Retro Otaku’s Japan travel tips

Soba noodles

I don’t claim to be a guru about traveling over to Japan having only had the opportunity to visit last year for the first time, but figured I’d add something to the sea of information out there based on our experiences last year.

Language

Do not bark at people in English. While English is widely taught in school, it doesn’t mean everyone is suddenly completely fluent in it. In Australia most high school children learn a language, but that in no way guarantees they’ll be able to use it outside the classroom. If you’re traveling to Japan, read up on at least some useful phrases and grab an app for your smartphone/tablet or a pocket phrasebook so that you can express how amazing the ramen you just ate in a tiny neighbourhood eat-in really was. Japanese is built on phonetic patterns of vowels, and pay attention to softening said-vowels. Probably influenced by North American pronounciation, too many people seem inclined to harden their vowels when they speak the language – listen closely to when native speakers fire out the language and take some inspiration.

It probably won’t hurt to learn some hiragana and katakana as well (and if you’re feeling adventurous, add some kanji into the mix). Even if it’s just some basics – being able to read references to your choices of travel (100-yen shops, arcades [Game Centres], anime or manga stores, book shops, budo shops, ramen, takoyaki, okonomiyaki) will make it easier finding the places you always wanted to go visit and stumbling along other opportunities!

You’ll also find language will vary from location to location – Tokyo has a fair whack of English translations against its signage to make it easier to get around, though the further out you go it starts getting a bit more sparse (Ohta, where we visited the Sega building, didn’t have much English signage and both Miitaka and Takao were a bit limited in parts as well). We found that Kyoto needed a bit more attention when getting around in comparison, same with Hiroshima and Osaka. Don’t stress if you get lost though – the locals were always amazing when we asked for help, but just make an effort to meet them half-way by speaking a bit of Japanese ?

Food

Get adventurous when you go to Japan! Ramen, udon, sushi, takoyaki, izakaya fare, okonomiyaki – these are just scratching the surface of all the amazing food over there! While it’s fun to take some time to check out the Japanese take on Western cuisine and take-out food, don’t chicken out and miss out on the fun stuff. One of the most memorable meals while we were away was hitting the neighbourhood soba place near Sega in Ohta – the meals were less than $3 each and it was absolutely delicious! Beer is also delicious off the tap in Japanese pubs despite being dirt cheap, and keep in mind that a number of places will actually have a vending machine out the front you use to select and purchase your meals (including note and coin slots), then you take a seat and wait for your meal to be finished up, collect and then return to your table to tuck in (or they’ll bring it out to you). Feel free to try some unusual gear from the armies of vending machines dotted around cityscapes too, and indulge in Japanese iced tea (hint: they’re not loaded with sugar).

Crime and safety

Don’t be an arsehole and you’ll probably be fine in Japan. The place was incredibly safe compared to home – people would leave handbags and shopping on tables in food courts when they went off to grab food from one of the outlets, prams were left loaded with personal goods outside stores and in amusement parks without the need for supervision. It was a nice change from back home. While we didn’t push any buttons while we were over there and can’t speak from experience about getting out of trouble, if you find yourself in a bad situation be nice and polite. Do not be a tool and get drunk, pick a fight with the locals while being filmed and getting it uploaded into YouTube.

Appearance

Gaijin could do a bit better in Japan. I’m not saying you need to set the pace when visiting the likes of Shibuya or Harajuku, but don’t dress like you’ve just woken up and walked out the door in a pair of baggy trackies (sweat pants to those not used to the Australian vernacular) and a t-shirt that’s seen better days, or making your way around the Tokyo train system dressed like you’re heading out to climb a mountain in a third world country (I’m not kidding – spotted a guy in the Shinjuku Station cranking a small backpack with several water bottles and hiking boots dressed in khaki like he was about to leave civilisation). I certainly didn’t set any precedents over there so it might seem a bit hypocritical, but it’s as good an opportunity as any to take some pride in your appearance ?

Mind, I’m doing this from my perspective as a guy – my gender limits me to being in the thick of things with the same appreciation for social norms as the opposite sex, but the etiquette research beforehand and what we noticed over there suggests that legs are fine to show off and crazy heels are an amazing idea, but perhaps be a touch conservative with your chest for the daily grind. Mind, a plunging v-neck on a guy sporting a hairy hipster chest won’t exactly win you any awards (you might be able to get away with it if you’re making a statement in Yoyogi Park on a Sunday with a crepe though!).

