This is a story about my trip to Glorious Nippon - an adventure that spanned from the November 1st through to the 9th. It is a tale filled with GLORIO and FAIL all rolled into an epic holiday that I will never forget. The only thing to rival the number photos taken is the number of kilometers travelled.
Planning began with booking the flights at a massive discount (AUD$510 each return) in early August. Following that, a huge amount of research and planning went into the trip. We decided to book everything ourselves and have our own travel plan instead of booking a package. This saved us quite a bit of money, but it is a whole lot more work. We also got to see a lot more things by having the freedom of our own schedule.
Monday 1/11 finally rolled around after much anticipation, and we were on the way to Gold Coast International Airport at 6am. It was an uneventful drive, the car was put in long term parking ant the airport and we headed to the check-in desk. The guy there was quite impressed with my itinerary until he scanned our tickets and told us that our flight was actually booked for the next day. FAIL.
We were faced with two choices - pay another $650 to change the flights, or pay to get the car out of parking, drive home, come back the next day and loose the money for the accommodation at Narita and the trip to Fuji-Q Highland.
I'd rather lose a finger than miss out on Evangelion World, so we forked out for the tickets. The flight was on time and we took off at 10:50 and arrived at 18:55 Japan time. For a flight of that length, I would definitely recommend NOT flying economy.
Clearing customs and collecting baggage only took about 1 hour, and we headed straight to the PIA ticket counter and bought the tickets for Coldrain at Club Quattro. Once all that was sorted, we jumped on the train to Narita station and walked to the hotel and checked in. The clerk spoke fluent English, so that was a bonus. The room was tiny, but we were only there for the night and it was ¥6800.
We wandered around Narita for a while looking for somewhere to get some food and found a dirty little alleyway full of what looked like hostess bars or gentlemen's clubs. I thought I'd give that a miss being with the wife and all...
We eventually found a place to eat and got a massive feed for about ¥2000. The staff didn't speak a word of English, and my Japanese phrasebook failed me. There was a Lawson's across the road, so we stocked up on beer, cigarettes and snack food and headed back to the hotel.
First thing in the morning we went back to the airport to get the Rail Passes. A word of advice - leave early. the line up took over a hour. The rail passes let us get reserved seats on the NEX, so the trip to Fuji-Q took about 3 hours. There was a lot of great scenery on the way out there, so time passed fairly quickly. The wife isn't a big fan of rides and we weren't planning on staying there all day so we only paid for entry tickets, not the ride passes. I got a couple of things from the store at Evangelion World and then we headed into the display. It was well set up and definitely worth the trip for a fan.
The rest of the place was your standard theme park type of affair, with the exception of the Gundam Mania store. Mos Burger was on the menu for lunch and it was good. Tipping the ice out of your cup before putting it in the bin was new to me, but I think I managed to get everything in the right receptacle. We wandered around for a while more and headed back to the station.
The ice skating rink had a good view of Mount Fuji in the background.
To get to Kyoto, it was faster to catch the train back to Tokyo and then catch the shinkansen to Kyoto. If the train has reserved seats and you have a rail pass GET THEM. It beats standing at the end of the carriage for a hour until some people get off the train. The whole trip took nearly 5 hours with transfers, so we didn't get to Kyoto until around 20:30. The hotel was just off Shijo Dori, so we caught the subway to Shijo station and promptly got lost. While we were standing around with the maps out looking like proper tourists, a nice couple stopped and with the help of an iPhone they gave us directions to the hotel. Turns out we were only one street back from where we needed to be. The room was a bit bigger than Narita and it was in a good location. The reviews for the hotel said there was no internet access, but there was wifi in the lobby and you just needed to ask for a (free) modem to use the internet in your room. Family Mart across the road got frequent visits and we feasted on cup noodles before going to bed.
Finding Nishiki Market took a while, and most things were closed - forgot about the national holiday. Arashiyama was the next stop and that place is definitely a tourist trap. It is still a great place to wander around. The area was quite busy because of the holiday. The mountain up to the Iwatayama Monkey Park was an epic walk, but well worth it for the view.
