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Tokyo Trip: Getting here

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Here we go, I’m going to start the first of many blog entries I’ll write having to do with my current trip to Tokyo. To summarize, I’m here working on researching stuff for my summer job. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be top secret or whatever, so I’m not going to go into much detail. Plus it’s boring to write about work, so I won’t focus too much on that here. Ideally, I’ll write everyday, but that won’t happen, so I’ll just try to summarize things between posts. Maybe I’m trying to make this blog more accessible and worth reading to people who don’t know me. I guess I could have some interesting insights on life in Japan? And by that I mean I like wasting money in arcades and wasting money on things like Dragonball Z keychains. Like what I’m writing? Don’t? Comment either way, even if it’s just to say hey. Might as well.

So on to what we’ll call Day Zero. I was at home in St. Louis for less than 35 hours before I left for the airport. With my flight to Houston being at 7:40AM on Monday morning, I was planning on leaving for the airport with my Dad around 5:30. Around 1AM, I decided I should stop watching News Radio with my brother and start packing. Around 4, I was not even halfway packed and thus went into a panic. It got even worse when my Dad woke up at 5, and I realized I wasn’t done yet. What followed was the fastest packing session ever, pretty much me just throwing stuff I thought I should take into my two suitcases and backpack. Somehow, I managed to do it pretty well, and even had time to take a 5 minute shower before hitting the road. Must be a record or something for me. After waiting around 45 minutes in the line to get through security at St. Louis Lambert Airport, I was on my way to Houston. It was a small plane, and I had a seat that was both a window AND aisle seat (only 1 seat on my side, 2 across the aisle). Things weren’t too bad, although St. Louis was already hot, and the plane was sitting there for a while without the air conditioning on because I think the plane’s battery was dead or something. Who knows. Either way, we were about 15 or 20 minutes delayed which had me worried because I had less than an hour scheduled to catch my flight to Tokyo. Slept the entire way, got off and went as quickly as possible from 1 terminal to another, with a tram ride in-between, and made it as my flight to Tokyo was boarding. So we’re set for now.

I don’t remember flying Continental in recent history, and for some reason I had a pre-conceived notion that it was a ghetto airline. I was somewhat wrong, which was good, as the plane was a standard nice 747 with decent seats and the personal TV with video game controller built into every seat. I had a window seat, with a Japanese chick with the artsy glasses on the aisle and an old guy in between us. Soon after taking off, within 30 minutes I learned 3 important things about this old guy, who somewhat reminded me of John Locke from Lost:

  1. He was British, or from somewhere near there. I could tell this by his accent.
  2. He was an alcoholic. I could tell this because although drinks were not free ($5 a pop), he ordered at least 6 by the time our first meal was served. Again, they were not free, and this isn’t a party, so I don’t understand his thinking.
  3. He was decaying. I could tell this because he smelled like death. You know how some old people just SMELL like old people? This guy did times like 1000, which was not comfortable to sit next to. I don’t know if it was just his old man B.O. or his breath after 6 drinks, but he smelled like death.

So that’s all for Locke. As for me, I spent most of the trip either sleeping, listening to my fancy new iPod, or doing both. I made the mistake early on of not replying to the stewardess when she asked “Would you like anything to drink?” because I was still taking my earbuds out. Of course, this went to make her assume I didn’t speak English, so she asked me in Japanese. I figured whatever, and ordered in Japanese back at her. Big mistake. The rest of the flight she assumed I was Japanese, which I suppose I could have corrected, but I was afraid she’d get mad or something. On a related note, what in the world happened to stewardesses? Didn’t they used to be hot, like back in the 80’s? I thought so at least. Nowadays, every American airline I’ve been on has had the oldest, grumpiest, frumpiest stewardesses you could ever imagine. What in the world happened? Are these the same stewardesses that used to represent men’s airline fantasies, only aged 20 or 30 years now? Asian airlines don’t seem to be as bad, but it’s still getting worse and worse every year. If you ever happen to get a flight attendant nowadays who is under the age of 30, it’s probably a dude, which just doesn’t do it for me.

