Day Five: Sunday, March 3rd – The Jubilee Chapter
Woke up with the first really long sleep of this whole trip, clocking in at 9 hours. You don’t feel it too much when you’re in the moment, but your body really starts hurting once you get home, so look forward to it. I started the day at the small City Hunter Café in Shinjuku, grabbing myself an “Umibozu pancake” with a pretty tasty “XYZ” drink. I received two sets of City Hunter postcards, which was a nice bonus.
This café was tricky for me to find, considering it was the first non-guided “it’s on a different floor” venue I had to find on my own. It was in an entertainment-filled high-rise, and even a local Japanese girl had trouble navigating the floors. From accidentally bumping into a bowling alley to ending up at an arcade, it was a very educating experience!
I met up with Tim and Dan at Shinjuku station. On this cold, dreary and rainy day we would venture out to the distant land of Odaiba to experience an art exhibit unlike any other. It would end up being the toughest trip in terms of travel expenses, but we had been promised a ride on a super-cool, definitely amazing, and spectacular happy fun fun boat designed by Leiji Matsumoto himself as a (more expensive) alternative to get us to Odaiba’s “Borderless” exhibit.
Persevering through the rough and depressing rain, we met up with Walter Amos. During this trip our meetings had been short but generous. My impression of him was as a shy but well-meaning fellow with lots of history who I’d like to meet again in the future. We stocked up on some snacks at a local konbini and waited anxiously for the Emeraldas near Hinode pier. Our excitement welled up…soon to be replaced by disappointment as signs of trouble swept Tim’s confidence under the rug. The rain kept pouring down outside as we waited for the news… Emeraldas’ visit to this pier had been cancelled.
Instead, we boarded the recently-arrived Jubilee, a legendary boat with great history as a front-line combative assault frigate used by the Japanese during the cold war to defeat a local swordfish infestation. It had a rich history, a rugged but comfortable atmosphere, but most of all… it kicked Matsumoto’s crappy dinghy right out of the park! The best ten minutes of my entire Japan trip were had on this boat, making for some unforgettable memories: tasting my first steamed red soy-bean bun! Learning about Yamato-brand fire extinguishers! And my favorite, the childish and gleeful joy of sarcastically berating Tim Eldred.
Author’s note of importance: Sarcasm was had in this bit. But an Emeraldas ride was not. The steamed bun was great, though.
We arrived at Odaiba positively beaming with joy at the prospect of returning home on the Jubilee later. Ask Tim, he can confirm! Unfortunately, this wouldn’t come to pass. But we did enjoy a one-of-a-kind exhibit designed as a never-ending work of moving art. 3000 yen worth of spectral, ethereal beauty surrounded Dan and I, yet we spent most of the time separated from Tim and Walter, discussing the true nature of Heydom Gimleh’s character, questionable aspects of the 2199 timeline, and our varied interpretations of 2202’s ending. But I did in fact get the chance to enjoy the exhibit! Promise! We even had some beautiful artsy tea inside the aptly named “teahouse” section of the exhibit, and undeniably tasty even to Dan. (Who seemed to dislike green tea.)
It was definitely worth visiting. Some sights are not done justice from inside my poor camera lens.
Want a true highlight? A Wendy’s restaurant right outside the exhibit. As a Swedish citizen I’d never had Wendy’s before. This one treated me with a yummy helping of chicken nuggets, a melon soda and some of the tastiest fries I’ve ever had. All in my hands within two minutes. Splendid. However, the cold and dreary rain had yet to let up, so we headed to a Show-styled mall, recommended by Tim.
The Showa period lasted from 1926 to 1989. This means a Showa-style mall includes elements of a shopping center you’d experience in your childhood during the Showa era. Neat concept! We saw old arcade games, cute gift shops, works of art being crafted on the spot, and old-school gacha machines. It was a blast that we (Dan, Walter and I) wouldn’t have time to explore considering we had another reservation for Iserlohn Fortress. I didn’t go back for the free drink coasters… I did it to escape the Jubilee.
