Japan Trip, Day 3, Part 1: Meguro Parasitological Museum

Don’t laugh. I know it’s been almost six months since I blogged about last year’s Japan trip, and nearly a year since we took said trip. I just feel like I should really finish documenting the last awesome vacation before we go on another one.

When we last left off, we had just finished Day Two of Seven. So far, we’d gotten to Japan, gone on a day tour, and took our first trip on the subway to Akihabara. On Day Three, we visit the Meguro Parasitological Museum, peruse the awesome otaku-centric stores at Nakano Broadway, and eat dinner at the Curry Lab…

We awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:00 on Friday morning, long before any breakfast establishments were open (remember, most businesses seemed to open at 10am). The previous morning, we’d tried the yummy-but-overpriced breakfast buffet at the hotel; this morning, we decided to go check out the 7-11 down the street and see what kind of breakfast we could scrounge up there.

When we walked into the convenient store, we found that every story we’d heard was exactly true. There is copious food and drink (of the edible variety, unlike convenient stores in the states), and the walls are lined with manga:

Manga Selection at 7-11 | Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50

Aaron bought a magazine (that he couldn’t read), and we both bought some breakfast. Our breakfast selections this first morning centered around things we could either positively identify, or at least read an English word or two on the label. I chose a sandwich of white bread, bananas, strawberries, pineapples, and whipped cream, along with some peach juice. Aaron chose some onigiri (I think we both had some, actually), and we bought green tea Kit-Kats both for breakfast and for later.

We walked almost all the way back to the hotel, having decided to eat breakfast in Shiba Koen, the local park. It had a great view of the Tokyo Tower, and had a decidedly ’70s-style clock tower facing a semi-circle of benches. It was a perfect place for a quiet breakfast.

Next on our agenda, after breakfast, was a trip to the Parasitological Museum in Meguro. Getting to Meguro wasn’t difficult, as it was only five subway stops away from our hotel.

Rush Hour on the Tokyo Subway | Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50

Once we were in Meguro, the challenge was finding the relatively nondescript building that was the museum. We had our bilingual Tokyo atlas with us, so we should have been fine. The problems we faced involved the fact that a.) the streets are not named, and b.) it’s nearly impossible to distinguish a road from an alley.

We walked through downtown Meguro for a while, passing buildings and signage and a Family Mart and nearly getting run over by cyclists, until we started leaving the downtown area and getting into more residential apartment buildings. Finally, we decided that we should turn down a particular road/alley, since maybe this was it, but we couldn’t tell from the map whether the museum was right on the main drag or a few buildings back.

As we stood on this random residential street in Meguro, a woman on a moped happened by. She parked her ride and came gingerly over to us, questioning with a few words that she knew we couldn’t understand. We simply held out our bilingual map and pointed to where we were going, saying, “Parasitological Museum?” It took her a moment to puzzle out what she was looking at, but she lit up after a moment and very simply pointed. Back to the main drag, then go right. Oh, so we already passed it, then. Arigato gozaimasu! And we were on our way.

On our way back from whence we came, we met another gaijin, who asked us if we knew where the Parasitological Museum was — and he pronounced it just about as well as we could. We told him we were looking for it, too, and so we walked together and talked for a while. Our fellow traveler was from Puerto Rico, and was spending some time going solo in Tokyo. It was admittedly a relief to meet another Westerner.

Once we located the sign we’d initially passed with little thought, we saw that the museum didn’t open until — you guessed it — 10am. We still had a half hour to wait. So, we excused ourselves from our new friend and headed across the street to the Family Mart.

In the Family Mart was more hentai than you could shake a… well, you get the idea. Cartoon pr0n. In a big way. Of course, Aaron had to buy some, along with snackies and water. We popped a squat on a curb outside the conbini and drank our water until the museum opened.

Even though we couldn’t read a lick of Japanese (well, maybe a lick), the Parasitological Museum had enough displays and pictures and pickled tapeworms to get the idea across. We saw the longest recorded tapeworm in Japan (six meters), rows of jars of various preserved parasites, and an example of how parasites spread:

How Parasites Spread | Nikon D50

We also saw this fantastic NSFW photo of the results of parasite infestation in the male anatomy. That was most certainly the highlight of the museum visit for me.

There was also a merchandise counter at the museum, where I would have loved to have bought a t-shirt with a cute little parasite mascot on it. Alas, Japanese t-shirt sizes are about two sizes smaller than American sizes, and they only had shirts up to either L or XL, neither of which would have really fit either of us. We settled for taking a free program and stamping it with the museum logo stamp they had on a nearby table.

Within a half hour, we’d done the Parasitological Museum. Next on our agenda was Nakano Broadway, otaku shopping mecca. But little did we know that the first of our memorable non-scripted wanderings was on the horizon…

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