Monday, August 4, 2008

Hairdryers that don’t dry

I remember hearing someone’s take on a vacation overseas onetime, specifically the part about it being “too damn hot”. The moment you step outside you have hairdryers all around you. You may think “oh yay a breeze, that will cool me down” and really it’s just hot air blasting into your sweaty face.

Well before that gets out of hand, I went to Nagoya last weekend to see the world cosplay competition! 14 different countries (no Canada) had their own competitions and sent their winning pairs to Nagoya to compete. I left on Friday night in an attempt to maximize my time in this not-too-far-away city. Armed with new knowledge of an amazing travel website,, I had a plan that quickly fell apart as I got lost several times; but Friday night was still alright. I went to the city’s most popular bar and had high hopes, as there were to be DJs mixing house and trance and fun club music. It was $20 to get in, but you got 4 drink coupons with admission. So basically you can come in as long as you buy 4 drinks ^_^

I might have gone at a bad time, as 2 of the 4 floors were closed and a lot of people left already to catch the last subway home at midnight (I got REALLY lost ok? More than once :P). One floor was playing some bad rap or whatever is popular right now, while the other was rather empty ‘mixing’ slow dance songs, and they seemed to switch up the songs every 30 seconds or so, killing any and all flow they might have had going in the room. It was an extremely disappointing experience, but I’ll take solace in them having some Captain Morgan’s spice rum. I have been in Japan a year now so it’s safe to say it’s been that long since I’ve had it last, it’s a lot sweeter than I remember! Or other drinks are just more bitter/strong. (pictured: the center of the planetarium)

Anyways, I slept in nice and late (around 10 maybe) in my AC room and had an incredible boxed lunch for… brunch? It was a fancy high class restaurant it seemed. After that I went to Nagoya’s science museum to check out what they had to offer; but I mostly wanted to see the planetarium. ^_^ The planetarium had shows every hour and a half, so I browsed the place. It had all kinds of… science stuff, and what not. Some of it I understood, others I just pressed buttons. Either way there was lots to see on the 9 floors or so.

Then planetarium time rolled around. I got in line early and a number of us filed into a dome with a large… projector thing maybe in the middle. The show was all in Japanese but I understood the gist of what was going on… apparently we had a full eclipse over Russia on Friday? Anyways, it was great to sit in that AC room and watch the stars. The immersion was incredible, as when they slowly tilted the perspective from Japan’s view of the sky to Australia’s, I thought the room was tipping over more than once ^_^ They showed some constellations that you can see right now and told stories about them, and overall it was an amazing hour of sitting back and staring at the roof.

After that it was about time to walk over to catch the Cosplay parade that was to be going through a shopping district in Osu near a temple. They already had a different festival going on, so I watched taiko and other Japanese performances while I waited. When the parade finally did start, it went really fast. I was taking pictures almost as fast as my camera could as people came and went so fast. Either way it was pretty cool, there was quite the variety and different nationalities. Since the parade was so fast, I went around to the other side to catch them on the way back as well. A guy beside me had a ferret dressed up in cosplay too, which got him a fair amount of attention. I’ll post the pictures on my photobucket if you want to gander at the variety.

Lots of posing, lots of cameras, and then it was over before you knew it. I bought a Japanese book and a JLPT application form on the way out for some supper. I read about a bar run by a Canadian and thought I would give it a try. Alas more disappointment as the only ‘Canadian’ beer they had on the menu was labatt blue or some crap, and it was blacked out meaning they didn’t serve it anymore (I’m not sure what the owner expected). I had some beer battered fish and chips though, they were a real treat. Later some loud and drunk foreigners busted into the place, grabbing people and just being obnoxious really; it reminded me of all the jerks I don’t miss back home. I asked if they had any Canadian beer and they did! It was called “whistler” and it was made in BC. My advice for everyone: don’t drink that rubbish, it was quite bad.

Feeling tired and defeated, I went back to my apartment to dry off a bit in my AC room (did I mention it was hot? Like you’re walking around a breezy sauna hot?) I wanted to go out to another club I read about, one that had more floors and guaranteed good music, but I’ll save that for another trip to Nagoya. By the time my clothes dried and the beer buzz wore off I was beat.

I slept in again Sunday and then went out for this famous Nagoya food I read about, ‘misokatsu’. Basically it is miso sauce on pork cutlets served with a bunch of goodies. The restaurant famous for this offering wasn’t open until 11 so I took my business to the shop across from them and had misokatsu. It was pretty good! The sauce was quite strong though, I had to mix in a lot of rice to thin it out a bit, but really can you go wrong with breaded pork cutlets? I think not. After eating that up and drinking another 2 liters of water, I went out to where the cosplay show was happening. I mean, it being a worldwide competition and all, surely…something would be happening right?

