Japan – Day 7: Tokyo – Day 1

Friday – April 14, 2017

Today was initially planned to be our first day in Tokyo. Dan and Pete however wanted to spend more time in Kyoto. Being that I had things I wanted to get done in Tokyo, once again, the group split up.

Shinkansen to Tokyo

I got up at 8:00, got showered, dressed, packed and left. I took the subway to the Shinkansen and walked to the back of the train and waited for my train to come. Then, realizing I was hungry and that I had 10 minutes to spare, I walked down the platform to the kiosk where I grabbed a few little things to eat and drink.

I then boarded the 9:32 Shinkansen bound for Tokyo station. Once we started going I got everything set up, plugged in my phone, ate and listened to music on shuffle. Interestingly enough they actually checked my JR Pass on the train, something they had yet to do thus far on the trip.

I had been keeping my eye out for a “certain something” that was supposed to appear out the left side of the train, the side I was sitting on. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure how far along the train ride it would appear. Additionally, though I had calculated that it should be about 10 miles away, I had no idea how far away 10 miles was or how big what I was looking for would look.

IMG_6060Mt. Fuji

Then shortly after hitting one of the stations and going through a tunnel, there it was… Mt. Fuji. I could not have missed it if I tried. I took tons of pictures because I wanted to ensure that I got at least one good picture of it. I did not realize how big and how majestic it would be. My heart literally stopped when I saw it.

Tokyo/Shinjuku – Day

Eventually I arrived at Tokyo Station. Imagine Grand Central Station times ten. I then easily found my way to the Air BnB via the subway (12:38 train). The app I had downloaded with the Tokyo Subway map on it worked perfectly. I found the bicycle with our key card in it right away but had a little trouble finding the entrance. Eventually, with the help of an English speaking local, I found the entrance.

However, due to how our key was linked to our phones I was not yet able to check in. I then put the building key back and made my way to the Shinjuku Loft. I was in search of tickets to the 5.6.7.8’s show on the 22nd, our last night in Japan. It took me a while to find the place and when I did (a little after 13:00) I was told that the box office didn’t open until 15:00.

IMG_6063Robot Restaurant

Thus I began to venture through Shinjuku. I ended up stumbling upon the Robot Restaurant that we plan on hitting up before we leave. I kept walking and found an arcade that I stopped in to use the restroom and put on sun-tan lotion.

I ventured on and again stumbled upon something from my list, Tiato Station Arcade. The place was at least 4 floors of games and in it I found an Initial D racing game. There was even free wifi which I took advantage of.

IMG_6079Cocoon Building

Then, in the distance, I saw the Cocoon Building. I was in sensory overload. I walked through a mall in order to try and get closer to it. I tried to walk to it but lost it in the shuffle of other buildings. However, I found a little pharmacy where I got more contact solution -mine was running low- and this special salt toothpaste that I’d heard about before I left for the trip.

By the time I was done with all that, I walked back to the Shinjuku Loft to grab tickets to the show. To my pleasant surprise there were still tickets left for the show. I was going to see The 5.6.7.8’s in Japan! After that, I took a second stab at reaching the Cocoon Building and this time was able to find it. I entered a side section of the building and grabbed food at Tully’s Coffee.

IMG_6082NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building

There I relaxed, mooched free WiFi, caught up with the boys via iMessage/email, sent an email to my Mom and wrote to this point in my notebook. After that I walked to the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building which is, apparently, the second tallest clock tower in the world. Who knew. As a side note, it looks like the Empire State Building.

I then walked back to our subway station to check that my locker was not charging me more than it was supposed to (I wasn’t sure if it was based on time). Luckily, it was all good. After exiting the subway I went into my backpack to grab my hat as it was getting chilly. Dolly zoom to an “Oh fuck” reaction on my face. My hat wasn’t there.

I suddenly tried to think back to the last place I remembered having it. A flash of the Kyoto Station came to mind. I had put my hat on the handle of my suitcase but I never put it in my backpack. It must have been lost somewhere on the platform. I started to formulate a plan involving emailing JR East about if they have a lost and found and how I would be able to get my hat mailed back to America. I knew though that realistically, all hope was lost, my hat was gone forever.

I had been having such a great day; I saw Mt. Fuji on the Shinkansen, I got tickets to The 5.6.7.8’s and now I was completely deflated. The hat had been a gift from a friend and was my favorite article of clothing. The hat itself had become a companion and now it was dead. I was genuinely devastated.

I took a stroll around the block and eventually made my way back to Tiato Station to mooch more WiFi. I reached Pete who told me I could now get in a 19:00, it was 18:34.

IMG_6084Godzilla

I slowly and sadly made my way back to the Air BnB. Shortly after, I met up with Dan outside the nearby subway station. We then met with Yuko who let us into the room and showed us around. After she left I went down to the subway locker to grab my suitcase.

I opened the door to my locker and to my disbelief, there it was! My purple beanie! I had no recollection of having thrown it in there. I was unbelievably happy. I wore it back to the Air BnB smiling the whole time. Dan let me in and shortly after Pete needed to be let up.

We then all swapped the stories of our days and then I wrote all of this.

Tokyo/Shinjuku – Night

Afterwards, Dan said he was hungry, so I led the boys into Shinjuku. We were in search of anywhere that did not close at 22:00. It was starting to look like hope was lost until we found a place that not only had food we all wanted to eat but also was open 24 hours a day; win, win.

As we were eating, Dan mentioned he wanted to go to a bar after we ate. I told him about the Golden Gai district that has a lot of tiny bars down an alleyway. He was down and so was Pete, so that’s where we went.

IMG_6111Golden Gai

I was super excited to go, but when we got there, not only did we think it was pretty underwhelming but also, all of the bars had cover charges. However, we soon simply turned a corner and boom, we were on another alley filled with bars.

We eventually found a bar called Deathmatch In Hell. It was a horror themed bar that played heavy metal music and horror movies and charged no cover. The price of the drinks was 666 Yen.

We drank there for a bit and chatted with some of the other tourists before heading back to the apartment. We didn’t get back till around 1:00. Not bad for our first night in Tokyo.

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Japan – Day 6: Kyoto – Day 2

Thursday – April 13, 2017

We started our morning at a breakfast place that Pete had spotted yesterday. Literally, a half block away from our Air BnB, Komeda’s Coffee was this crazy IHOP on steroids with great food and super fair prices. Any of the specialty drinks or coffee orders come with toast. On top of that they have these massive breakfast sandwiches for no money at all. I took half my meal home it was so much.

IMG_5935

Iwatayama Monkey Park

After dropping off the leftovers in the room we hopped on a couple of trains and made our way to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The park is a bit outside of the city and is located half way up a mountain. Getting to the park requires navigating your way through a small but crowded village down a busy main street with no sidewalk and tons of visitors.

IMG_5940Panoramic view of the mountains near the Monkey Park

There are great views of the mountains as you approach the entrance. Admission to the park is only 550 Yen. Once you pass the gate entrance, you still have to hike 20 minutes up a narrow dirt path with two way traffic and the occasional motorized scooter. The hike is really scenic and is in the woods/forest.

It felt like we were walking through Jurassic Park or something. About 90% of the way up the trail there is a little play-ground area with a small zip-line, swings, a see-saw, and a slide. I obviously tried the zip-line and the slide before continuing up to the top.

IMG_5963Overview of the monkey park

The top was filled with tourists trying to get their best Facebook and Instagram selfies. There was a little section where you could go in, buy food and feed the monkeys. To be honest, the place wasn’t as littered with monkeys as we though it would be, but it’s not like we didn’t see any either, there were plenty of them.

It was also just a great spot to look out at the city and nature below. To top it off, today was the best weather we’ve had the whole trip. Not only was it sunny but it was warm too, about 68 degrees (20c).

Tenryu-ji

After we’d had our fill of monkeys. We made our way back down the mountain and along the water to Tenryu-ji Temple. To be honest, we weren’t super interested in checking out the temple, but I had read that the North exit leads to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

[perhaps add the bit about how, as usual, Pete, like a squirrel with ADD, got sidetracked by a car in the parking lot and preceded to take pictures of it for 20 minutes while Dan and I waited impatiently.]

Unfortunately, in order to exit from the North of the complex, you need to enter, which means paying, which we didn’t want to do. So, we figured out the general direction we needed go and headed back to the main street to get to the bamboo forrest.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

After passing what should have been an obvious entrance to the bamboo forrest, (everyone was going there), we made our way back and eventually into the grove. The place was packed with people and was, I’ll admit, a bit underwhelming at first. I thought, based on pictures I’d seen online, that the trees would be more tightly packed.

IMG_5996The Bamboo Grove

Eventually however, we found a different section that was closer to what I had in mind. That said, there was one section of the path that we never explored and I’m wondering if that was the section I was thinking of/looking for.

After chillin’ in the grove for a bit we were ready to move on to the next thing. Cut to a montage of us walking back and forth on the main drag looking for the train station to take us to the next stop only to realize that we had to go to the same station we had arrived at in the first place.

Rioan-ji

We eventually took the two trains that got us the closest to where we wanted to go and after a short walk through the local town, we made our way to the Rioan-ji Zen Garden. The place was more than what I expected it to be. Rather than just being an indoor/outdoor Zen garden, it was an entire complex.

Admission was 500 Yen but you got to explore all the grounds. There was a small pond with an “island” in the middle you could walk out to. There were also small paths with these cool little trees and plants in them. But obviously the highlight was the Zen garden itself.

IMG_6024Zen Garden

This was the first place (and last place) we went to that required us to take off our shoes. We walked the wooden walkway out to the opening with the Zen garden. There I waited my turn to sit at the edge and contemplate in silence. Despite the fact that I was acutely aware that the longer I sat, the more people I prevented from doing the same, it was a good moment of “Zen” from the fast pace of this trip.

Once we had all caught up to each other, we made our way to the final stop on the list, the Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion. 

Kinkaku-ji

The pavilion was a 20 minute walk from the Zen garden and I knew it was set to close at 17:00. I was somewhat aware of the time but figured that even if we couldn’t enter the temple, we could at least enter the park.

We arrived at, I shit you not, 16:59. There were guys at the entrance shooing people away. We stuck around long enough for them to leave but we still weren’t able to go in far enough to see anything worth while.

Being that we had a full day, we decided to pack it in and head home. We walked to a nearby bus stop and took a bus that took us to a train that brought us to our station. There we went back to the apartment where I ate my leftover breakfast and, after realizing that we DID in fact have Wi-Fi, posted the blogs from the past two days as well as today’s post.

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Japan – Day 5: Kyoto – Day 1

Wednesday – April 12, 2017

We woke up early (8am) this morning as it was our last day in Osaka and our first of two days in Kyoto. We got the Air BnB tidy before we left and then made our way to Shin-Osaka station. There we took the 10:43 Shinkansen to Kyoto. Being that the bullet train gets you to Kyoto in about 10 minutes I figured we’d get a pretty good jump on the day. Little did I know how wrong I was.

Kyoto

When we arrived at Kyoto station, we had to take two trains to get to Sanjo station; the station nearest to our Air Bnb. It was too early to check in so we put our bags in lockers so we could retrieve them later in the day when we got back from our adventures.

IMG_5848Area near our Air BnB

We then exited the station and crossed the bridge to where our Air BnB was. Our plan, before doing anything else, was to grab a bite to eat. Being that I had done a bit of Google street view snooping a few months before, I knew that there was a quaint breakfast spot right on the corner of where our Air BnB was. I pointed this out to Dan who vetoed it.

We then crossed the street to a pizza place but upon inquiring, the wait was over an hour and this was time we didn’t have to spare. I was getting antsy, not because I had been vetoed, but because I just wanted to pick a place and eat so we could get started on our adventures.

Dan, misreading my frustration, was also getting frustrated because we couldn’t agree on where to eat. Thus, he made the executive decision for all of us to split up and find our own place to eat. I suggested we meet back in 20 minutes and that is exactly what we did. Though this idea was the right decision to make I hated that there was now tension in the air.

That said, I went to the aforementioned breakfast place on the corner. Dan went to a local Japanese place. And Pete, being unadventurous and predictable as usual, went to Burger King. And he says he’s gonna lose 10 pounds on this trip… yeah… right.

IMG_5849Area across the street from our Air BnB

I got this makeshift pizza thing which was very good but not very filling. Needless to say, I finished first and so I went into this designer t-shirt store I saw across the street. They had all of these really cool t-shirts. Though another t-shirt is literally the last thing I need, I might grab one I was eyeing before we leave Kyoto because, fuck it, I’m on vacation.

We reconvened at 12:40 and made our way to train station. This is where things went from bad to worse. I don’t know how it happened but despite us all reading the same sign I somehow managed to make us take the wrong train. We went all the way to the end of the line and then had to backtrack to fix the problem.

I was very disappointed in myself and felt the weight and anger of the others pressing down hard on me. I was super depressed and knew that Dan in particular hated me. Eventually however, we made our way to Daigo station where a woman helped us figure out where we needed to go, and we took the bus to Daigoji temple.

However, to add insult to injury, because I only had large denomination bills and not smaller 100 Yen coins, I didn’t have the bus fare to pay for the ride. I literally gave the driver all of the change I had and, thankfully he let me off without hassle.

