JOIN VIRTUALCHRISTINE FOR HER DREAM VACATION ON JAPAN OPEN GRID!!! DON’T WORRY I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS THERE EITHER!! SCORE KIMONOS AND COOL ANIME AVATARS!! VOCALOIDS!!ORIGAMI!!! RAMEN!! SCARF OCTOPUS AND BLOWFISH IN GLITTERING OSAKA!!!! HANG OUT IN BUSTLING DOWNTOWN TOKYO!!! STROLL THE FAMOUS ORATU CANAL!!! HARUKI MURAKAMI !!! KOBO ABE!! COLONEL SANDERS!! TOSHIRO MUFINE’S BUTT!!!COLOSSUS OBSERVATORIES AND ART MUSEUMS!!!SAMURAI VILLAGES AND THE BEST SUSHI TRAIN ON THE HYPERGRID!!! BE SPIRITED AWAY ON A SCALE BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS AS YOU EXPERIENCE ONE OF THE GREAT BUILDS OF THE HYPERGRID!!! YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EVERYTHING UNTIL YOU HAVE VISITED JAPAN OPEN GRID!! ATTN NEWBIES!!

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Here I am, taking a  short break   in  an unexpectedly posh undersea eatery with a charmingly literal English name, smirking at an increasingly  irritated Cadillac Eldorado sized shark who is obsessively bouncing over and over off  the plexi glass restaurant ceiling, not simply  because his inability to comprehend the existence of the invisible barrier proves that..

A) a 10 million year old brain coping less well with a simple problem than your own  much maligned 53 year old one is indeed an established snarkasm trigger .

B) He is definitely a big fat BOY shark. See A.

but that, unlike this ancient  testosterone drenched toothmobile, my own recent experience with a similar obsessive traits combined with the kind of smarts a gender only develops if it has been on the bottom of the food chain  for 40,0000 years and counting, had resulted  in  a productive, enervating,  outcome for most of the species involved. Yes, I know, but it made all kinds of sense when I started the paragraph.

Hello my dearest dears! How marvelous here we all are ready for another whirlwind adventure on OpenSim, the software platform that hosts hundreds of independent grids, many of whom choose to be connected by an amped up teleportation system called the hypergrid, which allows you to endlessly explore these brave new worlds, having exciting experiences, making friends from all over the planet, and scoring so much free content that it just makes you dizzy!

If you do not know how to get onto OpenSim’s hypergrid ( and believe me you are not alone) please see my “How to get on OpenSim in Six  Ridiculously Easy Steps” at the top of this page, and don’t forget my “Newbie Glossary”. Come on, it’s easy! Come spread your wings in the free metaverse!

For today’s adventure we will be going to a grid, I personally, had never heard of; in fact I could not find a single third party reference to it anywhere on the internet. No one seems to have ever talked about it, it wasn’t on any hypergate hub I  could find. It was like it didn’t exist. Yet there it was, on Maria Korolov’s most excellent Active OpenSim Grids List, (which gives you a hypergrid address, website links, currency , etc. and is continually updated!) for month after month piquing my curiosity -so a couple of weeks ago,  I decided start a rare free evening by finally plugging in my mystery address into the ol’ world map, zap over, and have  a quick look around.  After all, it,was probably one of those  grids that had been quickly set up for a conference or something with a couple familiar Linda Kellie OARs and lots of chairs and screens- one of those grids no one had remembered to take down.

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I could not have been more wrong! Welcome to Japan Open Grid! –  This is  welcome region JOG Center and I know, it isn’t an attention grabber  BUT – drum roll-  from the  Ginza cocktail  jazz  in Mikio Naruse’s When A Woman Ascends The Stairs to Murakami’s unicorn skulls and talking cats to Beat Takeshi`s well everything, this blogger is one R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S-L-Y enthused Japanophile!! So  I was exactly the right shark, um, person, to not  focus on the awkward new grid look and inevitable conference chairs, but catch one glimpse of  the Japanese lettering plastered  over the sky, jump up from the keyboard and run around the house screaming” OMG!! OMG!!!  MY AVATAR IS  IN  FREAKING JAPAN!!!!” til my family had to calm me down with the ironing board. And with a little-  okay, a ton of  research, I was able to take a version of my Japanese dream vacation, whooping it up in bath houses, temple festivals, sushi and raman bars, on a mini Murakami Tour in bustling downtown Tokyo, and freaking my son out in weirdly familiar haunted fairgrounds whilst discovering a mad genius…this little world has been one of my most satisfying hypergrid adventures, and I am really excited about sharing it with my beloved readers!!!!

