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lexomatic
14 May 2017 @ 10:57 pm
When superfan Tim Eldred announced Yamatour 2017 on the Facebook group I jumped at the chance, as his detailed coverage of previous editions had been so enticing. The plan that eventually evolved wasn't so much a group tour as a set of individual tourists who coalesced at certain key points, most notably the movie's premiere on Saturday, 25 February 2017 -- a date with the minor drawback that it's hardly the best season to see Tokyo, and indeed, the weather was usually cold, overcast, windy and drizzling.

This would be my fourth trip to Japan (August 2007 Worldcon, September 2014 Hal-Con, October 2015 in a four-country trip) and Tim's tenth. Tim's priority has been to build a complete set of Yamato artifacts, but I'm more of an experiential traveler. When planning a vacation, I will whenever practical pick a new airline and new layover airports; on the ground, I seek out museums but am always ready for serendipity to be my guide, and my shopping goals are picture postcards, Christmas gifts and samples of modular building toys. To misquote the second Doctor, "I am not a fan of Space Battleship Yamato. I am a fan of a much wider academy, of which Yamato is only a part."

(Background: The anime TV series Uchuu Senkan Yamato (1974) and its sequels are largely responsible for inspiring anime fandom in Japan, and its U.S. adaptation Star Blazers (1980) similarly excited American fans. In 2012 it was rebooted as Space Battleship Yamato 2199, and it's now getting a second season, Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Soldiers of Love. Tim Eldred, comic book artist and now a director at Disney Television Animation, has for the past decade authored a fan site, Cosmo DNA, and moderated an associated Facebook group.)

The following account is written in present tense for simplicity and immediacy. There are 15 images, which you may click to open at a larger size. I include daily cross-references to Tim's accounts on Cosmo DNA.
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Current Location: Tokyo, Japan
 
 
lexomatic
Located on the northeast corner of Ueno Park (the closest thing Tokyo has to the National Mall in Washington, DC), the National Museum of Nature and Science is recognizable by the steam locomotive and whale outside. It's divided into two sections: the Japan Gallery (old building, four floors) which examines the development of Japan (geology, flora and fauna, anthropology, select technologies) and the Global Gallery (new building, six floors) with exhibits on chemistry, minerals, paleontology, the breadth of life, more Japanese tech, and zoology. General admission is 620 yen, and there are donation boxes alongside select exhibits. The focus is largely on Japanese nature and tech, and the topics and explanations are very detailed.

(Note: I am posting this entry on Friday but dating it as of the event described.)

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Current Location: Ueno, Tokyo
 
 
lexomatic
Japan Airlines flight JL 7, using a B787-900, from BOS to NRT on February 19, was uneventful until bad weather in Tokyo forced five hours of delay in holding patterns, aborted approaches, and a temporary diversion to Nagoya. The "Sky Wider II" seats were roomy, meals well-presented and snacks plentiful, and service attentive.

(Note: I am posting this on Friday but dating it as of the event described, on Monday.)

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Current Location: Narita, Japan
 
 
lexomatic
20 February 2017 @ 10:30 pm
Due to severe weather, many flights arriving at Tokyo Narita International Airport on Monday, February 20 were delayed by several hours; hence, arriving passengers missed their air connections or rail transit to Tokyo. The airport attempted to process all immigrants expeditiously, and provided sleeping bags to those stranded ("overnighting passengers"), but otherwise seemed clueless about how to keep people informed about disrupted options.

(Note: I am posting this on Friday but it is dated as of the event on Monday-Tuesday).

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lexomatic
19 October 2015 @ 08:23 am
Ocean Park is (according to the Big Bus tour narration) Hong Kong's most popular amusement park, with five million visitors a year. (Hong Kong Disneyland is number two.) Located on the south side of Hong Kong Island, it's divided into two parts; most of the rides (several roller coasters, other carnival-style rides, and midways) are on the coastal slope of a mountain, and are reached by funicular railway tunnel (the most themed part of the park) or by ropeway. There is a lot of vertical movement, mostly by sloped roadway or escalator, but also by stairs; several exhibits are decidedly not wheel-accessible.

Like Seaworld, it combines wildlife exhibits (a main aquarium, polar animals, sharks, rainforest, pandas) and shows (sea lions, dolphins) with amusement. The scientific placards are very good (not that I saw many people reading them), and are trilingual: English, Chinese, and Simplified Chinese. Ocean Park has active breeding and conservation programs, and the number of signs alluding to climate change might be shocking to an American audience; others were specific to Hong Kong (e.g., why shark fin harvesting is bad).

The park is open until 11:00 pm (the light-spangled carnival rides are well-suited) and appears to have enough light stanchions to support this.

During October the park runs Halloween-themed events and decoration. Putting plastic skeletons in the tarantula enclosure, and pumpkins around the shark tank, is a bit much.
 
 
 
lexomatic
19 October 2015 @ 07:14 am
Generally the same setup as Singapore -- same rolling stock, same full-height platform doors, same exit/board arrow signage on the floors, same use of multimodal stored-value IC cards (the "Octopus" card). However, because Hong Kong is mountainous, the escalators to the surface are much longer; and the passageways between exits and the platform, or between interconnected stations, contain horizontal conveyors for part of their length. This applies only to the Island line, which runs east-west across the urbanized northern coast of Hong Kong Island; I haven't had reason to use any other. (Most of the lines spread across the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, north of Hong Kong Island.)

An extension to Ocean Park, Hong Kong's most popular amusement park, located on the southern coast of the island and currently served by bus via Aberdeen Tunnel, is under construction.
 
 
lexomatic
16 October 2015 @ 07:21 am
Singapore's public transit consists of subway, surface light rail, and buses. The subway has five lines. Stations are air-conditioned; signage is extensive, multilingual and generally clear; service is fast; the trains are articulated, clean, and crowded.

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lexomatic
14 October 2015 @ 09:58 am
I had an unplanned stay at the ANA Crowne Plaza Narita hotel, one of many hotels located around Narita International Airport, in the forested hinterlands of Narita City. At night it's very dark, and after the air traffic ends, very quiet.

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lexomatic
14 October 2015 @ 06:01 am
The Tokyo megalopolis is threaded by dozens of rail lines and hundreds of stations, but it's not a unified system. If you go with paper maps, you will need at least two of them; you will also want to plan ahead -- for which exits are best for your destination; if you're limited to stairs, especially at interchanges; whether the route is covered by a tourist ticket.

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lexomatic
12 October 2015 @ 06:36 am
NHK is the Japanese national radio and TV broadcaster, its BBC, known for news, educational programming, historical costume dramas, and a world service. Its mascot is Domo, a brown furry block with a gaping maw.

The Studio Park at the NHK Broadcasting Center is located 15 minutes north of JR Shibuya Station (Hachiko Exit) (which is up a hill) or 10 minutes west of the Harajuku (JR and Tokyo Metro) stations, adjacent to Yoyogi Park and Yoyogi National Gymnasium. Admission is normally 200 JPY, but I happened to arrive on Free Admission weekend, which also had sports activities underway outside (possibly related to tomorrow's national holiday, Sports and Fitness Day). There is a snack corner (outfitted with Domo-themed furniture and videos), gift shop and restaurant. Photography is generally prohibited.

The tour has 17 numbered stations reticulated across two floors, including electronic quizzes, theaters, and prop displays. There are English-language pamphlets, and all of the displays are profusely labeled, but aside from a few section titles (why would you bother with a lone "Drama Archives" nameplate on a video monitor in a cabinet?), it's all in Japanese, and it's generally designed for small children. There are three hands-on activities (animation dubbing studio, news studio, and audio/video editing) and an opportunity to remote-operate cameras as though you're a wildlife videographer (left-right-up-down-zoom). As a foreign visitor, you're probably not familiar with the TV shows depicted -- live-action, stop-motion or cel-animated. (There is one display that mentioned NHK World, but none of its shows or talent specifically.)

The first exhibit, in the ticket lobby, is an "8K Super Hi-Vision" video wall, tiled from 36 large flatscreen monitors; when I arrived, it was showing footage of the Takarazuka Review (an all-female performance troupe -- you might call them Vegas-style for their flashy costumes and staging, except they predate Las Vegas by several decades). The detail and dynamic range were impressive, although not much more so than the best consumer TV sets you'll see in stores nowadays.