A new pic, a quick doodle. I should be doing work ^_^;; but then I thought I'd have a quick go at learning about computer graphics packages and use of colour (of which I have no experience) (best viewed in 800 x 600)


Umm, not sure at present when I'll re-start regular updates to this page... Sometime anyway... ^_^;;


9 September 2007  

  • Added another chapter to my Seikai no Senki IV (Banner of the Stars IV) summary.  Actually, I read this chapter back in July, but didn't bother to write it up then.  I haven't picked up the book since July - no time.  No idea when I'll have the time to update the summary next.

15 July 2007  

  • Attended Phillip Brophy's presentation of "Tezuka: From Manga to Anime" at the Revelation International Film Festival yesterday.  An interesting talk about the background (of society, culture etc) in which Tezuka's works developed in the late 1940s of occupied Japan.  Shame that Mr Brophy ran out of time - there was a workshop scheduled in the Rev Club after his lecture.  With talks like this, there'll always be generalisations which don't ring true, but I think that's a function of trying to describe any subject within an hour - there's no way the speaker can go into a great level of detail.  And I sometimes feel with academic dissections of culture that they try to give a deep reason for every aspect of the culture.  As with GAiNAX and Evangelion, I think that sometimes they just do it because they think it's cool - no deeper reason.  But overall, a very interesting talk and gave me things to think about when next watching anime, particularly one based on Tezuka's work.  BTW, I think it's Phil Brophy's birthday around this time.
  • From manga and anime to Islam.  I've been reading the book The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight, about Islamic punk rockers.  I'm no expert on Islam.  I'd always thought that Islam prohibited the depiction of humans in art, but apparently (according to Wikipedia) the prohibition is against idolatry, not artistic representations of humans in general.  Anyway, there would seem to be little connection between anime and The Taqwacores, except that the narrator in the book does mention the incongruity of the fact that his relatives would buy him Disney movies but then tell him that it wasn't acceptable for him to draw people  himself  ^_^  Anyway, The Taqwacores has a lot of Arabic and Muslim terms (and some Urdu etc), so I thought I'd look them up for a deeper understanding of the references in the book.  And I thought I'd post up that glossary.  So here's another part of my useless projects.  Oh, and I watched Tezuka's movie One Thousand and One Nights today  ^_^
  • And from Islam to Iraq.  A moving report by The Nation (apparently a left-leaning/progressive publication in the US) on US soldiers in Iraq.  Makes me feel sorry for both the ordinary Iraqis and the US soldiers there.  No own wins.  As with any article about the situation Iraq, there will be critics.  So read the article, read the critics, and make up your own mind.

12 July 2007  

  • When I first created this webpage, I intended to post up only odds and ends of info, not maintain a news page.  In the tradition of posting up useless info, and since I'm pessimistic about Tokyopop licensing the rest of the series, I've been reading Seikai no Senki IV (Banner of the Stars IV) (or trying to, anyway).  I'll be posting up a summary here.  I give no guarantee about accuracy  ^_^;;  Updates will be irregular.  Firstly, I read slowly.  In addition, I'm often juggling several projects, reading or otherwise.
  • Don't know when I'll get around to posting up normal news.  I'd been hoping to re-start around April, but was still too busy.  Now, because of various things I've got on, I doubt it'll be possible until next year.  Still continue to be out of touch with the news, so even if/when I restart, I don't know what much use it will be.
  • Currently listening to doujin album "Rotate" by Yuiko (Primary).  Try out the samples on the official website:

