Monday, April 28, 2008

Adventures in the Inaka

For those who dont know, inaka = countryside. Instead of going to Tokyo like I usually would every weekend, this weekend I spent my entire time in Gunma and Tochigi. Why? Tougeki qualifiers of course!

Saturday there was a tournament scheduled to be in the town of Kiryu in Gunma (the prefecture that I live in), so instead of going somewhere I just stayed in my town. After work I took the train from near my apartment and went 2 stations over to go drink at Funayado, basically the only worthwhile bar to drink at in my entire town. Ive been there a few times before and I know the owner so its cool. While it certainly isnt Current and they dont play any rock, they have good prices on delicious food, and you can get a HUGE fuckin beer on tap for like 500-700 yen which is totally worth it. The only draw back is they are only open until 12. However, since the last train to get back home leaves just a few mins before 12, it works out ok.

The plan was to have one of the other ALTs who works in my town, Cynthia, come to join me. Also, my girlfriend, Ryoko, was going to come with her sister who I had just met the day before for the first time. Originally on Thursday, Ryoko and I were gonna go do some Hanami (viewing cherry blossoms) and have a picnic and shit by this awsome lake and stuff. But the weather was shitty so we didnt stay long and ended up actually going to her aunts house who lives near there. We were gonna drop in and say hello cuz her sister who lives in Tokyo was visiting for the weekend. We were just gonna say hi but her aunt insisted on having us come in and cooked us this like 10 course meal with all kindsa delicious stuff. Her aunt is single and lives alone and likes to drink whiskey all day, and was having a good time knockin a few back when we got there, and Ryoko's sister was having a few drinks as well. So while we were there we invited her sister to come drink with us the next day.

Ryoko had to work till 8:30 so I got there a little earlier and eventually Cynthia showed up. We hung out and drank for a while and then there was like this old man I never met before but Cynthia seemed to know him. This guy was totally cool and started buying us all this food just cuz he was being nice. Totally cool guy. Eventually Ryoko showed up with her friend Midori. Unfortunately Ryoko said her sister was still at her aunts and was drinking all day again so she couldnt make it. The rest of the night we pretty much just drank and talked and nothing too crazy or out of the ordinary happened. Cynthia left a little earlier. Ryoko decided not to drink and said she would drive me home so that I wouldnt have to take the train back. After a short drive we arrived near my apartment. After we got back to my.... never mind... some other events took place and I went to sleep.

The tournament wasnt scheduled to start until 6 pm so I was able to sleep in for about 10 hours! It felt fantastic and I honestly cant remember the last time I actually went to sleep without having to set some sort of alarm. My head hurt a little bit but basically I slept it off to the point where it was pretty much gone by the time I actually got up. Made myself some breakfast and then headed for the train station. After about an hour and a half trip I arrived at Iwajuku station in Kiryu. I had never been to the area before really so I asked some random kids where the Motarou game center was. They gave me directions and after about 10 minutes of walking I found the place with no problem. When I arrived there were only about 6 people there. I pretty much was owning a lot of these guys really hard. No one could beat me for about 10 games. There was even this guy who played as white Potemkin and I triple perfected him hah. I eventually lost to a pretty good testament player who rematched me. Gradually, more and more people started to show up. The plan today was to team up with Matt (Hintalove) and we didnt have a 3rd person. Eventually Matt mailed me saying he arrived at the station. I went out there and met him halfway since he didnt know exactly where it was at. When we got back to the arcade more people were there. The blue testament player that beat me earlier had racked up a pretty huge win streak. By now, a few people that I recognized from Tokyo tournaments had showed up to this. When we signed up for the tournament as a 2 man team, I told the tournament organizer that if an extra person showed up, we would be willing to have him on our team. Not long after, he came up to me with someone and said that this guy wanted to join our team. His name was Yohei and he was a Bridget player. We signed up for the tournament with the team name Minoriteam, and since Bridget players are certainly a minority, the name still fit. I had no idea how good he was but eventually I saw him play against a good Eddie player and came VERY close to beating him. The place only had 2 cabs so around this time, it was very packed and was taking a long time to get a turn in on casuals. In total, 17 teams had entered the tournament.

The tournament starts and we are one of the last teams to play our first match. Our opponents were a team of Anji, HOS, Baiken. The HOS player I was beating pretty good before the tournament, the Baiken and Anji I hadnt played at all. I decided that I would just go first and that Yohei could anchor. They put their Anji player up first. The first round I was pretty much owning him and he had like a pixel of health left but came back and I lost. The 2nd round I rushed him down hard and got him in the corner and mixed him up really bad and he got perfected. The last round was going ok but then I did something very very stupid. I had been playing on the 1st player side pretty much all day but this time we were 2nd player. I tried to burst but it turned out that I was looking at the wrong burst and I, infact, had no burst at all... which resulted in me eating some huge combo and losing. I was pretty damn disapointed because I didnt really feel like this guy was all that good and I know I could have owned him for sure. I defeated myself this time. Matt went next and put up a good fight and would have actually beat the guy, but he stopped a combo to try to bait his burst but he didnt burst. Then the guy came back and beat Matt. Finally Yohei went and I dont remember the details but he lost in a close match too. I wasnt expecting to get OCVed by some random Anji first round and it was a pretty huge bummer. Seeing as how I hadnt eaten since breakfast and it was about 7 pm, at this point I was starving. Matt and I decided to go get some food. I invited Yohei to join us but he said he had already eaten recently. Before we left to get food we exchanged email. He said he would not be entering the tournament tomorrow but said he would be interested in possibly teaming up again sometime.

The area around the game center wasnt exactly packed with great places to eat and the closest place was an expensive yakiniku restaurant. We figured they would have an all you can eat deal which would make the high price worth it. When we got there it turns out that for whatever reason, they dont offer the all you can eat during the weekend. We ended up getting some food anyway and it was fucking delicious but I wasnt completely stuffed. After that we went back to the arcade and found that the tournament was already over. The winning team turned out to be a team with some Slayer player that was beating lots of people but I honestly dont know who they were and the website for Tougeki doesnt have the winning team listed.

At this point it was already getting very late and we had plans to enter the tournament in Kanagawa tomorrow so we decided we should head out and go back to Tokyo now so we could get more games in. I checked the next train time on my phone while Matt was talking on the phone with this girl he has this huge crush on. It turned out that the next train was in like 15 mins. This gave me enough time to go grab some food and a beer from the 7-11. When I got out of the store, Matt was still on the phone. I told him we had to haul ass if we wanted to catch the next train. Since we were in the inaka, the next train would probly be like 45 mins apart at least so we had to make it. We walked really fast and made it there with about 2 minutes to spare. Matt wanted a beer and a snack too so he went to the Yamazaki near the train station to buy some stuff while I bought our tickets for us. This place didnt have an electronic ticket gate so I gave the ticket dude both of our tickets and told him one was for my friend who was on his way. The train arrived and Matt wasnt there yet. The doors were about to close and then he came running with his beer and snacks and did like some Indiana Jones type shit and got on the train just as the doors were closing. After sitting down on the train for a bit and going over our options, we decided that perhaps going to the tournament in Tochigi tomorrow would be a better option than the Kanagawa one. Seeing as how the Kanagawa one was only like a half hour from Shinjuku and the Tochigi one was like almost 3 hours from there, we figured less top players would be coming out to that one. We calculated when we would have to wake up and shit in order to get there with enough time to spare and after realizing that going back to Tokyo tonight seemed rather pointless, we decided to just head out there now and spend the night venturing into the unknown depths of the deep inaka. After a long train ride we eventually arrived at Oyama station in Tochigi. We had to transfer trains here, and since we were out of beer we bought 2 more big cans each. Yes, drinking on the train in Japan is legal, and is fine as long as you arnt being an obnoxious wasted douche about it.

