I know, I’m pretty late on the blog, I’m so sorry about that guys, so here’s a list of funny things I found in Japan:
- Masks: It’s not a myth, I saw people wearing them everyday riding the metro. Friends told me it’s either because they’re sick, they don’t want to get near other people’s germs or they sometimes just wanna hide themselves in order not to be disturbed. You can even find vending machines in the toilets to buy some!
- Toilets: those high-tech toilets with included remotes are wonderful, you can get warm water to clean you, you heat the seat, you can put a fake flushing sound if you don’t want people to hear you doing your business, etc. We should get some of these babies!
- Vending machines: They are everywhere, either it’s drink or tobacco. usually people don’t drink while walking, they buy the drink, have it next to the machine and toss it before leaving. You can have either cold or hot drinks for about 150JPY. Plus I found some DBZ cans, I have to get one or two….
- Metro: It’s a nightmare in Tokyo, the system is quite complicated because you ahve different companies owning different lines, then you pay a different price depending on which line you’re taking, don’t forget to charge your pass by the way (it’s quite expensive), and sometimes to get to one line to the other you have to walk outside to find the next entrance….Pretty confusing, but luckily every sign is written in English, that helps a lot!
- Size: The good surprise was that Japanese clothes and shoes can fit the big European that I am! I’m not talking about pants (obviously my thighs are too big) of even underwear (obviously I have boobs…Alright, even in Europe I have big boobs). But!! I could find clothes in free size, L size, and concerning the shoes I’m a 39 (I’m tall but with small feet) and this is the bigest size they have in Japan but they call it “LL”.
- Schoolgirls hobby: One of the biggest trend was taking the “Kamehameha pictures” where one person is standing still and the others jump as if they were hit, we did our own during a BBQ on Kids’ Day. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that last week was Golden week by the way!
- Idols: I’m not talking about Jpop idols that I love, because obviously they are way less popular than few years ago. No. Oh no. I’m talking about the new kind of idols that are booming in Japan: the Anime idols. Or “how not-really-good-looking voice actors who can really sing become popular among girls”. I started to watch Uta no Prince-Sama because one of my friend was SO into it, out of curiosity. Now i’m doomed. It’s so cheesy and cliché that i found it awesomely funny, and the music and dancing are indeed catchy! But it also makes me sad for the real idols… the anime CD is twice more expensive than the KAT-TUN CD that I bought!!! T__T I mean come on, they’re even doing live concerts!!!!!
Tokyo Daigaku, aka Todai, is the most famous japanese university as it is considered the most prestigious one. The manga that made it popular for us otakus was Love Hina.
Todai is really huge, with a lot of different buildings everywhere. You’d think that you have the main building right beside the gate but actually you ahve to walk through an alley. It looked a lot like the british architecture.
The main building was more like a square where everyone can come and have lunch, some highschool students were taking pictures, a couple of old ladies were sitting under the tree chatting, it was peaceful and cheerful but it had nothing to do with the uni vibes I had in France. Actually it didn’t really feel like being on a campus…
On my way to the uni I managed to get lost in the district behind it, I walked in a bunch of streets, pretending to know exactly where I was going when the postman looked at me suspiciously, and finally ended in a temple where a tiny festival was held! Maybe it was the shrine where Naru and Keitaro went to pray….maybe it has nothing to do with it, who knows?
For those who are not familiar with Sailor Moon (and may I just had: Shame on you people!), it’s one of the most popular Magical girl manga of all time. It was created around 1992 by Naoko Takeuchi, was adapted into a 200 episodes anime and made the Magical girl stories popular again, inspiring many other stories and of course countless parodies and sometimes…disturbing cosplays….
I know: blonde with blue eyes, how Japanese she looks….But is that really important compared to the talking cat that comes from the Moon??
In reality, the manga is widely inspired from Azabu Juban but it’s not an exact replica of it. I found a pretty acurate website where the author makes the comparison between the anime/cartoon and the real hometown of Sailor Moon right here.
It’s already pretty well done so I don’t need to re-do it but well all in all I spent the day walking around the district, up and down the hills and visiting the shrine with a lot of emotion.
Sadly, as the story was created over 20 years ago, a lot of places have been destroyed or have changed but I still got the chance to have a glimpse and that’s what matters in the end.
After that, I went to the Tokyo Tower, the japanese equivalent of our Eiffel Tower…. Actually when we were younger my brother and I first thought it was indeed the Eiffel Tower…Hem. Well, anyway, the weather was quite rainy and windy that day but I still managed to get some good shots!
As I cut my hair few months ago I wanted to buy cute hairpins and headbands. And i remembered seeing some cheap ones in Harajuku! Takeshita Street is full of cute shops at afordable prices so that was the main attraction for me today.
Then I saw that the Meiji Shrine was open so I first stopped to visit there. Meiji Shrine is the most popular temple whereas Sensoji (the one I visited in Asakusa) is one of the oldest.
As it was Monday, it was not really crowded and I enjoyed the Azaleas garden, went to the shrine, walked through the surrounding forest, and did the prayer as indicated:
First, rince your hands and mouth before entering, at the place called Temizusha
Clap hands twice
and when you’re done, bow twice again.
Then I went to Harajuku, found what I was looking for, and a bit more, found several Idols shops and stopped by to get some Johnny’s’ photos for me and my friends before heading back home to watch Game of Thrones while having dinner from the conbini :D
The first thought I had when going to Shinjuku was for City Hunter, one of the numerous animes we were watching when we were kids and in which you have several scenes of Tokyo. I found a good article in french that shows the real places along with Tsukasa Hojo’s drawn versions right here. Those were the places I was aiming for!
Anyway, I spent the whole afternoon in Shinjuku and started with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the twin towers are quite recognizable, where you can take the elevator to floor 45 and enjoy the panoramic view of the city for free. You can even get a handy tour guide as well, quite useful with a map of each district of Tokyo with the main things to see in it!
On very clear days they say you can see Mt Fuji but I was not lucky enough. The funny part was when I took the elevator with a group of korean old people making jokes, laughing loudly and the poor elevator lady was just whispering in japanese whereas I, the only non asian person, was stuck in the back trying not to laugh. They looked exactly like a bunch of teenagers going out for the first time!
Shinjuku is very dense in my opinion, there are lots of a tiny streets filled with bars, restaurant, shops, pachinko and game centers. I even got lost in the station, it’s crowded, huge and a bit confusing. I headed to the other part called Kabukicho, quite famous for its ‘entertainement’ at night. I went through a street to spot a funny building then realized I was surrounded by pictures of women wearing hardly any clothes, with men standing in front of each stores whispering “DVD? DVD?” to the men walking by. One of them hesitated to offer me the DVD, stared at me until me and my mini skirt went back to the main street in an awkward silence. I didn’t even take a photo of the so-called building. I guess I would probably not go there at night!
I stopped for a snack before heading to Koreatown with one of the awesome crepes. I went for the Banana Chocolate Cheesecake Special!(yes, they put a slice of cheesecake in it.)
Koreatown is up north of Kabukicho, and it’s basically one main street where Idols Stores aligned with comestic stores. On each side you can find tiny streets with restaurants and cafes but I was really chocked by the huge amount of Kpop Stars gifts shops E-very-where. I went into one and it’s very different from the ones in Korea: several screens all along the walls displaying different music programs and movie videos, creating a wonderful hubbub that would give you a headache in 5 minutes!
This and the shining white spotlights that blind you whenever you walk into one those shops.
And just in case you have any doubt in being in Koreatown, pictures of G-Dragon are plastered freaking everywhere. I have to admit, as much I love Kpop….I got really scared…
The afternoon went by really quickly so I didn’t have time to eat anything else (even though I would have love some tteokbokki), I just bought a foundation powder, made jokes in Korean with the store’s assistants (aaah I miss Korea) then headed to Shibuya to meet a friend for a girls night at her place!
All in all, another wonderful day spent in the Holy Land :p
Today I wanted to visit the Ueno Zoo but realized it was closed on Mondays. So instead I went to Takebashi to visit the East Garden of the Emperial Palace….and found out it was also closed on Mondays and Tuesdays….Turned out almost everything is closed on Mondays…But well I had a nice walk through the Kitonamaru Park, where you can find the Nippon Budokan, the Craft Museum, the Science Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art and even the National Archives! I will go back later this week to make sure to visit, especially because the gardens have free entrance!
Then I headed to Kagurazaka through Shirogane, the so-called “French district”, which is mainly a street with a lot of european restaurants and bakeries, along with the traditional japanese pastries, cafes and restaurants. I once again bought a Taiyaki (my new favourite), then ate a Ramen as the cake wasn’t enough. I was a bit nervous to order by myself but I applied the legendary foreigner technique: randomly point something on the menu with a large smile saying “one please!”. It works, that’s all I need.
At the end of the day I went to the nearby station called Kurokoen where the Tokyo Dome is. As I watched several Jpop concerts DVDs, it was something I really wanted to see, but the To-Do is mainly known because of the Giants…I’m not really into Baseball actually but well there are shops for the fans around the Dome but also a baseball museum. In front of the Dome is located an Amusement park called Tokyo Dome City. I have to come back there as well… BUT, I found a shop I didn’t even expected well hidden down the stairs: The Jump Store!!!
For those of you who don’t know, Jump is one of the most famous manga magazine in Japan as it usually discovers the series that will soon become the most popular ones. The shop was quite small but you had several goodies of Dragon Ball, One Piece, Slam Dunk, Kenshin, Naruto, etc. I bought some, but not much….I have to admit I’m quite proud of the Trunks towel I just purchased though <3
Last Saturday, after spending the previous night partying with friends eating homemade yakisoba, we went to Nihombashi, fancy district with a commercial center with luxury shops. On the top level was the Dragon Ball exhibition, with original boards from Akira Toriyama, some of the original covers, and what I found funny was a corner with a video of the same scene in every different languages!
Photos were not allowed except at the end of the exhibition where you could have your picture in a Kamehameha stage set! Of course there was a shopping part that I had difficulties to avoid but managed not to buy anything….yet. Seeing Dragon Ball in Japan was quite emotional for me, I mean I saw the 30 years old ink! xD
After that we went to the cinema to see the new movie, I discover a banana flavoured popcorn served in a huge bucket for 600 Yens! You can buy a token for 200 Yens to have your seat vibrating during the movie as well, and as we went to see it in IMAX, let me tell you it was just excellent conditions!
Of course I didn’t get anything they said (or almost anything) but still managed to understand the plot (yeah, it’s not quite hard really…but it doesn’t matter it’s Dragon Ball ><).
For dinner our good friend Devil took us to The Lockup in Ikebukuro! It was an awesome theme restaurant, everything is made to look like a space prison, you enter the restaurant after walking through a dark mirrored tunnel, you’re greeted by sexy policegirls, the tables are in cell and at 9PM you have a special event: lights are down, monsters have escaped and attack you,
Everything on the menu is presented in chemists’ vials, food looks like experiment and you sometimes have some food to share with a little surprise in it. For example, you can order some potatoe cakes with one of them with hot chili topping, but you have to taste it to discover it. Same goes for some of the cocktails!
We really loved the design and the vibes of the place, the food was delicious, I have to get the pictures of the dishes but it was always funky and original (I personaly found it cute but that’s my opinion). If you get the chance I highly recommand the place as it was not really expensive as well. I wish we can go back there soon!
On my first day in Tokyo, I went to Shibuya to do some shopping. We got off at Omote-sando, and walked through the district up to Harajuku. I bought quite a bunch of stuff, specially in 109’s Garula and d.i.a, but as we have some Para Para nights out coming every wednesday, I needed shoes (instead of my walking boots) and something nice to wear in the civilization!
It wasn’t really crowded luckily but I know I will come back here often…Hem. The next day, I met one of my friend for lunch and ‘help’ him with his own shopping. No need to say that I was as helpful as the shop assistant! After that I joined my paralist friend in Roppongi for my first parapara night. I made a membership card as well, it was quite a moment for me! I had fun even though I didn’t know most of the songs but the mood was really nice, I met new people and I had free drinks all night :p
Tokyo Tower at night
The next day I caught up on sleeping as the weather wasn’t nice it was a good thing to do and yesterday I spent the day walking around Asakusa and Ueno Park. I went to the Senso-ji temple, visited the garden where they give you a cup of green tea that you can have watching the garden, had a good omen, had a bunch of sweets in the street then went to Ueno.
In Ueno, I went through the huge park where you can find a lot of museums and visited the Tokyo National Museum. The architecture is impressive and some of the museum have european mixed with their traditional japanese style. In the TNM, they organized a “Sakura rally” that is to say you go aroung the museum, collecting stamps and when you have them all you get a sakura pin. Yeaaaah \o/ Well it’s a nice idea nevertheless. After walking for more than four hours I went back home before going out with friends to a home party.
And today my friends is Dragon Ball Day so see you later!! :D
I’ve been dreaming to go to Japan for more or less 20 years, since the moment I understood that the cartoons I was watching with my big brother were called “anime” and were adapted from comic books called “mangas”. When people asked “why do you like mangas?” it’s like asking “why do you like Super Heroes?” Everybody loves Super Heroes, and let’s face it: what kind of heroes do we have in France? Bécassine?
Awesome drawing by Tico. Please visit the gallery of this artist on Deviantart!
With my big brother, we’ve been playing videos games and discovered heroes like Mario, Sonic, Link, Ryu, Chunli, Mai, Kyo and Iori. We’ve been worshipping Sangoku, Sailor Moon, Ken (Hokuto no Ken, not Barbie’s boyfriend….Well technically I had them too but that’s not the point!), Ranma when our parents were talking about Conan and American Comics. We were fascinated by this far away country and started to fancy Japan like our parents were dreaming of America when they were younger. Japan created a wonderland where we felt confortable, a fantastic world where we could be safe, far away from our daily life problems and/or bullies.
When growing up, internet helping, I fell in love with Japanese music, started to learn more about the culture, read books (real ones, without pictures, so hardcore!) about the pop culture in Japan, but also about geishas in ancient times (far from the polished image I had), about the troubles of a society that developed too much too fast, about work pressure, racism, teen prostitution. But I was also reading magazines about Japanese idols (you know, these guys that look like girls?), secretly dreamed of dressing up like a kogaru. I also read stories about students trying to enter Todai, stories about samurais wandering during Meiji Era, about angels being reincarnated, goddesses living on Earth, video girls coming out of the TV, and yes sometimes in all those stories you could find sex and/or violence but it was not the only thing there was, contrary to what the majority of people said.
Like every otaku, I started to draw and wanted to be a mangaka. I used half of my weekly lunch money to buy a manga every single week and slowly built my precious collection. I self-learned Japanese and then stopped when it got too complicated and taking classes was too expensive. I was called a weirdo in High School because I was still playing fighting video games instead of fixing my make-up like other girls. I bought Japanese cooking books that I seldom used. I wanted to eat watermelon on a wooden deck with paper doors behind me, watching the sakura trees blossom with a pig-shaped ceramic mosquito coil server by my side. I couldn’t sleep at night for years because I was scared that a girl in a white dress with long black hair covering her face would kill me and panicked whenever the phone rang in the middle of the night.
When I finally got to Paris after getting my Bachelor, I remember my brother took me to my first Japanimation convention. We were not weirdoes here, we found people like us, and for God’s sake they had goodies with a white kitten wearing a bow, how cute is that!? I had posters of Hyde next to Eminem (no need to say that I cried like a baby when he came to Paris with his group L’Arc-en-Ciel), watched Japanese dramas along with American TV shows, did musical video games competitions, learned strange dances in which you only move your arms, fiercely said to ignorant people “it’s not Chinese it’s JAPANESE!!!” and occasionally did cosplay as well.
I spent a good part of my childhood with two fingers firmly pressed on my forehead trying to teleport, walking around with a glittering pen that was supposed to transform me when I pointed it to the sky and shouting “Venus Power, Make-up!”, writing stories about how cold water would change me into an animal, throwing phone cards that never stuck in the wall with “Cat’s Eye” written on them or even holding a palm tree leaf while wearing a white dress, and when my desperate mother would ask “what the hell are you doing on the roof dressed like that holding this bloody leaf?” I would always give the same proud answer while the wind was blowing my hair in my face “I’m burning my cosmos!”
We just had different games….
After 20 years of saying “One day, I’ll go to Japan. You’ll see. One day.” I’m now looking at the blemished Kakashi phone chain my brother gave me 10 years ago when I moved from Reunion Island to Paris with a smile, thinking about our childhood. I even made a list of what I wanted to do, which places I wanted to visit. (Oh, when I say “a list” I mean the freaky one on Excel table with colors and sh*t…..What?)
So there it is. It’s Monday and I’m heading from Melbourne to Cairns and then catch a flight from Cairns to Narita, Japan. I told you I’ll be going there one day. And that day is today.