So let’s get started on my guided tour of what I believe is the hypergrid’s only Japanese world! If you don’t have a translator with Japanese, you can pick one up on Craft Grid at craft-world.org:8002:Hydra. And we’re off!

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We’ll start at the top of the Welcome Center! The first thing you see is an ATM. It appears to just be a toy, you click it and it says “give money” in Japanese and English, but no further menu appears, and you don’t seem to receive anything. As far as I can make out, the grid’s focus appears to be educational, and they have no currency.

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Like all the boards in the welcome center, this is a teleport. Feel free to click on anything, all it does is open your world map to the region, whose names are thankfully in the Latin alphabet, so although you may not know what the hell the name means, at least you will know if you have been there before.  Some boards have  hovering Japanese script, others have ????? over them. The boards with question marks work, so click away! These JOG Center boards are set up all over Japan Open Grid, and it is worth noting that, although they will have various titles and pictures, they often take you to a different corner of one region, like Shinobar Annex or Tomoyo. I wound up keeping a list of places I had been to avoid this repetition.   This particular teleport board takes you to region …

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…Tomoyo,  a blender workshop. It is also listed on other signs as a texture bank,which brings us to another major point about this grid- they use a LOT of Linda Kellie’s stuff. The overwhelming majority of the free material on offer are Linda’s, which are widely  available all over the hypergrid, so  I won’t bother pointing them out-like the texture bank on this region. But I WILL point out these boxes which have free kimonos and Japan Open Grid AO’s!!

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Back at JOG Center, directly across from the Tomoyo teleport is a calander board with groups and meeting schedules.  And the pretty lady in the kimono is my new friend  JOG resident Fuugetu Flowerbird! Not only did she take me around her region, which we will get to shortly, but she showed me how to read the calender!!

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Okay it’s like this! Do you see the grey boxes on top line of the grid ? The second box has the kanji character 月, which means Mon or Monday! The next one is 火 Tuesday… you get idea! The vertical grey boxes are times, 3pm and 10pm to be exact. This is obviously Japan Standard Time, so let’s work it out with a handy online converter– 3pm Japan  Standard Time would be 8am CET, and 10pm JST would be 3 pm CET!  Wow, they have something going on every day, don’t they? You only need to click on one of the pictures, and the world map will open with the meeting location! I will also point them out to you as we continue our tour!

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Starting from the  Paradise Island sign next to me, the second and third sign go to nearly empty regions, and the first, third and fourth go to very nice  builds(Garden Oasis has a meeting every Tuesday!) that lean heavily on Linda Kellie, and pieces from the early OS Grid days, but I would prefer to focus on some of the  very unusual to jaw dropping aspects of Japan Open Grid in this post. Which brings us to..

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…these bad boys.  We will tackle the Modern Museum, the Space Thingy and the  Science Ship first, then after go onto the Big Honkin’ Gate place. The Museum, Space Thingy and Ship are ALL on region Abyss Observatory.

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The Modern Museum seems to be a colossal Museum of Art History leading up to the present, with  a section on the top of moving masterpieces, as in they jump around, on discs with a “vote” button.

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The Science Ship is also docked here, with openings on the platform leading down to an underwater observatory. There is nothing else visible on the horizon, which is really weird as…

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…the Space Station Thingy build is freaking huge, and a tad confusing, until you realize there are TWO Science Ships on this region! Only one is on each build, and as I said, I have no idea how they keep things on this scale separate on a single region. The Observatory itself is a rather well thought out  history- of -our- place- in- the- universe museum, while THIS  Science Ship has a small pyramid on the dock that is under construction.

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I honestly did not understand what many of the builds surrounding the ship were about exactly, but they were tons of fun to explore, with lots of neat photo ops, and hey it’s in Japan!!!

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The Big Honkin’ Gate place is region kasumi taiysha(meetings every Thursday at 10pm JST) which seems to be the region owners name. With it’s dance floor and temple, it appears to be a party/ event region. It also brings us to another big point about Japan Open Grid…

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Click on EVERYTHING you find that could  be a poseball or have a script- even if the hovering text is in Japanese CLICK CLICK CLICK! You may find yourself praying correctly in a Shinto shrine or pounding a ceremonial Taiko!!! The scripting on this grid is pretty good, nothing crashed me or even caused perceptible lag, so be bold and get クリック!!

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To the south of kasumi taiysha is a small but cool little build called Nagano

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..  named after the Nagano Prefecture, located in the center of Japan. As the entire area is surrounded by 3,000 meter tall mountains, which have earned it the name “The Roof of Japan”  and is filled with lovingly preserved period architecture this main street against the sweeping backdrop of the Japanese Alps, were just impossible for me to exactly identify BUT, I got all excited anyway because:

A) ya know those cute monkeys that  spend winter chillaxing in hot springs?  They are doing it in THESE mountains:D

B)  for my fellow lit nerds, you aren’t imagining those ringing bells- Nagano is the home of Satoru Nataka, the even chaptered Jack Daniels slaying holy man cat whisperer  protagonist of Murakami’s  Kafka on the Shore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got so ebullient my family decided to leave the ironing board in the hallway, just in case!!

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The next teleport board  takes you to various freebie locations, most of which are Linda Kellie content. The one exception you can actually see if you fly straight up…

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…and fly over the chairs and giant JOG logo, down to the buildings in the top center of the picture.

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This is region JOG Meets! There are nice little freebies tucked all around in the large building and the flea market , (and they have meetings every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday at 10pm JST) but in my mind the main attraction is definitely the building with the rounded roof pieces…

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…which has a couple of really neat  little funkytown  shops! I  scored 4 kimonos in 30 seconds, and were I anime fan, I would have lost my 心 completely!

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This is the sushi whooping part. Welcome to the Sushi Train, which really does have  lovely  plates of nibblies gliding along the top of the bar! Touch the beer tap for an animated beer, and…

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… touch the signs for a really BIG sushi menu! Make your choice, and your perfectly detailed order will appear in front of you! どうぞお召し上がりください y’all!!

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Back at JOG Center, after the freebie teleport board, there is a door to this room, which is a mostly off world teleport center. The grids are familiar, with an educational slant. The  few JOG teleports basically took you back to the Linda Kellie freebie centers.

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These are the last teleports in the Welcome Center. The Winds of Birds teleporter takes you to Fuugetu’s builds, after that is the gingerbread man  with the dog statue board, which we will do last, after covering the regions from Borabora onward. Don’t worry, it’ll make tons of sense! So the Winds of Birds teleport board…

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… which takes you to a very large, pretty  region  of islands and calm waters called  alternately oasissea and Winds of Birds. I never really understood quite how it is  all set up, but like the folks at Abyss Observatory, Fuugetu does a lot of stacking!! Let’s take a look at her teleport board!

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The two upper builds, birdy winds and Gekka are located on the ground, if you fly up and look around you will see them. The space station and airport are stackers-let’s start on the ground and work our way up:)

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The Birdy Winds is a really nice harbor house on one of the regions islands. Fuugetu made this in SL and brought it to opensim. I am sorry I don’t have a better picture, but I think this is enough to get across her excellent taste, and sense of hospitality.

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This is Gekka, which means moon in Japanese. I cannot give you an exact address as this is all on one region, so it is best to use the teleport boards to get around!

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Fuugetu said that this island is a flower. We are standing in the center, and the four sections are the petals.

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The island is extremely well done; the  reworking of  Arcadia/Aley materials(Fuugetu is a BIG fan), plus pieces from the early OS Grid, and her own adventures in blender, mesh perfectly together to create a charmingly unique atmosphere.Look around carefully many of the rooms have furnishings, there is even a little flower shop! And now for the stacking!

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The Winds of Birds Airport expresses Fuugetu’s love of virtual aviation.wob_011

She has collected all kinds of flying vehicles for you to copy, which includes her own creation, a flying origami crane. He doesn’t fly too high , but Fuugetsu is working on it!!!

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This is where the teleport to the space station takes you, but Fuugetu is quick to point out that this is too small to be the REAL station, and that there are teleporters on the main platform to the actual space station.

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NOW you are at the Space Station!! Thanks for the tour Fuugetu!!! I look forward to see how your lovely regions will continue to develop!! それはあなたに会う喜びでした!

From the Borabora teleport board onward…
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…all roads lead to the Shinobar Annex! There are off world teleports in the corners of the region, with the welcome center teleports  set up in kiosks in the center square. The shops are empty.  In the top right of this picture you see the recreational area…

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…Borabora, which has white beaches, jet skiing and lopsided ballooning as well as…

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…Restaurant Eater. You know, with the  not too bright boy shark Maitre d’!