After a bit of waiting the next train finally arrived. Our destination was Nasushibara station, the 2nd to last stop on the Utsunomiya line. Shortly after we got on the train, we noticed that tons of people were totally just chatting it up on their cellphones even though its considered to be extremely rude. There was this one guy next to us who was sitting next to Matt. He seemed to be drunk. He started randomly talking to us asking us where we were from and stuff. Then he busts out his phone and starts talking to someone for a bit. Suddenly, he hands the phone to Matt and tells him to talk to the person on the other end of the line. I didnt know wtf was going on but then it became apparent that he was trying to convince his friend that he was on the train and not at home so he handed the phone to Matt to try to prove it. After that he gave the phone to some other random Japanese dude who was sitting across from him. After the phone conversation the guy asked us some more random questions and Matt said his breath smelled like shit. Eventually he got off the train after a few stops. There was this pretty cute young girl sitting across from us and Matt really wanted to talk to her. He kept asking me if he should go for it and im just like, fuck yea just talk to her. He was talking pretty loud so if she understood english at all she probably found it rather amusing. So he used the situation with the drunk guy as an opening to start up a conversation with her. We made a bit of small talk and she overheard where we were going. She said there was pretty much absolutely nothing around Nasushiobara station and that our best bet would be to get off at Nishi-Nasuno station, which was the station before it. She said there was actually a manga kissa there but that she wasnt sure about any bars in the area. We decided this was our best bet since we still wanted to do some drinking.

Eventually we arrived at Nishi-Nasuno. We thanked the nice young girl and got off the train. We headed for the bathroom as we both had to take a leak. There were 2 urinals in the station bathroom. One of them was currently occupied by some guy and I proceeded to pee in the other one. While I was peeing, Matt was standing behind us and noticed that this guy was taking a long time to finish and said to me "Wow this guy is like the Energizer Bunny of peeing!" I found this rather hilarious and was trying not to laugh since for all we knew the guy once again might have understood English, and while he probably has no idea what the Energizer Bunny is, it still felt awkward and hilarious at the same time. Eventually he finished his epic piss and left but didnt really seem to have any reaction to Matt's comment. Had the situation been reversed and I found myself taking an epic leak in a bathroom and a Japanese guy said to his friend in Japanese that I was the (-insert Japanese pop culture reference here-) of peeing in Japanese, I would probably find it more amusing than offensive, but im pretty laid back in general. In any case, we eventually left the station and began our search for a place to keep drinking. As we had expected, there wasnt a whole lot of places in general around this area.

