Day 3: Whoosh Whoosh Whoops

Used my parents camera again today. A lot more shopping SDVX and less sightseeing today.


We first visited Sunshine City in Ikeburuko today (still in Tokyo btw. Tokyo is huge. It’s actually just a bunch of cities that decided to call itself Tokyo.) More specifically, we visited…

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A Pokemon store. My brother wanted to get something here, but he only ended up getting a Pikachu wearing a Charizard costume. I couldn’t find any Skymin/Pichu/w/e pokemon there. In fact, other than Latios, Latias, and the one from whatever the new movie is, there’s basically only starter pokemon there.

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Then we went to the Ginza area, where my parents bought a bunch of stuff. I just played Cytus while overlooking the buildings here.

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After lunch (sushi), we went to the Nakano Broadway. There was a notable absence of anything Touhou related here, though I found lots of vocaloid/love live/shounen series figures/magazines/younameit here. I’m still looking for something like a plush from some series I actually care about, or something that isn’t a figurine (no idea if I’ll have space in my dorm for the next year).

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The actual reason I cared about here was because of the presence of SDVX, round 2! I still am completely unable to find e-Amusement passes, so my song selection is still currently limited (as well as having to skip the tutorial every play). I did a normal start for my first play, ending up failing a 12 (highest possible difficulty to play on normal start without e-Amuse) due to not being able to hear the music. After I decided to use my earphones, I tried Skill Analyzer 4 (11-12) which was… interesting. My rate at the end of the 3 songs were 100->40ish->20ish->30ish. Keep in mind that songs get harder as you progress through the course. One sketchy pass later (with more Nears, specifically earlys than Criticals), I have unofficially cleared this course.

Finished the day with a stop at Shibuya, specifically to take basically one picture, before going back to our hotel.

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This is our last day at this hotel, so I tried taking another picture outside our window, since it wasn’t raining that much in the night. Tomorrow is a trip to Kyoto, where we will probably visit more shrines than I will have SDVX plays for once.

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Number of noodle shops visited: 4 (1 soba/udon, 3 ramen)
Number of shrines visited/seen: 3 (+1 temple)
Number of SDVX plays: 3 (no e-Amusement yet) (who cares about BeatStream and whatnot, SDVX is best game)

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Day 2: Welcome to Genso- Tokyo!

Disclaimer: It’s really late, and I really want sleep so I can play some SDVX tomorrow. It’s going to be apparently raining quite a bit, but hopefully I can beat a 13 tomorrow. Bullet-like list follows.

I used my parents camera today, since I really wanted to take better pictures.

Also moving my legs is quite painful.


1. Eientei Imperial Palace: For anyone that’s read Accel World, the unreachable part of this place is mentioned quite a bit. There’s a couple of somewhat interesting things here too in the public part (previous residence of shogun apparently)

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First is this really nice outlook at some really cleanly cut grass. Not much to say about it.

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We also another garden-ish place, with a bamboo forest garden also right next to it.

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2. Hakurei Meiji Shrine: Here’s a cool picture of an arch. We also visited the shrine again, but to pay respects to the emperor, we weren’t supposed to take pictures on top of steps. Ended up just me forgetting to take pictures altogether.

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3. Various Shopping Streets: What’s actually impressive about this is the fact that on top of the convoluted metro system shown previously, there’s an equally convoluted rail system on top of that. And the 2 systems work together. I also got something, but I’ll dump my everything I got into a final post at the end.

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Anyways, that’s it. Relatively unexciting, but I need to figure out what Touhou/anime merchandise to buy eventually anyways. Also SDVX, since that’s amazing. Have a nice night time view from the hotel window this time.

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Number of noodle shops visited: 3 (1 soba/udon, 2 ramen)
Number of shrines visited/seen: 3 (+1 temple)
Number of SDVX plays: 1 (no e-Amusement yet) (who cares about Project Diva and whatnot, SDVX is best game)

 

 

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Day 1: いらっしゃいませ~

I was initially going to work on this post earlier, but I ended up falling asleep instead. So I guess even though this is a bit late, I’m just going to fudge it and still call it today.

So while I spent most of my time yesterday sitting being asleep on a plane, instead, I spent most of today walking around. I’m about to try to explain what happened today what happened in as much detail as possible.

The slightly issue with this, however, is that most of it comes from my perspective, and I tend to dismiss many things as relatively uninteresting, even when they may not necessarily be to other people. I guess that means this post is a first test run of actually describing my life, isn’t it?


