Japan Trip Day 2 - 2013-07-28

We were a bit jet lagged today, so we ended up waking up pretty early and grabbing breakfast at the hotel. It was quite tasty! They have a nice lobby area where breakfast is served with windows looking out into mini-gardens on either side.

Our first task of the day was to figure out how to get some cash, since the ATMs had been giving us trouble. We got a tip that the Post Office ATMs worked with foreign debit cards, so we struck off to try that out. There was one about a 10 minute walk from our hotel, but when we arrived we saw that it didn't open till 9:00. We walked around the neighborhood a bit until 9:00, and were extremely relieved when the ATM didn't reject our card!

After that, we headed off to Hanayama's headquarters, where I would be participating in their first Cast Puzzle World Championship. The competition consisted of 16 participants, most from Japan MENSA society and a few from elsewhere in the world. There were three rounds, the first two consisted of previous Hanayama cast puzzles, and the last which had a new puzzle.

Since Hanyama has over 40 cast puzzles, that was a lot of puzzles that I needed to know how to solve! I had been practicing, but there are of course some that I'm better at than others. Fortunately, they ended up choosing one of my favorites, Cast Baroq for the first round. I did fairly well, placing fourth about 24 seconds. A three of the Japanese competitors had very impressive times, with the best one at 15 seconds!

After the first round, the fastest 8 competitors moved on! The next puzzle would be Cast Enigma: another fortunate selection since I had been practicing this puzzle recently. It is a classic Hanayama cast puzzle, so it was definitely a good choice. I did fairly well again, with a time of 1 minute and 13 seconds, enough to clinch 3rd place and make the cut to the final round! Woo hoo!

The final round was a new puzzle by Vesa Timonen, Cast Cylinder. This beast kept the final four competitors for over 20 minutes! I according the commentary, I was in the lead for a while at the beginning, but I became convinced that I was a dead end and headed back to the beginning to try another approach. Unfortunately, I ended up being unable to solve the puzzle and watched my lead slip away to come in 4th. Quite disappointing since it felt within my grasp for a little while there. Ah well, at least I made it to the finals! Masata Karatani came in first, followed by Isao Mananami and Yuki Yamada.

As a thank-you for participating, everybody got special gold colored copies of Cast Cylinder, with 2013 Cast Puzzle Championship written on the pieces. Very nice! Now I can get a chance to finish figuring this puzzle out! A big thanks to Teddy Sakamoto and the folks at Hanayama for inviting me!

The event was fun, but also stressful: solving puzzles against 3 other people while a crowd watches is a bit unnerving. I think I'll stick to solving in my living room!

After the competition, we headed out to explore the area around Hanayama called Akihabara. This area has all sorts of electronics shops, arcades, maid cafes, and other random things, so it was fun strolling around and exploring the various shops. Kellian wanted to check out an area between Akihabara and our hotel called Ueno, so we headed there for dinner. We came across a great Tempura restaurant, which was quite inexpensive but also really tasty! It didn't look like a lot of food, so we also got some hot udon soup, but that ended up being way too much food!

After that, we wandered around a nearby shopping mall before heading back to our hotel, quite exhausted and a bit jet-lagged. Quite a long day!


Anonymous said...

Wow, exciting news! Love all of the pictures and the updates...keep them coming and the two if you enjoy yourselves. :-) XOXOX John & Pattie.

Max said...

(my first comment seems to have disappeared, my second comment was a correction on the first, in case the first doesn't return. what I mean to say was..)

Way to make it to the final round Brian!

Also your play by play of your trip thus far has been a great read. Enjoy Japan!


Robin Adams said...

Congrats!!!! Competing sounds like an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing

Christine Crivello said...

We are so impressed with you coming in 4th. We knew you would be in the very top. Thanks for the great play by play, we live threw you guys. Have fun.

Teddy Tablante said...

That sounds sooo awesome! I can just imagine how frustrated I would get with that!! Yey Akihabara [they have really good arcades!!] Where is your hotel Ueno? Cuz there is a big district near Asakusa [a big temple a good set of souvenir shos] called Ueno / also Ueno park.

Brian Pletcher said...

Thanks everybody!

Teddy, we're actually staying one stop north of Ueno (Iriya station) at The Edo Sakura.