Shortly after, 2 young girls ladies were walking down the street so we asked them if there were any places to drink in the area. They pointed to a building just a few buildings down with a neon sign that said "Welcome, Drink House". We decided to go check it out. It seemed more like an apartment building than anything else. We walked around and couldnt find any sign for a place called Drink House, so we assumed it must just be the name of the building or something. Then I noticed there was some loud music coming from one of the places on the first floor called Kunchiyamuron. It said it was some sorta Thai karaoke bar. I peaked my head in and instantly this Thai chick who wasnt at all shy about showing off her cleavage, grabbed my arm and told us to come in and drink. I asked them if this was like some special bar or if was like a place we could just come in and have a few beers and they said we could just come in and drink like any other bar. The place had lots of big leather couches and tables. The tables were covered in snacks. I have never been to a hostess bar nor a snack bar before but I figured this place must be something along those lines as it wasnt just a regular bar. We were directed to come sit down at a table where there was this old dude sitting with some not so good looking chick. We were unable to determine if he was a Japanese guy who was really wasted or a guy of another Asian decent who spoke some Japanese. We knew he wasnt Thai as he wasnt speaking Thai with any of the girls (who all had pretty sloppy Japanese btw). The girl who sat us down told us we had 2 choices... we could order a large bottle of beer for 1000 yen or we could pay 3000 yen for all you can drink shochu. Since I had already been drinking beer for most of the night, I knew from my past enkai experiences that beer + all you can drink shochu = epic hangover. I decided to go with the beer and Matt figured he would just drink beer to so we would just split the bottles. The girls wasted no time to bust out the bottle and start pouring our drinks. They also busted out a lighter the very instant I even reached for my pack of smokes. There was probably about 6 or so different Thai girls making the rounds around this place talking with various customers (most of which were old drunken Japanese guys). We also noticed that there was this heavyset chick with huge knockers that kept grabbing guys packages. One thing that kinda bothered me though was the girls were just helping themselves to our beer. Then this sorta fat and old chick who had to be about late 40s or early 50s sat next to me and was asking me if she could have some juice. Im like... you work here so why are you asking me? Shes like, I cant have juice unless you buy it for me. I dodged the question by talked to Matt about what Karaoke song he wanted to do. I had no intention of buying some expensive glass of Juice for some old nasty chick who was failing pretty bad at trying to sweet talk me into giving them free money. After we sang a few karaoke songs (I did Queen - Keep yourself Alive, and ACDC - Shook me all night long, and Matt did some U2 and Greenday) and a little more time had passed, we were already on like our 6th bottle of beer. We hadnt even been there for an hour yet and we already had managed to spend 6000 yen between the 2 of us. Matt didnt seem to realize that we were already on our 6th bottle but I assured him that I had been keeping track since the girls were sneaky about just busting out another bottle and pouring it for you without you asking for it first. Then Matt came up with a brilliant idea, stop drinking! As long as we had some beer in our glasses they couldnt pour more into them and thus, couldnt keep busting out new bottles. The old man sitting across from us had bought us each one glass of shochu so we just kinda nursed that for a little while. This plan worked brilliantly since we were both already buzzed enough to have a good time and knew that if we kept up the pace we were at, we would end up spending like 10000 yen each by the end of the night. This resulted in me chain smoking like crazy but a pack of smokes is 300 yen so who gives a shit! Soon after, the old man headed out and said he was going home. We stayed for a bit longer and the girls continued to occasionally come sit by us and be all touchy feely and occasionally would subtly grab our joysticks. Eventually 2 am rolled around and they told us they were closing. We asked for the check and it turned out to surprisingly be exactly 6000 yen, just as they promised! No hidden fees or bullshit. Granted they drank a bit of our beer but honestly I was rather surprised and didnt feel like I got ripped off!

We were then presented with another choice. Go to sleep or drink some more? Of course it only being 2 am we decided to get some more beer. We walked around a bit more within the same building and tried to find another place that was opened. On the 2nd floor we found a place called Link. We peeked in and it seemed to be a pretty regular bar. There were 2 younger girls there, an old lady who was the bar tender, and the same drunken old man from earlier was now sitting in there! We figured this seemed like a good place to drink. I ordered a beer on tap and Matt ordered a cocktail and they said he could even make it himself and it would be 800 yen. I was curious how much my beer was after they brought it to me and they said it was 1000 yen. However, unlike the other place, it was just a regular glass of beer, not a big bottle, so this was pretty much a huge ripoff since id pay half the price if it was at Current. I wasnt too happy about that but I figured, no problem, its a place to hangout and ill just use the same plan as before, take forever to finish my beer and smoke lots of cigs. So after we sat down one of the girls started talking with me and the other was talking with Matt and old wasted guy. It became obvious very fast that these girls worked there. Just like the other place, this girl was a quickdraw gunslinger when it came to lighting my smokes. We just had small talk about how she was the same age as me but she was married with 2 kids. She said she got married when she was 18 and was only dating the guy for 4 months. WTF. Way too early. Anyway so we played some darts and Matt played a game of darts with the other chick and the old lady brought us a small plate of yakisoba (which appeared to be complimentary since we didnt order anything). After about an hour, they suddenly said they would be closing. I finished my beer and asked for the check. They handed me a check and it said 3000 yen! I was pretty shocked to see my regular size 1000 yen beer turn into a 3000 yen check. I payed the bill and then I asked them why it was 3000 yen when I only had one beer. Appearently they decided that they were going to make me pay for the drinks that the girl I was talking to was having, even though I never once was asked, nor was I even all that particularly interested in talking to her in the first place. I was completely surprised as I didnt even at all get the impression that this girl was remotely flirting with me at all. I was pretty pissed about this and felt like I just got fucked in the ass by paying 3000 yen for one regular beer and a small plate of mediocre yakisoba. They pulled the same shit on Matt who ordered 2 drinks and his tab was 4000 yen. Its times like this when I miss Current heh. As we were leaving, the old drunk guy stumbled out as well. We asked him where the manga kissa was and he gave us some directions so we headed out on our way.

After about a 10 minute walk we found the place. It had an arcade atatched to it that was still open, but it didnt have any particularly good games. They made us fill out this big long form and sign up for a membership card in order to stay there. I honestly didnt feel like doing it but we didnt have any other choice given where we were. I put like half fake information on the application form and after a while we finally got our cards and went to sleep. At least the place wasnt a ripoff as the charged 1000 yen for 6 hours of sleep, which is what I normally pay anyway and membership was only 300 yen.

The next day we woke up at about 10:00. The tournament was at Fantasy Park game center and was schedule to start at 1:00 and signups would end at 12:30. We figured this would be plenty of time to find the place and get some casuals in. We headed back to the train station and took the train over to the next station, Nasushiobara. Upon arriving at the station, it seemed the girl on the train from last night was certainly correct.. this place was inaka as hell and there was pretty much nothing there. Lots of rice fields and houses with a few random stores here and there. There was a map in the station and I took a quick look at it and called up the game center on my cellphone to ask them for directions from the station. I asked him which exit from Nushiobara station they were located from and how long it takes to walk there. They said the West exit and it would be about a half hour walk. We headed out on our journy and stopped at the 7-11 on the way to make sure we were on the right track. None of the people that worked there seemed to know anything about this Fantasy Park game center. We figured they just dont play games so they just didnt know about it. Matt called again to confirm the directions and the guy told us the same thing. We continued on our course for a while and eventually we arrived at a gas station. Some dude was out front with a hose so I asked him if we were going the right way. He told me there were no game centers around here at all. This caused us to start to worry a bit. We decided to go a bit further and give it a shot and it started to get more and more rural. Eventually we came across a small footcare clinic and decided to ask them. I had a sheet that I thought had the address on it but it only had the phone number. I asked the girl inside the place if she knew where the game center was but she had no idea. She then offered to call the place for me and ask. It turns out that the game center was actually back near Nishi-Nasuno station where we had just come from and was no where near Nasushiobara. This is pretty much my fault since when I looked at the map of the area where the arcade was earlier in the week, I was actually planning on going to the Kanagawa tournament, so I kinda half-assed checking where it was at. However, when both myself and Matt had called earlier, we both specifically mentioned Nasushiobara station but the guy didnt say anything about it being the wrong one or about Nishi-Nasuno. At this point we were beginning to run out of time. We took the long walk back to the train station and luckily the next train was in about 20 minutes (which considering where we were, that wasnt so bad). We made it back to Nishi-Nasuno and decided the best thing to do would be to go back to where we spent the night and ask there, since game centers are often the best place to ask where to find other game centers in the area. The guy who was working there was very helpfull and gave us perfect directions. He said the place would be about another 20 minute walk from where we were at. We continued to walk and eventually found a busy street as the guy told us we would. We crossed it and then saw 3 guys walking down the street. I said to Matt that they look like they could be a Guilty Gear team so I asked them if they knew where Fantasy Park was. They confirmed that we were going the right way and after a bit more walking we werent seeing it yet. I stopped at another gas station and asked some old man if he knew where it was and he told me there werent any game centers around here at all. We were just like.... wtf..... but kept going and it turned out that like 2 buildings down was Fantasy Park! Stupid old man.

We got inside about 5 minutes before signups were going to end. We signed up as a 2 man team. There were already a lot of people there and they only had one cabinet. This place wasnt all that big and didnt have many fighting games. I think this has to be the first Japanese arcade ive been to that hosted a tournament that didnt have one single street fighter game in the entire place. Everyone was crowded around the cab watching. A red slayer player was beasting and had a good win streak. I noticed a few big names there such as Kazuki and Kiro, the really good yellow Faust player that I had encountered a while back during the DF2 days. There was also a Bridget player there who I could have sworn was Mugen but he was signed up under a different name on the signup sheet. Turns out it wasnt Mugen but a local player named Ryou. I played against the red Slayer and he beasted on me kinda hard. He was all in my head and shit. This guy was seriously good as hell. Kiro tried to beat him twice and also failed but after lots of people kept playing him, Kiro eventually did manage to beat him. Then I played against Kiro and beat him in a Faust mirror match.

Eventually the tournament started. There were 16 teams total. This time, unfortunately, there were no extra people so we only had a 2 man team. My random luck of the draw, our first match was against the team of Kazuki (DI)/Kiro (FA)/Oguma (JA). Matt went first against Oguma and lost both rounds. Then it was my turn. I won the first round. 2nd round was close but he beat me. 3rd round I perfected him. Up next was Kazuki. It wasnt a bad match but I made a few crucial mistakes such as trying to punish a blocked crouching HS and forgetting that he can cancel it into the ice spike late. Overall I probably should have just played more patiently and I felt like I could have won it but unfortunately I didnt. I still felt much less bad about losing to Kazuki than random Anji but wasnt exactly happy about it. I hadnt eaten anything all day up to this point so me and Matt decided to go to the MOS burger nextdoor to get some food.

We had a random conversation about how Matt has a friend back in Oregon who refuses to eat any food that is white in color. I just found this extremely amusing and strange. He also has a little brother who ONLY eats white foods. Then this random white guy shows up out of no where with some chick and asks if we are here for the speech contest. Im just like... uhh nope, game tournament. Pretty random. Anyway, after eating we went back to the arcade to watch the rest of the tournament. The next match up was the team of Ryou. His team was a cute female Jam player named Mori, and a red May player named Kuroto. The other team was PO/AX/BA. Ryou went first and beat PO but lost to AX. Then Mori put up a good fight and almost beat AX but lost. Then Kuroto beat AX and BA. Up next was the beastly red Slayer from earlier whos name seems to be Hase. His team mates were Seta (FA) and Pon (PO). They were up against a team that contained the beastly purple May I often see. Hase proceeded to destroy their whole team. Up next was Kazuki team vs Ryou team. Oguma's Jam proceeded to OCV their entire team. This lead to the tournament finals which was Hase team vs Kazuki team. Every game in the finals was close as hell and they were really hype and fun to watch. Many rounds ending within pixels. However, unfortunately for Kazuki and his team, they were all defeated as the result of an OCV by Hase and his broken Slayer. I felt bad for Kiro when he almost beat him and landed the scalpel super but Hase guessed right and got the angel which he killed Kiro off of.

After the tournament was over, Matt said he had to leave because he needed to meet up with some people. I decided to stay and play some casuals. They had the cab on freeplay event mode still so people were just taking turns getting on, playing one match, then both would get off and 2 more people would get on. Since I had time to keep between each match, I kept track of my record. It went like this:
SO win
SL win
AX win
IN lose
SL (Hase) lose
JA lose
IN win
IN lose
JA lose
TE win
RO win
AX win

Between my last 2 matches, the IN player came around to the other side of the cab and was sorta standing next to me watching the match going on. I decided to make small talk. I asked him if he was going to enter the Tochigi tournament in Sano on Tuesday (Tuesday being a national holiday, they are having quals on this day). He said he was. I told him I would be going as well but that I would be entering by myself (as Matt had other plans with the girl he has a crush on). He asked me if it would be ok if I joined his team since he said he only had one team mate. I told him I would be cool with teaming with them. The other guy on the team is an ABA player named Ibu. The I-no players name is Shiratori. Shiratori has a good I-no, but I have no idea about Ibu. In any case, im pleased to have a full team for Tuesday. So after that I had to get going because I had a long way home. I walked about 30 minutes back to the station and had just enough time to grab some food at 7-11 before the train left. I then proceeded to take a nearly 4 and a half hour trip home. Im sure glad I have a DS.

So Tuesday (which is tomorrow at the time of writing this), I will go to Sano in Tochigi with my girlfriend for another tournament. I have high hopes for this one but anything can happen.

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