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!

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Tokyo Part 2 – Food & Lodging

Eating in any Asian city is superb since there are so many people and it is super competitive for businesses. Many restaurants have signs or “plastic food” on display to attract patrons and sometimes a mall will have giant displays to let you know of the many restaurants on each floor.  All the food I had in Tokyo was excellent, in particular, the Family Mart sushi was better than in the restaurants we visited!

If you have dietary restrictions, I would recommend using Google Translator to list out all the items you can’t eat ahead of time and show the service people to avoid getting killed by allergic reactions, etc.

The hotel we stayed in (Prince Park Tokyo Tower) had a lot of Western guests, so the staff spoke English.  My favorite thing about the room was the toilet, it was amazing and I am sad that I could not bring it back!

Pictures below are separated into general food, breakfast, lunch, dinner and lodging.  Each pic has some notes to let you know what the heck is going on…

General food – pics of menus, advertisements and plastic food

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Breakfast food

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Lunch food

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Dinner & Dessert food

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Lodging – hotel and my beloved hotel room toilet!

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Tokyo Part 1

In December 2013 I spent about a week in Tokyo, Japan before heading for a wedding in Seoul, South Korea.  We took thousands of pictures, so sorting through them will take a while.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be dividing my trip into the following blog posts for both countries:

Part 1 – Surviving or aka how to survive with language barriers

Part 2 – Food & Lodging on my trip

Part 3 – Sights, cultural stuff we saw on the trip

Part 4 – Shopping, retail and what to expect

 

Post release dates:

Japan posts
Jan 6, 2014 – Tokyo Part 1
Jan 13, 2014 – Tokyo Part 2
Jan 20, 2014 – Tokyo Part 3
Jan 27, 2014 – Tokyo Part 4

Korea posts
Feb 3, 2014 – Seoul Part 1
Feb 10, 2014 – Seoul Part 2
Feb 17, 2014 – Seoul Part 3
Feb 24, 2014 – Seoul Part 4

Now let’s start with a post about Tokyo, an amazing city!

 

Tokyo Part 1 – Surviving!

As with any Asian trip, there is always some culture shock upon arrival because…well, everyone looks Asian!  Also, for some reason, people think I am Japanese or Korean although I’m Chinese.  My Viking husband was amused that people always seem shock when I open my mouth and then I start getting the “she must have a mental issue” looks.

I knew some basic Japanese since I studied the language 10 years ago, but it really wasn’t enough to get by with any conversations.  I could ask a question, but would pick up only 10% of what people responded with.

Anyhow, there were a few things that made our trip a pretty good one even though we didn’t have much language sills and below are a few tips I compiled that would help anyone with no understanding of the Japanese language.  We relied on the Lonely Planet guide book which was pretty good and they have a website with lots of basic info: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/tokyo/

Pictures at end of blog post (scroll down).

1)      Wi Fi hotspot & Google Maps

Prior to leaving Canada, my Viking had made arrangements for a Wi Fi hotspot device to be delivered to the hotel upon our arrival.  It’s basically a portable internet wi-fi spot which we used for our phones.  This was a life saver as all the street signs are in Japanese, so we relied heavily on Google Maps to tell us where we were going.

Sometimes we didn’t know how much a fare was on the subway system, but Google Maps would tell us the amount and list all the stops before we were suppose to get off as well.  Also, just on the street, with Google telling us, turn left, right, etc., it was enough for us to avoid getting totally lost.  Amazing technology!

Cost of Wif Fi hotspot – about $5/day

2)      Cash

While many places use credit cards, the basic denomination taken by all vendors is still cash.  So carry some around and look for international bank ATMs to get more cash if required.  We found such ATMs in post offices around Tokyo.

3)      Plugs

I travelled with my laptop which has 3 prongs.  In Tokyo, things only have 2 prongs, but the hotel was nice enough to lend me an adaptor.