Daigoji Temple

We arrived at Daigo-Ji temple around 14:00. We walked straight to the mid section of the park (btw the temple is basically part of a big park) only to realize that we needed to buy a ticket to access the various sections.

We went back to the front where I broke my 10,000 Yen note to pay the 1,500 Yen fee to get a ticket. This gave me the change I needed to pay for the bus ride back. We then made our way to the back of the park, specifically to the Bentendo shrine.

As we made our way through the nature paths I felt a lot of the stress start to dissipate. The trees, cherry blossoms, shrines and running water were all very tranquil. This was why we came to Kyoto. Everyone’s mood lightened. Then, suddenly, it was right in front of us.

IMG_5874Bentendo at Daigo-Ji

The Bentendo Shrine is like something out of a Japanese fable. Nestled in the woods on a pond with mountains in the background, you simply don’t see things like this every day. We made our way further into the park and then back out through the other few sections before moving on to our next stop.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

We took the bus back to Daigo station and took two trains to get to Inari station. We arrived at Inari around 16:15 and literally crossed the street to get to the Inari Shrine. When we arrived we found it was packed with tourists.

I really hated seeing that many white people in one place. I hated hearing so much English being spoken. I came to Japan to get away from Americans, not to interact with them. In any case, we made our way up the first of many stairs and were faced with yet another famous Kyoto site, the Tori gates.

IMG_5903Tori gates

As we walked through them, they were packed with people. However, the higher up we got, the thinner the crowds and soon it was possible to stop and take pictures. Eventually we got to a high point on the path where there was a lookout where you could see the city and the mountains in the distance. It was there where we realized we had a ton further to go to reach the top.

Because there was so far to go and because I was cold and hungry and because it was getting dark we decided to head back down the mountain. We took a 18:07 train back to Sanjo station and grabbed our stuff out of the lockers so we could finally check into the Air BnB. Once there I immediately dropped my stuff off and went out to grab food because I was starving.

Air BnB/Avocado Restaurant

Earlier, when we were all on our own food hunt for brunch, I had found a Mexican restaurant called Avocado that looked interesting so I decided to try it out. The place was a little hole in the wall but was exactly what I was looking for. I grabbed three orders of tacos; beef, pork and shrimp.

IMG_5929Bar at Avocado restaurant in Kyoto

Each order came with two tacos and I made sure to get one flour tortilla and one corn tortilla. I also got a Day of the Dead Hefeweizen beer which was delicious. As much as I want to have Japanese food while I’m here, it was nice to have something I know I love.

The place was a bit pricey for the amount of food I got, but since I’m on vacation and I had budgeted and I hadn’t had lunch and I was hungry as shit, I didn’t care. After I ate, I came back to the room and wrote yesterday and today’s blogs before organizing my shit for tomorrow and turning in for the night.

PS While walking back from Sanjo station to the Air BnB, Pete spotted a Midnight Silver “Spectre” Model S.

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Japan – Day 4: Osaka – Day 4

Tuesday – April 11, 2017

I started the day getting up early, as I usually do, and writing the blog post for yesterday. After that I woke up the boys and once they were ready, we figured out a game plan for the day.

We left the apartment by 10am and got breakfast at Y and A, our local breakfast spot. We then walked to the train station were, upon getting on the platform, we split ways. Pete went to the Glion Auto Museum and Dan and I  went to the Nara Deer Park.

Nara Deer Park

Our train ride took about an our and we arrived at 12pm. We then walked to the park. Along the way, as we got closer, we started seeing deer on the sidewalk. The closer we got, the more deer we saw. Eventually we reached a little stand where you could buy snacks to feed the deer. Dan bought a thing of snacks and was immediately surrounded by deer. He started feeding them the snacks but they were pretty aggressive; one even bit him.

IMG_5740Dan feeding the deer at Nara

After that we made our way into the park where we walked around for a bit. The one cool thing was that the deer are so accustom to seeing people bow at them, that if you bow, they will bow their head in return. There wasn’t very much to see there and the weather was kind of shitty so after a about an hour of walking around we were ready to go.

Tsutenkaku Tower

We got on a 12:56pm train back to Nippombashi. The ride back was only about 45 minutes. From there we took the train to the Tsutenkaku Tower

IMG_5756Walking from the train station to Tsutenkaku Tower

Though from the outside it looked old and cool, the tower itself was really tacky and filled with weird stuff. It’s hard to explain but I really didn’t like it. To top it off, the tower wasn’t very tall so the views were only ok.

Nanbayasaka Shrine

Dan and I basically raced through the place and the only thing I literally got out of it was a small box of Pocky. After that we made our way on foot to the Nanbayasaka shrine. There we met up with Pete. We also met these two Canadian tourists who were cool and whom we may meet up with again in Tokyo.

IMG_5779Lion’s head at Nanbayasaka Shrine

From there we walked to the subway Pete had taken to meet us. We took the train to Shin-Osaka to switch to the JR to Kobe. On the platform we were trying to to figure out which train we needed to take. A native must have seen that we were struggling and asked if we needed help. We told him we were trying to go to Kobe and he informed us that we we in fact at the right platform and that the next train would work for us.

Kobe

We took the train to one of the stations in Kobe and started to exit the station. However, I informed Dan of my game plan and so we then had to get back on a train heading in the same direction to get to the station we wanted.

When we arrived at Shinnagata station, we had one mission, find the Gigantor (from Tetsujin 28) giant robot statue. We started walking the right way, thanks to Dan, but then, thanks to me, we ended up going to the wrong way. Eventually, we got on track and found Gigantor.

IMG_5793Gigantor from Tetsujin 28-go Manga

We spent about 10 minutes getting pictures with him before splitting for food. We walked through one of the many shopping streets we’ve come across. We were in search of a spot to get some famous Kobe beef for dinner.

However, when we realized that we were nowhere near any of the restaurants we had looked up on Google, we made our way back to the train.

After getting off the train and walking a few blocks away, we found ourselves on a side street that was littered with restaurants. We walked to the one we had looked up but it was way too expensive. We walked to a second one but it too was pricey. We then just walked in the next place that looked decent and relatively inexpensive.

IMG_5820Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum

The place we found did serve beef, but it served all the parts that are unappealing. At least unappealing when you read it off a menu. I’m sure intestine and tongue are delicious, but I don’t want to know that’s what I’m eating. We eventually all found something on the menu that satisfied all of us and everything we ate was really good.

However, the pre-search for food combined with being hangry, combined with not being able to agree on where to eat had led to some tension. This however was solved at a nearby pastry shop Isuzu Bakery where we all grabbed a few items for dessert.

IMG_5819Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel

Next we made our way down to the port where we got great views of the Kobe Maritime Museum, the Kobe Port Tower and The Kobe Meriken Oriental Hotel. We walked around the port area for a bit, grabbing pictures of the aforementioned things lit up in the night. Pete and I even checked out the lobby of the hotel which was dope.

After chillin’ in the port area for a while, we decided to go back to one of the bars we had passed on the way to the port. The bar was called Brugge. Dan and I liked that they sold craft beer. He got in Asahi Dark and I got a Kobe Lager which was very light. I mainly got it because it was a local brew and because it was seemingly made just for the bar we were at.

After finishing our drinks it was kind of late so we went straight back to the Air BnB. I was cooked. Partially because we had had a long day and partially because beer makes me sleepy I conked out the second we got back to the room.

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Japan – Day 3: Osaka – Day 3

Monday – April 10, 2017

We decided to mix things up a bit today, again getting out of the city to do something different. For those of you who don’t know, I used to be, and still sort of am, a huge roller coaster nerd. In the research I used to do, I would find theme parks in countries around the world and say to myself, if I ever go those countries, I am gonna go to those theme parks to ride those coasters.

As it turns out, Japan is one of those countries and located a few hours outside Osaka by train is none other than Nagashima Spa Land. Nagashima is home to several world class coasters, but the most famous is Steel Dragon 2000. Built in the year 2000, now 17 years old, I have been looking forward to riding it since I was 10.

Getting There

I woke up at 7am. After I got dressed I woke the other guys up at 8am and we were on the road by 9am. I was already a little upset because we were starting the day so late. Located in Mie Prefecture, NSL is a nearly 3 hour train and bus ride away from where we are staying. Additionally, because it is their off season, they have shorter hours; 9:30 to 17:00. I was afraid that the later we got there, the less time we’d have to go on all the rides I wanted to hit.

So for me, a perfect on the road time would have been 6 or 7. On top of that, the night previous, Dan started to question how we were getting there and was suggesting new/different ways than the ones I had painstakingly researched months ago. This threw a mental monkey wrench in my game plan, but also frustrated me because we have been executing our train rides flawlessly and I have given him no reason to doubt me thus far.

Because of this and the fact that I am really good a bottling and building my internal anger, the day started out with a lot of tension. We walked to Namba station took a train to Shin Osaka. There we switched to the Shinkansen to take us to Nagoya station. On that train, partially because it was crowded, partially because we hadn’t reserved a seat and partially because I was mad a them, Pete and Dan sat together and I sat by myself.

On the train I grabbed a drink and sandwich for “breakfast” and to break my 1,000 Yen note so I would have smaller Yen denominations to pay for the bus. At Nagoya station we we switched to a Kintetsu Limited Express train. This not only required us to tap on with our IC Card, it also required us to buy a ticked for that train. More money that I wanted to spend. We eventually figured everything out though, what train we needed to take, how to purchase the ticket, and got on a minute or so before it left the station.

Luckily ours was the first stop and it only took 16 minutes to get to Kuwana Station. There we were to board our final mode of transportation, a bus that would take us to the amusement park. However, we first had to make it out of the station.

I tried to use the card I bought to get on the express train to get through the turn style but all it did was eat the card and lock the gate. When I tried to tap my IC Card, it locked the gate again. Frustrated, I just walked through. Pete and Dan however went trough a different turn style, only tapped there IC Card and got through fine.

After figuring out where the buses were, we waited at our bus stop. We saw that the bus took IC Cards so we didn’t buy a bus ticket. When the bus arrived, I was the first to board. When I tapped my card, it made a weird noise and weird letters came up. When Pete and Dan tapped theirs however, they had no problem. This got me nervous that I would have a problem getting off the bus.

Being that there was still tension in the air, on our way to NSL I manned up and apologized to Dan and Pete for my shitty attitude. And though things were still sort of tense, I was forgiven.

When we arrived at the park I was the first to exit. I tapped my PASMO card and the screen said “Unable to use.” This bummed me out for two reasons, 1) I had to pay the fair out of pocket which took a long time and held up the line (something I HATE doing) and 2) it made me nervous I would have to forfeit my PASMO for a new card thus also forfeiting any money that was still on it.

Thinking of ways to rectify this situation was something that would plague my thoughts intermittently throughout the day. However, we were finally here and making our way towards the entrance so I couldn’t be too mad. We arrived at -near as makes no difference- noon.

Nagashima Spa Land

After paying 5,000 Yen (~$45) for a “passport” (unlimited ride) ticket and putting our things in a locker, we made our way to the crown jewel of the park, Steel Dragon 2000. As we entered the queue we found that there was virtually no line. We waited for the current train to come back, that train to board and were on by the third ride.

IMG_5610Acrobat (forground) and Steel Dragon 2000 (background)

I had not been on a gigacoaster (one with a drop over 300 feet) in a very long time, so by the time we got on the lift hill and started to climb, I was genuinely nervous. A feeling I have not felt on a coaster in some time. It was nice to have that “fear” again because I had gotten to a point where riding coasters was no longer thrilling to me.

In any case, we crested the 318 foot lift hill and dropped 306 feet to the ground below. We then went over the next hill and the helix and the bunny hops and 4 minutes later and over 8,000 feet of track (this is the current record holder for longest roller coaster in the world) behind us, the ride was over. We had conquered the Steel Dragon!

Psyched, any tension from the day subsided. We were all totally pumped on adrenaline. We ran back in line and immediately did it again.

IMG_5619White Cyclone

After re-riding Steel Dragon we made our way over to White Cyclone. Built in 1994, this wooden coaster is well known in the coaster community as one of the best reinterpretations of a classic wooden coaster design. Again we had virtually no wait for the ride and though it was rough, we all enjoyed it.

Next we made our way to the Looping Star, a cookie cutter single loop coaster. Though it was tiny and novice, it was smooth and a lot of fun. They placed cherry blossom trees on the sides of the track so it not only felt like you were going faster, but it added theming to the ride. Dan and I rode it again, there was no line, and Pete filmed us on it.

IMG_5625Looping Star

After Looping star, we took a break and grabbed a light lunch. We all got chicken tenders and fries. Once we were done it was back to action with the Shuttle Loop. Despite the fact that this coaster is basic with a launch and two inversions, one forwards and one backwards, because of the rapid fire action of the ride elements, it’s kind of intense.

We had been going hard since we got there and so after the shuttle loop we all decided we needed a break. We grabbed a drink at a classic Japanese vending machine and took a partial stroll around the park. Clearly we either getting old, or simply not accustom to these rides because the day was kind of kicking our ass in terms of headaches.

IMG_5646Shuttle Loop

We eventually made our way back to the Corkscrew roller coaster and checked it off the list. Pete then walked through the haunted house as Dan and I didn’t want to do it. Next we went to the locker to put stuff away and grab layers as it was overcast and chilly. We then banged out the Bobsled “coaster” -aka Bobkart- before walking around and exploring more of the park.

We then made our way back to the Acrobat, a flying coaster which is a carbon copy of Manta in Sea World. I let Pete and Dan do that one as I a) don’t really like flying coasters and b) though I’m sure I could have handled it, I was not feeling 100% enough to want to risk it.

IMG_5655I got a picture of them as they went swooping by

After Pete and Dan got off the ride, we all decided to do Steel Dragon one more time before heading back to Osaka. Riding that coaster was great every time. It felt like such and accomplishment and was the perfect ending.

Satisfied with our day, we started the journey home. First we purchased tickets at the ticket machine for the Mie Katsu bus. Then, since we had just missed one, we passed the time by going in the 7-11, getting snacks and hanging out. A few minutes later the bus arrived which took us back to Kuwana Station.

IMG_5687Steel Dragon 2000 flew by as we exited the park

There, Dan figured out that we could take a JR train, rather than a limited express train, to get back to Nagoya. Luckily, JR trains require the JR pass rather than the IC Card so my now defunct PASMO card would not be an issue.

However, before making it down to the platform, I tried an experiment. I tapped my PASMO on the same turn style card reader that Dan and Pete had when they were exiting earlier in the day. Low and behold, the screen read a balance and the curse had been lifted. All I had needed to do was to take the time and tap the right car reader. Oh well, the problem was solved and I was back in action.

We took the JR train to Nagoya and there switched to a Shinkansen bound for Shin Osaka station. We got on the first car and, because it was fairly empty, each grabbed a row to ourselves. On the way I listened to music, napped a little and tried to figure out the best plan of attack for the evening/tomorrow.

IMG_5729City Walk at Universal Studios in Osaka

Universal City Walk

After weighing my options I decided I wanted to go to City Walk, since I would no longer be going to Universal Studios to at least get my fix and to grab dinner. I pitched the idea to Pete and when we arrived at Shin Osaka, to Dan as well. Pete and I decided to go and Dan decided to head back to the room and grab dinner locally.

After reorganizing my backpack and giving Dan his personal affects, we parted ways. Pete and I hopped a couple of trains to get us to City Walk. Once there we walked around for a bit and took some pictures. Pete had been wanting something quick and easy; something he knew like McDonalds. I was hoping to get something a bit more Japanese. We found a perfect compromise in Mos Burger, Japan’s answer to Burger King.

After hanging around a bit more and looking at some of the shops and restaurants, we made our way back to the Air BnB where Dan let us in and we all went to bed.

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Japan – Day 2: Osaka – Day 2

Sunday – April 9th, 2017

Today was the first day that the group split up. Dan stayed in Osaka to see a bunch of sites in the city while Pete and I ventured out to Aichi Prefecture to visit a few car sites.

First however, we had to get there. Rather than go into the details of our travel, I’ll give you the cliff notes:

We got up around 6:30 and left the apartment by 7:30-ish. First we took the subway from Nippombashi to Namba Station (1). Next we took the subway from Namba Station to Shin-Osaka Station (2). Then we took a Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya Station (3). Here is where things got a little tricky.

In my notes it said to take the Higashiyama train from Nagoya to Fujigaoke Station. However, what I failed to add was that in order to access the Higashiyama train, you need to exit the station and enter at a different part that is, for whatever reason, not connected underground. This led to us going the wrong way a bunch of times and eventually asking an attendant where to go.

Once we figured it out, we stopped and grabbed breakfast at the Mermaid Cafe in Nagoya Station. After, it was back to smooth sailing and we took the subway from Nagoya to Fujigaoke Station (4). On the train, Pete and I noticed the guy standing in front of us had a cool design on his shirt. I told him so and at the next station we got out.

We then transferred to the Linimo train (light rail) -which also required us to get out of the station and enter a different one- and when we got to the platform, who was standing there but cool shirt guy. Somehow we got to talking and came to find out we were all bound for the Toyota Automobile Museum. We took the tram from Fujigaoke to Geidaidori Station (6; total number of trains it took us to get to the museum).

As we rode to the museum we basically became “single serving friends” (see Fight Club). He told us he his name is George and was/is from the Czech Republic and we commiserated over our love of cars.

This entire train process took about 3 and a half hours.

Toyota Automobile Museum

When we got to Geidaidori Station we walked to the Toyota Automobile Museum together and unofficially decided to check out the museum together. The first thing that stood out about the museum was that the employees, mostly female, were super traditional and respectful, bowing any time you did… anything. Next, for whatever reason, instead of it costing 1,000 Yen, it only cost 500 Yen (~$4).

IMG_5551Toyota 2000GT and a Sports 800

The museum was laid out in historical order ie. older cars first, newest cars last. While George and I were looking at an original Fiat 500L, an older gentleman/employee opened the door for us so we could see inside. He explained things about the car and would continue to do this -opening doors and hoods for us- intermittently throughout the museum.

Eventually we got to a Mercedes 300SL (Gullwing) and when George saw it, he turned into a little boy. He ran over and immediately started taking pictures. It was adorable. As we continued through the museum, the inevitable happened, I was at the end of the hall and moving on to the next and Pete was just beginning the hall; taking pictures and looking at EVERYTHING.

IMG_55411959 Cadillac

Because I knew we had one other thing to do in the area and because I wanted to get back to Osaka in time to get more than just these two things done today, I was sort of in a rush. Naturally however, Pete took his sweet old time.

I made the mistake of telling him there was an “Annex” too, and so of course he wanted to check it out. Then he want to shmy in the gift shop. Then he wanted to go to the car meet in the parking lot and had to have a super long conversation with the owners. Then he had to look at a classic Mini Cooper in the parking lot and had a chat with the owner. All of this led to leaving 2 and a half hours later than I wanted to.

Liberty Walk

Next we made our way to Liberty Walk, a wide body kit company that’s popular in the tuner car scene. Getting to LW involved taking the Linimo train from Geidaidori to Yakusa Station (the end of the line (7)). There we switched to the Aichikanjo Tetsudo train -for which we could not use our IC (PASMO) card and had to buy a regular ticket- from Yakusa to Setoshi Station (8).

Next we had to get out and change stations to take the Meitetsu train from Shinseto to Sango Station (9). From there it was a straightforward (12 minute) stroll to Liberty Walk. When we got there, I was wondering if Kato-san would be there. No sooner did I mention this sentiment to Pete did I look up and there he was talking with some kids a few cars away. I was going to walk over but I didn’t want to disturb him.

IMG_5579Liberty Walk Cafe

I kept looking at cars until an employee came over and asked if I needed help. I told him I was looking for Kato-san, and he brought me to the LW cafe. There he was, sitting with an older gentleman. I walked over and started chatting with Kato-san. He smiled but did not respond. Seeing this, the same employee came over to me. “He doesn’t speak english.” I had the employee translate and during our conversation, found out that he is Kato’s son!

Huma (pronounced Hue-mah) took a picture of me and Kato-san and then, after instructions from his father, gave us a drink on the house. After that he gave us a tour of the two LW facilities. We chatted and hung out and got pictures of the shops. Pete took his sweet time looking at everything and finally, after we both got some merch, we made our way back to Osaka.

IMG_5594Liberty Walk Garage

We went from Sango to Sakaemachi Station (10). There we switched to Sakae and took the train to Nagoya Station (11). From Nagoya we took the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka station (12). And finally we took the train from Shin-Osaka to Namba Station (for a total of 13 trains in one day).

From there we walked back to the Air BnB and met up with Dan outside.

Dinner/Dotonbori

When we got back to the Air BnB, Pete took a nap, I organized some stuff on my computer and Dan did the same on his computer. After about an hour or an hour and a half of chilling, Dan and I were ready to go, so we woke up Pete and we headed out. Pete and I had only had breakfast and we were starving so we grabbed a bite at a greasy meat/noodle place down the street from our Air BnB.

When we were done, the game-plan was to go to Dotonbori and maybe to a bar. I was pretty chilly and had been to Dotonbori the night before so I deiced to go home and write this. Pete and Dan ventured into the night and I let them in about an hour and a half later. I then contined to write until I completed the day.

So, because of all this I’ve decided that on our next free day, I’m breaking away and doing my own thing so I can finally accomplish all of the things I’ve been putting off. If I don’t, I’m gonna start resenting people and that will put a dark cloud over the trip.

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Japan – Day 1: Osaka – Day 1

Saturday – April 8, 2017

Being that we had such a long day yesterday, the plan was to sleep in, then start the day whenever we were ready. However, due to a series of circumstances we all were up by around 7am. This ended up being advantageous as we used that time to chat, come up with a game-plan, get showered/dressed and then start our day.

Breakfast

We began with breakfast at Y and A, a corner coffee shop at the end of our block. The place was quaint and the food was excellent. Pete and I had pancakes while Dan had a breakfast sandwich. It looked so good that Pete and I spilt one ourself. We finished breakfast a little after 9:40am.

Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

After paying we went in search of a bank so we could exchange our larger bills for smaller notes (10,000 Yen for five 2,000 Yen notes; ~$100). However, when we couldn’t find one, we decided to just head to the Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium.

IMG_5385Exterior of the aquarium

My directions were, as usual, perfect. To be fair, it was extremely easy to get to. We arrived there at 10:25am and when I was paying for my ticket, the attendant asked where I was from. I think they just like figuring out where they get their tourism from. In any case, being that this was a Saturday, the place was pretty crowded with families and small children.

We slowly shuffled our way through the exhibits, but there was one main attraction I was there to see… the whale shark! To my knowledge, this aquarium is one of only two in the world that has a (technically two) whale shark(s) in captivity. The building was much larger than I thought it was but eventually we rounded a corner to find the main tank.

IMG_5419Whale Shark… nuff said

I saw a large group of people crowded at one window and then, there it was. I could not believe what I was seeing. I knew that the it would be big but nothing can prepare you for just how big and how majestic an animal like this will be. However, despite their size, the whale shark is notoriously gentle. I was a kid again, captivated by the sight of it. I would go so far as to say I took too many pictures of the whale sharks.

After exhausting everything there was to look at in the main tank, we made our way to the rest of the exhibits. The one that drew me in the most, besides the aforementioned whale shark was one we actually almost skipped because it looked too childish. As it turned out, it was an unofficial Finding Nemo exhibit.

IMG_5424The tank from Finding Nemo

It featured the fish from the movie but the best part was the replica tank/aquarium from P. Sherman’s dentist office at 42 Wallaby Way in Sydney. Not only did it have most of the fish from that tank (Peach (the starfish) and Bloat (the puffer fish) were missing), it also had the props like the volcano, the pirate ship, the tiki gods, the diver’s helmet and the treasure chest. #mybubbles

Eventually, we wrapped things up and made our way to Osaka Castle. Along the way Dan bought takoyaki and, despite it being too hot to consume in one bite as I tried to do, it was pretty tasty.

Osaka Castle/Osakajo Park

When we got off the train near Osaka Castle, we realized that it was located in the middle of Osakajo Park. Rather than make a beeline for the castle, we decided to stroll through the park and take in some of the sights. I’m glad we did because we ended up walking through some cool nature, seeing some cherry blossoms (part of the point of our trip), seeing locals barbecue, and a run in with an older gentleman named Kenji who told us about growing up in Osaka.

IMG_5454Osaka Castle with Cherry Blossoms

Eventually we made it to the castle. We decided to wait in line to get tickets to enter the museum/castle just as it started to lightly rain. Admission was only 600 Yen (about $5). We took the stairs (the line was shorter than the line for the elevator) up through the museum, to the top of the castle where we looked out over Osakajo Park. After looking around for a bit we regrouped and formed a plan.

I forgot to mention that on our way out of the park we saw a temple. It seemed very quiet but there were people gathered around the entrance. As we approached, we found that there was a traditional wedding ceremony taking place… pretty cool.

Shitennoji Shrine

We decide to go to the Shitennoji Shrine which ended up being aligned with the first four letters of the shrine’s name. Not for any reason other than the fast that it had started to rain again and was closing by the time we got there. Plus, going to this one meant we had to bail on the other, and probably cooler Nanbayasaka Shrine. Oh well. After that failure we were beyond starving so we searched for a ramen place and hopped on a train.

Ramen Place

For lunch/supper we went to a ramen place near Dotonbori. I was so hungry (I had been hungry since the castle) that anything would have been good, but this place was really good.  Tiny spot on the corner of a back alley, it felt like it was right out of Blade Runner.

IMG_5475Ramen place

After that we went back to Air BnB to take a break and regroup. This meant naps for Pete and Dan and writing today’s blog so far.

Because I knew we were so close to it and because it was on our “to do” list, I decided to go to Dotonbori. I tried a few times to wake up the guys by calling their respective names but neither responded. I sort of felt like I was in a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario.

Dotonbori

If I woke them they might be mad I did so but happy to join. If I didn’t they’d feel I’d left them out but be glad to have slept. I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and went by myself. I was glad I did because it meant I got to roam freely through the many streets and alleyways.

IMG_5493Dotonbori

This part of town is pretty hard to describe so I’m going to do it in stream of consciousness. River, neon, clubs, lots of people, covered shopping streets, arcades, restaurants, alleyways, fuck boys, escorts, red light district, traffic, sirens, late night, mayhem, vending machines.

I’m sure there’s more I could add but it was all really a blur. One thing I will point out is this vending machine I went to where I thought I was getting a can of chocolate milk and instead ended up with hot coco… from a vending machine… in a can!

I ended up having a good time and when I got back found myself “damned if you don’t” as Pete was pissed I hadn’t woken him up. Oh well.

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Boston to Tokyo to Osaka

It was late December of 2008 that I first took an international vacation by myself. I went with EF tours to London and Paris. While in Soho in London, I went to the Onitsuka Tiger boutique on Carnaby Street. There I purchased a pair of yellow and black Mexico 66’s reminiscent of the Tai Chi’s worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

At the time Onitsuka Tiger had a campaign called Made of Japan. The bag in which a got my shoes was a beautifully designed sneaker city of Tokyo. I think it was then that I realized I wanted to go to Japan.

I cut out a part of the screen printed brown paper bag and hung it on my wall. All it said was JAPAN. Now, nine years later, I’m on my way.

Thursday – April 6, 2017 – United States of America

Apartment to Sullivan Station (via bus; 10 min)

I left my apartment at 10:25am EST to catch the 89 Bus to Sullivan Station. According to my “Catch The Bus” app, I had 4 minutes until the bus was to arrive. knowing that it only takes me about a minute to get to the bus stop from my apartment, I took my time. However, as I rounded the corner onto Broadway, I saw that the bus was already at the stop. I ran and luckily the merciful bus driver waited for me. This was the first of several connections/forms of transportation I would have to take on what would be one of the longest days of my life.

Sullivan Station to Logan Airport (via subway (Orange line and Blue line) and shuttle bus; 40 min)

At Sullivan station I boarded the Orange line bound for Forrest Hills and took it to State Street. There I switched to the Blue Line. I took the Blue Line to Airport where I then boarded a shuttle to Terminal E. I arrived at the airport at 11:15am.

Logan Airport to Narita Airport (via JAL Boeing 787; ~14 hrs)

Once there, I checked in and got my boarding pass. After that I checked my phone and saw that the other guys weren’t far behind. A short while later I met up with Pete who then checked his bag. Then, after that we figured out that Dan was already making his way through security.

IMG_5364Japan Airlines B787 at Logan Airport

Pete and I followed suit. Apparently Thursdays at 11:40am isn’t a particularly busy time for Logan Airport’s International terminal, we basically just walked right through. After hashing a few things out, taking some pictures of the plane, using the restroom and grabbing food, it was time to board (1:00pm).

The boarding process was quick and hassle free. Our plane pushed back promptly at 1:20pm and after a short taxi to the runway, we were air-born. You don’t realize how cool all of the features of the B787 Dreamliner are until you get to experience them. The larger overhead compartments, the larger windows that dim rather than use a shade, the graceful flex of the carbon fibre composite wing once in flight.

I started the flight by listening to the latest episode of This Is Only A Test (Tested dot com’s podcast). Shortly after, or possibly right before the hour and 45 minute podcast ended, we were served our first meal. Dan and I (who were sitting next to each other) had the pork meal. Pete, who was sitting behind me, got the chicken. The meal was pretty big and pretty good, it filled all of us up.

IMG_5367Our first meal on the flight

After using the restroom and chatting with the guys for a bit, I started my first movie, the Academy Award Winning Best Picture -er sorry, that was the other one- La La Land. I don’t know if it was because I was on a plane or that I heard so much about it or that I had built it up too much but I only thought it was ok.

After the movie I stood and stretched for a bit, looked at maps, looked out the window, chatted with Pete and Dan, then watched the movie Allied, which was also only ok.This was then followed by a snack/meal service, more chatting, an episode of Star Wars Rebels, and a nap which was followed by our last proper meal of the flight.

An episode of Wheeler Dealers led us to a holding pattern where we made circles out over the ocean which ruined our initial estimate of an early (3:30pm instead of 4pm) arrival time. After a sketchy crosswind landing, we touched down at Narita Airport at 16:07 Japan time.

Friday – April 7, 2017 – Japan

One of my biggest fears upon landing at Narita was being able to get our JR Voucher converted to a JR Pass, book our Narita Express train from the airport to Tokyo and get to the bullet train on time, as well as getting our PASMO card and our Japanese SIM card all while making it on time to our various connections.

I assumed that our biggest hurdle would be going through customs but the whole process, including Pete having to collect his bag at baggage claim, only took around a half an hour. Once we got through and made our way out to the lobby, we then scrambled to find where to exchange our JR Pass Voucher for a usable JR Pass.

IMG_0930Dan, Pete and I getting off the plane

Eventually, after asking a few people, we found the JR Pass ticket booth. There, not only were we able to get our JR Pass, we also got our ticket for the Narita Express train (#42 which left at 17:47 just as I had researched) and our ticket/reserved seat for the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka (#529 which departed at 19:10, also as I expected).

After getting all that we went over to the PASMO machine to purchase a PASMO card. PASMO is one of many “IC Cards” one can choose from while in Japan. It is a subway tap-card that works in seemingly all subway stations and most busses, not just in Tokyo. After sorting out our PASSMO, Dan and I went in search of a SIM card.

We went back upstairs and, using Pete’s phone, figured out which retailers sold the specific SIM card he was looking for. As I looked around the airport, amazingly I saw one of the retailers from the website. This was the first of many times that, as a team, we figured out where we needed to go. We grabbed our SIM cards and, after collecting ourselves, made our way to the platform to board the Hogwarts, er, Narita Express.

Narita Airport to Tokyo Station (via N’EX train; 52 min)

We got to the platform in plenty of time and as I expected, the N’EX showed up at 17:47, right on schedule. The first thing you notice after entering the spaceship looking train, is that the ride is not only very quiet, but also incredibly smooth. Additionally, despite the fact that it was not a bullet train, the N’EX hauled ass doing probably 80 kph.

IMG_5372Narita Express Train

As we entered Tokyo, Pete pointed out to me the Tokyo Skytree, which he mistook for the Tokyo Tower. Even from a distance you could tell it was massive. It dwarfed everything else in sight. Eventually we arrived at Shinigawa station where after a bit of fevered confusion, made our connection to the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen.

Shinigawa Station to Shin Osaka Station (via Shinkansen aka bullet train; 3 hrs)

I don’t know what made me think this was a good idea, a 3+ hour train ride after already being subjected to ~14 hour flight and an ~hour long train ride. Regardless, we boarded the train, which again was perfectly on time, and began our journey.

IMG_5374Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka

The three of us were miserable. Despite the relatively comfortable seats, we were all exhausted but yet could not really fall asleep. Despite travelling at ~274 kph (about 160 mph) the train felt like it was taking forever. I felt like I was on Snowpiercer. Eventually however, we made it to Shin Osaka Station.

Shin Osaka Station to Nippombashi Station (via Subway; 20 min)

Our journey was nearly over. There were only two more subway trains to take. Once we got to the station, I pulled out my itinerary and, thanks to its through detail, as well as excellent sign spotting by Dan and Pete, we found our trains without a problem and before we knew it, we were at Nippombashi Station.

Nippombashi Station to Air BnB (via walking; 10 min)

IMG_5378View from the 14th floor balcony of our Air BnB

Thanks to my Google mapping before the trip, I knew not only what exit number to leave from (#10) but also exactly where to go once we got out. The walk was very straightforward and, with help from Pete, we figured out out the exact location of the Air BnB and how to get in it. Once we did, we got settled and then, after admiring our accomplishments, all went to bed.

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What I’m Watching

None of this is new. I’m not saying I discovered any of this. However, as was the case with the previous post, after seeing it, I knew I had to reccomend these next shows.

Abstract: The Art of Design – Netflix

Unlike most people, I try my best not to “binge watch” shows on Netflix; I like spreading things out. I try to pretend that the shows are weekly series, giving myself a start day -Monday for example- and making that my ‘day to watch that show.’

Abstract, appeals to me for a few different reasons. The first being that I really enjoy documentary series. The next being that since I am a student of design, I really enjoy and appreciate art and design in all of it’s facets. When you see a piece of good design, regardless of the discipline, it sticks with you. Watching shows like this always motivates me to go out and create more art, more design, more… whatever.

Hip-Hop Evolution – Netflix

This next show sat in my queue for a long time. Not because I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but because I wanted to find someone to watch it with. Eventually, I could wait no longer and decided to just put it on.

Though I’ve only seen one of the four episodes in this mini-series/documentary, I already love it. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest hip-hop connoisseur. I like the genre, but it’s not my go to for music to listen to. That said, I love hip-hop culture. I love streetware, graffiti, break dancing, the lot.

One of my favorite documentaries, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog, is called Style Wars, a graffiti documentary from the ’80s. Something about that old school New York rawness is really appealing to me. So far, at least in this first part, that is the same sort of vibe I’ve gotten from Hip-Hop Evolution.

The Grand Tour – Amazon Prime

This may be the most mainstream of all my recommendations so far. For those that don’t know, The Grand Tour is essentially a rebranded version of the BBC’s Top Gear. I’ll admit that I thought it was a bit over the top in terms of silliness vs car reviews. But, it’s still great to see these three working together on a motoring program again.

Other recommendations/what I’ve watched lately:

Paris Is Burning – Netflix

I forget where I first heard about this but I was maybe a year ago. Finally, when searching for something to watch on “the flix,” I found it. Paris Is Burning is a documentary about the drag scene in New York in the late ’80s.

Suited – HBO

I feel like I stumbled upon this one too. Suited is a documentary about a tailor shop in New York that specializes in making suits for transgender and gender non-conforming men and women.

Dave Chappelle Stand Up Specials – Netflix

Chappell is undisputed one of the kings of comedy. Netflix just released two stand up routines from Dave. I’ve only seen the first one so far, and though I didn’t think it was as good as Killin’ Them Softly or For What It’s Worth, I did really like it. Especially towards the end.

Chappell is the master of embedding an idea or a theme in his routine that you are subconsciously aware of when you’re watching it. And then, at the end, like a magician revealing his secrets, he hits a crescendo and sticks the landing.

Big Little Lies – HBO

This show is a guilty pleasure. I saw the ads for it and figured that generally speaking HBO doesn’t steer me wrong. I didn’t want to like it, but since it’s one of these, starts at the end and works it’s way back type of series, I knew after watching the first episode that, like it or not, I had to keep watching. The show is basically a soap opera but each episode is better and more confusing and I need to find out how it ends!

Girls – HBO

I’ve been with Girls since day one, episode one. C’mon, it’s the final season, you gotta watch it.

Last Week Tonight – HBO

Always solid. Nuff said.

Coming Soon

Archer: Season 8 – FXX

Archer has sort of gone down hill since they did all of the Archer Vice crap (in my humble opinion). However, I do look forward to seeing more of this show regardless. Plus, noir Archer could be dope. Archer Dreamland premiers on April 5th.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Netflix

This reboot of the 1990s cult classic is set to star Jonah Ray in the role he was born to play. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of the original MST3K (my dad loved it and he got me into it), however I really like Jonah Ray and I’m interested to see how it goes. All episodes available April 14th.

Silicon Valley: Season 4 – HBO

Despite the fact that the series feels the need to inexplicably reinvent itself (as a means to add drama?) I’m looking forward to more ridiculousness and more of the Pied Piper crew. Season 4 premiers on April 23rd.

Master of None: Season 2 – Netflix

Returning for season 2 on May 12th, Master of None was one of my favorite Nexflix shows of 2015. I look forward to finally having more and seeing what happens with the characters I love.

Stranger Things: Season 2 – Netflix

This is no surprise. Stranger Things is a show that captured the imagination of… well… a lot of people. As we speak, I am going back and watching Season 1 as a means of prepping for Season 2. Also, I wanted an excuse to watch it again. All episodes of Season 2 will be available this Halloween.

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Be Happy With Less

The other day my co-workers told me about a documentary on Netflix about the principles of minimalism. Not the art style minimalism, although that may indirectly apply, but the concept as a way of living.

Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things is a film that follows two guys, “The Minimalists,” who travel the US spreading the gospel of a minimalist lifestyle. The principals and ideologies they preach are ones I myself have already been trying to adopt.

I realized years ago that the possessions I coveted didn’t bring me happiness. There was the initial transitory pleasure of having something new, and then an immediate drop off of happiness that made me feel depressed.

Since then, I have really done my best to try and not buy things I don’t need. I try and think really hard if it is something I will really use and if not, it probably won’t make my life any more meaningful.

The movie is, I’ll admit, a bit preachy at times. The guys can have a bit of “crunchy” Hippy vibe. All of this may make you roll your eyes, nonetheless, the message is no less poignant and helped to reaffirm my belief in this way of life.

Additional info:

Fight Club Monologue

Fight Club Dialogue

Jay Austin – tiny house designer

Life Edited – minimalist interior design

Additional reading:

Everything That Remains

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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