My really cheap ticket (really amazingly cheap, for the season) involved me both arriving and leaving Haneda around midnight, which meant I had a nice, leisurely schedule getting out. I left Grand Rapids early in the afternoon, went through Minneapolis and Seattle, and then on to Japan. Maybe I'm spoiled because Detroit and Minneapolis (the airports I usually fly through) are so nice, but Seattle strikes me as a kind of crummy airport. On this trip, in particular, I was surprised to find the gate I flew out of in Minneapolis to be a Sea of iPads, while I had a hard time even finding a place to charge my phone in Seattle. (And the outlet I finally found turned out to not work, which was doubly annoying.) But the important thing is that I (and my luggage) made all my connections just fine.
Because we waited in Seattle for some people making a connection, we arrived in Haneda about 45 minutes late, at 11:30. The last bus leaving Haneda takes off at 11:30, so I knew I wasn't going to make that. I made it through customs (forgetting about the form I had to fill out until I got up to the counter, oops) and grabbed a taxi with no problem. Though the taxi was pretty pricey (about $100), it was so cozy and comfortable after the airplane seats, I didn't even care. And, honestly, I think I only found the apartment we were renting because of the driver's GPS. My sense of direction is so bad, I probably would have walked in circles for hours.
Lions Mansion coat of arms
After stashing my stuff in the apartment, I wandered around the block a bit, trying to orient myself, then went to the conbini to get a snack. I finally managed to get to sleep around 3:00am. (During my walk around Sunshine City, I noticed a big new sign on the front of Animate, announcing what was on each floor. And...it seemed to be all cosplay?)
...And then of course I woke up around 6:30. (The first of many great nights of sleep...) I checked Animate's website to discover that they'd moved their main branch. (But, but...Otome Road!!) I lounged around the apartment until opening time, then headed out to see if I could find the new location. I happened to see some Japanese girls who were looking at the map and then clearly trying to find the new location, but when they stopped at an intersection to try to figure out where they were going, I gave up and went back to the map myself. I studied it a while until I actually understood where I was trying to go, then took a picture of my map with my phone so I could check it as I went. (This is a VERY useful technique and I need to remember it for the future.) I bought just a few new releases (for the record: Tokimeki Gokoro, Hidoku Shinaide 4, Chihayafuru 23, Kono BL ga Yabai! 2014) and the first of many sets of Free! zipper pulls. I then headed for Loft, where I shopped until I was hot and exhausted. (Japanese Christmas cards, BTW, are AMAZING. I wish I'd taken a picture of the display.) I headed back to the apartment for a break, then went to the post office to mail my two cards--the post office was packed and I had to wait in line for like a half hour, whee. I met sara_tanaquil off the bus from Narita, and (after dropping off her luggage), we headed out to K-Books--doujinshi branch, then manga branch. By the time we got to the manga branch, I was so exhausted I didn't have the will to make any decisions to buy anything, even when Sara held a book up to me and said, "Hey, this is out of print and it's on your list, do you want it?" (In retrospect, I feel this is like that scene in Ghostbusters: "When someone asks you if you're a god, say yes!") We were there until close and then went back to the apartment for dinner and a short nap. Around midnight, we got up and met spacealien_vamp and mangaroo coming off their bus. Back to the apartment to shuffle our suitcases as out of the way as possible, figure out who was sleeping in what bed, and then finally sleep.
...For four hours or so. (This was the trip of tablets--I think we all agreed that shopping lists on tablets are the best, and tablets are great for killing time in line--but for me it was also the trip of not sleeping, ugh.) After waking up, we played a game (Shadowrift) until stores opened. We planned to do our first shopping at Nakano Broadway, because there was a little game shop, Sugorokuya, in Koenji (near Nakano) that was going to be closed a lot for the new year holidays, so this would be pretty much our only chance to go there. It turned out to be a really adorable little shop, and the best game shop we visited the whole trip--though the other ones I went to were in Akihabara the day before Comiket, so crowding may have been a factor in my dislike of them.
I have to say, first day shopping in Nakano is a terrible idea--it's much better to start closer to home so you can return to your base camp periodically and drop off heavy bags. Anyway, there was shopping in the manga store and the doujinshi store (where I discovered that I mysteriously couldn't find Itsuki Kaname?), and then we headed to Nataraj for a delicious curry linner. Back at the apartment, we had planned to have a celebratory Christmas dinner and cake (like this!, but we were too tired and not hungry enough, so that got scratched. Around 7:30 or so, I was so tired I was thinking about bed, but then realized I had forgotten to bring my reading light, so I decided to head out to Tokyu Hands to pick one up, and Sara joined me because she wanted an extension cord. We found the extension cord easily enough, but ended up having to ask about reading lights to locate those. The one I got wasn't amazing, but it was tiny (very portable!) and cheap, so good enough. Unfortunately, when I tried to put the batteries in, I put one in upside down and it got totally stuck. I swear it took three of us an hour to get it back out. Eventually we went to bed (some of us may have taken a sleeping pill in hopes of actually getting a full night's sleep--it worked, but sadly I only had enough pills left after that for the plane ride home and opted to save them).
In the morning, we played a couple of games purchased the day before (Machi Koro and Mini-Russelbande). Our plan was to do some shopping in Ikebukuro, drop our bags off at the apartment and have lunch, and then head out to Shibuya. Because I didn't want our start to Shibuya to be too late, I said something about "light shopping" in Ikebukuro, which became the joke of the trip because no shopping we EVER do is light. So anyway: light shopping in Ikebukuro, then lunch, then off to Shibuya. With map-loaded iPad in hand, we headed out from the station (only having to stop once to correct course) to Dear+'s 15th Anniversary art exhibit. We really enjoyed looking at the artwork, but the space was ridiculously hot, and I was a little disappointed in the goods selection (but we were there at the tail end of the exhibit, so they probably had already sold out of a lot of stuff). I did get a tumbler insert (not because I want to put the picture in a coffee mug, just because I liked the picture)...and then the clerk at Mandarake folded it when I asked her to put my bags together. (my kitties and leopards!! ;_;)
in Shibuya, the reindeer are in love
Anyway, from GoFa we headed to Mandarake, first discovering that Animate is now conveniently located on an upper floor of the same building. Nobody wanted to buy anything at Animate because the checkout line was too long...so naturally mangaroo, sara_tanaquil, and I all found things we really really needed and were forced to wait in the line. Before getting in, I dove through the line to get to the Free! goods (zipper pulls, of course), which was really unnecessary since we were right next to them for five minutes while waiting in line. Once checked out, we joined spacealien_vamp at Mandarake. I also couldn't find a section for Itsuki Kaname here, so I got out my phone, and some quick research revealed that Mandarake shelves her under her old pen name, Serizawa Kaname. (I guess it's lucky that we had the same problem on the last trip with Nekota Yonezou being filed under Yamada D. Yonezou--though she no longer is--so I had an idea of the problem and knew I just needed to figure out what name she was under.) Back home we had chicken for the meat eaters and french fries for the vegetarians (note to self: KFC's box of fries is meant to be shared and/or be a meal unto itself), and then a One Piece Christmas cake...which was actually four large twinkies (strawberry, chocolate, green tea, and "plain" (with peach)).
confusing, but delicious
Up early to leave for Kinugawa Onsen. We spent the day at Tobu World Square, which features a lot of tiny buildings, Egyptian doughnuts, and a restaurant specializing in yuba (yum!).
we love the Statue of Liberty
We went in two different gift shops, where I didn't buy anything--not sure if the gift shops were that crappy, or if I had been temporarily replaced by a pod person. mangaroo then headed back for Tokyo while the rest of us went to Nanaeyae, a really lovely ryokan that I just can't speak highly enough of. Our room was great, I loved having our own outdoor bath, the food was amazing (and they actually made the vegetarian meals vegetarian!!), and the okami greeting us (and giving us gifts) when we checked out was totally adorable. It was a fantastic experience and I'm really glad spacealien_vamp insisted on including it in our trip. (Next time, though, I totally want a bath with a view of Fujisan.)
breakfast at Nanaeyae
After checking out of our wonderful, warm ryokan, we put our luggage in a coin locker at the train station and wandered around the town a bit, looking for or shops and whatnot. (We started out at a baumkuchen shop, hoping to snag one filled with strawberries, but I guess when we saw the sign saying they start selling them at 9:30, we should have showed up at 9:30, because they were gone by 11:00.) This would have been really fun on a day with nice weather, but it was really cold and windy that day. My favorite shop we visited was a shop with beautiful Nikko-bori carvings, and an adorable cat named Chiro-chan who beckoned us in.
We had lunch at the Kodaka (haha), where the food was good, but possibly the heat wasn't working because it was freezing, or at least not warm enough to take away the chill of wandering around in the cold, gusty wind for the last hour. None the customers in the restaurant could seem to get enough tea. After lunch we wandered a bit more and then waited in the train station for 45 minutes or so until our train arrived. We were so cold we all left our coats on for the two hour train ride home. Back home (having luckily missed the rain--only bad weather of our entire trip), we did some light shopping at Tora no Ana (where, having completely gone around the bend, I bought a THIRD set of Free! zipper pulls). When you reach a certain age, it's charming to be carded for buying 18+ doujinshi. As I was carded both times I bought doujinshi at Tora no Ana, I can only guess that their policy is to card everyone. (I was carded somewhere else, too, but I can't remember where. Animate? Yes, when I was buying the Rose of Versailles wine.) And then more light shopping at Mandarake. Interestingly, the Ikebukuro Mandaraka files Itsuki Kaname doujinshi under the name...Itsuki Kaname. Mandarake, make up your mind.