After a leisurely stroll through the shopping district of Arashiyama, we headed to Nijo Castle. It was very busy here as well. There seemed to be a lot of school groups and I realized that anime has been lying to me - school girls don't have unfathomably large boobs. After I recovered from the disappointment we started looking through the castle grounds. Unfortunately, you can't take photos inside the buildings. It was interesting to look around and do the tour. The place had a moat, so it was automatically win.
Walking from Nijo Castle to Shijo Dori is not recommended - should have caught the bus. We looked around the shopping district for a while and headed to one of the many Pachinko parlors on the street. One of the assistants spoke English and ran us through how it worked and set us free. I jumped on the Evangelion machine and spent some money. They rob you just as fast as the Pokies do. It was strange being able to smoke indoors while gambling, that got banned here years ago.
After we got sick of losing money, we headed down Teramachi Dori - an undercover shopping street. We went to Animate and Gamers there and I had to drag myself away before I emptied the contents of my wallet. I got a few things out of the Gashapon machines and picked up the newest copy of Young Jump for the Evangelion clock that came with it. Food was from First Kitchen and they accidentally gave us a free burger. The food was decent for the price.
We got a bit of a sleep in the next morning and headed out to Kiyomizudera Temple
After Kiyomizudera, we just winged it and stopped in at another temple. I have the ticket for the place, but failed at translating the name of the place. The next place was a temple next to a large graveyard, possibly called Matsu Ooya (大谷祖廟).
There were a couple of girls dressed up as geisha walking down the street and let us get a photo.
A street vendor was selling taiyaki for ¥100, so I got a custard one. It was good.
Maruyama Park is a good spot to have a rest for a while. We somehow missed out on Yasaka Shrine and headed straight to Chionin Temple. The large building at the entrance is ¥800 each and you can't take photos from the balcony, but it was worth it still. The stairs are damn steep.
The main temple is huge and there were monks chanting sutra inside while we were there. All the buildings have extremely intricate carvings. This photo made me LOL.
We got back to the hotel fairly early and went to Family Mart to grab a late lunch. I decided to brave a katsu curry. It was cheap and edible, but far from good.
The wife was sick of walking, so I took the opportunity to jump on the train to Kohata Station and go to KyoAni. It really is an inconspicuous yellow building.
I walked to the KyoAni shop down the road and had a chat to the clerk there. He was very friendly and happy to have someone to practice a bit of English with. Most of the stuff there was K-ON, so I settled on a couple of Haruhi prints and headed back to the hotel.
After some intense googling, we decided on Living Bar for dinner. It was tucked away down a side street, but easy to find. One of the waitresses spoke a bit of English and gave us a quick rundown of the menu. We settled on yakitori chicken, sauté pork with a fabulous sauce and a tomato and garlic pizza. I got a shochu with ocha while I was waiting I was amazed by the table of teenagers next to us that had the entire menu on the table. The food was excellent and so was the presentation. Desert was a grapefruit sorbet and cheesecake. All the food and a few drinks each came to a total of ¥7700 - well worth it for the quality and service.
The next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed to Fushimi Inari. Inari Station only has a few small coin lockers so we had to lug the suitcases around. After looking at endless tori gates we headed Nara.
All the coin lockers at Nara Station were full, but the tourist information building just outside had a bag check for ¥400. Across the road from the station was a small food place where you ordered from a vending machine. I got katsu curry and a beer. It was good.
Check in for the hotel was at 16:00, so we caught the bus to Horyuji Temple and looked around there. We spent a while looking around the outer gardens and the headed back to central Nara to get our suitcases and find the hotel. We got lost (again) and a shopkeeper pointed us to the tourist information center that ended up being around the next corner. While the staff were working out the directions, they were having a bit of a giggle. We didn't know why... yet. The hotel ended up being a 2 minute walk from Kofkuji - down the big stairs and at the end of the seedy looking alleyway. We were greeted by this. Classy.
After checking in and seeing the lit up board with available rooms we started to get the feeling that it was a love hotel. We were correct.
The room was actually really nice, with a huge bath and sauna, internet and all the cable channels for ¥10,000 a night. The massive bed was also a nice change. After a good soak in the bath we headed out into the shopping district and had a look around. There was a shop called Gotendo that sold a lot of old and obscure anime and scifi merchandise. Perfect for cheap souvenirs for the friend that thinks anime = Dragonball. The meal for the night came from a shop that had and extremely elaborate display out the front - it was the best plastic food I've ever seen. The place was called おしゃべりょ (oshaberyo?) and had the most mega mega rice omelette meal ever. Rice, omelette, hamburger steak, tonkatsu and some sort of fried potato ball.
The next morning we went to Kofkuji, Todaiji and Isuien Garden. The garden next to Isuien is free for foreign tourists but we didn't see the sign until we were leaving. We had to check out of the hotel soon so we didn't have time to go in. The Nara deer were everywhere and went crazy over the crackers.
Todaiji was one of the only buildings you could take photos indoors - just no flash or tripods allowed.
Isuien gardens would have been better a few weeks later when the leaves had changed more, but it was still quite beautiful.
After we checked out, we headed to Nara station to get the free shuttle bus to Heijo Palace. The free busses didn't leave from the bus terminal - they were on the opposite side of the station. The palace site is massive and it was packed. Due to taking the wrong bus and entering from the wrong side of the site, we missed out on a lot of the things I wanted to see. We got the train back to Nara station and began the journey back to Tokyo. We actually found this hotel without getting lost.
When we checked in there was a problem with our room and they had to change it for another one. It was a tiny bit smaller, but they gave us a 25% discount which was a bonus. After a quick shower, we headed to Shibuya to see Coldrain at Club Quattro. The crossing outside Shibuya Station has to be seen to be believed. Photos don't do it justice. Wild turkey was the house bourbon at Club Quattro, so I got into those as soon as we got there. The venue was backed, and the bands were all really good. I think we were the only foreigners there. After the bands wrapped up, we went to Curry House CoCo for a feed. The curry is on a scale of 1 - 10 and with Japanese curry usually being pretty mild, I went for a 7. It was hot. Very hot.
We headed back to Nakameguro and found a Don Quijote close to the hotel. The booze in Japan is cheap. A bottle of 8yr old Turkey was only ¥2080. I want to move to Japan. I found OreImo on TV, watched it and then went to bed.
After a well deserved sleep in, we headed to Harajuku and looked around Takeshita Dori.
For a Sunday, there wasn't as much of the crazy fashion as I expected. The next stop was Meiji Jingu. After the huge crowds of Harajuku, to cross the road and immediately transition into a forest was spectacular. It is a fair walk to the actual shrine, but very peaceful. There was a wedding procession just as we arrived.
The long awaited trip to Akihabara was next on the agenda. Oh My God. It is the best place. EVER. I left my big map of Akiba in the hotel, and couldn't find Cure Maid Cafe so I settled for @Home 4F.
The line up to be seated was about 30 minutes. The food was average, the prices were ridiculous, but it was awesome. The photos happen on stage in front of everyone and so do a few of the games. The meal with a drink and a photo or game was ¥2800 each including table charge. We got free moe candy for being tourists. We got an English speaking maid and she made us say things like "nyaa" and "moe moe kyun". I got the curry rice (if you haven't noticed, I like curry) and got a cat drawn on it. It was fairly embarrassing wearing cat ears and posing on stage in front of everyone, but it's not like I'll ever see them again. Unfortunately my wife lost her purse not long after we got back and it had the photo from the maid cafe in it. Luckily I took a photo of the photo.
If it's your birthday when you got you get on stage with all the maids and they sing you happy birthday and you get a group photo.
After the maid cafe, it was time to shop. We went to Gamers, Animate and a few other shops. After 6 levels of each shop you think you've seen everything. Then you go next door for another 6 levels of different things. You could spend a week there and still not see all the shops. I was in heaven. It is wise to stay away from the UFO Catchers - those things are rigged beyond belief and if you look around you can find the prizes in shops. Don't got spending ¥3000 to try and get something worth ¥800 like I did.
There are maids handing out tissues and fliers everywhere. I didn't want to lug my camera around so I couldn't get any photos. Freshness burger was on the menu for dinner. It was one of the more expensive fast food places, but the food was good.
The next day we headed to Shibuya to look around and let the wife see some shops that weren't "full of that anime shit". I still don't know why she agreed to go to Japan with me. Obligatory Hachiko photo.
We had some maccas for lunch just to say we had it. It was what I expected. On the way to Yasakune, we ended up on the wrong train and were heading in the wrong direction. After eventually making it there, we had a look through the war museum as well. It was one of the most memorable places on the whole trip. The atmosphere is so powerful.
Somehow, we messed up the train AGAIN heading to Akihabara. I went and bought all the things I'd picked out the day before. I had to restrain myself from buying the Mizuki Nana album - Discotheque was playing everywhere you went.
After I got dragged away from the shops, we headed towards the Tokyo Metro Government building. We got lost again. At Shinjuku station, there was one coin locker left that worked and we managed to cram all the loot in there. All coin lockers in Tokyo had to be emptied my midnight due to APEC and most of them were already out of order.
Once we eventually arrived at TMG, it was photo time. I really wish I had my tripod and another lens, but I had to keep the weight down in my luggage to bring back more stuff.
On the way back to Shibuya we somehow ended up on the wrong train AGAIN. After dropping off all the stuff at the hotel, we went to Freshness Burger and watched the city go by on our last night in Japan.
Due to APEC and the coin lockers being out of order, we ended up hanging out at the airport until our flight departed. We were planning on going to Asakusa for the day, but were exhausted from an epic week. Overall, we had a great time and will definitely be going back. This ended up being a lot longer than I expected, but I hope that one of the readers can gain something from it. I know I learnt a lot from the trip.
Planning a trip to Glorious Nippon - 6 weeks Flights - $1100 Parking at the airport - $110 Having to book a new flight because your flight is actually tomorrow - $650 Learning a valuable lesson about triple checking departure dates - PRICELESS
Even my elaborate itinerary failed me. But, if I left tomorrow I'd miss out on Evangelion World. I can't have that.
I have finally finished my travel plans for my Japan holiday (thanks for everyone's input) and thought I'd share them. Let's hope I didn't forget anything too important ;)
Monday 1/11 Land at Narita around 19:00 Catch the train to Narita Station and check into the hotel Find an Izakaya and get drunk
Tuesday 2/11 Head back to the airport to get the rail passes sorted Spend ages on a train Have super fun at Fuji-Q Highland and see Evangelion World More time on the train... Go to Kyoto and check in Get drunk again
Wednesday 3/11 Go to Nishiki Market Head out to Iwatayama Monkey Park Check out Nijo Castle Bum around Kyoto for the rest of the arvo
Thursday 4/11 Kiyumizudera Temple, Kodaiji Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Chionin Temple and Shorenin Temple - I'm glad they're all so close together Go wandering in Kyoto some more
Friday 5/11 Fushimi Inari Horyuji Temple on the way into Nara Head into Nara and check in Most likely more drinking
Saturday 6/11 Kofkuji, Todaiji and Isuien Garden Heijo Palace for all the festivities (dirty gaijin get to do everything free) Another fabulous train ride to Shibuya Check in Go see coldrain/ Pan/ Last Alliance/ Bomb Factory/ Hotsquall play at Club Quattro Try and make the last train back
Sunday 7/11 It's my anniversary so I thought I'd have an easy day and let the missus have a bit of a sleep in Go to Harajuku Station and be amazed Meiji Jingu Shrine Tokyo Metropolitan Government building sometime at night to get the view of the city
Monday 8/11 Yasakune Shrine Asakusa/ Sensoji AKIBA TIME - Cure, @Home, PoPoPure, anywhere else I see wandering around Should probably find some awesome things to buy
No real plans for the last day - spend any remaining money and anime related goods and look around Tokyo some more Fly back home at 20:30 :(
So this is the plan, and I'm hoping everything goes smoothly. I'm pretty sure I got most of the touristy things out of the way in this trip so I can go exploring a bit further out of the way next time. I didn't plan a lot for night time - I'll ask around when I get there for the best places to go.
My full itinerary ended up being 35 pages (and an extra 45 of other info) - turns out I have control issues
I finally got the missus to break and we'll be heading to Japan from November 2 - 9 or a belated honeymoon (It'll be on the first anniversary, heh). This will be my first trip overseas and the only Japanese I know is from watching anime. We'll be staying in Tokyo for 4 nights and Kyoto for 3. We are still organizing what to see and do while over there and this is where all you fine people come in.
My to-do list so far: - Disneyland - shopping in Akiharbara - see the giant Eva at Fuji-Q Highland - Washinomiya shrine - go to a maid cafe - Hot springs - Nishiki food market (thanks Dale) - take thousands of photos - make a fool of myself by mispronouncing Japanese words
I thought I'd finally post a tutorial on getting softsubs to stream via TVersity. I've been meaning to write this guide for a while, but I was motivated after listening to JapanatorAM with the hardsub discussion a couple of weeks ago. I use Windows Vista and a Xbox 360 for this, but as far as I know this also works on Windows 7. I haven't been able to test this on a PS3, but if anyone gets it to work using this method, let me know.
Windows media player is needed for one crucial reason - if the subs work in WMP, they will work with TVersity because they use the same DirectShow filters.
TVersity is a (currently) free media server platform that works by transcoding a file on the fly and making it a format that is supported by other devises (Windows Media Video in this case) and streaming it to a network attached device.
CCCP Codec Pack is the best that I have found for this setup, and has the highest chance of success.
MKVtoolnix and MKVextractGUI are tools to rip the subtitles straight out of you fresh little fansub and make them a separate file. You need to do this because TVersity and embedded subs don't play nice together. Download the older version of MKVextractGUI from the link above (1.6.3), the new version (220.127.116.11) has an annoying habit of creating a chapters.txt file which is not needed.
What you need to do:
Uninstall any codec packs you may already have installed on your computer (KLite, or whatever the rage is these days) THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL If you don't do this, there is a good chance you will fail. Install CCCP with the default settings unless you know what you're doing. Hit next through the settings pages that pop up after the install is complete.
Install the latest version of TVersity. You don't need the Pro version, but it's up to you if you want it or not. DO NOT INSTALL THE INCLUDED CODEC PACK I'm sorry for all the yelling, but this is important. Add your media folder/s to TVersity and set it up on your Media Extender (XBox or PS3). If you get stuck, read the documentation.
Install MKVtoolnix and then extract the contents of MKVExtractGUI-18.104.22.168Wizard-1.2.zip to the folder where MKVtoolnix installed (eg: C:\Program Files\MKVtoolnix\)
Make a shortcut to MKVextractGUI.exe and put it somewhere you like to put your shortcuts.
Now for the fun stuff - playing with system settings.
Open up your Control Panel and go to Administrative Tools, then open up Services Find the one called TVersityMediaServer, right cick and go to Properties
You need to change the startup type to Automatic (Delayed Start)
Then go to the Log On tab and change Log On as: to This Account:
Insert you PC logon information in the boxes in the format of .\<your username here> and enter you password below if you have one
The account you use needs to be an administrator account. The reason for this is so TVersity uses the local account preferences relating to the codecs we will set up shortly.
TVersity settings are next. Open the TVersity GUI and go to the Settings page. You can leave the General settings as is, but the port selected in Home Network needs to be properly forwarded. If you're unsure how to do this, go here. It's the same process as forwarding a port for torrent software. This is out of the scope of my attention span and the guides there are much better than I can provide. You don't need to change anything in the Media Library or Account Sections. For the Transcoder leave it on "Only When Needed". This stops it transcoding a format that is supported by your device (eg. XviD). If you are using a wireless connection, you should probably check the "Decrease the bitrate if it is too high for my network". I have my video resolution set to 1280x720, but this depends on you PC. I have a Quad core Phenom running at 2.6Ghz, so I can transcode a 720p video on the fly without buffering, but 1080p tends to struggle a bit. This setting doesn't upscale video, so a lower resolution video will stay at the original resolution. Make sure the "Use DirectShow" box is checked and if you device supports Windows Media Video 7 use that (It's fine on Xbox360). Optimize for quality, select the appropriate connection speed and quality for your network, leave compression on Average and check the box under Decoding Speed. Don't use stereo mix unless you like watching your anime without sound. Head over to Internet Feeds and enter 1, 1, 0, 1 respectively unless you want it to download YouTube videos while you sleep and kill your download limit.
Now for the codec settings. The settings I have here work for me. This part is fairly hit and miss and the main cause of subtitles not working. CCCP should have left a folder in your start menu full of handy shortcuts. Open up the FFDShow Video Decoder Configuration (.\Combined Community Codec Pack\Filters). Find the Subtitle section and tick the box. I can't remember what the default settings are, so just use the settings in the image below.
The reason "Accept Embedded Subtitles" is unchecked is because TVersity will actually load them on the very rare occasion and you end up with 2 lots of subtitles on the screen.
Go to the Vobsub submenu and make it look like this:
That's the FFDShow setting done, so hit Apply, then OK and open up Haali Media splitter settings (.\Combined Community Codec Pack\Filters). Go to the Options Tab and change the settings to:
Compatibility > AutoLoad VSFilter > Yes Input > Try To Open Linked Files > No (This is for shows that have the OP and ED as separate files. This will stop them playing. If they play it puts the subtitle timing out by exactly the length of the OP) Input > Load Embedded Fonts > Yes (most the time it won't, but it's nice to pretend that it will) Input > Merge All Segments > No Languages > Audio and Subtitle Languages > CopyPasta this: eng,off;jpn,eng;jpn,und;jpn,* (This order seems to give the highest chance of success) All the other setting not mentioned can be left as the default settings.
Now your subtitles should work. Open your favourite guilty pleasure anime in Windows Media Player and have a look. If they work, you're almost there. If they don't, proceed to bang your head against a solid object in frustration. I did the latter many times before I got this to work.
The final step is the "secret spice" to this recipe. Remember that shortcut to MKVExtractGUI you made earlier? Open it. Now load a file, check the box next to the subtitle stream and hit the "Extract" button.
You will end up with a file called Track3.ass in the same folder as the source file. This file needs to be renamed to the same name as the source file, but with the .ass file extension. Eg. [Ecliptic-BSS]_Durarara!!_-_09_[E3D6E06D].mkv < this is the source file Track3.ass < This is the subtitle file you just extracted [Ecliptic-BSS]_Durarara!!_-_09_[E3D6E06D].ass < this is what Track3.ass has to be renamed to. This is the most fun you will ever have. I hope you enjoy this task as much as I do. The other attachments you see in the MKVExtractGUI window are font files. Due to embedded subtitles rarely loading properly I like to extract the fonts from the first episode of each show, select the files in explorer, right click and hit Install. This is up to personal preference, and if you don't mind the default font being used (Arial) you can skip this step.
Now, you may come across a scenario where the subtitles are track 1 or 2. This makes no difference, just extract the track that is Subtitles. Another possibility is this:
The UTF8 subtitle has the extension .srt - this is an unstyled plain-text subtitle format (like DVD subs). If You have the choice, go with the .ass because it is styled and pretty. If you have two subtitle streams of the same type (like in the Nekomimi release of Sora no Woto) it is usually due to two different versions of the script (one with honorifics, one without). A Dual Audio release with multiple subtitle streams is usually for dialogue (when watching in Japanese) and a seperate one with Signs only (for the Dub).
That about wraps it up for this guide and I hope it is of use to some of you. If you have any questions or suggestions, I'll do my best to answer them.
I finally got around to buying myself a BluRay player for christmas ready for the pending release of Eva 1.11 and Halo Legends. In the mean time I ordered some box sets from RightStuf that I've been meaning to buy for ages. In that list was Full Metal Panic! TSR Blu Ray for $29.99. I looked around the internets to see if anyone had success playing the discs in a region B player and everything I found said it was untested. Some other FUNi releases were said to work, but alas...