06/10/2007

JAPAN!!!!! Part 2

by Matthew Hawkins

For part 1, go here.

Day 2: Suzuki (continued)

The second hotel was located near a crab place that had this huge, moving mechanical crab above it.

Also nearby was some public bath house/sauna. Here?s the ad right up front.

With nothing to do till the next day (when we?d all be moving south in Okinanwa to set up the first show), myself, Joe, and June decided to check out all that Kawasaki had to offer. The first stop was going inside the pachinko parlor across the street. They had some crazy machines there, like one based on Speed Racer?

And that shitty Tim Burton Planet of the Apes flick?

An outside shot of the parlor…

Got some lunch shortly afterwards. Lunch that day consisted of chicken culet with rice and curry, along with miso soup. I think the whole thing cost less than $5. Sorry, but I still can?t get over how goddamn cheap the food was. Also, it was wonderful having a constant flow of curry and rice morning, noon, and night.

One of the biggest hurdles was definitely the language barrier. Oh, another piece of bullshit, one that?s pushed by all those aforementioned books for would be travelers: everyone knows a little English and love the chance to flex it. Bullshit. Yeah, they teach English in Japanese high schools, but how many of us in America who took Spanish or French back in the day still remember it? Exactly. But when it came to ordering food, it was never a huge deal because most restaurants have what they served up front, in shellacked form. If worse came to worse, you simply took the person taking your order outside and pointed to what you wanted.

Additionally, I had never really gotten around to mastering chopsticks while in America (yeah, kinda strange considering how I?m half Asian, plus every damn round eye in NYC loves to use them). So it was a struggle at first, but I stuck with it, and by the end, got fairly decent with them!

Aftwards we checked out a strip mall in the area, which had shops of all sorts…

… As well as photo opportunities of all sorts….

Plus, there were arcades, one of the main things I was most looking forward to checking out during my trip. Virtually every arcade in Japan, even though not the ultra special, super deluxe ones, blows the doors away of the best that America has to offer. Almost every single one of them is a minimum of four floors. And always the first one is dedicated entire to UFO Catchers. You know, those crane games.

Consistently the most popular prize was toys based on Rilakkuma, or Relax Bear, which happens to be MK?s fave character. I blew a couple yen trying to get a few things for her, but no mas.

The thing about American arcades is that they’ve basically been overtaken and swallowed by redemption machines. But in Japan, there’s still plenty of old fashioned, honest to goodness, video games to be found. And with most centers encompassing multiple floors, so there’s plenty of space, you have a degree of options that’s simply astounding. The sheer scope of it all was quite simply pretty mind-boggling to me (despite the fact that I’ve heard that arcades there have been on the wane, just like in America). Case in point: Almost every single major game center I went to had an entire section, sometimes an entire floor, for shmups.

Though nothing could have prepared me for the following: an arcade Radiant Silvergun machine!

My jaw literally dropped upon seeing it.

Fighters made up a sizable portion of the offerings, naturally. There were plenty of Virtua Fighter 5 units, again, often getting it’s own section, though that was to be expected (everyone knows that it’s been the hottest thing in the Japanese arcades for quite a while now).

Though also super popular, perhaps more so than VF5, was this Gundam game that looked very much like Virtual On. Some arcades, like the one in Suzuki, would have an entire floor dedicated to just that one game, with each one networked to each other.

Music titles, like Guitar Freaks and BeatMania still seemed to be popular as well, though not once did I see a DDR machine.

Another popular category are machines that supported/worked in tandem with card based gameplay. In the case of this Gundam game, a whole bunch of people play together, and I?m guessing the hottest battles are visualized and shown on the main screen for everyone to check out.

Electronic horse-track betting was also super popular. I’m not sure how it works, if people just place bets or if they perform actions to determine how well the horse does. Anyhow, here’s on with an obvious video game flavor…

And one that’s a bit more low-fi…

Aside from big and jam-packed, most Japanese arcades are also super smoky. Which made the entire scene feel rather… nostalgic. It was like Playland cira Time Square 1997 all over again. It should also be noted that cigarettes are like dirt cheap there… about $2-3 American. Plus they are readily available via vending machines, as well as beer. Yet from what I understand, there’s relatively very little underage smoking in boozing the country.

Anyhow, another totally awesome thing about the place I found in Suzuki is here was an area to just chill and read a pile of manga. Seriously, how fucking boss is that?!

Oh, and here’s some dude playing an arcade version of Zoo Keeper (which I had no idea existed) and his very bored girlfriend who had fallen asleep right next to him.

Stepping outside of the arcades… There were also a number of American fast food chains to be found. Here’s what the menu is like at McDonald’s. Note: instead of meals, everyone in Japan likes to use the term “set.”

Each offers some Japanese-only offerings, like McDonald?s Tamago Double Mac, which I actually had and was pleasantly surprised by.

And believe it or not but cordogs were to be found as well! And trust the Japanese to vastly improve upon the way to add ketchup and mustard.

Yet another thing I definitely went ga-ga over was capsule toys. I?m a bit embarrassed to admit how much money I blew on them by the end of the trip.

Here?s what Joe and June got (they got the cow nipple Frisbee to be exact)…

And here?s a few of that I got on day one?

That last one must be something that anyone on 2chan must also have. Anyhow, we then checked out the toys and games section of a department store. I promised myself that I wouldn?t get toys before coming to Japan, since I figured that I could get the same basic stuff in America, albeit online. But that was before I realized that there?s just such a broader selection in Japan, plus its much cheaper.

Girls mixed with mecha are definitely the in thing. Check out this girl?s camel toe…

Kinda wanted to get this, since I like girls and photography.

… And the past bunch of pictures from Suzuki is next!

To Be Continued…

  • http://www.dmauro.com dmauro

    What did I tell you: save all your money for food. Not that it’s cheap, but you’re going to want to eat a lot. Just don’t spend so much money on ミーナ capsule toys next time.

  • http://www.dmauro.com dmauro

    “Not that it’s expensive” rather.

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