Posts tagged Tokyo
And we drove. The distance from our hotel to north end of Mount Fuji was about 75 miles away; roughly about an hour and a half. As I mentioned in my previous post, the drive was worth every minute we spent in the for the spectacular views of Japan.
That, and we just dig road trips.
After seeing so many mountains, though, it had become difficult (for me) to figure out if we were near Mount Fuji or not. The GPS said we were (I mean, it WAS Apple Maps,) but I couldn’t see any difference in the mountains surrounding us. After scouting the surround area for a moment, Shannon’s demeanor suddenly changed and she looked really thrilled and then turned to me in the car.
“You need to look higher,” she said.
I looked up in the air and, though the clouds, I saw it. The peak of Mount Fuji. It was WAY up there. It was hard to not get more than a little excited at how big the mountain was, but I was still focusing on my road mantra in Japan.
“Left side of the road. Left side of the road. Left side of the road.”
We got off at the next exit and saw signs for the Mount Fuji Visitors Center.
We took time to go inside and (YES!) the staff spoke English. As a matter of fact, they asked if we would like to watch a short film about Mount Fuji in the center. They seemed excited that they would be able to show it to us with the English language track. Yay modern technology!
The film lasted about ten minutes and explained that the mountain was a dorment volcano and the effect that had on the local ecosystem. The film also showed footage of the annual climbing season that kicks off each summer. Shannon, of course, started her “if we ever come back” speech about returning during that particular time of year. After my adventure climbing out of the Grand Canyon, though, I was less than motivated to look into doing so.
After the film, we walked around the the museum inside the Visitors Center. Aside from the museum and upstairs restaurant, they had a gift shop that sold Mount Fuji merchandise: t-Shirts, pens, snacks, keychains… the usual fare. They even had Mount Fuji water.
For no reason whatsoever, I felt the need to take a photo of the squirrels on the signs pointing the way.
METAL SQUIRRELS OF AWESOME.
After writing some postcards and buying some souvenirs, we got in the car and started our ascent. According to the attendants working at the Visitors Center, the farthest we could drive up was the “fourth step” up the mountain (which turned out to be the fourth rest stop.) So we looked at the posted map:
Then we got in a car and started driving.
If there’s a skill that Shannon and I are masters of it’s sleep. Sure, middle of the night was middle of the day according to our bodies, but DAMMIT – we can nap with the best of ‘em. So after a fairly successful night of rest in our closet (er, hotel room,) we showered, got dressed, and started making our way through Tokyo.
Remember my earlier mention of the international iPhone and why is was such an AMAZING investment? Here’s where the magic begins… Before leaving the hotel, I checked with Google Maps to see how far away the rental car place was from our hotel. According to the direction, it was either an 18 minute train ride or a 24 minute walk.
Shannon and I are the walking sort, so we started hoofing it. As we stepped out of the hotel, I pulled up walking directions via Google Maps and watched myself as a blue dot move along sidewalks on roads with names that I couldn’t read. I kept track of where we were going and confirming we were in the right direction by watching the phone and looking around. It was really, really, REALLY, easy.
Walking also gave us a chance to pass and see some interesting local sites. Fun fact: 7-11 is a store AND a bank in Japan. Check it out:
Further down the road, we came across a “RESTAURANT AND COFFEE” place. Look familiar?
Alas, time never permitted for us to attempt to partake in a Japanese “Moons Over My Hammy” – but I was seriously tempted to try.
As we kept walking along the bay, we were immediately reminded what time of year it was in Japan. For those of you that don’t know, once a year the Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) bloom and the country is lined with pink petals everywhere. This photo is of the first blooms we saw:
Simply. Amazing. (And the caucasian chick is pretty, too!)
Walking is a very important part of travel for Shannon and I. We like to see more than just the inside of trains, cars, and planes. We like seeing cities at ground level… the smells, the air, the people. It paints a much better picture (in my opinion) that just looking out the occasional window.
So we walked.
We stopped along the way at a french pastry place to grab some tea, orange juice, and breakfast. While waiting on our food, Shannon casually walked up to me and (very matter of factly) told me I should think about getting some of today’s soup. Her face was plain and totally unreadable, so I assumed (for whatever reason) that she was serious.
I walked over and looked at the sign on the counter. Without missing a beat, I casually raised my iPhone and snapped a quick pic to post on the Wasabi Anime Instagram. Here is that photo:
That’s right. Cram chowder.
After breakfast, we walked across the street and found the Nissan car rental place. Our plan: to rent a car for the day and leave Tokyo to see sights outside the city. We wanted to see Mount Fuji and this Nissan Cube (with the steering wheel on the other side) was going to take us there.
Right after taking that photo, I got in the car and started repeating a mantra I would repeat over and over again for the next two days…
“Stay to the left. Stay to the left. Stay to the left.”
More to come.
I took my first trip to Japan in March of 2012 and did my best to blog about everything I saw there. From this geek’s point of view, it was an amazing adventure filled some non-stop stories (most of which I now tell during conventions at the “Wasabi Anime Goes to Japan” panel.) The problem, though, was that I never got to finish all of my posts and stories because life – as it tends to do – got in the way. In retrospect, it looks like I actually left off right before setting foot into the Tokyo DisneySEA theme park.
Let’s face it: 2012 was a REALLY busy year.
So here we are in April of 2013 and I’m picking up the pen (er, keyboard) and trying to get back to telling a number of tales that my five readers (six if you include my dog) have missed out on. Instead of trying to complete last year’s Japan visit’s posts, I’m opting to start fresh with the trip I took just a few weeks ago with my wife. I cover a lot of similar ground and (this time) I was less rushed to get places.
My new qualifier, though, is FIVE PHOTOS. Once a blog post has five photos in it, I’m stopping and starting another one. This should help the pacing a little more even and also allow me to tell about the trip using the photos I posted on Flickr so I can remember things (almost) in order.
So let’s start with Monday, March 25th. After meeting some friends for dinner in Studio City the night before, Shannon and I headed to Los Angeles International Airport to board our flight (via Malaysia Airlines) to Narita Airport in Japan. Look how happy we look:
Shannon is smiling because she really doesn’t grasp (yet) the hell of sitting in the same seat for TWELVE HOURS. That’s right, folks – a trip to Japan from Los Angeles (non-stop) takes about twelve hours.
Overall, though, the flight was there was actually pretty nice. Malaysia Airlines likes to feed you… A LOT. Every couple of hours we were eating snacks, meals, more snacks, etc. The regular intake of food helped break up the time.
As we passed into night on the flight, we were able to continue killing time by watching TVs (which are on all of the flight’s seats.)
I also had my MacBook Air and Samsung Galaxy TAB which (combined) has a pretty decent amount of battery power. (One of the negative things about the Malaysia Airlines flight compared to the All Nippon Airlines flight I took the year before was the obvious lack of charging stations at the seats.)
SIDE NOTE: Right before the flight, I had bought Final Fantasy III for the tablet. TOTALLY WORTH THE MONEY and I’m still playing it.
So after twelve long hours, we got off the plane and found our way around NRT. My first stop was to the SoftBank desk to pick up a SIM card for my unlocked/international iPhone. I paid for a local number and unlimited Internet on the phone and it was the single best investment I made on the trip. Seriously, if you ever go outside the United States and that country has local cell phone with Internet rental service available, SPEND THE MONEY. Worth every yen I spent. (You’ll see how as these posts progress.)
With luggage in hand and iPhone active, we caught the train to our hotel. We stayed at the APA Hotel Tokyo-Shiomi-Ekimae which was about an hour away and walking distance from the station when we arrived. Upon getting there, our first order of business was FOOD. In keeping with (what has become) my Japanese tradition, we hit a local McDonalds to make the culinary transition a little easier.
This time, though, I decided to live on the proverbial edge and got a fried shrimp patty sandwich. Yup. Fried shrimp. Check it out:
I tasted happiness.
We grabbed some Japanese snacks from
the local Family Mart (my wife corrected me on this; we actually had a Lawson attached to the hotel; not a Family Mart.) the local Lawson to go along with the food and headed to the room relax. I liked the hotel, but it was VERY Japanese. (I’ve already written ad nauseum regarding the magical Japanese toilets here: www.tomcroom.com/archives/8728) By “VERY Japanese” I mean “the size of my walk in closet at home.” At various points during the trip, I would take time to look up information on my laptap that I had set up on the room’s desk and I would often realize that I was sitting on my bed and not the desk chair reaching the keyboard comfortably. It was small – but cozy.
Before trying to go to sleep, Shannon and I flipped on the television for Japanese entertainment goodness. I was happy to find that there was an On Demand service IN ENGLISH! This led me to (of course!) check to see what sort of porn a Japanese hotel had to offer (strictly for research purposes, of course) and we found this screen:
Yup, we were in Japan. SCHOOL GIRLS and IDOL porn.
We opted to just go to sleep at that point since the next day was going slated to be incredibly busy. More to come…
I’m sure at some point in the next month I’ll force myself to write the dozen or so backlogged blog posts from our travels thus far this year (San Francisco, Tokyo, etc.) – but this particular tale seemed pretty easy to hammer out this morning. So here goes: Last month, Shannon and I went to Tokyo DisneySEA (and, subsequently, Tokyo DIsneyland) while we were travelling around Japan. You can see all the photos from Disney here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjECzBPg
(Other Japan photos will be uploaded into that Flickr set in the coming week. A lot more.)