The art of walking

Did you know that we don’t know how to walk in public? I guess when you have that level of population density it comes part of the routine. It doesn’t mean that everyone walks fast, it’s just everyone knows how to bob, duck and weave through the human sea and be comfortable with cramming into the subway in sardine-like conditions (which, to be honest, isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be). Just be prepared to go with the flow – it’s a pretty interesting experience and when you get home (assuming you don’t live in a super high-density city, which we haven’t noticed in little old Australia), it adds some perspective!

Inside voice

My speaking voice is loud. In Japan, you don’t speak loudly, so be considerate of others, and if I can get into the habit of not being a noisy pain in the arse, anyone can. This is especially prominent on trains – even when they’re packed, they’re quiet, at least in most cases (they were a bit noisier in Osaka!). By extension, note the decorum in public when it comes to your phone as well – don’t speak on your mobile phone when on public transport, but texting, listening to music and gaming’s okay as long as you’re wearing earphones or headphones. At least that’s what we noticed in our travels and from all the stuff plastered around the place.

Arcades

Here’s a tip – if you find yourself playing a round of Street Fighter, BlazBlue or Virtua Fighter against a fellow gamer and find yourself getting your arse handed to you on round 1, winning round 2, then getting torn apart in round 3, you actually weren’t amazing in round 2, you were being treated to some local hospitality (thanks Steve at Super Gaijin Ultra Gamer for the tip!). In addition, it’s a bit of a faux pas to take photos or videos in arcades over there (though Wifey took some photos and videos while I was gaming without incident). Just be subtle about it and be aware you’ll be asked to leave if staff catch you. The same goes for video game stores – I would have loved to have taken some video footage and recorded my nerdisms when wandering around Super Potato or Mandarake, but IIRC there are plenty of signs warning that photography is a no-no in shops as well.

Shopping

Customer service is pretty awesome in our experiences. Granted I didn’t understand everything at the checkout since my Japanese is a bit rubbish, but it was at least polite! The handy bit is that most cash registers will display the amount owing in Yen (I’m bad with numbers in Japanese!), but remember to use the little tray they provide to plonk your cash in. The operator will then take the cash, count it back, take the money and put the change in the plastic tray for you to take and you’re good to go.

This leads onto the next shopping bit – go with cash as your primary means of spending where possible. We found most of the 7-Elevens had ATMs that accepted foreign credit cards and we used our travel Visa cards to withdraw cash in chunks as we went through the trip. On a couple of occasions I was caught short (the one I remember most is in Mandarake in Akihabara on the second visit towards the end of the trip, who handily had credit card facilities), but most of the time cash sorted stuff out. The exception to this rule is with hotels (all accepted credit cards) and I’m pretty sure the big department stores will also take credit cards (well, Visa and MasterCards anyways).

Internet access

Wifi access was intermittent when we were over in Japan – some had free wifi, some had limited wifi access, some none. We didn’t have a lot of luck hopping onto hotspots while we wandered around the place, but at the same time internet access was a bit of an optional perk rather than a necessity when we were there.

However, if you want to get online in Japan, some of my friends (thanks Kate and Sly!) have suggested grabbing a pocket wifi device when you get into the country and use that. You’ll get access to Japan’s comparatively excellent (compared to Australia :P) mobile network speed/coverage and since it’s a pocket wifi device you can attach anything with a wifi connection (thus great for consoles, smartphones, tablets and laptops).

… well, that’s it for now. I’ve probably missed some stuff as I’ve gone back and added to this a couple of times already, but it’s been a while since I’ve written on the blog ? Hopefully this will mark a more sporadic blogging habit rather than the long awkward pauses over the last few months!

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 15 (final day)

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The final day was pretty subdued – we had a bit of a sleep-in before tackling packing everything away and making sure the weight was distributed evenly between the bags (at this point we had also paid for an additional bag of luggage for the trip home). Luckily we had one of those hand weighing devices you hang your bag from and it then calculates the weight, and we were at about 20-21kg each, which wasn’t too shabby when you consider the max we had was 23kg per bag (and we had three bags, plus carry-on luggage!).