Separate shopping! (This is an event because we had to coordinate having only two keys between the four of us.) I discovered that Lashingbang no longer carries doujinshi, even though they have two stores on Otome Road (not counting the
Comiket Day 1. We arrived at 9:00 and got into the building around 10:40. This was our "light day," and as such, we had only a few fandoms to cover. For me:
Tiger & Bunny
Bee and Puppycat(!)
Junjou Romantica/Sekaiichi Hatsukoi (Ijuuin/Yuu, which I was kinda curious about)
...you wouldn't think that would add up to $75, but that's the magic of Comiket. Actually, think I got off lightly compared to some of my shopping companions.
Comket: magically expensive and magically crowded
Back at the aprtment we rested (and/or napped) for a few hours, and then headed out to Miami Garden (which is no longer blue and yellow). The grenadine float (with no ice!) is great, and I discovered that "Genovese" pasta is basically pesto, and so safe for me to order without harassing the server to make the dish without ham.
...I just realized that the only instance of accidental meat on this vacation was my own fault: I didn't read the ingredient list on a bag of potato salad that turned out to have ham in it. That might be some kind of record!
Anyway, we were amused to find Wuthering Heights playing on a TV at the restaurant. (So much brooding!) No sound on, of course, so as to not interfere with the bad 80s music.
After dinner, there was massive planning for Monday's Comiket. We were greatly hampered by our futzy wi-fi (it worked great for our first few days, then mysteriously slowed to dial-up speeds, except when it randomly worked just fine for five minutes or so), but managed to divide all of the planned tables between all of us and work out how many copies we would be buying of what (his is a complicated process, requiring military precision), and then we could hit the sack.
Comiket Day 2. I wanted to get there even earlier than yesterday, so we arrived around 8:30 and made it in by 10:15. So early! I've never been in so soon after the doors opening.
march up the steps
For the record, here are the author tables we went to:
Moegi Yuu (and Takaoka Nanaroku)
...the last one I only discovered because I saw other girls with bags featuring the Himitsu no Sefure-chan characters. (This table was in a section that was geographically next to the other big author tables, but not so close alphabetically, so I didn't notice her in the catalog. む, I think? I need to remember this next time.) The lesson learned from this Comiket is that bags are really really good advertising, so more circles should make them (but it's very very sad when they sell out, so if you're going to make them, make LOTS).
We would have finished quite quickly, but somehow sara_tanaquil and mangaroo ended up with all of the long lines, which meant spacealien_vamp and I finished much sooner than they did. I'm sure it would be more efficient to try to divide up the long lines more evenly, but then, sometimes other factors are more important. Anyway, we elected to skip the day's fandom offerings in the East Hall (namely Odoru and Phoenix Wright) and headed back for the apartment, after a somewhat comical search for a bakery and their delicious cheese bread.
"You are here. So is the bakery you're looking for." Wait, what?
(Is it oversharing to tell a story about dropping a roll of toilet paper in the toilet? Maybe? I'll leave just that much there, then, so I remember it, because it was pretty funny. I will also say it was the same person [you know who you are!] who didn't replace the empty roll and had bought more toilet paper--so I wasn't out after dropping the last roll in the toilet--so we'll call that a karmic wash.)
*ahem* Anyway, at night we had okonomiyaki for dinner (our only time this trip, kind of sad?), and then made a quick trip to Book Off.
okonomiyaki (not kittymiyaki)
Comiket Day 3...but not for us. We had: more separate shopping! We started off at Animate, which was super empty because everyone was still at Comiket. Then I went to Nakano and everyone else went to Shibuya. All day, there was much texting and buying of items for each other. It's awesome to have friends who know what you're looking for and can proxy-shop for you.
After a (too short) break at the apartment, we headed out to Tobu to buy food for our New Year's Eve dinner celebration. I thought it would be a good idea to try Tobu, since last time we'd had no luck finding potato croquettes without meat in Seibu, but it turns out Tobu has even less vegetarian food than Seibu. Also, the place was PACKED with people buying last-minute food for their own New Year's celebrations. We did manage to get some cheese and bread, plus chips at the conbini. spacealien_vamp had brought a bottle of wine from home that was really, really good--much better than anything we bought on the trip. Watching Kouhaku was fun, but Red lost (again). Will we ever get to see Red win? (The Ama-chan girls were so adorable!) I was so tired I barely made it to midnight, and that only by technicality (I was in bed, but not asleep).