Now, I can’t for the love of me remember how engaged these two friends were with Legend of Galactic Heroes, but they were eager to see the restaurant at least once after much pestering from me online. Once there, I ordered the same things as last time, a Yang Wenli brandy and a Marika von Feuerbach ice cream dessert. No dinner was needed, considering Wendy’s had already filled my stomach.
I finally had the chance to talk to both Dan and Walter, having a great time being both educative and educated in space anime knowledge. We took some pictures of the place, I got a brunhild pin from a gacha machine, and then I cornered myself into buying an Iserlohn fortress t-shirt.
Satisfied, We began our return trip home. After a group photo, Walter took a left to reach his train after we said our goodbyes for this trip. Dan and I returned to Shinjuku, taking another photo to celebrate our friendship before parting. Among all the photos I took during the trip, it’s these that fill me with a tremendous feeling of joy. I had met like-minded, fun people who I cared for, and they showed compassion right back. I’ll miss them all.
Daniel George and Walter Amos
Being unusually alert and awake after such a long day, I decided to make one last daring move; I’d go to the midnight screenings of City Hunter and Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel II at the Wald 9 theater in Shinjuku. It was a two-movie extravaganza beginning at 12:15am and ending after 4am. And it was worth it. Both movies were even better the second time, and I even received more impressive souvenirs this time around. After the EJ Anime theatre, the Wald 9 was probably the second comfiest of all cinemas I visited. I even got some tasty theme-drinks for HF II. Great stuff.
Midnight screenings have far fewer visitors than I expected, so if you want some privacy when watching movies in Japan, do try them out.
Leaving the theater, I thought about how this trip of mine was coming to an end. Thinking about the friends I’ve made. Thinking about what incredible luck I must have to deserve this. And also about my Japanese skills, continually improving with each movie and conversation. Heck, this time around I even understood the City Hunter movie in its entirety, it felt wonderful!
Day Six: Monday, March 4th
Third Cake’s the Charm Chapter
Considering when I got to bed, 6-7 hours of sleep wasn’t too bad. First plan of the day: Heading for Nakano to the ufotable cafe. How did this work out? I traveled to Nakano station for 30 minutes, walked through the cold, rain-filled & damp streets for 20 minutes and finally found it. ufotable is an anime studio credited for critically acclaimed productions such as Kara no Kyoukai, Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, Heaven’s Feel I, II & soon 3, the upcoming Kemono no Yaiba, Tales of Zestiria, etc. Being a big fan of Type-Moon and ufotable’s Type-Moon adaptations in particular, I couldn’t wait!
Instead, I was met with my biggest disappointment since the Jubilee. They were closed on this particular day due to what I could assess as being “National Greenery Day.” A huge letdown for me, who was looking forward to their Heaven’s Feel 2-themed menus. Maybe I’ll get the chance on my return trip.
Heading back, I took a short break and brunch at the Akihabara Gundam cafe. Being a huge fan of Gundam, this café was another disappointment for me. Not because of the food, but the mainstreamed look and feel of the place. They had menus filled with obscure Gundam trivia, one of the kindest english speaking staff members, and a Gundam-style toilet, but something just felt missing. Maybe the lack of retro Gundam stuff (aside from the standard Zaku) left me with a bitter taste. Or it was just my bitter resentment over this being a mere substitute for what I was actually aiming for that day? Nevertheless, the food was terrific! I regret not asking for the waitress’ contact information since she seemed like a fun person to have as a friend. Oh well.
Disappointments behind me, my biggest goal was to spend this day with my all-time best friend Sayuri-chan. Having known her for many years, I’d had the chance to be a reliable friend for her in cold and dreary Sweden. We lived far from each other, but met up for conventions and I always made sure to call. It had been three years since we last met, and I was stoked to spend the rest of the day with her (and later her kind-hearted husband Takeuchi-san!)