After that we took the monorail back to the Bayside Station to grab a couple of things for Wifey from Bon Voyage we missed when we were at Disneyland. The trip was eventful (as always!) due to my misfortune of slipping on the pavement while walking to the store. Thankfully my fake leg simply folded underneath me at a freaky angle and took the brunt of the fall, so apart from a bit of water on my jeans and the horror of the girls behind me – from what I could understand they were a little freaked out due to the angle and speed of descent, and my apparent lack of concern upon standing up – no worries. Proves that it can be handy being an amputee sometimes ?

Anywho, we made it to the store without any other difficulties and grabbed some more gear to take home. Once we had finished we dashed back to the monorail station one last time to grab some ramen from one of the restaurants on the way, then it was back to the hotel to kill some time to wait for the shuttle bus (as we had arranged for late checkout, we could take our time with everything, which was a really great way to finish up the trip). Since the hotel had a Segafredo caffe in the lobby we enjoyed something light to kill the time – we’d oddly book-ended the trip when you consider the first place we grabbed a bite to eat and a drink from was a Segafredo near the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku!

The drive back to Narita on the shuttle bus was a little different compared to last time – when we first arrived there was an eponymous thrill seeing Japan unfold for the first time that I was in close physicality to its environment. As we exited the concrete jungle it was with the experiences that helped mold our understanding of the country and it’s people, even if seen through an undergrad anthropologist with an undiminished fascination and enthusiasm for the country.

With a distinct lack of pickups and comparatively light traffic as far as Tokyo goes, we got to Narita in plenty of time, which came in handy since we had a prolonged conversation when checking in our luggage as I was bringing back a wakizashi iaito sword pilules de viagra. The process was reasonably straightforward as my combination of English and Japanese helped explain the situation (I ended up describing it as an iaito no ken in case the attendant checking us in wasn’t aware of what an iaito was), and at that point we had to wait for a customs official to come over, look at the sword and test it before giving us the all-clear; as we walked off I noticed another staff member plonking on a big warning sticker advising of the suitcase containing an imitation sword. Handy.

Next up was getting through security, which was another interesting experience as my prosthesis sets off the alarms on metal detectors. Again, a combination of my Japanese and a little English saw us get through without too much trouble, and I have to say that the Japanese security personnel were fantastic with how courteous they were during the lengthy process. Customs followed, but that was nice and easy, then it came down to killing time in the duty free areas before settling in the lounge area next to the terminal gates and watching a soccer anime that seemed somewhat interesting. On the way through we also jumped into the duty-free stores and picked up some boxes of unusually flavoured Kit-Kats – matcha, hojicha, strawberry and I think something else… Japanese sweets are the best ?

Soon enough we were jumping on board with the other passengers bound for Sydney, with the flight being completely full this time around due to the sizable group of high school students on board for an exchange program with some lucky school back at home. The flight actually seemed to go a little faster this time – we had a very rocky and turbulent start, but after about 45 minutes we were generally pretty stable. I ended up killing some time watching a couple of TV shows on the in-flight entertainment system before settling in for some Chrono Trigger on my DSiXL, which happened to be my first time cranking it out since I bought it just over a month back to complement our launch-model DS – the improved screen size and clarity made it a joy to play.

After churning through some CT I played a bit of Sonic Rush before turning it off for being too punishing for my taste and loaded up Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, and then stopped playing that after about 15 minutes of running around not really remembering where I was up to with my old save data. The rest of the flight is a bit blurry – I managed to get a bit of restless sleep in here and there, watched a bit more TV, ate a little bit of food, that kind of thing. Props to the staff on the flight, too.

We arrived in Sydney only a little bit later than expected, grabbed our gear and headed through customs, where my baggage once again proved to be tricky as the Australian Customs agent had to take a look at the sword to test that it was okay to go, which also involved talking to a number of other personnel. The staff were courteous and polite though, and it helped that I could explain everything in my native language!

Once that was sorted we were off through the final stages of entering the country to put our luggage through, so we got to go through baggage inspection all over again as we transferred our luggage to our connecting domestic flight, but props to the Qantas staff for being really nice through the whole thing. Thankfully the sword was easily accessible underneath a pile of nerd stuff wrapped in bags and a couple of t-shirts bought in H&M in Osaka.