4)      Google Translator

On our 14 hour flight, my husband offered to buy me diamonds as he realized he had forgotten our Studio Ghibli tickets at home.  Like any good anime fan, I said I didn’t want diamonds but wanted to see Totoro and the Cat Bus.  Since the Japanese travel agency took our names down, I decided to write a short message with google translator to see if we could talk our way into the museum.  It turns out we had to buy another set of tickets, but having a translated message made things a lot less confusing.

It cost money to print out the message as we didn’t have a printer, so I just emailed it to myself and used the wifi hotspot we were carrying to let people see the email that was already translated into Japanese.

5)      Buy a subway card

There are 5 lines in the subway system owned by different companies.  The first day we were schooled when we kept buying wrong tickets as it was confusing which machine we were supposed to buy for.  The “THIS MACHINE IS IN ENGLISH” announcement was super loud every time we used a machine in English and it was a bit embarrassing because people would look at us oddly.

Anyhow, to save a lot of grief, please buy a subway card as you just load it up with money and all the lines will take the card.  There are a few kinds such as PASMO or JF IO card which are interchangeable on the lines.  We bought the PASMO and beeped our way through instead of trying to figure out how much we needed to pay for a ticket per every trip as the price depends on distance.

The subway maps are all in Japanese although when you get on the train, the stops are sometimes announced in English.  There is also a little tv above the doors which has the stop names in English and katakana as well.

6)      Hotels are big enough for big people

Prior to visiting Japan, I had lamented on Facebook about the size of my husband and how I worried if he would fit into the tiny hotel rooms in Japan.  Someone recommended The Prince Park Tokyo Tower hotel to me and I booked it.  The rooms are huge!  Bigger than some NYC rooms we had stayed in.  OK, fine, my husband’s feet sticks out a bit on the double bed, but 98% of the length of him fits on the bed, so it’s good enough!

Before going, do take a look at travel review websites to see pictures of the room and to make sure they are big enough for your use.  My husband is 6’4” and he was fine with the size of the hotel room.

7)      Basic Manners

My Viking husband likes order in general, so he was pleased that people followed the rules in the city:

  • Walk on the left – If you want to avoid being run over by bicycles on the sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the left.  My husband watched in amusement as I was like a deer in the headlights, uncertain which way to dive to dodge the bikers.
  • No garbage cans – After attacks from over a decade ago by terrorists, there are no garbage cans on the streets or in the subway.  People are expected to carry their garbage until they reach a bathroom.
  • No eating or talking in subways – the subways are super quiet and clean.  People don’t talk and are usually on their cell phones texting.
  • Follow arrows on subway stairs and platforms – yes, there are lots of arrows for up/down in the stairwells and arrows to let you know where the doors will open to board the train.
  • No tipping – restaurants & taxis do not require tipping.  They will run after you if you tip and give back your money!
  • Bow a lot – it’s a sign of politeness to nod your head and bow when you greet someone or thank someone.  They will be bowing back at you too.

8)      What else to expect:

  • Super service – we had never experienced such fantastic customer service before!  People will go out of their way to help you and thank you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Use Google Translator to ask for more complicated things and they will do their best to solve your problem.  Although had to re-buy my Studio Ghibli tickets, the guide at the museum called the Lawson (convenience store) ahead of time to make sure there were tickets available and gave me dates to chose from before directing me across the street to make the purchase.
  • Amazing retail – Just Skytree (tallest tower in Tokyo) alone has 33 floors with most of them retail.  There are convenient stores everywhere open 24/7 and you can buy anything you want with a hundred styles to choose from.  Even my Viking husband who hates shopping, was tempted to buy stuff.  The several food floors alone in Skytree amazed him as he had never seen so much food in his life and they all looked so good!
  • English brochures – at our hotel there were stacks of brochures in English. If you are not staying at a hotel, you can visit one as local brochures often includes coupons and other tips to help save money.

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Everything I've done Wrong This Past Weekend

I’m proud of my friend Chris, as he has proven to be superb deliverer of guest services. We met again this past weekend at Fan Expo as it turned out we were both doing liaison guest work. He put me to shame as after a long conversation with him last night I realized all the things I had been doing wrong all weekend.

