Hello, I’m Ben Swartz. You may know me from GGsLive coverage or something similar. I’m currently spending my junior year abroad in Kyoto, Japan. Worlds is coming to Chiba, Japan, this year, and Japan can be a confusing place to foreigners. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re making the trip to Chiba this December.
Odds are you booked your flight into Narita Airport, which conveniently is located in Chiba, Japan. From there, if you want to get to the event site, you can either take the Renraku bus to Makuhari (¥1100), or you can take the JR Sobu line from Narita to Nishofunabashi, connect to the JR Musashino line going towards Kaihin Makuhari station, and get off there; the site is a block away from that station.
Which leads me to my explanation of the Japanese train system. Compared to nearly all other train systems in the world, the Japanese train system is by far the most convenient. There are a million different lines going to a million different places, all with English signage. Although at first the map of the train lines in the Chiba-Tokyo-Yokohama area might be daunting, if you know where you’re going and can spot it on the map, you should be fine. Here’s how it works. If you’re coming from Chiba, you’ll most likely be taking the JR trains. Walk up to the ticket machines, and look up. There you should see a big map of all the different stops that JR services in both Japanese and English. Find the station name you want to go to; above the station name will be a price, somewhere between ¥200-1000, walk up to the ticket machine, put that much money in, and hit the button according to the price you want to pay. You’ll get a ticket; now go through the gates, and remember which line(s) you need to take to get to that station.
Money in Japan:
Japan is pretty much a cash society—the fact that there’s very little crime in Japan leads to people carrying around large amounts of cash instead of credit cards. Although some businesses accept credit cards here, they’re by far the minority, and most places you’ll go to will only accept cash. Luckily you can use your American debit card over here in ATMs, but watch out; the only two places that normally accept American debit cards are 7/11 and the Post Office banks. 7/11 enjoys charging Americans a nice $20 fee to use their ATMs, and the Post Office banks are only open from 9-5 Monday-Friday and 10-3 on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays (although luckily close to fee-less). There’s no worse feeling than not having cash in Japan. My suggestion, when you get here, go to a post office ATM and get out as much as you think you’ll need for the trip—you may not have another chance to access your money.
You may be under the impression that eating in Japan is super expensive. The truth is that it’s only expensive if you make it expensive. If you want to eat the finest sushi at the best restaurant, it may cost you over a $100, but if you can get by with delicious Japanese “fast food,” you’ll rarely need to spend more than $10 a meal. There are a few types of Japanese food places that I suggest if you’re eating on a budget
Real Japanese fast food:
this is basically based around three shops: Matsuya, Yoshinoya, and Sukiya. These places’ specialty is
a big bowl of rice with beef and grilled onions on top. At these places (and many other places in Japan), you order using a vending machine at the front of the store, receive a ticket for your purchase, sit down, and hand your ticket to the person working there. A simple
at one of these joints will cost you around ¥250-350, however if you want a larger size, a set (i.e. meal with salad, egg, etc.), or Matsuya’s delicious Korean barbecue, it could cost you up to ¥550-600.
convenience stores, or conbini as they are called in Japanese, are 24/7 magical oases stocking everything from beer/alcohol to candy to full meals. In Japan, convenience store food is actually pretty good and very cheap. For breakfast, I’d suggest getting some baked good, probably a melon pan, a melon-shaped bread that’s sweet and has sugar on top. If you want to try something Japanese, I would suggest getting
rice balls. Beware though, if you can’t read Japanese, there could be anything inside them. For other meals, you can get full bento (lunch sets), which range from chicken nuggets to pastas with sauce and anywhere in-between. They also have hot food up at the register—mainly things like chicken nuggets or French fries. Don’t think they’re similar in quality to convenience store food in America; in Japan, convenience store food is actually quite tasty.
American Fast Food:
McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC: all your favorites have made their way over to Japan. Watch out though; they’re more expensive then you’re used to in the States. For example, a double cheeseburger at McDonald’s, something that would be on the dollar menu in the States, costs somewhere around ¥240. My suggestion, get the Shaka-Shaka Chicken from the dollar menu. There are also Japanese versions of American Fast Food: Mos Burger and Lotteria. Mos Burger is tasty but bad value; however, Lotteria is cheap compared to the other options. Luckily for you guys, there’s a Lotteria and a McDonald’s across the street from the convention hall.
If you want to move up a little in price, try Kaiten-Zushi – Conveyer-Belt Sushi. Basically, sushi is delivered to your seat via conveyer belt. When you’re finished, you’re charged by the plate; at most places, each plate is around ¥100. Beware though, some places have different tiered plates; for example, the Kaiten-Zushi place outside the train station in Akihabara has plates ranging from ¥90-160.
Up from there, there are
—Japanese taverns. Here you can get a beer (or few) along with Japanese/American pub fare for a good price. Many
advertise that everything on their menu is XXX¥ (read as XXX円, usually 200-300¥). Some of them offer nomihodai, which, if you’re interested in binge drinking in Japan, is your best choice.
or all-you-can-drink, are offers at bars,
and karaoke places that allow you to drink as much as you want (usually for a predetermined amount of time). For example at a normal karaoke joint, you can get two hours of karaoke for less than ¥1000 per person, but you can get nomihodai for those two hours along with karaoke for about ¥2000 per person. The drinks aren’t going to be top shelf, but then again, what were you expecting?
Magic in Japan:
Places to Play:
Located close to the train station in Akihabara they hold FNMs along with various weekday tournaments. If you’re in Akihabara, check them out. Exit the JR Akihabara station going west, cross Chuo-dori (the large street), and look up; it’s across the street from the KFC.
Saito’s store. Located two stops away from Shinjuku at the Takadanobaba stop, it holds Magic tournaments every night. You might also see other Japanese pros there. Check out
(〒260-0835 千葉県千葉市中央区川崎町１−３４) – Located three blocks away from the Soga station in Chiba, I’ve been led to believe that this is the store that Makahito Mihara and Ryuuchi Arita frequent.
Playing Magic in Japan:
Although both Japanese and Americans play the same game, Magic-wise, there are some things outside of the game that they do differently from their western counterparts: they wish their opponents good luck at the beginning of each round, they count their sideboards before each game of Constructed, and trading isn’t usually allowed in stores here. Also, at many drafts at stores, it’s standard procedure to redraft the rares after the draft is finished. Thus it’s looked down upon not to use sleeves while playing Limited here (this may also be because the printing of Japanese and American cards takes place in two different places, making the backs of cards feel a little different). Lastly, if you’re a fan of KMC sleeves, buying them in Japan is your best bet. You can find them here for about ¥400 (~$4.75) instead of the $7 that is charged in America.
If you have a couple extra days in the Tokyo area, there are a few things that you must do.
Tokyo’s world famous electric town, containing enough electronic/anime/video game/computer/music stores/arcades to make any gamer’s mouth water. If you have an afternoon, you should head over there; just make sure you bring your wallet. Also, there are a lot of maid cafes in this area—basically a bar/cafe where girls that are dressed up as maids serve you food. This may sound like a fun experience, except these maids are dressed to look like twelve-year-olds. So yeah, just say no; it’s a terrifying experience.
As an aside, if you enjoy fighting games, there’s a really good arcade two stops away from Shinjuku on the Yamanote Line – the Takadanobaba stop, a block from Saito’s store. On the west side of the tracks next to the Lawson convenience store, there’s a sweet arcade with mainly fighting games, ranging from new ones like Tekken 6 and Street Fighter 4 to old ones like Samurai Showdown and Marvel vs. Capcom. Another sweet thing about this place is that, unlike in the arcades at Akihabara, all games are ¥50.
Tsukiji Fish Market,
the largest fish market in the world, is open to the public every morning at 5:30 am. If you want to see the legendary tuna auction, where they auction off the day’s catch of tuna, be sure to get there at 4:30 to get a ticket to the action (they only give out 140 tickets each day). Otherwise, if you can’t stomach getting up that early (or just not jetlagged enough), you can head over there at around 8-9 am to get a sushi breakfast. The place I’ve been to, Daiwa Sushi, has fancy restaurant sushi for the cheapest you could get anywhere. A sushi set that might cost you over ¥10000 at a restaurant costs only about ¥3000 at Daiwa. If you have the time to go to the fish market, I strongly suggest that you do so.
The trendy fashion capital of Tokyo. On any day here you can see Japanese girls decked out in their best outfits. You can also shop to your heart’s content. It’s in Harajuku that you can find some of those Engrish shirts you always wanted.
New York Bar and Grill/Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building:
These are the two best and cheapest spots to see the skyline of Tokyo. New York Bar and Grill was featured in the film
Lost in Translation.
Inside the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku, you can come here to see the skyline of Tokyo at night. It’s a beautiful view, but beware; if you come/stay after 8 pm Monday-Saturday, or past 7 pm on Sunday, you’ll have to pay a ¥2200 cover. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, also located in Shinjuku, is free. Open from 9:30 am – 11 pm, you can also get a great view of the skyline of Tokyo there.
Things Not To Do:
: Just say no.
: Overrated, overpriced
Here are some handy words you might want to know for your travel to Japan.
Ohayo Gozaimasu – Good Morning
Konnichiwa – Good Day
Konbanwa – Good Evening
Sumimasen – Sorry, Excuse Me – if you learn only one word, learn this one
Gomennasai – Sorry
Onegaishimasu – Please/Good luck – Said at the beginning of each round in tournaments here
Hai – Yes
Iie – No
Arigato (gozaimasu) – Thank you
Ikura (desuka) – How much money is that?
Ooki Hou – High Roll?
Senkou/Sente – Play First
Gote – Play second
Endo Desu/ Owari – End/finished, as in the end of a turn
Mae – Before, as is Endo no Mae (before the end)
Ato – After
Chotto Matte – Wait a second
Kaado – Card