Category Archives: Life snapshots

Todai Bunkasai: The University of Tokyo Komaba Campus Festival!

Todai's froggy mascot Komakkero

Todai’s froggy mascot Komakkero

Two months ago, I wrote about FC, who was taking his anime fan girlfriend to the University of Tokyo  (Todai) school festival. Though it sounded like fun, Todai’s festival took place the weekend after Thanksgiving so I completely ruled out the possibility of my husband or myself going. However, as it turns out, our crazy endeavor to get to the Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! Musical put us in Tokyo that very weekend. So we actually went, too!

Todai holds two festivals per year, in November and in May. I’m not sure where the May one is located, but the November one takes place at Todai’s Komaba Campus, which is where lower division classes are located. (As such, all Todai students spend their first year at Komaba.)

This was my second bunkasai. I’m fairly confident that my experience at Komajo Girls School was more representative of a typical school festival. Having said that, I would absolutely recommend Todai’s bunkasai to the casual English-speaking tourist over a high school event. One, it is easily accessible. From Shibuya Station (a major Tokyo hub), you take the Keio Inokashira Line three minutes to the Komaba-todaimae Station. The campus entrance is literally right outside the station, and on festival day, you can’t miss it.

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Todai main gate on festival day!

That leads me to my second point: it is an open event. While many school festivals are for alumni and family/by invitation only, Todai’s is a massive public event. When we went, our train was packed, and it completely unloaded at the festival. These weren’t just college students. Packs of high school students, parents with toddlers and elementary age kids, and random foreigners like ourselves filled the University grounds.

 English language program guide

English language program guide

Three, unlike most bunkasai, this festival actually prepares for foreigners. For the 2016 festival, Todai had an English language web page and festival guide (available online and by request at the festival information centers). Plus, because Todai is Japan’s number one university, you have a pretty good chance of encountering an international student or one who’s travelled abroad who can speak English.

Now, even though I’ve stated that the Komajo bunkasai was a more representative experience, that’s not to say you’ll be missing out by going to Todai. Rather, it’s the opposite. Todai’s festival was like Komajo’s, only ten times bigger and chaotic. Crowds pack the halls and walkways, and students–some in costume–drum up business for stands of meat skewers, takoyaki, choco-banana, and crepes. Whereas Komajo only had one stage, Todai had three. Komajo had three or four rock bands; Todai had at least three classroom tuned “live”-style club venues with a different band scheduled every hour and that doesn’t include the bands on the main stages or the non-rock musical groups.

Todai students advertising something, but I have no idea what.

Todai students advertising something, but I have no idea what.

That was one of the biggest surprises for me. I think of the University of Tokyo  as an elite academic institution, not a hotbed of artistic activity. But the number and variety of musicians at the festival was staggering, ranging from the University’s choral group to jazz ensembles to the folk musicians playing Irish tunes at the Irish Cafe to hiphop vocalists soloing by the takoyaki stand. Our favorite was the AniOke (Anime Orchestra), a dozen string and woodwind musicians who played pieces from anime soundtracks. We were fortunate enough to hear their arrangements of Rozen Maiden and Your Lie in April themes before they left the stage.

Anime Orchestra!

Anime Orchestra!

I was equally surprised by the number of dance groups at the bunkasai. At least ten separate hip hop dance groups were practicing routines in the courtyard adjacent the cafeteria. I don’t how what event they were practicing for, but they were all quite skilled. Hula Circle KaWelina had about forty dancers performing hula at the Main Gate Plaza, and they were followed by a cosplay group doing The Prince of Tennis Musical 2 (a lot like Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!!, except with tennis rackets).

Hula dancers and cosplayers at the

Hula dancers and cosplayers at the Main Gate Plaza

Yet Todai’s elite academic institution aspect wasn’t completely absent from the bunkasai. Amid the festival style stands, haunted house, cafes, and performances, they had robotics and formula car displays and a kind of open house in the Life Sciences building with amphibians for elementary school boys to grab. After all, the University of Tokyo is THE school to aspire toward in Japan, and I’m sure many parents bought their children to inspire them toward that goal.

Well, my husband and I are way past our college years so we were more interested in the fun aspect. Here are a few more highlights.

Karuta demonstration. Karuta is a Japanese poetry card game I never would have heard of were it not for the anime Chihayafuru. It’s not exactly popular in the United States so it was a treat to see it live. The match we saw had college students playing against kids, and one player even wore hakama.

Karuta in real life!

Karuta in real life!

