Saturday, June 20, 2015

Top Places - Mt. Fuji

Description: The tallest Mountain in Japan measuring at 3776 M tall, Mt. Fuji is actually an active volcano that provides one of the most scenic views in all of Japan. No need to worry about eruptions or lava flows though. Instead you can enjoy one of the many views around the mountain, such as those from Hakone Park, Lake Ashi, and Lake Kawaguchiko. Nearby attractions include Fuji Q Highland (an amusement park, especially worth the visit around Halloween), Shibazakura (a field of beautiful pink Moss Flowers), and the many Onsen (Ofuro) in the area.

Climbing Mt. Fuji: Mt. Fuji is closed to climbers most of the year, due to heavy snow. It is open from mid-July to early-September. It is possible to ride in a car/bus up to the 5th station and climb the rest of Mt. Fuji in a day. Prepare properly as weather can be unpredictable. Furthermore, Altitude sickness is common. For a real site, do the night climb to see Mt. Fuji at sunrise.

When to see Mt. Fuji: Winter makes for the best time to see Mt. Fuji as there is less humidity in the air. During the other seasons, humidity causes much cloudiness, reducing the likelihood that Mt. Fuji will be visible.

Recommended to: Anyone!

Rating: 5 Stars (not 5 during reduced visibility though)

Climbers' Website (English):

Japan: Running Through Time

"Japan: Running Through Time"

Taken on my trip to Kyoto, Japan (京都日本) at Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社).

I choose this title first because I felt like the little girl in the photo, who was playing at the shrine, kept running around in a seemingly different world built over the years without knowing it. 

The second reason though comes from this photo's background. This photo was lost to me for a year and through some miracle, I found a copy of it again. It had been one of my favorites from Kyoto, so when I found it, it felt like it was just returning from a journey, apologizing for not calling.

This is the third photo in my "Kyoto Series". For the first and second, follow the links here: Japan: Kin and Japan: A Little Moment .

I hope you like it!

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Hello everyone!

Tokyo is chalk full of exciting places to visit and see. However, one of the less famous, but equally worth mentioning places that is worth going to is the Fabric Haven of Nippori (日暮里). Nippori has 繊維街 (Sen-i-gai), Tokyo’s Fabric Town. I had been told about it by my mom, who went to Tokyo a second time and visited it, bringing me back some beautiful fabrics and souvenirs. Since I’d been sewing as a hobby for about 5 years now, it was a must see spot on my list when I first got to Tokyo again. Since going, I’ve been back many times and enjoy every one of my visits.

(South Entrance to Nippori Station)

To give one a basic idea, Senigai is a lot like the Garment District of New York City, but on a smaller scale. However that does not mean that it doesn’t compare in products. Senigai is located right out on the East Side of Nippori Station (日暮里駅)  (located conveniently on the Yamanote/山手線 and Keihin Tohoku/京浜東北線 Lines) and very quickly, you can find yourself emersed in a beautiful and colorful area. (Check out the sign below!) Filled with a variety of different products from different suppliers, you can go through out all of the stores always finding something new.  

(Momoji Bridge, ももじばし, the south entrance of Nippori Station, east side)

(Sign to Nippori)

The most popular of these stores is Tomato, with four different locations, each catering to different needs. I personally always hit up Tomato first as it’s perhaps the easiest place to find what I need and then I branch out to the other stores.

(Another sign to Fabric Town)

A wonderful thing about Nippori that I’ve found is all of the shops catering to trims, buttons, and necessary tools needed for sewing. My latest project, a Shingeki no Kyojin (進撃野巨人) or Attack on Titan uniform, required belts and lots of them. Normally, that would mean digging around for super long already made belts in large numbers or making said belts yourself. Imagine my elation when I found 11 meters plus some of continuous belt/strap material within Tomato. This kind of product, I am also pretty sure is what Reika Arakawa, one of the world’s top cosplayers, used when making her Levi Ackerman cosplay from the same series (as I noticed it when I saw her Levi in person). And who could blame her? It’s absolutely perfect for that kind of project!

(Leather Straps)

I also could not believe the number of shops that supplied real leather at a decent price too. Perhaps due to the demand in the states, real leather is extremely expensive and often people shy away from buying it due to that (and the fact that if you mess up with actual leather, then you have just wasted your purchase). The one piece I've bought so far was amazing and I personally love digging through the various kinds of leather that are outside of the stores for customers to browse through.

