Tuesday, 6 August 2013

First and Second Days - Broken Brains and Anime Adventures

There was no blog update on day 1 (depending on whether you count the writing in Frankfurt), my brain was completely knackered!

After boarding, despite my best efforts, I managed to get maybe half an hour to an hours sleep.
Dan used "Inflatable Pillow"
It wasn't very effective
The pillow didn't help much, it seemed to deflate over time and in the end I resorted to my usual trick of crossing my arms over the table tray and try to get a little sleep that way.  With no way of getting sleep I decided to sample the in flight entertainment.

I'm not sure if I've said in previous posts that the interactive screens on Lufthansa flights aren't all that great.  It seems like I have to jab the screen quite hard to actually get it noticed.  Not all that good but it's still usable and it helps to kill time.  Consequently, I didn't spend very long using my music collection and still have movies on the tablet PC for on the way back.

On the way I opted to watch 2 movies: Oblivion and Iron Man 3.  Time for a movie review I guess:

Oblivion was entertaining.  I got the impression that it was trying to look smart but it left me with the feeling that I've seen this before.  I won't be unkind to I'll just say that this film draws inspiration from a few other films.  Without giving too much away, there are some similarities to Moon, Total Recall and possibly The Island.

Iron Man 3 I didn't consider to be as good as the first two.  I did like the way it was driven more by Tony Starks realisation that underneath the armour he's only human.  Since I've already talked about similarities to other movies, there is a television one that applies to this movie.  The idea of "the man behind the curtain isn't what you were expecting" seemed very... La Femme Nikita esque (watch the final season and you'll understand what I'm saying!).

Day 1

So anyway, upon my arrival my brain effectively tofu.  Strangely, this time round there was a much larger queue at immigration/customs so it took me 2 hours or more to clear it.  The baggage carasell (can't get a spelling suggestion for that!) had actually stopped by the time I got to collect my bags - definitely a first for me!

After renting a phone at the airport, I arranged to meet Kyle and check how to top up my Suica card for train travel (it still had 200 Yen on it - score!).  These days I've found the Keisei Narita Sky Access Line to be the best way of getting from the airport, but that's because when getting to Saitama, the Sky Access line gets me most of the way and I could take the Musashino line for the last few stops (Sky Access from Narita T1 to Higashi Matsudo then Musashino line on to Misato).  Carrying 2 bags, this was going to be a challenge.  Now I'm carrying 2 bags to get some new clothes to Kyle - so he'd better appreciate it!

Since I was wiped out and Kyle needed to go in to school to work, I spent a good chunk of the afternoon sleeping.  In the evening, we decided to go out for a meal to a Japanese steakhouse (as I enjoyed Stone Burg last time).  3 types of steak (beef, chicken and, I think, gammon) with some curry rice certainly hit the spot.  As usual, it didn't take long for us to start catching up like old times.  Once again, I think we picked up from the end of the last conversation we had when I was in Japan!

Day 2

Day 2 was a slight change to the plan.  Kyle was needed in school again.  It says a lot about him that he's in demand.  This meant that it was time to spread my wings and do a little exploring.  Kyle suggested I use the opportunity to do some exploring in Akihabara, as I was planning on going back again at some point during this trip.

After arming myself with details of getting to Misato eki (looking at Google maps to see what direction to go in) I began my journey to the station (not really that hard, just go in a straight line parallel to the train tracks).  Changing over at Minami-Nagareyama I took the Tsukuba express to Akihabara.  This is part of the reason I opted not to get a Japan Rail pass this time.  We weren't expecting to take the Shinkansen and Tskuba Express is privately owned so it's not covered by the pass.  25 minutes later I was in the heart of geekdom.

First task was to go figure hunting.  Surprisingly it didn't take me long to find the shop I went to last time - this must be my lucky day.  After much browsing, I settled on 2 figures from 2 shows I am quite familiar with.
Rei Ayanami and Anarchy Panty
Following the success of that first mission, lunch was the next order of business.  I was walking past the UDX building and saw the adverts for the various restaurants in the building.  After wandering around the 2 floors of eateries a few times (a little easier since the place is air conditioned) I opted for a noodle place (although I was tempted by the Tonkatsu place).  Like many small restaurants, you order by vending machine.  you make your selection and pay at the machine to get a voucher/receipt.  You use this to get the food.  This time I opted for a bowl of Kake Ramen.  This didn't have any meat in, I thought this would make up for the many steaks I had the previous night.

Suitably sated, it was time for more shopping.  There is an anime merchandise shop in the UDX building, it forms part of the anime museum.  I knew I couldn't stay too long in that place - there was so much stuff I wanted to buy.  By the time I made my escape, I'd already purchased 2 Evangelion T-Shirts (I'm going to wear the hell out of those when I get back to the UK!), a similarly themed metalic mug with the NERV logo and slogan on it (my new work mug, I think) and a stuffed "Jiji the cat" from Kiki's Delivery Service.



On the way back the mental map I built up (noting key landmarks) proved useful in getting back (remember which station exit to use and which side the train tracks need to be on) and I made my way back.  Just as would be expected for the kind of luck I normally have, a thunderstorm broke out on my way back.  Only a few minutes away from the apartment the paper bag my figures were in started to structurally fail.  With a bag in one hand, a partial bag in the other arm and rushing I must have been quite the comical sight.  Moral of the story - Bring an umbrella, these downpours can catch you off guard!

A little bit later on we're going to go out for dinner and prepare for the trip to Nikko tomorrow.

Incidentally, I've found that roaming in Japan isn't as problematic as I previously thought.  After taking the Galaxy S3 out of flight safe mode (in order to connect it to a Wi-Fi 3G dongle) I found that it had a cellular connection and could receive SMS messages.  It reports that the connection is "NTT DOCOMO giffgaff".  Strange, as I thought that Japan used CDMA so a GSM phone should not be able to get a connection out here.

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