Category Archives: Japan

The era of the “Gaijin Bump” is coming to a close

One of the prize games in Japanese arcades is a variation of the quarter games you sometimes find in American carnivals. The concept is to push a stack of goodies over a ledge into a bin that you open during play. Like many well-designed, profitable, and therefore infuriating prize games, the game provides an illusion of progress early on and becomes deceptively difficult the closer you get to success. Those carnival quarter games achieve these gravity-defying antics with a magnet. However, the nature of this particular game’s deception lies in the way prizes are stacked and the domed shape of the machine. Once the Jenga-style stack of candy or whatever starts moving over the ledge, the plexiglass dome provides another point of contact and support, keeping it from falling in and you walking away with an obscene amount of treats. Continue reading The era of the “Gaijin Bump” is coming to a close

Tokyo For The Kindergarten Set

Once again, catching up on the last trip, right before we head out on another. This is a picture gallery from a family trip to Tokyo last fall. After touring Taipei for a few days, we spent about a week in Tokyo. As usual… long aimless days and no time to post any updates. The love affair really hasn’t waned. Like Taipei, this visit included our 5-year-old niece, so a few elements were different. 

One thing we noticed that was new for us is the way rules get broken or amended with a small child in tow. Especially a cute and well behaved one. Continue reading Tokyo For The Kindergarten Set

The Hottest Collectible Balls of Early 2017

Ok look… better late than never on this post. We’re about to start on a new trip, so, you know, now is the time to finish posting from the last one. Seriously though, I’ve said it before, and it’s still true: Every time we visit Japan we end up staying in smaller and smaller areas to visit. I mean, this time we had a reservation to go inside the Imperial Palace grounds and we didn’t even remember until the flight home. That’s the spell that Tokyo casts over us. Let me summarize our week in Tokyo: Ramen, Sushi, Curry, Arcade games, Shopping. There, done. Continue reading The Hottest Collectible Balls of Early 2017

Some Of Our Most Favorite Places In Akihabara

On the last couple of visits to Japan, our exploration has narrowed in on a few specific stomping grounds. A week in Tokyo can blast by fast… As you’re getting ready to go, bags stuffed beyond capacity, you realize you have taken very few pictures, slept very little, and had an absolutely amazing time. You just don’t want to leave. With very little time elapsed, a place you’ve been many times feels new again. I think that is how we can keep returning and enjoying it, even when we hit up some of the same places. For us, our absolute favorite place has been the Akihabara district in Tokyo. Continue reading Some Of Our Most Favorite Places In Akihabara

Snapshots in Tokyo

What draws us back to Japan again and again is difficult to pin down. It’s certainly not the sights. To be sure, there are beautiful shrines and temples in Kyoto, sweeping views that span Lake Kawaguchiko to the Pacific Ocean atop Mt. Fuji, and beautiful parks around Tokyo. But if revisiting seemingly postcard-perfect attractions were a draw for us, maybe we’d be booking another visit to China… and, well, that’s fairly unlikely. The charm in Japan can’t really be captured in a photograph. Try as you might, it’s not going to carry over into hours of home video either. You can see plenty of starstruck gaijin trying to document everything from the airport terminal to the bathroom to every meal. On prior visits, that has been us as well. So what sets Japan apart exactly? Continue reading Snapshots in Tokyo

The Helvetica Scenario

*Full Japan picture gallery below*

Regrettably, the Japan segment of this trip has nearly come to a close. We had a great time, but four days was just far too short. Honestly though, if it were four weeks, or even four months, we’d probably leave feeling like we needed more time here. It’s been a few years since our last visit here, and we’ve managed to visit a fair number of other places in the interim, but Japan, and specifically Tokyo, remains our favorite place. The “one bag” approach just doesn’t work here. You want to take the whole country back home with you. Continue reading The Helvetica Scenario

Wooden Monkeys and a Sleeping Cat

Temple fatigue…. can it become a chronic condition? Can a bad case of it be permanent? We’re not certain, but it sure seems possible. We’ve got a few temples left on this trip yet, so, who knows…. but hopefully the cure for temple fatigue is more temples and different temples.

Today we took a little day trip to Nikko, home of the “three monkeys” carvings (see no, speak no evil, etc). It was up a couple thousand feet in elevation so there were actually pockets of snow on the ground. I’m glad we packed heavy, because it was really, really cold. We did have a good time though. Otherwise pretty uneventful day.

Pics from Nikko: Continue reading Wooden Monkeys and a Sleeping Cat

The Cat Brothel

It’s not really practical…. ok, maybe not really even possible, to be a “crazy cat lady” in a city as crowded as Tokyo. Even still, Japan has plenty of people obsessed with cats (do a Google search on “namennayo”), even while living in conditions crowded enough to make ownership of a cat or cats, at a minimum, difficult. No worries though, some enterprising (and maybe a little odd) souls have stepped in to fill the void of feline snuggle time for people in Tokyo who can’t or won’t own their own pet cats. So called “Cat Cafes” charge by the hour for cat overload. It’s kinda weird, kinda cute, and very Japanese. We saw a sign for one near Asakusa, and had to check it out today. Continue reading The Cat Brothel

One small step into Tokyo

Our winter break has officially begun… We arrived (3 pm Sunday, here) after a pretty uneventful flight. Korean Airlines was great!

So, after checking into Toyoko Inn in the fading daylight, we tried to run around a bit to see at least a few things.

On the agenda:

1: The Monzen-nakacho Kaiten sushi restaurant. Reaffirmed that yes, this is our favorite ever.

2: “Steve’s Takoyaki” Sorry, his stand was closed for the day =(

3: Shibuya (Hachiko, crosswalk, shopping, video arcades, people watching)

4: CoCo Curry. I stepped up the spice level to #7 after much goading by a certain chucklehead.

5: Mister Donut.

So yeah, 80% of the first order of business surrounded food. Continue reading One small step into Tokyo