Imperial Palace, Gion “geisha district”

Happy Easter from Japan. It rained all day and after many miles, my boots started falling apart. Even still, we made the most of our last day in Kyoto.

We are staying in a traditional Japanese inn and hot springs. It’s a little intimidating at first because of all the rules. Certain shoes can only be worn inside, in the bathrooms, and walking out to the onsen. The onsen is separated by gender. You must strip down and shower around everyone else before getting into the hot springs to soak.

Luckily, there were some friendly people who make small talk to make the experience a little less awkward! And the hot pools feel amazing after a long day of walking in the cold rain.

yukata provided for lounging after a bath

  

The inn keeper said it was fine to wear the yukata around the ryokan, but we were the only dorks wearing ours to breakfast… That guy in the background is definitely judging us.

Brian was thrilled to use my girly umbrella… either that or leopard print

  

imperial palace

       

   

 

  

  

Then, on to the Kyoto International Manga Museum. They were really strict about where pictures could be taken, so I only have a few. It was a fascinating place with manga dating back from the 40s. It also serves as a library with hundreds of volumes of manga and cozy places to sit and read.

   

  

We trenched on to Gion, home of the geisha, or geiko to be more precise. So many people were wearing kimonos, but I was pretty sad when I found out they were mostly tourists!

   

    

 

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Kyoto

Saturday we boarded the train to Kyoto! We lucked out with some gorgeous weather.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

    

To-ji Temple

  

  

  

   

  

outside the train station

  

view from Kyoto Tower

  

 

lunch at the most amazing ramen shop!

    

  

our room at the ryokan onsen, a traditional Japanese inn and hot spring

  

  

trying on the yukata

  

   

breakfast on Sunday morning

Yakitori, Asakusa, Cat Cafe, Tokyo Skytree

To say we were exhausted yesterday is an understatement. Walking 12 hours a day hit us hard in the evening, so we ended up calling it a day around 7. Even still, we made it to some fascinating places…

This was from our dinner and night out in Ginza that I didn’t get to post:

Dinner at Bird Land, which was right next to Sukiyabashi Jiro, the famous sushi spot featured in a documentary

  

Yakitori is chicken on a stick–gizzard, liver, breast, etc.

    

  

so delicious

      

we definitely lucked out getting into Bar High Five–we did not realize you needed a reservation

  

he made the prettiest, tastiest drinks

 

Ginza was our latest night out–we didn’t make it back to the loft until midnight.

Friday was our Asakusa area day…

   

  

shops on the way to the shrine

    

Senso-ji temple

  

   

        

 

 

  

  

  

 Then we headed to a Cat Cafe! There wasn’t actually any drinks at this place. I guess most cat cafes in the area are just a place you can play with kitties since many people in Tokyo can’t own pets due to apartment restrictions.

   

  

    

this one sat on my lap ^.^

    

Next on the list was Tokyo Skytree. It was too windy to go to the top so we ate some lunch and explored the stores inside.

 

  

  

  

 

some sort of banana chocolate dessert… looked like a Twinkie

  

bento for lunch

  

  

  

 We went back to Harajuku hoping to find some fashionable people hanging out on the bridge, but it seems it was too windy for them. We hung out in a taproom near Takeshita Dori and then headed back for a long sleep.

Today we are heading to Kyoto–more on that later!

Ginza: fish market, the best sushi, toys

Today is our Ginza day. It never fails to amaze me how clean this city is, despite the fact that there are no trash cans anywhere! 

   

  

starbucks was pretty much the only place open for breakfast

  

tsukiji fish market

    

I don’t know what I’m eating but it’s delicious

sweet bread with red bean paste

  

squid for Brian

 

   

4 floor toy store of magic

    

We ate lunch at a high-end sushi restaurant, Sushi Kanesaka. To die for…. 

  

  

  

Walked off our lunch at the Imperial Garden

           

Then off to Tokyo Station to see the character stores…

   

               

A dream coming true

I have not posted on my blog in forever… But I’m excited to announce that I will finally be heading to Japan at the end of March! My husband and I will spend 4 days in Tokyo, 2 days in Kyoto, and 2 days in Osaka. I’m beyond ecstatic!

We are using Airbnb for lodging (talk about a budget saver!) and staying in an onsen ryokan near Kyoto. Plenty of planning was done using Pinterest, watching documentaries, and of course perusing plenty of travel sites!

I am going to try my best to post some pictures and thoughts on this blog during my trip. If not then, I will after we get back!

Japanese commercials

If this doesn’t explain why commercials for products in Japan are so amazing, I don’t know what else does!

Manga Life: Why we’re living it

What makes manga so special and unusual from any other type of comic book and cartoon in the world? Why do

A Naruto enthusiast/cosplayer gets her dance on at the Dallas A-Kon anime convention. Photo by Liz Reed.

we love that a character has blue hair, pink eyes, and a mouth half the size of her face? What drives people all over the world to gather at conventions dressed in full like their favorite characters, complete with ten-foot swords and spiked wigs?

In the following weeks, I hope to analyze why we love manga and what makes it “manga.” While it’s all a very subjective topic, I hope to look at the “essence” of manga, both Eastern and Western, broken down into the different components of a whole: Culture, Art, Characters, Plot and Dialogue, and Tone/Mood. While this may (and hopefully not begrudgingly so) remind you of high school English class, in any literature analysis you must look at these pieces of the puzzle if you wish to understand what makes manga a worldwide phenomenon. It isn’t just one component, but rather, the way each gear turns to get the machine in motion. Many of these gears may overlap, but all in all, you can’t really go forward without one or the other.

Goku's appetite provided the comic relief in Dragon Ball Z. Photo from http://media.photobucket.com/image/goofy%20goku/kinglame/2760393535_60e2c9060e.jpg.

I mean, if <cite>Goku</cite> or <cite>Usagi</cite> didn’t have their memorable one-liners and the ditzy personalities behind all their power, would <cite>Dragon Ball Z</cite> or <cite>Sailor Moon</cite> have become two of the most popular series in the history of anime/manga?

But what do I mean by Culture, Art, Characters, Plot and Dialogue, and Tone/Mood? How about I introduce “Culture,” as it’s the first component I’m eager to analyze in the world of manga. Using the oh-so-wise Wikipedia, we find that <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture target=”blank”> “Culture”</a>stems from the Latin colere, which means “to cultivate.” Wikipedia lists the following as definitions:

  • Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture.
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

Now, applying this as a component of manga, I believe we can use a combination of all three. For the first definition, Japanese manga has collectively preserved the history of the country in pre-World War II <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_Restoration target=”blank”>(pre-Meiji)</a> and post-WWII <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_Restoration target=”blank”>( Meiji)</a>. Manga reflects high society, wartime society, children’s society, etc., etc. While many may not consider “manga” itself a fine art, it’s hard to argue that the stories and characters behind the art have influenced broadway plays, feature length films, and even actual novels that gain national attention and awards.

For the second and third definitions, Japanese manga itself embodies cultural customs, relationships, values, and landscapes that enchant readers worldwide. This demonstration of tradition and principles entices me as a reader, and I know I can’t be alone. It’s exciting and fresh… it’s <cite>exotic</cite>.

Sailor uniforms, Tokyo Tower, Christmas as a “romantic” holiday, the honorifics san, sama, chan, etc., and the

You can hardly open a manga without seeing a character wearing a sailor uniform somewhere. Photo courtesy Flickr user unforth

offbeat cultural jokes are only a few traits I can begin to think about when I envision “manga.” I love learning about Japanese culture and school life when I pick up a new title—it’s much more striking and romantic than the American lifestyle I’ve always known. To me, the relationships and romance of shoujo manga is more intense and intriguing than that of American TV shows like <cite>Gossip Girl</cite>because of the cultural differences. The reserved, I-must-protect-her-virtue nature of shojou bishounen characters are much more chivalrous and charming than the hormone-crazed teenagers America is known for.

But how does this all play into the growing popularity of <a href=http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerimanga target=”blank”> Amerimanga</a> (Original English-language manga, commonly used to describe comic books or graphic novels in the “international manga” genre of comics whose language of original publication is English), Korean manhwa, Chinese manhua, French la nouvelle manga, etc.? Let’s explore further in “Culture,” the first in the series of feature in which I hope to discover the relationship of Eastern and Western manga, how this dynamic may impact the future, and if Japanese manga is truly the irreplaceable form.