Thursday, August 28, 2014

Losing at Games, Winning at Life

Well, it's been several weeks since I last posted anything on here.  I guess you can say a lot of things have happened since then, but quite frankly, I just simply haven't had the time to sit down and type about it.  As a result, a lot of the finer details are kind of lost in the mix.  I'm gonna go ahead and just kinda summarize a few things.

Well, I am unemployed now.  I finished the contract on my job on July 31st.  The last day was nice.  I passed out a bunch of treats I bought for everyone since it is pretty customary to give gifts in this sort of situation in Japan to thank your co-workers for the time you worked together.   I had lunch with my whole division at a good restaurant on the 31st floor of the Kencho where I work.  They insisted on paying for my meal.  I had to give several farewell greetings to various other divisions in the building and spent most of the day just cleaning out my desk and stuff.  My last task before leaving was to give a final farewell speech to the people in my division, and once it was over my supervisor walked me to the elevator, shook my hand and thanked me and I was out and that was it.  It felt both like being free but I was also kinda sad at the same time.  The sadness was a mix of knowing I would never really go back there again even though work isn't usually exactly fun (though it did have some really enjoyable moments and I had some good memories working there for 2 years) but I was also sad because I knew I would now no longer be getting a pay check again for quite some time since at that point, I had no idea how much longer it would still be until my wife's US visa process was all finished and then there is still the actual act of finding a new job.  Later that night, I "celebrated" my last day with Ryoko and we drank some good alcohol and had a good night.

That upcoming weekend, there were 2 more Arc Revo Cup qualfiers near or around Tokyo that I wanted to go to.  We had plans to work at a festival (which I will talk more about later) and the festival would begin on Sunday, August 3rd, which was the day of one of the qualifiers, so I knew that I wouldn't be able to make it.  I still had plans to go on Saturday, the 2nd, though.  Without getting into too much detail, it turns out that I was needed to help buy some supplies the day before, so it was looking like I would be unable to go to the tournament on Saturday either.  However, we worked it out so that I could still go since I honestly really wasn't needed to go buy a few things at the store.  So, on Saturday the 2nd, I got up and headed out to the tournament which was to be in Yokohama, which is over a 3 hour train ride from where I live now (about an hour farther than central Tokyo).  On my way there, about half way, I was playing 3DS and I noticed that the train hadn't moved for quite a while.  They said there was a delay due to something happening on a different line that ended up backing our train up.  They said that they had no idea how long the delay would last so I just kept waiting hoping that it might be moving at any time.  Eventually, I realized that time was running a bit short.  I checked alternate train routes but even if I was to take the bullet train, it seemed that I would not be able to make it on time to the tournament by 2:00 pm which is when it was scheduled to start.  So, I had no choice but to just wait a bit longer on the train I was on.  Eventually, it got to the point where I would no longer be able to make it by 2.  I called the arcade and told them that I would be able to make it by 2:30 (if I was to take a different train) and they said that it was too late and that I wouldn't be able to enter.  So, having been screwed over by Japan Railways, I just cut my loses and headed back the way I came.  Since I now couldn't enter the tournament, I went all the way back to Minakami (where I used to live and where my wife's family lives) and met up with my wife and her dad to help buy supplies.  We went to a store or 2 and picked up a few things we would need for the festival like syrup, cups, straws, etc, but for most of the time, it didn't really seem like it mattered if I was there or not.  Later on though, we ended up finding out that the fridge we always use was busted so we had to get the one from my father-in-law's convenient store and carry it to the location.  At least I proved useful for that task so in a way, I felt good that I could be there.  I would have gone there anyway after the tournament ended but I guess this helped them make things go a bit more smoothly.  Perhaps it was a bit selfish of me to go to the tournament in the first place, and I actually had already decided I wouldn't but my wife said I should at the last minute since she said she could handle getting the stuff.  In the end, I think it worked out for the best.  Once we finished setting everything up in preparation for the next day, we went back to my wife's parents' house and had dinner and drinks.

So, I think I probably mentioned it before in my blog but what we do at this particular festival, Numata Matsuri, is run a shaved ice stand.  Sorta like a cross between a snow cone and a slurpee.  This was our 5th year in a row running it.  Usually my father-in-law is in charge of it but this year we were short on help and he had to work mostly, so he told us that if Ryoko and I ran the whole thing ourselves for the whole time, we would be able to keep a large chunk of the profits.  This was something I knew in advance and was fine with.  I just didn't know he needed us to get supplies with him until the day before because he wasn't even sure if it was gonna happen at all due to not having enough help this year.  But anyway, Ryoko and I ran the shaved ice stand the entire duration of the festival (3 days) and everything went really well.  We had a little help from some people but we were pretty much working non-stop.  It isn't exactly brutal work but there are a lot of things to take care of and the festival goes from like noon until 10 pm so it was a bit tiring at times.  I wasn't even able to drink anything the first day of the festival since it was so busy, but the next 2 days were not as busy so I got to relax a bit more.  I also got visited by some friends which was nice.  In the end, we made a bunch of money even after paying for expenses and help and splitting it 3 ways with her father, so it was really a good experience and took a load off my back financially, so from that point on I was much less worried about not having a job.  Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of savings, but I already sent most of it back to the states so I didn't really want to tap into it unless aboslutely necessary.

The day after the festival ended, we cleaned up and headed back home after having stayed at her parents' place for like 4 nights in a row.  I was about ready to go home.  In addition to that, my younger brother, Tony, arrived in Japan.  You may remember Tony as "Mr. Chu-hi" from my blog posts from Spring Break 2010.  Those posts were pretty long, but if you've never read them before, I strongly suggest doing so as they will give you the whole rundown about "Mr. Chu-hi". 

Anyway, Tony visited us for 2 whole weeks and stayed with us the entire time.  He wanted to visit Japan one last time until we moved back to the US.  During that 2 week period, we did a lot of stuff and went to a lot of places like the famous temples in Nikko, festivals, fireworks shows, karaoke party, drinking at Tokyo bars, and various other places.  I won't get into too much detail about them all because this blog post would end up just being longer than I feel like typing and probably longer than most of you would feel like reading.  One noteworthy day though, which was Friday, August 15th, Tony and I were taking the train to Fuji-Q Highland, which is a pretty big amusement park in Japan,  which you may remember from the blogpost "Punk Rockers, Anime Otaku, and Rollercoasters (#27)" in which I went there before like 5 years ago.  Ryoko didn't go because she had work and doesn't really like rollercoasters much.  Anyway, the trip to Fuji-Q is nearly a 5 hour train ride from where I live, and on the way there, something amazing happened!  I got an email suddenly from the Tokyo US Embassy and Ryoko's visa case was officially expedited!  I sent a request for one a few weeks prior but I honestly wasn't expecting anything to happen, but just like that, I now had some clarity and direction about when we might be able to come back to the US!  It was a HUUUGE weight suddenly lifted off my shoulders, and for the first time in months, I was finally able to feel optimistic about the future and was actually able to start planning things again!  The rest of the day at Fuji-Q mostly consisted of standing in line... alot.  Just like last time, most of the rollercoasters had nearly 4 hour long lines just to ride once.  Since our last train back was at about 9:30 pm, we were only able to ride 2 whole rides the entire time, but they were pretty great.  We rode Takabisha and Eijanaika (the later I rode last time but the former it was a first time).  Both rides hold world records.  Feel free to google about them.  Anyway, on the way out of the park, we ran into my old friend Karl Kablisk, a long time Guilty Gear player living in Japan, who I am sure I have mentioned on my blog at some point before.  He was with his girlfriend.  Neither of us realized the other party was at the park that day but we decided to ride the train back to Tokyo together.  We loaded up on some drinks at the convenient store before getting on the train and had a nice long chat about random stuff on the train on the several hour ride back.  Tony and I were unable to make it all the way back to where I live at such a late hour so we just decided to stay in Shinjuku and drink at rock bars all night.  Karl and his girlfriend were tired so they went home.  It was a good night either way. 

On the very last day before Tony was ready to leave, which was Sunday, August 17th, there was another Xrd qualifier going on.  The first one since the weekend where I had to miss them both.  Of course, I had planned to go, but it turned out that it was only a tournament for people who were born after 1989.  I hadn't looked at the rules carefully until like a day or 2 before so I didn't realize it.  I was pretty bummed since I missed the last 2 and now also couldn't attend this one.  So, this meant that there was only the last chance qualifer remaining.  I sure as hell wasn't going to let anything stop me from going to that one.  We still went to Tokyo that day though and just played casuals at various arcades and it was a pretty good day.  I ran into a few other people who I know and they tagged along with us as well.  One sad thing though was that I confirmed that my favorite kebab restaurant in Takadanobaba, Deniz, is closed down for good.  That place was easily the best and it was a shame to finally learn the truth, but thankfully my friend Ahmed who was hanging out with us showed us another really good place in Akihabara that I had never been to, so at least I know of that one now.  After playing at various arcades more, I parted ways with Tony who would stay at a hotel that night and get on his flight the next day.  I headed back home on the last train.  It was a fun 2 weeks though and every day was busy and had some fun activity or trip planned, and during the off time we were at home, we just played a lot of Under Night In-birth: EXE Late since Tony bought it while he was here... and a little Ultra SFIV.  I had fun with him here but I was honestly happy to have some alone time with Ryoko so it was a relief that it was also finally over.  At least this, while Tony did get drunk on a few occasions, Mr. Chu-hi never emerged in his final form on this trip.  I suppose it is kind of a good thing and a bad thing at the same time but it's probably for the best lol.  Convenient store employees and bicycle owners, and random bar girls everywhere would be greatful if they knew the beast was contained this time around.

