Adsense Top Bar

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Akihabara for Adults

Well, here it is, the Adults Only edition of the Akihabara City Guide. I have been apprehensive about releasing this page to the Web, even though I am sure the subject will proof clickworthy enough, and also lucrative from a CPC imperative. The problem lies with Google, my underwriter (and my overlord). As part of the Google AdSense program I am compelled to provide family-friendly content. No nudity, no sex, no general perversion, that's the general deal. These are, however, precisely the subjects which draw in the most visitors, as reports on Google Analytics appeal. So my dilemma is: should I succumb to censorship, or should I run rogue, and chase these illicit dollars down the drain? It is not just about the money, though; there is principle at stake: how can I be true to the world without chronicling its dark side, as well as the light? Over the years Japan has developed the reputation of being one kinky country, repressed but paradoxically unrestrained. I must confess, I have yet to see any of those legendary vending machines selling used schoolgirl underwear, but I believe they are there. Schoolgirls are an enduring fantasy for Japanese males of all ages, and maids are not far behind them. So, you can buy pr0n on the street, or even read it on the train, without the need for shame. But so what, exactly? Japanese realize there is dark to match the light, and a market for every shade of grey between. Which is, of course, why such places like Akihabara exist in the first place! This is a city of sin, more introverted than Patpong, but a city of sin nonetheless. Here are some of the more disturbing establishments to be found here.

Battle: 千代田区外神田3-1-15はしかつ本店ビル5F.
5th Floor Hashikatsu Honten Building, 3-1-15 Soto Kanda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Time to time in Akihabara you come across something truly bizarre, truly hentai (perverted). Battle is one of these places. The sign in the photo here says "Battle Catfight -- men & women pro wrestling". Battle proclaims itself to be a Pro Wrestling Shop, but there is much more to the place than that. As Harmful, a man well acquainted with the seedier sides of Tokyo, reported: "Another one of those find-the-tiny-folding-sign-and-go-in-the-anonymous-looking-doorway-and-up-the-elevator deals. Battle is on the 5th floor.but -- lucky you! it is sandwiched between 2 other fetish stores! on the 4th is SPORTS FETISH store, where you can get videos of naked volleyball and pictures of old gym shorts, and 6th floor is FETISH WORLD.
FETISH WORLD is sort of a grab-bag of weird-for-the-sake-of-weird depravity, with a general focus on feet and trampling..."
Battle is open from 11am to 10pm.

Brainstown: 千代田区外神田???大竹ビル3F.
3rd Floor Ohtake Building, ?-?-? Soto Kanda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Phone: (03) 5298 2499. 
When I was just a newbie in Japan, Cheap Bastard was trawling the backstreets of Akihabara, searching for buried treasure. A couple of years ago he encountered a specialist comics shop called Brainstown, somewhere off Chuo-Dori. I haven't managed to find it myself, but this is how the Bastard described this scene: "Take the stairs up to the 2nd floor, where they sell regular and hentai manga and magazines. Going up to the 3rd floor, they sell doujinshi, doujinshi soft, doujinshi goods, some live-action porn, and some other hentai anime-type shit. It's all retail price."

Doll@Cafe: 千代田区外神田1-6-7秋葉原センタービル5F.
5th Floor Akihabara Center, 1-6-7 Soto Kanda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Phone: (03) 3251 5865. Web:
Waiting for a train last weekend I noticed a new billboard at Akihabara Station (Hibiya Line), at the southern end of the northbound platform. On first glimpse I thought it was spruiking a new maid cafe, or a place where the waitresses dress up as anime stars, etc. But no, that would be too pedestrian, too mundane. The billboard was in fact advertising a hentai-themed hotel (I suppose we could call it a "brothel", but I might get banned for using such a term). The story gets even kinkier: it turns out that none of the hostesses/prostitutes at this "cafe" are real. They are, wait for it... dolls! You could say that this is a dollhouse for grown-ups, for men who like playing with dolls. I admit, some of them look cute -- see some pictures here. But for the life of me I just can't understand why people would shell out money -- and this case a lot of money -- to sleep with a doll. For that amount of money they could purchase a real hooker.
Like love hotels, there are two options -- the short stay (euphemistically called a "rest"), and the "night course".
It's cool to take photos of yourself with the dolls, and you can also dress them up in whatever turns you on -- school uniforms and maid costumes seem to be particularly popular (this being Akihabara and all!)
The dolls are specifically made for love, weigh in at around 26 to 28 kilograms, and are 140cm to 150cm tall when standing. A night of passion with one of them will set you back 22,000 Yen (around US$250). If you want a quick rumble then a 45 minute session will cost you only 10,000 Yen.

