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Japan 2013 Part 2

It has been a while! A lot has happened since the last Japan post.

One standout was meeting up again with dokuganria and heading to the Capcom Bar!


It was super cool! Ahaha, I wish I had been further along in the latest Phoenix Wright though, because I am only a couple of cases in and already having all of the Phoenix Wright feels. Love the new cast so much. New prosecutor is actually kind of scary.


Sengoku Basara themed cocktail! The prices were actually pretty good for a themed cafe, and the food wasn't bad at all! Usually themed cafes the food is the first thing to suffer,


Onion Rings of Justice! Every time the staff brought out a drink or plate, they would perform a short skit based on the game it was from. Ahaha I understood maybe one sentence out of ten but damn, they did the voices so well! And even the ones they didn't, 100 points for enthusiasm. I genuinely think that the staff were having at least as much fun as the customers.  Gaaaah I wish my Japanese was better! Luckily the company was great and the atmosphere more than made up for it~


I have never been so sad not to be coffee drinker. They also had a whole separate 'merchandise menu', but sadly (or perhaps luckily) the best merch was already sold out.


They had a couple of TVs hooked up to consoles with game demos (again, all Japanese) you could play if you wanted, although with only a two hour time slot by the time you've had drinks and dinner and dessert there's no time left for games!


Had a top notch logo.


Had to order the brain cake (cake, mont blanc icing and raspberry sauce.) They give you the knife to stab into it as the server screams in agony. XD

Then it was the joy of catching one of the last trains of the night! It's amazing how quickly your personal space disappears into Tokyo. It is the first place where I have ever actually been concerned about an elevator's capacity.


The shrine in Yoyogi park. Went here on a Sunday, mostly to go see all the various buskers and markets conglomerating in the park. There were some dudes playing truly epic frisbee that really looked more like rhythm gymnastics with a disc. Taking it the next level!

This is the same reason why every time I go to the arcade to play rhythm games I wind up leaving intimidated without playing anything because everyone is playing super-insane-hardcore mode.


Overpass from Yoyogi Park leading back towards Shibuya proper. Took a picture of it mostly because I remembered it from the 'Where the Hell Is Matt' video.

Then what followed were two days of utter and complete loss.

On Monday I decided to try to get to Nikko. Nikko is about two and a half to three hours away from Tokyo by train.

I did not get to Nikko. I do not actually know where I ended up, but it definitely wasn't Nikko. The Japanese equivalent of nowhere, with not a scrap of english to be seen anywhere, or even for that matter many people around to ask. This is a pretty unusual state of affairs for the trains in Japan! Although to be fair, it wasn't a JR line, and the amount of English signage noticeably decreases with nearly any other train network. I am pretty sure what happened is that there were multiple trains departing from the same super-long platform, and I got on at the wrong part of the platform.

I wandered around hopelessly for a while, since Murphy's Law had decided that my smart phone battery was near dead, and was ultimately rescued by the fact that I could at least recognise the kanji for 'station' and so followed the signs back to the station. After that, I also could recognise the kanji for the major terminals, so managed to get a train heading back in the right direction. Though then there was an earthquake so the train stopped on the tracks for another half hour presumably to make sure everything was okay (I did not actually feel the earthquake, apparently there have been a few 5.2-ish magnitude ones which I have yet to have noticed). In the end I gave it up for a bad job and just wandered Akihabara for the rest of the day. Never a bad day!

Then the same thing basically happened again the next day when I tried to go see the Ushiku Daibutsu, although in that case I did actually get to Ushiku, but foolishly thought I could walk from the station! Turns out no, no I couldn't walk from the station. Not only was there a lack of passable roads (only an expressway which was no good for pedestrians) but google maps had helpfully zoomed out for me without providing me with a scale reference. It took me about an hour of walking to figure this out before deciding I didn't want to see it that badly and cut my losses by turning back.


I did at least see this fence, which is clearly the fence where the sparrows hold their discussions to take over the world. This was maybe a mere tenth of the sparrows hanging out on this fence.

Also visited a strangely large Book-off/Yodobashi hybrid style store called Wondergoo which was basically empty but still had all the music and lights and video ads going full blast. Kind of creepy.

To console myself, I returned to Ikebukuro, which as everyone knows is the best suburb.


Because it uses the fine art of topiary to make owls.


Also it has the biggest Animate! The top floor was dedicated to Attack on Titan. Heaps of overpriced Titan merch, it was glorious.

I pretty much killed nearly an entire day between Ikebukuro's arcades, Animate, K-Books and Libre.


Spoils~ Although the weird blanket thing and the Titan T-shirt were actually spoils from a skill tester! Skill testers in Japan are hard, probably stuck in some crazy arms race with the same crazy folk who take frisbee and turn it into rhythmic gymnastics. But man, the drop on the T-shirt was so perfect I would have been so upset if the machine had cheated me out of that one. It was pure mathematical beauty in claw form.

Got my hands on Mekaku City Days and Mekaku City Records, too~  Plus Kill La Kill T-shirt! Have been overall pretty restrained about buying merch but it's harder to resist when it's one of the current obsessions.


Spent a day in Yokohama. The weather was actually kind of pants that day, so spent a good while in this one shopping mall that had the biggest Snoopy store ever, it was insane. The merch was all quite quality as well, I'm not even that big a snoopy fan but wanted to buy stuff.

The mall also had a live half hour orchestral performance every hour playing a mixture of Christmas melodies and other pop-classical pieces, which was just about the coolest diversion ever and made the place seem ridiculously ritzy, even if it were a bunch of rotating school orchestras!


The goal of Yokohama was to ride the Cosmo Clock 21! 112m, the second tallest Ferris Whell in Japan, and claiming to be the largest clock in the world. The spokes light up and act as second hands!

It was cool. Ferris Wheels are cool, okay. You cannot convince me otherwise.


Also spent a day in Kamakura. Saw this Great Buddha, one of the oldest in Japan. Coming from Australia it always blows my mind a little when I see structures dating back to the 1200s. The really impressive thing about this one is that it used to be inside a temple! The temple got washed away in a tsunami but the Buddha's still there.


Checked out the 'beach' at Kamakura too. Kind of makes you appreciate Australian beaches. That said, despite the temperature being around 3 degrees, there were still some hardcore Japanese surfers going out on the waves!


Also, Beware of Hawks!! They will steal your food and possibly your babies.


Presumably this badass. He was actually quite vocal and I wanted to record him but between the ocean and the road there was far too much background noise.


Checked out a couple of the cool shrines scattered around the town. They were all quite awesome but I was starting to get shrine and temple fatigue at this point, since I already checked out quite a few in Taiwan as well.


That said, some of them are still quite beautiful.


This one was my favourite of the day, and the last stop before heading back to Tokyo.


Then another day in Akihabara! You could easily spend a solid few days in Akihabara, especially if one of those days was Sunday. They actually close off a major four-lane road (Chuo-dori) on Sunday because the sidewalks cannot contain all of the pedestrians.

This was the entrance to a portable audio expo! The expo was actually pretty rubbish, so I left fairly rapidly and went to drool over the audio floor in Yodobashi camera instead. That building is insanely large. HUNDREDS of headphones all lined up for testing!


Then I finally made it to Nikko! And it was freaking cold. I didn't realise it was in the mountains!


This hill has a sinister smile.


Probably because of the season, Nikko was nice and empty, though it's easy to tell it's a bit of a tourist spot usually. Nowhere near as kitschy as a lot of the other touristy spot in Japan can be though. Lots of beautiful wood carvings.


An exceptionally old bridge, considered to be one of the three finest bridges in Japan. You had to pay an admission fee to walk across it, even though a mere fifty metres away was an entirely functional free bridge which gave you a good view of the cool one.


Badass pagoda. They made a big deal about the top of this pagoda being at the same elevation as Tokyo Skytree! ...Which would be a lot more impressive if we were not already 600m above sea level.


Stone lantern has been waiting a long time to be lit again.


A lot of the shrines were closed for maintenance in the offseason, but just walking around there were still plenty of amazing sights.


Nikko is quite the picturesque version of traditional Japan.


Even the non-world heritage listed parts.


Was too damn cold though. Would recommend in any other season.


On Christmas Eve I went to Enoshima! This was the hanging monorail on the way there. Everything in Japan has a cutesy mascot. Everything.


Enoshima Island. It should be renamed the island of 'way too many freaking staircases'. Seriously, they actually have one section where you can pay for an escalator to the top. I laughed at it.

I was not laughing later.


More shrines. Since it was Christmas Eve, there were heaps of couples out on romantic dates making obvious doe eyes at each other, it was quite adorable. The animes are accurate for once!


Enoshima was quite pretty, lots of winding paths through forest and by seaside cliffs.


There's always the Enoshima Iwaya caves, which were a little bit cool but mostly had been made super tacky.


Though there was one neat section where they issued you with a candle because there were no lights. Lots of ducking too, not a place for the claustrophobic!


