Saturday, May 11, 2013

Random Picture Dump - Japan 2013 trip report END

After every trip report I do, I end up with a bunch of photos that don't really belong anywhere else but that I think are funny, weird or just have their own little story behind them. I like to share those in one big picture dump at the end, along with any random thoughts I may have had about Japan this time - the country's in a constant state of change, and is now almost unrecognizable from when I first visited in 2000.

Some of these have already appeared individually on my Facebook and/or Twitter - sorry if you're seeing them a second time!

Japan's crazy about corn soup right now. (That's a pretty unlikely combination of words, if you think about it.) Here you can buy it in a vending machine. Of course, I had to.

This is vending machine corn soup. Looks like your basic cup of bile, right? It actually tasted good and hit the spot - it was cold that day.

This is a corn soup lollipop. Yes, I'm serious.

This is what that thing looks like. It is literally frozen corn soup on a stick. It even has real kernels of corn in it. This was... a little weird. Too sweet.

We hardly did any geeky, otaku or "moe" type stuff on this trip (am I outgrowing it? No!), but this @home cafe ad made me nostalgic for last year.

Also, you see the AKB48 billboard below... no, I still did not manage to get tickets. Sad face. I did notice that Japan didn't seem nearly as gaga over them as the last couple years, though. I think Maeda Atsuko leaving had a big effect. I didn't see nearly as many ads or other things on TV (I did see one show they co-hosted, but that's down from about 100 last year). There are a lot of new girl groups that it seems like are being groomed to replace AKB48 as a cultural phenomenon (in the same way AKB48 replaced Morning Musume), and meanwhile, a few of the individual girls are being heavily promoted on their own... without the rest of AKB.  I feel like it's the beginning of the end. Some of the girls are almost 30 now, which is "old" for an idol group. And the new girls they bring in never seem to get as popular, because people always compare them to the original members. So idol groups like them always have a limited shelf life.

Doesn't this look like some sort of practical joke? Or the beginning of a carnival fun house ride? This was difficult to stand on!

This is the first ¥2,000 bill I've ever seen - I didn't know they existed before. It's like a $2 bill in the US - many people in Japan have apparently never seen one, and a lot of people just keep them as collector's items if they get one. I spent mine, because what the hell. Apparently these are more common in Okinawa, because the scene in the art is Okinawan.

What, you think I didn't go to McDonald's while I was there? Believe it or not, I don't post everything I do! I'm pretty sure I went four times, and on one of those trips, I tried out the "TeriTama" - or teriyaki egg burger. I like the regular one (no egg) better.

We had a little trouble figuring out the climate control in our Okinawa hotel, and came back one night to find actual ice on the windows. This is not because it was cold outside, but inside. That's condensation from the warm outside humidity that froze on the glass because we couldn't figure out how to turn off our air conditioner.

This is sake with real gold leaf. Nobody I was with knew this existed before - everyone was taking pictures! (It's cropped so close because this is my in-laws' house.)

We were very impressed with how clean this escalator was. You could eat off of it!

One of the interesting things about Japan is how many different types of jobs there are that we just don't have here. I could write a whole blog post about how their entire culture is geared towards providing full employment, whereas our culture rewards companies that cut workers, which we think of as "efficiency" (and then we wonder why nobody can find a job). But in Japan, there is literally a person whose job it is to stand at the end of escalators and just hold a rag against them as they slide by, thereby cleaning it. They do this on the steps and on the railings, all day. They just move from escalator to escalator, holding that rag in one place while the escalator moves under it.

In the US, we would consider this a waste. In Japan, well, the escalators need to be kept clean, and people need to work. There's no debate about these facts.

This was kind of sad, and weird. This is the remnants of the Grand Prince Akasaka, which was once our favorite hotel (I'm surprised to find that this is the closest thing to a writeup I ever did on it). It was a rotting husk after 2010 until the big earthquake, when it housed evacuees for a while. Now it's under demolition, using a new and very odd process that I had to look up just now - we had no idea what was going on when we took this photo. It looked like it had been converted into a four story office building for some reason.

We went back to Hooters! Both I and my wife actually really like Hooters in Japan. (This was her idea, seriously.) The food is actually good and Rina was cute.

I didn't post about it because it'd basically be redundant, but we actually did a ton more guitar store shopping this time - we literally went to at least 15 different guitar stores in both Shibuya and Ochanomizu, plus a bunch of thrift stores too. I bought these pedals plus the pedal case - these are both rare and really expensive outside of Japan (in the $400 range). I bought them at a thrift store for pretty cheap intending to resell them, but I can't part with either one!

The earthquake-bent tip of Tokyo Tower is finally FIXED!

Incidentally, you'll notice this is the same view we had the last two years. This is still from the Grand Arc Hanzomon, which has been a favorite of ours since the Grand Prince Akasaka closed, in large part because of this view, but also the big rooms and ridiculously low rates they charge. We were a little disappointed in their service this time, though - they seem to be getting very popular and I think the staff was a little overwhelmed when we were there.

Well, that's probably it for this trip. I'm sure I'll be back next year (at the latest), so look forward to that, I guess.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.

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I'm married. I like to travel. I have no kids. I have a house... that I'm bad at maintaining. I used to collect classic video games. I own a lot of musical equipment that far outstrips my ability to use it. When I was younger, I was in a band. I like gadgets, and I'm an Android guy. Someday, I would like to live on a different planet.

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