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The galaxy according to Trin Random thoughts, gaming opinions, rants, and a copy of my Japan Diary



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Old 09-15-2005, 02:16 PM
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Default The view of the galaxy from Japan

This thread is sort of a cop out. I wanted to start with something incredibly intelligent, but instead I'm starting with something rehashed and old. That's right, folks. I'm copying over my entire diary of my trip to Japan into this neato little thread, where it will stay forever bumped!

For accompanying photos of my Japan trip, you can go here.

Commence with the uninspired copy and paste job!

Entry 1

Greetings from Meguro-ku, to be more exact. After a 13 hour total flight time, and a vicious 15 hour time difference, I've finally arrived in the heart of Tokyo.

I arrived at Narita Airport at 2:15pm, but only got into Tokyo itself at 5pm. I took a bus to Excel Hotel Shibuya, where a family friend picked me up, and drove me to Kakinokizaka in Meguro-ku, where he and his wife live.

After a little catch up conversation with the hosts, we all headed to the 7/11, where they showed me what was available for lunch if I was on the run. I got a big kick out of the Playstation 2 games behind the counter, the sushi and pot stickers for sale, and the racks and racks of manga. And to think, our 7/11's just have slushies.

After that we went to "Tokyu" Department store, where we bought some groceries. I bought myself some sushi for dinner, and went back to the house to dig in. Not only was it freshly made, but it was also room temperature. Usually, sushi made in the states is either ice cold, or oddly warm. This was exactly the right temperature. Gotta love it.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Shibuya Station to check out the stores there, then heading over to the Meiji Shrine at Omotesando. I think it's hilarious that there's a Buddhist temple across the street from 7/11, and a Shinto Shrine next to it. I'll be checking out both on my way back from Omotesando.

Trin from Tokyo, signing off.

Entry 2:

Moshi-moshi from Meguro-ku! With the jetlag I've managed to adjust my sleep schedule. Instead of my vicious 4am sleep time that many of you know me for, I went to bed last night at midnight, and woke up this morning at 7:30 (without an alarm!).

Before hitting the train station, I quickly popped over to the Shinto Shrine by the house I'm staying at, which was absolutely beautiful. The Buddhist temple had a service, so I quickly popped in to take pictures, and ran on my way.

On my way to the train station, I stopped off at the convenience store "am pm," and picked up a morning inagiri. Inagiri can only be described as a triangular rice lump, filled with something, and wrapped in seaweed. The whole thing is then wrapped in plastic and put on the shelf. I've only been here 2 days but I'm already addicted to these things. I've tried the salmon and the spicy bean curd. Both were excellent.

While I ate my morning Inagiri, I got a 1000 yen passnet card (the set value train card), and headed from my local stop of Toraitsu-daigaku to the bright lights of Shibuya! The famous X cross walk (that I'm sure everyone has seen in SOME movie or another) is really a remarkable thing. The Shibuya station is instead of a 10 floor department store called Tokyu.

Once outside, though, the cross walk is visible. It's interesting the way the traffic works in that part of Shibuya. Instead of letting all traffic in one direction go at a time, the crosswalk works like this: all vehicle traffic goes with reckless abandon for a couple minutes, and then all pedestrian traffic goes. Because of this, people are walking in all directions, and it's pretty chaotic!

While there, I checked out a couple places gamers might appreciate. First I checked out Shibuya Tsutaya, which is a software department store (it's the one with the giant video screen that's constantly showing ads...one such ad was for Naruto pachinko...only in Japan). Naturally I made a beeline for the second floor, where all the video games are. The big highlights on display were: Naruto for Playstation 2, Bleach for Gameboy Advance, Jump Superstars for DS, Grandia III for Playstation 2, Tales of Legendia for Playstation 2, and Gundam Seed Destiny S.E. Generation for Playstation 2. The way they advertised stuff was so much different from the US.

Unlike US stores where for the most part, demos are silent and most sound is coming from horrible muzak playing over the store's loud speakers, every single television monitor and game display had its volume all the way to full. I must've heard the second season opening theme for Bleach a billion times before leaving the store. @_@

There was also a glass case display for FFVII Advent Children, where they showed off all the stuff that comes with the special edition (which btw will retail for 29500 yen...that's almost $300 US!). There was also a Plasma display that had a high definition (*drool!*) trailer for Advent Children looping on it.

After that, I checked out a small alleyway, and found a great place called Game Inn Mitoya. Thinking it was a game store, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was an arcade! Seeing how different arcade culture is in Japan is so funny. Instead of stand up machines, every machines was at waist level, and had stools. All the machines were white (instead of the black we're used to), and each was connected to a network. Instead of having challengers playing on the same machine, each machine was personal, and linked you up to a random player on another machine somewhere else in the arcade. I didn't stay long, but I got to try out Neo Geo Battle Colleseum, which uses Sammy's Atomiswave hardware (instead of Neo Geo archaic proprietary hardware, which I still have a huge soft spot for ;D).

After that, I found a small ramen and curry place under the Shibuya Station bridge and stopped for lunch. All lunch places have diagrams or plastic models of the food they serve, so if you can't read japanese, you can still figure out what the hell you're ordering. This particular one had a machine where you insert money and press a button to order a specific meal. The machine then spits out a ticket, which you take to a cook at the counter, and sit down. Minutes later, you have a wonderful ramen bowl to eat.

After that, I vacated Shibuya, and got on the Ginza train line, headed for Omotesando. This is where the Meiji Jingu shrine is. The shrine itself is massive, and from the entrance to the shrine itself, it's a good 10 minute walk. I've got flat feet, so by the time I was ready to leave the shrine (where I took lots of pictures, per Sykoi's demands), I felt like my feet were ready to explode.

The shrine itself is absolutely beautiful. The shrine is where Emperor Meiji is buried and deified. The torii at the shrine (those wonderful archways that denote shrines) are absolutely massive, and all made from Japanese Cypress wood. Unfortunately, much of the shrine was destroyed during the second world war, but it was rebuilt in 1975 by "loyal Japanese citizens" (that's a verbatim quote from the plaque just outside the shrine entrance).

After the shrine, I retraced my steps, and found myself back in my friend's house. We're not entirely sure what we intend to do tonight, but we're looking either to hit Ginza, or some surprise restaurant that my friend refuses to tell me about.

Tomorrow I'm picking up tickets to an afternoon show of Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Full Metal Alchemist in gaijinese ;D). I'm immensely lucky, as the movie ends its run in Tokyo in a week. Talk about your close shaves.

- Gaijin Hero Trin

Entry 3:

Today I revisited Shibuya, but with a specific mission in mind: to see Hagaren in theaters. I landed up at Shibuya station at around 11:00, with the intention of catching a 2:00pm show. Since I liked the ramen place I had eaten at so much, I decided to go back there, but this time try their currey/ramen combo platter. Verdict: it rocked, and for only 580 yen. I love this country.

At 12:30 I ran over to the Cine Palace (The theater where they were showing Hagaren). The cinema encompasses 5 tiny tiny floors in a high rise. Tickets are purchased on the 7th floor, and then people go to individual floors for their specific theater.

I had been fairly stressed about how I was going to order my ticket. I was asking everyone on Flashchat how best to order tickets without using english. In the end, though, it ended up being pretty painless. The girl that sold the ticket was all slack jawed that I wasn't talking to her in slow english (you know, that english you use when you think people can't understand you...usually accompanied by goofy hand gestures).

Example:

Me: Konnichiwa!
Girl: Konnichiwa!
Me: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi desu.
Girl: Hai!
Me: 2 pee emu. (2pm)
Girl: Hai!
Me: Ichi ticketu.
Girl: Hai!

At this point she probably realized I don't speak japanese, because that last sentence was phenomenally broken. With ticket now in hand, though, it really didn't matter. I made my way to the 6th floor, where the theater resided.

After a wait that seemed like forever (if you love FMA as much as I do, waiting for more than 5 minutes is a freakin' life time), the doors opened and the patrons of the previous show poured out. I expected a cleaning crew to be in the theater for at least 15 minutes (considering the precedence set in my mind by american theaters), but the cleaning crews walked in, and immediately walked out.

After that, the host on that floor came up to the door, and said essentially the following (albeit in japanese): "Thank you for waiting. This theater is currently showing Full Metal Alchemist. If you have tickets for this show, you may now enter." He then took our tickets, and we walked in.

The theater itself was small and intimate (as opposed to small and cramped as most fat ass americans would probably consider it), and it was like watching in a home theater. Before the movie started, there was muzak playing in the background. The difference from America? They didn't play crap. In fact, that played a loop of every Full Metal Alchemist intro theme, ending with L'arc~en~Ciel's "Lost Heaven," the ending theme of the FMA movie.

Once the movie actually started, I felt right at home. I didn't always know exactly the conversation, but thanks to a summary I had gotten my hands on before the show, I was able to achieve a good understanding of the plot.

One thing I found hilarious was how DEADLY silent Japanese people are in a theater. They don't laugh, they don't gasp, they don't scream, and they don't talk. In fact, when I laughed at a part in the movie (it was genuinely funny, I couldn't help myself), I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb. That is, much moreso than the average 5'11 muscular indian man in the middle of Tokyo.

When we were leaving the theater, I noticed a stall set up right outside that had lots of FMA merchandise, including the movie soundtrack. I quietly cursed myself for not hitting the bank machine before walking in.

After the movie, I came home, and rested up. I had gotten an e-mail from an old associate of my father, Tomoko Watanabe, who wanted to meet me while I was in Tokyo. I gave her a call, and she told me to meet up with her at around 8pm in Roppongi.

We met under the giant spider sculpture (I'm not kidding...it's a giant spider), and then walked around Roppongi Hills for a bit. The Artelligent Summer Festa is going on right now, so there were food stalls set up, along with a HUGE sculpture of its mascot, Tongari-kun. In english he's called, get ready for this: Mr. Pointy. I think we lost something in the translation. Like the awesome factor.

After walking around for a bit, we found a small underground bar that had a chibi ninja as its mascot. I was intensely interested in checking this place out, and so was Tomoko-san. Inside, the ceilings were low, there were salary man ordering fried squid and copious bottles of sake, and beautiful japanese waitresses with piercings were dressed as ninja. I had Tomoko pinch me to make sure I hadn't fallen down the stairs on the way in and died. This place was that cool.

I drank sake until I couldn't see straight, and ate sashimi and fried squid until my body said "STOP IT YOU RAVING LUNATIC!"

I managed to catch the last train home. Lucky me.

Entry 4:

The entire day was spent with Tomoko-san in scenic Kamakura. There's not much to say. I saw lots of beautiful shrines and a giant Buddha, I ate sea urchin (which was SO GOOD), and my feet were in ridiculous pain. Much of the beauty of Kamakura will be evident when I finally post my photos of the place.

Moving on.

Entry 5:

Now, this is what I'm SURE everyone wants to hear: my visit to Akihabara. Many of you may know about the legendary "Electric Town," but for those who don't, let me lay down the basic premise.

Akihabara started as THE place to find electronics in the world (not including Osaka's Den Den Town). Over the years, more and more video game and anime shops have been opening, pushing electronics off to the side.

Flashing lights and shouting advertisers make this place look like a three ring circus. As the guys at Insert Credit said, this is not the mecca of video games. This is the Las Vegas of video games. I couldn't agree more.

Most of the buildings are taken up by just a few companies: Sofmap, LAOX and Aso Bit City. Each of the companies has about 10 stores on the main drag, and they don't hide it. They openly number each store. I counted 13 Sofmaps. Because there are so many of these stores, they've decided to make each one "themed." That is it say, each number will correspond to a specific product. Sofmap 13, for instance, is the anime shop (or is it 6? I don't really know. I spent most of my time in smaller shops).

There are also a number of high rise arcades, such as Club Sega and Taito Amusement. Each of these has about 15 arcade machines on any given floor, and there are CONSTANTLY people standing around watching battles. It's really hard to move around.

The biggest attraction for me were the small shops, namely Super Potato, and Trader. Super Potato is a legendary store. The branch in Akihabara is on the third floor of a building located in a back alley. I actually had trouble finding the place until I heard the telltale old school video game music blasting from their window (which as I've been told, is how they basically catch people's attention.). Anyone who's ever given me directions for Super Potato mentions the same thing. I'll probably end up doing the same.

If you're looking for new games at every turn, DO NOT GO TO SUPER POTATO. You're better suited for a place like LAOX or Sofmap. Super Potato is viciously old school. They specialize so much in old school, they even have a working Virtual Boy display. It was running Wario when I was there today. I still don't really want a Virtual Boy.

The big reason I went there was to buy some Neo Geo stuff. As some collectors may now, obtaining inexpensive Neo Geo games and such (I know, seems like an oxy moron) is virtually impossible in the US. I figured that since I could really just import many of the popular JP games from NCSX in a pinch, I'd rather finally expand my collection into Neo Geo. Between Trader 1 and 2 (yes, they're two stores, and they specialize in both old and new games...Trader 2's Neo Geo selection was godly), and Super Potato, I was able to get the following:

- Fatal Fury Special - game and manual, no box - 550 yen. I couldn't resist. A 5 buck game? I'd pick it up even if i DIDN'T want a Neo Geo.
- King of Fighters '98 - mint box and cart, no manual - 4500 yen. This was a steal too. Ok, so it doesn't have the manual. I'm not sweating over it. This is a functional collection, not a "Sit there are stare" collection.
- SvC Chaos - mint box, cart and manual - 9800 yen. Am I nuts? Didn't this game just come out a year and a half ago? How is it down to 9800 yen? I'm not complaining, yoink!
- Last Blade - Mint box, slightly bent manual, tiny scratch on the cart - 9300 yen (yet showed up on the Trader register for 8800 yen...score!). I'm a huge Last Blade fan, and I was tired of playing a port on the dreamcast. Take that inexpensive port! (I bought Last Blade on day six btw, but I don't want to make two lists).

After that, I came home, ate some Indian food (I didn't want to go out for dinner), and stayed up until 3am for god knows what reason.

Entry 6:

I lazed around the house until around 1pm, then I caught the Hibya train to Roppogi, got some money out of the Citibank ATM, and caught the Hibya train again to Akihabara again. I walked around a bit, and eventually picked up Last Blade (Trader 2) and a Neo Geo AES system (20700 yen, Super Potato).

Super Potato didn't have a bag for my Neo Geo, so I had to walk around with this big box that said "NEO GEO" in gold on the side. I got at least 15 looks from salary men and women on the train, who couldn't take their eyes off of it. I love this country.

I don't know what I'm doing tonight, but it will probably involve sitting around and eating. I may have some scotch with my friend, and watch unsubbed anime on television, pretending I know exactly what they're saying.

Entry 7:

Today I woke up around 11, ate some defrosted shrimp pilaf, and then headed out the door to Ginza. The mission of the day was to check out the Sony Building.

I had heard that the Sony Building's showrooms were worth checking out, but I honestly didn't believe it until I actually checked it out. Lo and behold, the showrooms ended up being totally worth it. On the first floor were three HD plasma screens. Each had a looping high definition digital video of natural scenery, showcasing a specific color. One screen showed only red, one green, and one blue. Each screen was mindblowing, to say the least. Really amazing stuff.

On the next floor was a BMW showroom, but I conveniently walked passed that. I love cars, but I wasn't in Japan to look at german sports cars.

The next couple floors showcase a number of things. There were numerous simulated living rooms that were showing off the new Sony Blu-ray technology. A looping trailer of the new Bewitched movie (along with some other trailers) showcased the great quality of Blu-ray, and a couple tvs behind it were showcasing Superbit (a technology that uses existing dvd players to their fullest, apparently).

Subsequent floors had camcorders, cameras and cell phones. While nothing particularly caught my eye (and I was frankly quite sad not to spy a single Qrio in the entire place), there was a new Sony phone that was actually SMALLER than my palm. The Japanese and their shrinking technology. I swear.

On the upper most floor was a Playstation 2 and PSP showcase. While most of the games were ones that were already out in Japan or the US, one particular game totally caught my attention: Genji.

I've been reading about Genji a lot since it was announced, and watched tons of videos of the game before I left for Japan. I was thrilled that I'd finally get the chance to try out the game before it came out in the states. For those who aren't aware of it, Genji is a Playstation 2 action game made by SCEJ, and is set in (I think) 12th century Japan. The action seemed pretty fast, but the lack of aerial combos was a bit disappointing. I just hope that they exist in the game, but I didn't have the upgraded character to pull them off.

Getting back on the Ginza train, I fed my Akihabara addiction yet again today. A Neo Geo fanatic friend had recommended that I look for Samurai Shodown 2, because it was not only excellent, but rumored to be extremely inexpensive in Japan.

Sure enough, I walked into Trader 2, and I found Samurai Shodown 2, and for 880 yen (about $8.50)! And this is a mint condition copy! Amazing discovery.

A couple random thoughts:
1) I had always wondered why Cloud and the rest of the Final Fantasy characters exhibited the weirdest looking spiky hair. That is, until I came to Japan. Here I thought these styles were impossible to pull off, but it seems Japanese teenage boys pull it off like it's their job. They also seem to love blond hair color. I'm sorry, I should reiterate that. They also seem to ADORE blond hair color. EVERYONE has it. EVERYONE. All asians want to be white. All anime loving whites want to be asian. What a world.

2) Japanese women are ALWAYS dressed to the nines. Nowhere else have I seen women wearing full makeup, glossy lipstick, permed hair, dress gloves and 6 inch heels to go grocery shopping. This isn't even an exception. This is the freaking rule! I love this country.

3) Where the hell are all the garbage cans in this city? Azrael of Outpost Nine wondered the same thing, and I found out. They're gone. Well, not all of them, but many of them. Apparently, because of terrorist activity in the "free world," Japanese authorities have removed a lot of trash cans from high traffic areas, to avoid bomb stashing, etc. It's either that, or Japanese food packaging is edible, and I haven't figured that out yet. That would be totally possible, as the Japanese have already done virtually everything else I would normally think impossible.

There's possibly a typhoon hitting Tokyo tomorrow, so I probably won't be going out, unless I decide to take a shower outside.
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  #2  
Old 09-15-2005, 03:06 PM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Trin smells like poo.



I would definitely not fit in in Japan. *throws on her sweatpants, thinks about combing her hair*
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Old 09-16-2005, 03:33 PM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiromi
Trin smells like poo.

Good thing you love the smell of poo.
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Old 09-17-2005, 07:55 AM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Umm... It seems like had an interesting, exciting, trip there. Well.. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I might someday visit Japan. But... I would just stay here in Sydney!
=p
Well... Japan seems like fun.
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Old 09-21-2005, 01:58 PM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Japan was a blast. The country affected me so deeply, I've finalized my plans to move there next July.
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:46 AM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Wow, it`s been a while since I posted in this thread. Things have changed. I live in Japan now, I can read hiragana and katakana (and a little kanji), and I can get around without looking like a complete loser (being a partial loser is still a distinct possibility).

I`m thinking of reviving this thread with some Japanese culture entries. My posts are going to be more in depth, as living in the country actually gives me insight I never really had access to on my short trip in the past.

What does everyone think?
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:47 AM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

I'm for it... May as well move it to your HDR forum as well, just to keep things organized
You still addicted to 7/11 sushi?
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:52 AM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

I do eat a lot of onigiri at convenience stores still, but sushi wise, I`ve graduated to the supermarket.
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:56 AM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Oh playing with the big boys now... When are you going to play with the old men and eat a live fish in... (Insert city name here)?
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:00 AM
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Default Re: The view of the galaxy from Japan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sykoi View Post
Oh playing with the big boys now... When are you going to play with the old men and eat a live fish in... (Insert city name here)?
Oh, I've already eaten freshly cut sashimi at friends' houses. I'm just talking about an everyday basis.
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