davemerrill: (Default)
So where was we. Sunday we went to Space Kinds and Sonic 44. Monday we got up and hit Nakano Broadway again with some living-in-Japan pals from a message board I'm on; we gave the place another go-round and yes, found shops we didn't see the first time. Also wandered around the shopping district next door and marvelled at the restaurants, the outside of one decorated with old anime-character Sonorama jackets:

Photobucket

Afterwards we got back on the train and went one stop down to Koenji and Gojira-Ya, which is a vintage toy store full of vintage goodness. The proprietor also runs a bar downstairs that was full of regulars at 4pm. Gojira-ya is kinda pricey but we did get out of there with a few things:

Photobucket

Finally got a Queen Cosmos from STARZINGER. It's missing stuff, but whatever. I won't be flying through space with it.

Photobucket

Yup, it's the UNICO pilot film. I didn't even know this ever got a proper VHS release!

Photobucket

This is Riko, the mascot for a bank, and is herself a bank! Cunning, those Japanese. Anyway Gojira-ya was cool enough to give us a discount. I recommend giving 'em a visit!

Tuesday we were off on another expedition, this time to Suginami and their Animation Museum!

Photobucket

This is another Tokyo municipality taking advantage of "cool Japan" to create a tourist attraction where once there was merely two floors of a very nice town hall. Outside there's bas-relief sculpture of your favorite anime characters:

Photobucket

And inside you're greeted by a big Gundam;

Photobucket

And an even larger Hakushon Daimaƍ (or "Bob In A Bottle" as he was known on YTV). Don't touch! Because I really wanted to touch Hakushon Daimao!?

Photobucket

The central pillar of the main room was decorated with what looked like original sketches from manga and anime talent:

Photobucket

RIKISHIIIIIIIII!!!

Photobucket

Photobucket

There's an exhibit of what Yoshiyuki Tomino's desk looked like in the 80s:

Photobucket

Around the room there were different exhibits - a range of TV sets dating from the 1960s until today screening different TV anime from the different time periods, a wall chronology of notable anime films and TV series, a booth where you can practice voice-acting an Astro Boy episode, and a room with crayons and coloring pages for the kids and digital coloring stations for the older kids. Upstairs there was an exhibit of original artwork from Studio Gonzo productions - but we weren't allowed to take photos there, sorry. A side room contained a manga and anime library. Apart from us, the museum's other patrons were kids and parents; kids were certainly using the manga library.

It was kind of a hike from the train station, and we wound up having to ask directions in the post office in our halting, foreign otaku cluelessness, but it was a pleasant day for a hike and afterwards we had cold soba for lunch and did some shopping in the local Book Off, and then it was back to Ikebukuro and air conditioning.
davemerrill: (Default)
Where was I? Saturday, Ultraman, etc. So Sunday was Wonderfest, which is a twice-yearly festival for model kits, figures, garage kits, toys, fandom, etc. We were thinking seriously about going, but we thought up several reasons why not. Firstly it's aways out in Chiba. Secondly we had plans later in the day which meant that we would have had to ditch Wonderfest after about an hour and head back to Tokyo. Thirdly, I have not built a model kit in twenty five years. I realize that it's more than kits and figures, but you know what, they have a Wonderfest at a time of year when it isn't a hundred degrees outside, maybe we'll hit it then. What we DID do was go to Asakusa, across town, home of the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple devoted to Kannon.

Photobucket

Asakusa is super touristy, as well as being a holy site, so there are lots of holy tourists inhaling the purifying smoke from the incense and taking photos of gods.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

This last one is a photo of the Tokyo Skytree, which is a new tower that has been built since the last time we were in Tokyo. Apparently it's the tallest tower in the world! (the CN Tower is now #3). Tokyo already HAS a Tower, so why exactly a new one was needed is anybody's guess, but judging from the packages and bags people were carrying apparently it's a hit with the shoppers.

Throw some change at the goddess and we'll move on:

Photobucket

The thing we had to do later in the day was to meet Ardith "Robotech Art Book 1" Carlton in Ekoda to see a performance by Space Kinds.

