Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nasu Highland Park - Japan 11/2013

My in-laws wanted to go on a little day trip while my wife and I were in Japan, and they picked the little mountain town of Nasu. This is kind of a resort area in summer and ski area in winter, but at other times of year it's got one big claim to fame: Nasu Highland Park. Oh, and monkeys, as I found out later.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Foooooooooood! - Japan 11/2013

Whenever I come home from Japan, I really, really miss the food. And I'm not just talking about stereotypical Japanese things like sushi and sashimi and ramen... well, ok, maybe ramen. But other things too. I've written about Kobe beef, tonkatsutaco rice and other Japanese fast food before, but every time I go there I feel like we eat really well, and this time I ended up gaining 5 pounds in 11 days (yikes!).

I confess I'm not always the best food photographer and my phone is not always the best camera, but here's a little pictorial ode to some of the best meals we had on this trip:

Our hotel at Nasu Highland Park had a great shabu shabu restaurant. This is the style of cooking where you boil thinly sliced meat yourself, along with vegetables and other things, then eat them with rice and sauces. We had beef and pork in several different broths.

The one on the right is a pork broth. I think the one on the left was just a chicken broth. Both added a ton of flavor to the meat. No further seasoning needed. We had another pot going that had other stuff in it too.

Usually when you see shabu shabu on American TV, they show the hosts just dipping the meat in for a second before quickly taking it out. That's not quite right - you're going to get sick from eating raw meat. (Look at this Martha Stewart clip - see how she keeps taking the meat out and wants to eat it immediately, whereas the Japanese guy just leaves his piece sitting in the broth? Martha, you're doing it wrong!)

You're not even really supposed to use the same chopsticks - you pick up the raw meat with one set, then pick up the cooked meat with another. (My wife knew this already, but the waitress was careful to point it out just in case.)

These are udon noodles! Everywhere you go has their own noodle style. These noodles were about as thick as a finger! We used these to finish off the broth after eating up all the meat. It was actually really good - it was like gnocchi.

I'm going to write a separate post on Nasu Highland Park itself, but this was from a 50's style American diner inside the park. This burger wasn't very American but I learned long ago to get over that hangup - nothing "American" in Japan really is, it's always a crazy mashup. This had a demi-glace sauce on it - Japan loves its demi-glace, they put it on everything. Those tater tots were the best tater tots I've ever had - incredibly light and crispy. Japanese fried food comes with all the trans fat you can eat, so you know it tastes good!

In New York, this dish would be illegal. Yes, that's raw chicken. (I don't think they called this "chicken sashimi", because it doesn't quite qualify.) It was actually tasty! Ironically the part that I could not eat was the vegetables.

I would not have had the guts to order this myself - this was at a bar/restaurant that a couple of business associates of ours took us to, and this simply appeared in front of us. My wife laughed beforehand because they asked us "can you eat chicken?" Little did we know...

We got about seven different chicken courses there. I wish I knew the name of this place - it had great atmosphere and I was mesmerized watching the bartender's technique for getting the perfect head on a beer every time. But we were just dumped in a taxi and eventually arrived there. It was the kind of place without a sign, hidden in the back of a building on the second floor.

Believe it or not, this was at a highway rest stop in between Ibaraki and Nasu! I didn't have one of these but my wife and everyone in her family did. My in-laws just ate them like popsicles, although my wife ate hers more like an American, picking around all the bones and steering clear of the head and tail.

I mentioned Brise Verte in my post about the Prince Park Tower hotel - this was the sashimi salad that started our price fixe set. All the dishes they served us were really pretty - cell phone pics really don't do them justice. It looked like they had placed every individual element on every plate separately by hand.

Of course there was plenty of ramen. This was at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama - a post's coming about that place too. This was really good. This place also makes their own beer. (All the restaurants inside the museum are independent shops like you'd find on the street, which is kinda the point of the museum.)

This is ramen at Yo! Teko-ya in Odaiba, which is still the best ramen in the world, or at least in my world. I wanted another bowl, but you know just one of these is like 1,500 calories and an entire day's worth of cholesterol. Not that I was watching my weight (again, I packed on an extra 1/2 pound per day, which is 1,750 extra calories above what I normally eat, every single day), but you gotta draw the line somewhere.

I even love coffee in Japan, which is based more on French and Italian style coffee than American coffee. They have a separate thing on the menu called "American Coffee" that's supposed to be weaker. Since I can't get decent decaf anywhere in Japan without waiting for them to make it from scratch (which they are always happy to do, but I am usually not happy to wait), I almost always just order a cappuccino. This one was at Cafe Dotour, a chain like Starbucks - I love Dotour because a) they use real china, and b) they do cappuccino art!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tokyo Dome City and Thunder Dolphin - Japan Trip 11/2013

Practically in the middle of what you might call "downtown" Tokyo, there is an amusement park. There is also a domed stadium, which is itself pretty unique for a major city this size. This would be like putting a stadium and amusement park on 14th Street in Manhattan.

It's all tied together by - what else? - a giant shopping mall. Everything in Tokyo is tied together by a giant shopping mall. (New York has nothing on Tokyo for shopping - it's not even close.) This is Tokyo Dome City.

We went there coincidentally on a day when the boy band Kanjani8 were having a concert. It was just a sea of teenage Japanese girls everywhere.

Being neither a teenage Japanese girl nor a creeper, I did not go there for Kanjani8 nor their fans. I went there for...


That is a roller coaster track going through a building. This was my introduction to Thunder Dolphin - the first image of it I saw.

This was the second:


I love roller coasters and I'm not usually afraid of them. But this thing looks like it was just bolted haphazardly onto the side of an existing building with no regard for safety. It doesn't look like anyone actually designed it, it just looks like something Bob the property manager drew on a napkin in the hopes of making some extra money. It just looks crazy.

In fact, unbeknownst to my wife and I, Thunder Dolphin was closed for three years because a giant bolt fell off in 2010 and hit a 9 year old kid in the head. (He was injured but apparently lived.) It reopened just this summer.

I knew that the more afraid of it I got, the more I had to ride it. The day I run away from a roller coaster with my tail between my legs is the day I may as well just check in to a nursing home.

So I rode it.

This is not my video, but just to give you an idea of what it's like, check this out - despite the ill-advised slo-mo at the top of the hill, this video most closely approximates the craziness of this ride's first half of all the YouTube vids I looked at:

My wife and I have ridden a lot of coasters together (including ten more just a week earlier at Nasu Highland Park - more on that later). Both of us agreed this was the most intense we've ever been on. The urban setting makes a huge difference.

First of all, the only restraint you have is a lap bar, which is a little concerning right from the start. Then the hill climb is both really steep and really fast. The first drop feels like it's going to toss you right out over that lap bar. That first turn is about 90 degrees and it feels like you're just out in the empty air - it doesn't look like there's anything holding you up. That happens again at the next turn... and then you've gotta go through a hole in a building.

You can see in the video that the coaster then pretty amazingly cuts through a ferris wheel:

That's the "Big O", which we rode as well. I love ferris wheels for the exact opposite reason I love coasters - so relaxing! I shot this video of Thunder Dolphin from it, though - yes, this is my video:

My wife was doing the same thing, obviously. That's not our music, by the way - they have a little mp3 player on the side of the... gondola? But we couldn't figure out how to use it so we just left it on the default. Something about it makes me laugh every time I watch this.

Tokyo Dome City has some other rides too, but mostly they're smaller and it didn't seem worth paying either the separate fee or the day pass price to ride them. Even though it was early November when I shot all this, it was already Christmas everywhere in Japan. So we just hung around until sundown to see the "Christmas Illumination" which they had advertised all around. (It's not "Holiday Illumination" even though Japan is largely a Buddhist country - it's Christmas.) Had to have some crepes first, though:

The real reason I took that picture is the bubble tea, which a lot of people I know think of as Japanese, but it actually is not common there at all. In fact, this place had big signs advertising it because it's kind of exotic. It really is more Chinese than Japanese. This was the first time I'd actually seen it in Japan.

The Christmas lights were pretty cool, although I wish they lit up Thunder Dolphin a bit better.

You gotta put it on the bucket list if you're a coaster fan.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Paramore at Madison Square Garden 11/13/2013

Just gonna take a little break from my Japan posts to throw this up here real quick. I'm not gonna do a full live report like I did for SCANDAL, but the show was actually pretty nuts and this was pretty funny:

(Feel free to skip to about 1:58, though I like hearing the crowd sing the bridge before that.) Sorry about the crackles and pops from my cell phone, which doesn't seem to like concert volume. This could have been such a train wreck but you can actually hear me laughing when the guy starts singing the chorus completely off key. And I wish you could see Hayley's face in this video when he does the split at the end - her jaw almost hit the floor. Watch for her pointing as she backs away - she was pretty shocked. I hope they filmed this officially, but I didn't really notice any cameras floating around.

(Cool idea for anyone who's listening: record the audio from the sound board but collect all the fan videos of the show and edit them together to make a full concert DVD. I guarantee it could be done.)

This was my third concert in two weeks. I think my ear drums need a rest at this point.

One thing I do like better about American concerts than Japanese ones these days is that you can take all the pics and video you want.

When I was a kid, that would have gotten you kicked out in America just like in Japan. Apparently, Paramore's actually going to be having a contest where you can send in your best photos from this tour. Times do change...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

SCANDAL at Tokyo NHK Hall 11/07/2013 live report!

It's been more than a week but I'm finally able to get to writing this!

SCANDAL is a natural live band; one of those bands whose albums originally existed to try to capture the experience of being at one of their daily live shows. That's how they cut their teeth, and that's who they still are. YouTube and TV clips don't really capture it - you've gotta feel the beat and be part of the energy. I first saw them at Budokan last year at a big special event show - NHK Hall this month was my first "regular" tour experience, promoting the STANDARD album. Both shows blew me away, but this show was a lot different. I was practically right up front instead of in the nosebleeds, for one thing!

Showtime was at 7PM with a door opening time of 6, so my wife and I arrived at about 5:15 to hit the merchandise tables. Many things sold out early at Budokan, so I was a little worried. In fact, we'd gone to the Kitty Records shop the day before to see if we could get a jump on things - they've turned this store into a temporary SCANDAL shop:

Between the Kitty Shop and NHK Hall, I ended up getting everything I wanted. Incidentally, I discovered the next day that this shop is only about 1/8 of a mile from NHK Hall - you can almost see one from the other.

If you want to see the actual merchandise I got, read to the end and I'll go through it.

The merchandise tables were set up inside a corner of the hall but were aligned such that you couldn't move out of that area. We'd read that if you bought the STANDARD CD at the show, you'd get an autographed card along with it, so we asked about this and were told we needed to wait until the main doors opened. (The regular merchandise tables were open to anyone, not just people with tickets.) We got in line at about 5:30 and waited in what suddenly felt like freezing cold.

This was just as we got in line. It may look long at this point, but trust me when I say it got a lot longer than this. By 6PM, this was the front of the line. The entire plaza became crowded, and the barricades came out to hold the crowd back behind us and get the line to snake around.

The doors opened a bit late at around 6:10, and the people in front of us ran towards the CD table, which was located in the back of the quite large hall lobby. They announced that there were only a limited number of autographed cards. The line moved excruciatingly slowly as the staff stopped it periodically to randomly shuffle CD stacks around for no apparent reason. As we finally approached the CD tables at about 6:30, they announced they had only 10 cards left. I counted exactly 10 people in front of me. Argh!

And yet...

When I went up, they told me they had one card left, although I actually saw three. I like that it has the date and venue on it; it's not generic. And yes, those are real signatures. Interesting that Rina apparently romanizes her name "Lina"!

I knew from reading elsewhere that the band has "present boxes" set up at their shows, so we brought them a couple little gifts - four "I Love New York" keychains and a ramen set from the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. I really didn't know what type of stuff people normally leave for them and I couldn't tell when I looked in the boxes either, because they'd been emptied once already and the few things remaining were all wrapped. Of course we stuck a note and some business cards in with our stuff :)

Hey, we sent Aldious $200 flowers - I figure spending $30 on keychains and ramen is a little less over the top.

Here were the flowers others sent to SCANDAL. It's hard to read the signs with my blurrycam-phone but it was pretty much the usual suspects - MTV, Music Japan, etc. I did notice FLiP, another popular girl band, sent them flowers too. That was nice. If I remember right, the merch tables were originally right where those barricades are; they moved them once the main doors opened. The present boxes were right behind me.

We took our seats at about 6:45 and the hall filled up fast. I'd been checking and the show wasn't sold out up to that day, but it sure seemed like people were filling in all the way to the top. NHK Hall is big - at 3,800 seats, it's almost twice as big as Carnegie Hall in New York City. Looking backwards, it was shocking how far away some seats are - our original tickets would have put us further away than we were at Budokan. Our seats that we'd upgraded through Yahoo Auctions turned out to be amazing - probably as good as I could hope for without either paying a thousand dollars or just getting really, really lucky in the public lottery.

It's forbidden to take photos at concerts in Japan (and people follow that rule) but my wife chanced just this one before the show started. I believe we were in the 8th row overall. The four girls were spread evenly across the stage, with Rina out front, so we were sort of in between Tomomi and Haruna, while Mami would be off the right edge of this photo. The stage itself comes out a little further than it appears here - there's some extra space in front that all the girls used when they wanted to come out to rile up the crowd. At their closest to me, it looked like they were about 15 feet away.

This traditional Japanese stage set changed about halfway through the show, which I'll explain in a bit.

One thing I like about Japanese shows is that there is no messing around with opening bands or vague start times. At exactly 7PM, the lights went dark and the crowd roared. Everybody stood up and stayed that way for the rest of the show. Suddenly and without warning, Rina's snare drum popped in the darkness like gunshots going off and I jumped in surprise as SCANDAL launched into "STANDARD".

SET LIST (aped from Scandal Heaven)
02. Brand new wave
04. Orange Juice
05. Houkago 1H
06. Uchiagehanabi
07. Hachigatsu
08. Koe
09. Metronome
10. Koi no Gestalt Houkai
11. Kagen no Tsuki
12. Weather report
13. Awanai Tsumori no, Genki de ne
14. Kimi to Mirai to Kanzen Douki
16. Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku STORY
17. Namida yo Hikare~STANDARD

18. Space Ranger
20. DOLL

I'm actually not quite sure of the placement of a couple of these songs - I think "Koe" and "Metronome" might be flipped, at least.

"STANDARD" was incredible; even momentous. It felt like an entire new direction for the band, and one completely at odds with where I was worried they were headed only a few months ago. It's all their own song (no outside writers or arrangers), and they played it so loud, so noisy and so recklessly that, combined with the fact that it both opened and closed the show(!), I have to believe this is who they really want to be now. It was like an explosion, or a pack of wild animals that had been caged up and finally let loose. The crowd went crazy; if this was America, I swear there would have been a mosh pit.

The band kept the energy up for the next few songs before things started to mellow out a bit for "Orange Juice" and then of course "Houkago 1H", which was almost kind of a break for them and the crowd. Both Mami and Tomomi got exactly one song that featured them as singers; "Houkago 1H" isn't the one I'd have picked for Timo, but it's nice to hear songs they don't play live a lot. "Uchiagehanabi" and "Hachigatsu", the next songs, were a little disappointing, feeling slower than they do on the album and with less emotion.

Things really picked up again with "Koe" and "Metronome", though. "Koe" literally had the audience jumping again during the chorus, to the point that I had kind of a hard time even watching Mami sing it. The song felt much harder than it does on its album. Haruna said later that "Koe" is surprisingly the #2 ranked song of all time by their fan club members (#1 is "Scandal Baby"), but I could believe it based on the crowd reaction. During "Metronome", Haruna held the high notes an extra second or two and you could hear the crowd roar for her over the music whenever she did. She is fully back from her earlier vocal problems, and now has one of the best voices in all of rock music.

Somewhere around this time is when they had their first and main MC break, which lasted around 20 minutes. After doing their standard intro, Haruna told us we could sit down. They talked about various things including a radish Tomomi had left in her refrigerator during the tour, how they can remember playing early shows attended by exactly zero people, and whether cats or dogs were better. Haruna brought out her "Harupedia" (an actual binder she has) that she read various facts from about cats and dogs. The girls all voted on whether they liked cats or dogs (Haru and Timo: dogs; Rina and Mami: cats) before asking the crowd to break the tie. On this night, cats won.

They also announced during the MC that yes... the show finally sold out!

During "Koi no Gestalt Houkai", Haruna put her guitar down and picked up a megaphone so she could strut around the front of the stage. She did a little sexy dance as she walked around, which was pretty fun to watch from where I was standing, though I've read from others at other shows that it didn't translate as well further away and higher up. But standing below her and only a few feet away.. I mean, I actually said "Jesus Christ!" out loud as I was watching her. She may be a little thin for my tastes these days, but that woman still knows how to move.

As the song ended, she strapped her blue Mustang back on so she could do the craziest extended intro to a song that I've ever heard them do. It started out as about two minutes of straight up random guitar noise. Slowly she used some kind of effect (it looked like a Maxon AD999) mounted to her mic stand to manually blend the sound into a pulsating single tone. It was like I was suddenly at a My Bloody Valentine show. That tone then formed the basis for Mami to launch into the opening notes of "Kagen no Tsuki".

"Weather Report" was again a little disappointing in the same way as "Hachigatsu" and "Uchiagehanabi", but as "Awanai Tsumori no Genki de ne" began, the set peeled apart to reveal a massive open and modern (and freakin' bright) light setup behind them, the crowd went wild again and the energy feedback loop between band and crowd was restored. They maintained that energy through the rest of the set - it didn't hurt that their remaining songs were all great live songs. I even thought "OVER DRIVE" was fantastic, and I'm a little iffy on the album version. "OVER DRIVE" is also one of the only songs they did featuring any synchronized band choreography (they did the little jig from the video any time they weren't singing), and it was cute.

(I realized a few weeks after writing that that they also did the choreography from "Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku STORY", which was a towel-waving frenzy near the end of the show that was also physically difficult to actually watch them play from my spot on the floor. I was just caught in a mob.)

And yes, after finishing up "Namida yo Hikare", they immediately launched into the ending chorus of "STANDARD" again, which was an amazing way to finish. Many of their songs are obviously intended for audience participation, and "STANDARD" is one of those - I was looking forward to being able to sing "yeeeeeeeeah whooooooooooa!" along with them, and I wasn't disappointed.

For the encore, the girls changed into their tour shirts as they always do, then performed three of their most crowd-pleasing early songs. I was personally hoping they'd do "24 Jikan Plus no Yoake Mae" as they did at some of the earlier shows on this tour, but no dice. I am happy they did "Scandal Baby", which I think should never be out of the set list, and it was absent at some of the shows on their last tour. During that song, Tomomi went behind Haruna and teased her a bit, and Mami tried to do something similar with Rina (it's a little harder with a drummer). It wasn't quite as fun as when I saw them do this song at Budokan, though.

After "Doll", they did another little MC/personal introductions/thank you to the crowd, and that was that. I left drenched in sweat and wishing I'd bought one of the towels they were selling! (They're not just for waving around.) My wife said this was the first time she learned that I could jump.


  • Their outfits were fairly simple white dresses, pants and skirts; not very flashy or elaborate like they sometimes wear, almost under-designed if you ask me, but better in person than in pictures. Still, not my favorite outfits that they've worn (but also not the worst).
  • They've really gotten a lot more serious as a band. You can especially see it in Haruna, who is just all business when she's playing and has started doing some creative guitar stuff on stage. The way she is in their recent videos is pretty much the way she really is on stage now. She's no longer the bubbly, slightly awkward teenager of Koi Moyou, that's for sure! She's even a little less goofy than when I saw them at Budokan a year ago. If not for the MC parts, where she was smiling and laughing more than anyone else, I'd have almost thought she was angry at this show. But she has just gotten really intense. She's become the dark and brooding one, at least while she's singing and playing.
  • I still think something might have been going on between Haruna and Tomomi - Haruna barely ever even looked at Tomomi during either the MC's or while playing, and Tomomi seemed almost scared of Haruna, rarely moving from her spot and mostly staying out of the MC conversations. There was one awkward moment that really made me feel bad for Tomomi when she walked over to Haruna, literally stood there looking at her for about 10 seconds, and then walked back without even being acknowledged. It was weird.
  • I don't think I like Rina being in front - it messes up the band dynamic. Drums are a large and disruptive presence on a stage, and their being in front means none of the band members can really play off each other and they all need to mostly stay in one spot. It also means Haruna faces to her left during the MC's, since that's where half the rest of the band is - that could be partially responsible for why Tomomi looked so left out a lot of the time. I understand that Rina's an equal part of the band, but the drums need to be in back.
  • If you didn't get it, SCANDAL is loud. I've seen Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth - none of them are as loud in concert as SCANDAL. Whenever I see them live, I have Marty DiBergi going through my head saying they've earned a place in history as "one of Japan's loudest bands." They're also heavier than on their albums, and at this show they were a bit messier and less precise... but in a punky kind of way that mostly sounded good. They are a noisy and powerful band live.

If you're wondering about the merchandise, here's everything I walked away with:

That's the bag (which you have to buy), the regular Standard t-shirt, the packet of stuff they give you just for showing up, the signed card, the keychain set (we exchanged keychains!), the CD that I had to buy to get the card, and the photo book. The book is actually pretty fantastic - it's hardcover, and it shows them in a very different and more mature light than past books have.

The keychain set is also pretty rad - the designs of each of their signature instruments are reproduced in the metal down to really fine detail:

Tomomi's bass also has the competition stripes. Rina's bass drum has the stylized Scandal "S".

I thought after Budokan that that was my one chance, but I'm determined to see them again now. I actually scheduled this trip partly around this show and I will be doing that again. It's worth it.

(Feel free to leave a comment here if you'd like to say or ask anything that's restricted on the Scandal Heaven thread - I don't have the same rules.)

This is my second SCANDAL live report - read them all!

Friday, November 15, 2013

ALDIOUS at Kashiwa 11/04/2013 live report!

I mentioned that this past trip to Japan was partly about concerts, plural. My SCANDAL live report is in process as we speak, but we also went to one more - the all-girl metal band ALDIOUS, and I had backstage access for my store. I wrote a full report with some awesome pics and video over on my store blog - go check it out!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prince Park Tower Hotel and intro - Japan 11/2013

I’m on my flight home from Japan, one that’s further proof that most of my flights are accompanied by the sound of screaming, crying babies either directly behind or next to me. They’re attracted to me like moths to a light.

This trip was the flight I won from ANA in their Facebook sweepstakes. Yay ANA! I even managed to get exit rows on both legs, so I’m flying in comfort, if not quiet. The money we saved on the flight let us upgrade our hotel a little bit.

After 14 years of experience with Japan (and especially Tokyo), I’m at the point where I’m beyond being a regular tourist. I've just exhausted all the museums, shrines and landmarks I really feel like going to. This trip was mostly about two things for me: rock concerts and amusement parks. Oh, and this view:

By the way, goddamn Alaska. Always with the turbulence over goddamn Alaska. Is there some way I can blame Sarah Palin for this?

Anyway, that view above came courtesy of the Prince Park Tower Hotel.

This is a beautiful (on the inside), pretty new and utterly swanky hotel that’s got a fully unobstructed view of Tokyo Tower from basically across the street. Get on the right side of the hotel and it dominates the view. We paid extra for that – they charge ¥2,590 per night over the standard room fee, although you can apparently get lucky if they’re not fully booked.

I’ve talked about the view from the Grand Arc Hanzomon, which features an honest-to-god palace and moat, but I’ve never had Tokyo Tower so close in view that I could watch the people walk around the observation deck, from my room's balcony. (This is one of only a few hotels in Tokyo with balconies.)

Incidentally – which seems a rather inappropriate word for this – but you also get the new Tokyo SkyTree framed like a painting in between the skyscrapers off in the distance. That’s two towers for the price of one! SkyTree’s quite far away, but it’s easy to see its Battlestar Galactica Cylon lights at night…

This is the kind of hotel, by the way, that puts Ferraris in the parking lot as decoration. That’s all we could figure – through our entire stay, parked right in front of the hotel were a white Ferrari, a red Ferrari and a white Mercedes. They never moved. They probably never do. Maybe you can rent them.

Unfortunately, we had to pass on the offered helicopter service from the airport. (Though it’s a bargain at only $4,000!) We took the Yamanote Line like the commoners we are.

We did eat one night at the Brise Verte, the hotel’s high-end French(?) restaurant on the top floor. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it both for the view (of the other side, including Rainbow Bridge) and the food, which is as good as any I've had anywhere. We had the five course fixed price thing (you get a discount as a guest), and it's actually a lot of food.

The view out the restaurant window.
This hotel was actually a big highlight of the trip. We didn't always make it, but for the first time we actually tried to get back "home" early - to see Tokyo Tower lit up like this:

Anyway, this trip report is probably going to be shorter than most because a lot of it was family stuff... but we did do a couple of really cool things, including the SCANDAL concert I've been talking about for months. So I'll be writing more very shortly.

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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