Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back to Japan and the Tokyo Game Show

Woohoo! So it looks like we'll be returning to Japan less than a year after my last trip, and this time we'll be heading to the Tokyo Game Show. TGS is kind of a special thing for me, though it's hard to explain why. My first trip to Japan was to cover Nintendo SpaceWorld 2000 for the web site I was employed by at the time. My second trip was for TGS just a couple months later. Both trips combined were actually something of a life-changing experience, and since both shows were held in the same place and I even stayed at the same hotel, they both sort of blend together now in my mind. I went alone, which would probably scare a lot of people - the culture is so different - but not me. I loved it, and took full advantage of my off-time to explore Makuhari and Tokyo. It was my first experience of Japan.

I've never been back to TGS - this will be the first time since 2000. I'll be going with my wife this time, so it should be even more fun. Of course, we're going to do more than just TGS - we'll be there for a week. (Not 2 weeks like last year, but it's hard for me to take that much time off at once.) But so far, TGS is the one event we've definitely got planned. If you're wondering, this year's show is being held 9/20-9/23, with the last two days open to the public.

For anyone reading this who hasn't been there, I'll give you a little rundown from TGS 2000, complete with some of the pics I took at the time. I can't imagine it's changed all that much since then. I do know the crowds are even bigger.

The Tokyo Game Show is not actually held in Tokyo. It's held in Makuhari, which is about 20 miles away - sort of like having a "New York Game Show" but actually holding it in, I don't know, Trenton, NJ. Makuhari itself is a city of about 800,000 people, though it feels like a sleepy little town outside of the area right around the Makuhari Messe, which is the city's convention center.

The Makuhari Messe is an absolutely massive complex, far larger than any convention center I've ever seen in the United States. I've said it before, the Japanese build big. Surrounding the convention center is a network of hotels and shopping centers, the Chiba Marine Stadium, and one or two company buildings, making for something of a business district. One interesting thing about this part of Makuhari is that you can walk anywhere without touching street level, as the entire district is built with raised walkways. When there's no convention going on, it can really feel like a ghost town - no cars, no pedestrians, nothing. There is no residential housing in the area, although some people do come to the shopping centers for entertainment on weekends.

Both times I've stayed in Makuhari, I've been at the Makuhari Prince. It's got some great views of the surrounding area.

That shot was probably actually the morning after I arrived. I remember taking it - I wasn't used to flying into a 14 hour time difference, so I fell asleep at about 4PM and woke up at about 3AM the next morning. (Nowadays I can actually manage to stay up until a normal hour my first night, then be on a regular schedule.) I remember it being just incredibly quiet and still when I took that photo. In fact, one of the first things I noticed about Japan was how quiet it is, everywhere, even in big cities. They even muffle their air conditioners. I actually have a hard time sleeping there because I'm used to the constant buzz of various electrical devices in my house. But it made this particular morning feel kind of magical, and very different from what I normally wake up to.

This is one of the entrances to the Makuhari Messe. This was probably around 5AM, so not really indicative of the level of foot traffic you'd normally see here.

Same deal with this one. MS was launching their Xbox that year. Little did they know how badly it'd bomb there.

As a member of the press, I got to go to the official keynote and show open. A pretty dry affair, honestly.

You can see the sign says "Autumn" - back then, they did two of these per year!

Now we're talkin'. This was the first day of TGS. That's the Makuhari Messe, and that's the line to get in to TGS. Open the photo up if you can't see it. It's pretty unbelievable.

This is what the inside of the show floor looks like:

That was the line waiting to play Guilty Gear X. Yikes! No, I didn't wait in it.

I did wait in this:

Kind of a funny story. I saw a huge line, so I thought it must be something important. As someone who was supposed to be there to cover all the big stories, I figured I'd better see what it was about. There were no signs or anything. So what was at the end of the line? This:

Well, ok, not just that. It was a line to get in to the Tokimeki Memorial merchandise store. A giant waste of time. I ended up buying this just so I'd have some kind of souvenir for the 1 1/2 hours I spent waiting. And also a keychain. At least the cookies tasted good.

This was my first introduction to the Japanese dance fad of the time, "para para":

This was a dance that was similar to vogue in this country, all hands and arms, though it was always done to Eurobeat, and it's most often associated with the whole "ko-gal" look. Konami, king of all rhythm game developers, had created a game to cash in on the fad called "Para Para Paradise". It worked just like their popular "Dance Dance Revolution" series, with a sensor that could tell how well you were para para'ing. Anyway, they put on this little show with about 30 dancing girls to try to sell it, and I was hooked pretty much immediately. I'd never seen anything like it, it was just so weird, seeing all these Japanese dancing girls flailing their arms around to Eurobeat in order to sell a video game, and everybody in the crowd taking them completely seriously. This show singlehandedly convinced me of Japan's greatness as a country.

Of course I bought the home release of Para Para Paradise, along with two of the special controllers.

Another random pic from the show floor - Sony's Gran Turismo 2000:

TGS is known both in Japan and in the west for its campaign girls (or the more western "booth babes") - they're everywhere:

Though their job really is to actively market things. You'll never catch a picture of one without marketing materials prominently displayed:

And yes, they are there to get their picture taken. It's part of their job. The game companies know those pictures will show up in magazines and web sites all over the world, along with whatever it is that the girls happen to be holding and hopefully a prominent company logo. Talk about free advertising. If there's one thing the Japanese are good at, it's stealth marketing.

In between halls of the convention center, there is an area devoted to cosplay:

Yeah, kinda hard to tell from that pic, eh? It's just a giant mass of people. I'm not even sure how I got this photo. On the left, though you can see some of the cosplayers in the little nooks right next to the building. There are actually totally organized lines of people waiting to snap photos of the cosplayers. It's part of the show, so of course I did my part and queued up:

I have no freakin' clue what game that girl is supposed to be from. I'm pretty sure the guys are supposed to be STARS agents from Resident Evil/Biohazard.

If you've made it this far through the post, I may as well wrap it up with a couple totally random photos I took that have special meaning to me:

This was from my first day ever in Japan. It actually wasn't for TGS but for SpaceWorld a couple months earlier. Still, same place. This is a little park right next to the hotel, and that's Chiba Marine Stadium up ahead. To the right is the business district of Makuhari, and to the left is a private beach and Tokyo Bay. I was the only person in this park. It was really strange.

This was also during SpaceWorld in August 2000:

Unbeknownst to me, there was an Utada Hikaru concert scheduled while I was there. This was probably the height of her popularity, about 2 years after she had first burst on the scene (she's now Japan's all-time top-selling recording artist). I got to watch the show from my hotel window, although I couldn't really see the stage - but I could see the large screen behind the stage that had her projected on it.

They filmed this show and turned it into the Bohemian Summer 2000 concert DVD. There are several helicopter shots that show my hotel, and I swear you can see me watching from my window.

Anyway, it should be pretty obvious that I can't wait to go back.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP