A Trip to Japantown in San Francisco

7 May

I recently had the pleasure of visiting and staying in Japantown in San Francisco, California. We stayed at the lovely Hotel Kabuki, a traditional Japanese-themed hotel located in the dead center of Japantown itself. The hotel is connected to the Japan Center Parking Garage (quite possibly the cheapest place to park in San Francisco) and to the Japan Center mall, which houses a variety of Japanese shops and eateries.

The boy messing up my photographic feng shui.

Being the fan of Japanese culture that I am, I was sold on Hotel Kabuki upon discovering that, in addition to the traditional Japanese-style decor, the rooms come equipped with Japanese style baths. Most rooms have a deep soaking tub (with complimentary bath salts) along with a faucet where you sit on a little wooden stool and clean yourself with soap and a bucket. After cleaning off, you dunk yourself into the tub for some serious personal zen time. This feature alone was worth paying just a little bit more than it costs to stay at Hotel Tomo, another hotel in Japantown by the Joie de Vivre company. (For the record, we got a pretty sweet deal using Priceline.com!) Some other nice amenities at Hotel Kabuki are the Japanese teapot and teacups available for use in your room (along with a strainer for loose tea), bamboo lemongrass scented toiletries and gorgeous shoji screens.

The bathing room of mega-awesome.

The night of our arrival in San Francisco, we headed over to Sanppo Sushi for dinner; the only place still open to eat in the area. The green tea served was genmaicha and they had some really amazing miso soup. We both ordered yakisoba, which was okay, but I personally prefer the yakisoba/yakiudon at my local Japanese restaurant. (Go figure. Must be the sauce.) Above Sanppo was a karaoke bar and Korean food place, but we never went there, as there is likely no possible way to make my boyfriend drunk enough to ever sing in public. Hmm.

A riveting view of Post Street.

Our first day in San Francisco was spent entirely in Japantown. We started out at Daiso, a Japanese chain where most everything costs $1.50. They had lots of odds and ends, but the money was better spent at Ichiban Kan, where there were some higher quality and slightly more expensive items. I picked up stationery gifts for my friends and family, along with an ear-cleaning doo-hicky and an old yaoi magazine from 2004 that turned out to be short stories instead of manga. (Oh well, it didn’t even cost me two bucks.) One of my favorite items at Ichiban Kan was fake cat paws that actually kind of felt like real cat paws. Awesome. There is something similar to these called “Neko Nyanbou” that actually have retractable claws. The ones I saw were a little less creepy and a little more endearing. :P

Desserts at Murata's Cafe Hana

One thing that bugged me about the eateries in the Japan Center mall is that they nearly all took cash only. Pretty much anywhere you’d go and spend $10 or less refused to take credit. These people need to get with the times! Regardless, I still indulged at Sophie’s Crepes (Strawberries + Nutella!) and May’s Coffee Shop, where I finally got to try both taiyaki and oh-so-delectable spam musubi. I also had some great Tsubu Anpan from Andersen Bakery and amazing mitarashi dango from a little tea stand whose name I forgot.

Artbooks GET!

The highlight of the Japan Center mall was, of course, Kinokuniya. I try to make it a point to go to Kinokuniya in Little Tokyo (in Los Angeles) whenever I visit California, so on this trip we went to the one in San Francisco instead. Japantown’s Kinokuniya is basically 2 floors and 3 stores – 2 of which are stationery shops. All of the anime/manga books were in the downstairs half of the bookstore. They had an extensive selection of manga, magazines and artbooks, as well as an unusually large yaoi section, but no hentai section to be seen (yaoi but no hentai; what’s that about?). Over the course of my two trips to the bookstore, I ended up buying 2 manga magazines and 4 artbooks. The 4 books I decided on were Pixiv Girls 2010, Ten Colors Illustrations: Juunin Toiro, Nanatsu no Ashiato – Naru Nanao Illustrations and Souen – Noizi Itoh Illustrations III. For the magazines, I bought the May 2010 Dengeki Maoh (entirely for the awesome furoku – a Spice and Wolf mini-artbook!) and an issue of Neko no Shippo, a publication consisting entirely of ridiculously cute cat-centric comic strips.

