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Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

I hadn't slept much. The little time I had left that wasn't used preparing for the trip was spent preparing for our return. The few things I kept, such as my game consoles and computer, were strewn about the bedroom floor; the rest of my stuff was on its way to a storage facility in Oklahoma. See, we were to be moved out of our house in Texas and on the road to Fort Sill the day we got back to the States. I wanted more time to get ready, but it was my fault for spending so much time messing with my new Xbox 360 S and watching Lost. (I had set up my own mini home theater in my room after the movers took our projector and spent more time on Netflix than I should have.) I wasn't completely unprepared, though - after spending eight hours trying to find our hotel in France, I made sure of that. This time, I bought two binders, one for me and one for my brother, and made note of some key bits of info to avoid issues later, such as directions to our hotel and a small glossary. I figured the covers of the binders should represent things we like from Japan, so I put some art of Metal Gear Solid 3 by Yoji Shinkawa on mine and a badass drawing of Toshiro Mifune on my brother's.

Our binders.

The stuff I kept in our binders, including our itinerary info, basic phrases, and the aforementioned directions and glossary.

I also brought the menu I had been using for our local Japanese restaurant, Shogun. I've always had an aversion to seafood and was able to count on my fingers the number of times I ate it throughout my life. Figuring this was something I should get over, I started going to Shogun a few months before the trip to try foods I never had before. I circled the things I liked and placed an asterisk by things I didn't like. Having now been to Japan and various Japanese restaurants across the U.S., I can say Shogun has had the best food I have ever had - we once drove six hours just to eat there! Also, I ate more than what the menu shows; I just stopped circling stuff at a certain point.

When it comes to being authentic, Shogun is the Kid Rock of Japanese restaurants. Mmmm, old Giant Bomb memes...

With an 8:20 AM departure, there wasn't a lot of time to mess around. After gathering up our luggage, unplugging all the electronics in the house and taking a stupid picture, we took a cab to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.

It's all about the Yukichis, baby.

After checking our bags and getting our boarding passes, we headed upstairs to wait in the food court. Luckily for me, there was an arcade right across from where I sat.

My boarding passes and the book we took on the trip.

A couple of shots of the arcade. On the left is the Global Arcade Classics machine I played Rastan on. On the right is the only full shot of the arcade I had. I was waiting for the announcer lady who interrupted my video to shut up so I could finish talking.

I didn't spend much time actually playing games. The arcade had Global Arcade Classics, T-Mek, Giga Wing (which wasn't working), Tekken 3, Off Road Challenge, Demolish Fist, Ranger Mission, and San Francisco Rush: The Rock (Alcatraz Edition). I played Rastan on the Global Arcade Classics machine, but it was time to go through security so I rushed through the game until I died, hence my terrible playing in the video. A short while later we were on the tiny plane en route to Houston. We arrived about an hour later and took a bus to the actual airport, which is the first time I've ever had to do that. We took a train cart to Terminal E and waited to depart for Tokyo.

We were a little concerned about our flight. Every international flight I've been on had seats in rows of three. On Travelocity, they had an overhead map of the plane and let you click on the seats you wanted, which I thought was pretty cool. There were rows of just two seats in the back of the plane, and I chose to go with those. My brother had recounted a story in which he sat in the back on an international flight before, and the seats didn't lean back at all, which would be pretty bad for a 12-hour flight. It ended up not being a problem, and we had the benefit of not sitting next to someone else.

I was surprised by the variety of people on the plane. I'm sure I would have heard a lot of interesting stories if I asked them why they were going to Japan (though I know there were a few on their way to China), but I decided to indulge in the massive entertainment selection available, instead. Far more robust than when I went to France, there were 192 movies, various TV shows like The Office and The Simpsons, music, and a video game selection that included basic titles like Asteroids. I tried to watch Up in the Air, a movie I have still yet to see, but my headphones couldn't go loud enough for me to hear all the words. I decided to watch movies I liked and already saw before, such as Get Smart and Ratatouille. I went with the beef and rice meal for dinner, which included bread, salad, and a cookie. It was actually pretty good, like most food I've had on planes, contrary to what comedians of the 90s led me to believe. Maybe something about being 34,001 feet in the air makes food taste better. That, or it's improved over the past fifteen years or so.

They brought around fruit and eggs for breakfast. I skipped the eggs, since any eggs that aren't made by me usually aren't very good (the trick is lots of margarine and salt). They soon brought around the customs declarations forms, and we landed at Narita International Airport shortly afterward.

What the customs declarations forms look like. Riveting!

After taking the escalator down past the "Welcome to Japan" sign, we stood in line for about twenty minutes with the rest of the people entering the country. We scanned both our index fingers and had our pictures taken, got our luggage and handed customs our forms and continued on through the airport. They didn't bother looking in our bags or anything, and it was the first of many instances that revealed just how much better dealing with Japanese airport employees was compared to the TSA.

Inside Narita International Airport.

We went to go purchase our Suica & N'EX package from a lady who didn't speak English. Thanks to those handy Arabic numerals, however, we were able to eventually figure everything out and went toward the train heading for Shinagawa Station. We got on the Narita Express and sat in our reserved seats, 7A and 7B, placing our luggage at the front of the cart in a convenient storage area.

Some of the pamphlets we picked up, along with our Suica & N'EX receipt.

Attached to the ceilings were TVs that displayed trip progress, news stories, advertisements, an overhead map of the next station, updates on other train lines, and the time; they would even cycle the information through various languages.

Super useful!

When we weren't looking at the TVs, we were admiring the view out the window. One of things that surprised both my brother and I, even on the flight in, was just how green everything was. There were seemingly miles of perfectly cut grass without a dead patch of brown in sight, not to mention all the lush trees. Passing by dozens of homes with clothes hanging out to dry only reinforced the quaintness of it all. Another unusual sight, though I'm sure it's no different in America (not that I would know since public transportation here is terrible), was seeing everyone playing with their phones at the various stations we stopped at. You would have been hard-pressed to find someone not staring at a tiny screen of some sort as they waited for their ride.

Look at all that green! Also, the first McDonald's we saw.

There were a couple of people reading manga on the train, one of which was a Weekly Shonen Jump. At one of the stops, a white guy with an N7 Mass Effect shirt got on. As we arrived at Shinagawa Station (the entire trip was about 70 minutes) I was sure to say "awesome shirt". He looked up from his DS (I think he was playing a Pokémon game) and said, "I appreciate it." in an accent that wasn't American, and I gave a thumbs up and simply said "Mass Effect", which I think should totally be a thing.

Shinagawa Station is a large place with various shops for whatever one might need, including a Super Market (That's the name of the store!) that's always crowded. Outside of Shinagawa Station is a large crosswalk that takes you to the Shinagawa Prince complex, which is composed of a few different towers. We stayed in the North Tower, which was a little tricky to find at first as the complex is so big. During my stay, I saw several different stores (including a drug store), a movie theater, a bowling alley, a bunch of restaurants, and that wasn't even close to everything the complex contained. I could have seen Gary Whitta's The Book of Eli with Japanese subtitles!

I accidentally read about the revelation at the end on NeoGAF before seeing the movie. :(

After checking in, we took an elevator to the sixth floor. There was a vending machine as soon as we exited that contained various drinks, such as orange juice, tea, and ... beer. Asahi, specifically. My brother was thrilled.

Our room was right by the elevator, and my brother practically passed out after we got settled. I hadn't slept properly for about 39 hours at this point, but I wanted to get some writing done for the trip. I decided to go to sleep as to not disturb my brother and later awoke a bit earlier than him at 4 AM. I knew trying to rest at this point would be a pointless endeavor. I was too excited, because today was the day we were going to Akihabara.

Making the Video
Introduction to the Series
List of Episodes
SmugMug Version of the YouTube Video
Posted by Deusx

Great read my friend. Nice to see you're already having a good time. Also, great video, nice editing.

I would give a left nut to visit Akihabara, they have the biggest gundam store in the whole world. It's so amazing. Keep us posted!

Posted by ESREVER

Excellent read! Makes me even more excited for my Summer trip!

Posted by talljack

So excited the first part is up! I've wanted to go to Japan for a long-long-long time and hope I can use your trip as a kind of guide. Or at the least live vicariously through you. Can't wait so see how Akihabara ends up!

Posted by Sweep

I've heard that if you drive fast enough, the cops don't even try to catch you.

Posted by Pepsiman

It's always a bit intriguingly surreal to read blogs like this. As somebody who lives in Japan and who knew at least some of the language even before first arriving, I always find the stories of people who come here without prior language training really interesting. How do people cope with being in Japan if they can't speak the language? Can they still lead fulfilling lives without that sort of knowledge? And perhaps most importantly, what's their take on what Japan is as a country without the native linguistic perspective and how well does it mesh with how locals think about their country? Of course, you were here in a touristy capacity, so it's not really like you probably had to grapple with any of those questions, or at least not for long, but I still find these sorts of writings really interesting because, at least for me personally, I absolutely cannot imagine what life here is like in any capacity without the language skills. I just can't because of my own personal history and circumstances in relation to the country and its language. I'm glad you're making a series out of this, as I'll certainly be looking forward to successive entries to see more of that sort of perspective I utterly lack.

Anyway, about the obscene amount of greenery you mention in the blog: the reasoning behind that is at least partially historical. Back in the 1600s, Japan was seeing its own natural resources dwindle down to alarming levels. In this time period, for a variety of circumstantial reasons I won't get into for conciseness' sake, the country maintained no formal diplomatic relations with most of the world, instead choosing to survive and exist on its own. I bring this up because it meant that Japan had no potential import sources it could rely on if the resource shortages got dire. As a result of that, the government saw fit to replenish the plant life that the people were consuming, a move that is evident by sheer virtue of the fact that Japan still has forests today. Had politicians not had the foresight to bolster the country's internal supplies, it's likely that the country would be barren today. Of course, modern Japan has still had environmental issues in recent history, especially in the wake of WWII, but the greenery, as well as the country's attempts at being a green leader, have a precedence that goes back centuries.

Posted by corewalker

Thanks for sharing Duder!

Edited by Ravenlight
Mass Effect!

Keep 'em coming, duder!


Posted by DarthOrange

Just leaving a comment so that i can find this later, I gotta go right now. I'll add depth to this comment later!

Posted by Brackynews

Those Global Arcade Classics machines are getting to be a staple of the airport arcades I've seen.

Congrats duder, Japan trips are a brutal endurance run of planes trains and automobiles. Usually 24 hours straight travel time from my home to my brother's in Tokyo.

Posted by Beluga

Great job on the video and write-up! I love the on-the-street perspective — I hate it when travel shows focus more on touristy stuff and less on what everyday life is like.

Edited by WatanabeKazuma

@CharlesAlanRatliff: Nice blog! Flying penguins are especially awesome!

Posted by ThePhantomnaut

Dude I hope you went to a game center like Club Sega or Taito Hey in one of the main districts.

Posted by Itwastuesday

That was one exhaustive travelogue! I love reading these things. First thing I'm gonna plan when I get out of college is a trip to Japan. Looking forward to the pictures.

Posted by SpicyRichter

I just got back to Canada after 90 days in Japan, I took the exact trip ugly described except in reverse and with a stop over in South Korea. Brings back memories!

My first day in Tokyo I walked from roppongi to akihabera, awesome trip but it takes a few hours. Don't bother asking locals for walking directions because nobody walks anywhere

Also, if you need mobile data there, check out rentaphonejapan.com for renting a mobile hotspot. They will deliver it to your hotel with a self addressed envelope for return. Very easy!

Posted by deathstriker666

As a person who was born in America with relatives in Japan, I can confirm that it's a lot easier to get around Japan not knowing Japanese than it is to go to America not knowing English.

Posted by jkuc316

Man, so jealous of you!

Posted by Vexxan

Great write-up, looking forward to more from you, duder!

Posted by InternetJames

Awesome write up. Bit creep that I was staying quite close to where you were on my trip. In my defense, it is relativity close to a Akihabara!

Posted by Marmaladebrat

Good story. Keep it up.

Posted by iPliskin

What software did you use to edit that video?. Also... what's with all that blue? was it the camera's fault or whomever was manipulating it?.

Posted by kingzetta

So are you the baddest bancho in japan yet?

Posted by Zurgfrog

That was a really entertaining read for me, all I can say is I'm eagerly awaiting the next episodes.

Keep em coming

Posted by FesteringNeon

Love the detail! Looked like an amazing time.

Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG
I would hate to go to Japan without my parents....  I dont think Ill be able to survive with my limited Japanese vocabulary.  I kinda find it annoying when Japanese people think Im a Japanese high school student because whenever I go there I try dressing as white as possible to avoid that scenario.
@Sweep said:

I've heard that if you drive fast enough, the cops don't even try to catch you.

That is very true, also, you can drift through traffic!
Posted by dagas

@Sweep said:

I've heard that if you drive fast enough, the cops don't even try to catch you.

If you can do faster than 180kp/h they can't catch you so they don't even try. Man I love that movie. I wish I could live in Japan and play soccer on a frickin roof top like they do in that movie and drive cars like that.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

@Deusx: Thank you! Editing this second video is way harder. There's so much I want to show but I don't know how to best put it together!

@ESREVER: How long will you be staying there?

@talljack: Thank you!

@Sweep: I'm guessing this is a Tokyo Drift reference. I still need to see it. :(

@Ravenlight: There are definitely more vending machines to come. No panties, though. :(

@Brackynews said:

Usually 24 hours straight travel time

That sounds terrible.

@Narwhalist said:

Great job on the video and write-up! I love the on-the-street perspective — I hate it when travel shows focus more on touristy stuff and less on what everyday life is like.

Thanks! I have a whole bunch of footage of just people walking around that I'm figuring out how to best implement. While I love this type of stuff, I'm not sure how interesting it will be to most people. I will post it up in some form, however.

@WatanabeKazuma: They really are!

@ThePhantomnaut said:

Dude I hope you went to a game center like Club Sega or Taito Hey in one of the main districts.

I went to all of them.

@Itwastuesday: There's a ton of them!

@SpicyRichter said:

Also, if you need mobile data there, check out rentaphonejapan.com for renting a mobile hotspot. They will deliver it to your hotel with a self addressed envelope for return. Very easy!

I'll keep that in mind next time I go! Thanks.

@deathstriker666: I imagine so! English is pretty dumb.

@Vexxan: @InternetJames: @Marmaladebrat: Thanks!

@iPliskin: CyberLink PowerDirector 9 and 10. Everything looks blue because the camera was set to "Tungsten" for the early parts of the trip. Whoops!

I'll be responding to the rest of the posts later today, including . Thanks a bunch for your long post, by the way; I really appreciate it! Long posts just take me a while to get to since I want to reply properly instead of just saying something like "Thanks for the info."

Posted by ESREVER

@CharlesAlanRatliff: About a month!

Posted by AlphaView

This is awesome!!!

Posted by spudtastic

@CharlesAlanRatliff: I'm glad you had fun; however a trip to Japan makes me panicky. I just got such a summary 2 weeks ago at church, where a group had just returned from a disaster relief mission.

Posted by mushroomyakuza

@the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG said:

I would hate to go to Japan without my parents.... I dont think Ill be able to survive with my limited Japanese vocabulary. I kinda find it annoying when Japanese people think Im a Japanese high school student because whenever I go there I try dressing as white as possible to avoid that scenario.

I barely speak a word of the language and I live here (in Tokyo), have done almost two years. I've never looked into studying it as I've never intended to stay here long term. Trust me it's a very accommodating place and that's generally a lot of English signs around, particularly around train stations and so forth.

Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG
@mushroomyakuza: I wouldnt have a problem with that if I looked white...  I tried dressing the whitest way possible but adults still thought I was from a Japanese high school.....
Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

@kingzetta: My laser eyes are the strongest.

@Zurgfrog: @FesteringNeon: Thanks!

: Yeah, it's hard to put my full feelings about the trip into a paragraph (which is one of the reasons why the series is so in-depth) and none of those questions really came up for me since I was only there a couple of weeks, but it was very easy to get around and do what we wanted to do. With so many things in English and everyone we encountered super nice and polite, getting around was generally pretty easy.

And thanks for the info about why it was so green! I knew about Japan's history with isolationism, but I never took that into account; I just assumed it was solely a pride thing. I look forward to hearing more from you in future blog posts!

Posted by No0b0rAmA

I wonder why the signs are in Korean as well.

Posted by kn00tcn

boy the camera sure seems to struggle with white balance, i dont remember my HV20 turning so blue or green

dont forget our cams (& i guess any decent cam in the last half decade) have a manual white balance option where you just need to hold up a white item like a paper, hit the button, & you're now set for the current room or area (set it each time you move to a differently lit location)

Posted by kn00tcn

whoops just saw earlier comment, still think it should be easy to readjust the WB in the NLE (powerdirector), hopefully not too much quality loss

Edited by theanticitizen

When was this? I was in Japan in 2010 with an N7 shirt ha ha Edit: that wasn't me ha ha no one noticed my shirt but still, that's awesome

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

@theanticitizen: That would have been crazy! I was going to ask if you happened to ride a train on July 16th.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

Japan: Electric Town will be released in a couple of hours.

I'm thinking of doing some Q&A videos to get some practice speaking on camera. If you have any questions about my two-week trip, feel free to ask me here on Giant Bomb or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, on Formspring.

Questions I already have via Google+:

1. Do you know any Japanese?

2. How expensive was your trip? How expensive was Tokyo compared to the U.S.?

3. What were the people like?

Posted by JCTango


Did you get to try any interesting foods that you've never tried before? What were they?

Did you try any ice cream mochis (you can get them here too, but I think you get better choices there).

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff
@JCTango: Thanks! I'll answer them later this week. 
Here is Episode 02: Electric Town.