Lesson of the day: Nothing kills a day as quickly as when Tim Aten asks you to search for boobie pictures to put in his articles.
Okay kids, today is sightseeing day around Tokyo. The gracious Ron Foster will be your guide for Wednesday’s journey, while Thursday you must avoid an anxiety attack and public embarrassment as you hump it solo with just Ron’s directions to guide you. Good luck, and in case I didn’t mention it before:
Welcome to Tokyo!
Park Tower, home of the enormous Wizards of the Coast presence (all three of them) in Japan. Also the site of the hotel that Bill Murray stayed in during Sofia Coppola’s excellent movie Lost in Translation. Sadly there were no Scarlett Johansen sightings during my trip.
A picture of the DoCoMo Building (I think) near Tokyo’s Times Square.
This is D Quest, the game all of you would be playing (aside from Magic Online) if you lived in Japan. Apparently it’s like a cross between Diablo and Magic in that you collect packs of cards and build a deck, then the machine reads the deck and adjusts your game play based on it. I don’t know all the details, but it seemed ridiculous, and quite popular. Oh, and it’s broadbanded, so you can play with other players across the country. Sexy.
Speaking of popular, welcome to the endless rhythm games available. The drummer here was insanely good, hitting 400 straight or something before he missed on one of the tougher levels. I foresee lots of bands Tim Aten might like coming out of Japan in the next few years, but predict he will reject them because they aren’t angsty enough.
Strangely enough, these games are also quite popular with the ladies, which probably accounts for why they are ubiquitous. The girl here is rocking out to some awful pop song, while the next machine to the left is a Mix Master Mike type thing where you learn to scratch turntables. Jimmy Bean will definitely be importing that one sometime in 2010.
While all of you folks would be playing D-Quest, I’d be one floor up with all the Euros and South Americans, entrenched in a similar game that uses collectible card decks to play enhance your footballing experience. You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Here, see for yourself. The Japanese are bonkers cool, I tell you, bonkers!
At this point a nice man told me I couldn’t take pictures in the arcade, so I put my camera away. Ron and I ran around the rest of the day, looking at Tokyo’s shops, gamer stores, etc and I have a bunch of pictures from that too, but none are particularly notable. We also ate lunch at a tonkatsu place, which loosely translated means “Southern Fried Japanese food.” Basically they deep-fry a pork chop and cut it into strips, putting it on the same plate as a big pile of shredded cabbage (which sounds bad, but turned out to be quite tasty with the citrus sauce they provided. Then you have a medium-sized crucible filled with roasted sesame seeds and a grinding stone. Like any person who enjoys puzzle games, you realize you are meant to grind up the seeds there, but once that is done, you pour a mild Worstershire-type sauce over the seeds and mix them around, dipping the pork chop into the sauce and then gnoshing until your heart is content. You are also served the standard miso soup and pickled stuff which, as Ron informed me, is basically the fifth food group over there. It may not sound like much, but the combination of different tastes and textures makes for a helluva lunch.
Anyway, the next day I decided to venture out on my own in to the wilds of Tokyo with only some notes on paper from Ron to guide me to different attractions via the right train stations. I was more than a little intimidated by this because as I mentioned yesterday, I’m completely f***ing ignorant when it comes to speaking or reading Japanese. Therefore I considered navigating my way through the meellions of people a nice challenge. Here we go!
Two words here: Tourist Trap.
That’s the line of vendor stalls that lead up to the Sensouji Shinto Shrine in Asakusa. I’m actually standing at a crossroads here, and the stalls head off into all directions from where I’m standing. Get your rice crackers while they are hot!
The entrance to the Shrine area. If you aren’t impressed, then I failed as a photographer.
Short Japanese people or really freaking big structure? You make the call!
This is off to the right of the main shrine, but I found myself liking this area a little more. It’s understated and I like the simpler feel of it. The lines on this photo came out really well, even though I have to drastically shrink everything down to post it here on SCG and not eat our bandwidth alive.
Is it a lake? A river, perhaps? Nope, it’s the outer moat of the Imperial Palace (and a flock of ducks swimming in formation. How odd). The palace area has a real feeling of gravity with the slate grey, enormous block walls and multiple moats that lead up to the gates of the palace proper, which are generally closed to tourists. It was raining by this time and about 55 degrees, so I was freezing, but I stuck around taking pictures until my camera filled up. Here’s a map from National Geographic that gives you an idea of what the layout is like. Here’s some dude’s site that took pictures in the sunlight and who needs an editor, not unlike this sentence.
The famous bridge, with one of the palace buildings in the background. I don’t know about you, but this feels like it should be part of a Counter-Strike level. The palace area is probably one of the more impressive man-made structures I’ve ever encountered, though you can’t really get a sense of the scale of the damned thing unless you are there, engulfed by the mass of the thing. It sounds odd to say that claustrophobics might have problems in an area that is completely open to the sky, but the gravity of this place (both literal and figurative) is incredible.
This is a little park area across the street from the palace. I thought it was quite pretty and took a few final pictures here before heading back to the relative warmth of the subway. Note to self: Buy a bigger memory card for the camera before the next trip.
That concludes our time sightseeing in Tokyo. I’m sure you didn’t have as much fun as I did, but it was also completely exhausting because you’re trying to process this tremendous amount of stimuli while paying attention to where you are at/going, and trying not to run into anyone. The funny part is that I ran around for two days straight and barely scratched the surface of what for all intents and purposes appears to be an awesome city. This whole article seems incredibly shallow compared to what I actually saw, but even the hundred or so pictures I took just in Tokyo don’t begin to convey the overwhelming nature of what I saw and experienced. I’m definitely going back when I get a chance, and perhaps this time I’ll be more able to translate what I saw into adequate words. Check the coverage article titled “40 Kanoots” for more of my thoughts on traveling and Magic.
Speaking of running around, I probably walked 60-70 miles during my time in Australia and Japan, giving me just enough exercise not to gain any weight from all the food I ate. Mmmm, food. If the Japanese would just stop putting mayonnaise on random stuff that doesn’t need it, I would be ecstatic with Nippon cuisine.
Tomorrow: Yooooooo-Kohama, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain!
The Holy Kanoot
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