1 01 2009





Finally, Some Initial: D Version 4 action for you all!

5 01 2008

Earlier today I took a little video for you all and edited it up. Ta-da!

I added English subtitles but at YouTube’s video quality they pretty much get lost, so follow the link below for translation. (in the video description sidebar)

As you can see, even though I don’t have my 240SX to drive here in Japan I’ve gotten decent at driving it in a game. Too bad I’m not really this fast, haha! Keeping it real for you guys stuck on version 2 and 3. And I will never play version 2 or 3 again because the way of driving is completely different. More on that at the bottom of this entry.

Props to Tsry, Zeke, Isaiah, Kyle, Buckler, Josh, and anyone else who’s given me a good race in the past. And also to Japanese Version 4 Racer D・S, who I battled to many boost off complete losses when I was a B3 rank and now am running pretty much even with (boost off) at A3 or A2 rank depending on how my luck goes with rivals.

As for the ranking system: Initial: D Version 4 uses a letter+number ranking system. The lowest level is D and within it are 1, 2, and 3. So D3 (worst D rank), D2, and D1 (best of D rank). The Letters go from D, C, B, A, S, and finally after S1 is SS. SS is a class by itself and has no number ranks.

Unlike the previous game’s star level, you can only earn or lose ranks through versus battles. To be specific, only through online multiplayer battles. You don’t gain anything from battling the guy next to you. All opponents are randomly chosen and are usually within one rank of you. At worst a C3 may face a C1, but usually it’s vs a D1/C2 or another C3. The online battles are All-Japan, as are the time trials. At the end of your run in a time trial it will tell you how you placed against every other Japanese I:Dv4 time attacker on that course/condition. Pretty cool. So anyway, when it says that I’m A3 in the video, it means that through battling people all over Japan at random, that’s how I stack up. I was A2 earlier today when the video was made, but had some bad luck and lost that rank before I recorded this.

By default boost is always on and it’s much stronger in this version in my opinion. AKA you can get beaten by scrubs who are only good at blocking, which is something anyone would use to win at the last second, but lame when someone slower than you uses it for an entire race. Unlike previous versions where I could talk to my opponent in the flesh and specify that I only want to do boost off battles the online multiplayer feature takes away that ability and 75% of the time it’s a boost battle. Meaning 75% of the time it comes down to a blocking battle. As those of you who have raced with me know, I hate blocking and being blocked so this fact led to alot of frustration as I was beginning and still does now and then. I’d much rather lose to a faster driver than win by blocking him. On the other hand I’ve developed a style that tends to rely on passing from behind in a place where boost will not allow the opponent catch up by the goal line…still depending on their blocking skills it can end up resulting in a loss from not trying to pass earlier.

For future versions I hope they give the player a decision to go to one of two “rooms” when choosing online multiplayer battle. One a boost-on room, and one a boost-off room. Simple as that. Having boost default to off is too non arcade-like to expect that to occur.

As for the driving differences, here’s a few quick ones:

1) You can understeer from trying to turn too much and too fast at the same time. Even a full tuned car will do this, but it’s only an issue on the 2nd course (most of the course cause it’s a high speed one) and certain turns on the other courses. Still, as you get faster it will continue to come up.

2) You drift in this game. Getting the countersteer right isn’t hard because the game physics are very kind. If you look in the hairpins I’m turning the wheel into the turn as much as possible just like V2 or V3…but in plenty of turns you have to countersteer. This is the main reason I can’t play V2 or V3 after this. But if I get my hands on a V4 machine at any point I should be pretty competitive, even in a 180SX which is historically a pretty lame car for the latter courses. ^_^

3) You can lose speed when cornering. If there’s one thing that’s not realistic in previous versions it’s going into a series of turns full throttle and turning through them, picking up speed the whole way. That never happens. In this game you can actually gain speed by taking a line closer to a straight one at times, and you can lose speed by gripping a turn you should be drifting or drifting a turn you should grip. The degree of grip:drift changes depending on the corner, course condition, and drivetrain of the car. Car balancing seems pretty good for the most part, as in V2/V3 the 180SX was extraordinarily slow in the turns (for me) but it drives about the same as the S2K which I thought drove fine and I’ve beaten and been beaten by pretty much every kind of car in the game at some point or another.

4) You can understeer mid-corner from entering too fast. This one is especially hard because you are usually countersteering and when you let off the gas the car will whip in the direction of the countersteer if you aren’t very careful. It still seems like the gas is an on/off switch despite being a pedal though, so in my opinion it’s about being able to get the angle you need when letting off the gas (from the whip) and then get on it again (back into the understeer) to keep you from whipping too much and hitting the wall. Adjusting the steering may be faster but it takes longer and with the courses narrow-ish the throttle-off whip, throttle on that tends to be the option I choose if I get caught in an understeer. Of course in reality it’s a bit of both.

5) Boost is strong. This is great cause you can use it to beat people you shouldn’t even be able to consider keeping up with. The following point is not to brag, but it’s lame when this is used against you and back when I was a D and C rank there were few times the opponent would have kept up with boost off. B rank was a little faster. A rank has plenty of people who know how to get the most out of the game engine but in the end they’re generally more comfortable with boost on so I don’t have a good idea yet about how fast they are. Generally if someone opts for boost off before a battle it’s going to be fun.

Well, that’s my write up for Initial: D Arcade Stage Version 4. Hope you enjoyed it, and maybe after awhile I’ll put a real entry up. Sorry about the delay folks, the winter break has kept me busy. Hope everyone had a happy holiday season!

Et tu, Brute?; or Becoming Immortalized in Print

18 11 2007

Let me start out by saying there’s this fairly popular (Japan only) magazine called Brutus. It’s a men’s magazine that deals with culture, lifestyle, fashion, etc. By the looks of it you might guess it’s aimed at the Tokyo-ites of Japan and it probably has a touch of highbrow to it. Regardless it’s very well known in Japan and I think they’re on issue 618 or so, so it’s been around for more than a few years. It’s actually a very interesting magazine from a design standpoint. Like any magazine, they have standard sections which are the same throughout. Also like any magazine, they have special features or coverage which changes each issue. One of the unique ways they handle this is by changing the look and feel of the whole magazine to suit each special feature. Basically, they have one big theme every issue which determines the special features and those two things combined determine the look of the cover. As for the inside, well I imagine it stays more similar but changing everything about the cover of your magazine save for the masthead (Logo which reads “Brutus” in this case) is pretty neat. Also every page of the magazine has an interesting design style and rarely does a column resemble a newspaper article. Taking a look at the covers of several past issues will illustrate my point:


There you have it. It barely looks like the same magazine in a way. I think it’s impressive that they’ve managed a uniform non-uniformity; but then again I’m probably saying that comparing this magazine to a far less artsy mag such as Grassroots Motorsports. They have no need to look avaunt-guard.

Another point that is similar to any other magazine is that they have photographers and photographer’s assistants.

