Today was a jam packed day so we finally got our lazy butts out of bed at a respectable hour. By 9am we were in the shower and by 10am we were out the door. We headed to Harajuku to get in line for our favourite gyoza place, Harajuku Gyozaro, before it opened at 11:30am. By the time we arrived at 11am we were second in-line and got seats at the bar when they opened promptly at 11:30. We ordered 24 pan fried gyozas and devoured them all in mere minutes. If you have any interest in gyozas you simply must try Harajuku Gyozaro if you come to Tokyo. It is easily in the top 3 of restaurants I have been to.
After we finished our lunch we moved onto our first sightseeing expedition of the day Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which continued the tradition of mind blowing parks somehow in the middle of Tokyo. This park was probably the most elaborate and varied of any we had been to so far. It had wide open lawns for picnicking, dense forests for birdwatching, koi ponds, massive bald cypress trees, a garden with lanes of sycamore trees that encapsulated a large rosebed full of dozens of different types of roses and even a greenhouse populated with vegetation from all over the planet. I continue to be astounded by the greenery I am finding in this city. We managed to wander around this park for over two hours before we finally had to leave and make our way over to the main event of the day.
There was one attraction that we booked tickets for before we left America because we wanted to be absolutely sure we could go and that was for VR Zone Shinjuku. It is an arcade that only has virtual reality games. Every game makes use of HTC Vive goggles but the gimmick is that each game also has other unique equipment to better immerse you in virtual reality. Try watching this video to get a better idea of how that can work and I will try to go into much detail as I can for the games that we played.
We bought a "1 day / 4 ticket" (you'd think they would be able to get someone who spoke English to proofread this stuff) which gave us access to the arcade at a certain time and the ability to play four games. Each of the four tickets was color coded (red, blue, yellow, green) which meant we were able to play one game of each of those colors. There is no point in detailing which games were colored what in this post because it is very likely they will change by the time you go. The idea in color coding the games was to try to spread out the what was being played to ensure massive lines would not accrue for a small number of games.
One poor thing about VR Zone Shinjuku was that the lines were very long irregardless of the color coding system. The main reason we wanted to come to this place was because of Mario Kart VR and so that was the very first game we lined up for. After about 45 minutes we finally got to the front of the line and were strapped into actual go karts that were on some sort of hydraulics that allowed them to shake. You strapped sensors to your hands and then used the pedals and the wheel of the go kart to drive. As you were driving along you would see balloons in the air with power-ups dangling from them which you had to grab and then physically throw to make them hit your opponents. It was incredibly fun and easily the one of the main reasons you should consider going to VR Zone Shinjuku. I know the amount of equipment for this is insane but I would kill to have a setup like this in my home.
The next game we lined up for was for Neon Genesis Evangelion. The line was for this was even longer than Mario Kart and it took us over an hour before we were strapped in. For Neon Genesis Evangelion you sit down in a cockpit like a fighter jet and have two joysticks in either of your hands that you use to move and shoot. The purpose of this game was that you were pilots of massive robots that had to stop a even larger creature from destroying the city. The start of this was really engrossing and it very much made you feel like you were inside the body of a massive robot but the gameplay was boring. Both Elsie and I ran out of ammo for our weapons in under a minute and then spent the next couple minutes trying to find more before we eventually just died. I had high hopes for a setup like this but unfortunately it was the gameplay that let me down. Maybe they will be able to improve it in the future because they really did nail down the feeling of being inside a giant robot.
Next we moved on to what would be the favorite game for both of us, fishing. Yes you read that correctly, fishing. The line was short, about 20 minutes, and we were then given a physical rod and net to catch as much fish as we could in six minutes. You could change your lures and even make the lure bob up and down based on how hard you jerked the fishing rod controller. I have been fishing many times before and this is as close to the real thing as I have come in a video game. I honestly think I could have sat down in a chair and done this for hours. It actually makes me want to look for games like this for my HTC Vive setup at home. I caught three fish and Elsie caught six making her the victor in our VR fishing duel.
By now we had been inside VR Zone Shinjuku for over three hours and were getting quite tired. We found the game that had absolutely no line and just did it which was a horrible mistake. There was a reason "Dinosaur Survival Run Jungle of Despair" had no line and that is because it was absolute dog shit. You got onto a segway (yes a fucking segway) with a button on it that turned on your flashlight on and off. You are then dumped into knockoff Jurassic Park and told to survive. The graphics were from 1998 and the controls were absolutely atrocious. Thankfully I was mauled to death by raptors within a few minutes and was free from that utter garbage. Whatever you do, do not play "Dinosaur Survival Run Jungle of Despair" if you go to VR Zone Shinjuku.
By now it was approaching 7pm and our stomaches were growling so we decided to hit up Numazuko for some more kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi. This place was a more conventional conveyor belt sushi restaurant so we were at the mercy of whatever they chose to serve but thankfully they decided to go nuts with the chūtoro and I proceeded to gorge myself on it. After racking up a $110 USD bill we called it quits and headed back to our Airbnb.
When we got home we proceeded to upload our photos from the day to iCloud and look into how we could get Suica working on our iPhone Xs. Support for Suica came to all versions of the iPhone 8 and X regardless of the country they were purchased in but no matter what we did we could not get our phones to recognize the physical Suica cards that we had. Finally I discovered this website which had instructions for creating a virtual card using the Suica app and it worked perfectly. We were able to add the virtual Suica card to our Apple Wallet's and then use them to board trains. You can even add more money to the cards via Apple Pay. It worked flawlessly. One little tip that isn't mentioned by that website is that you need to set the region of your phone to Japan before creating the virtual Suica card otherwise the app won't recognize that it has the ability to add the virtual card to your Apple Wallet. Once you've added the card to your wallet you can switch the region back to whatever it was previously.
With our Suica cards ready to rock we finally hit the hay because tomorrow was Elsie's birthday and we had another full day of activities planned.#Japan#Tokyo2017