My parents woke me up this morning to hand me breakfast somewhere around 8, because as it turns out, everyone else in my family woke up hours beforehand. So much for jet lag on my part. My parents were commenting on the possibility of buying some sort of noodles from a vending machine, even though I wasn’t really all that surprised about it. After all, I’ve managed to invest hundreds of hours into anime/reading about Japan at this point.

At some point in time (no idea when), we met up with our guide for the next ??? days at the hotel lobby, before setting out to walk for somewhere close to 8 hours today (minus about an hour for random stops/lunch). For today, we managed to visit a lot of places, though we didn’t do much in particular at all.

First stop: A shrine. I’m using google maps to find and name these places as best as I can, but not much luck in finding the name of this. Our guide showed as standard Shinto practices, including a water thing which I haven’t seen before. Watching the rest of my family attempting to do offerings was incredibly painful for me, but still really funny nonetheless (Failure to ring the bell, failure to bow twice, failure to clap twice, failure to bow one more time, and then only bowing normally for the last thing. Basically, all possible parts were messed up). By the time it got to my turn, we ran out of coins. Oops.

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Next up: Tsukiji Market. Basically a giant flea market, with a roof over it. And hundreds of stalls selling fish. Just fish. Fish everywhere. From small fish to shrimp to giant tuna that stretched across an entire stall. Just, fish. You could smell the fish from almost 4 minutes away, even before we reached the shrine mentioned above. (Could be placebo effect at work though, since we knew it was a fish market.) This also begins the bombarding of the phrase いらっしゃいませ, or Welcome! (to our business) in Japanese. Every stall that had someone attending to it would have that person say that phrase while you walked by. Every. Single. Stall. (Almost)

After we escaped from that, we went on to visit the Hamarikyu Gardens (apparently some sort of old fortress turned garden) Other than the fact that there were lots of trees, and that all the water there was sea water, there wasn’t all that much to say about that place, other than it looked really nice? Also it started raining again.

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Then we went along the Sumida River  by boat to…some…other…place. About here is where I have truly no idea where we are, and google maps stops being useful too, as subway rides are confusing. Like, holy crap this subway network is ridiculous. Not to mention how trains stop every 3-5 minutes, rather than the 15 minutes that it takes BART to run 1 train.

On the boat, I began to watch my family try to fumble around with a vending machine dispensing some drinks. What was amazing is that you had the option of buying more than 1 drink if you put in a high enough denomination in (such as a 1000 yen bill), instead of having to feed it money again. This confused the heck out of my parents though, as they were expecting a drink and money to start flooding out, which obviously didn’t happen.

Next stop: Buddhist temple. These are significantly rarer than shrines here, but are still super important here anyways. According to our guide, all the stalls you see here sell ridiculously overpriced goods, and after looking at it, I am inclined to agree as well.

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At the end, we ran into another shrine again, and then we ate lunch and whatnot. Next up on the list was apparently a shopping street full of kitchen utensils (what). There were stores dedicated to selling glasses, utensils, knives, and fake food. Expensive fake food. Whatever, amusing enough.

There was a lot more aimless meandering across stores (and another fish market), but I don’t remember too much of it, since that was overshadowed by a surprise early visit to…

Akihabara. (No, I didn’t buy anything today, I’ll deal with this stuff at the end of the trip. Also I forgot to take pictures here. Also since I’m coming back here, this section is kinda vague and whatnot) This is the only place I’ve seen so far that has entire buildings covered with advertisements, as well as massive billboards. Surprisingly, I wasn’t able to recognize nearly as many characters as I expected, since it seems like visual novels are a lot more popular than I initially imagined.

But holy crap, Love Live is eeeeeeverywhere. Literally everywhere. More than Touhou and KanColle and all anime I’ve watched to date combined (though not much more, considering the amount of anime I watch). Slightly sad I couldn’t find any Touhou-specific stores yet though.

I also made my first arcade visit of the trip here. As it turns out, the spacing on the buttons in SDVX is huge, at least relative to my insanely small hands. From my 1 play of the game (only 100 yen! (gives 3 songs, but only allowed 1 track crash before 3rd song)), I estimate that my skill is situated somewhere between 09-10 right now. Hopefully I can pass Skill Analyzer 8 or something before the end of this trip.

This was also the only instance of us not being able to find a vending machine now that we were actually thirsty again. Even though they tend to be situated within a fairly close range of each other all the time, we just happened to be in a dead spot for vending machines at that time.

At this point I was pretty tired, so after another hour of walking (visited some sort of department candy store), we ate dinner at a place somewhat close to our hotel. There was an arcade next door, though I couldn’t find SDVX there (or Project Diva as they advertised right outside…) Slightly sad that I couldn’t get a few more plays in today, I went to the hotel, and promptly fell asleep. zzz.

