Saturday, October 31, 2009

Entamatsuri, 2009, Part 1

As mentioned in the entry on JAM, CoFesta is a blanket event that runs from September to the end of October. Included in this blanket is the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) and CEATEC (both covered by bartman905), JAM, Tokyo Game Show and Entamatsuri.

Entamatsuri (Entertainment Festival) is a multi-part event scattered across Akihabara, with only parts of it being held in the UDX building. I tried going to the event space in the Sofmap (8th) building nearby, but the idols scheduled to appear on stage seemed to be on every other hour or so and there was nothing happening when I could get out during my breaks. What I did catch included a live song and dance routine in the plaza in front of Tully's on the ground floor of the UDX, a bit of the madhouse on the 2nd floor at UDX Square, and the manga magazine display in one of the exhibit rooms on the 4th floor (near the Tokyo Anime Center (TAC). The TAC itself wasn't doing anything interesting this time, instead focusing on promoting the Japanese dubbed version of the Pixar film "Up".

First, the madhouse. I didn't bother looking at the guest list this time, so I can't comment on who they were. The rest area was converted into a stage and theater-seating space to hold a few hundred people. Outside, the few hundred people at a time were lined up around the building, waiting to get in for each guest (different guests every hour or so). (They also had some anime goods and toys available for sale in the booths in the walkway.)

Second, the live show in front of Tully's. A small stage was set up, and when I arrived about 100 people or so were packed in front of the stage jamming to a soft pop singing group. Maybe 20 of the audience (all young guys) were doing a synchronized dance routine, indicating that they'd probably been following these girls around to other events for a while. Again, I didn't bother trying to find out who the act was - the music sounded too sugary and sappy for my tastes, and the performance was only mildly interesting.

There were a fair number of people between me and the stage and I had to hold the camera over my head and try shooting blindly several times to get even a remotely good shot. After several shots, some event staff member came up to tell me to stop. Kind of funny, because the staff at events like this don't bother worrying about people using cell phone cameras - they're only concerned if the camera looks too much like a camera. It's funny because a lot of cell phones now have better-quality cameras than the one I'm using. Anyway, the guy didn't force me to erase the pictures, and I was just turning the camera off anyway to continue walking on to Sofmap.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flying Pigs

Just outside of Shin Yurigaoka (the next major stop on the Odakyu line after Noborito), there's a pork restaurant. The kanji reads "Flying Pig", and is a kind of word play. "Tobu" is "to fly". "Buta" is "pig or pork". "Bu" is also the sound pigs make in Japanese (contrast with "oink" in the U.S.) So, the kanji "to.bu" could be read as "flying oink". Technically, it would be "tobu.bu", but the first "bu" is dropped and the second one rolled up into its place. Looks like a fairly aggressive pig in any event.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mane Cafe

I was originally going to include this entry in Maid Runner, but I've got enough material to keep myself busy there for a while and Mane Cafe really isn't directly related to maid cafes in either case. This started out when I was visiting different maid cafe websites, trying to verify that each cafe was still operating and to get the correct URL for the site, when I got to the Melty Cure page. Most maid cafe websites have a list of links to either sister sites (e.g. - pages for cafes owned by the same umbrella corporation) or to advertisers of related products (e.g. - cosplay supplies shops). What I found on the Melty Cure page, though, was a link to something called "Mane Cafe" in Gotokuji. Gotokuji is about 10 stops southwest of Shinjuku on the Odakyu line, well outside of the Akihabara region.

Bear with me here. In Japanese, "kitsu" means "to eat or drink, to consume". "sa" is one pronunciation for "tea". "Kissa" ("kitsu" + "sa" = "kissa") then refers to either "tea drinking", or "a tea house". "Ten" means "shop or store". Interestingly, "kissaten" has taken on the meaning of "coffee shop".

"Manga" means "comics, comic book" (Japanese variety). So, you'd think that a "manga kissa" (derived from "manga" + "kissaten") would be a place where you eat manga. But no, although some people are said to "devour" books, a "manga kissa" is a coffee shop where you pay by the hour to sit and read comics. Manga kissa started popping up in the mid- to late-1990's, and later absorbed the internet cafes (netto kafe) (shops where you could pay by the hour to surf the net) so that now there's little distinction between a manga kissa and an internet cafe. On the other hand, some internet cafes have individual rooms where you can sleep overnight, and that have become popular with unemployed, homeless, young adults

Mane Cafe, while advertising on Melty Cure, is really just a manga kisse. The name comes from "MAnga" + "interNEt" ("ma" + "ne" + "cafe"). They have two plans, incremental and bulk. The incremental plan costs 70 yen for 10 minutes (420/hour ~ $5 USD). Bulk is 1000 yen for 3 hours, or 2000 yen for 10 hours. There are 6 booths, large enough for 1 person, with a chair, desk and PC. Not that comfortable for reading, but fine for watching DVDs or playing PC games. There are a few TV rooms, with a small couch, PC and TV, and then the group room that is almost like a small living room in an efficiency apartment. The real attraction to a manga kissa is that it's wall-to-wall comics. The front desk has the latest copies of the weekly magazines, and then there's thousands of volumes of both boy's and girl's comics. If you're trying to find a series that you like, you'll have a good selection to work from. If you want to read a complete series, unlike a regular bookstore, all of the volumes from the set are here. And, if you read fast, you can consume $10 of weekly magazines for the $5 cost for a 1 hour stay.

Mane Cafe has a small selection of snacks and cup noodles (120 yen for chips and crackers, 150 yen for cup ramen) and an all you can drink for free vending machine for juice, coffee and tea (although it's poor-quality coffee). If you're looking for a place to sit down and chill for an hour, a manga kissa isn't that bad of a choice. To get to Mane Cafe, ride the Odakyu line to Gotokuji station (1 stop north of Kyodo station). When you exit the station, there should be a McDonald's to your right. Turn left and walk 1.5 short blocks. Mane Cafe will be down the stairs to your left. (I should mention that nearly every major station in Tokyo has an internet cafe within a 1-2 block radius of the exit and most of them are similar to Mane.)

They also have a points card. 1 point per regular visit, 2 or more points if you get the 3 hour or 10 hour package. Every 15 points gives you a free 30 minute credit. (At 420 yen per 1 hour visit for 1 point, that's 6300 yen ($65 USD) to get a 210 yen ($2.25) credit, which is 3.33% on your spending.

(Right outside Mane Cafe, on the way back to the station, I found this group doing "tachi yomi" (standing and reading manga for free) in front of a bookstore. Kind of ironic. At least with a manga kissa it's only 420 yen to sit down for an hour while reading.)

Coincidentally, the same day I visited Mane Cafe, the Yomiuri newspaper ran a story on how internet cafes are being targeted by the police for attracting hackers. Seems that a lot of net cafes don't check the customers for IDs, allowing hackers to access the net anonymously. And the police are threatening to crack down on net cafes as a result. For reference, Mane Cafe asked for my ID before letting me get inside.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I'm trying to compile a list of manga galleries and museums in Japan, and I want to visit the places located in Tokyo in order to write up accurate reviews and/or descriptions of each. I'm not really attracted by the art style of Suiho Tagawa, but I definitely have to accept his importance within manga history and his impact on later artists. Machiko Hasegawa, creator of "Sazae-san", apprenticed under Tagawa, and Osamu Tezuka recognized him as an influence as well.

As mentioned in the Norakuro Street entry, Suiho Tagawa (1899-1989) was born in Morishita, Tokyo, an area about 1 mile south of the sumo district of Ryogoku. He served in the Japanese Imperial army from 1919 to 1922; graduated from the Japan School of Art in 1925; and began producing manga in 1927 (initially under the pen name Awa Takamizu, which was latter modified to Suiho Tagawa). His most successful title was "Private Second Class Norakuro" ("stray black dog"), which started in 1931 and was turned into a TV anime series in 1970 and again in 1987.

The Norakuro Manga Museum, in the Morishita Bunka (Cultural) Center, is on Takabashi Yomise Dori, about 3 blocks east from 463, on the right. The building is an all-purpose cultural center, with the display for Tagawa on the first floor; an exhibit showing the process for making wooden boats and silk screened cloth on the second; general meeting rooms on the third; and an AV room and a traditional tea room on the fourth. There are a lot of fliers for various local events and gatherings next to the door.

My camera battery died in the middle of my taking photos, so I couldn't document the entire exhibit. There's a reproduction of Tagawa's study; examples of his manga; a timeline of his life and works; tribute drawings from Hasegawa (Sazae-san), Tezuka (Tetsuwan Atomu) and others; and some of the Norakuro anime running on the TV. A table in front of the display has copies of his original manga for children to read.

There's a stamp pad if you want a souvenir, and there's even instructions on how to do a Norakuro origami.

The full album can be found here. The official Norakuro website is here. The address in English is here.

A small selection of the Norakuro goods available from the shops on Norakuro Street.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Norakuro Street

Manga artist Suiho Tagawa (1899-1989) was born in Morishita, Tokyo, an area about 1 mile south of the sumo district of Ryogoku. He served in the Japanese Imperial army from 1919 to 1922; graduated from the Japan School of Art in 1925; and began producing manga in 1927 (initially under the pen name Awa Takamizu, which was latter modified to Suiho Tagawa). His most successful title was "Private Second Class Norakuro" ("stray black dog"), which started in 1931 and was turned into a TV anime series in 1970 and again in 1987.

The people of Morishita are very proud of Tagawa, and have turned the stretch of street in front of the Norakuro Manga Museum into Norakuro Town. One shop sells Norakuro souvenirs, and there's even a "Norakuro sake" at the liquor store.

To find this street from Shinjuku, start by taking the Chuu-ou rapid train to Ochanomizu and transfer to the Sobu line. Exit three stations later at Ryogoku and leave from the east exit (if you take the west exit, go immediately under the tracks to get to the south side of the wall). Walk east about 3 blocks to the first major intersection (463) and turn right. Go to the 7th set of street lights (next major intersection after 50) and look for the FamilyMart convenience store on the corner on the left.

This is Takabashi Yomise Dori. It's about a 20 minute walk from the station, so if you're in a hurry you may want to take a bus when you get to 463.

I decided to buy a bottle of the sake for 500 yen ($6 USD). When I asked about Norakuro, the store owner replied "This is Japanese Mickey Mouse".

Monday, October 26, 2009

Toei Studios Gallery

Edit: I know I said that I wasn't planning on coming back out here right away, but since I'm beefing up the List of Anime and Manga Galleries, I decided that I'd return with my camera recharged and take a few shots. While I was doing that, the security guard came out of the guard shack next to the gate to invite me into the gallery to look around more. He was a really nice guy, and he let me take the photo of the Arale-chan dolls in the shack widow.

Toei Animation Co. is the biggie in terms of anime studios in Japan. Their titles include Dragonball and Dragon Ball Z, Dr. Slump, Sailor Moon, Galaxy Express 999, Mazinger Z, Mahoutsukai Sally, One Piece, Slam Dunk, Gegege no Kitaro and the newly released Thriller Restaurant. They've taken on outsourcing work from the U.S. on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, My Little Pony and G.I. Joe, among many others. They've got a couple of studio locations, but the one with a gallery that's open to the public is in Nerima.

To get to the gallery, start from Ikebukuro in Tokyo (from Shinjuku, Ikebukuro is 4 stops north on the Yamanote line). In the Ikebukuro station complex, aim east for the Seibu department store and then follow the signs to the Seibu Ikebukuro station. As of October, 2009, the ticket to Ouizumi Gakuen station (about 10 stops out) was 230 yen ($2.50 USD). At Ouizumi Gakuen, take the north exit. At the street, go along the station to the right about 50 feet (on the right, you'll see a big Galaxy Express 999 mural behind the bus stop) then take the diagonal cross street northeast 3 blocks to the next major intersection. Turn right (east) and walk to the second set of street lights. There will be a koban (police box) on the left side of the street at the intersection. Turn left in front of the koban, and you'll know you're going in the correct direction if you see a sign for "Create Este" up ahead. Go past "Create Este" 3 blocks and you'll see the Toei Studio buildings on your right. You'll need to sign in at the gate (country and name only) and you'll be given a badge. You're only allowed to visit the gallery area on the first floor of the first building past the parking lot. Fortunately, the gallery is free. The map is here.

Inside the door, there's a long hallway lined with posters from many of the TV shows mentioned above. There is an office area on the left, but there's nothing in it to look at. At the end of the hall are two rooms. The first has more of the posters, life-sized statues of the girls from "Pretty Cure", plush stuffed characters from "One Piece", and samples of the artwork used to make Mazinger Z and a couple other shows. In the middle of the room is a 20+ foot tall statue of Mazinger Z, and in the corners are little TV sets playing the opening and closing credits pieces from several of the shows. The second room has hundreds of figures made from the characters of the shows, a glass case filled with DVD collections, and some example goods. There was a goods shop, but it was closed when I visited. There's a second hallway with a camera room hosting old film shooting and editing equipment, and an editing room where one guy was working on a computer, but this room was off-limits to the public. Attached to the figures room is a rest area with vending machines selling various soft drinks and canned coffees, and a TV that had been left switched off.

(The rest of the studio complex is across the street, behind this sign.)

It's a fun little gallery to visit, but unless you're looking at the artwork to see how animation is created, you can blow through everything in under 20 minutes. It's best to go with a group and make it a shared experience. And it is free. Note that the Mazinger Z statue and some of the other displays are part of a rotating exhibit that gets changed periodically. What you see in the gallery may be different than what's described here, depending on when you go.

(Click on the strip to expand it.)

There are some fliers and brochures describing the company, located inside the door. There's also a small selection of film strips cut from the master rolls that you can take for free and use as bookmarks (they ask that you only take one strip per person).

Be aware that Oizumi Gakuen station is a proud supporter of Galaxy Express 999. There's a statue of the conductor in the station but you have to look for it; the outside of the station on the north side has the train painted on the wall; there are a few banners for the movie hanging from the street poles, and above the banners are replicas of the train floating over the poles. Some news about the paintings on two of the Seibu trains can be found here. I asked about the trains at the station and was told that they don't run on a fixed schedule. You have to call the home station and ask where they are at any given time.

Tourist Info
Toei's Official page

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is it a game? Is it a truck?

Is it Kamen Rider? No!! It's a pachinko machine!!

Kamen Rider is a popular live action TV superhero series dating back to 1971. There have been a number of sequels. And now, it's a themed pachinko machine. I can't be sure if the truck is hauling machines, or is simply an empty mobile billboard.

For Shiroibara.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ys 7 Bus

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a bus? Is it...

Yes, it's a bus. Advertising Ys 7, the latest installment in the "Ys" video game series, for the PSP. Seen on Chuu-ou Dori, in Akihabara.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Iron Chef, the Game

Yes, you too can be "The Iron Chef". Now available in pachinko parlors everywhere.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oume, Part 3 - Fujio Akatsuka Hall

(The text at the top of the sign says "Here is good".)

The real reason for riding out to Oume was that I'd found an article on the net mentioning the Fujio Akatsuka memorial Hall in Oume. Fortunately, I'd been near Oume once before, when I rode out to the Tamagawa Weir, and I knew pretty much where I needed to go. (Actually, not exactly true. I've been here twice. The first time was when I transferred trains to get out to the dam a few miles farther away from Tokyo. At the time, I didn't realize that the painting of Mysterious Akko-chan visible from the train platform was an advertisement for Fujio's memorial hall.)

I've written about Fujio several times. Most recently for an exhibit at a department store in Ginza, as part of his anniversary (he'd died in 2008). I've also written up a translation of 2 of his Tensai Bakabon chapters that I'll put on Nihon-go Hunter after I've finished with Tezuka's "Don Dracula" and "The Three Invaders" (at this rate, probably in December). You can find Fujio's production company page here.

(His cat figures heavily in some of his works. One photo showed the process used to get it to lay out flat like this.)

The Hall is a couple of blocks south west of Oume station, just across the street from the big shrine. It's pretty easy to find, and there are directions from the station. Entry is 400 yen for adults ($4 USD) although you can also get tickets for the shrine and the retro film building next door at the same time for about 800 total. The two women running the ticket counter and gift shop didn't seem to speak English, but they understood my Japanese well enough, and they were very friendly.

The front portion of the first floor is the gift shop, with manga, DVDs, t-shirts, toys and other paraphernalia for sale. There's also a flier rack next to the door with ads for a number of other museums (it held fliers for the Shonen Sunday/Magazine DNA exhibit at the Kawasaki museum which ended in September, so it may need cleaning out periodically).

The other rooms of the house have examples of Fujio's artwork, statues of his more famous characters, copies of the weekly magazines that his work appeared in from the 1960's and 70's, and photos of him and his family. You're allowed to take photos on the first floor but not of the second.

The second floor has a TV set up playing interviews of him and some of his more famous friends (including a few TV comics and musicians), plus computers running his "complete works" DVDs. The room at the far end of the house is set up to resemble his old work studio. There's more artwork and statues in addition to one room that's wall-to-wall shelves of his books.

(One photo shows him getting Muhammad Ali's autograph.)

Overall, I enjoyed myself a lot. Fujio had an amazing sense of humor and he wasn't afraid of trying anything that just popped in his head. And you can tell that by looking through his gallery. However, it is kind of small. Even if you play with the DVDs and read some of the available manga, you'll probably be done in an hour. So, I'd highly recommend making this a day trip - get the tickets for the retro shop next door and for the shrine across the street. Visit all three sites and then spend some time wandering around the area looking at the movie posters lurking there.

(Fujio and Tomori.)

The complete photo album can be found here.

(You stand on the footprints on the floor before the picture and have someone else take your photo. The text says "What a dumb-looking face".)

The below three photos are of different angles of a panel box featuring Bakabon's father, the eel dog, Rerere, and a few of his other characters.