In college, I remember watching the LARP club (live action role play) and being in awe. Each person took a weapon in hand, perhaps a spear or a katana, and “battled” on the campus lawn –a spectacle for the university to see. I was in awe though not because it was impressive per se (no backflips or parkour), but simply because their courage was strangely inspiring. Which leads me to ask: To live with such freedom from societal pressure, is it not essential to daily life?
A Hero’s Calling
I often participate in events that stretch my comfort zone. It’s part of who I am, or more precisely –who I’ve become since moving to Japan. As I recall, it was a hot, muggy day in the middle of June, Japan’s rain season, when a friend called me on the phone. He had invited me to a most peculiar event in Fukui, our neighboring prefecture. Here’s how our conversation went:
“Hey Zack. There’s an event in Fukui. It’s called the Kar rally. Basically, we ride a car around the prefecture all day and complete a bunch of quests. Later at night we will go camping in the mountains. The theme this year is video games”.
“Interested. Tell me more!”
“We will act as a party throughout the day, which means we should dress up as cast from a video game. Just like any other RPG, we have a main quest to complete as well as a variety of side quests.”
“Sounds awesome! What video game should we do?”
“That’s what I wanted to ask you. Please think about what video game sounds good, and let me know!”
“okay. I’ll also hit up some other people and see if they want to join as well”
–Two weeks later–
And like that, within a week team “Mother Lake” was formed, which consisted of three versions of Ness from Earthbound. Each color represents the different color schemes available on Super Smash Bros.
Day of LARP: The Quest Begins
When the three boys of telekinetic power arrived at Tsuruga bay, they met with a variety of video game casts: Three Tetris pieces; some Pokemon trainers such as Brock, Ash, and a cross-dressed Misty; the Final Fantasy 15 crew, and more. After making acquaintance, soon began some short instructions from the organizers of the event:
- Though shall not kill (kidding, a little bloodshed is okay)
- No lolligaging !
- Call in case of actual emergency (earthquake, tornado)
From here, Team Mother Lake departed from the parking lot, the first step of many to come. What lie ahead of them a mystery, what lie behind them nothing but a distraction. But what lie before their very eyes, the key to unlocking. But unlocking what exactly? This question, it seemed, would burn into their minds as they traveled throughout the day.
Pakman floored the gas pedal, speeding along the narrow street with Japanese lettering written upon it. At the intersection where they had stopped, a car full of Kirbys said cheerfully, “aaayoo”. Pakman simply glanced over, scoffed, then sped past the pink, puffy creatures. He said in a loud voice, “Snooze or lose!”, waving his red hat out the window.
“You’re so juvenile”, Scotty sighed as he sifted through maps of the region. “before you get yourself in a car wreck, take the second right coming up”, “Right, right, got it!”, Pakman said quite sure of himself. “Also, I hope you know the first town is supposedly modeled after Animal Crossing”, Scotty informed him. “I’ve never played the game, but I hope we’ll get to see lots of cute girls”, Pakman jested.
Zeke sat in the backseat and merely watched the trees zip past his eyes. He desperately needed some coffee as he was nursing a hangover from a Japanese drinking party the night before. “Just one cup, please”, he muttered to himself.
Finally when they all had arrived at Sandy Beach, they realized they were no longer in Fukui. Not really. They were now in the world of Animal Crossing, a world where cute animals roam about the land and relaxing music is played continuously. A world where you’re limited to pressing “A” for communication, and given only three options to any complex scenario. And of course, a world where animals can talk. At that moment, their senses were flooded with this realization that this 8-bit world would become their home just for just a little while. Glancing about the place, they noticed a fluffy dog who appeared to be eagerly awaiting their arrival.
“You’re Mother Lake, right? I knew it was you by the way you’re dressed. Isn’t polo shirts a bit … 90’s? Anyways, thank God you’re here! About a month ago, the King of Sandy Beach fell and landed on his Adam’s apple so he hasn’t been able to speak. Oh it’s just terrible. We rely on him for so many things, but one of his most important tasks is the peace building speech. People from all over Animal Crossing come to hear it. If he can’t give the speech, then the our world will fall into chaos again…. He said three boys poorly dressed would come. At that time, he asked I offer you this letter:”
To whom it concerns, if you’ve received this letter, it means you have been entrusted with the fate of Animal Crossing. As you know by now, my voice is all but gone. When I speak, there is an agonizing pain not only in the throat, but in my gut. Deep in my stomach, i sense evil coming from over the mountain. If I cannot make this speech –as it has happened before in the past with my Father —Animal Crossing will fall into a state of war. To please the gods, a benevolent leader (such as myself) is required to make the proper speech. Like medicine is to the sick, a king’s words are to the gods.
You understand don’t you?
There is only one option then, to restore my voice in time to sing praises of the gods. Go to Toi beach, a place far, far away from here, and you will find the famous Bee Hexagon, the only place in the world where Honey Antidote is grown. It is said that it can cure any cough or sore throat. I would go myself — but of course — animals, much less chickens such as myself can’t drive! we are afraid of the road, too, you see. Thank you for your servitude. Thank you a million times over.
-Your faithful King Sandry
After receiving such a request from the king himself, Pakman was feeling quite good about the road ahead. He began to run towards the car as he couldn’t hold back his excitement. He let out a big PK Fire, and nearly burned down the trees planted along the path. “We are gonna be heros!”, he said with a childlike glee.
Scotty followed from behind with his hands in his pocket, strolling along the burnt path, ever so cooly. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch”, he said. He walked and contemplated just what sort of place Toi Beach was, what the Bee Hexagon was, and more. Being inquisitive as he was, he thought about the finer details of the trip.
Meanwhile, Zeke walked alongside Scotty, and each of them asked each other questions concerning what the King would say at the peace building speech. “A speech to please the gods, i wonder, what could an animal say that could possibly please them?”,
“No kidding, but i don’t want to imagine a war-torn Animal Crossing. This world is too peaceful to imagine otherwise”. said Scotty.
Picture of Toi beach. 遠い literally means “far”
When they arrived at Toi Beach, Team Mother Lake walked along the beach and took in the grandiose view of sea, so pure it seemed you could see the bottom. Running ahead of the group, Zeke noticed a bee sitting on the shore, looking out in the distance. Her wide wings contrasted starkly with the wide-stretching horizon. Her expression was hardly visible behind the antennas that dangled in front of her eyes. Where she sat, the waters reached toward her legs only to retreat backwards. The rising and falling water seemed to speak in its own language, saying, “hello, goodbye” to the lonesome bee. While her head was still down, Zeke approached her and a cutscene commenced:
“This is where we used to sit. I remember like it was yesterday. After the firework festival in the summer, while we were still in our yukatas, we would escape the crowds and come here with Strong Zero’s in hand –just to sit here and talk about everything and nothing. In fact, it was just last year that he told me he could never imagine being with anyone else. At that time, I didn’t even have it in me to say the words he wanted to hear. i wasn’t ready, but, but now it’s different. I think i’ve made up my mind, but it’s too late.. “
She looked off in the distance contemplating the love she could have had. A single tear ran down her face. Unrequited love was the message of her heart, but she had to bear the burden of her secret. One that was even hidden unto herself until then. Zeke felt immensely awkward after hearing such a beautiful speech, one directed at no one in particular. He decided to click “A” to make his presence known.
“Who goes there?! You can’t go sneaking up on people like that!! I could throw you into the sea to die, I’m so embarrassed. I demand of you, tell me what you heard!”
- Tell her you heard everything <—clicks “A”
- Tell her you heard nothing
- Ask her where the bathroom is
“You know, you’ve got some nerve sneaking up on me like that… But i do appreciate your honesty… Well, now that you know the whole story, there’s no use in hiding anything. Let me tell you something more. He still thinks I don’t feel the same for him — but the truth is –I’ve made up my mind now. I want him, can you go tell him for me? He’ left for Obama as of last year, but our wings can’t carry us that far! But hey, you’re human! i’m sure you can drive there by car. You know, you kinda owe me one now.”,
After some deliberation, Zeke ahad compromised with Bee. She informed him that she would take him to the Bee Hexagon as an honorable guest where they could extract the Honey Antidote, as long as he delivered the message to her ex-lover.
The impression that Zeke received was one slightly desperate. She was crying one minute, furious the next, and then finally, happy. Still, he thought, it seemed like fate they would meet like this; each of them being the perfect solution to each other’s problems. “Anything for love”, she said as Zeke departed from Toi beach. “Anything for love”, he said to himself as he walked away.
When they all had returned to the car, Zeke reveleaed the next step of the journey. The two other 8-bit boys were chasing a chicken in the parking lot for some odd reason. “Guys, we gotta go to Obama. Today, we’re playing cupid, though it feels weird to say out loud!”, Zeke announced. “okay”, they replied and then bowed.
The day was overcast, but it didn’t diminish the attitudes of the three companions. Riding along the narrow road, many signs along the way indicated just how far they had traveled since they first began their journey. Kilometer after kilometer, they drove down the highway making jokes, taking pictures, and channeling their newfound spirit: to unlock happiness in others. Perhaps this is what their telos in this world.
Part 2: Obama’s Unlikely Problem
When they arrived at Obama, Pakman took the lead, Scotty and Zeke followed from behind. They began searching the town with a vague description of a bee by the name of Charles in mind. Hours went by, they searched across the town only to find a few dead ends. Still, they kept searching until suddenly they heard a voice from around the corner of a lifeless intersection. It was smooth and slow much like a southern baptist preacher. The voice was almost certainly Obama’s, but what he said was most strange:
I didn’t come all the way down to japan just to become a stagnant icon to the Animal Crossing world. They wanted me for my superior qualifications, image, and ability to speak quality English. But what I didn’t know was that I would become so useless to them. I’m petrified, literally! People come to see me on occasion, but it’s not the same; they just want to take pictures with me. But the truth is, they don’t actually care about the real Obama! No sir, they don’t!
They approached the statue slowly, almost cautiously, only to realize that Obama had in fact been transformed into a statue. It was a shock for the the party to see. No one ever said the words, but it was on everyone’s mind: “how could they degrade the president of the united states into a tourist attraction like this”. The party unanimously agreed –something had to be done. They approached Obama and clicked “A”:
Did you hear me say all that back there? well, if you did, i’m glad! I can’t stand to be treated like overpriced furniture anymore. I came to Japan with high hopes of changing the world. They said a person of my caliber would flourish. All they ever wanted me to do was to read this script like i’m some damn robot. I’m more than that. I’m a human being!
- Ask Obama how he got transformed <– Clicks A
- Ask Obama to read his speech
- Ask Obama if he was really born in the United States
I was a free man for the first year. I remember coming here and talking with all the locals about American life, teaching them how to be a better man, teaching English idioms. I fell in love with living here. Later I met a witch who spoke in tongues. I couldn’t understand anything she said, but she was very interesting. With her limited English, she promised me another job, a happier one where I could have more benefits. She said all i would have to do was recite this speech, which is the one I read everyday. Like that, boom I was transformed and now I’m no more than a symbol to the Animal Crossing world, but not an actual agent.
- Offer to help in some way <—Clicks A
- We’ve heard enough, let’s go
I may never get my freedom back again, but please do me a favor and move me into a location where I can speak with more people. here in this intersection, no one ever talks to me. I can’t find happiness in such a dismal place. Please, if there’s anything you can do.
Fortunately, this was an easy task for the three boys being advanced in telekinetic art. They used their psychic powers to move Obama from the alleyway in which he rested to the main town’s square. Here, Obama spent the rest of his days speaking to people about American culture, and how to speak eloquent English. Not one day went by that he didn’t remember the sacrifices made to make it to where he is now. He was so thankful that he even revealed a little secret:
Thank you for doing this for me. I am forever in your debt. I will tell you what you desire. Charles is by the old Cherry Tree. I’ve talked with him often, go there and you will find him. But i warn you that he is never going back to Bee Hexagon again!
Obama City is a actual place in Fukui Prefecture. When we first saw the statue, we were pretty surprised! In this picture, i got my hand stuck in a vending machine. Thanks Obama!
Off on another journey, after hearing the sad fate Obama has taken, only ever to be a icon to the Animal Crossing world, and hearing the love confession of Bee, the road ahead still looked uncertain. With empty stomachs and searching minds, they decided to take a pit stop. It began to rain heavily, and the party was dangerously low on HP. Asking around the car, they all decided to eat some soba.
Soba is made from buckwheat and restores 80 HP 😉
After resting for an hour or so, the party was back on the road. It was mid-afternoon and the rain seemed to bring out an excitement to finish the main quest. They hurried through traffic to the final destination: The Cherry Tree. Here they discovered another bee humming around the place. He had a certain air about him that screamed arrogance. He sat with his legs crossed reading a book on existentialism. They approached the man and clicked “A”:
So Penny sent you? hah, that makes sense. But It wasn’t just her, I had enough of that town. Everyone seemed to get into the same bad habits. Partying is fun, but enough was enough. i left because I wanted to start a new life. here I have it good. My work is easy, yet it is fulfilling. I get to read on the job, and everyone here likes me. There’s no way I’m going back to that forsaken beach-town. You gotta be out of your mind.
Option 1: Push harder, tell him this place is a dump
Option 2: Remind him how much Penny cares<– Clicks A
Option 3: Do nothing
Penny really said all those things? Last year on the beach was magical. From that day forward, nothing would ever be the same. I told her how I felt, but she never returned my feeling. I never knew that she felt that way… I have to see her! Thanks for coming here. I’m outta here man! Let’s go to Sandy Beach!
On the way back, with a new friend in the back seat. They blared Vampire Weekend, “here comes the feeling you thought you forgotten” played and they each made jokes about Sandy Beach. “yeah, no really. The king fell on his Adam Apple, and can’t say a word!”, a big guffaw was let out. There’s no way. How do you even land on your adam’s apple?”, Charles asked.
When they arrived at the bay area, Penny was ecstatic at the sight of Charles. It was jst like a cheezy scene in the Notebook. It makes you cringe, but you still can’t help but say “Aw”. She offered Zeke a honey antidote which was on her person at the time. They immediately ran to Sandy Beach and used it to heal the mayor. The mayor then expressed his gratitude to the whole town as he miraculously recovered from his lifeless state, just in time for his speech.
Can you imagine what it be like to go to sleep and never wake up again? The truth is none of us asked for this existence — we were simply thrown into the world. And this world can become a hell-hole or a slice of paradise depending on how you look at it. Perhaps the gods are outdated. In my silence, i’ve done a lot of thinking. We haven’t had war in over 2,000 years. What’s to say that it’ll happen if we don’t “Appease” the gods. I say, fuck em. As your king, humbly, i say, “fuck em”. Heaven and hell is all in the mind, choose wisely.
Finally, our main quest had been completed!
Coming Down the Mountain: Picking up the Pieces
After peace had been restored to Sandy Beach, the crew decided to retire at the campsite. To the top of the mountain they went, so high it had seemed they went beyond the clouds. Further and further away into the mist that enveloped the mountain; soon the people they had met along the way had seemed to become but fuzzy dreams. two lovers, Obama trying to escape the confines of his miserable existence, and of course all the memorable casts along the way fighting their own demons. In the depth of the mountain, one could almost feel they were somewhere completely sacred.
In these depths, a campsite lie. Here, everyone began to undress from their heroic attire. Indeed as we climbed the mountain, we ironically came down to earth. Around the campfire, we all put down our “swords” of hyperbolic tale, smeared the makeup of cosplay attire — and simply began to relate about living in Japan. We talked about everything from video games to culture to teaching English. It seemed on the surface all we had in common was our love for video games — but soon –it was easy to see that we had a lot more in common than just that.
In society, it seems there is so much hesitance to be truly yourself. In Japan at least, expression of emotion is often strained through a culture of uniformity. The nail that sticks out often gets hammered down. However, this event — it seems to me –was meant to foster such expressions of uncensored imagination, as well as to unite lovers of video games in Fukui prefecture. On this day, imagination and expression can run rampant.
To put it simple, before I admired those people larping on the campus lawn; now –I am one of those people larping on the campus lawn, a spectacle for the universe to see.
Although many details of the trip were excluded and perhaps entirely fabricated, here are a few more pictures to give you an idea of what it was like!
Final Fantasy 15 crew driving around in a car all day. Sound familiar?
An actual LARP battle on the beach
We also ran into some trouble with the Hikonyan
What are your impressions, let me know below!