There is a minor character in the Disney theme park lexicon named Duffy. Duffy is Mickey Mouse’s teddy bear (read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duffy_the_Disney_Bear) and in the United States – NO ONE CARES. The character isn’t prevalent in the American theme parks and the ONLY time I remember seeing him anywhere was in a small shop near the France pavilion in EPCOT. It seems that the Americans just don’t dig Duffy… but the Japanese LOVE HIM.
In Tokyo DisneySEA, there are photo spots (PLEASE NOTE: I’m not making this up) specifically for Duffy in the theme park. (You can click all the photos to see larger versions.)
It’s serious business, folks. Look how dedicated this little girl is:
SO WE BEGAN A QUEST. I bought the limited edition Duffy and Shelly May bears (made exclusively for the Spring Voyage event going on at the time) and Shannon and I did another lap around the park looking for as many photo spots as we could. Here’s the result:
I’m sure we missed one or two, but SERIOUSLY. That’s an insane amount of effort around the marketing of a teddy bear, you know?
BONUS! Special Duffy “Spring Voyage” desserts…
We brought the Duffy and Shelly May home with us from Japan. They will be living on the bookshelf in our bedroom with the Hard Rock Cafe teddy bears we’ve collected. Hopefully they’ll all get along.
I made my first “blog” post on March 29, 2003… ten years ago last Friday: http://www.tomcroom.com/archives/4620
Since then, I’ve written about travel, life, anime fandom, movies, and a myriad of semi-interesting things that I always figured that only my family and close friends were reading about. (Google Analytics has since informed me otherwise.)
So to those of you still paying attention to this young old man’s ranting on the Interwebz – thank you. It’s fun and will continue to be so as I catch up on my writing over the next month.
For now, know that on the day that marked “ten years” I was at a in Tokyo, Japan meeting Shinichi Watanabe at a party.
Not too shabby for a nerd with a “hobby gone horribly wrong.”
And miles to go before I sleep.
This is that time of year when folks begin posting about how this year they’re planning on changing a zillion things and making thinks different somehow. For me, though, I’m not looking forward to changing… I’m looking forward to continuing.
2012 was a hard year, but that’s not a bad thing. As friends and colleagues will tell you – I tend to be a workaholic. I love it. I love the feeling to things getting done and the creative process attached to it in my little geek universe. My friends (my team) and I put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into a number of projects that are now continuing into 2013.
Hell. We’re already in production for two unannounced things in 2014.
The best way to look forward, though, is to remember where you’ve been. SO, here’s my recap of one of the craziest years of my life. Enjoy.
- Reflected on a pretty exciting life thus far in this blog post. No clue what the year was about to bring.
- We were in the thick of planning InvaderCON II: DOOMCON that month, too.
- Took the first of what would be many trips to Los Angeles to work on Anime Expo and Project Anime.
- Randomly took an air boat ride in the Florida swamp because, you know, I’m random that way.
- Took another trip to Los Angeles for work on PA/AX some more.
- Took another trip to Los Angeles two weeks later… on my way to Japan for the first time. I spent eight days being the tallest person in the room.
- I went to Tokyo Disney SEA.
- I went to Disneyland (in Los Angeles) with the voice of Gir.
- I won a $500 Apple gift card for telling a goofy story online about my old IIc.
- Took a quick trip to Atlanta to look a party spots for some adult website.
- Was the best man in my best friend’s wedding… on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas.
- Saw Tom Petty in concert! I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.
- Went to Los Angeles again.
- Dealt with loss as my father’s wife passed away.
- Survived Year Two of Florida Anime Experience with the first ever appearance of Terri Hawkes (the voice of Sailor Moon!)
- Back in Los Angeles again… this time to visit E3!
- Return to Los Angeles at the end of the month to set up for Anime Expo and Project Anime.
- Survived the hell, horror, and amazement of Anime Expo 2012. My eyes were open to a lot of things that one week in Los Angeles.
- Found out a cheesy horror film I did in 1991 was finally coming out on DVD.
- Read the Steve Jobs book. I’ve revisited a lot in that book since then (after years of being told that I am “an asshole just like Steve Jobs.”)
- Returned to Los Angeles for Anime Expo follow up meetings… and new perspective.
- Ran, successfully, InvaderCON II: DOOMCON in Los Angeles. Amazing things happened.
- Finished laying the groundwork (after months of set up) for what has since become Talent For Cons by booking voice actors in Anime Expo and Florida Supercon.
- Announced a new show for the Jacksonville market called WasabiCon (since EXPcon had fallen completely off the radar.)
- Ran events at Gen Con in Indianapolis again. Good times!
- I spent a lot of this month recovering from the Anime Expo/InvaderCON/Project Anime stuff in July.
- Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. I helped some Edgar guy host events at a party at the Hard Rock Cafe there. While there, I saw a sci-fi celebrities drunk daughter dance on a stripper pole. (I love my life.)
- Lots and lots of catch up work that month…
- Wound up visiting EPCOT on the 30th anniversary of the park’s opening. Turned out it was a clever day to take my friend Marc Perez there for his first time.
- Launched the very first PinUpalooza. It was a lukewarm event (after getting dates bounced around and whatnot) but we proved the event was a solid concept. Already planning Year Two.
- Because one con just wasn’t enough, we ran WasabiCon that same month, too. One of the best cons assembled in two months EVER.
- Took another cruise for my five year wedding anniversary with one of the most patient women on the planet. This time we found ourselves in Belize and Cozumel, Mexico. (It seems that I still need to write a blog post about this since I didn’t see one while writing this.)
- Spent Thanksgiving with my dad… because that’s what family does.
- Got blind sided (for the first time in my life) by a surprise birthday party. I have some amazing fucking friends.
- Launched ANOTHER new event in 2012 – Cosplay Christmas. It was holiday goodness that will return in 2013.
- Went to Busch Gardens for the first time in yeaaars.
- Was a groomsman in the AMAZING wedding of Troy and Kim Doerner.
- Returned to Los Angeles for the first time since July to start work on Project Anime 2013 again. Saw some geeky stuff.
- Spent the first Christmas in 13 years without my wife… but got to spend it with my dad. My heart was happy, but my lungs were in pain. (Long story.)
SO – cities I found myself in during 2012:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
And now for that part we all do during a perceived time of renewal – plan for the future. So what are my goals in 2013? I have a couple of things to work on, sure, like anyone else. I like keeping things simple, though, so here are the three things that I will concentrate on in this new year.
- Lose weight. (Cliche, yes, but truly needed at this point.)
- Blog more. (In reading about my past year, I realize that I didn’t write as much about most of it that I should have.)
- Continue onward. (I created a lot in 2012; now I have to build it up even more.)
So here we go…
Things have been busy, but I’m picking up where I left off on my post back on April 9th.
When we were last reading about my zany adventures in Japan, I had just left the Imperial Palace with Rob and Jason and the three of us were on our way to check out the world famous intersection at Shibuya Station.
When we got there, the bustle of people lived up to the place’s reputation. See?
Still not buying it? Maybe this will help: I took a video of us walking through the crowd when the lights changed and the pedestrians all crossed the road:
Crazy, right? I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking, “Tom, why do you use the phrase ‘mass of humanity’ so much when narrating?”
Great question! I was tired, less than articulate, and (honestly) it’s a really good descriptive phrase when talking about the mass of humanity that the population of…
Dammit. I did it again.
We walked around the town for a bit stopping in various shops. I took a photo of this in a movie store because it seemed funny to me (and because I really, really like those movies:)
Every once and a while we’d see some super cute Japanese girls in fashionable outfits. My wife asked me to try and get photos (she LOVES Japanese fashion) when I was near Harajuku. The problem was, though, that I didn’t want to be “that creepy American guy” with the camera. (We have enough of those at American anime conventions already; you know who they are.)
Solution? Rob would volunteer to act like he was posing for a photo. Notice him to the right of this shot:
As we continued down the street, we hard a lot of chanting and noise and walked towards it expecting a parade or something. It turns out that we stumbled upon a nuclear protest in Shibuya. People were walking through the street (a LOT of people) protesting with signs and chanting.
We ran into the crowd again later that day when we made it to Harajuku. Before making it to the world famous fashion district, though, we saw some interesting things. Things like a McDonald’s and (what I assume to be) a member of the Japanese version of ZZ Top:
COLORS. The city around the Shibuya are is just a blast of advertisements, signs, and architecture:
Holy crap. A PHONE BOOTH!
Remember in my earlier post when I mentioned I saw an El Camino in Japan? I was telling the truth. See?
No, this isn’t photoshopped. It’s a REAL Tower Records store still open.
Speaking of “towers,” we passed this shop along the way:
The closer we got to Harajuku, the more crowded it got. The most interesting thing about this photo is the fact that you can see not just one, but two (TWO!) Caucasians in the crowd. While this sounds like sarcasm, it’s not. Seeing other non-Japanese people in Japan was a rare sight.
I took this photo to illustrate a point. In Japan, it is considered impolite to walk and eat at the same time (unlike America where everyone in the city is gulping a cup of coffee or chewing down a hot dog.) Thus, the Japanese will stop and eat before continuing going somewhere:
Spelling “softened” in Engrish since 1977…
And then we finally arrived at the street made mainstream at Target shopper friendly thanks to Gwen Stefani: