Otakon 2012 pictures from Friday

So, Otakon was two weeks ago, and I haven't gotten around to uploading any pictures yet.  That changes now.  I took a ton of pictures, and handed my camera off to other people during the photoshoots I was in, so they took a ton more pictures, so all in all, I've got 843 images.  I haven't gone through all of them yet, and I'm sure some at least are pretty blurry.  Anyway, let's go in order.


We arrived Thursday afternoon, around 4 or 5.  By far the earliest we've ever arrived.

Our hotel room, once we'd brought all our things in.  The whole left wall in this picture was lined with boxes for my friend's costumes.  It took several trips with multiple people to get everything in.
After unpacking, we went and got our badges and met up with some other friends, then wandered around a bit more before coming back to the room.  All night, we (well, one of my friends and the girls we met up with earlier) worked on making a bow and arrow for someone's costume for the next day.  It was a cheap prop, but it worked well enough, I suppose.


Since we had picked up our badges on Thursday, and we were in the Hilton (which is connected to the Convention Center), we were able to walk right in on Friday morning.  After putting on our costumes, of course.

This is my friend's Canti (from FLCL) right before we left.  He has spent the better part of the last 6 months working on it.

Some people from Full Metal Panic on the way over.  I don't really know the show, but I liked the giant... mouse?  It squeaked with every step, too.

Friday morning crowds.  Nothing compared with what would come later.

We met a second red Canti, so my friend had to get some pictures together.

Kid, from Chrono Cross.  I always like seeing the lesser-done shows and games that I know.

The fountains were off all weekend.  I don't know why.  Maybe someone got in trouble last year, or maybe they were under maintenance or something.

The line for preregistration was 3 or 4 hours long in the morning.  At-door registration was probably about the same.  Glad I didn't have to wait through that in the 100+ degree weather.

The line for the Dealer's Hall was also stupidly long.  Well, it was just stupid.  They kept opening it and closing it, telling people to disperse and come back later (very few people did).  It seemed like no one really knew what was going on.  Apparently, the line was too long for fire codes or something.  Hopefully they'll figure out how to organize it better for next year.

You're not an anime girl!

My Little Pony was popular this year.  I haven't watched the show, but one of my friends was in this shot, so I got the picture anyway.

Canti vs Castle Crashers.

White mages are always classic.  I think I made his day when I asked for his picture and not the picture of the two (much fancier) costumes next to him.  I'm not sure, but I think the other two were from one of the newer Final Fantasy games.  I'm not that familiar with the latest ones.

My friend (middle), our friend (right), and her friend (left).  We split up shortly after this picture so I could get autographs.

While in line for Gen Urobuchi's autograph, the people just behind me started playing the game from Steins;Gate (which I haven't watched).  It looked interesting.  Simple game (I still remember all the rules), but complex strategy.  Like chess.

Nagisa!  Clannad is still my favorite show ever.

Dr. Wily.  Not a costume I expected to see.

Tomoya from Clannad.  Too bad I didn't see him with the Nagisa earlier.  I also didn't bring my Tomoya cosplay this year.

Final Fantasy VI seems to be gaining in popularity over the past few years.  It's become increasingly common to see characters from it, especially in large groups.  This is Terra/Tina Branford and Relm Arrowny.  VI is still the best Final Fantasy.  And video game.  Ever.

Here's me.  I'm dressed as Arc from the DS remake of Final Fantasy III, in his Freelancer (base) job outfit.

Guarding the escalators.  The closer one is one of the characters from Heroes of Newearth.  I haven't played it and don't remember the character's name, but the person in the costume said he's actually a developer for the game.  Pretty cool.  They were standing there for at least 10 or 15 minutes.

Then they got in a fight.

Not from an anime, but still a cool suit of armor.  He didn't make it himself, though (I asked).

Lucia from Lunar II!  I loved that game.  I keep thinking one of these days I should go as Hiro.

Marle from Chrono Trigger.  She has the crossbow on her back, too.

Some of my friend's friends dressed in Black Rock Shooter cosplays.

Shortly after we returned to the hotel room for the night, we looked out the window and saw a fireworks show some two or three hundred feet away in the baseball stadium.  I guess someone won.  We recorded most of the show on camera.  It lasted a little over 10 minutes, which I think is longer than the 4th of July fireworks I saw.
I'll come back and post stuff from Saturday and Sunday sometime later.  If you see yourself in here, feel free to post a comment.  If you saw me take a picture of you, and it's not in here, send me a message and I can send you the photo(s).  I have far too many to post them all in a blog.

Otakon quickly approaches

I'll be going to my 5th Otakon tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, right after class gets out.  I haven't had time to make any new costumes, unfortunately, so I'll be reusing some of my favorite ones from previous years.  This year, I'll be going as Arc from the DS remake of Final Fantasy III (Freelancer job) on Friday, and as Archer from Fate/Stay Night on Saturday.  Sunday will probably be plainclothes.

My plan this year is to get a ton of autographs from famous people.  I'm planning to get the English cast of Madoka to all sign the donation poster I got last year, along with Gen Urobuchi, the writer for the show.  I also want to get Ibuki Fuuko's voice actress to sign my copy of the Full Voice version of Clannad I have, right next to her picture in the manual.  There are a couple other people I'll try to catch as well, like Hirano Aya (Haruhi, etc.) if she's giving autographs.

I'll be in the Carnival Phantasm photoshoot on Saturday afternoon (1pm at the indoor fountains, moving to outdoor if weather is good) and the Fate one on the 3F terrace at 10.  If you go to Otakon, say hi if you see me!  I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures of the con, and I'll post some of the best ones at least on here.

Day 36: The Voyage Home

I was debating what to call this post.  The Odyssey, The End of All Things... I think this one is the least dramatic.  Bonus points if you get all the references.

I went to Book Off as planned, and ended up buying two mangas: a Love Plus book, and Hidan no Aria-chan.  They were both pretty cheap, and I made sure to only buy ones that had furigana so that I would be able to at least read if not understand everything.

That shopping trip took longer than planned, so I made it back to the house a little after 11:00, and we grabbed my bags and set off for the station.  We did have someone take our picture together, which is the only picture we got the whole week, and the train pulled in a few seconds later at 11:13.  I said a very hurried goodbye and jumped on.

When I made it to the main Yokkaichi station, I couldn't find the ticket machine for the next leg of my trip, so I had to ask the person at the counter.  He helped me and gave me a ticket for the 11:59 Limited Express to Namba, which cost 150 yen more than I had expected, but that was still within my planned budget deviation.  I went up to the platform and waited for about 20 minutes before accidentally boarding the 11:55 Express train instead.  They shouldn't name their trains so similarly and have the times so close together.

How it actually happened is that I asked one of the station workers if the train that was just pulling in matched my ticket, but he was hurrying on board and just took a quick glance at my ticket before motioning me inside and examining it more fully.  As soon as the doors closed and the train started moving, he said it was the wrong train.  However, he was kind enough to help me figure out what to do, and he talked to the conductor and informed him about my situation.  He got off at the next stop, though, and I got passed along through a few different workers on the train until we got to the stop where they told me to get off.  During the ride, I saw the train I was supposed to be on pass by us, which was pretty discouraging.  However, at least that meant that I was heading in the right direction, which up until that point I didn't even know.

When I got off the train, the conductor spoke to one of the workers at that station, who passed me along to someone else, who finally got my ticket changed to the Urban Liner instead of the Limited Express.  I had some trouble understanding what everyone was saying, because they were generally speaking really quickly.  Plus I don't know train station lingo.  I understood that I would be getting on another train that would get me to Namba about 20 minutes later than I'd planned (meaning I'd miss my desired connection to the airport), and that I wasn't actually in the system but would just have to take whatever seat was free.  Usually the express-type trains have assigned seating.

I then waited at that station for about 20 more minutes until the Urban Liner train came by, and got on near the front.  Fortunately, there was a big enough space to fit myself and my luggage all together.  So we sped along, making no more stops until we got to Namba.  I guess the Urban Liner is even faster than the Limited Express, or at least stops less.

When I got out, I looked around the station and asked a couple of different workers for directions to the airport line.  The first guy wasn't very helpful, but I think I may have asked the question wrong.  The second person was much more direct.  The airport train ticket cost about 800 yen less than I expected, which more than made up for the earlier ticket costing more.  In all, I have roughly $30-35 in yen right now.  And in the end, I finished my trip $3.22 under budget (not counting the yen I had left over, because I haven't converted that back and in the US it's useless, so it's basically just an expensive souvenir at this point).  Back to the story.

I got to the platform with my ticket, and asked one last person to make sure it was the right place, then waited until the next train came and left.  Since Namba is the end of the line, it was waiting at the station for quite a while before departure, which made me a bit nervous, since I'd already missed the one I'd planned to take.  Finally, after stopping at every station along the way (the train I'd wanted to take would have been the faster express), I arrived at the airport with about 85 minutes until my plane left.  Usually you're supposed to arrive 2 hours early, and 3 or more hours early for an international flight... but Japan's airports are faster.  I made my way through, checked my bags, and got on the plane with no hassle, no difficulties.  It was really smooth.  I didn't have much extra time at all, and if I'd missed that last train I probably wouldn't have made it, but still, it went quickly enough that I wasn't really worried about missing my plane anymore.

The plane rides were mostly uneventful.  I noticed that all the food on the way home had Japanese labels instead of English ones, even though the crew was mostly American.  The flight was also a lot more crowded than when I went to Japan, and a much higher percentage of Americans than Japanese, whereas it was the other way around on my way there.  Another interesting thing is that during my flight across the Pacific, night passed — in about 4 hours — and the sun rose again, and it was still Saturday.  Long distance flying is so weird.

During the plane ride, I tried reading the manga I bought.  The Hidan no Aria book is incredibly difficult to follow.  It's in 4koma format (4-panel comic strip, basically), but I can hardly understand half of it, even with the furigana.  I gave up after just a page or two.  Then I switched to Love Plus, which was much, much easier.  I read the entire first chapter (about 30 pages) and understood all but 3 or 4 words.  Frankly, I'm amazed.  If only the game were as easy to understand.

I stopped in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Baltimore before finally meeting up with my family and driving home, arriving shortly after midnight on Saturday/Sunday night, concluding the longest day of my life (37 hours, 26 of which were spent traveling).

My sleep schedule is still a little messed up, obviously, but I'm doing alright.  My next semester of summer classes started today, and I made it to my 9:30 am class just fine, but my eyes are hurting from lack of sleep, or sleep at odd times.  Still, it's surprisingly easy to readjust, just like it was when I arrived in Japan.  I guess I'm naturally suited to resist jet lag.  I'm sure it also helps that I was staying up super late the last few nights before I came home.

Well, that concludes this post.  I'll post a few final pictures soon, but I don't have them on hand at the moment; they're still on the camera.  I'm not sure how much use I'll make of this blog in the future, but I'll probably keep it up a little for the more interesting events in my life.  I doubt it will be as detailed or as frequent as it has been up until now, though.

Days 34-36: Preparation for departure and farewell

Once again, not a whole lot to say about these days.  I didn't end up going out and doing anything exciting, although I did go into downtown Yokkaichi with Charlie for dinner last night.  He took me out to a Chinese place.  It helps that he speaks Chinese.  There were actually a lot of Chinese people on the street there, too.  It wasn't exactly a great neighborhood, but we were okay.

I did get out some to do shopping and such, but otherwise I've mostly been at home preparing to leave.  I'm going to do one last bit of shopping this morning at Book Off and see if I can find a couple of good mangas with Charlie's help.  I haven't bought any yet, but they've got really cheap ones, and reading will definitely help to improve my vocabulary.

After that's done, I'll get to the train station around 11:00 for the 11:13 train, and start my journey back home.  It should take roughly 25 hours.  That's a long trip.  I've got three train rides, followed by three plane rides and a car ride before I get home.  I'll be bringing my two suitcases, which each now weigh in at about 48 pounds, and my backpack, at about 25 pounds.  At least the weight is a little better distributed than when I came to Charlie's house, but it'll still be a pain lugging it all around.

Okay, I'm going to finish up the last-minute packing (like with this laptop) and head out.  It's been fun here in Japan.  I hope to return someday.  Bye!

Days 31-33: Living in Yokkaichi

The past few days have been pretty slow as far as noteworthy events go.  I've been mostly spending my time at my friend Charlie's house, but I've also gone around and seen some of the local town.  Charlie works during the afternoons and evenings, so I'm mostly left to my own devices.  Monday was mostly spent recovering from my trip to Tokyo, but I also went out shopping for a couple things to use around the house, like soap, and some milk and cereal for some cheap breakfasts that should last all week.  Later that night, we went out to a bigger shopping mall and got some more food for various meals.

My arms and shoulders were extremely sore from Saturday through Monday night, because of lugging around about 100 pounds of baggage.  I didn't mention it before, but it did make Akihabara a little less enjoyable than it could have been.  I mostly tried to ignore it anyway.  They're still a little tight now, but it's not too bad.

On Tuesday, I sat in on one of Charlie's English lessons with a couple of small boys.  He seemed like a pretty good teacher, and the kids were alright.  It was pretty fun to watch.  I participated a little bit, but there wasn't much for me to do.  His boss wants him to teach by pure immersion, so I couldn't practice my Japanese with them, either, since I was supposed to be speaking English only.  His boss was a pretty nice woman, though, and we talked for a while in both English and Japanese.  She even took us out for a light lunch at the shopping mall's cafe.

After all that was over, I went to Book Off, a used book/movie/game chain, and got a couple more Japanese games: Lunar: Silver Star Story and Remember 11: The Age of Infinity, for PS and PS2, respectively.  I already own Lunar in English, but it was 500 yen, so I couldn't pass that up.  Remember 11 was also 500 yen, and it's a visual novel I've been playing in English with a fan translation patch, so when I saw that I could purchase it legally, I had to do that.  I try to get my games legally whenever possible, but that game hadn't been possible until now.

Today, I've mostly just sat at home.  Charlie went out to work around 1:30 and got back around 9:00, and in the meantime I've done a bunch of cleaning for him and played games.  I doubt anything exciting will happen in the rest of tonight.

There's a chance I'll go out to see Ise Jingu before I leave, but that sort of depends.  It's a 90-minute train ride to get there, which I really don't feel like doing, and it'll also cost another 4000 yen or so, which is basically the rest of my entire budget, aside from the train fares to get back to the airport and go home.  I haven't decided for sure one way or the other if I'll go.

Miscellaneous stuff:
  • The cereal selection in Japan is very limited.  Pretty much corn flakes (frosted or chocolate), or bran flakes.
  • When you buy anything, the store clerk will almost always tape the top of the bag closed for you.  This does not apply in grocery stores, because by and large you are expected to bag your own purchases there after you're done.
  • When people are trying to explain something, or give a somewhat-rehearsed speech or lesson (such as in church, at school, or my host family choosing their words carefully so I could understand), they tend to stress their particles (ha, ga, wo, ni, etc.).  Those come up every few words in a typical sentence, so the result is that they'll say a few words at a lower pitch, then a longer, more drawn out and higher pitched syllable for the particle, then back down and up and down and up.  Lots of people do this.
  • People here in Yokkaichi stare at me much more openly than they did in Izumi.  This isn't exactly a big city, and foreigners are pretty rare.  I haven't seen any other white people besides Charlie, so we attract a lot more attention.

Day 30: Akihabara

I'm no longer in Tokyo.  I took the overnight bus back to Nagoya, then the train to Yokkaichi.  But let me back up.  Yesterday was a very long day.  Continuing where my last post left off...

After we got cleaned up, we planned our trip to Akihabara in a little more detail, then went and got breakfast at Sukiya (すき家).  It's a common chain restaurant here in Japan.  I had curry rice, because it was cheap, but I soon regretted it, as the hot food was really not agreeing with my stomach at that hour.  It didn't last long, though, so it was okay.

Tokyo Station, shortly after our arrival on Saturday night.  The central station of the biggest city in the world, and it's practically deserted.

My capsule that I slept in.  My friend had the one above mine.

The view out of one of the capsule hotel windows.  The window itself was wide open, and it would have been easy enough to jump or fall out.  This really wasn't a great neighborhood, which was fairly obvious when we got there, but nothing happened, so it was okay.  The hotel itself was also rather unappealing.

The nearby park.  Near the station and the hotel.  It was actually kind of nice.  We spent an hour or more Saturday night wandering around here before going to bed.  My friend was trying to get a group of local people to invite us into a conversation, but it didn't happen.

Another part of the park.

A rocket park.  They really need adult playgrounds.  If there had been fewer people around, I probably would have gone on this one.  When we saw it again in the morning, it was crawling with kids.

Tokyo Sky Tree.  It doesn't look that big in this picture, but we walked closer and closer, and it didn't seem to move much, so that's gotta be pretty far away.
We used the Tokyo rail map we picked up the day before to find how to get to Akihabara, then went to the station and set out.  We arrived probably around 11:00 or so.  The first thing I noticed at the station was that all the ads were anime- or game-based.  That's not common elsewhere.  The second thing was a huge tower labeled SEGA, to which my friend was immediately drawn.  We headed towards it and found ourselves (after a few stops) on the main street of Akihabara.  Both sides were lined with shops featuring gigantic images of anime characters, many of which I recognized (and took pictures of).  The main stretch of the street is probably a little over a mile long, but the shops spread into side streets, too, for roughly a square mile of solid otaku shopping, I'd guess.  Except that the shops had anywhere up to 7 floors each, so multiply that by at least 4.  And I covered ALL of it.  Except the restaurants.  And the technology shops.  But I at least looked in every shop, even if I didn't go in.

Our first open view of the main street.

Looking to the right.

After walking to the right quite a ways, looking across the street.

Persona 4 had a huge ad campaign going here for the newest version, Persona 4 Golden.  There were gigantic posters and murals everywhere.
The stores were divided fairly evenly among anime/manga/related media, PC and console games, and miscellaneous technology (cameras, phones, computers...).  There were also lots of restaurants, including maid cafés.  I didn't stop to eat, though.  I'm not really interested in the maid café thing.  Speaking of maids, almost every street corner had one or more girls in maid costumes or other similar attention-grabbing outfits handing out flyers or other ads for their stores.

I was sorely disappointed at the lack of true cosplayers there.  I think I saw two, plus someone dressed as Saber from Fate/Stay Night to promote the store's upcoming release.  I didn't recognize any but her, though.

The only true cosplay I saw and recognized, and it's part of the store's advertising.  Oh well.
One of the side streets, and there's still this much advertising on the buildings.

They close the main road down on Sundays for a good portion of the day, so people just walk everywhere freely.

Back to the shopping.  The stores had just about anything I could have wanted to buy.  I must have seen thousands each of figures, CDs, video games, mangas, light novels, doujinshi, anime magazines and so on, and hundreds of wall scrolls, visual novels, and miscellaneous other items.  I ended up buying Sister Princess for Playstation, since my friend said he can let me use his Japanese PS2 back in the US since he obviously isn't using it now.  I also tried to buy the Haruhi PS2 roleplaying game, but I found out too late (only after I got home) that the box only had the included figure, and not the game itself.  Very disappointing.  At least it wasn't too expensive.  I also got a White Album Cospa t-shirt for 2/3 off, several music CDs, a Noizi Itou/Zatsuon art collection CD, and a Little Busters! Kud Wafter mini handkerchief.  I planned before even coming to Japan that before I left, I'd have to find an anime handkerchief to buy and bring back.  I'm satisfied with this one.  Surprisingly, the only figure I bought was the one that was supposed to have the Haruhi game.  There were a ton I would have wanted, but the lack of space in my suitcase and the insanely high prices on a lot of them kept me from buying any.  Honestly, I could import a lot of them for the same price or cheaper in the US, if I looked around carefully.

Here's one store that had things that would be nigh-impossible to find in the US.  The entire store was packed with retro games and consoles.  These are original Famicom cartridges.

And here we have Super Famicom.  Including Chrono Trigger over there, for a whopping 680 yen.  That's pretty cheap.  The store also had a guarantee that all the games and hardware worked.

A portion of the Gameboy collection.

Many of the stores had these sorts of labels on each floor, saying what was for sale where.  This isn't the best example.

There were quite a few anime card games around too (the green and yellow sign in the middle is advertising that).  You could buy cards and play in a lot of the shops.

In addition to the labels outside, most stores had the steps show you what was coming up on the next floor.

The stairwell wall posters also gave you a hint of what to expect.

The biggest find and purchase for me, though, was the one thing I had really hoped to be able to get in Japan: The Key 10th Anniversary Memorial Box, which includes all of their Visual Novels through Little Busters! Ecstasy (Planetarian, AIR, Kanon, CLANNAD, Tomoyo After, and LB! Ex).  The reason I wanted this so bad is it's the only version available of AIR, Tomoyo After, and LB! Ex that doesn't have the adult content, and it's a collector's item besides.  I'm pretty sure it has more than just the games inside, but I haven't opened it yet.  I had previously found the box for sale, used, on eBay, but it was over $400!  This one was 8800 yen (about $110), although it's also used.  I actually asked the guy at the counter if he had the game, and he looked it up and said no, but I decided to go ahead and browse anyway, and sure enough, there it was.  It was the only copy I found in all the stores I went to, so I don't think any more of them exist.  I really lucked out.

My spoils.  In the top left, the Haruhi figma (minus game :( ).  The top right has music: Kyon's Sister image CD, Genesis of Aquarion opening CD, Deep Blue Sky and Pure White Wings vocal CD, Bamboo Blade OP/ED CD, Fate/Stay Night: This Illusion, and the Rewrite OST.  I haven't listened to any music from Rewrite, but it's Key, and from my experience they can do no wrong when it comes to that sort of thing.  On the bottom left is my t-shirt, in the middle is Sister Princess, and to the right is the Noizi Itou art collection.  On the bottom is my Kud handkerchief.

The big find.  I can hardly believe it was actually there, but it certainly took some searching to find it.  Also, this thing is HEAVY.  I had to lug it around the rest of the day, and I'll have to figure out the best way to bring it back to the US.
A note if you're planning a trip to Akihabara.  Akihabara is NOT KID-FRIENDLY.  About 3 in 4 stores have adult products.  Of those, I'd say about 20% have them in visually concealed areas or on separate floors.  The rest are right out in the open, usually (but not always) mixed in with all the good products.  You really can't avoid it here.  And, as with everything else in Japan, they never actually check IDs or anything for age, even if you buy it.

Oh, so my friend had to leave around 4:00 to make it home in time to go to work the next day.  I stayed by myself to finish exploring.  The shops seemed to start closing up around 7:00 or 7:30, and by 9, it was basically shut down except for the big ones.  That really surprised me.  I had kind of figured everything would be open until midnight or later.

Akihabara in the evening, as things start to wind down.

One of the two station entrances right there by the main street.  I took this one in, but not back out.
Since I'd seen basically everything at least once already, and run out of money to buy anything else, I decided to call it a night and go to the station.  But actually, I didn't even have enough money on me to make it back to Yokkaichi anymore.  I could afford the bus to Nagoya, but probably not the trains, so I needed to find an international ATM.  I was also on no schedule of when I needed to be back, so rather than take the train from Akihabara to the Tokyo station (where the buses would be), I decided to walk.  It took about an hour, maybe a bit more, counting stops to rest and look at maps.  I didn't actually have a map besides the train system one (and I still don't), and those aren't exactly drawn with complete accuracy in mind, so I just knew I needed to go southish.  The maps you see on the street in Tokyo don't put North on top, though.  Generally they orient it to the direction you're facing.  This is a problem when they forget to put on any indication of which way actually is North.  Anyway, it was a nice little adventure, and I was fortunate that I found maps every couple blocks to help guide me.  I also found an ATM that worked, after three that didn't, so I managed to get the money to make it back.

Even after leaving Akihabara a good 10-minute walk behind me, I still ran into these Evangelion "Keep out" cones.

A cool bridge I passed under on my walk.

Another view of the two layers of bridges.

These were decorations on the bridge.  Pretty impressive.

Oh, I missed one thing.  In Akihabara, on my way towards Tokyo station, I encountered someone from my home college!  He was one of my friends back in my first Japanese class, but he didn't come on the school trip.  Talk about a small world.  We met each other on the opposite side of the planet completely by chance in a fairly densely-packed area of the largest city in the world.  I mean, really, what are the chances?  So we talked for a while, reveling in the unlikeliness of the situation before parting ways.  I'll probably see him back in the US sometime.

So yeah, eventually I made it to the station, and took the 11:20 overnight bus to Nagoya.  I arrived around 5:45am, after little if any sleep, and I worked my way back through the train system to my friend's house.  I've gotten pretty good at navigating Japan by myself, it seems.  Which is a good thing, because I still don't have a cell phone.