19th & 20th August 2019: Bye-bye for a while, Japan {Japan, summer 2019}

For my last day full day in Japan, I dropped my luggage off at Shinjuku station and met with D****e for lunch to say goodbye for now. I also got to say goodbye to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] from Roppongi Hills [六本木ヒルズ].

Lunch was a bit sad, but the yakiniku was very yummy. After she had to come back to work I met with B**** for drinks and wandering around for a while in Shinjuku [新宿]. We mostly sat at Wendy’s, talking and drinking… whatever this is…

And then she took me to CocoCurry for goodbye-curry.

Then she came with me to Nippori station to help me carry my luggage to the train. I was so mentally exhausted that I did not even stop for a stamp at Narita Terminal 1. I had booked myself a hotel for the night at the airport because I felt that was the best thing for my mental health at that time, and I am glad I did. It was very handy and the transport to the terminal was very smooth.

I had been worried about my Fuji-climbing stick, but I had been told I could check it in. I bought a suit-cover which I sewed, and had no problems with it – I mean, I saw people checking-in kayaks, for fuck’s sake. My stick was tiny in comparison to that! The flight back was a-okay, unremarkable, mostly.

Walked distance: 19th: 11099 steps / 7.94 km. 20th: 5045 steps / 3.60 km. The displacement was a bit longer though… something around the 11000 km (≧▽≦)

The 2019 trip was a long one, full of awesome experiences that I won’t forget any time soon. I hope to gather experience from what went wrong, but not cling onto the bad feelings. I chose not to write about that, and look for the best in every day. Also, I did not really feel it, but a bunch of Japanese friends told me that my language skills had improved, so that made me happy. Now it’s time to go back to the real world and do adulty things, and start dreaming about the next adventure. また今度ね。

26th July 2019: KAMIJO’s Persona Grata {Japan, summer 2019}

I headed off to Tokyo [東京] to freak out about the tickets of KAMIJO’s 2019 Japan Tour Persona Grata, which was a total blast. That was basically the highlight of the day, aside from lots of train rides until I got to Tokyo and some delicious yakiniku.

Lunch set. Salad, white rice and some raw meat for the grill, along with the sauces to dip

As KAMIJO’s fanclub has a European chapter and allows for very real benefits, I was able to ballot for tickets for the Japan tour, and I actually hit for Premium tickets for Persona Grata’s opening night at Mainabi Blitz Akasaka. The tickets included “seating in front of the stage” and special presents – the seating turned out to be first row, and enough presents, including an autograph, to more than make up for the money.

The tour doubled as an introduction to the new songs for the upcoming singles and I enjoyed them a lot. I discovered a couple of songs I really liked (I ended up getting most of KAMIJO’s discography in different Book Off trips this year), and it was really fantastic. I enjoyed every second, and having a chair really helped to get some rest when he was off stage and we had the “film” instalments. Unfortunately, the fandom is not too open so I did not get to make any new friends. Nevertheless, it was probably one of the most powerful concerts I’ve ever attended.

Night view of the venue, reading Mainabi Blitz Kamijo

Walked distance: 13515 steps / 9.66 km. I don’t believe this for a second, the watch is totally messing up between moving arms doing furutsuke, and walking.

1st September 2018: HYDE LIVE 2018 @ Odaiba, Strike 1 {Japan, summer 2018}

There was a HYDE concert, the first of three I was going to be able to attend, in Odaiba [お台場] and we took the Yurikamome to get there because of ticketing convenience.

The concert was in Zepp Tokyo next to Venus Fort. And what do you do before a concert? Queue. In Europe it is so you get in, in Japan it is so you buy goods. We were promised goods that were not there in the end 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。 but at least we did not get a sunburn while waiting as we were prepared for rain and thus carried an umbrella… against the merciless sun (;¬_¬).

After we had bought our goods, D****e and I went to have lunch at the Venus Fort. We surveyed the places and ended up in a yakiniku place which was almost empty, and still had a loong line. Things I’ll never understand.

Yakiniku lunch - a dish of uncooked meat, the grill to cook it, rice, broth, and pickled vegetables

The concert was HYDE’s Live 2018 – HYDE’s new solo project. After VAMPS disbanded a few months back, this was my first concert watching him. It was a strange feeling, because the feelings were very bittersweet. I was more keen on some songs than on others, but I guess I got into the mood pretty quickly. However, it did give me the impressions that the music was… somewhat disconnected, and Zipang was a power-ballad lacking power. However, Out was amazing. I could have done without the VAMPS songs though, but I guess that without a whole ready album, HYDE sang whatever he owned rights to. Also, I think I bought too many goods…

One of the discoveries of the day were the supporting band, Starset, who have a very distinctive style that I pretty much liked.

Hyde's tour truck

After the concert we went home to get some rest.

25th August 2018: Niigata + Otohige {Japan, summer 2018}

D****e and I went to Niigata [新潟] to attend Otohige, a summer music festival.

I took in a few things:

  • Golden Bomber are fun (well, this I knew already). Sho got hit for real a couple of times
  • Wagakki Band are fun too. I have given them money
  • I can’t go to arena moshpit without anything to hold on. Too painful.
  • Being on third row for HYDE should be amazing but it sucks if you can’t see HYDE and all your body hurts due to pushing and shoving.
  • I shall avoid macro festivals that do not have seats. If there are seats and arena, I will stay at the seats
  • Japan summer rain when everything hurts is not nice.
  • Painkillers and yummy yakiniku can make things better. Eventually.

This was not such a great experience for me as going into the pit turned out to be a good decision, causing a flare. I’ve decided to avoid festivals from now on.

1st (and 2nd) August 2017: Running out of time! {Japan, summer 2017}

This was my last day and I had to make the most of it! First I went to Shibakoen [芝公園] and Tokyo Tower [東京タワー], because that always keeps the sadness at bay. I went up the tower and I finally gave in and bought the stamp rally booklet. I should have done it before. The Tower was being visited by a primary school class. Ho boy.

Then I went to Iidabashi [飯田橋] using the Shibakoen subway station. The day before I had hired a private lesson to have a teacher explain Japanese conditionals to me. That was very productive. Finally I was off to Shinjuku [新宿] for yakitori and karaoke with B**** and D****e to say goodbye for now.

Finally, I half-packed because I apparently forgot half of my stuff atover there, and went to bed. At 2:02 in the morning there was the only noticeable quake of the trip, quite a big one. In the morning, I headed off to Narita Airport, checked-in my luggage, and once again, it was time to go back to reality.

10th July 2017: Smooth arrival {Japan, summer 2017}

And that was a first. We were on time even if we had taken off slightly late and I was downtown Tokyo at noon. Japan is ‘trying’ to make arrival more friendly and now your fingertips are taken by someone who is not security, but it’s still the same process – you arrive, they take your fingerprints, take a photo of you (without glasses) and then you go through immigration. Then you pick up the luggage and go through customs, where they may or may not open your suitcase. This time, I did not get mine open, even if I had a perfect answer for why I was there.

I had lunch with D****e, then went to her place to have a shower and change clothes and then met up with B**** for ice cream, because I was back in Japan in melting hot weather. And then I met up with D****e as I had borrowed her keys, went back home, had some dinner and crashed.

3rd January 2017: Seven Lucky Gods, and a ship, Pilgrimage {Japan, winter 16/17}

As part of the shrine and temple visiting on the first days of the year there is the chance to do a “small” peregrination around several of them for luck – the whole thing is called the Shichifukujin Meguri [七福神 めぐり]. Together with D****e and Sh-san I set off to visit the Seven Lucky Gods of Minato-ku in their respective shrines and temples. Oh, and their ship.

The Seven Gods of Fortune or the Seven Lucky Gods, Shichifukujin [七福神, ] are a group of deities from different origin (India, China, and Japan itself). It is said that on New Year’s Eve the seven gods touch port in their treasure ship Takarabune [宝船] to bestow happiness to humans. The Seven are worshipped in a group, and there are a few temples that enshrine all ofthem together. However, in Minato-ku the Gods and their ship are scattered amongst a seven shrines and one temple. Visiting the Seven Gods of luck will bring you luck for the year (you can read all about the Seven Lucky Gods over at Buddhism & Shintōism In Japan A-To-Z Photo Dictionary Of Japanese Religious Sculpture & Art).

The Gods and Shrines/Temples in the order we visited them are:

  1. Benzaiten at Honjō-in [本成院]. Benzaiten [弁才天 / 弁財天] is the Goddess of the Arts and her virtue is Amiability. She is originally from India.

  2. Ebisu at Kumano Jinja [熊野神社]. Ebisu [恵比寿] is the God of the Ocean and his virtue is Fairness. He is originally from Japan.

  3. The Takarabume [十番稲荷神社] at Juban Inari Jinja. The ship carries all the attributes belonging to the Gods, and it is where they come to bring happiness.

  4. Daikokuten at Daioji [大雄寺]. Daikokuten [大黒天] is the god of the Earth and his vortue is Fortune. He originated in India.

  5. Bishamonten at Hikawa Jinja [氷川神社]. Bishamonten [毘沙門天] is the God of Treasure, and his virtue is Dignity. He comes from India.

  6. Jurōjin at Sakurada Jinja [櫻田神社]. Jurōjin [寿老人] is the god of Wisdom and his virtue is Longevity. Originally, he comes from China.

  7. Fukurokuju at Tenso Jinja [天祖神社]. Fukurokuju [福禄寿] is the god of Wealth and his virtue is Popularity. He originally comes from China.

  8. Hotei at Hisakuni Jinja [久國神社]. Hotei [布袋] is the God of Contentment and his virtue is Magnanimity.

In-between the gods, we had lunch at a very good yakiniku place in Roppongi [六本木].

12th August 2014: Yokohama & friends {Japan, summer 2014}

We headed off to Yokohama [横浜] to visit Chinatown.

Our goal was an early lunch and then a division of forces – either temples or Panda shops. I was on Team Temple, as nobody will be surprised to hear – Kwan Tai [関帝廟] and Kanteibyō / Kuan Ti Miao [関帝廟 / 中華会館].

Then we walked around the seaside park, Yamashita Koen [山下公園] and looked at the bay.

After a visit to (yet another) Book Off stop, we headed back to Tokyo [東京], where we had arranged to meet a few Japanese friends in Shibuya [渋谷].

The first plan of the afternoon was meeting at Hachiko’s sculpture in Shibuya, because that is what you do when you meet in Shibuya. Then we headed to Bic Camera to check out the special promo that they had running on the 4K audiovisual set. The promo featured the trailer of the L’Arc~en~Ciel’s concert at the National Stadium earlier in 2014, which will be released in October.

One of our friends had to work that afternoon, but as this was the only day we could see the three of them before they went home for Obon, we decided to surprise her and drop by the cafe she works at to keep her company. This was the day when I discover that Japanese people actually flop on the floor when they are surprised, for real.

The Mr. Happy cafe is located in Shibuya and is something akin a non-profit which is affiliated to a children’s character. We had amazing milk shakes and mini smiling sponge cakes (lemon and caramel) and took pictures of them, of course. As we were leaving, our friend presented us with a mini box of berry sponge cakes per person! They were very kawaii and delicious, too.

For dinner we went for yakiniku again, although this time it was something quite more posh / expensive. We ate a lot, but I felt that there was too much smoke to be completely comfortable there.

11th August 2014: Microwaved bread is a thing {Japan, summer 2014}

The day started started late due to jet-lag and and on and off night and once again we set off to try and of a tea ceremony in Ginza [銀座]. However, for the second time it did not work out, due to the hotel we had selected had stopped doing it for the summer. Not fun.

We headed out for a late lunch and ended up at a place that tried to be a weird version of a British pub, called “The Ginza Lion” which had some nice set dishes that came with a choice of bread or rice. We both chose bread and we received a baguette piece with butter. Amusingly enough, the bread had been… microwaved. Not toasted but microwaved. I am guilty if having microwaved bread before when I was trying to defrost it. Jokes ensued, and I was there to write a blog post on why microwaved bread is a thing. It is, of course. Will mark trend, I am sure.

Afterwards we headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to cavort idol shops, which are always fun. However, there was an unusual crowd due to the release of Kanjani8 stuff, and some of the shops were too crowded to browse in peace.

From Harajuku we walked down to Shibuya [渋谷] for a couple of hours of karaoke (NEWS version of Weeeek is easier once you have gotten used to the GreeeN one, too). Then we went to The One Hundred Yen Yakiniku to eat barbecued meat and veggies and called it a day.

29th June 2013: Tea Ceremony and Nakano Broadway {Japan, summer 2013}

We attended a tea ceremony in the New Otani Hotel, a small event for tourists that was really nice on the geeky traditional kind of way. The lady was very friendly and did her best to be understood in English, so I did not feel off at any point – only sore as my hip seems out to kill me lately XD”

Later on there was Nakano Broadway [中野ブロードウェイ], where lots of money was spent, and Shibuya [渋谷] yakiniku and karaoke, although I was so tired that reading was kind of impossible XD”