Posts tagged Tokyo Anime International Fair
Picking up where I left off on this post.
We took the train from Akihabara back to Shinigawa Station because Rob had to change clothes before we headed off to the Tokyo Anime Fair.
During the brief layover at the hotel I decided to embark on a small and possibly dangerous adventure. You see, I noticed something VERY interesting for sale in the vending machine near my room at the Shinigawa Prince Hotel. Something that (against all better judgement and common sense) I just had to try.
They carried “Florida Orange Juice.”
This particular canned beverage was allegedly a “Prince Hotel Original.”
Armed with 150 yen, I took the plunge with expectable results. Imagine the worst instant orange juice (from concentrate) that you’ve ever had. Now make it slightly more sour and add more water.
Now imagine something worse.
It didn’t kill me, but it was interesting drinking “juice” from a fruit allegedly from my home state halfway across the planet.
After deciding against having my stomach pumped, I walked down to the lobby to meet Rob so we could head back out. It turned out that there was a wedding going on in our hotel. I got a quick photo of the bride:
That’s right: the wedding dress is pink. CUTE!
Instead of catching a train this time, Rob and I opted to save time and just grab a taxi cab in front of the hotel. Along the way, we spotted something very rare in the streets… an American car. The entire time we were in Japan, I only saw three cars from the United States: a Jeep, an El Camino (yes – an El Camino) and this:
Americans drive Japanese cars by the thousands in the U.S. Japanese drive American cars by the… few. That should speak VOLUMES about the quality of our automobiles.
After a short drive, we made it back to Tokyo Big Sight for T.A.F. 2012 and spent some time looking at the IMPORTANT STUFF before the Tokyo Anime Awards presentation party.
You know – important stuff. Like cute Japanese girls:
And zany costumed mascots:
And more cute Japanese girls:
And more zany costumed mascots:
And even MORE cute Japanese girls:
And even MORE za-…. OMGFG WHAT IS THAT?!?!?!?!?!!
After escaping with our lives, we checked out the kid’s play area. We were tempted to try and sneak onto the cool rides, but we didn’t want to be “those” Americans.
We also took a few minutes to walk down their “Artists Alley.” There we saw some amazingly creative up-and-coming talent showcasing everything from sculptures to animations to paintings and more. We even got stopped on the way out and surveyed about what we thought of all the artists. When asked, I picked this lovely lady as my favorite presentation that I saw there:
Yes – she is sitting on a ladder painting the inside of her booth. Epic.
After the convention closed, we walked to the other side of Tokyo Big Sight where the Tokyo Anime Awards were being hosted. We had been invited to the awards party (read: free food and booze) and it was a great networking opportunity. Many a business card were exchanged with new friends. I also got to swap convention and travel stories with the team from Crunchyroll. They’re a cool group of guys.
Here’s a photo of the awards stage. As expected, I couldn’t understand anything that was being said.
During the event, we were treated to a concert by a popular Japanese musical artist. Based on the little I could make out in conversations, this dude was allegedly huge in the Eighties. You know that phrase “I’m famous in Japan” that people kid about in America? I’m pretty sure is applies to this guy.
Trust me. This is worth at least a few seconds of your time to watch for a myriad of reasons…
AND there you have it.
At this point, we were exhausted. We headed back to our hotels and I actually passed out in my bed when my computer rang.
Note: If you recall, my phone had died in Japan. Thus, I left my laptop logged into Skype in my hotel room for people to call.
Marc called and let me know that he was on his way to our hotel with our new friend Tsuyoshi (whom we’d met through the event) to enjoy an evening of Karaoke. How the hell was I going to turn THAT down?
I got up, put myself back together, and headed to the elevator.
BUT FIRST… let’s talk about pizza. Before leaving for Japan, Shannon and I had a discussion about what sort of non-Japanese food would be offered in Tokyo. We knew that there are American fast food joints thanks to anime and the Internet, but did they have places that served Chinese food? Pizza? Things we are used to getting regularly in the states and aren’t necessarily American?
I asked around before leaving the States and everyone told me the same thing: yes, there are all kinds of food in Japan like that and (more importantly) Japanese pizza sucks.
When we were leaving the convention center earlier that evening (after the Tokyo Anime Awards) we passed a Domino’s pizza guy delivering to Tokyo Big Sight. Amused, I said out loud to the team, “Hey! Check it out. A Domino’s pizza guy in Japan.”
Tsuyoshi, who was with us at the time, turned very serious and looked at me. ”In Japan, the pizza is terrible.” Thus the rumors were reinforced by a local. I became fascinated.
BACK TO KARAOKE:
We went to the Karoake bar at the bottom of my hotel. You pay by the hour and get seated in a small private room where you can order food and drinks and generally make a ass of yourself with your friends. It’s a BIG deal in Japan.
We ordered beer. Lots of it.
Then, I looked on the AWESOME Engrish menu for food…
Near the bottom of the menu (not pictured) I saw it. It was speaking to me… calling to me in Engrish… telling my brain that no – it couldn’t be that bad. I couldn’t resist it. I had to give in.
I ordered Japanese pizza.
RUMOR CONFIRMED: It was terrible. Seriously folks. Look at that thing.
Added note: they serve the pizza with a bottle of Tabasco sauce; I am assuming it is to help kill the taste; it didn’t work.
We spent the night (and into the morning) drinking and eating and singing and singing some more. My friends will tell you that my ability to sing is directly related to the amount of alcohol in my system. (In America, we learned this thanks to the series of Rock Band video games.) It goes something like this:
- SOBER: I sing off key.
- ONE BEER: Still off key, but I sound better to myself.
- TWO BEERS: I can suddenly sing well and on key.
- THREE BEERS: I think I’m Jon Bon Jovi.
- FOUR+ BEERS: I start slurring and singing made up lyrics that only I can understand.
Our adventure in Akihabara continued after the Maid Cafe as we further explored the area. While perusing the shops full of anime, manga, electronics, and toys we came upon a prime example of the Japanese fascination with certain elements of American culture. In this case, Kentucy Fried Chicken. Have you ever wondered what Colonel Sanders would look like if he were Asian? Wonder no more:
I saw KFC restaurants all over Japan, but I never found the time to eat at one. (Partly over my fear of this statue; partly over the trauma from the “tongue incident.”)
We passed by Sanders-san and continued our tour of the district. You could easily spend days (weeks?) exploring all the stores in Akihabara. There is seriously so much to look at and buy for geeks that the experience of going there borders on mental overload. The most memorable shop (for me) was this one:
I love retro video gaming. The team at Wasabi Anime has been hosting the Retrocade at conventions for some time, and we currently host a Japanese only video game room at Florida Anime Experience. This store presented a rare resource of video game systems, cartridges, disks, controllers and other elements dating as far back as before the age of Atari.
It was absolutely amazing and it absolutely took my money. Lots of it. Lots and lots of it. ALL WORTH IT. (Those of you coming to Florida Anime Experience 2012 will soon see.)
After way too much time in the video game store (all worth it) we walked around Akihabara some more and saw some amazing ads and signs and stuff. Things like this:
HELLO JAPANESE BOOBIES!
The last place we stopped was an ice cream shop called “ICE.” It professed to have “ice cream made by angel.” Who was I to say no to that?
This was my first experience with ordering food in a very specifically Japanese style. A beautiful young woman working behind the counter (dressed in a super cute pink outfit matching the color scheme of the front of that building) asked me what flavor I wanted. After exploring all the options, I chose the one flavor I had never heard of: kurogoma.
(It seems that kurogoma is a black bean, similar to vanilla, that we don’t have in the U.S. – or so I’ve been told.)
Upon ordering, I stood and waited expecting her to start making my ice cream cone. After a few moments, though, she walked around the counter and came up to me seeing that I was confused. In true way-too-cute-to-be-real fashion, she led me to the back of the shop. There stood a large vending machine with all the flavor options labelled on it:
It seems that you pay for your ice cream in the vending machine and it prints out a ticket. You then hand the ticket to the person working the counter and she creates your ice cream cone. My guess is that this in place to eliminate cash handling/change mistakes.
After standing in the shop and eating the ice cream… Wait. This deserves explanation: In Japan, it is considered rude to eat while walking. Therefore, if you order something to eat you are expected to eat it there or take it somewhere to eat – but you do not eat en route. Does it happen? (Walking while eating?) Sure. I met a friend in Japan that says she does it, but it makes her parents very upset when she does it.
After standing in the shop and eating ice cream, I realized it was time for Rob and I to head back in order to make it to a scheduled event we were supposed to appear at for T.A.F. We headed back to the station to catch the train.
But not before getting one last photo:
While there are some interesting adventures, Day 2 in Japan was mostly a work day. We got up in the morning and (after a late start) caught the train to head out to Tokyo Big Sight for the Tokyo Anime Fair.
Tokyo is a city of trains and monorails. While there are cars here, they are few and far between based on the lack of space in the city. Everyone EVERYWHERE takes the train.
Once we got to the event, we began having conversations with various companies and attending private events. One such event was a 3:00 PM business tea party where I learned something very very important: Being “Tom Croom” works in Japan.
(For my close friends reading this: Japan is not Las Vegas.)
Allow me to explain. Up until that tea party, I had been operating in a very reserved (read: Japanese) fashion in order to avoid being perceived as the “loud American.” I wore a suit to give a professional presentation and avoided being… well… me. During the party I got introduced to someone from the States who was also at the party. Out of sheer thrill, I went into “dude, what’s up” mode in order to properly convey the essence of my home state of Florida. After a minute of being pseudo-me (in a suit but in Converse All-Stars and talking like “me” again) a number of Japanese business men started walking into the conversation to present business cards wanting to talk to me.
A moment about the business card thing: it’s all true. 100% of it. I must have collected over forty cards doing formal introductions throughout the course of the weekend.
ANYWAY, it seems that my style of personality works because I was acknowledging the correct elements of respect: following custom, wearing a suit, bowing, etc. The cultural part (being reserved) is what they are used to here, but the idea of the “American personality” seems as interesting to them as the uniquely Japanese vocal patterns (especially in women) fascinates me. They like the larger than life American personality… as long as it is respectful.
Which I am (it would appear.)
Thus the rest of the trip I have been more of myself (with various local traditional adjustments) and it has worked out well.
My next test of acting like “me” again was at the Takara booth where I took this photo:
I spoke to the men running it and they both were thrilled that I was a big Transformers fan from America. I explained the voices of the characters they had on display (one of them recognized the name “The Rock” when I mentioned it as Dwayne Johnson; he was thrilled to translate the info to the other guy.) Needless to say, I was offered two business cards and they have requested I email photos of my “legendary” Optimus Prime collection in the office back at the States.
I walked around some more and saw the usual Japanese stuff. You know. Hot anime girls on cars:
After hoofing it for a bit, we opted to grab some food. Looking for something quick and easy, I walked the line of booths set up (just like any convention center) and grabbed what looked like “meat on a stick” for Marc and I.
It looked safe enough, but the consistency was a little strange. It tasted like good grilled beef… but kind of spongy. I noted this oddness to the Anime Expo team sitting with me and Rob quickly pointed out the answer:
“You’re eating tongue.”
Had he not told me, I could have finished. Sure, it seemed a little “off” but I was fine with it. It was just meat. Knowing it was tongue, though, destroyed by ability to finish (and Marc’s, too.)
THUS, I went back and bought this:
‘Cause you can never go wrong with FRIED CHICKEN in any country!
We left the convention center after meetings and opted to meet for dinner at a place complex (mall) called Aqua City. Inside there, we saw a couple of cool things.
First: they had an arcade dedicated to claw style “catch the prize” sort of games. Lots of anime statues and similar items as prizes. The coolest thing was a variation on skeeball from America. Instead of rolling balls up a row to get points, you get bombarded with small balls that you put into the mouth of a talking ramen cup. I have video (that will be posted later.) For now, here’s a photo:
As we walked around the mall, I got further insight into Japanese everyday life and culture. Anime and Sentai are a big deal. They go through as much trouble promoting these things in Japan as we do our Hollywood movies. Check out the awesome Ultraman display we found in the mall promoting an upcoming show:
After a long day of work and walking, we headed back for rest. I passed the McDonalds outside my hotel and saw the latest addition to the “Big America” line of foods they are promoting.
I don’t know about you, but I have NEVER had a cherry milkshake in America.
That’s all for now. :)
Good morning! That’s right, it’s morning in Japan and most of you reading my blog are probably getting off work for the evening.
Before I started typing this I went to the vending machine down the hall from my room and bought a small canned coffee called “Georgia Black.” At least I *think* it’s coffee. It tastes like coffee, but I’ve learned that this doesn’t mean it IS coffee in Japan.
Anyway, next to the coffee I saw something else canned in the vending machine that I promise to buy and try and tell you all about before I leave: Florida Orange Juice.
I shit you not.
They have canned “Florida Orange Juice” in the vending machine in my hotel in Tokyo.
I’m a little bit scared.
Back on topic, though, let’s talk about TOKYO TOWER!
We took the Subway across town and I experience my first (and truly stereotypical) Japanese subway ride. You know those pictures were there are dozens of people crammed into the train car with ZERO respect for personal space? This was the real deal. I had some dude in a suit on one side and a Japanese woman against me on the other. If that happened in New York City, I would assume the man would be trying to pick my pocket and that the woman was about to scream “rape” at any moment.
Again… “alternate dimension.” Totally a different world.
After traversing the the rail system we popped out in the vicinity of Tokyo Tower. Walking towards it we passed a temple in the middle of the city. Check it out:
Pretty amazing, right?
Behind it was a series of statues where a woman and some small children were walking nearby on what appeared to be a school field trip.
Here’s one of them up close:
Like I said: amazing. Tokyo reminds me of New York City in this respect. It’s a metropolis of buildings that permeates modern society, but every once and a while you pass an older building (which in NYC is usually a church or temple) that creates a stark, but welcome, contrast to the scenery.
We continued past the temple and finally came upon an image commonly seen (and often destroyed) in popular anime…
It’s an impressive structure, especially considering the number of times they have had to rebuild it from being destroyed by huge rubber suited monsters and giant mechs.
All kidding aside, Tokyo Tower is an awe inspiring building. We our bought tickets and rode the elevator to the upper level to avail ourselves to an elevated view of city. I’ll post all of the photos when I get home, but for now check this out:
That is the view of Tokyo Sky Tree – Tokyo’s newest tower. It is allegedly the tallest tower in the world, but it doesn’t open to the public until May 2012. I wonder how long until some Sentai Team runs a zip line from the two towers in an action packed escape from evil villians.
Here’s another amazing sight from the top of the tower:
Shocking as it is, Japan is populated by Japanese women. Everyone is so polite everywhere you go and this lovely young lady agreed to have her photo taken with me while waiting for the elevator.
(Insert “Tom Croom wears shorts EVERYONE IN THE WORLD” joke here.)
I’m glad I got to check Tokyo Tower off the list of inspiring buildings I’ve gotten to visit in the world.
After leaving the tower, we caught a cab back to the hotel so we could change clothes and head to Tokyo Anime International Fair which was taking place at another AMAZING building in Tokyo. Before I talk about that, though, let’s check out some cute Japanese subway ads for an Easter event at Tokyo Disneyland:
I totally dig how Japan sees American culture sometimes.
After more adventures on the railways of Japan, we arrived at another iconic structure: Tokyo Big Sight.
I chose this photo in particular because it features Marc (from Anime Expo) and I in suits. This will become important later in this post.
Tokyo Big Sight is a spectacle. Someone pointed out to me the major difference between Japanese and the American cities: architecture. The buildings vary so much here that their diversity helps define a personality to this city. New York City and Miami are both on the water and make for amazing skyline views, but Tokyo presents intriguing vistas on a building to building basis. Each is almost a work of art in its own right.
Tokyo Big Sight is no exception.
We spent the afternoon and early evening doing business at the fair (hence the suits) and I even got to see what my name looks like in Japanese.
Afterwards, we traveled across town to fulfill my need for American food and my favorite consistent tourist attraction in the world: the Hard Rock Cafe.
The HRC Tokyo is located in a district called Roppongi. When we got there, the cab dropped Marc and I down the road from the restaurant so we had to walk a bit.
And oh… what a walk that was.
Suddenly, Marc and I were bombarded by English speaking Nigerian men directing us toward their respective clubs and establishments promising adventures and sights that we would never forget.
What sort of sights?
One of the places was called “Big Tits.” No. I’m not kidding. There was a sign out front featuring a white bra with some enticing cleave with fancy professional script next to it with two words: “Big” and “Tits.”
(I would have taken a picture of the sign, but if I had stopped I would have gotten swarmed by these men even worse.)
Marc realized the cause for our predicament after a few moments: we were still in suits. We were American business men in suits walking down the red light district in an Asian country looking like pure money.
My God, we were a stereotype.
We began replying to the men that we were on our way to “meet our wives for dinner” and flashed our respective rings while doing so.
Right before creating that answer, though, we experienced the single greatest quote of the trip so far. (We plan on making t-shirts.)
A man kept following us desperate for our business to enter his establishment by saying “Come in! You’ll have a great time!” Then he dropped this bomb:
“Happy Hour! Happy Hour! Happy Ending!”
I can’t make this stuff up. Seriously.
Can anything say “AMERICA” more than a Hard Rock Cafe right next to a Tony Roma’s? I think not.
Inside, we were treated to hamburgers (which were a welcome reminder of home) and the STRANGEST tasting celery. Ever. We also scoped some great Engrish. Did you know that “Facebook” and “Page” are one word?
Did I mention the fact that the Japanese really really seem to be in love with American culture? Here’s a restaurant full of them doing the YMCA while drinking near me at the bar:
They were TOTALLY committed and into it. It was awesome.
Unfortunately, this tale ends on a sad note this morning. While walking from train to train my cell phone had a run in with gravity.
If I don’t answer if you try to call me, I’m not ignoring you. Odds are I just can’t. That said, I wonder if they have cell phones in Japan?
That’s all for now. Next post may show up later today or tomorrow depending on where in the world you’re reading this from.
Now I’m going to take a shower and head out to Akihabara.
Did you know that I have a blog? True story. I started blogging in 2003 with no particular purpose in mind. I just liked the idea of writing for the sake of writing. Ars gratia artis and all the jazz. I figured the only folks who were reading were a dozen (or so) of my friends who are web savvy enough to know what a Livejournal was.
It seemed, though, that more and more people were paying attention over time. Someone recently reminded me of this golden nugget on teh webz: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tom%20Croom
Yup. That’s referring to me.
So yes: I have a blog and it seems I have been neglecting it lately. The reasons for this, though, are fairly well justified in my opinion. In any case, here’s the most recent thing I need to report/blog about: I’m going to be in Tokyo, Japan this time next month.
Let’s back up and fill in some blanks over the past few weeks first.
1. My hobby is acting more and more like a business.
I have a day job. I don’t talk about my day job for a myriad of reasons (most of which have to do with me wanting to keep that job,) but it’s there. It takes most of my time during the work week and pays the bills. Anything outside of that part of my life is considered my “fun” life. My hobbies. Etc.
When I started Wasabi Anime in 2001, it was as an excuse to help spread the word about the blossoming fandom of Japanese animation in Florida and to have a good time with my friends. Flash forward to a decade later and Wasabi Anime® is now a register trademark (note the snazzy “R” with the circle around it when I mentioned it this time) that is owned by Green Mustard Entertainment, Inc. This leads me to the large number of projects I’m now working on as a result of the hobby/business/evil-online-empire.
2. Florida Anime Experience
The first event designed out of the gate by my team and I to be an annual thing. We’re building an anime convention in Florida that is about pure distilled anime fandom. We constantly tout our “no Halo in the game room” policy as a guiding light for our theming. There’s also the fact that we’re the first convention in U.S. history to score the English voice of Sailor Moon as a guest. Since I started going to anime conventions because I was dating a girl (now my wife) who loved Sailor Moon, this reeks of “destiny.” You can (of course!) read more at www.FloridaAnime.com.
3. InvaderCON II: DOOMCON
InvaderCON (the Invader ZIM convention) was a great learning experience for the Wasabi Anime team on a number of levels. The first lesson was that we can build a family friendly convention experience around a single show. Those sort of conventions (akin to the classic Star Trek conventions of the late Eighties/early Nineties) just don’t seem to exist anymore in my eyes. Hence “we’re takin’ it back” to paraphrase Randall.
The second just as valuable lesson is that the team can run a convention outside our home base area of Orlando, Florida. This year, though, we’re pushing that ability to the limit by putting InvaderCON on the west coast.
No. Not Tampa. Los Angeles.
The convention is still five months out and we’ve already sold over one fifth if the total tickets for the event. The show is destined to be the stuff of geek legend… www.InvaderCON.com
I still have a ton of work to get done on this before the first weekend of July. This is literally me deciding to test a one day show based on everything the lovely ladies from the Mint Chocolate Chippies celebrate and represent.
And classic pinup style, rockabilly culture, and an art style from one of the most colorful times in our history. Cleavage jokes aside, I think Florida needs an event like PinUpalooza and I’m thrilled to see where it goes. www.PinUpalooza.com
5. Other Plans in the Wasabiverse
At any given time there is an imaginary dry erase board that holds concepts for other events and things that my team and I are talking about for later this year and 2013 and beyond. We’re looking at Jacksonville, Florida. We’re talking about anime and comic books and video games and ponies and times of adventure and British doctors and… Well. I’m getting ahead of myself. The point is we’re ALWAYS planning something. Just last week I bought www.WasabiCon.com – just in case.
6. Project Anime
This event is a shared credit with the folks at the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation… aka “the folks who run Anime Expo.” I was approached late last year about the idea of helping put together an event that gathers convention runners from across North America.
An “anime summit.”
A “convention convention.”
You get the idea. I liked the concept and signed on to bring the resources from the Wasabi Empire to help out. It’s been a rocky road convincing everyone of the noble intentions, but the more solidified the event becomes the more folks seem to “get it.” Of course there’s www.ProjectAnime.org.
Which leads me to the title of this post.
It seems our parallels in Japan are looking to walk towards the same path Project Anime is. The organizers at the Tokyo Anime International Fair have invited a number of convention promoters to a private event taking place during their convention next month.
In the interest of planning forward for Project Anime, I’ve decided to tag along with members of the Anime Expo team that are going.
That’s right, kids: I’m going to an anime convention on Tokyo, Japan next month.
Between that and trip back to California in a couple of weeks, I will spend approximately 44 hours on an airplane next month.
THUS, I have been hard at work getting the 1,000,000 other things in place before I disappear from the states for eight days.
Pending WiFi access when in Japan, expect to see lots of blogging/photos/goodness as I represent Wasabi Anime at “the source.”
Karma, though, will be here. Sleeping (like she is doing while I write this.)