A combination of a late night and not great weather led to a late start to our 2nd day in Tokyo. We once again took the short metro ride to Shibuya, this time to check it out in the day time and explore the area in more detail. We once again marveled at the controlled chaos that is the main crosswalk into Shibuya. Chris got some great video of the process.
We started our crawl at the famous 109 Women’s store, which is considered the epicenter of young women’s fashion in Japan. A massive cylindrical building that consists of 9 floors of various stores, it was quite the scene. Soon though, we began to feel a bit…awkward about being two adult males wandering around stores clearly not for us.
Next, we walked over to the large DIY store called Tokyu Hands, which had been recommended to us by several people. We had actually been to its Osaka location and didn’t quite get the hype. Now though, with a much larger version, we saw its odd charm. I read that it’s basically Home Depot if it was run by Japanese hipsters and that’s pretty accurate. Each floor has a different focus – travel, home care, even trains/models. Another amusing touch is that there is no escalator and on each step, it shows how many calories you’ve burned by that point. Chris ended up getting a bunch of fun stickers that were being sold in a pop up store within the store.
After a couple of hours of wandering, we went back to the hotel to rest up for the big night ahead. I had secured tickets for one of my favorite DJs, Francois K, who happened to be in town at a club called AIR, which had been recommended to check out. First though, it was time to explore more of the Golden Gai.
One of the items on my Japanese food hit list was karaage – their version of fried chicken. As luck turned out, the first bar we walked past in the Golden Gai seemed to specialize in it. Even better, there was an open table. Like the other bars in the area, it was quite eclectic. For some reason, on an old flat screen TV which had a large crack in it, was showing what appeared to be a karaoke game show from the early 80s. There were also many pictures of karaage, including a poster that proclaimed “Karaage will change the world.” It was clear we had come to the right place.
The only slight downside is that it took quite a long time to get my precious karaage. In the meantime, I opted to try a local beer called Hoppy in something the menu listed as a Black/White. I assumed that meant it was similar to say a Black and Tan but when a large mug arrived with a white liquid in ice, that thought went out of the window. It turned out the white was sake and I was to pour the beer over it. Not exactly what I was expecting but quite tasty, especially when the karaage finally arrived. It was well worth the wait with a delicious soy-based crispy crust and juicy boneless chicken inside.
I wanted to check it out at least one bar before heading over to the club so we walked two alleys over to Cambiere, whose theme was based on the Italian horror movie classic “Suspiria.” After climbing a very steep, very small staircase, we opened the door to find a truly wonderful recreation of themes from the movie – from the deep red color to the specific wallpaper featured in it. The drink menu was small so I selected the sangria, which was pretty lousy but potent. We wanted to avoid the pending rain so we said our goodbyes and took off for Shibuya Station.
After getting to Shibuya Station, this time our route would be to the opposite end of the area. The rain started to come down a bit harder so we hoped that we would reach the club soon. We snaked down a long road filled with bars and restaurants and finally arrived at the club. Interestingly though, the entrance was actually what seemed to be a pretty chill lounge, far from what we thought the club would look like. This turned out though simply to be the lobby and after getting our names checked on the list, we were escorted down a set of stairs. The club was essentially the inverse of Womb in that the main floor was at the bottom with two other rooms further up.
It was just after midnight and the club was already starting to fill up. They were running a special 2 for 1 drinks before 12:30 so we got some pre-show cocktails and grabbed some seats as Francois K wouldn’t be going on until 2AM. The main room DJ was kind of all over the place but played some good tracks. The dancefloor looked to hold about 400 people or so and the sound system was fantastic. As we were waiting, Chris ended up chatting with some very cool locals who were big Francois K fans. One had seen him over 100 times because he used to work for his record label.
When Francois K finally came on, he did not disappoint, weaving his unique mix of styles from house to techno to a bit of everything else in between. At one point early into his set, he played the instantly recognizable Frankie Knuckles remix of “Where Love Lives” to the screams of the crowd, acknowledging the recent passing of that icon house music figure. Although his set was to last until 9AM, by 4AM my body started to rebel, making me into one sore pile of creaky bones. It killed me to leave but we sprinted in the rain for the nearest cab and headed home. World class sushi and women with giant robots lay ahead tomorrow so strength would be needed.