Otome Road, Tokyo Trip Feb 2015

The last time I had spare time in Tokyo, I went to Ikebukuro. But I took left out of the wrong side of the station and went in a totally opposite direction than the famed walk of BL and Otome. What’s BL? What’s Otome? Well, let me tell you

Otome. Sometimes translated as virgin, but probably more akin to maiden. Otome I usually associate more with otome games than a term like otome manga which I have never heard. Otome games are games where you play as a girl and romance (or are romanced by) various guys.

Also, BL is short for “Boys Love” media, which isn’t always sexual as the commonly known term “yaoi” might be. Although much like yaoi, BL media is traditionally made for and by a female audience as opposed to a male one.

Ikebukuro is the hub of this community, and is probably the only place you can see trucks like this

As much as I like the idea of more media with gay male romance. This is actually a sub culture I know very little about, but my friend from the Akiba trip is much more knowledgeable one. So talking with her about it, seeing all of it a little more from her perspective was really interesting. Not that we got into much depth really.

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Akiba, Tokyo Trip Feb 2015

I must admit, I really am not the greatest writer when it comes to travel stuff. But practice makes perfect right? This is also coming nearly… a month later… yes a month later than it really should.

So, Saijo to Tokyo, it’s a decent trip distance wise. I had a few options to get there, from plane, bus or train. I opted for the cheapest, taking 11 hours by bus, from 7:50pm to 6:50am or so. I usually never get much sleep on international flights, but I have never had a bus trip quite this long before so unsure how well I would weather it. Surprisingly, I actually slept for most of the trip pretty well. Certainly not a great nights sleep, but could be far worse.

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So on the Wednesday morning, very very early, I arrive in Tokyo and… have to wait. Japan generally doesn’t have much open before 10am, which has always been a personal frustration of mine with the country actually. So once arriving, I went to Akihabara and immediately parked myself in a café for food. Once I had decided the staff were no longer going to abide by my parking in their café I decided to explore an Akiba where everything is closed.

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While, I didn’t find much of interest for obvious reasons, there were a few things I noticed. Most notably an outside market being set up and a pack of fans outside an anime goods store called ANIMATE, who seemed to be there waiting for something specific. And then a long line of people waiting to get into what appeared to be a pachislot place. (one day I will write about Pachinko), it seemed a new Madoka based machine was the reason for this line.

Then I parked myself in a bakery, and finished watching the classic film Snow White. Soon, the time of opening would be upon us though, so I met with my friend and we begun our Akiba Trip.

 Personally, I find describing a trip through Akiba hard. For me a lot of the fun is in poking around and either getting blasts of “Is this really a thing?” or “OMG IS THAT REALLY A (niche franchise) (object)”

 

Although my exploration did clue me onto the fact that somehow, someone, somewhere, decided a stage performance of Phantasy Star Online 2 was something that the world needed. Japan has many stage productions, of odd things. But that a stage production of a free to play MMO is something that will exist this march is baffling.

If I was wealthier or lived near Tokyo I would go and see it. But I don’t think I need to know how bad it is.

Anyway, come opening time a dear friend of mine rocked up and set us up exploring. This time, the exploration was a little different. My exploration is usually focused primarily around videogames. However, my friend is much more invested in the anime and VN side of things, which made this trip quite a bit different. So, we wandered around various shops. Mostly looking through doujin and figures. I was optimistic I would find an Umihara figurine, but no luck (although it was very unlikely). I did managed to pick up other goods though

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We also looked at a lot of Gatchapon. A lot of Gatchapon. For those not in the know, gatchapon, sometimes called capsule machines, are very common in Japan, containing small toys, keychains and the like fairly cheaply. But of course, there is a random element to them. It can be quite addictive really.

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Not a lot of game hunting went on though. Although we did stumble by my the great SUPER POTATO. Which is a little pricey, but a wonderful retro game shop that might that oozes with love. It might not have everything, but would probably be one of THE places for old games… Although you do pay for the pleasure of buying from a shelf, as these games are not cheap. Mandarake is the other major contender, and while nice, I like how homebrew Super Potato feels compared to Mandarake.

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Super Potato, along with selling a lot of games, also has a small amount of game merch, with two major takeways, the BATH BOY, and this wonderful Okami… plastic print? It feels like it is supposed to be a huge crappy mousepad, but currently lives on my wall.

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After a lot of walking, we have burgers, do some more running around, and then are exhausted so time to head to my hostel in Ueno/Nezu.

Next up, my trip down Otome Road.

 

Hiroshima Holiday

Just before the end of the year I opted to holiday in Hiroshima for 4 days. Unfortunately I failed to realise that most things are shut from the 28th or so. Meaning that 3 of my 4 days were a little more challenging to fill with things.

But let’s start with perhaps two of the most famous things in Hiroshima, which were unsurprisingly, the first things I did. The Peace Museum, and the Peace park. The Peace Museum, well what was open of it, was outstanding. A lot of great pieces well chosen to put into the museum, and a lot of great model work too. These really helped convey various aspects of the event in a much more real way. The piece that most sticks with me is a portion of a brick wall in the museum, with shards of glass embedded into the bricks because of the force of the explosion. Tattered or destroyed clothes are a powerful exhibit too, but this one it etched into my mind. Unlike the other aspects, which were somewhat expected or inevitable, like tattered clothes or broken walks. This was something both more unique, but instantly understandable. The other stand out for these kinds of objects were the roof tiles that had started to bubble, and now have a distinctly different texture.

Being told the explosion was powerful enough to make roof tiles bubble, and feeling/seeing roof tiles that bubbled, are very different things. And this is something Hiroshima’s Peace Museum understood.

The Peace Park itself is also worth a mention. There are a lot of Memorial/Peace monuments in the park. A cenotaph, bell, the Atomic Dome, all of which beautiful or significant in their own way. But the thing that really kept coming to mind while in the park was the honest feeling of peace. Despite being in the middle of a city, and while I was there, always filled with people, the park really does inspire a peaceful and quiet feeling throughout it. In fact, a non-trivial amount of writing was done in that park. I would normally include a photo, but it seems I didn’t actually take any of the peace park much to my surprise.

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