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Japan 2011 – the otaku’s tale July 4, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Culture, Japan, Manga, Travel.
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Atom statue

No trip to Japan is complete without a bit of fanboying. I’ve written about the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum and Tetsujin 28 statue already (the Tezuka museum was probably the otaku highlight of my trip).

This post is largely mopping up a few random observations and running through this trip’s haul of merchandise.

Random manga libraries

One of the pleasures of visiting Japan is seeing anime and manga, or related items crop up in everyday life. I came across many excellent manga collections on this trip – not least the Tezuka archives in the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum. But many of the hostels we stayed in also had shelves full of manga. Aso Base Backpackers even had several English translations – including the complete set of Akira and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster.

Naoki Urasawa's Monster

Even the less luxurious places like Little Asia Guest House in Kagoshima had plenty. I spent many a happy evening rediscovering the likes of Ranma 1/2, 3×3 Eyes and Golgo 13 in their original Japanese and browsing volumes of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game.

My favourite random library, however, was the one that opened for two hours in the middle of the four hour ferry ride from Kagoshima to Yakushima. I have fond memories of staring out to sea and bringing myself to tears by re-reading the end of Honey and Clover.

Manga, Yakushima Y2 ferry

Games

I didn’t visit many game centres, surprisingly, and most of them consisted of the usual UFO catchers and Taiko no Tatsujin (though I did discover that Taiko no Tatsujin can now tweet your scores, should you wish).

Taiko no Twitter

Best games I saw though was a double wide-screen shoot-’em up from Namco and the AMAZING 3D Metal Gear Arcade shooter, which comes with MOTION SENSING 3D GLASSES!!!! Between the 3D, wandering around the battlefield with a giant plastic gun AND being able to look around independently by JUST TURNING YOUR HEAD (yes, just like in real life), I went ga ga over this game (before being shot to death by the other players I was networked to). Now that 3D gaming is upon us, it’s surely only a matter of time until the motion-sensing glasses are available peripherals for the PS3.

Shopping

I somehow managed to do the sensible thing and deferred all purchases until the final few days of my trip.

The first places I allowed myself to visit were the Animate and Gamers in Kumamoto. These sit surprisingly prominently in the main covered shopping arcade, not far from the Sudoguchi gate of Kumamoto-jo. To be honest, though, they’re nothing incredible. Animate and Gamers are pretty standard anywhere you go (aside from the Ikebekuro Animate, which is just huge). I did, however, find definitive proof that iPhones have penetrated the Japanese markets – character iPhone covers.

Character iPhone covers

I got myself a cover and a screen protector, though I had to make a contract with the devil for one of them…

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Asuka Evangelion iPhone4 cover

Kyubey Madoka Magica iPhone4 case

Back in Osaka, I gave myself one day for shopping and a six hour time-limit to ensure I didn’t overspend (or buy more than I could physically carry…). Having familiarised myself with Den Den Town on my last trip, and being only 15 mins walk away from my hotel, I was there for what I thought was the 10.30am opening time, though it seems most stores lazily open up some time between 11 and 12. Weirdly, only the porn stores seem to be fully up and running at 10am…

When things did open, I hit all my favourite stores: the usual Animate, Melon Books, Gamers, Softmap and Tora no Ana. I drooled over the Gundam displays in Joshi, picked up some cheap second hand manga at K-Books and spent waaaay too much time browsing the mountains of figures, gashopon and other random merch in the excellent Super Position. In the backstreets the maids were out in force trying to drum up business for their cafes (which must have been hell on one of the hottest days of the year).

The Cospa store confirmed their reputation as one of the canniest producers of merchandise there is – T-shirts, posters, hooded tops and other assorted crap all featuring random, seemingly obscure logos and references that only fans would get (but would stealthily still look pretty snazzy to anyone not in the know) – and all at prices so goddam high they make you wince at the clash of ‘WANT!!’ and ‘CAN’T AFFORD!!!’ in your head. I saw Gundam jeans (with Zeon logo buttons), Girls Dead Monster band patches and stuffed toys of Botan from Clannad and that random dinosaur toy from Air. In the end I caved and picked up an Angel Beats! T-shirt featuring the SSS logo. Dakimakura were still sold for insane prices for a pillow cases.

It’s definitely worth comparing prices for any large or ubiquitous purchases (like Figma figures or Gunpla). Some stores, like Volks, have great cabinet displays but are overpriced for their main merchandise. Smaller, or more jam-packed, less-organised stores like Super Position can offer better offers. Or try specialist stores like the Joshi Gundam shop.

One Piece tatami seats

Anyway, this seems as good a place to move onto the loot.

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Yes, it looks like a lot of stuff. But most of it is omiyage (gifts). I swear.

Jewel in the crown is the 1/100 MG Unicorn Gundam – full-psycho frame version that comes with a cage stand. Goodness knows when I’ll actually get around to building this one. And Jesus, did that box take up a lot of space in my bag.

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Other cool things: A Tokyu Hands T-shirt from Uniqlo’s corporate cooperation range, a Figma of Evangelion’s Mari Illustrious Makinami that was 2300+ yen in most stores but I got for 800 yen in Super Position, a (discounted) Dragonball Red Ribbon Army hoodie for my brother, a Riza Hawkeye keychain, a gashopon of Chica Umino’s caraciture from her Honey and Clover side panels (!), an SD Tsumugi from K-On!, a random volume of Mitsuru Adachi manga for my Japanese practice, the new YUI single, Pokemon band aids, and the usual copies of Newtype and Hobby Japan (though one did come with a keychain of Mio and Sakamoto-san from Nichijou ^^).

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Actually, now that I think about it, I should have bought more for myself…

Random notes

  • Wifi was readily available in most of the hostels I stayed in. At the usual ludicrously fast Japanese speeds. Very useful for backing up all your photos at the end of each day or checking where the hell you’re going.
  • Don’t go anywhere without your smartphone. My iPhone was almost the only thing I needed on this trip, so useful were the apps. It served as my book, map, games console, Japanese dictionary and camera, among other things.
  • Fly Emirates. From the UK, the stopover in Dubai probably adds about 2-3 hours to your journey each way and the flight attendants vary from super helpful to almost rude. But this is more than made up by the very comfortable seating, an incredible selection of  movies, large(ish) screen and USB ports to charge up your stuff. And, above all, there’s an amazingly generous 30kg baggage limit. I can’t tell you how big a factor that is as an otaku who purposefully packs light…
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