I slept pretty much the first 8 hours of a 12 hour flight, which was great because it’s the best way to pass time. I listened to my iPod the rest of the time and we finally touched down around 2PM Japan time on August 1st. Went through customs fairly quickly, having to wait in line only 15 minutes or so. If I would have gotten to the customs line 10 minutes later, I would have had to wait behind an entire flight from China or something, and it would have taken over an hour. I’m glad I booked it all the way off the plane. After all that, got my luggage and a ticket for the Limousine Bus, which cost 3000 yen (a little under $30) but goes straight to my hotel. I had only about 10 minutes to catch the bus, so I called my parents real quick and got on the next ride, which was almost another 2 hours of sitting and traveling. Along the way I zoned out until we started driving through Makuhari, which finally kicked in to my brain that I was back in Japan. We drove past all sorts of places and stuff I know, which was sweet. Finally arrived in the Shinjuku area, and I had some major deja vu of Spring break in Tokyo 2004. I remember the last day of the trip getting up early and walking around the station before anything was open. But either way, I finally got dropped off at the Keio Plaza and checked in. The only downside was that there were 1400 JET orientation people at the hotel, so the elevators took forever. Once I got to my room, I unpacked and got settled into my room, which you can see part of here.
Sweet gold sheets
I’ll try to post some pictures with the blog entries for this trip, since I know I’m too lazy to actually make albums (if you haven’t noticed, I haven’t posted any new pics since March).

ビバ・ロック

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I’m writing this blog entry from an airplane. I just finished up my first ever (and too short) stint in Las Vegas. To wrap up this scheme in general, since Pat and I are doing an independent study through the Journalism school, part of it was that it would be beneficial to go to the National Association of Broadcasters’ Conference, which just so happens to be held in Las Vegas. Sounds like an educational experience to me! J-school decided to support us, and sent us out there expenses paid. We stayed at Caesar’s Palace, which is the biggest hotel I’ve ever been in (mainly because it has like a mall, casinos, restaurants, and a bunch of nightclubs inside of it. We both flew out on Thursday night, and unfortunately I could only stay until this evening (Saturday) before commitments in Canada called me away. However, here is a post summarizing my trip to Vegas and all that fun stuff. Unfortunately, my original plans of waiting until Pat was so drunk he would willingly marry a hooker didn’t work out, which is a shame because that would have been the greatest story ever told.

First night in Vegas, go from the airport to the hotel/Palace. When you first get the Vegas, the airport seems the same as any other place, a bit ghetto even. As soon as our shuttle approached Las Vegas Boulevard (“The Strip”), it was Neon City. And you thought Tokyo was ridiculous. I think everything that could be made of lights and neon was done just that way, and they have giant video screens everywhere and every building has a theme pretty much. Think of it as a Japanese Love Hotel district on crack. On The Strip alone, and just of the ones I walked to/by/in, I saw a pyramid, the Arc d’Triumph, the Eifel Tower, a pirate ship, the rainforest, an Arabian castle, and of course Caesar’s Palace has its own Colosseum in which you can try and fight Sephiroth and then not win. Also of note is the hotel “Wynn,” named after rich-as-balls-and-not-shy-about-it Steve Wynn, who didn’t seem to have a specific theme to his new massive hotel, instead just trying to go with the theme “I have more money than your entire state does.” The Wynn is an enormous metallic black building with video screen surrounding it, the word “Wynn” written in giant gold letters on the side of it (seriously dude, we know you’re rich, you don’t have to put your name on everything), and also the backyard of the place is the famous 18-hole Sands golf course. Pretty much every decently-expensive hotel/casino on The Strip had a ridiculous theme, which was carried out moderately throughout the rest of the place.

