Sunday, April 19, 2015

(R) Making reservations online at Eorzea Final Fantasy Cafe

I recently went to the Eorzea FFXIV cafe in Akihabara, Japan.



It was awesome!

Many people have asked how to book the reservations online, so here are the step-by-step instructions:

1. Go to this website: Eorzea Cafe Online


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10. Since I don't want to book reservations again I can't screencap anything past this point (if anyone wants to send me screenshots I'd be happy to add them). The next screen is asking you to confirm all your details. Once you confirm, you'll have to go to a Lawson convenience store and use their ticket machine to print out your ticket(s). Remember, if you made a reservation exactly like in this walkthrough, you will get ONE ticket that works for FOUR people. Reserving online like this, will also get you a free drink at the cafe!

Enjoy your awesome experience and delicious food! :D

Thursday, March 5, 2015

(R) Hadaka Matsuri - Japan's Naked Festival

Hadaka Matsuri (裸祭り) is a Japanese festival held at many different locations throughout Japan. The standard explanation for this festival is that thousands of somewhat intoxicated, nearly naked men gather in one location to search through the crowd for something that will bring them luck for the whole year. Because the individual festivals are all different, we can’t go deeper into an explanation without singling out one in particular. This video will explain the Hadaka Matsuri that takes place at Konomiya Shrine (国府宮).



Konomiya Shrine is the largest shrine in the city of Inazawa (稲沢), which is located about 12 minutes by train from Nagoya (which is about 250km, or 160miles southwest of Tokyo). Inazawa has a population of about 130,000 and falls about halfway between rural and urban, which has made it a popular place for the construction of new homes. Other notable places in Inazawa include the Mitsubishi Solae elevator testing tower, which previously held the record for the world's tallest elevator testing tower, and Inazawa Grand Bowl, which previously held the record for largest bowling alley (116 lanes).

People from all over the Owari region participate in the Hadaka Matsuri, signing up at the designated location in their cities to become hadaka otoko (naked men / 裸男). Several days before the festival, each group of hadaka otoko must meet a quota for producing mochi (餅), or rice cake. Most shrines bring their completed stack of mochi to Konomiya before the festival, although some will parade it through Konomiya’s gates the morning of the festival. This mochi will be displayed at the festival, and sold afterwards.



The men of Hadaka Matsuri also start out at these smaller shrines. The morning of the festival they finish preparations on their shrine’s naoizasa, which is a long pole made of bamboo. Tied to the naoizasa are naoinuno. Naoinuno are pieces of cloth on which you write your name, age, and wish for the year. Wishes are usually modest and related to issues such as health or bad luck. Anyone can write a naoinuno, although it costs money to attach it to a naoizasa.

Naoinuno

Naoizasa come in many shapes and sizes

A fair amount of work goes into the planning for each group. Hadaka otoko must register their intent to participate at their nearest sign up location There are no age requirements, so even small children, and on the rare occasion an infant, may be seen participating at the festival. Groups must submit a police report asking for permission to march through the streets from their shrine to Konomiya the day of the festival. On this march the hadaka otoko will carry their shrine’s naoizasa to deliver it to Konomiya. This act is called hounou. The Hadaka otoko of each group wear matching headbands, called hachimaki. Aside from their hachimaki, hadaka otoko will typically wear only a fundoshi, which is a holy undergarment. 

Hadaka otoko wearing fundoshi and hachimaki


Hadaka Matsuri itself is an all-day festival. Game and food stalls line the pathway of gates at Konomiya. In the morning smaller groups begin their hounou, by taking turns marching through the gates of Konomiya with their naoizasa. At one point, some groups may attempt to stand their naoizasa on its end, and the occasional hadaka otoko may even try to climb it. There’s no real reason for why this is done, though some people feel very strongly that not only is it dangerous, but it's disrespectful to the people who tied their naoinuno to the naoizasa.

