Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Three Mountains

(August 5-31, 1998)

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Thursday August 13th, 1998
I got up early today and spent more time on this web page before I packed up everything for the move to the next hotel.
I had already decided that I still wanted to spend some more time in the Ikebukuro area, so my original plan was to get some cash at the only ATM I've found so far that will accept my VISA/ATM check card... but said ATM wasn't working this morning. Wheeee... let's see; I've only found one ATM that will cough up cash for my card in all the areas in Tokyo I've visited so far, and it's out of order just two days before the big Comic Market convention that I will definitely need cash for. What fun.
But there was nothing I could do about it so, with about 1500 yen on me -- about $15 American -- I did the only thing I could... set out for the next hotel, which I knew would accept my VISA card. I figured that if I at least had somewhere to dump my stuff, it would make figuring out a solution a bit easier.
Even though I had my JR railpass, the trip still cost me 190 yen (about $1.40) because I had to take a non-JR subway to go from the Tokyo ward JR Station to Nishikasai Ward. This made me a little nervous because it means I'm slowly eating away at my cash as I go back and forth between Nishikasai and anywhere, so it was just that much more important to find a solution to the cash problem. I knew I'd be able to eat; restaurants will take my VISA card. And, eventually, the Ikebukuro ATM would be back on line; but would it be in time for the comic convention? Besides, it's uncomfortable knowing that there's only one ATM in the whole of Japan that I know will give me cash. [Also annoying is the fact that I saw a book I would have loved to have bought at a stall in the subway station, but I can't afford to spend the cash right now... and it's a temporary stall, one that will likely be gone the next time I come through. Oh, well... maybe I'll see it again.]

Welcome to Nishikasai!

Once in Nishikasai at my new hotel, the Toyoko Inn, I was able to pay for the room and have the front desk hold my bags; check-in wasn't until 4:00pm, and at that point it was still just 11:00 am, so I had a day to waste. I got a map of the area from the front desk, and proceeded to walk to every bank in decent distance to try their ATMs. In all, I went to eight different banks, and none would accept my card. I got lucky at the fourth bank though; the Tokyo Third National Bank didn't have an ATM I could use, but they did have a foreign currancy exchange office. So, after I learned how to change some of my American dollars to Japanese yen, I was somewhat more solvent again (to learn what I did, go to Japan Survival Guide: Money). I still didn't have enough for the comic convention, but at least I could buy drinks again while I walked around considering the problem.
I decided there was only one course of action, really. Tomorrow I'm getting up early again... first I'll go to Ikebukuro to try the ATM there, hoping it will work, and then, on my way to the comic convention at the Tokyo Big Sight, I'll stop off in Tokyo proper. Believe it or not, I've never actually explored the Tokyo ward of Tokyo; odds are that if I'm going to find either an ATM friendly machine or an American friendly bank (Citibank would be nice), I'll find them either in Tokyo or Shinjuku... and Tokyo ward is a stopping point on my way to the comic convention anyway, so it's the logical choice to explore. Boy, my life will be easier when I learn to read the phone books!
But that's tomorrow's worry; today I still had four hours to waste, about 140,00 yen (about $180), and a gnawing hole in my stomach reminding me that I hadn't eaten. So exploring I went.
Nishikasai is a lot more open than either Shinjuku or Ikebukuro; this is mainly because of a lack of tall buildings. It's actually kinda nice... less metropolitan than the above mentioned wards, but less backwater than Hibarigoaka. I found a few surprises around the area; it turns out that Nishikasai has one of the few official Tokyo Baseball League stadiums in it. It's the middle of the season, so maybe I can catch a game before I head home; we'll see... I'm no big fan of baseball, but since the games here never go into overtime I'd be more willing to sit through one. [No stadium hotdogs though; I've been told they sell barbequed squid on a stick instead!]
The second pleasant surprise was the first actual sushi convenience shop I've found. What's a 'sushi convenience shop' you ask? Think of it as one of those bakeries you can drop by each morning that has donuts, muffins, and coffee that you can pick up on the run... only this one sells sushi and coffee. This place had a variety of pre-made sushi you could pick from, as well as several prepacked sushi 'sets', so you could grab a lunch pack of sushi on your way to work! I wasn't quite ready for a large meal, so I picked something small... a 'Doraemon' sushi pack -- ain't it cute?! I'd show you what was inside, but I ate it before it occurred to me to take a picture of it. Doraemon is a long-standing popular cartoon and comic in Japan; his popularity is roughly equivalent to the sort of popularity Snoopy gets in the States.
The third surprise I discovered while I was walking along the mall built under the subway... you know, the one that's two stories above ground level? At the end of the mall underneath these raised tracks is a small, indoor motor car racing track! For ten bucks, you can drive seven laps, and fast! Maybe I'll try it out later, though I doubt I'll do as good a job avoiding the barriers as the guys who work there... they very quickly demonstrated their cars, either because they were bored or because they thought it would make me spend the money I'm currently hoarding.
By this time I had walked in a gigantic circle around the area; it was about 4:00pm and it had started to rain, which made me feel better overall. It hadn't been a bad day after all, once I stopped worrying about stuff. I checked in at the hotel, got a bento [box lunch] and some cake, and sat down to work on this page. Early to bed tonight; I've got a busy day tomorrow!

On to August 14th, 1998

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