Sunday, May 1, 2011

Japan: Day Three

-Woke up pretty early and took the Shinkansen (the bullet train) into Osaka. I got a "bento lunch" which was pretty tasty, had chicken and rice and what I realize now was an "umeboshi". The train was literally dizzyingly fast and smoother than I would have thought possible. I think the really profound effect is that when we left the station, we were next to another stationary train, and I found it easier to imagine that the other train was moving.  This was likely the fastest land speed I will ever achieve, and I was worried it would somehow be incomprehensible, like, it wouldn't really "seem" as fast as it was. These fears were unfounded. When you looked out the window, you knew you were going fast. Plus, it had the effect of like, "an already fast thing speeding up". This is something I have always found to be really exciting in pretty much every form it takes, my favorite probably being the scene in Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 where they're racing to catch the angel. Something about how they make the excitement come from it going really fast and then when it's time to like, increase the excitement, they do so by making it go even faster. Here on the train it seemed like not only were we perpetually accelerating, our jerk and snap and pop and all of that were constantly increasing to, putting our actual speed increase at a rate that is prolly like x^grahams. Anyways yeah, scenery was very nice. Also read the last bit of The Pale King, very good, will talk about it later.

-After we got to Osaka we dropped off our stuff and went for lunch at a traditional sort of place. Ordered a "spread" sort of thing with sashimi, miso soup, a custard sort of thing, various greens, and really thin strips of beef that you cooked in a boiling broth that came with it. The whole thing was quite good and the beef was among the most delicious things I've ever had.

-We checked out a bunch of Osaka's semi-open-air type malls. Lots of neat stores, stuff that would be "more hip" than anything I could think to find in North America. One book store in particular really impressed me, it seemed like the sort of thing that I think exists in New York. Really drove home how much I really ought to learn to read Japanese. The crowds in these areas were bananas. Just seas of people in all directions. However, it was a real sort of passive, free-flowing crowd, the sort of crowd dynamic that exists if everyone knows enough not to try to rush and to be more reactive to how people are moving around them. My cousin talked a lot about how he felt Tokyo was busier, too busy, and that Osaka was at a better pace. I thought this was just a placebo when I saw these dense crowds, but after walking through them, I think I understand. It's this sort of thing that Osaka is famous for.

-After that we went to one of those arcades where you pay per hour instead of per play, which is nice for when you want to play games you are terrible at. They also had darts, billiards, table tennis, off the table tennis, batting cages, etc, etc. The video game selection wasn't as good in the competitive niches as those I'd seen in Tokyo and would likely see in other pay-per-play places around here, but they had more variety for just weird stuff. They had like, pogo stick racing games, an arcade version of Rhythm Heaven, all manner of bizarre shooting games, Parodius(!!!!!!), stuff like Bus Simulator, a huge Tetris version with a cumbersome joystick that was pretty fun, a game where you had to physically stack bricks next to the screen for the characters to climb on (this would take much longer to sensibly explain, I think), etc, etc. There were also a few pretty competitive games, which is why it's good that it wasn't pay per play. They had one of the old Dodonpachis that I did okay at before the game "got serious" with me and I realized that my bullet hell skills were still far from sufficient. Even worse are my rhythm action game skills, though. I enjoy the genre and such but I was pretty terrible at it. I think it really springs from the fact that I figure I ought to be good at them since they're so simple, ignoring the fact that they're also really hard. Since I ought to be good at them, I'm frightened by not being good at them, and then I approach them with a level of reservedness and conservativeness that leads me to do even worse and not improve. I couldn't play with any sort of natural rhythm and would just like, brute force what I thought I should do, which actually makes it much harder in a sort of self-destructive way. Anyways yeah I spent a good amount of time failing ashamedly at Beatmania and Taiko and Pop'n Music until I played uh, GuitarFreaks I guess. I played "20th Century Boy" on GuitarFreaks, which was mad fun, and it was so much fun that I actually just sort of played it the way that I figured I "should", not focused madly on getting the best score I possibly could, and did a lot better than I had previously. With that attitude I tried Taiko again. I also finally figured out how to change songs and played a bunch of Hatsune Miku stuff and other junk I loved, plus the classic Taiko songs. I probably could have played that for the rest of the trip after I got used to doing it. Ridiculously fun.

-After we were done there we met up with some friends of my cousin. We went to a really good Chinese restaurant, "Chinese Cafe 8". Strange place in regards to decor but the food was pretty "traditional" in every sense of the word. We had some really tasty dumplings.

-After some quick hotel regrouping etc went with cousin and his friends to a "video game bar" which is exactly what it advertised. It was run by a white dude, he had a pretty good collection of video games. I dicked around trying to speedrun Mario 64 and generally failing at the lobby skip, which in retrospect I could never actually do very often. Also they had a copy of Melee and I was like yes I will be validated by playing Melee but we didn't and I didn't feel like demanding it to show off or something, that seems like, well past silly. Anyways yeah video game bar very cool idea. Went to bed after that.

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