Although The Wind


In August we left Japan.


While we were studying in Osaka, we were alarmed by low offers on our house in the US. We discovered that this was due to damage from an aggressive termite season caused by an extra rainy Louisiana summer. It didn’t help that we were already beat down from culture shock, the demands of student life, and the price of living in the comfortable city center of Osaka. We stopped studying and went home to assess the damage and were shocked by how much fell apart while the home was left five months unoccupied. When we arrived, we couldn’t open the front door due to a damaged floor in our entry way, and the bathroom, laundry room and dining room floors were visibly crumbling in segmented rows. Spiders had made homes in the ceiling corners, along with an old stuffed bat (a Halloween decoration hanging in a dark corner that we thought we had lost), and a few large roaches iconic to Louisiana had found a final resting place in a few spots of the once beautiful, now spongy original hardwood floors.  We purchased cleaning supplies and got to work the day we moved back in, as well as spending our first week without hot water, as we were greeted by two major hurricanes that hit SW Louisiana/SE Texas. (and ruined my birthday, too.)

The reality of leaving our dream of living in Japan prematurely to protect our property in America was a tough pill to swallow, although I recently had the pleasure of stumbling upon a Tweet from Alysia Judge  of an ancient translated Japanese poem, Although the Wind, by Izumi Shikibu (translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani), from 10th Century Japan:

I felt a particular connection with it, particularly with this love/hate relationship with our home in Louisiana. Visually, I love it. It is filled with unique textures and architectural touches, was Colton’s childhood home, and was restored and designed entirely by his father in the 1970’s. The home is old and substandard but near the garden district in downtown Lake Charles, which the charm, location and history almost makes up for the lack of central heat and the fact that it leaks air like an old kitchen colander.


This year, my trusty old Magnolia tree saved our yard from the snow. I live an hour from the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve only seen snow here twice in the 10 years I’ve lived here.

This year has been a strange winter, and due to the severity of the cold it was the first year we experienced the Christmas of dragging the bed into the warmest rooms while I battled off the flu, and hoping my foot won’t go through a new part of the floor in the midst of the shuffling. It’s also been a costly project to restore, and it doesn’t come without it’s controversies, as most things left over after a family tragedy. It’s been a heavy physical and emotional load on Colton and I, and the decision on what to do with it leaves a knot in my throat. We’ve known that we went to Japan prematurely before fixing some damage, and now we are paying for it double. As of now, we’ve successfully repaired most of the damage, given ugly rooms new coats of paint and are feeling hopeful again about the future.

So, we decided that we’re going back to Osaka, although just for the short span of a tourist visa. We figured that our passion for Japanese art, lifestyle and culture wasn’t worth sacrificing due to coveting an old house on a piece of land in the shadow of bad memories.

77 days in Osaka, starting January 15th.
We will be budget traveling, with an average of 4000 yen (~35 USD) a day for a couple. I’m going to challenge myself to record everyday. No matter how mundane, I want to show you how we do it.
My primary goal is to focus on my art and writing while being somewhere I love, and just letting fate lead us into the right direction.

We’re going to do our best.

Thanks for reading


Cherry

My Love Affair Abroad: Japanese Curry

I know the buzz about Ramen, but I’ve been seeing another bee

Sorry everyone.


This rich, triple meats broth ramen at Genkotsu Oyaji Ramen Musashi can’t compete with my saucy new love.

Recently I’ve been thinking about my favorite Japanese foods. I currently live in Japan, so this is more of an everyday exercise versus a full on food war.  I think about what I want to eat, I ask my husband if he wants that as well, we agree on something, then go on our way.
Being the land of Okonomiyaki, Ramen, Takoyaki, Soba, Udon, Sushi… What do we go back to the most..?

Whether you are Joutou Curry, Indy Curry, Go! Go! , or CoCo Ichiban, we love you. Although we love you in that order specifically…

It’s Curry!! Curry is abundant in Japan.  I see new Curry restaurants everywhere on my daily commute.  The most common I see are CoCo’s Curry Ichibanya, Joutou Curry and Indy Curry, but my original favorite from the first time I came to Japan was Go! Go! Curry.


This beautiful place with the beautiful ape

There are a good bit of Go! Go! Curry locations in the Kanto area, but since we are based in Kansai we have just one right in a good ol’ suburban Kyoto ward. Good for a day trip when we are aching for that crazy Gorilla’s dark curry with 55 spices and a generous helping of shredded cabbage. Food addiction at its finest, as it’s more money for us to take the train there than it is for the actual dinner.

But I digress.  WHY is it that we love curry so much? Is it because we can’t get enough of the rich, spicy rue on top of fluffy rice that’s good on just about everything?  We’ve had it with chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp, sausage, pumpkin, eggplant, cheese, carrots, potatoes, green beans, eggs, and with pickled cabbage, ginger, Tabasco and tonkatsu sauce… It’s just that satisfying. It’s one of those agreeable mild-to-spicy flavors that morphs itself based on your mood of the day. A perfect compliment to a busy day out, a rainy day, or a good date, or just about anything, I could seriously eat curry everyday. I think all of my classmates know this because I talk about curry a lot for my limited Japanese vocabulary.  It’s a way of life. A lifestyle. It’s fattening…

So I’ve been cutting back on my curry dates.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t write about it. I will miss curry once I finally do leave Japan, whenever that will be… but Colton makes it quite well at home, using packs of Golden Curry that I could find at home in the states. It’s still the best for at home mixes (in my opinon), so those who can get their hands on a good ol’ Golden Curry medium spicy box, you know what’s up. Keep it up and make the good stuff.

Always Hungry,

Cherry

A 5th of BitSummit: An International View of Indie Games from Japan

We went to BitSummit in Kyoto, Japan!

(disclaimer: this is our first video! If you like it, please subscribe!  Once we have a certain amount of subscribers, we are allowed to have a custom URL and a bunch of other useful stuff we can’t do without your help, and of course it’s completely free to do with a google account. The more people we know care about our work, the more motivation we have to keep making new content. Thanks in advance!)

BitSummit was awesome! Seeing this convention was a big event for me, personally. I had always wanted to go ever since I heard of its existence, and when I found out it was happening soon, I made sure that I made some time in my schedule to make it out to Kyoto from Osaka. I even filmed as much of it as I could, and we made our first video for our new YouTube channel, as seen above.


We were greeted at the entrance by this wonderful banner!

The event cost 2000 yen for a weekend pass, but since we were students we received a 50% discount (scoreee!) and this gave us access to a massive room filled with flashing lights and colorful booths. It reminded me of going to the school science fair as a kid, except more techy and way cooler.


Of course I saved the best for first, which is this giant PS4 controller you could actually use to play Parappa the Rapper, which was the first PlayStation game I ever played as a child.
VA-11 Hall-A, a game about a Dystopian future where you are the bartender listening into the lives of the remarkable people who visit. I picked this one up because I absolutely love the detailed pixel art characters, and it’s also quite engaging.
Indie Mega Booth

I. F. O., a very nostalgic, entertaining jet fighter game.  


Zombie Tokyo, an easy to play and enjoyable mobile game where you dodge zombies and collect coins, with multiple playable characters.

Iconoclasts. We didn’t get to play it, but it looks like a great game with some pixel art I can admire.

I also managed to see some great gameplay of CrossCode.
Brave Earth: Prologue reminds me of old Castlevania titles, which I am a fan of. It took me a minute to realize this was essentially Suda51.

Riverbond looked great as well!


Earth Atlantis was one of Colton’s favorite, as mentioned in our video above.


As a pixel artist, Owlboy was a game I had to see. Looks great!

I had a chance to play Save Me, Mr. Taco! and it was quite a fun platforming romp done in the style of the original Game Boy.  I had my eye on this one sine I saw it on BitSummit’s Website due to the cute promo art! Very clever execution and cute, nostalgic graphics.

One Shot, a very cute puzzle game

Playism booth showing a few games including Read Only Memories
Might Gun Volt Burst

 

We had a great time sampling the games at BitSummit this year. Unfortunately, there were still many games we wanted to play but always were occupied, and we couldn’t sit still to wait while there were other games to explore.  We even saw some friends exhibiting that we had met from some game developer meetups in Kyoto, so it was quite fun to see the games they had been working so hard on in action with plenty of new eyes getting to try them.  At the end of the day I snagged a T-shirt (they glow in the dark!) and a wooden button pin. We definitely plan on going again if we can manage it, but for now we have our eyes set on Tokyo Game Show in September…

See you guys there!

Cherry

Osaka Castle in Spring: Cherry Blossom Edition

We went to Osaka Castle during the last few days of the Cherry Blossoms

The most gorgeous time to be visit Japan is during the Spring, when the abundant sakura explode into a nova of white and pink clusters throughout the city.  The weather ranges from cool to mild, and everyone is out enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
We went to the castle with a new friend we made from Vietnam, Linh, and it was beautiful. Inside Osaka Castle is a museum with ancient art and artifacts, but photos were not allowed inside of the building, so more reason to visit yourself! Fortunately, the best part about the castle is the park around it, not only for its beauty, but for the historical scenery.  The interior of Osaka Castle had been renovated and modernized, so if you want to see old Japan, just take a 45 minute train ride to Kyoto.  Here’s some of the best views from outside the castle, as a trip to Osaka Jou Koen is best an excellent few hours to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.


People gathering toward the Castle


Many people enjoying the cherry blossoms

Ornaments above the street food and refreshments stall outside of the gates.  You can buy Vanilla, Chocolate, Matcha, Grape, and Strawberry soft ice cream here, as well as yakisoba, fried chicken, and other common street foods.


Beautiful views of the city from the top of the castle

Linh and I enjoying the day. Everything was bright and everything was pink.

Cherry Blossoms for days… at least 7 to 14 of them


It was a beautiful day for castle pics

We even saw a beautiful wedding. The groom seemed to be on to us so I made him an accessory with an identity protection buff.

Even though we are happy with just one visit to the interior of the castle itself, we often find ourselves riding our bikes through the park here on quiet nights, when the castle is illuminated against the night sky with the moon.  It is definitely worth a visit any time of the day, any time of the year.

I hope you enjoyed seeing Osaka Castle during the Cherry Blossoms,

Cherry

 

Go! Go! Nihon

Konbanwa!

A large portion of my blog covers the topic of Japan, which highlights the relationship I have with this small island nation and the goals and experiences I have tripped over throughout my life.  Recently, Colton and I have decided to sacrifice most of our physical objects that we had accumulated throughout our lives to relocate here, and part of what made this possible is a small company called Go! Go! Nihon. This company made it it’s personal goal to help potential international students apply to small colleges and language schools throughout Japan (and now Spain and Korea) as a non-profit entity. I had the opportunity to work with this company to help my voyage to the land of the rising sun, and I wanted to share my experiences with the world as I have now settled in to my tiny 400 square foot/ 35 square meter apartment in Osaka that my husband and I call home.

After about a year of on-and-off travels about the U.S. looking for a place to relocate, we came to the realization that we yearned for the novelty and adventure of a life abroad.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but since I had always had an interest in Japanese language and even considered getting a degree focused in it, we agreed that it would be an excellent opportunity to enroll into a Japanese language school and try our hand at the Japanese way of life.  Years ago I had stumbled upon Go! Go! Nihon’s website back when it was just a dream festering in the crannies of my mind: a life I never thought I had the courage or resilience to attempt. So after all of the daydreaming we finally sent them an inquiry sometime in October  2016, and kept regular contact with a few employees as they guided us through the school admissions and Japanese immigration requirements.


I now have the luxury of eating all of my meals and paying all of my bills at my heaven on earth, Family Mart. There are at least 4 of them in less than a kilometer of my apartment. 

Most of my interactions were with a very kind woman named Lindsay, who was very helpful and personable during this exciting but terrifying stage of scanning in my entire life’s worth of documents to send to the notoriously strict Japanese Immigration.  Here is the process, from the best of my memory:

  1. Gather your documents and proof of funds
    Getting acceptance from your school is the first step, but they want to make sure you will get accepted from immigration before they accept you.  You need to scan in your passport, proof of funds (via bank statement) as well as a paystub and/or proof of income. This is to make sure that you have enough money to support yourself during your studies. Even if you plan to work, you will need around ~$10,000USD in savings per year applied for one person to prove this to immigration. You can apply for 6 months if you have at least $5,000 and renew later, but shorter visas can affect things like your choices in banks that will accept you for an account. You will also need other forms of identification depending on your country. You may need to fill out a few other admission fields as well. They asked about my school history, and even about the details. We had some major life-shaking events happen during college, which reflected in some blanks in our school history. We had to explain every gap, so be prepared for that. It didn’t seem to hinder us much, but it took me as a bit odd that they asked for more details about my husband’s kindergarten history. After your application is accepted, you will be asked to pay an admission fee, which may change depending on the school you chose.
  2. Wait
    I waited anywhere between a few weeks to a few months for a response. It was knuckle whitening at times, but Go! Go! Nihon communicates with the school for you so you don’t have to. It took me a few weeks to get my acceptance from the school before we started on the actual immigration process. We had to sign and send some real, physical documents via FedEx, so if you are running close to the deadline you may want to consider that.
  3. Pay up, Buttercup
    Six months tuition was due around the same time that we had to apply for Immigration. It is pretty nerve racking to pay tuition before you even get approved to enter the country, but you are entitled to a full refund in case of that, minus the bank transfer fee. We were pretty committed at this point, so we went ahead and took the risk and it all worked out for us. Once you pay, they send you your Certificate of Eligibility to your home once it gets released from Immigration.
  4. Wait for your CoE
    This was the worst part.  Japanese Immigration is pretty slow to issue your Certificate, in some cases it takes up to three months, ours took about two and a half. You also must pay tuition, book your airline tickets, and start browsing your housing options during this point. We did what we needed to and our Certificates finally came in about a month before we left. You need to take the certificate to a Japanese Embassy in your state if possible, and they take it and process it with your Visas. You need to fill out another application, this time for the visa itself. Thankfully it is much shorter application, and we were approved for our visas in just under a week. I think it may take up to two weeks, so as soon as you get your CoE get out and get it taken care of!
  5. Pick up your Visa/Wait for them in the mail
    We made the mistake of traveling to the Houston Embassy instead of the Louisiana one, so we had to make the two hour drive to pick them up. We were told that there should have been one in Louisiana that could mail us our visas, but I don’t really regret having to make the drive again. I was so excited to hold our passports with our new little visas inside! It made the long, detailed process completely worth it.
  6. Accommodation
    This actually came in between the Visa application process and the CoE process, but it wasn’t fully finished until after we received our Visas. Go! Go! Nihon gave us a list of potential apartments from a company in Osaka named D.I.D. Global that specializes in apartments for foreigners in Japan, a process that is surprisingly difficult for most Expatriates here. We were relieved to have a relatively easy experience. Our first choice was taken quite quickly, but we opted for a bigger, nicer place that was a bit more expensive.  We were selling our home so we wanted to be comfortable, and we were careful about how much we were willing to downgrade. We paid a deposit via paypal to the company and that reserved it for us until we touched down in Japan to sign our lease.

    So far we have had no serious issues with our relocation. I hope I could help anyone potentially considering using this service. I am now happily situated and I don’t think that should change, but expect more updates just in case!

Good Luck!

Cherry

Arriving in Osaka!

The day has finally arrived!

We left for our flight to Osaka April 2nd, to arrive on the 3rd. We took Alaska Airlines from Dallas Fort Worth to Seattle, where we transferred onto Eva Airlines to Taipei, Taiwan, and from there caught a plane to our final destination: Osaka, Japan.

The endeavor felt like a dream.  It was tiring, and I slept through most of it… except for the meals, which I am happy to say that Eva Airlines has some pretty decent airline food! Unfortunately most airline food seems to disagree with me physically, so by the time we landed in Osaka I felt a bit like a stand up comedy punchline.


Some chicken, rice and mushroom salad, courtesy Eva Airlines

The process of moving overseas and giving away just about everything we ever accumulated in our lives had been such a difficult and challenging stage in our lives. Please be prepared for the sacrifices you might have to make if you are considering moving to another country. We ended up selling off and giving away a lot of things that meant a great deal to us for this, including most of our retro games and my modest Cloud Strife figurine collection. It was painful, but it had a sugar coating of thrill to it. This process lasted about 6 months and helped us to adopt a minimalist mindset that inspired us to travel more often instead of weighing our lives down with useless pounds of merchandise. Nothing against collections and such, but I realized that you have to choose what is more important when it comes to permanent travel: your things or your mobile body.

I still can’t live without my tech, so we still had some pretty full suitcases!


It was a very long flight.  I fell asleep during at least one snack and at least one Star Wars Spin-off movie.

We arrived in Japan sometime in the evening, around 9pm.  Since we were weighed down by our luggage, we snagged an overpriced taxi to our first destination:  A love hotel about halfway from the airport and our new apartment in the center of Osaka.

the big ofuro is my favorite thing about Japan
Colton on our taxi ride from the hotel to our new apartment

Me, tired and happy to be back in Japan after two years.

My first meal in Japan: Seafood cakes with an egg and vegetables over rice, served with a seaweed salad. Lemon Vitamin Match to drink. It was only a conbini bento, but delicious all the same.

And this was my first breakfast! Jam toast with fresh coffee at a local cafe.

I feel so unbelievably lucky that we have this opportunity to study in Japan.  It was completely worth the struggle and heartache of uprooting and starting over, it even had a healing effect on my energy and self-esteem.  I might even do it again someday, who knows.

Until next time,

Cherry

How We Threw Away Everything We Ever Loved but Never Needed to Travel Abroad

It’s official. We’re going to Japan… but we can’t bring our stuff.


Including our CDs.

But we can’t live without our music!  What about our retro games, and our Pokémon?!!

Spoiler Alert: Only one of these things I originally packed actually made it to Japan with us. Can you guess what it was?

It was my hat. The straw looking thing shoved in the upper right corner of our suitcase. I actually need that for when we go hiking. Nothing else was needed.  Now some of these things we left with friends and family to store away. Not much though, because we respect the space of the people that we know. Thank the Nines that technology exists, because we were able to keep our music and disc based games in one way…

Uploading all those bitches to my computer

We even used the empty CD binders for our video games after we discarded the jewel cases, maximizing our space.  We ended up with three trash bags full of boxes and backed up CDs with virtually nothing lost but plastic. It took me three days of passively changing CDs as I went about my business, but it was a win/win on the minimalist scale… but not everything is so easily stored.


I mailed off my Scott Pilgrim collection to a friend

I threw away all of the boxes for my Cloud Strife figurine collection. These are my favorite three, so I snapped a picture first. The figures themselves I let a friend store for us.

We sold our car that took us all over the US West Coast


I said goodbye to this old tupperware that used to hold all my toys. I wrote my name on it 21 years ago, when I was only five.


Who needs all these dumb side tables? Goodwill.

We snuggled Buster one last time before he went off to live with a close friend. I still miss this pup more than ever.

We even sold off a vast majority of our Genesis and Super Nintendo games. Do you know the only thing I miss?

It’s my dog.

