Category Archives: Touring Japan and Japanese Pop Culture

Souvenirs from Asia: Baumkuchen and Fake Toast

As mentioned in my last two posts, a happy convergence between my husband’s last business trip and a Jump Shop promotional event resulted in a massive load of Haikyu!! goodies. However, not all the gems in his souvenir stash were Haikyu!! related.

Baumkuchen is a European pastry very popular in Japan. It is often sold as a souvenir in airports and train stations, and the Narita Sanrio shop went all-out with this apple kuchen. The packaging is adorable, and instead of the traditional ring shape, this kuchen is apple shaped.

Hello Kitty Japan apple kuchen

My husband also picked up baumkuchen at Tokyo Station. As you can tell from the photo, this baumkuchen and the box of cookies beside it are designed for your name. movie fans (my review for the your name. light novel coming soon). Unlike the apple kuchen, the your name. kuchen comes in bite-sited, individually wrapped pieces. The cookies are also individually wrapped, and each has the movie logo baked on top.

your name. cookies and baumkuchen

Do not eat! Its not real toast!

This final item is not edible though it looks like it might be! Fake toast! It looks like a cosplayer prop for that classic late-student-running-to-school-with-toast-in-mouth. However, there’s all sorts of warnings about not putting it into your mouth, which makes me wonder what its intended purpose is.

Anyway, that’s it for this round of souvenirs!

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! snacks!

As mentioned previously, a change in my husband’s business trip itinerary allowed him to get to the Jump Shop’s Haikyu!! promotional event. The interesting thing was that about half the items he bought back were edibles, mostly snack foods. I’m not sure what marketing consultant drove the Jump Shop in that direction, but I guess it worked, considering my husband bought a bunch.

Choco-caramel and chocopuffs

So to start we have the sweets. Karasuno, Shiratorizawa, and Aoba Josai chocolate candies. As with many Japanese food products, a lot of effort went into the packaging. I will definitely keep the containers, but the Shiratorizawa and Aoba Josai tins only contained 5 choco-caramel candies each. As for the Karasuno one, it didn’t contain chocolates but chocolate flavored corn puffs. When we tried it, we felt like we should pour the whole thing into a bowl and add milk.

Although the packaging for these next candies isn’t nearly as durable, it is clever and super cute. The Haikyu!! characters are occasionally shown with milk or juice boxes which is the inspiration for this candy set. Not really sure about a giraffe for the chocolate candy box, but the cow makes a nice design for the milk caramel.

Choco candy and milk caramel in juice box packaging

Next, pie from the rivals! The pie, by the way, comes in (tiny!) individual servings that are of course well encased in packaging. I haven’t yet tried the leaf pie so I’m not sure what that’s about, but the filling for the apple pie is more like apple puree. So it looks cute, but it wouldn’t be my first (or second or third) choice for a snack.

Apple and leaf(!) pie from Karasuno rivals

More appetizing is the Karasuno manju. They’ve updated it since two years ago, and this version has a cute crow shape and comes with bonus postcards!

Crow shaped manju!

With player stats on the side!

The majority of snacks my husband bought were sweet, but there is a savory one in the mix. Position snacks! Each box features one or two players with their stats on the side. Pretty cool in the package design department. As for the snacks themselves, well… they kind of taste like a barbeque-ish version of the corn puffs from the Karasuno chocolate flavored corn puffs.

Position Snacks!

And finally, what all shonen like to eat: curry! I don’t know what makes it cafe curry or why the rival cats and owls got put together, but it still makes a nice visual on the box.

Nekoma and Fukurodani curry!

By the way, as part of the Jump Shop promotion, customers received a Haikyu!! sticker per a certain amount spent. Because of that, my husband and I now have more stickers than we know what to do with.

Jump Shop promotion Haikyu!! stickers

Next up: Not Haikyu!! but still cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival musical DVD and more!

When my husband and I went to the Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival musical last November, we signed up for email updates from the production company. Thanks to Google translate, we’ve learned from these periodic messages that the third Haikyu!! musical, The Winner and the Loser, toured Japan last spring; a special Haikyu!! exhibition took place at Tokyo Dome; and their fourth musical, The Summer Evolution, is coming out this fall. Then just before my husband’s most recent business trip, we learned that Jump Shop stores would be selling Haikyu!! musical goods for a limited time.

My husband’s itinerary was all China, so we chalked it up as just another event we couldn’t take advantage of. However, due to some unexpected hiccups during his trip, his boss redirected him to Nagoya for the last bit of his trip.

Translation: he wound up with one full day to shop in Japan.

DVD for the second Haikyu!! musical

And shop he did. Not only did he find the musical goods at Nagoya Jump Shop, but the store, in anticipation of an influx of Haikyu!! fans, also had their own Haikyu!! goods in force. In addition, my husband has learned from previous trips that there’s no guarantee that a character good will be around the next time you visit, even if it’s just a week later. So if he sees something he likes, he gets it. Thus, he came home with quite a haul.

So to start, we have the Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival DVD. This is the musical that we saw last fall. Yes, we liked it so much we want to watch it again and again. No, there are no English subtitles. Yes, the DVD requires a Japan region player, but that’s okay because we got one when we bought the DVD for the first Haikyu!! musical.

Jersey towels!

Next we have jersey mini-towels. As those who’ve visited Japan know, most Japanese restrooms don’t provide paper towels, so people carry handkerchiefs or small towels for drying their hands. Now fans can show their team spirit every time they head to the sink. Jump Shop had a towel for every Karasuno member, and because Daichi and Hinata are my favorites, my husband brought back 1 and 10.

Jump Shop also had jersey mugs for the whole team. My husband picked up a Hinata mug along with a traditional-style tea mug featuring most of the Karasuno team and several rival players. A nice detail of the jersey mug is that the inside of the mug has a manga-style picture of Hinata.

Chibi character tea mug and jersey mug

 

I think it reads,”Mou ippai!”(“One more cup!”)

Not to leave the Karasuno captain behind, my husband also picked up a Daichi clip and stamp. However, these items and the Haikyu!! pen alongside them are actually not from the Jump Shop but a random Ikebukoro shop.

Haikyu!! stamp, clip, and pen. The clip splits Daichi in half.

Also from another store (Ikebukoro Animate) is one of the best items of the bunch. When we visited last November, this team banner was part of a store display, but it wasn’t actually available for sale. This time it was, so now we get to show our support for our favorite volleyball team. Go crows!

FLY!!!

Next up: Haikyu!! themed snacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

img_2906

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

 

img_2624

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.

img_2623

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.

img_2615

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.

img_2617

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.”

img_2616

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.

img_2621

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.

img_2618

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?

img_2622

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.

img_2620

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.

img_2610

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.)

img_2611

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.

img_2606
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.

img_2604

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.

img_2608

img_2609