Now, on a separate note I have another background story for you. In America I studied Japanese language for four semesters. The classes in America were a fair bit of fun and in my case actually involved learning from 2 different professors; both of whom were talented, encouraging, and knowledgeable about the subject. All throughout the second half of my training in Japanese I really began to enjoy the fun of conversation in a foreign language and class was almost always a blast. As I became better I started to think about going to Japan to study abroad and slowly my mindset changed to reflect that. Also the people I hung around and joked with also began to accept the idea and by the time I was a senior I was always saying I’d become a famous TV star if ever I went to Japan. The professor along with pretty much all the other students seemed to share this opinion, knowing that I’m just that kind of character. Though really I think most of my friends were expecting more along the lines of me becoming notorious; and that it would probably involve a car, a mountain road, and possibly the police for a brief chase scene. As it happens, it was in a completely different way that I would become a local noteworthy. Though for everyone’s information I have, in fact, appeared on Japanese television at an art exhibit. I didn’t even know they filmed me (I saw the crew) but some friends saw it and told me about it later. I didn’t think that was quite cool enough to count though so I pressed on with my quest.

And finally the two stories conjoin.

I was walking through Tokyo one day, minding my own business when a guy about my age materialized from out of the crowd of pedestrians and came up alongside me, asking in sufficient enough English if I could speak sufficient enough Japanese. I answered in Japanese and we proceeded to have a most interesting conversation. This fellow was a photographer’s assistant for a certain famous Japanese magazine by the name of…you guessed it, Brutus. As a graphic designer I was interested in talking with him about his magazine work as soon as I heard this, but the conversation took a different route. Apparently unsure of what little Japanese I’d shown him, as he was doing most of the talking, he explained in English that he was “hunting the model.” After dispelling the many one-line joke responses that came to mind I got him to explain in Japanese which turned out to be a fair bit easier to understand. Sure enough he was looking for the next issue’s models and he was curious if I’d be interested in putting my name in the hat. I said sure and we exchanged contact info. He then took a snapshot of me to show to his boss and we talked about the pay, the schedule, and what, roughly, would be going on.

Apparently the upcoming issue was going to be on literature and poetry; the article in question on the aforementioned among university students and young adults. He showed me an example of a previous issue and it’s theme plus an article or two. I also explained that I lived in Japan but coming to Tokyo was a bit expensive. We decided we’d talk more about the pay depending on whether or not the photographer for the article wanted me to model or not. I went about my business and about a week and a half later he got back to me. Sure enough I was the man for the job. We talked through email and over the phone (thank you skype) a few times about more specifics and got everything locked in. I then haggled successfully over the price and got myself a pretty nice raise, and when the appointed day came around I headed to Tokyo again. We met at a certain station on the Chuo line in between Shinjuku and Akiba (Akihabara). There was another white guy who seemed to be waiting around; he ended up being a model too. Finally our ride showed up and took us to the place we were shooting at. I introduced myself to the cast and crew and then we got started.

They gave me a nice but kind of preppy outfit; I sort of thought I looked like a model for a Gap or Levi’s ad…or for the local fraternity. I had a couple of assistants who made sure all my clothes were tucked in or out just enough after I got dressed. We were shooting in an auditorium with a stage. They had a podium and a mic up and got me all set up there. Some other models whom I greeted were going to be the audience for the shot. It only took 3 people and the right camera angle to make it look like there was an audience. For the shoot they had me read poetry to them aloud from a book. It was funny because as they were getting the proper light levels for the cameras I didn’t have anything to do but stand there looking cool. So I decided to ask if they wanted to hear a presentation. They sort of laughed and said sure why not, so I gave them an alternate version of my presentation from last semester on Japanese amateur motorsports contra American ones. I covered the gist of gymkhana/autocross and drift events but left out the circuit comparisons. In any case they were about ready before I finished so I wrapped it up with a quick sentence and we got down to business. They took plenty of shots while I was reading into the book and also looking out into the audience. The book, unlike everything else that day, was in English so it was an easy read and my natural public speaking abilities did a good job. Everyone there was actually impressed and one assistant asked if I was into poetry or something after the shoot. Everything went like a breeze and we wrapped up. I changed back into street clothes and we all hung out for a bit on break before the next model (one of the guys in the audience in my shot) got changed and they went to another room to do his shoot.

While hanging out we talked about their mag a little bit and I thanked them for letting me get a unique perspective of the magazine creation process; as a graphic designer I would usually be the one setting up the page and the text and the photos that the photographer would give me but this time I was seeing how the photo process worked in detail. Eventually they headed back in. I was given a ride back to the station, hung around Tokyo for a bit with my pay and headed home. I saved most of it and tossed it into a Japan fun fund. In the end I got a unique experience, pay which more than covered the time spent traveling and the cost of travel, and I was immortalized in a famous Japanese life and culture magazine. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

When the issue came out they mailed me a copy and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t even an article in the sense that it had writing. It was merely a four-page section where the magazine promoted style and fashion relevant to the theme. In short, I had a whole page dedicated to just me, reading poetry and showing off some cool fashion. It wasn’t quite my style of fashion, but I guess I could pull it off if Brutus thought so, haha.

A few days later I was approached by a Japanese friend whom I didn’t mention it to and he said he saw me in the magazine. Before long I was a little Kofu celebrity among everyone I knew and some I didn’t; which lasted for about a month (this all actually happened over the summer; surprise!) and once or twice someone would say hi and I wouldn’t even know them; only to find out they heard I was this Tokyo fashion model and they saw it from a buddy or something.

And there you have it; I set out to Japan saying I’d become famous. I’m not at all famous, but if you look in the right famous magazine you just might see my face. Until next time I’ll keep working on that TV star part.

Tokyo Game Show 2007

7 11 2007

Just a note, I’m a little bummed out at the moment so this post in retrospect will probably make Tokyo Game Show sound a bit lackluster. It wasn’t. It was pretty good, not amazing (because of my interests being a little different than when I was in high school and gaming for all I was worth) but a pretty good time. I had fun and if I could decide again I’d definitely go again. Alright, on with the review!

Running a bit late on the updates, so here’s my fairly irrelevant recap of Tokyo Game Show 2007, which will henceforth be called TGS. Getting things off to the classic start, Bob knocked on my door one evening and told me he was going to see if tickets for TGS were still for sale as we’d both completely forgotten about it with the other busy-ness of the summer that was going on at the time. I though about it for a little bit-somewhat undecided-and finally came up with the conclusion of “you only live once” so I told him to grab a ticket for me as well. There were still some left so the next day or the day after we were on a bus making our way to Shinjuku yet again. Going to Tokyo has began to feel somewhat like an everyday thing to me. It takes 2 hours though, which is pretty boring since I’m not driving and the bus isn’t the most comfortable passenger craft ever.

We arrived and probably did some things, but the main point was arriving in Chiba to meet Bob’s friend Joey with whom we were staying during the weekend to save on hotel rent and also time as Chiba was in a relatively convenient location compared to TGS. Even though it’s called Tokyo Game Show it’s actually held in a prefecture next to Tokyo, so commuting from Tokyo would be a bit of a pain. We had some food, hung out, and stayed up too late before crashing and getting ready to start our TGS experience.

The next day we got moving a little late. I didn’t sleep well at all and was probably a bit irritable. A little bit of food and drink quieted any negative vibes coming from me and we traveled along in a very crowded train to TGS’ location in some big ass convention center. I’m glad we were late as getting in a line a few hours before the doors open just so I can get into the line for game X right away is just not meaningful to me. I’d rather wait out in the sun and heat for 20 minutes getting in and then hop into a 2 hour line than wait for 2 hours and 20 minutes out in the heat and sun to have first dibs on something. In any case it turned out to be such a big event and it didn’t feel very crowded either. The end result was not much waiting in line coupled with not waiting hours to get in either. Pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I think the longest line I faced was maybe an hour and a half. If it was much more than that I didn’t really feel like putting up with it.

Bob and I started by cruising around a little and getting the feel of the event. However at almost every turn was someone giving out some sort of free promotional item. Most of the time you’d end up with a small pamphlet of sorts that was basically just an advertisement and nothing worth keeping, but maybe a third or fourth of the time it’d be something nifty…or at least something that could work as a poster without looking like an advertisement hanging on the wall. Although not heavy things began to grow cumbersome quickly and so we spotted some people carrying nice large bags around that were obviously also freebies. After a quick inquiry we were on our way and soon had a gigantic bag to put our swag into.

From there I suggested we try to see just how much free stuff we could lay our hands on and not put too much priority in waiting in line yet. Bob was game for the idea so we set about collecting something from every booth that didn’t involve making serious effort or waiting more than 15 minutes. The bags puffed out with all the stuff we were carrying and every time I scored a neat poster-ish thing or a fan I grinned. We collected quite a bit of poster-y things. Also popular were the aforementioned plastic fans with various games’ artwork printed onto them. Completely synthetic so not as cool as a traditional fan; at least they had both form and function.

A few places gave out an actual DVD with some free MMORPGs or promos for their games and such. I also picked up some Final Fantasy Anniversary postcards and a little journal. MGS:4 was out in force with a playable demo and everything.
I spent a good bit of time hypnotized in front of their impressive trailers; which anyone interested has surely seen by the time of this writing. I got to see Kojima come out and do a little talk show thing about it which was cool. For the rest of it I was either waiting in some line cause Bob was interested or just strolling around and taking in the sights; paying a game here and there to spice it up.

It’s been awhile since then and much cooler things have happened so you’ll have to accept a list of interesting moments and choice swag as a wrap up. The second day was more of the first with an emphasis on less swag and more gaming. I put up quite a healthy number of pictures in the gallery so I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Choice Swag:

New Guilty Gear Poster

FF6 Postcards

New FF Tactics inspired notebook

Random game’s anime art mousepad

Custom iPod Nano cover (aka cool semi-3D sticker for front and back)

DVD of MMORPG’s I’ll never look at

Eye of Judgement Game Card

Tokyo Design School Student Work Catalogue (They had game/design school booth exhibits there as well)

Choice TGS moments:

Played the new FF Tactics

Played GT:5

For now it feels exactly the same at GT4 which is sort of a disappointment for someone who wants something with more of a driftable GT3 feel. On a side note, it seems like they finally got Ferrari as I saw their logo on one of the car’s wheels in game. That’s the other thing, one of the in-car views now draws the dashboard, wheel, and part of the A-pillar/hood trying to simulate a real driver view. The demo station itself had a new Logitech (Logicool in Japan, interestingly enough) GT4 wheel and a Sparco bucket seat…I was hoping for something different than what I have sitting on the floor next to me, but it was a fine way to play the game.

Eye of Judgment:

This is just a cool idea. PS3 using a new eyetoy type camera has actually creative real Yu-Gi-Oh and similar junk! You buy the game and get a gameboard with a camera that looks down onto the board…then you play thru like a game of Yu-Gi-Oh/Magic/Whatever dorkyness, and when you put the card down onto a playable space the camera reads a design on the card and on your TV…which also has the game board visualized it actually shows the card going down and the creature being “summoned” and everything….so it’s like taking the 1 on 1 card games and the subsequent animes and getting to play as a main character. This is in your own home or online play mind you. Very cool concept I must say. I don’t really care about the game itself but the idea is brilliant. I hope it nets all the kiddies, really I think it deserves to.

MGS:4 had some very nice trailers, a playable demo, and even the brochures and books they gave out were so well done (and not ads but actually BG story on the characters/history/etc.) that I’ll be keeping them on principle.

On the whole it was a good experience and a fun time. However: I’m not the type of person who gets all worked up from seeing every little teaser vid that comes out for an in-development game. Likewise, I do not drool over the potential of a game in the making nor do I follow it’s every media tidbit for 2 years before it’s actually released. I on the other hand, hear about a game a week or two before (or sometimes after) it’s out and think it might be worth renting before I worry much about it, with rare exceptions (MGS:4, GT:5). In light of this, while I had a good time I think there are certainly people out there who could appreciate it more than me. As I mentioned before; I think I’m in a bit of a sour mood so it probably comes off in my review. Honestly though it was a fun time and I enjoyed as many aspects as I could.


4 09 2007

First of all,

Thanks for 3,500 hits!

This one goes out to Zeke and anyone else who may get the reference straight away (though it will become fairly obvious to my friends after reading).

Just a short update today. Since I haven’t written, some of the latest news has been twisting innocent young minds and sculpting them for my plot of eventual Japanese stardom. Or perhaps my equally dastardly plot of getting some spending money.
That’s right; I’m a part time teacher, full time party animal! My classes are small: one of 5th graders, who are quite adorable, and one of 6th graders, who are hellions in the making now that they aren’t scared of me anymore. The 6th graders will take some tweaking; they’re already prepared to cause destruction…just not in a way that benefits me. I think I’ll leave the 5th graders as they are for now. They’re well behaved and have a good time. The big kids will get rowdy quick if I give them the chance. This Ore-sama’s gonna bring the pain if they cause destruction when it won’t help me get famous or rule the city. Pain in the form of bookwork. Suddenly I understand teachers everywhere.

There’s a lot an adult can learn from the kids at this age though. They’re too young to be concerned about appearances or failure and they don’t have any self doubt. While they sometimes are out of hand they always try their best when called on and even if they don’t know the answer they don’t get defensive; they just come up with the best answer they can and lay it out with no hesitation and not with a quiet or pleading voice. I get the impression I will be wanting to smack people my age around if they piss and whine about class once semester 2 starts. Of course, adults may not need much help in the being rowdy or thinking girls have cuties department, but there are some good points I wish I could develop.

Even though they don’t always want to be in class I have a great time and I know the 5th graders enjoy the class as much as one can enjoy extra work forced onto you by your parents. The 6th graders have an okay time as well, but maybe from talking in class more than my lessons. As long as they don’t get too loud and can answer well when called upon I’ll let them have their fun though. What’s important is that they know the material.

