Saturday, February 22, 2014

birthday celebration at round 1

My 26th birthday started off well with me being sick and having to go to work. Yay... On a more positive note my lovely coworkers got me a birthday caked piled high with strawberries! Also got chocolates and strawberry daifukus from my awesome roomies! For my birthday, the roomies and I had planned to go to Round 1, a huge entertainment complex that has arcade games, rollerblading, bowling, and a variety of sports areas. Turns out a friend of ours was arranging for a Round 1 trip for the same day with a lot of my friends being invited to go. So we turned it into a birthday celebration for me! Woot woot!

First thing we did was run straight to the Super Mario Kart arcade game. 

I got first place! Yay!
dani and ellen mastering the taiko drum game
This taiko game is super popular here in Japan. I suck at it no rhythm whatsoever. Our entrance fee of 1950 yen includes unlimited play for everything in the complex!

throwback DDR! - alanna's first time playing it
The most popular attraction here for our group was the mechanical bull!

We were all so freaked out when the bull starts going faster and faster. A lot of the time we would just stop it before it could throw us onto the mat. I actually managed to stay on it for a long time, or maybe it seemed like a long time while I was being whipped around. We played a game of ping pong that turned into keep the ball up in the air because the majority of us sucked at ping pong except for Evan... Darn Evan is good at everything! Some firsts include going to a batting cage where the balls that were being thrown at us were crouch level. I literally had to squat to hit those balls...and an archery range. Shooting arrows is hard. I missed the target completely. I was just happy to get the arrow all the way down near the target. Most of my beginning shots fell in the middle of the aisle. Sad.

After sneaking some food and drinks in we hid out in the karaoke room to devour them. So many Disney songs being sung! We had signed up to ride mini motorbikes and our time slot was at 4:20am. When the time came around and we asked about the motorbikes they were like its under maintenance and its like wtf no notice or anything! So we spent an hour or so rollerblading (there were also roller skates). Aaron's feet were too big for any of the skates and so he spent his time teaching a Japanese guy how to roller blade. There was a group of guys skating at the same time and when Evan was teaching us how to skate backwards, they started trying to do it too. Then we got bored so Ellen and I decided that we would skate around trying to tap the Japanese boys without them noticing. We got one before the others caught on and they started tapping each other. This came with disastrous results because they weren't good and they ended up crashing into each other or falling. When they realized what I was up to, they tried to skate really fast to get away but they failed mightily. I might have caused a few collisions and spills. Oopsies.

We also took some purikura (photo booth pictures). We didn't have enough money so after inserting 200 yen we tried to find a money change machine (which there aren't any on the arcade floor). Well while trying to figure out what to do the camera started taking pictures. Turns out you don't need to insert 400 yen like the machine says because 200 yen totally works. Unfortunately we didn't realize that until I had already put 400 yen in and discovered there were two photo sheets printed. The first sheet had me going WTF? and a picture of Ellen bending over. Haha. Did not know what was going on at all. I wonder if this works with all photo booths or only with the old ones at Round 1.

The Details
Round 1 in Nagoya
Price: We got the 11pm-6am unlimited play of everything for 1950 yen
Access: Nakajima Station - Aonomi Line
Upon exiting the station, walk straight across the intersection turn left (under the overpass) and it will be on your right hand side. You can also just head towards the giant bowling pin (see-able from the station). Around a 5-10 minute walk.
Tip: There's a 24 hour Max Value next door. Great place to buy drinks and food since the ones in Round 1 are a little pricey.
website (Japanese only)

Monday, February 17, 2014

nabana no sato 2013 winter illumination

During the winter months, light illuminations are held throughout Japan. One of the most popular ones in my area occurs at Nabana no Sato, a flower park that's part of the Nagishima Resort (which includes an amusement park, an onsen and an outlet mall).

tunnel of lights
The highlight of 2013's winter illumination was Mt. Fuji. The illumination changed to depict different seasons.

mt. fuji in the spring
autumn season!
a smaller tunnel meant to resemble autumn leaves
It was really nice to walk around and see all the different lit areas. Despite it being too early for cherry blossom season there were some that were in bloom! There are several restaurants on the grounds but they are pretty pricey. I would go for the food stalls - still a little pricey but nothing outrageous. Your entrance ticket includes two 500 yen coupons that you can use to buy food or souvenirs!

The Details
Nabana no Sato
Hours: 9:00am-9:00pm (illumination event doesn't start until around 5pm or so)
Admission Fee: 2000 yen (includes two 500 yen coupons)
Access: We took a bus directly from Nagoya (Meitetsu Bus Center) to Nabana no Sato - 870 yen one way the ride lasts 30 minutes; last bus is at 6pm.
Below I have posted the bus schedules for Nagoya to Nabana no Sato and the return.

bus times nagoya - nabana no sato (white = weekday, yellow = weekend & holidays)
nabana no sato - nagoya (top is weekday, bottom is weekend & holidays)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

toba no himatsuri

Since living in Japan, I've had the opportunity to attend several fire festivals. I highly recommend the Toba no Himatsuri in Aichi, if you want to get up close and personal with two ginormous bonfires!

the beginning
before shot
These two giant torches called suzumi are approximately five meters in height and can weigh up to two tons! Inside each torch is a holy tree called a shingi. Men from the local area form two teams based on where they live. Their goal is to be the first team to retrieve the holy tree from within the torches and then offer them to the nearby shrine. 

The harvest and the weather of the year are divined from the condition of the burning torches and the winning team. The men ripped away at the torches with their hands - no tools! I suggest you stand on the side where the torches are placed. A walkway divides the two spectator sections and all the old Japanese men will have taken all the good spaces directly across from the torches. However if you stand on the side the torches are located, once the fire is lit, people just crossed over the rope and we stood dangerously close to the fire with no one blocking our view. However people on the opposite side had firemen and such standing in front of them so they couldn't get closer... I arrived a little before 7pm and got a spot close to the front because it was on a slope, stood there for more than a hour desperately gripping with my toes and standing on really precarious ground. Was rewarded with being able to get really close to the action - the rope that separated us was dropped since they relied on spectators to hold it up and no one cared about the rope and keeping us in line when there were flames, water and smoke everywhere!

The Details
Toba no Himatsuri
Dates: Second Sunday of Feburary 3:00pm-8:30 (approximately)
Torches are lit around 8pm but I highly recommend getting here earlier to secure a good spot. Festival lasts for an hour or so. There are food stalls and such if you get hungry.
Access: Mikawa Toba Station - Meitetsu Gamagori Line (a train comes roughly twice an hour) then a 10-15 minute walk to the festival site (I didn't see any signs - if they are any they were all in Japanese - just follow the crowd!)
more info on the festival
official website (japanese only)