(Real Leather Pieces Outside Stores)

There are also shops with bazillions of buttons and trims too. Some of these were classic in designs but others seemed very fresh and trendy. They also had rows upon rows of different lace products too, something not as easy to find back in the States. Many of these, I also thought, were sure to include material for the costume designer or (probably more likely) the cosplayer! With tassles, sparkling embroidery designs, and flowing materials, Nippori is a cosplayer’s dream. I will note that yes, like any place, you will find some of these more costume-y elements to be on the lower end of the quality spectrum, but most of these reflected in price too. Just like everywhere else, if you want quality, you have to be willing to pay for it. But hey, at least they have it!


A final note on Nippori. It is located in Japan. So naturally at your disposal, you have hundreds of beautiful fabric choices used to make Kimono (着物) and Yukata (浴衣). How freakin’ cool is that? They also have a good number of kits for different projects ranging from full scale Yukata to bags and little key chains you can make. There are also a good number of character products available for purchase too. You can find many iron on patches, fabrics, and kits for Anpanman, Doraemon, Disney Characters, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and even the occasional American Superhero such as Batman or Spiderman. 

(Outside Various Shops)

Speaking of American products, many of the fabric stores had American Cotton sections, which I found very amusing (I say that in the best way), as I had tended to take that for granted in the states. In addition to American Cotton though, fabrics from all over the world are available in Nippori. From Italy, England, Russia, Germany, Africa nations, practically any country you could think of has a product currently being sold in Nippori.

(Sign for last year's Fashion Design Contest)

So how does it compare to New York City’s Garment District? I found that I liked both as they both have their strong points. New York has a vast amount of stores, but many of the fabric stores have a basic set of fabrics that many of them all sell and then they branch out to find their own unique suppliers. In Senigai, they all have unique suppliers, so even though it is smaller it’s more contained. However this does mean you have to go to several different stores to get what you might need/want. In regards to Trimmings, I loved both. Both have unique products and for me, since I was so used to NYC’s offerings, Nippori offered me a new set of supplies that brought me new inspiration (and I’m sure it would be the same way if it were the other way around).

(Fabric Town)

In conclusion though, whether you sew or not, whether you cosplay or not, whether you have a project you’re working on or not, if you’re in Tokyo, Nippori is a place to visit just to see all of the vast amount of supplies that you never knew could exist all in the same place. I enjoy it and continue to make the train ride out there whenever I am in need of fabrics, trims, buttons, and any other supplies I need for whatever I’m working on at the time. So if you go, be sure to share your pictures and experiences below!

Till next time,

XVision Tour: X4 at Kashiwa Palooza

Hello Everyone!


Ok this is a super late entry but I still wanted to share it with all of you. Back in April I was able to go to my first X4 Concert. I’ll admit I had heard next to nothing of their songs due to the fact that I was planning on buying their CD at the concert (thus the only preview I got was from Youtube and my friend Katie just prior to the concert). But regardless, it was something I greatly looked forward to and enjoyed! 

(Happy Day!)

So who is X4? X4 is a newly formed Boy Band signed under Japanese Dream Records, specializing in R&B and Pop styled music. Members include: Yuya (Matsushita), Kodai, SJ, and T-Max, all from the Kansai area of Japan. Their first album released was "XVision", which was the title of this Live Tour. I was lucky enough to join three of my friends for their concert at Kashiwa Palooza in Chiba (千葉県), near Kashiwa Station (柏駅).

(My Ticket)

Similar to past concerts I've been to, the Goods Lines opened up about 2 hours prior to the actual concert. For anyone curious about Goods Lines, depending on the performer, it is a good idea to line up anywhere between 1-2 hours prior to the line opening, assuming that those in charge allow it. We lined up an hour before, which was a fantastic decision on our part. While we were waiting, a black fan rolled up front and too all of our surprise X4 just strolled out and quickly went into Palooza (as we were all waiting out front). Talk about cool!

(Shot of the inside of Palooza; check out one of the past performances!)

After buying our goods, we went to wait for an hour before coming back for the actual concert itself. We were luckily near the front of the line, so we got good spots once inside. The location was a bit smaller than the last place I saw Yuya live, but I liked that as it meant we were all closer to the performers and the audience could interact more with the band. We only had to wait a little bit before the performance started with the "Theme of XVision". In this concert, it was about half talking/half singing as they only had one CD out, but I think most of the fans appreciated it as it allowed us all to get to know the singers a bit better. They would joke, laugh, and sometimes speak seriously, but most of all, they made for a great performance for all of their fans there.

