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Best. Wristband. Evar. (20 of 52)

This is not from the Ikebukuro Animate store. I bought this in Akihabara, in a much smaller store filled with lots of robo models.

Finally, The Stamps (21 of 52)

Okay! Finally, we get to the stamps. We were in the tour bus on our way from Sunshine City (Ikeburuko, Tokyo) to Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi (which I wrote down as Ashii, which I thought was how they said...) when we stopped at the Dangozaka Service Area on Chuo Expressway. (Annoyingly, I didn't take a picture of the service area. It was nice, it was large, it had a garden area, restrooms, a restaurant, small grocery, that sort of thing. This is the view from in front of the station, looking across the parking lot to the mountains.) Someone (I don't remember who) noticed this big round stamp with ink pad, like we'd seen at Namjatown, only much larger, and we made stamps. After that, [ profile] annathepiper and I were on constant stamps vigil! And we saw them everywhere.

The blue stamps in the upper section came - I think - from Station 5 on Mt. Fuji. Thanks to the typhoon, we couldn't see much mountain, which was sad! But we did see the head of the walking trail, a small shrine area, the larger building of which had a really cool ceiling, and a bunch of other things at station five. (I have lots more photos but I'm only posting so many.) The Ultraman stamps came from the dock station (warning: large AVI) from which we cruised around the lake seeing the various sights. Also, Paul joined the pirates!

After the lake tour (in a typhoon, which made it all kinds of interesting), we took the Hakone cable cars up the hill (also in a typhoon), where we found (at the top) the cable-car stamp you see in red. At one point at the top, Anna and Paul briefly turned into a cartoon bear and schoolgirl.
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

Two Doors Down (from Today's Megatokyo)
(Note the awning in the far right of the splash image;
compare to the awning on the left of this photo.)

I have pics of the actual Animate as well - I earned Gainax points there - but it's in video form so large and annoying to post. Also, I think we stayed in the building behind Piro in the last panel, but I'm not 100% sure. (It's either the hotel or another of the Sunshine City towers; from the angle I'd think it's the hotel, but it looks more like one of the other towers.) We walked up and down those stairs around where he's sitting several times; they have special troughs built in to the tiling for water runoff during typhoon season. To get to Namjatown from where Piro's sitting, you go in the entrance at the bottom of those stairs, turn left, and walk to the end of the shopping block, past the cluster of restaurants on the right. You can't miss it.

ETA: I took this photo from in front of the small park you can see in Google Maps view. The triangular shaped building in the wedge-shaped block across the street is the Animate in question.
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Namjatown Passport Stamp (18 of 52)

My Namjatown ticket, and, more importantly, the passport stamp! This would be the main entry stamp, I think. But I'm not entirely sure! We didn't find it until later. (It's hard for stamps to be out of order, ne?)

Welcome to Yokohama! (19 of 52)

This one got put into the book out of order for some reason, but it's a postcard given out at (and I think by?) the Yokohama Worldcon.

After this, the stamp and sticker and drawing pages get more complex and interesting again. ^_^
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More Namjatown stamps (16 of 52)

Lots more stamps from Namjatown! It's fun. ^_^

Communication Maid Cafe "Filles" (17 of 52)

Someone dressed like Yuki (in the staff photos) handed this to me in... Ikebukuro, probably? Akihabara! ([ profile] blues_kun could read the Kanji, so this is the flyer for the Maid Cafe entrance I photographed in Akihabara, and is in the book out of order.) But while I generally kept these things in time order, I didn't always succeed, and I don't really remember and I can't read the kanji on the map. It's a flyer for a Maid Cafe called Filles. I didn't get a picture of the woman handing out the flyer, tho'. (Can anybody read the station name on the online map in the lower left hand corner?)

ETA: Next door - not in the Maid Cafe, a little bit further down - we got a tasty Hong Kong-import-style shaved ice cream snack. And in that same walk, Mariko saw a drink for sale that she'd been meaning to buy because her mom wanted to try it, and dived into the store that had it to buy one. I started to dive in after and noticed it was actually a sex toys store, and bounced out out again from surprise. A couple of minutes later she came out (having bought the drink) and said (more or less) OMG I'M SO EMBARRASSED WHY IS THAT STORE SELLING SODA?
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

14 of 52

More convention stickers here, part of the same frenzy mentioned before. About 2/3rds of the way down this page, we got chased up a floor of the convention centre as the space was being closed off! Yeah, we were all hanging on until the last minute. The girl in the upper left I tried to photograph a couple of previous times during the convention in that costume, but she was always dashing between rooms. (I think she was a runner.) Fortunately, she showed up at stickerfrenzy, with stickers. ^_^

Namjatown! (15 of 52)

Several of the stickers on this page are from people I'd already gotten stickers from, but since some people have multiple kinds of stickers, we decided redundancy was good. Note more cats, like y'do. ^_^ The sticker of the very last person I met in convention space is labeled, of course; and the NAO sticker on the bottom right was rescued - I found it on the pavement outside the doors to the convention centre, and rescued it for my book as the last thing I did at Worldcon. (I really didn't want the convention time to be over yet.)

After that we did some packing and resting up and wandering more around Yokohama, taking more pictures, eating out, and that night going to Cosmoworld, the amusement park halfway between our hotel and the convention centre. (I posted a few pictures at the time.) It's strange how sweet that night is in my memory - no more convention, not going anywhere particularly amazing (except for the ferris wheel - quite tall, which was awesome) but just kicking around on a hot Yokohama night, hanging out playing videogames and going to the haunted house (which was great) and riding rides just because we didn't have anything better to do and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And it was.

Then the next day we took the train to Tokyo, and we got a little lost after getting off at the last station, but I realised we were off course and figured out where we were and put us back on course straight to Sunshine City - and, once we'd gotten into the hotel, Namjatown! We weren't there very long before we noticed a lot of stamps and ink pads floating around, and once we'd noticed a few, figured out that this was what the Namjatown Passports were supposed to be used for! But we all decided we had books already and I know I knew what I was gonna keep doing with mine, and I stamped anything I could find. (As all the stamps were chained down, it was easy to find them, because kids would stamp as much of the wall as they could reach with the stamps, which meant there were these dark circles that served as highlights for stamp locations.)

Some of the stamps above indicate different sections of the park; others indicate specific attractions. I think the skeletons were from the revolving-gravestones matching game. (They had names in back, of course in kanji, but we still solved it. ^_^ ) The musician is probably from the main stage area (I only saw one), and the spirit cats (Mononoke Neko) were all from the haunted section - specifically the one where we tried another haunted house, only this one included a game that we didn't entirely understand until it was far too late and the poor kidnapped kawaii nekochan got ROASTED FOR DINNER BY HIS CAPTORS because we didn't get enough words right.

That was kinda hardcore. I love Japan so much. ^_^
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

12 of 52

On the last day of the convention, you get huge goodbye swaps of stickers and stamps (note another stamp instead of sticker!) as people fill out their books. The "met" label on one refers to me meeting the cosplayer seen in costume on the right side of the sticker in question. Note another pre-made correct American sticker. Also, for some reason, there were a few people with Yokohama/Minato Mirai stickers.

13 of 52

More last-day stickers - by the time it really was getting into a bit of a frenzy. There's a copy of [ profile] spazzkat's extremely popular sticker, as well as a duplicate or two. Towards the lower right there's a scene from a Shino shrine; one of the priestesses is also a fan and this was her sticker. ^_^ Note also the WSFS sticker at the bottom.
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A Cosplay Cafe (10 of 52)


The wind-up-doll costumes the people promoting this new cafe were really cute. (The keys slowly unwound, even, and needed rewinding.) The leader of the little group also was the instigator of an Idol Rush Moment when she saw [ profile] spazzkat's iPhone. I'd never seen anything like that before. It was amazing.

UFO FAN (11 of 52)

Fanzine Alley was a table cluster primarily for fanzine publishers. (Note stamp and stickers mentioning it.) UFO FAN denotes the sticker of a writer of UFO yaoi doujinshii. Why, yes, of course I got a copy. Note also more hardcore cosplay. Note also Mugi-san's stamp instead of a sticker, but made to the size and format of an exchange sticker. Halfway up on the left side you can see a sticker of a guy in front of a mecha; that's his costume, and he had it there; it looked great.
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8 of 52

Okay so! This one includes the Timely Times little paper thing which is great because the Timely Times is an hourly fanzine. There were over 100 issues at the convention. The submissions forms are small blank sheets of paper with a few places for submitter name and such. They're assembled physically, as submitted, into photocopy masters which are duplicated and distributed by hand (many people handing out many copies) as soon as each master sheet is filled. I submitted three or four things, I forget how many.

