3rd & 4th February 2023: Final Fantasy Distant Worlds 35th Anniversary – Coral – in Barcelona (Spain)

3rd February 2023: Mummies, fish, and music

Though I would not have minded to become a gamer back in the day, my joint issues discouraged this. Thus, my relation with the Final Fantasy saga is tangential. However, my sibling is a big fan of one of the instalments, and last year I accompanied them to Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour in Barcelona in 2021. Having had more time to prepare for this one, we got VIP tickets, and I planned a two-day outing.

Our arrival in Barcelona happened right on schedule, and we walked from the station to Caixa Forum Barcelona to see the exhibit Momias de Egipto. Redescubriendo seis vidasEgyptian mummies; Rediscovering six lives, in collaboration with the British Museum. I am not sure whether the items are part of the actual collection over there or are in the archives, because I don’t really remember seeing any of the mummies. The Barcelona exhibits focus around six mummies and how they lives could have been before their deaths. Aside from the actual mummies and their sarcophagi or coffins, there are objects that they may have used in life, and images of what the bodies look like inside the wrappings.

It was at the very same time interesting and creepy, everything we can get to know through technology about these poor souls who passed away millennia ago. There was information about their age, illnesses, and objects they had been buried with – god statuettes, jewellery, funerary miniatures… One of the mummies in display was that of a small child with his face painted on the wrapping, that was more than a bit creepy, to be honest.

A collage showing a a mummy and a turquoise wrapping; a sarcophagus; four canope jars; three statuettes: Horus, an ibis, Thoth; close-up of a sarcophagus, with bright colours; a mummy and a plain wooden casket.

We took the underground towards the waterfront to visit L’Aquàrium de Barcelona, located in the harbour. With more than 11,000 animals and 450 species, it is the largest aquarium dedicated to the Mediterranean Sea. It was inaugurated in 1995 and it holds 35 aquariums, including an oceanarium with capacity for almost four million litres of water (36 metres diameter, five metres high) with two tunnels at the bottom. Species-wise, the aquarium does not have anything out of the ordinary, but the size of the tiger sand sharks is impressive. There are a few sharks, some tropical fish, axolotls, frogs… and a very fun sperm-whale room to keep the jellyfish in darkness.

A collage of the aquarium. Seahorse; swimming sharks; anaemone; baby dogfish shark; tiny crustacean similar to a prawn; sand tiger shark; octopus trying to eat the viewers; penguin showing off; fabulous tiny jellyfish

We grabbed an expensive-but-convenient bite to eat at the aquarium itself during some of the feeding events to make sure the cafeteria was empty. AFter we had finished viewing all the exhibits, we went on towards the hotel, which was well-placed between the auditorium and the shopping centre. Since check in had been so bad when we went to the previous Final Fantasy concert, this time we had booked different accommodation, and it was a total 180 – everyone in the hotel was super friendly, and we had zero issues. We procured some sandwiches for dinner, then got ready for the concert.

The Final Fantasy Distant Worlds 35th Anniversary – Coral – directed by Arnie Roth is a compilation of the background pieces from all the Final Fantasy games, from the first (1987) to the latest to date not counting the remakes (Final Fantasy XV, 2016. It was held at the CCIB – Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona. We had no idea what time doors would open, but I calculated that an hour should be good for queuing for merch and then get to our seats.

By the time we got to the queue, the concert booklet had already been sold out. When we reached the front, my favourite plush toys were also gone. I decided to get the previous year’s CD in order to get it signed later at the meet & greet event that was included in the ticket we had bought. Looking back, maybe I should have asked for the autographs on the tote bag we got for the spending.

The concert had two halves and an encore, and was… strangely not very coral, for something called so. The choir was placed over to one side, and only did three or four songs – they actually did not show up for the whole first half. The set list was accompanied by projected images on the screen and it was super-impessive to see the first 8-bit games at first compared to what the technology of the latest Advent Children (movie from Final Fantasy VII) managed to create.

    First half

  1. Final Fantasy I~III: Medley 2002
  2. Final Fantasy III: Eternal Wind
  3. Final Fantasy IV: The Red Wings ~ Kingdom of Baron
  4. Final Fantasy IV: Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV
  5. Final Fantasy V: Home, Sweet Home ~ Music Box
  6. Final Fantasy V: A New World
  7. Final Fantasy VI: Phantom Forest ~ Phantom Train ~ The Veldt
  8. Final Fantasy VI: Kids Run Through the City
  9. Final Fantasy I~VI: Battle Medley 2022

    Second half

  10. Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali
  11. Final Fantasy XI: Ragnarok
  12. Final Fantasy XII: Flash of Steel
  13. Final Fantasy VII: Aerith’s Theme
  14. Final Fantasy XIV: Torn from the Heavens
  15. Final Fantasy XV: Apocalypsis Noctis
  16. Final Fantasy IX: Not Alone
  17. Final Fantasy X: 素敵だね [Suteki da ne] (Isn’t it wonderful?)
  18. Final Fantasy Main Theme with Choir ~ The Definitive Orchestral Arrangement ~

    Encore

  19. Final Fantasy X: Zanarkand
  20. Final Fantasy VII: One-Winged Angel

The concert was all right. I did not feel the general chill I had through the previous one. I really liked Liberi Fatali and One-Winged Angel, but I guess I don’t have enough of an emotional connection with most of the games. Aside from the conductor Arnie Roth, we had composer Yoko Shimomura present, and vocalist RIKKI, who is the original singer of 素敵だね in Japanese, and did the live version.

Collage. Three pictures show a classical orchestra with different things projected on the screen behind them - the logo of Distant worlds, several 8-bit screenshots of games, a very realistic depiction of a blond man with a very unrealistic sword. The last picture shows singer RIKKI, composer Yoko Shimomura and conductor Arnie Roth

The M&G was fun, and I got to tell Roth that when I grow up I want to have as much fun as he does at work. They signed autographs and took pictures with people – it was much less stiff than the usual, too. We headed off afterwards for a sandwich, a shower and a good night’s sleep. In general though, not much value for money considering how much more expensive the VIP tickets were, even though the seats were good. Also, the fact that most merchandising sold out showed poor planning.

Collage. The ticket reading the name of the concert, the autographs of the three main artists, and a plush of a Final Fantasy imaginary being, it looks like a white teddy bear with a huge pink nose, a red ball on top of it and cute wings

4th February 2023: Ramen with Friends

We had bed and breakfast at the hotel, and the latter was fantastic. The buffet had both a juice bar and a milk bar – both of which I sampled, of course. I overdid it with the fried egg, I fear, but they were just cooked and it looked just too appetizing not to fall for one. After breakfast, we packed up, vacated the room, and asked the hotel to keep our bags for a couple of hours. We went to the science museum Museu de Ciències Naturals NAT, where we spent a couple of hours. This is the only place where they refused to speak Spanish to us.

The museum is divided in several areas. The first one is “history of the Earth”, where you can see a few interactive exhibits, fossils and reproductions. The second one is the collection of living animals, most of the stuffed, some of them just skeletons. There was another one about fungi – with the edible ones exhibited in tins. Then there was one on plants, and finally rocks and minerals. Not a bad place to spend a couple of hours, but it is just one of those places that takes itself much more seriously than it should, to the point that it felt pretentious. Some items were exhibited over and over again, as if they just wanted to use up the room – I counted at least eight elbaite specimens in different locations, and there were a bunch of reproductions taking up important spaces, you would believe they were originals if not paying lots of attention to the writing, and the blue light made for horrid photographs.

Collage. Four pictures show prehistoric animals in blue light, stuffed animals, a tin of mushrooms along real specimens, a red algae and some shiny rocks.

We transited to Sants train station to drop off my sibling’s bag at the cloakroom there and went on to meet my Barcelona friends E**** and P***o who had offered to take us to eat really-real Japanese ramen. Since I had a feeling that the restaurant would be on the small-ish side, and my sibling’s luggage was a bit oversized since they had cosplayed for the concert, I decided on the Sants detour for convenience.

The restaurant is called KOBUTA ramen i més (Kobuta Ramen and More) and I was amused when all of us made the same choice – tonkotsu miso ramen with an extra of half an egg, and water; then we shared some gyoza (dumplings) and karaage (fried chicken). The restaurant is not cheap, but the food makes up for that, it is very authentic Japanese food.

Collage. A dish of breaded fried chicken, some dumplings, and a bowl of ramen, with the ingredients floating - algae, half an egg, noodles, pork meat and spring onion

Though P***o had to leave early, the rest of us headed off towards the bullfighting-ring-turned shopping centre Arenas de Barcelona. There, we climbed up the terrace for views, then sat down for drinks and a long chat. We also popped into the local comic store, since it was convenient, and eventually we headed off to the station.

Collage. Shopping centre las Arenas, a round building that used to be a bullfighting ring, there are two pictures, one by daylight and another one at night, lit up. There's a picture of the views- two clock towers leading to a palace; finally three glasses together showing brightly coloured drinks - yellow, orange and dark pink

The train ride home was surreal. People playing music on their phones, yelling, talking loudly and making the footrests squeak – apparently there had been some kind of sporting event for kids and a lot of families were coming back home. All in all, not a bad couple of days, lots of laughs, I got to see dear friends and eat nice food, and listen to cool music – in the CCIB, not on the train.

11th & 12th December 2021: Final Fantasy Remake Orchestra World Tour, Barcelona (Spain)

11th December 2021: El Triángulo Friki

When the tickets for the FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Orchestra World Tour first came out, 2020 promised to be an amazing year. True, we all know how that turned out, but the point was that I did not have enough fun funds at that moment. So I just looked at the Barcelona dates, sighed, and never bought tickets because I decided that it was a low-priority event for me. Then, what happened happened and the tour was pushed forward to 2021. By chance, back in summer this year, I saw that it would take place on a Saturday, the 11th of December 2021. My sibling overheard me mulling whether I wanted to try to go or not this time over, since I had not done much on the nerdsphere for a while, and the low priotity was conflagrating with higher priortity and the still lacking fun budget. They didn’t know about this, though, and they proposed we went together. I thought it was a good opportunity for a weekend out, so I did some checking. We found some tickets that had been turned back, in an amazing place, actually – row #5 on the stalls. We booked a hotel and trains, and just went on with our lives.

The train left around 8:00 and arrived in Barcelona short from 11:00 – both of us had been in town before and were looking for an “alternative” plan. I had been checking out different options, and by pure chance, on Thursday, I found out that there is an area in Barcelona called Triángulo Friki, something akin to “the nerd triangle”. It is an area near Arc de Triomph that holds a bunch stores which specialise in comics, manga, figures, merchandising and so on. I thought it could be a fun thing to see, as Japanese stuff a hobby I share to some extent with my sibling.

We took the commuter train to the area (commuter train tickets are complementary with long-distance ones, which helps, as the Barcelona public transport is very expensive) and wandered around a bunch of shops, under the agreement not to spend too much money nor to buy anything that did not fit in our backpacks. We… failed the mission successfully. On the sixth or so shop I got myself a Christmas present that sure as hell did not fit in the backpack.

A collage showing the entrance to a bunch of comic and gaming stores. Most of them have a window showing Funko pops

One of the shops we visited was Tsume Store, in association with Global Freaks. Tsume is a business that 3D-prints statuettes from anime designs, and Global Freaks is a merchandise shop. They have a partnership and Tsume is selling some of its statuettes through Global Freaks – we saw one of them, priced at 1400€. Most of the figures were just for show. On the other hand, Global Freaks had several things we bought (remember the “mission failed successfully” comment? We spent way too much money on stuff that did not fit in the backpacks). Furthermore, they had a reproduction of a motorbike from Akira (アキラ), a famous manga / anime – a cyberpunk action story whose main character, Shōtarō Kaneda, rides it through Neo-Tokyo.

Tsume / Global freaks store in Barcelona. There are different pictures of resine statues of different sizes (and prices), and a reproduction of an anime motorbike.

We walked towards the area where the basilica designed by Gaudí, and consecrated to the Holy Family, Basílica de la Sagrada Família, which had been decorated with a new twelve-point 7.5-metre 5.5-tonne star. As there was a Christmas market around the basilica, I thought that the start was just for Christmas, but it turns out that it is there for good.

A modernist cathedral. It looks a bit like it's melting. It has four towers, plus one with a star, and a triangular façade

We took an underground train to the area where the venue was, and we were there around half an hour before hotel was open to check ins so we decided to have lunch first in the adjoining shopping centre. We ended up at an Udon, a wannabe fancy noodle bar chain. This was our first time getting our Covid passport checked as it’s not necessary where we’re from. The whole process was fast – open the PDF, zoom in, get it read with a device, and a green light with our names on it lit up (eventually I just screenshot the zoomed-in QR). I still felt a little uncomfortable due to the amount of people in the restaurant, so we ate as quick as possible before heading off to the hotel.

A bowl of ramen and a peek of a tempura plate in the background

It was the worst check-in experience ever. First of all, I think it’s stupid to demand a payment deposit on an already-paid booking. Second, they tried to charge me for the room again, we were given one card key for two people which didn’t even work, and we were “upgraded” to a room with a city view (16 € more expensive than our booking), but that only had amenities for one guest. We needed to get off the lift to request another card in order to get to the 21st floor, and we finally got two working cards. Oh, and the hotel was hosting a bunch of teams for some kind of handball championship who thought masks were for lesser beings and got away with it, despite the super-strict Covid-policy the hotel claimed to have, and with the obvious blessings of the clerks, despite other guests’ complaints.

Two views of Barcelona from above, one with daylight, the other one at night. The buildings are apartment blocks, rather regular, and you can guess the long streets that separate the different areas

We stayed in the room, just chatting and taking in the astonishing views (nah, I’m not being sarcastic (≧▽≦).) The FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Orchestra World Tour concert was to start at 20:00, but doors were at 18:30. It took place in the convention centre CCIB – Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona, which… actually turned up to be the auditorium of the local Natural Science Museum. That was confusing for a minute.

We were quite literally across the square so we just had to go down. It took just a few minutes to enter, and then we went into the goods queue, because my sibling absolutely needed a chokobo plush. We were in line for about half an hour, as we debated how expensive everything was! They decided that I needed a chokobo too, so I’m the proud owner of a Chokobo Black Mage now.

An adorable chokobo plush with a mage cape sitting on the leaflets we got from the concert.

After we had all our goods, we headed off to our seats – which had been occupied by two different people who had bought row five on the dress floor – but had tried the main floor stands, never mind that a lady told you which door you had to use when you went in, in order to avoid these “mistakes” . I decided that I did not care about causing a scene, so I just grabbed an usher and had her clear our seats. The guy on mine took my flyer too, but I found some more when the concert was over. I’m amused though that someone would buy a ticket on the first floor and then happily stroll down to the fifth row on the stalls – more than double the price.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a video-game player, that’s why this event was originally a low-priority one. When my wrist problems started, I was recommended not to play them any more. But I love video-game graphs and Final Fantasy VII designs more than any. I mean, I own the Advent Children DVD just because it’s pretty. I have to admit though that the concert blew my mind. The stage was full with a complete orchestra indeed, and a choir – the Ensemble Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. At the back of stage there was a screen that projected scenes from the game, both animations and gameplay. In the little emcees by conductor – and producer – Arnie Roth we also got messages from composers and producers from Japan. Furthermore, the composer Hamauzu Masashi was in attendance. We did not get Yosh Morita, from The Prophets, as it was originally announced, but singer Ricardo Afonso did a very decent job out of the power ballad Hollow.

Empty stage with chairs for the orchestra. There is a screen in the background reading Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour in front of a futuristic cityscape

    Part 1

  1. Prelude – Reunion –
  2. Opening medley
  3. Mako Reactor 1
  4. Flowers Blooming in the Church
  5. The Turks’ Theme
  6. Tight rope
  7. Stand up
  8. Words left unheard
  9. Tifa’s Theme – Seventh Heaven –
  10. Those who fight – Battle Medley –

    Part 2

  11. Anxious Heart
  12. Hurry!
  13. Jessie’s Theme
  14. Shinra’s Theme
  15. The Arsenal
  16. Those chosen by the Planet – Fate’s Calling –
  17. Arbiters of Fate – Singularity –
  18. Hollow
  19. Final Fantasy VII Main Theme

    Encore

  20. Aerith’s Theme
  21. One Winged Angel

I loved the Those who fight – Battle Medley –, and I’d say that one of the highlights was the song Hurry Up. Apparently, during a specific part of the game you have to put the rather-uptight main character in a dress and teach him to dance in a night club. I also really liked the choir interventions. The concert ended on a hype – for a second I thought it would end in the slow song, but no, we got the fantastic theme for the bad guy Sephiroth, One-winged angel.

The stage again, this time it is full with the orchestra and the director. The screen shows the main character of the game, Cloud, with blond spiky hair and a ridiculously big sword, holding a bright ball in his hand.

The concert lasted for two hours and a half, including the intermission – in which I got to see (and hug!) friends. After the ending, we tried to go and grab some sushi at the shopping centre, but they were already closing down – so in the end we just got a salad and some chips at McDonald’s and took it to the hotel – then we showered, rearranged luggage and purchases, and went to bed.

12th December 2021: Walk by the ocean

Our original plan after breakfast was to take a walk by the beach, then check out and ride the underground, but we realised that we had a train station about 20 minutes away, and we could get a detour by the seaside and make it a bit longer – and if we took the train, we had a free ride.

When we checked out we got the same person who had checked us in. They still had to charge us for the tourist tax, and I had that ready in cash. They insisted that they had to deduct that from the deposit and give us the change, they could not give us a fifty-buck note. They had to give us the change. With lots of coins. They did not even check the room for damage, so what was even the point of the deposit?

We left the hotel, and walked towards the station. We spent a little time at the beach Platja del Fòrum and the mouth of the river Río Besòs before we reached the station – lots of people walking their dogs, and lots of happy dogs playing on the beach and with the waves. In the background, the former thermal station with three chimneys looming over the sand – Central Tèrmica de Sant Adrià de Besòs. Had we had more time, we would have taken the time to try and get to it, but due to external reasons we had tickets for the noon train and it was already 10:45 – and I am paranoid about schedules.

A sandy beach with a factory building in the background, it has three chimneys made of brick. The waves are coming in gently.

We took the commuter train, then the long distance train. When we arrived, before going home, we made a short stop to have some make-up sushi for the one we could not get the previous night. And some side Chinese dumplings.

Sushi and bao plate

Walking distance Saturday: 9.05 km
Walking distance Sunday: 5.54 km

4th September 2018: また今度 with a red rose petal (HYDE LIVE 2018, Strike 3) {Japan, summer 2018}

First thing in the morning I got packed (hoping that my suitcase did not get lost again) 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。. Then I went to Odaiba [お台場] on my own as D****e was working and there was my last HYDE live for the season. There was wind and rain, but it was not bad especially considering that there was a super typhoon in Osaka that slammed a ship against a bridge and cut down communications to the airport (O_O)!. I mean, compared to that I won’t even complain that my hairdo went to hell because woah there.

I checked out the Venus Fort to check if there were any new goods, but as there were not, I moved on. I took some pictures of the Megaweb Toyota City Showcase [メガウェブ トヨタ シティ ショウケース].

And History Garage [ヒストリーガレージ].

It was at this time 12:55 so I hurried to the Gundam to check whether it moved at 13:00 and I was lucky. It changed its helmet and all (≧∇≦).

After that I went to eat ramen. I could not read the super long name of the ramen to save my life, so I just said the number. The girl just turned to the kitchen and ordered ‘tamago’ (;¬_¬). seriously.

After lunch I went to see the waves.

And I got a drink at Starbucks.

Then I joined the people wait for HYDE to come in, waved at him, and thought that he did not look it awake. Once D****e made it we went inside.

Because I had not spent enough in this trip (sarcasm), something that I did before the concert, however, was get the STARSET CD and M&G experience that included a handshake and an autograph. I felt that they had done an awesome job and deserved the credit and the cheering. So after the concert I went to meet with them, and they were were extremely nice.

One of the things I like about Odaiba concerts is that they keep the barriers up, so I can hold onto something and I don’t need to stay back to have something to hold on to, so I can get rather close even when I’m tired or sore. This time it paid off because I managed to find a petal from one of the roses HYDE threw as I was leaving.

Finally we got home and D****e helped me so I got my trains sorted out to go to the airport the following day.

Note: There is a longer commentary about HYDE Live 2018 over at SemiRandom

30th June 2018: Spanish breakfast, Japanese entertainment (Madrid, Spain)

30th June 2018: Spanish breakfast, Japanese entertainment (Madrid, Spain)

My friend C***** came over to Madrid for one of those crazy crazy things that we do – a crazy Saturday. She took a bus overnight and I went to meet her up for breakfast. The day started with a good omen, because I caught a rainbow around 7:30.

To celebrate that we had met up for the first time in a long while, we went to the most famous chocolaterie in Madrid, Chocolatería San Ginés for chocolate and churros. As her bus arrived in the early morning, I think we were there around 8:30 as I took the first train available.

After breakfast, we head over to the area of the theatre, Teatros del Canal, for the main event at noon – a piece of Kabuki [歌舞伎], a piece of classical Japanese dance. In this case we were going to see an adaptation of Fuji Musume and Renjishi. First, we checked out the little market of Japanese craftsmanship and decided that we wanted everything, because of course we did.

Then we walked into the theatre. The company Heisei Nakamuraza was bringing two key pieces in the history of kabuki. The first was Fuji Musume [藤娘] “The Wisteria Lady”. It is a representation of unrequited love, dancing under the wisteria tree that represents femininity, and the pine that represents masculinity. During the dance there are several kimono dances and it is visually stunning. The second piece, Renjishi [検索結果], “The Two Lions”, is a very spectacular dance, in many ways mirrored between two dancers. The first part represents a parent lion-dog and its cub, then there is a small comical interlude and finally the lion dogs come out again in celebration. No pictures allowed of the performance, but have some of the theatre:

The show was over much too quickly, sadly. We went out of the theatre and raided the matsuri / market.

Then we walked a few minutes to the Japanese restaurant Hayama, where we had some sushi, gyoza, takoyaki, curry and ramen to share.

As C***** had an early-evening train to get back (I did mention that this was a crazy escapade specially for her), I tagged along to the station and I saw her off. Awesome way to spend a Saturday, though I wish we could have hung out for longer!

10th – 12th February 2018: Highlights of Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland, Great Britain)

This is another trip that I took with customers. We flew into Edinburgh and took a bus directly to Glasgow, where we arrived at around 9:00 on Saturady morning. We made a stop for breakfast, then we walked to Saint Mungo Cathedral.

Then, of course, I guided them up the Necropolis Hill. The weather was very nice for a chance – because I have the exclusivity of good weather in London, but not in Scotland, which yielded to a nice walk.

We had lunch in my favourite Greek restaurant, and then walked around Glasgow – some of the members of the party wanted to go clothes-shopping so I took the opportunity to get into a bookshop or two. We dropped our things off at the hotel and walked in and out some of the shopping centres in the Central Glasgow area. In the evening, I took them to try Wagamama, a ramen / British fusion food chain. I’m always in for ramen (≧▽≦).

On Sunday morning we took the train to Edinburgh. We visited the Old City and Edinburgh Castle, with some awesome sights (because again, the weather was really good – albeit cold as hell, because, have you seen that snow??) and fumbled around for a while.

We had lunch at the Deacon Brody Tavern, a traditional a restaurant in Castlehill – mince pie here.

We also took a walk towards the New City – and there was shopping again. In the end we had an amazing cup of chocolate as early dinner before we went back. I was supersuprised they wanted dinner, but I had had enough with that chocolate and just some tea at night. The shop where we had chocolate was called Coro: The chocolate Café, and I have no doubt I would go back to that shop.

Just before we headed back to Glasgow, we came across an art installation in Prince Garden, which had lots of pretty coloured lights.

And when we woke up on Monday to go to the bus station and head off to the airport… it was snowing! Honest to god snow on the streets!

We reached Spain without further incident in the afternoon, and that was another weekend wrapped up.

20th July 2017: Dazaifu – not ready for thorough tourism {Japan, summer 2017}

Dazaifu [大宰府] was the neuralgic centre of the island of Kyushu between the 7th and the 12th century. Today is sort to Fukuoka what Nikko is to Tokyo. Nowadays it is mostly known for its temples and shrines. It has a central core close to the station where you get around quite easily and a few things off the way which… are an adventure to get to.

I started the day visiting Dazaifu Tenmangu [大宰府天満宮], which was crawling with tourists to the point that it was hard to walk at times. It is a big shrine with a huge bridge over a pond in the shape of 心.

Afterwards I got myself a bottle of water and climbed up to Tenkai Inari Jinja [天開稲荷神社] which would have been really, really awesome and creepy if I had been alone, but alas, there were a bunch of other tourists along. It was quite of a climb up so the number was fewer, which made it less crowded though.

After climbing down I wandered around and passed a tiny shrine on the bank of Aizome River [藍染川] the place of a rebirth of a woman named Umetsubo. There is also a small shrine and a “historical site.”

After this I reached Kōmyōzen-ji [光明禅寺], a Zen temple with a great garden, but no pictures were allowed, and you could not really walk through the gardens. However, it was much, much emptier and nicer.

It was now when I decided to head out to the Kanzeon-ji [観世音寺]…

… and Kaidan-in [戒壇院], along with the so called Bonsho Bell.

In order to get here the map sent me through rather bad roads, and it got scary for a second when a car was coming. Furthermore, the signposts were all messed up, making it hard to follow them and the map. But in the end I made it and even if I did not enter the museum, I felt accomplished.

On the other side of the road you could climb up to Hiyoshi Jinja [日吉神社], a tiny and quiet shrine on top of a hill that I really liked – I thought the kami would be bored so I dropped them a prayer too.

After all this I still had a few things left, but I was very tired and there was a storm brewing, so I backtracked to Fukuoka, where I had slept, gathered my luggage and was ready to take a train to my next destination when I unexpectedly met with a VAMPS fan friend, the same one D****e and I ran into at Kumamoto castle! Small world! We had ramen – Hataka ramen, of course – together and then I took the train towards my next destination, on the other side of Kyushu: Beppu.

Beppu [別府] is a small town on the side of a volcano known for its hot springs because it’s on the slope of a volcano named Tsurumi-dake [鶴見岳]. It has almost 3000 volcanic spring vents and it is a bloody amazing place!

I checked into the hotel and almost immediately walked out because the hotel was right next to Beppu Tower [別府タワー]. However I got distracted by Matogahama Koen [的ケ浜公園] and the beach and the breakwaters.

Finally I climbed up to the tower and looked around the city. I was a little disappointed because I was expecting to see some of the vents or at least a spark coming for the volcano, but it did not happen.

Afterwards I walked down to the hotel and spent an hour in the public bath that they had, which was really, really good for relaxing. And then I collapsed in bed and got some sleep because there was a big day the following day!

(I have to say here that I have decided to omit here most of the ‘blergh’ part of this trip in order to keep only the nice memories, thus the upcoming posts are a bit edited. So I’m not telling you about the unfriendly people I met in the way and that made me feel a bit sad. Just the friendly ones because they rock! )

28th December 2016: Find all the things ( ・`ω・´)! {Japan, winter 16/17}

One of the items in my calendar this time was visiting the three Dragon Gates of Tokyo. These are three torii gates that have been carved in stone and have an ascending and a descending dragon on each one of the pillars. The legend says that touching the dragons will bring you good luck.

Two torii are located in Suginami [杉並]. The first torii I went off to visit was in the grounds of Shukuhōzan Kōenji [宿鳳山高円寺]. The gate is a bit to the side, in a small adjoined shrine to the left of the main building.

The second gate I visited is in Mabashi Inari Jinja [馬橋稲荷神社], about 15 minutes walking from the previous one (which I chose to hit first because it is closer to the station). As this is indeed a shrine, the torii is pointedly displayed, as it is the second one on the main entrance.

Although I would have wanted to hit the three gates on one day, going back and forth between the first two and the third was not a good idea. Thus, I headed off to Shinjuku [新宿] to check out the Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁], the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, as the day was very clear. And bingo, it worked, and I managed to see Mount Fuji Fuji-san [富士山] in the background. Being a little bit of a geek, and since both observatories were open, I decided to climb both this time (just in case the stamp was different, of course!). Then (also of course) I was doing some shopping around…

And since I was in the area, I decided to go back to Isetan, having devised a plan to get some images of the kimono. Which succeeded. Then I saw other people taking pictures, so I shielded myself with them and took some, too.

After that I met with D****e and we went off to find some of Gackt’s Gakucchi and Hyde’s Chupacabra crane games and UFO Catchers. For this we headed off to Odaiba [お台場], where we had a chance to look at the Winter Illumination, especially the Rainbow Bridge [レインボーブリッジ] looking… well, rainbow-coloured.

Then we went to say bye-bye to the Gundam in front the DiverCity and had some food inside. Somehow I feel like I’m talking about food all the time (*´∀`*)ノ… This was very yummy and the writing on the algae cracked me up.

As we did not find the Gakucchi nor Chupacabra in Odaiba’s Venus Front, where we had read they would be, we backtracked to Shinjuku [新宿] to search for them. We did not manage to get the stuff out of the crane games but we got the bags that you got with putting 500 ¥ into the UFO Catchers…

13th July 2016: Here we go again! {Japan, summer 2016}

I am a creature of habits and I won’t deny that. I will however wonder how come my phone thinks about autocorrecting ‘gabits’ to Gackt, which is interesting to say the least. Anyway. On July 12th I realised that my 朱印帳 (しゅいんちょう) or seal book was lacking one of my favourite Temples in the World! So off I went to Zojo-ji [増上寺] with my newly-activated JRPass. I gotta make the most out of it because it was expensive, mkay? ( ̄^ ̄)ゞ

Anyway, off I went to Hamamatsucho and I had a very beautiful flashback to the first time I saw Tokyo Tower [東京タワー], coming from that station. A lot of things have changed since then. I wandered around Zojo-ji temple, Shiba Koen [芝公園] and the base of Tokyo Tower for a while.

Later, I headed off to Ueno because the previous day I had not eaten Ichiran Ramen and I wanted Ichiran Ramen. I went with time to be able to wait out the queue. Once again I freaked some poor kid out. This was staring to get tiresome.

Ichiran is a restaurant designed for people who eat alone, and you have a little ‘booth’ to do your thing. Some people find it outrageous/controversial but as a lone traveler I love it. And if you are not alone you just take down one of the booth walls and you’re free to talk to whomever you came with. And the ramen is quite nice. And hot. But the restaurant is cold even with the hot ramen and always being packed so I guess it is fair enough.

After lunch I went back to Ueno station to make my reservations for the trip I was planning along the weekend and I decided to go to Ikebukuro again to get a CD I had not bought the day before as I was not sure it was the one I wanted – and the Internet was not cooperating. Once again I had to brave Ikebukuro station and this time I kind of gotten things sorted out! Let’s see how long I manage to remember what to do. Then I headed off to class.

After class I walked over with T. to Yasukuni Jinja [靖國神社] to check the about-to-open Mitama Matsuri (festival), but we did not stay longer than the necessary to get some yakitori and be on our merry way.

3rd July 2016: GACKT’s last Last Visual Live {Japan, summer 2016}

My coming to Japan this year was originally trigger for me hitting fanclub tickets for Gackt’s Last Visual Live in Saitama Super Arena [さいたまスーパーアリーナ], obviously in Saitama [さいたま]. I had never thought that I would be able to see one, much less this close, so for me it was quite intense. There was queuing, and goods, and ramen and fanclub tickets.

As far as concerts and GACKT’s lives go, this was a dream come true – to be able to attend one of his great productions live was one of my fan-dreams and it did not disappoint. It was not easy to receive the fanclub tickets because why would anything be well-organised? The overseas fanclub members did not have their tickets sent to them, we had to pick them up on site, and the staff had no idea of that. After a while though, someone from the fanclub staff figured things out and put up a sign, so I was able to get my admittance tickets.

The concert itself was… well, I’ve mentioned GACKT’s delirium of grandeur before, and this event qualified, with the additional emotional charge that it is supposed to be the last time he does anything like it. There was a nostalgic mix of older and newer songs, and all in all it was super-emotional.

Note: You can read a longer commentary of the concert over at SemiRandom.

15th August 2014: And then there was shiny {Japan, summer 2014}

I like Ueno Kōen [上野公園], the main park in Ueno [上野] just because I do, and off I went again, maybe for the fourth or sixth time. In Ueno station we had awesome ramen at a franchise called Ichiran where you buy a basic ramen card from a machine, and are then given a card (English version was available) to mark off what you’d like on it and how. It was delicious (The bits that are missing on the picture are pork slices and spiciness level). There are different styles of ramen, and this one is Hakata ramen from the Fukuoka Prefecture.

After that we took a stroll down Ueno and ended up at the Tōkyō Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan [東京国立博物館], Tokyo National Museum, which holds many important pieces of historic art:

Leaving Ueno, I headed towards the Minato [港] ward as there were a few things I wanted to do. One of them was visiting a special corner of Shiba Koen [芝公園], and then I wanted to go to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー].

Within Tokyo Tower I visited Tokyo Tower Suizokukan [東京タワー水族館], the little aquarium at the bottom. It did not host sharks, sadly, but quite a few interesting species, among them catfish, one of them seemed very intent on trying to eat me.

There was also this fun sclupture thingy of scaled Tokyo Tower and Godzilla.

I climbed up the main observatory (well, did not climb, took the elevator) to watch the sunset, grab a bite to eat and take lots of pictures. You should appreciate Mount Fuji Fuji-san [富士山] with its summer cap in one of them. Once the sun is down, Tokyo Tower is lit, inside, and out.

I love Tokyo Tower, and going up to the observatory always makes my Tokyo trips feel more complete! I got myself an omamori and a model I have to build, if I eventually find it in the luggage chaos!

26th June 2013: Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum {Japan, summer 2013}

It was raining, raining, raining. We decided to do a museum day, but not just any museum. We went to Yokohama [横浜], to a very special one. The Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum (Andō Momofuku Hatsumei Kinenkan [安藤百福発明記念館]), might not look much from the outside, but it is quite very awesome in more ways than one.

For starters, this is their mascot, on top of the regular instant ramen cup.

For just a bit extra though, you can go around to design your very own ramen cup in the “Cup Noodle Factory”. It was endlessly fun:

Oh, yeah, and you get to see some ramen afterwards, along with some motivational stuff:

As it was still raining like hell when we were done, we went back to Tokyo [東京] for some karaoke, and a stroll down Harajuku [原宿], where pretty stuff was bought. And eventually it stopped raining, too!!