(The Inside of Palooza)

After the concert came the best part of this adventure though. One of the lucky things about this location was that if you bought a CD, you could stay after and shake hands with all 4 of the band members and speak them for a bit. Being able to that was absolutely fantastic, and a memory to be had. They were all really sweet, funny, and had wonderful smiles. This was my second time meeting Yuya, but my first time meeting the others, who were very charming young men as well. It was though the first time I had the chance to talk to any of them, which was very interesting for me as my Japanese was put to the test. Thankfully, I think it passed. ;)

(My Handshake Pass)

Overall, the concert was a lot of fun and the location was great as you could really interact with the performers. X4's music itself was very catchy and I found myself immediately needing these new songs on my iPod after the concert. My favorites included: "Bang a Gong", "Fire", "Little Longer", "Raindrop", and "Mikaduki", and "I Don't Know Your Name". If you're unfamiliar with their music, you can check them out on iTunes and on their official website here: X4 . Each member also has their own Instagram that you can follow as well. Check them out!

Till my next big adventure,

About "Top Places in Tokyo"

Hello Everyone,

(Kaminarimon, 雷門)

It has occurred to me that many people go to Tokyo, not realizing what exactly it has to offer. Granted, most people may know Tokyo Tower (東京タワー), Akihabara (秋葉原), or Tokyo Disneyland (東京ディズニーランド) (which is actually in Chiba, the Prefecture adjacent to Tokyo) and some might know the Ghibli Museum (三鷹の森ジブリ美術館) , but that tends to be the extent of most people's knowledge.

Most people I meet who are not familiar with Tokyo will say to me, "Oh cool! You live close to Tokyo? What're some cool things to do there?" As I list off the many things to do, they become surprised by all of what there actually is in Tokyo.

I think this may be due to the fact that a lot of places have names that are difficult to pronounce, say or even remember if one is not familiar with Japanese. Furthermore, Tokyo is HUGE. So there are a lot of things to do, but with so many names, confusion can occur which leads to a lack of knowledge on sights to see in Tokyo.

So I wanted to compile a list of places that I believe are worth visiting within Tokyo. Each place is divided by area, has a description of said place, who I would in particular recommend should go see said place, and a personal rating (5 being the best).  Some will also include links to more detailed reviews of locations that I have been as well. But yes, anyway, that's what this section of my blog will be for. I will tag general areas to help everyone find what things are close to one another as well. Anyway, I hope that for some this helps you plan your trip to Tokyo!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Vampire Knight Musical

Hello everyone!

It seems to be musical after musical with me, I know! I must admit I have not gone to so many shows and musicals before coming to Japan. I love Broadway, Shakespeare, and some of the more modern American plays, but Japan's musicals just lure me in like a moth to the flame. This time, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend and see the ヴァンパイア騎士(ナイト) ミュジャカル (The Vampire Knight Musical) based on Matsuri Hino's (樋野まつり) recently completed manga run in Lala magazine. As a major fan of the Vampire Knight manga, I knew this was something I couldn't miss!

(The Lucky Ticket!)

While I often say that I was fortunate to see any musical, this one in particular was a lucky snag. This stage was announced back in late 2014 in Lala Magazine. Running only from January 21st to the 25th, tickets for this show were extremely hard to get. I ended up entering the early lottery with three time submissions, the first of which was defeated. After that, I got my second time submission pick. My seat was not super close to the front, but it was close enough to the stage, so I took it right away.

(Off to see the show!)

The stage was held at the Hakuhinkan Theatre in Ginza above the Hakuhinkan Toy Park on the 8th floor. The theatre was small and a bit compact, but that didn't bother me as it just meant that my seat, which would have been a ways back had this been a Broadway show, was actually relatively close to the stage. The Theatre itself, like many other theatres I have been to since coming to Japan, reflected the production itself in a way. It was almost like stepping into an opera house. The floor was decked in red with chandeliers made of crystal, lighting the place up. Numerous flower displays for the cast and crew were displayed in the lobby.

(Hakuhinkan Theatre in Ginza)

(In the right place!)

(Left: Promotional Photo with Schedule; Right: Entrance to the Theatre on the 8th Floor)

(Flower Displays for the Cast and Crew)

They did not let us enter until 11:30 AM on the dot (the show started at 12:00 noon), but as soon as you entered it was a question of where to go first. I choose to go to the right where they were selling goods, figuring it was better to go earlier than later. I first choose to go to AKIRA's CD line and buy her new Limited Edition CD containing the theme song of the musical as well as a few other numbers on it. (I was happy to see they were also selling her first single Aoki Tsuki Michite as well! I would have bought it, but I already had it!) By doing so, I was able to enter the lottery and obtained my number one Souvenir, AKIRA's autograph! And when I say Autograph, I mean, an actual, legitimate autograph, on Canvas Paper. You can literally see the groves in it and the ink where it landed. Yes, this was a total score!

(The Musical Goods Shop)

(AKIRA's Booth selling both of her singles)

(AKIRA's Autograph and CD)

After that, I went to the next line to the left, where I was able to purchase the Musical's goods. The goods were nice in that there wasn't an extreme number of different products, so you could easily pick and choose what you wanted. I was able to get the Clear File Folder, the Bromides, and the Program Book and then made my way over to the opposite side of the entrance hall to admire what I had seen right before going to AKIRA's stand. The beautiful, lovely, absolutely stunning Cross Academy Uniforms on display, literally close enough to touch. They were actually selling them for about 400 to 450 USD (Ouch!), but to be perfectly honest, as a costume fan, if I had money to spare, I would have dropped the money for at least one of these uniforms. They were just beautiful!

(Cross Academy Uniforms used in the Musical)

(Left: Night Class Uniforms; Right: Day Class Uniforms)

(Detail shots of the Male Day Class Uniform)

The Uniforms were made out of a wonderful suiting material, but even more impressive were the gems used to accent the ribbons sewn onto the jackets as well as the buttons, which were obviously ordered and made specifically for the musical as they fit Matsuri Hino's designs to a T (and out of all the many high school uniforms I have seen in manga and anime, these are still by far one of the most decorative and consistent ones I've seen). I also liked how the male uniforms were clearly made for a female figure impersonating that of a man. In other words, that was the job of these uniforms. Now why is that you ask?

(Cast Members out of Costume; Photo Courtesy of Twitter)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Vampire Knight Musical, which is at its core a love story, was it was produced with the entire cast made up of female members. So naturally more than half of the cast were cross dressing on stage, including the main two male leads of Kaname Kuran, played by AKIRA, and Zero Kiryu, played by ROOT. While I know many people were a bit skeptical at first about this, both AKIRA and ROOT as well as their fellow cast members playing male roles, did phenomenal jobs with this challenge.

(Majority of the Cast in costume; Photo Courtesy of AKIRA on Twitter)

Both AKIRA and ROOT are well known for being Boys Style Models within Japan. What is that? Boys Style in Japan is a fashion revolving around more boyish clothing specifically for women. Sometimes it can create an androgynous sort of appearance, but it can also reflect or portray a more edgy, stronger, or even more laid back personality. (I'm not saying female styles don't do the same, only that this style specifically targets those qualities). Because of this, many Boys Style Models are women who essentially excel at the art of portraying themselves as males. So picking both AKIRA and ROOT to play the lead male roles in this musical made up entirely of women makes a lot of sense.

(Flower Display from Mangaka Matsuri Hino)

(Close up of the depiction of the main three characters that inspired the promotional photos for the musical.)

(Promotional Photo for comparison)

A bit more about AKIRA. AKIRA recently also rose to fame for singing the ending of 黒執事: Book of Circus (Black Butler Season 3) (the title of  the song was mentioned above). A beautifully, sad song, upon hearing it and hearing that AKIRA would be playing Kaname Kuran, I instantly was excited to see her in this musical. Prior to the musical, I had little to no knowledge of ROOT, other than that she was a model. After seeing her performance though as Zero, the casting choice made not just a lot of sense, but perfect sense to me, for which I'll explain more about later. Finally, Musical Artist Yumi Wakatsuki completed the main cast playing the role of Yuki Cross.

(Yumi Wakatsuki as Yuki Cross)

(ROOT as Zero Kiryu)

(AKIRA as Kaname Kuran)

Onto the actual musical itself though. The Musical was a 2 hour show with 15 minutes in between. Like previous shows I had been to, they often employed the use of moving stage pieces as well as projectors. A new use of the projectors I found too was that they essentially made a set of opening credits to follow the first song, which I rather liked a lot as it sort of felt like watching a piece of a live action movie.

