Osaka Night 7: The visual styling of Downtown Osaka.

2013-10-29 18.49.02Osaka was lovely at night, and seeking wilder things I strode out on the town.

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I found a cat! IMG_1410 IMG_1411 IMG_1412 IMG_1413 IMG_1414 IMG_1415 IMG_1417

I was tempted to stay in this cube hotel but then I remembered my comfy hotel room bed. IMG_1418

Little America at night is quite fun, and is full of Japanese hipsters. I ran into a Frenchman on the street and we discussed our travel visa’s. Interestingly, his from France was 6 months without even proof of employment, while most people from the US can only have a 90 day. IMG_1420 IMG_1421 IMG_1422

Some seriously great lighting. IMG_1423

The statue of liberty on top of an apartment complex…okee. IMG_1424

Not sure what this was. IMG_1425 IMG_1426

Hipster bookstore with that kitty outside from before! IMG_1427

He meowed at me. IMG_1428

There was another stray hiding in the Shadows.
IMG_1433 IMG_1432 IMG_1431 IMG_1435Visual spectacle overload overtook me as I took these last shots, and so I sent myself off to bed. More next week dear reader!

Day 7: The Redlight District at 10am

Not knowing Japanese has its downsides. Like stumbling into the red light district. Luckily, Japan’s red-light districts are not like most places, even the seediest areas are unusually safe. While some might claim this is because of Japan’s naturally low crime rate, others point out Japan’s notorious under-reporting of crimes. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I found myself in little America. It’s a section of Osaka that is meant to mirror the United States. It was quite early still so it was mostly empty. That being said a fountain had been vandalized with soap bubbles and the scattered remains of a party were evident in the main square. Being oh so cultured, I bought a Japanese Coke and found it tasted only slightly different, with an emphasis on spice over sweet.

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The Fed Ex of Japan!
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F#$k the rules!
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My friend translated this to be literally fat entertainment. It was a brothel dedicated to those who enjoy the company of overweight women though the women on the poster aren’t all that fat in comparison to people from the states.
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This is a Christmas-themed love hotel. Love hotels are not brothels believe it or not, most of their customers are actually couples who can’t get privacy otherwise. Japanese culture is both lax and strict about sex
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Japan’s or Osaka’s version of a most-wanted poster. I like that the people they caught had little X’s put over them, like some version of criminal bingo.
IMG_1321I got  a Japanese handkerchief. These are mostly used to wrap things in order to carry them more easily!

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A seemingly abandoned school archery range. IMG_1340

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One of my favorite things about japan were all the little shops tucked in places that were completely out of the way. It added to the sense of mysticism.
IMG_1347 IMG_1346 IMG_1342 IMG_1338One of Osaka’s famous stand up sushi parlors!

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These adorable little fish…these are the deadly delicacy known as Fugu. I refrained from eating any during the trip as A. I didn’t want to die, and B. It was 60-80 dollars for the small edible piece of an otherwise adorable fish.

After a quick foray back to my hotel, I decided to catch a subway train and soak up some of Osaka’s history. More, tomorrow dear reader.

Day 7: Osaka in the Morning

I awoke after my first night in Osaka with a fresh set of eyes and a roar of excitement. My hotel was in the heart of Osaka, and I wanted to race out into the day, but first I had to face the continual challenge of my trip, breakfast.

The  breakfast  in the states varies by location, but for me it was always a bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit. I’d grown tired to scarfing down rice balls for breakfast, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel offered breakfast.

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Japanese breakfast is really interesting. Rice is a big part of it, but then there was fruit, eggs, salmon, and salad. It was quite delicious and without further ado I headed into the streets of Osaka.
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The hustle and bustle were everywhere, but it seemed more personal, more real as if the people I was watching were more than just their job. It was a stark difference between the mornings in Tokyo and the ones in Osaka.  IMG_1277 IMG_1278This wall of vending machines was one of the many I spotted. I really wish stuff like this would catch on in the US. So many cool little bits and bobs!

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Like these underpants for your phone. IMG_1280

or whatever this is…do I want to know? IMG_1281 IMG_1282 IMG_1283 IMG_1284 IMG_1285

As my journey wound on I found myself wandering Den Den Town, which is Kyoto’s local electronic and geek district.
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Yes, those are all body pillows, and yes the are used by fans to cuddle up to their anime crush. IMG_1298

Osaka tower! I don’t know why every major city in Japan has some sort of tower, but I am guessing it was a fad at one point. IMG_1300

uh….wait?IMG_1301 IMG_1303 IMG_1304 IMG_1305I’ll end with something I spotted as I headed out of downtown Osaka in the redlight district, (though at the time I didn’t know it was the red light district.).