The rest of the week isn't really worth talking about since I mainly took care of various tasks I needed to do around home.  So, let's skip ahead to the next weekend, which was the weekend of August 22nd - 24th.  I headed to Tokyo on Friday night since I wanted to get some practice in the night before the tournament.  I went to practice at Shinjuku Sportsland (which is also where the last chance qualifier would be held the next day) and the actually had one of their regular bi-weekly Friday night tournaments that night, which was completely unrelated to Arc Revo Cup.  I ended up playing bad and going 1 -1 in my 3 player round robin pool.  The other guys also went 1 - 1 but I lost more rounds so someone else advanced.  I played pretty bad the first match against a Chipp player and I beat the Ramlethal but oh well.  I guess they didn't record the one vs Chipp.  The Ky player, Rion, ended up winning.  I played a bunch of casuals the rest of the night there and got some good practice games in.  Several top players showed up so it was good practice.  I went out drinking the rest of the night at PSY until 5 am.  I strictly cut it off there because that is when the manga kissas aren't usually full anymore and I knew I had to be up on time for the tournament the next day.

I got up about 2 hours before the tournament was scheduled to start, and my usual manga kissa is directly accross the street from Sportsland, so nothing was going to stop me from missing this tournament!    Or .... would there be?? .....

No actually nothing stopped me from attending.  I got there and there were already some people playing.  They re-arranged the cabs and had a nice viewing area and it was pretty spacious.  Overall, 32 players entered, and they were pretty much all beasts.  Almost anyone worth mentioning that hadn't qualified yet (at least from the Kanto area, and even then there were some non-Kanto players that traveled) showed up for this.  I played enough casuals before the tournament and did fairly well, winning some and losing some.  When the tournament finally started, I was one of the very last people to play.  My opponent was a Ramlethal player named Hohiko.  I actually had lost to him in the last Sportsland singles tournament I entered on 7/11 in the finals.  At the time, I didn't even remember him being the same person.  I ended up losing both rounds, and just like that, I was out of the tournament and my chances of ever getting into Arc Revo Cup were completely gone with it.  I still have trouble against good Ramlethal players and he just out played me, and that is pretty much all there was to it.  I was pretty bummed as you might expect, but that's life and you can't win 'em all.  I'm not going to go into great detail about the entire rest of the tournament, but the final four ended up being Kisha (FA), Rion (KY), Haken (SO.... yes that's right, he's the same Haken who is famous for playing Potemkin) and finally the guy who beat me, Hohiko.  Hohiko beat Rion and Haken beat Kisha.  Both matches were actually really close with Rion vs Hohiko being down to the wire until the very end of round 3, and the match with Haken vs Kisha, Kisha made one of the most epic comebacks I had ever seen in round 1, but Haken ended up pulling out the win in the end.  I was kinda hoping Kisha would make it since he was the Arc Revo Cup champion from last year in +R.  I suppose I would call that an upset since Haken wasn't even playing the character he is known for, but lots of people have been selling their soul to Sol these days so whatever.  In the final match, it was also pretty close but Haken took the win over Hohiko.  I was surprised to see Hohiko get that far and felt a bit less bad about losing to him first round after seeing how many strong players he was able to take out.  I was still bummed but it kind of lessened the blow (just a little....). 

After the tournament was over, I stayed and played casuals for a few more hours since there were a lot of great players there.  It was kinda crowded though so eventually I remembered that since it was Saturday and not that late yet, that there might be a Mikado 3 on 3 which is usually the case every Saturday.  I checked twitter and sure enough Jonio tweeted that sign-ups would start soon, so I left shortly after and made it on time to sign up and play some more casuals.  I played a stream match against Fino and lost but at least it was close.  I played a bunch of casuals otherwise and did ok, winning some and losing some.  I also played another stream match vs Nakamara but lost that one too.  Anyway, I was looking for a team and asked a few people but they either didn't plan to enter or already had a team.  One person I asked to team up was Roy, and he said he was really sorry and already had a team but said he would be happy to team with me another time.  I ended up getting randomly teamed with Asezuke (MA) and Hasegawa (IN).  Our first match was against Roy's team which consisted of Sharon (RA) and Satou (MA).  Asezuke went first and lost to Roy, then I beat Roy but then Sharon beat me and Hasegawa.  It was a double elim tourny so we were still in losers.  Our next opponent was the team of Kedako (MA), NOB (SO) and Ain (KY).  This team was pretty stacked as well so I wasn't sure how well we would do but I volunteered to go first and I ended up OCVing the entire team in the order listed above!  I couldn't believe it lol!  That was my 2nd time in a row now beating Kedako in a tournament and he used to destroy me, like really bad back in AC and +R.  They all looked pretty salty after losing but I don't blame them since they got OCVed by me of all people lol.  After that, we had to fight Roy's team again but this time we all just lost to Sharon...  Too bad all of our matches were off stream. 

After that, I left quickly since I had plans to drink with Emmet.  Actually, during the time I was playing casuals, Karl suddenly showed up with his girlfriend and was also playing casuals.  I left in such haste that I forgot he was in there and forgot to say goodbye.  I went into the convenient store near Mikado after leaving to grab a drink for the train on the way to Shibuya where I was meeting Emmet and as soon as I came out, Karl and his girlfriend were there about to get into the station.  I told him I was so sorry that I forgot he was in there (I honestly forgot and felt really bad about it) and I invited them to come with me so they agreed and we went to Shibuya together.  A few of Emmet's other friends were there and there were 7 of us total.  We all went to Marukin, a cheap all you can drink place and ate some food and had fun.  After that, we ended up going to the Sega arcade in Shibuya because Karl wanted to play some games.  He was gonna play Emmet in 3rd Strike but they didn't have it, so I played Karl in several games of Xrd and a couple of games in +R.  It was already getting late and once it hit midnight, the staff dude told us we had to leave since they were closing.  After that, everyone else decided to go home but I wanted to do an all nighter, so I headed to Shinjuku.

In Shinjuku, I realized that this might be one of my last nights out to go to the rock bars.  Ryoko got her visa interview scheduled for September 2nd which is pretty soon, and though at the time of typing this we still haven't decided on the exact date we will leave Japan, I decided to be prepared for the scenario that it is sooner than later.  So, I decided to make one final round to all the main bars I used to frequent, knowing that I probably wouldn't be ever stepping into some of them for a long time.  I went to PSY first (which I know I will be back at) and chilled for a bit.  Then I went to Aqua Z, which is the bar where Sushi and Heidi work now.  I talked to the owner, Yappy, about having a farewell party for me there sometime if possible since it is pretty big.  I would love to do it at PSY but it simply is too small.  He said it sounded fine and to hit him up with more details later.  I drank with a lot of cool people I knew there as well.  Then after that I went to GODZ.  I knew that this would probably be my last time at GODZ.  Hide and Haruka working there but unfortunately Kenji wasn't.  I told Hide I was leaving soon and probably won't have time to go visit GODZ again and he was pretty sad and he gave me a whole bag full of free GODZ stuff like mugs, folding fans, bracelets and tote bags with the bar logo and stuff on them!  I wasn't expecting anything and I was pretty really touched by his kindness.  I stayed for a few drinks and talked to the staff for a bit and then said a final goodbye to GODZ.  That place was always an awsome bar and I got a bit misty eyed as I left, knowing I wouldn't walk into it for a very long time again.   After that, I headed to From Dusk till Dawn.  I didn't know most of the people that were drinking there that night but I at least wanted to give the place my final respects before leaving and thank the staff.  They gave me a free shot which was very nice of them.  Finally, I visited Big Time.  It was never a great bar for music but the staff there have always been really nice and a lot of my friends often drink there.  When I told Tsune that I was leaving, he got pretty sad and also gave me free shots.  I stayed there for a while as well and eventually said goodbye and it was already getting light outside.  I headed back to PSY and drank with some friends a bit more and ended up going to bed around 8 am. 

The next day, Sunday, I woke up at like 3 pm.  On this day, my plan was to go to Koenji Matsuri, one of my most favorite festivals in all of Japan.  I have written about Koenji Matsuri on this blog a few times before so I won't go into too much detail about the actual festival itself, but it was just as good as all of the other years, except maybe more crowded.  This was the matsuri that Pachi originally introduced me to.  I called him to see if he wanted to meet up but he wasn't there that day.  I met Emmet and his girlfriend there, as well as LetBloodRun Ryan and his girlfriend.  The 5 of us walked around and drank a bunch and had a great time watching the festival.  Once the last train was about to come, I had to leave to make it back home, so I said goodbye to the crew and headed out.  I was pretty exhausted and just slept for most of the train ride home.

So, that pretty much brings things up to speed.  I spent most of this week just taking care of preparations for Ryoko's visa interview.  I may have failed at qualifying for Arc Revo but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me now as far as starting a new future in the US again so I can't really complain.  I am going to try to make the most of my last moments here in Japan.  I probably have a few blog posts left in me before I leave, so.... until next time.