The handwritten bit was my attempt to write down what a bunch of fans at a Japanese convention party were singing. (I think it was the Gatacon party, mostly because the stickers above it. ^_^ ) I think it was music from this anime. There was a lot of booze so they sang it over and over and over again, and it was fun.

9 of 52

This one has two of the bacteria stickers! There were a lot of variations of these. One is the bacteria responsible for fermenting hopsmalt to make beer, the other is for rice for sake; there was a poster showing a lot more. (I have a photo of the poster somewhere, I should post it.) Note a true Timely Times sticker, from one of the staff. ^_^ Note also the DenmarkNorwegian flag, the continuing number of cat stickers, and the rare appearance of an American custom sticker made actively before the convention. Also, ♥ catboy. ^_^

[ETA: Oops. Sry flag! I remembered meeting Crazy Norwegians and Crazy Swedes and not anybody from Denmark but I didn't think the flag came from them. And maybe it didn't! Also, I thought you fermented hops, but I am told you ferment malt. Regardless, I know it's the beer one. ^_^]
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This page has convenient labels:

6 of 52

The "wedding party" was actually a wedding! Not the original ceremony, tho'; the couple involved had been married for some time. But they did a short traditional ceremony at the convention. And then there was sake and lots of it. The Space Force party - source of four stickers - was nine if not more kinds of awesome, particularly has there were Crazy Scandinavians, of whom I have pictures! If you are ever at a worldcon and there are crazy Scandinavians, FOLLOW THEM TO THEIR PARTIES they will be filled with awesome. And booze.

Down towards the bottom of this page you can start to see the full-body cosplay outfits showing up in stickers; a bunch of non-Japanese fen didn't show up with trading stickers! But fortunately this was anticipated and a club had set up a sticker-making outfit - bring your own image or they could shoot a picture for you! We got more stickers for [ profile] spazzkat (from his original graphics, I'd brought them along on a USB key) from them.

And the red stamp in the lower right hand corner is the Australia 2010 bid for Worldcon.

7 of 52

The large image is part of a flyer in the art show for yet another artist whose work I liked. I can't read very much of this but it's for something called Angel Mythos (TAKADA Akemi) and there are a couple of web pages, including this manga one and this second one which is the gallery site. I'm pretty sure people on my friendslist can tell me more about this than I know.

I'm also inordinately pleased to have a Mixi sticker, particularly having made jokes in a TechNet article in reference to MixiWars. ^_^ That was in the internet lounge area. And, of course, the sticker for the Hugo awards ceremony, with George Takei and Ultraman as MCs. That was, of course, AWESOME.

BTW, are people interested in this or is this like the worst kind of vacation slideshow evar? Eventually we will get past convention stickers and into more general stamps.
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Local Tourism Board Representative (4 of 52)

This guy spent a lot of time talking about places to visit around Yokohama. He had a lot of good suggestions, really, tho' we kind of already had our next several days planned out. But that wasn't his fault.

More convention stamps below the doodle. The one that didn't come out well at all came from the voodoo board; something happened to it - I don't know what, exactly.

More Sticker Frenzy (5 of 52)

I got the Buyo Buyo sticker at a party, at a great Cultural Exchange Moment, when [ profile] spazzkat and I were talking with a couple of Japanese fans who had a bit more English than I had Japanese. The one who gave me that sticker told us it was his cat, and his cat's name; it means "belly belly." We ended up trading stickers, as well as moments of artistry in the form of calligraphy (from him - it's in the office) and music (from me, on Popcorn).

The horned girl is another art show artist's promotional card; as you can see it's just taped down. I'd hoped it was a sticker when I got it. ^_^ The sticker in the upper left, the Boss Borot cosplay (from Mazinger Z) is the same guy as I photographed with [ profile] spazzkat in Yokohama back here. And the samurai sticker wasn't from anything, I got it in a vending machine and liked it. ^_^

and next

Oct. 29th, 2007 10:48 pm
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Sticker Frenzy (2 of 52)

This is more from the first day of the con, and also, the first of the stamps. We didn't understand the stamps quite yet, but the convention had stamps out and about at different places around the con - exhibits, art show, autograph tables, all that - and you could stamp these into your sticker book. Paul Cornell was at the autograph table and didn't have stickers, so he used the autograph table stamp instead.

What neither of us knew yet of course was that we'd end up finding stamps all over the country.

Found in Art Show (3 of 52)

This was a handout card by one of the artists whose work I liked. The back of the card gives the artist's name as HANG-CHANG (in romaji), URL "Contents of this website are unwholesome." W00t!
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

Sticker Frenzy Begins (1 of 52)

So earlier, I mentioned - possibly in someone else's livejournal, in a comment - that I took along a blank journal with me to Japan to take notes, possibly draw sketches, and things such as that. I also planned to use it as a book for sticker exchange. This is the first page of the "stickers and drawings" side, which later became a stamp side, as well.

Convention fans in Japan are hugely into sticker collection. At this con, the usual protocol just to say, "Exchange?" and show that you had stickers or a book, and that would start a frenzy of trading, with everyone offering their stickers and getting ones from other fans. Accordingly, each of these stickers represents another fan at the con. Most are Japanese fans; some foreign fans had stickers, but not nearly as reliably. (This situation improved as foreign fen started getting stickers made locally.)

The sticker design I brought with me is in this icon. (It's the Fir Flag of Cascadia, which is graphically not as cool as the Pine Cone Flag on Zapoti, but is a lot easier to design around at the tiny size of these stickers.) Mine were on the standard-sized sticker, which is about 11mmx17mm.

The name of the kitty on the bottom right is ブヨブヨ、or Buyo Buyo, which means "belly belly." We ♥ Buyo Buyo and I ended up getting that sticker twice. The green and white graphic sticker is a parody of Japanese FIRE EXIT signs; normally that's a stick figure human, instead of, well, you know. And cats were very popular sticker picture subjects, which is why [ profile] spazzkat's sticker - I'll mention it when we get to a page that includes it - was a huge hit.

Don't worry, it's not all stickers. I won't even post all the sticker pages in a row. ^_^
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

Yokohama Flowers (2)
(みなとみらい21 2007(19)/8/30)

solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
Here's a short photo essay on comics/manga in Japan.

Comic Market is the big biannual manga convention. They have these regularly. Here's the poster from last winter:

And here's the poster from this immediate past summer, as printed on the cover of the catalogue.

I saw both of these at Nippon 2007, of course, the Worldcon. They had a big exhibit area, which featured is a scale model of the Comic Market exhibition halls. Note the use of the word "halls," plural. This is not multiple copies of one model; this is collectively one big model. Note the use of the word "scale" in front of model. It is to scale:

Let's zoom in to just one of these halls. Note how big the halls is. I would describe it as pretty damn big. I've been to COMDEX when it was COMDEX, so I have some good comparison material here.

That's still pretty far out; let's zoom in further, to one section of that same room. I'm not 100% sure, but I am fairly certain that this subsection would be larger than the PAX exhibition space, in part because...

...each one of those little squares is a booth.

Last winter's convention was nr. 71. Last summer's convention was nr. 72. These are not flukes.

Oh, and by the way, not to brag or nothin', but that Animate store they're talking about lately in Megatokyo? I earned some Gainax points buyin' stuff there. The store? It is seven stories of awesome. ^_^
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

Yokohama Flower
Taken on the converted railway trestle from Navois Yokohama to the rail station.

I have more Japan posts coming. It's just been a busy week.
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
Everybody talks about the Japanese train system. I have to say it's for damned good reason. They're fast, they're pleasant, they're on time; what else could you want?

Oh, I know - how about comfort, and room? Everybody knows how packed Japanese trains are, right?

How About That Legroom?

That's on a しんかんせん700, the highest-speed class of "bullet train" currently running. (They have faster ones in testing now.) Note how Anna has her bag in front of her instead of in the overhead racks, or the luggage storage areas at the back of each car. Note also that the train is in motion, and I'm standing, taking pictures. What you can't see is that I could have stood up in front of my own seat and been at full height, or that this is ordinary class, not a green (first class) car. And it wasn't a reserved car saved for us. We had ordinary seat assignments, but that was it.