In general, I have a lot to learn from Chris in regards to how to service delivery while having fun at the same time!  So in summary, I’d like to hypothesize what he would do in the same situations I encountered or “What Would Chris Do?”

1) Slow down…Relax…Keep Things Simple

My guest Shawn is an adult, but I felt like I had to be very attentive and almost maternal as once he turns “on” for the fans, I have to be “on” too; in order to make sure he meets his schedule, eats, go to the bathroom, sign all the autographs people line up for, take all the pictures people line up for, etc. My maternal instinct was on overdrive and I was like a rabid chipmunk mother. So I felt really stressed all the time as I was worried about meeting timing of events and keeping things moving along. I would over think how to efficiently do things by running multiple scenarios through my head, then things would change and I would freak out underneath (although I can’t show my stress on my face to my guest).

What Would Chris Do (WWCD) – Although he was doing transportation of all the guests, he kept a calm head and just did things without overcthinking. In the past at Anime North we would bump heads as I would worry about how inefficient he was being but in the end, the result is the same. So just think about the route from A to B and then just dive into it. Often, reality does not reflect the scenarios you think about as there are too many changing factors, such as people blocking the path or an elevator not working etc…Keeping calm at all times instead of freaking out is the best as you don’t waste energy on unnecessary emotional turmoil! Chris took the time to have fun under stressful situations and even calmed down other people!

2) Talk to Strangers and Smile!

This is a hard one for me to do, as I have been raised all my life as a female to not talk to strangers or smile as you worry you are inviting a disaster of some sort. There were many awkward situations of me standing there with strangers as Shawn would run off to talk to one guest and their assistants would be there, often unsmiling. There was one man who kept looking at me and I was worried he wanted something I couldn’t give. It turns out he was an agent and could have been scoping me out. Argh! Missed my chance for stardom!! In general there was lots of odd silences which could have been avoided if I reached out, but was worried about reactions of people and if they had the time to even talk back since everyone is on a busy schedule. Also, I don’t speak very loudly so sometimes when I tried, people didn’t hear me.

WWCD – Chris is a very cheerful guy and when you first meet him, he loudly says hi, then shakes your hand. He is very genuine and sincere with people.  He didn’t worry about potential walls of unsmiling people or what people might be doing next. This is a hard thing for me to do as a germaphobe since I worry about hand germs a lot. Sigh. But I know I have to learn to speak loudly and shake hands as it is a “North American/European” gesture of friendliness. I found myself bowing a lot all weekend perhaps due to my Asian background. So I think I have to do both, bow to the fans when they meet my guest as a hospitality gesture and shake hands more with strangers. It’s so hard to break out of your shell when most of your spare time is spent hiding and typing…

3) Don’t Over Focus on Your Guest

This is an anti-Japanese/American idea, as the usual ideal for customer service is to only focus on the guest. There were a few times where I could get pictures with other guests, so I would leave Shawn on his own and run over for a snapshot. Thinking back, I don’t remember if I thanked them for taking the time to do that with me as I was so worried about getting back to Shawn. It was like he was my baby and I couldn’t just leave him on the street on his own. But he is an adult and he will survive a few more minutes without me as I take the time to talk to other guests properly. He complained that I would leave him for “other men” but he was laughing, so I knew that I didn’t offend him.

WWCD – Chris handled multiple guests, but he told me stories about taking the time to drink with one, then have a cigarette with another. He had a great time and divided his attention equally. I know I was assigned to only one guest, but when I meet the others, I need to learn to focus my attention on them right away, even if it’s for a few minutes. Again, I have a hard time talking to strangers and my default position is one of shyness/introvert. But Chris had such a great time and got to know all of them, so I think he did a much better job than me at creating an impression. Memory wise, the guests would remember a cool guy they hung out with and then there was that crazy Asian girl that ran around like crazy, not thanking or talking to people properly.

Really messed up with Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy, Star Trek) on this one as I didn’t get a chance to read his bio, so I asked if he was British which made me seem silly as he is from New Zealand.  Need to read more bios next time!

4) Have fun!

As you can imagine from the scenarios above, I was not exactly a great person to hang out with as I was like a mother worried about her child most of the time. My guest had a great time, Chris had a great time and I think I could have had a better time if I learn how to do things more like him.

It was a privilege to have done some guest work at this convention and hopefully next year I’ll have more fun if I get to work with Chris!

“Do your time, to pay the price
For every thing you’ve done wrong, baby
In your life, you get so high
There’s nowhere left to go but down
Don’t believe that no one cares
‘Cause we’re here waiting for you, baby
Do your time
and then come home for good”
-Sloan, Everything You’ve Done Wrong – an awesome song, popped into my head when I was thinking about writing all this!

 

Some neat stuff at Fan Expo!

There were a lot of big name guests at Fan Expo in Toronto this year, ranging from George Takei to Zachary Quinto. I wanted to see if I was taller than George Takei, but apparently he is still taller than me. He told me he was 5’7″ and thought it was amusing I was on my tip toes to even talk to him as I couldn’t reach the table! Meeting him and Shaun Yuen (in Walking Dead with super flawless skin) really made the Expo for me as I was excited to meet Asian celebrities! Shaun commented that I should think positive and not negative in general; I wonder if being cynical is a Toronto/NY thing as the people from LA are all super cheery!  Must be the sun…

Overall, the convention took up two buildings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North and South. The distance between them involved a short walk and about 5 escalators! I ended up only going to the dealer’s room twice, both on business, but I had a chance to visit a friend who had a booth at artist alley. Things in artist alley all looked great and professional. The dealer’s room had a huge lego display of hobbit houses, which was super neat! There was also a giant Yoda, Superman and Ninja Turtles Mural. In the North building someone brought in the Bat Mobile from the Tim Burton movie (apparently I’m the only person who can’t tell the difference). There were some cute costumes of course and lots of Dr. Who cosplay!

It sounds odd, but I usually like doing volunteer work at conventions instead of being a regular attendee. I like contributing and doing some work as I am a person who can’t relax! And it’s also a chance to see some behind the scenes stuff too! Every year I forget where I put my pictures, so I will post some here instead of losing them!

People wise, I got the chance to interact with a few and I have to say I am now a huge fan of the Ashmore brothers (Shawn & Aaron). They are super nice and will no doubt do very well in the future. Shawn is in the Following and will be Ice Man in the new X-men movie coming out July 2014. Aaron is in Warehouse 13, a show I have to start watching. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura, Star Trek) is a super classy lady; Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy, Star Trek) is super tall and sexy; Dean Cain (Superman, Smallville) likes to hug people and unfortunately I only got a blurry snap of Zachary Quinto, but I heard that he is a super nice guy.

Pics below for your enjoyment!

zach ss

dr who girls ss

hobbit house s

Ninja Turtles ss

Yoda ss

Batmobile ss

Finally Completed My Minion Set…But I Feel Sad

A few weeks ago, people were making fun of me for collecting Minion toys from Happy Meals. Then a couple of days later, the obsessions from the same people started furious trading negotiations as they frantically tried to complete their set before the promotion was over and the next set of Smurf toys emerge.

This morning I confessed to my husband that although I collected the entire set of minion toys from McD, I wasn’t feeling that happy as people were missing a few. I guess it was my Catholic guilt was influencing my potential to feel happiness once again.

“How altruistic of you and Orwellian,” he sniffed.

minions bigger

The altruistic part I understand, after all, I work in healthcare. This is a field where things are very complicated and the pay isn’t that great compared to other industries. But many people I know in this field all have the goal of wanting to make the healthcare system function properly to benefit society.

Orwellian refers to George Orwell’s 1984 book set in a Big Brother dystopian future where people are under survelliance and the population must give into all government orders. My snobby hubby is generally saying that me and the masses were having nonsensical thoughts by focusing on collecting these silly toys and not thinking about real world issues.

Quite frankly I disagree with this and told him that it was more accurate of him to say that I was being more Marxist than Orwellian because I wanted equity for everyone. But then again, these toys wouldn’t come out of a Marxist society as it is a waste of resources to make such things in the first place. So I conclude now that me and my minion collecting friends just being good Capitalist supporters. In the end, McD reaps profit, we feel momentarily happy over a stack of plastic, so everyone wins! Except for the planet as I’m sure these toys will be around for eternity..Damn, being happy is just not in my nature!

Jackie Chan…And Why Dubs Are A Necessary Evil…

Had a first world problem today.  The Viking, TIFF goddess and I were suppose to watch Drunken Master tonight; one of the first Jackie Chan movies which gained him recognition as a slapstick comedy, kung fu superstar.  Made in 1978, Jackie Chan plays a young and wild Wong Fei-Hung who painfully learns the technique of the Eight Drunken Gods and then has to protect his perpetually disapproving father from a hired assassin named Thunderleg.  Jackie Chan was booked to introduce the movie and would be doing a Q & A afterwards.

Ten minutes before I order my sandwich to go (to eat in theater due to lack of time between work and movie), TIFF goddess calls me to say that TIFF just emailed her, telling her that the movie will be the English dub version!  Argh!  Wrong reel had been sent – seriously, the man is in town and the audience can’t even listen to his voice on the movie.  Alas, both of us are film snobs, so we made the decision to not see the dubbed film and to just sneak in at the end to see Jackie Chan’s Q & A only (it turned out he wasn’t doing the intro).  The Viking was left out of the decision making process, but he was busy and not answering his phone.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize that the Japanese animation I was watching was dubbed into Cantonese.  Later on, as I watched more Japanese animation in Japanese, I started noticing the differences in the voice acting.  For animation, Japanese voices were always the best, as the actors had proper schooling and everything sounded genuine.  The Cantonese voices were ok, not too horrible.  The English voices were not that great as the voices never sounded like they were taking things seriously.  Over the course of the years, since spending time with English voice actors from Canada and US, the dubbing industry has changed and the bar is being set higher.  I have seen girls rip out their shirts for breast autographs, so there are super voice actor fans out there…However, in the end, I still prefer the original voices the best as there are some things that can’t be translated and they maintain artistic qualities best.

I do recognize that dubbing opens many markets to a different types of media and it is a a necessity for internationalization and globalization of the entertainment industry.  As audiences grow more sophisticated, the need for quality dubbing will continue to rise with higher production costs. The whole dubbing of foreign media started in the 1930s, so this has been around for a long time!  Dubs have no doubt exposed people to many stories and creations outside of their home countries.

Anyhow, after many beers, rabbit pasta and pizza; our party headed upstairs for the Jackie Chan Q & A.  We ended up watching the last 2 minutes of the dubbed film and the voices were awful!  It sounded very cheesy and the theater full of audience were laughing, so I think they were enjoying it.  The Viking told me it sounded torturous and was glad we skipped 109 minutes of it.  The credits didn’t start rolling surprisingly enough and with the snap of a switch, the lights came on and Jackie Chan entered the room.  Many people stood up while clapping and cheering.  He was wearing a white kung fu master outfit with white shoes, which the TIFF goddess pointed out was a very 70s style thing to do.  He spoke intelligently, as he explained how he was always thinking about how to keep his career afloat with different projects and changing all the time in order to learn new things.  A very physical person, he kept demonstrating graceful martial arts moves as he spoke.  Even though I sat far away, I could feel still his charisma and energy.  He made an interesting point on how people elevate others to a higher status through exaggerated stories.  He gave the example that perhaps in one hundred years time, Bruce Lee will have a shrine and will be a god, as more and more people believe in the super human stories of Bruce.  As masses believe in the idea, anyone opposing this god idea would face consequences.  Someone asked about his past promise about making e a movie about Cambodian land mines.  He said that although he was the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), when he was visiting Cambodia, the government tourism board suggested that he defer the project as they were afraid such a film would scare away visitors.  He said he would make it someday, but things take time.  Apparently when he writes a script, it may take 6-8 years.

Overall, it was inspiring to see a successful Asian person whom I’ve always admired live in and speaking impressively.  Also, the fact that he was always learning makes me think that maybe I’m not too crazy either for wanting to do different things all the time as well!

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