Saturday, December 27, 2008

JACK IN THE BOX 2008

It was worth every penny. Or yen, but 'penny' sounds better.

This is the concert report: http://www.jack-itb.com/2008/report/report.html

It started out by waiting in line for about three hours just to buy stuff. The line was crazy long. As a result, I missed the introduction for Session A, but hardly anyone was recognizable on stage anyway. The concert overall was about 7 hours long, as expected when there are so many performances.

For anyone who doesn't know, JACK IN THE BOX (formerly called 'DANGER') is a concert held annually around the end of December featuring various artists from the MAVERICK DC GROUP, one of Japan's music production companies. Their recording company is called DANGER CRUE RECORDS, which you could call a type of indie J-Rock label. This is where L'Arc~en~Ciel, MUCC, and other popular bands have gotten their start.

I had a particularly...okay seat. It wasn't a seat at all, I was in the stands all the way in the back. But the good thing was that I was on the South side, facing the stage directly.

I was surprised at how well I could identify certain small things throughout the concert. As I said, I missed the intro for Session A, but from watching them perform I knew yukihiro (Laruku) was the featured drummer, because I recognized the way he moves when he plays drums.

I was also able to recognize when MUCC was about to perform. They changed the drumset to one that has two bass drums, and from the way the bass was being tuned I knew that it was Yukke that would be playing. (a lot of MUCC's music is very heavy and bass-driven.)

Anyway, I'll try to say something short about each performance.

After Session A was girugamesh. I was really pleased that all three songs they played were songs that I knew (I don't listen to them all the time). They were really great, and if I ever felt like headbanging I would surely go to one of their lives.

Session B was pretty cool, mainly because they covered two NANA themes--'rose' (1st opening theme for the anime) by Anna Tsuchiya and GLAMOROUS SKY (theme for the first NANA film) by Mika Nakashima. My favorite featured member from that group was Miya (guitarist from MUCC), of course. I don't recognize giru's members by name yet, and I don't even know Zoro. (Can someone tell me if Zoro's bassist Tatsuhi is a guy or a girl? Normally I can tell, but...)

Speaking of Zoro, they were the next act. I liked their music, so I'll probably go look them up a little later. They're a really colorful band. At first I thought Tatsuhi was a girl because of the skirt and leggings, but after a while I wasn't so sure. He/she was awfully cute on stage, though. And Zoro's drummer is pretty good-looking, I must say.

I don't know too much about SID other than a few songs here and there, but I was surprised to see that their drummer Yuuya was playing guitar for Session C. Also performing was Yukke (MUCC), Mao (vocalist for SID) the drummer from Zoro, and one of SID's support members on keyboard. I absolutely love Mao's voice, and Yukke is one of my absolute favorite bassists, so I was happy to see them on stage together.

Session D was a big surprise. Normally the vocalist is introduced last, but this time he was introduced first, and for a reason. The vocalist featured was Tatsurou from MUCC. A lot of people in the crowd screamed for joy. And then came the surprise: He was performing with jealkb, a popular and up-and-coming visual kei band. The most unique thing about jealkb is that they have seven members, and they are all comedians. Everyone started clapping along when the group opened with Laruku's 'Link'.

SID was up next. I admire them a lot for what they've managed to accomplish so far throughout their career from 2003. They started out in the visual kei scene, but they cover a wide range of music genres, with pop and jazz-inspired sound. They dropped the VK image around 2006, and now they're extremely popular in Japan. Their performance definitely stood out from other bands, especially with Mao's powerful vocals.

Ken (guitarist from Laruku) was also really great. He opened up with a cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock and Roll' (I played bass for that song in the CP Scholars Arts Fair earlier this year, so I should know it). Of course his Japanese accent is so heavy that I could barely make out the words, but I didn't care. After performing his first solo single 'Speed,' he told the crowd that he was in the middle of recording, and then performed two new songs. After his performance it was announced that he's releasing his second single in March and an album in April, as well as doing a live tour during the summer.

Session E...Oh, Session E. The first two introductions were puzzling to me, one of whom I didn't know at all. The other is a support musician for L'Arc~en~Ciel, but I don't know how to read his name. Miya made another appearance, and then Aki was introduced as the bassist. The excitement just kept building up, and then the vocalist was introduced: hyde!!! So he was performing, after all! Hearing him sing 'All Dead' made me so happy, especially with Aki and Miya. hyde even had this little moment on stage with Miya, it was so great.

So with that, I've covered about half the concert. I'll continue the other half later.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Things/People I Miss.

1. My family. I talked with them on Skype this morning (Christmas Evening their time). It was really nice.

2. My friends. I think my American cell phone is depressed because she can't get any calls, haha.

3. CHICKEN WINGS AND MUMBO SAUCE. This came to my attention when one of my friends on Facebook brought it up. I can almost taste it even now...I love the fries too. *sniffle* In general, I miss the Chinese sub place by my house.

4. Red Robin. Or Fuddruckers. I want a real hamburger. Real American hamburger > Mos Burger.

5. Bath & Body Works. I'm running out of Dancing Waters body cream. And I miss the big sales they have several times a year.

6. Cosplay. Sure, Japan is the land of anime/VG cosplay, but I like doing it in America--it's less serious.

7. Pizza Hut. My family always wanted hand-tossed, but I always wanted the buttery, crunchy-outside and fluffy-inside pan pizza, which contradicted my semi-health nut eating habits. (You'd think that I eat healthy for the sole reason of indulging in PH's pan pizza.)

8. Decent chewing gum. I've had colder-than-ice gum that feels like the Ice Age is blowing up my nose (good for a cold remedy and nothing else). Then I had some "Freesia Mint" gum which tastes like mint and flowers. Finally a friend in class gave me some strawberry-flavored gum, which was decent. I miss my 'Extra' green apple and cool watermelon flavors.

9. The Stamp Student Union. Sure, a lot of the building blocks cell phone signals, but there are couches. Couches in Rikkyo? Only in Tachikawa Hall, but the area doesn't have that serene and secluded feeling like the second floor of the Stamp.

10. Bubble smoothies and shrimp tempura rolls from Wasabi. Probably my favorite part (if not the only part I liked) about College Park.

11. Real bacon.

12. Affordable cheese and butter.

13. Miracle Whip. Kewpie mayonnaise isn't cutting it for me. Even Masha-nii can't convince me to switch.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I made a really quick video after I got one from my dad :)


Winter Break! Thank Goodness.

I started my first day of break yesterday. I did a four-stop tour on the Yamanote Line for some shopping. Akiba being the farthest, I started there. I didn't think I'd be there for very long since I've been there three times before, but I actually ended up staying for about three hours and discovered a lot of shops behind Akiba's main street. I ended up buying a 2GB microSD card for 480yen, a spare Nintendo DS battery and charger, and my favorite bargain...an Apple Remote. I've wanted a remote for my MacBook for a while, and decided not to buy one before I left the U.S.

So I went to Sofmap to look around for some used Mac items, and there I see a stash of brand new remotes. 498 yen each. Unbelieveable, because the retail price of a remote is around $20 (overpriced as always...shame on you, Apple). I was a bit skeptical that it wouldn't be compatible, but I bought it and tried it out with my MacBook, and it works flawlessly. I'm very pleased.

My next stop was Harajuku. On the way to Takeshita Street, I passed a group of Versailles cosplayers. At first all I saw was some girl in a red dress (Hizaki) and didn't think much of it, and then when I saw Jasmine You (the one in purple) I realized what had just happened. I only saw them for a split second but I knew it was really good cosplay.

I should've stopped by Watanabe hair salon to try and set up a consultation for the ionic straightening system, but decided to wait until I had more money. There was a specific bag I wanted to look at, which I ended up not buying. I went to Daiso and bought some things, and then got a Mixed Berry Mille-feuille crepe.

Then after debating for a bit, I decided to stop in Shinjuku just to look around Kabukicho for a bit. Hosts are so intimidating...so I stopped in a few arcades to play some UFO Catcher. I finally won something for myself! It took a few tries, but I got the MOST ADORABLE Chopper Man plushie:



Winning it was somewhat easy after I got used to it. This UFO Catcher was easier, because instead of getting just two chances to move the claw (once horizontally and once vertically) I could use a joystick to move however long I wanted, and then use a button to rotate the claw. After jiggling the joystick a bit the first time, I discovered that the right claw was very loose, but the left one was very tight. Thus I depended on the left claw to push Chopper Man down the hatch.

I also visited a pet store. It wasn't to see the cute puppies and kittens though. On my last visit, there was a black Lab, pretty grown, sitting sadly in a small case. Compared to the puppies that cost anywhere between 500 to 3000 dollars, this poor thing had been discounted to 100 dollars. It made me so depressed that I couldn't take that dog in. But fortunately, posted on that very case yesterday, there was a sign that said "A family had been chosen." I was very relieved.

Last, I decided to stop by Sunshine City on the way home...to play UFO Catcher. I didn't win anything except for a bit of candy. I could've knocked that tower down in just a few more tries if I was willing to spend more money. I figured out the timing of the machine and the best way to scoop up the most candy, so I'll definitely play it again in the future.

On the way back to the station, I saw a circle of people gathered around this street performer. He was pretty funny. I only caught the end of his performance, but he made a Mario balloon figure and then did an amazing balancing act. It was really awesome. The first two times he couldn't find his balance and fell, but he took it well and said he'd try one more time. Everyone was so nervous, as well as myself. But he finally got his balance and juggled three knives at the same time. It was amazing and a great way to end my day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanks.

I feel a lot better.

No need to explain what made me so angry, but instead of staying in my room all mad, I decided to go out to Ikebukuro with Kenisha. She invited me to go get crepes (before I was mad).

We went to the 100 yen shop, and then to Sunshine City. After getting crepes, we went to the arcades.

I'm sure you know about crane games. Those glass boxes with the stuffed animals, and that one claw hanging over them, which you have to use to grab something.

In Japan, those game machines are extremely popular, and better known as "UFO Catchers." Rather than three prongs, many of the crane games here only have two. And no, it's not impossible to win.

Kenisha has a friend who loves playing UFO Catcher and is pretty good at it. He won two prizes on my birthday and gave them to me. Ever since then, I've been visiting the arcades in Sunshine City, observing all of the machines for "winnable" prizes.

I'm not very good at any of these games. So this time, Kenisha and I worked together to win some things, with Kenisha actually making the winning moves and me spending all the money. Together we managed to get two "Kutsushitanyanko"* plush charms (one black and one grey) and a lot of candy. I gave one of the charms to Kenisha and I'm going to split the candy later.

I spent a good amount of money playing those games, but I don't regret it because it was with Kenisha and we actually got stuff. Afterwards we went grocery shopping and came home.

So, Kenisha, thanks for cheering me up. And winning stuff for me, because you're better at UFO Catchers than I am ^_^

*Kutsushita is Japanese for "socks," and nyanko means "kitty cat."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Alright, show's over, nothing to see here, move along =P

I had fun. I didn't get to do karaoke like I wanted to. I didn't even do purikura to commemorate my 20th birthday.

I went to an English pub with some friends, and we just sat there laughing and talking about stuff. Afterwards, Kenisha, her classmates and I went to Sunshine City. Apparently Andrew is especially good at these crane games at the game center. He got two prizes, both of which he gave to me as gifts.

After that we went home. I got home about 20 or 30 minutes ago, about 10:30 p.m.

On a Tuesday night.
I've got homework to turn in tomorrow morning.

So, no...it wasn't a huge special day being treated like a princess, or getting a confession like in the movies where the guy you're crushing on shows up for your birthday with a gift, or meeting your long lost father who walked out on your mom 15 years ago and wants to make amends.

It was just another night, but a little more fun than usual.

I drank alcohol. I forgot what the drink was called...or what was in it. But it was yummy. The glass was filled with ice, so there really wasn't much to it anyway. Yet my cheeks still felt flushed after I finished. It might have been the cold weather?

Anyway, as silly or stupid as it might sound to some of you (and I know who some of you are), I really wanted to honor my parents on my birthday. As for the person I have become, it's thanks to my parents, who raised me during these past 20 years. Compared to what they have done for me, I have done nothing. If you are reading this: Mom and Dad, I miss you so much and I'm so blessed to have you as such wonderful parents. I'm doing my absolute best so that you can continue to be proud of me. I love you!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hisashiburi.

It's been awhile.

Nothing's been going on. Nothing important, at least.

My birthday is today/tomorrow. Yay. If I actually do something special, I'll blog about it.

In a few hours, I won't be a teenager anymore. But I'm going by Eastern Standard Time, so I'll be offically 20 at around 5:00 p.m. Japan time on the 16th.

Okay, it's late, I gotta do my homework and go to sleep. I've been super lazy this week. I think it's because I just had all of my midterms and winter break is coming up.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last Weekend.

My Internet came back for a day and went out again. According to the manager it should be fixed on Monday. Anyway, here's an account of what last weekend was like, since I didn't have time until now to blog about it.

Friday: Shinjuku, explored Kabukicho and observed hosts as part of my research.
Saturday: Harajuku, purikura with Kelley and Kenisha, then went to a restaurant in Shibuya. Karaoke afterwards--I sang READY STEADY GO by L'Arc~en~Ciel, Coast to Coast by Bonnie Pink, and Billie Jean by Michael Jackson.
Sunday: Did laundry, homework, took a nap, cooked, and straightened my hair.

Saturday morning was the highlight of my weekend. For the first time, I bought a ticket to a concert in Japan.
First, Internet has been down on my floor since Thursday night. Tickets went on sale Saturday morning at 10, so I had to go downstairs to use the public computers to try and order a ticket.

