Japan 2012

On November 14th, I flew out to Japan to hang out with my friend Steve in Nagoya, listen to some music, eat some good food, and watch the new Evangelion movie. This time I was armed with a smartphone, so I can take more pictures. This also means that all my photos will end up on my Google+ account so I'll just host pictures from there. Made sure to turn off all roaming data so as not to get charged with the insane $15 per megabyte roaming fee.

Got a ride to the airport from the car service and made it to La Guardia, first time I've been here in forever. Made it to my terminal with plenty of time to spare and on top of that, flight was delayed over an hour. The terminal had a long bar that provided an ipad interface for ordering food and browsing the web, it also included this neat little thing where you can put in a flight number, and it'll continually check the flight status and give you notifications on delays and when it's time to board. After some time, the flight finally got on its way arriving at Detroit International Airport in plenty of time to make my flight. I took a lot of pictures out the window of the 747-400S:

After my arrival, which was about 30 minutes early, I was met by Steve and we headed back to Motoyama, the part of Nagoya where he lives. On the way, we picked up some Shouchu (Kurokirishima potato Shochu), and mixed it with hot water while we listened to music. It was getting late and I had a long flight so we turned in relatively early.

I slept in the "studio" room that had some art hanging up, as well as some old sketches by Chris Craychee. The night before, we managed to sign up for some internet service that I could barely pick up on a somewhat nearby access point. Signing up was a success but I couldn't stay connected unless I was out on the balcony, but at least I was able to keep up with email and upload pictures and run other maintenance, even if it is ~$6 USD per day. Later in the day, we went over to where Steve taught an after school class so I wandered around the area and took some pictures:

After meeting back up with Steve, we wandered through some record stores then met up with Chihiro and went to eat at this small place near the fish markets called Meguroya. We started off with Sashimi, washed it down with some Sake, a few more courses later, the owner brought us some eel, one of his specialties, followed with tuna cheeks with some kind of citrus pepper, finishing off the meal with sashimi over rice. Having had a good amount of sake and shouchu, and maybe even a beer, we all had to relieve ourselves so we stopped in a Lawson's, you don't even need to buy anything. We then went to a small bar called Terrazzo and capped the evening with more drinking at home. Probably had a bit too much to drink, myself.

And since I had a bit too much to drink the night before, I had a late start. Steve rented the second Evangelion movie (2.0) and we watched a couple of episodes of the TV series then 2.0, then headed to a theatre that had like 80+ seats left in the 5pm showing that was kind of in the outskirts of town. Unfortunately, after getting there, they were just sold out. So we went to another theatre that had available seats. (Theatres here work off of a reserved seating system, so you buy tickets then reserve a seat.) We went to a 7:30pm showing and I got to see the new Evangelion 3.0 movie on opening day. Suffice to say, it was quite an experience: my spoileress review, my VERY spoiler synopsis. Here's a picture of the only movie poster in the entire theatre. We also got funny pictures taken in an Evangelion picture booth. We then had to drive around for a bit to look for a place to eat that late at night and went to a familiar izakaya called Nanya (Steve took our other friend Cheryl there earlier this year). The place had autographs of people who came to play shows at the place all over the walls. The next day we were going to go into the mountains in the Gifu prefecture so we retired early.

A somewhat unsuccessful attempt at an early start, we packed the car and left for the mountains where Steve's band had a show to play. In order to eat on the go, we stopped at a McDonald's. I had a cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich. I took a lot of pictures on the car ride up:

Also some videos: The place we were going to is called "Yama Nanya", and it's somewhat related to the Nanya izakaya from the night before. They were jointly operated as venues to play music and have food/drink, but the person who operated the Yama (mountain) version died of cancer and nobody picked up the torch. Eventually, someone ran the place and they kept the name. The lodge is kind of on the outskirts of a public park, outside of a small town called Yaotsu Cho, the road to get there is treacherously narrow, with the edge being a sheer drop into a stream. I got a bunch of pictures of the surrounding area: Inside, we've got music all night for the Shiva Paradise Ascension Festival: Video (I thought I had more video of the Drums/Violin but apparently it's corrupted because my phone died while taking it): We drove back the same night, leaving maybe around 11 or midnight? We went to Nishiki, the heart of Nagoya's nightlife, to get some really late night food (Soy sauce baed ramen at "Plum Garden") and go to a bar that would show the Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas. Can't remember what the name of the place we went to eat at, but we went to a place called Bar No.8 afterwards, it was guaranteed to show the F1 race. When we got there, they were replaying qualifying, which I had missed so that was pretty cool. Pictures: Bar No. 8, F1 Qualifying rerun at Bar 8, The official Champagne of F1, F1 race at Bar 8, More, Race over, Podium, with cowboy hats, More, More, More

Since we had such a long day and Steve didn't have to go to work, we spent the day at home, ordered pizza from Dominoes, and watched the Ken Burns "Jazz" documentary. Chihiro came over after work made some food and brought some wine. We have some bean sprouts with onions and chicken as an appetizer and salad and curry for dinner. The curry was pretty spicy. Some more wine and a few more episodes of "Jazz", and we called it a night.

Steve had the next day off as well, so after some miso soup for breakfast, and a few more episodes of the Jazz documentary, we walked over to the local sandwich/coffee shop called Cafe Nishihara. We've gone to this place frequently the last few times I was in Nagoya. The interior is covered in dark wood and all the china is unique. We had the usual coffee and sandwiches (ham and an eggplant salsa sandwich). Then we walked over to Alphaville for a little while and had Yuki (who runs the place) call Hiromi to see what her schedule was like. Hiromi said she'd be done with work at 8:30 and we should meet at her subway stop in Ozone. While we tried to get her laptop to communicate with this firewire recorder, I saw some funny Che tobacco products. Yuki and her husband played a set at the Shiva Paradise Ascension Festival. With some time to kill, we watched more Jazz, then went to the 3 Bottles Bar which was right around the corner from the sandwich/coffee shop. We had a sampling of Caol Ila, Talisker and Lagavulin. Only stayed for 30 minutes though because I needed to get on the Meijo line to meet Hiromi. I took a picture of the circular Meijo line to use as a reference in case I got on the wrong train going the other direction, but it was super easy and I didn't need it (it's strange because the maps at the NGO airport didn't have English at all). When I met up with Hiromi, she took me to this izakaya and we had some dinner there while I tried to bring up wedding pictures on my phone. We walked down the street to what she called a "standing bar". It was essentially just a liquor store that had some tables set up and served drinks. There was also a trio playing some jazz, they played a jazzy version of Give me wings which was the song used at the end of the 2nd Evangelion movie (a fact which they noted). There was a shelf with some manga on it and Hiromi showed me her favorte chapter of Black Jack, "Where are you, my friend?". Some pictures of me and Hiromi (another) and a picture of Hiromi and the place's owner. After a few glasses of local sake, we walked back to her place to say hi to Kazuichi, her dad. Was good to see him again and he remembered me from my first visit. He still drinks bad whiskey and smoked Cabin cigarettes. I think we maybe drank another bottle of sake there then somehow, I managed to drag myself back to Motoyama. It was great to see Hiromi again and I'm glad we got to meet up before I left Japan.

The next day, Steve was already at work so I spent some time on the internet, grabbed some coffee and Fanta, and got caught up with email and stuff. There was this place nearby that had a pomegranate tree, though they were all pretty small. I also saw one of those pink Honda Fit's that are targeted toward women. Steve came back for lunch and we had curry at a nearby Indian place. It was ok and pretty cheap. After we got back we played an incomplete game of Go (forgot to grab a picture of board positions) before Steve had to leave for another teaching job. It wasn't long before getting back and with Chihiro, we went to the local Sushi place. I've been to this place 2 other times, once for each time I visited Japan, and the owner of the place never recognized me. We got set meals that included:

I think the guy may have been pretty drunk, he was really talkative and rambled a lot. We did end up getting maybe 3 bottles of sake for free though (and the free Udon). I was stuffed, and we had to hang out a bit before we could get up (Terminator 3 was playing on the TV set). Eventually went back to the apartment and watched the last 2 episodes of "Jazz" before getting some sleep in before having to get out early to catch my flight.

My last day in Japan was going to be a short one. We had to get up around 5am in order to catch the first (or second) subway trains into Nagoya station, where I could catch a train to the NGO airport. I got everything packed up and ready to go pretty quickly, then it was just a matter of getting there. I've seen many of these I Love NagoYa ads all over the place (it may be hard to see in the photo, but the a, g, and o letters are really small). The NGO airport had an installation Aichi Prefectural University Fine Arts and Music student design exhibition, that mostly consisted of paintings and sketches. After I checked in, we got some coffee while I waited for my boarding time. I went through security and Steve sent out a goodbye G+ post with a picture of the CBS memorandum Teo Macero sent to CBS executives concerning what Miles Davis wanted to call the album they were working on:

The flight to Narita Airport (Tokyo) was a short one, the 767 I was on looked like it came from the 80's, it looked so old with the off-paisley seat covers and the old headphones that were nothing more than double tubes that you plugged into the armrest. When I got there, I needed to make a terminal switch, never had to do that before as the last time I was at Narita, my connection was in the same terminal. This means I needed to exit the terminal into the bus area and catch the bus that takes you to all the terminals. It was also the first time I actually got to see any of the terminals from outside. After I checked in, I killed some time at a coffee shop in the terminal called Tully's. Eventually made my way through security and down to where my gate may have been. My 7 hour layover in Tokyo meant my flight didn't have a gate assigned to it yet, so I just needed to keep an eye on the screens and wait and see. I wandered over to the area where my last flight back to the U.S. had its gate at, so in the 20's. Went and got a quarter pounder with cheese (yes, it is actually called a quarter pounder with cheese) at the McDonald's and sat around the Museum Shaihiroko area where the 20's gates are. This is a seating area with clusters of cushions at different heights off the ground, with sections separated by some glass that's been colored. Some of the pillars have trinkets on display, like origami, but mostly uninteresting stuff. Some of the cushions have 2 prong electic outlets so I plugged my phone and laptop in to get some charge. Some random pictures of graffiti in a bathroom stall: Americans not knowing how to use the squat toilets, Top Ten public restrooms (by country), Filipinos rule the gay world. Eventually, the gate was posted and I made my way to board the plane.

The 747-400S that I was going to spend the next 13 hours in was full. There were a lot of seniors on the flight, at least sitting around me, and seeing as how I had an isle seat with 2 on the inside, I opted to leave my laptop in my backpack instead of having to deal with it (it's rather large) when I inevitably needed to get up to let the 2 people on the inside get out. I watched this Chinese movie "The Great Magician" (IMDB page), it was pretty terrible overall but was entertaining enough. I was surprised at how many movies were actually available, later on I also watched "The Hunger Games", and not having read the book it reminded me of "Battle Royale" with a slightly different premise. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I listened to 3 episodes of "Car Talk" and took a nap. Skymaps:

Something that I noticed was the flight from Detroit to Nagoya was rather pleasant. The people were nice enough without being intrusive, only real complaint I had with that flight was the seats were farther back in the plane and that made it seem louder. Most of the people on that flight weren't planning on staying in Nagoya anyways, I think it was a connection to the Phillipines, which made the customs line in NGO really short. The flight from Narita to JFK on the other hand, wasn't as enjoyable. People were more rude in comparison, instead of asking people to get out in order to let them into the isle, they're more than happy to just walk over them, using the back of the seat rests as leverage which had the annoying side effect of shaking the chair violently. I volunteered to get out of my seat to let the old man in the window seat out the dozen or so times he needed to instead of him crawling over everyone. The plane also smelled a little off, not body odor bad, but seemed like a lot of perfume or some kind of scent in the air. Amy noticed it (she said it smelled of stale flowers) as soon as I got in the car when she came ot pick me up at JFK. I think in future flights, maybe I'll just stick to the window seats as the isle seats don't give you much extra room to make it worth having to get up all the time; at least until I get to the age where I need to use the bathroom much more often.

Japan is always awesome, the culture there is sufficiently different that I'm always learning something new about it when I'm there. The food is great and the trip out to the mountains was pretty cool, though it seemed like there should have been a lot more drinking involved. Glad to have met Chihiro and also glad to have had the chance to hang out with Hiromi while I was there. And extra thanks to Steve for everything.

Filed under: Travel & Events