I figured I can travelogue a bit on this site, as much of my last trip to Japan and Taiwan were of the nerd interest variety. More fat cats pics below.
The main reason I booked a 2-week+ trip this past few weeks is for ML3rd, and to visit some not-that-distant relatives that I haven’t seen in years. My maternal grandfather is getting on with his age. I lost my chance of seeing my maternal grandmother one last time when she passed a few years back so I figured sooner is better than later. That my folks are also visiting the same family members made this trip easy to do since someone was there to look after me? The timing almost worked out perfectly as Chinese New Years overlapped with ML3rd Sendai, so after that live I spent 5 days with my folks. (Too bad it overlapped, would’ve been nice if I can make that NYE meal.)
I’ve written up the three big lives I attended on the trip: ML3rd Nagoya, ML3rd Sendai, Nendo 10th Anniversary. I didn’t do much in-between, besides to go to Taiwan twice. This meant I had 5 legs to my trip, 3 in JP and 2 in TW. That’s a little nuts.
The first leg in TW was to see Eriko, Asapon, and GamiP at Taipei Game Show. It’s also to check out the TW Ps. They’re an interesting group and younger than I imagined. They definitely do know Japanese, many of them…better than their English at some cases. Which is hilarious in that sometimes I got introduced as someone from America but they talk Japanese to me. Maybe even more hilarious is that it usually works?
Did I mention eating in Taipei is awesome? Like if you enjoy gastro tourism, Taipei is like, your dream city. Reason is that it offers actually the largest range of quality eats you will find on that side of the world, in mass-transit distance and mass-transit price. I think if you are good at doing research you can get better results in SoCal or NYC, but for every one semi-obscure cuisine place in these diverse US areas you can find like 3 or a dozen, depending on if that cuisine is sufficiently familiar to Asian tongues.
Of course that’s exaggerating a bit. There’s definitely a lack of coverage of authentic European cuisines and there could be more Middle Eastern and African eateries, but the fact that I found a couple in my short stay makes me think there are more to be found if I did the research. The food choices in Taiwan is largely a mix of Japanese-ish and standard Chinese, with some random stuff mixed in there along with the more authentic local styles. Imagine the average Japanese department store food court floor, but with more diverse flavors and tastes that go beyond the narrow band of palette tolerability of Japanese norms. And that’s just the department stores.
Prepared foods are also fairly inexpensive in Taiwan. I guess it’s the inner New Yorker speaking but this price is like if I was living in Ohio or some such. Maybe even cheaper. The expensive stuff there is on par with the mid-range expensive stuff here. The everyday stuff is cheap enough that I can stuff my belly with good local eats, under $10USD a day.
While I am definitely biased in this, the quality of the food in Taipei is going to be better than what you find in rest of Southeast Asia even with similar variety, and likely cheaper than HK with more diversity. So Taipei really is kind of a best-of several worlds when it comes to eating for diversity, quality and price.
The actual Taipei Game Show part of the show wasn’t all that interesting. I got there and camped, but the whole area was not so big and there sure were a lot of people. I don’t even know how much games I play these days, although in Taiwan there’s the same trend on mobage as it is in Japan. Maybe it isn’t so much the show wasn’t interesting as much as I didn’t get to experience much of it.
The food is more relevant, oddly, because we spent some time at the uchiage eating hotpot. It’s as you imagined.
Semi-relevant is that on one of my flights from TW to JP I got to ride the Hello Kitty Jet. It wasn’t planned nor was I aware of it ahead of time. I think at some point I got to the terminal, I couldn’t quite tell what plane it was, because it was one of those two-level gates. By the time I got downstairs I was like, wow. And even then I wasn’t really aware what I was getting myself into.
I guess the Hello Kitty boarding pass didn’t quite clue me in.
