Tuesday

We ♥ Kansai : What's It All About!?

Welcome Welcome いらっしゃいませ!(●´-`●)


January 09, 2014
Time for another update! Three years later, no less (weird phrasing there). It's been fun! So let's keep the good times rolling.

We ♥ Kansai is my small portion of cyberspace where I try to share as much information (remembered) about my life and time here in the Kansai area of Japan. Whether it's food, attractions or the language, I do my best to share and to be as honest and sincere as I can. I won't recommend places that aren't worth the time or money, but I also definitely want everyone to make their own decisions about where they would like to visit. I'm just playing devil's advocate I suppose. :)

Monday

★Kansai to Chugoku★ Hiroshima City and Miyajima in a Day


Otori
I wouldn't say that I've grown tired of Kansai. That, quite frankly, is just not possible. But as Shota and I start to discuss plans of going to live in another country, I have realized that I better get out to see more of JP while I can. It’s been something of a bittersweet conversation. It will be a relief not to be surrounded by the daily squeals of pop idols and a blessing to be able to catch good TV when it comes out instead of whenever someone decides to license it here (this goes double for movies, ESPECIALLY independent films). But I would be wholly dishonest if I said I wouldn’t miss living here.






Hiroshima & Miyajima

Atomic Bomb Dome
Now, during a trip to my high school’s sister-school in Kanagawa Pref., we had the chance to travel around Japan for a week after home-stay. As a result, we got to see cities like Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama, Nara, Kyoto, Himeiji, Hiroshima, and Miyajima, but, as it tends to go with group tours, time is limited and we were kind of rushed about.

So I've recently taken to revisiting some of these spots for a more quiet, or you could even say intimate, look around. The experience is also much different when you can communicate competently with the locals (and you're more likely to take chances on unknown trails/foods).

Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students
For this road trip, I was traveling with my mother and her boyfriend, and since we’d all been to Kyoto last time, we decided to travel a little further out to Hiroshima and Miyajima in Chugoku. For everyone besides myself, Shota included, this was their first time in Hiroshima.
BUT we also wanted to make this into a day-trip (bad idea), so we didn’t have the time to enter the HiroshimaPeace Memorial Museum. Instead, we went to see the Atomic Bomb Dome, and then we took a walk around the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall forAtomic Bomb Victims.

We also visited the Children's Peace Memorial,where people offer 1000 cranes for a world without nuclear warfare, and the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students.








Ferry to Miyajima

It’s been 12 years since I last visited Miyajima, and it still looks like I remember it. Well, maybe it looks a little better because I didn’t have to worry about not having enough money or losing track of my mates.

Otori and Miyajima
After wandering out to the Otori to make a wish to become billionaires (or at least to be rid of college debt) we headed up to Toyokuni Shrine, the largest structure on Miyajima, and the Five-Storied Pagoda.

The unfinished Toyokuni Shrine! Yay Toyotomi Clan from Osaka-kuni :>

I’ve always been a huge history nut, but found Japanese history a bit cumbersome (it feels like the eras never end) but I recently had a chance to get to know the Sengoku Period better and thus, my love for Itsukushima Shrine has deepened that much further (also, yay Mori Clan). Sadly, thanks to Koei-TECMO, I now have a very warped view of what the men and women of the Sengoku Period looked like (almost certain suji-mori wasn’t in back then).


Anyway, one of the best parts about the shrines and temples on Miyajima is that you can walk around them, and the entry fee is very reasonable. We didn’t have the time to wander through with Mum (we were cutting it close to ferry time), so I’ll just save that for a later trip.

Itsukushima Shrine and the Otori from the ferry.

There were also more tourists now than there were back then, but we were also visiting during the weekend. It’s probably less lively on weekdays. Also, the last ferry back to the mainland is quite early, so if you’re looking to spend a significant amount of time on the island, you’ll need to either arrive earlier in the day, or plan to stay overnight (which I am definitely planning on doing again soon!).

ACCESS

To Hiroshima

The Expressway!
From Osaka/Nara/Kyoto/Hyogo, the easiest way to get to Hiroshima is by car, via the express way, or by bullet train. All rental cars come with car navigation or a car navi you can rent, but it can be a bit of a pain to search for the destination through the navi, so I would suggest having an address on hand or the phone number of the location. Also, most car navigation systems disable navigation functions with the car is in motion or not in Park, so be careful when trying to change the destination on the fly.

Taking the bullet train to Hiroshima is very easy as Hiroshima Station is one of the stops on the Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Line. Unfortunately, unless you come from a JET budget or just don’t spend your money on anything else (or have a pass), taking the 2 hour trip on the bullet train is quite expensive (about 10,000 yen one way). Some cheaper options would be an express or night bus, which are pretty nice from what I hear. A quick Google search on prices has night buses starting at 2,800 yen, which is quite the deal, and saves daytime travel time so that you have more time for sightseeing.

To Miyajima
The ferry port for Miyajima is about 30 minutes by car from Hiroshima City. There is plenty of parking near the ferry, along with a couple hotels and some souvenir shops (but I think the better souvenirs are on Miyajima). There’s also a car ferry, if you need to take your vehicle with you, but otherwise, you can choose from 2 ferries to get you to Miyajima.
By train, it’s about another 30 minutes of travel time from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station on the JR Sanyo Line.

I have a ton more photos, but I will be posting those to the We <3 Kansai tumblr only as it seems my Google drive is almost at it's max (oops). I'll have another day-trip to the Sea of Japan coming up soon-ish, so drop by again sometime! :>

★Peaces★

☆Things to Do: Ise Shrine in Mie☆

Ise Grand Shrine - Mie Pref. 

This is definitely for people sick of the skyscrapers and the smells of the city. In Ise, you'll get such a welcome dose of nature (for those who live in big cities). It's also a coastal city, so if you're a mountainside resident, it could still be a nice change of pace.

Ise Grand Shrine is easily one of those most popular shrines in the Kansai/Chubu area, and is very popular throughout Japan as a shrine with a power spot. This means that there are crowds. If you're going by car, and you're not getting there when the shrine first opens, you can wait for a parking space to open near the shrine (when we visited, it was about a 1 hour waiting period), or park a little ways away from the shrine, and walk back.

We chose the second option, and parked out car in a private lot (read: someone's yard) for 1,000 yen for a day. That's not a bad deal as there are also a lot of sourvenir shops and restaurants to peruse through on your way to and from the temple. You can also take a break down by the river nearby to cool off.

おはらい町 O-harai Machi 


Old-timey Post Office. You have to read it from right to left :U
Going from the private parking area to the Inner Shrine (内宮 naiku), there is O-harai Machi, where you may purchase your snacks and baubles. If you're looking for shrine charms, I would save those purchases for the shrine, but if you're just looking for cute items like phone straps and postcards, you will most likely find them here. 

One day, I will learn how to take a photo properly.
<--- This bridge branches off from O-harai Machi and will take you to some quieter areas if you're looking for a break. The streets of O-harai Machi are really crowded, and with the summer heat coming, visiting the shrine might seem like more trouble than it's worth (or is that just me? I really don't do well in crowds...).

O-harai Machi isn't a really long street, probably a 15 minute or so walk with minimal crowds, but on a Saturday, it could easily turn into a 25 to 30 minute walk. Pace yourself and keep an eye out for people that actually live in O-harai Machi driving up and down roads (you know, where everyone is walking..).









As a hot spot for Japanese and Non-Japanese tourists alike, my theory is that you should be okay with finding a clerk who speaks a little English. Most of the street signs are written with Japanese and Roman letters, plus the guide maps given out also come in English and Japanese.

Ise Grand Shrine - Inner Shrine
Ise Grand Shrine is, in fact, not one huge shrine, but a shrine complex, meaning it features many small shrines within it's grounds.
The bridge to Kazehinomi-no-miya.
The sacred house for kami at Kazehinomi-no-miya.
Each individual shrine usually has it's own tori, which you're supposed to bow at as you enter and leave. A couple of the large shrines also have areas for temizusha for washing the hands and mouth. After purifying, you can then go up to the shrine, toss in an offering and say a little prayer. This particular tori leads to Kazehinomi-no-miya, which is one of the power spots within the complex. People from all over Japan come here to pray for success in their endeavors. (I also heard that this shrine is where kamikaze came from, but I need to look into that more)


Within the Inner Shrine, there are a couple more powers spots, Miya-no-meguri no kami, which is a stone guarded by a rope, and a large tree you can see on your way to Kotaijingu, the main sanctuary of Ise. I didn't take any photos (too busy getting my own power spottin' on), but they can found easily by the circle of people absorbing the good vibes.


Expect lines at every shrine you visit. Especially on a Saturday. Or during the summer. Or when the weather is nice. Or with the autumn foilage. Pretty much, any time of the year that's not absolutely frigid or not suffocateingly humid.
 
And that about wraps it up for the Inner Shrine. It is a complex of shrines. For praying. Or just wandering around. Either way, a good way to saunter through the afternoon. Definitely a place to visit if you'll be in the Kansai area for a while, but not really essential for short trips.

If we had arrived earlier in the day, we probably would have had time to go to the Outer Shrine as well, but that's why we can always make the trip again. And I really want to go to Ise-Azuchi Momoyama Bunka Village, theme park based on the Sengoku Era of Japanese history. The history buff in me told Shota about it as soon as I found it, and is now anticipating that trip. This year. Preferably in September.





Information
Since we drove to Ise Grand Shrine, I don't have the usual in-depth train details, but I can share what I found through a little online research.

Ise Grand Shrine is located on the Kintetsu Railway line via the Osaka, Yamada and Toba Lines. The fastest route is by the Special Express train from Osaka Uehonmachi Station to Isuzugawa Station, though you will have to change to a Local train at Ujiyamada Station, which takes 1 hour and 55 minutes, costs 3,130 yen (a little over 30 USD). The second route takes you from Osaka Uehonmachi to Ujiyamada on the Rapid Express, then to Isuzugawa on the Local and it takes 2 hours and 30 minutes. But that route costs 1,810 yen (a little under 20 bucks). I suppose it depends on how much time and money you have. ;)

However, after you get to Isuzugawa, you will need to take a bus to get to the Inner Shrine, but that, quite honestly, should be very easy to do (Japanese buses are much easier to use than D.C. buses!!) since most of the bus signs should be written in English as well.

There are also quite a few English language websites available for researching access to Ise and things to do in that area.

Ise-Toba-Shima - This website is from the Kintetsu Corporation, which is the company that runs to the trains to Ise. The sights lists information about Ise Grand Shrine, as well as a few other attractions in the area like Spain-Mura (Spain Village), Toba Aquarium, and Ise-Azuchi Momoyama Bunka Village. Unfortunately, it's not spectacularly easy to navigate, though you will enjoy their guides if you like flow charts.

Mie Tourism Guide - A website about all the lovely things in Mie Prefecture, which is where Ise is located. There is information about the Grand Shrine, Iga-Ueno, which is where ninja began, pearls, a famous export of Mie, and Matsusaka beef, another popular export of Mie.

Ise Jingu - This is the official website for the shrine. This link is in link, but it also looks like it hasn't been updated recently. But it does have some fantastic and detailed descriptions of the various shrines within Ise Grand Shrine.

I think I accidentally pushed published before I finished writing, so... sorry about that. But now the post is complete! More photos will be on the We Love Kansai tumblr, so check that out if you're looking for more!

Until next time.
 ★Peaces★

Sunday

★Osaka NOMS★ MexiCanaria - Get Your Beergaritas HERE!

MEXICANARIA ☀メヒカナリア☀


大阪府大阪市中央区南船場4-10-19
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Minami Funaba 4-10-19

ACCESS
MexiCanaria is situated between Midosuji and Yotsubashi-suji, and just north of Nagahoribashi-suji. This area, also known as Kitahorie, is fairly popular for it's large variety of small and unique bars and restaurants. The closest train station is Shinsaibashi Station on the Yotsubashi, Midosuji, and Nagahori Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Lines. I would suggest using Exit 3, which is on Midosuji, so that you can check out the unique shops of Kitahorie before settling down into your margarita. MexiCanaria is also located on the same block as PLATINUM OSAKA, a very nice club for those sick of the over-active Namba scene (can you tell I'm getting old?). Check out a Google Map HERE.

The DRINKS
Del Sol!!
Is it alright for me to start off with their drink menu? I dearly hope you won't think less of me. :)

Anyway, it should come as no surprise to you well-versed travelers that MexiCanaria offers margaritas. But what you may not know is that MexiCanaria is the first bar in Japan to specialize in the beergarita (is that even what it's called??). This is a godsend for all of the poor, overworked souls in Osaka, especially since these start at 980 yen. Just to give you a better perspective, a much smaller, and less exciting, margarita will still run you 740 yen.

Mexicanaria's beergarita's are currently offered in the following flavors:
��Coronarita - FMargarita + Corona 980 yen
��Pinky Bell - Berry FMargarita + Cherry Beer 1280 yen
��Del Sol - Mango FMargarita + Sol 1180 yen
��Sexy Rossa - Orange FMargarita + ROSSA 1280 yen


Great, fruity beer!
They also have a lovely selection of wine and beer, all at equally generous prices. I think the bottles of beer were running for about 500 yen a piece (mostly Mexican and Japanese), with another menu for red, white, and sparkling wine.

[I'll be going again on Wednesday after work, so I might amend this section with the prices from the wine menu as well.]

I think MexiCanaria will turn into a great after-work or pre-clubbing spot because the price is just so right.








The FOOD
Mussels in Fancy, Delicious Soup - 980 yen
I'm certain I've mentioned this before, but I'm not big on food. I like what I like, and almost without any reason besides that it's just good. This is one of those times. All of the food was GOOD. Authentic? I'm not sure if mussels are one of those traditional Mexican appetizers, but they were delicious! They're steamed in this nifty yellow soup that tastes like heaven, and they're not stingy with the serving sizes. Shota and I were able to share a bucket without fighting over the last piece (a rarity as Shota has a SMBH for a stomach).










Ocotpus & Potato Salad TOGETHER
We also ordered octopus potato salad for another appetizer, which Shota, surprisingly, was not very keen on. He's generally a lover of all things ocean-based, but he said this potato salad tastes like western food (okayWAT), which is why I liked it I guess? I'm pretty sure it's actually just delicious and he's just picky about how he takes his potato salad (he REALLY is picky about that).

I ate most of this and have no regrets.





 
Our main dish was their Mixed Fajitas. This set comes with beef, chicken, and shrimp, and some awesome seasoning. I have no idea what it was, but it was a little sweet and spicy, all rolled up into DAMN GOOD. Seriously, I don't usually do fajitas (prefer chimichangas myself), but I would eat their fajitas anytime, everyday. Shota did complain that they don't offer nearly enough guacamole, sour cream and salsa, but the main dish was only 1680 yen, which is hella reasonable, especially for two people! Can't complain about condiments with a deal like that, or can you??


I can't comment on any of the other dishes they have, but I do hope I get a chance to try everything..! This is the first time I've been to a restaurant, and thoroughly enjoyed everything they put on my table. Here's hoping this good run continues!��

FUNIKI雰囲気 (ATMOSPHERE/AMBIANCE)
MexiCanaria is a bit off the beaten path, definitely away from the noise of Namba and America-mura, so I highly recommend for dates or the otherwise making of moods. It's surrounded by a few other bars and boutiques, so MexiCanaria could serve as a nice repast after a busy day of exploring or as an intro to an exciting night.

Inside it feels like they were going for sophisticated vintage with an edge. Each wall has a different color paint job, and all of the tables are like kitschy ironwork with a small MOD corner in the back, but the unifying theme seems to be calaveras, or women painted with calaveras.
Ceilings and Calaveras
Screens and Calaveras
Walls and Calaveras
Skateboards and Calaveras
There are also some seats out in front of the restaurant, which I fully intend on using come summer!

The JIST
I'm already in love with MexiCanaria and it just opened May 29th! The price range is so reasonable, it's suspicious, and I keep telling everyone it's gonna go up. The food is legit tasty, with a nice variety for meat eaters, fish eaters and plant eaters alike (I don't know if it's vegan safe though). As of when I last went, it was still pretty low-key and quiet, but if this place takes off, like it should, expect to wait for a seat. And then do wait for that seat, because it's worth it.

Or just make a reservation. :)

If I had some star rating system, I would give them all the stars. ALL OF THEM.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this sad, artistic interpretation of what a review is, check out some other places under the Things To Do tab or if you'd like me to scout out some places for you, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. Suggestions are always welcome! Also, check out the We Love Kansai TUMBLR for more photos!
★Peaces★

Tuesday

A Guide: Computer Shopping in Japan + PC Shop Review



My new set-up! Aaaand.. Facebook. :U
Note: This post ended up waaay longer than intended, but I've bolded and highlighted important sections to make it easier to scroll through the entire file. Bless your soul if you read through this entire post ;n; ALSO, I'm not PC guru, I'm barely tech-literate, but I do know how to shop, and I'm particularly good at shopping in Japan, so that is the main focus of this post.
So, for any other shoppers who might be doing PC purchases in JP, I thought I'd list a few sites/stores, as well as some terms, that should helpful when PC shopping in Japan.

Most major cities have some kind of electronics district, Akihabara in Tokyo, and in Osaka's case, Den-den Town a.k.a. Nipponbashi. Within these districts, there are dozens of PC shops, second-hand shops, and parts shops. Actually, the sheer volume in these relatively small areas can be daunting, and would leave any consumer concerned that they might have been over-charged for something that was way cheaper a few stores down. 

The best way to work through this issue is through ネット検索 (netto kensaku or web search)! Sometimes that small-ish second-hand shop you saw in Nipponbashi is actually owned by a larger parent company, which enables you to browse many of their items online before you need to make any decisions.
For those not looking to do any intense (read: gamer) computer shopping, Japan is plentiful in it's selection of basic bitch PCs. You can get a new, fairly powerful laptop for under 50,000 yen, HD monitor and all, or if you want to go even cheaper, you can pick out a second-hand notebook laptop for 15,000 yen. Accessories like cases, keyboards and mice abound, most with impressive color choices to boot, so you won't be disappointed. I would, however, recommend that those just looking for a cheap PC for work should go directly to shop as opposed to ordering online, just so you have a place to go to directly if your PC ever has a problem.

Continuing, if you're searching parts, PCパーツ as a keyword is a good place to start. The larger businesses that tend to pop up through searches are:

(Median Prices listed are for customizable base middle tower Gaming PCs that are ready to run out of the box. Companies also offer basic desktop, super gaming PCs, compact gaming desktops or desktops for creatives and prices will vary accordingly.)

Might find some items not usually found in Japan like the ASRock LGA1150, though the prices aren't so competitive. More or less what you can find on a western Amazon site, but at slightly inflated prices. You can also try making a BTO system, but their range of offered parts seems smaller than other sites. And it’s less building and more finding a PC they already have that matches your parameters. Using the word BTO does make your sit seem more tech savvy though it would seem.

SOFMAP 40,000 yen and UP (this price range includes normal PCs and gaming PCs)
New and Used PCs/printers/parts/monitors/etc. Also has shops in Nipponbashi and operates under BIC Camera (a larger electronics goods shop). PCs start with a pretty generous price range, but they don't do BTO and you can't customize PCs on the site. Additionally, there isn’t a listing for “gaming PCs,” so your best bet may to be to search by maker (Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, Dell, etc.). They do carry all of the parts you would need to build you own PC though, and they have barebone PCs.

TSUKUMO 79,000 yen and UP
Appears to be based out of Akihabara with branches in Nagoya and Sapporo (No Osaka branch). They website is a much more difficult to navigate compared to Amazon.co.jp and SOFMAP, a rather strong command of Japanese reading is helpful, but not necessary if you have Rikaichan. Operates under Yamada Denki (another large, national electronics shop). 
Seems to list a lot of expensive desktop systems first, though they also handle used PCs. They allow customization and say they have BTO, but the BTOs actually seem to just be modded versions of the PCs they already put together (and you usually can't go lower than the initial price).

Dospara 60,000 yen and UP
A very clean and easy to understand website compared to TSUKUMO and SOFMAP. They also sell other electronics, software and used electronics, very competitive pricing and you can customize the computers. Plus, the way they display their gaming PCs, it's easy to find the lower priced ones and what components they come with. With customization, you can lower the initial price, but not by any significant amount (on the test comp I made, I went from 63,698 yen  to 61,399 yen, including shipping). They have BTO on the website, but it looks like you're actually just customizing the pre-existing PCs.

PC Koubou 90,000 yen and UP
I’d actually been to this shop in Nipponbashi while doing a preemptive strike at price checking, and they had the most helpful and friendliest staff. And they didn't keep staring at Shota for help when I was clearly the one doing the shopping and asking the questions. 
The website has actually changed since I used it last and become a little easier to navigate. They deal almost exclusively in PC goods and DIY PC combos (組立キット). While it has BTO written on the site, it seems more like slight mods to what's already listed, and quite a bit more expensive than Dospara or even TSUKUMO. The higher prices might denote that they're using better equipment, but I've haven't researched that far into it.

Faith 90,000 yen and UP
One of the places I did a price check at before I made my PC purchase. This company also has DIY kits and the way the specs are listed makes it easy to understand, even without a strong grasp of Japanese, however, the site is not quite as easy to navigate. There are a lot of English descriptors used for the PCs though, so with a little time, you can figure it out.
This site seems to specialize in PC related components, particularly high-end, branded PCs and and notebooks, so you won't general electric goods here as with some other places. They also carry DIY kits and the listed PCs are available for customization, but the prices won't get lower than the initial price.

VSPEC 45,000 yen and UP
This shop labeled as a BTO online shop and it actually does live up to the name. You can start your search from the navigation bar at the top by choosing desktop or gaming PC. Gaming PCs are listed by game and are customizable, but you can’t get full customization with these. Desktop PCs have simple and full customization, just select, for example, a コストパフォーマンス (cost performance) model, and make upgrades from there via フルカスタムコース (full custom course). From the same menu, you can also choose to have it BTO or as a DIY kit. I would say this is one of the best places to go when searching for BTO in Japan.
Also, under full custom, if you already have, say, memory or a graphics card, you can build your PC sans those parts, and put them in when the PC arrives. I was originally going to get my PC from this site, but they aren’t so good at communication, and took almost a week to respond to my e-mail. By then, I had already found another place to order from. Snoozing and losing.

Kakaku.com
This site is actually for comparing prices from other sites. I don’t think it would be very useful for anyone looking to get a BTO as it will try to find PCs that sort of match what you’re looking for. You’ll have to go to the site selling the item to find out whether or not it can be customized (the one site I checked out from kakaku.com has customization but you couldn’t make it cheaper than the base price). But if you’re trying to find the site with the cheapest prices for PC parts or where to get a cheap monitor, Kakaku.com is very helpful. Be warned though, they might not always show the best value on the net, so I usually run a search there after I’ve visited all of my favorite sites.

PC One’s 42,000 and UP
This company is local to the Nipponbashi area of Osaka. As far as I can tell, they don’t have any smaller shops popping up anywhere and their business is conducted out of their shop in Nipponbashi. They also ship out computers so this is where I ended ordering my computer from!

They deal PC parts and some small electronics, and they also buy and sell second-hand items. Their website isn’t quite as fancy as TSUKUMO or Faith, and they don’t have a listing for “gaming PCs.” Instead, they list the computer parts that go well with certain games and have listings for their own original computers, which seem to be geared more toward gamers. You can also customize one of their original PCs, or do a full customization where you can choose every part of the PC by searching through the parts on the site. Through that method, if you choose just the cheapest parts, you can get a BTO for just over 40,000 yen. They also have keyboards, speakers, mice and monitors to add to your order. When I made my purchase, the shipping was free, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m in Osaka City as well, or because I spent enough to qualify or what. :|

My New PC

The PC I ended up with was a customization of one of their original PCs (I wasn’t ready for the hardcore search for parts) but it fit well with my pretty strict budget while giving me the playing power I needed to run Steam and FF14 (now if only I could stay connected for more than 2 minutes) along with the Adobe Creative Suite and some video editing programs.

The PC was shipped via Sagawa, which is a private shipping company, but it still ended up with a huge hole in the box. Thank good there was no apparent damage to the PC inside and we still seem to be doing well so far. Fingers crossed.

 Within the large shipping box there were 2 smaller boxes, one for the PC and another for the boxes of all the parts, the keyboard and mouse. Very nicely packed, especially considering shipping was free and there were no additional handling costs.

 I got one of the cheaper cases, but it still has a window and that was the main feature I wanted in the case. There are a total of 4 fans, I think, 1 up top and another in the front (or maybe it's 2, I didn't actually open it up :< ) and there's still plenty of space inside for more drives and fans and fancy things. I'm still a novice at computing building, but I'm planning on begging my friend to teach me sometime soooon. Heh heh.

It was up and running right out of the box (though I had to run out for a LAN cable long enough to run to my office space)! It handled all the software I needed loaded up in no time, and though I didn't have the proper software for running the Blu-ray drive (why is blu-ray such a pain?? I just want to watch my Disney blu-rays.. ), I was literally glued to it for the better part of a weekend.

The monitor, a 21.5 inch touchscreen 1080p by Green House, I just found randomly on Amazon.co.jp. It has HDMI, VGA and DPI inputs, and the menu can be displayed in Japanese or English. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available on Amazon.com, which means you can probably only get it in Japan, but that's what this guide is for anyway. There are quite a few other reasonable options for touchscreen monitors in Amazon, but Green House was the only one that seemed to come with a pen (the pen from my Microsoft Surface also works on it too). I think a larger format (large compared to iPads and other tablets) touch monitor is something for budget-conscious artists to consider, especially with the Cintiq costing what it does.

A nice screen comparison of my old Alienware, the Microsoft Surface Pro and the Green House 21.5 Touchscreen.
Some negatives would be that touchscreen monitors aren't necessarily build for pens, so they respond to anything that comes into contact with the screen. This means no resting the hand on the screen while drawing, but, instead, taking a drawing position similar to painting on a wet canvas. Not for everyone, but so far I like the way it works with my back and wrist.

THOUGHTS
Shopping for what I wanted took much more time than I wanted (I'm a Scorpio :U), but I'm glad that it did because in the end, I got exactly what I wanted and all within my budget. If you worry that your Japanese might not be strong enough to tackle online shopping, definitely try a PC shop first. In big electronic shops that handle crowds of international customers, like BIC Camera or Yodabashi Camera, they often have English-speaking staff available. I can't say how far you'll get with them, but it's better than nothing.

If you're like me, and are ready to take up the challenge (read: seem to dread actual contact with humans), don't be afraid to e-mail or give the shop a call if you have a problem. Most of the sites seem to operate on weekends and holidays (I ordered my PC during Golden Week), and if you start to doubt the shop, don't be afraid to cancel the order. :>

Helpful Terms
Most PC words are borrowed from English, so if you can read katakana, or say them “in katakana,” then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If not, well this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to expand your katakana studies. :>

超弩級 - Choudokyuu (literally super dreadnaught) high-end, high spec gaming PCs, usually the most expansive. Other descriptors may be 高品質 (kouhinshitu high quality)
Always check the specs of the "high end" computers as they might not actually pack the power you need.

ゲーム推奨モデル –  (ge-mu suisho moderu) Game endorsement model. Gaming PCs currently endorsed by certain games. This usually means there are very expensive.

組立キット - (kumitate kitto) DIY kits are a complete set of computer parts that you can buy at a discounted price and put together at home. The parts included in the set cannot be changed.

BTO - Built-to-order. This should mean that the PC is made to order, but a lot of PC sites seem to only allow slight modifications to existing systems. Try VSPEC or PC One's for full customization.

キャンペーン情 (Kyanpe-n jouhou) Campaign Information. Sometimes includes discounts for parts of sets of parts.

通販 (tsuuhan) Mail order

光学ドライ (kougaku doraibu) Optical drive

(dengen) Power source

静音 (seion) Low volume (usually means the fans or low volume or the whole PC creates very little noise).

見積り – (mitsumori) Estimation, quote

銀行振 (ginkou furikomi) Bank transfer. Often in Japan, large purchases require a bank transfer.

And that's about it. The shop explanations ran on a bit longer than planned, but I really wanted to include as much information as possible. If you need some more and have really specific questions, just drop a comment or an e-mail! :>

★Peaces★
 
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