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JLPT Dec 2013: Reflections and resolutions December 2, 2013

Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Personal.
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行きましょう #JLPT

A post shared by Mun Keat Looi (@ayasawada) on

I sat N3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) yesterday. It’s the first test I’ve done in the new format. The last time I did it was passing the old 3kyu 5 years ago, back in the dark ages when there were just 4 levels and the test was just once a year.

A lot of things have changed since then – we now, thankfully, get to take the test twice a year and there is now a new intermediate test level bridging the chasm that used to sit between 3kyu and 2kyu. Still, some things never change: the whole thing still takes 5 hours – at least an hour longer than necessary – due to endless amounts of unnecessary faffing caused by Japanese bureaucracy. Why we have to rigidly be in our seats at the start only to then sit for 25 minutes staring into space is beyond me.

It was nice to get back into the swing of things though, and having a test to aim for certainly sharpened my focus over the last year of study, particularly these last 2 months.

So how did the test itself go? In all honesty, I’m disappointed at my performance. Devastated even. (more…)

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Souzou: outsider art from Japan March 30, 2013

Posted by ayasawada in Culture, Japan, Personal.
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Untitled (2013-03-26 21:20:53)

It’s not often (read: NEVER) that anything in my workplace crosses over with my love of all things Japan. So when my colleagues at Wellcome Collection told me that they were bringing a Japanese exhibition over I got very excited. What I actually saw when the exhibition opened this week blew my mind.  (more…)

A Japanophile in New York July 23, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Books, Food, Games, Manga, Personal, Travel.
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It’s a common habit of mine that no matter where I go on holiday, I always end up drawn to the Japanese stuff. New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, was no different.

As one of the most famous and most cultured cities in the world it’s no surprise NYC caters well for the Japanophile. So where should you visit if you find yourself in the Big Apple in need of a Japanese fix? (more…)

There and back again: from Tsubasa to XXXholic June 10, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Manga, Personal.
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XXXholicA couple of months ago, the last volume of CLAMP‘s long-running  XXXholic was finally published in English. It brought to an end (of sorts) Watanuki’s journey from boy to man, from student to shopkeeper, and given that the series also happens to have perfectly spanned my working life to date, I can’t help but feel a bit of empathy.

I started following XXXholic and its sister series Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle back in the Spring of 2004. I happened to get my first proper job at a place round the corner from one of my favourite comic book stores (the brilliant Gosh! comics, then in Bloomsbury, now moved to bigger premises).  Every lunchtime was spent spending my paycheck on numerous series, and having recently got into CLAMP’s works (like many, largely through a love of Cardcaptor Sakura and Chobits) I was excited to see these two crossover series, the debut titles from new publisher Del Rey, and so soon (relatively) after their debuts in Japan.

Eight years later, much has changed. Del Rey has now closed, my career has had its ups and downs, and so have these two manga.  (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…)

も一度日本にくる May 3, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Personal, Travel.
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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…)

My 2010 January 30, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Drama, Film, Manga, Music, Personal.
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I’m way late with this, but I can just about get this in before January is out.

Last year was pretty mad for me. But I continued to consume a healthy (some would say unhealthy) – though markedly toned down – amount of Japanese media.So here’s a quick overview of what I enjoyed in 2010.

(There probably are some mild spoilers in here, so beware!)

(more…)

Otaku display cabinet July 24, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Gunpla, Personal.
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A few months ago I bought my own flat.

One of my ambitions for owning a property has been to put my huge collection of crap somewhere. More specifically, I’ve always wanted a display cabinet full of gunpla, gashopons and other figurines ^^;

And here it is! (click through to go to the original Flickr gallery if you want the captions and other info)

Thankfully, this wasn’t as expensive as I’d imagined. Have a look online and you’ll find a heck of a lot of advice on inexpensive otaku storage. I discovered Ikea sell a range of affordable display cabinets including a few for under £50. This one is their DETOLF cabinet — very common in comic shops and otaku houses ^^.

It costs just £40 and features a lovely magnetic glass door and shelves. It also features an expandable hole at the top for lights if you so wish. It’s perfect for MG and PG gunpla, though the shelves do rattle a bit when I walk across my living room (possibly because I have wooden floors, so the reverberations are stronger than with carpet). The flatpack itself is also pretty damn heavy, but it’s easy enough to put together. You’ll need a second person to help you though, as the glass is heavy and you’ll want to be careful with it!

Ikea also have a smaller, wall-mounted cabinet (which I now can’t seem to find online) that looked good for those with a ton of gashopon. Maybe next year ^_-

An audience with Danny Choo April 14, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Culture, Japan, Net, Personal.
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Danny Choo in London

Danny Choo in London. Credit: Flickr/Dougal Wallace

On Tuesday night one of my heroes came to town. Given the nature of this blog, the name Danny Choo will be familiar to many of you — anime/collectibles/J-culture blogger extraordinaire, creator of dannychoo.com — one of the foremost otaku community sites on the internet. Oh yeah, and his Dad makes nice shoes apparently :P

In the four years since I started reading his site, I’ve grown to admire Danny for several reasons: 1) He’s a British-born Malaysian Chinese, like me; 2) He developed an obsession with Japanese stuff in his late teens, like me; 3) He is living his dream — running his own company and living and working in Japan; 4) He is 100% genuine, open and honest about who he is and what he likes (which has contributed somewhat to his achieving No. 3). And lest anyone forget, the man has a job where he gets sent the latest gadgets, figures and collectibles… for work! How many of us dare to dream that is even possible???

Danny returned to the UK for the first time in five years this week and gave a talk at his old University, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (which just happens to be five minutes from where I work). So on a sunny spring day, me and about 80 other fans, alumni and interested parties crammed into an underground lecture theatre to hear him speak about ‘Creative Industries in Japan‘. (more…)

Rawr! Happy New Year of the Tiger! February 14, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Personal.
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Gong hei fat choi/Gong xi fat chai to everyone celebrating Chinese New Year out there! May the coming year bring prosperity, fortune and other cliched stuff we talk about at New Year.

For want of a better image, I’m going to link to this lovely commemorative charm featuring Lum from Urusei Yatsura. For more see the original post on Fanboy.com.

Urusei Yatsura New Year Charm