Tottori World Coffee Summit 2016

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From September 23rd through October 2nd, Tottori is hosting a World Coffee Summit. Last weekend they held a, um, Coffee Meet Food Grand Prix. Let’s just call it a Coffee and Food Fair.

This was a fun little event where we got to sample a few examples of food and coffee from local restaurants and coffee shops. You then get to vote on the food that you think is best for a winner. I would have taken pictures of the food, but I literally wolfed it down as soon as I got it (they had these deep fried pancake type treats with red beans, SOOOOO GOOOOOOD). Andrea won the coffee game, as she ordered this special caramel Camel Treat.

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I knew Japan was into their coffee, and even though this was relatively small, I don’t think I’ve seen so many blends of coffee in one place. Most places here don’t brew large caraffes of drip coffee. They usually freshly pour hot water through the grounds as you order, so you get the full freshness and flavor of the bean. The end result is a more expensive, but ultimately more flavorful cup of coffee, better than anything you can get at Starbucks (not including Frappuccinos).

And unbeknownst to me and Andrea going in, the Tottori prefecture has a sister relationship with the St. James parish of Jamaica, and UCC has relationships with the coffee farmers there. Jamaica is also very big on their coffee, as the Blue Mountain coffee is their caffeinated pride.

So if you come to Tottori, be sure to check out one of the many Kissaten (coffee shops) we have about town.

We also have a cat cafe, but more on that later.

Tokyo Game Show 2016

I know this isn’t Tottori related, but I wanted to blog about the Tokyo Game Show.

It’s one of the biggest video game conventions that’s open to the public, and it’s recently become the biggest game localization (translation of Western Games) stage for Japan. I wanted to attend so that I could see what the industry is like here compared to the U.S.

As with all conventions, there was a lot going on, so please check out this highlight video for a quick visual overview:

They also have a Cosplay Showcase night, and knowing how serious Japan takes their cosplay, I had to check it out. By the way, Japanese Cosplay Contests are not just displays for costumes… they are choreographed performances.

Watch this video to get an idea what I mean:

The focus of the show was Virtual Reality as Playstation and HTC were showing off their gear while studios were showing off games related them.

All of the demo tickets for VR went fast, so by 11am, only 1 hour after the showroom opened, they were all distributed. I was lucky enough to try a VR game out by being the only one standing around while somebody missed their appointed time slot.

I will say that on the outside, VR looks pretty dumb. I mean, you have to wear a goofy headset, and there are only so many situations that you can apply to it.

But after trying it out, I can see the allure, especially with modern game engine graphics. Anything that reacts to more of your movements, is automatically that much more immersive. The fact that I could look side to side and see the other members in my party beside me, made a difference in how the game felt.

That said, I still predict that current VR will mainly be used in specific settings, such as Dave and Busters or some other gaming club, simply because the cost of technology. Right now VR sets cost the same as a game system, so online play will be a huge factor in how long these systems will sell for as the community will be a fraction of the console owners. There’s also the fact that games such as Assassin’s Creed and Metal Gear Solid lose a huge part of mechanics by being in the first person and don’t .

I don’t have high expectations, but a lot of companies are investing in this technology right now.

Besides that, Japanese games tend to focus on anime franchises and sequels, which is why their pushing Persona 5, as well as new Gundam, Naruto, and DragonBall Z games. FPS games are still more PC focused here, though they keep tryiing to infiltrate the console with games like Mafia III.

For those interested in other games I saw, here is a list of things that I enjoyed from the show:

Most Intriguing Game: Gravity Daze 2

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I don’t own a Playstation Vita, so I missed the first game which was released as Gravity Rush in the US.

But watching the demo of this game brought back a rush of excitement that I can recall only feeling on rare occasions such as when I first saw the gameplay of the Nintendo 64. Looking at the game, you’d think it was Super Mario Galaxy on Steroids, but there’s more to this game as the mechanics also add to the story.

Most Over-Hyped Game: Final Fantasy XV

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Don’t get me wrong, I love a good RPG as much as the next person, and I know Japan loves Final Fantasy (they’re releasing 3 Japanese titles this year), but this game is looking pretty… meh.

Final Fantasy usually puts a lot of effort into creating the new characters, world, and story. The story we’ll only see once the game is released. The world is just as beautiful, and probably more intricate than any Final Fantasy we’ve seen. But the character design is very flat. It looks like it was designed by a cosplayer who didn’t want to spend a lot of time creating a costume.

In the end, we’ll see if improved gameplay mechanics and pacing can save the US view of this franchise.

Best Game You’ve Been Waiting For: The Last Guardian.

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15 minute gameplay demo on loop. No cameras allowed. But I can say that if you are a fan of the puzzle solving gameplay of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, then you will not be allowed.

Also, beautiful environment mechanics. Most games focus on what you can do to the environment, but in this game the surroundings affects you as much as you can effect it.

Best Technology Showcase: Unlimited Hand

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Now you can actually feel that VR bird poop on your hand!

This piece of technology uses electrical impulses to let you know when you touch an object in the vr. Uses same technology to read your hand motions so that you can interact with said object (Press button, squeeze trigger, etc).

Best Indie Game to get accepted to the Nintendo Platform (Which is a really really hard thing to do): EctoPlaza

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Simple mechanics on a 4 player Battle Royale stage create instant fun in this game. Not to be mistaken for a Smash Bros. Ripoff, this game stands out by creating an even playing field between characters so you have to rely more on base strategy than on special moves.

Last but not least, Strange Games (Y’know… because Japan):

School Girl Zombie Hunter:

Japan’s version of Lollipop Chainsaw. Wouldn’t seem so strange but the demo booth looked like this:

 

Yeah… I’m gonna pass.

Happy Manager:

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A dating sim where you interact and watch 3 girls in a dorm you manage?

Pass.

Summer Lesson:

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A Playstation VR title where you interact in close proximity with a college-aged woman. This title is supposed to surpass any previous AI interaction held in a VR environment… but it’s a bit creep so, Pass.

UNKORE: A Colon Bacillus as Healthy Life

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This is a mobile app/game that monitors your daily pooping activity to help fight colon cancer.

You read that right.

This game started by a colon doctor in Japan, combines the kawaii characters found in most games with real facts about bowel consistency. Not only does it actually include gameplay (your characters power up the more regular you are), but there’s also a forum where you can post your bathroom stories anonymously.

I actually played this, and it was fun despite (or maybe because of) all the poop and butt jokes at the booth.

Well, thanks for sifting through this long blog post. More comic style ones to come in the future, I promise.

Cheers!

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Tottori Sand Museum

Kon’nichiwa from Tottori!

We recently made a trip to the Tottori Sand Dunes, but due to the rain we made a slight detour to stay dry, so we went to The Sand Museum (http://www.sand-museum.jp/en/).

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A more accurate name of this museum would be the Sand Sculpture Museum, as it is centered around sand art that recreates scenes throughout the world and history. This year, I’m sure to help honor the Olympics, they have a South American exhibit in the Museum. This is a continuation of the theme they have of exploring different regions of the world.

 

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“Conquistadora the Explorer”

The artwork is expertly done buy sculptors from all around the world. They carefully selected landmarks and scenes from history that they felt represent the culture, landscapes, and people of South America.

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“Brutal”

As someone who attends a lot of museums and art shows, I found The Sand Museum refreshing, both in content and in time consumption.

The ¥600 you pay to get in is well worth the couple of hours you spend walking around, and it still leaves you plenty of time to experience the Sand Dunes, or do some other exploration.

If you’re passing through Tottori, the Sand Museum is a must.

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School Cultural Festival

So if any of you are fans of anime, you may have seen a show called Azumanga Daioh. One of the iconic episodes of this series is when they are hosting the cultural festival at the school (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nCO_SoNQMw), and the classes have to come up with themes for their rooms such as cafe’s, Haunted Houses, and other cool ideas.

I’m glad to say that this is an actual event that schools do, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one at Andrea’s school.

Let me preface by saying that these cultural fests are more like club festival nights that are hosted at Schools in the USA where the school clubs, such as Art, FCA, etc. will host fairs with different attractions, games, and events such as cake dances and face painting.

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The opening day is a bit more academic and consists of student made films, book battles (bibliobattle.jp) and school choir performances. Since these are student films, they draw heavily from pop culture, and since I can’t speak Japanese, I had to rely on my knowledge of anime to get the films. Time spent watching Detective Conan and Death Note were not wasted.

The second day is where most of the planning and effort goes into, as this is the festival that’s open to the community.

(Classroom Themes)

The main attraction of these festivals (As with most Japanese Festivals) is the food and drink selection. There were plenty of choices to pick from, with more traditionaland the kids had a lot more freedom than they would in the States, especially considering one table was making Mock-Tails including fake mojitos. And as with the Azumanga Daioh episode, they advertise by walking around and sometimes yelling. Very Loudly. Often at each other during stage presentations.

One of my favorites was the shooting gallery at the “ShatteKissa” (Translated as “Shoot Up the Coffee Shop”0_0) where you shot at paper targets to try and win pancakes with ice cream on top.

Yes. It was worth it.

Outside of food and games, they had several stage performances with music, science presentations, and dances performed by girls, and then later with boys dressed as girls (wait, what?).

I don’t have pictures, but you’ll have to take my word on that one.

(Stage Performance)

The day ended with a homemade bonfire (キャンプファイヤーPronounced Kamp-Faiya = Campfire) and some fireworks. Nothing big, just enough to quench the thirst of backyard pyromaniacs.

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If you’re ever in Japan, and know someone that’s an ALT at a Jr High or High School, I highly recommend asking them if you can attend these yearly events, usually held in the fall.

Until next time, STAY AWESOME!

img_20160903_132828(Teacher wearing an Elmo Cowboy Hat #ICantMakeThisUp)