Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kyoto Adventure - Finding the Old Nintendo Headquarters!

Our recent trip to Japan was filled with all sorts of historical and modern adventures.  One such adventure was kind of a silly one, but while we were in Kyoto we decided to seek out the original Nintendo headquarters.  There was nothing to do there, nor at the current Nintendo headquarters, but the challenge appealed to me and the nerdiness appealed to Jaiman, so on we went!

We referenced this blog post "How to Track Down Nintendo's Original Kyoto Headquarters" which made it seem relatively straight-forward, especially because we were able to plug in coordinates from this post to get it on Google Maps.  However, in trying to take a bus to the proximity, we went the wrong way around a loop and then got off at the wrong bus stop, and we spent an excessive amount of time wandering the streets in the wrong area.  Not hard to do, when so much is in Kanji and we're in an unfamiliar city.  (Note: On the day of said adventure, I was positive that Google had led us to a bus stop that didn't exist.  In reviewing the maps and pictures to write this, I see now that the stop that Google had listed was in fact on the route, so I can no longer blame Google for our wandering.)  

We left from Green Rich Hotel and took the 205 bus line.  As I mentioned, we went the wrong way; having crossed the street to get to that bus stop.  I think the bus stop right outside that particular hotel is the correct one to go the right way.  So we should have gone 6 stops according to Google Maps, but the stop was listed only in Kanji for us on the map. The name in Romanji is Kawaramachi Shomen.  
Instead, we got off at Nanajo Kawaramachi.  The stop before it would have been Shiokoji Takakura.  (Going the wrong direction, the Kawaramachi Shomen was the one before where we got off; based on Google that stop would have worked too.) 

If you go this route, head in the same direction as the bus was going (which should be north if you went the correct way). At this corner, turn left, as indicated by my pointing finger. 

Cross this little bridge and keep going straight.  


 Pretty soon, you should see this cute little unassuming building.

Bam!  There's the place!  If you're having trouble finding it, and you have GPS, enter these coordinates into Google Maps: 34.99168, 135.76628

For the record, we also went to the current Nintendo Headquarters.  Nothing to do at either place but stand outside and take pictures.  Might I recommend that you try to top my Mario jump pic?  (In all fairness, I was still very sore from a hike we had done in Miyajima, so jumping itself was incredibly painful, let alone moving into the strange position in mid-air.)


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Capsule Hotel - Brilliant or Terrifying?

A lot of people said I was crazy when I told them I'd be staying in a capsule hotel as part of my life list achieving trip to Japan. Now that I've done it, I can authoritatively say that it is awesome, and incredibly practical, and not weird or scary at all. Where else can you walk around with no shoes, in your pjs, and have draft beer served to you for less than $2 a glass? Add to that the fact that you can do your laundry in this place and have a reasonably priced meal (my meal was 600 yen, which is less than $6) served to you while watching TV, charging your phone and/or working on your laptop. And when you're done lounging around, you tuck yourself into your very own cozy little bed. 

Consider this: if you're staying in a hotel with friends or several adult family members, you're sharing one bathroom and maybe sharing beds. You fight over the few plugs, and maybe someone wants to watch TV while someone else wants quiet to read. Not to call anyone out or anything, but my sister has to fall asleep with the TV on, but that's too much stimulation for me so I usually have to wait until she's asleep so I can turn it off, or for the sleep timer to kill it (unless I'm completely exhausted, in which case I could fall asleep at a rock concert). I think capsule hotels are ideal for this type of travel, because there are dozens of (really high tech) toilets and showers to share, you have a general hang out place to eat, unwind and recharge, and your own private space for watching TV or reading or whatever else.

I think capsules are only weird because they are novel; the idea of sleeping in something like a drawer conjures notions of coffins and dead bodies at the morgue. But not once did I feel like I was in a tight enclosure or suffocating or anything like that. I didn't panic when I woke up, and I didn't smack into a wall or bang my head on the ceiling. Even though the pjs provided didn't fit, I felt perfectly sized for the capsule; if anything, I felt I had more room than needed (at least in width).

One of the few drawbacks I see are that you don't have a permanent place to lay your things out. Even if you are staying multiple nights, your capsule assignment changes everyday. In retrospect, that's not necessarily a bad thing; it forces you to pack lightly and stay organized. But still, I know I like to spread out when I travel, so I consider it a drawback.

I did think it was a little odd that the hallway lights were never turned off or even dimmed, and the curtain in the capsule helped significantly, but did not make the capsule completely dark.  Maybe that's by design, I can't say for sure, but if you need absolute dark to sleep, you may have trouble in a capsule.

For those who are taller than me, a capsule may be a little cramped. When I was laying down stretched out, my feet could graze the dividing curtain. I generally sleep in my side with my legs bent, so it wasn't a problem for me. But I would definitely caution anyone taller than 5' 8", especially if you sleep on your back.

The only major drawback I see is that there is no space to cuddle up with a significant other. The chairs in the lounge are all individual seats, and even if you could squeeze into a cuddly position, it wouldn't feel appropriate. I imagine a world where capsule hotels are the norm, and in that world, there would be specialized floors, like double-wide capsules on coed floors, and that would solve the problem instantly.

All in all, I think if I were traveling with a group of friends, and capsule hotels were an option, I would strongly advocate for them over traditional hotels. They are super practical, very inexpensive, and I am absolutely in love with the casual lounge concept. I can honestly say I didn't really want to leave, and I would recommend a stay at my capsule hotel to anyone who is not afraid of challenging the norm.

If I've persuaded you to try out capsule hotels, please note that most capsule hotels are for men only.  The one I found that had just one floor for women is called Shinjuku Kuyakushomae Capsule Hotel.  Perhaps because there is just one floor for women, it seemed to sell out in advance, so be sure to book early if you are a woman.  The hotel had free cancellation on Travelocity, so it doesn't hurt to book it that way even if you're not perfectly clear on your travel plans, as long as you cancel with two days notice if your plans don't work out.

Here are some additional pictures from the capsule hotel!  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Luckiest Girl Alive

I recently listen to an audio book called "Luckiest Girl Alive." The beginning made me nauseous, with the narrator's stuck up view of the world. She had a giant rock on her finger, worked at The Women's Magazine and fluctuated between a size 0 and 1 (oh the poor thing had gained a pound and a half! ). I guess I get why the author titled the book so, but I would not consider this character, or even just the front she puts on, as lucky. She worked hard for those things, clearly, and anyone calling her lucky must be jealous, which I guess is the point. Anyways, as the story unfolds, you see that the past she is coming from is terribly unlucky. When everything is revealed, you may conclude that she is truly the unluckiest girl alive, if you assume luck had anything to do with it. The only way for her to be less lucky, perhaps, is to be dead, and that could really go either way.

Anyways, I've always considered myself lucky and fortunate and smart. I say these three together because some people associate the latter two with being lucky, and I think that's a grave disservice to all the people who have contributed to my life, and a downplay of my work ethic and insight. I'm fortunate that my parents supported me through college, that my Dad steered me into a major I loved and excelled at, that they had the money to send me to study in Japan. More recently, I'm fortunate that I have a sister in HR who gives me great career advice, that I have a colleague who has my back and helps me out, that I have an immensely supportive manager. These things are out of my control, so I consider them fortunate aspects of my life. I know all too well what it's like to be stuck with a two-faced, selfish ass-hole of a manager, and while leaving a job is always an option, sometimes staying is necessary or at least smart in the short-term. I am grateful for these blessings.

I am also grateful for the things in my life that I've worked at. I worked hard to get a house right out of college, I went through lots of relationships and growing pains to understand what I want and find a man to fill that role, and I continually work very hard on my career. So I don't consider those things lucky. They are, in my mind, more a result of effort, personal growth, and smart decisions. If it wasn't this house, it'd be another, if I didn't do this for work, I'd do something else, and if I wasn't with this man, I would still know what I want and not settle for anything less. I am grateful for these things, but they are not results of luck.

Luck is always getting the best parking spot in a crowded lot on the first pass. Luck is never getting rained on. Luck is getting good news immediately before a vacation, putting me at ease. You can't work to make these things happen. No amount of effort will stop the rain or free up the parking spot. And some how, right before leaving for Vegas after college graduation, I got a job offer. It happened again just before I left for Japan 10 years later - I got the news of my promotion. I think this is lucky because the timing of hiring people is always a bit unpredictable - things never seem to happen as fast as you think they will even if you don't think you're being overly optimistic. Vacation timing, however, is usually more planned and set, so the loose timing of hiring can float all around the firm timing of vacations. Yes, in the most recent situation, the hiring manager knew I'd be leaving for Japan, but still, he was restricted by other powers and barely was able to give me the news before my departure.

So here I am, on a plane headed for Tokyo with my loving, supportive boyfriend, and I get to enjoy comfortably knowing that I got the promotion. I think I am the luckiest girl alive.