Buying tickets is somewhat similar to the process in America, except for a few more options. Like Ticketmaster in the U.S., Japan has a few places to order tickets for various performances. Ticket Pia and Lawson Ticket are just two of the sites that do this type of service. A few weeks ago I got an account on Ticket Pia to prepare for two concerts, JACK IN THE BOX 2008 and Peace and Smile Carnival.

So Saturday morning, around 6 a.m., I went downstairs to use the computer to check the time for ticket sales for Peace and Smile Carnival. Ticket Pia was doing server maintenance, so that's when I got an account on Lawson Ticket. I went back upstairs and then went down again around 9:30 to wait for sales to open.

Lawson Ticket was being difficult with me while I was trying to buy a ticket. When my credit card (check card, actually) finally got through, tickets were sold out.

It was only 6 or 7 minutes after 10:00.

Ticket Pia gave me trouble even before 10, not loading the page for the concert. This may have been because everyone might have been visiting at once. After refreshing several times, the page finally loaded and I saw that tickets were still available. As quickly as I could, I filled in all the info and submitted it. Then came my confirmation page! I got a ticket!

So now I'm officially going to Peace and Smile Carnival. JACK IN THE BOX 2008 tickets go on sale tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get a ticket for that too, since that's the concert I was planning to attend before I even came to Japan.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Internet at the dorm was working for about a day, and then it stopped working again last night. So, while I'm here at the media library, and while it's still Thursday in the United States, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I am very thankful to have so many people supporting me while I am abroad, and I really miss all of you.

When my Internet comes back for good, I'll write more about my past weekend and some other things that have been on my mind. Right now I'm just catching up on my e-mail and trying to get some work done.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I think I'm in...

Fangirldom? It's not love...not that serious, lol.




So on Sunday I went with Kenisha to watch 容疑者Xの献身 (Yougisha X no Kenshin; 'The Devotion of Suspect X' is how I translated it). There was only one reason why I wanted to watch this movie, and it was because of this guy:



Fukuyama Masaharu, 39 (still within my 20-year limit for fangirling, as I turn 20 this year), Japanese actor, musician and photographer!

Though he IS good looking, that's not what got my attention at first. It was actually from watching a preview of the movie on TV--I thought his acting was brilliant and unique, perhaps because of the type of character that he portrays. Yougisha X no Kenshin is actually a spin-off of the popular Japanese drama ガリレオ (Galileo), in which he plays Yukawa Manabu, a genius physics professor that helps a rookie police detective solve crimes. I've yet to see the drama, but it wasn't necessary to enjoy the movie.

I wasn't really that interested in seeing the movie at first, but then I kept seeing this guy on TV and I became curious. He's in a number of TV commercials, his ads for Kirin FIRE are everywhere, and he had performed in some anniversary concert for some music variety show a few weeks ago (I forget the name of it). I was thinking, "Just who IS this guy? He seems really popular!" Then Kenisha told me she had gone to see the movie with her friends at school, so I just HAD to see it for myself.

Seeing this movie was a test of sorts as far as listening comprehension. The storyline was pretty easy to follow, though; in fact, I think almost anyone could get the idea of what was going on without listening to the dialogue. I found that if I consciously tried to translate what the characters were saying, it was much harder to follow. This might be because I don't really know the English meaning upon translation, or because translating along the way distracted me from what I was currently watching. Anyway, it's a good movie, and if going to the movies wasn't so expensive I might have considered seeing it again just for Fuku-chan (just one of his adorable nicknames given by his fans--another one is 'Masha', so kawaii!!). I hope someone fansubs it when it comes out on DVD.

I've been wondering why I find older Japanese guys more attractive compared to the younger ones. tetsu is only a few months younger than Masha, and Nao is the oldest member of the band alice nine. at 27 years of age. I think that, not only am I immune to rabid fangirlism (especially when it comes to VK and Johnny's boys...EW), I also tend to admire more realistic and more mature guys. But although my age limit for...'celebrity admiration,' if you will, is 20 (actually 19 and 364 days), my age limit for marriage is possibly lower--it depends on the person, I guess. I think celebrities like Masha appeal to a range of age groups for a reason, and that's because they know how to connect and attract fans in such a way that does not discriminate or alienate. Masha may be 39 and famous, but he doesn't act like a famous star and he still has a somewhat youthful appearance (hair, clothes, etc.).

For those of you who remember my mention of Eiji Wentz...I kinda bumped him down to some rank that isn't #1 on my list of 'admired' Japanese men, for obvious reasons...and because I think he's gay. And by 'gay' I mean FLAMING. He's still cute and funny though, so it's cool.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Peanut Cream is not Peanut Butter, and Other Shopping Tales.

This is not a case of 'not reading the label'. I read the label.

"So if you read the label, of course you should know the two are different."

Not necessarily. Because there are plenty of things in the food realm that have slightly different names when translated from Japanese to English, and vice versa.

So when I read "peanut cream" on the container, I figured, "Oh, this must be what Japanese people call peanut butter," because peanut butter doesn't really have butter in it.

WRONG.

Japan has peanut butter too, and then there's this stuff:



It's like peanut sauce, except more of a solid consistency and not hot. It didn't taste bad...but it's not peanut butter, which I wanted for my sandwich.

I'm sad. Because what this also means is that the 'real' peanut butter that I saw at Seiyu really is unavoidably expensive. This peanut cream only cost me 88 yen, and I'm not hesitant to throw it out since I know I'll never use it. In fact, I did just now.

Grocery shopping (or any shopping) in Japan makes me appreciate shopping in the United States a lot more. I see a bag of 24 individually wrapped cookies for 300 yen here, and realize that in the United States, I can get twice that amount for 3 or 4 dollars.

Produce is somewhat cheap, except for tomatoes and other fruits. Beef is ridiculously expensive if it's home grown, so I wait until the local grocery store at Fujimidai has imported beef on sale.

I know by now that a place like Japan really isn't for the kind of person who wants to find bargains, because it's hard. I wanted to find a bag for school to replace the one I'm using now, which is a few years old and cost only 5 bucks at this shop in Beltway Plaza. I've searched Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Nerima, and bags of the same size and even smaller can be very expensive. Not only that, but I'm very picky when it comes to design and quality, which makes shopping even more difficult. Maybe I need to lighten my load when I go to school, but I feel I've lightened it as much as I possibly could, so a smaller bag just won't do.

Oh well. The search continues...

Monday, November 3, 2008

The World Ends With...well, maybe not this time.

Finally, I went to Shibuya on Saturday.

I know I know, it wasn't my first time there; I mentioned being there a few weeks ago for clubbing. But this time I went for myself.

I bought nothing there. For me--a plain and poor gaijin college student--Shibuya is a bit...well, it's not my style. But I have yet to discover everything this treasure has to offer, since I had a few other things on my agenda that evening.

Shibuya is a mix of high class and youth culture, though for me it was all the same--everything is expensive and thus I had little interest in shopping as opposed to simply observing. And the observing was especially enjoyable for me, thanks to a Nintendo DS game called "すばらしいこのせかい," or in English, "The World Ends With You."

No, I can't read people's thoughts with my Player Pin. And there are tons of brands of clothing, and I don't think any particular brand is matched up with any particular area, only to change to a different brand within minutes. But, as TWEWY is based in Shibuya, the map in the game does resemble the real thing.

I came out of one of the station exits, looking out towards "Scramble Crossing," or at least that's what it's called in the game.



Yeah, there's HMV (known as AMV in the game) and Seibu (Shibu Dept. Store). Walking around Shibuya is just like walking around in TWEWY.

Here's the famous statue of Hachiko, which was near the station entrance:



The story of Hachiko is very famous, and numerous references are made about this dog in Japanese pop culture (I first learned of it from the NANA anime). Hachiko is known for loyally waiting for his master at the station as he returned from work every day. You can read the rest of the story here.

From my first visit to Shibuya coming out from a different station exit, I had recalled seeing another landmark but couldn't remember how to get to it. I turned on my Nintendo DS and loaded TWEWY to figure out where it was in relation to Hachiko. Just like in the game, I made a turn at the West Bus Station Terminal, and around the corner was what I had been looking for:



I don't know if there's any story to this. I know it's called the Moyai Statue. As you can probably tell by now, this post is mostly revolving around the real Shibuya in comparison to TWEWY.



Tower Records even looks like TWEWY's "Towa Records"!

I could've taken endless pictures showing TWEWY fans the resemblance, but it was pretty crowded; after all, it was a Saturday evening.

I must also note that, from my first visit to Shibuya, the club we all went to (was it 'Club Adam' or something?) was surrounded by love hotels. Kenisha told me during our second visit that this particular area on Dougenzaka is called "Love Hotel Hill." Go figure.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Oh, your Japanese is so good!" and Chopsticks.

When a Japanese person says about your Japanese language skills, "上手ですね!" ('jouzu desu ne!' or, "You're good!"), what does that really mean?

Well, sometimes it's not always literal. Sometimes it can mean something along the lines of, "Oh, you're trying very hard, but you're still not there." It's like telling a four-year old that her drawing is so pretty when...well, you get the idea.

Sometimes, I have no idea what it means for someone to say I'm "上手." Last week, this nurse at the health center asked if Japanese was okay for me, and before I could answer, one of my classmates said (in Japanese), "Oh, she's good at Japanese!" My classmate meant it (I think), but then the nurse would sometimes tell me that I was "上手" when I hadn't even said anything other than, 'hai'. Other times, when trying to explain something or ask a question, I often don't get to finish because they've figured out what I was talking about. (However, I've learned from Japanese classes in the past that a lot is implied and not spoken anyway.)

Also, when I ask a question in Japanese to a Japanese person that happens to also know English, they almost ALWAYS answer me in English." Why? Are they trying to practice their English? Do they think that I won't understand their response if it's in Japanese? It's a mystery to me. (Needless to say, when a Japanese person asks me a question, they usually ask me in English.) Because of this, I often feel like I really don't know Japanese.

About chopsticks: I wish I could tell some people, "For goodness' sake, YES I KNOW HOW TO USE CHOPSTICKS. And OMG, it's NOT because my mother is Korean!" As most of you already know, the ability to use chopsticks is learned, not genetic. Being able to use them at a somewhat earlier age than most Americans might have to do with the fact that my mother had chopsticks available in the kitchen...but it's not because she's Korean. If those types of things were genetic, I'd be able to speak Korean as well! I'm sure most of us non-Asians who use chopsticks can relate to this. I wonder what would happen if I asked a Japanese person if they can use a fork...lol.

So, to learners of Japanese: Do Japanese people often tell you, "Your Japanese is so good!"
And to chopsticks-users: Have people from a chopstick-using country ever asked you if you use chopsticks, or express utter amazement if they see you using them?
And Japanese natives: 外国人は日本語が上手じゃなくても、あなたはその人に「上手ですね」って言うことがある?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

OMG, J-ROCK!

During my first few days in Japan, I went to HMV and some other major CD shops and wondered, "Where would I find indies J-Rock and Visual Kei?"

So on Thursday in Ikebukuro I found a small J-Rock/VK haven by the name of Closet Child...at least I think that's what the name was...I don't remember fully. This place has the music of indies and mainstream J-Rock and VK bands, as well as DVDs, photobooks, concert goods, magazines, Gothic and Lolita clothing, and used items. I was SO HAPPY to find this place on the 5th floor of a building on Sunshine 60 Street, advertised by a simple black sign next to an elevator.

I looked around and only ended up buying a 2007 issue of SHOXX that had a poster of the GazettE. I wanted to buy some CDs, but it's hard when you don't know what to expect from a band without hearing their music. A lot of the Visual Kei bands have similar appearances, but different sounds. I'll have to do some online research, but in the meantime, Closet Child goes on my list of Christine-approved places. I'll be revisiting this place from time-to-time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

It was but a brief visit. You could say it's kind of like E3, but I think E3 is actually bigger. As far as the size of the convention, it was pretty huge, but in terms of content there didn't seem to be much. For only a 1200 yen admission price, it's not bad at all. The show took place for four days from the 9th to the 12th (only the 11th and 12th was open to the public). I was planning to go on Saturday but I was busy, so I went on Sunday instead.

My camera's batteries were, for some reason, running low when I had just gotten in, so I couldn't take a lot of pictures. There wasn't much to see other than elaborate stages and large screens with previews that I wasn't allowed to photograph anyway. I ended up making a short list of games to look out for, at least the ones that my brother and I might be interested in:
  • Valkyrie Profile: 咎を背負う物 (Nintendo DS, Nov. 1st)
  • Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope (XBox 360 and PS3, Feb. 19th 2009)
  • Gyakuten Kenji <--this is for my own interests, I know Jonathon doesn't care for this one. (Nintendo DS, no release date announced but expected in Spring 2009, according to Wikipedia)
  • Patapon 2 and Loco Roco 2 (PSP, I didn't catch a release date for these)
  • Shin Sangoku Musou: Multi-Raid (no idea what this is about but I didn't see any Dynasty Warriors characters in it)
  • Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes (wasn't sure about this either, but I saw that guy from Gatchaman/G-Force in it)
Blah, blah, photos:


There was a long line of people waiting to play a demo of this.


Koei: You can't tell in the picture, but that purple display is actually a HUGE lighted screen that changes. Can you say, "overdone"?


Final Fantasy Dissidia? Seems like some reprise of FF legends or something. I'm not a fan, so I took a picture and walked away.


These dudes were playing electronic music of sorts. I tried to take a video but my camera had other plans in mind, i.e. the batteries were low. Funny since I barely used my camera the day before...


XBox 360 stage. In another room there was another 360 area with playable demos of SO4.

