August 30, 2009
When one is sore, lost, all alone and in the rain in Tokyo at 3:00AM and one finds a vending machine that sells Ultraman Soda, one can certainly be forgiven for deciding to sample said soda. However, while there are things that one feels one simply MUST do, there is a procedure to follow.
BEFORE saying in an ultra-deep Baltan type voice "BAH!!! HA!! HA!! YOU ARE DEFEATED!!NOW I SHALL CONSUME YOU ULTRAMAN!!! it is highly adviseable that you check to confirm that you are in fact all alone....and not actually scaring the locals.
August 29, 2009
As Japan Battens down for the incoming typhoon, I spent the day in Ofuna and Akihabara. It's the first time I've spent an extended time just browsng in Akihabara since I arrived except to vist Gamers or go to the Cyber cafe. With a budget of only 90 bucks there was a lot of longing and little buying but I ambled through lots of places, ate some curry and was interviewd for a commercial.
Kotobukyia in Electric Town has several staff members who speak good English and as I was , it seems, the first person they approached with a camera who did not flee, they interviwed me and filmed me gleefully and apreciatively interacting with their staff...in English. I also talked to the interviewer and a fellow staffer about various fannish things ranging from Endless 8, to the difference between Super Robots and Mechs...They were perplexed that I liked Lucky Star as it is "old" and they couldnt see how I could possibly "get it". I pointed out that I'd seen many of the old shows it referenced. The two were also quite surprised that I liked Spice+Wolf , which they both seemed to regard very highly. I ended up with the first volume of the light novel, the translation of which which will be one of my two projects over the next few months.
Kotobukyia is a truly awesome shop with a huge and ever changing display of models, figures and whatnot. They get something of a short shrift as they are literally in the Shadow of Gamers and they dont have their own TV show...but inside they do have things like this.
I returned to the apt and am now at the cybercafe in Narimasu where I banged out my summer homework...a "What I did on my sumer vacation" E-mail to my instructor. Now I must try to catch a train or I'll have a two stop walk.
August 21, 2009
Very mild tremor this morning.
Now all the cats seem to have left.
So....any readers in Tokyo notice anything wierd about the cats?
Update page is off...I can't post pics yet, I suspect weirdness with this I-cafes set up.
August 20, 2009
Today I got on the train to go to Ikebukaro...then got off and ambled over to the local train that was going the other way.
I got off in a place called Narimasu. Stopping in a fast food joint, I ordered something that appeared to be called "beef egg StrangeKanji rice Big". I was presented with a bowl of scallions and beef on a bed of rice with a rwa egg on the side. I was presented with a tool...presumably to use with the egg. I ASSUME the thing is to avoid an ungodly mess with the egg...The exact method to be used with this device is unknown to me, but I was able to narrow the possibilities by eliminating one technique that produced a demonstrably ungodly mess.
Afterwards I got back on the train and went, via 3 transfers, to what appears to be the very end of the Tobu line, a farming community called Ogose. I got off and made a perfect turon of myself as I went from shrine to shrine and, not having brought my Kanji dictionary today, followed the mile markers that helpfully indicated that several "things" were 0.6, 1.2, 3.1 and 6.8 kilometers away. One Bhuddist temple, one Shinto shrine and a senic overlook later I began hiking up a huge array of steps...that ended in more steps and arrived at what appeared to be a very modern tomb...and a trail off to the side marked with a sign that said "Kanji Kanji Mountain Up 5.4 KM"....so I decided to hike up to the top of Kanji Kanji mountain. (I THINK the name of the mountain is actually Kuro). Anyway, a couple of hours, 2 senic overlooks, a bit of washed out trail that required using cypress roots like a ladder and some precarious rocks later...I was at the bright orange marker at the top of the mountain. Which by the way is covered in a cypress forest that doesn't afford much of a view from the very top. But I took the last pic my battery would allow of the marker at the top of Kanji Kanji mountain. Anyway,,,realizing I was not going DOWN the root ladder I chose one of other 2 paths from the top.
Thats where I found the orb weavers...BIG orb weavers. At least in Mirkwood the giant spiders stay off the path, in Japan they use the path as their casting area...and my camera with a dead battery. The cypress forest was wierd. I'm from the US South so cypress means swamp, but here they grow like pine trees. Their branches are arrainged different and they have really really interesting acoustics. The light wood creaks in the breeze and sounds like the sound effect of creaking timbers in an old wooden ship.
Anyway, despite spiders and some bits of the trail being washed out, I got down without mishap (unless one counts rolling/sliding part of the way). I arrived at the station just before dark and made my way back to Narimasu where I found a cybercafe...but no USB port that will fit my oddball camera widget. I`ll post the pics later in an update.
August 18, 2009
I thought I might have solved my aformentioned money problem on this vacation.
But my cunning plan resulted in me being in possession of possibly the most useless item in all of Japan.
A Western Union Money Order.
Does ANYONE out there know where a black and yellow money order can be cashed? (Preferably in the Tokyo area)
Fundage aside, things are good....
...except for the fact that even on this side of the Pacific, the malevolent creatures that eat one sock at a time are lurking about the dryers.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone but Western Union is just not spoken in Japan. There USED to be Western Union services through Suruga Bank but no more. No one I talked to in the banking district would deal with the thing. Anyhoo...no Roman albums or Super Robot Wars game for Ken. Oh well.
August 16, 2009
Comiket!!? Are you NUTS!?
Comeket 76, day 3. The line from hell, 300,000 people being herded into the God Emperor of huckster rooms. I arrived around 8:30 AM expecting a monumental line, but nothing prepared me for this.
Note that this is not the line...this is the line to get in the line.
The brochure (~20 bucks at Gamers) says that photos of cosplayers are not allowed except at a prepared event nor are any photos allowed of the interior. As often happens, the English rules are wrong. No photos are allowed at all. I took these before a very corpulent gentleman threatened to relieve me of my camera.This long picture of the Tokyo Big Sight does not do justice to the size of the structure.
After only about 2 and a half hours I made it to the east wing and went through every one of the 6 bays, each footnall field sized. I started to leave having had my fill of huckster rooms and I was still a bit weak from the bug I was getting over....but I knew I could not face any of my friends if I did not make the trek from the east wing to the west wing.
So I wandered over and found myself in a river of humanity moving irresistably forward...er,up....no,over...no, I mean down...around...aiee! up again. There was a brief respite at an outdoor exibition area where some photos of cosplayers are allowed if permission is obtained. Given the language barrier and the somewhat confusing setup, I begged off and reentered the flow of fandom as it poured like a cataract down the stairs into the exibition hall below. From a hundred fifty feet up the view of the west wing atrium looked like nothing so much as footage of the great animal migrations of the Serengeti.
Although I think it's a bit smaller, the west wing is even more impressive than the east in some respects as there are quite a few very elaborate displays.
One thing I saw that was mildly amusing was that there are now a number of comfort pillows for girls. Also, in contrast to most of their male counterparts, the female doujin artists tended to be impeccably dressed and made up as they hocked their slashy fare.
I'm not likely to go back, at least until I am very proficient in Kanji. Finding anything in that sea of dealers is challenging for the locals let alone someone who can't read the map. OTOH, the place opened at 10 AM and I was out by 1:30...That’s less than some waits I've had at the DMV so the staff certainly did a fine job with a third of a million people.
Oh...and for the person who asked (you know who you are)...I'm 6 foot one and weigh over 270 pounds. I could not have gotten out. Thus there is no way Tsukasa could have POSSIBLY made it back once she got in the wrong line. So no...it was not contrived. (Sheesh!)
August 13, 2009
I've been laid up sick the last 2 days so I am begging off the first day of Komiket 76. I dearly wanted to see the opening ceremonies but it would be downright rude to bring such gifts as coughs, aches and post nasal drip to 300,000 other fans.
This is the last Komeket before the censorship/doujinshi crackdown this October, so this may be the end of an era. Therefore IF I'm feeling better I'll go tomorrow or Sunday. However, I understand from the brochure that photos are highly restricted..
I'll be buying a bike this weekend. Then heading farther afield.
August 11, 2009
I'm at N-Cafe in Akihabara, avoiding the "pushers".
The guest house is excellent. It's spartan but quite clean, has US/UK style toilets, is a very short walk from a train station that's only 15 minutes from Ikebukaro, has US/UK style toilets, has a coin operated dryer that is a laundromat model meaning that it REALLY dries your clothes fast! A big surprise...all rooms come with kitchenettes. It has a roof that is accessable for tenants. It is devoid of holes in inappropriate places. It has US/UK style toilets and it is made out of reinforced concrete, (which, I should note, does not burn easily). If I had a laptop I'd have high speed internet. All this and US/UK style toilets for more than a hundred less than either place I stayed in previously. The only demerit I can come up with is mind numbingly minor: Instead of a regular futon it has a western style bed that doesn't fold and therefore takes up a large swath of the tiny room...a necessity with its tiled floor. Yes kids, the fact that it has a bed is what I'm reduced to complaining about!.Now put away the tiny violins and make a note of the company. If you want to stay in That thar'ole Jaypan for 3 weeks or more one of these is hard to beat.
I'll post pics of the trip later, I managed to choose a computer that doesn't have an accessable USB port.
I'm on a coin operated computer so this will be brief.
I arrived yesterday but only a little bit ago did I get situated in my guest house. It is really quite nice.
Flooding and mudslides from Typhoon Etau closed the Narita Express and caused delay on the other lines sufficient to keep me from ariving at my guest house during office hours. I ended up spending the night at a hotel in Ueno that is equipped with a very comprehensive and somewhat ill-thought out fire protection system. Around 5 AM I woke up and noted that we had encountered some moderately heavy heavy seas. I woke completely up and sat bolt upright when I realized I was not actually on a boat.
Even given my limited Japanese I'm pretty confident of my ability to get by with basic requests and to comunicate. However, the phone takes away all pantomime from a conversation making breadth of vocabulary and listening comprehension even more important. For example..... The words Fire Escape, Jammed, Firedoor and Trapped would have been quite useful to know about 12 hours ago.
August 08, 2009
As compensation here is something to ponder....
Art by Amy Mebberson
I tried to no avail to get the angry machine overlord to give me my card and then called BofA to find out how to go about getting it out, if that was possible on a Friday afternoon.
It was not.
You see, as a security feature, Bank of America ATM machines shred cards that aren't removed with sufficient alacrity.
So I called the Credit Union and was presented with a phone tree which required my pin and account number...and was told by a robot that my account had been frozen...the robot then hung up on me.
SO..I cancelled my tutor session...drove across town in Friday afternoon traffic to show my IDs and (thank GOD) get my account unfrozen. Of course I now am going overseas without any ATM card, and a payroll discrepency that can be charitably described as [expletives deleted by standards and practices]. Said discrepancy will most likely be resolved soon but without an ATM card I can't get at the money overseas, and the new ATM card won't arrive for a week or more...I leave Sunday morning.
Of course I'm about to fly to Japan for 21 days....so it's very poor form to be griping...and I'm nowhere NEAR the situation I was in last year when my apt burned down, but damn this is a big chunk of my funds.
Oh well...there will be no fires, broken heels or dislocated hip on this trip.
That is my itinerary and I am sticking to it!
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