From there it was off to the domestic terminal to kill some time (and we also managed to catch up with my Dad, who happened to have some time in Sydney airport between flights the same morning owing to some work commitments), then before we knew it we were boarding the domestic flight, which seemed amusingly minuscule compared to the larger aircraft you jump on for international flights.

In a couple of hours we were back home, safe and sound, with all our luggage and the usual fatigue and smelliness inherent to traveling over a period greater than 24 hours. Nothing a shower and an early night couldn’t fix though ?

… and that’s about it! Japan was an amazing adventure and certainly fulfilled my ongoing desire to visit a country alien yet pop-culturally familiar. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the journey in blog-form, and maybe one day I’ll be fortunate enough to visit again ?

If you’ve enjoyed the blog and want to view all the images in one spot, the full gallery is at Image Galleries – 2012 Japan trip. I’ll also be going through what I have and put some 1080p wallpapers together too, but I’m not sure off the top of my head how long that’ll take me to sort out! I’ll be sure to update the blog once I’ve uploaded them.

I’m also planning on doing a follow-up post containing some general tips for fellow gaijin who haven’t traveled to Japan before or are considering planning a trip. It certainly won’t be definitive, but will contain a good chunk of some things I learned throughout the process that others may find useful too.

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 14

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Monday was Wifey’s day on the trip, though to be honest it was a pretty amazing day for me too! We had the day singled out for a trip to Disneyland, a short monorail trip from the hotel, and the day was awesome. The weather held up well, and the whole experience was amazing, especially for my other half.

We started off by calming down from the overwhelming awesome of the whole thing and tucking into amazing chocolate churos, and from there we hit the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

After the ride, which hosted all sorts of cool animatronics and voice samples from the movies (well, the first three – still haven’t seen the fourth entry), we had worked up an appetite by… standing in a line for 15 minutes and then sitting down for another 5-10 minutes while on the ride. Thus to celebrate, we headed next door-ish to eat more food, this time sharing a Mickey Mouse waffle head.

Next up we headed over to the Stitch show, passing a show in the amphitheater with colourful dancers and Mickey and Minnie playing to an army of parents and kids. Probably the most impressive part was the wall of prams just sitting unsupervised near the entrance, valuables and all hanging off everything. Gotta love Japan – back home I suspect this wouldn’t happen for fear of theft, or the gear would be under constant supervision. Mind, we noticed that around the traps as well – when we hit the Universal City Walk in Osaka we saw plenty of instances where prams were left outside store entrances with purses and shopping bags hanging off them unattended while the parent(s) shopped in the store. Maybe it’s a bit sad I found this so surprising. Go Japan 🙂

Anywho, we continued to check out the Stitch show, which was an animatronic thingo with parrots trying to coax Stitch out to sing a song… or something. It was good fun (I’m a big fan of the original Lilo and Stitch movie), and it was nice that the guide also provided a pair of screens that had subtitles of the show in English for us.

Once again, we needed to take a stop on the way to our next destination to get more food. This time we opted for a yummy steamed pork bun, which looks entirely unappetising in this photo but was actually full of yum porky goodness.

From there it was off to see the greatest movie ever dedicated to celluloid, Captain EO (starring Michael Jackson as the titular Captain), and for all my childhood 80s dreams come true in a single movie experience. I think for anyone else in the world (including Wifey) it was a glorified music video with elaborate costumes and a daft storyline courtesy of the creative team behind the tech-demo experiment (George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Jackson), including 3D visuals (as in, the kind where you wear silly glasses and are a waste of time and effort outside kitschy stuff like this) and other dimension-breaking tidbits (the chairs vibrated and blew air at you during key scenes in the movie for the sake of immersion). For me, this was 80s gold wrapped up in a delightful package of equal parts cheese and awesome.

My life complete, off we went to line up for over an hour to check out Splash Mountain (impressive for me since I usually wuss out when it comes to rides), and happened to be on the same cart as a group of high school boys who reminded me of my brother Tank and his mates Jyasutin-kun and Buu Adam if they were Japanese and still in high school (as opposed to being Australian and now in their mid-late 20s :P).

