Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Suginami and Nakano

I visited Suginami primarily to look around Asagaya where the story in the anime New Game! takes place. Leaving the station through the south exit (recognizable by the nearby Starbucks), we headed left to the Pearl Center shotengai and followed the path of the shopping arcade southward.

Pearl Center viewed from Asagaya Station

It was just before dinner time, and there were many people out walking their dogs and doing some shopping.

Eventually we came to a branch in the road. The uncovered portion of the arcade is Minami Asagaya Suzuran Street, while the covered part branches off to the right. Both streets will take you near the new-AD building, just different sides.

We continued down Suzurandori because it seemed this was the route that was typically used in the anime. Most of the businesses were closed up for the night (being primarily clothing stores), but it seems the area was celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Asasuzu, the street mascot

At the end of the path and to the right was the new-AD building, which served as the model for the Eagle Jump building in the anime.

I visited again a few days later to take some photos during the day. I noticed a relocation sign on the front door. I wonder if an actual game company would ever consider moving into the building?

Later in the evening, we wandered around the northeast side of Asagaya station. Along the tracks is Star Road (スターロード), a narrow road lined with small bars and restaurants. The slightly seedy atmosphere was a bit evocative of Dokudami Tenement except without the 80s fashions.

The next stop was Koenji to the east, known for its used clothing stores. However, I was there to find the new location of Giant Hobby, which had moved away from Nakano Broadway some years ago. To get to the new location, exit Koenji Station through the south exit, and go down about two streets until you see the Now or Never used clothing store, then turn right.

The ИoN store viewed facing northward

The street is quite narrow, but you should be able to see their sign near the second story level off to the left.

Finally was a visit of Nakano Broadway. I didn't see too much of a difference overall in the place since my last visit. Some of the specialty stores that were present before (such as Giant Hobby) were gone, but I'm pretty sure most of the anime related stores remained the same. There did seem to be a dearth of Nendoroid Petit figures, but there was still plenty to look at.

An interesting exhibit showing production art and a couple of giant mascot dolls from Takashi Murakami's uncompleted 6HP (Six Hearts Princess) was being held in Nakano Broadway.

Two art books were being sold at the exhibit. I purchased the one covering the mechanical design of the anime. There was another book on the character design, but it was not as interesting to me.

Pink or Black? Which do you like?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Washinomiya Shrine

One of the traditional otaku pilgrimage spots has been Washinomiya Jinja in Saitama, because of its connection to the anime Lucky Star (being the model for the fictional Takanomiya Shrine).

The location is about an hour away from Ueno, and we paid a visit on a particularly gusty morning that was quite chilly.

We took the JR Utsunomiya Line to Higashi-Washinomiya Station which was kind of a mistake because I didn't realize we should have transferred over to the Tobu Isesaki Line at Kuki Station and got off at Washinomiya Station instead.

In any event, we needed to take the bus from Higashi-Washinomiya Station over to the shrine, but the buses were running on a limited schedule due to the New Year's holiday.

The bus stop is a short distance away from the station. Just head out diagonally to the right from the station and take a right turn at the street just in front of the Shingaku building.

Keep walking, and eventually you will get to the Nishi Owa bus stop.

We got off at the Washinomiya Shrine Entrance bus stop, and had to walk toward the highway, and around the block to get to the shrine itself.

The road to the shrine is fairly recognizable by the street lamps with banners featuring the Hiiragi sisters on them. I actually didn't notice them at first because it was so windy that most of the banners were all twisted up so you couldn't really see what was on them.

At the end of the street, turn right, and there is the shrine.

To the right of the torii gate is the Ootori teashop.

The path up to the shrine was lined with yatai selling food and snacks. One or two them had a bit of Lucky Star art used as decoration.

Because the temple was in full use and many areas had limited access, it was difficult to get good pictures of the actual shrine itself.

We bought a hamaya sold by the shrine, though it was the least expensive type, so it did not have a bulb at the tip like the larger and more expensive arrows which resembled kaburaya.

Afterwards, we had some snacks from the food stalls, and explored the grounds of the shrine.

One of the major attractions for a lot of people were the Lucky Star themed ema on display.

A small wooded area around the main shrine area housed a couple of lesser shrines.

It was a bit jarring coming to the end of some of the paths in the wooded area and finding yourself in a parking lot or somebody's backyard.

On the return walk, we found a bus stop that was very close to the front of the shrine, but there was no service to that particular stop on the day we were there, so we had to walk back where we were initially dropped off to take the bus back to the station.

Bus stop to return to station

If I come back to Saitama again, it's not going to be in winter. There are a number of other places in the region that I wanted to visit, but the short days coupled with the freezing wind pretty much encouraged us to make way back to Ueno as quickly as possible.

Monday, January 1, 2018

あけおめ 2018

Since I was in Tokyo during New Year's Eve, I figured that I would participate in hatsumode (初詣) at Kanda Myojin.

We arrived at about 21:30 and it was a balmy 3°C. A line already formed from the shrine and down the street.

I bought some amazake to warm us up from the Meishu Center next to the shrine. This branch of the sake promotion chain just opened up over the summer.

When the countdown to the new year was completed, the crowd began to move, and everyone filed into the grounds of shrine.

Unsurprisingly, there were many Love Live fans in the crowd. Some were readily identifiable by the jumbo nesoberi plush dolls they carried, while others were more low key, but I could overhear them talking about their favorite Love Live characters.

The crowd outside the shrine was even larger by the time we left.

On the walk back to the JR station, Akihabara's Chuo-dori was lined with itasha. I'm not sure if this is a regular weekend event, or if the owners were there for hatsumode.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Comiket 93

I've always wanted to attend Comiket, but I always felt it would be selfish on my part when travelling in Japan with normals. This time was not particularly different, but being in Odaiba on the weekend that Comiket 93 was being held, and with time to kill until sunset so we could view the nighttime illumination of the Rainbow Bridge, we went to take a look at day 2 of the event being held at Tokyo Big Sight.

The cosplayer section was off to the left of the entrance, and extended over to the lower level.

Photography in the lower level seemed more in line with what I was familiar with at events in the U.S., where photographers would kind of surround a cosplayer and take pictures.

On the upper level however, photographers queued up in line to get photos of the cosplayers. The crowd was big, and the first time we got into the cosplay area, we got carried out almost immediately when we became caught in a moving line of people that flowed out the exit.

Here are some of the pictures that I took of cosplayers on the upper level.

Yuuki Asuna

Sheryl Nome and Ranka Lee

雪姫 as Minami Kotori

Sakuranomiya Maika

Robot Ram and Rem

Erika of Celadon City

あす as Kanzaki Ranko (Limited SSR ver.)


Ruri as Mizushima Saki

I was thinking about getting to the lower level, but I didn't want to spend too much time trying to figure out how to get down there since it was starting to get late, and I wanted to take a look inside as well.

There were a lot of people inside, but it was a lot easier to move around than outside. A booth outside in the central area between the East and West Halls sold various C93 goods and snacks.

I bought a mug for a friend, then we proceeded to the East Halls.

I was expecting it to be a lot more crowded from all the stories I heard, but traffic was quite manageable. I'm not sure if it was because it was already rather late in the day.

We wandered around the perimeter of the tables, but didn't really go down the aisle, or pause to look at any of the doujin being sold since I was with a normal (I explained that these were amateur comics, but didn't say too much about the subject matter...).

By the time we arrived at Halls 7 and 8, many of the circles were already packed up and leaving, so I decided it was enough for the day. I'd love to come with like-minded friends in the future, but who knows if that will ever happen.

After leaving Tokyo Big Sight, we started walking over to Diver City. along the way over, I saw several places where cosplayers were gathering to take photos. There were some Houseki no Kuni cosplayers I would have loved to get photos of, but I couldn't really understand what the girl manning the entrance at the TFT Building was saying, so I apologized and made a hasty retreat.

At Diver City was the new Unicorn Gundam that was unveiled in the Fall.

As night fell, the sound of thunder and a couple of flashes of lightning announced the start of the Gundam light show. I think that there was a countdown timer that let you know when the action was going to start, so if I had been paying more attention, I could have filmed the entire sequence.

When the Gundam light show ended, we wandered around a bit then headed toward the waterside near DECKS Tokyo Beach and Joypolis.

The day ended with pictures of Rainbow Bridge.