New Blog!

Hey there! I've decided to continue blogging at a different blog. The MEXT archives and some of my travel posts will remain here, but I'll be moving some stuff over. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Aerial Legends - Game Based on Huis ten Bosch!

Ok, so two days ago (or maybe three days), Huis ten Bosch released its first smartphone game! It's a role-playing game that was co-developed with GoodLuck3 and it's called Aerial Legends!!

If you take a look at the world of the game, it looks extremely similar to Huis ten Bosch! The most obvious one in this screenshot is the place that looks like Palace Huis ten Bosch, all the way on the left side. (Ok, I just realised it could be interpreted as being based on Holland as well, but it's supposed to be Huis ten Bosch)

The Huis ten Bosch mascots "Tully" and "Kyukons" also make an appearance! Tully is in charge of cultivating the tulips and Kyukons is in charge of mining for jewels. Both characters can be found in the 城下町 (jyoukamachi - castle town) and the tulips and jewels that the player gets from them is basically the basis of trade (you get them and trade for other things which you trade for other things/use to upgrade your characters).

Story-wise, you're a guard who has lost your memories. And I think the country is under attack too and you have to save it. I'm not too sure about anything other than that because I didn't really intend to play and skipped past the initial story and now I'm quite lost.

The gameplay is pretty simple (and addictive for me because I'm like "one mission" and then I end up playing for an hour). You're giving missions, which are basically battles with different types of monsters.

There are also mission goals, which help you get some kind of bookmark thing that you can use to get more characters/unlock spots in your party.

The characters that I mentioned just now are what makes up your party. You can prepare 6 different parties, consisting of players with different roles (mages, shields, the sword thing - obviously I'm not a gamer - archers and one special one that I don't really get) and different elements. The monsters are susceptible to certain elements as well so it's a good idea to have a range of players in your party.

The actual battle is basically a lot of tapping. You tap/press and hold to charge the bar at the bottom (it's at 5/27 in this screenshot) and when you have enough power, you can summon a character. Some characters have special skills, and you need a certain number of symbols (there's one in the bar in the screenshot) to activate it. The game is won when you defeat the boss and the game is lost when your ship (the big brown thing) loses all its hp. You can upgrade your boat through various missions. You can upgrade your players if you can get the required items + coins.

Oh, and you can get one "guest" to help you with the missions. That's actually pretty useful.

Last thing: player levels are called "Guard Rank (GR)" here. Certain missions are only available to players of a certain GR, but since GR is determined by how many missions you finish, it shouldn't be a problem.

The game is (unfortunately) only available in Japanese right now, but if you download it, you do get a starter pack. I'm not sure how long the offer lasts, so if you're interested in playing you should just grab the app now. It's free so you don't have anything to lose.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Update on how to get to Aso Farmland

For the moment, you need to forget everything that I've ever written on how to get to Aso Farmland. As of right now (April 2017), significant sections of the train leading to Aso is out of service. Even the Asoboy, that really cute train that I seem to have no affinity with, is now coasting along the rails of some other prefecture's railway track.

This is how we got to Aso Farmland in March, and a quick check of the Aso Farmland website shows that nothing much has changed since then. This is what I'd recommend for people coming from Kumamoto:

First, take the train to Higoozu. We used to be able to take the train to Akamizu and take a taxi from there, or the train to Tateno and then a bus straight to Aso farmland. The bus is now no longer in service and you can't take the train to Akamizu. The closest is Higoozu. From Higoozu, you have two options:

1. Take a bus to Akamizu, and from there take a taxi from Akamizu.

2. Take a taxi from Higoozu to Aso farmland. If you don't want to bother with bus schedules and your luggage and you have a larger budget, this is an option. It took about 40 minutes and cost us 5300 yen for one taxi which seats 4 people, or jumbo cab, which costs 8140 yen. If you're traveling in a large group like we were, then a jumbo cab may be a good option.

Or, if you don't mind driving, you should totally drive.

But is it even worth going to Aso Farmland?

This is a really valid question because large parts of the place look like this:

I'm not sure what the exact situation is right now, but when I was there in much, pretty much only the petting zoo, the main onsen, and the genki forest is in operation. Most of the restaurants that we really enjoyed during previous visits and the shopping area (milk farm) were closed. I think the DIY place was open but that's was about it. More places may have opened, but you'll want to check which parts of the place is open/will be open during your visit and decide accordingly.

My siblings and I really enjoyed the genki forest, which was pretty much intact! Access to it is dependent on the weather, but it's still largely unaffected. For what it's worth, my family enjoyed Aso farmland for the onsen and genki forest, although it must be pointed out that we weren't planning to buy things here. Also, the one buffet restaurant that was open was pretty good, but if you're looking for a variety of restaurants, you'll be disappointed.

And now, picture spam of genki forest :D

My siblings and I were SO HAPPY that the outdoor area was open because we haven't been able to go there before (too much snow). And that is why I didn't have many pictures - we were too busy playing.

Oh, and you should definitely get these fries. They were amazing!

Ok, the last part of our trip is Kumamoto, and the only new thing is the cruise that we took! It was really fun, though, so I can't wait to share it with you(:

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Studio Ghibli Exhibition in Nagasaki

So in the last post, I remembered that I haven't blogged about the Ghibli exhibition. Which is odd because it was AMAZING and I love Ghibli so normally I share news about it immediately. But better late than never and the exhibition is still going on if you want to visit.

The Studio Ghibli Exhibition is in Nagasaki city, which is quite a ways from Sasebo. But luckily, I went with a friend and she drove so there were no transport problems at all.

The museum is held in the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture (長崎歴史文化博物館) which actually looks really cool:

And this is what I saw when I went in!!

The city might look familiar to you and it's because it's that place from Laputa! Complete with ship! (I know, overuse of exclamation marks but it's GHIBLI!!!)

The ship will float down and up which is really very cool.

The ticket was 1400 yen per person and even though we went during Golden Week, there weren't that many people. Which was really lucky for us because I was not looking forward to having to jostle with people. (Ok, there was still a good sized crowd but it was better than expected. We only queued for 5 min)

Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed in the exhibition so I'm gonna grab two from the website. Links in the captions.

The exhibition covers the movies from Nausicaa to Marnie and this is what you see when you enter:

From the museum site
When you enter, you're greeted by Totoro at a "bar". It's really adorable and I loved the attention to detail, like the sootballs hiding at the "staircase" to the side of the bar.

One thing that left an impression on me was how much they talked about the role of the producer. To be honest, I thought the producer was the guy that financed the film but in fact, he does a lot of work (at Studio Ghibli at least). Also, he has way more artistic talent than me so now we know that everyone at Ghibli can draw. They used Princess Mononoke as a case study and that part of the exhibition ended with a replica of Producer Suzuki's office.

(I also really liked the board with all the handdrawn posters for company events!)

Taken from Museum Site

And there was also this amazing room filled with Ghibli goods! I totally want to work with them because their overseas partners get the cutest postcards for new year's and stuff. Plus, there are special watches made for each movie and how cool would it be to get one of those?

They also had a section on the science/research behind the movies - about airplanes and insects and such.

This is the one place in the museum I can take photos. Totoro flying through the air and...


If I remember correctly, the cat bus at the actual museum in Mitaka is only for kids but anyone can go into this one which is why I was so excited. It doesn't look that cool from the inside though, because this is what you see:

It's basically a room with seats, although I liked the fact that you can see Totoro through one of the "windows". Made it feel a little like the movie.

Oh, and I don't know if you noticed but it says "Nagasaki" on the destination for the cat bus!

They had a gift shop but they didn't take JCB which was a blessing in disguise because I really need to stop spending so money and save up. I did get the exhibition pamphlet, which was 600 yen and really worth it because apart from information about the movies, they also had information from the exhibition, like how the commercials for the movie were worked out and the role that commercials played.

If you've got the time and you're in Kyushu, you should really go for this exhibition. There's a lot of great stuff here and it's probably easier to enter than the museum in Mitaka. They will be changing it to a Ghibli layout exhibition when this one ends, but I think I've been to something similar so I'm not sure if I'll go for that...

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Ganbarou, Kumamoto Castle!

Back to a brief recap of the Kyushu trip/update on what has changed(: I'm going to skip over the Nagsaki days because:

1. You have already heard (and will hear) a lot about Sasebo from me.
2. Not much has changed for Nagasaki since my trip in 2014. There is the Ghibli exhibition going on now (which I just realised that I haven't blogged about. What is with my brain?! Ok, coming sometime this week) but if you only have one day, I'd suggest going to the Atomic Bomb Museum and depending on your interest, either the Museum for Christian Martyrs (pro: unusual, thoughtful and close to Nagasaki station. con: up a very steep hill) or to Chinatown.

Instead, I'll skip to Kumamoto which has definitely undergone the most changes since my last visit, which was just last year.

As you probably heard, Kumamoto Castle was very badly damaged during the earthquake last year. I was hoping that it would have recovered after a year (which is really silly of me because a google search shows articles saying that it'll take decades), but it was not to be. The castle is still undergoing reconstruction and it is still not open to the public. But, if you're in the city, you can still view the exterior of the castle and learn about it at Sakura no baba Jyosaien (桜の馬場 城彩苑).

If you head there first, you can get a map that tells you about the different places you can go to see different parts of the castle. You could also make one round, but that's going to take quite a bit of time and does involve a slope. Those traveling with elderly family members may want to just take the free shuttle bus to one spot and view the sites there instead of walking around.

They do have photos of how the castle was at certain spots, which was really sad because you could see just how devastated the castle is.

I think this field of stones are stones from the castle, laid out for the reconstruction.

The next two photos are pretty much the only "nice" photos that I took.

To sum up the devastation: Lots of fallen stones which means lots of walls that have crumbled. At least, that was what I could see.

If you're interested in helping out with the reconstruction, you can make a donation at Sakuranobaba. And if you want to help but don't feel like donating, do consider buying products if you see one of the Ganbarou Kumamoto campaigns or by visiting the prefecture, because the last thing they need is for the tourists (and tourist dollars) to leave.

And to end this post full of destruction, a picture of the one blooming sakura tree at Kumamoto castle. A good reminder that spring does come and Kumamoto will be back to normal sooner or later.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Mifuneyama Rakuen with Totoro and Friends

I meant to have this post up during Golden Week but I ended up being so drained that I only got around to writing it today. But Mifuneyamarakuen is seriously way too beautiful!

But before I get to Mifuneyama rakuen, I just want to say that anyone who has not tried Starbuck's American Cherry Pie Frappucino should really go try it:

This version has the mocha syrup replaced with chocolate so it's brown and not white but it's SO GOOD. I really should have gotten the Starbucks sakura card (what are you thinking, Eustacia? You can't keep spending money on Starbucks!)

And if you're wondering about the toys, Totoro and his friends, the egg birds accompanied me, Bekah and Nic around the whole day.

Yes, we are over twenty.

Yes, I know it's hard to believe.

Anyway, if you remember my previous posts, my first visit to Mifuneyamarakuen wasn't very successful. My second was way better because it was sakura season and this third visit was right during the peak season so I was ecstatic at finally being there at the right time (and Totoro was happy to have a day out with friends).

The place was crowded enough that we had to go to a car park so far away that we had to take a shuttle bus to the park. The bus came pretty quickly, though, so absolutely no complaints from anyone.

There were some wisteria plants at the entrance and I was sort of hopeful that we could see wisteria too but it turns out that we were too early.


Isn't it beautiful? I'm so, so glad that I came because it was better than what I expected!

Totoro totally loved it too.

This looks almost identical to the first shot but it's really from a different angle. Basically, you can walk among those giant bushes and this was taken at the start.

A group picture! The paper is the map of the place which we used because we didn't want to get Totoro or the egg birds dirty.

The bushes were actually really huge. I think they were taller than me at times! (I am short but the point still stands!)

This little bird immediately tried to camouflage himself.

Unfortunately, we did not see any blue flowers. 

Totoro... is really bad at all this stealth stuff (then again, he managed to hide from everyone but two little girls)

And this is really what happens "behind the scenes". Poor Nic basically has to crouch and it's a really good thing she's a gymnast.

This would be one of the paths we walked along.

My pretty friend Bekah(:

And a close-up of one of the flowers.

And this is the view from the top! It's pretty, but I think the view from the bottom is better, since you can see the mountain thing as well.

And by the way, the viewing deck that provided an amazing view of the sakura doesn't really let you see much now. If you're visiting, you don't have to go there (but there is a nice view of the surrounding areas so it's not like going there will make you rage with disappointment. Just don't expect awesome views of the Tsutsuji flowers.

This was such a fun day and I'm so glad that Nic and Bekah were here for a visit. Thank you so much, you two! If you two didn't come, I might not have visited this place and I would have missed out on such a beautiful sight!!

Last photo of one of the few wisteria that we saw. I did want to go to Kawachifujien this year, but Golden Week was insane and the place is now so popular you have to buy tickets in advance so I didn't even try :p