(Show time!)


The Musical followed the first major arc line of the manga. Our female lead, Yuki Cross, along with her friend Zero Kiryu are Guardians of Cross Academy, where there are two classes, the Day Class and the Night Class. Their job is to keep the safety and peace of the school as well as guard the secret of the Night Class (that the Night Class is actually attended strictly by Vampires!). Yuki crushes on Kaname Kuran, President of the Night Class, who saved her life ten years ago. This often aggravates her friend Zero, whose family was murdered by a Vampire four years prior (only he miraculously survived). His goal is to find the most effective way to eradicate and kill all Vampires.

(Yuki Cross and a reluctant Zero Kiryu are introduced as Guardians of the School; Photo Courtesy of ROOT)

So naturally when Zero bites into Yuki's neck and drinks her blood, she is shocked, not having known that since the Vampire attack he has been suffering the slow and agonizing pain of becoming a Vampire himself. Soon after this revelation, a new girl enters the Night Class and Kaname realizes an enemy has entered their midst, preparing for the inevitable chess game about to take place.

(Zero's secret is revealed! Photo Courtesy of ROOT)

The musical follows the manga's story line pretty closely, only cutting certain parts short when needed. Some characters, such as Toga Yagari (Zero's mentor) do not appear in the musical, while others make surprise appearances, such as Zero's twin brother Ichiru. Overall, it was a very well done adaptation.

(Cover of Volume 1 of the English Vampire Knight Manga)

The music itself was a mix of classic vampire-esk tones as well as modern rock. Each of the cast members did a wonderful job of depicting the story line and emotions attached to it. There were many times that you often forgot that the cast was made up of women and just went on with the story, not noticing it, which is a sign of a very successful acting accomplishment. Furthermore, the special effects were spot on and often taken right from the manga (much to my and my fellow audience members' delight). For instance, Kaname's anger was often shown through the cracking of glass for no apparent reason and cherry blossoms often followed the weeping Kurikizaki hime. 

(The Final Cast all in Costume)

AKIRA as the player of the Chess game so to speak captivated the audience with her vocals. AKIRA's natural range is that of an Alto, possibly a tenor, but she can hit high notes as well when needed. She played the "Pureblood Vampire" (in other words, the king of Vampires) perfectly, without ever missing a beat. A perfect gentleman, with a darkness lurking in his shadow.

(AKIRA sings the final number; Photo Courtesy of Model Press)

My applause of the day, which though I loved AKIRA, had to go to ROOT. Although Zero remains and has been my favorite character in the story, that is not why my praise goes to ROOT. This predisposition  had me going in with a very critical state of mind in regards to Zero.

(ROOT and Yumi as Zero's instincts overwhelm him; Photo Courtesy of Tumblr)

Zero at the heart of the story is the "Vampire Knight". He suffers from physical pain, mental pain, and emotional pain through out the first arc of the manga. He looses his family, becomes a thing he loathes, often harboring suicidal thoughts based on the mentality that he is a threat to those he holds dear, and worse perhaps, watches the girl he loves sacrifice for him all while looking on at another boy. He fights an overwhelming addiction and increasing madness in order to try and save the person he loves. ROOT had a full plate with this role. She had a lot of emotions and a lot of difficult acting to get across to the audience. She did phenomenally. Her pain was our pain and her struggles became our struggles as we watched her heartrending portrayal of Zero's monolithic trials.


My fellow audience members I'm sure would agree that the musical was nothing short of a spectacular performance. Amazingly too, this audience seemed to draw those of all ages and of both genders. I made sure to quickly reserve my copy of the DVD version of the Musical as well as go to the Gachas (think  to get pins of the cast members (lucky me again I got Zero and Kaname in the first go!). It's also my hope that they release a CD of the songs from the musical, since they were very beautiful, fun, tragic, and romantic.

(All the goods from the Musical)

(Zero and Kaname Pins from the Gachas)

Overall, the musical was a wonderful show and I look forward to getting my DVD. The cast members were phenomenal, talented, and made the show much more real than anyone could have ever anticipated. It certainly makes me hope that they will be in more shows in the future so we can see more of their talent. If you get the chance to buy the DVD, do it! It's well worth it and if you enjoy Vampire Knight, your collection won't be complete without it! See below, Kaname agrees! ;)

(AKIRA prior to the show's start; Photo Courtesy of AKIRA on Twitter)

Till next time,