"Gunma (prefecture) Store" in Ginza, on the way to my apartment. I freaked out, being a Gunma-person. I ran in to see if they had Gunma regional snacks like Tabi-Garasu and Yaki-Manju. They did! I bought some. I am weak.
Still: DOWNTOWN GINZA. That's like seeing the "Topeka Kansas Store" next to Brooks Brother's in Manhattan
The Indie Game corner at Role and Roll station. They had some copies of the English edition of Maid! I got a few games from this section, including "Families!"
Also, there was a social/card game of sorts called "Victim", about people who die alone in the ice. I was about to buy it for Jason Morningstar...
A very famous booth: Chocolate for 1000 yen ($12). You ask for like "Hey I would like this box of macadamia-nut chocolates" and he basically yells at the crowd while stuffing more and more and more and more chocolate and candy into your bag. It's like Halloween and Insanity's Hot Cousin.
Same guy. And those are the aforementioned macadamia nut chocolates.
You can't see from this angle but this bag is bursting at the seams and contains ALL TEH CHOCOLATS
Near Ueno station, a stand selling roasted and sweetened chestnuts. I was entranced in watching the machine, it's like watching coffee beans but bigger.
As seen at Tokyu Hands (of course)
Dinner at a delicious tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) specialty shop. A mountain of lettuce, cutlet, croquettes, soup, tofu, and tea for a reasonable price, all delicious.
Just a canal, passed while jogging
Inside Hamarikyu Teien (Gardens). Beautiful and calm, with buildings jutting out of the fucking ground around it. The juxtaposition kicks ass, and is a theme with a few of the pics I took here.
Sakura at Hamarikyu Teien
Interesting fact: Most of the green is moss, not grass.
Another area of Hamarikyu Teien
On the edge of Hamarikyu Teien, looking into the harbor.
This is a first for me to see: People lashing their boats together, having a hanami (sakura viewing party) from the water!
Hamarikyu Teien, where the Tokyo Sky Tree is juuuuuust visible over there on the left side.
Hanami in Asakusa: Loud. Crowded. Fun.
Our hanami area from the rear. Gorgeous.
Hanami. It was much colder than appears in this picture, and got colder as the day grew.
End of the hanami at dusk
Every once in a while I come across a sign that catches my attention, where I can read most of it but not all of it, and so I take a picture of it so I can read the kanji later. This was one of those pics. Unfortunately, even zooming in later I can't read those orange characters. I'll need to take another pic when I pass it tomorrow.
"Ah, okay that third one makes it 'Nomura Securities' (野村證券)", although it appears that it's an old version of the word Securities...
Temple and sakura on the way to my work office from my apartment.
Ahhh, yes. This is why I brought my own keyboard. That tiny little thing between "無変更" and "変更" is the space bar.
Japanese: Fakku Yuuu, Supeeesssu Baaaaaaa!
In the grim future, we use these when fighting for food or fuel stockpiles.
A gaming group at the RPG cafe "Daydream" in Kanda. The dude in black on the left is Okada, creator of the RPG Ryuutama. THese are his friends/test group. They are currently making characters for a game about cute robots.
Same group, different angle. Everyone here has day jobs, they meet up weekly after work. Those pastel screens are pull-down for limited gaming privacy!
The Fist of the North Star BOARD GAME.
This place is like a museum of the history of Japanese board and role-playing games.
I ended up playing Lords of Waterdeep in Japanese with these nice gentlemen. THe guy on the left is also an employee of Daydream (it was his copy of the game, too).
I was Khelben Blackstaff of the Harpers, and ended up kicking ass!
The screens from another angle.
My victory is nigh. I lucked out on grabbing a bunch of Arcana quests.
Okada's game ends, folks wrap up. In the background: A library of awesome games. Japanese Torg, original edition Tenra Bansho, Wares Blade, Daikatsugeki and more!
I ended up talking with this gentleman for about an hour on American/Japanese RPGs. He's one of the guys who ran tons of Lady Blackbird sessions (and even threw John Harper $10 for it). Here we are talking about the Marvel RPG, which I brought on my iPad.
