Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City and Tokyo Dessert Republic
A couple of days ago I decided to rouse myself out of my jetlag induced stupor to visit three of the sites on my list of most highly anticipated attractions in Tokyo. Luckily, all three were located conveniently inside one theme park, Namjatown, inside Sushine City, an enormous, soulless mall (just how I like them) only minutes from where I am staying. Namjatown is owned by a video game company, who have designed the park to give the feeling of being trapped inside a Playstation, except with really good dumplings. Namjatown is home to three food theme parks: Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City and Tokyo Dessert Republic. If the thought of an entire stadium devoted to gyoza doesn't make your knees go weak, you don't have a soul. Unfortunately, Gyoza Stadium was not the American football-style stadium I had envisioned, but rather a food court. An amazing food court. Decorated to look like 1950's Japan (this seems to be a theme with Japanese food courts), Gyoza Stadium features stalls from famous gyoza restaurants from all over Japan. Only the crème de la crème of the potsticker world are allowed to slang dumplings in this joint, giving its hungry patrons the opportunity to try gyoza in every conceivable regional style. The place seemed to be popular with teenage couples and as the only gaijin in the place, I definitely stood out. Without the photo menus I might have starved, but as such, I managed to consume fourteen gyoza. As I staggered through the park wondering if the Japanese would think I was fat if I ordered more gyoza, I got terribly lost while characters shouted at me in high-pitch Japanese cartoon voices. I groped my way through the hall of mirrors, got sucked into a fortune teller's booth, nearly went into the men's toilet and finally made my way out into Ice Cream City, the creamiest of spots in this nightmarish world conceived by Namco. A dozen ice cream shacks were set up, and with the chorus of screaming characters, screaming children and a screaming headache, I worried that my brain might melt before my ice cream did. As I set off in search of Tokyo Dessert Republic, I tried to gauge if I was indeed having fun. It was, and still is, unclear. I was certainly having one of those surreal, I'm in Tokyo and a stuffed animal is humping my brain moments. It's hard to explain the feeling that three food theme parks all contained within one giant theme park can give a person, especially when that person doesn't speak a word of Japanese. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'd go back in a split second. But sort of in the same way that I'd eat that second Twinkie if I already had the pack open. By the time I ordered some sort of bizarre unidentified dessert at the republic, I was ready to beat a hasty retreat back to bed. But then, I kid you not, I got lost in the theme park for more than half an hour trying to find an exit that wouldn't set off an alarm. There was a magical forest, a healing park for massages, about a hundred claw machines offering cupcakes and bags of chips, there was a horror portion to the park which seemed to exploit the Japanese fear of dirt, as the place was designed to look filthy rather than scary. There were shrines and video games and escalators and treasure hunts and stores to buy frozen gyoza and finally by the end, there was a stomachache. Finally, seeing an exit and feeling like I had gotten my ¥300 worth, I waddled back onto the streets of Toyko, ready to conquer another day.