After Splash Mountain we manoeuvred through the crowd enjoying the end of the day parade to the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall for a Japanese take on Western food – a heart-shaped burger patty with a heart-shaped slice of salami on top, some steamed veggies and a tomato-based sauce, along with some layered cheesecake for desert. Oh, and some yummy Kirin Apple-based soft drink thingie too. Kirin makes everything tasty. I miss Kirin beer on tap. It was not only cheap, but delicious.

Beer aside, with bellies sorted, we headed off to the Nightmare Before Christmas-themed haunted house which was all kinds of awesome (only a 45 minute wait for that one), which was actually a lot of fun (not sure I used “actually” in there, as the whole theme park was absolutely brilliant). You walked along through a haunted house which I had a bit of trouble following since it was all in Japanese (I was trying to translate what I could as we went along to Wifey, but probably did an arse job of it), but after that you hopped onto these cool seats on a monorail that swiveled and zoomed around this awesome representation of scenes from Nightmare Before Christmas, and being a big fan of anything Tim Burton does, this was great fun, especially for Wifey as she absolutely adores that movie!

After finishing up we strolled across to the Tea Cup ride, where we only had a 15-minute wait! We found a cup for the two of us and found out when we jumped on that you twist the wheel in the center of the cup to make it spin faster or slower. I started off being sensible, but then I got carried away and made it spin fast enough to make Wifey feel a bit blergy. Go me.

After taking a moment to let Wifey’s stomach settle, we picked up some popcorn and headed over to Toon Town! Aside from wandering around we headed over to the Who Framed Roger Rabbit ride (which was all sorts of awesome after an hour wait). The line for this ride was really great, as you wound through all these set pieces from the movie, and everything was in English which was handy for us, but probably not as much for everyone else!

After we finished up we wandered around Toon Town a bit more (by this point it was getting really dark), including stopping at Minnie’s House, hanging out in Goofy’s car and walked around to try and work out what to do next as the night parade was starting to get closer, so lining up for an hour, jumping on a ride, then scrambling madly to find somewhere to check out the parade was far from an ideal scenario as we really wanted a good spot to enjoy the night festivities.

I’m pretty sure we grabbed some popcorn after enjoying a little bucket of fries and decided to take in Cinderella’s castle and take a moment to enjoy the views from up high of the park rolling into the evening. After that I proceeded to drag us around the park for at least 15 minutes trying to work out search for something for dinner, eventually settling on some pizza from the Galactic Pizza joint, themed after Buzz Lightyear. Despite the dodgy photo, it was actually really nice!

We took our dinner back to the main strip to find a seat in the middle of the route and right at the front to enjoy the parade which was going to start in about 45 minutes, then the night spectacular hit in full swing. Lots of shinies everywhere, it was really awesome. I ended up giving our point and shoot a bit of a workout and loaded up the SD card with some 1080p footage which was pretty fun, as the show was absolutely spectacular.

After the parade it was time to grab something else to eat and drink and take a seat to enjoy the fireworks in one of the eateries close to the main entrance, then we were off to do some souvenir shopping to help out Uncle Walt’s legacy before taking a short monorail and shuttle bus back to the hotel.

Overall, the day was amazing and spectacular. The only issue is that there’s just too much to see and do for one day, so if we were to do things again, we’d definitely allocate two days to check the place out and get a chance to go on all the rides and eat more theme park food. All in all, it was a spectacular way to finish up the trip!

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 13

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We intended to start Sunday’s shopping finale by getting away at 9am. Sadly, an amazingly comfy bed encouraged us to take it a bit easier and by the time we found our way to Harajuku it was closer to midday 😛

The Harajuku run started with a trip to the bargain store Daiso. We had been making a habit of dropping into ¥100 stores during the trip for bargain hunting/amusement, so a multi-story Daiso packed into Harajuku was, not surprisingly, amazingly good fun! We grabbed a few more goodies for ourselves and friends and family back home while we were there for a ridiculously cheap cost, including stacks of Japanese lollies and chocolates to enjoy when we got home!

From there we wandered to the tip of Otomesando-dori to grab a crepe and go cosplay hunting. Sadly we only found one pair of cosplayers (not sure if we were in the wrong spot in Harajuku or maybe we were too early in the day), so we headed over to Yoyogi Park to watch the locals relaxing on a Sunday and the rockers showing off their amazing pompadours.

It was really cool to spend a little bit of time chilling out and watching what the locals were up to on a Sunday – a guy was playing a guitar on a bench under some shade, groups of teens were playing badminton and soccer, and in the distance we saw a group of people dancing it up. Young families were out with their kids and dogs, but everyone was just relaxed and enjoying the sunshine and awesome weather.

After polishing off a bite to eat, it was time to jump back on the Yamanote Line to visit Shibuya. While there Wifey did some much-needed shopping and we also hopped down to the Bingo second hand clothing store located in the basement of the Shibuya Book Off we visited when we were in Tokyo previously to see if anything interesting had found their way to the shelves in our absence.

After dodging the hordes of gaijin and the impressive cache of locals (and getting some photos of some street art down one of the side alleys, JSR-style!), we were back on the Yamanote line for our last portion of the shopping day – Akihabara Mk. 2!

For this run I dropped Wifey off at the Caffe Excelsior opposite the UDX building (passing what looked like a group of protestors bearing cosplay outfits and someone who was wearing a Gundam mask) and started the final hunt.

First stop was Gamers, a place I’d wanted to visit since getting on the DiGi Charat train back in 2000. Sadly, the multi-floor building was a disappointment, catering to the creepy otaku with long pillows with arrays of moe (including selected pillows with squishy bits for the characters’ breasts), porn, DVDs and BRDs, more porn, cosplay, and a bit more porn. Bummer.

With a hasty exit I figured I’d visit Kotobukiya (we stumbled across it when running the maid gauntlet during our last trip – it’s close to Super Potato!) and then check out the Hard Off I missed next to Mandarake during the previous visit. Because I’m special, I promptly got lost for 15 minutes before finding my way back to Hard Off/Mandarake (should have listened to my initial instincts and walked where I thought I needed to go).

Kotobukiya proved to be great fun for this second round of shopping (picked up some anime stuff), but the trip to Hard Off wasn’t worth it, as it specialised in audio equipment and little else. While this wouldn’t be a bad thing in ordinary circumstances (while I don’t know a lot, I enjoy looking and learning about amplifiers and what-not), I was trying to go as fast as possible because I was conscious of not being too much of a pain in the rear since Wifey was at this stage getting to the end of the coffee/cake set at Excelsior.

So I jumped next door to Mandarake, this time appreciating the slight price increase in Akiba vs Nipponbashi. That being said, there was also plenty there I couldn’t find in Akihabara, and Mandarake is generally a very easy to use store for nerdy stuff. I ended up grabbing a handful of gear for the PSone, Saturn (including Street Fighter Zero 3!), Mega Drive, Mega CD and Super Famicom; SFZ3 was the most expensive at around ¥7,000, the rest of the gear was pretty reasonably priced, especially the PSone games. I managed to nab Keio Yugekitai for the Mega CD in great condition complete for around ¥1,300, so that was pretty cool too!

After finishing up there I texted Wifey and picked her up, then dropped past the Tokyo Anime Centre just up the escalators on the second level of the UDX building to see if we missed anything (picked up an awesome Macross t-shirt!), then off we went to have a look at Liberty and Traders 1, 3 and 4, all of which came up blanks for anything other than current gen systems of PS2/PSone, and at this stage I had crossed both of them off my to-get list owing to a lot of success grabbing titles for them in the wild.

This then led us back to Super Potato for some more nerding – I grabbed a couple of Dreamcast, Saturn and possibly also some Super Famicom gear (memory is a bit hazy!). With Super Potato sorted, we then went to the Sofmap wedged between the two Club Sega arcades on the main strip. The reason for the extra trek was to nab a cheap DS Lite (¥2000) as they were getting rid of them nice and cheaply (this one was in great shape physically, it just needs the fuses replaced which is pretty easy to do).

We finished up by heading into Club Sega where I played a round of Virtual On Oratario Tangram on a dedicated cab, then a couple of rounds of Super SF2: Hyper Anniversary Edition, where I got owned by someone using an M. Bison/Vega exploit by timing the psycho crusher to hit when I got up without the chance of blocking.

Normally this kind of play would piss me off, but I managed to get a few hits in before I got taken out in a succession of cheap shots, and playing against someone in an arcade in Japan was still a thrill at this stage so it didn’t really bother me 🙂 We left via the bottom floor where I failed to win a plushie from one of the crane games (got close though!) but took a couple of the Sega plushie bags as a souvenir from the trip 🙂

So with the shopping out of the way, we hit the subway and braved the rush to head back to Maihama and grabbed some delicious home-style pork and fried rice from one of the vendors before heading home.

The early night didn’t really happen, but it still made for an entertaining day 🙂

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 12

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We were up early and rearing to go in order to catch an early train to start our commute back to Tokyo, with the added challenge of an extra full sized piece of luggage in addition to our two existing pieces. With the help of a generous baggage strap I hauled two of the luggage cases (each weighing a fair bit a this point!), with Wifey carrying the other. We ended up walking from the hotel to catch the train from the Universal City Station to Osaka Station, transferring from there to catch another train to Shin-Osaka, then from there we boarded the Shinkansen to go to Tokyo Station.

Once we arrived we found our way to the Keio Line and hauled are arses down to catch the rapid train that dropped us off at Maihama, with some signage confirming that we were walking a kilometer or two in the train station as we made our way to where we needed to go. We exited the train to the trill of Disney-themes on the PA, then wandered down to the Bayside Station to jump on the monorail (giving our Pasmo IC cards a wake-up run), then walked from the stop to our final destination, the Hilton Tokyo Bay. If we used our brains a little bit more by this stage we could have waited a couple of minutes to catch the shuttle bus, but we saw the pearly lights of the hotel and walked over to it without thinking.

Since we arrived prior to the room being available we left our extensive pile of stuff and headed back out into the city to do some more shopping. The original plan was to finish up the souvenir shopping in Harajuku with a combination visit of the Oriental Bazaar and Daiso, but with culture day happening on this day, we ended up only getting to the Oriental Bazaar. After a thrilling/exhausting fight through the human sea that was choking up everywhere from the train station to well past the bridge, we crossed to hit up the Bazaar.

The Oriental Bazaar made for an awesome stop to grab some souvenirs for ourselves and friends/family back home. Prices were pretty reasonable and we picked up some fantastic goodies. It was a bit embarrassing seeing some of the other gaijin mulling about being loud and obnoxious (there were at least a couple who were getting antsy that not all the store staff could speak English), so we did our best to get what we were after and tried our best Japanese wherever possible – one of the ladies who helped track down a happy coat for Wifey said she thought it was very nice of me to use Japanese to practice while shopping in there. Gotta love those nice touches 🙂

By the time we were done the sun was beginning to set, so the combo of human sea and an early start encouraged us to head home since the train ride combinations were going to take 30-60 minutes before we made it to the hotel.

By the time we arrived at the Maihama Station our bellies were ready for some love, so we ducked into the food court in the shopping complex next to the monorail station to fill up on some delicious udon before heading back to our hotel. This time we were entirely sensible and waited at the bus stop at the bottom of the escalator to grab the shuttle bus back to the hotel.

The shuttle buses are an amazing homage to the classic chrome beasts of many years ago, although once you step on board they seem to behave like any modern bus, so nice and clean with air conditioning! Once the door closes Mickey greets you in Japanese which was hilarious because it just came out of nowhere, and it was only a few moments until we arrived at the hotel.

Things got a little interesting here, as the room arranged for us was a smoking room (even though we had stipulated a non-smoking room in our booking). After some discussion with the staff (a little tricky as my Japanese + English combination was fraught with incoherency), they were able to secure us a room at no extra charge that was in the non-smoking section. The catch was that it was on the same floor as all the family rooms, but that didn’t bother us at all. We got the access card and the porters arranged for our luggage to be brought up (very fancy by our standards!!), and lo-and-behold if we didn’t manage to get an awesome/amazing themed bedroom!!

Wifey was absolutely thrilled as she was secretly hoping the room was going to be themed, so it was a really nice way to finish up our first day on the final leg of the trip.

While the day wasn’t as productive as we hoped (it presented the challenge of adding in a trip to Daiso the next day, but we’re always up for a challenge :)), it was still good fun and the hotel made for an amazing way to rest and relax after a big day of travel.

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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