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I never pick Squirtle, but he’s still pretty awesome. (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)
Way back in 1998 (holy crap, that was 14 years ago!) Nintendo Power started the long game of hyping up this weird little Pocket Monsters game that was exploding with popularity in Japan. This quirky little RPG was coming stateside and they wanted us all to know about it.
I’m sure you can guess that I was once a proud subscriber to Nintendo Power and a bigger RPG fan then than I’d say I am now. In those days David and I still sometimes shared a room. We spent many a night chatting about video games and pretending we were superheroes.
Pokemon was an instant hit in our imaginations. A sweet Gameboy game that was reliant on trading and would allow us to battle each other? It’s perfect. When you have a brother you’re close with, co-op or otherwise 2P games are always a sweet proposition, not to mention that we’d have something to do together on road trips because it was portable.
That Butterfree doesn’t stand a chance (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)
What torture, though, that the game was announced in January, but wouldn’t launch until September. Until then we were forced to look at pictures of the creatures and plan out our approach. David would get Red since Charizard looked the coolest. My starter would be Bulbasaur because it was cuter than Squirtle.
I might be mistaken here, but I doubt we even received it until Christmas. On that fine day it was finally ours and it was incredible. Our devotion to the trading game started early as we restarted our games to trade each other the three starters. There’s a memory kicking around in my head of doing this in the family van, probably on a road trip. It’s crazy to think of now, but this was all pre-Pokemon breeding. That meant we had to redo the intro and unlock trading five times to give each other a full set. Pretty involved stuff, but well worth having access to all three starters.
I used to think it was cheap that your Rival (named Dave back then, but always Min now) always picks the one you’re weak to. (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)
I name my Totodiles Albert after the Gators nowadays (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)
1998 wasn’t as tough as 1997 was for me, but I was still a 7th grader and the scars of the last year’s mocking and difficulty fitting in made me wary about sharing my inner Pokemaniac. There were friends of mine who openly played their Gameboys before class, but the consensus among most of the people I knew was that Nintendo’s Pokemon marketing was geared toward elementary school students. The hours I poured into Pokemon, the afternoons I spent watching the Pokemon episodes I’d taped that morning, those weren’t socially acceptable for me. I had friends who played video games, but I didn’t have friends who were video game nerds.
I sometimes regret not just being open about the things I liked, but that’s also part of growing up. It’s why Pokemon Silver, while still an incredible and epic journey (I mean, you collect the Kanto badges too!), captured my attention a little less. It’s also why I never bothered with Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald until much later.
David just found his Red/Gold carts and I’m sure I could find mine if I started a concerted search, but I can’t even imagine how many hours must have been logged on my copy of Blue. I mean, each version I’ve bought in my adult years easily have > 100 hours on their system clocks so Blue must be even higher!
The biggest shame about the series, really, is that the Gen I and II games aren’t compatible with Gen III and beyond. Sure, the mechanics of the Special stat and the lack of Pokemon Abilities would make it tough to move those guys forward, but I really wish I could have my first Mewtwo or my first Gengar still with me all the way from 1998. As it stands now, those poor guys are doomed to an inevitable death as their battery backup slowly fades.
Thankfully Phantasma (as I’ve named every Gengar I’ve ever caught from day 1) will always live on in my heart and memories.
Remember how the anime told us to use Gengar against Psychics, but his Poison typing and poor programming meant that this was a terrible mistake? (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)
Some neat little tidbits I hadn’t seen or thought about before. Didn’t know that the Zelda timeline includes one where Link lost. Pretty crazy.
Did You Know Gaming? has also made a video about Pokemon that’s pretty cool too:
It’s time to look at the most popular posts on the blog over the last year. I was a little more apathetic about updating this year and my traffic suffered accordingly, dropping off by ~4,000 hits. The top posts haven’t changed too much, but here goes:
Remixed Objection, No Yakuza 3?, L4D2 (Again), and Pokémon Cosplay [Game Overview] (402)
I know precisely why this link is top of the list. It features a stunning picture of Jessica Nigri very liberally cosplaying a Pikachu. It seems sex sells. Surprise!
The Great American Ballpark Tour: Citizens Bank Park Review [Wednesday Morning Quarterback] (391)
My ballpark review was featured in an article talking about the ivy on Citizens Bank Park’s walls and the site was flooded with viewers.
Great Dwarf Fortress Stories [PC] (347)
I guess Dwarf Fortress is still niche-y and hard to find content about online. Surprise, haha.
Mother 3 Review [Big N] (304 )
I’m still super proud of this review. It was something I worked really hard on and I think it’s one of my better reviews.
Game Overview: The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 6 (114)
I can’t believe how many hits these things still get despite it being far from what I do on this blog any more. Interesting.
Otakon 2010 [Photographic Memory]
The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 10 [Game Overview]
White Guilt and The Help [FB]
Otakon always gets tons of hits come con time, but the popularity of both The Help and talking about how quasi-racist it was got that post tons of hits on my blog that have tapered off since release.
2011 Hit Totals By Month
I can understand the hit drop off in 2011 based on how much I kept up with blogging. We’ll see if I’m more on top of things in 2012.
The first game I ever saw New Game + in and my favorite one too!
I was thinking about Pokemon this morning (like I usually do) and I was lamenting the fact that the campaigns, while fun, are hardly difficult. The hardest battles you ever face are gym leaders and the Elite Four. In later versions of the game they added in bonus bosses or battles that were more difficult and challenge rooms, but it’s all post-game stuff and it doesn’t have a real narrative tied to it (most of the time).
I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but how much cooler would it be if they added a New Game + option with better AI on every trainer, not just gym leaders, coupled with better battle teams. It would be so much more fun if you didn’t face a guy with six Magicarp that he thinks are so awesome. How are those battles even fun, anyway?
Squeenix had it all figured out with Chrono Trigger. Beat the game once, get your standard ending and all that, but come back in NG+ with all your equipment and levels and take on a harder boss or challenge yourself to beat the game at weird times. I know for a fact that RPG devs worry about used game sales on their titles, so they feel like they have to pad them out with all kinds of cruft. Why not just include a NG+ option instead and add in a few optional bosses? Some games just add in optional bosses that require near maximum levels. The problem there is that you’re stuck grinding levels out in the endgame with no real distraction. I loved grinding out levels in Chrono Trigger by playing the campaign. It gave me something else to think about other than walking around in circles killing the same monsters over and over again.
About a week into January of 2010 Eric found and installed one of the best wordpress plugins I’ve ever seen, WordPress.com Stats. Thanks to that, I’ve got some performance numbers for the site to share.
Remixed Objection, No Yakuza 3?, L4D2 (Again), and Pokémon Cosplay [Game Overview] (1,182)
Great Dwarf Fortress Stories [PC] (412)
There’s a rather large gap between #1 and #2, but it’s thanks to Dwarf Fortress’ niche status that anything Eric or I post on the topic gets consistent hits. It seems not many other sites cover it, but people regularly look for info.
The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 11 [Game Overview] (404)
My most popular villain feature isn’t FF VII it’s an MMO that I never played and did a rather half-hearted job writing about? Weird.
The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 10 [Game Overview] (355)
Considering how popular FF X is, I’m not that surprised.
Mother 3 Review [Big N] (313)
This is my proudest part of the top five. I spent a lot of time on this review and I’m glad so many are finding it.
Otakon gets high on the list thanks to its cosplay pictures (some of which also feature hotties) while Scott Pilgrim benefits from internet popularity.
Now for the big announcement:
2010 Hit Totals By Month
I honestly never expected so many people to see my random ramblings and I’m quite proud. I think October stands out as hit leader thanks to all of the cosplay pictures being used for costume ideas. Wow, 32k hits. The gauntlet has been thrown, 2011. Can you beat this?
Most impressive ensemble goes to the gaggle of Doctor Whos, but this was definitely my favorite Otakon cosplay ensemble.
The USA’s second largest anime convention came and went and I took pictures of it. Yes, Otakon 2010 happened, but, no, I didn’t want to actually pay admission to go in since I don’t watch as much anime anymore and I didn’t know any of the artists that were appearing, so I freeloaded along with my brother and took pictures of the cosplayers who were coming into or leaving the convention center on Saturday.
As long as there are anime conventions there will be Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon cosplay.
I’d only ever been to one similar convention before, MegaCon in Orlando, but I was thoroughly impressed by the degree of cosplay on display. Maybe it’s because it’s an anime convention and not a general comics convention, but it seemed like the majority of the attendees were in costume rather than just shlubbing it like I did back in the day.
I refused to leave until I saw some Phoneix Wright cosplay.
We spent two hours or so just hanging around the front and side doors (we weren’t allowed inside without badges) snapping pictures of cosplayers who didn’t mind the attention, marveling at all the costumes. I don’t have much more to say beyond that, so here’s a gallery of my favorite costumes from Otakon 2010 (sorry dialup users!).
Good to see such faithful Bebop cosplay is still going strong
I have no idea what anime this is from, but this girl is quite good looking, so I snapped a shot. For bonus points, check out the old man behind her looking at her ass. EDIT: It appears to be a Disgaea 3 Gunner costume.
"I can't get over how FAST they all are, it's not even fair. I'm calling zombie bullshit on that, you know? They're not...ALLOWED to be so fast." Plenty of L4D cosplay, which makes me a very happy Dan.
The Tenant Doctor Who on the right was actually a fairly good looking lady. Great costume, too.
Anyone who visits this blog knows I love Pikachu cosplay.
A crew of servbots! Not super complicated, but it works. Makes me want to play Dead Rising...
One of the most impressive costumes of the show. This is an amazing Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke.
A MUCH more elaborate servbot cosplay.
All he was missing was a chocobo in his 'fro, but he had the L'Cie brand on his chest and an accurate magicite thing (I forgot what they were called!)
Very accurate gun and costume for Gurren Lagann.
I love all Ace Attorney cosplay! We need to see more Apollo Justice too!
Fantastic Burton Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter
It's a shame this girl had the huge Buster Sword with her becasue this shot is so far away from her elaborate costume and ridiculously blue eyes (HAD to be contacts)
Great Red-Haired Shanks cosplay.
Bayonetta. Her heels aren't guns, but still a good costume.
Nick's got a bile jar!
The most fearsome pirate on the seven seas, Buggy the Clown
Mihawk cosplay. Nice sword and costume!
A great cast shot of One Piece. I took this one mostly because I noticed Water 7 Nami in there.
I could never pass up Rockman X cosplay.
SUPER SAIYAN! I love the level of dedication to make blond eyebrows too
Mugiwara (Straw Hat) no Luffy. He asked me if I wanted him to pose. I said "Of course!"
The heroes of Code Geass
I was wondering why she didn't move out of the shot until I realized she was Namine. Great cosplay pair.
Doctors Who throughout the ages.
BONK! Great Scout costumes!
Better Scout Cosplay
I love that she's even got herself a turret!
Another convention staple, Yuffie the ninja.
"I think I hear a hunter!"
A fantastic Lucario costume that is crazy detailed. Too bad the Internet ruined such things for me by making me immediately think furry.
I also photographed a sniper. Wait a second! It's a spy disguised as a sniper!
Dark Sora? Elaborate and awesome all the same.
Amazing attention to detail with the full L'Cie brand there too. Wow.
Growing out those sideburns takes real dedication.
Not cosplay, but my favorite part of the convention. So cute!
Not quite the Pikachu cosplay most people come to the site for.
The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 10 [Game Overview] – 51 hits
(Pink) Masks [Game Overview] – 37 hits
Game Overview: The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 6 – 30 hits
The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 11 [Game Overview] – 29 hits
Game Overview: The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 1 – 27 hits
The Heroes of Final Fantasy series comes directly from the success of my Villains series in attracting so many visitors to my blog. Four of the top five are from that series while the second highest comes from a long comments discussion with readers that I had in the post.
final fantasy concept art – 29 hits
jecht – 28 hits
cosplay cleavage – 16 hits
pokemon cosplay – 15 hits
ffx – 13 hits
The concept art, Jecht, and FFX searches can find what they’re looking for with the links above. The other two, cosplay cleavage and pokemon cosplay, are probably a result of me posting that picture of a blonde at San Diego Comic-Con cosplaying as Pikachu in a mini-skirt and corset.
It’s interesting that my Villains of series is so popular and attracts so many views. I really wasn’t expecting that much attention for them, but that shows what I know. Welcome to any newcomers seeing this page. Maybe I’ll do a search terms post like I did once before to try and answer questions that people coming to the site are asking sometime soon.
No Game Overview today, we’re gonna finish this up since I didn’t get to it today (World Series business)
And so it came to pass that I went to Japan, saw some baseball, and came back home with a greater appreciation and understanding of Japan. If you remember the first entry in this series, I outlined a set of questions that I wanted to try and address while I was out there. Here’s what I found along the way:
1. What do they do during the 7th inning stretch out here?
I’ve addressed this myself in a previous article, but there are slightly different customs in the 7th for a Japanese baseball team. As recently as last year, there was a tradition of firing off a stream of balloons that make a streaming noise. It’s a really striking and cool sight, at least in video, but I didn’t get to see it in person.
Sadly, the tradition seems to have ended this year thanks to H1N1. When you’ve got a whole stadium full of person-filled balloons flying around, launching spittle everywhere, I guess you can forgive them for changing their mind about this tradition this year. I can only hope that it will return when the flu concerns start to disappear, but it’s also possible this great tradition is gone forever.
2. What kinds of crazy foods do they serve at the concession stands?
Yet another question that I’ve done my best to highlight as many times as I could in each entry. Each stadium had food ranging from typical American food, like hamburgers and hot dogs, to more typical Japanese food like takoyaki, miscellaneous bento, and curry. I’d say it was the highlight of the trip really, especially that seafood pizza I got in Fukuoka at the Hawks game.
3. Just how rowdy do the fans get during games?
Given the more typically restrained culture in Japan and the insistence on not bothering others (combined with the supposed American boisterous, wild behavior), I thought that Japanese games would be more restrained, controlled, and structured. I was half right on that.
The Japanese are plenty loud in baseball games, but in a very structured way, like I thought. Each team’s fans cheer for their own hitters with specific cheers for each batter, but, beyond that, they keep quiet and definitely don’t really boo the other team at all.
There’s only one rare exception: drunk fans. Since beer flows throughout almost the entire game, some fans drink without restraint and end up screaming randomly, but it’s rare. Very unlike a passionate fanbase.
4. How different is it to fly internationally on a Japanese carrier compared to a domestic carrier?
There was another article almost completely about this, but the differences are subtle and distinctly Japanese. I hoped that we might have more space on the plane, but the space was tighter, due to a smaller average size for Japanese people. Other than that, the expectations I had were all spot on. The food was way better, the service was more polite and more attentive, and, overall, I had a much better time of the flight than I’ve had on domestic carriers.
5. Do cities outside Tokyo get crazy during game releases? At least one major game franchise (Pokémon) will have an iteration released while I’m out, but I won’t be in Tokyo when it comes out.
I was a day off from catching this release and it didn’t seem all that wild out in the area, but within all the stores, the game was sold out and impossible to find anywhere other than a Pokémon Center.
6. How rock and roll do the Japanese get? If I can, I’m going to try and make it into a show somewhere.
Didn’t make it to any shows. I’ve got no opinion on this.
7. Is the fashion at Harajuku as crazy as everyone says it is?
Another shame, I was in Harajuku on a school day and during work/school hours too. I hear Sunday’s the big Harajuku day, but I didn’t see much.
8. Sumo. Great sport or greatest sport?
I’m torn on this one. Sumo is a great thing to see and experience, but I’m a little bummed at how long it takes for a match to happen. Just as soon as we’re ready to finally start, it’s done. It’s great to see and all, but I think that it might be better to just watch the highlights reel the way they do it at times on ESPN 2.
9. Is Akihabara still the mecca of electronics that it once was?
I don’t know why I end up inflating expectations on this sort of thing, but I always figured Akihabara for some kind of wild, Neo Tokyo, super-exaggerated, sprawling, mega-techno city. Instead Akihabara spans, at most, 6 blocks by 3 or 4 blocks filled with curry, music stores, movie stores, anime shops, video games, and straight-up electronics shops.
Was it ever bigger? I have no idea, but it doesn’t quite feel like the one-stop shop that it should be and it feels a lot less epic than people made it seem.
10. How much cool stuff can I find in a used game store?
Lots of cool stuff. From arcades with vintage games to the most obscure Famicom or any other random Japanese system you’ve never even heard of. The best thing I ever got were those great Mario noise keychains. Good stuff.
I wish I bought me a Dragon Quest slime too.
11. Is Coco Curry House Ichinbanya still amazing?
YES! So good. Oh man was it great. I need to go back out there or buy some curry mix and get it shipped in.
12. How long can Dave and I sing in a karaoke box before we’re kicked out to salvage what’s left of the clientele’s hearing?
Two nights, but, to be fair, we did travel from Hiroshima back to Tokyo to avoid the karaoke police. It was definitely fun.
13. Do I have the nerve to go to a public bath?
Turns out I don’t, but I also didn’t really go looking for them. It’s also possible that I wouldn’t have been admitted since there can be some anti-foreigner sentiment in those types of establishments.
14. Is the Japanese train system as punctual and efficient as advertised?
While it has its share of idiosyncrasies, the train system runs punctual to a ‘T’. Not only do they show up precisely when they say they will, but they almost never miss their arrival time. The only time a train was even remotely late was the shinkansen to Fukuoka. Even then it was only 10 minutes and I’d bet that the Amtrak never keeps it that punctual.
15. What’s the strangest item I can find in a vending machine?
Turns out nothing too bizarre for the States. Soda and the occasional alcohol or cigarette machine. Even those suckers are harder to buy from nowadays thanks to a crackdown on youth consumption of both.
Capsule machines are kind of a different story, I guess, but they’re mostly anime, video game, or sports team merchandise. Nothing like the famous women’s underwear stories.
16. Are Japanese arcades really dying?
Well, I saw a few, but it’s not so easy to tell what’s going on with arcades when you’re looking at them in Akihabara. I do know that I didn’t see all the fighting game cabinets that I thought I would, but they seemed to be doing ok when I saw them. I didn’t get enough exposure to the arcades to have an informed opinion.
That's the second largest autographed baseball I've ever seen!
The last full day of the trip! Even though I was ready to go home, it still felt like I had unresolved business out in Japan. I wanted to go home and be back in my apartment and not traveling, but I also wanted to stay and watch more Japanese baseball and chow down on more curry.
After an early morning check-out from the Tokyo Garden Palace and a short taxi to the train station, we made our way deep into the station’s bowels, down several storeys on our way to the station that housed the shinkansen bound for Sendai. Along the way I got my last taste of onigiri, only this time it finally looked like it normally did in the cartoons.
Finally, onigiri that lived up to the expectations and stereotypes I held.
Deep in the cavernous depths of the station, the stations were so tall that I saw my first double-decker trains. The Poke-craze continued down there too as I saw whole trains decorated with Pokemon characters.
A summer travel-themed Pokemon train.
The train ride to Sendai was rather uneventful. Once again I failed at napping, but I did get more Devil Survivor time in and achieved another of the six or so endings of the game, but this is all boring, so let’s fast forward. Sendai is one of the major cities of the Northern part of Japan, but we didn’t really have much time to explore. Our train arrived in what seemed like the heart of the city and we left the station to go to our hotel, a grueling 300 meters away. We were too early to check-in, but our bags remained while we all spread out to explore and I set out to get Min a gift.
Pictrued: What I should have got Min. Not pictured: The book of piano music that I actually did get him.
If you saw the spoiler above, you already know what I got Min. Thinking that I might see something cool in there and looking to kill time, I stepped into a music shop to see what kind of stock they had. Since an instrument was totally out of the question, I was about to head out of the shop when I noticed a huge shelf of music books. Inspiration struck and I remembered that Min is a pretty good piano player who plays both on a keyboard in his room and on a grand in a Hopkins practice room. Shelf browsing produced a book containing a “greatest hits” piano selection from the Final Fantasy series.
Unrelated: This public sink does everything. Soap dispenses from the left, water from the right, and holding your hands over the inside (closest to the handwasher) activates a hand dryer.
My next task was to find a replacement sake cup for the one I broke. Lucky for me, there was another Seibu Loft right next to the train station. After exploring the building with the music shop and seeing a convenience store and an anime/manga store, I went back to the station to explore the Seibu Loft, hoping that they would have the sake cup, unlike the one in Tokyo. Lucky for me, they not only had the same set, but an even better looking one. I decided to keep the more spartan one whose glass I replaced and get a new set for a gift.
I did see a ridiculous timepiece at the Seibu Loft that I have to share here:
When retro goes too far.
Another welcome surprise in Sendai was spotting some Eagles-themed vending machines. Like the Carp in Hiroshima, the Fighters in Hokkaido, and the Hawks out in Fukuoka, the Eagles are pretty much the only team in their region, allowing them to spread out and create an identity for the team, unlike the over-congestion of teams in the Tokyo area. This sight started to turn me to the Eagles, but for the time being I was still wearing my Marines jersey and looking to root for Chiba that night.
Looks like the lame crushed penny machines are on this side of the Pacific too...
Lunch that day was pretty cool too. I ordered a dish that was the “kitchen sink” of this omelet restaurant. It was complete with shrimp, crab croquettes, hamburger steak, a tempura shrimp, and the Japanese-style omelet that has rice nestled inside the egg.
Rice inside omelets...strange, but delicious.
Once enough time had elapsed, it was time to check-in and then hop on the train toward Kleenex Stadium.Miyagi. As I waited for my bags to be retrieved from the back room, I noticed a steady stream of surprisingly Marines-themed dress coming out of the elevators. It suddenly dawned on me that we were staying in the same hotel as the Chiba Lotte Marines. These were the players coming down to the lobby to head over to the stadium to prep for the game!
Instead of freaking out, I decided that I would play it cool. When one player walked by, I pointed at my jersey and then at him and nodded to show my support. Since I’d received my bags by then, I shot out a smooth ganbare as I passed by him. When the elevator discharged another Marines player, I said the same and headed upstairs to my room.
After dropping some stuff off and settling in, we met again downstairs to take the train to the JR station. Like other teams in good fan regions, the stadium station, nicknamed Baseball Station, was chock-full of Eagles decals, colors, and spirit. My kind of station.
The Baseball Station in Sendai has a lot of Eagles pride.
Kleenex Stadium Miyagi has a pretty unfortunate name thanks to the evils of corporate name sponsorship, but it’s actually a really nice ballpark. Since the team is so new (started in 2005, I think), the stadium is filled with open hallways, bright colors, and a modern look.
It's unfortunate that thinking about this place makes me think of blowing my nose.
Outside the ballpark they had a stage with live music being played and a bunch of food stalls and games for kids. Also present were these go-karts that had the names of the mascots written on them…but there was something strange about the naming convention.
...and...Mr. Carrasco...? Where did he come from?
Since the Eagles were having a great year (they ended up finishing in second place), they were also advertising for the Climax Series and selling merchandise, but they chose a different phrase from the Lions and Hawks.
It's super different. Now it says "Go *TO* Climax"
The other great thing about the stadium was that all the employees were dressed like Gordon’s fishermen.
They make fishsticks in between innings.
Before the game, I picked up a Masahiro Tanaka jersey, one of the two real ace pitchers for the Golden Eagles. When I noticed that he would be taking the mound for the game that night, I decided to switch allegiances and throw on my Tanaka jersey that night. It turned out to be a good choice for me, since the Eagles won 9-5 and I found myself drawn to the team, allowing them to become my Pacific League team.
Batting Practice at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi
The only real downside of the Golden Eagles is that they suffer from too many mascots. Aside from Clutch, Clutchina, and Mr. Carrasco, there were two walking cacti, a hawk-man with wings and talons, and three gnomes. Too many mascots…
You can see tons of the mascots in the distance.
Another great thing was this group of drunk salarymen whose boss had way too much to drink. All game long (that he was there for), he was yelling and rooting for Todd Linden, no matter who was up. It was hilarious and the crowd around him started to join in and scream about Linden too.
The outfield and the scoreboard.
The game was fun, but the most hilarious part was when I got back to the hotel. Right when I arrived, staff was setting up spaces for people to wait for the players to arrive, but I quickly noticed that all of the fans awaiting the players in the hotel were young ladies. I got to walk past a bunch of groupies who cared nothing about me on my way up to my room. Another crazy early morning was ahead of me. The last day…
How awesome would it be to see this guy outside your window during a flight?
After a fun few days in Sapporo, it was finally time to head back to Tokyo. We were officially on the home stretch of the trip with only three teams left to see. I was starting to see the end of the trip in my sights and, I’ve got to admit, it was depressing to think that all the fun would be done so soon, but I was also ready to get back home to my own apartment.
The first thing I did that morning when packing was promptly break one of the sake glasses I got as a souvenir. Damn.
Since I had discovered that the walk from Sapporo Station to the hotel was pathetically short, I opted out of a taxi and walked to the station. Along the way I ran into the most evil-looking bird I’d ever seen. I’m sure it could sense how afraid of its evil I was, because it allowed me to get really close with my camera without even budging.
He's tough to intimidate. Must be from the 9th Ward.
The rest of the walk was uneventful as was the trip to the airport. Once I got into the airport, the language barrier became an issue as I had gone up to baggage claim without first checking in and getting a ticket. It’s a bizarre process, but it’s required, so I was sent to the check-in queue and then back to the luggage queue.
I also learned that Sapporo’s airport is way more vigilant than Kansai International. Security pulled me aside to empty out my very full carry on bag. I was confused until the security officer managed to get out the phrase “dining set” and I remembered that I had stuffed some ANA utensils (a knife and spoon) into my bag. He also checked that the water bottle I was carrying on board was sealed and water. What this amounts to is that the staff at Kansai allowed me to travel with a dinner knife and a bottle of water without investigating. That’s some crack security work there guys. Reminds me of Seinfeld’s bit about airport security in the pre-terrorist attack days.
While I hunted for food in the morning, I noticed a model of the Pokemon-themed ANA planes that were in service out here in Japan.
The cutest way to get from A to B.
I’d heard about this line of ANA planes before, but I’d never seen one in the flesh, much less been on one. tim rogers made references to them being used mostly for domestic flights and, lo and behold, here was a model of one for domestic flights. Boy, wouldn’t it be cool if I got to fly on one of these…
I totally got to fly on one of these.
So, what’s the difference between a Pokemon ANA plane and a normal ANA plane? Not a whole lot. The seat covers that are used in every ANA plane are now Pokemon themed…
…And the drinks come in Pokemon-themed cups.
Orange Juice! I choose you!
The flight attendants were all dressed in their normal uniforms and there wasn’t any special Pokemon entertainment on board, so it’s really just an aesthetic thing (and a half-assed one at that). Still, I flew on one of the famous Pokemon planes and I think that’s pretty neat.
I just noticed that the jet turbines have pokeballs on them. That's awesome.
Nintendo’s missing out on a huge opportunity here. Could you imagine how much business they could drum up if they offered exclusive Pokemon downloads on these planes? They’d make ANA a racket and have to officially sell their souls, but still…think about it.
We took a taxi to our favorite place to stay, the Tokyo Garden Palace Hotel, and, after putting my stuff down, I rendezvoused with Susan to catch a pre-game dinner before she left for America. Susan and I stopped in a Chinese restaurant and had a nice dinner as we shared our stories about what we’d been doing since the tour split up. I had to run to the game after that, since I was running late, but it was totally worth it and I’ll have to be sure to see Susan and Marc the next time I’m in NYC.
I see what you're doing here Tokyo, but you don't need the "New." You're not New Tokyo...
By the time I managed to make my way through the Tokyo railway system and get to Yokohama Stadium, it was already the third inning and Yokohama had struck first. The Swallows were down by two, which made me very happy, and the BayStars could very well shut down the Swallows for the entire trip for me (I don’t count the tie as a win, so the Swallows were 0-2-1 in games I’d attended). Things were looking up, even though I was late!
An outside scoreboard had me jumping for joy as I entered the ballpark. Surely this last place team couldn't botch a small lead...
The outside of Yokohama Stadium is pretty plain and it’s nestled within a city block, like most of the stadiums in Tokyo. Perhaps it’s because I was late to the game, but it was also pretty empty outside the ballpark, a major contrast with most other stadiums that feature food stalls and merchandise outside the gates. The interior hallways were pretty bare and empty, kind of like the ones at Meiji Jingu, where the Swallows play.
I spotted the BayStars mascot taking pictures with kids in the hallways.
Since I was already late, I decided that I would look around for a jersey before I took a seat. It was proving to be pretty difficult, since the stands all seemed to only offer a polo shirt-type thing that wasn’t the full button down. What kind of bush league stadium doesn’t sell their team’s official jerseys? I thought to myself as I wandered around the various stalls. Then I noticed something in one of the publicity photographs/posters on the wall and the full horror of the situation began to become clear: those abominations were the jerseys.
Now, there will be a post about the jerseys coming soon, but I won’t be giving much away to say that this one was the worst of the pack. I almost considered not buying it.
The interior is probably as nice as your typical AAA American stadium. For some reason, all of the seats within the stadium are orange or blue, but the uniforms are blue and white and all of the seats are that molded, rough, hard plastic that you might expect to see in an outdoor setting, but haven’t seen in a baseball stadium in ages.
The seats were pretty uncomfortable. The row we sat in even moreso.
Worse still, the row we sat in was right at the front of the second bank of seats. Instead of having a bar or something to separate us from the walkway, we had nothing. If I stretched my legs at the wrong time, I was liable to kick a poor beer girl right in the face. Standing up to cheer for big plays was almost impossible thanks to the diminished leg room and lack of forward stability. The endless torrent of beer girls and fans made it almost impossible to see the plate or concentrate on the field. On the plus side, our increased visibility got us on the jumbotron (Did I remember to mention that I was on the jumbotron at Koshien too? I’m pretty sure I forgot).
That's right, I was on that very screen, but not at the moment of this photograph.
If I had to go and give the BayStars just one compliment, I’d say that their cheerleading squad stands out as the most attractive of the bunch I’d seen and the only one that had similar cheering maneuvers to American squads. Then again, I drank more beer this game than any other because the stadium, game, and team were so atrocious, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.
They also had this weird black bear with “TBS” written across a t-shirt he was wearing. I have no idea what he was there for, but I like him a lot more than their usual mascots. He’s the one who should be going on the road.
My assessment seems to be right about some of these cheerleaders...I mean, what a strange bear thing, huh?
There was a ballgame that night too, wasn’t there? The BayStars put two up, and then checked out for the rest of the game. Not able to let me be happy with their failure, the Swallows went and scored six, which, for those of you keeping score, means they won. Since the Tigers were knocked out of the Climax Series by the Swallows by one game, I’m going to blame Yokohama for screwing this up for them. Way to go, chuckleheads.
He probably struck out...man this team sucks.
Really, how much this team sucks makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it. Starting with the name, the BayStars, you start to get the feeling that they have no idea what a good team name might be. It turns out that the former name for the team was the Yokohama Whales, but whaling restrictions and a believed curse put upon the team by dead whales (their parent company makes a lot of money from whale products) caused them to change the name…to the BayStars. It’s bad enough that the team name makes no sense, but then they go and make their mascot a couple of human bodies with star-shaped heads. It’s dumb.
They really are the dumbest mascots I've ever seen.
Feeling dejected by the loss, I headed home to sleep and re-energize after the early morning I had in Sapporo. As I drifted off to sleep, only one thought crossed my mind: What in the world was that black bear?
You can't go wrong with dreams about strange bears and cheerleaders. Too bad the Stars were there too.
ONE SECOND! Totally forgot about this awesome Engrish:
It makes sense as a sentence in English, but it mostly doesn't.