One group standing their naoizasa on end


Once each shrine has completed its hounou, the main event can begin. The Konomiya Hadaka Matsuri revolves around a man called the shin otoko (神男), literally man of god. Unlike the hadaka otoko, the shin otoko is completely naked and shaved of all body hair except for his eyebrows. For three days before Hadaka Matsuri, he can only eat rice, takuwan, and drink hot water to purify himself, a cleansing process called okomori. Candidates who wish to become shin otoko submit applications, which are reviewed by priests of Konomiya Shrine and prior shin otoko. They must be young, in good physical condition, and unofficially able offer a gift of money to prior shin otoko, in return for their protection at the festival. Four final applicants are selected, who then participate in a lottery called omikuji, where they select twisted strands of paper to determine the year’s shin otoko.

On the day of the event, the shin otoko will attempt to cross through the gates of Konomiya and make it to the entrance of the shrine, called the naoiden. He is said to absorb all the ills and bad luck from the hadaka otoko who touch him. Therefore, for the main event all hadaka otoko will be trying to find and touch him. Many hadaka otoko drink sake liberally before participating in the event. This, combined with the cold temperature and crowding means that the Hadaka Matsuri can sometimes be quite dangerous. Each year a number of people sustain injuries, and throughout the history of Hadaka Matsuri people have even died. The shin otoko, at the center of all the pushing and shoving, will generally be bruised and battered by the end of the event.

Men at the naoiden attempting to pull in the shin otoko


However, there are Hadaka otoko designated to protect the shin otoko. He has three guards, all whom are prior shin otoko. Additionally, a smaller shrine will be designated to protect the shin otoko. There are only two shrines that may have this honor: Shoumeiji and Koike. . These Hadaka otoko are called teoketai, and have the duty of throwing water into the crowd, which serves several purposes. First, it cools down and lubricates the hadaka otoko to prevent injuries. Second, the water is thrown from the direction of the naoiden toward the hadaka otoko surrounding the shin otoko, with the intention of stalling them momentarily so that the shin otoko can advance toward the shrine. Teoketai run continuous circuits from the shrine well to pick up the water, to the shin otoko.

Banners for Koike and Shoumeiji

The teoke buckets used by the teoketai


The day climaxes when the exhausted shin otoko reaches the naoiden. It does not end, though. At midnight the shin otoko has another duty: he must carry something called dobei mochi, plus a doll, in circles around the chouya, which is a shrine building. The dobei mochi is made of year-old burned ashes of tsubute mixed with mud. Tsubute is made from branches of willow and peach, which are wrapped in paper. While the shin otoko is circling the chouya, tsubute will be thrown at him, which is also said to transfer bad luck from the thrower to the dobei mochi and doll that the shin otoko carries. This tsubute will be picked up by members of the shrine and burned, which will then be used to make the dobei mochi for the shin otoko of the following year.

Only after this is completed can the shin otoko rest.

The source of this ritual is actually pretty dark. It’s a reenactment of an old ritual where one unlucky man passing near a shrine would be forcefully captured to play the role of naoinin, or shin otoko. The people of the village would transfer their bad luck to him and then cast him out. Because it was inhumane the practice was banned, but later emerged in the form of this festival. Today the shin otoko is a revered role, and applicants for the position are strictly selected by Konomiya shrine priests and prior shin otoko.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

(R) Trip to Tokyo, and thoughts on fans and YouTube

Another too-long-tweet-turned-blog-post here. :)

I'm finally home from Tokyo! I spent the last week meeting up with a ton of friends, making new friends, and taking many videos of yet-to-be-determined quality (hopefully a few are usable).

You would think that after three years of making videos I would have some sort of professional mentality where I would know exactly what qualities a good video needs and thus record confidently and efficiently with a clear image in my mind of how the final video will turn out... but it never happens that way. It's still awkward recording in public. It's awkward talking to yourself, it's awkward talking to a camera, and it's especially awkward trying not to get in the way of or cause trouble for the people around you who are just trying to go about their day without showing up in the background of some foreigner's camera.

I also have a tendency to get lost in the moment enjoying my surroundings or talking to people, and I almost always forget to take pictures together with people (and slightly less often but still more than is acceptable also forget to take videos).

I initially went to Tokyo to meet Jun's and my long-term internet friend Melodee Morita in person. Fortunately, I was able to take a picture our second day together!


Melodee is one of those people who are so truly, genuinely, kind and sweet that they could tell you a story where they were less than perfect with another person and you would just laugh and think it was adorable, and that doesn't really count as being mean because omg you are the nicest person ever. (Not that she told me a story like that; she didn't.)

She works and lives in New York, so I was super happy to get the chance to finally meet her!

It turns out that Melodee picked the perfect time to come to Tokyo because I was also able to meet up with a ton of other people who were also just visiting or were otherwise very often too busy to hang out a lot. Best buddies Sharla and Grace were a given, and I was also able to catch a lunch with Chika (our first time really getting a chance to talk; it was wonderful!), and new friend and soon-to-be-jvlogger Miranda (who brought a lot of incredibly delicious Mexican snacks for us to try!) I also met jvloggers Sapphira (yet to debut) and Anora of Yummy Japan! And here's where I fail with pictures, because the only other one I took that wasn't purikura is this one. ↓



It was really a YouTuber meet fest. We all took videos together, so look forward to those in the coming months! I say months because legit you guys have no idea how many videos we end up with sitting in an editing queue, fading out of memory and relevance. (Figuring out which videos get edited and uploaded first is a half complex/half arbitrary process that would need a separate blog post to explain.)

In any case, I was so excited and happy to meet all of these people! There's something so easy and refreshing about hanging out with other people who also make videos, because we all share similar hardships and understand exactly what to do when the other person's recording. We all happily commiserate with each other on the time it takes to edit or add subtitles, talk about how we deal with negative comments, and brainstorm ideas for collaborating. Most of us YouTubers start out making videos alone, so meeting other people who do the same things and think about the same problems is always really fun.

YouTube is strange because you see someone's image and hear their voice online, and you get to feel like you know them even when you've never met before in real life. When you finally get a chance to meet, many people (myself being one of them) often act like you've met a dozen times before. This goes for meetups where both people are YouTubers, and it also goes for meetups where one person's a video maker and the other is a viewer. I love this. The main point of my original too-long-tweet was wanting to talk about this.

I was very luckily able to meet quite a few people in Tokyo I just so happened to dumbly stumble past at the right time who recognized me and thankfully called out. It happens every now and then in Nagoya, but Nagoya is a smaller city and to be honest I don't leave the house that often anyway, so it's not a fairly frequent occurrence.

I remembered to take two pictures.




It feels really strange.

I'm very, very happy to meet these people, always. Like I said before, it's easy to talk to people like friends when they already know a bit about you, and especially when you share the common experience of being in Japan. It feels like I have friends everywhere. But it's also embarrassing, because I am always unsatisfied with something about our videos, and I can't feel proud to meet people and be like, "Yeah! I made those videos!" I feel more like, "Yeah, I made those videos, although I suck at speaking and I don't think I got my point across correctly here" or "I kind of changed a little bit since that video and it doesn't really reflect my mindset anymore" or "I don't know if you noticed how shaky our camera was or how horrible the sound quality was but it was really unprofessional and at this point with our channel I feel like we should have been doing better."

Once our videos are uploaded, I can never watch them again because I don't like looking at myself and seeing all my mistakes popping out at me.

Don't get me wrong, I think we have a lot of good stuff. But is it stuff that's worthy of being recognized on the street over? I dunno, that's kind of weird. Getting recognized in public is something that happens to famous people. Famous people are people who are like... up there, you know. Different. Not down here in the real world with us average people. Of course that's not true, but that's how it feels to me. I start to get uncomfortable when viewers are referred to or refer to themselves as fans (not that any of the people I met in Tokyo did that). YouTube doesn't help with this, because they refer to viewers as fans, too.
The first fan link up there shows everyone who is subscribed to you (assuming their subscriptions are public). So according to YouTube, you literally only have to be subscribed to someone to be a fan of them. I think that usage of the word is too liberal, and I don't like how it adds distance between the video creator and the viewer.

I know I said in my job video I would never talk about my job again, but parts of it end up being relevant here and there, and since this is a blog I feel like I have a little more leeway here. In the military keeping professional distance between people of different ranks is stressed very strongly, to the point of being an actual military law under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (fraternization). That makes sense for the military. A military needs very strict rules and regulations to keep order, which helps the military function as efficiently and predictably as possible during the fog of war.

But this isn't the military. We're not even famous people. We're just people who make amateur videos. Does there need to be that distance? I don't think so.

I understand why YouTube and some YouTubers refer to their viewers as fans. Technically, some viewers could meet the defining criteria of being a fan. But I think that's a bit... egotistical? Like you're saying you think that just because you made some videos, you deserve fame? Maybe for YouTube that makes good business, because fans buy merchandise and support people to the point of giving those people a public persona, which makes YouTube look like they're creating celebrities, which makes YouTube look good and makes more people want to join YouTube and ultimately YouTube earns more money.

But it's also encouraging video makers to think of themselves as being famous, which leads some of them to soaring egos and superiority complexes, and I don't think that's what YouTube should be about. 

I like viewers being friends. I enjoy meeting them. I enjoy talking to them. I enjoy being able to share my thoughts. I've said before that while Jun and I were dealing with our long distance, being able to just get online and chat with someone immediately on Twitter or YouTube was an almost indispensable resource for protecting my mental health. My favorite part of uploading videos is reading the new comments that come in. The first two days after uploading a video I will almost obsessively be checking our new messages the moment they pop up (I have an application that alerts me when we get new emails, wootwoot).

This does get hard though because it's impossible now for us to respond to everyone. I was that socially awkward kid in school who always started sentences quietly and then got cut off by more outgoing people saying something else, and I would never be able to interject and get my own questions or thoughts in, so I'm a bit sensitive toward ignoring people when they're asking questions. I feel like a douchebag when I can't respond to questions. I know most people realize and even expect that YouTubers won't answer their questions, but I still feel bad.

By the way, thank you to everyone who commented on the last blog post, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to reply to all of them yet. I did read them all. To the person who asked if maybe I was apologizing so much due to subconscious feelings of disappointing my mom or something like that, lol, that really made me laugh. But no, you start to get a little paranoid about what you're saying after you've been doing YouTube for a while because literally everything you say can offend someone. A significant portion of things you say will be misunderstood or misconstrued, and then used angrily in rants against you, and it kind of sucks... No matter how hard you try to get your point across, someone always gets upset. Since I can type more freely here in a blog without worrying about people clicking out because it's too long (like we do with videos), it's easier to add all the disclaimers I predict I might need in preparation for potential criticism. It sounds kind of crazy that that's something I even have to think about, but yep, that's one thing I've learned to do after all these years. The sad part is I apparently have no ability to predict how people are going to react to the things I say so most of the time it ends up being fruitless and I make some people angry anyway. Oh well.

Anywho, this was just a little more insight into my mind here. It's a lot of things I've been wanting to say for a while, but never really seemed to fit in in a video anywhere. And no apologies this time. IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, TOO BAD.

Just kidding. Don't get angry.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

(R) WHAT, new blog post?! Back to the roots of blogging--emptying my thoughts

I started typing a Twitter post and once I hit -396 characters I realized I needed somewhere else to share my thoughts.

What?

You mean we have something specifically for that?!

Initially when we created this blog I wanted it to be a, you know, blog, where Jun and I could just share things we were thinking about. Things happen and that never really took off, but it's midnight now and I'm feeling muse-y so how about some embarrassing thoughts!

(By the way, does anyone else feel like they start sharing too much information late at night? I don't get deep-secrets-talky with drinking, but I do when I stay up too late.)

I've been so, so happy to have a real hobby for once (YouTube) that it's become a bit of an obsession and it's distracted me from the fact that I haven't done anything else I enjoy for a long, long time. I don't know what's happening in the news, I don't know what games are out, I don't even know what SYSTEMS are out. The past few months every time I try to paint my nails I only have time to get the first coat on and it looks all crappy, and then I don't have time to redo them so I end up with chipped/half-painted nails for weeks.

I love where I am in life. I have a hobby that's productive (produces something, affects people, sometimes makes differences [both good and bad], and even brings in a little bit of money), which is something I've been wanting for a long time. I used to really enjoy spending my evenings surfing the internet and playing video games, but at the same time there was always a vague sense of dissatisfaction and slight feeling of anxiety that I wasn't really doing anything of value.

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and have a series of events occur that led to shedding my laziness (the AF got me exercising, Jun got me making videos), and I kind of feel like I'm in a moderately successful place in my life now. But I have a slightly obsessive personality, which means that as time has gone on I've put everything, and I mean everything, into this video-making hobby.

And it took a thoughtful Facebook post (lol wut) to suddenly remind me that I haven't been doing any of the other things that used to make me happy. One of those things was learning new things (to a slightly obsessive level of detail). This may not surprise you, considering some of the videos I've made that required a significant amount of research into areas I hadn't studied since 8th grade (biology). I loved reading the Wikipedia page, and then reading the links at the bottom (very frequently half-nonsense sites/half expired links), reading the top pages on Google, and then reading the scientific studies. And then repeating the Wikipedia and Google page look-up for every other word in those scientific studies! I did this over and over until I understood every piece of information, which is how I was able to explain things so (I believe) clearly and simply. The difference is, I didn't used to do this only for Japan.

I absolutely love what we do with YouTube. And I absolutely love learning about Japan. Even now learning new things here still hasn't lost its appeal. But honestly, this is all I know now. I didn't used to just focus on things about one country. I initially studied all of Asia (for my major) and then expanded to major world region hot spots for the military. I kept up to date with everything, on a variety of subjects. I would read books in two or three days. Now I read one, maybe two books a year? I used to muse indefinitely on tons of pointless, dumb things (like this blog post right here). I had my period of angsty, no-one-else-understands-the-world-like-I-do teenage thoughts, which resulted in an entirely horrible livejournal that I believe no longer exists (at least I hope it doesn't).

Granted, most those thoughts were stupid and embarrassing, and I probably wouldn't be able to even stomach my way through reading a whole post now (I'm sure this will be the same later on down the road). But it was fun. I don't feel like I've really thought about things like that in a while. My life has been very fast-paced for a long time. I'm a very anxious person. Even just taking a break now raises my blood pressure! Can you believe it? I feel like I'm wasting time. Jun will ask me to just come sit with him for a few minutes, and I'll be thinking, "How long is this going to take? I'm not done responding to people. I still need to watch that video for that one person. We don't have our next video done yet." And I can't sit still. My eyebrows start scrunching upward together, I start breathing a little faster, and I start fidgeting. This is somewhat of a problem.

Jun and I tried to take a vacation during the New Year holiday. First we wanted 5 days, and then thought to settle for 3, and then 2, and then it just didn't happen at all. We went out together one day... and we made a YouTube video. It was fun, but it really wasn't a break at all. I've forgotten how to take things slowly. I was hoping, praying that a vacation with no internet and no camera would finally force some relaxation time on us. But with planning it, any decent place to stay overnight was $200 a night per person. PER PERSON! And then the area would be so crowded in a city, with people. We'd take a train and not the car so we'd be walking in the cold. And could we really afford to take that many days off right now? We couldn't.

(You also may be surprised how many hotels have nice bathing areas... but only communal ones. That's not a problem for me, until it's gender-segregated [hint: they're pretty much all gender-segregated] which means that on a vacation with my husband I'd be sitting naked in a nice bath with strangers, and not the person I wanted to spend time with the most. What's the point of that?!)