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North of Borabora is  Shinobar Gate. This chirpy recreational region has the actual Shino’s Bar, dance floors, club houses, created with cleverly reused freebies from Linda and the early hypergrid.  This particular shop, called Liwston Station, has meetings every Monday and Thursday at 3pm JST, and a name for which I can find no obvious meaning  also has…

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… a really cool collection of  full perm Japanese  glossy magazines!!WOOT!

And now we come to the last teleport on the JOG Welcome center, the gingerbread man next to the dog statue; not because it is the worst, but because, in spite of the genuinely confusing picture on the teleport board, it is one of the best. For this  teleport takes you to…

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Welcome to glittering downtown Tokyo!! In RL this is one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world,at the heart of Tokyo’s famous Shibuya district!

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This  is Shibuya Station, the fourth busiest commuter station in Japan, and in the square  across from the green tram is our old friend…

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… the Haichiko statue, with has nothing to do with gingerbread men or ramen stuffed Americans with snakes in their hair, but has everything to do with one of the most famous dogs in the world,Haichicko, who loyally waited for his dead master at their meeting spot in front of Shibuya station every day for nine years.  The statue  has become a popular meeting spot, and one of the stations many exits is named for it.

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Directly across from the green train are two teleport boards. You will see them all over JOG resident Kote 2’s extremely cool builds. These are NOT displayed at the welcome center, which they really should be as one of them is very  important- not the external one with Craft and Kitely, but  the one I am standing in front of . We will get back to it later, but for now let’s continue our tour of Shibuya!

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Lit nerd alert! (ATTN non nerds:If you have no understanding whatsover of my lit nerd burbles,under NO CIRCUMSTANCES bleep over them: just sound them out, memorize them, and practice reciting for a week or so. This will FINALLY  give you  a shot at scoring with sexy librarian types in art f**k coffee shops and bookstores!) Shibuya is the station the Calcutec used to bullshit the Ayoyama Ichome station attendant, when he and the chubby girl climbed onto the platform from  the tracks. He couldn’t say they had ascended from a secret world of   cannibals and mad scientists hidden under the Tokyo sewers, so he said they had come from Shibuya Station and lost their tickets, which was completely unsuccessful as, ironically,that turned out to be the excuse EVERYBODY give when they are bullshitting attendants on the Tokyo Metro.This area of Tokyo, where Murakami, owned a jazz club, realized he could write and proceeded to pen the stories that have conquered a planet-this IS The  Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World ! (Note: if your librarian is tucking into her second piece of cheesecake, it may be wise to refer to  the chubby girl as “The Scientist’s Granddaughter)

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What bliss! Beat Takeshi lords over the love hotel bar boutique strewn streets so many of Murakami’s characters have wandered in an existential haze, shopping for jazz LPs and gourmet Italian food, or executing the occasional rapist hotel guest, although the streets unfortunately end right before the Shibuya  Parco Department Store, where my early love,melancholy  Kobo Abe directed his plays in a  horseshoe shaped theater on the ninth floor  built especially for him by…

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…his life long friend Seiji Tsutsumi, the head of the Seibu Department store chain.

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The streets are a blast to wander as the build is reasonably accurate, and chock -a-block of fun detail. Plus you can make stuff up; hey, do you think this could be the shop where Satoru Nakata’s friend, the young truck driver Hoshino, bought his Hawaiian shirts?( Non nerd note: the truck driver is an intellectually lazy underachiever who has a spiritual epiphany that involves cats, Buddhism, and Colonel Sanders! If you  haven’t flubbed the weight reference and can manage a soulful gaze while you say how much you can relate to this guy, you’ve got your foot to upper thigh in the door!)shibuya again_008

Have a careful look around. I didn’t notice you could go into this Yoshinoya restaurant until the the third visit!!

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Click on the black box, and get a delicious bowl of Raman! Of course I’d be thaaaaaat much more excited if the restaurant name were Tampopo!! Best food movie 今-ま-で-に!!

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Of course the view from above is pretty spectacular too. Say, who are those people standing in the center of Dogenzaka Street? They weren’t here last time!

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Hehe, these anime girls are so cute! They were all called “Kote 1 Clone” so I figured they were NPC’s and was clicking everything trying to get them to do something, when I finally clicked on the prim hanging over them.

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WOOOT! They all start dancing to Thriller!! When you are done zombie trotting with Sailor Moon and her wide eyed posse, you can mosey on back down the street, over the crossing to…

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…go under the train tracks and hang a left.

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You are now in region Machiya, Kote1! Kote seems to refer to the forearm, or wrist, and is a Kendo martial arts term, while…

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…the word machiya refers to the traditional wooden houses found throughout Japan. (Ignore the Pumpkin City, we will get to that later) While this region does not appear to be a particularly structured exhibit…

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…there are indeed a boatload of cool wooden houses to explore! When you are done oohing and ahhing, walk down this path, away from the Pumpkin City we are ignoring and hang a sharp left…

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…where you will find this path.Go on, what are you waiting for?

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Keep going!

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Welcome to little Osaka!
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This is yet another cool reproduction of a major Japanese downtown area- Osaka’s  Dontonbori district, on the Dontonbori Canal. I am standing on the Ebisu bridge, where urban legend has it that the spirit of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders cursed the Hanshin Tigers baseball team, when fans tossed a statue of the Colonel off the bridge, during a post victory celebration! The “Curse of the Colonel” will not be lifted until the entire statue is fished out of the river; in the meantime the Tigers are on the tail of an 18 year losing streak. (ATTN non nerds: This is NOT a plotline.)

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The neon signs, including the iconic Glico Man,(get a picture of your av in front of him. It is THE Osaka tourist picture!) are moving and sparkling creating this district’s signature electric atmosphere,  and there is of course a teleport board, which we will stop ignoring in a minute. But first, let’s walk over the bridge and hang , guess what, a sharp left!!

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Kuiadore is an expression the rest of Japan uses  to describe what they see as the Osakan obsession with  food.My kind of town! One of the sayings goes-“Dress (in kimonos) till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka” (京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ).  Hence this street has some of the most famous restaurants in Japan!

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Kani Doraku is a crab restaurant(duh) that started a craze when it’s huge mechanized crab sparked a wave of oversized, mechanized signs and statues in the Dotonbori!

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Kushikatsu(串カツ) are deep-fried skewers of  pretty much anything, served with a dipping sauce. This statue is Mr Ueyama, the  owner of the company that manufactures them, who is famous for striking this pose before doing something that keeps him in the tabloids!

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Kuidaore Taro (taro means clown) is Japan’s most famous mechanized clown, he is on candy, toys ,posters, you name it; in fact he became such an Osaka symbol that every year before the big prestigious Osaka Sumo Championships the wrestlers line up to have their pictures taken with him for luck!

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This is a giant plate of Gyoza, the infinitly more delicious deep fried garlic drenched pork Japanese version of a Chinese dumpling called Jiaozi !! I am officially in heaven!

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Anytime you see an octopus sign in any form, it means the restaurant serves an Osaka specialty called  Takoyaki, which are batter balls filled with dried, you guessed it, octopus. This octopus is holding a spatula, a Takoyaki ball on a stick, and above him is the form used to make this delicious deep fried nibbly! Next door is the Zuboraya ,a famous restaurant that specialized in dishes made from the unbelievably poisonous, like more poisonous than cyanide, blowfish; a very statusy food in Japan. Chefs have to train for three years to qualify in “Fugu” preparation.THREE years for one kind of fish!! If they  literally survive the final exam, which involves them consuming their own test material, they obviously charge an arm and a 脚 for their services, which the restaurant graciously passes onto you. Whilst commercial kitchens are required by a series of rather harsh laws to have one of the intrepid 35% who manage to leave Blowfish Polytechnic under their own power preparing their blowfish for human consumption, it oddly remains legal  to catch blowfish for personal use. Which of course results in oodles of  sniggering at cheapskate Uncle Haruto’s  funeral.

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And just when you thought Osaka couldn’t get cooler there’s this-the  giant hand holding a piece of Nigiri hangs over Genroku Sushi one of a chain owned by the people who invented the Sushi Train, right here in Osaka!!

After we throw out one more lit nerd fact- Haruki Murakami’s mother was born in Osaka! we can finally turn back and take a look at that teleport board!!