Of course, the show also had a sales area. Don't get too excited; it was nothing compared to Otakon's dealer's room. But I wasn't fully disappointed...Gyakuten Saiban/Phoenix Wright fans, don't hate.


Stickers for IC Cards (those cards people in DC like to call 'Smartrip,' remember?) I won't be using mine until I get back from Japan, since recharging the IC card requires you to insert it in a machine, and I don't want the stickers to get all messed up that way.


Bookmarks! Don't you wish there was one for all of the attorneys and prosecutors?


Blue Badger strap! My cell phone was already nicely decorated so I put it on my DS.


And my favorite...a Godot Blend No. 107 mug. Unfortunately, no coffee was included. Even if there was, it wouldn't matter since I don't drink coffee. The other side of the mug has a picture of Godot on it ^_^

Well, that's it. There was also a lot of cosplayers, but I found out that they all rented their costumes from this booth at the show, so I didn't take any pictures. Ah, I miss cosplay already.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A fun and eventful weekend (^o^)

Thank goodness it's a three-day weekend, at least for me.

I had a few plans here and there this past weekend. A few days ago Aino invited Kenisha and me to a party/social of sorts. I agreed, and then soon after I realized that it was the same date and time as the 2-hour special of IQ Supli on TV! Aaaaah! Eiji-kun, how could I knowingly miss you on TV?!

But I went to the party, and I'm absolutely glad I did, because it was really fun. We went to this restaurant in Ikebukuro which had a karaoke machine. I didn't do any serious singing...I wanted to but the atmosphere wasn't right and I don't think anyone would have cared to hear me. I'm somewhat of a 'majime-na hito' (真面目な人, 'serious person') when it comes to karaoke (sometimes), and of course other people like to get drunk before they sing. To each his own.

After karaoke and dinner, we went bowling. It was fun...and kinda sad...I'm really bad at bowling! Bowling on the Nintendo Wii is fine...but real bowling is very different. Starting out I was so bad, not being able to hit anything. It was so bad that Yuichi had to stand right there by the lane to keep me from throwing the ball too far to the left. He had to do this for every frame or else I wouldn't hit anything. But it was still a lot of fun. Since he mentioned to me that people seem to think his name sounds like 'Luigi,' I've decided to call him that from time to time.

After bowling, some people went home, and the rest of us went to Shibuya for clubbing...totally unexpected. I must say that that was a good and bad experience. It was good because I was with other people and not by myself. It was bad because it was very crowded and my clothes and hair ended up smelling like cigarette smoke...which brings me to a brief rant about smoking and smoking areas.

When I went clubbing for the first time at Ibiza in D.C., the rooftop was the area where everyone gathered to smoke. Smoking wasn't allowed inside, of course.

Japan is much different. As you may know, in restaurants and other public areas, there's often (though I should say 'always') a smoking area and a non-smoking area, although there is little to separate the two. Smoking isn't really criticized as it is in the United States--there are even vending machines for cigarettes, which have just recently been given a verification system to confirm that a buyer is 20 years old or over.

Since I absolutely despise cigarette smoke, it's really hard to be in or near smoking areas. Kenisha also hates cigarette smoke, but pointed out that for some reason it doesn't bother her as much in Japan. Perhaps Japan's cigarettes don't contain as many toxins as those in the States, to which I replied, "Really? Then why bother smoking? I thought people did it to poison themselves." If such a thing is true, Japanese people really aren't getting their money's worth--they should buy American cigarettes instead. "Dang it, I'd BETTER get my fair amount of toxic chemicals!!!"

As you can see, I have no problems poking fun at smokers and smoking-related issues. I will now continue to write a post covering my account of the Tokyo Game Show.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trains. In Japan.

日本の大学らしくない。

I've heard that Japanese schools aren't so busy compared to American schools.

So why am I so busy? Or perhaps it's just that I feel busy, and that it's all in my head. (Not.) I'm always thinking about what I need to do and by when I have to have it completed.

I'm really tired. I arrived at school at 7:50 this morning, even though my first class starts at 9:00. I wanted to avoid the more crowded trains, because yesterday I wasn't 100% sure that I would live. That day I had intentionally missed a Commuter Semi-Express train at Nerima because it was so full, so I decided to wait for the next local train coming up. It was fine until we got to the next stop, and that's when I got packed in against a bunch of salarymen, none of which were young and handsome like I had hoped. Though, even if that were the case, it would be so cramped that I wouldn't be able to look up at their faces anyway.

There was a girl next to me--or, at least her head was next to me since that's the only part of her body I could see--and at times I wondered if she was alive. Her eyes were closed and her face looked somewhat lifeless, as if she were attempting to sleep in the sardine can that was the morning train for Ikebukuro. But occasionally I'd hear a sound from her, so everything was okay. It made me wonder if there are ever cases where someone really does suffocate on a train in Japan.

Every day is a trial, and I have discovered a few small points in avoiding crowds, potential suffocation and being shoved into a train car. One is to move towards the center of the train. I realize that this is one of the reminders from that annoying voice on the Washington D.C. Metro trains. It appears that this isn't really done in Japan; I imagine it's because most people want to stand close to the door so they can get off the train as quickly as possible, such as when they need to transfer. Yesterday I stood next to the door, assuming the train wouldn't become so crowded. Suddenly everyone was piled up in that area, but I noticed that that was hardly the case in the area where the seats were. I suppose there are trains in which every inch of the train is packed (such as on the JR Yamanote Line), but since I take the Seibu-Ikebukuro line it's not quite as crowded. Today I moved towards the center and felt a lot more comfortable on the way to school.

Another tip is to get on the first car of the train when going towards major stations like Ikebukuro. The way the station is designed, there are stairwells going down to the JR Lines right there along the platform. For people who aren't transferring and just want to exit Ikebukuro Station, this can be troublesome as many people are shuffling to get downstairs, taking up all the space on the platform. Unlike Metro, in Japan the doors that divide the train cars are open so one can go right through to the next car, so often people who are trying to avoid the blockage on the platform go through the cars and exit out of one with empty space in front of the doors.

By being on the train's first car, not only can you avoid the crowds of people transferring to JR, but you can also avoid having to wait in line to get through the ticket gates. Despite having Suica and PASMO cards (the same technology that Metro's Smartrip uses), there are so many people that even that doesn't speed up the exit process by much. Being on the front car also means that you don't have to shuffle to get to the staircase leading underground, either. I've that problem many times--waiting to get through the gate, getting through the gate, and then waiting to go down the stairs. (In case you haven't noticed, I often like to wait as little as possible.)

Since I first tried these tips earlier in the morning, I'm not sure how well it works during my normal time of commute. But it sure was easier getting out of the station...even though an extra 30 minutes in the dorm would have been nice too.

So in case you were wondering about those YouTube videos of people getting shoved in crowded trains...yes, it happens.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

This post is dedicated to food.

Along with going to school, doing homework, making sure I have clean clothes, and recording my thoughts on life in Japan in both my personal journal and this blog, there's one more concern that comes up a few times a day: What am I going to eat?

I avoid eating out too often, especially at places like McDonald's and KFC. For lunch, I sometimes have something made at my dorm, but if not then I don't hesitate to get something from Rikkyo's cafeteria, because their food is really good. For the most part, I like to make sure my diet from day to day is balanced, so the best thing to do is to prepare my own food.

Here's a few things that I've had over the past few weeks:



This is a rather inaccurate representation of what's in my fridge, actually. This photo was taken about a week after arriving in Japan, so I still didn't have a lot of ideas for food. These days, I often have:
  • uncooked chicken breasts (some are kept in the freezer)
  • canned fruit--I mix cans of peaches, pineapple, and mandarin oranges together and put them in a container.
  • ready made salads--Preparing salad myself is time consuming, and I don't want to produce too much and let it go to waste.
  • eggs
  • milk--This and the eggs are mainly for making pancake batter.
  • tempura and korokke--I discovered that these are very, very cheap at the grocery store around 8 or 9 o'clock at night, so I refrigerate them and then heat them in the toaster oven when I want to eat.



This is my version of 'oyakodon' (親子丼). 'Donburi' of any sort is a bowl of rice with something on top, such as pork for 'katsudon' (カツ丼) or shrimp tempura for 'tendon' (天丼). Oyakodonburi, or 'oyakodon' for short, is a dish of chicken (親, the word for 'parent') and egg (子, the word for 'child') served on top of rice. A light sauce and some onions are usually included, but I don't have time to cut up onions and things like that. So I used some leftover ramen soup powder and black pepper to season the chicken, and then to finish I poured a bit of sesame oil on top.

At one point, when I didn't have any rice, I made udon (thick, white noodles) and put chicken and egg on top. I call it 'udonburi' =)



My typical breakfast includes a fried egg and a hash brown (in Japan they call it 'hash potato'). At first I also made pancakes, but then I discovered that pancake batter can be used for more delicious things (which you'll see below). So this particular breakfast includes onigiri, which is a rice ball--typically triangle-shaped--filled with some kind of meat or vegetable. I mainly use tuna since it's pretty cheap and tastes good, especially when the tuna is kept in salad oil.



This was my first experiment with pancake batter. I had some chicken and extra batter in my fridge, so I decided to make chicken strips. They were pretty good, and very tender.



THIS. THIS IS GOOD STUFF. I'm not sure what to call it yet, but it's DELICIOUS. Or, as they say on Japanese TV, 'めっちゃうまい' ('meccha umai,' or 'really really delicious')! I attempted to make funnel cake for breakfast just a few hours ago, but according to most recipes I didn't have enough oil. So I decided to use as much oil as I could without dumping the small bottle I just bought the day before. I proceeded to follow the format of using a funnel, and just turned over the cake to fry the other side. When it was done, I used a paper towel to soak up the excess oil, and then topped the cake with pancake syrup and strawberry jam, since I didn't have any powdered sugar.

That cake was the best thing I've ever cooked so far. I'm not sure what made the taste different from a regular pancake; I think it was either the addition of cinnamon to the batter or the canola oil, since typically I don't use oil to make pancakes in a non-stick pan. But anyway, it was so good that it inspired me to finally write up this entry about food, which I had been too lazy to do before.

I've been thinking that I should eat more beef, but as I told Kenisha, if I want beef I'll go to McDonald's or some other restaurant. Beef at the grocery store, along with fresh produce, is REALLY expensive.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You probably know this, but...

The majority of Japanese commercials are weird. VERY weird. You can probably watch most of them on YouTube; some of them are really funny and most of them are just weird and random.

Japanese "game shows" are very different from American ones. It's not really about the grand prize or any money that could be won, and the contestants are often celebrities/TV personalities, especially comedians.

These game shows are often general knowledge quizzes of some sort, including Kanji! Yes, even Japanese people don't know everything there is to know about Kanji. But then again, Americans don't know a lot of complicated words in the English language either. I'm particularly amused every time there's a question involving English, and someone is completely clueless. Such as knowing how the word 'number' is spelled. One person thought it was NAMBAR.

I've also discovered a few people on TV, one in particular while watching a special of a game show called 'Nounai Este IQ Supli."

His name is Eiji Wentz (ウェンツ瑛士). His father is German-American and his mother is Japanese. He's a musician, and TV personality on a number of shows, and does acting as well.



He's the one on the left, in case you couldn't tell which one was "less Asian-looking."

Now, I get the impression that most mixed-race people in Japan are fluent in two or more languages, usually Japanese and English. Such examples are Jero and Crystal Kay. Anna Tsuchiya isn't fluent, but she speaks some English and has some control over her accent.

Eiji speaks just as much English as the average Japanese citizen. This is apparently because both of his English-speaking parents worked a lot to support the family, and thus he spent most of his time with his Japanese grandparents. His older brother is bilingual, however. So he's the only person in his family who doesn't speak English.

I'm sure a lot of people in Japan expect him to know English, or at least have a better understanding of it because of his background. However, it's said that he did very badly in English while he was in school (he also happened to do very well in Kanji). This goes to show that language ability has nothing to do with nationality, race or anything of the sort. I wonder if he ever gets depressed about that kind of expectation or assumption from other people. I used to feel the same way, after all. If I went to South Korea and people knew that my mother was Korean, they'd probably have the same assumption, or at least they would ask. If I didn't tell them anything they probably wouldn't think that way.

But let's get to happier thoughts. Eiji's really cool. Kenisha's already referring to him as my "man" (not "mine," but rather "that guy that gets my attention when he's on TV"). I can't seem to find any of his music--he's part of a duo called WaT with Teppei Koike--so I guess I'll have to stream it and see if I like it, and then buy some CDs. Ugh...expensive Japanese CDs...or get the songs from iTunes, maybe. If they're there. (Just checked: they're not.)

In other news, my first celebrity sighting: Comedienne Edo Harumi gave an interview on the Rikkyo campus on Friday. No one seemed to know or care, and neither did I, really. But I saw her. I didn't even know her name; one of the CIS advisors told me who she was.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ohh snap! It's Akihabarajuku!

It's a combination of Akihabara (秋葉原) and Harajuku (原宿). The kanji can even be combined easily:

秋  葉  原  宿
aki - ha - bara - juku

This word pretty much describes the dominant sides of my personality.

Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is a city known for their electronics. In fact, even the signs in the train station recognizes it as "Akihabara Electric Town."

Sadly, I must first say that I did not take pictures. That's because the weather was terrible, and I want to wait until a clear night to photograph the city.

Akiba is a fun place. near the station is a little underpass leading to rows and rows and rows of shops selling electrical parts and equipment. Clearly this is for the engineers and the geeks of the geeks.

And then there are the video game arcades, including Taito (whose logo is the Space Invader alien) and Sega (even bigger than the arcade in Ikebukuro). Unfortunately, Animate was very small, but that's because the one in Ikebukuro (gotta find a nickname for that place) is one of the main stores.

