Model Portfolio: Anthea
First time I took the EOS R for a spin. It was a barely a week when I got this cam, and much my chagrin, I felt like a newbie all over again. I was so used to working with a DSLR that I had formed habit around the physicality of the camera. Over the past few years, Canon was pretty consistent with their form factor so no matter how I changed bodies, it was easy to use.
The EOS R being mirrorless, had its own set of functions and behavior that incrementally took me by surprise. Like getting used to seeing the image live through the view finder because there was a mirror that flips back after you take a shot. With the R, there was a delay before you get to see the image. It never really occurred to me that the EVF is technically another screen, so previewing through the view finder was like waiting tor the same preview to appear on the back screen. How #titohits of me. Hahaha. I guess I just got used to holding a DSLR for so long.
Also, you have to be aware of the nuances of the sensor. The R is relatively warmer compared to the Mark 4 and Ds. I had to dial down the color temperature to somewhere at 5200K in the custom white balance as compared to 5400 with the rest.
Well, you can see the rest of the review here. Good thing I had Anthea (one of my classic go-to models) to work with and was game enough to be guinea pig for this shoot.
Make-up: Pen De Leon
Styling / Model: Anthea Murfet
Travel Bug: Tokyo 2016 Visual Diary
Going to Japan has always been a creative pilgrimage for me every year and I never get tired taking pictures of this city. So this is a visual diary of my latest trip to Tokyo last March. We did the Nakasendo Highway in Kisu Valley as a highlight of this trip, but those images came before this entry. Of course this was all shot with my trusty Canon M3.
What I thought was the start of spring, turned out to be the tail end of winter. We weren’t prepared for the weather. Ended up having to buy the end-of-season sales from Uniqlo since it was already entering Spring. But coming from a tropical country, even spring would come off as cold.
We went back to Sarashina Horii, a heritage restaurant sandwiched between the Azabujuban and Roppongi Hills stations. A “Heritage Restaurant” is a title the Japanese government awards if you’ve been in business for more than 100 years. Apparently, this place has been around for more than two centuries. I found out about this restaurant after Anthony Bourdain visited it in an episode of No Reservations.
The usual soba I get to experience in Manila are the brown pre-packed ones like pasta. What makes this soba different asides that it’s freshly made every morning, is the texture and color. It’s whiter than usual even if it’s labeled as the “brown” variant.
We spent the rest of the trip going back to the usual places we visited in Tokyo like Omoide Yokocho and Akihabara. There is just so much to soak up doing street photography in Japan. Next time around, I should take the Yamanote line and go down every station and shoot for an hour and hop back.
Travel Tip: Between the two (2) airport servicing Tokyo, it would be best to land in Haneda which is closer to the city. Not only is the train ride shorter to Shinjuku, but the fare is cheaper as well (Y 650 vs. Y 4,000.00 on a reserved seat on the NEX). The number of transfer is just the same, though the ride isn’t a comfy as NEX.
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Travel Bug: Nakasendo Highway (Japan 2016)
Nakasendo is one of the old foot highways that connected Kyoto to Tokyo during the Edo Period (Tokugawa). While the rest of the known highways modernized into Shinkansen and/or highway routes, certain parts of Nakasendo was preserved and became a popular walking trail for locals and tourists. The notable section is between Magome and Tsumago, which is the bulk of this blog post. I would touch on others sections of the trail (e.g. Nagiso, Ochiai, and Nakatsugawa), but it would be best to research them outside of this.
Given my knack of anything Japanese (from history to anime), it was quite a shame that I’ve never heard of Magome until I came across this article in Philippine Star published some time ago. It recounts the adventures of the author backpacking in Japan (with their schedules wrecked because of a typhoon), and then arriving in Magome only to find the town closed early for the night. Bottomline, they were saved by Ate Cheng, a pinay running a local ryokan with her Japanese husband. Now as much as it was an interesting anecdote to read, I quickly dismissed it as one would skim through several of these stories along your Facebook feed.
My decision to visit the Nakasendo Highway came from a totally unrelated source. In all of the things it (FB feed) has been spewing out, articles ranging from what kind of person you are based how to tie your shoes to cats going crazy over cucumber placed on their side, a gem comes up every now and then. I got fascinated by his photos and told myself that my next trip to Japan should cover this route. Since the Holy Week break was coming up, it was an opportune time to travel with the wife again. When I started booking for accommodations, one of the postal towns we’re slated to stay in was Magome. A booking website described languages spoken by the host, alongside English and Japanese was Filipino. That piqued my curiosity, since it was quite a rarity having Filpino as a spoken language in the middle of rural Japan. That’s how I eventually made the connection between Ate Cheng’s place and the Nakasendo Highway.
Travel Tip: We arrived via Tokyo, and took the Shinkansen to Nagoya. In hindsight, we could’ve just taken a straight flight to Nagoya, but we have plans to see stuff in Tokyo after this hike anyways. So if you’re just going for Nakasendo (or other parts in Nagoya), it would be best to land in Nagoya to save yourself of the Shinkansen costs.
- First things you purchase off the airport are the following:
- An IC card (Toica for Nagoya / Suica for Narita) and round-trip tickets to the express trains servicing the airports (SKY Limited Express for Nagoya / NEX for Narita).
- A disposable data SIM. It’s quite a chore to configure at first, but it’s convenient since you wouldn’t rely on another powered device for your internet needs.
- Portable Wi-Fi router. We got this as a back-up just in case the SIM option didn’t work. Both worked.
- When buying the Shinkansen tickets, make sure to present your IC card or your ticket. It negates the entrance swipe when you first enter the train system, since the Shinkansen is on a different platform than regular trains.
Our adventure began after leaving Nagoya for Nakatsugawa station. You can take either JR Shinano (more expensive but faster) or the Chuo Line (longer, but cheaper). We ended up using the Chuo line out of an impulsive decision seeing Nakatsugawa as the stated terminal station on the overhead display. It was a pleasant ride nonetheless, and the seats were configured for longer trips. We arrived at Nakatsugawa station a bit before 10AM, and hung around the nearby convenience store for the next bus to Magome to arrive. A local bus leaving off Curb #3) would take you up along a winding mountain-side road, past several stops to the terminal station at lower entrance of Magome town proper.
Magome (as compared to Tsumago) seems to be the more receiving point for tourists, as souvenir shops and a convenience store are lined up near the parking lot the moment you get down. A steep incline bending twice is the first thing greeting you past the initial tourist trappy shops. This is probably the best preview of what the trail is going to be like. Since we were searching for our inn, we wasted no time dashing up the pavement along the with the luggage. The hotel was right smack in the middle of the main road, which was about 400m up the hill from where we were. We were soon catching our breath and wondered why we had to do that in the first place.
After checking in, the first order of the day was lunch and supplies for the following day’s hike. The convenience store at the bottom entrance is standard issue, but at least they got fresh produce you wouldn’t find in city konbini. Make sure you buy things before 5PM, as everything else closes down for the night. The town gets eerie quiet after that. Hence, dinner has to be reserved with the ryokan if you do want to eat there.
Photo Gallery (Magome Chaya)
Magome is 43rd of the several postal towns that dot along the Nakasendo Highway. There are sixty nine (69) in all according to history, but some towns have gone to disrepair and sections of the highway are now lost to time and modernity. Among the popular ones remaining is this stretch in Kiso Valley from Nakatsugawa to Nagiso. The most common hiking trail is the 7.7km span between Magome and Tsumago. The restored paved road is the same path used for centuries as regular citizens and nobility alike went through the Magome Mountain pass towards Nagiso and eventually the capital. There are several rest points along the trail which have automated toilets and free wifi.
We took the afternoon slow and walked around town just to get ourselves familiarized with the place. Most of the shops in Magome were already slanted for the tourists, but you would encounter local wooden crafts and delicacies stores occasionally in between.
We left Magome around 10AM after sorting out our food and supplies. It was mostly a down hill path with some ups as you cross the Magome Mountain pass.
Oh yeah, not sure how cautious you would want to be, but there are warning signs for bear encounters along the trail. To ward them off, you can borrow a bear bell from the local tourist office for a deposit of Y 1,200.00. You’d get your money back once you return the bell.
Alternatively, you can start your hike from Nakatsugawa and end up in Nagiso if you have more time in your hands. There are several baggage forwarding services that bring your luggage to the next town you’re visiting. I’m not sure if works on the Nakatsugawa-Ochiai legs, but I’ve seen posters about it on the Magome-Tsumago route. You leave your bags with the tourist information center in the morning until 11AM, and expect it to be in the next town by 1PM. Either way, you can also use a door-to-door luggage delivery service, Takuhaibin.
We reached Tsumago roughly around 1PM and walked around town. It’s like traveling back in time, but looked a bit too picturesque for my taste. Where were the people? Apparently most of the townsfolk travel to the city for work and go back by the afternoon. The ones left were mostly shop keepers with tourist-trappy wares. This side of town only had tourists walking by, and hardly any of the residents.
After a snack break, we didn’t stay that long in Tsumago and decided to walk it back to Magome. Having seen most of the features on the way, we already powered back knowing the 5PM deadline. It was mostly uphill going back so the ante the raised a bit. You would work up a good sweat despite the cold weather as long as you kept on walking. If you do stop, the cold would immediately get to you.
Since we didn’t stop for pictures on the return trip, we made it back within reasonable time. Reasonable meaning before the shops closed for the day. We rewarded ourselves with some soba and anmitsu at the shops nearby the ryokan.
The hike left us exhausted and we were knocked out early in the evening. We left the following morning to catch an early train back to Nagoya. Luckily we caught Ate Jeng on the way out.
If you’re planning to do this same walk, we highly suggest staying at Magomechaya. They
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Model Portfolio: Mayumi (Ohayo! Mayumi)
Shooting gravure always presents a unique challenge of working with daylight and time. For this book, we decided to go to Baguio to have a different feel from the last books. Granted the weather, bikinis and swimwear were out of the question.
Shooting natural light challenges me in making the best out of every situation. With strobes, I’d take it for granted that I can light up a scene, but when the requirement is to make the look natural, learning how light behaves vis-a-vis direction and time become crucial factors.
First tricks you learn in shooting with natural light is making back lighting work for you. When you have light this soft, you can afford to over-expose the background. Run after the crucial part of the shot (your model), and let the background burn a bit. I never really followed the metering the metering system my camera provides during back-lit situations. What I do though is measure for the light coming from the back, and then adjust to over-expose at least by a stop on my intended focus in the image. Of course it would also help when you use reflectors to bounce this light back to the model. This reduces the over-exposure gap you would have to compensate.
When you’re dealt with a stronger than usual light source (like this one of Mayumi lying down on the stairs), I made my composition where the direction of the light is angled at a highlight. You could see this from the sudden white rims along the outlines of her arms and hips. Reflectors are then placed on the opposite side to reflect back this strong source providing me a mid-tone range of light to work with her.
For that same source of light, when it got softer during the course of the day, it worked to bombard the source on Mayumi. It looked like a huge softbox.
Get your copy of Mayumi’s gravure book, Ohayo! Mayumi here.
- Make-up / Hair: Marichu Salud
- Styling: Hannah Kim
- Model: Mayumi Yokoyama
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Travel Bug: Osaka and Kyoto
Traveling from Manila
PAL and Cebu Pacific unfortunately have afternoon flights. You’d end up in Kansai around 7-8PM. You would have already lost a day just getting into Japan. A good alternative is taking Cathay Pacific which gets you there by 3PM, but you’d have to leave early from Manila, and go through a 3-hour lay-over in HK. The main airport serving both cities is Kansai International, that man-made island-airport they constructed off the coast. It’s immediately connected to the train station that can take you to either city.
This is operated by JR West. As a visitor, you are entitled for a discount (just show your passport) when you purchase a combination of their ICOCA IC card, and a round-trip in the Haruka. The return ticket is redeemable within two (2) weeks of your stay, which is roughly the length of time an entry is allowed on a tourist visa. The last Haruka for Kyoto is 10:16PM, and the trip is about an hour and fifteen minutes. Coincidentally, you can also use the Haruka to end up in Osaka since it makes a brief stop at Tennoji Station.
This is run by the Nankai Electric Railway, a private railway company servicing Osaka, Kobe and nearby areas. This usually terminates in the Namba station. As an alternative, you can also use the Kansai Airport Rapid Express, since it leaves the airport in between the timings of Nankai. More details on the Nankai here. Both operators could be found across the concourse when you get out of the airport.
What is ICOCA?
Hotels vs. AirBnB
- Rere / Her place is southwest from the station, and along the train tracks. She provides with the smallest of amenities you could think of from a host.
- Gacky / A bit more sparse, but handles more guests since the bed is are tatami mats with futons. This is northeast, and bit closer to the station as well as other subway stations going to other parts of Kyoto.
Both are walking distance from Kyoto Station, and near convenience stores and small restaurants.
