Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Japan Trip 2

I'm currently on my second trip to Japan! My first trip details and some pics can be found here. I'm not keeping a day log this time but figured I should retroactively make a brief one, even just a sentence or two a day. I've been sharing some random photos here and there, I might not embed many in this post though. I'm doing a much longer trip as well so that I can 'burn' some days working on stuff at the hotel (or just taking the opportunity to study more Japanese), this post is part of that free time! I'll edit it occasionally as the trip progresses with updates.

Day 1 Arrival -- 12/10/22

Technically flight was on the 9th in Seattle and I arrived local JST around 3pm on the 10th. Got to have a brief test of my 'new' (refurb'd 2017) laptop I got for traveling purposes, it works well for my needs! Streamed Tekken from home machine over airport wifi, lag wasn't too bad. It's worse in Japan but not totally unplayable.

My main goal for the day was just to get to the hotel. My Passmo card from last time still works, so I charged it up with some train funds and made it without trouble. Stayed at the Palace Japan Hotel for a few nights, it's a step above capsule hotels where you have a private if small room and shared bathroom. I'd do it again.


Did a bit of programming (still trying to do advent of code challenges), and then went to Akihabara for a while. (When in doubt, wander around Akiba!) Told myself I wouldn't buy anything to take home that day, but ended up with a few books, a figure, a plushie, some keychains...


Today I switched hotels, to a more 'normal' one with private bathroom etc. I was at the Hotel MyStays Kamata. It was nice. In the morning I went over there and dropped off my luggage, then went to a local cat cafe and wandered around afterwards until it was checkin time. I really like the Yoshinoya chain for Gyudon.


Got to see my favorite idol perform, first time I've been to such a chika idol live show. A couple other English speaking fans were there, talked to them a bit too.


Got a xmas cake delivered in the morning with a card of my favorite vtuber. At it at night when I got back, good cake. (May have ordered another one for xmas day..) Went to the Ueno Zoo and saw lots of animals, including the giant panda. Getting dinner at night, had a yakuza (the game series) moment of a couple women (or the same woman twice) propositioning me going to/from the gyudon place haha. Better than last visit where it was just a (presumably) nigerian trying to get me to go somewhere!


Got to see my favorite idol perform again, it was her birthday celebration. Met some more cool English speaking people and talked to them a bit longer. Two of us originally from Seattle area, one a bit north in Vancouver, one from the UK, and one originally from Scotland but now I think in Chicago.


Went to see the Yokohama Gundam, visited another zoo in the area (a very cute Red Panda was the star of the place), had some pretty good Sichuanese food afterwards. Apparently Yokohama's Chinatown is the biggest in Japan? I only saw a very small part of it then.


My quest today was to visit the Sichuanese place I found and liked last time, I did and had some great dandan noodles. Didn't really have any other plans for the day, found myself over in Shibuya. Did a bit of work on the laptop at a cafe, but no electricity meant I didn't want to stay too long. (It seems this machine can go more than a few hours as long as I'm not NoMachining to my other computer...) I always feel like Andre at the Shibuya crossing in this Princess Bride scene, but I resist the urge to shout.


I was in Shibuya again, but I forgot why.. oh yeah, wanted to go to Donki, but didn't find what I was looking for somehow. Feel like I'm forgetting something. But anyway, had an event online in the evening involving my favorite vtuber that I needed to be back at the hotel for...


Went on a bus tour to a few spots around the Lake Kawaguchi area to see Mt. Fuji. Weather was great and clear, I got some nice photos with my friend's fancy camera and lenses. The rest of the tour could have been better; lunch was kinda disappointing and went on for too long (got some souvenirs though) though also maybe not long enough as near the time of departure I noticed a 'forest of music' thing that might have been neat, and the last stop at the old village of Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba would have been better if we got there earlier and stayed longer. Tour guide also was just a glorified babysitter for us foreigners (English and Chinese speaking, mostly Chinese), it was fine but I've had tour guides before who elaborated more on the history of places or various procedures and customs and how they've changed or not. Oh well, I can read about things later, the main star of the day was Fuji-san.

We were dropped off in Shinjuku, I went over to Akiba again because there was an arcade I found online (HEY) that had the Touhou fangame remake of Perfect Cherry Blossom in it and I wanted to try. I found it (so many shooter games on that floor! Alas no Ikaruga, though apparently they used to have it) and discovered how much harder Touhou is with a joystick.


Time to switch hotels again. This time I'm all the way out in Fuchinobe. I left my other hotel a little before the checkout time of 11, dropped my bags off at the new hotel, and then went back to Akiba for the arcade. Stopped for lunch first and had the famous honey toast, it was huge.

Anyway at the arcade I ended up Normal 1CC'ing the Touhou game first try, I guess all I needed was sleep. My score was only about 1/4th the top score though so no name entry lol. I played some more games, even got a little win streak going on Tekken, acquired some more merch, then went to a Hackerspace meetup. That was really fun, hackers and more broadly maker culture is pretty similar everywhere. Two main guys running the place were there, one originally from the UK, the other Arizona. Another first time visitor showed up, from Austria. Two other first time visitors also showed up, one from Hong Kong and another amusingly yet again from the Seattle area. All 3 of them are here on student visas. Another guy showed up to do some work in the downstairs where all the equipment was (CNC, welding, ...) and a few people showed up in an online google meeting for some discussion near the end when I had to go so I'd make it back to the hotel before midnight to officially check in.

Unfortunately I made a big mistake and somehow missed that I had booked a smoking room (in a smoke-free property?!).... it is worse than I could have imagined. I went to sleep but...


This smoke is making me crazy... had a pretty bad dream but don't remember it now. I hope it doesn't get into all my things. I asked to see if I can change to a non-smoking room, I have to wait until the 25th but then it should be possible. Ok, I can hold on and endure 4 more nights... Even with an N95 mask (yay valid use-case for bringing those along?) it's pretty miserable inside the room though, maybe I'll break out my N100 and try that? After showering (which also felt gross 'cause the smell's in there too) I went and saw the local museum, lots of local history that was neat and they even have a small planetarium where I saw a short 40 minute program. (And almost fell asleep during parts of it, I guess I was more tired than I thought.) Now I'm back at the hotel chilling, got some streams to watch later, waiting for laundry. No plan for tomorrow yet but it'll be something outside the hotel room for sure.


Another day of taking it easy. Woke up and had hotel breakfast, some decent stuff. Worked on a few programming problems but brain wasn't super into it. Had lunch at a nearby park, afterwards a pretty lucky coincidence happened when some mormon missionaries appeared, and one of them happened to be from my home town. Anyway back at the hotel sort of took a nap, watching some videos tonight, and doing some studying.


Went over to Machida and had some good omurice for lunch. Also went over to an outdoor shopping mall area, there's also the Snoopy Museum there for some reason. A few cool lights setup and a nice tree. Had some bacon and egg curry for dinner, along with some donuts from Jack in the Donut (best I've had here so far). Back in time to watch a video.


Back to Akiba area, and later Tokyo Dome, and also the Marunouchi area. Saw some nice Christmas stuff. Thought about going to a fancy looking restaurant at the last place but naturally it was booked well in advance! All the couples walking about together were a bit depressing haha. Had a bunch of good sushi with real wasabi for dinner instead. Bought some new games, started watching an anime.


My christmas gift has been being able to switch to a non-smoking room, my lungs and skin and everything were immediately happier. Then hung out with favorite vtuber and friends online, watched a christmas movie. Had another cake. Spicy noodles. Called family around midnight/1-2am. Going to go to Enoshima again tomorrow. But it's ok to spend all day in the hotel, it's a chill vacation at the moment, and I can let myself do some normal things like actually playing some games or watching more anime. Pretend a bit like I'm living here, and in normal life I don't leave the house for days sometimes.


Returned to Enoshima Island, I was happy I did. Saw some big stray cats being fed by a local, got my feet soaked in a mistimed wave, got some good food and fun pictures. They have repaired a few things since last time so the caves were open this time! Cool caves, and wild to imagine people hauling some of the carvings down there to the shrine spots hundreds of years ago... When night fell they had a great Christmas lights display. Did the shinto ritual at one of the shrines, no belief but can't hurt to ask/hope for someone else's fortune. On the way home stopped at KFC for day-after-xmas meal. Then got a bunch of stuff (mostly snacks) at an actual grocery store (Aeon I think). Somehow couldn't find the deodorant that I'm running low on... picked some up the next day at a Family Mart. Anyway once again felt like Theoden "my body is broken" once I got back to the hotel and laid down, but a chill stream granted recovery...


Went to another idol concert, unfortunately my favorite got canceled but I had already prepaid so went anyway, still had a good time seeing the different groups, some of them again. Really enjoyed the youkai group near the end. Turns out walking around without 20+ pounds of extra crap is a lot easier...


Too much social interaction in the last couple days, staying inside today. Going to watch some vids, do some system maintenance, maybe play some games or study more later. Advent of Code is over, I started working on day 13 but messed something up and haven't gotten back to it. Probably no more coding until vacation is over...


Perked up more last night, went out for a bit, got some food, and came back and played a bunch of Tekken. (Grand Master reached!) Managed to get it to run locally on laptop at very low settings, but the improvement in latency helps a lot so for now I'll sacrifice prettiness to try and rank up. Today I still want to be a bit anti-social though =P So today and next few days probably more of the same, though today I need to leave my room for ~4 hours for cleaning. What to do? Maybe cat cafe again... or a go club.

Ended up going to Machida and had a nice mazesoba lunch, mr waffle snack (and later dinner), another yakuza moment seeing some street acrobats/break dancers, chatted with a new JP contact over voice (I think he thinks my JP is much better than it is, uh oh lol), lost my ranks in Tekken (back to 3dan, got back to initiate at least...), then got to hang out with everybody in favorite streamer's channel.


Mostly stayed in, caught up on some sleep. Did a bit of light reading and writing. Later in the evening went out and got some pretty good sichuanese food, one dish was soupy dan dan noodles. At first was eh, but by the end I liked it, and tongue got pleasantly numb. Two other chicken dishes were pretty good too. Night time had more streamer time, yay.


Went to Sensōji Temple, lots of people visiting it and the nearby shrines (nice fox one tucked in the corner behind it). Lots of kimonos. Was nice to visit at my own pace and not as part of a tour group this time. Surprise night time stream from favorite, though lots of others had streams too. A certain eldritch being only delayed the new year by a few hours this time as she beat getting over it again. I'll think it's really new years only once it passes for mountain time... Had some mochi, gelato, noodles, nothing too traditional.


New year in JST! Hotel breakfast had some osechi items so I sorta knew what they were (like datemaki), most of them tasted pretty good. Fav streamer has some events planned around 12:30 for at least an hour and a half until the NYC ball drops, so that'll be today's early afternoon. After that I might take a "shrine" visit to the arcades, if they're even open... Tomorrow is another live concert, and I gotta start planning for my big JR pass movements soon.


My favorite idol is great... Also played some interesting games at an arcade before everything started. Venue was over in Shibuya this time, and literally underground. Cool place. Decided to risk ire and tried a few more photos, a couple turned out ok. No photos next time but maybe I'll try the stupid big lens for the final day... Need to get a penlight.


Didn't do too much today. Outside the hotel went over to Machida again, had lunch (I think more omurice an a parfait for dessert), refueled my dislike of claw games...


Activated my JR pass. Line at Tokyo station wasn't bad. Note to future self, remember to get the pass exchange earlier next time (had to overnight fedex it for this trip because I procrastinated). Anyway I don't remember if it was so convenient last trip, but now you can reserve seats with these ticket kiosk machines in the station, don't need to talk to a human. It's a bit of a process and involves entering your passport number, but it's all in english and not too difficult. In theory you might be able to do it online too? Anyway for today's trip I didn't bother with seat reservations, just went to the platform and they announce/display which cars are reserved/unreserved. One transfer and eventually I made it to Hiroshima. On the way I watched some anime and planned a bit. Discovered you can purchase a Hiroshima Tourist Pass online, I got a 48 hour one for 1500 yen. It gives you free access to most of the local buses and trams in the city. My hotel was the Grand Prince which is a ways from the main JR station, they offer a free shuttle but I just took the bus route. (220 yen flat fee basically no matter how many stops, however with my pass I just showed the ticket screen on my phone and it's covered.) The hotel was very classic, but I thought in a good way, felt like it could have been something my grandparents could have stayed at. Nice sea-side view in the morning. Definitely best hotel of the trip, and not very expensive either. (Not the most expensive.) They had an onsen but I didn't try it. After settling in I went out again (another bus ride) to a yakiniku restaurant and treated myself. It was also called LaGoon so kinda had to for silly personal reasons.


In the morning I went and took the ferry to see the Miyashima shrine. Pretty cool! There's an aquarium over there as well so I visited that. All covered by the JR Pass. Came back to Hiroshima proper and took a bus ride (covered by local pass) to the atom bomb memorial. The museum was pretty sobering, lot of walking and reading. I had seen a lot of the photos before but not all of them, and photos of some of the artifacts but seeing them in person was different (they hauled in the front steps of a bank where a not-bleached part of the stone was presumably a human body's shadow..), and what was especially moving were all the letters and journals and retrospectives from before and after that had been collected and translated. Didn't tear up but one section mysteriously got to me a bit more strongly for some reason. Maybe it got to others too 'cause I could hear a lot of sniffling around me. It wasn't judgmental at all. After the museum proper, walked around the park a bit and looked at some of the things they have setup there. I think their flame is going to be burning for a long time yet, and I'm still not quite convinced that's a bad thing -- i.e. they say it will keep burning so long as there are nuclear weapons. Went to the fence around the A-bomb dome, the almost fully destroyed structure that's been preserved from the event. Then went over to the Castle that was rebuilt in replica and toured its inside, learned a bit about types of castles and other things. Then went to the gardens, had about 40 minutes before they closed to walk around, that was enough. I bet they'd be even cooler during spring/early summer, but it was still a neat place. Then I had dinner and had the local okonomiyaki, it was tasty. It was difficult but I felt like I succeeded in doing all the main Hiroshima things in one day.


Sore feet.. Today was just a leisurely adventure over to Kyoto though. Took the hotel shuttle to the station, reserved some seats this time, bought an eki-bento and was off. Kyoto hotel was right next to JR station, so checked in and settled in. Did a bit of shopping and had a giant omurice + other stuff meal for dinner. Hard to finish!


Went to the Kyoto monkey park in the morning, that was pretty cool. (Snow monkeys / macaques.) A bit of hiking but not too bad. Came back to the hotel for a bit and napped, went back out at dark to the Fushimi Inari shrine / mountain. Was really pleasant to go when hardly no one else was there. There's a steam game I played (after seeing Fumi stream it for 2020's new year) that lets you explore it, but it seems it's no longer available for new people to download and they have to wait a few months for the "bigger thing" to come out that includes it as a special case. Anyway the real thing is a lot more tiring, and maybe more than I remember the sim having.. apparently monkeys are on the mountain too, and boars. I heard a boar grunt pretty close to the path at one point that was a bit startling, and could hear them (presumably) rummaging around in the brush in the darkness, fortunately the path was enclosed by endless tori gates once more and I made it up and down the mountain safely. Had to walk back to the hotel but that wasn't bad either, nice to see the city in quiet night. Got back to the hotel around 1:30 am.


Slept in. Took a jaunt down to Osaka, specifically Dotonbori, because of the Yakuza games. It's pretty cool how close the games capture it! Familiar sights.. Had some takoyaki of course, though the recommended bbq sauce I got on it was a bit overpowering I thought so I didn't taste much else. Vtuber had a guerilla stream so listened to that a bit while wandering and eating, she was still going by the time I made it back to my hotel.


Today I planned out my next several days a bit in the morning, did some shopping, then took an izakaya cooking class a little after noon. I learned a few things! Looking forward to trying the techniques and remaking a couple things when I get home. After that I took a short walking tour in the evening with a geisha-otaku tour guide, she was pretty fun, and had a good group size with people from around the world I talked to a bit. We even saw a geiko (in Kyoto they call them that) walk down the street and a maiko take a taxi. Tour guide provided lots of little tidbits and funny stories. Also stopped by a small shrine whose water dabbed on your face is supposed to make you more beautiful. We'll see but I'm skeptical about any increase in my pulchritude heh. Convinced myself to get some krispy kreme donuts on the way back. They're not bad, comparable to American brand, though some cuter designs. Jack in the Donuts remains the superior option in Japan, though it's still short of my home's Sunrise. Tonight I'm doing laundry, writing up the last several days here, and maybe will do some studying again (or Tekken). Tomorrow I have a morning event planned and then a long train ride to Sendai.


Dyed a silk scarf in the morning at the shibori museum! Resurfaced some vague memories of tye-dye shirts... this was a more interesting process though. And after that I got to see how they pros do it in various ways, and how complicated and skillful it is (with beads done one by one), and it explains a bit why kimonos are so expensive. Project upstairs took 10 years to complete...

Train to Sendai was uneventful, didn't feel that long. Had a good eki-bento. When I arrived it was actually snowing a bit, kinda cold. Got to the hotel, went back out and had some nice udon with shrimp tempura and warmed up.


Made it to Cat Island! I was healed. Well, apart from some hand scratches when I was playing with one cat, my hand has lost all resistance it seems. But he was a fun cat to play with still. Besides all the cats, island was interesting. Almost felt deserted. Lots of decay, I wonder what it will be like in 50 years... made me contemplate the idea of living my last years on such a place.


Complimentary hotel breakfast was pretty decent. Long train ride to Sapporo, about 6 hours? Had a window seat for the Hokkaido stretch, really nice scenery. Not very cold either, I think I'm going to miss the big storm in a couple days. Thought about going to an onsen, but... Went down to the major shopping district where I think Yakuza 5's stuff took place. Nice to be around some snow and see some snowmen. Didn't get in any fights so couldn't try the ultimate heat action... Won an item at a UFO catcher place though! Tomorrow going to try and take the noon train back to Tokyo, it'll be a long 8 hours. Check out is at 11. Maybe try to get the zoo in the morning, or the mountain lookout point, we'll see..