As Verbal from m-flo says in one of his songs, "Take me down to Akihabara City/Where the laptops are cheap and the lights are pretty." Yes, the lights were pretty (there was this one shop with all kinds of strobe lights and other party lights) and the laptops...well, the old ones were cheap, at least.

What's also cheap are MicroSD cards! Some shops have them for really low prices, mostly 1GB and 2GB. I bought a SanDisk 2GB card for 650 yen (about $6)! I was happy because otherwise I would've ordered from Amazon and paid shipping as well.

I also went to this used game store. For some weird reason I was looking for the Nintendo DS Browser. I found it, for only 2280 yen. I just wanted it for the RAM expansion. I'm aware that I could've ordered that 3-in-1 card online for about $30, but I really wanted the browser and RAM pack...to say that I have them, I guess. For all the ROMs I've downloaded for my CycloDS, I've gotta buy SOMETHING, right? Although buying it used doesn't give any money to Nintendo...oh well.

I also bought a "junk" item from there--a power cable. This is the same type of cable that is used for the PS2 and other game systems, sold on eBay for about 3 to 6 dollars, maybe more. I got my cable for 50 yen! I can use it in place of my 3-prong MacBook adapter extension cable.

After Akiba, I made another visit to Harajuku, but it was raining badly so Kenisha and I decided to go home. Hopefully I'll have time during the school semester to visit again.

9/29/2008: I actually wrote this post a few days ago, but I hadn't finished until today due to...you guessed it...school. Just because the blog says 9/22 doesn't mean you missed anything; I just left the original timestamp.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunshine City, AMLUX, Animate

Cities have so many places to explore.

Following yesterday's (Thursday's) orientation, I went back to Sunshine in Ikebukuro. I had yet to look around Animate, the anime-megastore. I also wanted to go to the Daiso in Sunshine City Mall (another 100 yen shop...I know...). Unfortunately this Daiso was nothing compared to the one in Harajuku. But the mall does have a very nice and slightly overdone fountain:





Yeah, check out that geyser. Totally unnecessary.

Oh, and one of the vending machines has Qoo! I was so happy, just about every other machine I've seen so far was Qoo-less.

Before going to Daiso I had stopped in Animate. Each floor was divided into different sections, separating girl's manga from boy's manga, character goods, CDs, DVDs, and toys. I bought a Tarepanda cell phone strap and a Rilakkuma file (can't really call it a folder, but it holds paper).



After Daiso (because what I got there isn't important at all, other than Hello Kitty Vitamin C candy--it's star shaped!), I decided to make an unplanned visit to AMLUX, the Toyota Auto Salon. The day before I saw some really nice cars and wanted to take pictures. But since I hadn't planned on going yesterday I didn't bring my camera. Fortunately, I did have my cell phone. If I go there again I'll be sure to have my digital camera.

AMLUX also has a Safety Driving Simulator, which of course I had to try. It's not like racing; it's just to show you the safety systems that engage when you crash or hit something (which I did many, many times).





The coolest thing is that it costs nothing for five minutes of using this simulator. Provided that there isn't a long line, you can use it anytime during operating hours and pay nothing.

And now, the beauties (better pictures next time, I promise!):











Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Grocery Shopping

It's strange how the first time I have to buy groceries on my own, it's in a foreign country where I can barely read anything. It's not like any of my classes taught me how to identify food, so I had to use what experience I gained from watching my mom, as well as good ol' guessing.

One thing's for sure, I need to practice.

I've gone shopping for necessities three times so far. I guess that's not too bad, seeing as how I've had to start from nothing in the fridge and pantry. I had intentions of eating more than just ramen, but somehow by the end of my second day of shopping, I had nothing but rice, noodles and soup-related ingredients. Some people can live on that or just eat out, but I'm trying to eat healthy and save money by cooking my own food.

Strange enough, the first two times I went grocery shopping were at the 100 yen shop, once in Ikebukuro and again at the Harajuku Daiso on Sunday. I used to chuckle at people who went shopping for such things at the dollar store in the U.S., but seeing the wide range of food and ingredients available at Daiso, I figured, why not?

Unfortunately, meat, eggs and vegetables are not available there. So after orientation and shopping for cleaning supplies at the 100yen shop in Ikebukuro, I stopped at this grocery store that's conveniently located in front of the Fujimidai station ticket gate. I mixed it up a little, buying some eggs, pieces of pure white chicken breast, frozen pizza (it was on sale), some prepared salad, hash browns (a pack of 3 for 99 yen!) and mochi ^_^

For the most part, I was almost clueless there, so I stuck to familiar things. I didn't want to sit there in the grocery store fiddling with the dictionary on my Nintendo DS and looking up words I don't know. I'll have to look up a few food-related words and some recipes next time.

And for the third time, I forgot to buy hand soap. I can't believe I keep forgetting...I've been using hand sanitizer and dish soap interchangeably.

P.S. While on the topic of food and such, on TV the other day I saw a segment called "Hard Gay Cooking." Yes, Hard Gay was there. They made potato pizza...mmmmm.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Life and My Day in Ikebukuro

Here are some pictures of my dorm. I know my mom would be interested to see what kind of space I have:


It appears that, although I requested a single room without a roommate, they gave me a double room. Oh well, I'm not complaining.


My desk. Japan doesn't really use Wi-fi as much as we do, so the dorm doesn't have Wi-fi. A PC is set up here, but since I have my MacBook (which also uses less power and thus lower bills) I don't really need it. I unplugged the ethernet cable and plugged it into my MacBook. Internet in a snap.

What about my iPod touch, you say? Well, it's not all that important, since the only place I can use its Wi-fi is...what? Not my dorm? Oh that's right, my dorm doesn't have Wi-fi. But guess what? My MacBook can be used as a wireless router/access point when connected to the Internet. Just enable Internet Sharing and bam--Wi-fi. Of course, I have security options set so no one else around here can steal my connection. So now I can use Wi-fi on my iPod Touch, which is useful for downloading mail in advance before going out the door, Internet capabilities at my bed (though I'd rather use my computer), and the iTunes Remote.


I have a fridge! And it's bigger than the ones they allow in the dorms at Maryland. The TV has basic channels--cable and satellite isn't really a regular thing in Japan, though it's available.


I'm really glad that I have this tiny little kitchenette. Don't worry Mom, the cookware and dishes came with the room, so I didn't have to go out to buy any of it. I'm sure they all came from the 100 yen shop anyway. I cook my own breakfast and dinner for the most part, and go out for lunch when I'm not at the dorm. Rikkyo's cafeteria has GREAT food, and it's cheap. I'm looking forward to that when school starts.


Tiny little bathroom. American bathrooms are like luxury suites compared to this. I don't particularly care, it's made to carry out its purpose and that's what matters to me.

