Day 20: On a Stick

In Japan they put ice cream in buns and hot dogs on sticks. Then again any food could be found on a stick here. Our lunch and dinner were both on sticks. Meat on sticks, like God intended. I don’t really miss the buns either, is that wrong? I’ll get to todays food later…

Today we visited “Hobby Complex 4”, a convention for various figure hobby enthusiasts. Inside we were greeted by easily recognizable stench of 2 day old Otaku and plastic. Our noses are well trained after years of convention going ourselves.

We did see a lot of cool toys, models, and figurines. There were many figurines of women in lewd poses. It seems thats all the rage with the crowd, as men of all ages would line up with expensive looking camera equipment to photograph the dolls. The longest lines were for dolls with huge breasts or other parts hanging out.

While walking the floor we ran into one of the guys from the store yesterday, manning an American-ish toy booth that was selling GI-Joe, Transformers, and Star Wars toys. At the booths on either side of him, Robyn found a ‘perfect grade’ Evangelion model and I picked up a VF-17 toy. Both were really good bargains and the total for today was very reasonable.

With everything we wanted to see out of the way we left the convention and picked up some hot dogs on a stick from a street vendor outside. The mustard here is really spicy, but it looks so innocent in the standard condiment packaging.  Both the hot dogs were topped with mustard. I was surprised with how spicy it was but Robyn seemed to expect the spiciness.

Later in the day we visited a yakitori restaurant, not a little hole in the wall like before, but a nice place that looked clean. We ordered all sorts of meats on a stick. Chicken, beef, and pork were available at our whim. We also tried out some grilled peppers, which turned out to be really flavorful and not spicy at all. Robyn even liked them so much we split a 2nd order!

After dinner we headed back to the arcades. The first arcade we visited had a virtual reality Gundam game. Let me set the stage – this game is a first person shooter, and you play as a pilot in a giant robot battle. The arcade machines are pods you walk into and sit down in, with a wrap around screen. Inside the pod are two joysticks, two foot pedals, a seat, and headphones with microphone attached. The arcades that have this game usually have 4-6 networked pods.

I’ve watched Gundam plenty so I thought it should be easy enough. A nice worker helped me get started by creating a “pilot card” to keep track of my stats, which is not much use to me because we leave Osaka soon. But anyways… I got to play the game. The seat did not slide back enough for me, so I had to jam up my knees close together to fit in-between the joysticks. I was pretty annoyed by the time everyone picked a Gundam unit and weapons so that the game could start.

I managed to figure out how to move around in a few seconds. The controls were over-simplified in my opinion, with no way to look up or down. The computer would lock-on for you when you lined up an enemy in the targeting circle. I took second place in the first game and placed first the second game. I don’t think they can handle American FPS strafe skill. Overall, despite my complaints, the game was very fun and I wish it was available in America.

Next up it was time to finish off the remainder of tokens we had stockpiled from winning at “Monopoly: The Medal”. Time flew by, as did another pair of crepes, and soon it was closing time. So, we blew the remainder of our tokens on some Mario and ‘Lupin the 3rd’ games. It was a satisfying final visit to Joypolis, as we made it to the “big game” three times and were actually getting a bit bored with Monopoly by the end of the night. So, we are able to happily leave Monopoly behind.

I have a few insignificant things left in the bucket list for Japan. Karaoke was one of these things, and I got Robyn to agree to go tonight. We found a “Big Echo” karaoke joint that was open to 6am, which is impressive as most things in this city seem to shut down pretty early. We were given a tiny room that had a couch, video monitor, and sound system. At first we could not work the song remote – small language barrier there. An attendant showed us how to search for songs in English and we were off.

I picked up the microphone and Robyn picked some songs from Rock Band to start with. She sang along, mainly I think so she could drown out my howling with her own voice. I think she had a good time in spite of her dislike of karaoke. In what seemed like no time we were already having to buy another hour (and another round of beer for me). In our second hour we also figured out how to search for bands with “The” in the title, which helps a lot in finding “The Beatles” songs. Apparently Japanese search engines think a little differently, as there was a “The” button.

That about sums up our day, and now it’s really late and we are trying to wind down. It seems every night there are various sirens wailing outside, with a person on a loudspeaker yelling something… probably asking people to move over. Maybe I can go to sleep before the next emergency vehicle drives by.