I’m not sure what to write about in regards to my recent trip to Japan. I did it mostly because of CG 6th in Nagoya Dome and Wake Up, Girls! Final Tour in Iwate, but I tried to use that JR Pass power for tourism purposes in the days between the two lives. It also occurred to me that I went to Japan way too many times this year, in a way that I have to date my trip by the month that it happened in, not not just by the Year or Quarter even.
I traveled quite a bit compared to my usual weekend jaunts, so I had some thinking time as I sat on the Shinkansen. They are marvelous aren’t they? I saw the Hayabusa and Komachi detach at Morioka and the nose cones of the two trains transform and cover up the latches. This kid behind me even went “Shinkalion da!” I was able to take an overnight train from Okayama to Tokyo. I finally got to see the Seto Inland Sea as I rode on a bus around Mihara. I had okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. And primarily, I was able to finally visit a Japanese car museum.
Of all the things Japan is known for in the world, I want to believe Japanese cars are the most renowned things. Before weirdness, sushi, ninjas or anime, there are these heavy machineries that made everyday life possible for 100s of millions of people across the world. It’s like when I was watching Jack Ryan I see how the rich terrorists drove Land Cruisers and the poor ones are in Tacomas. Joke aside, Toyota is the number one car company in the world, and that is saying something. Something that probably summarises the totality of the post-atom-bomb Japan, its economic recovery, and the role it plays in the world today.
So it was nice to go back in time and see the humble beginnings of these modern marvels. It’s almost like flaunting when the Toyota automotive technology museum in Nagoya proper featured all these textile manufacturing stuff for maybe a third of the place. After all, that’s how Toyota got started, making textile manufacturing hardware? I guess you can always visit their main campus for the full blown tour but I did not have the time. I spent a couple hours before the live in Nagoya looking at a giant metal press, or how relatively small a Prius’s battery is compared to the skate-style batteries in newer BEVs. There were a lot of neat little things if you are into cars, and even more if you aren’t, as the whole facility tends to target a more general and youthful audience.
I was more emotionally connected to the Mazda factory tour. You get an English language guided tour of the much smaller museum space in Hiroshima but also their primary assembly line. It totally reminded me my last car, which was also built in Hiroshima–the only place MX-5s are built, if not the only assembly line. The Mazda company takes up like a quarter of the city out there in Hiroshima, sprawling complexes of ports, warehouses, factories, schools, dorms, hospitals, gyms, you name it. It’s still the boonies, but it was something the locals prided themselves on. There are buses of school children at the tour as well.
It was pretty cool watching a MX-5 put together and I shed a single tear. Which was one more tear than I shed at CG 6th. I mean, it’s not that small, agile, fun-to-drive fandom it used to be, as this joke goes.
Cinderella Girls 6th Live was a visual spectacle. Having seen a couple lives inside the home of the Seibu Lions, Metlife Dome frankly, well, sucks, in comparison. Metlife Dome is a bad venue, despite the innovative (and ecologically neat) semi-open design, as if a UFO phased into the Japanese hillside. Nagoya Dome was much better. I really liked the acoustics, despite having to deal with outfield bucket seats. The full dome roof also made the visuals less weird, I guess.
There are a lot of things I could say about CG 6th, but I was glad to be able to see TriPri being powerful and how “AAAAAARu” Field chains into Nagareboshi Kiseki. I really enjoyed Treasure, and it’s fun seeing Kirarin Robo in the metaphorical flesh. And villain Acchan with a frying pan. There are also a lot of bellies there for some reason. I’m glad I was able to participate in a pretty good event and fulfill my dumb promise I made at AX.
I really should talk about WUG Iwate and Morioka separately, as the totality of that visit is kind of one thing all together. So I will do just that.
There were other minor objectives I had in mind on this trip. One of them is to stay at the “famous” Economy Backpacker Hotel New Koyo. Located in Minami-Senju, this place is not what I’d recommend you stay at unless you are okay with living in a run-down dorm, as it is what it is for 2900 JPY a night. I think the only real reason to stay there is that it is cheap and the staff speak English. There are similarly priced single-room hostels that don’t look completely like a dump, and maybe even closer to the station, for a bit more in rent. Cheap business hotels are maybe starting at 5000 JPY. OK, the real reason is I know all too many people who stayed there, so I wanted to see how things are like.
I also tried remotely working while in Japan. It only works somewhat–I really need to have a desk and a chair, as it is tough staying awake when you’re sitting on the bed the whole time. I do a lot of meetings so it necessitates me being awake during Japan’s sleeping hours. New Koyo isn’t really meant for that, and maybe I’ll try again at a proper hotel next time.
Another thing I had done on this trip is take an overnight bus. Japanese buses are kind of interesting, as now I have taken all the basic varieties from the mass transit version, the shuttle version, the tourist bus version, and now the overnight sleeper which comes with a bathroom. I splurged a bit and took a 3-in-a-row type bus which meant you had basically a premium econ plane seat to yourself. It’s sort of unusual to see this in the US, if ever. I took the bus mainly because it was the only way to get to Tokyo in time for my morning flight out, coming from Morioka.
Destination-wise, besides the automobile museums in Nagoya and Hiroshima, I dropped by Takehara as the one anime pilgrimage spot. The trip is complicated because flooding and typhoon earlier in the year took out the Kure line, meaning the only other way via JR Pass to Takehara is a bus from Mihara station. Alternatively I could have taken the direct bus from Hiroshima but that costs about a thousand yen one way. Mihara station itself is interesting, as a local Shinkansen stop, as it’s also built on top of a castle ruin. The bus drove along the coast to Mihara, so it had a scenic side effect despite making that side trip much longer.
In terms of events, I also attended Machico’s solo live on 12/1 in Yokohama, as well as a mini-album release event at HMV Shibuya for Komagata Yuri, in addition to the aforementioned live events. In retrospect I definitely could have packed on more, but it was already quite a lot.
A lot of the time this trip I was doing solo traveling, which was refreshing given my prior trip in September. On my last tourist trip to Japan, I was basically in a tour bus the whole time, living on a schedule dictated by the tour company. It was fun and eye-opening, but restrictive. This was more just whatever-I-want but the quality of the trip is as good as the homework that I did ahead of time. I guess if you could, why not do both?
PS. On my way out of Japan, I took a Monday 10am flight from Haneda to JFK. While waiting to board I spotted the famous video game developer Kojima Hideo, in line for first class. I can never be sure of these things but it did turn out to be him, confirmed by his tweets later in the week.