Photos of Japan

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Well, I've made another exciting trip to Japan. the pictures this time are mostly courtesy of my friend Ben who took a lot of photo's on this trip. A few others are thanks to my friend Steve, and yet a couple more were taken by kind strangers. They are in no particular order. Being Ben's first time in Japan I think he really wanted to capture the things that strike you as odd and foreign when you are in a foreign country, such as this car and it's impossible parking space. I'm really impressed with the drivers abilities, I failed my parallel parking when I took my drivers test. :( I can be seen posing next to the car for posterity. This was our lunch at a Katsudon place (pork cutlet rice bowls). I think this was actually chicken with rice and some green beans and soup. It was a meal "set", like you could order it all individually, but set "A" comes with the above and a small soup, and set "B" comes with the above and a large soup. This was set "B". This is the huge line going to the Asakusa temple also pictured in my previous trip. This is the first time I got to go during New Year's which is obviously a big deal. This was a full 3 days after new years eve and still there were this many people going to visit the temple in the evening. Apparently this continues for around a week during which time the temple probably makes a fortune in donations of change thrown by the endless swarm of people. This is a row of shops selling souvenirs BEFORE you get to the temple which can be seen in the distance. This is a closer view of the temple once you are almost there. This is me and Steve's friend Kyouko when we are almost at the temple. The yellow rope is holding folks back from entering until the people ahead of them have had a chance to clear out a bit. This is some Japanese pizza from Dominoes no less. It looks sort of like American pizza, if you inspect it closely however there is some potatoes, corn, carrots, and mayonnaise. It's actually pretty good even though it doesn't sound it. Here is a trading card video game that Steve, Ben, and myself played. Yes, you heard correctly, a trading-card video game. This one is based on Gundam 0079. You buy a starter deck that comes with card sleves, two pilots, two mechs, two special item cards, and four weapon cards. You take two sets of linked card sleves and fill them up with the pilot, mech, weapons, and special items of your choice. You then fold up your decks of players and place them at the bottom of the board. The game detects what pilots and configurations of mech you have and shows them on the screen. You move your units around by moving the cards on the board and attack with buttons on the game case. It's a little complicated, but the basics are not too hard. When you die, the game will dispense a random card which you can add to your collection. It is a fairly clever combination of gaming genres though the cabinets take up a lot of space. This is a Japanese train platform if you ever wanted to see one. They all look pretty much like this. This is a shot of some capsule toys in a glass case at a hobby/figure story in Akihabara. The "new" capsule toys can usually be purchased randomly in capsules from those machines you put money into and turn the handle. Old figures, or ones that have been sold back to a shop are displayed in cases like these. There are a ton of stores all over Akiba full wall to wall with these cases with capsule toys, as well as old action figures, transformers, sentai stuff, American figures, garage kits, dolls, etc... It is really cool to just wander around these stores and look at stuff. This is a picture of a girl in a sort of gothic maid outfit probably handing out flyers for one of the maid cafes that have become extremely popular since the last time I was there. It's really weird actually, the last time I was there my friend and I went to the Cure Maid Cafe in the middle of the day and didn't have to wait or anything. There were probably like 3 other guys there at the time and they were by themselves. Now there is a line there non-stop and you have to put your name on a list and wait. I tried like 3 times to get in and just gave up because it took too long. We finally went in my last day there. It's like a date spot or something, lots of normal people and couples and stuff go there. There must be another 6-7 cafes that have opened up now in the past 2 years. It's kind of creepy. This is Ben and I next to a robotic (a.k.a. evil) Hello Kitty. It only costs about $4,500. I don't know what the hell it does. This was on one floor of an electronics store that is all robotics stuff. Here are Ben and I posing in Akihabara, in front of the Club Sega arcade that is one of the first things you see coming out of the train station. This is the really huge line at Comiket. This does not begin to do justice to this line, nor how many people were there. The line goes forward, doubles back on the right and goes a ways beyond to the Tokyo Daiba (Tokyo Big Site) convention center. Here is a picture of the entry way to the West Hall, the large doors surrounding it all leading to the actual rooms that make up the hall. It's kind of a horseshoe shape. This picture was taken from the elevator going up to the second floor of the west hall where the industry booths are. There is also an East Hall which as big or larger. Here are Ben and I playing Taiko no Tatsujin (Taiko Master) the taiko drum rhythm game. And this is a slightly unflattering image of myself (middle), Ben (left), and Steve (right) on my last night there. It was a really fun week and a half or so. I had a great time hanging out with my friends who I had not seen in a long time. I had a great time bumming around Akihabara and attending my 3rd and likely far from final Comiket. Expect to see pictures from future trips here hopefully again soon. Vacation pictures never quite turn out how you would like them but ah, oh well... This trip was a lot different than the last in many ways. I was only there for 2 weeks, not 2 months. I stayed with a friend, and brought a friend with me. I stayed in Tokyo