Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day Tripping Nagano

Only three hours on the train each way today. Joy.

Continuing my Japanese scouting mission I took myself out to Nagano. Why? Because it once hosted the Olympics – that's what I do: I go to Olympic cities. Everyone needs a hobby.

Olympic cities are sad in a way that you really need to feel to understand. It's like they want to forever live off of their former glory. The rings still exist all over, manhole covers are decorated with images. The people, you can tell they remember what it was like all those years ago – but today there is little tourism. In fact there is just one reason to come to Nagano, and it's a temple at the top of the road.

A temple that looks just like the one in Asakusa to the untrained eye.

Yes I went there, sure I took pictures of the cherry blossoms, but then I left. I had seen all this in Tokyo, and then Kyoto, and also Kobe – I'd seen this all over Japan. what struck me about Nagano was that there were some lovely shops. I continued to look for the FF7 piano book in music shops, failing each time. But that was how I passed my time. In fact, I was done with the city earlier than I thought I would be, and so hustled quickly to the station to book an earlier train, jumping on just in time.

Back in Tokyo I went to Akihabara. The folks I'm staying with love Kapiberas. what better way to thank them then by getting them another stuffed creature for their collection? Problem – they had so many that I had no idea what one they didn't have. It was starting to rain anyway. Akiba would be left for the next day when I had studied the stuffed creatures more.

On the way back to their place, just west of Shibuya, I started to read the magazine I picked up from the Nagano tourist office. Alt.Japan had a special on the anime culture. It mentioned that the city of Hakone created a map of the area pointing out all the locations that were featured in Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the show Hakone is Tokyo III.

An Eva map, only available in Hakone... Clearly I had my mission for the next day set.

I was shown the entertainment set up at my hosts place. And my god, I thought what I saw in Silicon Valley was good – well now I know there is better. An HD projector, splashed on a screen as big as the whole wall. If your racing games aren't being played in true to life size, then you just aren't properly experiencing them!

With the night stretching on, and me still needing to get up early for the train to Hakone, I had very little time to play and enjoy the experience. But time would be set aside for that later, I hoped – when things finally started to settle down. Surely things would start to settle down, right? Right?!

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