Here's what it looks like out a window of one of these trains. I don't know whether we were at top speed when I took this shot; the comfort level of the ride didn't really change with speed. The occasional vertical blinky blurs going by horizontally are utility poles.

Note how much quieter it is than an airplane. Note also that you can walk back to the bathrooms, complex of vending machines, or other cars at any time. Note that we didn't have to arrive at the station two hours in advance, and that we just walked onto the train. I spent some time updating my print journal while on the ride; it's far smoother than air travel, and while there are seatbelts they encourage you to use, they're optional.

We rode a 500 series - slower than the 700, but still high-speed - away from Tokyo ahead of the typhoon. Here's video of Anna updating her journal on the 500 during the ride through the leading edges of a typhoon. On the 500, it just seemed like another rainy day.

But it's not just the しんかんせん lines. The ordinary JR lines are also very comfortable. Not nearly as fast, of course, and on some lines the rails aren't welded - but even on those, there's not really much of the clacky-clacky noise. And below that, the light rail - those are more like a subway (side-seats only, lots of standing room), but again are 1. quiet, 2. clean, 3. on time, and 4. easy to figure out once you understand how the maps work. And everywhere, at least in and near the cities.

Our JR Rail run to Kansai Airport was three minutes late to the station due to weather. They issued apologies over the PA system while the cleaning crew did a mid-day spot-check clean of some of the cars. We got to the airport on schedule, to the minute. Oh, and by the way, they're good at stops and starts, like you'd want - there's nothing jerky about anything.

JR Rail to Kansai Airport, at station

I do want to say that the Seattle bus tunnel - at least, pre-closing, I've no idea what it'll be like under Sound Transit management - was one of the few transport hubs I've seen comparable to the nice Japanese subway stations. Hopefully ST won't screw them up. Sadly, here, they're the exception, and not at all the rule; I'd like to change that. Interestingly, they're also similar in that the individual stations tie several otherwise-independent blocks of retail together, with entry directly into those complexes. In particular, the bottom level of Westlake and the corresponding entry point to Westlake Station is probably the most Japan-like moment of transit station I've seen here. Add the ticket gates and it could be part of the system. Perhaps if I ever write fantasy fiction, I can have it be simultaneously a Sound Transit line station and a みなとみらい line stop. A transfer point between Seattle and Yokohama rails. There's even a Daiso on that level. It'd be great.

If only.

But back on topic. Rails met and exceeded all expectations, except for crowding. Those crowds you hear about certainly do exist, but not nearly to the extent suggested, and are a rush-hour phenomenon. I never saw it, but my friend Mariko told me they're real - mostly on the ring line in Tokyo, maybe, but real.

As with the food, though, there was a surprise: Japanese roads are also better. Smaller, sure. Much better sidewalked where appropriate, of course. And far fewer of them are really primarily intended for cars - most of the side-streets are pedestrian-first, cars certainly can and do come through but they need to be careful and slow. But the highways and major arterial routes - the car routes - are much smoother than here, and, accordingly, the bus rides are smoother and quieter. Not traffic-jam free, of course; our bus from Narita to Yokohama took almost twice as long as it should have, thanks to Tokyo rush hour traffic, and it was far and away the worst part of the trip, and pretty much the only portion I didn't enjoy. (We should have taken the train, but I didn't have that figured out yet. Now I do.) But at least the roads were smooth.

Getting back here - and onto 99 - reminded me of the time Anna's Norwegian pen-pal Yngvar flew in for a visit; we picked him up from the airport, and on the trip to Murkworks North, he was curious about the pavement treatment Seattle apparently used on I-5 to slow traffic down by making the ride have a strange vibration to it. "No," I said, "the roads just suck." Yngvar said, "...oh." and didn't bring it up again. I further speculate that someone from Japan would have had the same reaction. We may have a lot more roads than either of those countries, but they aren't really very good. "More," again, rather than "better," on roads. And both less - much less - and dramatically lesser on rail.

And even with really good roads, I prefer the trains. Somehow, I think the Japanese do, too:

Hato Bus
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
[ profile] spazzkat pointed out that I did in fact have a vending machine picture, so I'm posting it as an addendum here!

