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Kakegawa and Kansai 2014

So continues Sin's somewhat belated tales of overseas misadventures!


Huehuehue. There hasn't been that much Engrish actually but there are still some great ones to be found.


Japan is the land of Streetpasses. It's glorious. I put my DS in my pocket, head out, an hour later just from walking around I have usually maxed out my notifs. Hit an important milestone in Streetpass Battle! I'm actually starting to run up against the wall with most of the mini-games, going 100% completionist now, attempting to get all the Plaza tickets for complete hat catalogue!

Have finally abandoned my Animal Crossing Town though in favour of Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies! Man that game is so fan-servicy. Haven't played the DLC yet but can I just say, I totally called the final villain in advance! First got suspicious all the way back in the third case. \o/  (I have probably played too much Phoenix Wright and can now guess how the scenario writers think). Although to be honest for a while there I suspected that they might end the series with Phoenix as a murder victim and Apollo having to uncover his murderer. I... still secretly hope for that, if only because they're starting to tread water on these games a bit and it would be such a fitting end to the series, full circle with how it started.

None of this has all that much to do with Japan though!


Here, have a photo of a rare beverage - Yuzu Fanta! Probably my favourite of all the exotic Fantas tried (Green Apple and Fruit Punch Fanta were... not so great). Yuzu appears to be Japan's orange, lots of yuzu-flavoured things, have yet to be disappointed by it.


Also, randomly, ROSE MENTOS. Not Mentos the brand but that's the easiest description. Actually smell like roses. My nose likes it but my mouth is undecided.

Anyhow, a couple of days into the new year, despite massive train mishaps, I somehow managed to catch the Shinkansen south.

I stopped for one day in Kakegawa to catch up with friends.


This is Kakegawa castle. It's a cute little castle, has some very steep steps and a small museum inside.


On the grounds, saw my first rock garden! Somehow I had spent a month in Japan without seeing one of these.


Kakekgawa itself is very much 'small town' Japan, which to be fair is probably bigger than a lot of other countries' idea of a small town but felt positively rural after Tokyo. The area is mostly known for its green tea.


Had a late lunch in a little izakaya. Food was basic but delicious. Halfway through a Kiwi from the booth next door dropped by to say hi! Ran a wine and cheese place apparently.


Then we were interrupted by a ritual held by the local volunteer fire department to pray for no fires in the shopping district for the coming year. It involved some dancing with the stick...


And then death-defying stunts at the top of a bamboo ladder in which they assumed various positions, clapped once, then moved to the next crazy position. This guy wasn't even the scariest of the three.

It was quite interesting, super lucky timing!


Here's a shot of the street the izakaya was on. Most of the booths only had room for five or six people.

Then it was on to Osaka!


My hotel room in Osaka, home away from home. Super cheap - actually less than what my rent was back in Brisbane. And all of twenty metres from the subway.

The downside was, I suppose, that it's apparently the slums of Osaka. Of course, the Japanese version of the worst of all possible slums is still nicer than, say, the Valley back home, so in some ways I felt right at home! I was actually a little worried to begin with because when I first told some Japanese friends where my hotel was at they reacted like I was staying in Detroit but it wasn't so bad. Area was a little rough but definitely worth it for the price.


View from the hotel room. You can see why it's super convenient for transport!

Anyhow, first day in Osaka I made a beeline for Den-Den Town.


Predictably, I got lost, but in the process found Yasaka Shrine, which had this truly epic lion head! Score!


Eventually found my way back to Nipponbashi by following the space invader. Yesss! I am going to miss the multi-level arcades.


Den-Den Town is basically Osaka's Akihabara. In some ways it feels more like Akihabara, as Akihabara has become much more slick and commercialised over the years whereas Den-Den Town is still kind of hole-in-the-wall shops and arcades and second-hand places just scattered haphazardly. Namco Tower~!


The Namco building had a big Hetalia 'exhibit' on the ground floor. I didn't realise Hetalia was still so popular? Still, awesome.


On the third floor they had a Tekken 'Museum'. What this actually meant was a bunch of Tekken posters in a corner along with a bunch of Tekken machines - though it did at least appear they had machines covering all the Tekkens.


And a sweet Yoshimitsu statue.


Also I am kind of in love with this particular Melonbooks, it's like they raided Comiket and bought ten of everything.

Plus there are the usual great haunts like Animate and Gee!Store and Cospa and all that.  Gaaaah so dangerous to my budget!


And near the entrance to Shinsaibashi's shopping district is also the most amazing frozen yoghurt place ever. This yoghurt was pudding flavoured, and it was even more delicious than that sounds.

I am developing addictions to a lot of foods I will not be able to access outside of Japan and it is most disheartening. Not even including all the great restaurants but even just the convenience stores.

Also hit up Uniqlo at this point for more warm clothes as Osaka decided to get properly cold, actually below freezing and snow and wow I was not prepared for that. Sincerely hoping that by the time I hit the States they'll have stopped having ice storms.


Have to love the manhole covers in Japan though. If you have to have sewers at least make them look pretty, right?


Tsuutentaku! Looking appropriately epic. This is at Shinsekai in Shin-imamiya. The whole area is actually a little odd, kind of has that washed-out failing tourist vibe, lots of brightly coloured theme park-esque signs with faded paint next to shuttered souvenir stores, kind of Soviet-era Russia, even on a Sunday. I mostly checked it out A. because it was nearby, and B. Because Devil Survivor 2 had a battle here.


A battle with this dude! Billiken is everywhere in Shinsekai, you are supposed to rub his feet for good luck. This is but one of many replicas. When you actually read about the origin of Billiken though you start to wonder how this superstition even started considering he was essentially a mascot designed in the fifties. Again, that weird Maromi reference popped up again, Paranoia Agent is an anime I never truly comprehended the brilliance of until now.

All of the tacky souvenir shops also had Billiken everywhere, understandably.


Turns out I actually had a view of Tsuutentaku from the hotel fire stairs! So discovered because the hotel was doing maintenance on its elevator. But that's okay, because Japan is the land of staircases which meant there had been plenty of training. Another seven storeys was nothing after Enoshima Island!


Oh hey, Yodobashi Camera! And its epic, epic gatchapon corner. I maybe sunk a good ten dollars onto gatcha here. I am going to miss Yodobashi Camera, even it's stupidly repeating annoying Christmassy theme song.


After a couple of days exploring Osaka, it was time to check out Kyoto! It's only about half an hour express train away, and it's not a particularly expensive journey. I wandered Central Kyoto a bit, checking out some of the bigger shrines and temples in the area. Though once again I was somewhat unlucky - quite a few appear to shut down over winter for maintenance and repairs! Still, if you like shrines and temples, Kyoto has them in spades.

Honestly this day probably chewed down most of the last of my interest in visiting shrines and temples. They're all very pretty, but it gets a bit samey after a while. I started becoming more judicious in my choice of whether or not to bother visiting them based on either recommendations or unique characteristics, and it paid off.


Kyoto tower! Kind of reminds me of a lighthouse.


Finally caved and stopped by Mr Donut in Kyoto Station for a Snoopy donut. It was okay, but not particular impressive compared the rest of Japan's culinary delights. Like Panda cakes. Mr Donut appears to be the Donut King of Japan - serviceable, cheap, convenient, but not highly recommended.


Kyoto station itself is fairly amazing though.


Rainbow stairs!


The rainbow led to a pretty neat little rooftop garden. Fairly quiet, because it was so cold.


But had some lovely views of Kyoto. And all for free!


I headed down Karasuma Street next, backed by traditional Japanese music playing on loop, and stumbled across an old classic out the front of yet another anime goods store. Killed some time shopping here, resisting the urge to buy useless stuff I don't need but dearly dearly want oh god it's a good thing I was over the honeymoon phase of Kuroko no Basket and Free! before I hit Japan because seriously. That stuff is everywhere. (Still vulnerable to Kill La Kill and Magic Kaitou but thankfully those are less common).


Requisite crab billboard!

Then I got to meet up with another old LJ face in umarekawareru! It's pretty easy to play spot-the-gaijin in Japan, which is a great help. Once again I was pleasantly surprised by how awesome she was in person, though I don't know why I am continually surprised by this as I have yet to be disappointed. Was still excellent to finally meet face to face after so many years (wow Tenipuri fandom, how long ago was that?) even though we both had to go to another country to do so.


She recommended a most excellent place for ramen! The ramen was indeed most delicious. I have yet to truly master the art of noisily slurping however, I can't seem to get over my western training there! Even when I consciously try it, just doesn't happen!


Afterwards we hit up the shopping district. It goes for aaaaages. Never really saw this style of shopping district in Tokyo but it appears to be everywhere in Kansai.

We eventually landed in an arcade and played Taiko no Tatsujin until our hands hurt, it was glorious.

The next day I decided to head out to Osaka Expo Park, leftover from the World Expo in 1970.


Did anyone else read/watch 20th Century Boys? This was pretty much the reason for my pilgrimage here. Kind of creepy, also kind of epic.


Being winter, I didn't really expect much from the park.

That said, holy crap, this park was amazing.  It's huge! You could spend a whole day here, easily. Just walking around it takes most of an afternoon!


East meets West?


They had a bit of an open air museum in parts, which might have been more interesting if I could read kanji, which is my experience with most museums so far. I have been brushing a lot of dust off my Japanese skills, and have reclaimed some of the most basic kanji to my vocabulary, but ye gads, I was looking up ishi the other day, for stone, that is like one of the most basic there is! I was immediately embarrassed for myself.

It's all over the place too, sometimes a gloriously complicated sentence will just trip out of my mouth and then the next sentence I will forget how to count. Sometimes I will comprehend something without even realising it and then the next routine exchange they'll throw something new at me and I'll default back to 'Hai?' and then things will happen which I didn't ask for but will pretend I did. Why yes, I did want ten extra bags, thank you so much. Oh, you're unwrapping all of my purchases for me? How nice.

Anyhow, I digress.  Back to the amazing park.


Even though it was winter, some hints of life...!


There was actually a pond under this, honest.


This should give you a small inkling to the size of the park. And nearly completely deserted! The benefits of off-season!


The park was littered with all sorts of interesting features too, like this strange castle-esque playground of sorts with interconnecting turrets and tunnels and waterfalls with stepping stones.


The rear view of the statue of the Rising Sun. No less ominous from behind. You could see it from nearly everywhere in the park. Just sitting. Staring.

The Expo Park has definitely been one of the unexpected highlights of the trip, would recommend (especially if you want some open sky and a break from the crazy crowds, or are a Naoki Urusawa fan).


It's Osaka Castle!


And a more epic view of Osaka castle!


Also takoyaki! Takoyaki is everywhere in Osaka, seems like you can't go more than a few blocks without spotting a street vendor or hole-in-the-wall place making it I have eaten a truly ridiculous amount of takoyaki while in Osaka.


Still Osaka castle park, just liked the lighting here.


Anyway, I stuck around Osaka Castle for the Winter Illumination! They set up a whole section with a ridiculous amount of lights.


Very pretty, although you had to pay to enter.


Was absolutely worth it for the 3D projection mapping though. I took a video but cannot be bothered uploading it, luckily someone else has done that for me. Check it out, was off-the-hook awesome. So glad I got to see it in person.

