Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Harrry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince the day it came out. It ended up being quite an ordeal. There are 4 theaters in the Kofu area. The two nice ones, Grand Park and Cinema 5 were only showing the film around 5pm or 8pm, with nothing in between. I wouldn't be able to make a 5pm showing due to work and because the movie is about 2.5 hours long, if I went to an 8pm showing, I would miss the last train home. However, there are 2 smaller theaters on Orion Street, the Kofu Central Theater and the Theater, and the Central theater had a 6:35 showing that worked perfectly for me.

My plan was to get into Kofu around 5:30, grab dinner, and then see the movie. I would meet up with Mig and Katrina at the theater. However, I got into Kofu at 5:30 and spent the next hour trying to find the stupid place! I had a map, but must have been reading it wrong. I was able to find the Theater, but not the Central theater, even though the map shows it as being only a block away from the place.

Anyway, while I was standing around looking lost, two rather attractive Japanese guys came up to see if I needed any help. They appeared to be working at the time as they were wearing restaurant uniforms and had little fliers to pass out, but offered to walk me to the theater. Only problem was that they took me to the theater, which I had already managed to find. As we were standing around in front of that theater, one of them busted out his cell phone to try and figure out where the place was, and the other one just chilled and tried to talk with me. As we were talking he suddenly shouted, "There it is!" The Central theater was pretty much 20 steps down an alley that was in front of the theater. In our defense, it seriously lacked signage.

I thanked the two guys and headed in to get my tickets only to find out that while the other showings that day were in English with Japanese subs, the 6:35 showing would be dubbed, of course, in Japanese. By this time it was already almost 6:30 and I had already spent so much time finding the theater that I just got a ticket. I didn't really want to watch the movie in Japanese, but I guess if there was one movie I wouldn't have trouble understanding, it would be this one. Plus it was either watch it in Japanese or watch it in a week or two once I had the time. But by then I would have run across all the spoilers and it wouldn't be as much fun as watching it on release day.

Mig and Katrina also decided to watch it. The theater is really small and got a bit uncomfortably hot. I was really disappointed by that because I usually end up freezing when I go to the movies and was sort of looking forward to the freezing bit due to having run around in the crazy heat while finding the theater. Anyway, the movie was a bit lackluster. I even got a little bit sleepy in the middle of it but I'm not sure if it was because the movie was boring, because it was in Japanese and I didn't 100% understand what was going on, or if it was because of the heat. The Half Blood Prince wasn't my favorite of the books either, so I guess its no surprise that the movie wasn't all that thrilling for me. Still, I'm glad I got the chance to watch it and now I can add another movie to my list of movies watched all in Japanese!

Labels: ,

posted by am at 10:10 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, July 13, 2009
Weekend Happenings
I kept my promise to myself and did not go to Tokyo this past weekend! It must be some kind of miracle!

The plan for last weekend was to watch the newly released Gokusen movie and then head up to Kiyosato to attend the YETI Sayonara party. I was supposed to meet up with Katrina in Kofu at 11 for some lunch and a movie, but she was running late and we bumped the meeting time to 12:30. I ended up in Kofu by that time, but she was still not quite ready, so I headed to the theater on my own. Once at the theater I realized that we would miss the train that would get us up to Kiyosato before the party started. I still wanted to see the movie, but Katrina decided to pass.

I grabbed a ticket and then had a quick sandwich and banana juice at a little cafe near the theater before the show started. The movie itself was only so-so. I was really looking forward to it and I loved seeing Odagiri Ryu as a student teacher but the story line wasn't really that exciting and 2 of my favorite characters, Sawada Shin and Yabuki Hayato, didn't show up in the film at all. I knew that they probably would be in it due to the cast list, but I was still holding out hope of a special appearance of some kind. It was a bit of a let down. There were a bunch of other previous cast members who made appearances though, but after a while the just kept getting all jumbled up in my head and it was hard to tell who was who.

After the movie, I had some time to kill before the next train to Kiyosato so I grabbed a bit more to eat in preparation for all the drinking I would be doing later in the evening. During this time, I realized I wouldn't be alone and that Janet and Miki, both also ALTs in Yamanashi would be on the same train. Once on the train, I had a nice little chat with a woman who works for a flower shop in Kobuchizawa. She was in Kofu to celebrate working 10 years for her company. After our chat concluded, I went to go find my friends.

Once we arrived in Kiyosato, we tried to figure out how to walk to the KEEP, where the party was being held. It wasn't too hard to figure out on the map, unless your name is Miki. The boy couldn't figure out that map to save his life. He kept thinking we should be going the exact opposite direction from our destination. In the end, Morgan came in Karen's car (soon to by my car in about a week) to pick us up.

And yes, you read that right, I'm getting a car! Even though I've lived here for 2 years without one, I really feel it’s about time I got one. I've had to miss out on quite a few things because I couldn't manage to secure a ride, and now I won't have to. I've already got a road trip to Niigata and Kanazawa planed for the summer, with more to follow.