I still beat myself up a little for not trying harder, not listening to the advice against him, not taking that extra step to find a foreigner friendly apartment that was also pet friendly… but I can’t say that we regret our decision. Buster loves my friends, and he is treated well. I saved him the stress of a long plane flight, the required quarantine period, being a suburban dog in an unfamiliar city, with new smells he can’t explore. I can now travel without finding a dog sitter and I don’t have to worry about him fighting every cat he sees, which there are plenty roaming around Osaka.  I sure do miss him though and I can’t wait to visit him again.

So for all of you wanting to come to Japan, or go anywhere for that matter, these are my words of advice: forget about your things. You won’t miss them.  You will, however, miss the love of your friends and your family and your pets. Cherish the time you have. Take plenty of pictures. Don’t be afraid to cry if you need to.  Just know that you can always buy another bookshelf, another car, another Super Nintendo… but not another Buster.

Get ready to find out what really matters in your life. It’s a wonderful, bittersweet, beautiful feeling.

Safe Travels,

Cherry

How I took the JLPT without studying

So a little while back, before I enrolled into language school, I was learning Japanese on my own using this great resource called the internet. I felt that I was ready to take the first, real life hurdle, so I mustered up the willpower to sign up for the Japanese Language Proficiency test, or more commonly known as the JLPT. For the JLPT, there are 5 levels: 5 being the easiest and 1 being the hardest, with 1 indicating near fluency and having a reputation of being notoriously hard, even for some native Japanese.

Upon taking some quick sample test questions, I assessed that my level fell somewhere between 4 and 5, so I signed up for the JLPT5, which was the easiest test, and assumed that there would be no way that I would fail it. I figured this would be an easy test that only confirmed that I knew the basics, so I didn’t study much outside of watching subtitled anime and casually reading all of my foreign food packages. If coming back from a run around Tokyo with a small amount of Japanese finesse could made me feel like a bilingual superstar, then taking the JLPT5 without much studying definitely taught me a valuable lesson as I scooped up a hot double helping of humble pie off the buffet line.

Here’s what I learned from failing miserably at the only test I ever volunteered to take and even paid money to take, just for fun:

  1. Anticipate Travel:

    There are 16 major cities in the U.S. that you can enroll to take the test in.  There are also 3 in Canada, 6 in Australia, and many more in various other parts of the world. You can find your city here on the official JLPT site if you are considering signing up.  I had to sign up sometime in August for the December test, so be sure to pay attention to deadlines for your selected area! Also, research maps for your destination since many take place on large college campuses, you will need extra time to sign in as well and you aren’t allowed to take the test if you are late. Thankfully we found arriving an hour early gave us adequate time to find where we were going and rest before the test began.

  2. Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format
    This is something I looked over, but did not fully understand the importance enough to commit to memory.  You have a time limit for your test and if you are taking longer than about a minute/minute and a half for each question, you will run out of time.  There are two or three portions of the test (depending on which one you take), and after each portion is finished, you aren’t allowed to go back.  So if you struggle with grammar but breeze through vocabulary, you can’t go back and finish other sections. I ended up with a lot of blanks because of this and if I would have been watching the time I could have probably guessed instead of leaving them blank. Here’s the sections and time breakdown for each test.
  3. Be Prepared to Wait for Everything
    I discovered that this entire experience was not only a test of Japanese, but also a test of patience… Which is pretty Japanese as it stands. There seemed to be endless waiting, before, during, and after the test. Not only do you sign up for the test months before you take it, it also takes about a month or two to see your results.  I received my results in the mail sometime in late January/early February after I took the test in early December.  It was pretty rough! The Japanese are very formal so everything came in very neatly sealed, well packaged envelopes. It’s something I kind of love about Japan, actually!

 

So what was the consensus of taking the JLPT without studying? Not a wise choice.  I got about 50%, which is not enough to pass. The scoring goes by points, and you can check out what you need to pass here.  Overall I learned a lot from the experience, and I hope if you are thinking about taking the test I could prevent others from making the same mistakes as me.  Ganbatte, and study hard!!

頑張って~

Cherry

 

Tokyo’s Love Hotels: Posh or Kink?

Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I find it only fitting to write about the time Colton and I booked a hotel room for 3 hours by punching buttons on the wall…

so we could sing karaoke… and watch anime… in various discreet, couples only hotels in Japan.

“So here we get a choice between 90’s floral bedsheets room and grandma’s knitting den. Let’s move on to the next hotel.”

We knew we wanted to try to stay at a love hotel since we discovered they existence online. It seemed like a no-brainer, a best bang for buck (or yell for your yen) in luxury. These rooms are often times larger, nicer, and cheaper than regular Tokyo hotels and often come with a surplus of amenities such as fancy hair products and facial masks. My favorite part is that they frequently come with jet tubs and some of them even have televisions in the bath! They can be rented in 3 hour intervals or for an overnight stay (usually only after ~9-10pm) for whatever reasons a couple might need to kill 3 hours (or an evening). On our first week in Tokyo we had a long day of moseying about Shibuya and so we turned onto the famous Love Hotel Hill for a rest. Love Hotel Hill is a strip of love hotels nestled together competing for the yen of Tokyo’s doe-eyed lovers. A similar area can be found in Shinjuku, between Kabukicho and Shin Okubo. Usually you can just find them peppered around the city, as these places are extremely common and represent a big part of Japan’s culture. Most only allow MxF couples but some places apparently allow female couples and female friends will often go to hang out and sing karaoke for a few hours on the cheap. From my research, male couples are less commonly allowed, and some places even turn down foreigners. This is unfortunate, but I’ve seen some places bend the rules if you know Japanese. I’m sure these rules are starting to change in a lot of urban areas so it can never hurt to ask if you or your partner understands Japanese.  In most cases, rates and hotel photos can be found outside the building so communication is kept to a minimum. The entrance and check-in procedures are often discreet for the few pursuing an afternoon fling, some with multiple winding walled entrances in case you don’t want to be seen entering or leaving together with your forbidden one. You just walk in, select a room on the screen inside, and then an attendant from behind a partition will take your fees and give you a key. Easy.

Colton and I walked up and down the hill for about an hour here before we decided to settle down at the most interesting hotel we could find, which was called Hotel R-25.  R-25 had neon themed rooms, including a blue neon Sea World kind of set up with mirrors around almost every inch of the room, one with a neon casino theme (we stayed in both of these), and a few more basic rooms for the less adventurous. It was the only one on the street that didn’t look like the usual, albeit fancier, hotel lodgings. We came looking for a party, and by gosh, this one was a party.

Neon Casino theme!! 

Colton sampling the “thick” futon mattress

We booked ourselves in for the night, as some of these hotels don’t offer in-and-out privileges. This hotel had less in the way of amenities, but it had a neon shower room with a deep ofuro tub and some fancy soaps and conditioners. We laid out some snacks we bought from Family Mart and scored some Kirin Ichiban singles out of a small vending machine under the television. We watched anime while we stumbled around the digital setup and then we belted out some nice pop classics on the karaoke entertainment system. It was awesome. There were a stunning amount of English songs. I don’t remember what we sang but I think there was a Prince song in there. The only problems we had were about the phones, and we sang for till about 11-12 p.m. before our hotel phone started ringing.  At the time I panicked because I didn’t know how to dispute my actions over the phone in Japanese, so we hushed up, turned everything off and went to sleep. It was probably a good call, because there was never a second call, but just keep that in mind before you party too hard… I think most of these hotels are built to be noise resistant, but our room was a bit stuffy and we had our window open… we didn’t think about it bothering other patrons. Also, a lot of places will call you about 15-30 minutes to remind you that your time is up, because Japan is just that courteous.

Since I didn’t take pictures of the neon sea room, Here’s a whale I hastily animated at a Starbucks in the mall. Doing this hump… back.. thing. Aahhh..

We loved staying at Love Hotels while we were in Japan, so much so that we spent 4 nights out of our 3 week trip to Tokyo here. We stayed at R-25 twice, in the Casino room and Sea room, one in Yokosuka called Hotel Goddess, and another in Shinjuku, called Hotel Venus. I didn’t think at the time I would be blogging about my experiences, so this is the only photo of Hotel Goddess.


Those beds really need to get a new hobby. Also wondering about the cleanliness of this wall now that I look at this picture… 

Back to the good one, Hotel Venus was the luxe answer to many of the Japanese needs: Tons of amenities, including herbal bath teas, lotions, hair serums, toothbrushes, hair brushes, face masks, a beverage vending machine, karaoke setup, a spa tub with a television and rainbow lights and more…. all for ¥10000 (~$90 USD) a night. This is in the middle of Shinjuku!

Look at how fancy we messed the hell out of this room


fancy
This has rainbow lights that I didn’t photograph. Here’s a T.V., It’s mostly adult entertainment and Japanese programming.

traditional bathing/shower areakaraoke microphones!

Hotel Venus was by far my favorite hotel we stayed at in terms of luxury, it was also where we stayed on our last day in Japan, after we went to the 8bit Cafe. It was an awesome way to spend our last night in the city of lights. The beds were exceptionally fluffy, too. Honest. Here’s an embarrassing shot of my husband for proof:

Colton, I just have to show the world how comfortable you are.

I can’t wait to visit more of these once we’re back in Japan.  I already have booked a place for our first night in Osaka.  If you want to check out some of the places you can stay, here’s an English friendly booking site called  Love in Japan.  At the time of this writing it’s currently in Beta, but you can still browse and it says you can book as soon as Spring 2017. Happy hotel hunting!

?love?,

Cherry

PAX South, and Working in the Growing Louisiana Indie Scene

Welcome home from PAXSouth 2017, energized fans and tired devs!

Colton and I weren’t able to make it this year.  Oops. With our big move to Osaka it proved to be a bit troublesome, but Necroball, a game we spent the last year working on with King Crow Studios, got all polished up and reappeared, so I figured I would recap on our visit from 2016.

A quick introduction on how I started working on games from an area not well known for game development: in 2002, Louisiana legislature passed a tax incentive for technology media and entertainment in order to help bolster the state’s economy.  Here’s some dated articles from Forbes and Fortune about it, but I can say that during some of my visits to Baton Rouge we had a chance to meet some folks who were working on American Horror Story and developers who had worked on beloved retro games such as Boogerman and A Bard’s Tale.  Louisiana is getting the Hollywood treatment, as movies such as 10 Cloverfield Lane (starring one of my favorite actresses, Mary Elizabeth Winstead) had a setting that was just outside of Lake Charles. As for games, we have an EA in Baton Rouge and a Gameloft in New Orleans, as well as a healthy mix of independent developers, so there is certainly growth. This is really something special around here, you’ll know it to be true if you’ve ever been to Louisiana.


In all cases, you are driving over this lake to get to the next city.
Welcome to the swamp. There’s not much to do.

Colton and I were lucky enough to work outside of an indie development incubator called the Level Up Lab, which is where we had the chance to work with and meet some inspiring figures in the industry. This gave us the wonderful opportunity to attend a PAX, and my first time and we were demoing a game that I had worked on, so this was a pretty excellent double whammy off the bucket list… I think I may have a high luck stat or something. Here’s some photos of our 2016 PAX set up:

 I made some necromancer jokes because I animated the dead
An awesome promotional display of Quest of Souls illustrated by none other than my friend and fellow Lake Charles local, comic artist Johnny Segura III.
I took a few blurry pictures of cosplayers I met.
Since I am quite shy around cosplayers, so that also means miserable photos. It’s like meeting Mickey Mouse as a kid and then screaming as you forget basic skills. This cosplayer goes by Inkling girl!
I like this costume. I don’t even know what character this is. Freedom Planet? Just kidding… 
we talked to almost a thousand cool people all weekend! 

Did anyone see us last year at PAXSouth or our Necroball display this year? Did you take photos? I’d love to see them.

Thanks for reading!


Cherry