I really like being on my own. Maybe not so much in the U.S., but out in an unfamiliar place, where I'm free to explore. I don't always like to go places with other people because there's always the, "I wanna go there!" "No, let's go here!" of it all. I can decide where I want to go and not have to think about how my time is spent going where someone else wants to go. Of course, there are times where I do enjoy going places with other people, it's not like it's a bad thing.

I took a short walk around Ikebukuro Station and then the area nearby to see what I could find. I had a list of things I wanted to look for, but most of the things I actually bought weren't on my list ^_^;

Japanese department stores are huge. There are usually at least 7 or 8 floors, give or take a few. They're also expensive, so generally I don't shop there and look for cheaper places. I decided to take a look at Tobu and Metropolitan Plaza. I didn't take any pictures really; nothing all that important to see, except for these statues in the girls' toys section at Tobu:




If I were rich, I would want this in my mansion.

After Tobu, I went to Metropolitan Plaza because there's an HMV there, and I wanted to check out their music. I didn't find much, but I did find a Claire's right next to HMV. I don't ever remember there being ear cuffs at the Claire's stores in the U.S., so I bought three of them. Their earring selection isn't as big either, which is unfortunate because I need a replacement pair for the third set of holes I have.

The next few photos are of Sunshine 60 Street. I ended up here when I spotted a Sanrio store across the street. There I bought a pink Hello Kitty DS case, some hand towels (they don't have paper towels in Japanese restrooms, it's a custom for people to carry a towel with them), and Hello Kitty Mineral Water, which is essentially water in a Hello Kitty bottle. There's also a small store in the area called jam pixy, which has clothes for low prices. I bought two tops, a hat, and a plaid pleated skirt. I was actually looking for pants, but wasn't sure what size would fit.

Sunshine City has couple of arcades and pachinko parlors, and of course some other shops. At the end there is the Sunshine 60 Building, which has 60 floors.


Can you spot the Sanrio store? The Sunshine 60 Building is peeking out from behind at the top right corner. I didn't realize what that was before so I'll have to go back there later.




Like I mentioned in my last post about Japan having multiples of a particular store near each other, HMV is also located in Metropolitan Plaza at the station.






Yes, the Sega Arcade is here. Oh what a day my brother would have just being here.

On the way back to the station, I spotted...a 100 yen shop. I was so excited. I went down and bought some necessities as well as food and drinks. I love good deals, and I love saving money =)

It is currently 9:01 AM Sunday morning here in Japan, and I'm thinking about going to Harajuku. That's all for now.

Cell phone (Yay!) and Bic Camera: Seven Floors of Electronic Goodness.



Since Pokemon Platinum came out in Japan on Saturday, I thought I'd go buy it. I decided to go to Bic Camera (ビックカメラ) in Ikebukuro. That's where I got my cell phone on Friday, and while looking at info on the store I found that they do more than just cell phones and cameras--they have seven floors of electronics and the like. And the store I went to isn't even the main store in Ikebukuro. Nearby is another store with eight floors and a basement. Japan has this thing where they open a store, and then--as if they had forgotten where they put it--build another one nearby.

Bic Camera is like Micro Center and Sears thrown together, basically. I started with the top floor since the video games were there, and I wanted to get Pokemon Platinum. It turns out I got my copy for a very good price--4320 yen (about US $40). Retail price is 4800 yen and online stores have it for much more.

Their PSP-2000s come in colors!!! Very pretty colors, too--they're pastel with a light glitter finish, very beautiful. I want a "Felicia Blue" PSP, but I think I'm going to wait. The PSP-3000 is coming out in October, but they only come in black, silver and white. Since I'm not really pressed about the PSP in general, I going to wait and see if their 2000 models get a price cut in anticipation for the 3000.

What I found besides Pokemon Platinum was a whole bunch of games and accessories. Here are a few pics of the top floor:


Strategy guides/video game-related books and magazines


DS Accessories


NDS and PSP consoles (and a Duty-Free sign...I wish I was exempt from taxes T_T though I wasn't charged tax for Pokemon...not sure how that works)


Anime DVDs (By the way, bro, I checked for Gundam 00, I'm not sure there's English available. They were super expensive too, Volume 2 was around 60 bucks. I came across a Gundam 0080 DVD that did have English, but I think it's dubbed...)

Here's the floor with toys:


Models and figurines, and...


...LIEK OMG ITS WING ZERO CUSTOM!!!!111

The selection is amazing. They have tons of DS and PSP accessories, appliances like washing machines, refrigerators and toilet seats (you all know about the fancy electronic toilet seats, right?), MP3 players (iPod too! They're getting the new models as well), electronic dictionaries, flat irons and hair dryers (thinking of buying one ^_^) and other things as well. There's even a floor with a section devoted to clocks.

The salespeople are pumped up and excited as well, as they are in Japan ("Irrashaimaseeeee!!!" they say, which means "Come in!" or "Welcome!"). I'm wondering if I happened to walk in during a big sale or if they're that pumped up everyday. Since Ikebukuro is a busy city I guess it's normal.

On Friday I got my own Japanese cell phone, also from Bic Camera. In Japan there are three main services: NTT Docomo, AU, and SoftBank. Docomo is the most popular but the most expensive, AU is second in popularity but has a smaller selection of phones than SoftBank, which is third.

Like in the U.S., each service has their own selection of phones. Unlike the U.S., their selection, depending on the service, is HUGE. They have non-working samples of each phone that you can look at, and some phones have a ridiculous amount of features. Generally, Japanese cellphones are rectangular shaped and have larger screens than the cheaper models in the U.S. And of course, the quality is so much better.

Thanks to the Rikkyo volunteers, my choice was rather quick. A group of girls helped three of us (the exchange students) choose phones. We all got the same model, in different colors. The girl that helped me is actually Korean, and she speaks Japanese fluently, as if she were a native. No, I have not reached that level yet.

She told me about AU's promotion where, after returning the phone, I get a 10000 yen cash back. Also, she recommended AU to me because their reception is better than SoftBank. You should have seen her making fun of SoftBank's reception, it was hilarious.

Anyway, I ended up getting the cheapest model, the Toshiba W61T:


Sitting on the dock


Closed


The back, with a slot next to the battery for a MicroSD card, a 3.2 megapixel camera (it reads the Japanese QR codes!), an infrared port, and a flashlight. Yes, a flashlight.

It might look somewhat plain, but upon closing the phone a random light-up graphic followed by the time is displayed in the corner:



Cell phone strap in the photos not included by the way, I bought that at the 100 yen shop. It also doesn't come with an English menu. After deciding on the phone, Heson (the Korean girl, that's how her name is romanized from Japanese) told me there was no English and asked if it was okay. I thought about it for a moment, and then she said, "Oh you're good at Japanese, it'll be no problem for you!" Haha, and that's why it took me an hour to figure out how to change the wallpaper...

Speaking of wallpaper, this is my current cell phone wallpaper, the cuteness that is Nao from the band alice nine.:



I'm pleased.