Go inside here, and head up to the 6th floor to find the Maid Cafe LammLammtarra: 千代田区外神田4-3-2.
4-3-2 Soto Kanda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Phone: (03) 5209 4088.
This bright orange bazaar occupies a sliver of Chuo Dori streetside between LAOX and Sega, near Akihabara Station. Not only is the building narrow, but the aisles are very restricted as well. There is not much room, because it is stuffed with pr0n, anime pr0n -- adult videos or AVs as they call them in Japan.
I personally find this an interesting store, though I am no hentai (my girlfriend might disagree!) As you head up the stairs (which are narrow, like everything else in the complex) the vidoes and DVDs become progressively more hardcore. On the first and second floors it is fairly innocent enough -- cute girls in school uniforms or maid outfits, a lot of lesbian action, tongues interlocking, bodies erupting in wild passion... The stairs go on, ever up. By the time you stumble out on to the fifth floor, things have gone too far, as far as I am concerned -- bestiality, girls chained up with the dogs, sex in the stables, and that sort of thing are the order of the day. Amusingly, the customers look respectable enough -- salarymen on their lunch break and young students. Ahhhh... such is the paradox of Japan. Innocent but yet kinky -- and they don't even know how kinky they are. That's why I love this country!
If you make it to the roof, there is a maid cafe called Lamm Maid Café, which you can read about here. I never got that far.

If you want to get emails from a guy pretending to be a girl pretending to be your girlfriend, jon this site. Miharu is in fact a fictional "Akihiaba style idol", and she is often dressed in a school uniform. Basically the idea is you give Miharu your cellphone address and she will send you childish but rauncy and suggestive emails (I am not sure foreign email addresses are okay -- you might as well give it a try!) There's a guy in Liberty House who claims that he used to work in such a company, pretending to be a woman. Therefore Miharu wouldn't do it for me because I know how this particular magic trick works. If you one of those people who can suspend disbelief, you might get turned on by Miharu. If you are in Tokyo you might also catch her in public -- I saw two of her at Harajuku today, dressed in her famous maid costume (see the picture above!)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Skogar Treks (Iceland)

The village of Skógar might comprise just a few farms and a museum and some Tolkiensian Hobbit holes poking through the grass, but it has also become a gateway to one of Europe's last great wilderness areas, the huge, threatening Eyjafjallajökull ice cap in south Iceland, as well as the terminus of one of the world's top 10 treks. Not that I have ever trekked it... not yet, anyway. Later this year I will go to Iceland and if I have money and the time, I will definitely go to Skógar. From what I have read online, the name of the village means "forest", so it is probably the former site of a forest, although there don't seem to be many trees there now, they were chopped down centuries ago. I've heard the village is also close to the beautiful waterfall Skógafoss, which presumably means "forest waterfall", and is a major tourist attraction. There is another waterfall close to the ring road called Seljalandsfoss, which I would like to partake as well if I can make it. In the village itself, one can find a museum displaying the evolution of Icelandic houses and technical devices such as old aircraft and cars. The founder of the museum, Þórður Tómasson, is said to like showing guests around and has interesting stories to tell.

Seljalandsfoss, just off the ring road near Skogar in south Iceland.
Since I haven't been to Skógar yet, I have to delve into the blogosphere, to see what the fuss is about. The thing about the Internet, it is almost like travelling, as well as going back in time (if you look at the older sites.) Some of the bloggers you read come across as travellers you might share a room with, and they all are interesting characters. Take the Australian blogger Danny Yee, for example. Danny is just one of the many hikers and trekkers who have arrived in Skógar to take on the cunning walk. He trekked up to Þórsmörk ("Thor's Field"), a waystation on the trip to Landmannalaugar near the Hekla volcano.

Danny wrote of his trekking experience:
The morning was bright and clear. "Fossbuin" was closed, so we could neither shower nor pay for the campsite. We packed everything ready for our hike, but then went to check out the Skógar Folk Museum. This consists of a number of buildings: old farmhouses, many of them with turf walls, a reconstructed church and schoolhouse, a large modern building housing the folk exhibits, and a brand new Technology and Transport Museum. Þordur Tomasson, the curator who inspired the museum, is still going strong, and he performed for us on one of the little organs, singing along, and on a dulcimer.
After checking out the museum and the amazing houses with grass growing on their roofs (just like the Hobbit Holes in The Shire!), Danny and his team trekked on to Þórsmörk. This is actually a short trek by Skógar standards -- the standard walk is a whopping 70+km long, up to Landmanalaugar (although people usually follow the route in reverse, from Landmanalaugar down to Skógar, possibly because it is easier as it is mostly downhill.) If you are interested in reading the accounts of some trekkers who have taken on this trek and won, visit these following sites (eds. note: these are so old they are in the archives now!):

Nir Halman's Landmanalaugar to Skógar Trek
A good web-blog from the days when web-blogs didn't even exist. This site will give you a good introduction to travel in Iceland, especially if you of the pennypinching disposition. But first, allow me to get an anti-Semitic rant off my chest: If you have ever been to Thailand or India you will have probably come across Israeli backpackers and been shocked by their aggressive bargaining tactics. It seems that Israelis have an almost allergic reaction to spending money while they are on holiday, and they will do anything -- anything -- to avoid coughing up the cash. I have even seen them bargaining in fixed price places like Kodak film development clinics (Bangkok), provoking the wrath of both fellow customers and staff. Some restaurants and hotels in Thailand and the subcontinent now refuse to admit Israeli customers for this reason -- to spare themselves the grief of a 3-hour argument about the bill. I haven't seen any "No Israelis Allowed" signs in Iceland yet, but they could start appearing, if the frigid island attracts more visitors of the ilk of Nir Halman.

If you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of an Israeli backpacker, check out Nir's site. This is one of the older Iceland adventure blogs on the Net -- it dates from 2001, and describes a visit Nir and his girlfriend made to Iceland in 1999. I enjoyed reading about how they try to save money by eating in supermarkets or BBQing their meals outside -- I should add that there is a bit of Nir in me, the last time I went to Iceland I was so short of money I was forced to sleep at the airport and hitch a ride to Blue Lagoon. One of the cool things Nir and his girl manage to do while in Iceland, is make the Landmannalaugar to Skógar trek. As Nir writes:
This trek is considered the best (but also the most difficult) in Iceland. It starts in Landmannalaugar, the site of a rather big hot water spring at an altitude of 600m. It is a remote and exposed place in the highlands bordering a big lava field from which Hekla volcano can be seen. This place is obviously popular with the tourists who visit it during the summer time. In the winter time, when a thick layer of snow covers the surroundings, it is left alone for the locals, who come to bath naked in the hot springs. The trek to Skogar is 70km long, and usually takes a week to walk. It is considered unique in the world as it passes through lava fields, volcanoes, hot springs, geysers as well as genuine alpine scenery of eternal glaciers, a high snow-covered mountain-pass and numerous snow fields.
The other great thing about this trek is that the route is lined with well maintained and cozy huts where hikers can stay the night. Payment for accommodation at these huts is, well, optional. And you can assume that your typical Israeli, passing through this beautiful part of the world, will option out of paying if payment is only optional. The loyalty system doesn't work for every nationality, I am afraid. Nir's website is proof of that. One of the classic parts of Nir's adventure happens when they come across a group of Icelandic folks having a BBQ at a popular mushroom picking place en route:
They are eating huge amounts of BBQ meat and freshly grilled potatoes while we eat pasta and mashed potatoes made out of dried potatoes powder. We look at them with eager eyes and then with surprise when we see the amount of leftovers they throw in the garbage cans. We don't understand why they ignore us. They are so many and we are only 4 "poor" tourists. They could have offered us some of their food... Only when they see our mashed potatoes powder they start to talk with us, and offer to us the remaining 3 pieces of the cake that they have eaten. What a pity they didn't talk with us before and offered to us the meat...
I too know what it is like to be a poor tourist in Iceland, forced to subsist on packets of dry noodles from Japan and cans of Asahi Blue, and tins of sardines and old bread. Next time I go to Iceland (June this year) things will be different -- I am going to live like a King. Lamb and roast pork and hotdogs for me every day -- I can hardly wait. Bring on the adventure!

Rowan Castle's Landmanalaugar to Skogar Trek

Rowan Castle visited Iceland in 2002 because he needed to get away from work and reckoned that the Landmanalaugar to Skógar trek would be the perfect place to unburden the stresses of modern life. In the process, he traded the burdens of workaday living for the burden of a 56-pound backpack! On his website Castle wrote:
This route is rated as Iceland's premier walk, and some guidebooks even claim that it is one of the best treks in the World! It starts in the South Central Highlands, amongst the colourful rhyolitic mountains and geothermal vents of Landmanalaugar. These mountains were laid down by volcanic action, and then dramatically eroded to create undulating hills of multi-coloured mineral deposits. As the path loses altitude, it descends out of these hills and crosses a bleak lava desert of black ash, punctuated by pyramidal mountains and raging glacial rivers. At the other side is the wide valley of Thorsmork (Woods of Thor), which has stunning views of two of Icelands huge ice caps - Eyafjallajokul and Myrdalsjokul. The route then climbs out of the valley, along a sharp ridge and crosses the Fimmvorthuhals Pass between the two ice caps. From there, it descends sharply to the North Atlantic coast, finishing at the sixty metre high Skogafoss waterfall at the small settlement of Skogar.
Castle describes the long trek from Landmanalaugar to Skógar in gruelling prose, with blocks of text interspersed by links to his photo gallery. I liked some of the little incidental touches, like the discovery of some little Arctic flowers in a crevice somewhere, their fragile beauty contrasted against the massive glacier stretching for miles and miles into the distance -- the microcosm within the macrocosm. Castle described some mud he had found on his trek thus: "a stream at the bottom (of the ravine) emerged from a perfectly formed tunnel under the ice, but the stream had deposited strange bright orange mineral deposits onto the black ash. The contrasting colours of orange, white and black looked like they belonged to an alien landscape."

That's why I love Iceland -- I just can't get enough of those alien landscapes! And if you want to plunge yourself into one alien landscape after another, go read Rowan Castle's site. Even if it doesn't formally exist any longer!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...