Cosplay cafe. Perhaps it was just this particular shift, but all the servers were male and most were cross-dressing. Not sure why that was so, but we had a pleasant conversation about anime with a third year law student in a magical girl costume (he’d studied abroad in Australia so his English was excellent) and his friend in a Halo-style outfit. This cosplay group was also responsible for the Prince of Tennis Musical 2 show at the Main Gate.

Tea ceremony. This was hosted by the University of Tokyo Urasenke Tea Ceremony Club, and the most traditional of the attractions we participated in. Located away from the festival hustle and bustle at Hakuinsha Pavilion, the tea ceremony was a formal affair, requiring us to sit seiza style for approximately a half hour (after it finished,my poor husband nearly fell over trying to get up). If you decide to participate in this, make sure to bring a folding style fan. (We were the only participants without one!)

Hakuinsha Pavilion

Hakuinsha Pavilion

I’d like to conclude by sending a big THANK YOU to FC in Belgium. We wouldn’t have made it if you hadn’t told me about the event. I hope you and your girlfriend had a fabulous time at the bunksasai. I know we did!

Japanese Pop Culture Special: Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival!

For a long time, the mark of a successful manga was an anime and possibly a spinoff comic, but nowadays popular titles spawn off live-action movies and TV shows, light novels, CD dramas, and even theatrical performances! Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musical Association, which was formed in 2014, stages productions drawn from Japanese manga, anime and video-games, and on November 20, my husband and I got to see their performance of Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival!

 The flyer that started it all…

The flyer that started it all…

We first learned about Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! from a flyer slipped into my husband’s Jump Shop purchases during his last business trip to Japan. We looked at the ad, thought it was cool, and filed it in the back of our mind as one of those things we could only dream of. However, the next two weeks brought an unexpected bonus and vacation time that changed our paradigm. By then, four out of the show’s five venues had sold out, but with the help of three Japanese speaking friends plus two international phone calls, a lot of Google translate, and much stubbornness on the part of my husband, we got tickets for the Canal City Theater in Fukuoka!

The Show

Not having been to Fukuoka or a Japan 2.5-Dimensional production, I expected Canal City Theater to be a modest, small-to-mid size theater. After all, how large an audience could an otaku musical possibly attract? I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Canal City Theater is a modern, quality venue that seats 1,184 and hosts Broadway style productions like The Little Mermaid. And yes, it was packed. There was even a line for people hoping to purchase unclaimed tickets (more on that later).

Program and commemorative folders from the Haikyu!! musical

Program and commemorative folders from the Haikyu!! musical

The audience demographic was another surprise. Haikyu!! is a shonen title, but the audience was over 90% female. My husband described the crowd as “young to middle-aged office ladies.” Perhaps musicals don’t appeal to Haikyu!!’s younger male fans? Or maybe they don’t have the disposable income for it? Well, these female fans had money for tickets and then some. An array of Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! goods were available for purchase in the lobby, and they were doing a brisk business. We ourselves picked up an official program, some folders, and a DVD of the original Haikyu!! musical, but sadly all the hoodies had sold out. The crowd was definitely enthusiastic, and when the show started, we learned why.

Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! is a high level production. The staging includes a special rotating platform, live video, and projected images for backgrounds and special effects. The cast also displays an array of talent, ranging from acting to acrobatics to rap. From what I can tell, Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival! has an original score that doesn’t draw from the TV series (although parts are reminiscent of the anime’s soundtrack). While I have referred to the show as a musical, it’s not like a Broadway show where characters break into catchy tunes every other minute. Rather, music is primarily used to set the mood, and most of the singing is relegated to one hip hop number in the second half.

Regarding the plot, Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival! begins with the team’s summer training camp and ends midway through the Interhigh competition. (The initial formation of the team was covered in Japan 2.5-D’s original Haikyu!! musical.) The first half focuses on the practice match against Nekoma. Viewed mainly from Kenma’s perspective, the match is depicted as a video game that the Nekoma setter is trying to beat. Thus, we get to see 64-bit versions of the Karasuno players as he analyzes them. The second half focuses on the Interhigh match against Dateko, which takes the form of an impressive rap- and dance-off. As such, the cast is more or less evenly divided between Karasuno, Nekoma, and Dateko players. But even though it is an all-male production, Karasuno manager Shimizu does play a part in the story.