Didn't do anything really before the shinkansen ride, but that's ok. Got a window seat the whole way this time (and facing the other side) so got to see more nice scenery. Was interesting how much Chinese accessibility is up there.


Favorite idol did another performance, it was really nice. I got to use my penlight. I have no fluidity with my movements though heh, oh well, I try to mirror the real wota there!

Tried Pizza Hut the night before, and Dominoes this night. Neither are amazing, the Large for both is more like Medium to me, I think the American counterparts have the edge... (Well, maybe not Dominoes, but I've refused to eat there in America for a long time just 'cause they at least used to be so bad.) Dominoes in particular I got a 4-kinds pizza of the meat specialties so I could try 4 different styles. The safe giga meat / american style meat was good, the other 3 were decent but still ehhh. Wouldn't mind them again but definitely prefer my basic american style.


Favorite idol live, the last performance I get to see on this trip. Got to see her perform a new song, it was really cool! Want to listen to the digital version as soon as it comes out, and try to translate it... Took friend's camera again, got some ok stage photos. She let me shoot her after for a minute in the hall but I should have swapped lenses, so not many were any good. Oh well, lesson for next time! Got a stack of chekis at least haha. She's been too kind to this undeserving soul... got to chat with one of her other fans again after and took him out for ramen, that was nice, he's pretty cool. Glad he's around to support her at every live.


Raining today. Sad no more lives.. went out and kinda took a random train tour, ended up going by Shibuya / Harajuku / Shinjuku, got sichuan noodles again, circled back to Akiba somehow, went back to hotel. Favorite vtuber cheered me up with a guerilla.


Got up early enough to make it to the Fox Village. A bit of a hassle to get there, this time there were no cabs waiting outside so had to bug the tourist office to call one for me. Only took them a few minutes to show up though. But the fare...! I remembered it was around $20 last time, maybe my memory is off but this time it was 4820 yen, or $37.39. Was worried about my cash reserves.. but it worked out. I was able to share a taxi on the way back (technically to the local station so still had to walk half a mile after to the shinkansen station, but that was fine) with a couple, they wanted to split it into thirds but I just gave him 2000 yen (a bit under half, about $15 for me) and that was cool, we both saved a bit of money. If I had to pay another ~5000 I'd have been down to my last 1000 yen. Tried getting 20,000 more at the ATM tonight but card said no, not sure why but there was a line so didn't try a smaller 10,000. Oh well, will try 10,000 in the morning and if it doesn't work again I'll have to use my other card and suck up the higher fee. Lesson learned for next time to not so severely underestimate how much cash I'd spend! (Though to be fair, I don't think I thought I'd ever spend as much cash as I did on a couple certain things haha...)

Anyway foxes were cute as always. Got to hold an orange one this time! A few didn't look so great but overall I think they're all doing ok enough. Saw another 3 legged one moving around a lot and looking fine, I wonder if it was the same from years ago. I'll believe it is.

Tekken stream with vtuber tonight that I'm looking forward to, waiting for laundry to finish. Should be the last bit of laundry needed on this trip. Swapping hotels again tomorrow, and going to a sumo match the next day, but that's all I have left planned. Maybe I'll try to reach out to a couple people for a last minute meetup, but... Besides having no JP confidence (somehow I think I might know less than when I arrived haha, though my listening is maybe better), I'm well past my limits combating my general anti-socialness / introversion.


Last hotel switch of the trip, staying in a kinda nicer and bigger one with views of the sky tree. But a good deal, about the same as current hotel room which was a bit small. I also went and tried a new sichuan place, it's now my #1 for Tokyo and favorite dan dan noodles.


Saw a sumo match!


Tried the soba challenge today, did pretty good with 120 bowls. My limiter was time, 40 mins and strictly following the one bowl at a time rule makes it hard.


After morning-ish stream, went to Ginza and had a sushi buffet. Started good, not the best sushi (even some WA places are better) but not bad and tried some new stuff. Ordered a bit over 100 pieces, and last order did too much... so I was suffering by the end, trying to finish everything and avoid a surcharge. After walked around Shibuya for awhile until felt better.


Today is airport day. Packed, showered, last stop at Lawson Print for some vtuber cards, and made my way to the Haneda airport. Unfortunately a little too early, Delta bag check in isn't opening until 1:10 PM, so gotta wait to check my bag before I can go through security. I vaguely remember this happening last time too. Oh well.

First time seeing foreign kids (British) in a while, omg these kozou... gaki, even... Anyway hopefully my plane doesn't explode but if it does, it's been real~

Posted on 2022-12-21 by Jach

Tags: japan, personal, travel


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