Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 9 – Tokyo)

Sunday, Oct 30 2022 (Day 9)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata (You are here)

Today’s blog post isn’t going to be terribly long — my main highlight of the day was visiting a second music convention, called M3-50 or M3-2022秋 (秋 is Aki, or Autumn), a convention similar to the Autumn Reitaisai one that I attended on Day 2, except that one was for Touhou music and goods, and this one was for independent (doujin) Japanese music (and only music) in general. I spent a lot of time here, something close to five hours, split between buying CDs for my friend Mart (as well as a few for myself), and listening to music in a sample room, but photography wise there wasn’t anything festive about the event like the Touhou one was, so there were far less photographs taken.

Also, I keep saying this to myself but I do need to slow down and take a quieter day here and there because my feet hurt. So for the afternoon at least, I took a couple hours after M3 ended to just go back to my lodging and sit down for a while before venturing out again in the evening. The only problem with that being that since it gets dark so early, a lot of regular attractions and shopping places and such seem to close at around 7 pm tops, if not earlier. I still do like that it’s never difficult to get food though due to 24-hour (or until-midnight) supermarkets and convenience stores, although I can’t imagine working the midnight shift every day and having my sleep schedule wrecked like that on a permanent basis.

M3-2022秋

The journey to M3 itself was pretty straightforward, althouhg I got to sit on a new (to me) type of train, a monorail. The route from my local station, Shin-Koiwa, took me along the JR Chuo/Sobu Line to Shimbashi, then along the Yamanote Line to Hamamatsucho. From there, there was a monorail running to Hameda Airport, an express version that skipped most of the stops along the way, and a local version that stopped off at several locations, including Ryutsu Center Station, which was next to where the M3 event was being held — the Tokyo Ryutsu Center convention halls. These trains had seats in the center of the aisles that faced the broad outside windows, which offered some pretty great views.

Announcements were also made in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean here, which I thought was interesting since pretty much every other city line only does Japanese and (usually) English.

Once we reached Ryutsu Center Station, a ton of people got off, so it wasn’t difficult to find the path to Tokyo Ryutsu Center — I just followed the wave of humanity!

Once down below, there were attendants with signs pointing people to the right queues. I did not have a booklet (with the wristband required for entrance) yet, but it was fairly obvious where to buy one even without knowing most of the Japanese kanji:

it was a short line, and they let people in 4 by 4 to the room, where there were 4 counters with people seated next to a pile of attendance booklets, selling them for 1500 yen a pop. This was cheaper than buying it online or in shops prior to the event, although it was also the abridged version of the guidebook without Circle (musical group) information in it, I believe. I had looked for that other version, which had been sold in shops since Oct 01, soon after I arrived about a week ago, but it had long since been sold out everywhere. Oh well, this version is probably “rarer” anyway. And easier to transport home.

There were a lot of people at the event, but the queue was already moving by the time I got my wristband and got in line at 10:26 am, just before the event was schedule to start at 10:30 am. Just like in the Touhou Reitaisai event, they lined us up in adjacent lines and then moved us in order, but this went by very quickly and we were in by 10:40 am.

We had to raise our wrists to show our wristbands as we went by the attendants — I was used to this from Reitaisai as well, though it’s not something done (as far as I’ve seen) at western conventions.

From here, there were two convention halls, and eventually when I get home I will scan and post a bunch of things related to this convention as well. For the moment though, it suffices to say that there were a lot of groups and a lot of tables packed into the two convention halls, but it was smaller overall than Reitaisai was because Reitaisai also had plenty of groups selling comics, books, trinkets, art, and so on, and also had official sponsor booths and game places that took a lot of space. M3 had none of this — it was a straight-up music browsing and buying/selling convention. A gallery of pictures has been included here, but it’s pretty much a gallery of same-ish looking pictures in most cases — since the rooms were just large square rooms with a sea of tables and people in every direction, it wasn’t really easy to capture the size and scope of the event. There were two identical halls, as mentioned, filled with these tables, but also a music listening room and a hallway/rest area between the convention halls that both contained quite a few people. And many people lingered outside the Tokyo Ryutsu Center to listen to music samples or wait for friends as well since they could just wander in and out at will with their wristband.

There were some pictures I had specific comments on and wanted to highlight, though. Firstly, like in Touhou Reitaisai, the “bigger” artists were given a specific numbering scheme and placed along the side walls, and some of the specific queues were really long. The first exhibition hall had table labels from A to R, and the second exhibition hall had table labels from あ to お on the bottom floor and カ to サ on the top floor. I only briefly went into the second hall to check it out the first time, but as far as I know, the “big” groups, some of which had massive queues, were placed on the P letter in the first hall along the outer side walls.

Anyway, that’s only passingly important because I joined two of those queues, and even got to hold up the “end of line is here” sign for a couple minutes for one of them! For example, this was the queue for La prière, which stretched out the door and round a corner and down a ramp and then turned again:

Their table was right next to that door, so to alleviate space issues inside, this queue was allowed to grow and mature outside in the sun instead. Thankfully it wasn’t hot at all. But even the bugs had to wait in line.

And this one was for Natsume Itsuki (the queue was split into a part one down the middle of the room and a part two to the side that people joined after waiting through the part one line):

Both lines moved really quickly though, relative to how slowly the Touhou Re,itaisai lines moved, the organizers or the circles or just the people in general were far more organized here, it seems. Or a combination of the three.

To get back from the second hall to the first hall, we had to follow signs taking us out of the exhibition hall area and Tokyo Ryutsu Center altogether, past the area where I had bought the event booklet and then back in the front door again. Along the way, we passed a queue of people at an ATM. This event, like Reitaisai, was cash-only, and a *lot* of cash changed hands at the event, which was obvious just by seeing the prices on the CDs and the sheer volume of them that still changed hands. Mind-boggling numbers. This also reminded me that I needed to go figure out the best way to withdraw actual cash now, as I am low. I have two different cards from two different banks and I think my Scotiabank one has lower or nonexistant fees overall, whereas my Royal Bank one doesn’t, but I have to research this.

There was a music sample room, where many if not most of the artists sent their CDs so people could browse and listen to them on the go. This is different from XFDs, or crossfades, which many artists also made and uploaded on Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitter, and other places around the web prior to the event — those (generally) were samples of each track in their new albums that they were trying to sell, combined into the length of one sample track, whereas in these rooms the full CDs were available.

How the room worked is that one could bring their own CD player along and listen to the music that way, by popping sample CDs from the table into their CD player, and then returning them when they were done. Or, one could line up and wait for a CD player from the maybe 25-30 or so of the ones the organizers had brought along to free up, and then use those. The rate of return was about one every three minutes or so, so this line (of about 10-12 people in front of me) took about half an hour:

The room itself was only open from 11:00 am (30 minutes after the event started) to 3:00 pm (30 minutes before the event ended). I spent about an hour in here and still felt like I only barely scratched the surface of what was here, even though I had also already listened to a large number of XFDs before the event. I did discover and end up purchasing three or four CDs due to this sample room though, so kudos to them for setting it up. That being said, I would highly recommend that interested people bring their own CD player. Not only to skip the queue, but because some of the CD players weren’t the best. I’m not sure if it was defective or running low on battery or something, but even though the battery indicator seemed to be over half full, my CD player eventually got into a state where it would shut off after every few seconds, basically rendering the entire exercise of listening to CDs pointless.

Anyway, the room looked like this. There were maybe 40-50 long tables, roughly sorted by letter of the alphabet, and each table with anything from 20-50 or so CDs on them. There were a lot of CDs!

When I returned to the main hall near the end of the event with about half an hour to go, I noticed one of the random circle members I walked by giving out free CDs, of something or other that they couldn’t sell, I suppose. She waved me over and gave me one, so I took it. I remembered seeing this CD in the sample room earlier, but hadn’t looked at it then (at that point, with no other way to sort through hundreds of CDs, I was basically choosing CDs to listen to based on cover art, album title, or occasionally circle name).

These are a couple of the circles that I did end up buying a CD from due to listening to them in the sample room, and that were not on my radar at all before I entered the room:

And finally, at the end of the day, this was my stash:

Everything in the rightmost four columns (besides the book) were Mart‘s and cost about 16000 yen or so, everything on the left was mine and cost 5900 yen (and another 1500 for the book and entrance fee). I’m going to be reimbursed for his portion plus shipping once I send it over to him, we have not decided yet if I’ll be sending it from Japan or from Canada once I get back though (since he’s in Europe, it’s not necessarily better from Canada).

The rest of the day

I more or less retraced my steps to get back to the hotel to squirrel away my loot, and I was somewhat proud that I  was successful in not having to use my cellphone at all to do so. I even stopped at a different transit station on the way home (Akihabara) than I did on the way there (Shimbashi). I also stopped for lunch at a place in the Shinkoiwa Lumiere shopping street called Fuji Soba for lunch. I’m not even sure what I had, it was something labelled Choice Fuji (特選富士 Tokusen Fuji) Soba/Udon for 500 yen, and it was a bit tasteless, but that’s what I get for going cheap, I suppose.

I also saw what was only my second stray cat of the trip so far (I didn’t manage to get a picture of the first one):

When I got back to the hotel, I spent some time recharging my cellphone while I unloaded my loot and then booked my lodging for the next few days. I was scheduled to book out of this place the following morning, but had not booked my next place yet. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to be based on where my next few days were going to be spent though, and I ended up booking a hotel in Asakusa for five days to try to get some stability in my schedule before I set off for the rest of the country using my JR Pass.

This booking was not without some controversy though, as I went through booking.com after surveying a couple potential websites and seeing what properties they had listed, and the site admins were busy screwing with live code as I was trying to do my booking. So at 6pm sharp, while I was literally in the middle of booking my place, they added in some code to support the Japanese government’s National Travel Support Campaign, which granted travellers within Japan a hefty discount (it took my 50000 yen pending bill and turned it into a 30000 yen one) for booking accommodation, the only catch being that one had to be a Japanese citizen to use it, so I wasn’t eligible in the first place. And I had to check a box saying that I was a citizen of Japan to be able to use it.

But I couldn’t *un* check the box, there was nothing allowing me to do so, and if I restarted the process again, the previous page kind of had a box offering free coupons (for Japanese travellers again) and that one had a checkbox, but it wouldn’t let me uncheck it. Likely because y IP address was a Japanese one since I was in the country.

The only other option was to forgo online payment and pay in person, which meant I would also forgo a small discount for booking through the website, and risk having to use actual bills instead of credit card or Paypal, depending on how behind the times the hotel was. Plus while I had a phone, the Japanese government doesn’t seem to allow tourists to get SIM cards with actual phone numbers on it so I couldn’t even contact the booking.com local phone number without burning money on an international call through my Canadian SIM card.

Anyway, I sent them a frustrated email, and got a form letter back asking for details about my booking. I answered the questions and soon got another form letter back asking for the exact same details again. I put on the livid traveller mask at this point and sent them a nastygram about their horrible support, and then noted that the code monkeys had fixed the website anyway, so I finally finished my booking after an additional vexing 30 minutes or so that i didn’t need to have. Apparently booking.com does not believe in test servers for their code and website.

Evening Walk

As this was my last evening in the Shin-Koiwa area and eastern Tokyo in general, I looked around on Google Maps, specifically east along the train line from the station, looking for a station that might be neat to go to. It was rather late at this point, past 7pm or so, and I wasn’t sure what would be open. I noticed that three stops east of me, at a station named Moto-Yawata, there was a building named “Mega Don Quijote Motoyawata”. Don Quijote, or Donki, is a Japanese discount store (but not dollar/100 yen store) with branches in Singapore and Japan, and an extremely catchy theme song, and I had already visited a couple of them on this trip. I wanted to see what a “mega” one was like though, and I knew that they were open until really late (midnight), plus it was in a direction that I had never really explored, so off I went.

The Moto-Yawata station area was fairly nice, though I had noticed by now that most (but not all) of the stations had a small cluster of commercial shops around it anyway. This is very similar to Singapore’s layout with shopping centers and stuff commonly clustered around their MRT stations (but differing from Edmonton’s, since that city is practically half-dead). Moto-Yawata was also technically in Ichikawa, Chiba, so I briefly visited the prefecture of Chiba today as well, even though it was just a couple of train stations east of where I was staying.

I liked how the roads had pretty little pebbles embedded into them. They looked really nice.

Finally, I reached the building in question. This was the outside of it.

Cool. It wasn’t all that impressive, but that was okay. It was four stories high, with the first three storeys being packed full of discount things, and the fourth storey featuring a small Daiso branch (an actual 100 yen chain) and a number of claw game arcade machines. I went in with a basket but realized this was silly — I was moving the next morning, and didn’t want to bring along additional stuff with me, the best time to shop would have been after I moved for my next 5 day stay, not before, so I ended up buying nothing from here. Pictures abound, though I apparently managed to skip the entire second level (which was largely clothing).

Finally, I went home, buying some discounted bentos from the Seiyu supermarket store next to the train station (it was about 10:20 pm at this point) and taking one last night walk through Shinkoiwa Lumiere again, except instead of walking through the posh street itself, I walked down one street west of it, which was filled with seedier shops, a couple of which were still sleepily open this time of night.

i haven’t seen charcoal burners in ages!

I reached home safely after stoping to buy some hot red bean canned soup from a vending machine that I found in that seedy alley. My late dinner, put together from a hodgepodge of bento boxes, looked like this:

It was originally 812 yen including the bottle of tea on the left, then the red bean soup that I saw and wanted to try cost me another 110 yen. The red bean was okay. I couldn’t get some of the beans out. The meal was pretty great!

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Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 8)

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