TRAVEL

TRAVEL

FEATURE

TRAVEL

In this edition of jStyle we again visit the ski spots so popular with tourists from abroad
and take a close look at Shinjuku, which is in Tokyo city, but depending on where you go will show you many different faces. We also feature Ishikawa Prefecture, which is enjoying lots of attention since being opened up by the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train line. From traditional national icons to hidden treasures that beckon the adventurous traveler, jStyle will take you on a journey through an array of destinations ideal for any travellers. And don’t forget to take a look at our travel tips and useful advice on how to use public transport.

©KANAZAWA CITY ©JUNTO

OTAKU

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WHAT IS OTAKU

The epitome of an otaku is someone with a strong interest, to the point of obsession, in a certain topic. Outside Japan, the term otaku is directed at anime and manga fandom. The degree of interest may range from someone who spends some of their free time reading anime and manga, to the extent they are able to quote from them, to those who spend an inordinate amount of time watching anime, reading manga and collecting memorabilia. Another phenomenon commonly associated with otaku is the practice of dressing up as a favourite character, or ‘cosplay’, but not all otaku enjoy this activity. Some may prefer to watch cosplay performances, or take photos of cosplayers in action.

The anime TV series “I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying”, gives a good insight into otaku. The main character, Kaoru, is married to one. Kaoru explains her husband as a lifeform that will die if it is unable to watch anime. The best part about watching this series is trying to figure out how many anime references there are in each the three-minute episode.

COSPLAY

Cosplay is short for “costume play”. It is considered a performance artform in which the performers dress up in clothing resembling, or representing, a chosen character. Cosplayers are a subculture whose activities are not limited to stage performance. It is not unusual for cosplayers to dress up for events, or for fun.

Engaging in cosplay is a bit like getting dressed up for Halloween. Costumes are not gender specific. In fact, it is quite common for performers to tweak their costumes to keep the main features and colour of the original character’s appearance, while changing the gender to suit the performer.

Cosplay is also an activity that performers may take quite seriously. Dedicated cosplayers take pride in their work and may spend many hours over weeks hand-making their costumes for an event. The World Cosplay Summit (WCS) is held every year. Preliminary competitions are held around the world. The prize for winning national teams is a trip to Japan, including a week’s accommodation, to take part in the WCS.

Popular cosplayers travel internationally to participate in conventions, host panels, publish photo books and host signing events. They also have fans who will attend an event just for a meet
and greet session with their idol.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND AN OTAKU?

Popular events to attend in Sydney frequented by otaku include SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show, Supanova Pop Culture Expo and Oz Comic-Con. Immerse yourself in this wonderful subculture and enjoy the fun!

SMASH! SYDNEY MANGA AND ANIME SHOW 2015

SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show is our very own pop culture convention dedicated to promoting and gathering together artists, creators and fans of the genre. Founded in 2007, it is now a yearly event that goes for two days over a weekend and has attracted crowds of over 10,000 each year for the last couple of years. The event line up is diverse and the show is jam-packed with activities. SMASH! schedules are usually posted on the event’s website before event day and are sorted according to activity areas and times. Different guest speakers are featured in the Panel Room each day. Throughout the weekend there are many ongoing activities to participate in. Check out the art workshop area to make your own origami, or test your vocals in a karaoke competition or at free singing sessions in the Live DAM karaoke room. SMASH! also runs several competitions over the weekend. In addition to the karaoke competitions, expect quite a few console and card gaming tournaments and cosplay competitions.

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TIPS

Pick up an events guide on arrival and check out the activities you are interested in. Plan your other activities, such as shopping and viewing exhibitions, around them. There are some activities that are extremely popular, such as cosplay events, Maid Café and signing panels. For these events in particular, it is best to plan ahead and arrive at the location ahead of schedule.

MAID CAFE

Every year a cosplay “maid café” is hosted at the SMASH! show site. It is usually booked up quickly. Your best bet is to make a beeline straight for the café on arrival at SMASH! to book your preferred time for the café experience, before moving on to other activities.

COSPLAY COMPETITIONS

Perhaps the most popular activity at SMASH! is the cosplay events. In fact, most showgoers turn up all dressed up, even if they do not intend to compete.

There are two main cosplay events. The Madman Cosplay Competition is a local comp in which contestants perform a prepared script, or answer a few questions from the emcee about their costume and character.

The World Cosplay Summit (WCS) Australian preliminaries are held at SMASH! The winning team represents cosplayers of Australia at the final WCS event in Japan.

GAMING COMPETITIONS

In the Gaming Hall there are a few competition blocks to attend, depending on the games in which you are interested. Registration opens an hour before each competition starts, so if his is your cup of tea, head towards the registration booth in the Gaming Hall. If you do not wish to compete, there are also free-play sessions held across the day.

FOOD AND SHOPPING

In addition to booths hosted by major exhibitors such as Madman Entertainment and Hobbyco, there are other vendors operating booths featuring popular culture and anime related merchandise. In the artist’s circle, many artists display their drawings and creations, which are also available for sale. Besides the Maid Café, there are quite a few caterers on site supplying food to the hungry masses, so if you are unable to secure a session at the Maid Café, there is no need to worry about dining.

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Who is SMASH!?


SMASH! is a non-profit organisation created and managed by fans for fans. The organisation’s objective is to bring together like-minded individuals and create an open and affordable event that encourages creativity and community spirit.

AKIHABARA

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Located in central Tokyo on the eastern side of Chiyoda-ku and on the intersection of Chuo-dori and Kanda Myojin-dori roads, the Akihabara district, or Akiba as the locals call it, is internationally famous as the ‘go to’ place for electrical and electronic appliances.

In recent years Akihabara has perhaps become even more famous as a mecca for fans of anime and manga. Akihabara is the centre of Japan’s otaku culture and has attracted many otaku from all around the world for a full cultural immersion in their obsessions with anime and manga.

In the late 19th century, Akihabara Station became a major freight transit point, from which the district grew and developed into a futuristic area specialising in electrical appliances. Further into the 20th century, the focus in Akihabara shifted from household electrical goods to catering to specialists and hobbyists. That shift brought a wave of otaku into the district and laid the foundations for the Akihabara we know today.

To fully enjoy Akihabara, it may take more than a leisurely afternoon stroll along its streets. It is important to understand what Akihabara has to offer.

One of the more distinctive features of the area is the multitude of billboards and neon and digital signs featuring images of anime and game characters. Besides electronics and mainstream anime, amateur manga, or doujinshi, are allowed to be freely distributed on the streets. The authors of doujinshi self-publish, printing and distributing their work in hopes of gaining a passionate audience in the otaku world.


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O kaerinasai, goshujin-sama! One of the top attractions in Akihabara is the maid café. Maid, or cosplay cafés, which are plentiful in the area, are themed restaurants where customers are served by waitresses dressed as French maids.

Some of the more popular have a long wait time, but it is worth it! Well-known examples are @Home Cafe and Maidreamin, both of which have English speaking maids and menus written in English.

On arrival at a maid café, the lovely maids greet male customers with the honorific expression, goshujin-sama (Master), and females with hime-sama (Princess), or ojou- sama (Mistress). Menus offered have combo package options, which may include meals and a commemorative photo. Some cafés invite customers to play games with the maids to win café original memorabilia.

The experience of attending a session at a maid or cosplay café is quite unique. Maids
draw cute, or kawaii images of bears and other characters onto customer drinks with caramel sauce, or serve adorably decorated sundaes quite unlike those in other, ordinary cafés.


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A KB48 is a Japanese idol girl group with many popular hits, named after Akihabara, where the group’s theatre is located. A café and shops specialising in AKB48 memorabilia are also to be found in the district. The café serves food inspired by the group and has a theatre where members perform daily at scheduled times. Reservations are required to view the performances!

What is most unique about AKB48 is the idol group’s concept of teams. Each team has a different image and member line up is subject to change. Daily performances are possible because AKB48 teams rotate, with different teams performing simultaneously at more than one event.


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R adio Kaikan is the place to go to source the latest and greatest electrical goods, as well as antique electronics and hard to find parts. This ten-storey specialist hobby store caters to a wide range of interests, from anime to electronics, and houses more than 30 stores for all your hobby needs. On the ground floor you will also find a shop selling only-in-Japan themed snacks and drinks.


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G amers carries a wide range of anime and manga related goods,including DVDs and games. Be sure to pick up some figurines! Other similar shops include Super Potato and Mandarake.


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Interested in figurines, action figures and other collectibles? Kotobukiya is a store specialising in plastic figurines of Japanese anime characters, as well as internationally renowned action figures.


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J ust a short walk from the electronics district is the Kanda Myojin Shrine. As with most shrines, visitors are able to purchase omamori lucky charms. The charm offered at Kanda Myojin pays homage to the shrine’s proximity to Electronic Town; it is a take-home omamori that looks like a RAM card.

Kanda Shrine is very popular with business owners. The shrine houses Daikoku and Ebisu, who are two of the Seven Gods of Fortune, with responsibility for wealth and business respectively.


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G achapon, or gacha-gacha machine, are vending machines that dispense capsules containing various memorabilia and trinkets. Save your coins and pick up a few capsules for yourself, or as gifts for friends!

Prices range from 100 to 600 yen. Each machine has a theme and offers a random prize. Some feature popular anime characters among their figurines, while the offerings of others can be quite practical, such as drink-coasters, or decorative mini plastic plants.




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V ending machines are commonplace across Japan, and buying from a vending machine is one of the “to do” things when visiting. Akihabara is no different.

Besides beverages such as coffee, soda and juice, vending machines also dispense corn soup and custard puddings in easy-to-open cans. Some of the more unique offerings in Akihabara include oden, and ramen noodles in a can.

The most fascinating thing about vending machines in Japan is the ability to serve hot food. Cans are dispensed hot and their contents may be consumed immediately. At 320 yen a can, it is a fun, economical and unique way to enjoy street food.




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C osplay is an integral part of Akihabara’s culture. Here you may be able to pick up ready-made costumes and accessories, and may encounter people dressed
up as part of a promotion, or simply to express their personal style.

COSPA Gee! is the shop for clothing and merchandise to enhance your cosplay experience. Here you will also find anime and manga related items.




HOW TO GET THERE


The best way to travel to Akihabara is by train, as the district has its own station where several lines converge. JR Yamanote Line is a circle line that links up the majority of the most popular spots in Tokyo, including Akihabara. Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line runs through Roppongi, Ginza and Tsukiji before arriving at Akihabara. Other lines running through Akihabara include the JR Keihin- Tohoku Line and the JR Chuo-Sobu Line. On arrival, exit through the Electric Town exit, which is the closest to Don Quijote Akihabara and Radio Kaikan, around which most of the popular shops and cafes are located. Another handy exit is onto Showa-dori road leading to Yodobashi Camera, a massive department store that offers a one-stop centre for all possible electronic needs. The Akihabara store is a branch of the Shinjuku-based electronic discount giant, and also offers duty free items.