Day four was somewhat a relaxing day. We hit up Shibuya (渋谷区), the big shopping district in Tokyo.
I wanted to make sure I got to visit the huge hobby stores, so the first couple places we visited was The Loft (株式会社ロフト) [Map] and Tokyu Hands (東急ハンズ) [Map]. Tokyu Hands was my favorite. It's a hobbyist's dream. Over 8 floors of woodworking supplies, sewing and jewelry supplies, drawing supplies, model train supplies (pictured below), etc. They also had demonstrations going on and stuff too.[More]
Monday ended up being a VERY busy day. It was supposed to be nice out, so we decided to head to the center of the city. But first, some food. We woke up a little late, so we decided to get something fast: McDonald's (マクドナルド) [Map]. Everyone was so happy to be working there, it was so... jarring. A man was walking up to people's cars to take their drive through orders so they didn't have to talk through the speaker. The cashier was "honored" we were eating at their McDonald's, and handed my receipt to me in two hands. When we were done, a woman took our garbage. This last gesture of hospitality might have been because we were foreigners. You sort everything a lot more thoroughly than in America. There are separate bins for: Paper ("burnables"), Plastic ("non-burnables"), PET bottles, aluminium, and glass. I figured out from a few occasions, if you stare blankly enough at the myriad of garbage containers long enough, somebody will come and help you. I had some sort of chicken sandwich. It was alright.[More]
Slept in, woke up, and was hungry for some sushi. I also demanded it came from a conveyor belt. My friend knew just the place. We headed outside to the trains. It was a beautiful day, around 80 degrees. This was the first time I noticed there were a lot of little parks, and they were heavily used. Most people didn't have a yard, which is why I imagine many people used the parks. I was also surprised how plentiful parks were. For a country with not a lot of space, they definitely didn't neglect to leave behind some trees.[More]
Left Milwaukee for Chicago four hours before my flight. Traffic was great; I breezed down in an hour and a half. Unlike last time I flew out of O'Hare, since it was the middle of the afternoon, I was actually able to find the cheap long term 'F' parking lot, which is considerably cheaper than the others. O'Hare was equally a breeze. Took a bus to the tram, took the tram to my terminal. No checkin line. No security line. Whole process only took a half hour.
Had some time to relax in Chilli's. Not sure why, but everyone there had a really crappy attitude. Do people not normally tip in airport restaurants? Maybe they were on the tail end of their shift?
Got on the Airplane. It was maybe 1/3rd full. And I'm guessing this was why: See, I was going to Japan to visit my friend during Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク). Otherwise known as "large consecutive holiday", which is exactly what it is. A bunch of national holidays line up the same week, so many people are given the whole week off. It's a popular time for Japanese to go on vacation to place like Europe or the United States, so I imagine the airplanes going the opposite direction were packed, and it was the reason mine was empty.
The flight itself was fine, especially since I had two empty seats next to me. It was a typical international flight where they tried to adjust us to the new time zone. So, despite the fact that I (and I'm sure others) just ate lunch at noon, they decided to serve dinner around 1:30pm CST, and then almost immediately made it "night time" by closing all the shades. I watched "My Week With Marlyn", which was pretty good, read some magazines on my iPad, and headed to bed. Then I was abruptly awaken about half way into the flight, around midnight CST, and served breakfast. This was the start of me realizing I wasn't going to handle the jet lag very well. I ate my breakfast, watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (it was alright), was served lunch, and then we touched down in Japan around 3pm JST the next day.
Got off the airplane. Turned on my phone and was greeted by a text from Verizon Wireless welcoming me to Japan and letting me know they were going to proceed to charge me $20/MB for data. I immediately turn off data, and was happy to learn the Narita International Airport (成田国際空港) [Map] had free wireless.
If you don't know who Don Hertzfelt is, he made the famous "Rejected" cartoon (think: "My spoon is too big!"). At an evening with Don Hertfeldt, we saw a couple of old favorites: "BIlly's Balloon", "Intermission in 3D", and "Wisdom Teeth".
BUT the main event was the showing of his Billy trilogy: "Everything will be OK", "I Am So Proud of You", and "It's Such a Beautiful Day". He had been working on it for somewhere around 12 years, but it was worth it. It was an incredibly funny, moving, and deep animation dealing with death, dying, and disease. It was probably one of the best things I've seen, and can't wait until the whole trilogy to come out on DVD. You can watch the first third online. It might not make sense, but wait until the DVD comes out... it all comes together in the final third.
Afterwards he came onstage to answer a few questions. I had to duck out early to go to the next film (which I regret), but it was interesting to see him (I thought he was a lot older and fatter), and to hear him talk about his technique and lack of desire to do any commercial animation work.