Comiket & Tokyo Tower

Yesterday was the last day of Comiket, the largest comic convention in the world. Since it was only about an hour away from my apartment, I decided to go. Nicola (German/Bulgarian) came with me also. Afterwards we planned on meeting up with Steve, Levi, and Levi’s friend to go to Tokyo Tower.

Anyways, waking up, leaving Youth Heim at about 9am we got to Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center in Odaiba at around 11am.

It was really fun. There were tons of people there so it was more or less like bumper cars inside. There were not as many gaijin as I thought there would be, and the ones that were there seemed to all be the “dumb tourist gaijin” that I mentioned earlier. There were a few cool foreigners though. It was pretty cool though, there were a few main halls with thousands of thousands of people in them. Thousands of tables were set up in the hall and tons of doujin authors would be selling their latest creations. The good majority of the comics were ero/hentai/echii, but it was still cool. You would just go up to an author’s table, pick up the book they are selling, flip through it, and then buy it if you wanted. The material ranged from 100 yen to 1500yen depending on quality. I’m really not too much of an otaku, but it was still fun to go through and see it from a tourist standpoint.

After a quick snack we met up with Steve over in Shinjuku. Levi needed to pick up an adapter for his laptop so we headed to Akihabara. Levi was wandering around everywhere with his friend, and it seemed like a hopeless search (which in the end it was), so Steve, Nicola, and I decided to go get a beer at a local pub.

After that fiasco, we went over to the Tokyo Oedo Subway line to Akabanebashi station. From the subway station we walked about five minutes over to Tokyo Tower. Just viewing it from the outside it was amazing. The lighting was brilliant, it was huge (bigger than the Eifel Tower according to Steve), and overall very majestic. We made our way to the base of the tower. On the base there were a ton of shops/restaurants, and museums. We bought our ticket and headed up to the main observatory. The view was very stunning. Pictures don’t do it justice. You could see why everyone raves about the night view in Tokyo.

My camera is good for taking night shots, but my hands are very shaky, so I couldn’t set the exposure time too high. Maybe I will get one of those mini tripods….

Overall it was a very nice experience. There were many different people at the tower. Foreigners, Japanese, a lot of little kids, and many couples. Afterwards we just headed to a bar in Shinjuku and got all-you-can drink for a couple hours. We took one of the last trains home and I got back to Youth Heim at around 1am.

Movie Review: Uchoten Hotel

Since it is Saturday, I am running low on money, and I need to practice Japanese, I am going to try a bilingual movie review of a recent Japanese movie that I saw. The English version will come first followed slowly by the Japanese version. I’ve been watching a few Japanese movies recently so perhaps this may be an on going thing, but on with the review.

The Uchoten Hotel (translated The Sweet Dreams Hotel) is a Japanese comedy written and directed by Koki Mitani. The main plot follows the operation luxury hotel in Japan on New Year’s Eve. Of course, this in itself isn’t really a movie, but all the crazy and unfortunately humorous accidents that happen throughout the night make this a memorable and worth while movie.

The movie starts out with various hotel staff greeting in new customers for the new year and hard at work setting up decorations for the New Years party that night. One of the main characters is the third in charge of the hotel Heikichi Shindo played by Kôji Yakusho. Shindo has a very serious demeanor but at the same time is a very likable character and seems to get along better with the hotel staff compared to the more uptight second in charge played by Katsuhisa Namase.

Immediately you are introduced to a variety of very unique and likable characters. Yoko the callgirl that sneaks around the hotel trying to find clients, Kenji the Bellboy who has recently given up his dreams to become a famous musician, Hana the maid who was involved with in a political scandal with Senator Mutouda, who is also staying at the hotel this night. A lot of characters are introduced quickly but the movie makes it work. All the characters have a very unique personality and you grow to love them quite well.

The Uchouten Hotel is one of those type of movies that is made up of many different subplots that all tie together throughout the end. One subplot that I found was really weird was that the Bellboy Nirou Tange was in a middle of a lovers’ quarrel with maid Noma Sakuragi. All throughout the movie he is trying to get back with her but she wants nothing to do with him.

The two maids get called on to clean up a suite that is notorious for looking like a bombsite. After praying outside the door for the tenant to reform her ways they go in and discover that it is in fact as messy as a bombsite.

While cleaning, Hana gets curious and decides to try on some of the tenant’s extravagant coats. While lost in the expensive clothing, the son of the tenant’s sugar daddy comes in. He mistakes Hana for the girl that has been with his father and tells her to come down to the cafe. From here he tries to bribe her to leave his dad and a bunch of hilarity ensues. I am not going to go too much deeper into this as it might spoil some of the plot, but overall it is an interesting plot and seems to keep viewers engaged.

Another tenant that is staying in the hotel is nominated man of the year, Professor Yumi Hotta. For some reason I really liked this character. The actor did a really good job of getting into the role and at times you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the character. Hotta was staying at the hotel for the night with his wife to accept the man of the year reward. Unfortunately Hotta had also had a history with the callgirl that hangs around the hotel, Yuko. Yuko has a very incriminating and very embarrassing picture of Hotta on her cellphone that she describes as Hotta doing the “Snake Dance”.

All throughout the movie Yuko is constantly being kicked out of the hotel and sneaking back in. She meets Senator Mutouda who takes her up to the high-end lounge on the top floor. Mutouda doesn’t seem too interested in her but yet she still tries to seduce him.

The bellboy Kenji supposedly has his last day on this night and plans to head back to his home town. He gives away his guitar, bandanna, and lucky charm to the hotel staff. For some reason the bandanna ends up on escaped duck “rub-a-dub”. Rub-a-dub is the partner of one of the performers that are performing at the New Years’ celebration. All throughout the movie you see the duck and for some reason it is very funny. It is kind of hard to explain. Something really serious will happen and then all the sudden a duck will just come out of nowhere.

I’m not going to go into too much details about the rest. There are loads more subplots to go into but it would be better to actually just to see the movie by yourself. At the end they all tie together very cleanly and the New Year’s party is a big success. There is a very nice musical scene at the end by the singer Cherry Sakura (played by singer You).

This is definitely a movie worth watching. It is a very distinct comedy that will be enjoyed even if you are used to seeing western comedies. At the very least it is worth a rental (or torrent). I ended up buying the film, so if you are in Atsugi just ask and I can lend it to you. Overall a great film.

Movie Rentals

Ah, rental movies. In America I went to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video all the time but in Japan it seems that for the longest time I never had a membership to any video rentals spots. At a language exchange with Kozasa (girl from work) this came up. I admitted that one of the reasons I didn’t have a rental membership is that I was simply afraid of going to the video rental place and having to get a membership. She graciously offered to help me get the membership.

The place that she took me to is Tsutaya. Pretty much your run of the mill video shop. Think Blockbuster, except with porn (in a back room), and a ton of anime. It was really uneventful. I walked around with her and we talked about what movies we liked. She gave me a reccomendation for “The Magical Hour” (which I will actually review later) and she rented some other Japanese movie. I’m glad Kozasa was there when I went to get the membership. Despite having to know my age in imperial years, I also had to write the kanji of my address. It was difficult.

Anything after all was said and done I got my Tsutaya card. It wasn’t too expensive at all. The membership was 300 yen and the movie for four days was about 400 yen. The late fee (which I ended up paying) was about 120yen per day. One thing that was a little odd was that instead of the generic plastic bag, they gave me a nicer real bag to keep my movie in. When returning the movie you give them the bag back with the DVD in it.

One really important thing to look out for when selecting a Japanese movie is whether or not it has English subtitles. My Japanese isn’t really skilled enough for full-fledged movies, so English subtitles are a must. A good amount of Japanese movies have the subtitles. So whenever you rent a movie, look on the back of the DVD cover for “英語字幕” (eigo jimaku), or English subtitles.

Care Package

I got a care package from my parents today. It’s really nice getting stuff from America as it kind of reminds me life is still going on as normal half way across the world.

Anyways, here is a small list of stuff that I recommend bringing to Japan if you are planning on coming for an extended period:

Two pairs of shoes:
I have big feet (14in, 32cm). These size shoes are impossible to find even in the Tokyo region. My parents sent me two pairs over in their last package and they were a life saver as my old ones were falling apart. It doesn’t help that in Japan you walk everywhere so shoes tend to go bad more quickly.

You take your shoes off before going into any Japanese apartment/house. That’s why sandals are so nice. If I am going over to an intern’s room I don’t want to deal with getting socks, putting on shoes, and lacing everything up. Sandals or flip-flops are a must in Japan.

Sweat Pants:
In Japan gym memberships are very expensive. That means that if you want to do any sort of cardio workout the best bet is going to be running/jogging outside. It also gets very cold in Japan so during the winter that is very hard to do if all you have is gym shorts.

I talked about this earlier, but Japanese medicine is too weak for me. There’s nothing like good old fashion Tylenol or Dayquil. Be sure to bring a mega pack over.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups:
This doesn’t really have to be Reese’s, but it is good to bring over some small sort of sweet that you can give to people around the office or share with friends. Something small that reminds you of your own country is nice just for those moments that you feel home sick.

There is no mens’ deodorant in Japan. Luckily someone told me this before hand and I ended up buying about 7 sticks of old spice before coming over. I can only imagine if I ran out how akward it would be.

That is all I can think of for now. Sorry that my last two posts have been in Japanese, I really wanted to practice. I have a few ideas in mind for future posts so I will be sure to update more frequently