I tried taking a picture outside the window at night (it’s really pretty), but my phone camera is being bad. I’ll try to get someone else’s picture before we leave here.


Slight changes to the counter yesterday, and some additions:

Number of ramen noodle shops visited: 3 (1 soba/udon, 2 ramen)
Number of shrines visited/seen: 2 (+1 temple)
Number of SDVX plays: 1 (no e-Amusement yet) (who cares about Maimai and whatnot, SDVX is best game)

 

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Day 0: It’s Raining

Currently, betaveros is doing a post-a-day thing until he leaves the country he’s living in right now. On the other hand, I’m going to try to do a post-a-day thing while I’m not in the US.

One thing I’ve noticed so far is that I tend to dismiss my life as relatively uninteresting, and thus have an apparent lack of stories to actually tell people when they are required. Instead, I’m going to try to document more of what I’m doing right now, as this will let me evaluate if it is just because I dismiss everything as uninteresting, or nothing interesting actually happens. Though considering both choices rely on my own perception, I guess it isn’t particularly useful.

Admittedly, this was pretty much a travel day, and considering the flight length, I’m pretty sure there isn’t much to talk about, other than my completely warped sleep schedule that has ironically placed me in the correct timezone at this point.


Upon arriving, the first comments I heard were “Oh look, it’s raining!”  Well then, great start to vacation isn’t it.

Also of note is, while en route to our first hotel (Yes, there will be multiple hotels with varying levels of internet), I noticed a bunch of people wearing suits walking around. As it turns out, even though I left on “Sunday morning”, after flying over the boundary between UTC+-12, we arrived at “Monday afternoon”.

Anyways, here’s a very gloomy looking picture of the city right now. I really hope I can get some sort of better resolution picture taker other than my phone right now, but I don’t care too much about it anyways.

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Also, I feel like this is going to become highly relevant:

Number of ramen shop visits: 1

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End of Act I

Attempt at revival!…

I dreaded the time graduation was approaching. You have to show up an hour ahead of time, with the large graduation gown which I almost tripped on a couple of times, before sitting in the sun for a few hours while messing around with the tassel that keeps on hitting your face. At least I didn’t have to wear a suit, which could only cause more discomfort.

Continue reading

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Colleges Part 2: Extracurriculars

This will (hopefully) be part of a series of posts ranting about the college admission process. Keep in mind that some of these criticisms are merely my opinions, and that I’m most likely being overly harsh. Also keep in mind that if people found a better method for the process, I’m sure there would have been quite a bit of discussion surrounding it.

(Side note: I might not talk about standardized testing, as betaveros covers it fairly well here.)

Most of the talk surrounding colleges before essays seems to be about these mysterious extracurriculars, even though they are only allegedly 50% of the college application process.

The actual definition of extracurricular itself is somewhat muddled. While the Common App and many applications for different schools separate activities (ex. swimming) and honors (ex. chess trophy), but others (at least those in my school) will tend to lump these two categories together into one. The app fails to note the fact that typically with honors comes quite a bit of preparation for these various awards. My honors section (with the exception of the National Merit Scholarship) was effectively listed a 2nd time on the activities section. With some colleges I applied to, an AMC score is even specifically asked for, thus appearing 3 times on my app. For the purposes of this discussion though, I’ll be talking about both of these sections defined by the Common App.

Academics are straightforward in the college app process. Get A’s, take X AP’s, get 5’s on all of them, etc. As soon as you start delving into extracurriculars, however, multiple contrasting opinions start popping up. The most popular of these opinions are: Do a large variety of things to show your interest in multiple activities, and, do a couple of things in depth to show your deep interest in a few activities. Or in other words, Breadth vs. Depth. I fall fairly deeply into the Depth category, as I only participate in a few activities, but sink a stupidly large number of hours into each of them. I personally have no regrets with this, as I was able to do what I enjoyed during the course of 4 years.

The problem with extracurriculars seems to lie on the other side of the line though. While some people who sample from a wide variety of subjects simply do so out of curiosity, other people will simply be participating for the sake of showing a diverse profile to colleges. Stuedents in our school, being of the competitive nature, will not only find random activities to participate in (such as a math student in drawing class), but also participate in as many competitions as possible. The AMC’s are a perfect example of this effect. Quite a few years ago, the school would have somewhere around 100 people actually taking the AMC 10/12, with a significant portion of these people making it into AIME. Starting from last year, due to the ever growing number of test takers (around a fourth of the school), we have a special schedule on the day of the A form. Its also fairly obvious that not all of these new participants are actually interested in math, as the number of AIME qualifiers have only slightly increased.