Even the Coke machine
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
One of the things I'm still missing pretty severely is the food - really everywhere, not just Yokohama and Tokyo. I expected all the Japanese food to be better, of course, and it was - for example, the cluster of restaurants at the train station had a sushi-train restaurant which served sushi of quality much better than that of cheap-but-good sushi here. It wasn't I ♥, but it was within range given the limited palette, and, of course, that was cheap sushi. Meanwhile, the cooked fish lacked some taste that I really dislike in cooked fish throughout North America, and while it still wasn't my favourite thing in the world, it was something I was perfectly happy to eat.

I didn't really expect the western food also to be better, as a rule. The sandwich and fries I had at Anna Miller? Really good. Good cold cuts, good bread, an unexpected but very good mayonnaise relish that I've no idea how to duplicate that was tasty without being heavy like I usually find mayonnaise to be. It came with french fries. They were solid but light and tasty, despite being deep-fried.

That became a recurring theme, really; a lot of American foods, particularly cheaper American foods, are heavy with fats and grease. While actual meats served in Japan tended to be very fatty cuts - particularly the night I tried 牛どて鍋, which is, hum, a country beef single-pot pie-like dish - you never found much of anything heavy with oil or grease (or, I suppose butter), like all fast foods, most sandwiches, french fries, and so on. I liked that a lot.

Actually, let me just me come out and say it: food was all but uniformly better than here. In a lot of cases, dramatically. Quality of ingredients showed. Everywhere but the first stop when we joined up with the Thundering Hoarde tour already in progress was at least really good. That first lunch with the group was a very western lunch aimed at reassuring a very western group of tourists, and it was mediocre, but even the tour food improved quickly. And more specifically, even the western-oriented tour food - which shrank in proportion as time went on - improved just as quickly.

I don't quite know how to drive this home with clarity. How about this: we stopped at a rest station - a combination rest stop and truck stop - on the highway between tour visits one day. I got a curry from the short-order counter, and it was good. Rest stop curry - actively good.

(Oh, there was another exception: one night we needed Food Now, and Paul and Anna dove in to an egg, italian sausage, rocket, and anchovy pizza, which I avoided for the spaghetti. I chose poorly. Amusingly, I was able to recreate what I think they were going for last night. It came out nice.)

Even things like candy-bar chocolates are better. Counter chocolates are generically of better quality than you get here without going to specialty shops. One of the reasons for the Pocky phenomenon, I rather suspect, is that the chocolate is simply much better than you get in, say, a Snickers bar, and people are reacting to that. Apparently some people think it's dark chocolate - it's not, at least, not in the standard box. But it's got a lot more flavour per volume than people expect, so they think it must be dark. iirc, "Men's Pocky" actually is dark chocolate, if you're curious.

Similarly, soft-serve ice cream - you know, the swirly kind you think of as fun in the summer but not really a good example of the art? It's just good ice cream in Japan. Very good, in fact. I particularly liked the sesame that Mariko introduced to me (so tasty!), but plain vanilla? Also very good. I was pleased to discover today that Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream bars are, in fact, of reasonably comparable quality to the soft serve vanilla - not quite as good, frankly, there's a bit of a hollowness to the taste that I can't figure out, and the chocolate shell isn't everything I'd like it to be, but it's still good. This means I'll have at least some ice creams that I can buy at a counter which aren't a big letdown. Of course, the selection is far less than I had in Japan in, say, in an ordinary ice cream vending machine, but what can you do? At least there's something.

I'm going to have to get serious about learning the art of bento. I can usually stomach airline food, but I seriously and honestly could not eat what United put in front of me on the flight home. It was appalling. But I don't think it was any worse than what I scarfed down on the way there.

Fundamentally, the way that American culture prefers "more" over "good" shows up exquisitely in food. Despite the fact that American food has improved dramatically over the last 50 years, it's still kinda crap. Fatty, sloppy, oversweetened crap, made as cheaply as possible and served by the bucketload, as though to pigs.

This quality emphasis doesn't mean limited choices, by the way. I ran into far more variety there than here. Some of it was scary variety, like HELLO JELLYFISH but! Variety.

Japan is already famous for its vending machines, of course. I don't need to go on about that too much. But in case you're not aware: they are, of course, AWESOME. (Sorry, return of t3h c4pz.) Even in a single smallish drink machine in an alley, you're looking at 20 options - soda, teas, lemon drinks, waters, coffee, vitamin waters, juices, electrolyte waters (like the well-known Pocari Sweat, which I was drinking already before I went over on vacation - it's like Gatorade, sweet, but not sickly sweet, I really like it) - often in two sizes, and the cans have lids you can put back on so you can save some for later. Also, the machines generally seem to come in clusters of three or so, without a lot of repeats.

This is as opposed to a US soda machine, with its four slots filled with Coke or Pepsi, and four other options. Maybe.

Pleasantly, I've found I can get C.C. Lemon at Uwajimaya. I got hooked on that stuff in Yokohama, and it's everywhere. Also, mmmm, tasty. This is particularly good because I tried a lemon drink at QFC a couple of days ago - an all-organic "alternative" kind of drink - and like all kinds of other things now, it mostly tasted like sugar water. I could taste lemon in it, but it was kind of drowned out by the sugar rush. So I poured it out. (They didn't have any Limonata or I'd have tried that. I still plan to try it again. Hopefully that's still good.)

So anyway. Food in Japan: overwhelmingly better. Not universally, but overwhelmingly; Japanese food, western foods, whatever. Better.

But then, on the other hand, they do also have things like this:

Admiral Cheesehead's Orange Fleet Opens Namjatown
([ profile] spazzkat's picture)

Nobody's perfect. -_^
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
No time for a long entry right now, so here's a short one.

I have 2700 photos and I have no idea where to start. You know how they tell you Japan isn't actually at all like anime and manga would lead you to believe, that you have to revise your expectations or you'll be really smacked around and disappointed and all that? LIES. FILTHY, STINKING LIES. At least, for the anime I watch and the manga I read. You know Megatokyo, of course? Of course you do. Piro kinda turns the reality down a notch. Not up. Down.

Except for the undead thing, of course. At least, as far as I know. But then, that's Largo. Largo, perhaps, is the balance, turning it all back up.

But I mean seriously, I know where Megagamerz is now. I know where it is. I know where it is because I've been there. No ph33rbots, tho'. At least, not at the moment. I have seen and experienced the Idol Rush. Just to mix things up, I had the Anna Miller waitress take a picture of us.

I have seen the Nausicaa glider. Here, you can too:

Nausicaa In Hangar

What you can't see from here is that it actually flies. Carrying a pilot, not a dummy, not by remote control. Oh wait, I took a picture, so I guess you can:

Nausicaa In Air

How cool is that? They had video, too. Oh, I cheated: they weren't flying it at the convention, you can't fly gliders in a typhoon. So the flying photo is a grab off another image. But a real image.

Oh, and did I mention who's on the cover of this month's Rolling Stone?


I will say one thing, though; neither anime nor manga - or rather, any I've read - prepare you for how many levels Japan exists on at once. And by that, I mean physically. In any of the cities, you'll have areas - large areas - which are multi-tiered complexes. If you've been to Seattle and been to Pike Place Market, take that, make it about, five to seven stories, and horizontally about, say, 10 times the size. If you haven't, you'll have to do your best to come up with a highly-interconnected five- to seven-storey-tall complex of independent stores contained within a single building on several levels, and "mall" is not really the right image, not even a multi-level mall. That picture of Namjatown I posted? It's an entrance to a theme park, of small but reasonable size, three levels inside, all contained within one of these kinds of buildings. It took up less than a quarter of the building.

Then make another one like that. Then a third. Then have three levels of interconnect between them. Big ones. Wide. One will be at street level, one above, one below. Then, underneath a nearby former dock, add a couple of levels under those levels that you can reach by outdoor below-grade (but extremely open) prominade or elevator. Then every so often put skyscrapers on top, big ones, which may have their own interconnections at upper floors.

Then add an amusement park outside, just because you can, and welcome to みなとみらい。 The linked AVI is not all-inclusive of what I've described. There's just as much more off to the left. I took this from a park half a mile away and I couldn't make it all fit in the frame.

Thing is, sure, this particular area's new, but it's not a oneoff. It's not even the one with Namjatown. This is all over the place. Minato Mirai 21 is special because it's the first area like that we saw, and the one where I realised that it was kind of like the multiple overlaid worlds I saw at PAX with Pictochat, only physical. I didn't make a habit of checking for more with the DS, but I imagine I'd have picked up a few at the Pokémon Stadium.

