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Sanrio: a place I’d like to work February 13, 2012

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Shintaro Tsuji

Shintaro Tsuji

I don’t usually expect to see Hello Kitty in the Financial Times, but as one of the most successful product lines of modern times, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. What did surprise me about the interview with Sanrio Chief Exec Shintaro Tsuji was how great the company sounds.

I have to admit, I’ve always been both charmed by Hello Kitty and a little sneery at the endless line of mass-produced character goods. Kitty is omnipresent (some may say omnipotent) and there’s almost nothing you can buy without Kitty on it, as Hello Kitty Hell will attest. I always saw Sanrio as the embodiment of the money-grabbing Japanese business spirit. But this interview changed all that.  (more…)

Kirishima National Park August 14, 2011

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Kirishima is a pretty area of parkland about 40 mins drive north of Kagoshima in Kyushu. It’s part of the ‘Kirishima-Yaku’ National park that includes the island of Yakushima and forms one of the biggest national parks in Japan. It’s also considered “one of the finest volcanic hikes in Japan”, at least according to my Lonely Planet guide, and was used as a location for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (thank you Wikipedia). (more…)

Hyper Japan 2011 July 24, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Culture, Food, Games, Japan, Manga.
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Hyper Japan 2011, a set on Flickr.

This weekend I went to the Hyper Japan exhibition at London’s Kensington Olympia.

A celebration of contemporary Japanese culture, it’s the second year the event has run. Having missed it last year, I booked my ticket well in advance this time.

Was it worth it? Yes and no. While I did enjoy bits of it, I have to say, overall, it was a bit of a disappointment. It’s largely another ‘pay high entrance fee to get into a space where you can spend more money’ do. And in contrast to, say, MCM Expo, there weren’t many ‘bargains’ to be had when you were inside. Most of the stuff, from food to figurines remained at a premium. (more…)

Koshien July 17, 2011

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Among my many ambitions is to visit the hallowed ground of Koshien Stadium in Osaka, home of arguably Japan’s most famous baseball team: the Hanshin Tigers. I finally achieved this last month.

I can’t really say I’m a baseball fan. It’s not shown in the UK so I don’t really understand the rules, yet alone the complicated stats and tricks that make it fascinating. My real reason for visiting is what it represents: a dream, or rather the goal of a dream. Every year, Koshien hosts the finals of Japan’s National High School Baseball Championship, and it’s that dream is immortalised in numerous baseball manga and anime, not least the works of Mitsuru Adachi. Having become a fan of Adachi-sensei in the last few years through Touch and Cross Game, a trip to Koshien represents a pilgrimage of sorts to me. (more…)

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. (more…)

Tetsujin 28 statue, Kobe July 4, 2011

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I saw the life-sized Gundam on my last trip to Japan, so it seemed appropriate to this time visit the other giant robot statue in Japan: Kobe’s Tetsujin 28. (more…)

Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum July 3, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Japan, Manga, Personal, Travel.
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Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum sign

One of the highlights of my trip to Japan was a visit to this shrine to the ‘God of Manga’ Osamu Tezuka.

Given how many times I’ve been to Kansai, I’d thought about stopping by many times before, but never quite had the time or inclination. For one thing, I haven’t actually read or watched that much of his original work. Probably the closest I’ve come is watching recent remakes or reimaginings, like Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto series. This is not to say I’m ignorant – I’m fully aware of Tezuka-sensei’s influence and history (it’s hard for any anime or manga fan not to be). In fact, one of the earliest anime I saw as a child was a bastardised cut of an adaptation of his Phoenix series. It confused the hell out of me as a five year old, but it says something about Tezuka’s vision that part of it still sticks in my memory despite my youth, not to mention the bad dubbing and editing.

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum is based in Tezuka’s home town of Takarazuka, an easy 40 minute ride from Osaka Station on the JR Takarazuka line. Exiting the station into a little shopping mall, you quickly find Atom pointing the way. (more…)

Japan trip 2011 July 3, 2011

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Kirishima-jingu torii

A few weeks ago I returned from my fourth trip to Japan. As usual, the time passed quickly and joyfully with just over two weeks passing by in a flash. In some ways, it was the usual whirlwind of a trip, but in many other ways, it was a different change of pace.

(I’ll drop in a few pics throughout the post, but as always there’s a rather extensive set on my Flickr. And just to warn you, this is a long post).

What do I remember from this trip to Japan? As usual it’s a hazy, jet-lagged mix of convenience stores, vending machines, shop assistants shouting “Irashaimaseeeeeee!!”, new friends, old friends, good food, PET-bottled drinks, 100 yen coins and being tired and excited all day every day. It’s the greatest experience of my life (again) and only reinforces how this is, without a doubt, my favourite place on earth.  (more…)

も一度日本にくる May 3, 2011

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Where I'm going, sort of, only without the forest princess, and the wolves, and the weird spirits. Ahem.

Its been almost two years since I last had a proper holiday. So having finally got some time and money, where else would I go but to the motherland. The fact that it’s also the last place I went on holiday is besides the point….

This time the itinerary is a little different. My original intention was to go north to Hokkaido, but recent events upended that plan. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know the recovery effort for the earthquake and tsunami is ongoing, with aftershocks still being felt.

(I’d like to point out, I’m not in the least bit worried about the Fukushima nuclear situation. Yes, the plant is still in danger, but there really is no danger from radiation unless you’re planning to go right to the area directly around the plant (and even then I believe they still have a 30km exclusion zone in place). It’s a conversation for another time, but the danger really has been exaggerated, or at least misunderstood. It’s largely the result of our human tendency to be alarmist and the difficulty in communicating jargon terms to the public. As someone who works with scientists and science reporters, I’m not in the least worried about visiting Japan.)  (more…)

Kokuhaku (Confessions) (2010) March 13, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Film, Japan, Rave.
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Confessions poster

A few weeks ago I flicked over the channels late at night and found Tetsuya Nakashima‘s Memories of Matsuko on. Unimpressed by the pseudo-Amelie wackiness of it all, the friend I was with sniffed at the nonsensical plot and overstylised visuals. “Where’s the substance?,” he asked.

With Kokuhaku, Nakashima finally answers such questions. It is simply outstanding; a film of profundity and raw emotion to match Nakashima’s undoubted visual flair. This is the film in which Nakashima matures, marrying beautiful slow-mo and overhead shots with a stunningly bleak colour palate to create an atmosphere and pacing that completely sucks you in. (more…)