Hey everyone, so I have been on a nice vacation from 16 June to 8 July. Upon reflection, I probably should had stayed in Japan much longer. However, I made a few mistakes here and there that made me go "...Okay, maybe we better make this return sooner." Alas, lessons learned.
Nevertheless, I present to you all a summary of my month in Japan. Well, at least what I considered my highlights.
Misawa Family Reunion - June 16-17 2015
Arriving back to Misawa was a huge family reunion for me. Misawa AB was the first base that I went to for my military career back in 2006-2008. I worked at the Grissom Dining Facility as a chef(though I felt like I was working at military version of Burger King. Hrghk). I spent about 2 days at the base.
Upon arrival, I had a difficult time trying to remember the layout of the base. It was easy to get lost in. I ended up at the Navy police station, thinking it was the lodging and the naval officer offered to arrest me.
Eventually, I got a ride to lodging because I was carrying so much crap of my luggage. After checking in for my room, I settled my bags and did some traveling. I made my way to the Grissom Dining Facility. All of the Japanese staff that worked at the facility back in my time of 2006-2008 were surprised and elated to see me. It felt like a wonderful family reunion. However, none of the dining facility staff that I worked with were there. Instead, I found them located in different buildings.
One of them was my rater when he was a TSgt. He became a MSgt superintendent of the Services side. With him was TSgt Lawson, a wonderful person who was one of my shift supervisors. It became memory lane seeing them all together. Next, I managed to find TSgt Supris, who was my supervisor long ago. I was her first troop. She helped set me right when my morale had suffered drastically thanks to a lot of bullshit. Lastly, that smiling face that greeted me when I first arrived onto base, Mr. Magby. He retired as a CMSgt. I cannot help but remember his smiling face as the first thing I saw when I arrived at Misawa AB.
Overall, it was a nice family reunion, but I needed to go to Tokyo.
Falcom HQ - Operation YOLO - 19 June 2015
My intent on finding the Falcom HQ was to help my friend, the host of Endless History (www.esterior.net
), the #1 Falcom Fansite, conduct the interview with the president of the company, Mr. Kondo. Going off of information of where Falcom was at from online material, I set off to find the building.
1.5 hours later, I found out that the building is an old address and they moved. Thanks to some help from a neighboring building, I went to find the HQ. Oh, right, it was also raining.
Fuck you, rain.
2 hours have passed and it was 12:30PM. I found out they went to lunch, so I decided to go to lunch. Unfortunately, lunch was taking a while, which made me antsy because I was on a time crunch. I had an Eorzea cafe reservation to meet by 16:30 and it was already approaching 14:00. For frame of reference, it takes me an hour to get to Akihabara from Tachikawa, which was the distance of where I was going from where I was at. My meal at 13:45 was a rush job because I immediately went to Falcom HQ to make the time.
Made it to the building. I had limited Japanese, but one of the staffers approached me to ask if I had scheduled an appointment. I showed him the e-mails I sent to different addresses twice in the past month or so prior to arriving into Japan. .
I'll talk about the Eorzea trip later. However, insert 2 weeks later. I received no reply, not even a receipt confirmation, which I sent on the week after because I felt something was fishy. That Monday, I decided to go back to Falcom HQ on my way to Ghibli Museum(which I found out later that you had to reserve for) only to find out that he never received neither e-mails due to firewall. I had him send me the email first, then I replied, allowing us to establish contact.
... Lord knows what they think of me at Falcom. Either case, my friend was able to get her interview, albeit by e-mail. Sadly, Kondo was very busy promoting Xanadu Tokyo (went to Nagoya and was going all around southern Japan to promote the game before I left). Alas, next time, I'll get to meet him.
(Btw, Operation YOLO was a "No Go" at SquareEnix HQ. I got nearby and the guards had their Materia equipped. They were like 'Surprise mutha fuckaaaa....' and made the 'bring it gesture' to me. I was like 'Naw, naw, we coo', we coo'' and backed the fuck away. ...Well, truthfully, two guards were there and they made the arms cross of 'No pictures' and there was a sign letting people know that entry is not allowed without an appointment. Was not trying my luck.)
Eorzea Café - 19 Jun 2015
This is one of my highlights of the trip. In fact, it's probably one of my favorite things to talk about. This story would make you believe in the fact that 'destiny' is a possibility. Everything played out to perfection when things seemed bleak.
When I first made plans to go to Japan, I wanted to go to Eorzea Café, a Final Fantasy XIV themed café, and I heard that you are REQUIRED to make reservations. No walk-ins. Knowing that, I made plans to figure out how to get reservations taken care of. Upon arrival at Misawa, I made a reservation to get a seat at the café. Annoyingly, however, could not purchase single seat, had to buy 4 seat ticket (¥1000 each, so was forced to spend ¥4000).
Do you realize how god damn difficult it was to get people to take the offer of joining me for a seat? I offered free seatings, even had friends on Twitter retweet for me. Money was already spent, so I may as well try to keep it from being wasted. No luck.
Met two guys the day prior in Akihabara and invited them to join. That felt like a bit of relief was made.
Now, insert the deal about the Falcom event above this topic. I was already panicing when I got back. Even more worrying was that I did not see my friends, so I was panicing even more. It was about 30 minutes prior to the event (16:30) and I saw two individuals eyeing the menu. I approached them and asked if they'd be interested in joining me. I already spent the money and I really did not want go to the event alone. It so happened that they were looking for the place in the first place because they wanted to attend. What they did not realize was that they had to make reservations. In a way, I was an angel to them.
The event was ready to start. A moment later, one of the guys I invited the day prior showed up. He told me that the other one flaked out. This worked in my favor because I would had felt bad not having an extra spot.
We all had fun and it was a good day. This felt like a real life Duty Roulette that turned out perfectly. This, to me, was what destined friends felt like.
Kyoto Trip - 21-24 Jun 2015
Kyoto was amazing. Upon arrival to Kyoto, I followed a friend's advice and traveled out to Saga-Arashiyama, where I asked about a ryokan to stay at. Unfortunately, most places were already full. I was hooked up with the location of a place.
After getting lost near the temple, I finally found the place and settled in. The 'ryokan' felt like a traditional Japanese home. I stayed up at the top floor and it was a nice, small room. The floor was made of tatami mats and the set-up was pretty cozy. The place served breakfast at 0700 and dinner at 1800. The neighborhood that it was at was warm and welcoming, though some of the Japanese schoolboys had a bit of an attitude. God, I hate kids. Anyway, the only downside was that the water was cold as hell, so showers in the morning was like the crying game.
Also, I had natto, which I learned is the edible(????) form of anguish. God, never again.
Oh, an important advice: GET YEN FROM ATM FROM TOKYO PRIOR TO ARRIVING TO KYOTO!
Why? You will end up spending a good deal of the day traveling to Karasuma in Kyoto to find a god damn Citibank ATM. On the plus side, I did find the International Manga Museum of Kyoto. On the downside, I did not find any manga artists there, as they only appear on the weekends (*cry*). Overall, that was a waste of a Monday. I did not go to Kyoto to explore the modern-side of things.
Wednesday was much more rewarding. I went to the Toei Studio Park at the Uzumasa JR stop. Many of the actors from Toei studios worked there, so they acted as the tour guides. The studio also re-ignited my love for the shinobi. It is unfortunate that Naruto, a popular anime about ninja, ended up killing my love for the ninja. However, relearning about the history and their tools revived my love. It was something that I solely missed.
I was going to leave early until I met two women, one 19 and the other 42. Both of them were nice and were curious about my camera. The first time I ran into them, I was in a hurry to leave. I grew to regret that decision. However, I ran into them again. I think that was my second chance to socialize and have company, which I took. Spent most of the time watching the plays with them and flirting. Unfortunately, I had to explain to one of them why "happy long time" is _NOT_ something you want to say to an English speaker when departing. Upon reflection, I wish I had my "Making Out in Japanese" book to help show the Japanese equivalent to what that meant. That would had helped better than the pocket book that taught more traditional phrases. I think after some point, they both got the hint.
