Anime North 2018

On Twitter one of the guests modified their graphics to include their schedule which I thought was a brilliant idea! So I did the same for myself so people can keep track of me and other authors can see which panels they are on with me (I help co-ordinate the writer panels for AN). The majority of panels I’m doing this year are on writing and publishing. Last year I did a midnight panel on Japanese horror and while it was fun, I was really tired the next day!

What you don’t see are all the interviews I have lined up to do on behalf of Ricepaper Magazine with other guests of honor. I’ll be speaking with Jrock sensation BACK ON, fashion icon MINORI, Lolita fashion designers Angelic Pretty and one of my favorite seiyuus (voice actor), Junko Iwao! There is a fashion show on Saturday which I’ll attend featuring the latest Japanese fashion trends and I’ll try to be on the lookout for Elmo and Big Bird wrestling…The Toronto LEGO group is also making its debut and will hold seminars on how to create wonderful LEGO structures. They will be in the kids area with their giant LEGO sculptures.

Although it will be a crazy busy weekend, I will post lots of pictures of the cosplayers and events happening at Anime North on my social media accounts. Hope you can make it there too!

 

 

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Run to Mystical Landscapes at AGO and leave the toddlers at home!

Fantastic! This is one word which sums up the Mystical Landscape show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. Running from October 22, 2016 – January 29, 2017, the show features art between 1880-1930 of artists who were disillusioned with traditional religious institutions and searched for meaning through mystical experiences.

The 37 artists from 14 countries includes: Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler. It was interesting to see pieces from Edvard Munch and Georgia O’Keeffe that were not a screaming figure or flowers, which they are best known for! A complete list of artists in the show is available here on activity worksheets for school children (which also explains the themes of the show quite well) and listed below.

I was impressed with the fact that audio resources for the show were available for free as a guide during the show (those plastic things you carry around) or you can download the audio onto your iphone or listen online!

During the show, the showstopping piece everyone looked at was Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888. I’m sure phosphorescent (glow in the dark) paint was not used, yet somehow this piece has stars which glow and touches the soul with curiosity. Wikipedia has a write up with details about Van Gogh writing to his brother about this painting.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles, 1888

My favorite pieces in the show were landscapes  by Swedish artist Eugene Jansson. The one below is Dawn over Riddarfjärden, 1899. This is a large painting and when you look at it you feel like you are part of the landscape, engulfed in the light which is spilling out from the sky.

Eugène Jansson mystical landscapes ago

I’ve been to the show twice, once with my mother-in-law and once with my toddler. It was much more enjoyable with an adult because you had time to walk around slowly and take in the beauty of the paintings. I thought that my toddler might like the beautiful colors of the art, but he only wanted to climb up and down the leather couches within the exhibit. I guess those were his favorite pieces in the show!

Towards the exit there were a few pieces with crystals and planets in space which I thought were great as well. Lots to see and take in at this show, I highly recommend that you stop by if you are visiting Toronto!

Artists List in Mystical Landscapes Show

(Source: AGO Teacher Resources)

France
Émile Bernard (1868-1941)
Richard Burgsthal (1884-1944)
Maurice Chabas (1862-1947)
Henri-Edmond Cross (1865-1910)
Maurice Denis (1870-1943)
Charles-Marie Dulac (1866-98)
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Louis Welden Hawkins (1849-1910)
Georges Lacombe (1868-1916)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Paul Serusier (1864-1927)
Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939)

Austria
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Belgium
Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)
Netherlands
Vincent van Gogh (1853-90)
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Jan Verkade (1868-1946)

Denmark
Mogens Ballin (1871-1941)
Ejnar Nielsen (1872-1956)
Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958)

Norway
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

Sweden
Gustaf Fjaestad (1868-1948)
Eugène Jansson (1862-1915)
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944)
August Strindberg (1849-1912)

Russia
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Switzerland
Augusto Giacometti (1877-1947)
Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933)
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Felix Vallotton (1865-1925)
United States of America
Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903)

Canada
Emily Carr (1871-1945)
Lawren Harris (1885-1970)
Alexander Young Jackson (1882-1974)
Jock MacDonald (1897-1960)
Tom Thomson (1877-1917)
Frederick Horseman Varley (1881-1969)

Great Britain
James Dickson Innes (1887-1914)
Paul Nash (1889-1946)
George Frederick Watts (1817-1904)

Ireland
Grace Henry (1868-1953)

Czech Republic
Wenzel Hablik (1881-1934)

Dollar Tree Canada Review

Whenever I rave about Dollar Tree in Canada, people look at me with puzzled looks about how excited I am to go there. Dollar Tree offers fantastic value for brand name products and has become one of my favorite stores to frequent. I think it’s because I grew up in a frugal immigrant family and we were taught to be bargain hunters. There wasn’t much left over with three kids and my parents sponsoring their parents along with relatives to Canada. We were always at sketchy malls and flea markets versus the fancy shiny malls that I visit today.

Dollar Tree is an American store which sells items for $1 USD in the US or $1.25 Cdn in Canada. Its headquarters is located in Chesapeake, Virginia and they operate 13,600 stores throughout North America. According to their website, its stock is trading at $85 USD today. They also recently purchased the Family Dollar chain for $8.5B USD to expand their empire.

My family first discovered Dollar Tree while cross border shopping in Buffalo, NY. For some reason my mother was really obsessed with buying toothpaste at the time. Anyhow, what attracted me were brand name quality items such as Disney toys/coloring books/puzzles for the kids and fantastic event planning stuff. If you are having a party with a Mickey Mouse theme for example, you can grab everything here – party cups, banners, cupcake sleeves, candles, loot bags, loot bag toys, puzzles, stickers, pens, etc. They even have helium balloons which they fill in store too! All for $1.25 each!

The Dollar Tree Canada stores carry less items than Dollar Tree US stores and do not carry frozen groceries. Compared to its main competitor – Dollarama, Dollar Tree is pretty amazing since the $1.25 Cdn items they carry may cost $2-4 Cdn at Dollarama (examples – Betty Crocker brand containers, reading glasses, scarves). However, Dollarama (Canadian company) has over 1000 stores all over Canada versus the mere 100 Dollar Tree stores spread across five provinces.

Typically my Dollar Tree haul will include lots of children books (Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse, Avengers) and toys, however, today my shopping was interrupted by my Viking husband who came early to pick me up and drag me out of the store. He is the total opposite of me and strongly dislikes shopping.

dollar-tree-haul

My purchases today included: books, Disney kid socks, Trophy peanuts, Arizona ice tea, scrapbook tape, Clearasil acne cream, Betty Crocker muffin mix, Nissin cup noodles, Loacker chocolate, index cards and mini picture frames (large picture frames same price, but I needed small ones for wallet size pics).

Dollar Tree also has a lot of scrapbook stuff and seasonal items (Christmas, Valentines, Thanksgiving).   After a holiday is over, they put their seasonal items on sale, so if you are near one of these stores you could get a box of Christmas cards for $0.50. If you are a parent, I highly recommend this store for random kid things because they sell licensed products which won’t break the bank! Now go to the Dollar Tree website and find a store near you for some happy bargain hunting!

 

Seoul Part 2 – Food!

I can not eat spicy things, which made eating in Seoul rather difficult for me. We did eat many Korean meals of course and they all came with red spicy sauce,  kim chee as well as pickled vegetables. However, there was no shortage of French bakeries in Gangnam, along with European, American, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants. There was a huge coffee culture, so my Viking husband was happy that he could obtain his expensive but available coffee anywhere. Admittedly I have not had so much fatty pork on a daily basis for dinner in my life along with cabbage, but when in Korea, do as the Koreans do…for a while anyways and then pizza started looking really good!

Breakfast

For breakfast we usually had tea or coffee with French pastries. We went out a few times and had a pretty god omelette at a French bakery restaurant. Prices were about $5-9 per coffee, lattes or tea, pastries about $2-5 and big breakfast (omelette, eggs benedict) about $15.

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Lunch

We had many lunches of noodles and sometimes had sandwiches, generally it was whatever we could find as we were travelling all over the place.

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Dinner

Lots and lots of Korean BBQ for dinner along with kim chee, pickled vegetables, tofu and spicy soups. We had pizza and chicken wings delivered one night as well, came in 20 min! Pizza in a fancy New York Pizza place was surprisingly pricey at $40-50 for a medium but it was full of people on dates.

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Snacks

Lots of vending machines in the subway, convenient stores on every street corner and my favorite are the French bakeries!

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Toilets

Yes, I am obsessed with toilets. The Korean toilets were similar to sit-up ones in North America, but they had a few heated ones like in Japan with bum washes. There was also squatting ones as well.

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Seoul Part 1 – Surviving!

The reason for our visit to Korea was for my brother-in-law’s wedding. The latest addition to the Garrard clan at this point was a new sister-in-law who is Korean. Prior to leaving, I asked my Korean friends what to expect at this wedding and they didn’t really know how to answer my questions. “Oh, we are just like any other culture!” they told me. I had been to Seoul once for a few days with a Hong Kong tour group and the tour guide told us to not be offended if people slam into us in the street as this is what happens if it is crowded.

I find Korean people very tall and they generally remind me of Northern Chinese people. So I was surprised when everyone started speaking Korean to me. Even the Garrard clan I was with half expected me to suddenly speak Korean on their behalf. Having never taken an Korean lessons, I started to learn a few words…which made the situation worse because people thought I was joking that I didn’t know any Korean.

We did similar things on this trip compared to our Tokyo trip, such as renting a wi-fi hotspot to guide us. With my brother-in-law’s help, we also rented cell phones as this trip consisted of a large group that would split up occasionally.

Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a house from the AirBNB website in Gangnam (yes, like the song). Gangnam is the richest neighborhood in Seoul and there are tons of young people, a thriving night market along with lots of foreign restaurants (Starbucks, TGI Friday, Baskin Robbins, McDonalds, French bakeries, etc). The house had four bedrooms, kitchen, living room and washer/dryer combo machine. The floors were heated which felt strange and the entire bathroom was a shower! Pictures at end of blog post (scroll down).

1) Wi Fi hotspot, Google Maps & Cell phones

We made arrangements as soon as we landed to rent a wi-fi hot spot. You can rent and return at any airport, which made this very handy. As well, the stand next to the wi-fi hot spot had cell phone rentals & returns. We weren’t smart enough to rent the cell phone in the beginning so we visited a store instead and then returned it at the airport prior to leaving. Again, Google Maps helped us navigate the areas as we walked through them.

Cost of Wif Fi hotspot – about $7/day
Cost of cell phone rental – about $5/day

2) Cash

We used a lot more cash in Korea than Tokyo. There are certain banks that have ATMs with “Global” on them – these are the only ones that allow international bank cards to be used. When we travelled there, it was about $1 US to 1000 Won. Although it sounds like a lot to have 10,000 Won, it’s actually just $100

3) Plugs

You will need adaptors when you travel, their plugs are different from North American ones.

4) Buy a subway card

The subway cards in Korea are similar to Japan, you “beep” as you enter and then “beep” as you leave. So you pay by distance. Putting money onto card was amazing as they have some wireless no touch technology going on. You put the card in the large slot in the machine and money “beams” into the card. The subway line will announce stops in English and the maps have English/Korean.

5) Prepare for price shock

I found that the prices of things in Seoul were the same price as visiting a large North American city (NY) or Europe (London) which surprised me. Things were cheaper in Tokyo! Also, street market vendors don’t like to bargain, especially with foreigners. I usually hate bargaining too, but if I’m buying 10 souvenirs, getting a bit of a break would be nice!

6) Basic Manners – These are some of the things I picked up:

  • Walk around people – Unlike Japan, even if there are arrows in the subways, people don’t follow them. So you just walk around people.
  • Subway exits & gas masks – Perhaps due to continuous threats from the North, every subway has maps in English and Korean detailing exits. As well, there are cabinets of gas masks and other emergency supplies.
  • No eating in subways – the subways are quite clean due to lack of food. People do talk or they are watching tv on their tablets.
  • Being pushed – In crowded places, there is less “private space”. So don’t be surprised if you are pushed/shoved around as people just need to get past you. Or alternatively, if they don’t like you and the subway is empty, they will push you anyways as it seems to be a form of communication (they saw me as a Korean girl with a foreigner spouse).
  • No tipping – restaurants do not require tipping.
  • Daiso – Daiso is a 100 yen store in Japan (dollar store) and they are also in Korea. If you need to pick up a few things, this is a great place to go.

8) What else to expect:

  • Beer, lots of it! – Seoul has a more robust drinking culture than any other Asian city I’ve visited. We even visited a self-serve bar in which you grab your bottles from the fridge and then the cashier counts the empties. There was beer ranging from Korea to New Zealand to Estonia!
  • Steep hills – We stayed in a house on a hill at a 45 degree incline. I think I lost a few inches from gravity pressing down on me!
  • Cold/Snow in Dec – yes, it was -10 degrees Celsius and snowing.
  • Coffee everywhere – if you need a daily jolt of caffeine, no fear – there were tons of cafes all over the place with delicious French pastries. However, European (Nescafe), Korean/European (Paris Croissant) and American cafes (Starbucks) have higher priced drinks at about $5/6 and pastries $3-5. The local coffee is about $2. My Viking husband observed that the $2 coffee places tend to be street stands and the foreign coffee places have tables, so the drinks are more expensive as you are almost “renting space.”
  • Amazingly cute things – Like everywhere in Asia, cute sells. So pastries will have little animal icing decorations, anything and everything will have teddy bears or other cute looking creatures on them. If you are not immune to cute things, it may be sensory overload! The best cute thing I saw was a baby seal ice cream cake at the Korean Baskin Robbins!
  • Limited English – we didn’t stay at a hotel this time, but in a AirBNB house rental. The owner left us some guidebooks which was nice. You will see that the street signs, subway maps and stores will have English…but not many people speak English. I was told that people learn English in high school, like how we learn French in Canada…then people just forget it as they don’t use it!
  • Vending machines – less than in Tokyo, but they are common in subways
  • Interactive subway displays – for people waiting for the train, they can play games or look up places where to eat next. Great if you know Korean…
  • Selfie pics – in Gangnam there is a large interactive display for you to take pictures of yourself. I’m not sure if you can email it out or not, but there was some voting contest of which selfie was the best. Lots of drunk pics of people have a good time!

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Tokyo Part 4 Shopping & Anime

Shopping, Geeking Out on Anime Stuff & some Videos

Generally, shopping in Japan is pretty awesome.  There is incredible customer service and everything is so damn small and cute!  There are lots of pictures in other posts about retail at Skytree and the temple already.

One of the anime cons I volunteer for asked if I could look for “Attack of Titan” buttons. There was an anime store at Skytree, but they didn’t have any merchandise for this series. So I dragged my Viking to Akihabara, the anime central of Tokyo to look for stuff because that’s where Reddit people recommended that I go.

Here are some picks on Harajuku where there were lots of Lolita clothes I couldn’t afford and Akihabara, the place to geek out for anime stuff.

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Evangelion & Japanese Swords Exhibit

At the Mori Art Museum in Ueno, Tokyo, the “Evangelion and Japanese Swords Exhibit” ran from Nov 23 to Dec 23, 2013. I went on my own for this one as my Viking husband went to another museum nearby. Indeed, there were many otakus at this exhibit!

Sword masters were recruited to create weapons based on  the Evangelion movies and Japanese swords in the image of the characters using traditional techniques. There was a second exhibit as well with scenes from the anime recreated with figurines. They were pretty amazing!

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Videos

Prince Park Tokyo Tower Hotel Toilet

I miss my heated toilet! Here I show its covers opening up automatically. My husband thought I was silly for shooting this…

Prince Park Tokyo Tower Hotel Christmas Light

This is outside the hotel and so pretty!

Garden Eels at Skytree Aquarium

Cute and creepy at the same time. I think they are Nature’s snacks for other animals!

Swimming Penguins at Skytree Aquarium

I was surprised to see so many penguins!

Toy trains at Skytree

This would have been difficult to carry back, I could watch it all day!

TV movie

My favorite space hero dubbed in Japanese!

Subway Train Coming!

Why can’t we also have barriers and warnings like this?

Floor mini display at Edo Tokyo Museum

This was suppose to be a miniature English Garden estate, but underneath your feet!

Tokyo Part 3 – Sights

You realize you are a foreign stranger in a strange land when you notice that all the signs are in Japanese and there is no English. Or in my case, no French as well. It’s a uni-lingual city because the majority of the people are Japanese!

Out of all the places we went to, I thought that the neatest area to visit was the Senso-ji Temple area because there were so traditional artsy things and yummy street food!  There was a lot of shopping on the 33 floors of Skytree, the tallest tower in Tokyo.  The three floors of desserts alone left my Viking husband breathless and he usually hates retail!

The following sets of pics include: 1) General stuff – Tokyo Tower, musical posters & casino 2) Senso-ji Temple, highrise sights & Disney Xmas trees, 3) Skytree shopping mall & aquarium and 4) The Meiji Shrine and Edo Tokyo museum.

General stuff

Xmas was everywhere in December although most people don’t celebrate it – it’s just a shopping holiday to them! We were living near Tokyo Tower, so it was a nice sight to see daily.  Originally I thought the casino was an anime store because there were so many cute drawings outside – but it turns out it consists of arcade games, some anime related (Evangelion game).  There were also tons of musical posters in subways stations – such as Wicked and Love Never Dies (sequel to Phantom of the Opera).

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Senso-ji Temple, highrise sights & Disney Xmas trees

One of the coolest places was Shibuya station. My friends insisted that we go to see the street scramble.  It was a bit scary to be crossing the road with over a hundred people at once!

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Skytree shopping mall & aquarium

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Meiji Shrine and Edo Tokyo Museum

It was raining the day we went to see the Meiji Shrine but it was still a nice place to visit, although a bit cold and damp.  The Edo Tokyo Musuem was highly recommended by a friend and it was pretty incredible.  There was a lot of large displays of buildings from different eras you could walk into.

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