I still have updates to deliver for Australia and even Brazil, but they will have to wait a bit. In an effort to not fall behind again, I'm going to skip them for now and come back to them.
After the 13 hour delay we boarded the flight at 1am like we were supposed to. So aside from having one less night in Osaka and having to sleep on the plane, and the 13 hour delay, it went pretty well.
Japan is uh-mazing. I got in at eight this morning, took a shower, and went to see the castle in the center of town. The cherry blossoms are blooming and it was gorgeous. Inside the castle was a museum that included a samurai sword from the 18th-ish century that one of the castle's owners had used to commit sepukku. My favorite thing was a picture showing a missing stone in the wall of the moat that was a secret escape route from inside the castle. Determined to find it, I started walking around the walls. There are 12km of moat wall, and I ended up walking all of it before I found that the secret exit was just to the left of where I started to my right around the moat. I did get to see a lot of the castle grounds as a result, though. Pretty much all of them, in fact.
Afterwards I strolled on aching feet in the markets around my hostel and found an arcade. There was a drumming game where you hit a drum in time to Japanese pop music as a carp/angler-fish with a fez danced around on the screen. Weird, but fun. Walking the streets I had seen arcades full of what looked like slot machines. I went in to check it out, because it was packed and presumably fun (it was gambling, after all), but it was a bizarre movie screen set in a little console that ball bearings fell around. It was intimidating, and although I was intrigued, I decided to save my money.
But lo! Here was one at the arcade! I sat down and put in a dollar. The screen started out as a digital slot machine, but with faces. They stopped, there were all sorts of blinking lights, and the machine started to shout at me in Japanese. There was a knob you could turn, and one other button. I fiddled with them and nothing happened. Then I stared at it for a while, wondering why this was worth a dollar, and ball bearings started to drop at random. Occasionally one would land in a little basket thingy and the machine would make noise. To the best of my knowledge, I had zero say in where the bearings would land. In fact, I ended up finding three other buttons, for a total of 5 buttons, and as far as I could tell none of them did anything whatsoever. Not a one of them was linked to an action or a noise, but occasionally a bearing would fall, regardless of whether or not I was touching the machine. Befuddled, I ended up pushing the lights around the machine, tried to work my fingers around edges of the buttons and pull, do ANYTHING that the game would register. All to no avail. There was a digital display keeping score or something, but I couldn't read what they stood for. I also couldn't tell when my turn was over. So, it's possible that the game is normally very responsive but I lost on the first round and then continued to sit at a machine with zero credits and try to get it to work because I am an idiot, but it's equally possible that I left in the middle of a winning round and the lucky schmuck that sat down after me got a free turn and made millions.
One cool thing about the arcade was that they gave you a little metal bowl to keep your coins in. There was one at each machine. The Japanese people's bowls were all empty, and I couldn't figure out why they weren't using them when it was so ingenious and so generous of the arcade to provide them. This fact didn't slow ME down, however. I would sidle up to my game of choice, drop my coins in the bowl, making sure they clanked a bit so that people would know I was high roller, play a few rounds looking like a pro (with the possible exception of the enigmatic ball bearing contraption), take my coins and move on. After about 40 minutes I realized the bowls weren't for your coins at all, but were actually ashtrays, and I left.
Here are a few pictures until I get some uploaded to picasa. The one at the top is the mystery ball bearing machine, the one with the golden trellis is the castle, and the other two are from my neighborhood.
As expected, wonderful Japan has wifi in my hostel room! For free!!! So I will try and assume a schedule of regularity.
Haha! I love the story about the machine. I must say, I'm just as confused looking at your picture. I mean, it doesn't even look like a game. It just looks like people sitting around with cherry blossoms in front of them. No wonder you were confused.
The ashtray business was pretty funny too. I like how you played it up as though you were a high roller. I thought you were going to get robbed, or something like that which is why the Japanese kids didn't have their money out.