...Ahh, I would had been "happy long time". OH WELL!
Hiroki Kikuta Meeting - 6 July 2015
I wanted to leave Japan with a bang. I had a lot of meetings cancelled on me due to Bitsummit coming up the next week. I contacted Hiroki Kikuta who agreed to the meeting. I should note, for those unaware, Hiroki Kikuta is the person who composed the music for Secret of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 2), Seiken Densetsu 3, and more.
We met at Akihabara Mansei, which is a nice restaurant area that has a large red cow logo on the top of a building.
During our meeting, we discussed many things
- Latest Project: Labzero, developers of Skullgirls, will have him do the soundtrack for their upcoming RPG, "Indivisible". I was told that most of his attention will be focused on that project. From what it sounds like, it'll be a full time thing for him.
- Seiken Densetsu series: I was curious on his thoughts with the way that the SD series were going, especially with Rise of Mana. He only did 1 song for the game, but he told me that there will be more content on the game as time progresses, so he may be doing more. Going back in time, we discussed which was his favorite game to compose for: he chose SD2. Seiken Densetsu 2 was the most difficult game to compose for as the entire soundtrack took him 2 years. However, it was one of the more memorable soundtracks. For SD3, it took him 1.5 years. He hopes that many of the western gamers are able to play the game.
- Western Games & Composers: Speaking of western gamers, I shared with him what I remember from Matsumae Minami's interview with the Imagos Softworks, the developers of Starr Mazer: Why many of the Japanese composers are opened towards the west. Here is a lesson for folks: Japanese game composers are tied to a game or its series. Unfortunately, when the said game series aren't doing well, many of the artists tied to it are let go. The indie scene is not big in Japan. With the indie scene being big from the westerners, it has opened doors between the East and West. In that same vein, gaming in general are connecting. SquareEnix's new leadership acknowledging the fans desire for FFVII is a step towards the right direction. Hoperfully, we'll see more out of it.
- Reize & Star Chaser Story: I shared with him a lot of things about Reize from the time of his creation and the influences along with the games he has been in(Valdis Story: Abyssal City & Shovel Knight), and the future games that he will be in(Shiness, Endica VII: The Dream King, CrossCode, etc). I even shared why I hired him and my intentions to hire him again. He could tell that I loved the character that I created. I know invested a lot more into the character than I should have. However, it is a concept that I enjoy and want to see told. Many of the artwork I was very proud to show him. He was fascinated with the style by . I proudly shared with him the artwork to complement the music that he composed for the character done by . He loved how it matched the themesongs. Furthermore, I was proud to show him the artwork that I use as the primary reference done by . Though, couldn't forget to show him the many art that did for me, as they served as wonderful, 'feel good' themes.
- My Streaming & Hydlide: I LOATHE Hydlide. However, Hiroki Kikuta got a good laugh out of watching my many deaths & antics from the recording that I had in my iPad.
Here is a picture of Hiroki Kikuta, Reize, and I from our lunch. (Featured artwork done by )
Onsen - 7 Jul 15
You know, my stay at Korea was nice, but there was a place that advertised itself as a natural hot springs. Disappointment came when it looked like a city park. Fuck my life.
Now come to Japan. It was my last day and I wanted to make it a relaxing time. I went to a place called Saya no Yu Dokoro – さやの湯処
. I found it from this website: wanderlust-japan.com/tokyo-are…
After nearly 20 minutes of searching and reading over a map(I took a picture and followed the map. I felt so proud of myself), finally found the place.
Important Tip: If you have any tattoos, you will not be permitted into the onsen.
I got my key and got my way in. I had to purchase a big/small towel to rent out. I went to my locker and found out that the big towel is to be left in the locker with the rest of your stuff(no cameras permitted, it'll take away the relaxing feeling). You are completely nude as well. Don't worry folks, the place segregated male and females. I went to various parts of the onsen.
There were indoor Jacuzzi-like areas and outdoor springs, tub, a rocky part for you to lay down on, and a sauna that felt so suffocating that I thought I was going to die.
I spent about an hour and then left for the day. Honestly, I wished I stayed longer, but for me, I think it is really difficult for me to relax, especially by myself.
I should, however, take this time to cover the atmosphere for me. I was the only foreigner in the area and I definitely stood out like a sore thumb. I mean, look at me, I'm one of the darknesses(Rick James, bitch!)! The older men didn't say much, but one of the locals told me to try out one of the Jacuzzis. This one felt like a sonic wave that made my back tingle. Good lord. I definitely recommend against going to the sonic wave seat on both sides. Ohgod, it hurted. The Japanese men did get a laugh out of my reactions going into the cold water.
Overall, it was an enjoyable moment despite being the only foreigner.
I suppose I cannot leave without sharing this piece. I spent my time making new friends and reunion with old friends. This part will cover the people that I did not cover in my previous parts. I enjoyed meeting with the following wonderful people:
- Andy K: Tabletop players should be familiar with him. He is the translator for Tenra Bansho and one of the folks who helped translate Ryuutama(both Kickstarters were successful). He is a good friend of mine who I got to hang out with again and got a chance to play a game with.
- A Japanese friend that I made when I was judge at EVO 2013. It was nice talking to him and.. who would imagine that he and I kept in touch enough to hang out in Japan? I hung out with him and his friends. It was a wonderful time. I also enjoyed teaching him and his buddies the meaning of "Blue balls".
- Few Navy friends: I met them at Harajuku and we spent time exploring the Meiji Shrine together. It was nice having fellow military friends to crack jokes with and share some tales.
- international Friendship Party (iFP): It was amazing hearing the founder's tale. He left Tokyo under depression and ended up spending time at the Philippines. He made new friends and it gave him resolution to form the international Friendship Party. I met some nice people, one of them I am continually talking to. Maybe something more may come out of this. Who knows?
P.S. Akihabara, also Japanese for "Blue Balls" (*SIGH*)
I really cannot forget about cafes. I did a lot of Cafe exploration when I was in Japan. Gundam Cafe was a letdown, but the Square-Enix cafes were pretty amazing. Let me say off the bat, both Eorzea Cafe and Luida's Bar are _VERY_ atmospheric as far as keeping in theme with their games go. You definitely have to go to the two.
- Eorzea Cafe: See above information
- Dragon Quest Cafe, aka Luida's Bar: Oh man, this was a nice cafe in Roppongi where you can easily walk in. The full menu can be found from the pictures that I took here. imgur.com/a/RxBiF
- Artnia: ...I am not going to lie. Artnia was weaksauce in comparison. This was at Shinjuku, near the Square Enix cafe. However, this is where the merchandise are at. Here's one of the shots. I'll also refer to this link because dA is not acting right with the Crystal Room image: twitter.com/Seizui_/status/617…:
- Granvania Cafe: This is not Square-Enix related, but is instead, a maid cafe. This was a maid cafe that didn't suck because this was an actual restaurant. I think it was an actual restaurant, but with folks dress in maid costumes. That works. I can deal with that. With that said, the food was pretty good. I even made a new friend there, who helped me order drinks. Then we played a game, which I will call "Takoyaki Russian Roulette" These are fried octopus shaped into a ball, and the object is to find which one is the good one and avoid the bad one. What are the bad ones, you ask? Ever had the BURNING NOVA Hot Wings? The kind that is just hot without flavor and just being hot? Yeah, you gotta hope to God that you don't get them. ... Leave it to me to get it on the first go. I inwardly cried and thought I was going to die. ... After the intermission of near death experience, we continued on with the game. I had a good one, he had a good one. We were down to two. I had to pick the last one. Leave it to my luck for the last one to be the HOT BURNING DEATH flavored one. ...It was not my lucky day.
Also, I found out Bitsummit happened on a Saturday/Sunday. ...I COULD HAD MADE IT!!! MOTHER FUCKER! (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