Every Picture Has A Story

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

This is me at the very first Nintendo HQ

So what are the words, the story that goes with this photo? How did I get there and why?

You all know I’m a huge Nintendo fan. I love anything and everything Nintendo. To me they cannot do anything wrong and I’ll always love the company and their products. From a very young age they’ve been my favourites and as a result, I started to fall in love with Japan. The places, the culture, the people, the language, everything. It had always been my dream to one day visit and experience it in the flesh. So, like you saw above, that’s me, at the original Nintendo HQ. So what’s the story?

My story began back in 2010, I was 20 years old and my birthday was fast approaching. My mother was constantly on my back, asking about what I wanted for my 21st. Usually with your 21st, it’s a big deal and I had a choice of what I wanted, money or a trip to Japan. If I was stupid, I would have taken the money, but being the smart and handsome gentleman I am, I took the trip. We went down to a travel agent, organised the trip and booked it all. I was set to fly out April 4th 2011.

A month before the trip, disaster struck. Japan was hit with a tsunami and earthquakes, damaging the north of the island and the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, about 100-150kms north of Tokyo. I watched the news, head in my hands, knowing that my trip, the one thing I had dreamed about for years and years, was slowly being lost from my grip. There was nothing I could do and it made me so upset and angry. I talked with the travel agent and he told me I could postpone the trip and lose only about $50 of the money for the trip. I was happy with that result, but then I had to wait another year.

A whole year passed, every day I got closer and closer to the trip and eventually, after a long year of waiting, the day arrived. On the 4th April, one year after I was meant to leave, I was finally going. And I was going by myself, to a foreign land. I’d never been so far away, by myself with no one else around to share my experiences and stories with. It was strange, but amazingly liberating. It was something that helped make me grow stronger and learn about myself.

I started off in Tokyo, visiting places like Ginza, Shibuya, Akihabara, Shinagawa and more. I saw Tokyo Tower lit up in the night sky, I had beers with locals in small noodle bars, saw girls dressed up in the craziest get ups, ate yakitori (raw chicken!), saw the most insane crossing ever and many other outrageous and amazing things. There’s so much to Tokyo that I couldn’t even begin to fathom how much I missed.

Tokyo Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower

I went and saw Mt Fuji, on a clear, sunny day and that’s  a 2 in 7 chance! I went halfway up the mountain, saw out over the mountains at spectacular views and met the locals, who welcomed me and talked with me. The views were amazing.

Me with Mt. Fuji. Amazingly beautiful sight.

Next was Kyoto, home of geishas, the International Manga Museum, the Inari Shrine (full of thousands and thousands of Torii gates) and most importantly, to me, Nintendo!

Kyoto felt very different from Tokyo and Osaka. Where those two felt new, alive and vibrant, Kyoto felt old and traditional. Kyoto is home to 2000 shrines and temples alone. I remember visiting a large temple ground, walking out and no more than 50 metres down the road were 2 shrines. The first day I was in Kyoto, I dropped my bags and checked in at the hotel, jumped on the internet and tried to find Nintendo HQ. It was about a 30 minute walk from my hotel, so I grabbed my backpack, threw on my shoes and raced out the door.

Nintendo’s HQ. Very plain and boring, but where all the magic happens.

I walked down a huge road, taking in the sights and sounds, admiring the still in bloom cherry blossoms and kept my eyes to the sky. I traversed alleyways and streets and eventually, I rounded a corner, seeing 3 blue Japanese characters. “Leave luck to Heaven”. Those words adorn the top of Nintendo’s Kyoto HQ. I was so happy. I’d found it. I remember even skipping and jumping for joy as I raced to get there. The Kyoto HQ itself is a very boring building but that didn’t deter me. I walked around the outskirts, taking in the sight of it, my mind racing as to what was inside and wondering was was being worked on. I took a whole bunch of photos and checked my watch, it was time to go have dinner and prepare for my next Nintendo visit. I had a dinner that night of beef tongue, chicken, pork and a tall glass of beer, I needed the energy for the next day.

Self-teppenyaki with beef, pork and chicken! With a nice beer too.

After sleeping in my comfy hotel bed, I knew I had to complete my video game pilgrimage. I had to visit the original Nintendo HQ. Again I used the internet to discover it’s location. Where was it? I took notes and walked. The trip would be about an hour. I had no idea where I was going. I kept checking my notes, making sure I wasn’t getting lost. I remember getting to a bike store and crossing the road.

“Turn right into an alley, then follow it along, take the second left and then the first right, should be on the left” read my chicken scratch notes. I followed the instructions. I was in a sea of small houses, alleys tight and buildings high and eventually, out of the corner of my eye, I see a plaque, small and green. My mind rushes, knowing what it is and I pick up my speed, eventually I start running to it.

“There it is!” I think to myself, and lo and behold, it is. I take it all in. After 17 years of being  a hardcore Nintendo fan, I finally get to see where it all started. The building had been vacant for years, full of boxes and ladders, but I didn’t care. The locals probably thought I was being weird, taking photos of me and a plaque but again, I couldn’t have cared less. I spent a good 20 mins there just soaking it all in before I left.

What adorns Nintendo’s original HQ!

The rest of Japan was amazing. I loved every second of it all, taking lots of photos, buying a heap of cool stuff and soaking in as much as I can. It was an amazing time of my life and I cannot wait to go back.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, full of Torii gates

I started this post as a way for everyone to hear one of the best parts of my Japan trip, but the more I think about it, the more I’d love to know about a story to a photo. So here’s the deal. Grab a photo, any photo, that has a story behind it. I want to know! We all do! We talk about games so much and we’re all friends with a shared interest, but I’d love to learn more about you all. So help me make this a community post. Grab a photo and share your stories with us all, if I can do it, you can too.

4 comments

  1. I have nothing but pictures of food.

  2. NovaCascade · · Reply

    I will have a photo and story as soon as I get a decent internet connection.

    Watch this space

    1. I finished school in 2007 and always intended to take a year’s break before going to uni. I spent a lot of time during Year 12 looking at travel brochures trying to find a trip that really caught my eye. I didn’t want to do the same old trip that a lot of people do, like the USA or UK/Europe, I wanted to get off the beaten path, go somewhere different, really stretch myself. And I found it with Dragoman tours, a British based company that specialise in adventure tours. The tour I ended up joining was an overland, (mostly) camping trip that started in Beijing, China, continued through Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia before finishing in St Petersburg 3 months later.

      I had been overseas before, with trips to NZ and Japan with family or through my High School (sister schools in both countries), but this was the first time that I had gone on my own. The weeks leading up to my departure date were very emotional for my family, my Nan passed away and her funeral was held only 3 days before I left. My parents even had a talk with me about whether or not I wanted to be told if the worst should have happened why I was away. As it turns out, it wasn’t needed, but there were still plenty of tears at the airport.

      This particular photo was taken at a Ger camp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yurt) near the Khongoryn Els sand dunes in southern Mongolia. Mongolia was by far my favourite country that I visited on this trip (has since only been topped by Iceland). While the scenery was spectacular, and the food… interesting, it was the local people that really made the country shine. Mongolia is the least densly populated country in the world, beating out Namibia and Australia. It wasn’t uncommon to drive for 3 days without seeing another car. But no matter where we stopped to set up camp for the night, it never took long for someone to wander by, offering us food, water, vodka, just wanting to chat, anything. The Mongols are some of the friendliest people in the world. What makes this even more amazing, is how little they have in terms of material possessions. Many Mongols still live as Nomads, pulling down their gers and strapping them to their camels, and finding somewhere else to call home for a while. Even with how little they have (from our perspectives), they are some of the most generous people you’ll ever find. I think at the end of the day, if more people could see the way many Mongols still lived, then the world might be a better place for it. I would love the chance to go back to Mongolia. Hopefully, it hasn’t changed too much.

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