That is here, by the way. The Pokémon Stadium, I mean. In みなとみらい。

"Not like anime." "Not like manga." Yeah. Not like anime and manga my shiny metal ass.
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
First short note first: I've scrolled back through some of my friendslist, but it's kind of a lot. If it's important, please point me at it. Thanks.

Second short note second: I'm not going to write up one big trip report or anything, I'll post a few things as I think of them. Here's one now!
Okay, so, I really, really, really liked Japan.

Really. And not in just that Engrish kind of way either. (Tho' I have to admit, being in the sake shop and seeing the process of making sake described as involving a "fermentation airplane"? Pretty damn funny. As in, I couldn't take a picture of it, because I had to flee the store, because I couldn't stop laughing. I'm laughing again now. But I digress.)

I mean, there are a bunch of reasons. Sure, there's the way that the kinds of things I care about a lot all work really, really well. There's the outstanding transportation system, there's the emphasis on quality over quantity, there's the most excellent food and creature comforts; there's the special things like wandering through akihabara and singing along with Japanese fen to anime theme songs and all that. But there's also... just being nice.

I mean, sure, I got the point-and-"oh look gaijin" thing once, so we were far enough out for that on some of our wanderings. But honestly? Things were okay. I got so little flak about it that it barely even registered. And the whole culture-of-politeness thing combined with the complete lack of overt hate in my face every day? Pretty fucking awesome.

So, yeah. I ♥♥♥ Japan.

It's funny because if you understand Japanese even a little you pick up on a lot of stuff you otherwise wouldn't. On the second half of the trip - the half when I wasn't posting pictures anymore, I couldn't get net access - we were with a tour group. [ profile] annathepiper and [ profile] spazzkat and I would break off from the Thundering Hoarde whenever we could and go off on our own. We were wandering around separately in one of the gardens when this pair of Japanese women walked by going the other way speculating about my ancestry, deciding that I was definitely at least part asian, but they weren't getting more specific than that. I only knew that because my Japanese was good enough that I could understand what they were saying.

Another day, we were in this elevator and a bunch of young Japanese girls - also tourists, but in-country - got on, and I did the right things, like you do, which is pretty easy. (Despite warnings to the contrary, picking up the social cues there was really pretty easy for me, and watching the tour group be, well, a tour group, was often very painful.) Then this old couple got on - also tourists, also Japanese - and they were drunk, and the guy cheered sake and then asked for his floor the wrong way because he was too drunk to get out more than かんぱい!! and numbers. After he got off on his floor, as soon as the doors closed, all the girls giggled explosively, and one asked "Japanese or foreigner?" and all the other girls chirped off "foreigner" (all this in Japanese) as they got off the elevator one floor later, giggling. The wait-what? part of this, of course, being that the drunken couple were in fact Japanese and we were the gaijin, but apparently, despite this, we passed muster, and they did not. ^_^

Actually, my extremely-limited language skills held up much better in some ways than I'd expected. We had bus ticket confusion in the airport upon landing; I was able to book passage from the airport to the hotel nearest ours on the shuttle-bus run purely in Japanese. Anna wanted to buy a couple of books by Japanese author in English translation at the big Kinokuniya in Tokyo, but they didn't have any copies; I was able to ask whether I could order them at the smaller Kinokuniya in Seattle, and understood the answer when she told me they couldn't, because the distribution system was different between the domestic and foreign branches; when we hit an internet booth cafe in Kyoto, I was able to find out that they were booked through the entire night and wouldn't have anything open until around 9:30 the next morning. So that was neat, even if I got my counters wrong sometimes. (In particular, I asked for a copy of the Timely Times at convention and got one, and realised almost immediately after that I apparently had thought it was some sort of animal, or at least alive, because of the counter I'd used. Oops. がいじんのばか、ね。)

I have nearly 2700 photographs. More than 25% of my entire digital library. I am no idea how to sort this stuff. So here's a link to an avi of what it's like to ride a cable car up a mountain in a monsoon, and here's a picture of the entrance to Namjatown, a Tokyo Sunshine City indoor theme park dedicated to food.

Namjatown, featuring Goyza Stadium

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