6 March 2007  

  • Yeah, so I went on a trip to Tokyo at the end of 2006, start of 2007.  I arrived in Tokyo at the time of Comiket 71, so the first thing I did after leaving the airport was to catch the train to my hotel, dump my backpack, then head out to Tokyo Big Sight.  No one wears their cosplay outfits in the train - that'd be too weird.  But gothlolis can get away with it, and I saw a few gothlolis on the train bound for the convention.  First, I headed out to the doujinshi section of the event.  The place was packed with attendees.  (About 160,000 people attended Comiket that day.)  In some places, it was as cramped as a train in rush hour, and squashed between everyone else I was obliged to go with the flow of the human traffic.  With 35,000 circles taking part over the three days, there's no way you can visit each and every circle's space. I bought my copy of the catalogue before my trip, but the 1,400 page tome was too heavy to bring on my holiday (or even to carry with me the whole day), so I just detached the maps at the front of the catalogue, marked the location of the circles I wanted to visit, and brought the maps with me.  Some people just bring the maps like I did, while others rip the catalogue apart, re-bind the pages which relate to the particular day, and then just bring that abridged catalogue along.  Even if there weren't so many circles in attendance at the convention, you wouldn't be able to visit all the popular circles anyway, due to the long lines at those booths.  Those booths are normally lined along the wall of the hall, where the lines can stretch outside the building in an orderly fashion.  I got to the end of the line for ABe Yoshitoshi's circle Mutekei Romance at about 12.01pm.  The line was two people wide, but snaked back and forth six times.  The person at the end of the line held up the sign to indicate that this was the end of the Mutekei Romance line.  I dutifully took the sign from this person and held it up myself.  Not long after, someone else arrived at the back of the line and took the sign off me.  After inching along for 25 minutes, I finally made it back into the building again.  Now the line was three people across.  As I approached the front of the line, I was passed a sample of the doujinshi on sale at the stall.  I had a quick flick through, decided what I wanted to get, then passed the sample on to the person behind me.  At 12.43pm, I finally got to the front of the booth.  I told the female booth attendant which doujinshi I wanted (including the latest volumes, 7 and 8, of ABe's script collections for Haibane Renmei), paid my money, and left for the next booth.  40 minutes to check out one booth.  Each day the convention is on for about 6 to 7 hours only, and apart from the doujin circles, I still had to check out the commercial hall and the cosplay section.  No time to eat lunch (or breakfast, for that matter, since I'd rushed there from the airport).  It's best to attend Comiket in a group, so that each person can line up for a different circle's booth.  I went to the booth of Musashiseki Bombers, the circle of Watabe Keisuke (character designer for the Crest/Banner of the Stars anime series), but they seemed to have sold out of his latest book of Seikai rough drawings.
  • After visiting the circles I was most interested in, I went to the commercial hall (actually, photography isn't allowed on convention grounds, except in the cosplay area, but I forgot  ^_^;;  ).  Bought a few items there, including line art for the Kujibiki Unbalance TV series/Genshiken OVA series and line art and clear file for Getsumen To Mi-na.  I got a free bottle of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu water (just a bottle of water with a Suzumiya Haruhi label around it).  Bought the Pale Cocoon DVD - yes this anime is a few years old, but at least the DVD has English subtitles, and I got a postcard autographed by creator Yoshiura Yasuhiro.
  • Then I headed to the rooftop, to take some photos of the cosplayers.  It can be a bit of a rush trying to take your photos among everyone else, asking for permission and for the layer to look your way while lots of other photographers are waiting for their turn, trying to take your photo before the Comiket volunteer counts down to zero and asks the pack of photographers to break up, etc.  It was already pretty late by the time I got to the cosplay section, so I stayed there until they wound up cosplay for the day.  Then I headed back to the commercial hall for a short while before wandering about the two doujin halls.
  • The circles were starting to pack up.  In the dying minutes of the event, when half the circles had already completely packed away their merchandise, folded up their tables etc, I bought the CD -ROM of Kanden Chui's neko mimi dancing movie Funky Cat Maybe.  A cute little clip, if quite short at three and a half minutes for the price.  After the convention ended, I hung around at Big Sight for a while to watch the packing up, and take a few photos of the building.  And so that the lines for the buses and trains would decrease.  Then it was back to my hotel to formally check in.
  • To celebrate the New Year, the Japanese make their first visit to a temple or shrine for the year (hatsumode).  I headed to Meiji Jingu, one of the popular shrines for hatsumode.  I got to the end of the line seconds before midnight, and the line was huge.  Police were there to keep the crowd orderly (1.58Mb avi clip), dividing the attendees into large groups.  We inched along the path to the shrine.  (The theme of this trip seemed to be waiting in lines, and secondarily about food - see later.)  A huge screen was set up along the path so that people would have something to watch while they slowly progressed in line.  It wasn't until about 1.50am that our section of the crowd got to the front of the shrine (5.27Mb avi clip) and could throw coins and make our prayers.  Instead of allowing us into the usual offering hall with its coin box, and because of the mass of people attending the shrine, we were only allowed into the foyer of the shrine, the whole of the front portion of which was cordoned off so that people could toss their coins into that area.  Even so they had men with brooms to sweep up the coins that landed outside the collection area.  One person behind me threw a huge handful on coins- you could see the shower of metal.  The police at the front of the line wore hats with clear full-face visors (4.60Mb avi clip) so that they wouldn't be hit by stray coins.  I'd been warned that I may get hit by coins, or pickpockets, but luckily neither eventuated.  Exit to the right, and we then came to the stalls selling lucky charms and fortunes, doing a much brisker trade than during the rest of the year.  Having bought an omamori from Meiji Jingu on a previous trip, I settled for just getting a fortune.  My fortune spoke of feelings being in doubt (or something like that).  Sounded bad, so I tied it to one of the nearby frames in the hope that I've left the bad fortune behind.  Further down the path to exit the grounds of the shrine, and we came to the food and games stalls set up for hatsumode.  I had one skewer of yakitori (250 yen) - yum - and a "mocheese" (mochi stuffed with cheese and other ingredients) for 350 yen.  The yakitori was better.  Got back to my hotel at about 3.10am.
  • Actually, despite the unlucky fortune I got at the shrine, I was lucky with my accommodation.  I'd organised the trip to Japan at very short notice, and my first choice for accommodation was booked out over New Year's when I rang them.  So I was obliged to stay at a more expensive hotel in the same area of Ikebukuro.  However, youth hostels and other cheap accommodation tend to have curfews since they don't have people staff the reception at all hours.  If I'd stayed at my usual ryokan, I probably couldn't have gone out for my midnight hatsumode.  The hotel I ended up staying at was open 24 hours, so there was no problem with me returning after 3am in the morning.  By the way, the trains normally stop running around midnight I think, but for New Year's Eve, they kept the running, which was how I was able to get back to my hotel.
  • Speaking of trains, while I was in Tokyo, the screens above the doors on the Yamanote line trains were running their Berlitz 1 minute English ("Trainglish"  ^_^;;  ) lessons.  The English phrase featured in the ad this time was "have a cow".  Japanese riding the train were taught to use the phrase in the sentence "My wife will have a cow if I go drinking."  :D
  • Shopped at the usual places in Ikebukuro and Akihabara: Messe Sanoh, Toranoana, Animate, Manga no Mori, K Books, Character QueenLa Shin Bang  and Melon Books.  Also visited White Canvas this time.  The main White Canvas store in Akihabara was one of the locations used when filming the Densha Otoko TV dorama series.  I was mainly looking for doujinshi and character goods, since most DVDs, CDs, books and magazines can be ordered online nowadays.  One annoying thing is that some stores like Toranoana and La Shin Bang organise their doujinshi by circle name (and genre), whereas stores like Character Queen organise their doujinshi mainly by main author, meaning I had to try to remember twice as much info when hunting for doujinshi.  At Character Queen, which sells female oriented doujinshi, many of the all female staff were in cosplay (Bleach characters etc).
  • I picked up the Strike Witches pack of Miyafuji Yoshika figure, promotional DVD and a very nice little artbook (particular the colour pages in the first half of the book).  Available only from Toranoana.  Mysterious invaders attack the world.  In the Strike Witches world, there's a huge gaping hole where the Pilbara region of Western Australia should be.  It's up to magical girls who can merge with mecha to defend against the invaders.  Shimada Humikane seems to like this theme of girls and airborne fighting mecha, as seen by his work on Sky Girls (the latter in conjunction with Kuroboshi Kouhaku), another story about female pilots in mecha defending the world from mysterious invaders, although this time set in the future, rather than an alternate 1940s.
  • Animate has changed its point card.  Last time I don't think they asked for address details.  Now they do, so I was worried they wouldn't let me apply for a new card, but they accepted my application.  I traded in my old card (the points were transferred) but this time didn't get a chance to redeem any points.  As for Toranoana, this time when I asked, they let me apply for a card.  On past trips, when I asked, various Toranoana shop staff wouldn't give me one because I lived overseas.  This time, the sales assistant I asked wasn't sure, checked with another employee, who said "Why not?", so now I've got a Toranoana point card as well.  Though I didn't get to redeem any points on that card either.  Next time...  :P
  • Bought volume 1 of the mah jong manga Saki by Kobayashi Ritz, serialised in Young Gangan magazine.  Even though I don't know the first thing about mah jong.  I'd like to learn some time, though.  School student Miyanaga Saki is a gifted mah jong player from a family of mah jong players.  However, she only plays to get a plus minus zero score, and has doesn't like mah jong.  She's sort of bribed to join the school mah jong club and slowly finds herself enjoying the game.  Usual sort of sports/game manga stuff  :)
  • Outside the Kotobukiya shop in Akihabara they had their vending machine selling a maid cocoa drink and Armoured Trooper Votoms Uoodo original blend coffee.  You can choose to have it either hot or cold.
  • Also bought "Test Roll", the CD collection of illustrations by Yoshizuki Kumichi from 2000 to 2006.  Yoshizuki is the artist for Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto (Someday's Dreamers), both the manga and the original character designer for the anime.  A nice CD - I just wish it included a few illustrations as Photoshop files so that I could study the pics are created.
  • Saw an article in a magazine about the Musical Air Gear, but unfortunately I left Tokyo the day before the first performance.  Never mind, the DVD of the musical will be sold through Animate on 1 May 2007.
  • Picked up a copy of Yuki Nobuteru's 516 page book of his key animation art for the Paradise Kiss anime.  The first 28 pages have glossy colour artwork and scenes from the anime.  Nice.
  • While walking through Akihabara one evening, I came across a Sensei of the taiko drum arcade game Taiko no Tatsujin 9.  There was quite a crowd gathered around to see this expert perform (10.9Mb avi clip).  Notice that the drum sticks which he's wielding have no strings attaching them to the machine.  Note that there is another set of drum sticks (with strings) sitting on the console.  Yes, this professional has brought his own drum sticks to play.  After he had finished the game, the Master was given a rousing round of applause by his audience.  I'm being frivolous, but the guy was good.
  • I like the yon-koma (4 panel) manga Doujin Work by Hiroyuki, about a group of doujinshi artists, each with their own one-person circles.  I particularly enjoyed volume 2, where main character(?) Osana Najimi (who has poor art skills and whose doujinshi don't sell) meets Nidou Kaneru (who has equally poor skills and whose doujinshi also don't sell).  The two girls develop a rivalry during a doujinshi event at Tokyo Big Sight where their booths are next to each other.  Fun.  So when in Tokyo, I got the two doujinshi about Doujin Work by Jijou Seijunha (Hiroyuki's own circle).  Doujin Work is serialised in Manga Time Kirara magazine.  Volume 3 is due out on 27 March 2007.
  • Bought the trial version of the computer game Mari Un Zero 2, as well as the original Mari Un Zero card game.  The original card game was expensive second hand, since the product was sold out years ago.  The original card game and the original computer game version is basically a form of Uno, but the cards have illustrations of Maria-sama ga Miteru characters by over 50 artists including Utatane Hiroyuki and Ramiya Ryo, and in the computer version (both the original computer version and Mari Un Zero 2) as you win points, you can buy wallpapers, manga and new characters to play with.  Mari Un Zero 2 has different rules to the original game, but allows play over the internet.  Not that I've had time to play the game yet.
  • Enough talking about shopping for anime/manga goods (though I bought a lot more  ^_^;;  ).  Since it was New Year's, I thought I'd do some shopping for gifts at the traditional New Year salesin Ikebukuro and Shinjuku.  A lot of stores had sale attendants calling out to attract customers to buy their fukubukuro ("lucky bag" - sometimes a lucky dip, sometimes the contents are fixed and the store will display a sample of the items in the bag).  There were a lot of women walking around with bags of fukubukuro on their arms.  I bought a Swarovski fukubukuro as a gift.  Fukubukuro can be good value in that regular price of the items in the bag tends to be significantly more than what you pay for the fukubukuro, however, in this case the Swarovski fukubukuro was a lucky dip and unfortunately the jewllery inside turned out to be very chunky, so I doubt my sister will ever use it...  It took us some time to even work out what one of the pieces of jewllery was supposed to be  ^_^;;  I bought some (relatively) cheap cashmere jumpers and a scarf as gifts at casual wear store Uniqlo (which chain I see is hoping to break into the US market).  Bought some trendy hats for my other sister, one from the Takashimaya department store and the other from Peach Bloom millinery shop in the Lumine 1 building.  And bought some nice sets of chopsticks for my brother at homeware store Tokyu Hands.  These chopsticks are decorated with Japanese paper so they can't be used in the dishwasher or microwave, but they look nice anyway.
  • The department store Seibu in Ikebukuro had a troupe perform some traditional entertainment outside its store to welcome in the New Year.  Some juggling (2.20Mb avi clip), some music etc.
  • On to food.  While in Shinjuku, I passed the Krispy Kreme shop, which had opened only recently in December 2006.  The line stretched outside the store, down the stairs, and snaked around the building.  You'd think they were fans lining up for doujinshi at Comiket, not people wanting to buy fattening doughnuts.
  • I visited the Ameyoko (confectionery store street) market near Ueno station, where the goods on offer are much cheaper than the department stores and boutiques of Shinjuku.  Being at Ameyoko, I bought some confectionery, including a box of Nana confectionery, which contains one lolly (strawberry flavour of course) and a can badge, 15 badges to collect.  Yeah.  I also bought some Sakuma Shiki Drops, with the tin in the old style as featured in Grave of the Fireflies movie.  On the other side of the tin is the same artwork, but with a pic of the girl Setsuko from the movie, holding the tin.
  • I can't afford to eat fresh fugu fish, but I bought some yakifugu (dried grilled fugu) from a supermarket in Ameyoko.  Two types.  The plain type tasted like dried cuttlefish.  The shichimi yakifugu is nicer.  Shichimi is a seasoning made of seven spices which is used in various types of Japanese food.
  • I went to the indoor theme park Namja Town in the Sunshine City building in Ikebukuro.  I bought the basic entry ticket only, not the full ticket that lets you enjoy all the activities at the amusement complex, which is aimed at families (and is all in Japanese language only).  I went mainly for the food.  Had lunch at the Ikebukuro Gyoza (dumpling) Stadium inside the theme park.  Copying the idea of Iron Chef, the various gyoza stalls there battle it out to make the best gyoza (or other dishes).  Each round, they'll pit one of their menu items against the other stalls.  Customers who eat the particular dish will get a voting slip.  First I had a plate of Matsuzaka beef gyoza at the Teraoka Shouten stall.  Some people say that Matsuzaka beef is better than Kobe beef, but I think it's a bit of a waste to use tender beef in a dumpling.  (This was probably the first time I've ever eaten Matsuzaka beef, though I've eaten an Australian raised wagyu beef steak back in Australia - probably the sweetest, most tender steak I've ever eaten in my life - but expensive, in part because of the accompanying slivers of black truffle).  Anyway, the gyoza was nice and big, if quite pricey.  The Teraoka Shouten's offering for the gyoza battle was the Matsuzaka beef gyoza that round, but I forgot to vote.  Next, I tried the gyoza at Antei.  Cheaper, and the stall had a sign up with various newspaper clippings about the gyoza, but I found the thin skin of the gyoza often broke.
  • Still at Namja Town, at the Cup Ice Museum in Ice Cream City, where they have over 300 types of ice cream from all over Japan, I ate some India Curry Ice Cream.  This pale yellowish ice cream made by Fugetsudo actually tastes like a sweetish curry.  Those Japanese are weird.  But it was nice  :)  It even won 5th prize in a regional competition.  Then in the Tokyo Dessert Republic section I bought one of Sweet Factory Comodino's Premium Pot Puddings, which comes into a little pot which you can keep.  I spent way too much time at Namja Town, just wondering about.  Took some photos of the Namja mascots.  Other attractions at the theme park (besides the activities that the full ticket gives you access to) are the various fortune tellers and the various massage parlours (offering different types of massage: Japanese, Chinese, Thai etc).
  • I tried Yoshinoya for the first time.  After the mad cow problems with US beef in the past, beef is only slowly making its way back onto the menu.  When I was there, you could only order gyudon (beef bowl) between about 11am and 2 or 3pm.  At other times, pork is substituted (I think the pork bowl gave me diarrhoea  ^_^;;  ).  Still, the beef bowl is enough of their staple dish that when people walk in and order "oomori" (a large serve), it's presumed that they mean a large serve of beef bowl.  As of March 2007, I think beef bowl is available until midnight.
  • One night I bought take away from the local Origin Bento store and took it back to my hotel room to eat.  You can order from the menu, or just select what you want from the self-serve rows of bain maries (or should that be "bains marie"?) filled with various types of onigiri, croquettes, salads etc.  I ordered a roast pork and fried prawn bento.  Tasted fine.  Why is it even the cheap places in Japan seem to taste fine, while it's hard to get good katsu where I live?
  • I tried otoro sushi for the first time.  While in Shinjuku, I went to the basement level of Odakyu department store.  It was late in the day, so they were selling their remaining food items at a discount.  There were still a couple of boxes of sushi with otoro in them, so I picked one up.  The sushi came with a little freeze/ice pack to keep the container cold until I ate (I wish they did that in Australia).  Anyway, the otoro was certainly very tender - literally melted in my mouth.
  • And while shopping at one of the other department stores, I went down to their basement level to eat at one of the restaurants there.  Curry rice with katsu, and various condiments you could add.  Even there I had to line up to get a seat.  Lines everywhere.
  • While shopping in Akihabara, I ate at Toranoana's Cafe With Cat.  As with other cosplay cafes, there's a time limit on how long you can stay.  60 minutes in this case.  Along with the usual "no photography" sign there was also what seemed like a "no groping" sign  ^_^;;  Being around the New Year, they had a special promotion on, where the waitresses were in neko miko costume for the first three days of the year.  (I think the usual outfits are here - orange is the usual colour, but the purple top is for patrons who have accumulated enough "carats" - see below.)  I ordered the om-rice (omelette rice).  For the om-rice, your waitress will write the message of your choice in ketchup on your om-rice when she brings the dish to your table.  When my waitress asked, I couldn't think of what message I wanted, so I left it up to her.  She drew a cat face on the om-rice, then "* with cat" next to the omlette.  I asked her if I could take a photo of the dish, but she said no  >_<  I also ordered some kara-age to go with the om-rice, and washed it down with melon soda.  During those three days of the neko miko promotion, you got a free photo of a waitress in neko miko costume with each 1,000 yen that you spent.  I got one photo (I've obscured the face for privacy reasons  :P  ).  They also let me have a point card although I'm a foreigner.  For every 500 yen spent, you get one point (or "carat" of magical power).  Collect 3 carats and you get a free cigerette lighter, 10 carats gets you a free drink, 20 a free cake,  40 for a "grade up" to the different colour outfit, etc.  1 carat (ie when you're given the card) entitles you to have you name on your card (as "Master").  I went with "Natsume".  It's the only card I have with my internet name on it.
  • In Akihabara, I also ate at the branch of Negishi, which grills its beef and pork over a charcoal fire.  Its signature dish seems to be grilled beef tongue.  They use Australian beef tongue for some reason, whereas the rest of the beef used in the restaurant seems to be from the US.  Anyway, I went for the roast pork set meal, 'cos it was cheaper than beef (hey, I'm not rich), but it was great stuff anyway for 860 yen.  The well seasoned pork comes with barley rice, a yellowish grated yam (tororo, which you can pour over your rice) and ox-tail soup.  As with a lot of restaurants in Japan, you get free refills of rice and tea. I recommend this place.
  • I never really liked drinking cold tea, particularly cold green tea.  But this time around, I found it refreshing to sit down at a restaurant and get a free cup of cold barley tea (with refills) after a day's walking around Tokyo.  During this past Australian summer, I've been making cold barley tea myself during the particularly hot days.
  • Tea ceremony at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo.  Prior to the ceremony, I strolled through the hotel's very nice 400 year old Japanese garden.  For the tea ceremony at the hotel's Seisei-An room, the lady performing the ceremony was polite, but the ceremony seemed very brief to me.  I wonder if she rushed through things because I was a foreigner, and also the only person there are the time.  Normally I don't like maccha green tea as being too bitter, but I didn't find it too bitter this time.  I guess part of the reason the lady served me a red bean sweet before performing the ceremony was to offset the bitterness of the tea.
  • I visited Yokohama for the first time.  I went to the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum, which they call a "Ramusement Park".  Funny, huh?  The museum part is only a small part of the complex.  The rest of the building (apart from the obligatory shop, and the noodle making area) is devoted to recreating 1958 Japan (3.38Mb avi clip) with eight different ramen restaurants, 1958 style games and shops.  I started off with a mini bowl of Ryu Shanghai's karamiso ramen with pork.  Ryu Shanghai restaurant was established in 1958 in Yamagata prefecture (in north eastern Honshu), and its spicy karamiso ramen - with its thick noodles and rich soup - was created in 1960.  The red ball of karamiso is placed on top of the noodles when the ramen is served to you.  I mixed the karamiso into the soup.  Quite spicy, but quite nice.  The line was longest at this restaurant (approximately a 30 minute wait) but I think that was mainly because this branch of Ryu Shanghai had only opened at the museum in the last month or so, so people wanted to try it out.  After that, I had a mini bowl of wonton ramen at the branch restaurant of Harukiya.  This old restaurant was established in Tokyo in 1949.  After the rich flavour of the karamiso ramen, I found this lighter Tokyo style broth rather plain and ordinary.  For dessert, I tried "bon bon ice", ice cream sold old-style in a balloon.  The opening is tied up and when you buy the ice cream, the shop keeper cuts open the nipple at the other end of the balloon - you suck the ice cream through that hole.  You have to be careful to keep the end of the balloon in your mouth, otherwise the ice cream may later explode out of the balloon when it melts.  Also had some ramune, the old Japanese drink in the bottle with the marble.  Finally, I tried a ramen croquette - nothing special.
  • At night, seeing as I was in Yokohama, famous for its Chinatown, I wanted to eat something Chinese, so I ate at S-U-Ro Saikan (456 Saikan).  Owner chef Son Kan-gi once appeared on Iron Chef (episode 136: as "the Hope of Yokohama's Chinatown", he challenged Iron Chef Nakamura and lost in a battle of Japanese butterfish.)  The restaurant had a sign outside mentioning this appearance on TV.  I ordered the plate of five different types of dim sum.  Some of the dumplings were fine, others didn't agree with me so much, since I'm a bit (ie a lot) picky about food (I don't like ginger).  As Yokohama is the birthplace of ramen, I had intended to eat ramen there.  But in the end I only ate Yamagata ramen and Tokyo ramen, albeit in Shin Yokohama...
  • Almost forgot: while I was in the Queen's Square section of the Minato Mirai 21 complex (IIRC) in Yokohama, they had a woman playing the koto (5.32Mb avi clip) for the New Year.
  • I was hoping to have a kaiseki meal while in Japan, but no time this time.  I settled for buying the book "Kaiseki: the Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant" back in Australia, which was published by Kodansha International last year.  Wonderful book, about the kaiseki meals prepared by the Kikunoi restaurant.  If you love Japanese food and its presentation, I definitely recommend this book to you.  Kikunoi restaurant looks like a beautiful restaurant and chef Murata Yoshihiro explains the care that he takes in preparing his meals.  He explains that the taste of the water is an important factor for his soups etc, so much so that for the Tokyo branch of his restaurant, he has water transported from a well in Kyoto (where his main restaurant is).  Next time I'm in Japan (whenever that is), I hope to try either a full kaiseki meal (I've only ever had a mini kaiseki meal) or a wagyu beef steak (the steak I ate in Australia was great, but the very best quality meat is exported back to Japan, so we get to eat the lower grade - but still very good - stuff).
  • Movies.  During my trip, I watched a couple of movies, including Nana 2 and Rough.  Getting to watch Nana 2 was an ordeal in itself.  I didn't travel all the way to Tokyo to sit in a cinema, so I decided that if I had time left on the last evening before my return home that I'd watch the movie, which was on its final screening run.  The day before, I'd checked the local post office to see what time it closed, 'cos with all the stuff I'd bought I knew I'd have to ship some stuff back.  It wasn't all going to fit in my backpack, and even if it did, I would've been overweight.  So, 7pm, fine.  On my last full day, I made sure that I got back to my ryokan at about 6pm, then I packed all the stuff I was going to ship into a number of paper bags, and walked off to the post office.  It was closed.  I checked the sign about business hours again.  It was then I noticed that the sign said that the post office's "cash service" (ie ATM) was open until 7pm.  The post office itself had closed hours before.  All the post offices were closed by this time, and I had to leave Tokyo early the next day to catch my flight.  Fortunately I remember what a friend had mentioned to me a few years back, that there's a post office in Shinjuku that's open 24 hours.  So I rushed back to my ryokan, dumped all the stuff I wanted to ship into my backpack (there was a lot of stuff) and set off for West Shinjuku.  Luckily, that post office was indeed open.  I posted my stuff home and rushed to the cinema.  No time to drop off my backpack at my ryokan.  The final screening of Nana 2 for the day had started 30 minutes earlier at 8.25pm.  I told the ticket sales girl that I didn't care, paid my 1,200 yen, and went to watch the movie with my full size (though now empty) backpack.
  • As for the movie itself, it seemed a bit slow at the "start" but got better as the movie progressed.  It's a shame so many actors changed for this sequel - new Hachi, new Ren, new Shin etc.  It was disconcerting to see Ichikawa Yui as Hachi since I was used to Miyazaki Aoi in the role, but in the end I thought Ichikawa Yui pulled off the dramatic scenes well.  After the movie, I hung around the cinema until they opened the goods corner and bought a program for Nana 2 (they were sold out of the clear file sets).  As for Nakashima Mika (who plays Osaki Nana in both Nana movies) she seems to be doing all right for herself, judging by the amount of airplay her songs were getting while I was in Tokyo.
  • The Rough movie is based on the manga of the same name by Adachi Mitsuru.  I liked that movie too, with some good comedy at the start of the show.  Coincidentally, Ichikawa Yui had a role in that movie as well, and it's also directed by Otani Kentaro (who directed the Nana movies).
  • While on holiday, I bought the UK edition of the Densha Otoko "novel" (basically just transcripts of the 2 Channel discussions), which were published last year by Constable & Robinson.  Interesting how they classify the book as "fantasy"  :D Unusual to see English (as opposed to US) terms, in particular the word "anorak" being used in anime/manga related material.  Unusual, but I don't have a problem with it.  The US edition will be published by Del Rey in April 2007.  Note that this book by Nakano Hitori is said to compile only about 6.4% of the 2 Channel discussions.  There's a little bit of adult content in the published material, but none of explicit ascii art in the original threads appears, like the pics of masturbation or defecation  ^_^;;  Nor the book contain the paizuri movie discussion thread in which Densha Otoko makes a brief post  :P  I guess those parts aren't so romantic  :P
  • As for Nakano Hitori's flash, which was linked in his post made at 17:37 on 9 May 2004 (and which is mentioned in the book), the flash file was removed with the making of the movie and TV dorama series (in any event, warning notices had been issued for use of music in the flash in breach of copyright).  It's basically Japanese text from the discussions.  I'm unsure of hosting the flash file on this website, given that Nakano Hitori's taken it down from his own website, you can see a low quality version on Youtube here.  (I'm unsure of hosting the flash file on this website,If any one knows the name of that song, please let me know.
  • I thought it was great that they were able to get Nakatani Miki to play the role of Hermes in the Densha Otoko movie, since Densha Otoko had suggested that Hermes looked like Nakatani Miki.  I also liked the links that were created between the Densha Otoko movie and the TV dorama series, the way actors from one show had cameo roles in the other.  As for the Densha Otoko TV series, one thing I liked about the R2 DVDs is that the Japanese subtitles contain some 2 Channel terms, mainly the jisakujien ("kita" smiley) and the damepo.

18 February 2007  

  • Updated my cel gallery.  I hope to update the gallery later this year with just a few more cels.  Hope to update this site a bit this year as well.  First, I'll write a bit about my trip to Japan at the start of the year.  If I'm lucky, I might even start with some babble later today...

21 May 2006  

  • Back in early April I was updating my Air Gear doujin page (still in progress) and was entertaining thoughts of re-starting updating my news page regularly. But then my ISP changed hands, and the new owner decided to delete my site. And then, just as I was about to deal with that issue, my computer died. Now that I've got my computer back, and I've got a new domain natsumemaya.net, things have gotten really busy at work, which means no time to update this site properly. (If any links to portions of this site are dead, let me know.)
  • As mentioned, I've got a new domain now. I was hoping for a .net.au domain, but after looking around, I settled for the cheapest option. Thanks for kymaera for the suggestion on where to register my domain and host my site.
  • Today I bought and started reading the science fiction novel The Traveller by the mysterious author John Twelve Hawks, who is so secretive he(?) has apparently never met with his editors and speaks to them over an untraceable, scrambled telephone connection. (Yes, I know the book's been out for a while, but things take a long time to reach Australian shores.) The main female character's name is Maya - a good name :)
  • My tip for a manga to be adapted into an anime: Rappi Rangai by Tanaka Hosana. (Perhaps a bit early at the moment, since only one volume has been published date, but I'm guessing that an anime will be announced in due course.)

2 April 2006  

  • I thought I'd commemorate the impending broadcast of the Air Gear TV anime by starting a page on the various Air Gear doujinshi and doujin goods which are available. This is a work in progress. It's nowhere near finished yet. Air Gear inspires quite a bit of doujinshi, particularly female oriented doujinshi.

21 March 2006  

  • Forgot to mention one thing about my holiday in January... While in Hong Kong I had a look around in a bookshop. One series of books in the children's section caught my eye. Seems to be a series about a group of three young detectives. There are at least three books in the series. Here's the cover for one book. Here's the cover for the second book. And here's the cover and frontispiece of the third book (it's hard to tell from the small pic, but the guy in the bottom right hand corner of the cover looks suspiciously like Suzuhara Touji). I wonder if they paid royalties to GAiNAX... There are occasional illustrations in the books as well, BTW.
  • Perhaps this is old, but try this: 1. Go to the French version of Google http://www.google.fr 2. Type in "miserable failure". 3. Use the "J'ai de la chance" option (ie "I'm feeling lucky").
  • Work is finally reaching a manageable level ^_^ Touch wood...

14 March 2006  

  • An uncle of mine passed away on Sunday evening. He was the patriach of my father's side of the family. My paternal grandfather had a large family of 10 children. However, he died at an earlier age (long before I was born). My uncle was the eldest son (second child) and was still in high school at the time, but had to leave school to run the family business to support the rest of the family. At one point he fainted while in court or at the government offices dealing with my grandfather's estate. So my father and my other uncles and aunts owed a lot to him. RIP. He's survived by his wife, four sons and daughter (all of whom are very successful) and four grandchildren.

6 March 2006  

  • Annyeong haseyo \^_^/ Hope everyone is well (if anyone still reads this page). Actually I've been back home for 3 and a half weeks now, but firstly I was dealing with food poisoning and a sore body, then I've been really busy upon my return to work.
  • I'm still completely out of touch with things anime and manga, so I'll start by writing a bit (?) about my trip.
  • My holiday started off the same way my last holiday ended two years ago: checks for being a terrorist. This time, I got picked for one of those "random" tests to see if there was any explosives residue in my hand luggage.
  • I took this holiday mainly to redeem my frequent flyer points which were expiring on 31 December 2005, but also because I've always had an interest in visiting South Korea though I'd never made it there in the past (save for a few hours in transit at the old Seoul airport some years back).
  • Anyway, first stop was sitting in Singapore's Changi Airport for a few hours while in transit to Hong Kong. Did you know they have walking tours of Changi Airport? (Not that I signed up.) And they have employees who hand-scrub the little pebbles in the fountains :)
  • In Hong Kong, they had Naruto on TV in the morning, but dubbed into Chinese and titled "Hokage Ninja" (or however you'd say that in Chinese). For lunch I had McDonald's - a grilled chicken burger (avian flu be damned!) and got a free set of McDonald's red packets as a bonus (it being near Chinese New Year). I stayed in a hostel in the Mong Kok district, which meant I was only a few blocks away from Sino Centre, where there are a lot of shops selling anime/manga goods. But since I was visiting Tokyo anyway, I didn't buy much there. I did pick up the DVD of the Hong Kong action movie Sha Po Lang (SPL) while I was in Hong Kong - it's got some good fight scenes. And I also picked up a couple of artbooks by Taiwanese artists; the Taiwanese seem to be good at realistic art of Asians. I got the Vila Villa artbook by (Prince?) William. Good art, except why does the guy put pointy years on everyone...? And I got another artbook by Der Jen.
  • Since I was going to do some skiing in Korea at the end of my trip, and since I'd done very little exercise in the past two years, I figured I should try to get in shape prior to the skiing. So when I visited Lantau Island in Hong Kong I decided to climb up and down the stairs to the big Buddha statue on the island a few times, then climb Lantau Peak. The entrance fee to the big Buddha includes a vegetarian meal at the nearby restaurant. The vegetarian food was pretty good - until the cockroach scurried across my table a few times. I lost my apetite then. I bought a Buddhist scripture keyring though, to complement my Shinto omamori and Taoist amulet from previous holidays. After lunch I climbed to the top of the mountain, but unfortunately I hurt my left knee in the process. After that, whenever I flexed my left knee too much (going up stairs, and especially going down stairs) my knee really hurt. Great, two days into a month long holiday, and I'm already injured... And the view from the top of the mountain was pretty much obscured by clouds or smog...
  • Flew to Toyko. I got picked for "random" extra security search (again) at Hong Kong airport. The airline didn't seem to have any qualms about seating me next to the door on the plane and asking me to help in case of an emergency, though. Which I thought slightly incongruous.
  • In Tokyo, I shopped (a lot) at the usual places in Ikebukuro and Akihabara: Animate, Comic Toranoana, Melon Books, Manga no Mori, Messe Sanoh, Books La Shin Bang, K-Books, Gamers, Mandarake. Comic Toranoana was having a sale on old doujinshi, which was great ^_^ I managed to find a Tenjou Tenge doujinshi that I've been looking for for years ^_^ Also visited a number of other smaller shops. I quickly picked up the habit of a number of other people there: because the various shops have varying closing times at night, as each shop closed, I'd move to the next one (you see the same people at the next store ^_^ ).
  • At Ikebukuro there was also the store Character Queen which I don't think was there when I was last in Tokyo. Character Queen seems to be related to K-Books, since you can use your K-Books point card at Character Queen. Ikebukuro has quite a cluster of shops selling female-oriented doujinshi and goods, such as Character Queen. The Ikebukuro branch of Gamers was closing on 15 January 2006 so a lot of stuff was on sale. I had a look around but there wasn't anything which interested me. One night in Ikebukuro I heard the "yakiimo" call of the baked sweet potato vendor (in the mall on the way to Sunshine City). Can't recall if I've heard that before in my past trips. Nowadays, the vendor just plays a recorded message though.
  • I picked up an Animate point card and a Books La Shin Bang point card this time around. I spent enough at Animate that I was able to redeem my points ^_^;; Actually, one time in Animate I was so busy shopping I didn't realise it was closing time. By the time I left, there were staff on at least four floors waiting for just me to leave ^_^;; But at least I spent a lot there on that occasion and at Animate in general, including getting a number of Air Gear goods and buying some Detective Conan green tea cookies for Mr and Mrs Bear.
  • I bought a lot of doujinshi at Toranoana and tried to get a Toranoana point card but the staff wouldn't give me one because I live outside Japan. Among the doujinshi I got was kuroboshi kouhaku's Granada Level Q, which is an artbook by the illustrator for the Kino no Tabi (Kino's Journey) novel series. Actually, I prefer this doujin artbook to the Kuroboshi Kouhaku Art Collection book released in 2003. Granada Level Q has less pages (54 pages, of which 42 are full colour and the rest monochrome), but the pictures in the book are larger in size and use bolder colours. Granada Level Q has no artwork from Kino no Tabi, though, if that's what you're looking for.
  • Didn't buy much manga, since I can order that online. But I did pick up Samura (Blade of the Immortal) Hiroaki's single volume manga Ohikkoshi - Takei Teashi Manga Zenshuu, about a group of college students. As with any circle of friends, there's always one (or more) who want the relationship to be more than just platonic. Recommended.
  • One night in Akihabara I came across a lot of guys (guys only) lined up outside Akihabara store 14 of Sofmap (Sofmap sells electronics, including computer games and DVDs). The line stretched for approximately 72 of my steps ^_^ and extended across a road and continued on the next block. Sofmap seemed familiar with such lines extending across a road, since they had a printed sign setting out rules on how people should line up so as not to block traffic. The company was promoting the release of the trial versions of a few PC games and had set up a few tables outside its store. Five girls (in cosplay) and a guy (not in cosplay) were distributing the promotional material. There was an official photographer to record the events. How do I know this? Because the official photographer told me it was prohibited for me to take photos >_< I decided to join the line ^_^ (it seemed like a Genshiken kind of thing to do - lining up at night to get some PC game). The girls handed out 4 CD-ROMs, a few pamphlets and one or two posters to each person. By the time I got to the tables, they were out of posters, but I got everything else ^_^ (not that I play computer games). The CD-ROMs contained the trial versions for the *adult* games Happy Christmas, Musunde Hiraite, Kono Aozora ni Yakusoku wo and Imitation Lover (links contain adult material). Everything was done efficiently - they started distribution at 8.15pm and had packed up by 8.30pm. After that I had dinner at Mos Burger where I had a hot maccha (ie green tea) latte, katsu burger and BBQ focaccia (the focaccia available for a limited time only). The maccha latte was terrible (then again, I don't really like maccha) and the focaccia was okay, but it was like no focaccia I've ever seen before.
  • I think I saw more maid cosplayers on the streets of Akihabara this time, advertising not only maid cafes, but now also other things such as massage. For example, Milky Angel, a "reflexology salon", opened its doors in Akihabara in November 2005, I think. There, the staff dressed in maid outfits offer hand and foot massage, footbaths, etc. Prices start at 525 yen for a footbath.
  • This time I was in Tokyo it was the sumo season, so I spent a day watching sumo wrestling at Ryogoku Kokugikan. I got a masu (cushion seat) C reserve ticket on the ground floor. Even that cost 9,200 yen. There are much cheaper tickets if you want a fixed (Western) seat on the first floor. My cushion was in a box of six seats, but since the other ticket holders hadn't turned up yet, I was able to stretch out my legs over two cushions in the morning. There are sumo bouts over the whole day, but they start with the unknown wrestlers and work up to the famous wrestlers at the end of the day, so the arena slowly fills up over the course of the day. At noon I lined up for a bowl of chanko at the wrestlers' training area. Chanko is the soup that the wrestlers eat to bulk up. The soup is full of various ingredients. It tasted good, except for the liver and egg yolk (I don't like eggs, or liver, for that matter). In the afternoon you can hire a radio for an English language commentary of the final bouts (refundable deposit of 2,000 yen). By this time, the other five ticket holders in my box had arrived, one couple with their adult son and a father with his young son. Six people on cushions in the box can feel pretty cramped, particularly with a dicky knee. By the time of the final bouts, there was only an empty seat or two here and there on the ground floor. Quite a number of empty seats on the first floor, though. Some people would just watch from the door/corridor of the ground floor. The crowd saved their biggest cheers for Kotooshu, the Bulgarian wrestler who just turned 23 in February. He is the first European to reach the rank of ozeki (champion). In the past, when he won tournaments, the audience would get off their cushions and throw them into the ring. It's quite a sight (I saw it on TV one night - they were having a documentary on the Bulgarian). At the beginning and end of the final bouts, the yokozuna (grand champion) Asashoryu would perform the ceremonial dance. Each time he lifted and brought down his leg, the crowd would shout "Dosukoi!!" For me this was my first time at the sumo. It was interesting to see what impressed the crowd. They would cheer at things which to me seemed relatively minor. For example, in preparing for a bout, one wrestler lifted his leg so high that it was almost pointing straight up in the air. Didn't seem to help him though - he lost his bout. Another wrestler threw his salt into the ring impressively - another thing which drew cheers from the audience. Another gee'd himself up aggressively. Although Kotooshu was the crowd favourite (and was at least able to win his bout that day, having lost on a couple of occasions that season), Asashouryu showed his class when winning his own bout in style.
  • I visited Meiji Shrine. Not the first time for me, but on the path to the Shrine there were ice carvings, although they were starting to melt by the time I saw them. At the shrine itself, I was able to witness a couple of wedding processions. All very slow and dignified (well except for that one occasion where the priest tripped, stumbled forward and lost his sandal ^_^ ). The Shrine itself also featured an exhibition of calligraphy of shonen from all over Japan (and even a few boys in Singapore and Taiwan).
  • I visited Harajuku again, for more young-people-watching. (And had a crepe there, of course.) At the start of Takeshita-dori, just opposite the train station two women, one with drums, the other with a guitar, were engaged in performance art. There was a crew filming the performance. The director had a North American accent and a Japanese translator. I assume it was performance art rather than simply music, since it sounded really cacophonous. But just as it seemed the music was going to get more melodical, a policeman stepped, quite upset, and told the women to stop. He was not impressed - probably the most upset Japanese person I saw on my holiday. The women did stop and slowly started to pack up, but singing "Yamemashou" quietly :P Then in nearby Shibuya I bought another, stiffer obi for my kimono (I find my other obi too soft). Finding a cheap tie for my second-hand haori is hard, though. Once again I was defeated in that quest.
  • Back to Akihabara again at night. Near one of the exits to the train station, Gekidan Shika Koroshi (the Deer Murder Troupe) was performing. (This is one of their regular street performance locations when not performing in theatres). Whenever someone bought one of their CDs or DVDs (or perhaps made a donation?), the Freddie Mercury lookalike (Yamamoto Kouji) would shout "I love you!" (in either English or Japanese) or "Marry me!" (in Japanese). To view a 20 minute Flash video about the troupe, visit this page and click on the movie projector. It's mainly a tour of "Shika house" but the first 15 seconds of the video shows a bit of their performance.
  • I'd visited the Ghibli Museum on a previous trip, so this time I decided to visit the Bandai Museum. Personally I didn't find the Bandai Museum very interesting. I'm not a Gundam fan, so the Gundam Museum section didn't really interest me, even though I paid for all the extra activities (the "ride" in the Gundam cockpit - after which you pay even more if you want the commemorative photo, the ride up the Gundam lift to have a photo taken in some Gundam series uniform, the Zaku machine gun shooting range). And Character World was mainly a mix of a few life-sized statues of sentai and anime characters and glass displays of merchandise for those shows. There was a bit of memorobilia, though, such as a Godzilla foot used in the shooting of the 1965 movie Kaijuu Dai Sensou and a rubber suit from Gojira 2000 Millenium. The museum has pretty low traffic and I finished it pretty quickly. I didn't find anything interesting at the Gbase shop either, with its emphasis on Gundam and mecha. Unfortunately the Gundam Cafe had closed the day before I visited >_< After I left Japan, they opened the replacement - the G-style Cafe, with a new menu. Throughout the day, one or two sentai or anime characters would walk through Character World to shake hands with visitors. I met Cure Black from Futari wa Pretty Cure, shook her hand, took her photo and had a photo taken with her. However, neither the photo of me in the cockpit of a Gundam, nor the photo of me in Gundam uniform nor the photo of me with Cure Black will see the light of day ^_^ (They're bad photos of me anyway.)
  • On my way back to central Tokyo, the trains between Matsudo (where the Bandai Museum is) and Ueno were delayed due to an injury accident. Don't know whether this means real (unintentional) accident, or whether someone committed suicide by jumping in front of a train... Geez, you'd think if someone was going to kill themselves they'd be a bit more considerate and do it some way that doesn't disrupt thousands of people's travel plans...
  • For food in Tokyo on this holiday, I restricted myself generally to cheap noodle or rice dishes at small shops or stalls. Finally tried melon pan (melon bread) on this trip. Nice ^_^ And somewhere along the line I bought a bottle of Calpis Soda Fruits Mix, which contains orange, pineapple and peach juice. I don't think those flavours added anything - it was a waste of Calpis Soda. Maybe that's why it no longer appears in the lineup of Calpis products.
  • For a change from noodles, I decided to try a maid cafe for the first time. I visited the Cure Maid Cafe in Akihabara. As usual, no photos of the staff allowed. Ordered the karaage curry with mini-salad (800 yen) and Cure Maid original cocktail (500 yen, contains a sweet red wine). The karaage was nice but the beef curry was a pretty small portion, with just three pieces of beef. I had expected a maid cafe to have just male otaku as patrons, but the customers seemed pretty normal to me, and in fact there were more women there than men. I didn't bother to get a point card although the maid there asked if I wanted one.
  • For my day trip from Tokyo this time, I decided to visit Hakone - never been there before (except once to visit an onsen with a friend). Unfortunately it was cloudy the whole day, so I never got a glimpse of Fuji-san. Worse, at the sulfur springs at Owakudani, hail started to fall, and later rain for the rest of the day. I ate one of the black eggs (boiled in the sulfur springs) despite my dislike of eggs. Eating one is supposed to add seven years to your life. Which means that I'll live to be at least 107, since some years ago I climbed Tai-shan in China, and it's said those who climb that mountain will live to be 100. I visited the Hakone Open Air Museum, but unfortunately didn't have enough time to explore the whole place before the closing time. Still, it was an interesting place, and even my limited time and the drizzle didn't detract from that. It was nice to rest my tired feet and sore left knee at the foot bath on the museum grounds too.
  • On the United Airlines flight from Tokyo back to Hong Kong, I watched some Kasoh Taishow (Masquerade). Contestants perform skits to try to win 2 million yen. You've probably seen at least snippets from Kasoh Taishow before, such as the Ping Pong skit from 2003. You can view other skits on this page. I wish NTV would release a DVD of the show, though.
  • Back in Hong Kong, I attended some free cultural classes: Chinese tea appreciation and feng shui (geomancy). Both were interesting. Since these classes are given freely by business in Hong Kong, I was expecting the classes to be a mix of lecture and sales. Yet feng shui master Alex Yu not only didn't try to sell us anything, but told us we didn't need to buy anything specific for feng shui at all. I can tell you that this year (the feng shui year starts on 4 February each year), the number 8 (the north direction) is the best number (direction) while the number 5 (west) is the worst number (direction). Avoid all H5N? strains of the bird flu. I did buy a feng shui compass later at the markets, though. Actually, the number 8 will be the best number until 2023, although the direction will change each year. BTW, where I work there's someone who practises feng shui.
  • As for the tea appreciation, normally when I drink tea, I don't really notice any difference between the various types. But at the class, you could really taste the different flavours in the tea that had been properly brewed. And they taught us the Cantonese (or was it Hong Kong?) "kung fu" style of tea drinking (different meaning to the "kung fu" martial arts). I came back with a set of directions on how long to brew various types of tea, and what temperature the water should be. You shouldn't use boiling water except for some red and black teas - such hot water brings out the bitterness in other tea leaves. Green tea in particular should be brewed using water between 40 and 75 degree Celcius, and only for a few seconds (up to 30 seconds for later infusions).
  • For dinner I was tired of trying to deal with the Chinese speaking staff in the small local restaurants in Hong Kong, so I went to KFC. I decided to order the current special menu item there: the D'Lite Pisa Calzone. The girl serving me didn't understand English, and so asked a senior staff member to serve me. I pointed at the picture of the meal and said I wanted a "calzone". This staff member looked at me, and with a straight face and heavily accented English asked, "Do you speak English?" I said "... Yes... " -_- while the first girl unsuccessfully stifled a laugh behind her >_< BTW, the calzone (when they finally understood my order) was okay, but small.
  • No real problems with airport security this time, except they wouldn't allow me to walk onto the plane with my keyring. On a previous trip, they had been concerned about my You're Under Arrest miniature hand-cuff (big enough to "lock" one thumb if lucky, and it didn't even lock). This time, they were concerned about the mini-screwdriver attached to my keyring. What were they afraid of this time? That I'd somehow force my way into the pilot's cabin and threaten to dismantle his spectacles?! (It was interesting though that only half the airports I went through found the mini-screwdriver; Australian security found it but sensibly - IMO - allowed it on.)
  • Then onto Singapore for the next part of my frequent flyer point redeemed flight. I visited Sentosa Island. I went early to the theatre at the musical fountain in order to get a good seat for the light show at 7.40pm. Managed to get a front row seat. Shortly before 7.40pm there was an announcement that the first two rows of the audience may get wet during the fountain performance. By then the theatre was too full to find another seat. Then there was another announcement that the show was about to start, and as if by clockwork the Singapore rain started. At first it was a trickle of raindrops, but then it became a more continuous, heavier deluge, which then turned into a stream of people leaving the open air theatre. I covered my head with a map of Sentosa island but remained in my seat. Being in the front row I was likely to get wet anyway, and this way it was kind of fairer that everyone would get wet :P
  • Finally, the Korean leg of my holiday, with my brother and aunts' families. With the Korean Wave of culture (particularly due to TV dramas and movies and particularly in Asia) in recent years, many places you visit actively promote that they were the location for filming of those dramas etc. And you can buy TV drama goods most places you go.
  • From Seoul we visited the Dae Jang Geum Theme Park - called a theme park, but basically a studio built to film the historical TV drama Dae Jang Geum about the titular character, the first woman to become royal physician in Korea. Although it's just a film studio, it was well constructed IMO. And you can take your photo with life sized cardboard cutouts of the main characters :P I've watched about 3 episodes of the 70 or so in the series... More for the backlog.
  • Then we visited Nami Island, one of the sites of the filming the hugely popular TV drama Winter Sonata, which had middle aged women in Japan yearning for their "Yonsama". The influence of the TV drama on the island is noticeable: the tandem bike used by the loving couple in the show has been nailed to a wooden frame, there's a statue of the lovers near the centre of the island etc. Of course, you can take your photo with life sized cardboard cutouts of the main characters.
  • Later, we went to Pheonix Park for some skiing. This is where the TV drama Autumn Fairy Tale (official English title Autumn in My Heart) was filmed. My brother and I have skiied before, but my aunts' families hadn't. So we basically spent the two days teaching the rest of the group how to ski and helping them get up after their falls. And of course you can take your photo with life sized cardboard cutouts of the main characters from Autumn Fairy Tale.
  • A couple of days later, the tour ended for my aunts' families. My brother and I stayed on, however, for a couple more days in Seoul and four days skiing at Yongpyong. Yongpyong lost out to Whistler in Canada by one vote for the right to host the 2010 Winter Games, but is running again for the 2014 Games, judging by the promo that continually plays on one of the channels on hotel TV. The snow was good, although it got pretty cold (down to about negative 17 degrees Celcius) and pretty windy and snowy. However, neither the mountains at Pheonix Park or Yongpyong were as big as somewhere like Whistler. Yongpyong is another filming location for Winter Sonata, so you can take your photo with life sized cardboard etc (you know the drill). In addition, they had removed the gondala car which the characters sat in during the show and put it on display at the main resort centre Dragon Plaza ("the place where Yoojin refused Sangyuk's proposal and accept Minhyong's love"). Plus, you can pick up a walking tour map of sites from the TV series. Each morning my brother and I ate at Restaurant "Chalet" in the hotel. This is where "Minhyong and Yoojin had a cup of hot chocolate"(!) And judging from the photos placed along the windowsill of the restaurant, one morning my brother even sat where the hero sat in one scene! The tour map even has tips like how to wear your scarf in the same way as the hero of the show!! And one of the hotel TV channels continuously cycles through a few programs, one of which is the top five scenes from the series. (Personally, my brother and I thought the kiddy soccer was much more interesting - some variety show featured kiddy soccer where the kids were about 6 years old or something. What made it interesting was that some of the kids had good skills, while some were uncoordinated. And they'd picked up the characteristics of adults, like flashy celebrations when they scored.) I'm now up to about episode 5 or 6 of Winter Sonata, BTW.
  • If you're looking to try a Korean drama yourself, I'd point out that the English subtitles on the Singaporean DVDs for Dae Jang Geum (English title "Jewel in the Palace") can be very hard to understand (at a guess, it was translated by someone without a good grasp of English), whereas the English subtitles on the Malaysian DVDs for Winter Sonata are poorly timed (any fansubber would be ashamed to put their name to such timing). It seems like the timer had not even the slightest comprehension of Korean language.
  • Anyway, with four days at Yongpyong, I decided to spend two days skiing and two days learning to snowboard. I've never tried snowboarding before. The skiing was fine. I even went down double black diamond runs for the first time (although I do think the grading of the runs in Korea wasn't as hard as for somewhere like Whistler). It was with the snowboarding where I ran into trouble. Snowboarding is completely different to skiing, so I hard to start off as a complete beginner again, which meant a lot of falling. Plus, when I learned skiing, I at least got a half day professional lesson on my first day. This time, the English language lessons at Yongpyong were too expensive, so my brother just taught me how to skid/brake and how to do a heel turn and toe turn. And then I was wearing ski gear, not snowboard gear. Every time I fell on my butt or sat down to undo the straps on my boots, snow would collect (unnoticed) on the lip of the back pocket of my ski pants and turn into ice. With the result that every time I fell on my butt on the hard ice, it was like falling on rocks where my pocket was. After a while I got the hang of controlled falling with my gloved hands cushioning my butt :P But I also fell fowards, generally when trying to execute a toe turn. On one occasion, I winded myself falling on my chest. After two days of snowboarding, my body was really sore (sore lower ribs and sore butt). That soreness lasted for about two to three weeks (see the start of this post). Perhaps partly due to my getting winded, partly due to the fact that I'm out of shape and have always been inflexible (all that bending down to do up and undo the boot straps couldn't have helped), partly due to the fact that when I first skiied I was 12 years younger.
  • Back at Seoul, we went up Seoul Tower to view the sprawling city of 10 million (fifth largest city in the world). The tower also has impressive toilets :P I visited the Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine and Museum, where the museum claims to have a piece of the wood from the cross of Jesus (and a rock from his tomb). I couldn't actually see the piece of wood, though, because of the elaborate container that had been built to house it. No photos allowed. The museum has a photo of the area in the 1960s. Back then seems it was at the edge of Seoul, with only farmland all around. Now if you visit the museum, you'll see its firmly in the middle of a concrete jungle and still fairly central in terms of Seoul's public transport system.
  • I was seconds away from making it onto this TV show (sorry, I was hoping to learn to read Hangul before my trip, but sadly didn't have the time). Basically, I was at Bandi's & Luni's Bookstore at the COEX Shopping Mall (the largest underground shopping mall in Asia) and was heading for a cashier to pay for a couple of CDs when one of the staff stopped me and asked me to head to other cashier. I pointed to the one I was heading for anyway, but she insisted that I head to the other one. Basically there were two guys from the TV show there, working behind the counter, and a camera crew interviewing the guys and customers. (I think the show's about life experiences or something). Anyway, I guess the shop staff were worried that there weren't enough customers at that cashier to keep the event interesting. But after a minute or two, the shop assistant who'd first stopped me, seemed to have second thoughts and took me back to the cashier I'd been heading to in the first place. I can only assume she was concerned it would be even worse to have a customer who couldn't speak Korean on TV than to have no customers on screen :) Anyway, if you're interested, the show is broadcast on KBS channel 1TV at 9:00am on Sundays, and the episode that I would've been on was broadcast on 5 February 2006. You view the episode on this page (episode 255) but need to register with KBS for video on demand first :) Well, that was my brush with fame.
  • Before I left for my holiday, someone at work expressed surprise that I'd chosen to visit Korea. To him, the place had a reputation as an "industrial hellhole". But I found it interesting. Like Japan, South Korea is a developed modern nation but Asian in nature. Well, not as developed as Japan, but still with cutting edge technology. Myeong Dong Cathedral in Seoul has six flat screen TVs down the side aisles (so that people seated in those pews can see the priest at the altar). How many other churches in the world have flat screen TVs? Ancient culture with an affluent modern society. But why do so many people in East Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea) like Louis Vuitton bags to much? The food was good, though eating one water snail was enough for me - water snails a lot bigger than French escargot - and I didn't have the courage to try silkworm larvae. By the time we left Korea, there was still stuff around and near Seoul I'd still like to visit, as well as other parts of Korea. I hope to go back some time.
  • On the way back to Australia, I stayed with Mr Bear and Mrs Bear, and this time met Baby Bear (who's very cute). Unfortunately, I was still sore from snowboarding. And I'd also picked up some food poisoning, probably something I ate on the day I left Korea. Mr and Mrs Bear gracefully and helpfully put up with my problems. I'm sorry I wasn't a good guest... m(_ _)m And they arranged a dinner with LL (whom I haven't seen in years) as well, though I unfortunately couldn't eat much of the chilli crab due to my food poisoning.
  • I could write a lot more about my trip, but the rest would be even less related to manga, anime or Japan :P
  • So now I'm back in Australia. In Australia Magna Pacific is starting to release anime DVDs. In its lineup are Daphne in the Brilliant Blue and New Getter Robo, volumes 1 of which will be released in about a fortnight's time. Madman in Australia has been good to anime fans, but I guess some competition can't be bad (although I hope the Magna Pacific releases are good quality).
  • Wai-con 2005 came and went in December 2005. Another successful con. Congratulations to the outgoing committee. I tried to support the con in its first two years by donating prizes. Probably won't do that this year, but I'm currently thinking of another way to support the con this year. Best wishes to this year's committee.
  • I attended Swancon 2006 this weekend. This is the first time I've attended Swancon. Anime and manga are only incidental to Swancon, and Swancon has attendances probably only about a third that of Wai-con (despite the former's long established history) but nevertheless the panel topics on anime and manga at Swancon seemed more interesting to me than the panel topics Wai-con has organised in the past. Perhaps it's because Swancon seems to attract a more mature attendee and therefore has more mature panel topics. In any event, conentions, whether Swancon or Wai-con, aren't really the thing for me (I'm not a convention person). Basically I only went to see mangaka/cosplayer/entertainer Ippongi Bang in concert (her Japanese language website is more up to date), whose attendance as guest of the convention was sponsored (I think) by local anime club JAFWA. She was shorter than I thought she'd be :P She did forget a few lines for some of the anime songs she was singing, but made up for that with the enthusiasm of her delivery. Shame it was a short set of songs too. Here are a few photos and one short QT video clip. I'm sure the crowd would've liked a longer concert. I didn't realise she'd be selling some of her doujinshi and manga at the convention. Bought some of those and got them signed \^_^/
  • I heard that the Seikai series novels have been licensed. I don't know whether that includes all the Seikai no Danshou short stories, but in the meantime I won't bother continuing with my (much delayed) translation of Seikai no Danshou. The Seikai no Senki 4 radio drama is to be broadcast on fm osaka from April 2006. I wonder if this will be a precursor to an anime...?
  • I heard that Oh! great's manga Air Gear has been licensed as well, by Del Rey. Good move, and good company. BTW, Yujin will be releasing Air Gear gashapon in June 2006. There'll be five figures: Ringo, Simca, Ikki, Sukumizu Kamen and Agito.


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All rights (copyright and otherwise) reserved. Ath courtesy of FX's Crest of the Stars: Abh Language Site (though I modified some of the script). Baronh courtesy of Sidryac Borgh=Racair Mauch and others' Dadh Baronh - Universe of Baronh. I hope I didn't stuff things up ^_^;; Any errors are purely my own and should not reflect negatively on the two websites. Forex data is for general information purposes only and has been taken from Oanda.com and the Australian Financial Review. - I am not a licensed financial adviser in any jurisdiction ^_^ nor am I attempting to give financial advice by this website - nor should you rely on the currency information on this website as such. If you plan to make any financial decisions, I recommend you seek competent (and licensed) independent financial advice ^_^