So that covers the first week in Kansai! Ack only the first week? Maybe I need to summarise more. That's it for now though because it's getting late and this computer chair is getting uncomfortable.  Will try to do another catch up in a couple of days, hopefully before I hit the next leg of the trip and fall even further behind.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 30th, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC)
Aaahhh, I miss Kyoto, it was one of my favorite parts of my trip to Japan in 2008. Sadly, I didn't get into the JET program, so I still won't see Japan this year (unless hell freezes over and I win the lottery but pfft). Oh well, seeing other peoples' photos will work as it has the rest of the past almost 6 years so. xD

ANYWAY, enough of my woes. I'm kinda surprised Hetalia's still popular in Japan too. I mean, I definitely have seen a decline in the number of cosplayers in recent years, not to mention fewer fanworks. Though I suppose the fandoms might be wildly different too. The most we really know about the Japanese fandom in the West is via pixiv a lot of the time, I think. :V

And I hear maxing out stuff on the streetpass minigames! I actually just maxed out my puzzle pieces at Ohayocon this weekend. :Bb and then another puzzle dropped into my lap ffffffffffffff Been tempted to hit up all the pay games, tho! Just a matter of getting around to it. ^^;;;

And yeah, I'd definitely imagine that shrines and temples would get tiresome after a while. I know even two weeks in Japan and a lot of people in my delegation were getting bored bc a lot of them were very same-y. :B

Also, excuse me while I stare forever at the Winter Illumination pics, holy fuckbunnies. *A*
Jan. 31st, 2014 04:47 am (UTC)
Ah, sympathies about the JET program! :( Better luck next time?

Yes, generally fandom interest appears to be fairly aligned across the continents but it's interesting to see the points of difference! Kuroko no Basuke, for example, is HUGE right now in Japan, whereas it doesn't feel like it's taken off nearly so much among the western fandom. Kill La Kill is going a bit gangbusters in the west but appears to be somewhat flopping in Japan? (Gauging by cosplay and merchandise). Quite interesting!

Oh nice, how was Ohayocon? High-five for maxing out the puzzles! I do recommend the paid games, the Haunted Mansion one in particular, I bought the whole set and do not regret the purchase.

Haha yeah, in Kyoto one can get tired of shrines very quickly! Especially since with the language barrier your interaction with many of the sights becomes fairly shallow. It was the same in Taiwan too, saw several incredible temples and then after a while stopped bothering to even bring my camera out for pictures.

Winter might be missing the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves, but damn does Japan do good lights! :D
Jan. 31st, 2014 08:12 am (UTC)
That's the plan at any rate. Hopefully, I do better next time around. :V

It really is! And then when some things hit one area before the other, it's interesting too. Like, earlier this summer, all tumblr got was all these photos of perspective images of Japanese people pretending to eat people and we had no idea what was going on. Then along came Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan and now they all make perfect sense. xD I don't know if there's been anything the other way around (though I do wonder what they might think of things like homestuck, ngl)

And it was a lot of fun! I went as fandomstuck!homestuck fandom on Saturday and a Team Rocket grunt on Sunday. :D Didn't quite get to do everything I wanted hi my name is catherine and I have chronic "where the fuck am I" syndrome and "OOH SHINY COSPLAY" addiction but still a ton of fun. Aaaand might've started an argument during a Kingdom Hearts theories panel oops. |D; Though damn, I need to not find as much Espeon stuff in the dealer's room because I will end up broke because of my obsession one of these days. <<;;; Though it was nice seeing uncommon cosplays like Moyashimon and Kaito as well as an A+++ Genesis! I was so stupid happy. x3 someone strongarm me into posting my photos omfg

Heh, even without the language barrier, the fact that they're especially plentiful in Kyoto (and other large cities, but Kyoto I think has the densest amount of shrines and temples iirc) especially makes it so one easily tires of them. Ah well, one reason to stick to ones that are notable and don't worry about every one. uvu

Apparently! One day I will have my own trips, I swear. *flails*
Jan. 31st, 2014 11:52 am (UTC)
True, I wonder what sort of market penetration Adventure Time or Rick and Morty and the like would have in Japan. The sense of humour seems very different so maybe wouldn't translate beyond a very small subset.

Oh man oh man, what? POST YOUR PHOTOS! I want to see those cosplays! Sounds like an awesome con. *__* I want to hit up more conventions~ Kind of sad to be missing Wai-Con back in Aus, guess I can't have my cake and eat it too...

