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Welcome to the first entry of Japan Uncut! This series is a supplement to Japan: The Series. Videos with the "Japan Uncut" label are videos that were either too long or too shaky to include in the main series.

This video takes place on July 17th, 2010, as my brother and I explore our first Japanese arcade: Akihabara's SEGA GiGO complex. Knowing I wasn't supposed to be filming, I kept the camera at my side, resulting in the footage being very shaky. I've done everything I can to stabilize the image as much as possible, but I understand and apologize if it's not enough. I thought that some might want to see what the inside of one of these places looks like, however, so I decided to upload the video we shot in its entirety.

SEGA GiGO is a six-story complex full of arcade machines, claw games, and capsule dispensers. The first couple of floors are filled with these last two, where players can win trinkets, figurines, stuffed toys, and body pillows of various anime characters, with the music of Hatsune Miku nearly drowning out whatever sounds these machines would make. The third floor and up are where the actual arcade games began. (I have a detailed list of the machines at the bottom of this post.)

It was the third floor where I discovered Pokémon Battrio, the first Pokémon arcade game ever made. I didn't even know it existed (I had to create its wiki page on Giant Bomb) and decided to make it my first Japanese arcade game. And for my first time playing an arcade game in a language I didn't know, I didn't do too bad! I actually won a match, somehow, and it wasn't until reading about the game later that I realized just how clueless I was. It turns out there are pog-like items that you purchase separately and then position on the grids near the buttons (I was wondering what they were for...) and a bunch of other mechanics I had no hope of figuring out. It was at this machine where a nice Japanese lady walked over and made a giant 'X' symbol with her arms, politely telling us we weren't allowed to film there.

After failing Chimchar and the rest of my Pokémon squad, I decided to try one of GiGO's many claw games. A slime from Dragon Quest caught my eye, so I tried my luck, receiving five tries for 500 yen. My mom took the fun out of these games when she told me the operator of the machine simply sets how often the claw will actually grasp something, so I didn't bother wasting more money when I didn't win.

Exiting the escalator on the fourth floor, my brother and I were greeted by eight massive P.O.D.s (panoramic optical displays), which, after a little examining, were for Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna (Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield). Near the P.O.D.s were two "pilot terminals" in which you could watch the games being played on an LCD screen or buy game cards to save your own progress. A bit too intimidating for me, I opted to play the Tekken 5 machine in the back (I unknowingly passed Street Fighter IV). As I sat down at the cabinet, I remembered a 2008 Giant Bombcast I heard during the Tokyo Game Show in which the crew discussed the difference in setups between Japanese and American arcades. In America (in my experiences, at least), a fighting game like Tekken 5 would be played side-by-side with your opponent on the same cabinet, with a player needing two out of three wins to be declared victor. In Japan, each player gets their own cabinet, which is placed back-to-back with their opponent's, and the winner isn't decided until a player nets three out of five wins. I prefer the Japanese way since you get your own screen, don't have to acknowledge your opponent, and get to play longer. It's like playing online, except there's no lag and way more cigarette smoke! Speaking of which, each cabinet had its own ashtray (I thought they were to hold 100 yen coins, at first). No one seemed to actually be smoking there, thankfully.

After warming up with the familiar, my brother and I headed to the fifth floor to find something a bit more ... foreign. While we passed by eight Border Breaks, an interesting-looking mech-based action game that supports up to 20 players via network connectivity, we decided to skip it since it looked too complicated. The fact that there were four "GiGO Border Break Rookie Guides" laying on a table didn't encourage us. So we went up to the sixth and final floor and found another mech game called Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force. Attracted by its 4-player setup, I played as a lolita robot against my brother and a random Japanese dude. I won the second round, but I never grasped the controls and was merely haphazardly mashing buttons and wiggling the joystick around. Eventually losing and seeing everything GiGO had to offer, my brother and I descended the complex and left.

It was nice to exit an arcade without thinking, "Man, that employee was an asshole," or "I wish that machine had actually worked." GiGO was a place full of people there to have fun and play games. It was a place with employees on each floor willing to politely assist if needed. It was clean, every machine worked as it was supposed to, and it had the latest releases. It even had a designated area to trade cards and read guide books for the more complicated games! GiGO represented what an arcade was supposed to be, something I hadn't experienced for a quite a while prior to my visit. I knew the best was yet to come, however, so my brother and I went to further explore Akihabara.

Here's a list of everything I took notes on in the arcade:

B1 - Caffe Pasta Restaurant

First Floor - Various claw games and capsule dispensers

Second Floor - More claw games: pillows with anime characters, anime figurines, slimes, stuffed Rilakkumas etc.

Third Floor - More claw games and capsule dispensers. One Piece, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade, World Club Champion Football, Pokémon Battrio, Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road II Legends

Fourth Floor - Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna (8 P.O.D.s), Tekken 5, Street Fighter IV

Fifth Floor - Border Break (8), Sangokushi Taisen 3 WAR BEGINS

Sixth Floor - Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force (12), DVS (6), MJ4 Evolution (11 - Mahjong), Shining Force Cross (8)

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Introduction to the Series

List of Episodes

SmugMug Version

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Japan Uncut is a supplemental side-series to Japan: The Series. These mostly unedited videos are either too long or too shaky to include in the numbered episodes and will be released in between them.

I'm currently working on Episode 02: Electric Town which is far more difficult to edit than Arrival was. There's so much I want to show, and putting it all together is harder than throwing together a train montage set to music. One of the places I want to show is my visit to Akihabara's SEGA GiGO arcade. You're not allowed to film inside there, so I kept the camera on and at my side which resulted in a lot of shaky, unusable footage not fit for an episode in the main series. I thought that some people might be interested in the sights and sounds of a place like this, however, so I decided to start this side-series to show off stuff like this. The first video in the series will be released later this week. It may be unwatchable for some, but hopefully implementing some image stabilization and such will help.

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Making Japan: Arrival was a lot of fun. It being the first video I've ever truly edited - meaning I'm excluding the two very, very minor things I've edited in the past using Windows Movie Maker - meant that I had to get a program capable of doing what I wanted to do and learn how to use it on my own. After browsing reviews, I settled on CyberLink PowerDirector 9. I went to The Pirate Bay and torrented a copy (I soon purchased a legal copy of CyberLink PowerDirector 10 to replace it, which is what produced the final video) and was impressed by how fast it loaded up and how easy it was to use. Having practically zero experience with this sort of thing, I was expecting it to be more difficult than it was to figure everything out.

I watched all the videos saved in the "July 15th" and "July 16th" folders and threw them into PowerDirector. Totaling a little over six gigabytes with a run time of 35 minutes, most of the videos consisted of shots outside the window on the Narita Express. While the landscape was beautiful, watching a video of it would only be interesting for so long. I knew I would have to make some drastic cuts and throw in some music to make it watchable. Not wanting to risk having my videos taken down by YouTube or anything, I would either need to use some royalty-free music or get permission from someone whose music would be a good fit. I've been following Hamst3r for a long time now (before The Giant Bomb Community Song, even) and had the idea of using his music for my travelogue since the trip. I didn't want to just be some guy asking for his permission, however, so my plan was to make the video as if he had said yes and send it to him privately. I went to his website and listened to a bunch of tracks, going mainly off of their titles, until I stumbled upon "At Last...". It was both a fitting title and theme for the video, so I downloaded it and added it to PowerDirector.

Now that the music and videos were in, it was just a matter of making everything fit. Being a huge fan of the work done by 2 Player Productions on Penny Arcade: The Series (and later Vantage Point Productions), I had wanted to edit everything in a similar vein before we even went on the trip. (Being a huge fan of Whiskey Media has influenced my thinking when it comes to video editing, as well.) That's easier said than done, however, especially since no shots were planned on the actual trip, and it was just me walking around with a video camera. One of the main influences I took from these guys was editing the progress of the trip to the beat of music; it's not a concept they invented by any means, but they're where I got it from. "At Last..." is only two minutes long, so this meant making further cuts to the footage of the train ride. I ended up having to be very selective with the shots I chose, especially since each one would only last a couple of seconds at most. Maybe after the series is done I'll upload the whole files for people interested in them, but I'm happy with the final sequence. Most of my time was spent stretching out the file editor and shaving milliseconds off different clips to make the scenes change on the beats. I've probably heard "At Last..." almost a hundred times now!

Making something of your own is just as much about avoiding the things you don't like as it is copying the things you do. One of the things I find most annoying when watching a YouTube video are long opening credits - the kind where there is one sentence per page followed by slow fade transitions, all before you ever see anything of the actual video. I've always been a big fan of just jumping right into the action, which is why Arrival starts in the middle of me playing Rastan. Anything that needs to be said can be said later in the video after something has happened, preferably with something going on in the background.

After stitching everything together I added in the ending credits over the television scene. Though I will always credit the work of others at the end of my videos, future credit segments will be far shorter. I felt it was appropriate to give them more time in the opening and ending videos, however. With the video nearly finalized, I uploaded it to YouTube and marked it private, embedded it into a PM and sent it off to Hamst3r to ask for his permission; he quickly got back to me and said it was fine. This happened over three months ago, and since I decided I wanted to start the project in 2012, I had plenty of time to make whatever changes I wanted to before January.

Only a few changes occurred between then and the video's release, most of them minor. I edited the opening paragraphs and added in the kanji ("Japan") under the late title card (I love late title cards). I also took out the "Special Thanks" section I had at the end of the credits, which listed Whiskey Media, Penny Arcade, 2 Player Productions, and Vantage Point Productions. I chose to remove this part to avoid confusion, as they had nothing to do with the video and may not want to be associated with it. The only major change was the final part of the video, the one that plays after the episode information pops up. Before, it was bit more ominous, with the camera slowly zooming in on one of the televisions in the Narita Express while an accident report for another train line shows up and the video then cutting to black. Then I had the idea of doing what I've seen the likes of Freddie Wong and Corridor Digital do (even Egoraptor does it now) and added in clickable annotations at the very end. I already had the perfect shot - the one where I scrolled through all the games on the Global Arcade Classics machine - so I took some screens of the Giant Bomb blogs I wrote along with the list of episodes and overlayed them on the sides of the arcade cabinet. Since the Arrival blog couldn't be finished until the video was uploaded, I posted an unfinished version on Giant Bomb, taking a screenshot and quickly deleting it. This was all before I found out you couldn't place external links in YouTube videos, so I ended up just adding an "All links in description." speech bubble. I also added a Subscribe button at the bottom and decided to take a screenshot from one of the videos I would be using for Episode 02 to later turn in to a link for the next video. I made sure annotations would only come up at the very end since I personally hate having to turn them off every time I play a video after one pops up.

The video was then complete. After asking a few members to watch it to ensure there weren't any issues with it (online playback was choppy on my computer), I soon finished the blog post and released the video to the public on January 12th.

Three more things:

1. Someone asked why everything looked blue. This was because for the first bit of the trip I hadn't realized the video camera was set to "Tungsten". Whoops!

2. In the introductory blog post I said I wanted to edit and show everything in chronological order. I already broke this rule with the first video, as the superfast train sequence after the tunnel actually happened before the tunnel. It was the only bit of footage I had that fit with that point in the music!

3. This is one of my favorite Penny Arcade episodes. It has thus far been impossible for me to watch it without at least one tear!

Here's Japan: Arrival. Episode 02 will be released in February! -

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I hadn't slept much. The little time I had left that wasn't used preparing for the trip was spent preparing for our return. The few things I kept, such as my game consoles and computer, were strewn about the bedroom floor; the rest of my stuff was on its way to a storage facility in Oklahoma. See, we were to be moved out of our house in Texas and on the road to Fort Sill the day we got back to the States. I wanted more time to get ready, but it was my fault for spending so much time messing with my new Xbox 360 S and watching Lost. (I had set up my own mini home theater in my room after the movers took our projector and spent more time on Netflix than I should have.) I wasn't completely unprepared, though - after spending eight hours trying to find our hotel in France, I made sure of that. This time, I bought two binders, one for me and one for my brother, and made note of some key bits of info to avoid issues later, such as directions to our hotel and a small glossary. I figured the covers of the binders should represent things we like from Japan, so I put some art of Metal Gear Solid 3 by Yoji Shinkawa on mine and a badass drawing of Toshiro Mifune on my brother's.



Our binders.



The stuff I kept in our binders, including our itinerary info, basic phrases, and the aforementioned directions and glossary.


I also brought the menu I had been using for our local Japanese restaurant, Shogun. I've always had an aversion to seafood and was able to count on my fingers the number of times I ate it throughout my life. Figuring this was something I should get over, I started going to Shogun a few months before the trip to try foods I never had before. I circled the things I liked and placed an asterisk by things I didn't like. Having now been to Japan and various Japanese restaurants across the U.S., I can say Shogun has had the best food I have ever had - we once drove six hours just to eat there! Also, I ate more than what the menu shows; I just stopped circling stuff at a certain point.



When it comes to being authentic, Shogun is the Kid Rock of Japanese restaurants. Mmmm, old Giant Bomb memes...


With an 8:20 AM departure, there wasn't a lot of time to mess around. After gathering up our luggage, unplugging all the electronics in the house and taking a stupid picture, we took a cab to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.



It's all about the Yukichis, baby.


After checking our bags and getting our boarding passes, we headed upstairs to wait in the food court. Luckily for me, there was an arcade right across from where I sat.



My boarding passes and the book we took on the trip.



A couple of shots of the arcade. On the left is the Global Arcade Classics machine I played Rastan on. On the right is the only full shot of the arcade I had. I was waiting for the announcer lady who interrupted my video to shut up so I could finish talking.


I didn't spend much time actually playing games. The arcade had Global Arcade Classics, T-Mek, Giga Wing (which wasn't working), Tekken 3, Off Road Challenge, Demolish Fist, Ranger Mission, and San Francisco Rush: The Rock (Alcatraz Edition). I played Rastan on the Global Arcade Classics machine, but it was time to go through security so I rushed through the game until I died, hence my terrible playing in the video. A short while later we were on the tiny plane en route to Houston. We arrived about an hour later and took a bus to the actual airport, which is the first time I've ever had to do that. We took a train cart to Terminal E and waited to depart for Tokyo.

We were a little concerned about our flight. Every international flight I've been on had seats in rows of three. On Travelocity, they had an overhead map of the plane and let you click on the seats you wanted, which I thought was pretty cool. There were rows of just two seats in the back of the plane, and I chose to go with those. My brother had recounted a story in which he sat in the back on an international flight before, and the seats didn't lean back at all, which would be pretty bad for a 12-hour flight. It ended up not being a problem, and we had the benefit of not sitting next to someone else.

I was surprised by the variety of people on the plane. I'm sure I would have heard a lot of interesting stories if I asked them why they were going to Japan (though I know there were a few on their way to China), but I decided to indulge in the massive entertainment selection available, instead. Far more robust than when I went to France, there were 192 movies, various TV shows like The Office and The Simpsons, music, and a video game selection that included basic titles like Asteroids. I tried to watch Up in the Air, a movie I have still yet to see, but my headphones couldn't go loud enough for me to hear all the words. I decided to watch movies I liked and already saw before, such as Get Smart and Ratatouille. I went with the beef and rice meal for dinner, which included bread, salad, and a cookie. It was actually pretty good, like most food I've had on planes, contrary to what comedians of the 90s led me to believe. Maybe something about being 34,001 feet in the air makes food taste better. That, or it's improved over the past fifteen years or so.

They brought around fruit and eggs for breakfast. I skipped the eggs, since any eggs that aren't made by me usually aren't very good (the trick is lots of margarine and salt). They soon brought around the customs declarations forms, and we landed at Narita International Airport shortly afterward.



What the customs declarations forms look like. Riveting!


After taking the escalator down past the "Welcome to Japan" sign, we stood in line for about twenty minutes with the rest of the people entering the country. We scanned both our index fingers and had our pictures taken, got our luggage and handed customs our forms and continued on through the airport. They didn't bother looking in our bags or anything, and it was the first of many instances that revealed just how much better dealing with Japanese airport employees was compared to the TSA.



Inside Narita International Airport.


We went to go purchase our Suica & N'EX package from a lady who didn't speak English. Thanks to those handy Arabic numerals, however, we were able to eventually figure everything out and went toward the train heading for Shinagawa Station. We got on the Narita Express and sat in our reserved seats, 7A and 7B, placing our luggage at the front of the cart in a convenient storage area.




Some of the pamphlets we picked up, along with our Suica & N'EX receipt.


Attached to the ceilings were TVs that displayed trip progress, news stories, advertisements, an overhead map of the next station, updates on other train lines, and the time; they would even cycle the information through various languages.




Super useful!


When we weren't looking at the TVs, we were admiring the view out the window. One of things that surprised both my brother and I, even on the flight in, was just how green everything was. There were seemingly miles of perfectly cut grass without a dead patch of brown in sight, not to mention all the lush trees. Passing by dozens of homes with clothes hanging out to dry only reinforced the quaintness of it all. Another unusual sight, though I'm sure it's no different in America (not that I would know since public transportation here is terrible), was seeing everyone playing with their phones at the various stations we stopped at. You would have been hard-pressed to find someone not staring at a tiny screen of some sort as they waited for their ride.



Look at all that green! Also, the first McDonald's we saw.


There were a couple of people reading manga on the train, one of which was a Weekly Shonen Jump. At one of the stops, a white guy with an N7 Mass Effect shirt got on. As we arrived at Shinagawa Station (the entire trip was about 70 minutes) I was sure to say "awesome shirt". He looked up from his DS (I think he was playing a Pokémon game) and said, "I appreciate it." in an accent that wasn't American, and I gave a thumbs up and simply said "Mass Effect", which I think should totally be a thing.

Shinagawa Station is a large place with various shops for whatever one might need, including a Super Market (That's the name of the store!) that's always crowded. Outside of Shinagawa Station is a large crosswalk that takes you to the Shinagawa Prince complex, which is composed of a few different towers. We stayed in the North Tower, which was a little tricky to find at first as the complex is so big. During my stay, I saw several different stores (including a drug store), a movie theater, a bowling alley, a bunch of restaurants, and that wasn't even close to everything the complex contained. I could have seen Gary Whitta's The Book of Eli with Japanese subtitles!



I accidentally read about the revelation at the end on NeoGAF before seeing the movie. :(


After checking in, we took an elevator to the sixth floor. There was a vending machine as soon as we exited that contained various drinks, such as orange juice, tea, and ... beer. Asahi, specifically. My brother was thrilled.

Our room was right by the elevator, and my brother practically passed out after we got settled. I hadn't slept properly for about 39 hours at this point, but I wanted to get some writing done for the trip. I decided to go to sleep as to not disturb my brother and later awoke a bit earlier than him at 4 AM. I knew trying to rest at this point would be a pointless endeavor. I was too excited, because today was the day we were going to Akihabara.




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Making the Video
Introduction to the Series
List of Episodes
SmugMug Version of the YouTube Video
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On July 15th, 2010, my brother and I took a two-week trip to Tokyo, Japan. It was a place I had been wanting to go to since I was in elementary school, and I planned on filming the trip so I could make a series of videos afterward. We purchased a Canon VIXIA HG20 shortly before leaving, giving me just enough time to learn how to use it. It was then that I learned my computer was too weak to play the videos properly, not to mention that I had zero experience with video editing and didn't own a proper program to do so.

It's been nearly 18 months since we returned, and, with assistance from Will and Norm over at Tested.com, I finally have a top-of-the-line computer that can play the 1080p videos at full resolution. I recently got my first video editing program, too, settling on CyberLink's PowerDirector. I'm still amazed at how fast and easy the program is to use, and, though I've just started, I feel like I've learned a lot.

With over 300 videos totaling around 168 gigabytes, my goal is to whittle those down into a series of videos that are hopefully somewhat entertaining. I actually didn't film as much as I had planned to, opting to just enjoy the trip and not focus on documenting it. Because of this, I don't really have a set plan; I'm just organizing and editing these videos as I go, eventually turning them into something I feel comfortable showing other people.

As of right now, I intend to have each video in the series represent one day and be edited in chronological order, though I might throw an extra day in there if there's not enough footage. The first episode, which I'm titling "Arrival", is nearly done and takes place during July 15th and July 16th. Each episode will be accompanied by a blog post that I'll be posting across the various Whiskey sites. I imagine the Giant Bomb and Anime Vice crowds will be most interested in these, as you can't turn a corner in Tokyo without seeing something related to video games or anime. I also spent a lot of time in arcades, though I don't have much footage of that as they don't like people filming or taking pictures inside.

There's no set format for each video, since, as I said before, I'm just now editing them and will be releasing each one when it's done. My shots weren't planned, so the quality of the videos will be dependent on what footage I have and what I can do with it. I kind of prefer it that way, as I have no idea what an episode will be until I'm nearly done with it. I'm really enjoying the process; it's a completely new experience for me and gives a unique satisfaction that I don't get from writing.

On the subject of Japan, it's the only place I've traveled that I can say I would like to live at (though I probably wouldn't want to work there). I was taking Rosetta Stone courses to learn Japanese beforehand, but decided to stop a while before the trip for a very specific reason: that out-of-element feeling one gets when in an unfamiliar environment where they don't speak the language. I experienced it in France and Italy and loved it, and knowing that Japan is a place I'll be going to more than once, figured I could either have the one experience of knowing the language and culture, or have both experiences of not knowing what the hell is going on, and then returning later, fluent and far more knowledgable than before. I chose to have both experiences.

I think that's everything I wanted to say. The videos will be uploaded to YouTube (and my SmugMug account) and posted as blogs. Episode 01 will released on the 7th, and then I'll start working on Episode 02: Electric Town. All in all, this is just something I'm doing for fun to both showcase the trip and learn how to edit video.

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