And you know, even though I feel like the insane price-tag of a vacation is one of the big reasons we decided not to do it, even if we had a lot of money, I still don't think I'd be comfortable spending $200 a night, per person, just to sleep in a room with a bath. My parents divorced when I was 7 (no biggie) but after that, neither of them did quite well with their jobs. We were on welfare on my mom's side for... pretty much all of it, I guess. We weren't dirt poor, but I shopped mostly at thrift stores. And the thing is, even after becoming an adult and getting a real job... I still shop at thrift stores. Everything I make goes into the bank. There's no spending budget--the budget is everything gets saved, and every now and then we can treat ourselves to a meal or a little bit of shopping. Jun asked me the other day what I would do if I was just given $50. I of course said I'd put it in the bank, and when he said that wasn't an option, I couldn't think of something else to do with it. (He said he'd put his into one of his aquariums, btw).

This does not bode well for future vacation planning. Someone could literally give us money for a vacation, and my thoughts in order would be:
1. No, I don't want your money for vacation.
2. Okay, look, I don't need your money for vacation.
3. If you give me that money, I'm going to put it in the bank.

I'm not quite sure how to get over this hurdle. Even Donna and Tom's advice didn't work.



Well, it almost worked.

I had the time to research all those videos in the past because I was living in America, which made making videos about Japan a bit difficult. That meant my best option for video making was finding interesting things I could talk about, like facts and statistics. At the same time, I was also horribly depressed and dealing with anxiety, so the obsessive research every waking second helped keep my mind off the fact that Jun and I were apart and were still going to be apart for an indefinite period of time. Now that we're together, there are so many things we're doing and so many videos we're making that I don't have those large chunks of time to put into research anymore.

That issue I've been working to solve. I finally made the "What Souvenirs Should You Bring to Japan" video, which took reading through a few hundred comments, translating them all into English, sorting them, and then organizing the video. But that was a relatively "simple" research video, since it didn't really require much actual digging research--it was mostly just conducting our own survey and analyzing the results. And I do have one subject that I've wanted to talk about for a long time, that is somewhere near the top of our mental which-video-to-make-first list. It's just been hard finding the time to do the research, and when I think back to how much time I put into those other videos, it feels a little daunting knowing how much effort it's going to take. I'm not in the military anymore, which means I don't have a reliable income. YouTube isn't reliable at all, and calling it an income would be stretching. So can I even afford to spend that much time on a single video now? (The answer doesn't matter, because I'll make the video anyway. No guarantees when I'll be able to finish it, though.)

Well, those are just some questions, and some thoughts. I'm really horrible at conclusions, but I realize this is all basically just a giant ramble with absolutely no point or formatting and so it really should end now. The longer I make this, the more vaguely dissatisfied I think people will feel if they manage to read the whole thing, realizing they wasted all that time on pretty much nothing! Sorry. If this really sucked or was confusing, sorry for that, too. And it's probably embarrassing, I can't tell right now, so I'm sorry to future me, too. And if it sounded like just complaints, sorry, because it's really just some thoughts. I absolutely love what we do, and wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't be able to obsessively work day in and day out on something I didn't love.

(By the way, that reminded me, I realized a little while ago why the big bosses at companies work such long hours and so obsessively, when working for those companies feels like torture for us. It's because the company, or that department, or that responsibility--it's theirs. It's their baby. They probably even love it in a way. I relate so much now. There are no quitting hours with YouTube. You just work until it's done, and then you have a thousand other things to do so you end up continuing to work even after finishing your project. Its success depends on you. The more time and effort you put in, the more you're going to get out of it. It's the same with video games. To be successful you have to be able and willing to put that work above everything else [or get lucky; usually a combination of both (oh, or be early, i.e. be the first; being early is also a pretty big factor in success)]. Well, those are just thoughts, too. Guess I shouldn't have said it like it was some secret truth-reveal or something. And that's an entirely different subject for another time. Or not, depending on how horrible I think this is in the morning.)