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Saturday, 31 May 2014

BLOG -- Recap of May

So here is my end-of-month blog for May. So many things were happening this month -- so many exciting things! Even though I experienced Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn withdrawal when I decided to renew my subscription after Japan, I'd say May is so far my favourite month this year!


Outings/Events in May:
- Treated a co-worker to dinner (payback for some crazy work-related requests).

- Made another new friend through Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (woot!).

- Travelled to Japan (the ultimate woot!).

- Experienced jet lag for the first time (still experiencing it but it's getting better).
 

Exposures:
- Too many to list! Check my blogs on Japan to see all the exposures I experienced this month.


Finished...
Watching:
- (Movie): The Breakfast Club -- The first time I watched it long, long ago, I never got it. I decided to give it another chance because of Pitch Perfect. I still don't really like the ending (too uncertain), but I do appreciate the movie a lot more.


Playing:
- (PS4): Resogun -- Who knew that I was just one crazy stage away from beating it? I beat it in Rookie mode, though... Experienced and Veteran modes just killed me... x.x

- (3DS): Mario's Picross -- I really enjoy the Picross games. The controls are a little non-responsive in this version, but it's still fun.

Reading:
- Nothing this month.


Currently... 
Playing (not all at once):
- (PS3): Borderlands 2 
- (DS): Legacy of Ys: Book I & II 
- (3DS): Bravely Default 
- (GBA): The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
- (PSP): Persona 
- (PSP): Crush
- (Wii): Fortune Street 
- (PS2): Atelier Iris 2
- (PC): UnEpic  
- (PC): King's Bounty: The Legend


Watching:
- (TV Show): The Walking Dead (Season 3) 
- (Anime): Yu Yu Hakusho (don't remember)
- (Anime): Shakugan no Shana (Season 1 -- Episode 19)
- (Anime): K-On! (Episode 1) 

Reading:
- (Manga): Judge by Yoshiki Tonogai 
- (Manga): Midnight Secretary by Tomu Ohmi (Volume 6)


That's it for May. The biggest thing was my trip to Japan. Man... why did I leave? I want to go back!! Hahaha. It looks like all the photos I took were of Japan, so I will not share them here -- look for them in my blogs on Japan! Instead, I will share a fan-made English version of a song I shared in an older entry.


Youtube video for a fan-made English version of "1/6 Out of the Gravity". 
The lyrics and voice are so nice!




Thanks for reading! Now back to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn... and continuing with my blogs about Japan. Wheee!! :D

Take care! :)

BLOG -- My trip to Japan -- ADVENTURE PART 2 (Akihabara, Ikebukuro)

Now on to Part 2 -- covering two of the most nerdiest areas we hit (and I say "nerdy" with tons of endearment, as usual :)).

To read Part 1 (my time in Asakusa, Meguro, and Odaiba), click here.


AKIHABARA

DAYS SPENT: 2

OVERALL THOUGHTS: This is indeed a nerd / otaku city, with so many nerd and electronic shops, as well as a number of arcades. There were a bunch of maid cafes, too.

PLACES VISITED:

Kotobukiya


This is a seven-floor nerd store selling various anime / video game merchandise like stationary, plushies, figures, CDs, DVDs, etc. They also had a small section dedicated to selling empty figure cases, which was nice. I needed an empty case, just to have a sturdy container to bring back some fragile-ish purchases.

Super Retro Potato-kan


This place specialized in selling used vintage video games. They also had a section for used video game music. I spent a lot of time in that section. :)

A shot of all the used retro games inside. I wish the games were in English!

Another shot. Look, Mother 2!

Mandarake Complex


This was a nine-floor emporium for a lot of otaku merchandise. At the time of this writing, I am not sure if this place carries only used merchandise or a mix of new and used merchandise. 

If given the chance, I could have spent an entire day there. One floor was devoted to figures / models; one floor to manga; one floor was also devoted to 18+ stuff and there was a sign at the entrance noting such (I didn't walk into that floor at all, lol). There was also a small floor devoted to cosplay and the doll dress up culture that's either growing or is already booming (I'm not in that culture so I'm not sure about its current status). The floor I could have spent a lot time in was (surprise surprise) the music CDs and gaming. I saw old used mini CD singles for 100 yen! 100 yen! I totally regret not picking up any now. :( I really like owning CD singles that contain instrumental tracks, and a lot of old CD singles have them.
  
