greeted by this:

08 - Tea Shop 1Pretty swell. But since I wasn’t familiar with the (Index?) character in pink, I passed it by. The owners of the store politely offered me some green tea for tasting, which I declined. Come to think of it, I’m not sure exactly why. That was kinda rude. Next time, I’ll be sure to try it since they were so polite. The overall layout of the shop is pretty and I wished I knew how to read more Japanese. I ended up getting some mugi-cha (barley tea) and other fancier stuff. There’s quite the range here, from cheap-cheap to premium. I just brewed myself some of the special edition tea for reviewing right now:

10.1 - Tea
The mascot Kururin is on the packet. It’s some sort of special edition roasted green tea.

I’m no poncy connoisseur, but judging from the lack of any kind of textural aftertaste this is probably some quality tea. The taste itself is what I’d describe as malty roasted seaweed, quite prominent but not overpowering. Tastes lovely. Now I’m curious to know what the other ones I gave away as a gift tasted like.

Tea Shop 2Tea Shop 3

The bill came to about £30 (roughly $45, ¥5400). I’m not sure if this is what qualified me for a free gift, but the store owners were sure being friendly about it. Perhaps I’m meant to say nice things about them. Which I would’ve done anyway 🙂

A Kururin sticker and ceramic pen pot. Sweet.
A Kururin sticker and ceramic pen pot. Sweet.

There’s another good reason to visit this store. There is a particular leaflet that displays where anime locations can be found in the city, complete with maps and commentary, it also gives some information about the city itself, albeit in Japanese. There is a section for each of the 6 titles listed above. I kept mine as a souvenir:

11 - Leaflet 1 12 - Leaflet 2 13 - Leaflet 3

I went about exploring the local area. I didn’t pay attention to most of the shops though since I was too busy with glugging biri-biri juice and enjoying the sun.

16 - Explore 2
The outside of Marion store, where one of the Railgun scenes is based The outside of Marion store, where one of the Railgun scenes is based

Eventually, I came across a familiar blue sign…

17 - Explore 3 18 - Explore 4

Mwahaha! Jackpot! No otaku trip is complete without reckless spending on anime goods 😀  I set about browsing through the air conditioned aisles of the quiet Animate floors. Before I realized it, I’d spent 1.5 hours and bought enough artbooks and posters to weigh me down significantly, and it was still just afternoon. Since they opened till 9pm I thought I’d come back later. Again, I stress the importance of finder lockers where possible, else you’ll end up like me..

19 - AnimateBack out in the sizzling hot day I continued my hunt for those pesky vending machines. This next particular one was also at/ inside a store, according to google. Nothing inside seemed to suggest it though so I went around the back of the building, and bingo!

22 - Mikoto Can 21 - Cans

Next stop, a particular shopping mall past the North Station.

20 - Flag 23 - To HMV

According to the leaflet, the cafe/ diner where Mikoto and girls frequent is based off a place in the area. I didn’t think to look for it though since I wasn’t hungry. Once inside the building I found the machine quickly.

The side of this machine holds an amusing scene, I'll let you find out for yourself though...
The side of this machine holds an amusing scene, I’ll let you find out for yourself though…

I didn’t stay for long since most of my shopping was already done. The next closest target was in 昭和記念公園, known as Showa Kinen Park. By this time of the day, I was frying. Burning up. Crisping. Carrying bags did not help one bit. Today I was right on time for not one, but two freakin’ special events. The first was some sort of culinary festival with pork as the main ingredient. It seemed to be a family thing since I saw a load of kiddies about. The other event was the flower viewing which was in full bloom (pictures online look so pretty!). Sadly, my fatigue from climbing Mt.Takao the day before (my previous post), meant that I was way too tired to bother walking around some more in the heat. Next time for sure…

View of a monorail track. The feel of Academy City walking down this path is real.
View of a monorail track. The feel of Academy City walking down this path is real.

26 - At the Park 27 - Pig Festival

28 - Walk in the ParkI have honest to god tried my bestest to find that damn machine but it was nowhere to be found. If anyone does find it, send me a picture to prove it exists!

After giving up I slinked back to North Station all sweaty and tired (but not thirsty). And holy jesus was I happy to find literally ONE vacant locker. I must’ve looked mad dashing towards it but I could finally rid myself of the cans I bought from each machine (I collected all 4 designs which are sitting proudly on the top of my bookshelf).

29 - To North Station
Lockerss…lockerrrs where are they….

For the next and last machines I had to hop onto a train bound for West Tachikawa. The station area shows up a good deal in Gatchaman Crowds. While I don’t have the exact POV shots, you can tell the overall match is supposed to be rather accurate:

30 - N Station 32 - Screen

The (red steel structure) "Dragon" of J.J.s prophecy
The (red steel structure) “Dragon” of J.J.s prophecy

Away from the hubbub of the city center, west Tachikawa is very much a residential area. I had the strange feeling of invading some sort of private space. Somewhere a tourist shouldn’t be..

Cute. Kids don't hang out like that here in the UK. As a girl, I can get away with taking this...
Cute. Kids don’t hang out like that here in the UK. As a girl, I can get away with taking this…

33 - Downtown36 - River

35 - Machine 3

Just before the last machine, I found a quaint little shrine (Jinja, 神社) in a park. It didn’t seem to be in use, but I tossed a coin in and prayed anyway. I’m not religious, but I do get a feeling of connecting with the cosmos in places like this. I also love the peacefulness and tranquility of praying on a lovely sunny day.

37 - Shrine 38 - Last Machine

Back at the station, I hopped onto the monorail to see if I could get to 砂川七番駅 (Sunagawa-Nanaban) Station. A 20 minute walk beyond this station is 阿豆佐見天神社 (Azusamiten Shrine) a.k.a “neko/cat” shrine. Totally random, but I thought it might be a fun visit. Too bad I turned into the wrong street and ended up walking 10 minutes before I realized I could see the next station not far off. As anyone could guess, I was way to tired to continue  -_-‘

Instead, I finished off the day by quickly popping into Gamers. It started to get dark by the time I left, and I felt sad as I turned my back and headed off home. After a quick nap back at the hotel, I went to eat some do-it-yourself deep fried food restaurant with my sisters. I don’t remember the name though.

Overall, it was probably the best day of the trip so far. I plan on returning to Tachikawa, and this time I’ll be prepared!

39 - MonorailNext up: Day 5: Ooedo Onsen Monogatari – Decks Odaiba – Aqua City Odaiba

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