I’m not completely exempt from this behavior. My competition focus is on the AMC’s and various programming competitions. I also participate in the physics and linguistics competitions (F=ma and NACLO respectively). I pretty much burned out on physics, and do not enjoy the subject at all anymore. I don’t study for linguistics at all (well, I do logic puzzles, cause linguistics is logic…).

This is considered to be a fairly small number of competitions participated in (at least among those who engage in these activities). There also exists the chemistry olympiad, biology olympiad, physics bowl, science bowl, quiz bowl, and don’t forget the research competitions, Siemens and Intel. Especially as the competitions become more and more obscure (Have you ever heard of JETS? No?), these achievements simply become padding for the app.

Beyond competitions, students are now expected to demonstrate interest as well in as many other fields as possible. Those who would normally not do sports are now encouraged to participate in 4 years of golf, in order to show how they are not only an outstanding academic student, but also perform in sports. Community service is a more prominent example of this, with a constant focus on seeing how potential applicants will “benefit our college community.” As I mentioned in the previous part, people are expected to choose activities demonstrating their interests in various areas of life. While I was initially talking about the transition between middle and high school, the same applies when choosing such activities throughout high school as well: The chances that one will maintain the same interests by the time they reach college is minimal.

For now, the last point I have to mention is the role that the schools have in the propagation of the idea that everyone should be broad in their interests. For our school’s junior questionnaire, we were asked to list 5 things that we participated in and write a paragraph for each describing why. Putting aside the fact that I turned my in absurdly late, I was not able to come up with 5 points to put on my paper. I had my various competitions (repeated 3 times for math, computer science, and physics), robotics, as well as orchestra (which I wasn’t particularly fond of). This in my eyes, is really only 3 “activities”. Do they want me to list something like fencing (participated in for at most a month)? Its even worse when they describe how the activities should be distinct from each other. I would love to find someone that does sports, performing arts, academics, community service, and lead a club all at the same time.

And no, being the leader of a 1 person club isn’t actually being a leader. Neither is being co-leader of a 2 person club.

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Colleges Part 1: Junior High Hype

This will (hopefully) be part of a series of posts ranting about the college admission process. Keep in mind that some of these criticisms are merely my opinions, and that I’m most likely being overly harsh. Also keep in mind that if people found a better method for the process, I’m sure there would have been quite a bit of discussion surrounding it.

This is a real thing. Which personally, shows that this system is quite broken.

At the end of my middle school years, I was suffering far worse procrastination problems that I am now. It was decided that our family decided to seek out some external counselor for advice on how I should proceed to not fail miserably. I was given the general spheal of “You should work on improving your grades!” and that “If his GPA isn’t [insert number here], he won’t be able to get into [insert brand name colleges here].” Generic statements which I’m sure everyone knows anyways. Fortunately, that’s the most that I had to deal with. My grades ended up being less than stellar anyways, but I still am going to somewhere I enjoy.

Fortunately. At that time, I thought I had figured out what activities I wanted to in high school. (I ended up doing other things.) Other kids who were not as sure of what they wished to do ended up with more hassles. People who did not have the extracurricular slots of academics, fine arts, and athletics filled up were being shown various alternatives that they could participate in to make their application 3 years later seem appealing. With only a few exceptions, I can think of nobody who knows exactly what they want to do in their lives that early on. Expecting people to pick and choose what they are going to spend the next 3 years of their lives on is absurd. I mentioned how I already had activities planned? At least half of what I imagined never came to fruition. More than half the things I do now I didn’t even know existed before.

It may seem like I am criticizing the parents by mentioning this obsession, which is not true at all. These actions are simply a necessity that has been established by the powers that be. In addition to selecting the right classes such that one has “a high GPA while maintaining a challenging courseload”, students must now also demonstrate that they have interests other than in academics. In an effort to demonstrate that students are “broad”, their schedules will be filled up with various activities that they may or may not enjoy. Even if they hate drawing flowers, and would much rather be playing water polo (random example), they have to keep on drawing flowers, since they’re already doing enough water polo, and colleges like “broad” people, right?

Enough ranting about extracurriculars though, that’s for another post.

The college pressure keeps on creeping its way into younger and younger kids as time goes on. When I was finishing up middle school, I was given the advice of having good grades in high school, because they matter now. This month, my parents received a phone call from someone starting junior high, asking what math courses they should take to make their child excel in the future. This trend will inevitably continue as a result of competition, as logically speaking, those who start early will have an early lead against those who don’t. And similar to power creep, the trend simply results in a system that cannot sustain itself.

/end rant part 1. Though I am still not completely satisfied with my writing above, I shall simply post this for now, as I’m due to post something on this blog. Also apologize for a couple grammar mistakes in some places.

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