IMG_1263Quite a few of the manhole covers in Osaka were painted! They are  a beautiful little example of how even the urbanest areas can add culture to themselves. More tomorrow dear readers!

Day 6: Osaka

I approached Osaka with a bit of a heavy heart, I knew this would be the final city in my great journey. Kyoto had left me feeling a little solemn and lonely, and so I arrived.

I’d taken one thing from Kyoto that’d kept me in high spirits! This Game of Thrones deck box for Magic the Gathering!

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Despite having my awesome deck box I was totally lost, and for the first time I received help from a random Japanese couple. Osaka is known as the South of Japan. Osakans love good food and are known for being much more social than the rest of Japan. The couple who helped me spoke perfect English and even went so far as to call my hotel. It was a breath of fresh air, and I wish I’d gotten their emails, but the punk rock couple, he had a mohawk if I recall, was gone before I could even so much as say thank you.

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I should say I dug the feel of the city immediately.  It reminded me of Tokyo, but it felt somewhat less distant. The whole city seemed less formal, less imposing, and more open. IMG_1168I should say I felt more at home in Osaka than ever before, and being the final leg of my trip I decided to take fewer photos.

IMG_1172The hotel actually had a laundry which was welcome as I was running down to my last pair of socks. That being said when I visit Japan again I am going to bring a classier wardrobe, I swear I was the most underdressed guy in the country.

IMG_1181 IMG_1182I enjoy nerdy culture, and I’d heard Osaka’s nerdy district was on par with or better than Tokyo’s so I headed out, and found a department store section completely dedicated to build-it-yourself Gundam Models. 13-year-old me owned a few of these.
IMG_1183 IMG_1187On a hunch, and a hasty google search, I roughly ventured to the area of a hidden card shop. Well not so much hidden as tucked into a highrise along with other such shops.

I arrived to find the place in disarray. I would later figure out that the place was closing, and this was the last day of their operation, but at the time I was wholly confused.

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Walking back I passed a lively cafe, and in the warm weather here, people congregated, but they congregated with each other, smiled and spoke earnestly. The whole feel was completely different to the hustle of Tokyo or the imposing nature of Kyoto.IMG_1193
2013-10-27 21.20.34I returned to the hotel with the spoils of my geek Journey, I got nearly 150$ in magic cards for 1 dollar. It was amazing. I am only sad I didn’t realize that they were closing the next day forever. Nonetheless, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and amazing first day in Osaka.

Day 6: The Tea Ceremony and Goodbye Kyoto

2013-10-27 10.22.12Looking back I wonder if I should have spent more time in Kyoto. While my gut says no, my mind wonders what it would be like to live in such a foreboding place, a place steeped in culture and tradition. The city seemed to echo a certain type of inner loneliness. When the Shogunate controlled japan, the Shogun rarely visited. The emperor lived in the palace but was little more than a puppet on a string. Then when the Edo period ended, and the Meiji restoration began, the emperor moved the capital to Tokyo.

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The key word here is ceremony. The whole city was and is a ceremony, a clever deception of power. Everything about Kyoto seems to emanate foreboding, yet the city played only a ceremonial role in the power politics of Japan for most of its existence. Even during World War 2 the city was largely unimportant and as such was spared from he same level of bombardment the rest of Japan withstood.

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Speaking of ceremony, I decided to attend a tea ceremony.

2013-10-27 11.30.27 2013-10-27 11.41.50 2013-10-27 12.23.34 2013-10-27 12.23.32 2013-10-27 12.24.08 2013-10-27 12.24.41Now, it actually wasn’t a full tea ceremony, but instead a class on how to properly give one. A proper tea ceremony can be difficult to find, and can take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours.  None the less, I had the place to myself and my hostess was pleasant. 
2013-10-27 13.02.57The last photo I snapped in Kyoto. There was a small mall behind the train station, and I decided to burn off some time before I was due to make it to Osaka.

Japan Day 5 Part 3: Even More Gion

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As I emerged from the depths of the shrine, I walked in a daze grateful for having survived my journey. I happened upon some young school girls as they attempted to lift a metal pole from its socket though I don’t know why.

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The temple I was visiting is the famous Kiyomizu. Legend has it that jumping from the stage and survive the 80-foot drop will grant you a wish, that being said, I kept my feet firmly planted.

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The temple’s name translates to Clear Water, referring to the waterfall that can be seen in the picture below.

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Across the pavillion, a Pagoda stood stark red against a sea of green.

IMG_1025Modern Kyoto is far off here, and even though surrounded by tourists I could feel the lingerings of the past around me, a city lost to time.

IMG_1028Curious as ever I wandered the area behind the temples, and quite on accident  I found myself heading into the hills behind Kyoto. Luckily the common sense part of my brain went off and I headed back when I met this staircase.

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Quite on accident I found the Pagoda from the other picture. It ws beautiful, and with that I began winding my way down the hills.

IMG_1039As  I left the shrine I felt eyes on me and looking up I found a whole class of Japanese students smiling down at me. I waved, and they waved back, and I smiled, and they smiled back. It was a breath of humanity in an otherwise sterile and inhuman place.

Even MORE MORE GION

Kyoto Day 5 Part 2: More Gion

I hope your memorial day went well dear US readers, and your normal, not long weekend non-US readers.

After a brief stop for lunch, courtesy of another 24/7 style establishment I decided to visit a pagoda in the hills surrounding Kyoto, but to get to that pagoda I had to venture through one of Japan’s oldest, and biggest graveyards.

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I don’t have much against graveyards. Many people see them as scary or morbid. Some have a deep fascination with them. I grew up with ghost stories, yet I find nothing but serenity in the rituals pertaining the dead. Graveyards evoke rest, not restlessness to me.  Nonetheless, the sheer scope of this particular burial ground was breathtaking, even more so, when you postulate that many of these graves were family graves, with several generations of families being buried all in the same plot.
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What was perhaps the most curious was the direct contact people had with the burial ground. Houses like the one in the picture above lined the sides of the road and protruded into the grounds. I wonder what life would be like growing up so close to the dead. Would the person be immune to the fear of death? Reminded to live each day fully? Simply scared all the time? I had no idea, and my mind wandered.

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Halfway up the hill I took a rest in a small temple. Much of it stood decrepit, with fading painted murals and sculptures. I never did found out what the place was for but the view was nice.
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Again more of the yard. I stopped snapping pictures as I got higher and higher up, as the scene simply repeated itself. IMG_1014

By chance, I visited this very touristy place on a school field trip and snapped a few shots of the students, who did something many of their adult counterparts did not, they acknowledged my existence.
IMG_1015 IMG_1016Behind me, as I came in off a back path, was a street lined with souvenirs, and replicas, but I set my eyes forward, I had a duty to perform.

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I took a picture of this place because it was here I had a nearly religious experience in self-reliance. Within the temple above is a small passage that led into complete darkness, the passage can only be navigated by walking through the dark with your hand on a rail. It is stifling, claustrophobic, and  not something I would do again. With that said I knew that if I panicked I would cause a problem, the people behind me couldn’t see me, and so I drove ahead despite every bone in my body telling me to head back. I emerged into the light, relieved and yet proud that I’d kept going.  

Japan Day 5: Gion

Gion is a mystical place. It is an area of Kyoto that is frozen in time artifactually as well as culturally. While Xenophobia is a problem that Japanese culture faces, it is apparently extremely rampant in the tiny private restaurants of Japan. If you don’t know someone the people in the restaurants will simply ignore you, and if you are a foreigner, well even if you do know someone getting served might be an issue.  That being said I saw no trace of Xenophobia when I ventured the alleyways of the Historic District, but that might have just been me.

The place’s main pathways are very touristy. This is a place that the Japanese come to visit to engage their culture, and gift shops abounded. The main reason for this is that Japanese culture dictates you give gifts to your colleagues or schoolmates after you return from a trip. The gifts don’t have to be expensive or personalized but to not give them is a Major Social Faux pas. IMG_0960

I was able to navigate the bus system! I surprised myself there. IMG_0958 2013-10-26 09.24.06AH, HA! I found a snack machine! IMG_0961 IMG_0962 IMG_0963 IMG_0964

Dood the uniforms. So cool. IMG_0966 IMG_0969 IMG_0970 IMG_0972 IMG_0974 IMG_0978 IMG_0980 IMG_0983 IMG_0990 IMG_0991 IMG_0992 IMG_0999 IMG_1002These pictures mostly speak for themselves! ^_^  More Gion Tommorow.

My Trip to Riot Headquarters

2015-05-19 16.01.53(Have you seen my Bear Tibbers?)

Riot Games is the company that designs and Implements the massively successful League of Legends. The game is a team-based game where you pilot a Champion who uses unique spells and powers to defeat other players in both combat and in the completion of objectives. It is addictively fun. Lucky for me I was treated to the rarity that is visiting their Los Angeles Headquarters.

DISCLAIMER: I signed an NDA, I am not going to discuss why I was at Riot games.  What I am going to do is describe how awesome the company is in general.

I was invited to Riot Games for reasons I will not discuss here, and I wanted to take a moment out of my normal posting schedule to send a sincere thank you to my hosts. The level of warmness from such a massive company was unexpected and refreshing. The time I was shown was professional but cordial.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, I respect the company too much for that, but there Los Angeles Campus is one of the nicer company headquarters I have ever visited.

Here are the images I was okayed by Riot Staff to Snap. Thanks again Riot. See you in the Rift

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