Gachapon Kaikan

This was a place that had a ton of gachapon machines (capsule vending machines that contain a toy inside the capsule). It was really interesting to see the different kinds of toys available. There was even a machine that contained cell phone straps with a plastic potato chip replica attached. I ended up spending a good amount of money at this place.

Cospatio

This was two floors above Gachapon Kaikan and it was all cosplay stuff. It was really amazing to see so many different costumes and accessories. Unfortunately, the costumes were very expensive, ranging from 30,000 yen to way more. I ended up buying a few generic anime-designed glasses, a couple colour contacts (I better wear these before they expire!), and a clip on tie. 

Yodabashi Camera

This was a huge electronic / toy store. We mainly browsed around the floor with the figures / models / toys. It is definitely worth checking out for the figures / models.

Club Sega


This is an arcade. The interesting thing about arcades in Japan is that most (or all) of them have an area just for UFO catching machines (I call them the crane games). The machines are either filled with toys or have a couple of really nice figures or other merchandise (like an anime-themed towel or box of sweets), and you are supposed to direct a crane to the desired item and try to get the crane to move the item into the drop zone. I was very lucky to win an item from one of those machines, after losing so many times at other machines.

In the arcade portion, I played some Taiko Drum Master, this really cool rhythm game called maimai (I've never seen it before until now!), and this funny shooter / rhythm game called Sailor Zombie ~ AKB48 Edition (lol!).


The title screen for Sailor Zombie -- AKB48 Edition.

Opening video for Sailor Zombie -- AKB48 Edition. Such a crazy game!

Shot of me trying out maimai.

video
Video of me and my sister's fiance playing maimai. My sister was 
really ingenious with taking this video and not revealing how I look.

Look! I won something from the crane games. Wheeee!!!


Taito Station

This is similar to Club Sega, but we left quickly because of the cigarette smoke. In arcades, there are certain floors that allow smoking. For Taito Station, that smoking floor was the 2nd floor.

Gundam Cafe

This is a Gundam themed cafe. I'll go into more detail in my Japan Eats blog entry (link will be added once I post it).

Kikanbo


This is a ramen joint specializing in spicy ramen. I was hoping to have dinner here (for the regular non-spicy ramen), but the menu was completely in Japanese. Usually, that wouldn't be an issue, since you can always point at what you want. For Kikanbo, though, the menu was in the form of a machine where you select what you want, as well as what spice level you want -- not exactly point-friendly. So we left without experiencing it :(

A shot of the ordering system. I couldn't read all of it...

OTHER PHOTOS:
I just had to take this huge advertisement for the P3 movie DVD release.

A vampire-dining bar. We didn't go inside, but I could only imagine what would be there.

A shot of a maid cafe waitress waving from the 2nd floor.


IKEBUKURO

DAYS SPENT: 2

OVERALL THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed Ikebukuro a lot. To me, it felt like a more down-played nerdy area in comparison to Akihabara, having a lot more variety of shops. I think if I had to choose between the two, Akihabara would be for hardcore nerdy shopping, and Ikebukuro would be for lightness + less stressed nerdy shopping.

PLACES VISITED:

Uniqlo


This is a clothing store that my Japanese friend recommended we check out. It kinda made me think of a Japanese H&M store.

Animate


Similar to Kotobukiya, this was a 7-floor nerd emporium, carrying various anime and video game merchandise. They even had a floor completely devoted to manga and doujinshi, though the doujinshi was more geared towards a female audience (i.e. doujinshis with tons of HOT bishies). They also had a section just for drawing tools (pens, tablets, etc.). I spent a lot of my time browsing their anime / video game soundtrack section. I can't help but be drawn to all the music that I would usually import! lol.

Namco Namjatown


I was originally set on checking this food theme park out, but once we reached it and I saw the kind of foods featured on the menu, I was a bit turned off. I was hoping for a bunch of traditional snacks like taiyaki, takoyaki, dango... stuff like that. But the food generally looked cutesy and probably overly sweet. I may give it another shot the next time.

J-World


THIS... if you are a fan of Shonen Jump series like One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball, you gotta check this out! It is like an indoor amusement park with various attractions, a cafe area, a gift shop area, and themed decor. I LOVE One Piece so I definitely had to check it out. Admission that allowed unlimited entries into the attractions was 2900 yen. Totally worth it, in my opinion.

I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the actual attractions, but some of them were really neat. There were five different attractions in total. And for each attraction you do, you receive some kind of collector's medal. You can only receive one medal per attraction per day. It's definitely one way to get people to go back. ;)

One Piece Attractions
"Shiro Mokuba" Carousel -- Just a regular carousel ride. I got to sit on the carousel designed after Sanji (my favourite character in One Piece).

"Soldier Dock" Adventure -- This was a ride with light guns. At certain times, we were to shoot at coral symbols to unlock more... dialogue and video, I think. Unfortunately, everything was in Japanese, so I didn't understand anything. The last video was funny, though. And I enjoyed it!

Dragon Ball Z Attractions
Seek! "Dragon Balls"!! -- This was a really fun attraction where you are given a dragon ball radar, and you set the radar on specific spots to trigger short mini-games. If you win the mini-game, you gain a dragon ball. If you don't, you lose the chance, and you can't replay the game. As expected, all the instructions were in Japanese, so we just had to wing it or figure out what we were supposed to do. My sister and I ended up collecting all the dragon balls! :)

Shoot! "Kamehameha"!! -- This was really cool as well. It was a simulation of doing a kamehameha... while wearing 3D glasses! We were directed to our own room where we would stand at a specific spot and wear the 3D glasses. For me, it felt very real. There was one time when the area moved very quickly forward, and I ended up having my arms out, trying to "keep my balance" (even though I did not move from that spot at all). Ahhhh, I suck, hahaha. 

Naruto Attraction
A fierce fight! "Ninkai Taisen Emaki"!! -- This one was like an obstacle course, but I was very confused for the most part. We were given a booklet with English translations of all the dialogue and instructions of what to do for each spot, but I found that when we read it, we'd miss our chance to do the actual thing -- or it was too dark to read. ><


An area with masks. I see a mask I recognize!

These are pics of the different carousels and who they represent. Sanji's is the yellow one.

A corner with pics of Nami.

This just looked fun so I took a pic!

Is this from Soul Eater? I'm not sure. It looks cool though.

The entrance into Dragon Ball Z attraction.

A cool display. I wish I could have taken the time to try reading it.

Who is this guy? I don't remember from what series.
EDIT: It's Sataka no Gintoki from Gintama

A display for Prince of Tennis.

Another shot.

A character standee from... I don't remember / know which series.

Another character standee from that series.

Luffy from One Piece! I love One Piece! <3


video
When you first step into J-World, there are these video screens, and in the center are various Shonen Jump characters that you can touch. When you touch any of them, they pop up on one of the video screens and speak for a short time. After a while, a bunch of characters from the same series pops up and has a conversation.

This is the conversation with the characters from One Piece. I just had take a video of this. The conversation is entirely in Japanese.

TGIFriday

This is a restaurant with Western foods. I'll go into more detail in my Japan Eats blog entry (link will be added once I post it).

Lotteria

This is a hamburger joint. I'll go into more detail in my Japan Eats blog entry (link will be added once I post it).


OTHER PHOTOS:


A shot of these really nice steps to Sunshine City 
(where Namco Namjatown and J-World were located).

A shot the crane games I saw.




That's it for Part 2. Thanks for reading!! Next blog should be my last adventure blog in Japan: bumming around Shibuya and good old Shinjuku, the place you often run into when playing Shin Megami Tensei games.


If you have any questions or comments about the places I visited, feel free to comment! :)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

BLOG -- My trip to Japan -- ADVENTURE PART 1 (Asakusa, Meguro, Odaiba)

So... let's start with some temples, museums, and a couple miscellaneous spots.


ASAKUSA

DAYS SPENT: 1

OVERALL THOUGHTS: I was surprised to find a lot of people gathered around the temples -- adults and students alike (did the students have a school field trip? We went to Asakusa on a weekday morning, when they should have been in school... I think?). The temple area has quite the different architecture and greenery, which is noticeable once you walk into the neighbouring areas.

PLACES VISITED:

Nakamise Shopping Street


This is an area with a TON of shops -- so it was super crowded. The shops were mainly selling snack items, souvenirs, and other items like chopsticks, umbrellas, swords, sandals. It was nice to see all the variety. I bought a few things while there.

A cute trinket at one of the shops.

The front of Nakamise Shopping Street.

Sensoji Temple


Seeing this temple made me think back to watching anime. There was a large box at the front of the entrance where you could throw coins in and make a prayer. There was also a spot where you could do the omikuji (paper fortune) for 100 yen. With the omikuji you shake a container around (all the while with a question in mind) until a numbered stick comes out. You match the number on the stick to the number on the drawer and you pull out the drawer to receive your paper fortune. I did both activities. Not telling you what I prayed for nor the question I asked ;)

Group of girls making a prayer in front of the temple.

The container and stick for the omikuji. 
I got the number 13.

My fortune. Woot! I'm so happy.
If you want to read the text better, click on it.

If you get a bad fortune, you can tie it to this rack 
and pray that the bad fortune will be taken away.

There was also a spot with dragon statues spouting water and small pot-shaped ladles. There was a sign above indicating some kind of ritual. Looking at the people crowded around the area (most likely a mix of tourists and people who knew what they were doing), I wasn't sure what was the proper ritual. I still tried it anyway. 


The place with the water ritual.

Chingodo


I just had to take a picture of a shrine dedicated to the tanuki (raccoon dog).

Don Quijote


This is a huge department store. I guess it would be comparable to a Wal-Mart in North America.

Drum Museum


There was a 500 yen admission, and the museum itself is really small. But it was so worth it. It featured many different kinds of drums and some other instruments from around the world. The really cool thing is that many of the drums were playable! I went all over the museum, playing as many instruments as I could.

As we were about to leave, a couple other people visited the museum and they started doing a taiko drum piece! Really cool!

From this museum, I discovered a couple more instruments that were most likely used in the music for Mushi-Shi (the angklung and the gendèr).

OTHER PHOTOS:

A stand selling ice cream burger. If I wasn't partially 
lactose-intolerant, I'd have tried it!

I think this is a shrine for pigeons. 
On the left side of the stone is some musical score. 
I'd like to try playing it, lol.

This pic is taken at the entrance of Sensoji Temple, looking outward.

Another place with the water ritual.


MEGURO

DAYS SPENT: 0.5

OVERALL THOUGHTS: I didn't get to see much of Meguro, so I can't really give any overall thoughts. I visited Meguro mainly for two things.

PLACES VISITED:

Meguro Parasitological Museum


This is supposedly the world's only museum dedicated to parasites. It was really neat. All the different parasites (they were dead, in case you were wondering) were in jars, and there were some enlarged molds for others. The only unfortunate thing is that a lot of the text was in Japanese, though there were a few signs in English. I would totally go back there again :) 

Ganko Danko
 
This is a takoyaki stand located right across from the Meguro Parasitological Museum. I was curious if we'd be able to eat after visiting the museum. We were. :) I'll go into more detail about this place in my Japan Eats blog entry (link will be added once I post it).

OTHER PHOTOS:

Nice view from a bridge.

Not sure if you can see this well, but inside this supermarket close to the entrance is a 
section where you can buy some KFC packaged meals. At least, it looked like it to me.


ODAIBA

DAYS SPENT: 1

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Just like with Meguro, we traveled out to Odaiba mainly for one thing. I did have other things on my list (like a takoyaki museum and Sega's Joypolis), but I had a feeling we would miss them.

PLACES VISITED:

Gundam Front


I guess this would be THE museum to check out for Gundam fans. I haven't exposed myself to much of the Gundam series so this didn't do much for me. It was still pretty interesting to see all the gundam models and history.

Just so you know, the Gundam shopping area and the display area of a ton of Gundam figures do not require any admission to enter. Entry into the museum portion, though, was 1200 yen.

Shot of the gundam figure display. You can see this area without paying any admission.

Another shot of the gundam figure display.

And another.

And another. (This figure looks pretty cool!)

And another.

And another. That pose just called for a camera shot, lol.

This is inside the museum. If you pay about 3,000 yen, up to three people can stand 
at the cockpit area and they'll take a 2D and 3D picture of you from above. 
It kinda makes you look like you're manning the gundam, lol.

Here you can choose a gundam character and get your picture taken with him or her. 
I got my picture taken with Heero Yuy (I've only been exposed to Gundam Wing, so...). 
Make sure to bring a camera so you can take a picture! lol.

A shot of this light show thing. It started off kinda dull and boring, 
but after about a minute, it got really interesting!

Another shot of the light show.

Some character / scene sketches.

A bunch of gundam models.

MaidDreamin'
 
This is a maid cafe (yay, I got to check one out!). I'll go into more detail in my Japan Eats blog entry (link will be added once I post it).

OTHER PHOTOS:

Uh oh... a gundam has come to take over the world! This was outside Diver City.

Front shot of the gundam. It is quite tall.

I just think this looks cool!


That's it for Part 1. Thanks for reading! The next places I'll blog about are quite the nerdy spots: Akihabara and Ikebukuro. :)

If you have any questions or comments about any of these places I visited, feel free to say something in the comments box! :)