We met up with Pat’s friends Neil and Josh when we were in line to check in, and also there was some Korean TV show taping a scene in the lobby of Caesar’s. I don’t know what show it was, but thank god Pe Yonjun wasn’t in it or I would probably be in jail for attempted murder right now. Anyway, I think the star of the show (or at least of this scene) was the only Korean guy in the shots, with a bunch of American extras and other minor characters. The crew had 3 huge and tall lights, a nice camera (possibly a HD), and 1 shotgun mic for the whole thing. The Korean guy might be some kind of famous man-idol, but he was definitely not a good actor. I think they only shot 2 scenes in the lobby; one of people walking through a gateway, and the other of the Korean guy coming up and confronting some white chick. It was supposed to be a serious scene or something, but the guy kept cracking up every time. I seriously think it took them like 10 takes to actually get the guy to make it through without breaking character. After what seemed to be a very long check in process, I went up to my room in the Roman Tower. Wow. This room was amazing (I’ll post some pics later). It had a HUGE bathroom with 2 sinks, a shower area, a toilet area, and frosted glass doors for each of these sections. Then the actual sleeping area of the room had a giant king sized bed with a mirror above it (OK this was kind of sketch), 2 easy chairs, a nice wardrobe that had the TV in it, and a freaking Jacuzzi about 6 feet from the bed. It was in the bedroom. Who the heck does that? I seriously felt like I was in a love hotel at that point. I also had a huge window view with a non-accessible patio that had a nice view of the Strip, and a direct view at the Flamingo casino. I was so paranoid about how awesome the room was, that I called the front desk to make sure they were charging me what they said there were. Sure enough, it was right. Pat says that his room (that him and his 2 friends used) was pretty close, but they didn’t have the Jacuzzi in the bedroom. Hoo-ah!

First night out, we all were playing in the casinos downstairs. Mainly (and for the entire trip), I played video poker and some video slot machines. Didn’t really want to get ambitious, and didn’t want to lose a lot of money. Beginner’s luck must have been present though, since playing those video games the first night I won about $80. That helped fund pretty much the rest of the Vegas trip. We also walked all over the place that night, in fact way too much. We walked at least a few miles I’d say, although it was really cool to see what Vegas is all about. I felt either too young or too old to be there, but it’s a cool city regardless. The next morning, we woke up and checked out NAB. I unfortunately am already leaving before the conference exhibits start on Monday, which I’m really disappointed in (even more than missing out on gambling more), since everything looks pretty amazing. I did get to attend 2 days of the Post Production Conference, which was awesome because the first day I got to learn the basics to Flash and After Effects, 2 programs I’ve been meaning to get to. These were the “Boot Camp’ classes they provided; pretty much 3 hour lectures to teach you all the basics of certain programs. Really cool. I wish school were like that, actually teaching something interesting and practical. I went to a session this morning that was just talking about field shoot gadgets, which was really awesome also. I’m a huge nerd, but still a lot of the people there (professionals, I guess you would call most of them) are even bigger dorks, so I don’t feel that bad.

We went to “Dishes” the giant buffet at Treasure Island casino. I do have to admit, at first when I saw the $26 price, I was a little daunted, but it was well worth the cost. This was probably the biggest and best buffet I have ever seen, up there to compete with the Yakiniku buffet in Chicago (which I will write about sometime soon, in my Nova post). They had stations that each were like a mini-buffet in themselves. There was a sushi one, a pizza one, a BBQ one (with prime rib), a seafood (shrimp and crab legs) one, a made-to-order pasta one, salad one, and one that I think just had awesome side dishes. The food was all amazing, and I ate way too much. What was the killer, though, was the dessert section. These were gourmet desserts for sure. I had a chocolate mousse that was about 10000 times too sweet to eat on a regular basis. They also had cotton candy, crème brulee, ice cream, cupcakes, mini donuts, and a few other specialty cakes and stuff. Definitely the best desserts I’ve ever eaten. I think with those desserts, the 4 of us were all admittedly defeated. It was a long hike back to the Palace, but well worth it.

I really wish that NAB and the Mantech Conference that I’m going to work in Vancouver weren’t during the same week, since I would have been able to spend a few more days in Vegas. But I’m at least getting paid in Vancouver. Overall though, Vegas wasn’t too bad at all. With my casino winnings the first night, I was able to gamble, eat, and travel for a lot cheaper than my per diem payment that the J-school is going to be giving me. So overall, a net gain for Vegas! I’ll bet not everyone can say that, haha.

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