Hiking Road Trip!

If you checked out the Production Update from earlier this week, you will see that I took a long overdue trip back to Minneapolis to hang out with some friends, work on a new top secret project and also to go hiking. If you haven’t been to Minneapolis before, it is one of the best cities in terms of outdoor activities, there are lakes everywhere and plenty of places to go hiking. On this particular excursion though, we ventured into Wisconsin and hiked one of our favorite trails that we haven’t hit up for a while, Kinnickinnic Park.

I enjoy these “creative hikes” with my friends, because we spend the time talking about projects we are working on, things we are learning and any questions we have for one another since we come from a range of backgrounds (web, mobile, app development and animation).

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It’s great to have a group of friends that can push you along and make sure you are still creating and not slacking off. At the same time, it is great to see how they have grown over the years and evolved as artists and creators as well.

On this particular hike a friend and I were able to discuss details about a future project we are going to be working on and I look forward to sharing more with you all as well. Of course, no hike would be complete without a slip up, and that came in the form of me slipping off of a log and getting my shoes soaked. I chalk that one up to the first hike of the year. The first of many I hope!

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Wet socks must be the worst thing in the world, let’s hope that this won’t happen again for the remainder of hiking season.

 

Japan Adventure Recap

My apologies for being a day late again. I have a couple freelance projects that bottlenecked a bit, I am actually blogging while waiting for a render to finish up. An article I read last week from a friend actually inspired me to write one last entry about my trip to Japan, which seems long time ago already. Blogging about the trip and looking at pictures to post has really been a fun way to look back on my trip, I would strongly recommend it to anyone. Clearly, I would strongly recommend a trip to Japan as well as going through the agency I did.

I basically wanted to run down some of my favorite things, favorite foods, best experiences as well as share some pics of the haul of goodies I brought home and more.

Since there may be some foodies out there, lets go over that first. My friend and I had the intention of finding fugu, or pufferfish. Pufferfish is poisonous and will kill the consumer if the chef fails to prepare the food correctly. There are next to zero deaths a year of consumers dying from prepared food, most deaths come from fisherman that eat the fish in the wild. During all of our adventures we seemingly pushed this endeavor back each day until we basically ran out of time. This is on the list of things to do on our next trip.

My favorite food came from a ramen shop and the takoyaki from the street vendors. I would have to wayward an honorable mention to the squid I ate from a vendor as well, I am a little disappointed I didn’t get a chance to eat octopus. Again, next time.

Japan has a lot of lemon flavored drinks, which I miss greatly. A specific drink was CC Lemon, I have been looking for somewhere to get it from in the states, but to no success yet. It will only be a matter of time.

My favorite place that we visited would have to be the Ghibli museum. As an animator, it was the closest thing to heaven I could have imagined. I wish I could have taken pictures inside to post, but I settled for a book with pictures of the inside. If you haven’t seen any of the Studio Ghibli films, I strongly suggest you give a couple of them a chance. If you ever visit Japan, this is a must see site. They even show short films that you can only see at the museum.

This was also the first trip I was able to see the ocean. Some of the funnest moments I had was around the ocean. On one occasion I went seashell hunting and found some shells to take back to give to my sister. My second ocean experience was when we were in the country and we had a group of locals want their pictures taken with us. The people in the country were extremely nice, especially at the festival events.

My favorite experience was climbing Mt Fuji at night and witnessing the cities at the foot of the mountain’s fireworks. As I stated in a previous entry, climbing Fuji was one of the most mentally demanding things I have ever done, but it is also one of my proudest moments. I would like to climb the mountain again.

Probably the most unexpected awesome experience was the ryokan. I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. The breakfasts were amazing, we walked around in yukatas the majority of the time we were there, the hot spring was amazing and the customer service set a new standard. When I go back to Japan, staying at a ryokan is on the top of my list.

The arcades in Akihabara were super fun, you would be surprised at how far you can get in a game just based of user interface design and game animation without understanding the language. The card reader games blew my mind. Shibuya had some musicians playing, I would like to return and go listen to some music some night. Theres something very cool about walking down the street and seeing various musical acts and being able to stop and listen at will.

I had a pretty good toy and book haul on the trip. I ended up with a book about the art of Princess Mononoke and also a picture book about the Ghibli museum. I also ended up with 3 production art books from the series Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as some Asuka chopsticks that I eat my cup noodles with. I picked up a giant list of gachapons, from various stores in various areas. The coolest was a store that you could actually trade your gachapons in to and buy other people’s trade ins and complete your collection. My favorite toys were small figures from Neon Genesis Evangelion I picked up in sealed mystery boxes.

While in Japan, I wanted to pick up some anime cels. In early 2000 animation went into the digital realm, which meant that cels were no longer being used to make animation. For example, you can not find cels of newer series, you can only get them of older series. Studios sold cels to fans as a way to make money and provide fans with content that they didn’t have much of a use for. At the cel shop, I could’t read any of the names of the binders of series he had. I did stumble across some binders of Inu Yasha and bought 3 cels. 2 of one of my favorite characters, Miroku and also a cool cel of Koga from the same series. I found some binders of Dragonball Z, but most of the cels were missing backgrounds and I want my cels to have background art. On my next trip, I plan on taking more money to get more cels. It was cool when we found a small gallery displaying cels and art of Rouroni Kenshin.

As for me, I would like to return to Japan again. I am targeting the spring of 2014 for the spring festivals as my next trip. Hopefully the stars align and I am able to get the trip lined up. If you get the chance or are looking for a trip, I highly suggest Japan!

 *(Images of my anime cels and also of my toy haul from Japan. Makes you want to go doesn’t it?)

Japan Adventure Day 13

Our final day in Japan was a little bit of a lazy day. We hadn’t really had anything planned except for hitting up a few areas that we wanted to revisit. For the duration of our trip, we constantly saw signs pointing to a Pokemon Center nearby at the train station we used daily. We decided that we would check it out. We sadly discovered that it was basically just a store with a ton of Pokemon gear. We thought it was going to have a different layout than just being a store.

When we went to the Evangelion store earlier in the week we picked up a magazine that had other Evangelion sites we could visit and get stamps at. We didn’t do the stamp collecting but we did go check out a giant slide of one of the main characters, Rei Ayanami. We also stopped at the Evangelion store by the slide but it was a rather small one that had mostly the same content as the other store we went to. By the Ayanami slide, there was other stuff advertising for various series, old and new alike. In this area there was a giant steampunk clock.

We headed back to Akihabara for some ramen and we also went to spend the last of our loose coins. When exchanging Yen back in the states, they only take the paper bills. So we had 500 and 100 Yen coins we decided to deposit at the arcade. It was the cool seeing Neon Genesis Evangelion posters, billboards and such being advertised everywhere. We even found people sized figures of Asuka and Rei at arcades as well.

We made our way back to the area of Tokyo that we were staying at. We decided to go to the park that we saw when we first arrived in Tokyo. The park was very large and it was smack in the middle of the city. There were ponds of koi fish, turtles, and lots of flowers.

We found one turtle that was swimming and as we watched him he made his way towards us and actually got out of the water and walked up to us. We would hold our hand out and it would try to touch it with his nose. I haven’t seen anything like that before. We took some really good videos of the turtle before he worked his way back into the water.

We sat at a park table as it started to rain and we talked about our favorite aspects of the trip. We headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff before we headed to the airport to fly out that night. We landed back in the states safe and sound 🙂

*(First image is of the Rei Ayanami slide, next is the giant steampunk clock, the third is of a curious turtle that came out of the water to greet us, finally a close up of some flowers).

Japan Adventure Day 12

After recovering from the Mt Fuji hike and not getting a case of pneumonia we left the hotel in search of more adventures in Tokyo. In our planning phase of our trip, we both had decided that we wanted to go to a museum and get a little bit of a “learn on” while we were in Japan. Our online searches had directed us to the Edo-Tokyo museum, where we could learn about life in the period and the development of Tokyo to its present day.

One of the things I enjoyed about the museum was all of the models to show castles, cities and bridges. At one point the museum had a mock storefront of a print shop with all sorts of ukiyo-e art and how the woodblock printing process works.

Later in the museum we started to see the western influence in Japanese society, in architecture, cars and clothes. The museum contained items all the way up until post World War 2. We also learned a lot of what life was like in Japan during the war. Kids were forced to the country because they were afraid of fire bombs and raids in the cities. It even had artwork from kids in school at thte time about the war.

Before we left the museum, we watched a few performers at the museum do tricks with umbrellas and balance things on them. It was quite an interesting show.

After the museum we went to Ikebukuro to find the Sunshine aquarium. It happened to be the one year anniversary for the aquarium so it was jammed packed. We saw all sorts of cool fish and a crab that was the size of a small car. Little kids were taking all sorts of videos and pictures with their Nintendo DS.

They had several tanks that you could walk under and see jellyfish, and even sharks. There were tanks of lizards, seals and turtles also. We had the chance to see a lot of interesting creatures.

The aquarium had an outdoor area where we saw seals, penguins and some other birds. The seals had an interesting tank that you could walk underneath and see the seals from under them. The same seals also performed a show with all sorts of tricks and acts.

After the aquarium we stopped at a restaurant for some food and I had an awesome bowl of soup. Ikebukuro had a little bit of a nightlife that we decided to enjoy that evening. We spent most of the night at an arcade playing crane games and a pokemon game that gave us tokens that had computer information on them that we could use on other pokemon machines.

As we searched the arcade for other games before heading out for the night, I found a crane game for a show called Penguin Drum. The machine had all sorts of penguins in it. I deposited 500Yen and got an extra play, I ended up dumping out 6 penguin toys. I also grabbed a pepsi in the flavor of “salty watermelon” and we headed back to the hotel. Next week is the final day in Japan!

*(First image: The sign for the Edo Tokyo Museum, the second: a bomb from WW2 that was found well after the war, the third: penguins from the aquarium, the fourth: the seal tank that you could walk under).

Japan Adventure Day 10 & 11

Days 10 and 11 in Japan were solely focused on hiking to the top of Mt Fuji. We slept in that morning because the plan was to start hiking Fuji in the afternoon, sleep on the mountain and then get to the summit in time to see the sunrise. This method is pretty much the norm among hikers and we were hiking during the busiest week of the year. My friend and I stopped at a Subway (yes the sandwich place in the states) and had breakfast. We also stopped by a nearby convenience store to grab a few extra eats and some water for our trek.

In my pack I had a pair of pants, a hoodie, 2-2liters of water, spare socks and some food. *Spoiler alert* Notice the above paragraph and notice the lack of certain things packed, such as a light and more clothes.

The morning was spent train hopping a bit until we got to the place where we were to switch to a bus. At this point it was the middle of the afternoon. Our originally planned bus was actually canceled so we didn’t board the bus to get to the base of Fuji until almost 3PM. We grabbed another quick bite to eat and boarded the bus.

The next hour and a half was spent on the bus driving through fog, and clouds to get to our base station. We got to our starting point around 4:30, we were already a couple hours behind where we wanted to be at in terms of time. We purchased a couple walking sticks so we could get wood burnings in them as we reached certain stations.

The base of the mountain was pretty wooded and the trails were pretty easy to hike. Certain areas of the early path was even paved for hikers. We kept up with our fluids and took small snack breaks every so often to keep up our calorie intake. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to have to suffice on granola bars and bananas too much, so I wanted to keep kind of full as I hiked.

As we hiked through the woods, we would find some outlook points where we could look back and see down the side of the mountain and get a peak at the peak as well. It was a little unbelievable at the time to think we were going to make the journey. The clouds were really moving by the peak and the summit would clear at one point and then behind the clouds and fog another.

At this point we had put on our extra clothes since the elevation had made it drastically cooler than we had experienced before we got on the bus. The air was a lot cooler and humidity wasn’t a factor.

We reached our first check point and got our first wood burnings as well. We sat at a table and took a little bit of an extended break. We were making pretty solid time as we were making our way to a hut that we had reservations for that night.

The next section of trail was again wooded but trees were starting to thin out a bit. As we made our way out of the trees we were now hiking in the wide open space and night time was starting to creep in. We made it to another checkpoint and my friend was starting to get tired.

After a long break we started our journey again as night time fell upon us. It was now pretty dark, the lights in the cities below the mountain were starting to turn on. A little time passed after we started hiking again and my friend couldn’t go any more. We formulated a plan where he would go back down to the station and we would meet up tomorrow. There was a distinct trail we were on so we knew if we stayed on the trail we would meet up the next day.

I continued to climb up the mountain solo, for all of the things we read online about the busy season, we didn’t see a whole lot of other hikers. I reached another check station and got my second wood burning.

I tried to make up for some lost time, so I had a brief stop and kept pushing on. As the night sky continued to get darker, I could see fireworks from cities below having their festivals for the season.

It was starting to get cool out, so I hiked to stay warm. The night sky had gotten so dark that it was hard to see in front of your face without a light. With no place to rest at I pushed on through the night.

Between the hours of around 1AM to 4AM I had several thoughts of climbing down the mountain to the station where my friend was staying. These 3 hours were some of the mentally challenging times. I had no light to see the path and the temperature was well cooler than hoodie weather. At this point I had used my bandana to cover my mouth from the wind and I had used my spare pair of socks as mittens. I would sleep outside a check station for less than an hour before I was so cold I had to move, in which I would hike to the next station to warm up and repeat the process.

At each check station i would look for the station our reservation was at to sleep. After not finding it at a few stations and with the hours winding down to when I would have to start my ascent I decided to bypass the hut and just hike. At around 4:30 in the morning I reached a checkpoint where two paths merged and it was jam packed with people. Hikers filled the entire camp, finally I saw the amount of people I read about online.

Hikers had started their ascent to the the top, there was so many people, that there was a line of people hiking towards the top. The line of hikers was so long that by the time people were preparing for the sunrise you could not hike to the top because it was full.

I was one check station below the summit when the sun started to rise. Hikers were cheering as the sun rose and many were taking photos. A storm started rolling in and clouds were blocking the sun at points as they rolled in and out quickly.

After the sun rose people started to descend the summit allowing for others to get to the top. I reached the summit and got my final wood burnings in my hiking stick. I slept at the top of Fuji for a while in a big shelter.

The wind ripped through the summit and clouds rolled over the top that you could see them. The other side of the mountain was even more foggy then the side I climbed.

Our original idea was to climbdown the other side of Fuji but I had to go back to find my friend. The plan we devised last night I was to wait at the top for a few more hours for him. With it being so cold at the summit, or me being so underdressed, I headed back to find him.

As I worked my way down the mountain the fog started to roll in and it started raining. I hiked down to the station he was staying at and didn’t see him. I figured he headed back to the bus stop because we had to be back to the bus my mid afternoon.

The rain continued to fall and the descent trail was soft, loose dirt that filled my shoes as I tried to not fall face down in the dirt. Some hikers were running down the mountain in the dirt, some people slipped and some used the guide rope to stay upright.

I reached the bus station at the base and found my friend, who was dry and was able to stay out of the rain. We hopped on the bus back to the train station and slept for most of the way. As soon as we arrived at the train station we boarded and slept some more.

That night we hung out and talked about our hikes. My friend captured some beautiful sunrise pictures because he was low enough on the mountain he was between cloud layers. My pictures were blocked by clouds.

We grabbed some beef bowls that night and crashed to recover from our hike. I was pretty sure I was going to get some kind of sickness, at least a cold if not pneumonia from that hike, but I actually came out unscathed even when I got back to the states.

It was an awesome hike and it pushed me farther in mental toughness. I was well prepared on the food and water front of the hike but under prepared in terms of clothing. Which is good to know for next time. I had my hiking light and such laid out to take to Japan but they were forgotten at home. I really want to hike Fuji again and hope to get that opportunity again someday 🙂

*(First image is the path pointing us to the trail, second is the wooded area that we hiked in, third is looking up at the summit through the fog and clouds, fourth is a look back at the foot of Fuji, fifth is the same thing only later in the day as night started to fall, sixth is the hike up in the foggy morning, seventh is my clouded sunrise shot, eighth is a shot down at the cities covered by clouds, ninth is the line heading to the summit, tenth is how foggy and cloud covered the summit was, eleventh is how foggy it was at the start of the hike down, and finally the foggy trail further down the mountain).

Japan Adventure Day 9

Today was our final day in japan with the group 🙁 I had a great time getting to know some fellow travelers and had so much fun over the previous week or so of adventure. The majority of the group was flying back to the States and a few of us were staying in Japan and going our separate ways.

For the last few days there was a handful of us talking about going to the fish market for sushi breakfast. Admittedly, some of us had too much fun at the beer garden so morning came a bit too soon but never-the-less a small group of 4 including myself made our way to the market.

We had options of breakfast sushi platters so i went with the variety platter that included, eel, salmon, sea urchin and many more. At the end of breakfast, our guide had suggested we try one more type of sushi. I am not sure what it was called but it was a slightly seared piece of fatty tuna. It was seriously the most delicious thing I had ever eaten, hands down. Nothing has ever come close to that.

After we made our way back to the hotel we waited for a few other travelers before we hit up a couple areas. In the meantime we wandered a nearby temple and took some interesting pictures.

Around lunchtime we made our way to a mall that I was itching to go to since I started planning my trip. The reason I wanted to go, was to score myself some anime cels. The mall we went to was 4 stories tall, and covered a lot of ground. As we got to higher floors we started finding nothing but toy stores. So naturally I bought some more gachapon figures.

While roaming around looking for the cel shop, we discovered a small art gallery that focused on Rurouni Kenshin, featuring cels, figures and more. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so I was only able to get one off the wall.

As I continued to look for the cel shop, I finally broke down and called the guide for directions. I was able to get a vicinity to the shop and I found several cels to my liking 🙂 My objectives of the trip were almost complete.

We decided to stop by in harajuku again and we showed a couple travelers where the Neon Genesis Evangelion store was at. To our surpass, they had a lot of new content in the store from when we were there a little over a week ago. I was eyeing an Asuka figure earlier in the trip but they were now all sold out. I picked up a couple more art books and we were on our way back to the hotel.

By this point the other travelers were nearing their departure time. We hung out and swapped information with some of the travelers and watched as they boarded the shuttle bus and headed to the nearest station. It was now just me and my friend in Tokyo and neither of us speaks japanese. We went out for some eats at a chain place called Yoshinoya, which has some awesome beef bowls and went to bed early that night. We had a long day with the short amount of sleep and tomorrow we were starting a new challenge, Mt Fuji. Stay Tuned!


*(First image is my variety sushi platter for breakfast, the second is of lanterns at the nearby shrine, third is the wall outside of the Kenshin gallery showing and the final image is one of thousands of glass cases filled with toys at the mall.)

Japan Adventure Day 8

Today marked the biggest day for me of the entire trip. First thing in the morning we were heading to the Ghibli Museum and as an animator this was a highly anticipated adventure.
I have seen most of the Studio Ghibli films (my top 3 faves: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whispers of the Heart and Princess Mononoke) and was eager to see so much work from Japan’s most famous studio.

On the way to the Ghibli Museum we stopped at a well known bakery and grabbed breakfast. I had a couple bite sized cheesecake bites that were absolutely amazing. When we got to our final train stop we started to see signs pointing us to the direction of the museum. The signs were decorated with various characters and Totoros as we got closer to our destination.

The museum was hidden away in a very green park with vines dangling on the walls. From the outside we could see stained glass windows with characters from all of the films. We entered the museum and were instructed that we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum. Our entry ticket also was a ticket into the theater room where we could see an exclusive animated short. The short was very well done and executed without any voice over for the characters or subtitles for that matter. On of the things I love about animation is the ability to tell a story through body language alone. It was a very cute film and it is only one of several that are screened at various times at the museum.

The first floor of the museum was very satisfying as an animator because it had several displays and exhibits on the various processes of animation and techniques. They had several stop motion exhibits that varying in pictures but also larger displays that used flashing lights to break up the motion blur on actual moving objects to give you a sense of stop motion. They had 3D models of characters all lined up to replicate the various drawings you would see in a characters run cycle for example. There were multi layered cels in deep frames so you could see the various layers of depth in cel animation. I spent most of my time here checking out all of these exhibits. I was proud that the museum spent so many resources on the first floor to show people the process of animation which sometimes gets overlooked, especially in the digital age. This floor would give anyone a greater appreciation of the animation process.

The second floor boasts several exhibits about the animation process at Studio Ghibli. The exhibits spanned the entire second floor and had concept and reference drawings hanging up on all the walls from various films. The first exhibit focused on the content creation of the films and how each got their starting point/concept. The second room had a replicated desk of an animator with reference materials scattered around. I know how that happens 🙂 The other side of the room had a colorists desk set up, with all sorts of brushes and color tubes scattered around for painting on cels.

In a small adjacent room, there were completed storyboards for each of the films and you could page through several binders for several films. One of the final rooms had some compositing and camera exhibits that kids were enjoying quite a bit. One was a crank that would move the background behind a hot air balloon. Kids were surrounding that station waiting for a chance to turn the crank and see the results.

The third floor had a couple non-Studio Ghibli works and a couple gift shops. At one gift shop I picked up a little stuffed Ponyo and the other gift shop I picked up a book about the museum along with pictures and also a book breaking down the film of Princess Mononoke. The fourth floor was the roof which had a couple sculptures, one was the giant robot from Castle in the Sky and the other was of a cube I believe from Castile in the Sky as well. The museum had several doors, stairwells, bridges and areas that made even the most serious person feel like a kid and want to explore the museum more. I fell in love with the museum on the trip.

I was just finishing up my rounds in the museum as we were preparing to head over to Shinjuku and the world’s busiest train station. At Shinjuku we made a small excursion to the Square Enix store to check out their goods. It was a lot of Kingdom Hearts content.

After the Square Enix store we ventured to an arcade by our meeting spot and played an epic 3D shooter arcade game. The game had rumbling seats, air guns and such to give you an immersed feeling. The air guns would blow in your face when a door opened or when a zombie/creature would jump out at you. Pretty awesome experience, we easily dumped in 700 Yen into that game and played a couple levels.

We left the arcade and went to a nearby rooftop beer garden for a last meal with the group before they would fly back to the states the next day. The garden had little grills and trays where we could make our own food with various sauces and such. We were also allowed to drink as much as we wanted, we started to pile up empty glasses and then found out that we had to return empties for full ones and that workers didn’t retrieve empty glasses like here in the states. It was a rather funny cultural difference. We headed back to to the hotel and got some rest for our final day with the group.

*(First and second images are a couple of the Ghibli Museum signs we saw, the third is the robot from Castle in the Sky on the roof and the final image is our grill at the beer garden in Shinjuku).

Japan Adventure Day 7

Day 7 was another travel day. We were leaving the countryside from our 3 day retreat of relaxing at the ryokan and enjoying the onsen and heading back to Tokyo. I had such a great time at the coastline that I decided that I was going to wake up and catch the first train back to the coastline and was going to meet up with the group at a train station outside of Tokyo. I wanted to explore and hike more for a few hours since there was such a large area and we were only there for a couple hours. I fell in love with that countryside over the course of 3 days.

The first train of the day started at around 5AM in the morning so I got up early and snuck out of the ryokan ninja style and made my way to the train station. The trains had a brief stop at another station where I was suppose to get off but failed to. So I had to take the train again and only lost a little bit of time before I made it down to the coast.

I was able to hike around the area for a few hours, it was very calm with almost no other travelers or hikers around. I did see a lot of fast and small bugs on a trail but I didn’t get a chance to take a picture to find out what they were.  That morning was a little wet and rainy, one of the few days it rained while we were there.

After I got my hiking in, I made my way back to the train station and met up with the group several stops down the line. Some of them were pretty surprised I woke up so early to go out hiking. As the train made its way closer to Tokyo, the rain started to subside and the sun started to peek through the clouds and shine.

Our first destination was to head to Odaiba. Odaiba was having a giant fireworks display that night, but Comiket was also going on. Comiket is a super huge comic convention. So needless to say there were thousands and thousands of people in the area and everywhere was extremely packed with people. We worked our way through the crowds at a mall and went shopping at the Shonen Jump store. I was hoping to score some Dragonball Z stuff, but it was mostly relegated to just some manga. The store was packed with One Piece and Naruto stuff.

Post-Shonen Jump store, a couple of us made our way to the Gundam Plaza to see the RX-78 gundam. Who doesn’t like giant robots? The Gundam activated and did its thing, after that it was on to an arcade. I played a few crane games and won myself some Pokemon from the machine. I am a sucker for toys that look cool, such as an Axew. Unfortunately, I ran out of 100 Yen coins and someone won 2 toys that I got close to winning from the machine. It’s all good though, they went to 2 little kids that were pretty stoked to get a toy that day. i think my favorite aspect of the arcades is that the crane games are completely winnable, lots of us won toys from machines. When you win at a machine people working at the arcades will announce it over the speakers in the arcade so others know that people are winning and on what machine.

After the arcade we grabbed some eats and headed to our tarp for fireworks. The fireworks display was solid and lasted well over an hour. The trains were packed leaving Odaiba.

As we approached our hotel again, some of us decided to sing some karaoke. We went to a karaoke bar and got a room that fit all 14 of us in and we proceeded to drink, sing and have a great time. Next weeks Japan adventure day is one of the sole reasons I went to Japan, stay tuned 😀

*(first image is of the sunrise outside of the ryokan, second is an image of the rainy day from my seat on the train, the third is a cool building I saw on the way to the coastline, the fourth is the Shonen Jump store and how packed it was that day, fifth is the Gundam Front, finally is the crowd that was there for fireworks that night).

Japan Adventure Day 6

Breakfast was provided by our ryokan again in the morning. As usual it was a large 2 platter breakfast, but most importantly we had fresh fish caught by local fishermen  that morning. We had our usual grills that morning so we grilled our own fish. I am not sure what the fish was but it was delicious. It was important to have a good breakfast this morning because after breakfast we were headed to the coast to do some hiking.

We stopped at a convenience store before we got on the train and to my surprise I found some special Pepsi cans that had featured Gundams on them for the Gundam Front in Tokyo. I found a few more cans throughout the trip, but I was pleasantly surprised because I had read an article online before we left on the trip and knew they were going to be out when I was on the trip. I was able to bring a few home.

The Jogasaki coastline was amazing. The ocean water was such a bright blue color it was unbelievable. You could see to the horizon in almost 180 degrees, it really was one of the highlights of the trip. There was even a bridge to cross over part of the ocean too. The wind blew the bridge a little, which added to the feeling of being free and in nature. We hung out in the area for a couple hours and I shot quite a bit of video and seeing how close I could get to the water without getting wet.

One of the interesting things, at least in my opinion, was that I found several bugs and they were all very bright yellow. Caterpillars, spiders and even some other bug I never seen before were all black and a very bright yellow.

We walked back to the train station, and we had a conversation about all of the bigger and more western style houses in the area. We found out they had these bigger homes because there was more room outside of the city to build bigger homes. There were lots of homes that had landscaped their yards and had neatly trimmed trees and bushes.

After we arrived back at the ryokan, we were able to relax in the onsen again and we had a few hours in the afternoon to hang out, relax and to do what we wanted before we headed to our fireworks destination. We arrived at the train station and it was already starting to fill up with people. Little did we know how packed this event was going to be.

We arrived at our destination and the city was filled with people everywhere. Everyone split off into groups and went to find some food before the fireworks display that night. There were even more food vendors out than there was the last couple days we were in the area. I had to have Takoyaki one last time (deep fried breaded octopus) and it had to be topped with japanese mayo and green onions 🙂

After finding some food, we headed to the beach to find a place to set up our tarps for fireworks. We found a spot and hung out before the display. We had a few drinks and shared some stories. As night time started to set in, test fireworks were fired into the sky. Soon we discovered that there was going to be fireworks launched from several sites in the bay.

The ensuing fireworks display was the best display I had ever seen. It lasted almost 2 hours and the spectacular at the end lasted almost ten minutes with the sky being so covered in fireworks that it was as bright as day in the bay.  After the fireworks there was a giant sea of people headed to the train station to get home. We were fortunate enough to get to the station and get back to the ryokan. On the walk back to the ryokan from the station, we learned that last year they missed the first train and were at the station for over two hours.

That night I went to bed a little early because I wanted to go for a hike the next morning back at the coastline.

*(first image is the delicious fish we had for breakfast on its grill, second is the coastline where we went hiking, third is a shot of a random beach on the train ride, fourth is the packed train station when we arrived for fireworks, fifth is our spot on the beach for the fireworks, finally the sea of people after the display heading to the train station).

Japan Adventure Day 5

Day 5 in Japan started off with a giant 2 platter breakfast for everyone brought on by ryokan staff. Easily the biggest breakfast I had ever seen. After breakfast we had some time to relax in the onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring that is heated by the Earth/volcanoes. It was super relaxing after walking around Tokyo for the previous few days. There were 3 onsens, one for males, one for females, and a private one for couples.

After getting ready for the day, our first stop was Atami castle. The best story of the trip was when we got into taxis to go to the ropeway and the head lady at the ryokan walked into the road to stop traffic so our taxis could stay together on the way to the ropeway. Now thats customer service!

The ropeway provided us with an amazing view of the seaside city and we were able to see all over in every direction. Atami castle had all sorts of content in it for us to check out. My favorite floors were the top floor, which had a balcony for us to take pictures looking out to the ocean and the floor that had models of other castles in Japan. I can only image the amount of work and patience needed for that process.

After the castle we headed to another restaurant that featured a drink bar (all you can drink coffee, lattes, juice, soda etc. over 40 kinds). It was pretty hot out so the iced lattes and air conditioning were well worth the walk. After lunch some of us headed to the beach for some more time in the ocean, I was one of them.

We splashed around in the ocean for a few hours. We took some pictures with some of the other beach goers. We posed for a few pictures and had a brief conversation with some English and hand signs. Before we left the beach more people wanted a picture. We had a lot of fun at the beach, everyone in the city was very nice.

We headed back to the ryokan to get ready for the night’s events. Some onsen time was in order and then came the time to wear the yukata again. Tonight we headed to a stage by the shore to watch a taiko drum show. There were several performing groups that took the stage and played a wide variety of songs. It was the first time I had heard a taiko drum performance at length, it was very relaxing. We sat in the grass and watched as the sun set. People were free to come and go as they wished, allowing them to go to food stands and get things to eat during the performances.

One of the highlights on the trip in terms of food, was the grilled squid I had. The cook grilled it at his station and the meat was very good. I wanted to try the grilled octopus as well but I was full from the squid, it gives me a reason to go back right?

We grabbed a few more things and headed back to the ryokan and played some board games until the early hours of the morning. It was nice playing games and getting to know some of the other travelers a little bit more. We headed back to our room and got some sleep for tomorrow, our final full day in the seaside city.

*(The first photo is a picture of the ocean outside of our ryokan, second is a photo looking back at the city from the ropeway car, the third photo is the beach we went too and finally the taiko drum performances. That picture was taken of one of the first performances which is why it is still early in the night).