According to my notes, this was the day I finally had a chance to vacuum the floor and clean the bathroom. I'm amazed that I was able to stand it as long as I did, but I couldn't ever seem to find the time or energy before that. We spent most of the day reading; in the afternoon I packed up some books for shipping (note to self: 33 books ship via surface for ¥4000), and we all did light shopping around Ikebukuro. Also, I rescued a kitty who was trying to cross the street in front of the Sunshine Prince. We had planned on buying tickets for Disneyland at the Disney Store in Sunshine City, but it turns out they only sell a certain number per day and the next available day they had was January 5th. We had crepes at Blue Seal (an "Okinawan ice cream" shop in tunnel between Tokyu Hands and Sunshine City). Back at the apartment, we played San Juan and Timeline before bed.
Okinawan ice cream, or Okinawan "ice cream"?
For some reason, my alarm didn't go go off, but we (minus mangaroo, who elected to stay home and pack) still managed to get up and get to Disney according to the schedule we'd planned the night before. We found the lines somewhat confusing, but when you arrive before the gates open, it's the SHORT lines you want to look for to buy tickets. Attractions visited: Captain Eo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Pooh's Honey Hunt, Monsters Inc: Ride and Go Seek, and Haunted Mansion. (Fast passes were for Pooh, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion. It was my first time on the Monsters Inc ride, but I was so tired after waiting in line for two hours--almost all of which was right next to a video screen playing the same thing over and over and over--I'm not sure I fully appreciated it. Need to remember to get a fast pass for it next time. I thought it was going to be the kind of ride where you're trying to score points, but I guess shining your light on the monsters just made them pop up?)
Finding vegetarian food at TDL has always been a problem, but this year the restaurants seemed more inflexible than ever. Can't request sandwiches without meat. Can't request pizza with just cheese. I'm 100% sure we've done both in the past, but no such luck this time. We did make two discoveries: a pasta place near the park entrance (Eastside Cafe) has a special vegetarian menu (frankly, I would have preferred the pesto, but that had anchovy paste in it), and Captain Hook's Galley has a baked potato (we didn't actually try this; we noticed it after we'd already eaten). So between that and making a meal out of fries (which I never mind), there are options out there. Plus I can always stuff myself with curry popcorn (YUM).
And, of course, desserts are always OK.
On the way home, we discovered that getting off the subway at Higashi Ikebukuro Station is closer to Sunshine City...and there's a secret underground tunnel that comes out by Toys R Us (B1 floor). Who knew?
Last day. :( If you want to be technical, my flight was scheduled to leave on the 4th...but at 12:30am, so basically the 3rd. Though I did take a break to go out and get my ticket for the bus to the airport, I spent until about 2:30 packing. I managed to keep all my suitcases under the weight limit...which is probably a bad reason to go out shopping for more manga. (I should remember for next time that my new big suitcase is REALLY big, and I won't be able to fill it up without it being overweight, so it's probably safe to bring a lightweight pillow that I want to be able to take back home. No need to bring a throwaway one.) I had planned on buying an iTunes card with the last of my cash, but then I found some pretty expensive doujinshi at Mandarake, so I decided to put the iTunes card on my credit card...turns out you can't do that, at least not at 7/11.
mangaroo and I (the only ones leaving at this time) got on our bus with no problem, even though the attendant(?) who took our tickets told us we were really only supposed to check two suitcases, not three (counting our carry-ons). I don't think anyone has ever told me that before? The nice thing about Haneda is that it's a lot closer than Narita...and also the departure lobby is decorated very beautifully (at least this time of year). The NOT nice thing is the arriving/leaving at midnight, and (if you're flying Delta) the bus to/from the gate from/to the plane. Especially when you have a 50lb carry-on you're dragging around. Getting up the steps to the plane was...interesting.
Speaking of 50lbs: Before I checked in, I took off my winter coat and put it in one of my suitcases....and apparently that was just enough to make my suitcase overweight by 1kg. Fortunately they said they would just let it go this time, but later I would sort of wish they had made more of a fuss, because I might have just taken out my coat and carried it, and I was sort of freezing during the Endless Layover in Seattle.
Why the Endless Layover, you ask? That was just part of my (cheap, remember, really cheap!) ticket. Land in Seattle at 4:30pm, take off at 12:30am. (I would land in Detroit before sunrise, making this the Longest Night Ever for me.) Seattle, I have to say, is a really crappy airport to be stuck in for eight hours, AND they listed the wrong gate on the board for my flight to Detroit, so I might have missed it if not for a really nice woman--passenger, not Delta employee--who stopped at the gate to ask me if I was going to Detroit.
My flight home was pretty uneventful otherwise, and I made it in before Snowpocalypse '14, which, yay. (And getting two extra days off of work made the transition to EST a bit easier.)
Trip Spoils: including all the stuff on the shelves (after the big space)
I also uploaded about a bajillion pictures to Scrapbook, for anyone who would like to browse them.