ASCS 2003

A late update here – last weekend was ASCS 2003 – the Big Annual Airsoft gathering.

Basically, airsoft is a bunch of people in military gear running around with realistic looking air and electric powered guns firing plastic pellets at each other.

This year’s games were 250 vs. 250 affairs over a huge playing area – woods, streams and open hills. A lot of fun, but a bit repetitive, even though the teams were made up of 5 small teams and were rotated.  Previous years had similar team sizes of 30 or so, but it was a 1 on 1 style in smaller areas, with specific objectives – capture the flag, defend a balloon, or such. This year’s was 5 games of the same thing – find coloured cans and bring them back to base. Unfortunately the lack of knowing your team-mates and having no overall strategy meant that the games often descended into stalemate small unit activity.

Our team is called Tokyo Gaikoku Butai [TGB] (aka Foreign Devils or just ‘those gaijin’), but only 7 of us made it up, so we joined with a few other small clans and made one team. We make up a pretty small percentage of the 500 or so participants, but the reception is always friendly, and doesn’t affect the game play at all. I’ve been playing for about 3 years now, although I only seem to make a few games – but I always go to ASCS. If you fancy giving airsoft a go, have a look at that group, or Google it!

The weather for the weekend was warm on Saturday and raining on Sunday, and today is pretty miserable too. I hate to whine on about the weather here, but for Japan, this is really odd…middle of August and I’m not melting.

I survived Disney Sea!

A late post, but just to say that I went to Tokyo Disney Sea this weekend.

Let’s just say that I don’t like Disney. Actually, that doesn’t go far enough. I HATE Disney, blah blah blah.

But there I am, the day after a typhoon, in sweltering heat and sporting a very tasteless wide brim hat, there I am wandering around the latest Disney Park. I have to say that it’s less Disney than it’s neighbour, Tokyo Disneyland. The rides aren’t bad and it’s a bit more ‘real’ than it’s saccharine cousin.

There’s also no characters walking around, which is good because I’d just want to push them in the harbour. Walking around is nice (if you avoid sunburn), but what about the rides. Well, they’re better than TokDis, but not really white knucklers.

Still, top 2 were Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and the Indiana Jones ride. After that, maybe Storm Rider. The restaurants are OK, and generally service was good. The finale fireworks show is so much better than the old (now retired) Fantillusion, which used to bore me stupid. An interesting aside is that Tokyo Disney Sea is built around themes rather than films, and with the exception of Ariel the Mermaid, and that ‘Under the Sea’ track, there was a dearth of recent Disney characters, but then, can you name a Disney character from the last 8 years or so? If you can, chances they’re from a Pixar made film…Toy Story, Bug’s Life, and the new Finding Nemo.

None of them are here – odd given the last one’s marine setting. Licensing issues? Who knows. However, despite Disney’s decline, the parks are still a good day out, but at 5,500 yen to get in, make the most of it.

OK, I had fun 🙂
Still hate Disney though.

Fuji Rock Festival 2003

OK, the Fuji Rock Festival was absolutely amazing – it’s been a while since I’ve been to a weekend music festival, and this was as good as I remember. I actually went to the Fuji Rock Festival when it started in 1997 and whilst the music was excellent, the organisation was poor. I’ve been a few times since, and it just seems to get bigger and better – building facilities and stages, without sacrificing the overall feel – the all night DJ sessions and lights, artists, sculptures…and rain made it a great event. The camping area was pretty good, and I have to say that though the toilet queues were long, no one can say that they didn’t try. There was lots of food to be had too – from Fish and Chips to Ramen to Curry (lots of curry actually).

As I mentioned Asian Dub Foundation were great, delivering great music and a rant about the occupation of Iraq. Primal Scream were awesome as ever, lots of energy, and Saturday night rounded off with Bjork and a cool light show and fireworks. I have to say that I thought Primal’ would have been a better closer, but Bjork seems a bit more famous here – if only for her film role last year rather than as ex-Sugarcubes/solo singer.

The rain was falling well from about 7, but most people had given up on staying dry anyway, so it didn’t seem to spoil it for anyone. Of the bands we saw, it was a great place to hear new stuff. On Sunday we started off with a young Japanese band called Sugardonuts, who, despite the drummer’s kick drum breaking, put in an amazing show in front of the handful of people awake at 11am! We took the opportunity to walk around the huge site, try some food and see the smaller acts on the side stage, and a lot of them were really good – no one can say this festival was just a couple of big names – the support was great too.