Aburi Sushi: SUSHI ON FIRE. Take sushi, add fresh ingredients, then run a kitchen torch (ala creme brulee) over it for a few seconds. Roast sushi. Conceptually it horrified, but it was pretty damn delicious. THat middle one is CHEESE on ebi.
Bachelor party at Club Diana. Hilarious story involving me, rave gear and a Dress Code; ask me sometime.
Club Diana from the VIP area
Computer Work Geek: I was for about 15 minutes grooving in the corner of the dance floor, reading deep data and resolving client computer performance issues from my iPhone.
Allan "Teriyakin" Watanabe at his buddy's bachelor party.
Another one of those "I took a picture to look up a few of the kanji later" pics.
Delicious ramen for lunch at the Chinese place down the street from work.
At a friend's Guest House party: Lots of food and drink. The woman I'm talking to here is the production manager for a Japanese agricultural organization's marketing team. Her specialty is Carrots, and she told me all about the differences between Japanese and foreign carrots.
As seen in the guest house (communal living apartments) common area's men's bathroom wall.
Marvel hits UniQLO
My favorite kind of salad dressing is sesame. These were two types of dressing seen at a Ginza department store's food area. It took all my willpower not to buy a lot. At least, not till I'm closer to going home...
It doesn't contain what you think it contains.
My 'do from a bad angle.
This is a zerg tunnel/Nydus Canal: Cars go into the that center-right curved thing's base, and pop out on the one you can just barely make out (center right) on the other side of the bay.
At Oedo Onsen Monogatari, you can bring your pet dog for the Dog Hot Springs.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari ("Tales of the Hot Springs of Edo"): You pay, then you pick out the design and size of your yukata. I chose #1, but it took me about 2 minutes to decide, as there are a lot of badass ones.
It isn't A Japanese Thing without an official odd-shaped mascot. This is Mameshiba. A Bean. See comments for video link.
Two kids skateboarding in the open park. I have hope for the future now.
Pretty far away but to the left of the blue sign in the middle is a giant Gundam statue, at least 3 stories high.
I bought a shit-ton of books and stuff from VIllage Vanguard (my favorite store in the universe). But I also take pictures of books that I'm waffling on, to read reviews of and decide if I want them later.
This is awesome. It's a giant dictionary or law-looking book called "Addicted to Working": You pull out out and it folks out into a desk pillow so you can sleep at your desk if you work late. It's a gag gift, it's not one of those "SARARIMAN ACTUALLY USE THIS!!!!" things. Tho it totally could be used.
One part of the cat book/goods area. Those top-right paw-shaped bottle openers are sweet.
Symbol of our times "Scary Stories Involving Twitter!"
The end phase of our Japanese FIASCO game.
4 of the 5 players of FIASCO in Japanese. Second to the left is Okada, who works at Daydream and designed Ryuutama.
I bought this awesome foot-exfoliator (god, did I just write that? It DOES kick ass tho) at Oedo Onsen Monogatari. I didn't realize it had English written on the box until later. LOLs ensued.
I bought a copy of this specifically with the intention of seeing if Julia wanted it. But I'm keeping this one for myself. It's awesome, an illustrated guide to sex in the Edo period, with lots of pretty awesome articles on how things (sex at home, prostitutes, prostitute techniques) worked.
Inside the same book, an article on kissing on the right...
6 bucks. YES JAPAN.
Dinner with the awesome Mochizuki...
...and his awesome wife Oku. What a great couple. She used to go to college in the US, and knows a lot - A LOT - about things that people should not know about the US.
Marked this moment: The first time in the IT world that I led an honest-to-god business meeting in Japanese. We're working out some difficult client issues.
Some high-end Japanese flutes at the shakuhachi store. They range from two to seven thousand dollars.
Mejiro shakuhachi/old instrument store, from a different angle.
Shakuhachi store in Mejiro (store is also called "Mejiro"). Wonderful place, very helpful. I ended up buying a PVC shakuhachi for practice. We'll see if I work my way up to a real one by the next time I come to Japan...
Classic bamboo flutes.
This is from the Cat Cafe in Akihabara "Neko Jalala". That huge-ass cat is a Maine Coon called "Cooo". He was badass and huge, even meowed once!
The cafe also has a complete guide to all the cats there, including a biography.
This cat here is not actually Coo, I thought it was for a sec, then Coo came in and I was like "HOLY CRAP".
This here is CooO.
Chilling out in the cat tower.
Cat Cafe Neko Jalala from the outside. Note that doorknob.
Don Quixote. Can you believe this is the first time I've ever been in one? Why didn't I go sooner???
Handachi Ouji: "Half-Mast Prince"
Akihabara train station towel.
These were cute: Speakers with water and lights inside. When the music kicked up, the water jets up, making pretty patterns.
Hey Gandy, this one's for you.
PC software in Japan tends to have crazy prices (until very very recently). RPG Maker VX, VX plus (ace). Note that those prices amount to about $105, $125.
This one's for Ralph. Only $35 to boot!
Fist of the North Star super-deformed collectible toys.
I thought Jon might get a kick out of this, he's got all sorts of crazy puzzles at his desk. These are terrifying brain-melters.
My fellow support team (TSEs, EEs)
Dave Gann aka Reverend Dayglow (of the Infra-Rednecks) hosting and playing at The King George in Oomiya (Saitama).
This is the hardcore/punk singer/performer "Harajuku" (written in "gangster kanji"). Shit got crazy for the next twenty or so minutes.
Nice (fresh, new) tats though.
Practicing before hitting the mic.
At Cafe Daydream again: Akihiro Okada (Ryuutama, also works at Daydream) and his Skaven army are about to destroy some Wood Elves.
A final three-way battle between Humans, Wood Elves and Skaven. IIRC the humans won.
The Tsukiji fish market, from the harbor side.
Namenneko ID cards. These were really popular in the late 80s.
A yo-yo specialty store
Buddhist statues and dieties turned into collectible toys. I would have bought some... but I already have a pile. :-)
For Ewen: At Comic Zin in Akihabara, the artist behind Yuuyake-Koyake aka Golden Sky Stories is writing a manga, and he debuts it at this store. This was a special limited item keyboard. It's... REALLY detailed.
My cousin/friend Eikichi. We went out for drinks and geek talk.
Tsuchiya, one of our escalations engineers, built this to test a theory (that theory is, "A company that is famous for routers has a bunch of incompetent assholes for support staff")
Japanese Self Defense Force food: Cake in a Can
For Mark: I turned on the TV like three times in the past three weeks for a few minutes. The second time I did so, one of my favorite actresses Asami Mizukawa (from "Yume wo Kanaeru Zo") was on it, talking with other women about acting, guys, fashion.
The L1 support group in their mini-cubes (they have another center, they're currently here to learn).
The infamous Mister Bunny Bunny (real name Bun Ny) from Burma/Myanmar. This was a farewell party for him, as he was moving on to another company in a few weeks.
Maru-chan. You can't see it from this angle, but he looks exactly like a Japanese Jonah Hill.
If you're from California, it is illegal for you to want to eat this delicious soup.
Bun Ny (no last name). But since our company's system requires last names, Burmese people use their first name again. Hence, Bunny Bunny.
After the party we went to a local bar. One of our sales guys was there after a big day, bought us all beers. Many low bows were delivered in his direction.
Yep, in Japan too.
The flower of our office, the wonderful coffee/tea/energy drink/corn soup vending machine.
Ahhh, the last day. TIme to take down my Nametag...
As I was walking from Ginza to Kanda, my eyes happened upon Itoya's (a huge ritzy stationary/paper/craft store, in other words POISON FOR ME) Tenugui (traditional handcloth/towel) fair. I managed to leave without much suffering to my wallet. Much. I am a big geek for old tenugui, furoshiki, and crafts.
Each area was grouped by color or theme: Reds, Yellows, Blues, Seasonal, etc.
This was the Awesome/Weird table. Again, my hands were literally shaking (seriously!) but I was able to walk away.
This was the Ninja design tenugui, this is the picture of what the actual towel looks like.
This was another "hands shaking, relax" idea that got to me. A tenugui that is actually also a board game. Including pieces and dice. Not super elegant as a game, but damn interesting idea.
The full design of the Game Tenugui
The Terrain and Weather Board for our game of Ryuutama. This was a Grassy Plain (difficulty 6) that was Windy (+1).
This is a weird giveaway item from the makers of Dragon Quest, a hand-sized 3d map of part of the world. We used it to navigate where we were going, landmarks etc.
The full spread.
Ryuutama: Combat time. We got our asses kicked by two giant bees. Seriously, it was almost a TPK.
Half the players, two guys: A Hunter and Craftsman (Shoemaker) (L to R). The guy on the right is an illustrator for children's books.
The full table again. That's my Cafe Daydream blue ticket and orange drink tokens in the bottom right, and my character sheet above it.
The other two players and the GM (the author of Ryuutama).
The lady on the right is a huge fan, and illustrated a lot of the game and supplements; also, an excellent RPer. For the lady on the left, it was her first time ever playing any RPG, EVER. She enjoyed it, though, and made fast friends with the other lady.
This was our town creation sheet, a hot springs resort with various social and monster problems.
Ah, this was fairly interesting so I took a pic to look up later. "Tools for making RPG scenarios", a pack of various scene-oriented sheets. A reminder to look up the site and see what it was about.
This pic is for Matthew!
Night, from my floor's outside balcony on the 14th floor.
To the right a little.
This is the day I was like, "Fuck it, I'm walking 15 miles today to see the Sky Tree and other stuff". Along the way, past Ginza but close to Ningyocho, there was the wonderful treed-in road. Surprising contrast to most of the rest of Tokyo.
Oh! That caught me off guard.
This used to be a huge canal and wooden bridges back in the true "Nihonbashi" days. Now, it's a great place to get a cool water breeze and shade on a hot day while hiking.
One of the bays, before I crossed a bridge.
The bay "picnic area" had a dog specialty area. That was pretty badass.
This is how a majority of cars are parked in old city centers of Tokyo. Not even kidding.
I cut through a small but scenic park on the way from Ningyocho to the Sky Tree.
In remembrance of fire disaster. Also, HOLY CRAP.
From about five blocks away.
A ton of people came to see the (unfinished) sky tree!
If you don't make your sales targets for the quarter, you are put into this kappa fursuit and set upon the town.
I WILL TRY TO SELL MORE REFRIGERATORS NEXT QUARTER, SECTION CHIEF!
Makin' my Taiyaki
Tokyo Solamachi, or "Sky Town"
I took this picture because I was thinking that this place is going to be super popular with Chinese visitors. If you know why, then you get $1 for your knowledge of recent political/underworld trivia.
Right underneath the Sky Tree. It doesn't look like much through a camera, but my legs honestly got a little wobbly with vertigo when contemplating the size.
At the base of the Sky Tree. This made me really fucking sad.
I had moved on at this point, this is from a mile or two away, on the way towards Asakusa.
Dude had some serious tats (not a yakuza). I can't imagine not ever being allowed into a hot spring or public bath, which is why I can't get a tattoo.
The Yodobashi in Akihabara was the last stab at turning Akiba back from an otaku town into The Electronics District. It was somewhat successful. This place is as big as a stadium (the double doors are as wide as the "AQ" in AQUOS there) and 7+ stories high.
I so want to zip all over Tokyo in a hot red Pizza Hut delivery scooter.
The flowers of Tokyo, as seen from Kasumigaseki (the district of political buildings).
On my way to the Emperor's Palace garden.
A moat in front of the palace. Badass.
Also, some mentally ill white dude swam this naked in order to yell at the emperor, he was caught.
Beautiful trees and trim parks outside the palace gates.
The public grounds of the courtyard are huge, open, and some of the most quiet turf in all of Tokyo. It's just so quiet and peaceful, the city sounds so far away...
After walking 15 miles, I headed out for 3 more: To and from Shikishima Onsen, a public bath. This is my "before bath" face.
A bunch of police were questioning this pulled over cab. I was waiting to cross the street for a minute, so I listened in: Turns out this guy was an unlicensed cab and was caught by the po-po. He was actually saying stuff like, "Oh, I didn't know it wasn't okay to just drive around unregistered taking people places for money".
This is my "After baths" O-face.