This morning was a delightful lie-in after yesterday's events, maybe I'm getting too old for this shit now, my body's in pieces. Maybe time to hit the gym. For other jokes, I'd thought about doing Shinjuku, Harajuku and a cheeky swing by Ikebukuro again, but alas it wasn't to be as we didn't get out until lunchtime and I'd made a reservation at an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant for 5.30pm.
First job for the day was coffee and the elusive 'meat sticks' shes grown to love but can we fuck find any, so after pre-loading for the day in Ameyoko street we start hunting for a rucksack for her to help with the necessities for travelling home with.
There's loads of kids dressed up for Halloween and it's such a sight, loads of tiny princesses, ghosts and ghouls just going about their midday business. Small tried to convince me, badly, to acquire some hideously fluffy converse and for a moment I'm tempted then remember the amount of shit we're bringing home and I realise it's not worth the drama of squeezing everything into the four suitcases we've brought. She's appalled by what she named 'fish street' after all the foodstock on sale, its bustling and a real insight into the true Ueno but we're on a ticking clock so head back to the station after swinging by Tokudaiji Temple.
We go straight back to Harajuku instead of our other intended stops to have one last look at the goodies having gotten dolled up full 'kawaii style' (she's stopped getting embarrassed about people stopping her to say how adorable she looks by now and is actually quite flattered) and feeling very grown up with her dangly earrings, with Small picking up a few more pairs of ridiculously bonkers shorts for the road. Another little Purakura photoshoot and we're off for a wander, getting waylaid as two excitable foreigners in Japan would, calling in at the dog cafe I'd promised her 3 days running, to realise we simply didn't have the time if we were to navigate Shinjuku in the full mania of rush hour in time for dinner.
With the unanticipated 23 minutes we had left before needing to be back at the subway, we hit the famous squishy shop, bang next to ACDC Rag and I was almost grateful for the need to wear facemasks as the smells of sweets, fruit, bread and syrupy foam attacked my nostrils like a kid having raided her mum's perfume drawer. That said, the staff were amazing, and Small was thrilled to see that the main staff member was wearing the very same skirt she'd just bought next door. They made a huge fuss of her, posing for pictures in the foamy photo booth surrounded by fluffy abominations and feeling very chuffed with herself- they even gave been a discount for being so cute, lucky bugger.
She'd said she's not bothered about getting a fancy 3D animal drink in one of the many skyscraper cafes whilst watching the scramble of Shibuya crossing beneath, which is a relief really as I've yet to easily find anything above floor level, even armed with tour guides and google maps. So it's lucky really that we needed to head in the opposite direction and actually eat a sit down meal after what feels like 10 days or more often than not street food (and her bloody Family Mart Ham egg and cheese sandwich).
After promising her (not convinced it's one I'll definitely be able to keep) that we'll come back to the dog cafe after dinner, we head to Shinjuku for an early dinner and after finally finding it in the basement of one of the hundreds of gigantic rabbit warrens, we arrive at Alice in Fantasy Land. The busy crossing just in front of the station's East exit before we enter the restaurant is glowing from the light of the giant 3D playful cat billboard above, and it's so much better in real life. I decide that Shinjuku is one of my favourite looking places at night. Inside, we're greeted by a sea of card knights, beautiful themed artwork and quotes from the book in every corner we looked, and are shown to our booth.
Having failed to get google translate to work properly, the meal I'd booked was going to be very much a mystery, but donning our rabbit ears and Alice headband and being entertained by the cutest Alice and Cheshire Cat waitresses, she wasn't bothered in the slightest. Everything was incredibly tasty, all themed and decorated in Wonderland style, and before we knew it, it was time to take our bellies full of food and fantasy home.
Heading back to Harajuku to try and get back for what I presumed would be another 'last entry before closing time', we re-lived our recent sprint to a cafe with pets, and slightly less out of breath than last time get to Rio dog cafe. I'm informed that the charge is by the the ten minutes and feel a little like I'm visiting a bloody brothel but she's already hot-footed it in and is exploding over the fluffy cuteness. The music is oddly comforting yet slightly disorienting, it's saccharine jingles piercing the brain and I've yet to shift them now 12 hours later. I'm sat chilling with a dog in a pastel nappy ('oh, I didn't realise that dogs pennies bleed too') and swiftly skip over that one whilst she's trying to get a Shiba Inu to play chase. It's almost as standoffish as yesterday's cats, but she's blissfully ignorant and before we know it, it's closing time and we're leaving.
A slow saunter back through Takeshita Street mourning the closing of the shops and we're back at the station. I realise now what it was that I'd seen a few days earlier in a different but juat as busy station, walking past two semi-nude posters of women wearing nipple pasties are laid midway up on the floor of the very busy steps, not having realised it was the same thing, different place, and realised that the commuters are purposefully walking around them and not using that entire mid-section of the steps up to the platforms. I'm wondering if it's a statement, advertisement, or political experiment (or all!), but it's so interesting to see people's behaviours on the matter.
Returning through Shinjuku, I'd had a glimpse of a darker side to Japanese culture, where there were scantily clad maids and waitresses coaxing men into their bars, hefty entrance fees and ginormous billboards of extremely young women wearing obscene skirts lined up as if on a X Factor for strippers. Small announces out of the blue that she thinks if people are going to pay lots of money to go to a bar 'to do sex' then that's their business. I practically choked up and tried to explain how her very strong notions of autonomy and bodily choice may not necessarily be the right way to understand an explanation of fetish and exploitation, nor was it a knocking shop. I make a mental note to explore what the fuck she just came out with another day, as she's yabbering on about how one day when she has her two children (clearly she's thought about this), that she's going to 'ask a man to share his seed so that she doesn't have to do sex because that's disgusting'. Another mental note to figure out why she's thinking of all this and all I can think of is the hugely sexualised imagery of certain people that she's seen in the millions of advertisements here, and thank the stars that more often than not she'll advise me that the whole thing is inappropriate. Saved!
We walk back through Ueno's back streets, past the house that has a tiny stone on each brick of the little wall around it, and make a slightly less grim mental note to read what/if significance is there, as it's lovely to look at. She decides to get me to record her doing a video of opening the earlier squishies after trying on and becoming glued to her new -very appropriate length- skirt, and it's to bed for her.
I'm starting packing, after what takes a good hour for Small to finally nod off, TV playing some random tat and then begin. I realise quite how much shit we've bought whilst here, and after bubble wrapping everything to allow for rough baggage handlers, I'm thrilled with my new 100¥ shop vaccume storage bags. There's no one at reception to ask to borrow a hoover so I set about manually sucking the air from all the vents like my life depended on it like some inanimate resus and feeling rather light as the dizziness kicks in. The programme about cats playing, to a background of some quite recognisable claasical music starts to work it's magic and I get stuck in.
It's been quite some time since I became so fixated on something that time just disappeared (the last being an addictive phone game that saw me 3 days MIA with a boss calling to see if I was still alive-that was 10+ years ago however, I'm marginally more sensible now) but the suitcases are now packed after a methodically organised operation. I blame the classical cats that I've been zoned out to whilst planning the planning and pre-packing the packing. Standard.
It's 6.39 am, and I'm going to be absolutely fucked tomorrow regardless however everything is packed meaning that no matter what time it is, I'll be broken and jet lagged in 36 hour's time anyway.