Tag Archives: Japan

C89 – Winter Comiket 2015

16 Jan , 2016,
Levin Tan
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Comiket is just awesome!

Comiket is war. Anyone without a mission, without a strategy, will accomplish nothing on this battlefield.

After C84 with Arvin back in 2013, I certainly was raving to go for another one, so when I finally got another opportunity, I went back to Tokyo once more – for C89.

I cannot emphasise enough how big Comiket is. If you’ve been to one before, you’ll know. If you haven’t, it’s unimaginable. Even my memory of C84 had gotten kinda hazy and I was still amazed at how large it was this time. For comparison, take US’s largest similar convention: New York Comic-Con. They have over 170,000 attendees over 4 days. At Comiket, a single day has more attendees than Comic-Con for all 4 days, totaling at over 590,000 over 3 days! And these are only the attendees who queue at the opening. Those arriving after noon are not counted.

Back in C84, I didn’t care much about doujins and circles, and just went for the commercial booths. My Japanese was quite bad, so I couldn’t understand much even if I did buy doujins. But this time, I upped my level, and really prepared for war. Before flying to Tokyo, I had already met up with a group of friends to discuss our plans, routes, and strategies. We had a Facebook chat group and a Whatsapp group for communications as well.

I took the first train from my hotel down to the Tokyo Big Sight. But when I got there, there were a number of people already ahead of me! Ok, I thought, it doesn’t look that bad. That was until the sun rose and I could see everything…

picture of queue into Comiket on day 1

Everyone in front of me and to the left are ahead of me in the queue! (Day 1)

Queue for Comiket

Nice sunrise while queueing. (Day 2)

The only level up from here is to queue overnight, which is what one of my friends did. You have to be prepared though. This is winter, with temperatures around 4C or lower in the middle of the night. Summer is easier, and that means more people queue overnight too.

Marker for end of queue

This marks the tail of the line. It takes skill to find this fast!

Queueing is almost like what Comiket is made out of. You do that for everything – from getting in, to buying your stuff, to use the vending machines, toilets, everything. And usually, from the tail of the queue, the head is not visible, and vice versa. This can leave people confused as they search for the tail to join the queue. No doubt, with experience, this gets easier.

This year’s comiket was divided into (mostly) Day 1 – BL (and Gundam), Day 2 – Kancolle, Touken Ranbu, and Touhou, Day 3 – iM@S and LL!. I was targeting the commercial booths, Kancolle, and iM@S, so this was pretty much perfect scheduling. The people who arrange these things are very knowledgeable about the fanbase and content, so they try their best to schedule it such that most people can get what they want.

Now, knowing what you want to get isn’t sufficient, you also need to plan how you want to get it, because…

Hall crowds at C89

Multiply this view by exactly 10 times for the total indoor crowd at any time.

That booth you want to visit is a high school classroom sized table located in there somewhere! You aren’t going to get to it without planning! Also, check out the flow of people between halls:

Crowd flowing

When crowds are this thick, people behave like liquid flowing…

Another thing to be amazed at is, despite the colossal crowd, everything runs superbly smoothly! It is crowd management at its finest. You have to give it to them:

Comiket volunteers in orange caps and armbands

These are the volunteers of Comiket who help things run really smoothly.

There are 3,500 of these volunteers who help out on minimum 2 of the 3 days in Comiket. I asked my Japanese friend, and he said that all these people get is a free Comiket catalog (worth ¥2,500), a free meal, and get to keep their hats and armbands. That’s it! And yet, each Comiket has more applications for volunteers than they accept! So why would they sacrifice being able to buy stuff? Well, apparently these volunteers have enough connections that they can get what they want from their friends.

You might be wondering now, how did I get all these photos, wasn’t I located in a battlefield rushing for my own stuff? Well, see, Comiket almost ends at noon. By the time you hit around 11.00am, the most popular booths sell out:

Booth Utsura Uraraka, by Eretto sensei.

Day 1 booth Utsura Uraraka (A61ab), by Eretto sensei. Sold out!

The popular booths then sell out around 1pm, and by 2pm, you are basically left with all the non-famous/popular ones. That is not to say that they are not good, just not as well known. For instance:

FNP from Singapore!

Booth: FNP (Day 2, J03b)
A doujin circle from Singapore!

Circles not from Japan can be found participating in Comiket. I did come across several from China as well, and they sell good stuff too!

On day 3 usually, you can find circles dealing with electronics. Anime, manga, and electronics are somehow related as proven in Akiba, and here is no different:

Home-made headphone drivers

HAL900 (circle name) selling home-made headphone drivers.

Comiket is not just about doujins and merchandise, but also about cosplay. Here’s a shot of one of the several cosplay areas:

Overlooking the outdoor cosplay area

It can be hard to find your cosplaying friends here!

Gochiusa, short for Gochuumon wa Usagi desuka? (Is the Order a Rabbit?) is the biggest thing in Akihabara currently, and I was glad to be able to find a full cast of cosplayers here at Comiket!

Gochiusa Cosplayers

Is the order a full cast of Gochiusa cosplayers? Cosplayers: Cocoa, Chino, Takahiro, Rize, Sharo, Chiya

If you’re looking for more cosplay pictures, check out our C89 Facebook Album!

The spirit of Comiket is meant to be a community thing, as you might find in the official brochure and website. There are no “customers”, but only participants. This is something everyone understands. And while it gets really crowded and disorienting, the whole convention proceeds in a very orderly fashion. Even during one incident I witnessed where a cosplayer wasn’t happy with the way someone was photographing her (rather *ahem* angles) and things got a bit heated, everyone helped to ensure that the photographer didn’t run away and a staff member was called to help. The photograph was deleted, and all was alright.

At the end of it, Comiket leaves you with a tired but wonderful feeling, as you go back to count your loot (which can’t even fit in one picture). I can’t quite describe how that feeling is like, but it’s something of awe, satisfaction, amazement, and accomplishment. Comiket is an amazing experience that will keep you going back for more! However, as you leave, there’s always someone to remind you…

This way to reality.

“Reality, this way ->” is what the sign says.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku Living in Tokyo — Ep06

11 Aug , 2015,
Edric
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The Irregular Otaku managed to visit The Art of Gundam at Mori Arts Center Gallary in Roppongi during his summer break.

We can never get enough of those giant robots Gundam ever since the first animation took the world by storm. They were never meant for kids. Interest in space drama grew in the 1970s, with Space Battleship Yamato and Starwars. Yamato, in particular, changed the perspective that animation was for kids.

Early concepts for the original Mobile Suit Gundam, took shape in earlier titles like Freedom Fighter, Chronical of Drifting Journey of J Boys and Space Fighter Battalion Gunboy. Gundam would later incorporate these ideas. The success of Gundam revolves several critical elements, still prevalent in popular Gundam titles today. The story is about a group of boys thrown into an extreme condition of war and how they would react within their respective organizations. Of course, the use of giant robots known as Gundam became necessary tools of war with a great emphasis on realistic designs of sets and equipment.

The story was unusually weighty for children and its intended audience of Junior Highschool students with topics of realism and foreshadowing of how our world might become in the near future. It was meant to stimulate the imagination and create a strong sense of empathy from the viewers. Where the idea of humanity moving into space is exceptionally real in the 1970s with overpopulation and a looming environmental crisis.

The concept of a space colony is not plucked out of pure fantasy but based on American physicist, O’Neil’s concept of a space settlement. However, there are storytelling tools involved, like the concept of Minovsky Particles. We know that this functional technology blocks the use of radar and communications, making long distance battles impossible. But it also served another purpose and that is to make the story more convincing and personal. Its boring to watch a space light show right?

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The new Gundam Movie, GUNDAM: The Origin II will screen in Japan from 31st October 2015.

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Fans of the tradition Gundam stories will have more to cheer this October. A new Gundam anime will be screened from 4th October 2015, remember to mark your calendars.

The exhibition runs until September 27, 2015. If you’re a fan of Mobile Suit Gundam and you’re in Tokyo from now until end September, don’t ever miss this fine collection of Gundam artifacts.

Link: http://www.gundam-ten.jp/en/

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

This article is made possible thanks to the folks over at Attn. Japan. Find out more about Japan by checking out their magazines. If you are interested in various attractions around Tokyo, Tokyo Convention & Visitor’s Facebook page has the most up to date most happening events around the city.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku Living in Tokyo — Ep05

4 Aug , 2015,
Edric
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Our Otaku Professor headed down to Meguro last week to have a look at what’s going on at Meguro Gajoen. The Wanoakari X Hundred Steps, presents a cultural exhibition of various events and artworks from around Japan.

Room of Jippo

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Room of Gyosho

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Room of Souku

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Room of Seisui

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Room of Seikou

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Room of Kiyokata

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Room of Chojyou

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They bothered to number each step.

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There are some props that are way too big for the rooms…

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We last heard that the Otaku Professor was also spotted loitering at a Gundam Exhibition at Roppongi.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

This article is made possible thanks to the folks over at Attn. Japan. Find out more about Japan by checking out their magazines. If you are interested in various attractions around Tokyo, Tokyo Convention & Visitor’s Facebook page has the most up to date most happening events around the city.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku Living in Tokyo — Ep04

21 Jul , 2015,
Edric
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Without a cell phone number, it is would be impossible to open any bank account anywhere in Japan. For a tourist, subscribing for a roaming plan or purchasing some voice-enabled SIM card without a number is easily available at most major electronic stores like LABI Yamada or BIC Camera.

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BIC Camera sells all kinds of electronics goods; not just sell cameras.

But a phone number, that’s the big problem. Fortunately, Softbank has a solution to this riddle.

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A Softbank store at Ikebukuro.

The Softbank Simple Style is a prepaid service where a they package a phone together with a USIM card. Nothing too fancy if it’s a number to work around the administration red tape.

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The phone I got just to open a bank account.

It is quite expensive to make any phone calls using this service; and much more for SMS, Y!Mail and Data plan. But at least, there’s no 2 years contract to service which doesn’t make much sense if you’re not planning to stay in Japan for more than a couple of years.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku Living in Tokyo — Ep03

14 Jul , 2015,
Edric
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It took me almost a week to get put things into place since arriving in Tokyo. After a luggage delay thanks to some shenanigans from Scoot (I would not patronise them in the future). So what happened?

Living in a country for an extended period of time require a bank account, and a mobile phone. Sounds simple?

Registering for a bank account is a daunting task. Most banks in Japan would only consider your application only if you have been in the country for more than 6 months. Mizuho Bank was my first attempt and was politely shown the door when they found out I arrived the week earlier; and so would most major banks.

Other than Japan Post Bank, Shinsei Bank is the other foreigner friendly with their English speaking staff without the 6 months rule. Moreover, the bank doesn’t charge clients a fee to use the ATM. That’s another perk to leave your hard earned cash with them. A Hanko is optional for registration. If you do not have one made by this point, you are fine.

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Shinsei Bank’s Ikebukuro Branch.

Documents Required:

  1. Residence Card and Passport
  2. Home Address and Contact Number
  3. Hanko (if you already made one; or bad at signing)

Oh wait, they need a local phone number. Not just any phone number but one registered to your name. The “Mobile Phone Improper Use Act” passed in 2006 made it impossible for anyone staying on a short-term visa to register for a phone number. A phone plan requires a bank account or a credit card (which I lack). Right… I’m so $%#@ed…

– To be continued –

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo — Ep02

7 Jul , 2015,
Edric
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Every country has something that makes it special from another. Some (like those toilet bowls that spray water at your butt) are a stroke of genius while others are just annoying.

Despite its readiness to adopt new technologies, Japan still found itself reluctant to let go of old tradition like the common usage of Inkan (official seal) for signing off official documents and various day to day paperwork.

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Some of the more exquisite Hankos on display.

It’s hard to get around Japan without this handy item, just like how we can’t survive the office without our favorite signing pen. There are several shops that have ready made Inkans for sale, and Daiso sells them at 100 yen (+8 yen tax) a pop.

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A wide selection found at Daiso, only with Japanese family names. Too bad Gaijins; oh wait, that’s me.

What if you can’t find your name on one? Make one at your friendly neighborhood store! It takes a few days for them to craft the item.

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A custom made Hanko bearing my last name.

Like your signature, the Inkan can be used to sign off any official documents. If you made one, remember to keep it secret, keep it safe (almost left mine behind at the post office the other day). A custom made Inkan also a great souvenir item if you want something more personalized than a mass produced doujinshi.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo — Ep01

30 Jun , 2015,
Edric
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Shit happens; it always does! All hail Murphy! Yes, it happened to me as well. How bad was it?

Fortunately, I have been through an entire week without bathing thanks to the Army. Powder, mints and always remember to keep your toothbrush with you at all times.

Still, it’s really not a great feeling when you’re sweating from head to toe and your baggage (with your change of clothing) that was supposed to arrive on the same flight is delayed by 2 days. Imagine the same stinking clothing that went through everyone at the airport, cramped public transport and whatever. Then, imagine sleeping in it for 2 nights straight.

Not to mention they’d already made me pay an additional SGD 200 for extra baggage.

While I am appreciative of the effort put in by the staff at Narita Airport to locate my bag, I am still horrified that Scoot was unable to tell me where my luggage was. It could have been in Singapore or Taiwan or on the wrong flight!

Having the opportunity to serve my conscription in aviation logistics allows me to shed further insights as to the cause of the blunder.

One, Scoot should have been honest with me that my luggage had been offloaded* in Singapore. That would assure me that my luggage is accounted for and it is in safe hands.

Two, despite me sending an email to their agent in Singapore, I haven’t heard even a single squeak on their end. Only their agent in Japan contacted me to deliver the luggage.

Three, I have the hunch they did not bother to expedite my luggage; causing the 2 days delay.

While it is common for anyone to be unhappy about their precious necessities being offloaded. I believe that they would be infuriated should their belongings be unaccounted for. So don’t ever Scoot off without a proper explanation!

*Offload — In aviation logistics, it means that an item on board the plane has been taken off because the pilot has deem that the aircraft is too heavy. Usually the last baggage that gets loaded onto the aircraft gets taken off should such an event occur.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

Journey to the East

29 Jun , 2015,
Edric
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Studying Japanese in Japan sounds cool and is most Otaku’s wet dream. But is it easy to live the Tokyo dream?

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Ticket to Shinagawa cost ¥1500.

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The trip from Narita International Airport to Tokyo takes about an hour.

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Getting bored >.<

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Making the transit at Shinagawa Station is an alternative to Tokyo Station.

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Housing in Japan is really small by most standards and the rent; not very appealing.

Now, if only my luggage wasn’t offloaded by Scoot e.e;;

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

Feasting on a Budget — Japan

1 Aug , 2014,
Edric
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Let’s face the harsh reality of how small our dollar is as compared to the Japanese Yen. For a S$1,000 I could only get about ¥81,000 and that is how I got by 14 days from Osaka to Tokyo with Minakami in between (buying a Nintendo 3DS, 5 kg worth of books, games and souvenirs). That’s slightly more than ¥5,784 per day.

If the plan is to dine at an Okonomiyake restaurant spending almost a thousand Yen in Osaka for lunch, you are not likely to last a week in Japan without spending the next week living on cup ramen. Especially when lunch is one of the best time to get a really good deal!

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Okonomiyake is a local specialty in Osaka.

There are many ways to feast in Japan without blowing a hole in your pocket and that comes with careful planning, information gathering, web research like japan-guide.com and reading this article.

There are several types of shops in Japan offering food a lower prices and restaurants found on top of expensive looking shopping malls often charge a premium for a similar dish just a street away. The question is how far, or how low, you are willing to look for your next meal. When you want to min-max your budget to get as much Otaku goodies as your luggage can carry.

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A Singapore restaurant found at a dining area on top of a shopping center.

Gyudon 「牛丼」 

Gyudon is one of the most economical meals anyone will find hard to miss. There are Gyudon chains everywhere at every corner in major cities. So, there is no excuse not to find one unless you’re in rural Minakami.

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There are three food chains (YoshinoyaSukiya and Matsuya) vying against each other to be the king of budget Gyudon. There are others, but these are the big three and it is really hard not to find any of them. All three chains offer the standard size for ¥300  or below. Some of their outlets open 24-7. If you’re really hungry in the middle of the night and sick of convenience store food, you might consider checking out the local friendly Gyudon store. On a side note, Gyudon chains are often packed during lunch and dinner times, while empty during late mornings and after hours.

Lunch Deals 

Screenshot 2014-06-26 07.48.49NTPEK“You should eat as much as you can for lunch. It will have to last until dinner.”

Restaurants often put forth lunch deals at tempting prices. Take Saizeriya for example. This Italian restaurant chain has been feeding the Italian craze (with a Japanese twist) at an affordable price tag of ¥500 (including tax). That comes with a free flow of water and miso soup.

However, Saizeriya is not the only restaurant out there offering a budget lunch menu. Many restaurants offer lunch deals from ¥600 to around ¥1000. If stretching every single yen in your pocket is your kind of hobby, lunch will be the best time to start food hunting.

Supermarkets 「スーパー」
In late 2011, Ben-To, a fighting anime inspired by the mad rush to grab food going at half-price. While the anime had over exaggerated the necessity to the point of a fighting match for a packet of cold food. The reality (less the fighting scenes) is not far from the scene depicted on the anime.

Bentos are not the only food that are affordable at Super Markets.

Bentos are not the only food that are affordable at Super Markets.

At the supermarket next to my hotel at Ikebukuro, Tokyo. It opens 24-7 and the discount man only works at 11pm. No later, no earlier. Other supermarkets start as early as 6 or 7pm. Nightly, a throng of people, salary man, house wives and average Joes will crowd around the cooked food section. Eyeing their next meal while they wait for the discount man to do his work. Pasting discount stickers on each packet. The moment the sticker is slapped on the packet it is almost immediately snapped up if someone wants it for dinner.

However, what drives people to supermarkets to grab their dinner is a matter of money. The price of pre-cooked meals at supermarkets range between ¥300-500 for a rice bowl or a set meal. Side dishes range between ¥90 – 500 depending on the quantity. Chicken yakitori sell for about ¥100 per stick and ¥93 for a piece of korokke (of any favor). There are gyoza and karage among other side dishes.

Working back the equation once the half-price sticker is on the package, a simple Katsudon which normally sells for ¥350 goes down to ¥175. The supermarket gives a 20% discount for some dishes . At others, they would stick stickers stating the precise amount they would shave off the original amount. With a ¥500 coin, this goes into a lot of food and an packet of Milk Tea which retails for 93 yen per 1 liter packet. Put in 200-300 yen more and you could have Sashimi for dinner.

If you are worried about getting souvenirs for many people and Kit Kat comes to mind, try the supermarkets. They sell Kit Kats in bulk. But, they don’t carry exotic favors like wasabi or chili, should you need them to torture your friends’ taste buds back home.

There is always a supermarket somewhere. Even in rural Minakami, there was one right down the street from the Ryokan we stayed in.

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Supermarkets have microwave oven and boiled water if you’re wondering where to heat up your food or cook your instant ramen. Unlike supermarkets back home, you have to pack your own groceries or even purchase your own plastic bags.

Convenience Stores 「コンビニ」 

Sometimes Murphy strikes and that is when you head down to the convenience stores.
Convenience Stores are open 24-7 rain or shine. Unlike other countries, they are as well stocked as supermarkets (maybe more).

They sell Bentos, instant Ramen, surgical mask to limited edition anime Kuji (only at Family Mart). Prices are reasonable, and the selection is surprisingly huge considering its limited floor space. While microwave ovens are common place at all convenience stores, some offer tables and chairs for customers to enjoy their meals.

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A selection from a 7-11 Convenience Store in Osaka.

There is a huge variety of bentos for sale at convenience stores. Mostly comfort food, fusion western cuisine to salads for the health conscious eater. The only difference between a convenience store and a supermarket is the lack discounts. Between an expensive izakaya and a posh restaurant, the convenience stores gets my vote for budget.

Convenience stores near hotels and tourist attraction have a habit of placing English speaking staff, mainly foreign students studying in Japan. Don’t be surprised to meet a non-Japanese staff at the counter. They speak English!

Off the Beaten Path

“When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

We all know that in Singapore locals pay about S$2-4 for a plate of chicken rice. And we jest at tourist for paying S$12 per plate. However, everyday, tourists still patronize these restaurants when you could get them at hawker centers. They don’t know where to find S$2 Chicken Rice. It’s not on the ‘tourist’ map.

I hate to drop the bomb to those who insist on consulting the holy map. But, they are the yellow brick road to tourist traps. I suggest ditching that piece of paper! Okay, not totally trashing it but bring it out only when you’re lost getting back to the hotel. Flaunting the map around is also not the wisest fashion in Tokyo when you ‘re announcing to the world that you’re a tourist. I’ll rather be lost than to be led by the nose.

There are several tell tale signs about the district, whether it is for tourist or locals. The biggest give away are the maps found near junctions and train stations. Tourist maps are illustrated with green backgrounds and landmarks are written in both English and Japanese. Local maps however, are in shades of blue and contains directions only in Japanese.

The other subtle give away are drink prices on vending machines.

After all, an average Japanese don’t earn more than you and me, they have bills to pay and things they want to buy and families to raise. If they are able to get by day to day on that tight budget, they must be doing something right; while we’re doing everything proper to burst our budget.

J-Obsession: Where cosplay and J-music collides

10 Mar , 2012,
Crimson
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Cosplayers at J-Obsession, hamming it up for the cameras.

Song & dance proved to be the flavor of the day when cosplayers took to the stage at Japanese music & culture fest J-Obsession at The Cathay today.

Into it’s third consecutive year, the event saw some 17 entries crooning the tunes, rocking to the beat, hip-hopping, and even doing impersonations in a bid to wow the judges and walk away with some $5,000 worth in prizes and vouchers.

The competitors portrayed characters from Japanese pop culture that ranged the gamut, including Visual Kei singers Hizaki and Kamijo, Dracule & Shanks from One Piece, software mascots for the Vocaloid range such as Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka, as well as one of Tiger & Bunny‘s titular characters.

Sabrina, performing as Vocaloid Luka on stage.

Red Hair Shanks and Dracule from One Piece, being all manly and pirate-y.

Skye, who cosplayed Lacus Clyne from Gundam SEED, sallied on despite glitches with the sound system to perform a capella, clinching her the grand prize.

Eden’s Barnaby Brooks Jr., the first runner-up, won the judges over with his Lonely Chaser, a full sized motorcycle prop, while Sakurazaki, who cosplayed songstress Sheryl Nome from Macross Frontier was second runner-up with her routine, which incorporated quick costume changes aided by guest cosplayers Jesuke and Kirisaki into her diva act.

For videos of the cosplay competition, check out our partner in event coverage, Operation P.Ani.C’s, Youtube channel.

You can also check out our full J-Obsession cosplay competition album on our Facebook page here.