Oh man, it’s already been a month since my last post. I was hoping it wouldn’t be such a huge gap, but I guess that’s how it ended up anyway. July was a really busy month for me and the biggest reason for this was my 2-week long trip to Japan with a fast-paced tour that went all sorts of places. It was quite an unusual experience and in many ways very different from America so it was strange to get used to, though it was certainly worth it. In any case, my Japan vacation was pretty long and there’s far too much for me to make any sort of detailed account of each day so I’m going to stick with some pictures and me giving some of my thoughts on it all. I’d like to say in advance that I’m a very, very lazy picture taker so there really aren’t as many pictures as there could be and my lack of enthusiasm to take pictures by the end of the trip means no Akihabara pictures, sadly…..in retrospect it would’ve been a good idea to have at least a few, but most of those electronic stores look identical and a vast majority of shops with figurines and the like (honestly, a lot more stores than just those throughout Japan) won’t let you take pictures either so I couldn’t have gotten too many great pics anyway.
In any case, I might as well start with a bunch of pictures since that’s probably among the more interesting stuff. I quite enjoyed taking pictures of whatever random anime stuff I encountered but there’s a lot more than just those:
Well, I said I was lazy about taking pictures but it felt like there were still a bunch in there, guess that’s what happens when I spend a good 2 weeks in Japan. I certainly could’ve taken more but I hope that at least gives a decent glimpse into some of the sights along the way during my vacation. As for some of my random thoughts on my visit to Japan:
- The subway’s definitely the primary mode of transportation in Japan, which was quite a shift for me living in America. Gas is supposedly a lot more expensive in Japan so it’s far more affordable to use the train, which goes almost everywhere with all the different subway lines.
- I’m pretty terrible at using chopsticks and avoided them for much of my life but had to use them a bunch in Japan. Somehow I managed I guess, and there were some places that gave forks (which I took the chance to use whenever they were around). Wasn’t quite as unmanageable as I expected, and I guess when you use them so often it gets easier, but some of those foods were still a massive pain for me to try grabbing.
- It’s a really awkward thing being Japanese American and knowing almost no Japanese. I look like any other local there and there have been occasions where people tried to speak to me and my other family members in Japanese and…..that didn’t go so well. While there are quite a few English signs around and it’s not completely unmanageable to be an English speaker going to Japan, I think I’d be far better off learning at least some Japanese by the time I go there again. It’s a strange ordeal attempting to get directions and dealing with being lost when none of the people around us fluently speak our language.
- That said though, according to our tour guide, Japanese people do study English to some extent, but it’s primarily reading and very little is spent on the actual speaking so even though they can understand some (and she said that if you write down your question in English they’d be a lot more likely to understand), they can’t speak it as well and find it hard to follow since fluent English speakers naturally speak a lot faster than they’d be accustomed to.
- I remember when I was younger, I fantasized about how Japan was some sort of anime wonderland and that it’d be all over the place. To be fair, if you know where to look, there are places that do have a lot of anime, but it’s not as dominant as an obsessed otaku might hope. It’s definitely not everywhere, though the more popular series do pop up quite a bit (particularly things like One Piece, Gintama, Kuroko no Basket, Precure, etc.)
- Manga and a lot of anime merchandise seem a good deal cheaper in Japan, but anime prices are insane. From what I’m aware, back when home video prices were really high, most products needed to have much lower prices to succeed in the market and so ended up being how they are today, but in Japan the anime front was sustained by a small group of huge anime fans who were willing to pay extreme amounts of money to support the series, and so the anime market never suffered enough that the prices needed to be lowered. As such, something that may be $50 when localized for America can be $300 (or even higher, god forbid) in Japan. Makes it that much harder for me to feel butthurt about Aniplex USA prices when I realize the alternative (without an English dub or subs, most of the time) is even more expensive.
- I’m sure the pictures I took give a good idea of this, but there’s quite a juxtaposition of the modern and the traditional in Japan. You might go to one town with much older architecture and a rural setting, and then not too far away go to a city with a modern feel and all sorts of popular culture scattered about. It’s quite an interesting mix and it’s definitely something you notice if you go on a trip that covers so much of Japan like the one my family took.
- The weather is…..eww. Being used to the mild weather of southern California, going to Japan wasn’t pleasant as far as the outdoors went. The humidity is atrocious and the summer heat didn’t help much either. I guess other times of the year feel nicer so maybe sometime in the future I can consider visiting Japan in a not so painful time. Still, I feel like Japan’s weather wasn’t quite as bad as Florida’s, though it’s been so long that I can’t be too sure.
As for the stuff I bought, there’s quite a nice collection of anime merchandise and the like that I purchased. I didn’t go crazy on spending, but I think I got more than enough as far as souvenirs from my trip.
So first things first:
Truth be told I was expecting to find a bunch of new t-shirts to get, though I actually didn’t find all too many I really wanted in the places I went. Luckily for me, when I went to the Kyoto International Manga Museum, they had some t-shirts and I saw this nice Homura one. I really wish there was a Kyouko one since she’s my favorite Madoka character, but this is sufficient too. There were some Senbonzakura (Hatsune Miku song) t-shirts too, but they were all pink or white (which doesn’t go too well with my wardrobe since I tend to stick with darker clothes for the most part) and didn’t end up getting them, too bad. I guess there’s always conventions to look to when it comes to t-shirts though, and I’m nowhere near any sort of shortage on them so it’s not as though I was too disappointed to only get this one.
I bought a few keychains too since I couldn’t go without getting at least some. So from left to right is Mikoto Suoh from K, Ryota Kise from Kuroko no Basket (along with Osaka Castle, I guess there’s a thing where Kuroko characters have keychains with various Japanese landmarks so that’s pretty cool), Daiki Aomine also from Kuroko (next to Tokyo Tower), and Ishida from Danganronpa. The Kise keychain was actually the first thing I bought in Japan so that made me quite happy, and I was disappointed since I couldn’t find Aomine for the longest time but was lucky enough to find him in a Shounen Jump store and didn’t hesitate to buy that. Since I just finished K and the K movie, I figured I might as well get a K keychain too and what better than the badass Red King? There was some Danganronpa stuff and I was eager to find an Ishimaru one. Not too many of those but I saw this Ishida one and just couldn’t resist, Super Saiyan Ishimaru is totally fine with me. Well, if anything Ishimaru’s more like Rock Lee from Naruto……Eight Gates Ishimaru?
I also bought these fabulous mini figures during my adventures in Japan. From left to right are Rider from Fate/Zero, Black Lotus from Accel World, Rin Tohsaka from Fate/stay night, Cyan Pile from Accel World, Black Hanekawa from Monogatari, and Asuka Langley Sohryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion (actually, I think she’s based off the Rebuilds of Eva, and apparently Asuka’s full name is Asuka Shikinami Langley there? I haven’t watched them yet so I don’t know much on that subject). I think all of them come from the various crank machine things you can find in Japan. Hanekawa and Asuka I got from crank machines in the Kyoto International Manga Museum, but the rest I found in stores when I went to Nakano Broadway. They all come in different pieces that you have to assemble together, so it was fun (if a tad frustrating since they have a tendency to fall apart and not stick so well) trying to put them all together. It’s nice to have something from Fate/Zero since Rider’s truly an epic man, and there isn’t a whole lot of Accel World stuff in America so I jumped on the opportunity to buy those when I saw them. There were a bunch of crank machines but only a few that had almost every option as something I’d like, so I just happened to get Asuka and Hanekawa and I’m quite satisfied with that. And of course, I just can’t go without buying something of Tohsaka since she’s my favorite character. Well, I say that, but…
…It’s not as though that little thing of Tohsaka was the only thing I bought either. One of the stores I went to in Akihabara had this fabulous Tohsaka Nendoroid. I was hoping for other Tohsaka figures to buy (there’s that really hardcore Unlimited Blade Works one, and one store I went to DID have that, but it was really expensive and had no box, which would be bad for the whole plane ride factor so…..that was a no go) but this one was really nice too. My sister said that back home she saw these for around $50, I think this was around 3800 yen or thereabouts, so I decided to get this in the end. Didn’t open it yet since there are LOTS of pieces inside and I don’t exactly have a whole lot of room to put them all somewhere neatly, but one day….
Beyond just buying the neat figures and stuff of characters I like, however, I wanted to give myself some incentive to learn Japanese. After all, learning Japanese seems fine and dandy, but there needs to be some sort of goal or reason to do so, and while I do have other goals, I figure this would be more solidified by buying something that would require my knowledge of Japanese to enjoy. As such, I bought the manga for Mozaik Role, which is one of my favorite Vocaloid songs. I really enjoyed the music video and found the story to be short but quite interesting, and it made me happy to hear that a manga was being made for it when I first learned that it existed. I have no idea how faithful the manga is to the video or what direction it will go in, but it’s worth giving a shot. Considering this probably won’t be localized (I wouldn’t even be mad if it was though) and only has 2 chapters translated online, I decided this would be a good pick to start off with. Nothing too difficult probably but still interesting enough to motivate me to at least get going with Japanese. Don’t wanna get my hopes up TOO high but I do think I’ll enjoy this one whenever I get around to it. But lastly…
My favorite purchase of the trip was the White Album 2 Premium Edition I found after extensive searching and frantically running around Akihabara hoping a store would have anything at all of White Album 2. It should be noted that the prices I found for this online were around the $100-$200 range, whereas I bought this for around $40ish. To be fair, I did buy this used, but it’s in really good condition in comparison to most used stuff I get in America, and it has all the contents that are supposed to be in here (a piano book, an art booklet, an audio CD with some of the seiyuu, and of course the game itself) so this was a really good deal. White Album 2 is among my favorite anime (and it pains me that I still haven’t gotten to my blog post about it despite having watched it about…..half a year ago now? Being behind on blogging is suffering) and I’ve been really eager to play the VN ever since I finished it. Sadly, only the introductory chapter has been translated (and from what I’ve heard, very poorly) so my hopes for a professional, complete patch of the VN are pretty low. As such, this is an even further goal of mine to learn Japanese. Not just this, but other VNs that may not be fortunate enough to have the English translation treatment. There’s a wide world of stories out there that I cannot reach because of the language barrier, and even though it’ll be quite the task, I’m sure I’d be happy to finally achieve the goal of having at least a decent understanding of Japanese so that I can experience some of them myself (though in all honesty, I think I’ll need more than a “decent” understanding to achieve this effectively).
So with all that said, my trip to Japan was quite fulfilling and definitely a new experience for me. In some ways it wasn’t quite what I expected, yet it was very worthwhile and something I certainly needed to really convince me to pursue learning Japanese. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the home of anime and such for yourself, and it does give me more perspective on some of the things I’ve seen in anime having witnessed them firsthand. I do hope that all of you who are inspired by anime and have a strong passion for the medium might one day get the chance to visit Japan for yourselves and find out how it is, as there really isn’t anything quite like it (though particularly for someone like me who lives in America). I’m hoping that by the next time I visit Japan, I’ll have grown quite a bit and have a firm understanding (or at least a good enough understanding) of Japanese so that I can manage there without being bewildered by my very different surroundings. I’m also hoping that the weather isn’t quite as agonizing for me when I go there again, but that’s something to worry about for another day I suppose.