Himeji Castle challenges Sun as second brightest object in the universe

Not too far away from Osaka, lies a castle of such grandeur people just could not turn a blind eye to it. This is literally the brightest castle in existence but thanks to the government green tarps, we were saved from a renegade castle after our favorite sense. It was put under a 6 year renovation project, which made exterior photos as likely as a non-hobbit Elijah Wood.  For half a decade one could only enjoy the large spacious interior and exterior, erected by a Shogun with a little too much dosh and a lot to compensate for.

Unfortunately the tarps have fallen, and just in time for Golden Week, when thousands upon thousands of tourist flocked like pigeons to Himeji Castle for photos. But wait, why does every photo online looks the same you ask? Because everyone has found a favorite spots, and it’s all on the same power line (another pigeon reference). These photographers made sure to upload hundreds of photos in those exact same spots.  But of course, mine are not the same as theirs. Behold the beauty of my super HDR, heavily contrasted edits with my old software. The castle itself blended its azure whiteness with the white clouds that day, making it the second brightest thing in our universe.  The many tourist who didn’t have their cameras destroyed by the imminent bright flashes of beautiful destruction made off with their vision only half in shambles and their memory cards full of postcard duplicates.

I came away with a replica castle that day. One that was oddly not white but Bronze. Some guy in the factory asked, “Sir, what is this castle known for?” and the manager responded with, “if you have time for questions, you have time to forfeit your lunch time”, and so rather than one that looked authentic, we got a gift that looked like it too had been under construction for 6 years.

Serious note: The trip took 4 hours from Nagoya, with a 1 hour pit stop at a beautiful service area stop at Lake Biwa.  I had some omelette rice, before making my way there.  Parking at the castle park was 600 yen for 3 hours, which was more than enough time to see the Castle.  Entrance fee was 1000 yen, and included entry into the castle itself.  The line ups are long so either go late or early, or bring a fan because you’ll be waiting outside for a long time. The castle will be open until 7 P.M. this summer only!


Video rental culture in Japan

CFTRnHhUsAEIBZ-Remember the nostalgia of heading to Blockbuster or a rental store with your friends and looking for that new game or movie release? How you could fight over the one movie you oh so wanted? Well it’s a culture that’s still alive and kicking in Japan. And this week I rented my very first blu-ray, how many people can say that in this digital age of download? Well, millions in fact!

Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, have completely displaced media rental culture in first world countries and many others, so why does a first world country like Japan still thrive on with rentals? And why did I have to wait almost 15 minutes to return a video in downtown Nagoya? Well here’s a little back story. Downloading and streaming movies online, have a bit of a stigma in Japan. People in Japan trust their big corporations and businesses and are even thankful for their practices. They believe it’s the life stream of a capitalist economy that can keep people’s lives comfortable.  The distrust here against the big and rich is small compared to countries overseas. Therefore, corporations and politicians vouching for the big businesses and even their strange and backwards rules and regulations that they want to enforce is quite common here. A law was passed recently to make download or upload of copyrighted material illegal with heavy fines and jail time as punishment.

The movie industry in Japan has done a lot to scare people away from downloading films with loud campaigns that can be seen on TV or at the movie theaters. It’s so loud that even legal downloading on the Playstation Network, XBOX Live, and iTunes has been lagging behind other countries. Strangely enough, they place blank cds and dvds in front of the rental checkout counter to passively encourage you to make copies of your rental for backup or re-watching.  Making copies has been an ingrained culture in Japan, since their invention of the VCR. Japan gave us the VCR, to record and copy, and at one time frightened Hollywood, that it would cut into their profits, which actually has done the opposite and help it grow into what it is today.

The same does not apply for video games though. Video games are protected in another way.  In the US and Canada, lending your friend a video game is something common. You own the commodity you purchased, you’re free to do with it as you please. But in Japan, it’s technically against the law to lend video games to a friend. You can resell them, but not lend them. The same applies in stores. You can buy video games but you can not rent them. Some places have received the rights to rent out games from certain publishers, but even so they’re very small in numbers. People still go to the arcade and buy used games, but almost never rent.

So, as you can see renting culture for movies, and just movies is strong. Would it be strong for games if they were on the list? I believe they would be, I mean who wouldn’t want to try a game before buying it. Downloading a demo would be nice, considering Japan has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world. But people still turn to rent videos, and buying video games. The best part about renting in Japan is that it is fairly cheap with coupons. I got my blu-ray version of Interstellar for 216 yen. Which is just about $2.

The process of filling out an application for was easy and quick as well. Returning the video, isn’t as simple as it was overseas. You have to hand it to them and they have to scan to see if it is late. If it is late you have to pay on the spot. No dash and dine. It’s funny what small changes in laws can do to a country, and it also explains the digital divide between Japan and the West.