We were impressed by a new band Evanescence to the point that we bought their CD on the way out. We ducked out of the Coldplay gig to go and see Anthrax on the second stage, and I’m glad to say I did – they rocked like never before, ripping through a greatest hits set including ‘Bring the Noise’. As we made our way back afterwards to the crowds at the main stage in front of Coldplay we knew we made the right choice – I like Coldplay, but at this kind of festival, you need a few bands to kick up some noise. Finally, we listened to a bit of Steve Winwood to chill out before putting the tent away and making our way back to the last Shinkansen. Tired, wet and a little sun burned.

Despite it’s name, the festival is held yearly in Naeba, in the mountains north of Tokyo – it’s 75 min. shinkansen ride, followed by a 40 min. bus ride, so not too bad. The scenery is beautiful, and makes a welcome change from Tokyo – if you’re in Tokyo in the summer and want to get out – get to the fuji Rock Festival.


Earthquake (no kidding!)

Well, for those who haven’t heard (or felt!), Japan had a petty sizable earthquake at about 6.30pm last night. Believe me – it was a shaker. I work on the 22nd floor, and the whole building was wobbling for nearly 5 minutes. We could look at another building currently under construction, and see the bare electric bulbs swinging violently – and construction workers holding on to the super structure. I didn’t see any damage in Tokyo, so that has to be a good thing. I must admit that during the tremor I made a cup of tea – since the swaying of the building was making a few people feel quite ill. Since I’ve been here I’ve witnessed quite a few quakes, but that one was certainly the longest, and felt like the most likely to get nasty. Let’s hope it’s just the plates letting off a bit of steam gently. BBC did a story here.

Sun and wine

Nice. After a sun splashed weekend, it’s now a national holiday, and yet another beautiful sunny day. Having already spent an hour on the balcony with a book and a glass of red wine, it’s now time to get serious – and head to the park armed with a bigger book, a couple of bottles of water and enough energy to lie down on the grass. Truly a tough life 🙂

The throat is now much better.

UK post

Well, this is my first post from Grimsby in the UK. I’m back in my old home town for a while, and taking advantage of my ISPs global roaming and my trusty old G3 Powerbook to make this post.

It’s good to be back in many ways – lots of nature and catching up with old friends and family is always a good thing, so I’ve taken the opportunity to take a few photos too, especially in the beautiful spring sunshine. On the subject of photos, I’ve also found a whole load of photos from years past – and a lot of pretty funny ones I’m going to try to scan and distribute to people as I go along.

So what’s happening in the UK? Aside from everyone avidly following events in Iraq, this weekend had the Grand National, the highlight of the British jump horse-racing and the Oxford/Cambridge university Boat Race along the Thames in London. This year it was won by Oxford in one of the closest competitions ever! So it’s been a good weekend for sports and such – and the weather was pretty good too.

On the subject of sports, I’ll be going to a football game on Tuesday night between my home team (Grimsby Town) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (aka ‘Wolves’). So I’ll update how that goes!

Snowboard owari :(

Well, that was the final weekend of snowboarding for the season – 2 days at Joetsu kokusai in Niigata. The weather was beautiful, such that not only could I snowboard in a T-shirt, but I could get a nice pink sunburn effect too (despite my massive application of sun-cream). I’m seriously thinking of going to New Zealand later this year to get MORE snowboarding – maybe Mt. Hutt this time. Good NZ snow site here. A couple of years ago I went to a small club ski field called Temple Basin near Christchurch, staying in a wooden cabin hanging off the side of a mountain, and have to say that I had a great time.

I must stop playing C&C Generals too actually…check here…. Maybe it’s not tasteful playing a war game in the middle of the middle-east situation, but I can’t see it making it any worse either.

The Returner

Well, a film I was waiting for finally came out on DVD here, and with English subtitles! “The Returner” is a sci-fi film starring Taiwanese born Kaneshiro Takeshi, but this is very much a Japanese film. It’s sort of ET/Matrix/Terminator but a worthwhile watch. They went a bit long at 2 hours, but it’s good to see a decent Japanese film which doesn’t involve a lot of sadistic violence – it has some violence, but not the level of say Kitano ‘Beat’ Takeshi films; it also has some very cool action sequences. On the negative side, some bits look like a made-for-TV film, but most of it looks amazing – especially the scenes in Tibet, and the 747 which turns into a robot spacecraft! The special edition DVD also has a load of printed pictures, a full printed A5 storyboard booklet, and a DVD with a ‘making of’. Worth a watch for anyone.