Monday, October 5, 2015

Infected In Japan

You've seen the video, you've commented wishing you lived in Japan, and you know what I'm talking about. Universal Studios Japan's Halloween months and the arrival of Biohazard The Real 3 makes every zombie fan scream with joy. To make all of you jealous, I'm here to say I've experienced it.

Let's start with Biohazard The Real 3.

I sardined my way into the park and passed through the turnstile around 9am. Once inside, I asked the nearest guide where I was to queue for Biohazard. Now, Biohazard is similar to entering The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You have to get a time ticket to play the game. But unlike Harry Potter, where the time ticket is in abundance, Biohazard runs out.

So, I found my way to the theater building and joined the queue. The park opened at 8.30am, but there was already a long line. Halfway through queuing, I noticed the people in Raccoon City Police uniform ending the queue. No one else could join and that was probably around 9.45am. At 10.05am, I finally got my time ticket for the game session at 8.15pm. Yes, at night. Which gave me a reason to stay back. If not, I would have left the park around evening time.

If you know I'm a Potterhead, you might wonder why I put zombies before Hogwarts. I did not. I bought the Express Pass and my time to ride the Forbidden Journey was 10.15am. The scramble to get to that ride began after I grabbed my ticket to Raccoon City. 

Back to Biohazard. *SPOILERS AHEAD*

When night arrived, I went to the other theater and showed my time ticket. There, I joined another queue for about 30 minutes. Once I was near the start of the game, I was briefed in Japanese on how to put on the Biohazard goggle. Then shortly after, I was handed one. When the goggle was secured on, I saw a little screen in the centre of my vision. When my handgun was linked to it, my health and ammo count appeared on the screen. 

Completely lost because everyone spoke Japanese, I followed gestures to be grouped. There were seven of us. They showed us into the briefing room with a computer screen briefing in Japanese. When it stopped, a guide appeared. He said some stuff, before a zombie jumped out from behind him. Shots were fired, while I saved my ammo.

Being clueless, I followed the group into the next room. I didn't have to be told to shoot when zombies appeared. Along the way, the guide would stop and say something. At first, I had no idea what was going on. Then I caught on. When I saw what looked like a health pack, I aimed and shot it. My health increased on the screen. Still, I don't think those pick-ups mattered. Your health is rigged anyway. I'll get to that soon.

There were four memorable rooms in the entire maze. The first room was rather large and empty, because it soon accommodated two Nemesis T's. Everyone moved to the opposite side of the room and spammed. Then after the T's were subdued, we were ordered to leave the room. Shortly after that, we came to a place where we had to leave our handguns behind. We were guided into the vaccine room and two people from our group were chosen to type in the password. After the second person typed the wrong code, the room blared in red siren. Immediately, we were gestured into another large room.

This room had a row of six assault rifles. Being the odd one out, I found my weapon at the back of the room. Once I grabbed it, there were three zombies ahead and another Nemesis T. After the special affects of bullets denting the back wall, our guide pointed to another door. It was the last room, because once we were all in, he shut the door on us. The door on the other end did not open either. 

As we stood in a row before a railing, a huge Nemesis T strolled in. He had a machine gun and he fired it. Shots of air could be felt, while the little screen showed my health depleting. Once I had hit zero, bullet cracks appeared. When the Nemesis T was done, he walked out and I saw the words on the wall behind him. It read, 'You Are Dead'. A few seconds after everyone gained their composure and realised their death, the exit door opened and the game was over.

So back to why I said my health was rigged. Everyone died in the end and you lose your health periodically throughout the game. You could not die earlier because there were no exits for the dead. You can only die when Mr Pursuer kills you at the end. However, the ammo does deplete when you fire a shot. That was the only 'real' tech that worked. I also highly doubt that the crossfire on the screen was accurate. There was no telling where to position the handgun to make it turn red. After a while, I gave up looking at the screen except to check my ammo and health. Still, accompanied with such tech, it was a game unlike any other.

