A few months back I was asked to help out with a fascinating project. I'm not allowed to say what I was doing or who I was working for and the results may never see the light of day, but suffice it to say, it was awesome. There's nothing keeping me from talking about where we went or what we did on our down time though, so here's the story.
It all started in June when I got a call from my friend _________ who asked me if I could create a _____ based on the ______ series of ______.
"Sure," says I, "I can make anything."
He went on to explain that it would end up being a pretty high profile bunch of _______ and that senior executives from ___________, the owners of the intellectual property, would have to see the _______ and sign off on it before the project could move forward. We spent some time discussing budgets and deadlines and everything was good to go.
Over the next month there was a lot of back and forth while the details were sorted out. For a little while it looked like the whole thing wasn't going to happen. Then someone else was lined up to do the build, then they begged their way out making the _______ parts of it. That seemed like the easy part to me and somehow I ended up with the ________-making gig.
The fun part was that once my parts were put together, I would have to travel to Japan to make sure everything worked out. The only drawback? Shawnon's break in between semesters happened to coincide with the trip. Fortunately, I would be allowed to take her along.
I won't bore you with the details of the build (which I'm not allowed to post about), but after a very rushed bit of fabrication, Shawnon arrived in town. Since time was already running short and I had at least five other projects in progress, she went right to work on this one:
I can't stress enough how vital Shawnon was for this project:
After a lot of hours putting together multiple versions of the ___________, we were finally ready to hop on a plane. Nine or ten hours later, we were in Tokyo:
The folks from __________ met us at the airport and, after a brief meeting, we were all checked in to our hotel room in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Here's the view from the hotel room:
The view inside the hotel room was better, but Shawnon would murder me pretty thoroughly if those pictures found there way to the internets.
The first day of work was fairly short and we ended up having all evening to explore the area in and around the hotel. The first thing we did was wander into a toy store:
On the way, we passed the local Hooters:
Here's a random alley we found on the way to dinner that night:
After a bit of wandering, we found our way into the store across the street from the hotel:
This place was a sort of Japanese Wal-Mart. The interior was aisle after claustrophobic aisle overflowing with every manner of thing a corporate entity could ever try to sell. Being Japanese, the food section was uniquely intriguing/horrifying:
Octopus on a stick. Just another thing I'll never know I always wanted:
We found the cancake sauce, but never did we venture to find any actual cancakes:
After we'd spend a long day in the studio ________ the ________ for the ________, we had another day off to wander the city. Along the way we found a gorgeous aquarium in front of the SONY shop:
We also found a pet store that was selling the most adorable little turtles. This guy was just under two inches long:
And of course, the beetles:
After a long day of sightseeing and shopping we ended up back at the hotel. Then, after a long night of __________ and _________ where we _________ a lot, I was disappointed to wake up and finally realize that there was no coffee maker in the room. Instead, they had these adorable little single-use coffee maker packets:
We had a completely computer-controlled toilet seat in the hotel bathroom. You'd think they'd have installed a robot Barista to make coffee somehow.
The next time we had some time off, we ended up in the Akihabara district:
Akihabara is also referred to as the "electronics district." Apparently it's geek central:
This is where you go to find all of your anime and video game collectible stuffs:
It's also the hub where you find all of the "maid cafes" where you can pay top dollar to have your dinner served by underage girls dressed in maid costumes:
We ended up stopping in a few toy stores and at least three bar/restaurant type places before we'd had enough for the night:
The view was better in the hotel room anyway:
The next time we had an actual day off, we ended up going to Tokyo Disneyland. The folks at the front desk of the hotel said it was just a quick trip on the train. Which is no big deal...
...once you figure out the map:
The red arrow means "you are here." Being "here" is a lot like being lost.
Still, after a bit of translation assistance from a very helpful passer-by, we manage to buy a ticket with the right combination of hieroglyphics on it and we were on our way. We managed to transfer trains in the right place and ended up winning the day:
The stroll from the train station to the actual park was overwhelmingly Disney:
The main entrance is significantly more grand than the original Disneyland in Anaheim:
The castle is also a lot more impressive:
The main features and the layout of the park are very much akin to Disneyland in California. Since we've been there quite a few times, we tried to focus mostly on the things that made it unique. Here's Shawnon in front of some of the countless paper lanterns that were hanging in the gardens in front of the castle:
I'm a huge fan of the castle:
We actually spent much of our day in and around this building:
The Lady Shawnon looked great:
By contrast, I mostly just looked goofy:
Since we were in Cinderella's castle, Shawnon had to try on the glass slipper:
The local's loved that.
We also strolled through Toon Town:
And took a ride on Star Tours:
Finally, because it was another uniquely local thing, we got ourselves some soy flavored popcorn:
By that time it had gotten pretty late:
And it was time to catch the train back to the hotel:
The next day we were back in the _______ to ________ more ________. I was wearing one of my T&A Workshop t-shirts. Occasionally I've had someone caution me that my shop logo might cause someone to get offended somehow. I don't see why. Especially after I met this guy in a much more interesting shirt:
The next time we had a day off, we hopped back on the train and made the trip over to Takeshita Dori:
This is a crowded little walking street riddled with every kind of shop and eatery you could possibly want to find:
Along the way, I spotted my favorite bit of "Engrish" on a t-shirt:
We also strolled past a local shrine that we forgot to go back and check out more thoroughly:
Just before lunch we wandered into a shop called Toysapiens, the flagship store for Hot Toys, a high-end collectibles company. It was a lot of fun:
I opted not to buy the full-scale Kenner action figure stormtrooper:
And unfortunately, these guys wouldn't fit in our luggage:
But I still picked up more toys than I should have:
But not quite as much as I wanted to:
Shawnon picked up quite a few things too:
That night, our hosts took us out for dinner, drinks, and karaoke. Shawnon had asked about trying sukiyaki, so that ended up being the first stop:
The meal consisted of several courses:
The main course was all sorts of savory things which we cooked right there in the middle of the table:
The last step was to dip the cooked goodness into a raw egg before eating it:
After a bit more drinking, we all wandered over to a local club and got a private karaoke room where we could sing and drink to our hearts' content. After hours of carrying on, Shawnon and I went back at the hotel for one more night of _______ and ________ while she _________ and I ________ against the window with the Tokyo skyline twinkling all around. It was a fitting end to a wonderful trip.
The next thing we knew, we back on a plane and leaving the Land of the Rising Sun behind in favor of a return to our daily grind. Everything worked out to be a huge success and I owe almost all of it to Shawnon I could never have pulled it all together without her.
Still, I have a strange way of finding my way back to Japan for all sorts of reasons, so I'm certain I will return.