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As you can see, we have been to three out of six destinations, Shibuya, Machiya and Little Osaka! In the bottom right is a teleport to Mikuland, (we’ll get to Miku later!)which seems to be a storage region for dance floors, like the Pumpkin City. At the top right is-yes, you are reading that correctly-

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Once you have finished messing around at the club that launched, um, what’s his name-you know, Yoko Ono‘s husband -it is time to hit Kote 2’s last big destination..

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…Shimakami Virtual High School!

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From the landing point next to the garbage can, you can see two distinct area- The high school grounds, and the neighboring Shimakami Jinja . We will explore the high school grounds first.

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The freebies include avatars of Japanese vocaloids, (which are anime pop stars with programmed singing skills), RinRin Kagamini   and her rival, the more popular  Hatsune Miku, who has done tours, live opera and opened for Lady Gaga. Shiteageru is a denpa song they both covered.

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The word Shimakami is, as far as I can make out, simply a name and the regions, I would guess, are devoted to role play. You can walk around the main high school building, but the classrooms are all the same-these chairs and this chalkboard.

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Behind the main building is a tennis court with really good animations, but unfortunately, no equipment! The little grey building…

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…is a cute -as -a-button cafeteria, where the tables are food rezzers stuffed with curry and ramen that are completely borked (sob)!

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Behind the main building is the sports grounds.The first time I came here it was empty, today it had…

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…these neat revolving dance balls and working drum. But two days ago…

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…it looked like this!

While I am not sure exactly what all this means, I think generally what is going on, is that Osaka native Kote 2, or in RL Tetsuya Takeda, is really into scripting. A self described  “Former Japanese Idol at Second Life”, Tetsuya does little films, usually titled Virtual High School Short Movie number #whatever. They are films of his animations, all of which are really good.

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Like at the  pool, where every ball has a different, seamless style of swimming! This pool is seriously fun!

Now let’s head over to Shimakami Jinja!

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The Temple seems to be having a festival on the grounds!! The detail is marvelous, you can hear the snow crunching under your feet as you take everything in and snap photo after photo, although there are no rezzers or animation. The wooden house next to the temple…

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… is a Noubutai, a wooden stage traditionally used for  Nou / Noh  classical  Japanese musical drama. This stage just has a regular dance ball and an unidentified yet cool statue. Behind the Noubutai…

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…are these two small houses. Go past the moo cow into the bigger building with the sign and the lettered curtains!

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This is a  scruffy little Sento!!! I have always wanted to visit one of these! Walk past the beaten up lockers in the entrance hall to one of the identical changing rooms, which has the obligatory massage chair,scales, and Akira Kurosawa film poster. From Rashoman‘s complex portrayal of truth and reality, to the rollicking adventure of The Hidden Fortress to the iconic  Seven Samurai where you could nearly see all of  heart throb Toshiro Mufine‘s  butt throughout the film; Kurosawa has given the world, which includes me last time I looked, hundreds of hours of pleasure!! What a thrill to see one of his posters in an authentic Japanese setting on my little grand tour!!

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The baths steam, some of the faucets work and in ,what I assume is the cold water bath in the little tub on the right, your avatar sits there shivering!

And with this we will now leave my new facebook friend, Tetsuya Takeda’s regions! すべての楽しさ哲也いただき、ありがとうございます!

The rest of these regions in this post are not on any teleport board I could find, which is a shame, as they rate from pretty darned interesting to “holy ごみ, did I just see that?”

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Region JapanParadiseSamurai is owned by Xenlon Keng , an SL creator who seems to be working on his or her stock here in OpenSim. There is one freebie that I can find…

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…this neat elderly male avatar,complete with costume. As for the rest of the build…

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…it is definitely worth exploring!!! Now let’s move on to…

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jogrid.net:8002:Otaru

Region Otaru is named after a real life  Japanese city, located on  the western side of Hikkado, the northernmost prefecture in Japan. And what we are looking at is a beautiful reproduction of the popular tourist attraction the Otaru Canal, whose once bustling warehouses have been turned into…

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… attractive shops, restaurants and galleries! These beautifully worked wood and stone shops are filled with Linda Kellie items, but there is also a very interesting story behind this place. Apparently  virtual Otaru  was a community in Second Life, much beloved by resident Motoko Moonwall, (who was also involved in the creation of Abyss Observatory). Motoko said that, although everything else in SL changed continually, Otaru was always had a wonderful continuity. It became a real home to her. And although the population dwindled with the rest of the SL , the owner, with whom Motoko had become close friends,fought hard to keep Otaru alive. She was attacting new residents and everything was looking great when suddenly, the community received word of her death! Although they wanted to keep the community going, there was no way they could take ownership of the region, so Motoko came to JOG in OpenSim, and built this beautiful reproduction! What a wonderful tribute to virtual friendship!

When you are done sitting in the cafes and wandering the cobbled walkways, you can head in the opposite direction of the canal, out past the main Otaru complex, to…

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Region Otaru2, where Motoko messes with modern architecture…

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…traditional European architecture(there is a gallery in here with pictures of RL Otaru)…

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mm…and returns to traditional Japanese. Hey look! There’s an octopus-and there are  fresh Takoyaki balls!!!! あなたの素晴らしい地域もとこMoonwallしていただきありがとうございます!

Time for one last lit nerd moment before we say farwell to Otaru- Hokkaido was a major location in Haruki Murakami’s  early works, The Rat Trilogy, and Dance Dance Dance!!!

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jogrid.net:8002:sen003

Okay, now there are exactly three things that you are feeling as you look at this picture and the region name  :

Feeling 1) You have recognized the house and the name and are getting REALLY excited!

Feeling 2) A  tingly feeling that is a cross between deja vu, and that thing where  you recognize a person well enough to plaster a gormless smile across your face when they greet you on the street, but have no  real clue where you know them from.

Feeling 3) Becoming  really irritated that this is not going any faster.

What we are actually going to cover now are regions sen001 to sen009, and while most of the action is on sen004, that regions landing point is so completely borked, we are going to start here on sen003, in front of this house. I actually picked this region quite randomly(or did I?) to land on; I just wanted to see what these “sen” named regions were. So I saw the house, got Feeling 2 like nobody’s business …

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…and turned around. Unbelievably, I still didn’t get it, but as my intrigue-o-meter had begun smoking at around 50 billion, I decided it was time to cross the river.

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The town, or whatever it was made no real sense; okay it might have helped if I could read more Japanese than Monday and Tuesday, but it  is hard to believe this broken down jumble of ramshackle houses and twisted alleys  were clearly marked in any language. I just picked the biggest “street” and started climbing.

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I could not work out what the hell I was missing.

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Suddenly I was on level ground,  on a street where every building seemed to be an empty broken down restaurant, which would have struck me as more than odd had the presence of huge black spirit creatures not stolen all the weirdness thunder.

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There was only one spiritless snackbar with food on the counter.

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Then it struck me- how did I know they were spirits?

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It was driving me nuts as  I walked up the stairs at the end of the road and turned right…

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…and even my clapped out old brain cells finally shouted “Banzai”!! For I was standing in front of the most recognizable bathhouse on the planet- the sen regions were recreations of the spirit world  depicted in THE most successful Japanese film of all time, the multi award winning  anime classic, Spirited Away.

For those of you I just lost completely,Spirited Away, which is often compared to Alice in Wonderland, is the odyssey of a little girl named Chihiro, who is trapped when her parents unwittingly cross a river into the spirit world, which has the appearance of an odd ramshackle fun fair. Coming upon a street of abandoned snack bars and restaurants, and finding one restaurant with food, her parents begin uncontrollably stuffing themselves with enchanted spirit food, and are summarily turned into pigs.

Chihiro(later renamed Sen by a witch) is rescued by a boy her age named Haku, who tells her to go down to the boiler room of the palatial bathhouse and ask for a job, for only by signing a contract of employment, is the human girl protected from Yubaba, the witch  proprietor of the bathhouse, who transformed her parents into food for her guests. Haku tells Chihiro this is the only way she can  save them and herself. Most of the film revolves around Chihiros experiences working in the bathhouse, and her friendship with Haku, who turns onto to be a dragon!

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As to our virtual spirit world and bathhouse, the detail is so perfect, it is difficult to take it all in. I tried looking up film synopses and wikis, but the build is so dense, that I finally decided it would be easier just to watch the movie while I was inworld, pausing the film as I checked out this and that as the characters encountered it.Worked like a charm, all kinds of things suddenly snapped into focus, like the railroad tracks running under the bridge, just below the surface of the water, exactly like in the movie.

Okay, now comes the mad genius part.

