For me, the Bay Area has always meant two things. 1) The San Francisco Bay Area (no Long Beach and SoCal, you don't count) and 2) That area north of San Jose that is hip that San Jose seems magically excluded from.
The latter may or may not be true, but to me and I think many people (in California at least I guess), the Bay Area means the SF bay. Nothing else really comes close for me.
Today I went to Odaiba, which is the Tokyo Bay area. Well first I went to Shinjuku and got lunch, that was pretty uneventful. Then rode to 新橋 to take the Yurikamome "new transit" line to the Odaiba area. For such a short ride, it's expensive =P But the waterfront area is a very trendy place now it seems, and has attracted many upscale businesses, so i guess that's just in keeping with it all. Or I could, I dunno, walk the whole distance =P Which I had initially planned, but then wisely thought better of.
Getting off at Aomi station, the idea was to wander around the mini islands in a coutner clockwise fashion to see the Raibow bridge during the day and at night, and then to try Oedo Onsen Monagari until it was time to go home.
Plan was largely a success. Today was a fairly wonderful day. Allow me to relate.
So the first stop was "MEGAWEB" which, for some reason, turned out to be a bunch of show rooms owned by Toyota. Which means cars. Which is not a bad thing at all. Apparently they have a track that goes around the immediate area and computer controlled Vitz' that you can ride around in as it takes you around on a tour. Pretty cool. They also have a lot of cars on exhibit (who would have guessed??) but few sporty ones. They had quite a few displays regarding their racing teams, as well as hands on activities. There was a "Star Tours" type ride (free! =) that was geared towards the view point of a Toyota Supra going around the Newly Renovated Fuji Speedway in two or three laps. About 7 min long, and kinda blah. Hard gear shifts and cars actually bump each other without spinning out of control. Real driving simulator my ass.
They also had a more hands on approach to the same thing... special GT4 stations wired to a tilt cockpit type contraption (I think this is the thing that was at some E3 type event or some junk)... however, you only get one lap in the same supra =P AND I was forced to drive automatic.
Although the steering wheel is MUCH better than the POS gt3 Logitech one (90deg to 90deg lock is NOT even close to being realistic to ANY car =p ) and the moving pit does provide some feedback, even this 'enclosed' simulator fails, and shows Gran Tourismo's (and indeed, ANY driving sim's) fatal flaw in conveying reality... lack of sensitive feedback.
Although perspective and such do make a difference in how a driving sim may not be accurate, the biggest culprit is the lack of sensory feedback... the wheel does not resist you (as many cars today have power steering and just about every car in GT DOES =p ), nor do the pedals have ANY feel to them at all (to say nothing of resistance). It's hard to get braking timing right or accel modulation right when the pedals don't tell your foot how far they are being pushed down. There's no real sensation of speed or gravity/inertia as there is int he real world that your body subconciously relies upon for additional driving input.
First corner was completely muffed because the guy gave me AT =P Thought I was driving MT. When you don't down shift or up shift like you plan, it's pretty much impossible to attack a corner in the same way. Next turn getting used to the steering wheel, turn after that brakes... after that, drove rather nicely. The funny thing is, that means I get 'penalized' because I finish my lap faster and have to get out =P
From here walked to 夢橋 but did not feel like walking all the way across =P Looked... far. Sorry Panasonic Dinosaur Creation Center, I shall have to play god with saurian genetic code another time...
Went north to the oddly named "Tokyo Teleport Station". I can only imagine. Tele-Tokyo 2000gil.
Northward and onward, browsed stores on the northside... there was, apparently, some sort of Cat theme park store... thing. There was an admission fee, so I didn't bother, but apparently the whole place is just about cats. I guess you can go in and play with cats? or watch them sleep and totally ignore you otherwise just like your own cat would? I dunno.
Tried going to Sega "Joyopolis" but that was closed. Happy land was closed ;_; You figure a place called 'Joyopolis', which consists of several floors, must be pretty awesome. In fact, 4 cute girls were trying to go there too. Case in point right?
Stopped at Odaiba Aquacity. Heard that there is, uhm, a sony... thing... here =x But more than that, there are multiple floors/terraces outside which afford a rather nice view of the Rainbow bridge. The sun was setting, so I dunno how good those pics will be. Also of the Mini statue of liberty they have here...
It should be noted that the shit brick has something to say about this. They feel it highly worth noting that the statue of liberty has it's back turned to the bridge/tokyo, like this is some kind of insult or something. Hey dipshits... it ever occur to you retards that if it were facing any other way, you could not get a good picture of it? You would be in trees, or else in the water. PLUS, it's facing this way SO you can get NICE pictures with the BRIDGE in the BACKground. Christ. So much of the shit brick carries all this non-asian bias, it's really depressing. For a bunch of people who purport to love asia so much and travel so much, you fuckers haven't yet got a clue... Just ignorant tourists who wrote a book.
The Sony bits are kinda spread out through the building and not really concentrated like the Ginza building. I think it's more like Sony owns this "Aquacity" building, which is more like a mall. So just a lot of browsing.
Bought some omiyage for everyone... FROG STYLE
! yes, more =P I think it's cool ^^;; So definitely people I will be crashing with, you get one =P The machine said 200Y but the sign inside the box said 100Y ;_; So I got 1000Y change so I could get 5... but after the second time, I kept turning the crank, because... it seemed odd... and more frogs kept popping out. It was like a frog factory. So I have 10 now... and on the very last one, I got one that I wanted! ^^. So I have 9 to give away, and 8 are definitely going to someone. so that leaves 2 out in the open.... ^^;; I have ONE Camoflauge G. Frog (Top Row, far right), TWO Minsar Frogs (Top Row, Middle Right), Three Rainbow Frogs (Middle Row, Far Right), and Three DokiDoki Frogs (Middle Row, Middle Right). The ones I would have wanted were the Sakura Mochi Frog (Middle Row, Middle Left), or else the one I did get Omikuji Frog ^^ (Bottom Row, Middle Left) すっごくラッキー indeed ^^; Of course people I am crashing with back in LA get first dibs... [Edit: Camo Claimed, 1 Rainbow Claimed, 2 DokiDoki Claimed]
Also sold at this "Edo Omiyage" store (was not aware that encapsulated frogs were from the Edo period) was saplings culled from the Progentior Pocky. Seriously. I think this is the Pocky to end all pocky, one that you can plant which will grow into the pocky tree (provided it does not melt), from which you can harvest pocky and giant pocky. It makes giant pocky look like regular size. I mean, if you trip and fall while eating one, you'd probably die, impaling your head on the end of the pocky medieval style. I'm not sure what they call it... giant pocky is already taken right? So I guess this is gargantuan mutant pocky or something. It's アメリカン sized. Wow. Your pocky SOO big.
It was nightfall by now, and wow. Rainbow bridge is beautiful at night. During the day, pretty much every waterfront neighbor hood is the same really. Blue. Like, yeah, the water is blue the sky is blue there is a fuckton of blue, I get it, can we pick another color now? Everything else tends to look kinda washed out by the blue. But at night, these areas really come into their own somehow... with the proper lighting, the city scapes and such... actually look nice. Rainbow bridge especially is lit just right... and you can Tokyo Tower in the background, and the Statue of Liberty thing in the foreground... it all looks so nice. Definite Date spot. You would get to grope at least I bet. Anyway, I took a number of very nice night photos of the scenery... the night photo function has a LONG shutter delay speed or whatever... so you have to hold it steady or else blurs. So I have Many more that are blurred and icky. But I got off quite a few nice shots. Would not have been possible methinks with the Clie or the film cam (flash is pointless for night pics unless you are taking a picture of a person).
Went to a Hawaiian burger place (Aina Kua? or something like that?) which hails itself as the best Burger place in the world. Now, i'm not even sure how something like that would even be determined... the sheer logistics of it are mind boggling, to say nothing of objective vs. subjective measurements. And maybe it's because I have not tasted a good burger in a very long time (even while in america), but this place is goddamned good. There's one In Haielea (I can't spell hawaiian places for shit =x), Honolulu, Tokyo (Odaiba) and Santa Monica (apparently). GO.
After, I walked a fair bit to the Oedo Onsen
. It's about 9pm, and the place doesn't close until 9am... last admittance at 2am. I'm a little hesitant to go in though. It's kinda pricey, although apparently the price is reduced at night? And well, don't really want to fuck up =P This is one of those areas where it's pretty easy to make a social mistake, and it would be viewed by many =P Plus the whole getting naked with strangers thing has never appealed to me =P
Well, went in anyway. Would seem stupid otherwise, since this was primarily the reason why I came to the Odaiba area anyway =P Price was indeed lowered for after 6pm. Now, here's where karma is a funny thing. Some cantonese tourists where annoying the almighty hell out of me on the short Yurikamome ride. I mean, I'm not especially fond of how cantonese sounds (nor of women, given my love life history). But like, chinese tourists... gawd. So it's fitting I guess that they come here RIGHT as I do ><. Jesus. The funny thing is, they are getting explanations in english (because they are, apparently, clearly foreigners for which I guess it's roughly either english or japanese), whereas I get everything in japanese. Oddly, there's a nice feeling to that.
Now, this Onsen (hot mineral springs... it's odd to find one on 'reclaimed' land in the middle of a BAY, but as someone pointed out, if you dig deep enough...) is apparently somewhat famous and is kinda like a theme park (styled after Edo period apparently). Much of the staff speaks a fair amount of English and are rather friendly, i HIGHLY recommend coming here at LEAST once in any trip to japan. SERIOUSLY.
After getting the yukata and Obi, I ran into my first problem. The obi is a big sash, unlike the kind I have at home. I'm not too sure how to tie this =x (incidentally, when wearing a yukata, you should wrap the right side first, then the left side over the right [ <--- and then ---> ] as the opposite way is how the dead are dressed... i guess no one cares too much if you are gaijin though?). Had to have the guy next to me show me, he thought it was funny =x
First stop, Ashiyu (foot bath)... it's outdoors, and pretty cool. Rocks are placed everywhere designed to massage pressure points in our feet. I know my parents are into that, but I fuggin' hate it. It's painful as hell (which is supposed to mean i'm unhealthy or something). These rocks are both outside and inside the water. It's a little amusing to watch people walk through the water (a lot of あああ いたいん！）. Not as amusing when it's you.
After this I went to yuya, the baths. Ok, so this is where people get naked =P You get two towels, a big one and a small one. Everything is fine until i walk into the bathing area. Because if I understand it correctly, I am meant to rinse/shower first then go into the bath, etc. But I'm the only one carrying the big towel... it's all confusing. I have to go in and bother the towel guy (again, and in english ;_;) who explains everything to me (mostly what I already knew though). Just the small towel for hiding your junk (although some don't even =p ). Yeah you are supposed to shower first, but he said it's probably better to show after either way... cuz some people don't shower before going in.
Ok, so put away towel, rinse, bath. Wow. Sooooooo relaxing. You simply have to try it. At this point, you really don't care about people's wangs being out in the open or if you (or someone else) is really doing something that's a social infraction. When you are soaking in the hot baths, it's really hard to give a shit about anything (much less two shits). There's indoor baths of varying temperature, a Sauna (which is just too rigoddamncockulously hot), and outdoor baths (which is just uber).
Seriously, this is (along with things like Hanami, Matsuri, Trips to Nikko and Kamakura, Climbing Mt. Fuji, etc.) something that really defines a trip to Japan. Yeah I'm sure you get the same sort of thing is certain places in america, but whatever. I'm pretty sure that's still different somehow. The interesting thing is, in japan the nudity is considered a social leveller... everyone is the same, or anonymously the same so to speak in the onsen. When you are getting on the train to go back to wherever, it's actually kind of a shock to see these same people now dressed as young punks or salary men or whatever else.
Anyway, this place is reasonably priced imo, and a very safe place to get your first experience at Onsen. I wish I'd tried it sooner, cuz i'd definitely come back ^^. There's food and games and such inside too where you can eat and drink and relax after bathing... and of course, shop. Incidentally, if you are Yakuza or have Tattoos, you will not be allowed to this Onsen (I think small, stupid stuff like lower back tats on girls or whatever are allowed, but bigger or more intricate or potentially gangsta/offensive stuff is prohibited). Pretty interesting. Onsen, short of making the wrong move and about to meet death, is probably the only place where you can really see いれずみ.
Unfortuantely, when I was done, the shops had closed ;_; No souvenirs. Just beer and gyoza and yaki-onigiri. Just a train ride home (still a little woozy from the heat haha) and a very placid demeanor. Oh, on the way out, they had omikuji. I decided I wanted number 16 (long story not worth mentioning here) and one in particular jumped out at me so I took it... it says my lucky number is 18 (as in age? ;), color Deep Blue (zomg), and "Big Lucky" woot woot =) And it's my first and only draw (someone in front of me got something else, and picked a second time lol =p ). It should be noted though, that I think all it had were "small lucky" "medium lucky" and "big lucky" (as well as numbers and colors).
Ah, so nice....