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 3


I went to Japan again for the third time, from Sept 15 (left on 14th) to Oct 6. It was sort of a last minute decision to go, with maybe 3 weeks of notice, so the flight wasn't the best. I don't want to fly Air Canada again. I asked a friend if he wanted to come, and he did, so that was fun. Though made hotel finding for the first 2/3 of the trip a bit more challenging, there aren't many twin bed rooms, and of those that are around there aren't many of sufficient room space. (300 sq ft is probably the minimum for two tall guys with stuff.)

My goals for the trip were pretty basic. First as a way to distract myself from some downer thoughts. And second as a pseudo bday gift to myself (though my bday itself is also somewhat a source of downer thoughts), I should maybe indulge in a bit of selfishness and spending on myself from time to time? Having my friend along would also provide some distraction plus practice in being a pseudo guide for someone's first real international trip. He doesn't really know any Japanese.

The major means to achieve those goals were 1) see my favorite idol now that she's performing again and 2) just enjoy the ambiance -- good food, interesting shopping, general sightseeing and people-watching (and not necessarily in touristy areas). I'm pretty simple to please. With my friend I added the goal of visiting Super Nintendo World over at Universal Studios in Osaka, so that meant another pair of JR Passes (last ones before the rate hike). I did order them about a week in advance this time, but something went wrong on their end, and I had to send a support ticket request to ask about it, anyway I got them delivered the day before.

Not doing a day-by-day log this time, but here's a mainly chronological timeline.

We arrived, this time at Narita airport (I've only been to Haneda). It's more or less the same experience except it's way the heck out there so getting to Tokyo proper takes at least an hour. Picked up my pocket wifi again that I pre-ordered, and got my friend to get one of the 30 days unlimited data sim cards from one of the vending machines, I think it was about 7k yen. His experience with that was good enough that I'll do the same going forward, no more pocket wifi to haul around and charge and return.

Got friend a pasmo card -- except it's a temporary one that expires after 28 days or something like that, for 'chip shortage' reasons they aren't selling the real cards in the Tokyo region right now. Internet theory is they have a crap ton of these cheap temp cards from the Olympics that they never used so they're trying to get rid of them before paying for production of more real cards. You can supposedly get a real card outside of the Tokyo region but friend didn't do that.

I thought I had more funds on my card, but I only had like 300 yen, so initially the reader didn't want to let me through the gate, and I had a sonic moment where some coins spilled out as I got flustered... and I was trying to be all cool like I have the real card that's good forever, and already have money on it~ Oh well. I got us to the hotel, we were both pretty tired so opted for a convenience store dinner before going to bed. We stayed at the Tobu Hotel Levant, which is nearby the skytree. It's very close to a JR station too so easy to get anywhere, though getting anywhere does take some time. Anyway the hotel was nice enough I'd stay again.

My plan for the start of the trip was to take my friend around a few popular areas to get oriented and used to how the train/subway system works, though of course there was a lot of walking. And oh boy the heat and humidity, I was not prepared for that.. it reminded me of my trip to Florida long ago, it might have been worse. Became a sweat monster... and the first day 'salted' my shirt, too. So on the first morning we walked over to a park area, most of the stuff was closed though. (I had kinda forgotten about that -- so many things don't open until 10 or even 11am, and then they close at like 8pm or 9pm. Weird.) Then we meandered over to the skytree area. Didn't go up. Did visit the Aquarium that's there on a whim. It was some holiday weekend to celebrate the elderly, we ran into a few early street celebrations that were neat. We continued walking over to the Senso-ji temple area as that was on my list of places to show my friend. Went around to the secluded fox shrine in the back too that few people visit. Then we went to Akihabara, and just started going in various stores on the main street to look at figures / old games / check out the arcades and ufo catchers / etc. Ate at my favorite sichuan dandan noodle place (Tantanmen Aun) that is nearby. By now it was pretty late so we went back to the hotel to sleep.

In the morning I had an idol event -- an offkai / fan meeting before the main show later in the day. That was really fun and a new, interesting experience. My favorite idol joined a new group along with one other new girl, I had seen the original four on my last trip a couple times but didn't really get to know them much (only talked to one a couple times). Got to know them a bit better, though it's difficult with my terrible Japanese. Anyway, I won 2nd prize at Bingo which was an unexpected turn of good luck, then we played a gesture relay game. Later on there was also a little knock the waters over with a mini soccer ball game, and put hoops around bottles game, prizes being random chekis from a grab bag. They also had a drawing station where members would draw something for you, I got two nice drawings. I brought my steam deck and managed to play a game shortly with my favorite~

Convinced my friend to go to the actual live event later that evening, and he was going to bring his camera to take photos. We met up, he apparently managed to go see the tokyo tower and even went up it on his own and took some photos. Good, independence increasing! The idol show was a very new experience for him, that is seeing the underground idol world, he mostly enjoyed it for itself and also had fun experimenting with trying to get good photos in a bad environment for photos. My favorite member was sick and seemed to be getting worse, but she powered through.

The next day there was another idol show I was going to attend, this time an outdoor stage in Ueno. It wasn't until the afternoon, but friend was interested in going to that one too. So we both went to the Ueno area somewhat early and went through the Tokyo National Museum. After the idol show, ate dandan noodles again as it was nearby. I challenged myself to the maximum spicy level (you have to pay an extra 100 yen for it) and conquered it, though I went back and will stick with the max minus one level as the max crossed the threshold of being too much of a challenge instead of pleasant.

Random interesting tidbit: I noticed myself smiling (like actual smiling, often showing a bit of teeth) in many of the chekis with my favorite idol, and even the other idols I got them with. I never smile in photos! But here apparently are the exceptions. Oddly I'm kind of mad at myself retrospectively for feeling happy. One, I don't deserve it, and two, I know intellectually that I don't matter and if I disappeared no one would care long term (except perhaps remaining family of dad and brother). Still, I was happy, and for a moment I could forget to think such things like "they're so nice for tolerating me" that I think in reflection. Well, I didn't get anyone mad at me (at least directly/obviously), I didn't have to fight anyone, and I didn't get anyone in trouble (someone else got one of the other girls in trouble though..) so I'd call it a success.

I'd have to go through photos to get an actual record of events, but I don't want to right now, so just continuing off memory. The day after I think we did the ueno zoo visit. I was pretty tired after. There was another concert that night but my favorite had to cancel because she got sicker. I thought about going anyway (I think I already paid the 1000 yen or whatever entry ahead of time) but wasn't committed, and my body sort of decided for me anyway by falling asleep for a bit. There was a tekken thing at night I wanted to go to as well, so I at least went and did that on my own after waking up.

The next day I think we decided to try going to the teamLab Planets exhibit I had heard about, it was over in Odaiba. We went over and got a timed entry ticket for later in the afternoon, so before that walked over to the beach area and their small statue of liberty and had some omurice at the pomme's there that I had been wanting to visit anyway. The exhibit was... interesting. Glad I did it, don't think I'd do it again. Triggered my germophobe senses a few times but not too terribly.

I think I got sick from my idol... but don't tell her that. (No way she's reading this.) That night I had a fever and then chills and then sweated buckets under the covers. It broke by morning thankfully. I still had an irritated throat for a while but not badly. That turned into a kind of persistent if infrequent cough though that I still have. I think it'll go away in another day or two now that I'm back home...

I think the next day I didn't get out of bed until late, friend left to do his own thing early, I think it was a bird park he wanted to go to and take photos there. I was happy to try and recover and not get more sick. I did go out for a while but mainly just to get the jiggly castella cake at long last from a place in the sky tree buildings.

The next day was another free day so I continued my tour of tokyo spots for my friend. Went to shibuya, walked up to the meiji jingu shrine, walked over to harajuku. Later went up to shinjuku briefly but it started to rain a lot so we just went back to the hotel area.

The next day there were two idol events I wanted to go to. Unfortunately my favorite was still sick and absent from both, and two others in the group were out sick too, so just 3 of them performing. They did a good job. Friend joined me for the first one, then went out on his own to explore the Yokohama and China Town area instead of going to the second one. (Second one wasn't as good for photography anyway, people weren't doing it too. Though he missed a funny ecchi idol group, first one I've seen in person that went really yabai.)

Day after that we left our hotel and activated the JR passes. Head to Osaka and stayed at the Citadines Namba, which is coincidentally right next to an anime/otaku haven and they had some good deals on figures and things. (Friend acquired a second suitcase there...) Went to an okonomiyaki place for dinner.

Next morning bright and early went over to universal studios and the super nintendo world part. That was fun, I haven't been to a park like that in a long time, not as an adult even I don't think. After the nintendo world, walked through a bit of the jurassic park part, then the harry potter part (we caught an interesting hippogriff outdoor play) and I tried their butterbeer -- it's basically like butterscotch candy in liquid form, I liked it. Walking back through the park meandering towards the exit, saw they had Jujutsu Kaisen 4D experience, that was interesting. 3D glasses for a ~30 min filler episode, the 4D comes from the seats moving and little spurts of air, and there was one moment with a brief water sprinkle.

Next day was another idol event and this time my favorite was going to be there. Unfortunately also the last time I'd see her this trip... oh well. In the morning went and had takoyaki in dotenbori area with my friend, then I went to take the shinkansen back to Tokyo. Checked in to a cheap hotel (the first one I stayed at last trip) and went over to the event. It was good.

Checked out from the one nighter place and got back on the shinkansen in the morning. Met up with my friend in Kyoto. We toured Nijo Castle (unfortunately the palace part was under reconstruction) and the Kinkaku-ji temple before circling back to see the GEAR non-vocal theater play. That was cool. Then back to Osaka after that to the regular hotel.

Had planned to check out the next day but decided to stay an extra night. Used the extra day to use JR passes to head over to Hiroshima, did the bomb museum again (for me) and first time for friend. Spent most of the day there, then came back. At night I met up with a net friend in Osaka while my friend completed some shopping. Despite difficulty communicating we talked about various stuff and had a good dinner and played some games at an arcade.

Back to Tokyo the next day, we got separate rooms this time at the APA Ueno Hirokoji (right on the border of Akihabara). For this final part of the trip, friend was confident enough to do his own stuff, and I didn't have much more planned. There was a kemofriends popup shop I visited on its second day, and met net friend from Osaka there again so we got lunch and hung out a bit more after the store stuff. Took him to a cat cafe, I was going to go to one that day anyway. (Special remembrance day...) My friend discovered that being tall and white in Japan makes your dating score automatically go up 3 points on a 10 point scale, so he had fun going on various dates for the last week or so of the trip. Got to experience some fine dining (that by our standards is so cheap, $60-$90 per head depending on the place for multi-course meals with a great view, and no tipping!), he went on a few dates with a local Japanese girl who could handle any language troubles.

Anyway, last week was pretty chill for me. Ate a bunch of good food (finished all the recommendations from my favorite idol that I hadn't had yet, went back for seconds to some), messed around in Akihabara, went to one final idol event (even without favorite being there)... all in all, it was a great trip.

Happy to be home for the most part, but I kind of want to go back again in December. Especially if my favorite idol is doing a birthday concert again... it's funny, I stopped worrying as much about her after she joined the new group and I saw she was doing well, now I'm worrying more again after she's had some stumbling blocks getting sick and all.

Posted on 2023-10-08 by Jach

Tags: japan, personal, travel


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