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This colossal structure is an EXACT three dimensional reproduction, of the spirit bathhouse. ALL of it. Creator Daiki Aabye meticulously filmed the process, so he or she must have realized  at some point that people just would not freaking believe this. However,it was actually a meticulously photographed Flickr album I discovered early on, which made me realize that the unbelievably impressive main hall was in no way shape or form not the whole shebang! THAT was when I hauled out the movie and did the walk through, which was actually a lot of fun, and impressed the hell out of my anime obsessed teenager until I hit a bunch of moving masked spirits, which caused the lad to bellow after a full 15 seconds of staring ” THEY STILL FREAK ME OUT!!” and hide in his room.

Daiki Aayabe’s Spirit Bathhouse is, like the fabulous Tolkien themed Romenna on PM Grid, unquestionably one of the great builds of the hypergrid. But unlike Romenna and many other large scale reproductions, it is not simply a static empty shell, which in my mind makes it just thaaaaat much greater! Noazami’s wonderful Flicker album is an excellent guide, as is seeing the movie!! If you are going in cold turkey, just remember that no one elevator goes all the way from the top to the bottom, and no two doors or staircases that are next to each other wind up in even vaguely the same place . Here are a few of my not that great photos(half didn’t even come out!!) to give you an idea of what is in store:

THE MAIN BATHHOUSE

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The bathhouse entrance.

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The bathhouse main interior which is difficult to capture in one shot, due to it’s size, AND waiting for the sumptuous textures to rezz!!

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Spirits gather around a tub.

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A shot of the Bathhouse ceiling.

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This is what an elevator looks like!!

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This is the walled garden at the main entrance. See the little blue square on the ground in front of me? Look for these around the Bathhouse..

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…because little girls do a lot of crawling!

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The long corridors on the sides of the bathhouse open into guest accommodation. Not only do all doors open on this build, but panels slide, so be sure to run your cursor around…

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…everything. Like most grand palaces, there are secret panels and staircases leading to…

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… the hidden world of the servants. Above the main bathhouse, is…

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…the very weird living quarters of Yubaba’s personal staff.

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This is where my son freaked:D And above this…….

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spirited away_019 …Yubaba’s living quarters!! There are small attic rooms above this floor too, but for now let’s go directly below the Bathhouse to…

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…the waterworks and boiler room!! As with the rest of the building there is an elevator, doors, hidden staircases and panels:)

As to the other seven sen regions, like the red house gateway to the spirit world in sen003, they are all locations from the film. None of them are finished, but they are  recognizable. Daikari  has made this handy non language map, to tell visitors, at least ones familiar with the film, where they are.

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jogrid.net:8002:sen001

Region sen001 is a representation of the human world town Chihiro’s family were driving through when they turned off the road and wound up at the red house. What the giant fish are doing there I haven’t a clue.

Sen002 is empty land.

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Sen005 and 006 are water regions from the train journey to Yubaba’s sister, Zariba’s house. The trains do not work (yet) nor is all the track laid…

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…but the strange platforms and shadow people are all  out there, waiting.

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Sen007 is Zeniba’s house, which doesn’t have any walls yet but..

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…is definitely coming together!

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Sen008 has another train station and Haku in his dragon form. How do you find him? Follow the train  tracks from region 004 into the tunnel:))))

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And last but not least, region sen009 , just over the bridge, has the pig farm where Chihiro’s parents are held prisoner!

And now my dearest dears I must love you and leave you! This post has taken forever to write but it has been worth every ironing board dodging second!! It is possible everyone knew about Japan Open Grid except me, but for those of you who didn’t it is a real pleasure to introduce you to this friendly, fun, and exciting grid! Don’t forget to put Japan Open Grid gates up in your gate hubs!! I would like to thank the whole gang at Japan Open Grid, who never exactly gave me permission  to write about them when I asked on their Facebook page, but gave me some likes and told me to visit again. Which I did and wrote  6,661 words about it! I would especially like to thank my new friends Fuugetu Flowerbird and Tetsuya Takeda for taking the time to contact me and give me all kinds of information and feedback!   私は、私たちすべてと彼らの驚くべき創造性を共有するため、彼らのもてなしのために日本オープングリッドに感謝したいです。誰もが作成する任意の修正がある場合は、 me.Iは私が書いたものに多くの研究をやったまでお気軽にお問い合わせください、私は間違って何かを得た場合、私は謝罪し、喜んでそれを修正したいと思います。

And most of all I would like to thank  my beloved readers for continually joining me on my small adventures. Your company means more to me than I could ever express in any language. The sweetest of dreams and the brightest of days to all of my beloved readers! 別れ次回まで!

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