I think maybe Kamakura might be the winner actually but Kyoto is definitely a close second! Like churches in Europe, really, unless you're a hardcore enthusiast you should really limit yourself to Notre Dame and Sistine Chapel and then maybe call it a day after that. XD

One day for sure! It took me quite a long time too but it will eventually happen if you're determined!
Jan. 31st, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
I always wonder what kind of influence western media has beyond Disney (which, y'know, is going to be errywhere so). Damn, now I need to see if anyone's written anything on this because now it's not going to leave my brain until I know. xD I mean, I know Avatar the Last Airbender either wasn't that successful or the local Nickelodeon went under or something, but I know they only got partially through season 2 (which is so damn sad to me, it's such a good series *sob*). And I know Homestuck doesn't have much of a fandom there because there isn't a Japanese translation and the English is hard enough to follow as it is (and apparently, the group who tried to translate it got partway through Act 2 and gave up, heh). Anything else, I haven't the slightest. :V

I HOPE TO ASAP. They'll probably just be on my tumblr, but I tag everything so I can just drop the tag link and that'll be good to go. x3 Yay organization actually coming in handy! XD And I feel you missing conventions. I missed Animecon this past year due to planning for a con that, admittedly, fell through ;; (I mean, Animecon's a tiny con, but I still feel guilty for missing it ^^; ).

Haha, even in the US, there aren't a hell of a lot of churches worth visiting, and I'm saying that as a Christian //bad christian oops. And besides, the fun of travel is hitting up cool and interesting places you wouldn't otherwise see, so there's not a lot of need to hit up the same thing repeatedly, yeah?
Feb. 1st, 2014 11:06 am (UTC)
I'm not sure about the sub-cultural stuff but Hollywood's influence is huge. You only have to look as far as how Hollywood influences beauty standards in other countries, not even including its influence on Japanese cinema (though Japanese cinema has a few of its own very strong conventions to combat this). The influence isn't one-way but even without including Disney, Hollywood blockbusters make it nearly everywhere. I mean, you can even find Star Wars influence in Final Fantasy. And there's western comics too, specifically the Marvel and DC superhero variety, which have almost certainly had some impact.

Please do drop a link when you do post your photos, I can't wait to see them!

Aha, well, the US doesn't have much in the way of historical architecture (same as Australia really), so that's understandable. But certainly when it comes to 'famous old buildings' in places with a lot of them, there's a lot of merit in sticking to the most famous ones - they're the most famous for a reason!
Jan. 31st, 2014 04:54 am (UTC)
I adore your travel photo posts!
Jan. 31st, 2014 11:53 am (UTC)
Feb. 16th, 2014 11:37 am (UTC)
can you get enough plaza tickets from all the games to buy all the hats??? i don't seem to get tickets enough to buy the insane number of hats out there! also i hate the space streetpass game. takes too long and it's pretty hard.

have you been alone in most your travels? you doing ok? not homesick? no interests in jobs?
Feb. 16th, 2014 12:14 pm (UTC)
I think you can! I have most of them, but there are a few plaza tickets which are stupidly difficult to get (the space ones especially, it's easier if you get the right colours but arcade mode is insane... and like you said, takes too long) I'll probably give up on the last couple eventually...

Have been mostly solo, yes, although I've met up with various friends along the way and will be staying with some family soon. Thanks for asking, I'm doing alright, if I ever get a bit homesick or lonely I just take a few hours on the internet, talking to familiar people on facebook or skype helps. Plus nearly every day so far has brought something new. Haven't landed any jobs yet, have put plenty of applications in the wild though (admittedly a few of them are a bit unrealistic but never know when a wild stab will hit, right?) At this stage if I don't have any solid leads by April I'll probably head back to Aus and make a go of freelancing or something.

What about yourself? You've graduated now, right, got any plans? Or just frantically sewing for Wai-Con right now? :)
Mar. 13th, 2014 06:33 am (UTC)
i look at the sheer amount of hats i have blank spaces for and my progress on the games (which is pretty far) and wonder how i'm meant to get them all lol.

it's pretty disappointing that you're still not getting any bites in the job market. it's tough right now, right? i wish you the best of luck ):
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )