Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kawagoe Fall Festival, 2008

Back again. Every year Kawagoe has a big ol festival in October. A memory I have is wandering around in the dead of night before the streets are full of people. Kawagoe has an interesting feel, especially at night. Drunk high school students, shady alleyways, and seedy gangsters rolling down the shopping street in low rider Toyota Centuries bumping crappy Japanese hip hop.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My New Ramen Blog

I've started a new site dedicated to giving you the straight dope on noodles in Tokyo. From now on I will post all my ramen writeups at:

Ramen Adventures

You can find ramen links and more than enough titillating ramen goodness to keep you going. Every time I eat ramen and have a camera with me to take some shots, I'll post it up for you. Word.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

People Taking Photos of Booth Girls and Cosplay

The title says it all... photos of people taking photos.

At the Tokyo Game Show 2008.

I think it was Plato who said that art has no place in an ideal society. A painting is a feeble attempt to recreate the true form of something. So an anime is imitating form (form of space princesses battling octopus aliens?). A cosplayer is imitating this. In turn, the dozens of camera guys are seeking to best imitate this. And then I seek to imitate that. The fact that I later go home and dress up like said space alien octopus just confounds the situation.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

It's the 2008 Tokyo Game Show!

That's right, games of the video sort.

I wasn't always an English teacher in Japan.

Nope, many years ago I decided that since I like computers and got along with them better than the average person I should pursue a miserable life in front of a screen. The logical step was to study Computer Science in University. I was accepted to the UCLA Engineering school in 1996, where I studied for about 5 years. The next logical step was to find a job using my degree. At the time I was into video games. BIG into video games. We're talking 48 hours of Diablo II, bringing my computer to friend's houses for LAN parties, reading magazines on the subject. It wasn't good.

Don't get me wrong, I love video games. I remember coming home on my 8th birthday and seeing the 8-bit NES waiting for me. I remember starting a club in elementary school called "Nintendo Maniacs" and publishing a monthly newsletter with my friends. I remember playing countless hours of Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat at my local 7-11 convenience store. I remember building a subwoofer couch and playing Final Fantasy 8 for hours and hours. I remember dating girls I met on World of Warcraft.

But... I remember devoting every minute of every day to this endeavor. It was almost all I did. I ended up working for video game companies. These jobs weren't stable, and the whole team would often be laid off after a game was finished. So I would work on games, come home and play games, get laid off, get enemployment to play games non stop for 6 months, then repeat. My social life suffered immensly. My health became an issue. It was not a happy time.

When I came to Japan, I brought with me only an old laptop. It was a forced cold turkey situation. "But Japan is the mecca of video games!" you might be saying. Yes and No on that. Japanese arcades are crazy cool, but it's about a buck every game. So you can't afford to play for hours and hours. Also the arcades stink of stale smoke and otaku b.o. It's a casual thing, going to the arcades here. Home games in Japan are mostly of the super in depth robot princess in space role playing variety, which needs a good grasp of the language and an interest in super in depth robot princess in space role playing games. Portable games are very popular, but beyond the funny factor of playing a game called Princess Suit Battle Mecha: Endeavor the World, it's just not something I can get into.

I might get into it again if I bought an XBOX 360, but I like my new lifestyle, so I won't do that. Maybe I'm purging before I am able to find a balance. There... I've finished talking about my video game life.

No photos... but in Japan every otaku has $3000 worth of camera equipment, so this rule was not enforced.

It was very crowded. This is the cosplay section.

I have a few friends who have or still do work for EA. Their headquarters is a big shiny building about 5 minutes from my house in America. They had a few games you could play. I waited in line to play one. 60 minutes and 1 crappy demo later, I decided not to wait in any more lines.

60 minutes was the normal wait to play a game which will be out in the next couple of months anyways. So if you do go to the Tokyo Game Show, you could maybe play about 6 games if you stay the whole day.

Lots of card battle games on display. This warrior cat will seriously throw down some crazy powerful card and win the game. Equal numbers of young children and adults. Most of the adults looked more interested in the games though. Card battle games are very popular in Japan. Most arcades have a whole floor dedicated to this genre.

Airsoft guns modeled after the guns in the popular Resident Evil game series. When the zombies come (just as Resident Evil predicts!) these poor Japanese will only have small rubber BBs to defend themselves. God bless the USA.

Zombies are scary? Imagine a few hundred of these coming at you.

She had an entire album of these beasts. Each one unleashing unspeakable forms of hell on earth. Or maybe she was just dressing up cute dogs in tutus.

Sold out!!?!?! Only about $10 each. But I had no room in my bag. I found a place giving away free bouncy balls, which are the key to teaching kids English. I'm talking about prizes here people! Participate in class and win a bouncy ball. I am such a good teacher.

How many times can you tap the button in 10 seconds? There was once, in the 80s, a guy named Takahashi Meijin, who could tap buttons on a controller at extreme speeds. I think I met him once when I worked for Hudson.

Yeah, I used to work for Hudson back in California.

I also used to work for Konami.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day. The 30mm lens I was using isn't really the best for this sort of event. You really have to get up in people's face to get a nice shot. I like the more natural shot, as opposed to a posed one. Not really possible when you are 1 meter from someone.

I'll post more cosplay photos next week.

Shooting Disco. It's a fight.

Shooto is on of those mixed martial arts combat sports. 2 men enter the ring, beat the shit out of each other for a couple 5 minute rounds, and then act like they are good friends when the match is over. There's blood and... disco music. For some unknown reason this event was called "Shooting Disco."

The ring is standard. No cages or octagons or obstacles like in battlebots.

I was there supporting Guy. He's on the left.

His opponent came out swinging.

But the only one who could connect was Guy.

In between rounds, the fighters slow dance to Frank Sinatra songs. Not sure which martial art that comes from. Maybe capoeira.

Pleasure or pain?

My money's on pain.

Most matches went the full 2 rounds. But a winner was always pretty clear.

Who you ask?

Guy was on point.

This guy was raw.

Dude in the pink bunny shorts had 2/3 of the audience on his side.

Later we went for cheap food and beer in Kabukicho. Oh Kabukicho, you win every time!