Back to the party......The theme was ganstars/villans. I just worn a white top, black skirt, and fedora but some people really went all out. I also went to the Sayonara party last year, but this year it was held in a different area of the KEEP. The actual party room was more like a barn, but the sleeping areas were really nice and a huge step up from the ones last year. Guess you gotta take the good with the bad. YETI provided some tasty sandwiches and I brought a bottle of white wine to get me through the evening. I had a good time chatting with everyone and enjoyed my evening, but ended up getting really sick and I don't think from just the alcohol either. I was still sick throughout Sunday and let’s just say riding the train back home was hellish. I still feeling a bit under the weather today even and it's already Tuesday. Hopefully I'll start feeling 100% soon.

Labels: , , , ,

posted by am at 6:53 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, July 6, 2009
DBSK and Ikebukuro
Just had another fun filled weekend in Tokyo. I was supposed to go down to Fujiyoshida and attend a BBQ but I ended up not being able to find a ride to the party and I would have taken almost 4 hours via train and bus to get even remotely close to the lake where the party was being held, thus I opted to spend 2 hours traveling to Tokyo instead.

I spent the weekend with Katrina, who really wanted to go to the DBSK concert that was happening at the Tokyo dome. DBSK, or Tohoshinki as they are called in Japan, is a 5 member Korean boy band. I don't know much about them, but Katrina recently became a big fan of theirs. She wanted to get tickets to the concert, but they were sold out by the time she tried. I recently gained a lot of experience in getting Tokyo Dome tickets thanks to the KAT-TUN concert so I offered to help her look for some. All of the tickets I could find online were selling for at least 3man (aka $300) or more. And that was for crappy seats in the 2nd floor sections where the band would probably look like ants. She wasn't too please by those prices and opted to try her luck with scalpers on the day of.

I didn't want to wake up to early, so I just met her at the Tokyo Dome on Sat. afternoon. First we got lunch at this quaint little Italian restaurant and then it was off to hunt for some tickets. For one of the KAT-TUN concerts, I managed to buy cheap tickets off a scalper, but it was right at the start of the show and on a weekday for a concert that would be going on for 7 days straight. The DBSK concert was on the weekend and only 2 days, thus tickets were a bit scarcer. My first ticket buying via scalpers experience was super easy. When I got off the station at the Dome, there were girls just standing around with tickets to sell. This time, the only girls standing around were those with signs wanting to buy tickets of their own.

That made things a lot harder. Earlier in the day, I was paying close attention to the girls trying to buy tickets and did see a few who would approach the buyers and sell their tickets. Some things I noticed were that some girls who had already bought tickets could be seen trying to buy more later in the day. Either they had a lot of friends to buy for or where doing something a bit more shady and reselling the tickets for more than what they paid for. I was also trying to pay attention to how much the tickets were selling for and I definitely saw a few sell for under 1man.

But, for us, it was not so simple. Seeing as everyone had a sign, we stopped at a 7-11 and got a notebook to write up our own. Our sign simply said that we wanted to buy 2 tickets to the concert. At first, the only person who approached us was a seedy looking old man who wanted 3man for a ticket. We passed. However, it was really disheartening to see a bunch of other girls around us getting tickets while we were passed over. I can only assume that sellers didn't approach us because they didn't want to have to try and speak in English. I think next time our sign should also say Japanese okay! Eventually a Korean girl came up to us, but only had 1 ticket to sell. I assume she approached us because her English is better than her Japanese. By that point Katrina was getting angsty about not having a ticket and I didn't care either way, so we asked how much she wanted for the ticket. And low and behold, the price was 3man. She had one ticket to the Sat. show and another for the Sun. show. The Sat. show was for a crappy 2nd floor seat, but the one for the show on Sun. was for a 1st floor seat that seemed pretty decent. So Katrina decided to snag the Sun show ticket.

It took her quite a while to decide, but eventually she bought the ticket. It was a tough decision to make because there was a chance that we might just be able to find a cheaper ticket closer to the start time of the concert, but there were also quite a few girls holding want to buy signs so there was a chance that we wouldn't be able to find any ticket at all. I was a bit disappointed that I would not be going to the concert, but I definitely was not willing to pay 3man for a concert ticket to a band I didn't even know.

After sorting out the ticket stuff, we got in line to buy some concert goods. The line took about an hour to get through and I only ended up buying a CD of their recently released single. Katrina got a pamphlet book and a pen light to use at the concert the next day. Then we headed to Ikebukuro to check into our hotel for the night. The hotel ended up being an apartment building turned hotel, which was nice and our room was a decent size, had a decent AC, and had a nice bathroom.

After checking in, we headed to the Sunshine 60 building for some dinner. We ended up eating at the Ikebukuro Gyoza Stadium. Its part of an indoor amusement park type place and consists of various stalls selling all sort of gyoza. You actually had to pay for a ticket to get into the area where the gyoza stadium was. We hit up a few stalls and tried all sorts of gyoza. During our first round of the stalls, we were drawn to a stall that had a picture of a little old lady on the advertising poster and grabbed some gyoza from there. During a latter round, we actually ran into the real live version of the grandma who was on the advertisement. She was really cute. My favorite gyoza of the evening was this really great cheese gyoza. Yum! After that it was time for desert in what was the equivalent of the gyoza stadium, but for ice cream instead! I had some garlic flavored ice cream (that sadly tasted like plain old vanilla but came in a cool carton) and some chili pepper gelato.

After that, it seemed everything in Ikebukuro had closed down and it was only 9:30! We were thinking of catching a late night movie, but both of the theaters in town had their last moving showings at, like, 8pm. One was still open, but was only showing the new Evangelion movie. But even that didn't start till 1am. Weird. We considered doing some karaoke, but since neither of us had a karaoke place membership we decided to grab some chu-his at the combini and have a nice quite evening in our hotel.

The next day, we headed back to the Sunshine 60 building, stopping to have lunch at a really cute star themed cafe, and went to the aquarium. Started off with watching a seal show that was pretty cute and then walked around looking at various fish and animals. That weekend was the release of the Ponyo DVD. It's the newest Miyazaki movie about a strange fish girl and one of the tanks had a replica of Ponyo floating around in the tank. It was really cute!

After that we did some shopping and went up to the observatory. I ended up buying the Ponyo DVD as I haven't actually seen the movie yet, but know quite a bit about it thanks to my students. I got a bunch of freebies with it too cause I bought it from the Miyazaki store. I had heard the observatory was free the last time I came to Ikebukuro with Janet, but its not. When we went to the aquarium though, we ended up getting a combined ticket for both the aquarium and observatory because it was a pretty good deal. Went rather quickly through the observatory (the Tokyo skyline doesn't really change all that much and I've seen it from at least 3 other tall building before) and looked around at the Eva exhibit that was setup.

After that, it was time for Katrina to head to the concert and I was just plain tired and decided to head back to Yamanashi early. Somehow, I ended up with an unusually long 30min wait at Otsuki to catch the next local train and ended up having dinner at a soba/udon shop in the station. And that was my Tokyo weekend! Next weekend I vow NOT to go to Tokyo.

Labels: , ,

posted by am at 8:08 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, July 3, 2009
Spaland Isawa
Isawa onsen is a resort town that is 3 trains stations from my apartment. It's a great town, but is also known as a Yakuza hangout spot. Not too worried though as I've never had any problems when visiting. On Wed. a group of us went to Isawa to check out Spaland. It's a Korean style sauna and hot spring resort type thing. You can check out pics on their website, which is

While most onsen tend to cost anywhere from 100yen up to around 1000yen, this place was a bit more pricey. Just to get into the onsen, there is a 1800yen fee. However, you get a set of towels, a shirt and pants outfit, and access to all sorts of bath and beauty supplies including shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioning products, body soap, scrub clothes, face wash and masks, toner, lotion, a toothbrush and toothpaste set, etc, etc. So, it's expensive, but worth it.

After you pay the initial fee, you are given a numbered wristband. You can use this band to purchase various goods and services throughout the restort and then pay on your way out. There are several restaurants, shops, massages services, and spa treatments available. We started out by heading to the Korean spa/sauna area. Right after laying down in one of the hot rooms, we were pulled out by one of the staff. Apparently you have to pay an additonal 200yen fee to use the hot rooms. Some of us decided to stay and others decided to move to the onsen area. I was one of the ones who stayed.

The hot rooms were pretty nice. One room was decorated in all black and had beds of black stones. In the biggest room you could find marble stone slab beds, pink jade stone beds, and a bed of green, red, and white stones. It had a really nice atmosphere. There was also a super hot room, an ice room, and a woman only room. The woman only room had these color changing light stars on the ceiling which were really relaxing to watch.

After the sauna rooms, I headed to the onsen and got myself a body scrub. It's one of many spa serivces offered in the onsen, but you do have to pay extra for it. It was totally worth it though. After the scrub, I hit up the baths. There are quite a few pools in the onsen area. There are 2 baths outside, along with 3 singlue tub style baths. The tubs were normal onsen water, but one of the larger pools was a milk bath and the other was a speical mineral mix. The milk bath was not actually milk. It is a micro bubble bath that supposely helps exfoliate your skin and all the microscopic bubbles gives the pool a milky white appearance. Inside there is a super hot bath, a herb bath, a bamboo floored bath, a wine bath, a bath that has a bunch of water jets, and a shallow swimming pool. My favorite was the wine bath. It smelled like grapes. Love! There were also 3 saunas, one of which had salt scrub available.

After soaking, it was time to finish up. The locker area has a bunch of product available and there was this awesome face peel stuff available for use. I liked it so much I ended up buying a bottle to take home with me. Before heading out we grabbed a bite to eat at one of the 4 restaurants in the building. I had some super tasty celery and tomato ramen. I will probably be returning to Spaland again some time in the future.

Labels: , , ,

posted by am at 7:31 PM | Permalink | 0 comments