Monday, March 24, 2008

The Infamous Japanese Driving Test (part 1.) and Alpha Station Tournament

When you are an American and you are living in Japan, you can get an international driving permit which lasts for one year and you can legally drive in Japan as long as you have your valid US license and passport. Since I already decided I would recontract and live here for another year, I must get a regular Japanese drivers license by August. The Japanese driving test is notorious for being extremely strict and difficult for foreigners. It is not uncommon for people to sometimes take the test 4 or 5 times before passing. Infact, passing on the first try is extremely rare. I researched the hell out of what to expect and studied the course map that I found online. Instead of going to work as usual to teach classes on Friday, my supervisor from the town office drove me down to Maebashi (the capital of my prefecture) to take this dreaded test. We arrived in Maebashi around 10 am and first had to get my US license translated into Japanese which costed about 4,000 yen. We had a little time to kill around lunch time before we were to go to the testing facility, so we got lunch and went to Tower Records where I bought Seikima II greatest hits CD haha. Then after that we had to go to the testing facility and fill out a shit ton of paperwork and wait for several hours. Finally it was time to take the written test. This was probably the easiest shit ever. They gave us 15 minutes to answer 10 true or false questions about traffic rules, I finished in like a minute and a half and got them all right. This one dude failed because he didnt understand any language that they offered the test in so he tried in English but obviously didnt understand. Everyone else who passed then were taken to the driving test course. There were 20 foreigners there to take the test, most of them had tried before and failed. I was the last person to go so I had to wait for a while. Every single person seemed pretty disapointed but not very surprised as they left the car and already knew that they most likely didnt pass. If you make the smallest mistake you will fail the test. Someone failed the test for not looking underneath the car before getting inside to check for small animals and other hazards. They expect you to make over exadurated movements when checking the mirrors or else they wont notice. You have to drive a certain set distance from the side of the lane and you have to stop exactly at the line when you stop for a light or stop sign. In really doesnt test your ability to drive at all, it simply tests your ability to do exactly what they want under preassure. If everyone drove like they expect you to in the test it would probably CAUSE accidents. The test was going ok at first for me but towards the end I was checking my mirrors and around my shoulder so often that the instructor said I wasnt looking forward enough and it was dangerous. Everyone who took the test stressed how much you should constantly look around, I suppose I over did it. The course itself isnt even hard, its just how increadibly strict they are. Ive even heard of people who did it perfect but were failed anyway just cuz the instructor didnt feel like passing them. After everyone took the test, we sat around a while and waited for the results. Out of 20 people, only 5 passed. No one who took the test for the first time that day passed. One dude who failed the test told me that it was his 17th try... talk about fucking rediculous! I scheduled to take the test again next month. I think I know exactly what I did wrong so hopefully I can pass next time. Every time I want to take the test it costs me like an additional 3,000-4,000 yen or something. One of the worst things about all of this is most other major countries can just legally drive for as long as they want in Japan without a Japanese license INCLUDING CANADA and really... lets be honest, driving in the US and Canada is the same fuckin shit. bummer...

After that we drove back to my town and didnt get back until around 7:30. One of my schools (Fujiwara) was having an Enkai that night and I was already an hour late. When I finally got there it was all good though. It turns out about half the teachers will teach at new schools next semester so I will have to get to know a lot of new teachers, which sucks because I actually like everyone at Fujiwara. I stuck to beer the whole night and while I got nice and drunk, fortunately the next day my head felt fine.

I woke up Saturday morning and took the train to Akihabara where I spent the entire day playing casuals. There was were no tournaments so there were a lot of people there playing casuals. They only had 7 cabinets now since they got some Arcana Heart 2 cabs in which are taking up the space. I dont know if its temporary or not but hopefully they will put back some of the AC cabs soon (while still keeping the AH2 cabs). Not very many people were playing Arcana though, I didnt try it out since I have no idea how to play the game, still have never even touched the first one yet. FAB and Ogawa were playing on 2 cabs next to eachother for a while and both of them racked up a win streak of about 3o wins each or so. I played against both of them a couple times, and while I constantly came close I couldnt get that last round in. However, I eventually did beat FAB and ended his win streak. Ogawa just got tired of playing and got off the machine undefeated. Afterwords he came up to me and was trying to give me some advice because I came very close. Throughout the day I kept getting smaller streaks of around 10 or 11 wins with some losses here and there but I played well for the most part. I played from about 2 pm to around 11:30 pm non stop except for a 20 minute break to get some curry. When it started to get dead I headed for Shinjuku to go to Current.

Current was pretty awsome, lots of regulars there. There were also some dudes from Finland on vacation that I talked to for a bit. I also got to visit with an old friend who I havnt had the chance to see in a while who I wasnt expecting to see anytime soon. It was nice to spend a little time with my old friend again. I was having a good night and didnt feel like going to sleep right away after Current closed so I went to PSY till 6 am and then finally went to sleep.

The next day was the Alpha Station tournament in Shin Okubo which is right next to Shinjuku. I stopped by Club Sega to talk to MIU for a little bit first. I told him about the unofficial tourny we will throw and how its gonna be really big so I told him to tell lots of people to come, though I have no idea who will come. I also told him how I have no SBO team now and asked if he knew anyone who needs a partner but he said no. His team is only going to be able to play at one qualifier since MIU has to work so often as it is. After I was done talking with MIU I took a nice walk over to Alpha Station. The weather was fantastic. It had been a while since ive been to Alpha Station, the last time I went was the first night I discovered Current. When I got there, they had 5 AC cabs going and lots of people were plaing pre tournament casuals. I thought it was gonna be a singles tournament but it turned out to be a 3 on 3. Luckely Gin was there and he was teaming up with a Robo Ky player who said he went by the handle China. I have no idea why he calls himself China (seeing as how hes not Chinese) but I think its short for something else. They needed a 3rd so he offered to let me be on their team. I was down with it so I joined. There were about 30 people who entered the tournament so there were 10 teams divided into 3 round robin pools. Our pool was the biggest pool with 4 teams and was also the hardest pool. They put all the best teams in our pool. One of the teams was the all ladies team consisting of the hot Zappa player, the really strong pink Slayer player who I see often, and the female Dizzy player who won the all girls tournament before and was at the Vegas tournament a few weeks ago, I think shes probably the best female player in Tokyo. One of the other teams had Inoue (HOS) on it and this really beastly Potemkin player and some other Dizzy. There was also a 2 man team of Slayer and Faust. I dont know most of the players names since they didnt have the invividual names posted on the brackets, just the team names. Our first match was against the 2 man team of Slayer and Faust. I decided I would try first. They put their Slayer player first. This guy was pretty much just in the zone because he defeated me and then proceeded to OCV my whole team. Up next we had to fight the ladies team. This time China went first with his Robo-Ky. Up first was pink Slayer. China beat her. Then he fought against hot Zappa and won. Finally he went up against the Dizzy player but he got beat down kinda hard. I said I would go next. I played pretty solid and won both rounds, my team mates were pleased. Finally we had to face Inoue's team. This time Gin went first against Inoue and lost. I decided to go next. The first round I was losing but then I made this really awsome comeback and threw him out of a gunblaze. However, the 2nd round he spammed a bunch of high level gunblazes like 50939 times in a row and while I am ussually good about blocking those, I eventually got hit and lost the round. 3rd round was decent but I ended up losing. Finally China went but he also fell to Inoue resulting in us getting OCVd. So we ended up not winning our pool. Inoue's team went on to win the whole tournament. This tournament was a fucking Slayer and Potemking fest, there were like 4 of each in the tournament. I stayed and played casuals for several hours after the tournament and got a 17 win streak. I eventually lost to a solid Sol player in a close match, I rematched him right away and beat him. Then I stayed on the machine for a few more games and it was eventually time to leave so I just got up and left.

I still have no idea who I will team up with for SBO. Theres a slight chance I may team up with Gin but I really dont know yet. Hopefully I will figure something out. This will be my last blog update for a few weeks. Next weekend I will go to Tokyo first and go to the X-Japan show followed by a tournament at Club Sega Shinjuku the next day. I will then spend the next whole week in Osaka/Kyoto and finally play in the first SBO qualifier in Tokyo that next Sunday. Expect an epic and long blog update in a few weeks!

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