I got up early so I’m going to take a little nap, but if you see on the news that a swarm of middle schoolers has toppled corporate giants across the pond and is storming the Toy’s R Us as we speak; just know that somewhere in the shadows I’m grinning. And don’t laugh, they have cool Initial: D toys at Toy’s R Us! =p


How Not to Climb Mt. Fuji

2 09 2007

After returning from the Tokyo trip my sleep schedule was rather messed up; especially from the Roppongi all night dance session. The next several days were spent without too much activity but within a week of returning I was invited to climb Mt. Fuji with the Australian international students and a few others. I was a little indecisive cause I didn’t feel like it at the time and a had something I was supposed to do on that day; but in the end I decided to come along and cancel my other plan. Their Fuji climbing idea fit my model pretty well anyway: Climbing in the middle of the week, at night. With this setup it would be the least crowded. I’d heard from people who’d climbed before me on (stupidly) a Saturday or Sunday that they spent about 4 hours inching up the mountain sardine style like a giant human snake because of how crowded it gets as you near the top.

The night climb is also a nice idea because you start climbing around 9pm and climb through the night to reach the summit just before sunrise and view the sunrise and then the beautiful view from the tallest point in the country. On a perfectly clear day it’s probably possible to see out to the sea in some directions. It’s definitely possible to see Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures in their entirety’s. [sp?] (Fuji sits right on the border of the two prefectures, so that you can climb it from either side)

We got everything packed up and made it to the bus station in time, then hopped on the bus for a boring 2 hour or so ride. After that, another 50 minute ride to station 5. Not much to tell here so I’ll explain the basics of Mt. Fuji climbing to you all. First of all, the sacred mountain is divided into 10 different altitudes in a sense; or rather, there are 10 divisions based upon altitude in which a key building, known as a station, is built. Put simply station 1 is the very base, station 5 is about halfway up, and station 10 is at the summit. These stations are not simply a sign in the side o the volcano, but they’re actually quite the franchise. At each station you can buy food, drinks, use restroom facilities, and step inside of a semi-heated (or just not as cold) shelter to warm up and rest; for a fee of course. There are also smaller buildings in which you can buy a limited selection of snacks and drinks; sometimes you can also warm up and/or find a toilet. They work it to where if you’re really not up for the climb at some point, you can see a little light at the end of the tunnel to motivate you so that you can rest at each semi-station.

It is important to note that most people take a bus to station 5 and begin their climb from there. Yes, halfway up the mountain. Now I don’t want to hear anyone complain about these people not “truly” climbing Fuji or any of that BS until you go and climb from station 5 up. Station 1-5 would be walking up a road getting passed by buses full of more intelligent individuals, “true” climbers or not. Not to mention that this would lengthen the total climb time to oh I don’t know….10-12 hours I’d guess. By the time you get to the hard parts you’d be so worn out chances of failure (and injury) would be high.

So like everyone else, we started from station 5. Well, rather we waited around for the other Aussies to arrive and had some food. We also bought the obligatory souvenir Mt. Fuji walking stick. There are times when I wish it could have transformed into a Mt. Fuji sacred icepick or something more useful for rock climbing, but they have a nifty stamp system where at every station you can pay a couple bucks and get it branded with various stamps showing which stations you stopped at, the altitude, etc. If you had it all stamped and climbed from Station 5 you’d probably spend $30 or so in total. Not a bad little gig. These Fuji people have quite the goldmine for 2 months out of the year. I hope that money goes toward some kind of Mt. Fuji preservation society or something.

The other Aussies (Kofu’s crew and several of Tokyo’s crew) arrived and we got started. Putting on our ponchos. Because it was raining. Dammit. Our crew consisted of about 8 or 9 Aussies, a Japanese, and a…Ukrainian/Russian (guess). It was sprinkling rain and night time. We set out quite by ourselves as the trail was completely not crowded. Unfortunately I must have missed the kanji for “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.

Taking a bus to station 5 will surprise you when you try to make physical effort; within a few minutes I was breathing hard and my heart was beating at workout speeds even though all I was doing was walking comfortably up a slight incline. I didn’t feel at all stressed in my muscles; the air was just that thin. This mountain trail is wide enough at almost all points for at least two climbers to move side by side. At the beginning of station 5 it’s wide enough to go 5 or 6 in a line. Let me point out that it is the middle of the night. On a mountain. No, of course it’s not lighted. It was pitch black on a night just cloudy enough to obscure what moonlight we would have had. And raining just a bit. Of course we all brought flashlights, but still it was hard to see at times. I waited on using my light; relying on the light from the others and the easy terrain.

Now there isn’t a lot I can say about the actual climbing process so I’ll give you a general description and hit some of the highlights. After maybe 30 minutes of climbing it stopped raining and we went back to regular clothes. It was cool enough to want my jacket (about 40-45 degrees) so I was layered up all the way from then on. I packed semi-light. We’d climb at our own paces for about 30 minutes at a time and then stop at the small rest areas and wait for everyone to catch up. We had a decent sized group which meant people in various levels of cardio fitness (though everyone was pretty trim visually). It got windy which made it colder. I was glad I had a backpack to help keep me warm. The terrain ranged in difficulty from a simple inclined slope with tricky shifty dirt and gravel to full on rock climbing. Sometimes there were steps cut out of the rock so it was mostly climbing stairs but even then the stairs were a little below knee high so it was quite the workout.

As for the highlights, predictably, the more difficult parts of the terrain rendered the walking stick near useless. More problematic is that is rendered the hand holding it equally useless. If, by chance, the other light held a flashlight one encounter a difficult time getting over the harder terrain. I was smart and bought a lamp that you could wear on your head leaving me a free hand. It was definitely the VIP in terms of equipment. Also it was a led so it provided at least twice the radius of illumination over the standard bulb flashlight. All of the terrain had a trick to it. The easiest incline flat path had many small gravels which would make you slide just a bit when taking a step. The steps were twice as high as normal steps and got to your thighs after everything else you’d already climbed, the steeper incline nearer to the top had the small gravel but on top was bigger chunky gravel, so if you took a bad step you could twist an ankle fairly easily.

Last but not least is the rock climbing section! At which point you find yourself looking up at a 45 or 50 degree angle I guess. In any case, looking up at jutting rocks. There’s not really a path at this point in fact the people following me all took a wrong turn when I assumed the path was somewhere it wasn’t. We only found out when we came upon some other climbers coming in from a slightly different angle and that we were on the wrong side of the chain link rope intermittently marking one edge of the trail. I looked back on their trail and it seemed following the path in that instance offered no distinct advantage over the “trail” I took. The rocks would come up to the knee level at the lowest, and about the upper abdomen at the highest. Yes, higher than the waist by a good bit. That made climbing pretty difficult for some members of our group. My approach was to find one or two handholds, maybe one foothold, and then jump up and sort of wall-run the rest of the way hoping the momentum would carry me the rest of the way up to a predetermined handhold. The older gentleman’s way would be to use handhold more liberally and carefully select good footholds moving a bit more slowly. The jumping idea was just something I was trying because I had extra energy from waiting for some or all of the group during the hardest parts, but it proved a bit dangerous as sometimes I’d land without and good footing or handhold and backpedal down partway or all the way back to where I started. At those times it was hard to avoid falling. Speaking of falling, the wind go so strong and so random in it’s outbursts that I and several others were literally blown over out of the blue while climbing. If I were standing normally I would have been fine but while leaning so much to climb anyway it didn’t take a whole lot. Still it was very powerful.

At one point my hands got too cold (I got to a station way faster than the rest for some reason and got cold while waiting on them) so I had to spend 15 or 10 minutes in the hut warming them up. I didn’t pay any money though; I think the tenant didn’t see me walk in and didn’t want to try to ask me about it after the fact. Or maybe he saw my hands and decided not to toil with the fee in my case. As soon as my fingers were good to go again we headed out.

Also at one point near the top it got so very misty and foggy that even with the light I couldn’t see more than 2 steps ahead of where my feet currently were. People were slipping and sliding all over the place.

Near the top it became crowded and for the last 90 minutes or so I had to wait on the people in front of me to move before I could advance as well. Luckily my hands didn’t give me trouble at that point. The last leg of the race was such an annoyance: it was crowded enough that I could see where the torches stopped ahead of me. I could more or less gauge where the top was and how far I had to go, yet I couldn’t get there because it was so packed. That 90 minutes I could have covered alone in 30 minutes or less. I think most people could have, I’m not bragging about my speed….it was just too crowded. I’m glad I didn’t spend 4 or so hours like that like my counterparts who’d climbed on a weekend earlier.

The mist from before lightened up slightly but never went away. I didn’t make it to the top by sunrise but I’m sure I didn’t miss out on anything. 😦 sadly it went from being dark and so foggy I couldn’t see more than 100 feet to light and so foggy I couldn’t see more than 100 feet. I got my summit stamp marked into my walking stick and made sure to find everyone else. I walked around at the top for a little bit and then we all headed into a giant hut. It was free and we could stay for a while as long as we didn’t sleep. A few people had ramen or soup. Hot foods. I had eaten some cup ramen at station 8 or so.

So basically, we were at the top, and it sucked. It was too misty to see sunrise, or to look down at anything below, or to look down into the crater I the middle of the summit from the last eruption. On a non-foggy but cloudy day it’d be at least like being in an airplane: you could look down on the clouds stretching out for miles. We couldn’t even do that! We wasted time and screwed around for awhile. Mostly resting. It was about 33 degrees; just warm enough that there was no ice. It started raining again. We were all glad to have accomplished the climb with success and no injuries, but were so miffed by the weather (reports they told us at the top said it was actually going to get colder, foggier, and rain more) that we decided to head down and go to sleep asap. Heading down was not fun.

It was steep going downhill, probably a 20% grade I dunno, and the terrain was like sand. It was seriously like walking down a sand dune for 3 hours. When placing a foot it would sink about 2 inches down and slide about 4 inches forward. To complicate this there were tennis ball to shoe sized rocks covering enough of the trail that again twisting an ankle was a very real possibility. It was like this with no change for about 3 hours straight. Even for me in pretty good shape my knees and the muscles and ligaments around them were taking quite a bit of wear. Climbing up is alot easier than sliding down in my opinion.

Also there was the rain. It started raining hard. Within minutes everyone was soaked anywhere that wasn’t covered by a poncho. After 15 minutes every was soaked pretty much everywhere, except for me. I bought a better quality poncho back in the states whereas they mostly bought the cheap one sold at the mountain. It looked good but had nothing when it came to the heavy rain we were hit with. I managed to stay dry from my mid thigh up, but the arms, legs, and head were a write off in the dry department. Worse was that I didn’t think to put my bag under my poncho within the first few minutes so it quickly became completely soaked along with everything inside of it. Luckily my camera survived, but I wasn’t able to take many pictures of my climb for you guys as it had to dry for a few days. Several people’s cellphones were ruined.

The bad part for me was that I had been advised to bring some extra clothes and when all of this became wet my pack gained 5 or 6 pounds of water. Luckily I tend to pack too much and carry that pack around often so my shoulders didn’t rip off then and there, but I was feeling the burn. It was as if Mt. Fuji decided to flush off any climbers who dared to hike on that day as the sand dune became a mudslide and while the same symptoms persisted it was much funnier when someone besides yourself fell.

Now up until this point I’ve portrayed the trip as somewhat uncomfortable or downright miserable at times. And it was. But for me it was actually a pretty good time and I wasn’t bothered by it much at all. I just had one of those attitudes that lets you take anything in stride and not be put off by setbacks or bad weather. (We checked the weather report but the reports aren’t made for those altitudes….or our group’s weather checkers didn’t think of that and screwed up) So honestly I having a good time of it. You guys just wouldn’t read the situation as it was if I wrote it up that way.

Eventually my good mood was put off though, by the ramen I’d bought at the 8th station. It unexpectedly left me with an upset stomach for the rest of the day, which made physical exertion such as climbing very not fun. On top of that the trip down has 1 restroom about halfway and nothing else. So apparently the bright minds that came up with the 10 stations of Fuji somehow thought that after climbing that much everyone would easily be able to descend another 2-4 hours without needing any rest, restrooms, or food. That’s just bad design. I took some tums and continued to trudge down with my upset stomach. That and the weather at the top officially sucked.

On the bright side, due to the rain eventually the mist parted and while there were some clouds we could see quite a lot of Yamanashi from the height of station 7 or so. My camera was still soaked so I couldn’t take any photos. It was beautiful though.

We met up with everyone back at station 5, which looked completely different and much more lively in daylight with all the tourist stores open. I bought a pack of Mt. Fuji postcards, so if you email me (be smart, don’t post it in the comments section) your address I’ll write you a little note and send you a Fuji postcard. There’s 12 in the set. First 10 or so will get a postcard eventually. (2 weeks or so shipping + my procrastination time + gf visiting for a week = be patient!) Send those emails, you cool cats! You can find it under the contact section. Send to my aim name at gmail.com. If anyone doesn’t know it post up and I’ll put you in the queue for a postcard at the time you comment and get your address later.

We finally made the bus trip home. I had standing water in my hiking boots (thanks dad, the boots were perfect for the climb!) so I bought a pair of socks and switched into them and no shoes for the bus ride home. Sadly after all that I still had the mile or so bike ride uphill back to the dorm before I could shower and sleep. The ones who walked it took a cab. We were tired. I didn’t feel sore until the middle of the next day but eventually my legs got to where I didn’t want to go outside cause there were stairs. Going up them was about like normal…but I felt about like a tin man trying to go down them. I don’t work the muscles you use on the downhill portion very much so didn’t heal as quickly. It took about 4 or 5 days before I was completely back to normal. Within 2 or 3 I was getting around like I used to.

All in all it was a cool experience, a good climb, and it taught me how you do the impossible or reach goals that simply don’t seem doable. When climbing Fuji I would look up ant various times and see a road ahead of me so long that I couldn’t even see anything resembling the end at the limits of my vision. Trying to reach that point with your eyes on the summit made it seem really impossible. It was just so far away. So I decided if I had nothing else to occupy my mind as I made my journey, to concentrate on the simple act of placing one foot before the other and moving one carefully chosen step at a time. Walking normally would surely result in a fall within minutes as many people demonstrated as I plod along. So yeah…when dealing with a goal that just seems unreachable the only practical way to get there is to take the small steps that are very possible and keep at it until they add up to the distance you are trying to reach. It took a long time and at most points when I’d look up I had no idea how much longer it would take, but eventually through persistently stepping and not thinking about how much longer it would take I finally was in sight of the top and made my final sprint….or rather…..was caught up in a traffic jam of like-minded climbers, as we stormed the summit one step at a time. (There’s plenty of room at the top but the road to it is 2 people wide haha)

So I learned and practiced something cool from Fuji and made a memorable experience. Maybe one of those memories that you tell around the bar with old friends and talk about how bad the conditions were, but I’m glad I did it. It was challenging mentally and physically, but never very hard at any one moment. And I have it to add to my list of “I’ve managed to do ‘_____’, so why not ‘_____’?” Which is a very handy list to have to look back on. It makes every future obstacle or worry seem a little more manageable.

Tokyo in Review

31 08 2007

Well, I’m back from Tokyo. I got back late two days ago. Yesterday was a simple recovery day and today got off to a good start and has been rolling along at a decent pace ever since. I woke up and skyped with my girlfriend, ate a decent breakfast, cleaned the room really well (it was getting out of control, especially since I left for Tokyo in a hurry with things unneeded thrown all over the bed), caught up on emails, and rearranged the stuff I brought back. I should have put some laundry into the washer before it got this late but it’s already dusk so I think I’ll save it for tomorrow. Maybe it’s the humidity, maybe it’s the dryers themselves but the main thing is nothing dries if you use the dryer. It takes probably 3 runs thru the dryer and then hanging the clothes up somewhere in the room; which would cost about 500 yen a load and only a very uptight individual would be willing to pay that much just to keep from hanging their clothes up outside. But for 100 a load you can wash it and air dry it which in this heat does not take long. If the humidity is high enough it goes a little slow but one can surely manage to wash and dry a load in a day and get another out to dry overnight before it gets dark. I need to do laundry and clean the bedsheets/towels so that will be happening soon.

As for the Tokyo trip, it was fun, laid back, and educational. I think I was able to really makes use of my status as a temporary resident. Because i wasn’t on a vacation and I can pretty much come back at any time I decided to really take it easy and enjoy the sights in the city sectors I checked out. This way you never feel rushed or late and you can do anything without worrying about the schedule. The only rule was to make sure not to miss the last trains which finish running at 12. Another surprising fact about Tokyo: despite there being many people crowding the streets in several sectors at 2 am most standard businesses close by 8 or 9. On the other hand this gives rise to an interesting nightlife, as clubs have the dual purpose of being fun places to go as well as housing people until the trains start running again at 5 or 6 am. There are other options as well like 24 hour internet and manga cafes, which not only have no problem with but also expect some of their customers to spend the night at their facility. It’s much cheaper than a hotel, but I imagine one wouldn’t feel very rested. I plan to try it out sometime though; it seems like an interesting experience and it’s a good way to sample alot of manga (since new manga in stores is shrink wrapped and you can’t thumb thru anything before buying). Anyway, here’s the Tokyo lowdown. I must warn you I don’t plan to make this in a high level of detail.

I got there at night, Bob wasn’t around and after waiting about 15 or 20 minutes I called him. Something had distracted him and he was definitely going to be late. My options were to wait for him another 20 or 30 minutes or he could give me some directions and I could try something out; meeting him at a station closer to where we were both heading. Naturally I opted to hear the directions and give it a shot; besides it makes it a fun adventure, much more so than sitting around watching people meet friends at the bus stop. I was at Shinjuku station and I needed to be at the Hachiko exit of Shibuya. Looking back it was an easy thing to do but for a first time it could have been complicated. Fortunately the Tokyo subway line is well organized with good information and signs. I bought a Suica card, only the best subway invention ever, and proceeded to Shibuya. It was easy since everything on and off the trains was written in both English and Japanese. I quickly memorized the latter half of Shibuya’s kanji and got off at the proper stop. The Hachiko exit was also fairly easy to find; just follow the signs.

The Hachiko exit has an interesting story behind it. Hachiko was a dog born in about 1923, brought to Tokyo one year later. He and his owner, Mr. Eisaburo Uyeno, shared a close bond and really enjoyed one another’s company.Through the week Hachiko would accompany his owner to the station as he commuted to his work; the Imperial University. Every evening when the professor would return his dog would still be patiently waiting for him. This went on for some time and other commuters began to recognize the dog who was always waiting at the same entrance/exit to the station. This pattern continued for about a year until one day when the professor fell ill at work and surprisingly died before he could return home. Hachiko, not understanding why his master hadn’t yet returned, would wait every day at the station. Sometimes it is said he would wait for several days on end. Hachiko became well known to everyone who commuted to or from Shibuya station and continued to wait there for ten years until he finally was able to be with his owner; passing away at the last spot he had seen his owner alive. People were so touched by Hachiko’s story that they decided to have a statue erected to honor his memory. Famous artist Ando Teru was commissioned for the life-size bronze monument. Unfortunately the statue was melted down during the war. After the war a group was formed to try to have the statue rebuilt. In 1948 they commissioned Ando Tekeshi, son of the original artist who had since passed away, to complete the second and final memorial.

In any case, I arrived at the statue and like clockwork Bob emerged from the crowd with near perfect timing. He led me back to the apartment where I’d be crashing for those several days and I met the residents he knew. We watched a movie; The Last King of Scotland, and then went to bed. It was an intense movie that got graphic at the end so it made it a little hard to sleep. Also being in Tokyo every 5 minutes one could hear the trains pass by from 5 or 6 am until midnight everyday. What a thing to get used to. Fortunately I could sleep through it as long as the window was shut. It didn’t seem to be much if any cooler in Tokyo, but if it was I’d blame it on shade from the tall buildings.

Day 1 I walked around Shibuya the entire time. Shibuya is where the private train connected my impromptu hotel to the JR line, so I’d be going through there often. Bob came with me and showed me an anime shop that’s managed to achieve some internet fame…I forget the name though since I’m not obsessed. It was a cool shop and had all kinds of stuff, even super oldschool manga…which was awesome. (because it was so old and I’d never seen anything like it) All manner of models, soundtracks, DVDs and such as well. We were hungry for breakfast so we headed to Wendy’s! I was so pumped up for some of my favorite fast food. Wendy’s and Subway; I was looking forward to them. Just as we arrived Bob got a call and had to meet his friend who forgot something and so I was on my own. I said I’d be back by the last train, around midnight and ate my yummy food. The burgers tasted a little different but it was still pretty darn good.

After that I simply wandered around to any place of interest until the end of the day. I came across many nice clothing shops, and some super expensive ones. I took a break from walking at a park in Shibuya and was inspired by some beautiful graffiti under a pedestrian walkway. People were playing…not kids, but young adults, which was nice. Jumping rope, and impromptu bands were performing quite alot as well. There was even a stage where a full band was doing numbers. They had no audience or anything; just a well organized but unknown band doing their thing. I stayed around for 3 of their songs while resting. They wrapped up and I got back to my walking.

Eventually I went down a huge line of clothing stores and managed to get lost. I ended up walking to Roppongi and back to Shibuya, which by this point my feet were hurting so I wasn’t in a great mood. Things cleared up when I got back to familiar territory and had some Subway. Yay Subway. Yay Subway for having only 6 subs? What? That’s right kiddies…Japanese subway does not understand BMT / Italian / Meatball / Pizza sub…or my tears. So I had a club which was good, but still left me with the lingering memory of the goodness that is hot subs with more meat and sauce. Meaty. Saucy. Just like this blog.

I was headed back and called Bob again. They’d be late getting back again which meant I wouldn’t be able to get inside the dormroom aka ‘hotel’. I did however, have a key for the main entrance so I could sit in the lobby. He did say I could look for Joey and let him inside. Joey was a buddy of his who, like us, had recently shown up in Tokyo. It was really cool though as he turned out to be a graphic designer as well. We had at least 30 minutes to sit and talk before Bob and the gang returned, but it was great. I hadn’t had much graphic design style conversation / thought going on up until this point of the trip so it was really good to talk design with someone. We talked about the differences between our programs and where we were at in them. He’d already done an internship but aside from that wasn’t too far ahead of me. It was a great refresher. I want to study design in the classroom again. Remembering it….it’s going to be good to get back to it. I hope I don’t forget all my skills while I’m here haha. Eventually everyone got back and we called it a night.

Day 2 I walked around Akihabara (Akiba for short). It was a Saturday so there were girls dressed in all manner of cosplay outfits (maids, nurses, cheerleaders, etc.) advertising for their respective shops. There was also a large guy in a pikachu outfit that I found amusing. Seeing a grown man in a pikachu outfit isn’t exactly new but it still makes me grin inside for some reason. Apparently he’s there in full gear often, as Bob knew straight away who he was when I mentioned him later that night. I went solo all of day 2 as well, just looking around at the electronics and wares in the area. It seemed alot smaller than Shibuya and wasn’t as fun to look around in. Because all they have is electronics you quickly start walking around comparing the prices on certain things you want; even if you can’t afford them or don’t plan on buying them. There isn’t the variety that Shibuya has, so it wasn’t quite as interesting. Or maybe it’s just because it was the second day and I wasn’t so impressed with the city in general?

The evening of Day 2 was the highlight of the trip. Dev and the crew…which ended up being about 8 people, plus myself went clubbing in Roppongi; easily one of the most happening / nightlife infused city sections. We had a motley crew as well; Dev is Indian, I’m American, a Japanese guy, and a host of Caucasian and Chinese Australians. Dev is Aussie as well. It was fun to be the odd man out in terms of nationality instead of skin color for a change. And funny to hear the American jokes since you don’t hear those as much in the US (duh). If you can’t laugh at yourself you can’t enjoy life, so it was no problem. We hit up a few different bars. These weren’t dance clubs; there was no dance floor yet people were breaking it down with dancing pretty much all over the place. Hence ‘dance bars’ or so I shall call them. At several of them shots were free for ladies and we had a female dominated group so of course we stopped at them. Drinks for guys were excessive at roughly $9-13 per shot/drink. The guys didn’t drink and we hopped around to a few more bars. On the upside, the music they had at these dance bars was awesome. Mid 90’s dance…stuff you’d hear at your middle and high school proms and dances…it was sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet. Stuff that you knew and could bust a move to; yet stuff that was old enough it was a really pleasant surprise to hear and took you back to good memories. I say good memories even though I didn’t dance at many of the proms I went to. Still, it was nice. These other dance bars were too packed with people though. It was was taking 2 or 3 minutes to get from the door to the bar where if it was empty it would have taken about 10 seconds. We finally got into one that had kickin’ music and was just empty enough that we could get our groove on. I hit up the bar and ordered Coronas for Dev and myself and then returned to the group to help cut up the makeshift dancefloor. After the beer and 20 minutes of dancing to their excellent tracks, Dev, the Japanese guy, 2 ladies and myself headed out for some air. Drinks were more reasonable here but we still wanted to save money. I made a suggestion and it won by majority vote: we popped into a convenience store, bought a fifth of Malibu, a liter of coke, some paper cups and strolled into some seedy dark alley where we proceeded to empty both bottles of their contents in about a 30 minute period. With the fires adequately stoked we proceeded back into the bar, but not before some crazy streetside antics.

Now that everyone’s dance engines were fueled we tore up the place, busting all sorts of moves. I made full use of the new stuff I’d come up with from my school’s breakdance club. I didn’t do any breaking (I would have to work out and practice alot more) but I did but out some great standing moves I cam up with. It was excellent. I bought a nice shirt and hat earlier in Shibuya, and everyone was having a blast. At one point some dude dancing pushed up with his back against the back of one of the guys from our crew by mistake, and the guy from our crew just sort of pushed him back with his back. This happened, seemingly by accident, a few more times and the fight was on. This all broke out right next to me and Dev got pulled into it for a moment but escaped to the other side of the sidelines. I hear a bottle break and made sure it was on the floor and not in someone’s hands as I watched carefully from the sidelines. This was a full on barfight. Mainly a 1 on 1, but the guy’s women tried to help. I tossed our guy’s chick to the sidelines also cause she weighed like…a pound and I didn’t want her to get crushed. Now let me tell you a little something about Japanese bars in Roppongi. They don’t have metal detectors, they don’t have ID checks, they don’t even have security. If and when a fight breaks out, the crowd and waiters have the sole responsibility to diffuse it. I guess the Japanese are well behaved…but this honesty system and naivety about how harsh people can get….sometimes it’s a little worrisome. I’m sure a few decent criminals could take this country for all it’s worth, but I’m really glad that it’s still rare enough that they’re open. It’s like what the US could be if there was almost no crime. Very awesome *and* not obsessed with lawsuits, rules, disclaimers, and stuff like that.

So anyway, there’s this fight going on which I’m like…a foot from since it’s so crowded. I’ve put myself between the fight and the girls from our group, Dev’s escaped to the opposite side, and eventually the brawlers get drug out and we go back to dancing without a second thought. Even though the guy was from our original crew none of the dancing people knew him so, oh well more room for us haha. About 3 minutes later another fight broke out…this one actually brushed against me but is pushed them back out towards the center of the floor and they stayed there until they were ejected as well. After moving those two I spied a pair of eyeglasses on the floor and rushed to pick them up before they were trampled by everyone. Being a person who wears glasses I knew someone’s night would be ruined if they got destroyed. I waited a few seconds and sure enough I saw a Japanese guy about my age looking around in quite a state of worry. I asked him if he’d lost his glasses and handed them back. He was really grateful but like I said. If your eyes are as bad as mine you can appreciate how essential they are for you to function in society let alone the dance floor. I tossed out the Japanese ‘be careful / stay spirited’ and went back to the dancing. With the new space opened up from 4 people going outside we had room to truly cut up. Also some random Japanese guy sort of butted into our group. Not rudely, but he joined in our circle of dancing. He was also clearly using a breakdancing based style and since he was only a person or so from we we quickly engaged in an impromptu battle. It was under cover as well, but it was obvious to me that he’d do some additionally cool moves and then chill back out so then I’d throw out some of my own moves and go back to a standard level to see what he’d do. We pretty much kept up a little rivalry until my crew decided to call it a night.

So we called it a night, it was around 5:00 or so I think. It was daylight when we came out of the club and Roppongi was only slightly less lively than before. As we made our way towards the station we were propositioned by club employees standing outside the entrance to their club saying “The club’s still hoppin’, the party’s still going” and things to that effect. That’s one of the things that was a little annoying about Roppongian clubs; the guys who are outside trying to pull customers would try a little too aggressively sometimes. Like, I would want to push them away if they started talking to my girlfriend like she was single even though I was walking right beside her…but they’ll try to be all smooth with the ladies and convince them to go into their club. I don’t know, I ignored it when we came in but it seemed alot more annoying at the end of the day when we were just trying to leave. We decided to have a bite before taking a train back to the dorm. We stopped at one of those small restaurants where you buy a meal ticket from a vending machine and then just bring the ticket to the counter. I had some curry rice for about $4 and we sat and ate. I was wearing nice looking uncomfortable shoes so I was really happy to be sitting after all that. I turned to Dev and said “Dude, I may never walk again.” He cracked up for some reason; must have been the timing.

After that our groups said goodnight and we headed back to the ‘hotel’ where we crashed from about 6 or 6:30 until probably 5pm the next day. On the upside, g=considering how expensive it could have been our antics ensured a legendary clubbing experience at the cost of only about 10 bucks.

Day 3 was, predictably, a waste. I got up and decided that today was the day. I was going to treat myself to some Outback Steakhouse; which I found in Shibuya. It’s where the train connected to anyway so I was gong there for sure. I walked by and found out I was in luck! Sometimes employees stand out front to promote their store by exclaiming it’s greatness to the crowd and also giving out some kind of coupon or promotional material. In this case I received a 1,000 yen off coupon, good for awhile but I could use it that very day so after speaking in Japanese and English with the worker (whose English was quite natural) I went on in. I was seated, it was strange to be asked smoking or non but that’s life in Japan, and ordered a ‘typhoon bloom’ straight away. No, it’s not a bloomin’ onion. It’s a typhoon bloom. Cute. Unfortunately it was also built differently and harder/more messy to eat. They cut it differently and it ends up as a mound of onion rings all laying on top of one another when put into the frying oil, which means that the whole thing is one great mass of rings, connected by the fried batter. They’re still rings, but they don’t come apart easily like the USA version, and they’re alot messier because you have to just grab the mass somewhere and start pulling rings loose to eat it. :/ It still tasted good though! I also ordered my staple chicken on the barbie which to my surprise was also different. The chicken breast was thinner and not quite as yummy….partly because it was very spicy. It was too hot for me to enjoy eating, and after eating a fair portion of the onion rings I ate the veggie side and got a to-go box for the fries and chicken.

After that, I thought I wanted to look for something more specific at Akihabara, but arrived there about the time the stores were closing. I explored the remaining few stores which were open. Played some ID:4, which was actually cheaper in Tokyo, and eventually headed back to Shibuya. I screwed around there as well. Since I still had plenty of energy I thought about hitting up a manga cafe for an hour or so before the last train ran, but the smallest amount of time they sold was a 3 hour block. 😦 A manga cafe is a 24 business where you pay a little money to spend x number of hours there. Inside you can order snacks and drinks from the cafe, play video games (depending on the cafe) and read countless shelves of comic books. It’s something I think would be neat to do sometime, but not for 3 hours. All that’s included in the initial price save for the food/drink btw.

I called Bob to see if he wanted to stay up late and check it out, as spending the 5 or so hours the train isn’t running there would have been agreeable to me ( going back to the dorm felt like a stifling idea since I felt I had only recently woken up) but he had gotten sick with some kind of sore throat and cough so he wasn’t up to it. I caught the last trains back and I lucked out because he and Dev were up for at least watching some TV before crashing. I would have regretted not going to the manga cafe if it were different; I felt stir crazy. We watched some Gundam Seed Bob had on his laptop and eventually crashed.

I got up at a more normal time today. It was my last day there and Bob was skipping the thing he came for because he was feeling very crappy and also he was planning to meet some friends and mess around with them. So I decided to go with Bob for company’s sake; I didn’t want to make the 2+ hour bus ride back by myself. While I waited for him to get up I decided to heat up the rest of my Outback food and had a fairly satisfying spicy chicken breast for breakfast.

Finally Bob was ready to go, we were late to meet them. We met up and screwed around in Akiba most of the day. I bought the latest (and final) swap disc set for Japanese PS2’s…I may buy one while I’m here to replace my pretty much dead US PS2. Then I can use the swap discs to play my US games and naturally play the Japanese goodness which abounds here. Good study chance? pfft. Maybe. In any case I didn’t buy one this time around.

They stayed in Akiba too long and I was getting worried we’d miss our bus out so I finally got everyone to head back to Shibuya. I split from their group and met up with Dev to get my stuff from the dorm and move out. We had already bought our tickets (I was holding everyone’s but we bought them when I was with Bob earlier) but because of earlier we really might miss our train. We ran through the stations and finally arrived in Shinjuku where all the buses and trains connect in Tokyo. We got there just in the nick of time and asked a bus driver if the bus had left yet. He told us we were fine and to just wait where we were. That the bus hadn’t come yet. He moved out and the next bus rolled in. Not a Kofu bus. We then found out that the bus we should have been on had already left as well. He told us to wait when our bus was the next one up. I think he was just in a hurry and didn’t want to be bothered, but either way…NIHONJIN SMASH? -_-;

We were lucky enough to get our tickets changed to the next bus without having to buy new ones. It was said to be a one-time only thing though. Whew! I thought we were in a pinch but instead we had to wait an hour. We mostly just sat around the bus terminals talking but eventually various people ran off to grab food and come back. We hopped aboard out bus and started the long process of sitting for 2+hours and being bored.

Let me clarify….One of the guys I had been hanging out with that day with Bob was coming to Kofu for a little bit as part of his summer vacation. Also Dev, from Roppongi clubbing, was on board. Since all those guys went to the same University back in Australia they took Japanese together and wanted to catch up. Also Harshini’s birthday was coming up the next day or that night so they were going to surprise her for that.

Nothing exciting happened on the bus trip. We got back and I really wanted a shower after the running to catch / miss the bus earlier. We celebrated Harshini’s birthday with a surprise attack and had some yummy cake, then I took a shower and threw all my bags, luggage, and clothes in a corner next to the fridge. Little did I know this would give birth to what would eventually become a junk pile of mid-thigh proportions, and so I went to sleep.

In hindsight, Tokyo was fun, easy to get around in, but if you don’t have specific locales to go to walking around can only be fun for so many days. Also the most exciting thing for me in getting to eat at some of my favorite restaurants from the US. I saw TGI Friday’s, Outback steakhouse, KFC, Subway, McD’s, Wendy’s, more but I don’t remember. I want some TGI Friday’s dessert just thinking about it. And a cute girl I happen to be dating to eat it with me. Mmm. It’s all my girlfriend’s fault that I like dessert more. All her fault.