Things to Do: Street Performance Madness, May 2-3

Acrobatic duo G-Choco Marble. Image courtesy Koenji Daidokei. The upcoming bunch of holidays known as Golden Week marks one of the biggest special occasions of the year, and lots of businesses trot out their best festivities.  The neighborhood of Koenji, on the west side of Tokyo, is marking the occasion with a ton of street performers.  The skinny, from Tokyo publication Metropolis Magazine:

Hordes of performers
will be taking to the streets for two days of carefully orchestrated
mayhem to mark the opening of the new Za Koenji theater (well, that’s
the excuse, at least). Expect everyone from circus troupes to
magicians, mimes and musicians to pop up at various locations around
town over the course of the weekend. There’ll be balloons and
face-painting for the kids, too, and tie-in promotions are promised at
shops and restaurants in the area.

There's a website for the festival, and while it's all in Japanese, there are some cool photos to give you an idea of what to expect.  You can get to the Koenji area by going to Shinjuku Station and hopping on the Chuo Line Local Service out to Koenji Station.  Need to learn how to use the trains?  There's a guide for that.

As soon as you leave the station, your adventure will begin.  Be sure to read the rest of Metropolis' guide to Golden Week 2009 – it's full of great things to do.

Things to Do: 10 Spots for Gamers

Akihabara. Image courtesy Kotaku.
As one of the senior editors on the excellent game blog Kotaku, Brian Ashcraft gets asked a lot about what's cool for gamers to do when they visit Japan.  He finally submitted to the deluge of emails and wrote his very own list of tips for die-hard fans of Nintendo, Final Fantasy and Solid Snake.

Unsurprisingly, the requisite pilgrimage to nerdy district Akihabara is on the list, but there's a lot of solid places to visit to be amongst Japanese gamers instead of tourists getting ripped off.  Here's a taste:

Hey Akihabara is the game center that leaps out of the mouths of arcade
developers like Cave and SNK talk about where they want to test their
big titles. The arcade is gaming's equivalent of Mann's Chinese Theater.

Among the places worth visiting are game wholesale warehouses, a famous game chain called Hot Potato, the 8-bit cafe in Shinjuku, and Sony's showroom.  Sadly, fans of Mario will be disappointed that Nintendo's headquarters in Kyoto has nothing to offer visitors off the street.

Ashcraft includes detailed information on how to reach each destination, so gamers who don't speak Japanese will be just fine (though they won't get as many cool points with other gamers).  His guide even has the same advice as the Konnichiwhoa guide – when you're tired and need to recharge, find an Internet cafe!

Read Ten Spots Gamers Should Visit in Japan at Kotaku.

Things to Do: Not Roppongi

Roppongi Crossing. Image by Guy Bowerman
Roppongi is a tempting, crazy place.  Many expats love or hate Roppongi clubs for its bizarre demographic mix unseen anywhere else in Tokyo.

It's also brimming with punks – really persistent ones, and oddly usually Nigerians – trying to pull you into their clubs.

But it's also possible to have a really memorable night, if you have some Japanese friends to show you around (or you just happen to be down with the more low-brow kind of party).

Or you could wake up not knowing where you are and short a few thousand dollars.  And not in a good way.

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