Tokyo Trip: Making a List

Even though a trip to Japan has been my wish for years, the list of places I wanted to visit in Tokyo was small. Most of those places are related to pop culture and not so much the traditional side of Japan.

Pokemon

If you’re here, you probably know I’m a gamer. I’ve been a Pokemon fan for as long as it’s been available in the West, so the Pokemon Center is high on my list. Tokyo now also has a Pokemon Cafe, which is also on my list. We’ll have to make a reservation in advance if we want to go there, but it’s probably worth it (the experience, not the food).

Tokyo Tower

Photo by Yu Kato on Unsplash

Tokyo tower is a well known landmark that’s often seen in anime and dorama. I do want to see it, but I have no desire to go inside. I have a fear of heights and I have no idea how that’ll show itself when we reach the observatory deck.

There’s also the Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku with free access to their observatory deck. I’d rather go there, in a building with enough support.

Budokan and Tokyo Dome

Both places are pretty famous. Budokan is an event location where lots of sumo tournaments are held, but it’s also the place to be if you’re in a band. That’s the stage to aim for.

Tokyo Dome is home to Tokyo’s baseball team, Yomiuri Giants, but the whole area is made to entertain. I’ve seen various concerts filmed from Tokyo Dome and it would be nice to see how big it really is. The Tokyo Dome area has attractions, a shopping mall and food court around it which makes a good area to go on a date.

I doubt we’ll go inside these places, but that’s okay.

Sensoji Shrine

Sensoji shrine is probably one of the most recognisable shrines in Japan. The bright red kaminari is one of the most photographed sites of the shrine and most people know where it is.

It’s a tourist trap. The shops lined up from the gate towards the shrine will probably be more expensive than when you buy the same things somewhere else. And since it’s popular with both foreign tourist, local tourists also like to visit the shrine.

Come early to avoid the huge crowds. And don’t forget to check out the smaller shrines in the area.

The list with all the places that we’re going to visit it much longer of course, but these came to mind when I first started thinking about what I wanted to see.

101 Goals, 1001 Days: 2 Puzzlers and a Season

One of my goals was to complete a season in Diablo 3 and I already completed that goal, but this time I completely crushed it. Thanks to my friend Welshtroll who was kind enough to let me run along with him. I finished season 16 yesterday, only a month after it started and with only a few play sessions.

I had just reached level 70 and paragon level 12 when I joined Welshtroll’s game for two or three rift runs. They’re the easiest way to level and maybe find some loot. I gained about fifty paragon level, enough to help me with the last quests. The four chapters are done and I have my butterfly wings. I even managed to do some content that I’d never done before.

Wayward Manor

Wayward Manor, a game by Neil Gaiman, is a game I kickstarted a long time ago, but never played. I’m glad I did. It’s such a cute game. The story is a creepy one, but the art and animation make it more of a comedy horror than creepy horror.

You’re a ghost and it’s your job to haunt the house and open the chest. Scare the family members by using objects in the room. Spike drinks, ruin dresses, haunt armor, and explode barrels by setting them on fire.

Each level has a specific order of things to succeed a scare. Some scares will net you an achievement, but that’s all there is. As far as I know they don’t do anything but look pretty. I didn’t go for 100% so I don’t know what getting all of the achievements will do.

Midnight Mysteries: The Salem Witch Trials

Sometimes you need a break and do something entirely different. Midnight Mysteries is my kind of different. I usually play RPGs, simulation or action games, so doing a point and click puzzle game that’s heavy on atmosphere, history and logic is a real change.

I enjoyed point and click puzzle games when I was a kid although the classics might have been too hard for a kid to finish. The Secrets of Monkey Island was a game I could never beat and I felt motion sick while playing Myst. The movement between the scenes was too much for my brain to handle. I’d like to think I almost finished it, but I’ll never know.

The copy of Monkey Island is still gathering dust in my Steam Library, but now my friend Michael is doing a let’s play of the third game and I’d rather watch that than play myself.

Midnight Mysteries is a mix of point and click puzzles and hidden object gameplay, all of it tied together in a story that mixes history and fiction. I finished it last week while my head was all over the place. But doing those little puzzles and asking me to focus my attention on one task helped me to organize my head a little.

While I didn’t plan to finish this one, I was happy to have finished it. It’s one game less in my backlog. I also quickly played two other games that I crossed off my list. I didn’t play them for long, but know that I won’t play more of them.

I also finished the first of the books recommended by you guys. The review for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society will appear on Narratess very soon.


Tokyo Trip: Typical Tourist Things I Won’t Do

When you tell people you go to a certain place, they’ll often respond with amazing experiences they’ve had or things they’ve heard from others. It’ll be often in the form of an inquiry (Will you go do X or Y?) or recommendation (You HAVE to do x, seriously). I don’t respond well to the later form. I can be quite stubborn, thanks to my father, so when someone tells me to do something, I’ll often disregard whatever they say.

I like to find things out on my own. Everyone prefers different things and I’m lucky that my husband likes most of the same things in regards of vacation activities. But for our Tokyo trip, I know we’ll be doing some things that aren’t high on his priority listen. He’s willing to compromise for me.

Going to a ryokan


Going to a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, is an experience that’s truly unique to Japan. The standards for the guest service is exceptional and most ryokans have food to die for.

But they include seafood. Ryokan are traditional and the food reflects that. They often include traditional dishes to complement the rice and miso soup. The traditional Japanese diet doesn’t include meat, fish only, because of the Buddhist principles of earlier emperors.

Most ryokan also have a public onsen, hot water baths. The baths are now separated by gender, but the nudity is still enforced. If you’re not comfortable being naked in the presence of others, this won’t be a good experience. You’ll only get a tiny to cover yourself as you walk towards the bath, but the towel cannot touch the bath water.

I’m very self conscious and I don’t need a bathing house full of Japanese women to confirm that my body is indeed different from theirs. I could solve it by booking a room with a private onsen and do my own ritual, but that’s even more expensive. Not really an option.

Eating sushi

We both don’t like fish or seafood. Making us go to a sushi bare is torture. In relation to that, we won’t be going to the newly renovated Tsukiji market either.

Visiting the Robot Restaurant

This is also one that nearly all guide books mention and one I’ll happily pass on. We’re on a budget and going to an overpriced restaurant for below average food and weird entertainment is not on our list of things to do.

The Robot restaurant allows you to film and through the wonders of the internet, you can see the performances without going there. There are different performances so I don’t know if the one you’ll see online is the same as they have there. The performance I saw was a psychedelic experience that reminded me of the Power Rangers. People in elaborate costumes fight using robots as vehicles. I have no idea what the story was about despite it being in English.

It’s filled with lots of colours, lights and smoke. It’s definitely an experience, but not one that I can’t do without. To compare, the robot restaurant experience will cost you 8000 yen without meal. A one day ticket to Tokyo Disney is 7400 yen. Which one would you pick?

101 Goals, 1001 Days: Eternal Senia – Hydrangea After The Rain –

I’ve been playing mobile games a lot since I have Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Eternal Senia – Hydrangea After The Rain – is one my most recent games and one I actually finished the story of. It’s the sequel to Eternal Senia (free), which is available on Steam, but I found out about that when I was doing research for this post.

Mobile game

Hydrangea After The Rain is a mobile game, which is an odd choice if the original is a PC game. It’s a clicker or tapping game where you have to tap the screen constantly to execute an attack. Activate skills by pressing the buttons after the CD is gone and you filled up the skill point gauge. There’s no way to automate the attacking, although there is a buff that allows you to keep attacking by keeping your finger on the screen. Of course, this requires real money.

Party members

You can bring one party member with you that will attack the enemy at certain intervals. You’re given a nekomochi to help you out after you start, which is a two-star party member. After a few chapters, you’ll gain your first five-star party member.

You can draw more party members from the gacha with gems that you can earn from watching ads, paying real money or taking part in trials. I haven’t spend any money on this game since it’s easy to get gems if you’re patient enough. Every two new party members, you’ll be given enough gems to do another draw as well. And if you have all the elements at four-stars or higher, you’ll have more than enough firepower to kill your enemies.

Upgrades

Leveling and upgrading your weapons are done with the same currency. These are the blue gems that you get from killing enemies, not the purple ones that you need to buy party members. Choose wisely if you want to upgrade your weapons or if you want to invest in better stats for Senia.  I hardly spend currency in upgrading low-level weapons with no skills. It was the four-star weapons that I upgraded heavily. The elemental benefits and the huge increase is definitely worth getting in the later levels.

Expect to have your character above level 60 before you finish the story.

End Game

After you’re done with the story, you can still fight on and do hard mode for earlier chapters. There are also the platinum trials which allow you to score beat other players. At level 60 you can try to earn fairy weapons which are stronger as well. I think there’s enough to do if you like the gameplay. New content has been promised at the end of the credits as well.

I stopped playing the game even though I enjoyed it. I didn’t like it enough to go for the grind to gain a spot on the leaderboard that I don’t care about. I might install it again when the new content is there.

All in all, it’s a cute game, it’s free and there’s absolutely no reason for you to buy the buffs. It is a free game so if you want to support the developer (an indie game dev), buying a buff will help them out.

Check it out if you want a game you can play for a few minutes at the time without feeling like you missed out on anything. There are no log in rewards or events which demand time. And that’s what I like most about Eternal Senia. It’s as casual or hardcore as you want it to be.

Anno 1800 Closed Beta Thoughts

My friend John asked if I wanted to have an invite to the Anno 1800 closed beta. Of course I accepted. I’ve only played Anno 1404 and Anno 2070 before for a few hours so I was curious if this one would hold my attention longer.

I’m by no means an advanced or expert player. I try to be efficient but I have no idea what routes people take and what the influence of a building does for the surrounding buildings. I’m still in a stage that I’m figuring things out, but I’m not a complete beginner.

I didn’t play multiplayer even though it was available for this weekend and I think I might enjoy it more playing it together with someone. We can share information and trade resources we don’t have on our islands.

One of my factories blew up a few times and it set the surrounding buildings on fire. I highly recommend building a fire station nearby so they can keep those fires in check. The chance of injuries and fires increases if you up the working pressure. I haven’t tried letting my inhabitants work under inhuman conditions

Playing Anno 1800 gave me the same feeling as when I play Civilization. I didn’t think about the time that I played, I just wanted to keep improving my cities, set up trade routes and build the necessary resources.

I liked what I played so far, but I doubt I’ll buy the game full price. The limited gaming time that I have should go to games I already have and enjoy. Maybe, when I’m absolutely sure and have someone to play with, I’ll get it. But for now, I’m holding off.

Tokyo Trip: Where It All Began

If you’ve read my latest post here or follow me on Twitter, you might have heard that I’m going to Japan this year. We’re just visiting Tokyo, but there’s so much to do and so much I want to see, that we won’t be bored.

My interest began many years ago, but I was already Pokemon daily and regularly watched Dragonball Z, Sailormoon, or other dubbed anime on Jetix. But there is one other pop culture franchise that truly launched me into the otaku world: Kingdom Hearts.

I’m not even talking about the game (which is amazing), but the TV ad that ran before it came out. I loved Disney and Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts had both. The anime look just completed it.

The ad had the amazing soundtrack done by Utada Hikaru. The song is called Simple and Clean in English and Hikaru in Japanese. I fell in love with that song and I spend two hours looking for it online. I don’t remember if the ad actually mentioned it, but I missed it. The Japanese version popped up first and later I found the English version. But I was hooked.

I explored more of Utada’s music and found Maaya Sakamoto later. She’s also a well known seiyuu. One of the shows she did was Escaflowne which was one of the first animes I watched.

From there on, I went into jdrama. Kimi wa Petto was my first, with Matsumoto Jun. I loved his acting and looked him up. He is the concert master of the boyband Arashi. He provides the MC when necessary when they do live performances.

I just found out there’s a remake of Kimi wa Petto on Viki from a few years ago and I might have to watch it now…

Arashi was the biggest snowball. From there I found more jdramas, other Japanese artists and connected more with the Japanese culture from watching their variety shows. If you need something fun to watch, try finding episodes of Himitsu no Arashi with English subs. Below is a highlight reel of things they do.

All of the Arashi members did their own shows and series. By watching most of what they’ve done, drama or real life things, my knowledge and interest in the Japanese culture became larger.

My wish to visit Japan and see the places from the series in real life, taste the foods that they showed, but most of all, I want to try the sweets.

Come back later to follow me as I prepare for the trip of a lifetime. If you want to know more about something specific (like my obsession with Arashi or Pokemon) let me know in the comments below so I can dedicate a separate post to it.

Crushing Goals in 2019

Happy new year everyone! It’s that time of the year again when everyone and their mother are talking about resolutions and goals. But I just want to talk about goals.

I feel that resolutions are there to be broken while goals are there to achieve. I’m still working on my 101 goals in 1001 days and since I haven’t done all of those yet, those are the goals I’ll be working on this year

I’m going to complete a handful of these in November when we’re going on our Tokyo trip. With that trip I can thick off the ‘Vacation Abroad’, ‘Visit Tokyo’, and ‘Sing Karaoke’ goals. We’ll try out new restaurants, new foods, I’ll practice my Japanese (I’m still learning!) and maybe even buy a Instax camera to make beautiful memories.

This year I’ll be blogging about my preparations for this trip, sharing the content I find helpful in preparing for the biggest adventure this year. I’ve traveled to far away lands before, but this is the first time that I’ll be the one doing the planning and learning a new language to make the trip a little easier

I’m not a travel blog and won’t ever be, but Japan has a special place in my heart and I’ll share those sentiments with you soon. But first, more goals.

My goal is to read 45 books this year and I hope to finish a large bunch of the books you have recommended as well. The hardest part will be obtaining a copy of all of those books. I have limited funds and my library doesn’t have most of them. The Book Exchange in Amsterdam might have copies of the older books, but only if someone sold it to them recently.

Learning hangul will also be one of my active goals. I’ve dedicated a notebook to learning hiragana and katakana, so I might just as well add hangul to that, right?

My writing goals will be up on Narratess on Friday, but I don’t only want to spend time writing this year. I want to actively work on my craft. Brandon Sanderson has a course on writing on Youtube and I picked it as my free online course to take. It’s time I start watching them and apply the new knowledge in my writing

Cooking will happen. It’s about time I picked a cook book and make those recipes, right? Right.

I’ll soon do a post about what games I played for my goals. There are a few that I want to talk about and what I’m going to do this year. Stay tuned!

Guild Wars 2 - The Clock Tower

Guild Wars 2 – Halloween Is Over

I really enjoy the Halloween events in Guild Wars 2, but I missed out on it last year due to multiple factors. This year I did manage to get some things done.

I now have a shiny purple book to carry on my back (The Mad Memories: Complete Ignition backpack skin) and a purple candle to follow me around. I managed to get one of the Halloween skins from the Mad King’s Gift.

One of the things that I missed out on was the rivalry between Joko and the Mad King. I hadn’t finished the Living World story yet (and I still don’t), so that’ll have to wait until next year.

I no longer care for the skins since I knew the odds were small to get them. The farming in the labyrinth wasn’t as attractive as it used to be, also because the runs I was in were usually lead by commanders who didn’t had any idea how to lead a run. And I’m still too passive to take on that role myself. I also lack a commander tag.

With all the new and returning achievements, I did manage to get my account to a whooping 12,000 achievement points. The Hellfire Vambraces were my only option now. For someone who’s been playing since the three day headstart, 12,000 AP might be a bit low, but I don’t care. Everyone plays at their own pace, right?

I hope I can earn enough materials to craft the lunatic armor skins to finish the collection and earn some more achievements next year. Maybe I’ll have more roller beetle by that time as well and I can take part in the race like a proper racer.

So I went bowling…

My aunt turned 50 and she invited us for an hour of bowling with dinner afterwards. She’s my favourite aunt, so I really didn’t want to skip on celebrating with her. But I also knew that bowling is high risk for me.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve got hypermobility syndrome (HMS). My joints are more susceptible to dislocation or subluxation and certain movements, impact or weight will affect me in a bad way.

Holding a 3 KG bowling ball with three fingers, swinging it and then hoping my fingers won’t be stuck in it, isn’t a good way to spend my time. But I really, really wanted to take part. I haven’t done much fun activities outside of the house in a while, and this was a good opportunity to take up a different perspective.

After having dealt with chronic pain for nearly a decade, I’ve grown tired of having my pain dictate my life. In my 101 goals, I’ve actively decided to do things that I wouldn’t have done before. I could’ve added bowling, but didn’t since I didn’t see it as something I *had* to do.

Yesterday I decided I would bowl, no matter what. Well, except maybe a dislocated joint.

I was smart enough to bring my wrist brace and I wore it after my first round. Throwing those first two balls was already an attack on my wrist muscled and the brace gave me the support I needed.

My score wasn’t great, but I didn’t expect it to be. I thought I was going to be the loser, but I did fairly well and my score wasn’t that much off from my mom and sister. My score was much better than I thought it would be.

And that’s a personal victory for me. I bowled for an hour without serious injuries, just some muscle aches which will disappear in a few days. I had fun and I didn’t let my situation tell me how to live my life. It felt great and I hope this change in mindset will help me the coming years in taking back control.

Guild Wars 2 – The Confessor Is Dead

This isn’t really a spoiler for the players who have kept up with the Living World story, since this happened halfway season 3. If you haven’t played the episodes yet, stop reading since this post will be one big spoiler about my frustration with this one boss fight.

Patch Preview Privilege?

Some time ago, when the patch for The Head of the Snake came out, I was still writing for MMOgames and I was allowed to do the patch preview. I first thought this was marvelous. I was one of the few who could see everything of the new patch before it launched!

I didn’t care that I could only barely make it with my full time job, time zone differences and limited computer time. It was really fun to be able to see everything without risk of spoilers and truly experience the reveals as they came. And, I’ll be honest, I got a slight kick out of knowing something amazing that other players didn’t.

The previews that I wrote had to be as spoiler free as possible and it’s what I still try to do as much as possible when I’m writing about a movie, book or game. The upside of that was I wasn’t forced to complete the whole episode, but I did it anyways. I feel that I can’t comment on a story without experiencing it completely, so I always read/play/watch everything or I won’t write about it.

Spoilers ahead

The Head of the Snake

The Head of the Snake is the fourth episode in the Living World Season 3, which off after the story of Heart of Thorns. I actually remember very little about how the story got there, only the big outline. It doesn’t matter much for this post since I just want to talk about this one man. Minister Caudecus.

It was obvious from the first time that I did the story mode of the Caudecus Manor dungeon, that this wouldn’t be the last time we’d hear from that weasel. After the explosion in the Maguuma Jungle, it is revealed that Caudecus is the confessor of the White Mantle, a group of extremists. He wants to rule Tyria and he needed the bloodstone for its powers.

Long story short: he wants to overthrow Queen Jenna and you, the commander, stop him during this episode.

Now, the writing for this season was incredibly. It has a lot of twists and turns and I really enjoyed the new maps. But. I hated how they did the progression of the story steps. One of the steps in this episodes was simply to do events in the new map.

Well. Eh. I don’t care? I’m coming here for the story. I already run around the map and heard and saw a ton of things without specifically being told to do so. The progression of that bar was slow as hell. It only made me dislike it even more.

Doing events in open world is never really a problem since there are always people around to jump in and help. This is not the case in a patch preview. Players are very limited and most of us were doing our own thing, making cool screenshots, figuring out where all the collectables are, or doing things totally unrelated to the story and/or new map. 

Doing the events was a nightmare. Most of the enemies had some form of CC which made killing them in groups nearly impossible when you’re alone. Especially when you’re a super casual player who doesn’t know the optimal build and how to play the class the best they can. I’m a very average player. Maybe even below average.

I hated this. I also knew that I had limited time to finish the story, write up the article, sleep, eat, get on with my life, and work. I had a deadline and I don’t want to be late for a deadline set by someone else.

After I finally finished this step, I had to go back to Queen Jenna and the final plans were made to kill the head of the snake. I had to go to Caudecus’ Manor to deal with him.

Caudecus, a thing of evil

I hate you, Caudecus, with a passion. Not only for what you did, but also for everything that you’ve thrown my way in your manor. Your White Mantle friends, the bandits and jade constructs.

I hate you for what you did to Demmi. I hate you for sacrificing all those people. And I hate you for killing the parents of my main character.

But most of all, I hate your private dungeon. Covered in bloodstone, feeding your insanity. I hate your carvings on the walls that make it look like you’re staring at me from every direction. I hate the small size of it and you’re giant, flashy SFX for your skills. I hate how you make my camera flip through walls in a manner that gave me a headache. I hate how you summoned more of your minions while I tried to kick your ass. I hate how your jade constructs are tougher than you. I hate how you CC’d me with two skills and killed me. I hate how limited my mobility was in a small room with all your AoE. I hate that you killed me at least ten times before I managed to finish.

From the German GW2 Wiki

It took me over one and a half hour in preview to kill him. Last night I finally dared to do it on my own account and it took me 45 minutes. It was easier. Maybe they adjusted the battle a little so people like me wouldn’t have such a hard time with it.

I can genuinely say that I’m glad he’s dead. Not just because of his role in the story, but also because I know that I will never do this part of the story ever again. I managed to do two achievements and that’s more than enough. Should I ever want/need more achievements in this particular story step, I’ll be sure to bring others.

Not always good

After I finished the patch preview I could never get myself to finish this part of the episode. I knew what was coming and I hated having to do it again. That was one of the biggest downsides of being part of the preview.

A few weeks after I stopped writing for MMOgames and forfeited my right to be part of the previews, I started enjoying Guild Wars 2 again. Just a little, and only by doing certain things. But it was a start. I had my freedom again.

That’s when I learned that some (press) privileges aren’t always good. I do have to say that it depends on the person. I didn’t do well in these circumstances. Even without a full time job, I’d have to think twice before taking up such a writing job again.

I learned from this experience. I really enjoyed doing the previews and the dev team excellent in their support during those busy weekend. It’s just not for me.

This while Caudecus thing the reason why I didn’t play any of the following episode or the Path of Fire expansion with my main character. Not being able to do the story of my main, the character I’m most invested in, has hurt the enjoyment of the game. Now that I’m passed it, I’ll continue with her story, do the other episodes, the expansion story and the new episodes. It’ll take a while and I know that I’m playing through the story again. The big difference is that this progression is for myself.

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Guild Wars 2 Fiction

Miira Lightbringer:
Fried Moa Steak
Quiet Before the Storm

Young Miira:
Tail Tugging Part 1
A Promise Made Part 2
Night Falls Part 3
Grawling Preparations Part 4
Badazar Incarnated Part 5
Graduation Part 6 - Final

Savyrius Belain:
We Meet Again...

Naella Ysangwan:
Dogs and Ogres

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