14th – 16th October 2017: Vienna, Austria

14th October 2017: Arrival and the Inner ring: Butterflies and Dinosaurs

Between flight and transfer to the city on Saturday morning, I arrived in the city of Vienna at 1pm. As my hotel was between the station and the city centre, I took my chances for an early check in and I was lucky – it was. After dropping my luggage I headed off to walk around Vienna’s Inner Ring, the Ringstrasse, which is a big boulevard that runs around all the old city of Vienna (UNESCO Heritage Site). A bunch of things were on my way and it seemed easy enough to find one’s way around. My hotel was located in a building close to a park, and had three floors, on the 11th, 12th and 13th floors of a building, which gave me some views of the city.

On Saturday the plan was wandering around, but as I am who I am I ended up improvising. My first stop was the outer Vienna State Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, where a young man dressed as Mozart tried to sell me tickets for a show.

I continued on my walk and I saw the Albertina, a modern art museum, but I was actually heading to the Imperial Palace greenhouse, which is the home of a café and the Schmetterlinghaus, or Imperial Butterfly House. This is an area of the greenhouse where a bunch of butterflies are free to fly around and feed on a bunch of flowers, plants and pieces of apple. I was lucky enough to catch a few good shoots and I was very happy to have decided to go in (albeit I have to say that I was really keen on going there since I had seen that it existed). I really had a blast and enjoyed this, so it was a must that I don’t regret having missed, especially since the 6.50€ for the ticket. I spent around forty minutes in there chasing butterflies.

Then I saw the Austrian National Library, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.

After that I back I walked through the Hofburg Palace, Hofburg Wien, and the Michaelerplatz or Saint Michael Square.

After that I crossed the palace in the opposite direction and ended up at the Heldenplatz, which gave way to Naturhistorisches Museum, the Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs, because there were dinosaurs, which is the home of the Venus von Willendorf, a tiny statue of stone dated back 29,500 years. The museum also holds a collection of minerals, meteorites, preserved animals, dinosaurs, an animatronics dinosaur and a multitude of artefacts from Prehistory to the Middle Ages. I also saw the same dunkleosteus that they have in the Tokyo Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan. Have I mentioned dinosaur animatronics?

Following the museum I continued down the Ring boulevard and it did not take me long to stumble up the Pallas Athene Brunnen (Monument to Palas Athena) and the Austrian Parliament Building, Parlamentsgebäude. The latter was under reconstruction.

I continued my walk until I found the Vienna Town hall, called the Rathaus, where there was a kind of Videogame trade fair or something going on.

Then I went on walking towards the university and the church of Votivkirche, a neo-gothic building next to the university.

Afterwards I went down to the hotel because this is not summer vacations after all, just a weekend escapade and I seriously did not have that much energy. On my way I walked past the stables of the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) stables and I saw some pretty horses.

And even from the hotel (literally from bed), as my room had views, I could take some pictures of the sunset and the lit buildings. And then I went to sleep at a horribly early hour because I was beat and for some reason I managed over 8 hours of sleep.

15th October 2017: Palaces, churches and the Cinema

Because my hotel was **** for a change (I have to say that when I think about the whole weekend the word “decadent” is what comes to mind), I had a kettle and instant coffee ready for me – this was my breakfast. After that I did the online for my flight the following day and of course running into technical difficulties, and I left the hotel at around 9:30, which was a bit later than I had intended.

I was coming up to the Belvedere Palace, and on my way there I took a diversion to see the Karlskirche or Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church), which I could see from my hotel and illuminated at night. This is a baroque church that sometimes holds classical music concerts.

After taking a wrong turn once or twice this I headed out to my original target, the Schloss Belvedere (Upper Belvedere Palace). This is a Baroque Palace (seriously, Vienna is full of Baroque) that has been turned into a painting gallery. The most famous author in this gallery is Klint, but if I have to be honest, I’m not too appreciative of him – must be my likings for the realists. In the end, I liked the palace itself better than the painting collection, specially the reception room and the staircase.

As I had bought a three-combo ticket including Upper and Lower Belvedere and the Winter Palace, I walked down the Belvedere Gardens to the Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere), which holds the “Medieval Treasure” and temporal exhibitions. The best thing was the gold and mirror room and the marble gallery.

Then I headed off to the centre of the city to see the Winterpalais des Prinzen Eugen (Winter Palace of Prince Eugene), which was not the best thing ever but hey it came within the three-museum combo.

Then I headed off to Domkirche St. Stephan (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), which is the gothic Catholic cathedral. It is not Baroque but Gothic. The entrance was free, but it also had a paid area, including the catacombs. Unfortunately I was too late for the current tour and too early for the following one, so I decided not to stick around, else I would have got the combo for the catacombs, the tower and the treasure.

As it was, I saw the cathedral and then headed off down different streets and saw the outer area of Katholische Kirche St. Peter (Catholic Church of St. Peter).

And then headed out to the Michaelerplatz to check the inside of the Michaelskirche (Catholic Church of St. Michael).

I checked the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) for tour tickets, but I was late for that and it was all sold out, so I decided to go to the station and buy some food in the supermarket for both lunch and dinner. On the way I crossed the Stadtpark to see the floral clock and the Johann Strauss monument – Johann Strauß Denkmal.

Finally, I headed off to get some rest at the hotel, and have a shower. At 18:15 I walked down to the cinema at the corner of my hotel building, the Gartenbaukino, because in the end that was the reason I was there – to attend the Austrian premiere of the X JAPAN documentary We are X as Yoshiki was going to be around for a Q&A session afterwards.

There had been a small mix-up with the ticket numbering (all of them had been printed out with the same seating number!), which was solved efficiently. We watched the documentary We are X and then there was a Q&A with Yoshiki himself. There were emotional moments as the fans thanked him for everything he had done and for his music.

After the Q&A some of us stayed talking at the cinema gate and the manager, who had solved the ticket problem, came out to close – and he told us where Yoshiki would be leaving from. And that’s… the story of how I got to talk to Yoshiki, I got his autograph and took a picture with him and I will never, ever, ever forget the rush of that.

I have to say I did not sleep much that night. All the excitement caught up with me and I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over again. in the end I think it was around 2:30 that I could turn the lights off.

16th October 2017: Airport Monday morning

After checking out of the hotel I walked back to the train station and took the CAT towards the airport. I had taken an earlier train than I had already planned and boy was I glad to do so when following arrows at the airport took me as much as 20 minutes. Something I learnt in this trip is how friendly Austrian people are, and that they have a great sense of humour, as apparently one of their star souvenirs is “no kangaroos in Austria”. The return flight was not as good as the first, but it was on time and I could arrive to work smoothly for a crazy week.

Note: There is a longer commentary of the We are X / Q&A event over at
SemiRandom

11th July 2017: Ueno on the first full day is a thing {Japan, summer 2017}

I headed off to Ueno because I wanted to wander around the zoo. Don’t ask me why, but it was what I felt like doing. First I dropped by the Shinobazunoike Bentendo [不忍池弁天堂] where I got the shuuin and I entered Ueno Zoo through the new Benten gate. The zoo had not changed much, I think, but I saw things I did not remember seeing the first time around. They have moved the petting zoo to something closed, probably to fight off the heat.

I had lunch at the zoo around 1:30 pm, then continued my way towards the upper part of the zoo. There I was observed by a bird of prey and it made me feel like food XD. I stayed at the zoo until 16:30 I did not get to see the baby panda because it is too small to be up and about.

Then I headed off to Shinjuku [新宿] which was a convenient place to meet up with D****e for dinner and an hour of karaoke. I did some shopping as I waited – and for some once, that was not (only) fandom related. I was in Kinokuniya getting myself some Japanese books (because as I passed N4 I have to continue studying). Bummer. We also stopped by a random electronics shop which had a big Yoshiki poster. That’s always nice to see.

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…

27th December 2016: Yoshikimono in the Box {Japan, winter 16/17}

Battling over jet lag, the first thing I did in the morning was setting of the Isetan in Shinjuku [新宿], because they were showing (and selling) some of the Yoshikimono. As a matter of fact, I headed there over twice over the course of the few days it was open, because on the first try I could not take pictures, and then I devised a plan to record stuff – and the second time I was there were people taking pictures, so I did too. But at that point, this was the best I could manage, from the outside.

After that, I headed off to “MAVERICK DC GROUP 35th Anniversary JACK IN THE BOX 2016” (mouthful, huh?), because D****e had gotten her hands on tickets, as Hyde was going to show up there. The concert was held in the Nippon Budokan [日本武道館], which looks a bit on the smallish side from above, as we were very far away (last minute tickets were last minute indeed).

Artist Lineup: MUCC; SID; MUDD (half of MUCC and half of SID); SICC (the other half of MUCC and SID); AKi; UNiTE.; Kameleo; CLØWD; VALS; PARTY ZOO Ken with Naughty stars 20th&25th Celebration: Ken (L’Arc~en~Ciel’s Ken), YUKKE (MUCC), AKi, Show (A9), Hiroto (A9), Tora (A9), Ryo (BAROQUE), Kei (BAROQUE), kazuma (gibkiy gibkiy gibkiy) and KENZO; D’ERLANGER feat. HYDE; 35th MAGNUM: PAUL (44MAGNUM), JIMMY (44MAGNUM), D’ERLANGER feat. HYDE; M.A.D SUPER ALL STARS & MDC SUPER ALL STARS. And seriously don’t expect me to do all the alignments and setlist because most of this was AKi around with other people. You can check everything out in the JITB website.

It was a long concert, from 2 to 9 pm and between the different acts there were short videos of past acts. One of the funniest moments in the whole concert was when the screen showed someone covering TOKIO’s “Love you only” and the whole Budokan sang along “only yo~u” without even realising it. Then there were many embarrassed chuckles after that.

Hyde, who was the reason we were there, showed up lateish. In total he may have sung like four songs, including the closing act with “Honey”. We also saw Ken, who can’t do anything without his guitar. The most curious (tending towards sad) was how Hyde and Ken proceeded to ignore each other for as long as both of them were on stage (╯︵╰,).

After the concert we met up wit N***chan, T***pi and M***chan to have dinner.

8th March 2015: Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary in Guadalajara (Spain)

When I was young I used to love the anime Saint Seiya. Then, as I grew older, I read the manga, then I sort of drifted away from it, until somehow new fandoms and old fandoms collided – and it as announced that YOSHIKI was writing the theme song for the film Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary. That grabbed my attention, and eventually Selecta Visión announced that they would release them in cinemas in Spain.

When it was announced that it would be showing in the shopping centre cinemas in Guadalajara for a couple of sessions only, I decided to buy my ticket online. It was strange for me for several reasons – the main of them was that I rarely go to the cinema to watch something dubbed. Also, the online shopping was weird -instead of getting a ticket, you got a number and then you had to input that number on a machine to get your actual traditional ticket printed.

I drove to the shopping centre, which was rather dead as it was a Sunday at half past six, the shops were closed and the restaurants not open yet. The audience of the cinema was comprised by a class of special needs kids and a lot – and I mean a lot of super-excited fathers with their young sons, who had no idea what the whole fuss was about. I enjoyed the film – I had resisted watching it bootleg although it had leaked on the Internet. It was a different, lighter take on the Battle of Sanctuary. I did, however, miss the Virgo Shaka vs Phoenix Ikki battle – because after all they’re my favourite characters. When the film ended, I stayed behind for the whole credits and YOSHIKI’s song “Hero”, beautifully sang by Katie Fitzgerald. I was literally the only person left in the cinema through it, and I had to apologise to the cleaning crew, who told me no problem. And hey, I got to see the mid-credit scene on my own!

Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary

After the film, I walked to the car and drove home to watch it again in its original version, because I am that kind of geek, and I was not too impressed with the dubs – but hey, that’s me, I’ve always preferred the originals.

24th – 26th May 2014: Paris (France) for Yoshiki Classical

24th May 2014: Evening in Montmartre

I was going to atted Yoshiki Classical concert in Paris on Sunday, so I made planes with a a friend to meet up with her over the weekedn so we could do some stuff together. We booked a hotel close to the venue, Le Triannon. I arrived in Paris in the evening of Friday the 24th and met my friend direcly at the hotel – the first thing we noticed was that the area was not the safest, but we could still get to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur to see it lit.

And also to see a nice view of the Eiffel Tower all lit up.

25th May 2014: Under ground, above ground

On Saturday morning we went to Catacombes de Paris, the Catacombs of Paris. The ancient quarries and mines of Paris became the final resting place of more than six million people. In the late 18th century it was decided to eliminate a good portion of the quickly-overcrowding cemeteries and graveyads of Paris and for a 1786 the bones were carried to the catacombs at night. Today they are consisdered a museum and thus managed as such.

After the catacombs we moved onto the Ille de la Cité, the “island of the city”, an island in the middle of the Seine, to visit Notre-Dame de Paris, our Lady of Paris, a magnificent Gothic cathedral built in between 1160 and 1260. In the 19th century an extensive renovation was carried out, and a few features were added, such as a the gargoyles and a replacement spire for the original one. We climbed the towers and were treated to a really cool Paris view before going inside.

Leaving Notre Dame, we headed our the Île de la Cité and passed by Saint Germain l’Auzeroix, which mostly dates from the 15th Century and used to be the church for the Louvre inhabitants.

At the Louvre, by the way, there was a humongous queue, so as both of us had seen it before, we decided to skip going inside.

We passed by the Luxor Obelisk, an Egyptian monument which is over 3000 years old, located in the Place de la Concorde. I’ve always found that name very ironic considering that many people were guillotined there. But hey, the obelisk is cool and all.

We continued walking up the Champs-Élysées until we got to the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (the “Triumphal Arch of the Star”. Okay Paris. Okay.), which is one of the biggest triumphal arcs in the world. It was completed in 1840 and it honours the casualties in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

From there we took the underground back to the area of the Sacré-Cœur, which we could see at the end of the streets.

And to finish the day, we had some Japanese food because why wouldn’t we?

25th May 2014: Bad weather, queue & Yoshiki

On Sunday, we started off back in the Île de la Cité and we walked around Notre Dame on our way as my friend wanted a walk along the Seine.

We took the underground towards Les Invalides (Hôtel national des Invalides or The National Residence of the Invalids), a complex of buildings erected between the 17th and 18th centuries and that hosts the military museum and some notable graves, among them Napoleon’s.

Afterwards we took the underground to Champ de Mars, the long park where the Eiffel Tower stands. The Tower was built as an entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair exhibition and it was controversial at first (and rather ugly if you ask me, but hey to each their own). Eventually, it became so famous that it was not taken down as originally planned, and to-date it is one of the most visited landmarks of the world.

As you can see in the pictures, the weather might not have beent he nicest, but we made our best. We walked all through the Chaps to the Trocadero on the other side. There were very few people on the street so I convinced my friend to take a ride in the carrousel over there, because I’m insane like that. Soon after we had left, a group of random people decided to emulate us.

After this, we said goodbye. I headed off to Le Triannon for Yoshiki Classical, and my friend towards the airport as she had work on Monday. Yoshiki is one of the most important figures in Japan’s musical scene. He is the leader of the iconic band X Japan, and also trained in classical music. He wrecked his health when he was young, though, so he is not in the best shape. His recital Yoshiki Classical was meant to be a reimagination of some songs of his career, just him and his piano and some invited artist. I have to admit that it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been to, and I don’t regret attending one bit. Although this was my first concert alone, I didn’t feel strange in any way.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but this surpassed any and everything I could have thought of. Yoshiki is a wonderful human, and he spoke in English during the whole event – he is living in America now, collaborating with people like Stan Lee and Marilyn Manson to do more great stuff. For me, seeing him in person and playing his piano was a heart-bursting experience.

Note: There is a longer commentary of the Yoshiki Classical Recital over at SemiRandom.