Photobucket


Space Kinds is a 14 piece band that performs music from anime and tokusatsu movies and TV shows. This isn't some kind of synthesizer karaoke thing - this is the real deal. The band has a brass section, woodwinds, guitars, keyboards, percussion, new arrangements, and occasionally they were joined on stage by Apple Pie, two female singers whom you may have seen providing the "children's chorus" part for anime theme songs on the "Super Robot Spirits" DVD. Introduced by and occasionally joined by Shocker-san, a former tokusatsu suit actor (GAVAN) and all around being of pure energy. So yeah, they did the theme to 'Hill Street Blues' and 'The A-Team'. Japanese Spiderman. Battle Fever J. Gorangers. medley of Mazinger Z music. Slower songs from the Gundam films. Orchestral stuff from the various Ultraman series. There was a rousing rendition of the Wonder Woman theme. So much music! In the audience was Yoshinobu Kaneko - he played Ninja Akakage's kid sidekick Aokage in the NINJA AKAKAGE series and his brother played Daisaku/Johnny Sokko in GIANT ROBOT - and Ichiro Tomita, who sang the theme songs for Goggle V and Albegas. So, yeah, it was kind of a whirlwind of anisong we were dropped into the middle of, there in that bar in a basement in Ekoda.

This was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for, this trip - the kind of experiences you can't replicate anywhere else. Hanging out with anime fans of our vintage, who speak our language even if they don't speak our language, if you know what I mean.

Too soon the show was over and we were back out into the sunlight, off to more adventures. Well, okay, to hang out with more nerds. And if there's a better place to hang out than Sonic 44, I haven't found it yet.

Photobucket

Sonic 44 is one of those dinky Japanese one-room bars, jam packed with diecast chogokin toys, jumbo machinders, figures, posters, toys, games, puzzles, you name it. This self-proclaimed "Otaku Bar" is run by Kimura, a groovy cat who may very well be the proof that great minds think alike - upon arrival almost his first words were "Do you know CHARGE MAN KEN?" Yes, there are people in Japan who share our love of Totally Lame Anime. In fact he made a point of showing us INVISIBLE DETECTIVE AKIRA, a pilot Knack made for another adventure show along the lines of CHARGE MAN KEN, only so terrible it failed to gain any sponsors. In between beers, marvelling at his YAMATO 2 pachinko machine, and watching his edited video of Condor Joe shouting "I'm going to fire the Bird Missile!", I really felt like I was home. Kimura actually does an "Anime Hell" type event in Tokyo, screening offbeat shorts and weird failures to a late night crowd of fellow obsessives. We're THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS HERE, PEOPLE.

Photobucket

Photobucket

And that was Sunday! I still owe Ardith Y2000, and many more thanks for making all this happen for us. Thank you Ardith!!

http://www.44sonic.net/
davemerrill: (Default)
On Saturday we got up and took the train out to Setagaya to meet up with Roy. Setagaya is near Toho Studios and as such is, or was, close by where Tsubaraya Productions had its offices, and as we all know Tsubaraya are the people behind that famous live-action SF superhero show that was popular the world over, Jumborg Ace. I mean Ultraman!

Photobucket

so the main drag by the train station is "Ultraman Street" and is decorated by a arch at each end featuring Ultraman flying overhead, giving traffic reports every 15 minutes during rush hour.

Photobucket

The streetlights are also stylized Ultra masks - most of them are regular Ultraman but a few are Ultra Seven.

Photobucket

If you need to find your way around, simply consult the Ultra Map!

Photobucket

Hey, uh, Ultraman, what's wrong with your, uh, area?

Photobucket

Now that right there is disrespectful to Ultraman. Anyways we wandered up and down Ultraman Street, and then we got on the train and went to Shimokitazawa and did some toy shopping, and then we got on the train and went to Roy's neighborhood and had some of the best sushi I have ever had in my whole life. We hung out at Roy's for a bit and looked at the Olympic opening ceremonies on the DVR and then it was back to the train. On the way we passed this guy's house:

Photobucket

Yup, a full-size Lawgiver from PLANET OF THE APES, just hanging out in somebody's front porch, dispensing the law to all who pass. Behind him is Grimace from, you know, McDonaldland. I will say that this trip to Japan wasn't quite as full as the 'what the hell' factor as our first trip was, which is understandable, but this image more than makes up for it. And from there we went to Higashi Nakano to meet Ardith, but failed to meet her because there are TOO MANY FAMILY MARTS IN TOKYO, but it's all good, we met up with her on Sunday! Which I will tell you about next. Anyway we went back to Ikebukuro and took baths and then went out to "Beersaurus" for beer and dinner and watching Olympic Judo on the TV. That's one thing about NHK's Olympic coverage, if judo is going on, they are going to cover it.
davemerrill: (Default)
Where was I? Oizumi Gakuen, having a mental debate with myself over whether or not to just wander into the administrative offices and either (a) ask for any character goods they had lying around they didn't want, particularly any older stuff, or (b) ask for a job. In the end I turned my ID badge in at the guard station and we walked back to the train station. We did stop off at MOS Burger for our MOS Burger fix.

From there it was back to Ikebukuro for cold showers and a change of clothes. And then it was off to Akihabara for our fix of modern "cool Japan" electro-maid idol technofetishism. Akiba is huge and we didn't get to see even a quarter of what's there - we did visit Golden Age, your stop for vintage toys in Akiba; we went to the Tokyo Anime Center which is closed for renovations (thanks for NOT telling us, Tokyo Anime Center website), we bought some junk in the TAC's gift shop. Then on to Mandarake, floors and floors of great stuff, where we bought shojo manga and more old anime mags.

Being tired and thirsty we stopped at The Idolm@ster Cafe - a theme cafe atop Akiba Zone, which is a building full of Akiba-type stores, cube stores, clothes, cosplay, models, toys, etc. Anyway you could either order from the Cardfight Vanguard menu or the Idolm@ster menu. Cardfight Vanguard is the latest "kids collect cards and throw them at each other" game, and Idolm@ster is a idol singer managing simulation video game. That's right, you take time off from your difficult job managing idol singers to play a game where you manage the career of one of five idol singers. Apparently this is entertaining. The cafe was full of regular Japanese teens and young adults all having fun ordering fruity drinks based on card-fighters or idol singers, wandering around looking at the production art and figures, or checking their smart phones.

On the other hand we could have stopped at the Gundam Cafe:

Photobucket

Sorry for the blur, that's caused by Minofsky particle interference, of course.

This is right next to the AKB48 Theater, which only confirms my suspicion that Akihabara is turning into Branson Missouri.

Anyway after refreshing ourselves we went out and did some more shopping, particularly at Comic Zin, a doujinshi shop on the main drag with a great selection of offbeat manga and doujin - not just the adult stuff that makes the headlines, but alternative doujin, including some aggressively independent self-published stuff that was refreshing to see.

Photobucket

Soon enough it was 9pm and everything was closing, so we went on home.

Friday was the 27th and that's our 10th wedding anniversary! And I can't think of a better thing to celebrate than doing laundry. Seriously though it was definitely laundry time. The Sakura has a laundry room behind the main building. The dryers, I might add, need at least an hour to get the job done, particularly when things are as humid as they were in Tokyo and the laundry facilities are just out back, under a roof but not in an air-conditioned room whatsoever. So I put loads in and we sat out on the patio reading and fanning ourselves, and every so often I'd go over and put another 100 yen in the machine.

That night we went over to Shibuya, home of the Hachiko statue, one of the busier train stations in the area, lots of crowds, hills, twisty little alleys, and me getting lost.

Photobucket

Eventually we found our destination, Mandarake, which is in the basement of the BEAM building. Apparently there's a TV studio in BEAM which explains why both times we've been there, the building has been surrounded by girls waiting for some sort of star to emerge from a taping of something. However, what I'm interested in at Mandarake is under glass:

Photobucket

Photobucket

That last one is some kind of Prince Planet bank, shaped like a 12 sided die. It was priced a little higher than I was ready to shell out for, so it's still there under glass in Shibuya if you're interested. So we did some prowling around in the basement and then it was time for dinner.

Since it was our anniversary I can't think of a more romantic place than Shakey's. Shakey's, the American all-you-can-eat pizza phenomenon that now has more restaurants in Asia than in the United States. I can reassure our readers that Shakey's hasn't changed a bit; the pizza is remarkably similar to what we remember eating as children. Of course in Japan the toppings sometimes get a little unusual. In other American chain restaurant news, the Outback in Shibuya has a TWO HOUR WAIT. No way, man.

After dinner we visited the Shibuya Book-Off for another round of used-manga searching - and boy, was that place crowded - and then it was back down to the train station and home. Tomorrow: Setagaya and Ultraman Street!
davemerrill: (Default)
Thursday was our trip out on the Seibu Line to Oizumi Gakuen. What's in Oizumi Gakuen? There's a movie theater and a mall, sure. It's also where THIS is...

Photobucket

Toei Animation Company, the people who brought you Captain Harlock, Mazinger Z, Galaxy Express 999, Dr. Slump, Fist Of The North Star, Sailor Moon, and Pretty Cure, among hundreds of other childhood-warping cartoons! This is where they do their thing. So we hauled out the directions Tim gave us three years back and set out from the train station in brain-warping heat. Next time I'm in Japan in the summer I'm getting a hat. Pictures and full details behind the cut!! )
davemerrill: (Default)
Tuesday! Another steamy day in Tokyo. Here a poster for Fist Of The North Star related pachinko fun looms over a muggy Ikebukuro.

Photobucket

That's where we went on Tuesday, back down to the east side to hit Toranoana, which is a chain of multi-story manga and anime shops filling all your anime and manga needs. Well, some of your manga and anime needs. I highly recommend everybody visit Japan, it's awesome, but if you're an anime nerd then visiting Japan will really open your eyes because the stuff that you think is awesome and super popular might not be what's awesome and super popular in Japan. Right now the big stuff in Japan is One Piece, Gundam (of course), Cardfight Vanguard, and more One Piece. I'm talking giant billboards, character shirts worn by non-anime nerds, entire shops devoted to merchandise, giant inflatable characters looming over amusement parks, that's One Piece.

Not that there's that much One Piece in Toranoana; the first floor is anime DVDs, second floor is professional shonen/seinen manga, third floor is doujinshi for the ladies, fourth floor is doujinshi for the men and the 18+ men. A surprising amount of the ladies-type doujin - meaning, doujin starring male anime characters who have sex with each other - is devoted to Tiger & Bunny, the corporate sponsor superhero show that was big one or two seasons ago. Well, they're doing each other. Surprise surprise.

We gave Toranoana the once-over and bought some doujin - I got some non-adult dojin starring Spongebob Squarepants and the little tiger Benesse Corporation uses as a children's mascot character. Then we hopped the train over to Shinjuku to visit Sekaido and marvel at their art supplies. Sekaido was absolutely jam packed with girl comic book artists poring over screentone and pen points. We hit the Book-Off, which was full of browsers browsing Y105 manga, and the Tsutaya, which is Japan's big video/book/CD rental chain that has the anime section like you wouldn't freakin' believe, entire series from the 60s and 70s and 80s on DVD and VHS waiting for you to rent. Then we met Roy under the Studio ALTA sign.

Photobucket

This is Shain in front of some kind of Hello Kitty bus in front of the Studio ALTA sign. Anyways Roy was our guide on our last trip, he's lived in Japan for decades and knows where everything is and we followed him in and around the twisty turny alleys of Shinjuku, through a tiny alley full of tiny bars and restaurants, up to a old school tempura place. Had a great dinner, caught up on the news, did some browsing in Bic Camera, had late coffee, went back to Ikebukuro.

Photobucket

Wednesday it was time for the pilgrimage to Nakano Broadway.

Photobucket

This is the mall where Mandarake has its flagship store, meaning two floors full of little Mandarakes selling toys, old manga and books and doujinshi, model kits, games, posters, records, DVDs, CDs, anime cels, etc. There are also non-Mandarake-affiliated vendors with their own shops full of cool old stuff. For a nerd like me Nakano Broadway pretty much needs an entire day devoted to giving it the once-over. We actually got there too early and had to wait for them to open up. Top tip: the escalator goes up to the THIRD floor, so if you take it up expecting to be on 3 and then take the stairs down, expecting to come out on the ground floor, you will be surprised. There are shops on the 4th floor as well. Wear comfortable shoes, take your time.

Some of the stuff we bought:

Photobucket

Prince Planet Sonorama!

Photobucket

Yup, that's a cel from ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

Photobucket

I felt like I had to buy this record from HELLHOUND LINER 0011 because I borrowed the image I used in the Let's Anime column from another source and I felt guilty. Anyway we shopped 'til we dropped and then left Nakano just as a high school band was setting up in the plaza next to the train station. Went back to Ikebukuro and took a shower, and then we went out to explore the neighborhood a little. Walked down the main drag away from the station and wound up at a Denny's where the road dead-ended into Expressway No. 5, across the street from an airsoft gun store. And that was Tuesday and Wednesday. Coming soon: Oizumi Gakuen and Toei.
davemerrill: (Default)
So yes! We went back to Japan. And yes, it was hot. Two showers a day hot. But July is our wedding anniversary month and it was our 10th and you can't just move dates around on the calendar to suit yourself, these things have to be done right. So off to Tokyo we went!

We packed up the night of Friday the 20th and by 11am Saturday we were out front waiting for the taxi to the airport. The flight was uneventful; I like an aisle seat for the longer trips so I don't have to climb past strangers to visit the facilities. 12 hours later there we were at Narita. We took the advice of our hotel and hopped on the Keisei Skyliner train from the airport to Tokyo; it put us out at Nippori, and then we took the JR to Ikebukuro, which is where our hotel was.

Photobucket

This is the Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro. Two buildings across a small side street, a sidewalk cafe that was always bustling with backpackers and tourists and locals, small but comfortable rooms at a reasonable price, I recommend it. It's a five minute walk from the station, but we took a cab because I don't mind getting lost walking around a strange city but not while carrying a lot of luggage

If you've ever been to Ikebukuro and you know where the Seibu is and the Sunshine 60 building and the Animate /Otome Rd area, that's the east side, we were on the west side, the Tobu side, the side with the topiary owls.

Photobucket

(that's Jim Reddy taking a picture on Monday).

Anyway we arrived on Sunday around 5pm and it was damp and cool in Tokyo, cooler than it had been in Toronto. We checked in and immediately checked to see what was on TV. When we first arrived in Japan in 2009, Speed Racer was on. What would this trip's television portend?

Photobucket

Ultraman! A fine divination. Actually the first thing on the first channel we checked was "Sazae-San", but that's cool too. Then it was time to explore the neighborhood a bit. Promptly got lost, but found our way back to the Sakura (local landmarks pachinko parlor, Mexican restaurant, karaoke bar) after some dinner (ramen). Then it was time to go to sleep 'cause we were tired.

Monday we arose, had some toast and coffee downstairs (all you can drink or toast for Y360) and then it was off to explore Ikebukuro. We made our way back to the station, around the station, through the pedestrian walkway under the tracks, and there we were on the east side where the action was. Also pretzels. Ikebukuro has a great pedestrian-only shopping district full of movie theaters, arcades, Tokyu Hands, you name it. Our first stop was Book-Off, the chain of used bookstores that has great stuff at great prices and locations all over Tokyo. Then we made our way down to Animate, thence to K-Books, and then across the street to the Sunshine City mall to get lunch and visit a friend.

Photobucket

Sunshine 60 is where they have an Ultraman festival every year. As near as I can determine this means they show an Ultraman movie for the kids. Anyway after lunch we met Jim Reddy at the Mandarake in Ikebukuro - this Mandarake is strictly for the ladies, okay - and from there we hopped a train to Kanda for more shopping.

I was curious to see if the infamous Tokyo Ordinance 156 would have made a dent in the doujin world. You know 156 - it's the bill that would commit the heinous crime of limiting the sales of adults-only material to adults - and if internet manga pundits were to be believed, its passage would destroy manga, anime, and life as we know it. Well, reports of the death of doujinshi have been greatly exaggerated. The only difference between now and what I saw in 2009 is that the adult stuff now has giant stickers on the covers, and that Animate no longer carries doujin. There's still a whole floor full of horrifying stuff at Toranoana, rest assured. But more on Toranoana later.

We took the train to Kanda because of two things - a craft beer/pizza joint Jim knew about, and the Kanda Kosho Center, a skinny building with a record shop, a book store, and a store called Nakano Shoten, an anime/manga/memorabilia shop with amazing sights for old showa-era fans such as ourselves.

Photobucket

Yup, that's original Gordian production art welcoming you to the store. On the way we stopped at Takadanobaba Station, the train station where they play the "Astro Boy" theme at stops because it's close by where Tezuka lived in the famous "Tokiwa" boarding house with Fujio-Fujiko and Ishinomori and other famous manga legends. There's also two giant murals of Tezuka characters on the wall outside the station.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Yup, that's Big X directing traffic. Also Tezuka character banners festoon the light poles:

Photobucket

Where was I - Nakano Shoten in Kanda/Jimboucho. We finished our drooling and shopping there and then moved on to meet Patrik W. at the Devil Craft, which was absolutely jam packed, so we went with our backup, cheap beer and yakitori and sushi at Susumu's, around the corner and up the dark alley. I hadn't seen Patrik in what, 20 years? He showed us pix of his new baby and we talked about old Atlanta landmarks and we had some double-wasabi-infused sushi that allowed us to touch the colors of time. Seriously, the stuff you get here is a mere shadow of the wasabi in the Home Islands. And that was our first day in Japan! More to come.
davemerrill: (Default)
Found in the Twin Gables Antique Mall in Clinton Tennessee...

Photobucket

A Child's First Book Of 100 Horrifying Japanese Spirits and/or Haints. ("Yokai 100 Monogatari") Illustrations by Shigeru "Ge Ge Ge No Kitaro" Mizuki.

Photobucket

Guaranteed to give your kid nightmares or triple your money back.

Photobucket

Alternate title: "Oreintal Book."

Profile

davemerrill: (Default)
davemerrill

July 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
234 56 78
91011 12131415
1617 18 19202122
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 21st, 2017 02:46 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios