I have successfully returned back home to Victoria, BC, Canada. This is going to be the final article in the three-part series detailing my trip to Japan. I'll start with the question I am sure there are a lot of people wondering, which is: "How did you like Japan?"
The night before my flight left for Tokyo, I couldn't sleep. I just committed to spending about half of all of my saved money, and an entire month of my life, going on vacation somewhere I wasn't even sure I liked. There was no going back, and I was really worried I wouldn't like Japan as much as I thought I would. What if I couldn't communicate with anyone, and even getting around was difficult? What if I got really lonely? There was a plethora of things that could go wrong, and if they did, I would have to wait out the entire month before I could go back to Canada, and even then, I would have lost a month I could have spent with my friends hanging out before I went back to college in September.
Luckily, my fears were dispelled almost right after I got off the plane. After getting over the very shocking change in heat and humidity, I remember standing on the side of the road, waiting for my homestay father to pick me up, and just reveling in the energy and beauty of the massive city around me. I think within the first five hours of getting off the plane, I had already messaged my friend the words "I want to live here". There's a charm about Japan, and I can't put my finger on it. I think that's because there's so many different expectations people have for the country, and you can do them all even within just Tokyo. You can do high-energy activities, from the bars or clubs in Shinjuku or Shibuya, to the maid cafes and arcades in Akihabara. Despite this, you are never far from a relaxing activity, like a temple, castle, or a relaxing bath house. It's hard to envision all of these things in one city, but they are there, and much more. There's always something to do, and this is just with regards to Tokyo.
There's more of Japan out there, and of course one of the places I went was Kitakyûshû, for the Grand Prix. The Shinkansen ride, which was somewhere around four or five hours, felt more like two, because I spent it with other team TokyoMTG members Seth and Heiko talking about cards, our decks and our experiences in Japan. We got there at around 9PM on August 22nd, two nights before the GP.
When we arrived, Seth and I decided that we would find a place to stay together, and after visiting five or six hotels, we ended up at an internet cafe called iBox. Surprisingly, you can sleep in internet cafes in Japan. It cost 1500 Yen for something called a "night pack", which gave us access to unlimited billiards, darts, karaoke, anime, manga, soft drinks, coffee, soup, and internet for ten hours. Oh, and a shower, which answered my question of "am I actually allowed to sleep here?".
We paid our entry, and sat down at our computers, which were in small cubicles. Our accommodation was large, leather chairs, which seemed uncomfortable, until we realized we could recline all the way down until they were flat. Seth wanted to play some games before he slept (the computers came empty, but he downloaded all of DotA 2's 3.6gb in less than a minute), but due to my lack of byes, I wanted to do some Last Chance Trials the next day, so I tried as hard as I could to fall asleep. I actually managed, too, after taking off my shoes, putting on rainymood.com, and reclining all the way.
The next morning, I woke up, showered, and we headed off to the facility to get there before the doors opened. There was a large line, which I got to skip because of my intent to participate in a Last Chance Trial. Sealed trials were 3000 Yen, and standard was 1500 Yen. I elected to join sealed, because I believe my limited play is stronger than my constructed play, and an additional 1500 Yen for six Japanese M14 boosters isn't the worst deal. This is especially true when you luckily open a foil Japanese Archangel of Thune. Despite opening Archangel, I also opened Scourge of Valkas, two Chandra's Phoenix, Goblin Diplomats, and a very strong black package including two Quag Sickness. The other 31 players in my tournament were Japanese, but luckily communication was not difficult. They all spoke some English, and I learned a bit of Japanese Magic terminology, too.
My run started out pretty rough, with a mulligan to 5 in the first game, but I was actually able to take that game with a clutch Act of Treason on my opponent's flier equipped with a Fireshrieker. It was pretty much smooth sailing from there until the finals. After I finished my semifinal match, I was watching the other one, to determine my finals opponent. Once we saw both of their decks, Seth and I were unanimous in thinking I wasn't going to win. Surprisingly, I was able to take the first game very quickly as I got a very profitable interaction with my Blightcaster and Liturgy of Blood into Quag Sickness to kill his 5/5, 3/3, and 2/2 at the same time. Game two, we ended up in a board stall, but due to him not reading Pitchburn Devils, he accidentally fought it with his Sengir Vampire using Hunt the Weak. The cards were in Japanese, too, which was kind of ironic, considering I would be the one having trouble with the language barrier. However, his gave me just the opening I needed to push through enough damage for the victory, resulting in achieving two byes for the main event the next day!
Embarassingly, my final record in GP Kitakyûshû was 2-3 - this includes my byes. I really felt like I let myself down at my first GP, and I don't really know what to blame. I think Burn at the Stake could have been an incorrect deck choice for the Japanese metagame, which differed from the Magic Online metagame. There was also some bad luck involved, and I feel like I could have ended the day somewhere around even had I continued playing. I dropped at 2-3, once I was out of contention for Day 2, because the venue was very hot and sweaty (40 degrees celsius outside with 1200 Magic players does that), and I wanted to go experience more of Japan. Earning Planeswalker Points was not as important as going and seeing Hiroshima to me, and it was a choice between those two things.
When I ended up back in Tokyo on the 26th, I went back to my prior lifestyle, spending a lot of time with my friends and at the bar. The night before I left, I took my bike to the local supermarket at 3AM to go get things to bring back to Canada. I ended up buying some Green Tea, Cookies & Cream, and Caramel Kit-Kats, two packages of Fit's (because of the commercials), and two packs of Pocari Sweat powder. As I went to leave, there was a gang of bikers blocking the exit. It was strangely second nature to just approach them, and they moved out of the way to accommodate my passage. This was another experience that reminded me I was in Japan, because although Canada is a nice place, nobody would try to go through a biker gang late at night.
So yeah. I would, without hesitation, snap pick August 2013 as the best month of my life. The experiences I had in Japan, not even the ones related to Magic, were amazing. Japan took the expectations I had for it, and went far beyond. Thanks for following me on my journey, and I hope to catch you around.