I would rather spend a day filled with nothing worthwhile than one with everything worthless. Life in Tokyo presents endless adventure with scripted consequences. After months of excitement, the most fulfilling is often the least glamorous. Sometimes you need a lazy Sunday to take you back down in order to once again enjoy the thrill of soaring back up.
Hence our visit to Koganecho, a small town in the suburbs of Yokohama where even the busiest shopping promenade is sleepy by comparison. The day’s wanderings took us to Isezaki Mall, the areas most charitably dull quarters.
Snake Powder Emporium: Hebiya
Walking by, your eye unconsciously skips over the drab external décor, until you peer into the showcase and realize holy shit, a stuffed cobra! Step inside and its like you wandered onto the backlot of Hammer horror. Its walls are lined with taxidermy set pieces of snakes fighting mongooses, the cubbyholes filled with rows of rare serpents in formaldehyde vats. The owner must be either a mad scientist or the world’s tackiest serial killer.
In reality, the establishment is managed by an elderly couple that, staying true to the store’s Scooby-Do façade, don’t take kindly to meddling kids or strangers. Sadly they wouldn’t let us snap any photos, but you can still visit their online shop to pick up cobra and Okinawa habu powder for all your super-induced boner needs.
Lumberjack Grandpappy's Coffee Shack: Mameya
This cozy coffee shop gave off the relaxing aroma of fresh cut wood, something between a log cabin and your dad’s workbench. Their beans treated by hand in their patent tumble roaster and brew up the cleanest cup of coffee that I’ve ever tasted.
Being inside made me miss the little niceties about Autumn that you just can't get here. I would trade all the crepes and choco-cro in Harajuku for a single cider mill doughnut and slice of pumpkin pie.
Mysterious Antique Toy Store
Trolling for retro games is one of the small joys of life in Japan. Sadly, most of the charm fades away upon the realization that a colossal find like Chrono Trigger mint in box can be had without much fanfare at the neighborhood Hard Off. It hardly seems worth exploring if the final frontier is standing in plain sight around the corner. When everything you want is at your fingertips, the thrill becomes discovering things you never knew existed.
Pure Wrestle Queens is one of those games I never knew I needed until our paths stumbled across one another. Its fetching package wraps it in mystery. Is it rare due to unpopularity, or rather because it’s a masterpiece that none dare part with? Pure Wrestle Queens, I can’t wait to get home and unwrap you.
Jack and Betty
Normally “indy movie theater” is code for “shoe box with a digital projector”, but Jack and Betty shatters this mold with their stadium seating and (comparatively) wicked huge screens. Their standard sound system was swapped out for amps and stacks as part of the Bakuon film festival sponsored by folks from the sub culture rag Trash-Up!
Bakuon literally means “explosive sound” and the gimmick lives up to its name. You haven’t seen They Live until you experience John Carpenter’s ponderous soundtrack at bone-rattling decibels.
And thus concludes a day well wasted. I wouldn’t want to go back to Koganecho anytime soon, but I’m content in the knowledge that these urban retreats still exist. These wonderfully useless neighborhoods serve to help color the metropolis, who would soon normalize to a neutral gray without them.