Having now looked it up, I rode on the Hello Kitty Speed Puff, which runs between TPE and NRT one round trip a day. You can see some pictures here, but that’s for business/first class. For cattle class (admittedly the Airbus A330-200 was comfortable enough for my fat American ass) things looks mostly the same as usual, but there were some added Kitty flare. The pillow, the restroom, the in-flight menu, the food, the knives and forks… you get the idea.
Maybe I should have checked the in-flight shopping list instead of sleeping through most of that flight, because supposedly there are some gentei crap. Or, maybe I should have taken an in-flight crap so I could wipe my aforementioned ass with Kitty TP.
On that note, I had pretty nice luck with planes all trip long. My UA flight direct from EWR to NRT was actually the best UA flight I’ve been on in recent memory. GG United. My two ANA-operated HND<->TSA flights were devoid of people so there were plenty of space, except I didn’t even lie down. And these were on Boeing 787s. On the Feb 8th HND->TSA flight I was drinking beer and watching the Super Bowl while tweeting using in-flight Wifi, which is superlative for the fact that I didn’t think I could have caught the game because I had to fly. Too bad it wasn’t the R2D2 flight (which was parked next gate down).
I guess the good luck was offset by the fun story of losing my wallet in Taipei, on a bus, on the way to the airport.
So yeah, on the way back to Japan from on the TpGS leg of my trip, I lost my wallet. Good thing was that I got it back and I didn’t even lose anything. I suspect I dropped my wallet in the cargo well when I went to pick up my luggage, or in the seat of the bus that was taking me to the airport. Relatives were able to hunt my wallet down for me the same day, although the ordeal did cause them probably more distress than it costed me as I proceeded to catch my flight regardless of my wallet. It’s complicated, but that wallet only had money and my money-related cards in there, plus some point cards and my Japanese sim card. It was way better than losing my JR Pass! [Heh.] I had some amount of USD on my person so at least I had some money to live on while in Japan until I was reunited with my wallet.
I got my wallet back a couple days later when a friend flew from TW to attend Nendo and ML3rd, so that worked out. Maybe that’s the real luck w.
As an aside, not having my wallet didn’t even stop me from going to the IM@S Cafe. It’s kind of bad.
I went to the two days’ worth of WUG events at Taipei the week following TpGS. By WUG I mean Myu, Aichan and Yoppi, plus Yamakan and Fukuhara Kaori. One was just a free, public talk event at Taipei Underground Mall. There is actually a place called that, which is the original underground shopping area at Taipei Station, but if you go there you’ll quickly find that there are several underground areas just like it connected to the station. So it took me walking for a while to find where the stage was.
Since they didn’t ban recording and such, as it’s not really feasible in a place like that, all of it is online somewhere.
On the second day the WUGs participated in the TICA event, which stands for Taipei International Comics & Anime something or another. Hikasa Yoko was there the Saturday after, and Kayano Ai was there the same day WUGs were. There was a sign-kai for Kayanon that I tried for and failed, but from what I heard they changed the sign-kai to a meet & greet with a drawing for autographs, probably due to fear of too many resellers of autographs and requested by Office Osawa who brought over her and possibly other guests? (BTW, her wiki page has a photo from the event now, LOL.)
You can see clips of WUGs & co. at TICA in this video.
The 3 WUGs, Fukuhara Kaori and Yamakan also appeared at a sign-kai the morning of their TICA event at the Animate HQ in Taipei. That Animate also has a special exhibit area for WUGs to promote Sendai and the related tour package in late March. News to me at the time, the tour flies you out of Taipei or Tainan, directly to Sendai Airport. Then you get to fool around in Sendai city and out in Matsushima by bus, and then back to Sendai Airport on the last day for the live concert there. I don’t know how they’re rolling it, but it surely won’t be a large venue so it will be kind of neat? It’s not quite the normal WUGBus but this is a great opportunity if my Taiwanese Ota Kunioshi clones can foot the 21000NT (~$610USD) bill.
The final leg of this trip is really just me chillaxing, overcoming a cold I caught probably a week before at TpGS, and to see Trysail. Chillaxing also means shopping in Akihabara, because I actually didn’t get do that much on this trip. It’s probably for the best to keep me away from that sinful place anyway.
I did end up visiting Akiba Gamers, which had a Trysail makeover the week of, as Whiz was on sale. Try a hand at the kuji to no avail, but what else would you expect?
I don’t think I can get enough of seeing Mocho being Mocho or whatever Asakura Momo does for an excuse of a public performance. That day, 2/14, had a boatload of events and somehow I just decided to take it easy with two TrySail events back to back. The more ambitious double-dipped with other day-night events such as WUGris, or Seaside Fes, or Pryxis. Did everyone cover Valentine Kiss? I don’t know.
I don’t have a lot to say about the Trysail event, besides that it follows their usual half-talk, half-live format. It pads out to 90 minutes or so on the dot. The event was at NHK Hall, which is neat if you’ve ever Kohaku’d.
Let me get the complaints out of the way. First, Music Ray’n, as idol management agency, can go die in a fire with their archaic practices that basically limits social media exposure for the idols to random blog posts. Even the fanclub is subject to the same crappy and dumb rules, on top of the fanclub being kind of sub-par content-wise compared to your average FC. I’m particularly tired as a P, seeing Mocho’s armband instead of herself doing something silly with Pyon in their post-event 2shots. And who did the sound at the event? NHK Hall is hard to screw up, yet they did. It made Chocolate Disco sound like a sloppy mess that it already probably would have been, without the vocoding. After Valentine Kiss and the talk segments, the sound just went to a ditch and rolled over. It is as if they did it on purpose.
That said, Mocho sure was rocking it in Chocolate Disco, their 3-girl idol unit cover of the famous Perfume tune. It’s with this motif–as if when you see them live you know they have a tune or three up their sleeves that could really bring down the house, but they don’t. If Trysail ever does a full-length live ever and ends with Let’s Kouken I would be crying UO. Or Cobalt, if the mood strikes. Or Baby My Step, if I wasn’t busy futzing the calls. Or Honto Dayo, because it’s so good. Trysail has already so many great songs and they all work well in this three-idol format. Plus the girls are good at it. Not even an album yet! But all their lives so far are just the mini variety, and it feels they are holding it back.
The talk segment is based on a “chocolate treat” motif. There are different events or games the three has to do. If they fail, they get to give the audience a “amai serifu.” Which is the pun on the name of the event “Amaysail”? Whatever, MochoTenNansu, who came up with the phrase, thanks for the period reminder of Japanese English illiteracy. The lines are basically the standard batsuge confession phrases. Nansu and 10ch worked in the face expressions too, which is neat.
The games were all over the place and largely forgettable, but some were interesting. Reverse call was probably the best, where the audience sang to Baby My Step and the three did the calls. The bicycle challenge… Mocho can’t ride a bike. And for me, the fried chicken and carrot challenges. As I was killing time at NRT the day after, I sure wanted to try some Lawson’s Fried Chicken.
It was a good trip. Arguably as I write this, I can say this has been one of the best trip yet, because I even booked my next trip already. I also can say that I fully do not regret it, as long as I get that recovery weekend after I land because it took many hours to sleep all of that jetlag and fatigue off.
If there was a regret, it was that I wasn’t able to rank in the Deresute Tulips event. I was 2 runs short… And I kind of like Fred too… Well, it’s a minor thing in the grand scheme of things. Also I wished I could have used my JR pass more. I splurged for a 2-week pass, and definitely rode the train enough to break even, but it doesn’t seem like I made good use of it. With smarter planning I probably could have done the same thing without a JR Pass, and just rerouted some flights and take advantage of the night bus more, and save a couple hundred bucks. Well, I guess at least with the Pass I can travel in style and sleep in beds instead of bus seats, so that counts for something.