Travel Update 4 – Japan

The last couple of days I’ve mostly been wandering about on my own while waiting for my friend to finish at work. As a result I’ve taken a small break from the bigger tourist sites and have mostly been meandering about in various districts just seeing what is there. The standard approach is get off at a train station and just walk until I run out of things to look at and then use my phone to navigate to the nearest station to wherever I’ve ended up. It is an interesting way to get a feel for the day to day rather than just seeing the same chain stores that dominate most tourist areas.

I kind of love crossing bridges in Japan.

But I haven’t totally gotten off the beaten track. I did wander around Ginza for a day and walked through Harujuku after visiting the shrine and going to Government Building 1 and using the observation deck where we met this really nice volunteer guide who gave us a history lesson on the architects of the buildings in the area, some of the features of some of the sites, and a bit of history about how Tokyo developed as a region. Nice guy, lots of videos on his phone to show details like a fold out helicopter pad that was attached to the building opposite and the inflation of the Egg roof. Considering he isn’t a paid guide he was incredibly informative as he showed us the sites.

Tragically it was a misty day so views of Mt Fuji were obscured, but there was still plenty to look at

However, a trip to Nakano was really great as well as I found a plush Little Fox from Natsume and a small Natori figure that I just had to have (also a giant Nyanko pillow that I walked away from if only because it would not have fit in my bag).

Then again, it is all about the food. And yes, I’ve eaten a lot of it. Notable meals include the ramen. Yeah, I didn’t even manage to eat half of it because it was massive, but it was absolutely delicious. Ordering was easier than normal because it was one of those places where you use the ticket machine to place your order and then just hand the ticket over when you enter the shop (and there were lots of pictures to help where my lack of kanji knowledge became apparent). However, inside they then ask you a whole series of option questions about the noodles and what not and I will admit I couldn’t follow. I ended up having to get them to write the question down so I could sit and translate it but ultimately I managed to get some great food so probably worth the effort.

I found on previous trips and this one that ordering ramen is incredibly intimidating. The vast majority of ramen places have no English on their menu (which is fine) but a lot don’t even have pictures or any kind of visual. Some just have the different dishes listed vertically along a wall and there’s a lot of kanji. There’s also a sense that you need to order quickly and so it is a bit of a struggle (admittedly, there are more chain type restaurants you could go to and order ramen with less pressure if you really wanted to). I also always feel bad because I cannot eat a whole serve of ramen in one sitting even if I skip lunch. It is just too much food piled into the bowl.

Anyway, outside of ramen, we hit a yakitori place that is part of a chain, but the restaurant we went to is under the train line near Ginza. There’s some great food places there and I strongly recommend a walk along the train line from Shimbashi heading toward Ginza because you will find some really fantastic places to eat. Not to mention, the atmosphere of low ceiling and periodic table shaking as a train passes overhead is just kind of fun.

The place we ate charged 300 yen just for sitting at the table per person but that came with unlimited bowls of cabbage. Fortunately, it was a very tourist friendly place because there are some nights when you are tired and don’t want to struggle with a language barrier. They had an entirely English menu that they brought over for us without us asking with the Japanese written underneath so ordering was as simple as point at what you want and let the waiter read it. I will admit, we may have severely over eaten by the time we were done but it was so incredibly worth it.

Anyway, my friend is about to get three days off work so we are going to be out and about and I’m pretty sure we’re doing an overnight trip somewhere and then I’m pretty much done because I’ll be having to start preparing to fly home which is kind of sad but at the same time I feel I’ve done most of what I wanted to in Tokyo this time. There’s still the kitchen street to hit up and I want to spend a bit longer in some of the gardens but mostly I’m happy that I’ve been where I want to go.

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Travel Update 3 – Japan

Wow, I feel like I’ve not sat still in days (that isn’t true given I had a couple of hours on the Shinkansen down to Kyoto and back again) and I am feeling super tired and yet still wanting to get out and go. There’s just so much to see and do while in Japan and even though I’ve been here before there’s so many places I’ve yet to see and places I’d love to get back to.

No where near enough hours for this place.

Okay, so since the last update I have hit Akihabara. I spent nearly six hours wandering around the area and even that wasn’t enough. I actually left not because I ran out of time but because I’d pretty much exhausted my designated budget for that part of the trip and staying any longer would have been hazardous to my ability to eat for the rest of the trip (and if you’ve been following me on Twitter you know that I am enjoying my food here).

So yes, I found treasure. And while I’ll take my time unboxing and taking some photos of it when I get home for now I’m keeping things firmly wrapped up so they survive the trip home. That said, the two main figures I got were both second hand and reboxed in the first place but it did make them infinitely more affordable. Ciel from Black Butler and Asuna from Sword Art Online will be making the trip home from Japan with me this time, and a third character who I am keeping under wraps because I plan on doing a give away for my blog anniversary so watch that space.

Can I keep them? Please?

Animate was also visited and I got myself a pencil case from Dakaichi, a Natsume acrylic stand, Banana Fish post cards, and a Platelet key chain. All and all, very happy with my wanderings except that one of the last shops I was visiting had an entire Natsume case filled with Nyanko and beautiful figures of almost all the main characters. Even the smallest ones however were just that little bit too pricey for their size and so I had to settle for the photo and the memory. Plus, I already grabbed figures of Natsume and Reiko last time I was in Japan. Fortunately, I did get some really cute Nyanko-Sensei stickers out of a vending machine later in Shibuya and I’m still looking out for an affordable plush Nyanko to join the one I got last year at Supernova.

Anyway, after the shopping was done I had to hop a Shinkansen to Kyoto which meant of course a bento dinner on the train. No photo unfortunately because I was starved and it was delicious so waiting for photography just wasn’t an option.

This is actually a really great way to spend a morning, well worth the visit.

With my one day in Kyoto, my friend and I hit the major tourist spots. I am going to firmly suggest that if you ever intend to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine you go early. We arrived there at 7:30 in the morning and it was already difficult to get photos without other people in them. By the time we were finished (just after 12), it was mass chaos at the main shrine with tour groups, school groups and just people clustered everywhere. The only problem with going early is very few of the shops and food booths are open so stop at a convenience store on the way and grab some onigiri to eat on the go. By the time you come back everything will be open and you can grab some tasty skewers, corn, or pretty much anything to eat and then browse the souvenirs.

Also, where comfortable shoes and be ready for a hike. It isn’t a long distance by any means, but the time signs are misleading. When it says ten minutes to the summit what it means is approximately an hour if you stop for a moderate number of photos and if you have usual human stamina and need to take a couple of short stops because of the steps (keep in mind I go hiking for holidays semi-regularly and enjoy it so I’m not really that out of shape though my persistent cough probably was making the stairs a bit harder to take than normal). Then of course there’s the trip back. Also, other tourists are going to stop right in front of you without warning, or do random poses for their own photos and you just kind of have to deal with it. Fortunately the closer to the summit you get the less people there are.

I really loved walking around the shrine and exploring all the side paths and little shops along the way. It was great fun. The one thing that I would actually put as a negative is the persistent announcement over the loud speakers about not making eye-contact with wild boars or monkeys. It is really hard to enjoy a quiet and contemplative moment on a mountain when you have the same message blaring at you in multiple languages pretty much continuously.

I’d still recommend visiting.

After the shrine we hopped the train over to Arashiyama and checked out the bamboo path, a bunch of shrines, lots of tourist shops, the river, a scenic look out, and finally we headed over to the monkey park (oh my god more stairs – I was reminded well and truly that I was not over my cold when I had to stop the third time on this path to catch my breath). Totally worth it though. The monkeys are super cute.

Sakura flavoured ice-cream. Totally recommended. They also serve it blended with matcha ice-cream which was also pretty tasty.

Plus, and this is the real reason I’d recommend it, you get an absolutely brilliant view of Kyoto from the monkey park. Truly gorgeous.

I didn’t go into the cage and feed the monkeys but I did have fun standing above it and watching the other tourists in the cage reaching out with scraps of food and seeing the monkeys crawling over the outside swiping at them. There’s something amusing about the idea of putting the humans in the cage while the monkeys are freely roaming about the outside.

Seriously too cute.

Anyway, after all of that we hit a fairly quiet cafe for dinner. The next morning we decided to splurge a little on breakfast and hit up a buffet at one of the hotels that was on the top ten list of places to eat breakfast in Kyoto. So worth it serving both Japanese and Western food and a huge selection.

Sorry about the smudges, the window I was photographing through was dirty.

Another shinkansen ride back to Tokyo before hitting Shibuya for the afternoon and evening. Of course that means pictures of people scrambling on a crossing. By the way, the Animate in Shibuya actually had more Natsume items than the one in Akihabara. I also picked up some manga volumes in Japanese to do some translation practice with when I have free time (I know, free time isn’t something I come across very often).

Love the commitment to theme in this arcade. Random side-note, three floors are done in this style and then the fourth floor suddenly becomes like a roman bath scene. No idea why.

We finished the day with a visit to an arcade that is themed like it is from some post-apocalyptic novel in Kawasaki before going for train sushi.

Scallop sushi, my favourite.

Seriously need more hours in a day and I really need to get rid of this cold because after all of that running around I’m pretty run-down and needed to have a chill out day before I get going again tomorrow. Big plans ahead and plenty more to see.

Hopefully I’ll update in a couple more days and have some more fun moments to share.

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Travel Update 2 – Japan

I’m continuing my travels, though I will admit, the dreaded cold hit me pretty hard yesterday and given it was pouring rain all day I opted to not wander around Akihabara and instead took a bit of a rest and went to some local bookshops and cafes to just kind of relax. I do however intend to hop a train over to Akihabara just as soon as I finish drafting this update as it is not raining today and I’m feeling pretty good. If you missed my first update check it out here.

That said, I did spend the day before wandering about and spent the better part of the afternoon in Ueno. While waiting for my friend to finish work I went into the museum and absolutely fell in love with the building. There’s something about buildings that are used for museums. They are so old looking (even if they’ve been renovated) and the high ceilings, hard floors, really nice stair cases, little alcoves and large gallery rooms all just call out to me. There’s also the subdued lighting most museums opt for which I find quite relaxing and the fact that people are generally fairly quiet in museums. They are a lovely place to spend a few quiet hours even before you look at the exhibits.

I will say that you need to get there early enough to go into the gardens because they are gorgeous. They close the garden at 4 even though the museum is open until 5, and so I only had a little bit of time in the gardens before I had to leave but I’m really glad I got to go in. As for the museum, I loved going through the building that had the Chinese exhibits, particularly the calligraphy section but once I got over to the building housing the Japanese exhibits I was just blown away by some of the displays.

Given I didn’t have a lot of time I didn’t pay the extra to go into he current special exhibit which is a shame because it looked kind of cool, but there was more than enough for me to look at just in the main section and I didn’t get to everything before I had to go.

Still, can’t complain about leaving the museum when I got to walk down the avenue looking at the cherry blossoms. Admittedly, they are on their last legs and you could kind of tell, but given I didn’t think they’d still be out at all when I arrived I’m thrilled that there were flowers to look at.

The food stalls were also really fun and I could have eaten literally everything. Unfortunately, we were in a little bit of a rush because we wanted to do that cliche tourist thing and take a paddle boat out onto the lake to look at the blossoms. And of course we wanted it to be swan shaped because why not.

I’m just going to point out the steering mechanisms in those boats are absolute rubbish so collisions are almost inevitable. That said, you can get right up next to the blossoms and really, given we were the last possible time slot for the day, the sun was setting and it was just silly fun.

Bit of shopping and walking around the area for a few hours before heading back to the apartment and it was just kind of a perfect day. Then I got sick, but I kind of expected that. I live in the middle of nowhere with very few people coming and going. I get sick every time I travel and I’ve kind of just accepted that. Still, today I am mostly recovered and ready to go so the plan is to hit Akihabara and then prepare for a trip down to Kyoto.

I probably won’t update again until after that but in the meanwhile I hope everyone is well and sorry I haven’t read all that many blog posts in the last few days.

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Travel Update – Japan

So I haven’t posted on my blog in two days. That’s the first time in nearly three years I haven’t had a post go out. Honestly though, I think this is a good opportunity for me to take a little bit of a break and when I return home get back into my schedule.

Cherry Blossoms
And there’s still blossoms. I was worried I had missed them all but there are still plenty of flower to go and see if only the weather would cooperate.

The flight went smoothly enough from Brisbane to Japan with a very brief stop in Korea. The biggest issue being the delay at BNE meant that my one hour to get through security and to my connection turned into 25 minutes and of course the connecting flight was at the far end. I made it barely a minute before boarding began and was very happy to sink back into my economy class chair and fall asleep for the final leg of the flight.

Venus Fort and Ferris Wheel Odaiba

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know I spent most of yesterday just kind of wandering around Odaiba. It was very fun in an aimless kind of way and kept me mostly out of the rain. In the evening we stopped by Tokyo Station to sort out some tickets because in a couple of days I’m taking an overnight trip down to Kyoto.

Gundam

Probably my highlight from yesterday was finding a gatcha machine that had key chains from Run With The Wind in it. Of course I fed it my coins and it gave me Musa. I was tempted to try again but then the UFO catcher with Sakura from Cardcaptor caught my eye. It certainly did a good job of cleaning out my change and did not yield its prize. Going to be honest, I just kind of suck. I did however have a few rounds of space invaders while in the arcade and that was just pure fun.

Space Invaders

Today, I’ve had an early breakfast before my friend has had to brave rush hour on the trains to get to work and we’re meeting up later to go look at some blossoms and do the silly tourist things that tourists do. I’m killing some time back at the apartment because nothing opens until 10 or 11 anyway so I’d rather save my feet and walking for when there are things open but I’m going to meander around the local shopping district and see what I can find before slowly making my way toward Ueno.

Crows in the shopping district
By the way, these crows clearly have it in for people in the shopping district. One of them threw an avocado shell at me while I was walking. Another dropped a bag on a woman who passed underneath them. Then they sit up there and caw at people.

All and all, I’m having a great time and looking forward to what the next couple of days bring.

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Fruits Basket 2019 First Impressions

It’s finally getting a reboot, but has it delivered on fan expectations?

Another remake of a classic and like previous ones (the Sailor Moon reboot and the Cardcaptor continuation), I cannot help but be excited while at the same time feeling a little wary about what the results might be this time around. I’m pleased to say that episode one retains all the charm of the original anime series, with superior character designs and animation in general, and it even toned down the silliness of the fan club. So, you could say so far so good.

Fruits Basket - The Prince's Fan Club

In point of fact, it is a gorgeous first episode. Very screen capable as it introduces the core cast and establishes their base line relationships. The music and sound should also be applauded as being very affective and overall this is a first episode that manages to deliver for anyone who is already a fan of the franchise and has been wanting to see the reboot.

Fruits Basket - Tohru and Hanajima

What it perhaps doesn’t do so well is have any real hook for those new to the story. The happy girl down on her luck is a trope seen many times (even before the original Fruits Basket anime) and Honda Tohru here works well enough but isn’t charming enough on her own to be a selling point within this first episode, nor pitiable enough to invoke any kind of empathy. Instead she’s very much just being set up in her role which those who know the story will anticipate her growth and development but those who don’t will simply see a fairly standard and maybe not-so-interesting lead character.

Fruits Basket - Honda Tohru

Likewise the mystery of the Soma’s is established here and I’m very keen to see this version of the anime as the original really dropped the ball here (leaving me with a read the manga conclusion which I certainly did but I’d love to see the story actually play out in anime). But again, I’m not certain this first episode really does justice to where this story will go.

Fruits Basket - Yuki and the rats

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Is a beautiful but by-the-numbers opening necessarily a bad thing?

Not really. It was a wonderfully pleasant introduction to the series and the conclusion with the ‘reveal’ for the handful of people who didn’t know all works quite well. However, most of my excitement here is still coming from my general anticipation of what is coming rather than what was delivered in episode one. Everything here works but it isn’t anything exceptional.

Fruits Basket - Honda and her mother.

Here’s hoping this adaptation grows into the charming and emotional experience this story could easily become and at this stage I’m still very optimistic. I did however take a lot of screen caps because it is really good looking.

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There’s No Anime While Driving

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The statement “there’s no anime while driving” seems like something that should be a totally obvious statement. And as there is no anime, there is also no reading, no gaming, nothing. Just the long stretch of straight black road lined with red dirt, dust, and the occasional (or frequent) animal carcass.

Stardriver / driving in QLD… okay, there isn’t much of a connection but still that picture is cool.

Yes, I have officially started my drive to the city to catch a plane to get to Japan. The first leg of the journey done, I’m writing this after a full work day and a three hour drive while sitting on the edge of what might be the single most unaccommodating bed in the history of motel beds (not unclean, just really uncomfortable) and I’m sitting on the bed because when I sat in the chair every single time I moved (you know to like type something) it squeaked and shrieked like I was killing its mother and so I gave that up as a bad joke.

But I am not complaining. Tomorrow I have another fairly long drive and then I have just a few hours to pick up the few things I needed to buy for the trip but couldn’t get where I lived and then I’m flying up and away to Japan and I’m very excited.

However, back to the point of the post (okay, there is no point, not really), it kind of occurred to me that driving long distance is the single most boring game ever invented. It’s like a really dull driving simulator only getting bored mid-journey and crashing out is kind of life threatening which is actually enough to make you keep paying attention even as you stop at yet another roadworks sign where there isn’t a single person working on the road (or even visible) or as the sun turns into a flaming orange ball in your rear-view mirror and threatens to burn your eyes clean from their sockets if you actually dare to glance at your mirrors.

But as to the true inspiration for the post title I’ll have to give thanks to the great Tom Hanks for that one as it borrows heavily from his line from ‘A League of Their Own’.

Tom Hanks - There's no crying in baseball.

The important point though is that I’ve started my trip and I’m really excited. I finished watching everything I was reviewing in Winter except for Boogiepop wa Warawanai which I do intend to finish I just haven’t quite gotten there yet. Still, over the next couple of weeks while I’m hoping to do update posts and possibly some first impressions posts, output is going to be a little down on the blog.

Hope everyone is doing well and I’ll be back soon with actual updates from Japan.

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A Time For Choices

Endro - Post Title Image

Endro Episode 12 Review

I don’t have a huge amount to say about this final episode of Endro. It was, like most other episodes of Endro, cute and charming in it’s own way, played the tropes of its genre well with a few minor twists to keep things entertaining, and ultimately went for a saccharine ending that I really can’t fault it for. Overall, this anime reminds me a little bit of fairy floss (or I guess cotton candy depending on where you live). It looks pretty, kind of tastes great for a moment, but leaves you with very little substance.

Endro Episode 12 -Fai

I’ll probably look more at that idea when I review the series as a whole but this episode really didn’t deliver much in the way of surprises (and we are going to head into spoiler territory).

Endro Episode 12 - Mao
Now, who is a cranky demon lord?

To no one’s surprise, Yulia is feeling conflicted about the idea of fighting Mao even if it is to save the Princess. After a sob-story from the golem it becomes even more clear that this is one epic hero vs demon lord battle that just isn’t going to happen. The overall solution is a little trite but very in keeping with the story. I do however like the story’s overall commitment to characterisation.

Endro Episode 12 - The Hero's Party

When faced with a part of the story they’ve spun that doesn’t quite add up, the girls ultimately shrug it off with a ‘whatever’ and get on with having fun. It keep beautifully with their actions up until now where they ponder things briefly but never get too deep into anything before becoming distracted by something new and shiny.

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While ultimately we end up much where we started and it might seem like no advancement was made, it does feel like the characters are starting out a little wiser this time round and even if they make mistakes they’ll find a way to get through them.

Endro Episode 12 - Yulia
My Hero

In a season of fairly decent series, Endro isn’t topping my list but I’ve certainly had fun enough with this story and I’m kind of looking forward to doing my full series review of it.

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Karandi James
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