You could not escape the Christmas decorations no matter where you went though. It was a neat experience but probably would not recommend to others.


Outside this hawk was wheeling around this fisherman, clearly waiting for him to make a catch.


There was also a section where you could climb down to the rocks and check out the tidal pools - in some parts you could see fish swimming in the larger shallows where they'd become trapped as the tide receded.


This cave looked more awesome from a distance - getting closer it either contained rubbish or was a hobo hermit's private hangout.


Because dragons.


There are a lot of very well fed and loved stray cats in Japan! Typically quite friendly - this one was much happier to receive pats than any of the pampered beasts you can find in cat cafes. I actually saw a homeless guy feeding about six of them the other day. Could be someone's roaming pets too I suppose, some cats refuse to deal with collars.


Enoshima Lighthouse.


Monument to badassery, I guess. Kind of reminds me of the wolves from Kung Fu Panda 2!


Fuji-san, is that you again?


The rainbow led to the monorail station!

Then it was back to Tokyo for the rest of Christmas Eve. They had some truly insane lines for ridiculously overpriced Christmas cake. I cheated and went out the next morning while everyone was at work and picked up a smaller, cheaper one without having to wait at all.

Christmas in Japan is a little weird though, since it's just like any other working day. I wandered Akihabara and treated myself to the Kill La Kill soundtrack, acquired some fried chicken to the 'traditional' Japanese Christmas thing, then retreated back to the apartment to Skype various friends and family members, and sunk the rest of the day into playing Kingdom Rush Frontiers. Honestly probably one of the better Christmases I've had for a while! As nice as Christmas with family can be, sometimes it's even nicer to escape all the social obligations and craziness that comes with it.

I wanted to take this post up to rest of the Kanto, but that's probably more than enough for now, and as it stands barely scrapes the surface of everything. I'll make another post in a couple of days. Coming up next: Comiket and New Year's Eve. :D


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
And once again you remind me of why I really want to visit Japan one day. I'm glad you had a great time and a fantastic Christmas. I hope the rest of your trip continues to be amazing.
Jan. 9th, 2014 11:45 am (UTC)
Thanks! Hope you had a good New Year's and Christmas too. You'll make it to Japan one day, don't worry!
Jan. 8th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC)
Omg that capcom cafe sounds amazing, I've never been to a themed cafe and the concept just sounds like so much fun. It's really great that all the workers are super into it. The stabbing your cake while people shriek is such a creative idea. XD

Looks like you're having a lot of fun in Japan. Bon voyage!
Jan. 9th, 2014 11:48 am (UTC)
Themed cafes are just the best, although some are decidedly better than others (usually the ones that embrace the theme to a crazy extent). Wish we had more in other parts of the world!

Jan. 8th, 2014 11:55 pm (UTC)
DRAGONS, also hawks~ C: I'm p sure my obsession with birds halfway translated to a certain trio of characters, heh //brick'd I seriously would love to visit a themed cafe, ngl. I'd even risk the not-so-great food for it, haha. xD

And yeah, Japan definitely has cutesy mascots for EVERYTHING. I remember even Nagasaki had a cutesy mascot for its tourism, and the Narita airport had one too. x3

Can't wait for more of Kanto! :D
Jan. 9th, 2014 11:52 am (UTC)
LOL, so that's the true source of your FF7 fascination? :P Haa, yeah, the food isn't really a huge issue, you're not there for the food! Although some places still manage to do it fairly well.

I don't understand how some of those mascots even take off though. It's like one crazy marketing machine. Paranoia Agent makes more sense these days.
Jan. 9th, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
Hehe, that and as I've been rereading a CCS fic recently, I also can blame my obsession with Yue for some of it, too. Add Phantom of the Opera teaching me to sympathize with villains and it was a recipe for disaster from the start. xD And true enough. God knows I'd be geeking out enough that the food wouldn't bother me unless it was godawful or something and I'd imagine that a restaurant of any kind would try to avoid that at all costs. :B

There might be something cultural that makes mascots so popular, though I haven't come across an explanation yet (I might, who knows). And hee I should really rewatch Paranoia Agent sometime. I wonder if it's on Netflix, hm... //ponders
Jan. 10th, 2014 09:30 am (UTC)
i wonder if the servers at themed cafes are fans of the things there? i imagine it would be a reallydemanding job.
Jan. 10th, 2014 11:22 am (UTC)
They probably start out that way. After a couple of months, maybe not so much.
Jan. 10th, 2014 02:43 pm (UTC)
/endless screeching
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )