Monthly Archives: September 2013

Japanese housewives; mostly faithful, sometimes frisky

Cheating women

Frustration within the married state is as old as the institution itself. Sexless marriage? You’ve heard this story before. Condom maker Sagami Gomu, following an in-house survey, has concluded that nearly half of all marriages in Japan are sexless.

Simultaneous developments in other spheres promise, you’d think, riotous extra-marital goings-on. More and more wives work. At work they meet people. In the warm glow of fresh encounters, home and family are another world. No need to spell it out. A stale marriage need no longer be the bondage it once was.

Then there’s the Internet. Encounter sites, social networking sites. The possibilities are endless. Even the non-working housewife has the whole erotic world at her fingertips, if she wants it.

Here’s the shock: few do want it. Josei Seven (Aug 22-29) polls 500 married women in their 40s. Question 1: “Have you ever had an extra-marital affair?” Yes, say… 10.8%. No, say 89.2%.

Question 2: “Have you ever wanted to have an affair?” Another landslide victory for the no’s – 87.9% versus 12.1%.

What’s going on? Why not? Naturally, Josei Seven poses this question too, and the replies are: “My children and home are important to me” (cited by 44.4% of respondents); “It’s unthinkable from a moral point of view” (41.9%); “I love my husband” (34.3%); “I haven’t met anyone” (22.9%) – and so on. Far down the list is a reason you might expect to find much higher up: “I’m afraid my husband would find out” (10.1%).

“Shocking” seems hardly too strong a word for what this seems to reveal about the stability of marriage in the face of restlessness, dissatisfaction and easily-available remedies.

To those who have taken a plunge into infidelity, Josei Seven asks, “Where did you meet your partner?” The workplace, as expected, is the leading nest of romantic entanglement, with 31.5% of first encounters occurring there. The Internet ranks next (24.1%) while 18.5% hook up with former boyfriends.

How long was marriage enjoyed or endured before the first affair? Here too, the replies impress upon us the surprising stability of Japanese marriage, sexless or not. Eleven years, say 63%.

“Do you feel guilty?” the magazine asks. Yes, say 68.5%; no, say 18.5%; not sure, say 13%.

“Don’t call it having an affair,” says a 50-year-old housewife and mother of a daughter in senior high school. “Call it… love.”

They met on Facebook. More accurately, they met *again* on Facebook. They had known each other in high school, where they’d been members of the same after-class club. Well, this was a pleasant surprise! Her marriage had long been happy, as marriage goes. Her husband knew music and history and talked well. He was interesting. But after 20 years who doesn’t become predictable? It happens – and when it does, you face a choice. Should you put up with it in the name of responsibility and morality? Or seize an opportunity, if it happens to come along? She made her choice, and doesn’t seem to be among the 68.5% who feel guilty about it.

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The ‘king of infidelity’ has landed in Tokyo!

ashley_madison

The ‘king of infidelity’ has landed in Tokyo. After finding that enabling affairs can make money in 27 countries, Noel Biderman is bringing Ashley Madison — the world’s largest dating website for married men and women who want a little something on the side — to Japan, his first launch in Asia.

Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media, Inc., which operates ashleymadison.com, the world’s largest dating website for married men and women.

Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media, Inc., which operates ashleymadison.com, the world’s largest dating website for married men and women.

The website of Mr. Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media, Inc, has logged 230,000 visits and 70,000 members as of Thursday, only four days after its Japan launch, and Mr. Biderman said he got an early morning phone call from company headquarters saying that members were signing up faster than customer care could screen them. The company had targeted 100,000 members in the first month, and 1.2 million in the first year.

“This might be bigger here than in America,” he said. “We totally underestimated the desire here.”

Why Japan? Mr. Biderman said that infidelity is an inevitability (read: business chance), as well as a cultural constant. Tokyo’s innumerable massage parlors and “love hotels” — short-stay hotels that cater to couples – are encouraging signs of potential demand, he said.

But Ashley Madison doesn’t intend to compete with Japan’s sex industry, which is largely an outlet for male desire, Mr. Biderman stresses. Everything about the site – the name, the pink color scheme, the female-centered advertising – is aimed at drawing in women. The men will find their own way, he said.

In terms of competing with established domestic services, including dating or marriage-service websites, Mr. Biderman says he sidesteps the competition by directly targeting married people looking for something “extracurricular.”

Since Ashley Madison is created specifically with cheaters in mind, members are ensured secrecy and have the ability to completely erase their activity on the site if they choose. Furthermore, members can tap a global network. An Ashley Madison user in Sydney who comes to Tokyo, for instance, can line up a date even before she arrives.

Though the site has officially launched, Mr. Biderman says he’s still working out how he’ll market the service. People aren’t going to blab to their friends about using Ashley Madison, so creating clever advertising that works as a “conversation piece” is key to getting the word out, he said.

The marketing campaign “is clearly going to be around women, in a culturally sensitive way and yet in a way where it becomes viral,” he said. “We’re going to position ourselves as a marriage-saving site, a social network for married people. I think they’ll understand that concept.”

Despite an unexpectedly strong response in Japan, Ashley Madison has yet to score another badge of membership in the Japanese philanderers’ club: a tie up with the country’s infamous “infidelity phone,” an older-model cellphone from Fujitsu Ltd. with industrial-strength privacy settings.

“We’ve been trying to reach out to them and get some sort of Ashley Madison software preloaded on the phone, but we haven’t been able to crack them,” said Mr. Biderman. “They don’t want to be associated with (cheating). I’m familiar with that. People don’t want to be associated with me. Sometimes even my own wife shakes her head at me,” he said with a smile.

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All the rage: animal cafes

In a vibrant city such a Tokyo, many people live in small apartments stacked up on each other creating plenty of high-rise buildings. Because these apartments are often rented, the people are prohibited to own any pets and even if it wasn’t prohibited the places would just be too small. But Japan would not be the modern country as we know it if it had not come up with a solution; animal cafes!

The first animal café was a Neko café (neko means cat) and was neko cafesestablished in 2004. Ever since, the cafes started to gain more popularity and nowadays Japan is full of them.

Cats are not the only animals with cafes dedicated to them, Japan also features dog, goat, rabbit and snake cafes. All of these establishments are created to satisfy the need of the animal lover. People who only like to watch can settle in the café area and look through the glass while enjoying their cup of coffee. But what differs these cafes from a zoo, is that people can actually come in and play or cuddle with their animalistic little friends.

Recently I had the opportunity to check out one of the Neko cafes myself near Ōmori Station (Ota-ku). Before stepping in to the place I had to put on special slippers due to sanitary reasons. I drank some juice while talking to the owner and another guest while in the background the cats were either sleeping or running around, waiting for some attention. The cat area could not be entered without thoroughly washing the hands and putting some kind of sanitary lotion on them. The furry little animals were quite relaxed as I came up to them. It was immediately noticeable which of them were into some quality time and which were not, they turned their heads as I let them smell my hand. In total, the place consisted of approximately 15 cats of which three kittens.

nekonekoneko

While some remained sleeping (in the most uncomfortable positions) the entire time I stayed there, others played around and came to me. All cats looked healthy and happy, which was something I was a little worried about to be honest. Luckily, regulations for animal cafes have recently been changed, some cafes used to stay open until past midnight but they now have a limited amount of opening hours per day. Also, cafes where it gets really busy have created shifts for their cats so they get some rest.

For the first half hour, I spend 600¥. Had I stayed longer than I had to pay per every 10 minutes. The café itself is free of charge, excluding the drinks naturally.

While cat cafes are for non-owners who still want to enjoy their furryIMG_1383 friends, dog cafes are a complete different thing. Here, people bring their own dog to be able to eat with them or spoil them with treats on their birthday. For non-dog owners, there are special places renting dogs for an hour or part of the day, giving them the opportunity to walk the dog around town.

While it probably wouldn’t work anywhere else in the world, animal cafes are all the rage in Japan.

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Japanese Apple fans queue up in 1 km line to get hold of the lastest iphone in Ginza

Apple acolytes got their hands on new iPhones Friday in the global roll-out of two new models, but failure to make headway in China and complaints about the price struck a sour note.

The once-unbeatable king of the smartphones has penned a potentially lucrative new deal with Docomo, Japan’s biggest mobile carrier, but is without a new alliance in the vast Chinese market.

That, and rumblings over the high cost—even of the pared-down iPhone 5C—could mute the fanfare that routinely accompanies launches, observers say.

People pose for photos alongside a pillow bearing the image of Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs outside the Apple store in Ginza on Friday morning.

People pose for photos alongside a pillow bearing the image of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs outside the Apple store in Ginza on Friday morning.

In Tokyo, diehard fans began lining up last week, and even sat out a weekend typhoon to keep their spot in a queue that grew to around a kilometer in length by opening time, police estimated.

As well as the usual enthusiastic reception in Japan, where most models sold will be bundled with contracts that will see no big up-front payments, the launch marked a welcome new chapter for Apple.

A fresh deal with Docomo, the mobile unit of NTT, has opened up a much wider cross-section of Japan’s cash-rich, gadget-loving consumers after years in which both companies lost market share.

Docomo is looking to reverse years of watching domestic rivals cash in on the iPhone bonanza.

The firm, which has about 42% of the Japanese market, has shed more than 3.5 million subscribers to rivals since 2008, when SoftBank first rolled out the iPhone in Japan, local media reported.

“Docomo’s partnership should be a favorable wind for Apple in Japan,” said Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities.

The double debut kicked off in Australia when stores threw open their doors to eager crowds at 8 a.m. Friday.

Jimmy Gunawan, 33, was first in line at the company’s flagship Sydney store, but was surprised he only had to stake his place 20 hours beforehand.

“Last year, I got here around the same time and there was already a queue of about 20 people,” the freelance graphic designer said.

A man waits for the release of Apple's iPhone 5 near Apple Store Ginza in Tokyo

Worldwide, some Apple fans were not prepared either to line up or shell out the asking price.

“Wow, $1,129 (U.S.$1,065) for an iPhone 5s here in Australia. That’s simply insane,” tweeted Bill Hutchison, referring to the cost of a 64GB model of the new version, which boasts a speedier processor and a fingerprint sensor.

Another, David Smith, tweeted: “Incredible—Apple charging $99 for iPhone 5c in the USA (with a contract) but $740 in Australia and its $1,200 for 5s – no wonder Android phones are popular.”

The polycarbonate-bodied 5c, supposedly aimed at budget-conscious smartphone shoppers, was widely trailed as Apple’s answer to the onslaught of cheaper, Android-powered models, led by Samsung.

But its hefty $700 ticket price in China will put it out of reach of most consumers in the world’s biggest mobile market.

“It’s not worth the price,” said Wang Ying, a Beijing-based analyst with consultant firm iResearch. Many domestically made smartphones are priced as low as $100.

Apple has not revealed what the “c” stands for, but did not knock down months of media speculation that it was intended to signify “cheap” or “China”.

Wang said Apple also appeared to have missed a trick by not reaching a deal with China Mobile and its 700 million subscribers—the country’s largest carrier.

Currently, Apple has sales contracts with China Unicom and China Telecom.

“Apple’s performance is declining in the world as well as in China,” Wang said. “Cooperating with China Mobile will be a significant channel for Apple to… win more users.”

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Japanese Part-Timers ‘Terrorize’ Employers with Pranks

prank

Stuffing out cigarettes in sushi, wearing pizza dough as a mask and cleaning feet in the dishwasher – these are just some of the stunts part-time workers are pulling to the delight of their Twitter followers and the chagrin of their employers.

While the part-timer pranks may not seem particular unusual to readers outside Japan, the behavior has raised eyebrows in Japan – a nation that takes dedication to work and strict discipline very seriously.Since a man posted a picture of himself lying inside a refrigerated ice cream case at his convenience store job online, local media have unveiled a new case of an employee documenting mischief on Facebook or Twitter almost daily. The trend has even spawned a new expression brimming with hyperbole: “baito tero” or “part-time job terrorism.”All the cases so far have involved workers at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, sparking conjecture that the real cause underlying the misbehavior is the frustration of employees with low-paying, part-time jobs.

Other commentators, however, say social media is to blame.

 

Crazy Japanese part timers“For young people, the most important thing is to stand out and be noticed. For example, since social networks have become popular, cute girls have tried to attract attention knowing that some have become models after being discovered through social media. Whereas in the past, those girls would have been scouted when they were out and about walking around,” Britney Hamada, a comic book artist and television personality said on a television program last week. “That’s just escalated more and more and translated into these kinds of ‘crimes.’”

Nearly a quarter of high-school students in Japan use Twitter, while only 14% use Facebook, according to a September survey of over 4,500 students by ZKAI Co.

Whether the clowning around is down to part-time job dissatisfaction or social media overload, employers have been less than understanding, sometimes taking action that has arguably caused greater inconvenience to customers.

Nagoya-based chain restaurant Bronco Billy Co closed a Tokyo branch in early August to retrain staff after an employee uploaded a picture of himself sitting inside a refrigerator on the job.

Only a week after the closing, however, the company decided to permanently close the branch out of consideration for its responsibility to “provide a comfortable moment for the customer through delicious food, good service and a clean and fun restaurant.”

At a Lawson convenience store where an employee climbed into the refrigerator, Lawson, Inc. removed all ice cream products, dismantled the offending ice cream case and temporarily closed the store. Photos uploaded by curious neighbors show the windows shuttered and the parking lot closed off.

“All our employees and affiliate stores will work as one to regain customers trust so that this kind of thing never happens ever again,” the company said in a statement.

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Things to do this weekend in Tokyo September 19th-September 22nd; Dress up as a Cosplay character and visit the Tokyo Game Show

Tokyo game show

On your way to the Tokyo Game Show?  Trying to decide which costume to wear? Wait! The organizers of Japan’s biggest videogame industry meet have come up with a long list of do’s and don’ts for cosplay fans attending the event.

Cosplay, short for costume play, has reached an art form in Japan. Events such as Comiket attracts hundreds of thousands of manga and anime fans intent on demonstrating their affiliations by dressing up like their favorite characters.

The Tokyo Game Show also draws crowds of gaming cosplayers, especially on the weekend. And with game plots becoming increasingly movie-like in complexity and scale, the cosplay possibilities are endless.

Decisions, decisTokyo game show 2013ions. Will you plunk for an easy-to-recognize character from a blockbuster game series such asMonster Hunter or  Final Fantasy, or go retro with something from Skies of Arcadia?

But before you pack your demon-destroying sword or ultra-fast yo-yo to give that final authentic touch to your zany costume, consider these pointers below from the organizers of the Tokyo Game Show, who say they’ve seen everything.

Is it a reasonable set of guidelines to ensure no one gets hurt or confused by anyone’s identity, or an overly long list likely to extinguish the fun from a harmless act of narcissism? Make up your own mind.

 

DON’T

-Don’t dress in a uniform that could confuse you for police, firemen, Self-Defense Force members or security guards. Doctor’s coats and nurse uniforms are also a no-no.

-Don’t bring guns, swords, or chains — this includes model guns, air guns, or items with sharp edges. If you want to put pointy spikes on your helmet or armor, you’re out of luck, too. Use foam or soft material in place of weapons, but note that the organizers prohibit you from swinging those bad boys around.

-If you want to dress up as a yo-yo champion, as in Chosoku Spinner, think again. Skate boards, roller skates and fresh vegetables are also out. All accessories, including horns and shoulder pads, must be shorter than 50 centimeters.

-Don’t wear costumes that might block traffic — that includes full-body outfits shaped like a big stuffed animal (or dragon — popular in the wake of “Puzzle and Dragons”), papier-mache costumes, or long skirts or mantles that drag on the floor.

 

 

DO

-Wear underwear and/or spats. The booth babes show enough skin as it is. It helps to ask yourself how absolutely essential is it to show midriff, cleavage, or chest hair to make your costume authentic?

-Come early — way early. The cosplay dressing room will be open at 5 a.m. for those who queue, allowing cosplayers to enjoy the show at their leisure.

-Attend the Cosplay Collection Night show, sponsored by Cure, Japan’s largest cosplay community website. The show this year will feature “cosplay of characters you love and some very rare characters too,” according to Cure’s website.

Tokyo game show2

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Things to do: Have your dinner blessed by a Koyasan monk

jingumae_koyakun-640Monks have taken over the menus at restaurants in the posh Shin-Marunouchi building in Tokyo to offer real soul food.

Throughout the weeklong Koyasan Cafe event, diners can fill their stomachs and their spirits with Buddhist-inspired dishes.

Koyasan Cafe takes its name from the spiritual center of Japanese Buddhism, Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture. Also known as Mount Koya, it is the last resting place of the eighth-century monk Kukai, the headquarters of the Shingon sect he founded and, as of 2004, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Nankai Railway brought the event to Tokyo six years ago, aiming to attract visitors and pilgrims to Koyasan.

The participating monks also hope to deliver some of the values from their holy mountain to busy urban dwellers who have come to take the dining experience for granted.

“ ‘Shojin ryori‘ doesn’t simply mean abstaining from meat and fish,” for religious or health reasons, says Hogen Yabu, one of the monks. “Behind it is the concept of striving to bring oneself to higher enlightenment.”

buddhist monks

Nine restaurants and bars in the Shin-Marunouchi Building, located opposite Tokyo Station, are involved in the project. In addition to the food, there are chanting performances, meditation lessons and opportunities to sit down and ask questions directly to the monks.

Among the eateries are Henry Good Seven, So Tired, Tiki Bar Tokyo and Rigoletto Wine and Bar. But don’t be surprised that their names don’t exactly hint at Buddhist ascetic. Each place has gone to town with its own version of Japanese shojin ryori, once simple but now elaborate meals forgoing meat and based around vegetables and tofu. Henry Good Seven for example offers chilled cappellini with yuzu and fruit tomatoes; So Tired offers Chinese-style sweet-and-sour “pork” (made from soybeans); while Tiki Bar Tokyo presents shojin tacos and terrine made from tomatoes, cucumbers and kanten (agar-agar) gelatin. Then there are desserts such as a blancmange of mango, kiwi, kanten and soy milk available at the European-inspired Japanese restaurant Sawamura. Altogether there are 35 original shojin ryori dishes to savor.

It all sounds tempting, but eating the bare minimum is one of the first lessons that the monks hope to teach.

“So much food goes to waste these days,” Yabu says. “We want Japanese to re-examine what it really means when they say ‘itadakimasu’ (‘I receive humbly’) before eating a meal–to show gratitude to the food itself by controlling your passions and taking just enough.”

For details and schedule see the official website at (http://www.nankaikoya.jp/cafe).

 

 

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Things to do: Dress up in cosplay character and have your picture taken

cosplay-japanese-

Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure), short for “costume play“, is an activity in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from a work of fiction. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered on role play. A broader use of the termcosplay applies to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.

Favorite sources include mangaanimecomic booksvideo games, and films. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa. There is also a subset of cosplay culture centered on sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters that are known for their attractiveness and/or revealing costumes.

Cosplay costumes vary greatly and can range from simple themed clothing to highly detailed costumes. Cosplay is generally considered different from Halloween and Mardi Gras costume wear, as the intention is to accurately replicate a specific character, rather than to reflect the culture and symbolism of a holiday event. As such, when in costume, cosplayers will often seek to adopt the affect, mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray (with “out of character” breaks). The characters chosen to be cosplayed may be sourced from any movies, TV series, books, comic books, video games or music bands, but the practice of cosplay is often associated with replicating anime and manga characters.

Cosplay of Lineage II andMirror’s Edge at IgroMir 2011

Most cosplayers create their own outfits, referencing images of the characters in the process. In the creation of the outfits, much time is given to detail and qualities, thus the skill of a cosplayer may be measured by how difficult the details of the outfit are and how well they have been replicated. Because of the difficulty of replicating some details and materials, cosplayers often educate themselves in crafting specialties such as textilessculptureface paintfiberglassfashion designwoodworking and other uses of materials in the effort to render the look and texture of a costume accurately. Cosplayers often wear wigs in conjunction with their outfit in order to further improve the resemblance to the character. This is especially necessary for anime and manga characters who often have unnaturally coloured and uniquely styled hair. Simpler outfits may be compensated for their lack of complexity by paying attention to material choice, and overall excellent quality. The process of creation may then be very long and time-consuming, making it a very personal journey and achievement for many. This taxing and often expensive process is known to unite cosplayers and is considered a part of the culture of cosplay.

Cosplayers obtain their apparel through many different methods. Manufacturers produce and sell packaged outfits for use in cosplay, in a variety of qualities. These costumes are often sold online, but also can be purchased from dealers at conventions. There are also a number of individuals who work on commission, creating custom costumes, props or wigs designed and fitted to the individual; some social networking sites for cosplay have classified ad sections where such services are advertised. Other cosplayers, who prefer to create their own costumes, still provide a market for individual elements, accessories, and various raw materials, such as unstyled wigs or extensions, hair dye, cloth and sewing notions, liquid latexbody paint, shoes, costume jewellery and prop weapons. Some anime and video game characters have weapons or other accessories that are hard to replicate, and conventions have strict rules regarding those weapons, but most cosplayers engage in some combination of methods to obtain all the items necessary for their costume; for example, they may commission a prop weapon, sew their own clothing, buy character jewelry from a cosplay accessory manufacturer, buy a pair of off-the-rack shoes, and modify them to match the desired look.

In order to look more like the character they are portraying, many cosplayers also engage in various forms of body modificationContact lenses that match the color of their character’s eyes are a common form of this, especially in the case of characters with particularly unique eyes as part of their trademark look. Contact lenses that make the pupil look enlarged to visually echo the large eyes of anime and manga characters are also used.[4] Another form of body modification that cosplayers engage in is to copy any tattoos or special markings that their character might have. Temporary tattoospermanent marker, body paint and, in rare cases, permanent tattoos, are all methods used by cosplayers to achieve the desired look. Permanent and temporary hair dye, spray-in hair coloring, and specialized extreme styling products are all utilized by some cosplayers whose natural hair can achieve the desired hairstyle.

Purpose

The Psychology of Cosplay panel at the 2012 New York Comic Con. From left to right: Psychologist Dr. Andrea Letamendi, journalist/cosplayer Jill Pantozzi, costume designer/cosplayer Holly Conrad, who appeared in the film Comic-Con Episode IV-A Fan’s Hope, and Bill Doran, who runs the cosplay business Punished Props.

The cosplayer’s purpose may generally be sorted into one of three categories, or a combination of the three. Most cosplayers draw characteristics from all three categories:

  • The first is to express adoration for a character, or in feeling similar to a character in personality, seeking to become that character. This type of cosplayer may be associated with being a fan and is often labeled as an otaku. Other characteristics may be an enthusiastic manner and less attention to detail and quality. Such cosplayers are also most likely to adopt the character’s personality and are known to criticise other cosplayers for not having a full knowledge of their character, or not also adopting character mannerisms.
  • The second is those people who enjoy the attention that cosplaying a certain character brings. Within the cultures of anime and manga specifically, as well as science fiction and fantasy, there is a certain level of notoriety that is attached to cosplayers. Such cosplayers are usually characterised by attention to detail in their garments and their choice of popular characters. They are also noted by participation in cosplay competitions.
  • The third is those who enjoy the creative process, and the sense of personal achievement upon completion. Such people are more likely to have a greater budget dedicated to the project, more complicated and better quality outfits with access to more materials. They are also more likely to engage with professional photographers and cosplay photographers to take high quality images of the cosplayer in their garment posing as the character.

Photography

Some cosplayers choose to have a cosplay photographer take high quality images of them in their costumes posing as the character. This is most likely to take place in a setting relevant to the character’s origin, such as churches, parks, forests, water features and abandoned/run-down sites. Such cosplayers are likely to exhibit their work online, on blogs (such as tumblr), social networking services (such as Facebook), or artist websites (such as deviantART). They may also choose to sell such images or print the images as postcards and give them as gifts. What is more, some cosplayers choose to take photos themselves and become cosplay photographers too.

Marika Oyama shows her self-made props for cosplay photo shoots at her Studio Angle in the Marunouchi area of Okayama's Kita Ward.

Marika Oyama shows her self-made props for cosplay photo shoots at her Studio Angle in the Marunouchi area of Okayama’s Kita Ward.

Marika Oyama turned the hobby she loved into a full-fledged business.

Cosplay fans in the Okayama city area in Okayama Prefecture and beyond flock to her special photo studio that helps them with costumes, makeup and props as they portray their favorite anime and manga characters.

The 27-year-old Oyama had no previous business experience, but she took a monthlong course in entrepreneurship before opening Studio Angle in January in the Marunouchi area of Kita Ward.

Studio Angle has become a real success story, and Oyama says she has found repeat customers in and out of the prefecture.

Studio Angle is housed in a building near the prefectural government office. The studio comprises two rooms, one white, one black. Each room is equipped with a dressing room and a dresser. Customers can also use hair irons, makeup removers and other items provided by Studio Angle.

Chun-Li-Cosplay

Most of Studio Angle’s customers are girls and women in their teens and 20s who dress up and do a makeup before having their photographs taken.

A longtime anime fan, Oyama studied illustration and computer graphics in high school. One day, she stumbled upon costumed fans at an anime event. Oyama gave cosplay a try and she loved it. She soon realized that photographs of cosplayers at anime events can often have unwanted distractions in the backgrounds, and that regular photo studios were way too pricey.

“I thought what cosplayers needed was a studio that caters just to them,” Oyama says.

To prepare to start her own business, Oyama took a business start-up course offered by the Okayama Chamber of Commerce and Industry to learn the basics.

She came up with a business proposal that was so convincing that the local bank gave her the green light for a loan to get Studio Angle off the ground. The studio opened in January. and is off to a flying start.

Some customers have come from neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture and even across the sea from Kagawa Prefecture, Oyama says.

“It’s been fun to be able to turn what I love into a job,” she says.

The fee for a three-hour session on weekends is 7,000 yen ($70). In addition to fake swords and model guns, Oyama’s other self-made weapons and props are also available, as well as photography services.

Check out Studio Angle’s official website at (http://studioangle.web.fc2.com/).

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Anime fans offer prayer tablets featuring favorite characters

Anime votive boards2

Anime enthusiasts are flocking in droves to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, but not in a spiritual pilgrimage or prompted by a sudden interest in religion.

Instead it’s worship of a different kind, a devotion to fictional characters from their beloved animated works. At the shrines and temples, these anime buffs are dedicating mountains of votive picture tablets, called “ita-ema,” containing drawings of their favorite characters.

On one weekend in July, an incessant wave of young visitors was seen at Oarai Isosakijinja shrine, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

After praying at the worship hall, the young “pilgrims” made frequent stops at a nearby area that was offering picture tablets for sale, where hand-drawn images of young girls far outnumber the usual tablets, which typically carry prayers about entrance exams and love.

“Katyusha is here,” said one excited visitor, who had spotted an image of one fictional character. “Wow, there are so many,” exclaimed another, merrily photographing the magnificent spectacle.

Girls und Panzer,” an anime set in Oarai, was aired from October through March. Themed around sports and youth, the serial work centered on high school girls in tanks battling as a martial art.

Views of the town, including of the shrine, were reproduced with precision in scenes of the anime that depicted the street fighting, part of the combative “bouts.”

One male visitor from Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, said he has dedicated more than 30 picture tablets of his own drawings.

Anime votive boards

“It’s fun, because some people learn about my tablets on the Internet and come to see them,” said the 31-year-old. He said he makes a point of adding one phrase to his drawings: “For the development of Oarai.”

“I like the atmosphere here, so I hope the passion will continue,” the man said.

A shrine official spoke approvingly of the recent wave of visiting anime enthusiasts.

“They are real master illustrators,” he said. “I was surprised at the outset, but I am grateful for them, because they do care about Oarai.”

The word itaema, which has taken root among anime followers, was coined after “ita-sha,” which refers to cars carrying flamboyant paintings of fictional characters from the owners’ favorite anime or video games. That style of expression is believed to have originated from Washinomiyajinja shri

ne in Saitama Prefecture, where “Lucky Star,” a popular anime series from 2007, was set.

“It represents one form of fan culture, whereby you leave behind proof of your visits for others to see, much like you do in cosplay,” said Takeshi Okamoto, a lecturer of tourism sociology at Nara Prefectural University, who is studying the “pilgrimage” of anime enthusiasts.

Each shrine designates a special area for visitors to offer their votive picture tablets. That makes it easier to see that many fans are visiting, so the inspired enthusiasts compete to draw more votive tablets, offering more visual fun to their fellow anime fans, Okamoto said.

Jorinji temple, a stop on the traditional, 34-temple pilgrimage route in the Chichibu area of Saitama Prefecture, was featured in “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day,” a serial anime aired in 2011. A feature film version has been showing in theaters across Japan since late August.

Jorinji sells official votive tablets that each carry an image of a female character in the work. While many “Anohana” enthusiasts buy them to take home, a large number of them dedicate the tablets to the temple after adding their own drawings and messages to the blank sections.

Hiroya Yoshitani, a professor of religious folklore at Komatsu College, studied 635 votive picture tablets that were offered on the temple grounds in February. He found that 24 percent of them carried conventional types of prayers, such as for success in exams, whereas an additional 25 percent carried prayers about developments in “Anohana,” such as luck in love for fictional characters in the anime.

What drew Yoshitani’s attention were the unconventional “novel” types of prayers that were carried by many of the remaining half of the votive tablets. One said, “May happiness prevail on everybody who comes here,” whereas another said, “May peace prevail in the world,” Yoshitani said.

“Anohana” was aired in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which claimed more than 15,000 lives. It features a girl who dies in an accident and later returns to her childhood friends. That storyline probably inspired the novel types of prayers, Yoshitani said.

Something similar is found at Oarai Isosakijinja shrine of the “Girls und Panzer” fame, where many votive tablets carry prayers about recovery from the disasters of March 11, 2011. Oarai not only had its coastal areas swamped by the towering tsunami, but the town has also been plagued by harmful rumors about radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which followed the March 2011 earthquake.

“Votive picture tablets are typical examples of worldly desires, which are egotistic,” Yoshitani said. “But fictional works with the power to inspire have engendered altruistic and all-embracing prayers that go beyond personal yearnings.”

 

 

Categories: history of Japan, Japanese customs, Stories about Japan, Things to do | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Only in Japan: Old fart prances around town living out his “school girl fantasy”. Check out his youtube video!

Growhair

Dressed in schoolgirl’s uniform, “GrowHair” has become has an Internet phenomenon in Japan over the past five years, and he’s a regular sight in Tokyo’s über-trendy Harajuku/Shibuya district.

According the website dedicated to him (Google Translate):
said-openGrowHair enjoys walking the streets wearing a sailor-suit school uniform where he is widely known as ‘Sailor Uncle.’ In born 1962, his real name is Hideaki Kobayashi and he has master’s degree in Mathematics from the prestigious Waseda University [Japan’s equivalent of Stanford or MIT]. He works as an image-processing software engineer at a printing company.said-closed

Yes, Mr. Hideaki Kobayashi or “Growhair” or the Japanese schoolgirl uniform wearing middle aged man on reddit or “Sailor Suit Old Man”. You may have seen him on some message boards or social medias (and may have performed a self lobotomy to forget the rancid image).
Well, he was recently interviewed for a Japanese website. Now you too can understand the inner-machinations of a cross-dressing old Japanese man…

When and why did you start cosplaying(?) as a schoolgirl?
I have had an inclanation for women’s clothing since primary school, and I started enjoying secretely wearing garments at home from about college. And although I was fulfilling my own narcasism, I understood that objectively it wasn’t socially acceptable, so I knew I could not go out and show people.

The chance I finnaly got to come out was at the 2010 “Design Festa”. I had a booth of various photos of dolls, and I heard that Candy Milky (a famous crossdresser) was going to pay a visit. I knew I had to dress aptly in respect, hence I dorned the schoolgirl uniform. Surprisingly, it really caught on, and became a sort of a specialty of Design Festa. Since then, I have participated in every Design Festa in the uniform.


So originally it was a cosplay for the event. Why did you decide to go public with the attire?

It was on June 11th 2011, when I went to a ramen shop called “Ramen Shop Takanashi” in Tsurumi. There was a campaign “if you are over 30 and come in dress as a schoolgirl, your ramen is on the house”. It goes without saying, I was the first to take up the offer! lol

You wouldn’t normally dress up in a schoolgirl uniform for one bowl of Ramen. Even so, why a schoolgirl uniform?
Well… That’s a difficult question. I didn’t really think too deeply about it… Because it suits me, I guess? I have had a few people tell me “the outfit suits you” with a straight face. Originally, I wanted it to be like a cruel joke. The uniform has many associations with the “kawaii” (cute) culture. I thought that I would become the antithesis of “kawaii” by doning the uniform.

What sort of reaction did you get when started wearing the uniform out on the street?
From my point of view, it seemed as though there wasn’t really any reaction, people just past by me. But behind my back, something interesting was happening. Some people were really stunned, often taking a second look. It’s become a real thing this past month on the internet, and a lot of people have recognized me and come up to talk to me. Some people ask to take a picture with me. I’ve been doing a lot of posing.

Despite the extravegant school uniform, your responses are very straight. I guess this must be because you work at a respectable well-known company as a dayjob. Despite having the “GrowHair” artist persona, how does the company feel since you don’t hide your face? 

So long as I don’t mention the company name, they give me a lot of freedom. I dress like this when I go out drinking with my coworkers so everyone in my department knows. They are quite supportive.

Oh, what freedom! Your coworkers are very open-minded!!

 By the way, aside from being a photographer, Mr. GrowHair is also a producer of a Highschool idol group called “Chaos de Japon”. 
Well, I’m just one of the producers, I also do the photography and I am also a member.

What? A member!? I don’t really understand what you mean but they do have a live on May 19th at the Design Festa, details on their official facebook page.

The photographer Hitoshi Iwakiri has this to say about Mr. GrowHair.
“This presence is astounding. One look and you have your eyes pinned on him. He fills people with joy, his auro trascends cosplay. I consider him a modern day icon.”

It is said that Mr. Growhair is very popular is France. The day might come when Mr. Growhair becomes the embassador of the “Cool Japan” government movement… maybe!? (Interview by Nobunaga Shinbo)

Categories: Japanese customs, Must see, News about Japan, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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