When I went to the Star Wars Identities interactive exhibition on it’s opening day in August I picked up a booklet in the station for a stamp rally. I didn’t even look at it for a couple of weeks but when I did I began to formulate a plan.
Stamp rallies are quite common and popular in Japan and I have to say that, even though I have no interest in the stamps part, I do like the idea of going round a load of stations on a mission of sorts. They are not postage stamps by the way but are the ones where you put the stamp handle thing into an ink pad and then print it onto your paper of choice.
I could easily have done this Star Wars one by train but that didn’t really appeal too much and would’ve cost me money as the stamping booths were outside the ticket barriers. The solution to that comes in the form of a 24 hour Tokyo Metro Pass (just ¥600!) which is probably what they want stamp rally participants to do! I decided that it would be more my style if I cycled the route. And in costume too!!
That’s not all though as with my road-bike still at my parents-in-law’s house in Izu I had to use my wife’s bicycle which is not quite the same. It’s a girls bike, has a basket on the front and is what I’ve been using for short journeys over the last two and a half months. Having ridden around Tokyo on my bikes hundreds of times over the last decade it was nice to do a challenge on a different-style bike and I really wasn’t sure if it’d be ok for a day’s cycle ride. The basket on the front actually came in handy as I could put my helmet in there. If you’re wondering why I didn’t wear it for safety reasons then I should say that it’s not a proper helmet and is just a flimsy plastic prop which has to be put together.
1. Darth Vader @ Ueno Station, Hibiya & Ginza Lines (10:09 am) – In some ways the easiest part of this challenge was the cycling. What I was most worried about was finding a fairly safe place to park my wheels and then actually locating the stamp rally stands inside vast stations with multiple exits. Ueno was the station I was most worried about as it’s huge and has been notoriously difficult to park at in the past.
Unbelievably I got lucky with both. There was a small free bike parking spot beneath some steps outside one exit and as soon as I descended into the station I came across a Darth Vader sign on the wall pointing me in the right direction (these are plastered on walls and pillars throughout each station) and within a minute or so I found it.
It was soon time to whip off my top and reveal my full X-Wing Pilot outfit which I was really self-conscious about. It may have been October 31st when I did this trip but it was still a bit too early in the day to be seen in some kind of Halloween costume. Outside and back on my bike (minus my sweater) I was slightly comforted just moments later by the sight of some tourists having the Mari-Kart (definitely not to be confused with Mario Kart!!) experience whilst in costumes!
2. Yoda @ Kyobashi Station, Ginza Line (10:53 am) – Having parked my bike near a stone monument commemorating the first performance of Kabuki in Japan in 1624, I then realised that I had forgotten to restart the timer on my app which I’d paused at the previous station. I walked round the corner and entered what was the busiest and tightest of the stamp areas in the seven stations.
The stamping post is right by the ticket machines near to exit 3 and I was soon joined at the stand by a curious father and kid who asked what it was all about.
3. Boba Fett @ Yurakucho Station, Yurakucho Line (11:13 am) – Just a short distance from Kyobashi is Yurakucho. Not so short is the station’s walkway which goes on for a few hundred metres! I was then surprised to see that another guy was already at the stamping post. That was as congested as it got all day! I was more concerned, or rather irritated, at that point by my outfit which is rather tight on the neck. With the zip on the back I am unable to loosen things up on my front whenever I wear it. On this warm Autumn day it was also sweaty wearing it.
4. C-3P0 @ Toyosu Station, Yurakucho Line (11:50 am) – The only one of the seven which I had already been to as I saw where it was located at the end of September when I went to see a Manic Street Preachers gig at Toyosu Pit. The majority of people at this point had barely given this foreign guy in a Star Wars costume a look. There was of course a little surprise on the face of many before they continued on with their business. However, a couple of old ladies really scrutinised my outfit as if I wasn’t even there when I was waiting to cross a road near this station.
As they’re all underground, none of the Metro stations really have any kind of frontages but the architecture for Toyosu’s Yurikamome Line is one that I find appealing.
Over half way there and my right thigh was starting to ache a little as I crossed the Sumida-gawa River on the way to my next port of call. Usually it’s my backside that hurts more but my wife’s bicycle was actually quite comfortable for the duration of this challenge. There was a wonderful clearly defined cycle track close to Hama Rikyu Gardens. If only there were more like it in Tokyo!
The awesome Nakagin Capsule Tower soon came into sight after that. Even though it was just a stones throw away, I didn’t take the short detour to see it as I’ve visited it enough times over the years.
5. Stormtrooper @ Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line (1:07 pm) – The record for using up the most time at any station in my quest for a blo*dy stamp went to Roppongi! Try as I might, I just couldn’t find it so had to ask a staff member who said (in English) that it was on the opposite side. I went up the steps to the street, crossed the road, re-entered the station but just ended up in the same area I’d already explored! Eventually I located it down the road near exit 1 which is closer to Roppongi Hills. Roppongi is always a busy place and one that I was really worried about passing through due to the huge amount of people but thankfully the stamping post was located in a fairly quiet corner.
6. Darth Maul @ Shinjuku Sanchōme Station, Marunouchi & Fukutoshin Lines (1:57 pm) – Despite being the station that I frequent the most (of the seven on this trail), my destination was in a part I’ve never been to but luckily I hit the ground running and saw a Darth Maul poster on a pillar pointing me in the right direction. It was still a fair walk, mind you! The closest exit was E6 which is one that I didn’t even know existed. It’s no real surprise though given the size of the station and all it’s networks.
As I ventured on to my final station I saw a taxi driver changing behind his car by the side of the ride. I thought it was just his trousers at first but then his underpants came down too and I got an unexpected (and unwanted) view of his bare bottom as I whizzed past.
7. Padmé Amidala @ Takadanobaba Station, Tozai Line (2:20 pm) – Another difficult one to locate as I just couldn’t find it in the concourse part beneath JR Takadanobaba. As a result I went back up to street level and walked down the road a bit to exit 6.
All the figures you can see in previous shots were brought along by me to add that certain je ne sais quoi to my photos! Moments after I’d cleared my figures away an elderly woman actually came to stamp her sheet and some other random pieces of paper. I spoke to her for a bit and she told me you had to go to Kyobashi to receive the notepad which you can get for completing such a challenge. She then proceeded to tell me where it was even though I had clearly been there as I showed her my completed booklet!
Having started this challenge at 9:20 am, I finally arrived back at the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre just before 3pm. Due to my earlier mishap with the GPS tracking device, I don’t have the exact data for this trip but it was basically just over 45 kilometres. Usually I couldn’t care less about getting any kind of stamps. In a way the same was true here but I’m a firm believer that the journey is all part of it and that certainly played a big role in this challenge.
Click here to read ‘The Star Wars Identities Interactive Exhibition Has Arrived In Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10 Tokyo Themed Cycling Rides’