Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harajuku, Shibuya, and Otaku Loot!

On Sunday I really wanted to show Sabrina Harajuku with all of the cosplayers. We woke up a little early to make sure we'd be there after breakfast and before noon, but instead of cosplayers there was some kind of dance troupe contest - and it was BIG. Stepping out of the station was quite loud and crowded. We saw a huge stage set up over the bridge where the cosplayers usually hang out and about 40-50 people were organized on stage in costumed garb dancing in sync to music (it was somewhat traditional music). After watching this for a bit we went to the fashion street Harajuku is most famous for:

It was exactly as I expected it to be - crowded and offering nothing in our sizes. The clothes there just too darn tiny for giant gaijin like us. Sabrina got to buy a few accessories which she was happy with but just ended up a bit disappointed that none of the clothes she liked had her size. A walk in the park to the big temple in the middle cheered her right up:

After Harajuku it was off to Shibuya! We did the tourist stuff - crossed at the giant crossing, pet the dog statue, went into Shibuya 109... Again, Shibuya 109 had stuff Sabrina liked but nothing that fit her...so we left.

Now Mandarake (a big buy-back store chain), that's the kind of place that has the kind of stuff we both were interested in. Oddly enough, Shibuya's Mandarake is located about 4 floors underground in a basement of...something. Unlike Akihabara's Mandarake which is 8 floors, this one is a single floor and stretches quite far. I love how its entrance was literally a cave:

We had some time after Shibuya to check out Akihabara on the way home again since Mandarake in Shibuya didn't have all the stuff we were looking for. We didn't really buy anything this time around (or go in anywhere really), but we did see this cool itasha Ferrari! The guy happily let me take pictures of his car. On our way out I saw him drive up the main drag again. It was clear he was just there to show it off...haha. I also snapped a shot of the sun setting over Akihabara as we were leaving:

The next day we did a lot of traveling from place to place. We went to the Pokémon Center early morning for some cool swag and I ended up playing a demo for Pokémon Black! Afterwards it was back to Nakano Broadway to do a quick shop for stuff we didn't pick up on our previous trip. My One Piece POP collection grew by Usopp and Brook that day...

And then today Boa and Franky came out, I headed to Akihabara to get my hands on them. Being the smart otaku shopper I am I know that some of the more hidden shops will offer 20% off retail price. I managed to get both of them for 20% off and I'm convinced I got the last Boa in Akihabara. The store I found her in I got the last one and I saw a guy buying 3 of her right there. He was in other shops earlier that day clearly looking for her (and it looks like he bought another one or two in shops where I must have just missed her). No matter, I got her, and the fact that someone is buying up the stock of her means that she's instantly gone up in value now that she's likely sold out everywhere (and on the FIRST DAY of release):

Franky is just awesome by the way. My only problem is his MASSIVE box. I'm going to have real luggage problems now. I have 8 POP boxes in my room...*sigh*

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Odaiba & Roppongi

So we woke up one morning to see our travel friends off (they were going back to Vancouver) and after they left we decided we'd go to Odaiba. It was on our list but we hadn't planned to go that day so it was rather impulsive. We walked up to Asakusa station and purchased tickets for a little ferry ride down the river (under 12 bridges) to the man-made island of Odaiba. I got to take some awesome shots of the Rainbow Bridge as we approached. For those who don't know this, Tokyo Big Sight (home of Comiket) is situated on Odaiba.

First order of business was to see a bit of a car showroom where you could test drive vehicles on a little indoor track. We quickly gravitated towards an arcade, however, and spent an hour there playing Project Diva, Beatmania, and Jubeat. After we were out of coins we wandered into a mall (we didn't even know this place was a mall). It was GORGEOUS:

I think this picture best does it justice. It was mostly clothing stores and such but it was nice to walk around in. It had a nice fountain in the middle we stopped to take pictures at and such. For dinner we had Italian food and decided it was time to head back to the mainland and check out Roppongi by night fall. We had the opportunity to take a train to a connecting line we wanted which ran across the famous Rainbow Bridge. It was great to ride across it after seeing it from the ferry.

Now I'd been to Roppongi before (and Roppongi Hills twice before) and decided it was nothing special. I thought, "I'll take Sabrina here, we'll see the spider, look at over-priced clothes, go home" - but it turned out to be so much better than that!

Sabrina really wanted to go to an art museum she saw on one of the signs so we decided to check that out. After an expensive meal over-looking the Tokyo Tower at night (hey, we had to do it once this trip), we found ourselves buying multi-passes for the observatory, the Mori Art Museum, and the dinosaur exhibit on the 52nd-53rd floor of Roppongi Hills. Our first stop was the dinosaurs (which had so much more than expected) where I saw quite a lot of castings of dino skeletons, full-scale life-like statues of the dino's, and quite a few real fossils as well.

Next up is the Mori Art Museum. I didn't expect anything really...maybe paintings or something. Turns out it was all full-on installations; as a media arts student this is right up my alley. First up was Tokujin Yoshiaka's contributions (hey I learned about him in class!): He had the world's largest piece of optical glass on display as well as this thing:

There were quite a few other notable installations as well but I think you're best off checking out what's available online. Looking over at the view of Tokyo at night was a great end to the day.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Ikebukero, MUJI, and Ueno Zoo

Day 3

I have a bit of an update to do now since I didn't blog yesterday. For the majority of our 3rd day we were in Ikebukuro (most specifically Sunshine City and Otome Road). The first order of business was to try and hunt down the ramen shop where last year Jon and Tyson loaded up on garlic - later making their room rank with gasses. I was sad to see the ramen shop was replaced with something else. That's not the only time this has happened either. The HMV in Ikebukero is now a Book Off - In Akihabara, Aso Bit City was replaced with a souvenir shop.

Otome Road is exactly as expected - lots of second hand shops and lots of BL doujinshi. A plus side to the second hand shops is that I think the items there are even cheaper than Nakano Broadway. I found just a few items from shopping there. After shopping I took Sabrina to an "auto salon" - 5 floors of cars (mostly new contemporary models with some concepts). It was a nice, relaxing, cool environment. Did I mention it's still hot and I'm still not used to it?

One of the main reasons for going to Ikebukero that day was for the Basara café Maryanne wanted to go to. It was a pretty interesting experience for sure. The place was full of girls and themed with posters and videos from Basara 3 (I think the whole thing was just propaganda for the upcoming PS3/Wii title). I had a drink that was themed to one of the characters (blue with a lemon on top for the helmet and 6 pocky sticking out of the top to represent his 6 swords). Food was pretty decent as well (although overpriced). I don't know a thing about Basara but I can see how fangirls can like this sort of thing.

We had a bit of time while things were still open to visit Ginza (our transfer point) on our way back. We popped up right in the Sony Building just as it was closing but we'll be going back to see the rest of the techy gadgets. I got directions to MUJI and walked the 5-10 minutes with Sabrina with eager anticipation with what I'd find. I found exactly what I was looking for - Naoto Fukasawa's wall-mounted CD Player!

Day 4

Today was great! Started off with the usual Denny's breakfast and grossing Sabrina out by eating natto (fermented soybeans - all stringy and smelly). As punishment for making her eat one (ONE BEAN!), she won't let me eat natto for the next 2 days. After this it was off to Akihabara.

Now believe it or not, today was the first day I actually went anywhere in Akihabara; The first day I just went along one side of the main drag and hung around outside the station. After being harassed by the maids we ended up in one of their café's doing the "moe moe kyun" over a melon cream soda...*sighhhh* :D

I love hanging around the back streets of Akiba, there's always some hidden shops. I found a narrow flight of stairs leading up to a really tiny 2nd floor shop where they had stock of everything new and at the cheapest prices in Akiba. I got a Black Rock Shooter figma for 400 yen less than the big shops and was able to find the Lucky Star X Street Fighter crossover Nendoroids that Tyson wanted. An overall good haul ended perfectly with Mos Burger (Sabrina stole a coaster). *nyuk nyuk*

Then to make Sabrina REALLY happy, we were off to the Ueno Zoo. Last year we only had an hour and saw what I thought was about half of the zoo, turns out it was likely about 1/3 of it. We dumped our swag in a coin locker and walked the scenic route through the blistering heat of the humid park towards the zoo. Starting with the section I didn't see last year, Sabrina and I spent a good 2 and a half hours just doing that one portion. There were more breeds of monkey than I can count. Best off to just look at the gallery on Facebook. I'll include one of this guy for good measure:

Here's an action shot of my Black Rock Shooter figma - This thing's of amazing quality:

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nakano Broadway & Square Enix Showroom

My second day in Tokyo I went to Nakano Broadway right away and had a thorough look through it. We were here briefly last year but only at the tail-end of our trip and we didn't get a chance to see everything. For those unfamiliar with this location, essentially it's becoming a buy-back version of Akihabara (and at better prices). I found things to be about 20% cheaper here and was able to find everything on my "list" at a better price.

For lunch I revisited to tonkatsu place near the entrance to Nakano Broadway and for dessert I went to a soft-serve ice cream place which offered 7-scoop cones. I realized that all of the stools outside this place were because Japanese people seem to frown on those who walk and eat simultaneously. We didn't care enough. I got a chance to play the Beatmania SIRIUS machine they had in the arcade before I left as well.

After Nakano was the trip to Shinjuku - a WHOLE STOP away! We walked about 20 minutes from the station to the Square Enix showroom and were greeted by a giant plush Tonberry and Cactuar. It was nicely air conditioned and the FFXIII piano soundtrack was playing in the background. Nothing much to report about this place except it was exactly as to be expected. Square Enix figures and jewelry, soundtracks and games, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. There were a couple of awesome 1:1 scale statues, however:

My loot for the day after finding everything for "rock-bottom" prices include One Piece POP Robin & Sanji, Nendoroid Reimu and Marisa, a One Piece flag (fricken huge), Cactuar cup (present from Sabrina), Rider Nendo-petit, Revy (Black Lagoon) crane prize statue, and a Professor Layton charm.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 1 - Akihabara and JUMP Shop!

Well I've arrived in Tokyo and already enjoyed my first day out. I have to first of all say I underestimated just how hot and humid it really would be. The heat I can somewhat deal with, it's the lack of escape from it I can't. Being in the shade or in the cover of night makes no difference, the air is so hot you can barely breathe. But, I will press on, it's for good cause! After all, my hostel has amazing air conditioning. Did I mention I'm staying in the SAME ROOM in the same hostel from last year? By special request they gave me my old room. :D

I spent my first day here (after a traditional Denny's breakfast) in Akihabara. This involved arriving there at 10:00, going to Kotobukiya first (waiting for everything else to open at 11:00), and working my way up the floors of the building making notes of the prices of things I wanted to buy. The day flew by. I only ended up going along the right side of the main drag. I also didn`t buy as many ``big`` purchases yet; I ended up making notes about prices instead in preparation for my trip to Nakano Broadway today. I have a few things on my wish list, the most notable being One Piece POP Strong World Robin and the TouHou Marisa / Reimu Nendoroids - all of which I've found here for substantially better pricing than I would have found online.

It absolutely sucks that the exchange rate has dropped, however. It means that when I run out of cash I exchanged back when it was about 10% difference, I'll have to pay 25% more for JPY instead.

Here are some pictures of the motherland:

My lunch was a ramen place on the top for of Yodobashi Camera most memorable from my last trip . We made our own gyoza sauce using everything we found on the table - this trip was no exception to that.

And let us not forget these:

After lunch we decided to go to the JUMP shop before we ran out of time in Akihabara (which we knew we would have). I was mainly in it for the One Piece stuff. There was a ridiculous amount of people in the store, so much so that it was lined up out the door to pay for stuff. I bought a Gomu Gomu fruit not knowing what would be in it (the thing had no label or price on it but I knew I'd have to get one). Opening it I found it to contain.......gomu gomu (gummie candies). So it turned out to be a "Gomu gomu no gomu gomu".

Annnnnnd here's my infamous swag pictures from the day:

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bound for Tokyo! (Again)

That's right. I'm off to Tokyo for the 4th time - I've gone every year for the last 4 years. The first year I went with just my dad and had a blast. The second year my dad came again but I brought my friend Jordan with me. The third year it was me and 4 of my friends - I played the tour guide having been there twice before. This time I'm going with my girlfriend! I have a friend from school and her sister meeting me there for 5 days as well.

I've thoroughly blogged about last year's trip here: Reminiscence of Japan

I'm staying in Tokyo for the entirety of my trip this year (Usually I'd go to Kyoto for a few days). However, I might take some day trips outside of the city but be back by night. I hope to spend a little less time at Akihabara this year and actually get a chance to do some OTHER STUFF. Last year was a ridiculous amount of shopping:

But I do hope to cosplay again. Sabrina wants to as well:

Some things I hope to do this year (Some I've done before but want to do again):

Tokyo Tower
Rikugien Garden
Ghibli Museum
Ganko Ramen (Grumpy old man in a shack selling ramen)
Good Smile Café
Pokémon Center

Some places I need to go:

Akihabara, Nakano, Ikebukuro (for otaku shopping)
Shinjuku (Square Enix showroom)
Odaiba (Palette Town, Tokyo Big Sight, Rainbow Bridge)
Harajuku (Fashion and cosplay, Yoyogi park)
Shibuya (Clothing, Mandarake)
Ginza (Sony Building, MUJI)
Ueno (Market, zoo)

I leave tomorrow afternoon and will arrive Monday night Tokyo Time - *Really* late Sunday Vancouver time.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anime Evolution 2010 Convention Report

This is my 7th Anime Evolution! I can't believe I've been doing it for this long. This year the convention moved back to the UBC Student Union Building (Where it was in 2008). I must say I actually prefer the UBC campus over the classic SFU or last year's Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Center. Although I miss the air conditioning of VCEC, UBC was able to provide everything in such close proximity and had the same homely feeling AE had back when it was still at SFU. They were able to improve on their setup from 2008 by adding a few new buildings for main events, gaming, panels, and the like. There was also lots of shade outside and plenty of room for nice photos of the cosplayers. Speaking of which, I didn't re-use any of my cosplays this year either - I was sporting 2 new ones.

Complete gallery of images I took can be found HERE.

My costumes this year were Lang from Ace Attorney Investigations on the Friday, and TK from Angel Beats! Saturday and Sunday. My girlfriend, Sabrina, dressed up as Shiina from Angel Beats! to go with my TK. :)

Above: Lang and Shiina - Below: TK and Shiina (Credit - Dan Wu)

This was the first year after all my con-going in the past that I actually stayed at the venue. Usually I would have to do the 1 hour commute each way (regardless of the venue) every day of the convention and often-times not even attend the final day out of shear laziness. We stayed at the Gage Towers which was directly across the street from the SUB (Main area). The Gage also had a few event rooms in it as well for panels and gaming which put us right in the middle of the action. I can't stress how convenient it was to be able to stay RIGHT there. I stayed in a 6-bedroom suite with some friends. I should probably mention that my situation was rather unique...I was staying with these folks:

Do you have any idea how green and purple our bathroom was? :P It was a real blast. I got to see and help out with the hour-long paint-up sessions in the mornings. Another life-of-the-con cosplayer was with us as well - Our room used for storage for my friend's Danboard cosplay:

Staying at the Gage had another high point as well. My friend (Shane) was staffing the convention and it just so happens that a floor above mine was having a staff party. They'd invited voice actors and some of the bands up to it as well. Shane convinced a reluctant me to get out of my PJ's and come up to join the action. When Sabrina, Shane and myself got upstairs, we went directly out on the balcony to stay a bit out of the way and see who might come out to join us. After about 5 minutes some guys show up. It turns out it was 3 of the members of Team Four Star - Yes, the DBZ Abridged guys. Voice actors and all. To be more specific, we were hanging out with Lanipator (Vegeta/Popo/Picollo) and Takahata101 (Nappa/Cell). They had a few drinks in them and were quite content just goofing off with us for about half an hour before they got tired and went back to their room to rest. I didn't let them get away without doing some of the famous lines for me. Takahata ended up kissing my hand before he left - A pretty random and eventful night. I was standing by the keg and ended up serving beer to people for an hour or so out there on the balcony. It was pretty good stuff.

I found the dealers room to be highly disappointing. Not that I don't appreciate the number of vendors or the quantity of merchandise available, but the only things I was interested in buying were all BOOTLEGS. The average con-goer doesn't care about that stuff but serious collectors were highly out of luck this year. I did end up buying a few small Chrono Trigger statues (which are amazing) and a bootleg Reimu (Touhou) plushie. I didn't mind the bootleg plushie of something for 1/4 the price of the real thing when I'm not treating it as a collector's item. I also think there was far too much fashion in the dealer's room this year. We needed a few more game vendors and figure vendors for my to be appeased.

Final Verdict:

Probably the best convention for me yet overall. Some of the previous conventions handled things better but on the whole this was probably the best for me. Just hanging out with my friends was what I valued. The events I went to this year were ALL good. I especially liked the Pokémon Theories panel that had a full-house. What's better than listening to a bunch of geeks argue about Pokémon? Nothing I tell you. As I said before, UBC was the perfect location for this convention. I was also never hungry like at previous conventions. The food selection here was incredible. Funny thing is, unlike previous years, I didn't make a huge amount of new friends...I think I kind of know most of them already. However, I'm already looking forward to next year and I've already started making my cosplay plans! Maybe I'll go to Sakura-con 2011 next April?

How should I end this...Oh yeah, I'm going to Tokyo in 3 days. :D


This was a really amazing One Piece group! The Robin is especially amazing! ;)

Pedobear X Danboard

Futurama for the win. They role-played their characters too!

Sabrina startled the witch!


Yaranaika? You never know when it's coming.

Meron-pan, OM NOM NOM!

These guys did a great in the contest.

There was so much Pokémon this year. You have no idea...

And on Sunday, a challenger appears!

One final picture I have to share, credit to Jun Ying:

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