Wrong. Just people sitting out in the awful, awful heat waiting for the show to start. I mean, it was noon, they were practically sitting out in the sun, and the show didn’t start for another 6-7 hours. Atleast it was in the middle of an uber cool shopping mall. There was a saddle-dome-like roof made of glass, and in the middle they had water, so you could see cool water effects going down on the area. You could walk up to the roof and get a great view of the area too. I wanted to splash myself with the water, but its temperature was somewhere between “hot bath” and “scalding onsen”. I was surprised such a large pool of sitting water could heat up that much, but I guess it was pretty damn hot out…

I perused the shopping arcades, (that’s what they’re called) bought a neat toy or two, then got bored quickly and went out to see more of Nagoya. Another thing on my list-to-do was seeing the Toyota museum. I guess Nagoya was a rather large target in WWII because of its production capabilities, and I can see why after seeing the factory (although the war was hardly mentioned at all in the whole place)

Anyways I guess Toyota started by Mr. Toyoda (not a typing error, not sure why the name changed) and he started in the textile industry, and perhaps still makes them today. They had various working displays of how they make thread, how looming machines worked and progressed throughout the industrial revolution and mass production and so on. It was really neat to see. I guess some current machines use a water jet to shoot a thread through the… whatever it’s called to immensely speed up loom production. I was surprised how fascinated I was, seeing all these machines and what not. I guess it’s nice to see a museum do more than “don’t touch, don’t take pictures” and instead say: “press this button to watch this old machine kick some ass!” The machines kicked ass and took names, I can vouch for that.

After the textile museum, you got to see the automotive museum. After a cool and impressive display of a 5 ton press making a miniature valve piston out of white-hot metal in front of us, I was blown away by the operational 2500 ton press in the next room. They had all kinds of cool displays, like how the first car was made, how their features and engines and whatever else progressed over the years, and so on. There were videos to watch, buttons to press to watch more demonstrations, and souvenirs you could make. Aside from the kids building, where they could assemble toy cars or whatever, there was a press that stamped out a Toyota commemorative badge for you. They had spot welding machines give demonstrations, hydraulic lifts assembling a whole vehicle, cross-sections of a real hybrid engine and how it works… I highly recommend this tour for anyone, as it was so cool.

They had other stuff too like a working steam engine, hover craft for the kids to play on, puzzles and weird stuff, and a video library for additional information. Like the video I watched on how steel was processed from scrap, to ingots, to transmissions, and how “special steel” took that extra step to be extra strong.

Anyways, after this enlightening experience I went back to see if something was actually happening at the worldwide cosplay event finally. The place was now packed in all areas with people waiting for the festivities to start. I went in optimistic at first, but minded a page-long list of rules to keep in mind, less you want to get kicked out of the event. I snapped a couple pictures, not many, of the many people just hanging out dressed up. Before long the event started and it was long… and boring. The announcers talked and talked and it was so damn hot out. I like that I’m tall because I can usually see what’s going on, but then I feel bad when I look behind me and there isn’t a soul within a 2 meter radius of me, probably because they can’t see anything.

When the competitors finally did get to perform, it was usually rather short given all that you had to wait through. The first group from France did a song, the second group from Korea did a fight scene, the third group from Osaka, Japan did crappy love seen, and the last one I watch from Denmark was a boring talk or dance or whatever it was…

I had enough. I had lots of time to catch my bus but it was time to go. I couldn’t help but feel like some kinda outsider at this event, and then I realized I had become “that person”. The creepy, sweaty otaku stalking around to feed his camera, and there were plenty at this event, and many of them made me shiver. Maybe I just wasn’t on my game or something, I don’t know, but I sure felt out of place. If I ever go to another cosplay event, I'll go with a friend or I think I’ll dress up as it isn’t hard. The cosplayers seem to have their own open community; an unspoken bond. They don’t have to know each other, but they are immediately friends. One guy there was spiderman, just think of it like Halloween I guess. We all wear masks right?

Final impressions: quite a let down. I had more fun and saw more at the game show and anime convention. Maybe that was because I was with friends, I don’t know. I just know that for a weekend event, there was maybe 4 hours total of stuff to do over 2 days. And, of course, you have to hold your biggest event late Sunday night so that anyone that has to work the next day can’t possibly attend, present company included.

I went into this weekend with a different attitude; I knew I was doing it alone. Knowing that, and acting on it, was something new to me. It wasn’t like my trip to Korea where even though I was alone, I still relied heavily on others. Either way I’m proud of the outcome despite all the struggles I had; and boy was there struggles.

This will be my last update for a couple weeks, as tomorrow I leave for Vietnam. I might have an update on August 20th but I’m not sure yet. Oh and I bought a new couch for $50, it’s pretty awesome ^_^ It looks like a new off-green leather love seat, I got it second hand. People don’t really buy used stuff in Japan so you can get some amazing deals.

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." -Michael Altshuler