Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sendai Jazz Festival

The Sendai Jazz festival is a great place for people to come and feel the life of a city. This is my second year going and it was just as good as the first. I went with Aya, her parents, and two of my friends. Sendai is a pretty nice city as it is, but when 714 bands converge on the city performing on 96 stages it gets pretty lively. There are many small stages set through a roughly ten block radius of the city. However, there are three “main spots” at the grounds. The biggest one, located in Enkei and Koutoudai Park, is where the main action is. There are 3 large stages, three small stages, and about20 various food booths at this location. There are also two smaller locations. One about a 5 minute walk to the East of Koutoudai Park, in Nishikicho Park, which has a couple of small stages and a handful of food and beverage tents. The other one is to the west and slightly south of Enkei Park. This place has a few stages, The World Food Market, and a flea market. It’s about a ten minute walk west of Enkei Park. I recommend taking Johzenji Dori as it has a wide boulevard with a center walk that is covered by large leafy trees and on the way is the Sendai Mediatheque, which is a great stopping point for art, food, and beer. For complete information visit this site,

Nishi Park was my favorite. The World Food Market had German meats, Mexican, Indian, and others. It was nice to have a little bit of multi-cultural flavor being as where I live there is little of it. I was also surprised by the flea market. I love flea markets. I love other peoples old junk. It was really surprising to me, in the land of everything new/nothing used, to find a flea market.

It was a really great way to spend the weekend and a good reminder that there really is a lot of expressive culture in Japan. Japan is not all temples and kimonos. It’s not just technology and sumo. It’s a lot of young (and not so young) people wanting to express themselves through music, art, and fashion. Much of the time Japanese society is very stifling when it comes to individuality. People are pressured to conform to group ideas and group image in order to ensure harmony. Many times this is a good thing as the wheels get more grease, but in some ways this is can be very depressing, especially for the young and artistic. Sendai Jazz Festival is a great outlet for everyone to let loose with sound and color. To kind of let it all out and paint, dance, sing, and be different!. I highly recommend going if you are in a 4 hour radius of Sendai! Let your freak flag fly!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


If you are not familiar with it, Gundam is about giant mechanical humanoid robot like things. Think transformers that don’t transform, have human pilots inside of them, and carry guns, swords, and grenades. The idea of Gundams themselves is not new, there have been a number of comics, toys, movies, etc. made about Gundams. They’re these vehicles that you climb inside of and battle with against other people who have climbed inside of their giant robots. In a way it is very reflective of Japanese society. Climb into something you are not to take on the hard tasks.
Fairly recently a Gundam arcade game involving pods has emerged. These pods seem like they'd do a great job of simulating sitting in a giant robot. They have headphones with microphone for voice chat with players on your team as well as being able to play on teams with people in other arcades. The pods are networked not only at the local arcade but across the net to other arcades all throughout Japan.

Outside the pods there is a battle status display so people outside can see how the battle is going. There are two sides each consisting of anywhere from 4 to 8 people playing against each other each game. The inside of the pod move like a tank with pedals and opposing hand operated joysticks equipped with a series of buttons.
Apparently the game is designed so it's important to co-operate with your teammates in order to do well. My friend Richard and I often go together and stick together on the battle field so we can help each other out, which is usually affective and a lot more fun. We have also played with his teacher and some other friends. Most people love the game, but are turned off by the price, which may be smart as the game becomes addictive. Like most games it has upgrades and things to unlock as you go along. Therefore to get that next stage Gundam or weapon, well you have plunk another 2000 yen down and play some more games. I have certainly become addicted and added this to my list of things I should do less of. I would guess that in the past 6 months or so of playing I have spent about 3 man, or the equivilant of 250 dollars. It has also led to me being in class A, which is the highest bracket. I hope that when I do finally stop playing that I can sell my player card and recoup some of the cost.

The game is expensive, it costs 300 yen for a initial pilot card (2.25 US) which is like a credit card that stores all your information and 500 yen (about 4.25) every game you play. The games consist of two battle phases that last for 250 seconds a piece. Meaning you pay one yen per second. Time entering the pod, battling and receiving information is usually about 15 minutes.
I found a bunch of videos on YouTube, but none of them really do it justice because of the way the screen looks. It’s hard to capture that 180 degree field with a camera the same way the human eye does. This guy’s video was pretty good because he explained things as he went. You can check it out here