As you might guess, the whole thing is in Japanese.  Because we weren’t at Japan 2.5-D’s Tokyo venue, we didn’t have access to translation glasses (more on this later). Even so, we had no trouble figuring out who was who (jersey numbers and projected manga images helped a lot), and we got the gist of 70% of the dialogue based off what we remembered from the anime. Not to mention, many scenes were sheer visual spectacle that required no knowledge of Japanese.

A major aspect of the Haikyu!! story is speed and height. Unlike their animated counterparts, the actors can’t hang in midair. So they rely on clever choreography and manipulating props. Lifts comprise a major part of Hinata’s battes at the net. Special lighting and illuminated volleyballs provide the trajectory of a fateful spike in slo-mo. In the match against Dateko’s ”Iron Wall,” pieces of walls are included in the dance number.

While high-tech equipment add a definite punch to the action, the show makes good use of simple effects as well. A pile of quilts facilitates one of the most entertaining transitions, and a stray cat Hinata encounters is merely a hand puppet operated by a stage ninja in a hooded poncho. In addition to moving the props and sets, the hooded stage ninjas also serve as a kind of Greek chorus, voicing the thoughts of the mob or serving as an anonymous extra.

So… my husband and I flew to the western end of Japan just to watch this musical, and you might be wondering, “Was it worth it?”

In answer to that question, I’ll just say that the third Haikyu!! musical Winners and Losers will be touring Japan March and April 2017, and we are talking about getting tickets.

Now perhaps our journey has piqued your interest. If you’re serious about viewing this production yourself, you have two options.

DVD

DVD and insert of the first Haikyu!! musical

DVD and insert of the first Haikyu!! musical

The cheaper option is to purchase a DVD of the show. As of the writing of this post, the DVD of the first Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! is available, and preorders are being taken for Karasuno Revival. Those in Japan can purchase it at the Animate store (which also carries DVDs of Japan 2.5-D’s Naruto and Prince of Tennis theater productions) or through Toho Animation, which produced the videos.

For those outside Japan, neither Animate nor Toho Animation ships overseas, but if you do an Internet search for “Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! DVD,” you’ll probably find a source who will. WARNING: the DVD is a REGION 2 DVD (the United States is Region 1) and entirely in Japanese (no subtitles, English or otherwise).

As mentioned earlier, my husband and I purchased the DVD of the first musical at the theater for ¥8000 (roughly $80 US), which is the standard price. For that, you get two discs and a lovely mini program with cast pictures and bios. It’s not an awesome as seeing it live, but Toho Animation does a great job of formatting the footage for the small screen.

Theater Tickets

If you are determined to see Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! or one of Japan 2.5-D’s other musicals (upcoming productions include Prince of Tennis, Wake Up, Girls! and Death Note), there are three ways to go about getting tickets.

1. Though the Japan 2.5-D website. Japan 2.5-D actually does want a global audience for its productions. Thus, its website is in both Japanese and English (click on the ”EN” in the top right hand corner to toggle out of Japanese into English). Also, Subtitle Glasses are available in English and Chinese for showings at the AiiA 2.5 Theater in Tokyo.

When tickets go on sale, find your show on the Japan 2.5-D website and click on the green International Ticket button. This will take you to an English language form that will allow you to purchase Will Call tickets. This is the most expedient way for English-speakers to get tickets.

2. Through the musical’s official website. Each Japan 2.5-D musical has its own official website through which general tickets are sold. This is probably the worst way for internationals to get tickets, but you may resort to it if you’re desperate (like we were). Basically, the tickets reserved for internationals is limited. As such, it is entirely possible for general seats to still be available after Japan 2.5-D’s International Tickets sell out.

However, getting general tickets is difficult. All the instructions are in Japanese, you need a Japanese address to open an account, and you need a credit card associated with that address to make the purchase. Alternately, you can reserve seats online and then complete the order at a Japanese convenience store that has a ticket service. Our tickets were only possible thanks to three very kind friends (One to navigate the website, one to give us her parents’ address in Okinawa so we could open an account, and one to pay/pick up the tickets in Sapporo and mail them to us in California).

3. At the venue. Now the thing about general tickets is that they’re a bit of a moving target. When people reserve seats online, they have a few days to complete the order. When that deadline passes, the seats go back on sale. That means that a show that is sold out today might have availability tomorrow. That also means there usually a few unsold seats on the day of the show. Ergo, the unclaimed ticket line. If there’s more people than unclaimed tickets, they hold a lottery to decide who gets them.

So no guarantees with this last route. However if you just happen to be in a town where a performance is showing, it’s worth a try.

As for me and my husband, we’ll be aiming for those International Tickets when sales start.

Souvenirs from Asia: Totoro Clock!

My husband and I generally don’t buy things on impulse. Especially if the price is over $100. Even if one of us is bewitched, the other will be yelling, “What are you thinking?”

However, on his last trip, my husband got blindsided by a level of cute too potent for either of us to resist. During his last morning in Japan, he arrived early in Akihabara for a final shopping trip. Animate didn’t open until 10am, but Edion, a nearby electronics store, was already open so he decided to wander around there until Animate opened. That’s where he saw this:

Anime cuteness in the EDION Clock section

Too cute!!!

He wasn’t expecting to buy anything outside Animate, but that Totoro clock grabbed his attention and wouldn’t let go. Totoro is one of anime’s most charming representatives, after all. And the other thing was that we actually needed a clock. We hadn’t intended for it to be a ¥11,200 clock, but then again, we never thought we’d have a Totoro option.

Even the box is kawaii!

Even the box is kawaii!

Being a good husband, he texted me a picture and asked what I thought. I too fell under Totoro’s spell, and three minutes and roughly $110 later, my husband walked out the proud owner of a Totoro clock.

Which just shows how extreme kawaii can separate an otaku couple from their money.

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Season 3 Haul!

My husband boasts that he can now get to the Animate store in Nagoya, Osaka, Ikebukoro, and Akihabara without the help of directions. This says a lot about how he likes to spend his free time on business trips. However, in addition to the fact that he is an otaku, he like to make his rounds with these stores because each location actually carries different stock. So between four Animate stores and the Jump store in Nagoya along with the start of Haikyu!! Season Three, he returned with quite a haul of Haikyu!! goods.

Seijoh chibi charm (?) and padded pen case

Seijoh chibi charm (?) and padded pen case

 

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Sports towels with school spirit!

Kenma on panda???

Kenma on panda???

Apparently, Karasuno’s rival schools have quite following, judging from their representative goods. According to my husband, there was also a Karasuno sports towel, but the design wasn’t nearly as slick as Seijoh’s and Nekoma’s so he only wound up buying the ones for the rival teams.

Not to say that Karasuno got outclassed by its rivals in all categories. During my husband’s last trip, he brought back Hinata and Kageyama phone charms. Apparently, the collection now includes Nekoma’s setter. However, I don’t know what panda bears have to do with Tokyo, volleyball, or Nekoma High School, and Kenma just looks awkward sitting on it.

A fan for ace Bokuto and chibi themed erasers

A fan for ace Bokuto and chibi themed erasers

Fits in the medicine cabinet!

Fits in the medicine cabinet!

While most of his purchases, like the chibi themed erasers, were “what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” we did get a bit of a surprise with one. My husband was trying to stick with practical items, ergo the simple plastic cup (something I’ve been needing for the bathroom) and towels. The eyeglass case also fell into that category. However, despite being a Jump store item, the proportions of the chibi crow on the are kind of off, enough to make it look like a counterfeit product. However, when I opened the case, I was pleasantly surprised by what is now my new favorite eyeglass wipe. And something that makes it extra special is that it’s a rare item that includes all twelve members of the Karasuno team and their support staff.

Eyeglass case and wipe

Eyeglass case and wipe

According to my husband, more Haikyu!! goods should be available as we get deeper into the anime season. However, I’ve got more than enough to keep me happy as Karasuno enters the finals against Shiratorizawa.

Go crows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Japanese snacks!

My husband and I scheduled an anime viewing at our house this month so I asked him to buy a few unusual snack foods from Japan for the party. This is what he brought back.

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I am amazed he made it back with all that plus his other souvenirs AND luggage.

Since it would take too long to go through the entire stash, I’ll limit it to the highlights for this post.

First we have the nori wasabi flavored potelong. I suppose wasabi flavored snacks aren’t so unusual in the West now, but I thought the nori and wasabi high-fiving on the package was especially cute.

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Next is a potato snack that definitely would not make it out West. Not sure who thought chocolate and potato would make a great combo, but it’s popular enough for my husband to find Jagachoco chocolate covered potato chips in the convenience store.

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The next snack is all about the packaging. I don’t know what message the Tohato marketers wanted to convey, but to me, that Jack o’ lantern styled pepper screams, “DANGER. RUN AWAY.”

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On the other end of the packaging spectrum is this. It may be just a bowl of instant udon noodles, but the kimono-clad Hello Kitty makes you feel like you’re getting something truly elegant.

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Prefer a more masculine Japanese icon? How about some Ultraman raman navona? No, I have no idea what that is, but it comes from a confectionery so I assume it’s sweet.

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And here’s another confectionery offering. I was surprised my husband found this one because Initial D is over a decade past its heyday. Maybe Initial D fans have a raving sweet tooth that makes this product profitable? Or perhaps there’s a reboot in the works?

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img_2619Finally, we have a snack that also a game: Godzilla vs. Evangelion! I don’t know who decided to put these two together, but at the very least the chibi character versions are really cute. My limited knowledge of kanji tells me the circle and characters on the back of the box are used to play something, but I’ve no idea what. However, our Japanese-literate friend JB is coming to the anime viewing so perhaps our party will include monsters stomping over noodle-shaped snacks.

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Souvenirs from Asia: The Japanese School Festival revisited!

A couple months ago, I got an inquiry from someone (from Belgium!) about bunkasai. FC is going to Japan this fall with his girlfriend, who is a big anime fan, and, after reading my 2012 post about the Komazawa Girls’ School Festival, wanted to ask if I could provide any information on locating a bunkasai to take her.

I have to commend FC for going the extra mile for his girlfriend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give him the help he needed. School festivals are small local events, and you really need someone who is Japanese fluent to find them. I definitely am NOT Japanese fluent, and if it weren’t for the kind efforts of my Okinawan friend, we never would have found the Komajo bunkasai.

Fortunately for FC, he was somehow able to learn that Todai is having a festival during the time of their trip so he’ll be able to treat his girlfriend to a university-style festival in November. (Yay!)

I’m not sure how FC wrangled that information from the Internet, but my husband also orchestrated a bunkasai visit on his last business trip all by himself.

Well… almost by himself. The visit was made possible by two things. One, he was in Japan at the right time. Bunkasai generally take place in the fall, with high school festivals at the earlier end and university events scheduled later. Two, even though he didn’t have our Okinawan friend scouring the Internet in advance of his trip, he did have the concierge of his Nagoya hotel. They decided to humor his request and sent him off with printed directions to Nagoya Women’s University.

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img_2614The festival, the school’s 66th, was also a kind of open house for prospective students. Nagoya Women’s University teaches fashion so one of the events was a fashion show. You can see a couple of the models from the fashion show next to the local mascot, who was also in attendance.

Overall, the university, which also has an associated primary, middle, and high school, wasn’t quite as posh an establishment as Komajo, and everything was on a proportionally smaller scale. While a celebrity (whom I didn’t recognize) was included in the lineup, the main stage events also included simple magic tricks by a white-haired gentleman. (My husband couldn’t tell if he was a faculty member or maybe someone’s uncle.)

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img_2613However, all the elements of student booths and food stalls were there, and my husband brought me back two matcha green tea umeboshi dorayaki to try. (Looked pretty but was super sour!)

We are hoping the next time we manage a bunkasai visit it can be to a coed or boys’ school. It just so happened that the only festivals open to the public where we visited were girls’ schools. There’s nothing wrong with girls’ school per se, but it does make it more awkward for my husband to try to strike up a conversation with the students, especially if I’m not with him. And it would be interesting to see if there are differences. Perhaps FC will put up a blog post after his Todai visit and let us all know 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Swallowtail Butler Cafe revisited!

My husband was in Japan on business recently and, while there, he revisited a highlight from our 2012 Japan pop tour: Swallowtail Butler Cafe!

Now his actual intention was not to visit Swallowtail by himself. As I’ve mentioned to a few inquirers, a single lady, a group of ladies, or a lady with a gentleman date would definitely fit in with the Swallowtail clientele. A single gentleman, not so much. (And I’m not sure they’d know what to do if they got a group of salarymen.) However, he was in Ikebukoro in search of an Attack on Titan costume for a friend of ours and passed Swallowtail’s corner on the way to Cospa. This is what he saw there.

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img_2607The Swallowtail franchise has expanded! Now on the corner opposite Japan’s premier butler cafe is a gift shop and patisserie. And quite popular from the looks of it. FYI, the line on one side is to get tickets and the line on the other side is to enter the patisserie after purchasing a ticket. As much as my husband wanted to stay and try the owl themed treats, the line was literally out the door.

So he wasn’t able to see if the patisserie servers were attired as they were in the butler cafe. ( For more details and information about the butler cafe, read my 2012 post here). However, judging from the crowd outside, Patisserie Swallowtail is a more casual establishment that appeals to the same demographic: single ladies, female groups, and couples on dates. And with its sidewalk level signs and large red awning, Swallowtail corner is now a lot more easy to locate.

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So Patisserie Swallowtail is now on our list of places to visit together. In the meantime, I get to enjoy a souvenir my husband bought at the gift shop: cute pastries in an oh-so-elegant box. Just to sort of thing you’d expect from the Swallowtail franchise.

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Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 4

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

fabric

Last in our Sanrio bonanza are several pieces of Hello Kitty themed print fabric. Cute as they are, they’re actually a consolation purchase. See, my husband has been wanting a piece of Japanese clothing, either a yukata, haori, or happi coat. However, he wants one with a Godzilla pattern, more specifically a chibi Godzilla pattern. Everything we found remotely resembling this was always for very small children. So we figured we’d make one on our own.

Unfortunately, finding the appropriate fabric has been a challenge. Searches on eBay and Amazon have turned up nothing, and local fabric stores don’t carry anything of the sort. We hoped to find something during our 2012 trip to Japan, but Akihabara’s goods don’t include bolts of cloth, and forays to Tokyu Hands and department store fabric sections also turned up nothing.

Then last fall, I got a new lead from-of all places-manga. I was reading Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish, and in one chapter, the characters need fabric so one gets dispatched to the Nippori district.  I’d never heard of it before, but a quick Internet search revealed that it is Tokyo’s Fabric Town.

As such, my husband took the train to Nippori Station with high hopes of finally getting his hands on the elusive Godzilla fabric. What he found were stores with shelves packed floor to ceiling with bolts and bolts of a mind blowing variety of cloth. Unfortunately, everything was in Japanese, he had no idea how things were organized, and his Japanese speaking skills are rough. So if Godzilla really was there, my husband couldn’t locate him.

However, he did spot a pile of Sanrio fabric. Ergo my textile souvenirs.

Now I just have to learn how to use the sewing machine…

Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 3

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

mech toys

transformerThese next items were a truly unusual find. For some products, combining it with Hello Kitty is a match made in heaven. Then there are others that leave you wondering who proposed the match and who was crazy enough to approve it. To me, the marriage of Kitty and Transformers is an absolutely bizarre one. I can’t think of anyone who would want a Kitty Optimus Prime. No, I take that back… My husband finds it irresistible, but the age 40-50 male Hello Kitty market is a really tiny one.

The improbability of this product aside, its packaging is pretty amusing. Kitty aficionados know that she weighs three apples, and they incorporated that fact into her technical specifications.

TRANS FORM

truckNext we have a toy a bit more in line with what I’d expect from a Hello Kitty toy: a Kitty penny racer. Or, more accurately, a 10 yen coin racer. (My husband bought these gems in Hong Kong International Airport, but they were made for the Japanese market.) It’s cute and actually reminds me of the Hello Kitty food truck that goes around California. And if the food truck people were able to add it to their merchandise I’m sure they’d make a killing.

So there you have it. Who says Hello Kitty can’t expand into traditionally boys toys?

Souvenirs from Asia: Sanrio Bonanza Part 2

If my husband’s November trip was the Haikyu!! bonanza, his December trip was the Sanrio bonanza. The variety of Hello Kitty goods never ceases to amaze me. Nor does my husband’s appetite for them. As with the Haikyu!! bonanza, I’ll be splitting this batch of souvenirs into a few posts.

Our next items were purchased at the Shenzhen 85° Daily Cafe. 85°, for those unfamiliar with the establishment, is a Taiwanese chain specializing in coffee and baked goods. It’s spread to several countries, including the United States. However, merchandise varies by region, and I’m pretty sure there were limited to Asia.

mugs

It’s a series of Sanrio mugs. As you can see, they showcase various characters, but Hello Kitty’s trademark bow marks them all. Functionality-wise, the design’s a bit clunky. The mugs are awkwardly huge, and the covers are made of silicone, which makes me question their insulation effectiveness. Also the figurines inset into the mugs are plastic not porcelain (which is probably why they’re not microwave-safe).In short, it’s not really practical tableware.

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As a decoration or collectors item, however, it’s cute. It could also serve pretty well as a holder for your Sanrio pens and pencils. And the nice thing for Sanrio fans is that the collection includes characters I’ve not seen in a while. In addition to Hello Kitty, my husband returned with the ones for Badz Maru, Purin, and Little Twin Stars.

I’m not sure what kind of deal 85° struck with Sanrio, but if they put out more character dishware, I hope they maintain the cuteness factor, but level up the practicality aspect.