exclusively. Simmilarly though, I did go to Comiket again, the main reason I came, and I hung out in Akihabara. That has nothing to do with this picture though. This was a shrine in Tokyo, I don't know which one. This is a girl feeding pigeons. I was about 100 feet away with a huge zoom. At the shrine again. I guess the Buddhas might give away the fact that this is a Buddhist temple, as opposed to a shinto one. I liked the two buddhas sitting there. I wanted to capture the bright red along with the lush green. The buddha in the back is a bit further away but they are both in focus. Here is the front of the temple which likely says the name right on it but I can't read. "Mountain", something, something...whatever. Apparently we were not the only ones visiting the temple that day, and managed to get a photo of two other group simultaniously taking photos in front of the gate. The temple was a lot of fun. There is a whole street of shops leading up to the temple with all kinds of souvenier types of things. So many in fact that I did not know what to get to bring back home. I eneded up getting my folks some hand made rice crakers, and I got my mom a little wooden doll. At the temple proper there is a place to wash your hands and pray which I did. You can also throw money before a bunch of buddhas and pray and there are fortunes you can get for like 100 yen. I got a really good fortune and my friend got a really bad one. ;) Here is another photo of people taking photos. This is the tower. If I remembered anything from my asian art history classes I could probably say more about it. I know you can't go in it, I think that it is not possible to climb it, like there are no stairs inside, but I'm not sure. This is a big yellow...thing. It's fairly close to the temple. It was apparently designed by and artist and was qute expensive. It looks kind of like a golden turd. It has a certain appeal to it though. Speaking of golden turds, here I am sitting in this small yellow car. This was stationed out in front of an electronics store if I remember correctly. Kind of like the cars you find parked in malls with car dealership paraphanalia. Apparently this car is road-worthy. It wasn't exactly cheap either. I had a fun time imagining driving it around Japan. Apparently the childeren behind me were amused as well. Here is my friend Andy at the wheel. On to Akihabara...I liked this sign. Mostly because it's the kind of thing you only see in Akihabara. A big sign about some big event, with anime girls. I don't think we were going to be there long enough to make it. Here is something you only see in Akihabara too, at least on ever street corner. It's a Japanese software store and it is in fact 99% dirty video games. I don't think I quite realized this but there are not really any PC games that are not dirty in Japan. This store may have had some doujinshi or "amature" games, as in the game developers were small garage-type outfits. Here is the late picture of Akihabara, for no real reason other than I did not take a lot of photos. Akihabara was a lot of fun. There are many large stores like this, many of them are sofmaps in fact. This one was mostly Comic-Toranoana, a comics store with lot's of doujinshi comics. Like doujinshi software, doujinshi comics are typically dirty comics made by individuals and small groups, published in small runs and sold mostly by the creators and a few specialty shops like this one. Comiket (comic-market) is the largest doujinshi convention in Japan and runs at least twice a year, if not 4 times, I'm not really sure on this yet. Anyway, most of my time in Akihabara was spent browsing the video game stores for console games and hardware, but comic toranoana was a fun stop. Here is a picture of Hikone-jo (Hikone Castle) from the town I stayed in, Hikone. Apparently it is one of the more famous castles, though it is in a relatively small town. This picture is from the front (I think), right out in the yard. You can get to the castle by walking up a mountain path. You need to buy a ticket to see it, and there are souveniers and such, like a museum. These are the ducks (maybe swans?) from the moat. You can bike/walk in front of the castle, and there is a playground and such so I used to bike through every so often. I always liked the deep green color of the moat and the ducks there. I was happy to see them so close to the fence and I think the colors came out well. I think my teacher said this was a dojo. We found it at a shrine we visited in Kyoto. It was very beautiful, the light-colored woodwork really caught my eye. I either did not take, or did not keep a picture of the temple, but the dojo is a nice photo. Yeah, everyone who visits Japan just HAS to take a photo of bamboo, but I couldn't help it. ;) This was at the temple in Kyoto again and it was one of those big bamboo forests with a path through it. I got a nice forground, middle, background feeling from the middle focal plane. I am rather fond of it. This is my friend Mike Low at Tokyo Bigsite during Comiket in the summer of '98. The main building with all the doujinshi is actually to the left more. I didn't go in the building on the supports but it seemed like there was some cosplay stuff going on there. The building is part of some big development in Tokyo that has a lot of unique structures in it. It think there are malls and stuff too, but I didn't go to any of the other places. You take a tram out over the whole complex to get from place to place. It is really pretty cool. I intend to spend some more time there. This is a view from the train station in Hikone. I couldn't help but take this picture. I just thought the wierd industrial building was so cool looking, along with the out-of-service trains in the foreground, it was just a super photo-op. ^_^ I like the bright yellows with the rust that is repeated in the roofs in the middle-ground, and the industrial building in the background. Here is another picture from Hikone-jo (I think) of a bell. I think I just liked the bright red unbrella. ^_^; Neither the colors nor the silohette are striking enough to really stand out, but it reminds me of being in Hikone.