Enjoying Akihabara from Kanda River

Electronic Town South Exit

Electronic Town South Exit

Dinner was finished. I hurriedly left Ameyoko Market and walked back to Ueno Station’s Hirokoji Exit. My steps were getting faster and easier because Tokunai Pass was still active in my hand. I seem to have a power to go in and out of each station since that afternoon.

It was a few minutes before 6pm, when Yamanote Line picked me up at a platform at Ueno Station. I boarded a very crowded carriage and mingled with city workers. The conditions in carriages were similar to Jakarta Commuter Line carriages in my hometown, crammed and tightly packed.

This time I would move south, two kilometers to visit the leading electronics center in Tokyo, namely Akihabara area, Japanese people usually call it Akiba.

Less than ten minutes, I arrived. Visiting Akiba meaned I was officially leaving Taitō Special City District and entering another district, namely Chiyoda. A district which is famous for existence of Imperial Palace is none other than the residence of Emperor of Japan.

I stepped out of Akihabara Station via Electronic Town South Exit. Coming out of the gate, I instantly stood on a street wich wasn’t wide, only about six meters and was immediately intimidated by tall building belonging to LABI Akihabara which was clearly displayed offering duty-free electronic goods.

It was next door to Akihabara Radio Kaikan, a ten-story commercial building to the right which left only a narrow alleyway. Meanwhile, warnings against smoking were issued at every pole in the form of a No Smoking Sign which was easily found everywhere. Then at the end of the road, a voice came out from Maidreamin Akihabara’s outside speaker.

Left: Akihabara Radio Kaikan Building.
The Sky Hop Bus costs 2,000 Yen.
Above that was Sobu Line train.
Maidreamin Akihabara, a famous maid cafe in Japan whose waiters wear maid costumes.

I continued eastward until I came to main street, Chuo-dori Avenue and I could tell that the temperature was getting colder when I arrived at a bank of Kanda River. I decided to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Akiba from the top of river, because I wasn’t really interested in entering various electronics shops in every inch of Akiba. How would I be interested if to buy a small electronic item like a stopcontact adapter, You have to spend up to 1,000 Yen.

On the streets of Akiba, local residents went back and forth so fast, they seemed to be chasing time to return to their respective homes after working all day or some night employees who still looked fresh and fit to meet their work time in their respective offices.

Not even an hour I was in Akiba, cold temperature made me give up and decided to withdraw sooner. I rushed to Electronic Town South Exit of Akihabara Station.

As the night progresses, my adventure would be more difficult because I had to fight the winter temperatures in Japan. But I will try my best to hold it in, because I didn’t want to just let go of my exploration time there.

I would now move back to Shibuya District.

Dinner at Ameya Yokocho, Taitō

Shibuya Station Platform.

I was standing again at train platform, in Shibuya Station, in Yamanote Line, on 3:48 p.m. The sun had retreated on city skyline and made the temperature degraded to a point of 3 Celsius Degree. Then the air which was nearing to freezing easily penetrated thick black gloves on my palms. But it would be a shameful precedent if I had to give up and chose to curling up in Yadoya Guesthouse bunk bed.

I had already prepared myself to explore Taitō Special City District. Twelve kilometers northeast of Shibuya Special District, thirty minutes away in distance.

Ameya Yokocho was the main reason for my stop over to Ueno Station. It was a one-stop shop, cheap and all discounted. It was said that if wanted to get a cheap dinner, so travelers flocked to that ex-black market which had existed since World War II.

I arrived at Ueno Station exactly on 5:35 pm. Taking Hirokoji Exit, the largest exit in south of station building. This exit has a large courtyard and directly faces Chuo-dori Avenue, opposite Ueno Marui Department Store (OIOI), a famous fashion center with nine-story in Taitō Special City District.

Darkness began to acquire the day when I started my steps towards Ameya Yokocho. More simply called Ameyoko or Ameyoko Market. I hadn’t yet imagined that this market was already starting to get crowded and smell of food was spreading. Made my stomach growl along the way.

I walked down the road under train overpass, heading south. The market distance is about two hundred meters, only five minutes from Hirokoji Exit.

I arrived at a t-junction which in a street stood Ameyoko Market gate. I faced two other streets in t-junction, both of which were part of market lane. But I thought wrong. It wasn’t sweet smell of food which I smelled, but rather fishy smell of sea fishes which firstly pierced deep into my nose. Of course I ignored it because my attention was drawn to the crowd over there.

Ameya Yokocho Gate.
Ameya Yokocho Gate.
Ameya Yokocho inside.

Not unexpectedly, there would be a number of typical Turkish restaurants and several kebab outlets there. I thought it won’t be difficult to find halal food for Muslim travelers here. Meanwhile, along the next street, several outlets selling marine fish were interspersed with fashion outlets, souvenirs, minimarkets, sport equipment and various other outlets.

I didn’t think that I would  prepare some budget to buy anything which was traded in this market, except for dinner. I kept combing every inch of Ameyoko Market until I was finally attracted to an image of a bowl of chicken ramen. Not about contents in the bowl, but the price listed below, it was just 399 Yen.

I didn’t understand about a menu name, but I had a strategy. I took my smartphone and took the picture. I rushed into the restaurant. I started to look around, the table design was elongated and circular in an oval in the middle with several tables on each side of wall which were already filled with local residents. They were so noisy in sipping noodles in their bowl. I went to the waitress and showed a picture on my smartphone. Then that waiter shouted into kitchen while mentioning the name of a menu which I showed then she pointed at an empty seat. I see, that was my dining table. I sat at a table against the wall and waited for the menu to be served.

One of restaurants in Ameya Yokocho.

Meanwhile, I started pouring a pitcher of water with ice cubes in it. I continued to pay attention to visitors behaviour in restaurant. Once they entered the room, they would remove their jackets on a hanger in the corner of room, then sat at dining table, ordered and quickly ate their food. Everything was in regularity.

Soon the waiter served a menu I ordered and I started to eating it. According to a reference I had read, Japanese people will slurp the noodles they order with a sound enough to be heard to showing that the noodles are delicious and as a respect gesture for the chef. So I had the same scene even though it was a bit of a hassle and made my noodle soup splattered onto the dining table. That wasn’t enough to embarrass me, because a water pitcher on my table was completely ran out, I didn’t know how many times I poured it in my small glass. A maidservant who had been watching me for a while covered her smile with her hand while intermittently whispering to other maidservants. She certainly knew that I was a traveler with have a different skin from japanese.

As a result, I paid for the food with a big smile on her, because she never closed his smile when she looked at me.

Hirokoji Exit in Ueno Station.
Ueno Station inside.
Ueno Station Platform.

I finished dinner on 5:45 p.m., and hurried out from Taitō Special City District.

Menikmati Akihabara dari Kanda River

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Electronic Town South Exit

Makan malah sudah selesai. Aku bergegas meninggalkan Ameyoko Market dan kembali berjalan kaki menuju Hirokoji Exit milikStasiun Ueno. Langkahku semakin cepat dan mudah karena Tokunai Pass masih aktif dalam genggaman. Aku bak punya kuasa untuk keluar masuk setiap stasiun sedari siang tadi.

Beberapa menit lagi menginjak pukul 18:00, ketika kereta Yamanote Line menjemputku di sebuah platform Stasiun Ueno. Aku menaiki kereta yang sangat padat dan berbaur dengan para pekerja kota. Keadaan dalam gerbong telah mirip dengan gerbong KRL Commuter Line Jabodetabek, berimpit dan berdesakan rapat.

Kali ini aku akan bergerak menuju selatan, sejauh dua kilometer untuk mengunjungi pusat elektronik terkemuka di kota Tokyo, yaitu kawasan Akihabara, orang Jepang lazim menyebutnya dengan panggilan Akiba.

Tak sampai sedasa menit, akupun tiba. Dengan mengunjungi Akiba berarti aku resmi meninggalkan Distrik Kota Istimewa Taitō dan memasuki distrik yang lain, yaitu Chiyoda. Sebuah distrik yang tenar dengan keberadaan Imperial Palace yang tak lain adalahkediaman Kaisar Jepang.

Aku melangkah keluar meninggalkan Stasiun Akihabara melalui Electronic Town South Exit. Keluar dari gate itu, aku sekejap berdiri di sebuah jalanan yang tak begitu lebar, hanya berkisar enam meter dan langsung terintimidasi dengan bangunan tinggi milik LABI Akihabara yang terpampang jelas menawarkan barang-barang elektronik berstatus duty-free.

Gedung itu bersebelahan dengan Akihabara Radio Kaikan, bangunan komersial sepuluh lantai di sebelah kanannya yang hanya menyisakan selarik gang sempit. Sementara peringatan larangan merokok di serukan di setiap tiang dalam wujud No Smoking Sign yang mudah ditemukan dimana-mana. Kemudian di ujung jalan sana, terdengar suara yang keluar dari speaker luar milik Maidreamin Akihabara.

Kiri: Akihabara Radio Kaikan Building.
Sky Hop Bus itu bertarif 2.000 Yen (Rp. 280.000).
Diatas itu adalah kereta Sobu Line.
Maidreamin Akihabara, sebuah maid cafe terkenal di Jepang yang pelayannya menggunakan kostum maid.

Aku terus menyusuri arah timur hingga menemukan jalanan utama, Chuo-dori Avenue dan sangat terasa bahwa suhu semakin dingin ketika aku tiba di tepi Kanda River. Kuputuskan untuk menikmati keramaian Akiba dari atas sungai itu, karena sejak tadi aku tak begitu tertarik memasuki beragam toko elektronik di setiap jengkal Akiba. Bagaimana aku tertarik jika untuk membeli benda elektronik mungil macam adapter stopcontact saja, harus merogoh kecek hingga 1.000 Yen (Rp. 135.000).

Di jalanan Akiba, hilir mudik warga lokal begitu cepat, mereka seolah mengejar waktu untuk segera pulang ke rumah masing-masing selepas bekerja seharian atau beberapa karyawan malam yang masih terlihat segar bugar menyongsong waktu kerja di kantor mereka masing-masing.

Tak genap satu jam aku berada di Akiba, suhu dingin membuatku menyerah dan memutuskan untuk undur diri lebih cepat. Aku bergegas menuju Electronic Town South Exit milik Stasiun Akihabara.

Semakin malam, petualanganku akan semakin berat karena harus melawan suhu musim dingin di Jepang. Tapi aku akan berusaha sekuat mungkin menahannya, karena aku tak mau dengan mudahnya melepas begitu saja waktu-waktu eksplorasiku disana.

Kini aku akan kembali bergerak menuju ke Distrik Shibuya.

Kisah Selanjutnya—->

Makan Malam di Ameya Yokocho, Taitō

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Platform Stasiun Shibuya.

Aku sudah berdiri lagi di platform kereta, tepatnya di Stasiun Shibuya, dalam ruas Yamanote Line, tepat pada pukul 15:48. Matahari telah undur diri di cakrawala kota dan membuat suhu terdegradasi ke titik 3o C. Lantas udara yang telah menjelang beku itu dengan mudah menembus tebalnya gloves hitam di kedua telapak tanganku. Tapi akan menjadi preseden memalukan apabila aku harus menyerah dan memilih meringkuk di peraduan Yadoya Guesthouse.

Aku sudah bersiap diri menjelajah Distrik Kota Istimewa Taitō. Dua belas kilometer di timur laut Distrik Khusus Shibuya, berjarak tempuh tiga puluh menit.

Ameya Yokocho adalah alasan utamaku singgah menuju Stasiun Ueno. Adalah pasar serba ada, serba murah dan serba discount. Konon jika hendak makan malam murah, maka para traveler berbondong menuju ke exs-pasar gelap yang sudah ada sejak Perang Dunia II itu.

Aku tiba di Stasiun Ueno tepat pukul 17:35. Keluar di Hirokoji Exit, pintu keluar terbesar di selatan bangunan stasiun. Pintu keluar ini memiliki halaman luas dan tepat menghadap Chuo-dori Avenue, berseberangan dengan Ueno Marui Department Store (OIOI), pusat fashion kenamaan  di Distrik Kota Istimewa Taitō yang menjulang tinggi dengan sembilan lantai.

Gelap mulai mengakuisisi hari ketika aku memulai langkah menuju ke Ameya Yokocho. Lebih ringkas dipanggil Ameyoko atau Ameyoko Market. Belum tiba pun aku membayangkan bahwa pasar itu sudah mulai ramai dan bertebar aroma masakan. Menjadikan perut keroncongan sepanjang jalan.

Aku menyusuri jalanan di bawah jalur layang kereta, mengarah ke selatan. Jarak pasar itu berkisar dua ratus meter, hanya lima menit dari Hirokoji Exit.

Tibalah langkahku di sebuah pertigaan yang di salah satu jalannya berdiri gerbang Ameyoko Market. Aku menghadap ke dua buah percabangan jalan yang keduanya adalah bagian dari jalur pasar itu. Tapi aku salah mengira. Bukan aroma harum makanan yang kucium, tetapi justru bau amis ikan laut yang pertama kali menusuk hidung dalam-dalam. Sudah barang tentu aku menghiraukannya karena perhatianku tertuju ke keramaian di dalam sana.

Gerbang Ameya Yokocho.
Gerbang Ameya Yokocho.
Bagian dalam Ameya Yokocho.

Tak kusangka, akan keberadaan beberapa restoran khas Turki dan beberapa gerai kebab di sana. Kufikir tak kan susah menemukan makanan halal untuk para traveler muslim di sini. Sementara di sepanjang jalan berikutnya, beberapa gerai yang menjual ikan laut diselingi oleh gerai fashion, souvenir, minimarket, peralatan olahraga serta beranekaragam gerai –gerai lain.

Kufikir aku tak akan menganggarkan untuk membeli barang apapun yang diperjualbelikan di pasar ini, kecuali makan malam.  Aku terus menyisir setiap jengkal Ameyoko Market hingga akhirnya tertarik pada tampilan gambar semangkuk chicken ramen. Bukan isi di dalam mangkuknya, tetapi harga yang tercantum di bawahnya, 399 Yen, itu berkisar Rp. 50.000.

Tak faham akan namanya, aku tak kurang akal. Kuambil telepon pintar dan kutangkap gambarnya. Bergegaslah aku menuju ke dalam rumah makan itu. Aku mulai mengamati sekitar, desain meja memanjang dan melingkar oval di tengahnya dengan beberapa meja di setiap sisi dinding yang sudah dipenuhi warga lokal. Mereka begitu berisik menyeruput mie di mejanya. Aku menuju ke pelayan wanita dan menunjukkan gambar di telepon pintar. Berteriaklan pelayan itu ke bagian dapur sembari menyebut nama menu yang kutunjukkan lalu dia menunjuk pada sebuah bangku kosong. Aku faham, itulah meja makanku. Aku duduk di sebuah meja di sisi dinding dan menunggu menu dihidangkan.

Salah satu rumah makan di Ameya Yokocho.

Sementara teko berisi air putih dengan es batu di dalamnya mulai kutuang.  Aku terus memperhatikan perilaku pengunjung rumah makan itu. Begitu mereka memasuki ruangan, maka mereka akan melepaskan jaket pada hanger di pojok ruangan, lalu duduk di meja makan, memesan dan menyantap makanannya dengan cepat. Semua serba teratur.

Tak lama pelayan menyajikan menu yang kupesan dan aku mulai menyantapnya. Menurut referensi yang kubaca, orang jepang akan meyeruput mie yang dipesannya dengan bunyi yang cukup untuk di dengar demi menunjukkan bahwa mie itu enak dan sebagai isyarat untuk menghormati sang koki. Maka akupun beradegan sama walau sedikit kerepotan dan membuat kuah mie ku berlepotan ke meja makan. Itu belum cukup membuatku malu, karena air teko di meja benar-benar habis tak bersisa, entah berapa kali aku menuangnya di gelas kecilku. Pelayan perempuan yang sedari tadi memperhatikanku pun menutup senyum dengan tangannya sambil sebentar-sebentar berbisik dengan pelayan yang lain. Dia tentu tahu bahwa aku seorang pengelana yang berbeda kulit dengan bangsanya.

Walhasil, aku pun membayar makanan itu dengan senyum lebar kepadanya, karena dia tak kunjung menutup senyumnya ketika menatapku.

Hirokoji Exit Stasiun Ueno.
Bagian dalam Stasiun Ueno.
Platform Stasiun Ueno.

Aku selesai bersantap malam pada jam 17:45, dan bergegas meninggalkan Distrik Kota Istimewa Taitō.

Kisah Selanjutnya—->