In Osaka, we settled in APA Hotels, a known hotel chain. It was right smack in the middle of two subway lines which got us mobile rather quickly around the city. I suggest booking these places through Booking.com.
Going to Osaka and Kyoto
Traveling between the cities is actually quite convenient. You can take the Keihan line servicing both Osaka and Kyoto. Especially during peak seasons, hotels in Kyoto in particular could get filled up quickly. Osaka can work as a good base, and just do day trips to Kyoto. It takes about 30 minutes via the rapid service trains.
As much as Japan is awesome with food, you don’t have to eat every takoyaki on every corner. You would eventually get tired of them if consumed consecutively. I suggest spacing your Japanese snack cravings. There would be lots of delicacies to enjoy when you walk around the public markets. Make sure to save space for those. What I enjoyed the most though is kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi). Ramen and soba stalls are a common sight especially near the stations. These cater mostly to the commuting worker type, but still gives a good meal. Don’t miss the chance eat in one. While riding the train, we impulsively hopped off Sakuranomiya Station to get our first glimpse of cherry blossoms up close. It was almost lunch and you could see couples, people sitting underneath the trees with their bento boxes. It was such an authentic quaint experience.
Our main stop of the day was Osaka Castle, which was quite a walk from the station where we hopped off. Whether you take the northern or southern gates, the distance would almost be the same. Much of it authenticity of Osaka Castle was only kept on the outside. The entire castle has been gutted out and modernized to fit in a museum, gift shop and costume rental. We didn’t really stay for long and made a quick pass the exhibits. There was also an old audio-visual presentation on every floor, but it was all in Japanese.
Noticeably, there are no high rise buildings in Kyoto. This city was meant to preserve the cultural heritage of Japan. The only high-rising places you’d get to see are temples and shrines with the exception of Kyoto Tower. Funny enough, when you enter Kyoto Tower from the ground floor, it gives off that aura of the old Greenhills Shopping Center back in the 80s. Enjoy the parks. Sure there are the usual tourist attractions (that get rather tourist-trappy for the obvious reasons), but I highly suggest hanging out where the locals do. On the way to Yasaka Shrine, we decided to sit down at Maruyama Park. Spread around the park are tatami mats for public use, and you could buy bento box food in stalls peppered around the place.
Kyoto is a walking city. The subway of course is convenient, but going around could be done on foot, and certainly burns the calories off from the food you would end up gorging along the way. The weather was also conducive during this time; we didn’t break a sweat after walking about 3-5kms back to our AirBnB apartment. The Japanese have respect for public spaces. They take off their shoes when stepping on the tatami, and pick up after themselves. If our society only had a fraction of their collective social discipline, we’d see some progress in ours.
Everything is packaged so neatly and nice, it appeals to the impulsive buyer in you. If you can’t control your retail therapy sessions, you might just end up buying every knick-knack on each corner because they look cute. I’m such a sucker for Japanesey accessories since I use them for shoots.
Nishiki Market has lots of local delicacies you’d enjoy snacking along the way. It’s best to just buy small morsels and taste every bit, rather than just filling yourself from one stall.
Shots from Kiyomuzi Dera. This is place never runs out of people because of the scenic view of Kyoto from the mountain side. There lots of eateries and small restaurants along the way.
I certainly don’t mind going back here. There are lots more places to explore, and we’ve only scratched the surface.
Nakasendo Way – Old Japan Highway
Now this is something I want to try next time I’m in Japan.
Nakasendo Way is the old Japanese highway that used to link Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo Period.
It’s amazing how they are able to preserve the past despite the all development that has happened around. Just sharing this guy’s Google gallery to remind myself to do this during on our regular trips to Japan.
More details on guided tours and travel info, check out: http://www.nakasendoway.com/
All images posted is copyright of the photographer.
Edit (03.03.16): The wifey and I have decided to do a part of the Nakasendo Way. This would be passing through two (2) towns (Magome and Tsumago) in the Kiso Valley. I would be posting our shots after the trip.Check out my youtube channel for your regular glimpse behind the scenes! While you’re at it, drop buy the online store and get goodies from your favorite models!
Tokyo: Inspiration City
Tokyo never ceases to inspire me. It’s a city that has both feet planted in reality and fantasy. For most Japanese, Tokyo may be a normal place in their daily lives, but for most of us gaijin (foreigner in Japanese), exploring the city is like dreaming while wide awake. Theirs is a culture that has both the structures of a 1st-world city, and yet you get pockets of the outrageous peppered all around. The old is juxtaposed with the new in such a harmonious way, you could feel how they embrace their past at the same time build for a future.
This is my second trip (of perhaps more) to the city. Whatever we missed out during the 1st round, we more or less covered on this one in a more relaxed pace. We were pretty much done with the tourist mandatories, and so a bit more time could be devoted to enjoying the fine details of what the city could offer. Even as simple as hanging out in a Starbucks in Ueno Park proved to be quite a treat.
Since the train system was already familiar to us, it was pretty much easy going to most parts. Day 1 was devoted to all the anime places I didn’t get to go the last time.
|Yes, I have to take a picture in front of the Gundam RX-78 in Diver City.|
|Yoshinoya beef bowls won’t taste the same after you’ve had the one in Japan.|
|Even the wall decor in some anime shop looks awesome.|
|They have entire bookstore chains dedicated to anime and manga.|
One of the trip high lights is dining out in Omoide Yokocho in the Shinjuku district. It’s made up of several alleyways cramped with eateries (with seating capacities of less than 10 for some of the stalls). Most yuppies and working types end up having drinks after work in this area. Food is mostly beef bowls, noodles, yakitori and the quick service type. And there is something with Japanese food, no matter how “cheaply” bought, still way better than eating in the most expensive restaurants back in Manila.
For a cultural experience, we checked out Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. As it turned out, there was some design exhibition / awards going on that week.
From one park to another, we checked out Ueno Park. They have a zoo and several museums and art galleries in the area.
|Yes, you can ride Pikachu.|
|Thanks to the wife for indulging me in this rare occasion of vanity.|
We spent our last day getting out of the Tokyo area, and discovering Kamakura. It was an hour out, and you could actually sleep most of the way through without the fear of missing out on your station. From Kamakura, we had to transfer to the Enoden line which is not listed within the Tokyo train map.
The walk to the giant Buddha was about 500m from the station. We were given heads up that since it’s out of Tokyo, conveniences of restaurants, stores, etc… were a bit sparse. So we gladly stocked up, only to discover there are numerous food places every other step going to the shrine. This was the place where I saw more Caucasians than Japanese walking about the streets.
|Cute coffee truck, complete with manga to read while you wait for your brew.|
|From the other side of the Hase (Enoden Line) station, there was a wind surfer’s beach.|
|Pancake-ish desert filled with red mung beans.|
|Their local version of the pedicab.|
Tokyo would see more of my fat ass this year for sure.Check out my youtube channel for your regular glimpse behind the scenes! While you’re at it, drop buy the online store and get goodies from your favorite models!
I’m Going Japanese (My somewhat 1st time experience in Tokyo)
Last time I’ve been to Japan was 11 years old. When you do the math, that’s about 2 decades back. I can hardly remember shit (except for those bright lights of Akihabara) and my Rockman (Megaman for you guys in the US). I’m sure lots of things have changed since then.
So early this December 2013, Raech and I took that crazy trip to Tokyo just for the heck of it. We stayed for five (5) days, and it wasn’t enough.
This is by any no means a comprehensive guide on going around in Japan, but this humble attempt it should give you an idea on how easy it is despite the initial daunting impressions.
Photo Gallery by QuickGallery.com
Of course there are several airlines servicing Japan from Manila. A quick rundown of we checked out were:
- Philippine Airlines
Worst schedule if you’re tourist, but best if you’re a returning expat, since this maximizes your stay in the Philippines instead. Leaves in the afternoon and arrives as the last flight into Tokyo. Rates though are fairly constant even as you book later.
Leaves early morning, and you arrive around after lunch. This is best if you want maximize your trip. Not the cheapest, and rates go up quickly the later you book. A week before the trip would more or less damage you about $700 USD.
- ANA (All Nippon Airways)
This is the best bang for buck option. Cheapest, but hardest to book. Make sure you buy your tickets through them months in advance. Leaves mid-morning, and arrives mid-afternoon.
There are several offers for tourists / foreigners traveling in Japan that aren’t made available for locals. This is something you have to take advantage, and more often than not, most arrangements are done prior to your flight or at the airport the moment you land.
If you plan to visit other cities asides from Tokyo, I would highly recommend taking the JR Rail Pass. This is only available for foreign travelers, and should be ordered online prior to your trip. They usually FedEx the claim stub to your house. You could then exchange this for the actual pass at the JR East Travel Centers.
Most Shinkansen trains leave from either the Ueno, Shibuya and Tokyo stations so you just have to double check where that particular train leaves.
Most international flights arrive at Narita Airport, which is Tokyo’s newer airport compared to Haneda Airport, handling mostly domestic flights. Narita is about an hour away or so from the city proper. Which means your transfers to and from the airport have to be secured the moment you arrive. Of course you could do this separately, but it would come out more expensive. Knowing the prices in Japan, any amount of savings in a trip is well worth the effort.
Your options to and from Narita Airport:
- Keisei Skyliner
This is faster than the N’Ex, stops at the Ueno station, but doesn’t have that Suica Card packaged, which is a better deal than their 1-2 day passes just for the Tokyo Metro lines.
- Narita Express (and Suica card package)
One of the most economical and convenient options to take. When you finally get out of customs and at the basement area, you could get this combination ticket either at the JR East Travel) Centers or the JR Ticketing offices (if the travel center is already closed).
When you get a round trip on the N’Ex, they immediately book you on the next available schedule unless you state otherwise. Then you’re provided with a claim stub to get your return tickets on the day you’re leaving Japan. You can exchange this on any major station (Shibuya or Tokyo) since their ticketing offices open early and close late. The N’Ex card has an expiry of 2 weeks, which is more or less the allowed stay per entry of a regular tourist visa.
These trains leave precisely down to the minute. Hence they got strangely timed departure schedules like, 12:49. And true enough the train does leave at that.
- Airport Limousine (Bus)
If you missed the schedules for the trains, this is the next best option.
If all other options fail (which I doubt they would), this is the last, and I mean the very last option to take. On average, a cab ride from the airport would set you back about P 24,000.00. Yes. P 24,000.00. So don’t take this unless you have no choice anymore.
The JR Yamanote line is the heart and soul of their train system. This is a circular line that goes around the major districts. All the rest of the lines stem out from this circle. Though there are several subway operators, most of the platform transfers are done without having to get out of the stations. This is where the Suica card comes in very handy. Instead of spending time buying single-journey tickets and trying to read the confusing map, you just swipe through and ride. Just take note of the balance at the end when you exit so you’d know when to top-up the card.
I highly suggest finding a hotel near any of the stations for maximum convenience. We stayed at the Washington Akihabara Hotel, which is just right in front of the Akihabara station. Average business hotels prices would start from $150 USD / night above. Fancy places such as the Tokyo Daichi or the Tokyo Station Hotel, would fetch up as much as $350 USD / night.
If you want to have a feel of classic Japanese B&Bs, try out the ryokans in the Ueno area. These are relatively cheaper (about $ 90 / night on average). On the bit of a downside, most are found further from the stations and have curfews since they’re run by local families.
Tokyo in five (5) days just isn’t enough. You would need a solid week (and I mean seven days) to get a good grasp of what the city could offer. In our limited stay, we only got around several districts:
This is the old district where you could still find antique shop-house style establishments. The main major attraction in this area would be Sensoji Temple. This is lined up with tourist trappy stalls ranging from souvenirs, cheap yukatas, caps and mung bean buns.
This also leads you to other nearby attractions like theTokyo Skytree, which has an observation deck at 350M and 450M. Prior to this, Tokyo Tower was the highest point in Tokyo.
Also known Electric Town, this is the heart of all electronics, video games, and eventually anime. If you’re looking for any gadget, this is the place to be — Yodibashi Akiba. You could also find the Gundam Cafe beside the train station as well.
This is a major shopping district. This is also the place if you want to experience the insane X-crosswalk too. Best vantage point to take shots of all those people walking would be at the 2F Starbucks on one of the corners. This is also where you could find the famous Hachiko dog statue.
Best to check this place out during the weekends where you see cosplayers and girls in lolita outfits hang around the street up until the bridge crossing into the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
On the other side is Yoyogi park, which hosts several events over the year. Our trip was lucky enough to have the Earth Garden, which is like a mashed up organics market, food and music festival. Few times I get to encounter hipster-looking Japanese.
Returning it is no problem as well. The package comes with a paid-postage self-addressed envelope. You just have to drop it off at any Japan Post office box conveniently located right beside the escalator going down to the N’Ex platform. It’s so convenient, it’s scarily to too convenient.