Sayuri told me she’d be late, so I decided to search out gifts for friends while in Akihabara, a place I’d gotten only a small glimpse of before now. I found some cute charms, artwork, and did some enjoyable impulse-shopping. Sweden is a very expensive country to live in, so impulse-shopping for me is very rare, especially considering the huge deficit in otaku-related goods. And I hadn’t even capitalized on Akihabara yet. Shame on me.
If you’re going to visit a northern European country to experience culture and beauty, I’d recommend Estonia. It has some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, comparable even to the Japanese. And beautiful sights, impossible to describe in words. When I grow up I want to live out my pension there. Or in Japan.
Sayuri-chan finally met up with me and it was beyond satisfying. After missing her for the last few years, the emotions took over and I gave her a bear hug, which she received without issue. She took me to many shops in Ikebukuro, where I found more gifts and even a Kizuna Ai shop. We then hung out at the Dororo cafe, a cozy little place with some neat props and merch from the series.
Dororo is an Osamu Tezuka manga with a previous anime adaptation from the 1960’s and a live-action movie from 2007. It was now being remade into a 24 episode TV series. So far I think it’s done the manga great justice, and it definitely carries some rad retro vibes. If you like historical fiction using the samurai-infested Edo period as a backdrop with elements of youkai, action and intriguing character work, give it a try!
A display of animation layouts from the new Dororo series
After impulse-shopping for hours at Cospa, Animate, Mandarake, the Kizuna Ai K-books shop, etc. we went to meet Sayuri-chan’s husband for tonkatsu ramen dinner. This meant I’d miss my own sendoff dinner with Tim and the rest of the gang, but they understood that this was like meeting a beloved family member after years of separation. It couldn’t be missed.
A display of music and videos from FATE
Takeuchi-san treated me to dinner, which I accepted on the condition of cooking Mapo Tofu for him when I return in April. He heartily agreed with a reassuring smile. However, seeing the Japanese chef work his magic as Takeuchi-san narrated was an eye-opening experience. It would be my first and only visit to a ramen restaurant for this trip, and I’m definitely sure to return. There’s something about the aesthetic of a small but active bit of space, where you’re close to the chef and his craft, which immediately enhances the food’s flavor.
I’ve been trying to get into cooking for the last few years. My favorite food (thanks to a certain Fate/ franchise) ended up being Mapo Tofu, eaten by Kotomine Kirei in the third Fate/Stay Night visual novel. It gave me physical pains due to the extreme spiciness, but it got me hooked. I’ve been trying to perfect my own recipe over the last 4-5 years, so if you’re ever into trying my greatest creation, feel free to ask! I just hope Takeuchi-san is prepared. (At least Sayuri-chan likes spicy food.)
Takeuchi-san guided me to the EJ anime theatre to rewatch the Saga of Tanya the Evil (Youjo Senki) movie. We arrived at the right floor and said goodbye. Promising to meet many more times during my April/May trip, I felt my heart tighten a bit. I just realized tomorrow was my day to return home. Weird to think about, because now I didn’t want to go. Even if it was nicer on the wallet, it gave me a stab to the heart. Damn you, inconvenient emotions! If only the Ark of Destruction could be conveniently activated, I thought to myself, hugging those two loveable friends of mine.
There was about an hour left until the movie, so I sat down in the Tanya café to eat some delicious cake one more time. Or maybe two. Or three. Almost three, dammit! Had I eaten a third slice of cake, I would have completed my set of five collectible art boards of character designs from the movie & TV Series! Oh well. The café closed down, last time I’d get to see it in all its glory, since it was there for a limited time.
Only cash payments were possible at the café, but at this point I had run out of most of my planned funds. My kind-hearted service lady offered directions to a nearby ATM, so I rushed there and withdrew the minimum amount of a 10000 yen bill (about $85 US). I spent most of it in the café as a last-ditch effort to indulge in luxury, thinking “Once in a lifetime, amiright?” Ah… next Japan trip is gonna hurt.
The movie, just like the rest of the films I rewatched, was even better this time around. It made me think, “Man, if they get some 4DX screenings set up for April, I’d love to see it again!” Which they did. Shortly after I returned home. Same with Heaven’s Feel II. Sometimes I’m astounded by my luck. Getting to watch four of my most anticipated flicks in Japan within a one-week time span was lucky enough. Now this?! Mark my words, I have become a believer of Being X!
Being X is the supposed “God” of the Youjo Senki Universe. He is called “Being X” because Tanya, the main protagonist, refuses to acknowledge the existance of God. Yes, I just explained a joke. Yes, I’m aware this makes me an awful human being.
The day ended with me packing my bags as tightly and carefully as possible for the next two hours so that everything was perfectly in order. I went to bed at about 3:30am and woke up around 6:30. Don’t do this unless you’re crazy. Sleep before a long journey is majorly important. One final thing I can add is that despite the kind and accommodating staff, I’d still recommend a hotel over a hostel. I had to stay here since I booked my trip at the last minute. But those of you with more time to plan…heed this advice.
My view all the way home
Day Seven: Tuesday, March 5th – A Never Ending Journey Chapter
The last day is probably the least interesting to write about, so I’ll get the boring stuff out of the way real quick: last minute packing, morning prep, tracked down the service manager (who was showering at a very inconvenient time), got to Shinjuku station, caught the Narita Express after rushing like a fool, had a well-earned nap on the train. Another tip: don’t buy cheap fake melon-cream bread. It will severely disappoint and nauseate you (especially if you skip breakfast beforehand).
I recommend getting your return tickets to Narita upon your arrival, btw. I ALSO recommend following the damn instructions instead of making yourself into a fool like me. When you buy it, you need to specify when you will use it. I was dumb enough to not even read that on the ticket.
Arriving at Narita, I had some tasty Niku-don with melon soda, then proceeded through the customs procedure. Here I also made a mistake: confusing the flight boarding time with final boarding time. So I rushed like a madman, wasting energy on a body already deprived of sleep. Upon boarding my flight, I was greeted in English by a Japanese staff member. I responded in Japanese, earning a hearty laugh and the response: “ah your Japanese is very good! Great!” Japanese hospitality is amazing.
End Message: An Ode to the future
As I’m writing this, many thoughts are swirling. Is this just a work of fiction made up in my head? Did this trip really happen? Am I really this lucky? Yes. Yes I am, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s important to never lose sight of your aspirations and dreams, even when you’re at your lowest point. This travelogue of mine may not be what you were expecting. A microcosm comparable to 2202 itself, something new and hard to grasp. But maybe one day you will come to understand and accept me. It seems a lot of people in this fandom certainly have, and I am indebted to them in ways I can’t describe. It might be a feeling similar to… well, love.
What I felt on this trip was a loving, caring and heartfelt reminder that humanity is still strong in spirit. We are weak, fragile and we make mistakes. But at least we’re not machines. We have differences of opinion, different outlooks on life, different persuasions and truths. But there is only one reality. And that reality says that we, the soldiers of love, have returned home from the great harmonious country of Japan to deliver a message:
“Be brave enough to board the Jubilee.”
Illustration by Tomato
Now for the actual message. I’d like to quote one of my greatest inspirations in life, and hopefully his words will resonate with you as much as they have for me. To all my friends of different countries and origins, I thank thee for this beautiful experience. Hopefully I’ll see some of you during my April/May trip, and maybe some of us can even pull together a smaller Yamatour later this year to see the new Yamato concert. Whatever the case, we’ll definitely band up for the next Yamato project.
Long-winded but rich in detail, I’ll end with these two quotes from one of the creators of Space Battleship Yamato himself: Yoshinobu Nishizaki.
“Whenever you think of Yamato, always remember that true happiness results from giving happiness to others.”
– Farewell to Yamato
“One story has come to an end. But the Universe Remains Unchanged. No one’s alone. There must be someone to connect with, somewhere nearby. Knowing that is what it means to love. But sometimes we lose sight of such a connection. Lack of love makes no one happy.”
– Yamato 2
Thank you everyone. Sincerely, thank you.