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Japan – Day 11 – The day the earthquake hit..

Sarah bought a new bag, mentioned in an earier post..so here’s the obligatory photo..

Went to the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) today. The biggest aquarium in the world.

I’ve been to a few of aqauriums – Singapore, Melbourne, couple of others I’ve forgotten about – but this one was the best one out of the lot.

It was massive, the main tank was amazing.. It had to be if they wanted to put a 12M long whale shark in there!

Check out how thick the walls were..of acrylic..

Lots of cool things to see, more of it is easier told in photos rather than text..I think the most unusual thing they had there was the Ocean Sunfish – The heaviest known bony fish in the world weighing up to 1000kg – The one in the tank here looked tiny from the upper levels, but once we started decending down to its level it was huge.. Such a weird looking thing as well.

The jellyfish there was also pretty cool to see..

Spider Crab’s chilling out..

There was some kids exhibition which we decided to go check out that was dedicated to “cute” things from the sea – Only Japan!

After this there was a shallow tank where you could touch some rays and sharks, which I convinced Sarah to take part in. Rays = Slimey. The little sharks they had in there had a rough texture to them, not sure what they were though.

We got some lunch at a place called “Melbourne House” – Australian apparently! We just did it for the name really. I had a steak meal and Sarah had some pork cutlets. Pretty good, not really Australian but yeah..it was a decent feed and pretty cheap.

Walked past the huge ferris wheel and contemplated going on it..Sarah didn’t really want to, though I could have probably convinved her – But I’m glad I didn’t…

As we walked further down the street..we were waiting to cross a street. We started feeling some sort of weird waving.. At first I looked at Sarah and she looked back at me.. We didn’t really think anything about it ..and then as we continued across the steet..felt the strange sensation again.

Having never been in any sort of earthquake/tremor before I had no idea what to expect nor did I know what it felt like.

** As I write this the hotel is swaying! its 10:30am Sunday (Japan Time) and the room was creaking little.. It was like being on a boat.. anyway am going to get out of the hotel for a little to get some breakfast – BRB **

Ok Back. I have my Boss Coffee from a Vending machine (Yep, the can comes out HOT) and some breakfast.. plus the building has stopped swaying so good to go.

We stopped again in on the street and just stood there for a bit….then we started to lose our balance..its a really odd feeling. People started coming out of the buildings now, Sarah did a wavy motion to one of them and they were going “Hai Hai Hai!” – Realisation set in that we just experienced some form of earthquake. Sarah started to get a bit scared and it was at this point that I’m glad we didn’t go on that ferris wheel!

I didn’t think too much of it, however Sarah wa pretty freaked out..we had to go on the subway to get back to Namba, about 20minutes away.

We made it back to the hotel lobby, and didn’t think anything of what had happened until we found the lifts were not operating. Sat down in the lobby for a bit, when some of the staff rushed out a plasma TV on a stand and plugged it in – flicking it onto the news.

It was all in Japanese, we didn’t actually grab onto the scale of what had happened until the Tsunami’s started rolling through Sendai – Amazingly devastating stuff. Watching those waters just eat through the Japanese countryside was insane. It was eating up the land like a black plague – we watched in awe as the dark waters swallowed up the farm land, greenhouses, whole houses, cars, everything..

We found out we could get free Wifi in the lobby and started using Facebook to reach out to people…Social networking did really well in this situation. We were able to let people know we were OK pretty quickly.

We were lucky to leave Tokyo two days before, fortunately for us Osaka hasn’t been affected much besides the few aftershocks that come through. The Airport is operating normally and on schedule.

We got back up to the hotel room around 6PM and got onto Skype to our family. Assured everything was OK and again..the internet making the world a closer place.

During the night I got woken up by Sarah at 4am because the building was swaying! the roof was also creaking pretty loudly.. I was tired and shrugged it off..deciding (in my mind) that the place is probably built for it.. Sarah literally jumped out of bed and started a new yoga pose as she tried to feel the building move.. I had a quick laugh at that.

Hope that everyone is safe and doing OK, especially those in Tokyo.

Written by Aaron Tan

March 13th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

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Japan – Day 10

Woke up earlyish and went to Super Autobacs near the Takaida station – Well about a 10 minute walk – About 30 minute trip in the end. Sarah stayed local and had a look around the shopping in Namba.

It wasn’t a HUGE store, but it was still pretty cool. I bought a few bits and pieces and also had an interesting converstaion with one of the staff there, when I tried to ask about stickers. His name was Yamada, Basically he had a google translate thing going on his iPhone and I was using their computer to do english translations. We ended up speaking about what cars we drove, he had an orange 180SX which he showed me videos on his phone drifting – Very cool. I showed him my S15 back in Australia – He was very surprised when I said how many KM’s it had done.

This place has a lot of stuff, exhausts, seats, all sorts of bling VIP gear – Its like a Super Cheap Auto/Autobarn but with more performance gear on show, and lots more electronics as well. I got some brochures for Tein, Recaro, HKS and Fujitsubo. I guess it wasn’t one of the really big ones as I didn’t see any turbo’s or the like on display. I think I spent about an hour or something talking/looking around.

When I went to pay, the girls at the Cashier had some fun with me as they tried to explain “If I only wanted one credit transaction for all my purchases” – They were just saying one and holding up their index finger while laughing at the fact I had no idea what they were on about. They ended up calling Yamada-San (The guy I talked to earlier) and he got his iPhone out again to do the translation. Funny that it ended up being so simple.

From here headed back to the hotel and met up with Sarah again. She had a new purchase too from a place called World Wide Love! Nice Jacket.

Lunchtime! We went to a Chinese restaurant just near the hotel called 551 Horai. About 2100yen for some really nice food. Sarah got some crispy noodle with seafood, and I had something similar but it came with a egg soup broth and fried rice.

From here, it was time to check out Osaka’s Den-Den Town (electronics/electric stuff) – Not far from the Hotel again, but I happened to lead us around the LONG way..I think we walked for about 3 hours today.

It’s a bit more slummy than Tokyo, this place had lots of tiny shops – What stood out the most was all the little electronic part stores – Wires, Resistors, LEDs, Circuit boards, everything.. I bought some terminal blocks for my Vewlix cab back at home. Cheap too. Few bucks.

There were lots of DVD stores and some toy stores too – Lots of figurine stores where you could buy all sorts of figures from movies, cartoons, etc.

We went into a Toy shop called Joshin Super Kids World – This place had a Tamiyatown – All the RC models, scale models, parts, etc – It was awesome. We also found out that you can buy replican GUNS and stuff. Like Machine guns, handguns, BB guns – They even have fake bullets for them, and look unreal. I would have tried to sneak a photo, but yeah..there were cameras everywhere..Would have loved to try to buy one but no point, I could imagine customs when we got back into Australia..

Stumbled across a Super Potato shop, a retro gaming store, Lots of old old gear, was awesome to check out some of the stuff from the 80’s.

They had Super Game Boys for 180yen and there were some Super Famicom (SNES) games that appeared brand new in box for 100yen. They even had a few of those old Nintendo robot things hanging around as well.

The second floor of the place was dedicated to game music. Tons of CDs from all years with tracks from video games. Such a cool place.

Next up we went into BIC Camera/Sofmap – Big electronics store – Sarah got a Sony MP3 Player – Its just headphones, its all built into the ear pieces are waterproof too. Good for her to use when working out.

Very cool, and I don’t believe are released outside of Japan. We were worried that it wouldn’t actually work without a Japanese OS but lucky for us, it’s just plug and play. The software was Japanese only but we can get away without using it.

And that leads us to now, where we are sitting in the hotel room watching funny Steve Martin movie on TV thinking about what sort of Dinner we should get…..

So we ended up going to a place called Lottoria for some burgers, and then a Haagen-dazs place for some Crepes.

***

Went back to the Club Sega tonight, played a few games..had some luck again. Played a heap of rounds with the guy I spoke to last night, he was using Cody this time..didn’t get a match off him, came close a few times.. There were a bunch of ladies playing there as well, At the end when the place was closing one of them asked me something in Japanese (I assume “are you japanese”) to which I just gave some funny look and said “Australia” – This lead to an interesting view of the Japanese SFIV scene, from her point of view.

Stood outside the arcade which closed at 12am for about 35 minutes conversing with this woman and her husband. She was 30, a nurse and a Chun player. He a dentist, aged 33 and used Claw. She was part of a SFIVAE Guild – A group of players – Of about 10 girls. There were 2 others there tonight, But I only spoke to these two.

They head to the arcade, in a group of about 8-9 and play nearly every night…from about 9PM to 12am. After the arcade closes they all just talk Street fighter. She also mentioned that there are many players who are over 30, and a few women too. She pointed out one of the girls there was Choco Blanka’s friend, when I was talking about some of the more known Japanese players such as Tokido and Mago (And when they came down for SS last year)

They also told me, that it was safe in Japan to be out late, that they go out every night and talk lots of street fighter. They also want to come to Australia, and since Facebook only came out last month for Japan (or something to that effect) it wasn’t very popular here (yet?)

With a few days to go before travelling back to Australia – My SFIVAE card will soon be retired. At the moment I think its 50 losses and 32 wins with about 7300BP.

Written by Aaron Tan

March 11th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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Japan – Day 9

Got up about 10am, had something to eat and then checked out of the fabulous Hotel Sunroute in Shinjuku.

Pulled our baggage to the Shinjuku Train station and Sarah put an extra 1000 yen onto a Pasmo card, instead of a fare adjustment – Something to note! (We found out later Pasmo is only Tokyo)

Got on the Yamanote line to Shinagawa where we eventually found our Shinkansen platform. We were using the Nozomi service (express, fewest stops) on the Tōkaidō/Sanyō service. This train hits 300km/h..

I was a bit worried about how we would store our luggage (as space is limited, unless you can get the space behind the last row of seats) but ended up being fine. Whoever said the section above the seats is similar to that of an airplane should be shot. Our 55-60lt bags went up there no issues…assuming you can lift it up there.

The train ride was cool, I was trying to find my Blackberry to show GPS speed (Didn’t have an app on Iphone) and I couldn’t get the damn thing, it was burried in our luggage somewhere.

Very smooth ride, didn’t feel like it was going that fast..we went past some of the nice countryside and also saw Mt Fuji – had some clouds around it unfortunately.

Some parts of the track had some sprinklers going too, I assume to keep the track temperature stable in case the steel warps or something.


We passed through Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto before arriving at Shin-Osaka.

From here it was a pretty simple task to get to our hotel…Jump on the Midosuji line and get off at Namba. Only thing was at Namba it was a maze of department stores, subway lines, railway lines and bus lines. Evenutally found the lobby of the hotel.

The Swissotel Nankai Osaka – Is a world above where we stayed previously in terms of the size of our room, which is huge. Very nice with awesome views.

Only crap thing is we have to pay 1680yen for a day of internet – Might be a nice hotel but all the bits and pieces cost extra. 3000yen to use the pool/gym for example. The restaurants are also very expensive. However, not really an issue as we’d be eating out anyway.

The vending machine in the previous hotel was actually very handy, as the mini-bar costs 350yen for a coke, where as the vending machines have them for 150yen.

Once we were settled we had a look around, Had dinner at a place called Yayoiken – Curry Rice and stuff for me, and Sarah had some beef/egg/potato on Rice dish – Tasty, and around cost under 1500 yen.

***

Went and played a few games of SFIV at the Club Sega (Which we can see from the hotel room) – Had some success here tonight, won about 7 games and had a little streak going. Then played this Able and got destroyed. Doing stuff i’d never seen before…Very interesting. I attempted to have a little chat with the player who tried his best to explain some things with very limited english, if I knew Japanese I think I’d be able to learn a lot from these guys.

Written by Aaron Tan

March 10th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

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Japan – Day 8

Its sunny today, woo. We went all the way to Tokyo Dome City (I really wanted some rollercoaster action) and then when we got there..the place was pretty much deserted.

I got to an information desk and asked when “all this stuff” will open again, and was shown a piece of paper that read:

“Due to incident on January 30 the rides will remained closed. It has not been decided when they will be reopened”

Perfect. We wondered what incident had happened, later that night googled it and a Japanese guy died here that day. He fell out of a ride and it was being investigated as to whether it was the rider or parks fault. Not very good. From that I found this park has had a couple of other incidents as well. Maybe its better we didn’t go on anything here..

So that sucks, now where are we going to go? As this place was right next to Tokyo Dome..we walked past and had a quick look while heading back to the subway.

We decided on Odiaba – Theres a Sega Joypolis there which is supposed to be pretty cool. Also it was out on this man made island part of Tokyo which sounded interesting.

We trained it all the way out there, over the bridge and all (later found the subway was much easier and faster) and got some lunch at an Italian restaurant. It was REALLY good too. I had a lasagne and Sarah got a pizza. Sarah looks really happy in this photo…

They had a nice outdoor dining area with a decent view so I asked if I could go outside and take a snap, no one was out there, probably because it was freezing..still I thought i’d be polite.

After that, we paid the 500yen admission into Joypolis – and I had an ‘unlimited ride’ ticket (which cost an extra 3000yen) – Not bad. There wasn’t that much in there..Don’t think it was worth getting the 3000yen pass. Most rides were 600yen, and I only went on a few. First up was this mini-roller coaster where you are spun around in the cart while going around the track. Second was a Intial D driving game with real cars setup – WRX, AE86 and a FD RX7. Third was this athletic game. The attendant made us stretch before, as the point of the game was to run on these treadmills and hit a button for hurdles, long jump and a sprint. During the name entry, I accidently followed the two girls I was competing against, and must have selected ‘Female’ for my character. Hopefully that didn’t look too odd..anyway I won! Was pretty strange, and my leg muscles are still hurting..

There was a Prison Break thing as well, which I thought was pretty lame. The Japanese guy leading us through the ‘prison’ was pretty cool, he got right into it..The other japanese running along seemed pretty into it as well.

And thats all I went on..I must say before Prison Break I started to feel a bit off..It didn’t help waiting 10 minutes in line for a crap ride and then having to run through it.

Headed back out to the Decks complex, which is where all this stuff was..went out onto the actual deck outside and checked out the nice view of Tokyo.

Got back to the Hotel, and had some plans to meet up with Tim and Sachie again for some food (Jamaican..Sounded good too) and also another friend prior to that.. But I felt crap and couldn’t be bothered going anywhere after a pretty big day.

Had a good nap and then later in the night got up and felt a bit better..headed around the corner to get some dinner, thought we’d try this Sizeria place – Since I know people that work there back in Australia (Yes they have a factory in Melton..Not sure what they make and ship back to Japan though) – I had some hamburger meat dish (yep, just a hamburger patty) and Sarah had some pasta. Pretty crappy but it was cheap I guess and filled the stomach.

Had a quick walk around and went into the gaming part of Yodobashi Camera, saw all the Hori fight sticks they had and laughed at how cheap they were.. Wasted 200yen in a Mario capsule vending machine thing – Only to realise it was EMPTY!

Went back to hotel and went to bed..gotta get up early to get ready to check out and head to Osaka.

Written by Aaron Tan

March 9th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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Japan – Day 7

One week mark gone now!

It was snowing this morning, so we didn’t do too much today.

Hung around Shinjuku and then went to Shibuya to meet up with Tim later in the day, who took us around and showed us a few more shopping centres that we’d missed. We also got to see Shibuya crossing lit up at night..which is pretty damn bright.

Had some dinner at Pepper Steak – First meat I’ve had in a long time..Pretty cheap too for 1000yen.

Went to Loft – another homewares shopping centre spread across 5 or 6 levels, also the ‘everything’ store – which literally was 6 floors of everything..luggage, rolex watches, boutique bags/wallets, homewares, toys, makeup..costumes, adult stuff, food, drinks..it really was everything.

We went back to the hotel, then I came out again to catch up and have a few drinks with Tim and Sachie.

We went to this little bar in Shibuya and have a couple of jugs of Asahi and then ended up in Sbarro for some pizza slices.

Bloody cold day it was!

Written by Aaron Tan

March 8th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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