The previous Biohazard The Real's did not have the goggles. Adding it to the game made it more 'real'. When I was done with the game, I left the theater feeling a little jumpy. After all, the game itself made me very anxious. Thoughts of 'don't look back' and 'quickly, go!' became voices in my head. It lingered on after the game, and I felt a little uneasy around the zombies lurking on the streets outside. I guess playing at night added to the whole apocalyptic experience.

That's Biohazard The Real 3. Would I play it again? I said 'no' when I first came out of the game. Today, 'yes'. If I get the chance to return to Japan in the future, I'll be sure to visit during the Halloween months. 

Now, on to the whole zombie theme of the park.

Around 4pm, after having enough of the rides, my family and I lounged at a grassy area near the main stage. At 4.30pm, a SWAT van arrived. When it first appeared, we wondered if it was a real police van. Then I noticed the words 'Los Angeles Police Department' written backwards. So, no, it was not a real police van. Nothing criminal happened in the park. A simple set up was done and the van was left alone until 6pm.

At 6pm, a shout came from the roof of the building across the van. I turned and saw a man in police uniform shouting and waving. Then two zombies appeared and he shot them or they ate him, I can't remember. Shortly after, there were explosions and clouds of smoke appeared from different areas of the park. Sounds of firing guns and sirens began playing over the speakers before the zombies were unleashed.

Honestly, there weren't many of them. So I have no idea why people ran and screamed when they saw them. A group of girls ran right into me and shoved their way through while I gave them the stink eye. There was over exaggeration from some of the people at the park. I guess we have them to thank for making it more realistic. Their screams added to the atmosphere. 

The police van came into play when a police man brought three zombies into the van. He did some set up and then BOOM! Explosives shot out from the top of the van. This same routine continued on for the rest of the night. They later brought in zombies in prison uniforms which were more aggressive. They revved chainsaws and growled more. The rest were pretty docile and they walked away from you the moment you attempt to take a selfie. Oh, what a bunch of camera shy zombies. 

Later that night, when I was leaving the park, the main street had a mini horde of around eight zombies. Everyone walked on the sidewalks, so my family and I decided to take the road less travelled. Halfway through, one female zombie came to my side and screamed in my ear. I hope she found joy in making me flinch. She also left her spit on my brother's hand. He has not turned. If you need to make a cure, find my brother. 

So there you have it. Zombie night was alright, but I suspect there would be more action on Halloween night itself. The entire set up of the park was dark, with street lamps constantly flickering. Mel's Drive-In had also taken on a new name, 'Mel's Die-In', serving grotesque looking food. The cure was being sold in mini vans around the park, and a show was put on to sell the drinks. There were also zombie dance performances at different stages.

The only two places not infected were the children's Sanrio area and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

So, that's Japan infected for you.

If you don't mind being sardined as you make your way around the park, don't mind facing a human horde of screaming girls, if you don't mind waiting in line, because your love for zombies know no bounds, then go. Go on Halloween day itself, because I'm sure it would be so much better. 

Or not, just stick to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during off peak seasons. I would suggest winter. Japan is crowded all year round but winter.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Japan Trip Summary

Firstly, do note that the initial itinerary was swapped around a little while on site. Some places were removed and some places were added. When I got down to the map of the locations, it was easier to re-plan a few things. If you are following my itinerary, do tally the locations on a physical map once you arrive. You can get those at main train stations. Then you'll see why I had to move a few things around.

So, how was the trip?

It was great! Since it was a long one, I'll summarize each day in a short paragraph. 

Day 1: Arrived at Narita Airport, headed to Tokyo station, explored the station for food, waited to check-in, settled down before heading to Meiji Jingu and joined the congestion in Harajuku Takashita-dori. Had dinner at a ramen shop near the apartment.

Day 2: Disney Sea. Do not go unless you're a fan. The rides were backdated and the only thing to do is take pictures. Everything was in Japanese, including the park map.

Day 3: Headed to see Sensoji Temple, walked along Ameyoko, then checked out Akihabara. My brother enjoyed Akihabara, I'm sure. 

Magome Town
Day 4: Left for Ena and arrived after noon. Our host brought us to a soba noodle restaurant for food. After lunch, we took pictures at the Enakyo gorge before heading to our little home to settle down. Later, we had dinner, look-see at a supermarket, and then called it a night.

Day 5: At 10am, our host drove us to Magome town where we started the Nakasendo trail. It was around a 3-hour walk through the forest, across roads, and into small towns. We reached Tsumago for lunch and was picked up by our host at 5pm. 

Day 6: Left for Kyoto and checked-in around noon. Had lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading for the Arashiyama bamboo groove. Did a little sightseeing in Arashiyama and enjoyed the cool weather before heading back.

Day 7: The itinerary was roughly followed: Ginkakuji - Philosopher Walk - Maruyama Park - Historic Street - Gion. 

Day 8: Travelled to Osaka and checked-in before noon. Headed to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which was extremely crowded. We could not fully enjoy all it had to offer as we shuffled through the crowd. Returned to our apartment in the evening and waited for the sun to set, before heading to Dotonbori for a good sushi dinner. 

Day 9: Spent the entire day at Universal Studios Japan. Entered the park around 9am, left the park around 9pm. Experienced both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Biohazard The Real 3. I'll write about the whole zombie experience in another post.

Day 10: The itinerary was roughly followed: Osaka Museum of Housing and Living to try on traditional clothing - Tenjimbashi-suji for shopping - Osaka Castle (it was an hour away from closing when we arrived, so we didn't enter) - a walk from Kuromon Ichiba Market to Den Den Town - Dotonbori for dinner.

Day 11: Woke up early, took the Airport Express from Osaka, ate breakfast after checking-in, then said goodbye to the land of the rising sun. It was a sad day.

Did the budget work?

Yes. We had a huge left over in our food budget. Since we didn't consume 1000 yen worth of breakfast daily, we used the excess for transport and junk food. Still, we brought home 27,000 yen. That would be roughly RM200 off the initial trip budget per person. Which actually brings the entire trip budget (per person) to below RM5000! Yes, this was a cheap trip.

Were the apartments good?

Shinjuku: The toilet was, erm, leaking. It didn't look clean either. The room was fine, the toilet wasn't.

Ena: A unique stay. Spacious, comfy bedding, necessities all provided. If we needed anything, we just had to ask the host and he would provide it. Recommended stay.

Kyoto: Really cramp. Not the kind of apartment to hangout in. Toilet was clean, but the tatami mat had a very strong smell. Thank God for the windows.

Namba: Clean and spacious. Sadly, there wasn't basic coffee and tea.

How was shopping?

I bought 9 different flavours of Kit Kat: Strawberry Cheesecake, Cheesecake, Hokkaido Red Bean, Kobe Pudding, Halloween Season Pumpkin, Hojicha Roasted, Dark Chocolate, Green Tea, and Matcha Green Tea. I saw Wasabi, Sakura Green Tea, and Strawberry, but I didn't feel like buying them. I think I shopped well in this area.

I also got myself a measly Harry Potter loot. There weren't a lot of variety in the shops, which was very disappointing for a fan. I wanted a Malfoy Quidditch tee, but they didn't have it.

Aside from that, the variety of Attack on Titan t-shirts was close to none. I gave up looking at both Akihabara and Den Den Town, before trying a gochapon on my last day only to get the character everyone hates.

To sum it up...

It was a fun trip and a good escape from reality. Maybe because it was a longer one than my last, I felt sadder having to return home. Will I go back to Japan? Of course! I would love to see Hokkaido. But I probably won't do so in the near future. After all, there are so many more places to see. 

Next stop, Tasmania!

Check out my other posts on Japan: