Yamatour 2014 Travelogue, Part 2

Back up to Part 1

Monday, December 8

Reunited with Daniel George back in Tokyo, we started the day with our second viewing of Ark of the Stars at the Shinjuku Piccadilly. The weather in general was slightly warmer than the forecasts predicted, so I was able to lighten my daywear…and honor a lost crewman in the bargain.

As regular Cosmo DNA readers know, I flew to Seattle in February to visit Edward Hawkins. His failing health had put him on a countdown to hospice treatment, and chances to see him were narrowing. Happily, I was able to record a few hours of conversation, which can be heard here. But there was another task at hand: helping him to catalog his remaining collection for redistribution after his passing. It began with that February visit and we tragically lost Edward in April when he checked into a hospital for the last time.

When I went back to Seattle in June to help his wife Kelly continue the project (which is still underway as I write this in December), she gifted me with something special – a UNCF Cosmo Force rain jacket that she’d bought Ed for his birthday. Fate decided it was a birthday he wouldn’t live to see, so now Kelly wanted me to have it. If fate had decided differently, I think I could have talked Ed into coming along on this trip. I certainly would have tried my best.

Long story short (yeah, I know, too late) this was the day I finally unwrapped the jacket and wore it in his honor for the rest of the week. As I put it on, I recalled forbidding both Edward and Derek Wakefield to clock out before seeing the new movie. I wouldn’t be fair for the rest of us to sit through it with thoughts like, “___ will never see this one.” But now that is our burden. At least Ed’s jacket got to see it.

The second viewing was much better than the first, since Roger and I weren’t still battling jet lag. We both saw scenes we didn’t remember from 48 hours earlier, which told us when we must have nodded off. (It doesn’t help that these theaters aren’t properly air-conditioned, and the warmth tricks your body into thinking you’re snug in bed.) Anyway, all the pieces of the story fit into place and Ark proved itself as good as any episode of 2199.

Spotted at Mandarake in Nakano: original Captain Okita layout and the ultra-rare Franklin Mint pewter Yamato.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the unsurpassable Nakano Broadway mall, world headquarters of the mighty Mandarake, world’s largest source of second-hand otaku swag. There are at least a dozen Mandarake stores in Broadway, each with its own specialty, and a good dozen similar stores besides. Before I ever went to Japan I dreamed of stores like Mandarake, but the real place is even weirder. Even if you find nothing to buy, you are guaranteed to see something you never imagined. It could be a museum.

Speaking of which, the rest of the day was filled up with our first-ever pilgrimage to the Studio Ghibli Museum in the outer suburb of Mitaka. It’s easy to get to, just a few stops on the Chuo line past Nakano, and then a 10-minute ride on the Ghibli cat bus (not the furry one). Others have written plenty about the museum, so the only thing I’ll add is that it’s the most charming and magical place I’ve ever f**king seen. And your chances of getting inside are exponentially better if you have a friend in Japan who can get tickets for you. The overseas ticket service sells out months in advance.

See the December 8 photojournal here.

Tuesday, December 9

This day was quite the whirlwind, meaning we spent most of it traveling in a circle. The JR Yamanote train line makes a big loop around metro Tokyo. A woman who grew up there once told me she and her friends would spend entire Saturdays riding the loop and reading manga. For all I know, such things still go on today.

Starting at our home base in Shinjuku (at the 9 o’clock position on the loop), Daniel, Roger and I headed up to Ikebukuro (11 o’clock) for today’s movie – the first compilation film for Attack on Titan.

It was playing at a somewhat-past-its-prime theater called the Cinema Sunshine, and bundles up the first 13 episodes into two hours and change. We’d all sampled a little of the TV anime, so this was a chance to take a big gulp. Thanks to the manga, I had no trouble following the story, but this may not be the best way to absorb it. By definition, a compilation film contains the most important scenes, and in this case they’re the most intense. What you end up with is two-plus hours of intense, angst-filled scenes without a break, which is pretty exhausting. But the animation holds up so well you’d think it was made for the big screen.

A followup trailer announced another film to come in 2015 (eps 14-26) and the second TV series in 2016. Between that, the live-action film, and the Marvel Comics crossover, there will be no shortage of Titans upon which to attack.

Moving on to Akihabara (2 o’clock position) we stopped for lunch at Maru Go – touted in previous Yamatours as the best tonkatsu restaurant on Earth. It still holds the lead with ease. Everyone reading this is REQUIRED to eat there if you visit Tokyo, or else.

Onward to Shimbashi station (4 o’clock position), we hopped over to the Yurikamome line for Hinode Pier, with the goal of boating across the bay to our next destination, Odaiba island. And not just any boat – we were looking for Leiji Matsumoto’s space-age waterbus Himiko (last seen in Yamatour 2009 spring), which has been recently joined by a sister ship named Hotaluna. Either would be fine. Even better, one going out and the other coming back. Alas, Himiko was out for maintenance and Hotaluna‘s schedule would have wrecked our day. So…next time.

Anyway, getting to Odaiba was easy. We just continued on the Yurikamome line across Rainbow Bridge over the bay and hopped off at Diver City mall where Gundam stands tall.

Just about every anime fan who’s been to Tokyo has seen the 1/1 Gundam statue by now, and it’s always impressive even if you’re not a Gundam fan. (Roger isn’t one, and even he had it on his short list.) But every time the subject of Gundam Front is brought up on Facebook or wherever, it seems someone didn’t know about that part of it – the Gundam-themed pavillion inside Diver City Mall.

Gundam Front continues and enhances the experience that starts outside, with a 180-degree dome movie that swirls around your head and several interior rooms with art, models, and more. And even if you’ve been to it, it’s worth revisiting – I’ve been inside three times now (each a little over a year apart) and there’s been something new each time. The movie changes slightly, and a second one was added this year for the 35th anniversary. Another standout was 2013’s 1/100 White Base model (see it here), which was replaced this year by human-size Gundam, Guntank, and Guncannon figures.

Afterward we completed the Yamanote circle, regrouped, and shot back out to Nakano for a cozy okonomiyaki dinner with Sonchori Ha, the mighty Cat Hands Agent himself. This is where I want to plug his services, which are open to all who hunger for the hard-to-get treasures you regularly hear about in the 2199 reports. Sonchori will bid, order, receive, pack, and ship whatever you’re after. He’s got clients all over the world, and I’ve been a steady once since 2006. Visit his website here, your gateway from coveting to acquiring.

As you may have noticed, there wasn’t a whole lot of Yamato to report on today. That changed big time the next day.

See the December 9 photojournal here.

Wednesday, December 10

Today we took an expedition into unknown territory. Step 1 was to puzzle out a previously-untried train line.

There are several lines that serve different parts of Tokyo, owned and operated by different companies. Chief among these is the JR line, but there are also the subways and a host of others. The Odakyu line is based in the Odakyu department store in Shinjuku, and its many stations (one of which, incidentally, is named Yamato) serve the suburbs to the southwest. The station in our sights was in a town named Ebina.

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking (for me, anyway) to step off the familiar umbilical of the JR system, since you never quite know what you’re in for. I’m still haunted by that wrong step Andrea Controzzi and I took back in spring 2009 that shot us past our destination and into a region devoid of English. I especially didn’t want a repeat of that today, since Daniel George was headed back home to Australia in the afternoon. But when I asked him if an expedition outside Tokyo on his last morning made him nervous, he wasn’t phased at all. (Nothing short of an earthquake could have rattled him by this time.)

To my relief, the Odakyu line presented no obstacles at all. If anything, it was simpler than the JR network since we were starting from a terminus and English was plentiful. Besides, the stations all had numbers, so we would have been fine even without English. From door to train car was less than 10 minutes. And what were we headed for? A Yamato 2199 Art Exhibition.

This is the exhibition that launched in April (read about the opening here) and traveled from city to city throughout the summer. I thought for sure it would return to Tokyo for the Ark premiere, but weeks went by with no such announcement. Instead, a “satellite gallery” version was trumpeted just about a week before our launch, at a Marui department store in Ebina. Google Earth showed me where it was and the Odakyu website told me how to get there. So at least we could get a taste.

After a little under an hour, we stepped out into a wide shopping plaza that exactly matched my reference photos, but no sign of anything 2199-related was immediately apparent. I knew we had to find an event space on the 2nd floor of Marui, but no such thing turned up on a floor map. On the other hand, a Toho Cinema was close by. Thinking it was probably showing the film, we took a look inside. Sure enough, they had Ark, and a sign for the exhibition greeted us just inside the door.

Naturally, we had to eyeball the theater merch before moving on. There wasn’t as much as we saw at Shinjuku Piccadilly (no copies of 2199 Complete Works, for example), but they had a nice collection of model kits and even the paper model of the bridge, which I’d assumed was out of print because of its rarity elsewhere.

Walking back into Marui, we happened to pick just the right direction. The unmistakable contours of the 2199 key art appeared just ahead, and our eyes got big when we saw something we didn’t expect: the OTHER 1/100 Yamato model. I say “other” here because we’d seen the first one at the Piccadilly’s lower lobby. As you may recall, it was discovered in the November 2199 report that two of these babies were built. And now we could confirm it with our own eyes. Even better, this one was brightly lit and we could get much closer to it. So we all whipped out our cameras and began to make sweet, sweet photographic love.

See our photos of the model here.

After thoroughly, uh, documenting it from bow to stern and back again, we wandered into the exhibit itself. I didn’t expect it to be large, and in fact it only covered a few square meters, tucked compactly into an area surrounded by ladies wear. Nonetheless, it had a prodigious selection of merch that we recognized from previous exhibits and a big lineup of model kits including the first 1/1000 Gatlantis ship (which we hadn’t yet seen in Tokyo).

Around the corner from this was the exhibition itself: a few dozen art pieces, consisting equally of mecha, character layouts, and color prints of paintings. The color prints were actually for sale, at several hundred dollars apiece. It was easy to see why, since they were either signed and numbered, or just simply gigantic. Prints of Masanori Nishii’s key art for Ark of the Stars stood a good four feet tall. However, the clear standouts in all this were several of the original paintings for the Agent 9 storybook from Episode 9, surprisingly large and absolutely stunning. Video images do not do them justice.

All this art is in print, but seeing it in person is a different experience. What amazed us the most was the machine-like precision of the mecha layouts. The linework was unquestionably drawn in pencil – subtle gradations and overlaps were evident – but their uniformity and sharpness make you question how they could possibly be the product of a human hand. It’s necessary because these drawings are scanned into a computer and solidified, rather than retraced with ink on a cel, and all the painting takes place from there. There isn’t enough time to do this for every mecha scene, so it is limited to those that don’t require movement. For that you rely on CG. It’s the need for consistency between the two realms that requires such impressive craftsmanship.

After about an hour we were ready to depart, but had to get pics of ourselves with the model first. Since we were the only spectators at the moment, the exuberant young lady behind the merch counter was happy to oblige. She was so giggly and excited we wondered if we were the first people she’d seen all day, let alone the first foreign Yamato fans who she’d seen at all.

Side note: Local foreigners didn’t count. During our initial photo session, an American mother walked by with her young daughter and said “look at the big submarine! It’s from the movie!” If we’d been more on our game, the three of us would have turned around in unison and said, “SUBMARINE???”

The counter girl dutifully took each of our cameras in turn, art-directed us for the best angle, and snapped away. All smiles, she exchanged gleeful salutes with us and sent us on our way, returning to her vigil with a new story to tell.

After grabbing lunch at a sort-of-Italian “family restaurant,” we got back to Tokyo about an hour later, and it was time to say goodbye to Daniel. Fully loaded with his own stories, he would fly back home through a complete seasonal flip from winter to summer with a full 50-degree temperature difference from start to finish. And yet, he barely left the time zone. Weeeeird.

Roger and I spent the rest of that day amongst the thriving otaku community of Akihabara, hoofing it from store to store in search of hobby treasure. In my first visit here, I took a day and a half to look inside every store, and learned that no one ever has to do that. Stores that carry new stuff have pretty much the same stock at the same price, so just pick your winners and stick with them.

In case you’re keeping score, my own “hit list” consists of Yodobashi Camera (with their massive hobby and figure department and the last Tower Records on Earth), K-Books at the newly-reopened Radio Kaikan, the Volks hobby showroom, Cospa (for stylish anime wear), and the multi-floor Mandarake. There are smaller vintage shops with older stuff, but you’ll need more time than we had if you want to include those.

The highlight at Yodobashi was the single largest stock of Yamato model kits we’d seen in one place (with abundant copies of everything released so far) and a fair number of the classic kits besides. Just an aisle or two away were Megahouse’s Yamato Girls figures and Cosmo Fleet miniatures. Easy one-stop shopping if you lack time to go deeper.

My only disappointment that day was not finding the newest 2199 book, which had been published the day before. The hunt was still on for that.

Dinner that evening was at a busy yakitori restaurant in Kabuki-cho with Gwyn Campbell and Renato Rivera Rusca (who we’d previously seen on Saturday). After catching up on the latest news, I asked Gwyn if he had any explanation for a phenomenon we’d seen since arrival: the prevalence of mini-skirts and bare legs on young ladies who were otherwise sensibly bundled against the cold. They seemed as inhuman to me as those who wear layers of business clothes on the hottest summer days without breaking a sweat.

It turned out Gwyn had asked this question himself shortly after moving to Japan several years ago. Spotting a couple girls with this same attire, he asked them how they could stand the cold, and they answered that it was “women’s pride.” Pride in their style choices, that is. They were determined not to surrender to mother nature. Bravo, ladies. You have the respect of men everywhere. Just don’t stand still for too long.

See the December 10 photojournal here.

December 11

Three viewings of a new Yamato movie in its opening week have been the norm for me since Resurrection. You can’t count on a big-screen opportunity ever again, so you really should make a full-course meal of it. These three screenings are the jet-lag pass, the make-up pass, and the full-absorption pass. Roger and I did the third one this morning, catching the first show of the day at the Piccadilly. I dutifully took down story notes so I could write as accurate a synopsis as possible, which can be read here. Hopefully the next viewing will be a subtitled blu-ray.

Incidentally, it was learned during this week that a 2-disc CD soundtrack for Ark of the Stars is due out in late February, along with a new live concert disc by Akira Miyagawa. Everyone likes to gang up Yamato news and product releases for maximum buzz, so maybe we’ll at least get a date for the blu-ray then.

After the film, the next mission was to finally and conclusively hunt down the last new 2199 product of premiere week, a book titled Astronomy seen in Yamato 2199. It had proven to be remarkably elusive since it came out on Tuesday. Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku was my last, best hope of finding it. It’s available from Amazon.jp, of course, but it’s always WAY more fun to find it in person.

It could only be in one of two sections: the anime books or the space books. Checked anime books first. Nothing. Walked up to a clerk, did my best to explain what I was looking for, waited for a minute…BINGO. Go to the space section on the fourth floor, she said. It will be held for you there. I should add at this point that I surprised myself quite often this trip with how much Japanese I could speak. I have just one language-instruction audio book that I review before a trip, and each year I pick up a little more from it. This year I was somehow able to construct sentences on the fly that I wouldn’t have even thought of a week earlier. They were very rudimentary (I’m looking for this, do you have that, one ticket please), but they always seemed to get the job done.

A couple minutes later we arrived at the space section and there it was. No wonder we couldn’t find it in anime-oriented book stores. It’s a paperback textbook using Yamato 2199 as a framework for astronomy and astro physics. No surprise, it’s written by science advisor Toshihiro Handa. Probably based on his numerous lectures. It’s all color, loaded with art, and will look great on your shelf. Roger and I bought two of their three copies, but there’s always Amazon.

After this, Roger and I were planning on splitting up for the rest of the day. I was off for more book-digging and a special event. After six days of high-paced ramrodding from one point to another, he was ready to for an actual vacation day. For me, the ideal vacation day is a stroll through Jimbocho.

Jimbocho is home to some major publishers and adjacent to a university. That means it’s full of bookstores, new and used. I always find great loot here, though I came up dry in my search for a couple of obscure early-90s magazines with some vintage Yamato content. That particular search continues, but it wasn’t my only reason to drop in.

I love walking past the compact storefronts, packed as full as possible with preserved thought waiting to be explored. I can’t decode even 1% of it, which makes me basically an illiterate. Instead, I have the freedom to imagine the depth and breadth of these stacks, optimistically packaged as a gift to the future. It’s especially satisfying on a drizzly day like this one; defiance of both time and the elements with the purest expression of civilization. See a gallery of these exquisite storefronts in today’s photojournal.

The concluding event of the day was truly unique. In all the time I’ve been coming here, one of the things I’ve always wanted to do was get inside an actual anime studio and see something in production. That’s my day job at Marvel, after all. Anime in general and Yamato in particular inspired me to pursue this career, and I’m intensely curious about how our industries compare. Well, this year, as a Marvel employee, I finally got a taste.

There’s also a Marvel studio in Tokyo, which is part of the Disney operation there. They do a series called Disc Wars Avengers, which has no relationship to anything that goes on in the states. It is entirely its own animal. A member of our L.A. studio named Yurika is the liaison to the Tokyo crew, and Disc Wars is her main project. She’s Japanese by birth and we talk every so often about what goes back and forth. (She’s even helped out with an occasional translation for Cosmo DNA, which is a nice bonus.)

Before I left on this trip, I asked Yurika if there was any way I could connect with someone on the Tokyo side just to say hello. She didn’t know if this was possible, but she’d give it a shot. On Tuesday I got the word that they would be happy to have me in to watch a voice recording for the latest episode, and Thursday was the day for it. It even turned out that the studio was close to my hotel.

I met up with the local rep, a fine fellow named Scott, who lead me to my first surprise: the recording work was being done at Tavac. I stopped at the front door with my mouth hanging open. I recognized their logo from a hundred anime end-credit rolls, but had no idea what it was until now. I also thought it was pronounced “tabak,” based on the raw pronunciation. But instead it’s an acronym for Toei Animation Video something-or-other. (Scott didn’t know, either.)

I was asked not to share any photos of the actual session, but it was interesting to learn that other Toei programs are recorded in this same building, including One Piece. However, neither Disc Wars nor One Piece will be here for long, since the building is no longer up to earthquake code and is scheduled for demolition. The same is apparently true of the Toei Museum, which was visited in Yamatour 2009. I imagine both buildings are equally full of history.

From start to finish, the voice-acting session (called “afreco”, for “after recording”) was fascinating. US actors only have a script and each other to work from. Japanese actors respond to an animatic, which is a slideshow consisting of storyboards, roughs, and layouts that have already been assembled into a blueprint of the finished episode. We make animatics as well, and the level of drawing is about the same. The difference is, we build ours using the actor’s voices. In Japan, artists have to guess how a line will sound and how long it will take to say it. That’s a whole different skill set.

Voice actors bring their own skills to the mic as well, nailing every line-length with absolute precision, often in the first read-through. After a full viewing of the episode with a warmup run, they go one act at a time, reading it live from start to finish exactly like a radio play. Everyone in the room manuevers around each other like dancers, positioning themselves to be on-mic at just the right moment. After an act, they pause for input and go back through it a second time. Sometimes they redo the whole thing, other times they focus on only a few lines. After one or two cleanup rounds, they move on to the next act.

They commenced at 4pm to record episode 42 of Disc Wars Avengers and finished just a little after 7. The entire cast was there for it, which was pretty rare. Schedules often clash and individuals have to be recorded separately. It’s the same on our side. But in both cases, the esprit de corps that arises from a full ensemble draws out their best performances. Watching this in person the closest you can get to having live anime happen in front of you, and it made me think about those lucky fans who got to watch a live Yamato recording session back in the day.

Incidentally, everyone seemed happy to see me. They knew that I’d come to town for Yamato, which they’d all seen and enjoyed as well. They even had some industry gossip to share; word on the street was that post-production had been completed only on Wednesday, December 3. The same day I left home. This must be the luxury of digital film distribution, but it also explained why there was no simultaneous blu-ray. There was probably a cutoff point in the fall when that decision had to be made, and it was. But like I said earlier, we’ll get one sooner or later.

See the December 11 photojournal here.

See samples of Disc Wars Avengers on Youtube here and here

Friday, December 12

The last days is always bittersweet. The experiences we came for were all achieved and we were ready to see home again. When the daily walking routes between hotel and train station start to get routine, you know it’s time.

Our Narita Express was due at 2:40pm, so we had a few hours for one last taste. We spent the first half at the Shinjuku Piccadilly once more, this time to see Chapter 6 of the live-action Patlabor: The Next Generation. We’d heard mixed reviews about it, so weren’t prepared for a masterpiece, but were pleasantly surprised. The character interaction has exactly the same flavor as the anime, and the mecha action (a combination of CG and practical) was far better than we’d been lead to believe. (Hi, Gwyn!)

The films are broken into 45-minute episodes, so we got to see two in one sitting. The first (Ep 10) had a perfect balance of humor and action. The second (Ep. 11) was all character drama, focused on the main female, which was fine in and of itself but kind of letdown after a rollicking first half. Incidentally, Ep. 10 had two live-action Yamato actors in it (Kato and Dr. Sado), which is always nice to see.

Before flight time I’d gathered up downloads of all the previous Patlabor TNG chapters, intending to watch one per night as a lead-in. Never watched one minute. For that matter, I never turned on the TV in my hotel room. Not on this trip nor any previous trip. This may be unthinkable to some of you, but it has simply never been a priority.

Exiting the Piccadilly for the last time, we took one more walk past the Yamato Christmas display, which will live on now only in photos.

Next was a return to Nakano Broadway to rendezvous with Sonchori Ha (Cat Hands Agent) and hand off our “overages.” In other words, stuff we bought that wouldn’t fit in the luggage. This happens more often than not, and he’s always accommodating. After all, he bills us for the privilege.

That gave us 90 more minutes to loiter around inside Broadway itself and soak in all that otaku bounty. Unable to buy any more big-ticket items, we treated it as a museum experience and it didn’t disappoint. The unmistakable contours of Yamato‘s bow caught my eye from several yards away, which turned out to be a cel – one of several that had just been added to Mandarake’s auction showcase. Evidently some collector decided the time was right. A mix of genga (layouts) and cels, they each had a starting bid of 6000 yen (between $50 and $60 US) except for Domel; a great closeup that was irrevocably marred by someone’s clumsy attempt to draw in a missing mouth. Thus, it was starting at 2500 yen. The ideal winner would be another collector who got the mouth cel for cheap somewhere else.

I refer to the final outing as the “lightning round,” but this one was slow and leisurely…until we got back to Nakano station, that is. Normally the Chuo Rapid can whip you back to Shinjuku in 5 minutes, but it repeatedly failed to appear as those minutes ticked away. With just 45 minutes until our ride left for the airport, the PA announced a delay. Our temperatures rose, and just as we decided to commit to the local line (twice the length) the rapid came whizzing in. Step one done.

Hurrying out of Shinjuku station and back to the hotel, we had to collect all the luggage we’d left there and hightail it back out to the curb for a taxi. Fortunately, there was one. Step two done.

Then came the same obstacle I seem to hit every damn year. There are several entrances to Shinjuku station (which they call “exits” instead), and you want the one closest to your track. For the Narita Express, that is the southeast exit, or (as I’ve seen it rendered MANY TIMES) “higashi minami guchi.” Yet, most cab drivers faceplant against that phrase. Maybe I’m saying it wrong, so I pulled out a photo of it. With our guy today, that only created more confusion. I’ve also heard it called the “new south exit,” but saying that only made it worse. The seconds are pounding away in time with our throbbing brains when I finally put together this sentence: “Is there a map of the station?” He pulls one out, I point to the spot and say, “kochira” (“here”). That does it. Step three done.

Five minutes later, he pulls up, we extract our luggage, and I ask him (again, in Japanese), “what is the name of here?” He carefully pronounces it: “Toh nan guchi.” I memorize it for next time, thank him, tip him, and we’re off. Step four done.

With six minutes to go, we navigate the quickest possible route to the track, which I worked out several visits ago. It mercifully involves elevators and an escalator, so the only real trick is maneuvering our bags through the slim gates. We step onto the platform at the exact moment the Narita Express pulls to a stop. Step five done.

Lots of people want to go with us, apparently, and the conductor rushes them aboard. Roger and I are the last ones on and there is only enough time for me to mutter “Holy sh-” before the train starts moving under our feet. All steps done. That, my friends, is a lightning round.

As it happens, there was one more such moment to come. We worked our way through all the exit steps at the airport: bag check, security check, passport check, souvenir check, and settled in for airport sushi, the traditional last meal for every Yamatour. We sit down and order. And wait. And wait. Roger is scheduled to fly out first, and his gate is right outside the restaurant. Twenty minutes to final boarding. Fifteen. Ten. Sushi shows up. Gobble gobble gobble. Five. Pay up. Solid, manly handshake. Who knows when we’ll see each other next? I watch as he hustles over to his gate.

Here’s what he told me about it later: How close was it out of NRT? When I got to the gate the agent asked “Mr. Sorensen?” Yep. Last one to board.

Epilogue: The other punch line

I wrote at the beginning about missing Premium Night, which was thoughtfully scheduled for the FIRST TIME EVER on a Thursday. Now here’s the other punchline.

Far too late to do anything about it, I learned that if we’d stayed just one more day we could have seen the final Hobbit movie in Tokyo. Five days before it came out at home. I was forcibly reminded of this every day as new ads went up all over the city. My response was the same to each one: “Dammit, Hobbit!”

That, too, was another first. I can attest that I’ve never uttered that phrase in Japan before. Hope I never need to again.

See the December 12 photojournal here.

See a bonus “goofy English” gallery here.

The End

3 thoughts on “Yamatour 2014 Travelogue, Part 2

  1. I have read this entire piece from beginning to end – what a wonderful write-up. My girlfriend and I have just finished watching 2199, and are taking a trip to Japan in April – fingers crossed i can pick up the Ark Blu while we’re out there…we’ll certainly be using your guide to help us out in lots of ways…thanks again!

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