May 2010 Dengeki Maoh w/Artbook

Neko no Shippo

There’s another newer shopping center in Japantown called “New People” (go go Engrish) that consists of four floors of Japanese pop culture. The first floor has a mini-cafe that serves bento boxes from Delica and coffee from Blue Bottle. The second floor has a gift shop and the other floors have a movie theater and art gallery, respectively. The theater shows stuff like recent anime films and monster movies from Japan. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to make it to the gallery floor. The shop had quite a few neat things, but my only purchases were a couple of postcards with artwork by Imai Kira and Kamijo Eri (whose 2010 calendar I reviewed in one of my very first blog posts). Scans below!

"Sweet Parfait" by Imai Kira

Postcard by Kamijo Eri

My favorite meal in Japantown was, without a doubt, at Shabu-sen, a Japanese-style fondue or “nabemono” (hot pot) restaurant. Every table has a little stovetop on it where the food you order cooks at your table. You either order Shabu-shabu style or Sukiyaki style. You can order various meats, seafood and vegetables to be cooked. As an appetizer I ordered the Zaru Soba (cold soba noodles with dipping sauce). We opted for sukiyaki-style pork and beef for our main course. This came with vegetables and udon noodles as well. The sukiyaki sauce was absolutely delicious. I loved this meal so much, I really wanted to go back and eat there again. I’m drooling a little just thinking about it…

Cooking Sukiyaki Pork & Beef

Overall, I think I liked Japantown in San Francisco more than Little Tokyo in L.A., if only because the majority of the shops are all crammed into one area that’s easy to get around. Little Tokyo has a lot of stuff more spread out and is generally a less attractive area overall. (L.A. is ugly; there’s no denying it.) San Francisco’s felt a lot more like “Japan away from Japan” and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who loves Japanese culture. Like me. Can I go back now?

Japantown. It's like Japan... but not.

Doujinshi Review: BENIGYOKUZUI Remix by Carnelian

2 Mar

Carnelian has released a couple of “remix” doujinshi so far, and this particular one is the first, released in the summer of 2008. BENIGYOKUZUI 再録集 (Sairokushuu, which means “remix”) contains various illustrations and comics from previous Benigyokuzui releases, but unlike the more recent BENIGYOKUZUI Remix 20-21-22, it isn’t a very thick book. It is about average doujin size at 36 pages. As far as I can tell, it contains images from Benigyokuzui volumes 17 through 19.

Cover

The Cover image is a sexy bunny girl.

You dropped your pen.

Page 1: Sexy office lady!

Pages 2 & 3

The image on the right I recognized as the cover of Benigyokuzui 17.

Pages 4 & 5

The Devil May Cry art on the right has previously appeared in Ura-Benigyokuzui vol. 2 Full Color, which I reviewed earlier…

Some lovely maidens...

The Aquarian Age image on the left (as well as just about any elf drawing by her) is one of my personal favorite Carnelian illustrations!

Pages 8 & 9

Touka and Seika of Fairy Factory make their cameo on the right; a lovely girl with cherries and blonde ringlets on the left.

Miku!

I was most excited for the Hatsune Miku illustration, which I believe was used for a pillow cover. Previously, I’d only been able to see a small resolution of said image on Carnelian’s blog.

Pages 12 & 13

The pointy-eared gal is from Carnelian’s full-color “Gin-iro no Shiina” comic published in “Comic RUSH!”. The miko on the left was used on her homepage for awhile.

2-Page Spread

The only 2-page spread in the book is this gothic lolita-styled illustration of a girl falling amidst black feathers.

The last color page.

The last colored page features a boy/girl(?!) with a sword and then the monochrome section begins, which is primarily a hentai comic which I didn’t photograph (sorry!).

It’s pretty excited to be able to own books that are a collection of Carnelian’s doujinshi. While this first remix book isn’t quite the must-have that Benigyokuzui Remix 20-21-22 is (make sure you check out Nattoli’s review of that one), it’s still pretty darn nice to have in my collection. (Especially since nobody seems to scan Carnelian’s Benigyokuzui doujins anymore!)

Doujinshi Review: “Yumeiro Mangekyou” by Riv/SOLOIST

20 Feb

Riv, a Taiwanese artist who goes by the circle name of SOLOIST, is one of my more current favorite artists. I couldn’t pass up the chance to get a book of colored illustrations, so I picked up Yumeiro Mangekyou (夢色万華鏡) or “Dream-colored Kaleidoscope”, which is a full color book of gorgeous Touhou art. I know very little about Touhou (despite being constantly exposed to artwork inspired by it) but that doesn’t make me like this publication any less!

Cover

Shiny! The title of the book is printed in metallic silver. The book actually opens at the “top” instead of the side. The images inside are presented in both horizontal and vertical formats.

Page #1

The first page has some opening text (not pictured here) in Chinese along with Japanese. This illustration is on the page to the left of it.

夢色万華鏡

The first two-page spread of many features the same gorgeous artwork used on the cover. You can peek at a CG version of it here on Riv’s Pixiv.

Making Music

The next couple of pages feature some really lovely music-themed illustrations. The image on the right is just stunning!

Vertical Spread #1

This is where the book switches over to some glorious vertical 2 page spreads!

Vertical Spread #2

This one’s a bit too loli for my taste, but it’s cute, nonetheless!

Vertical Spread #3

Nemuiiii ~3~

東風谷早苗

There was some funky scan-line action happening in this photograph, but the print is fine, I assure you. You can also see this one here on Riv’s Pixiv.

お嬢様と犬耳咲夜

Here’s where the book returns to horizontal spreads. (View on Pixiv.)

Happy Fun-Time!

A cheerful page-and-a-half spread along with some very cute chibi versions of the Touhou characters.

東方ポケット戦爭

We’re back to the single-page illustrations. I love Riv’s coloring style in this image especially. (View on Pixiv.)

東方ペロペロ

The second of the two “ecchi” images in this book. Take a look at the face on the lolipop! (View on Pixiv.)

天子と衣玖

Love the blue hair and red eyes; it’s very striking. (View on Pixiv.)

霊夢と桜

Everyone loves a good “miko in the water” illustration, right? (View on Pixiv.)

Index

There’s an index of all the colored images to sum it all up… and then a few pages of really nice monochrome art.

Monochrome #1

Monochrome #2

The "Endning"!

This book turned out to be a really pleasant surprise for me, since I only had a couple of pages as a reference for purchase and I hadn’t seen any scans anywhere yet. (I still haven’t, thus my choice to review it.) I’m very glad I chose to purchase it and I’ll definitely be getting more works by Riv in the future as they are released.

Fun with Pixiv Image Response Materials

3 Feb

Pixiv has a really neat feature that is somewhat akin to YouTube’s video response feature, except on Pixiv, you respond with artwork rather than video. This is a feature that Deviant Art lacks, although Deviant Art does have those “art memes” that float around. On Pixiv, the images that are made to be “responded” to are tagged as イメージレスポンス (Image Response), イメージレスポンス素材 (Image Response Souzai) or イメレス (abbreviation of “image response”).

On dA, these sorts of memes are oftentimes a chart where you draw a character of yours in different situations or portraying different moods. Pixiv image responses have the same thing, but they aren’t limited to “fill in the blank” type charts. Pixiv image response materials refer to a vast array of things like lineart that you can color in, templates for items that you can design, mood charts and a whole lot of other things. Browsing through this category can be a lot of fun and it is the perfect way to get your creative juices flowing if you just can’t think of a new idea from scratch.

When you view images on Pixiv, they sometimes have a red link under them that says a number followed by “res”. (Ex: 3 res) This is an indicator of how many image responses it has. Most of the time these responses are to art memes; occasionally they are not. Most images on Pixiv do not have any image responses, which is normal, as it does not refer to “comments” on the image; only replies to the artwork in the form of other artwork contributions.

Nendoroid Template

Nendoroid Template by lynx

One of my favorite image responses on Pixiv is this Nendoroid template by lynx. It’s great if you’ve always wanted to design your own Nendoroid; perhaps one of your favorite character that has never been made into a figure! Check out all of the responses it has. There’s over 10 pages of them!

Touhou Line Art

Touhou Line Art by 桐原夏樹

Here’s a nice example of one that features line art that you can color in; a beautiful piece of Touhou line art! Line art that is posted for this purpose is sometimes tagged as ぬりえ (nurie) which means “picture for coloring” or むしろ塗ってください (mushiro nurutte kudasai) which means something along the lines of “please give this picture better coloring”.

PSP 2000 Template

PSP 2000 Template by 浅見屋

You never know what you’ll find when browsing souzai; maybe even something useful. Senkenya has submitted this marvelous PSP 2000 template. You can use it to make your own PSP skin. Sa-weet! There’s also a PSP 3000 template and a PSP screen template that you can use to draw devious things upon, such as your own ero game. ;O

ものすごいエロオーラが!by よるむん

If humor is what you seek,  this image response material, hilariously titled ものすごいエロオーラ (which can be roughly translated as “An Earth-shattering Sex Aura!”) encourages you to design and color a girl’s (or a guy if you please) reaction to a guy who is supposed to be mind-blowingly sexy. (He looks creepily like the kind of dude Shinjo Mayu would draw…) Make sure you view the responses to this meme! They’re quite amusing.

Those are just a few great examples of what you’ll find when looking through Pixiv’s image response tags. If you’re wondering how to properly submit a response to such materials, there’s a special field when you contribute a piece artwork to Pixiv where you can insert the ID number of the image you are responding to. The artist may have to “approve” your response for it to show up in the response box, or they may have the automated acception of responses enabled. I would probably avoid submitting responses to Pixiv works on other sites such as Deviant Art unless you can contact the artist and receive permission. It’s important for an artist to receive proper credit when you’re doing derivative works, and on Pixiv all you need to do is submit the image as a response. (That way you don’t have to go to the trouble of emailing or messaging someone in Japanese.)

Doujinshi Review: Ura-Benigyokuzui VOL.2 Full Color by Carnelian

18 Jan

Carnelian’s “Ura-Benigyokuzui” doujinshi contain Carnelian’s illustrations of male characters. There are 3 volumes of Ura-Benigyokuzui that I know of, one of which is this one, that is in full color. You may find it somewhat confusing that “Vol. 2 full color” is a completely different doujinshi than “Vol. 2“. I’ve no idea of the reasoning behind it. If there exists a full color volume 1, I do not know anything about it. In case you’ve ever wondered, “BENIGYOKUZUI” or 紅玉髓 is the Chinese writing for “Carnelian”. The use of “Ura” in front of it denotes that is the opposite or underside of something. In this case, it refers to the illustrations being of boys rather than of girls.

This was one of my most sought after doujinshi for 3 reasons:
1. It’s Carnelian’s work.
2. It is in color.
3. It’s GUYS!

Not that I don’t love Carnelian’s gorgeous girl illustrations. It’s just that I’m a girl and I like boys. It happens, okay?

Onto the photographs!

Ura-Benigyokuzui

The cover is a shounen ai illustration of Gundam SEED characters, and is my favorite image in the book.

Inside the front cover.

The first page is monochrome. I’m guessing this is also Gundam SEED fanart.

With a ZOOM LAYER!

The cover image is so hot, it’s also the first color image in the book… and the second. Gratuitous zoom layer: ON!

Are those Jelly Bellies?!

The next page is some guys with jelly beans. It reminds me of Kyou Kara Maoh!

Cloud and Zack

If nothing else, I would have purchased this book for the opportunity to see a drawing of Cloud by Carnelian. I’ve always been a Cloud fan. I don’t particularly care either way for the Cloud x Zack pairing though. I liked him with Aerith. ;p

REBORN!

The next page is Katekyo Hitman Reborn! fanart. If you really like this one, the premier self-titled doujinshi “Chrysoprase” is full of these guys. (Chrysoprase is a doujinshi circle consisting of Carnelian and Amamiya Polan.)

BL Novel Illustration

The next page’s illustration (and character design sketches) were done for the cover of a BL novel entitled 社交界艶戯. It seems to be out of print, but you can still get it used.

Devil May Cry

Fanart for “Devil May Cry”, which I’ve never played. Hey, there’s that zoom layer again!

Messiah

Takuto from “Messiah”, looking beautiful as ever, and forlorn because his face is stuck in the book binding. Poor Takuto.

Trick or Treat

The last page is a Halloween themed sketch. I think that these are original characters.

URA-Ura-Benigyokuzui

The End!

This book was particularly difficult to photograph. I had to hold the book open with one hand and photograph it with the other. ^^; I ended up taking the photos so that you don’t see any of my hand that is holding the book open, but you also don’t see any of the page margins which have writing on them. Each page says “CARNELIAN” on it somewhere as well as an image description. At least you know what’s inside now, right?

Doujinshi Review: “Recipe” by Carnelian

15 Jan

Carnelian’s original doujinshi “Recipe” is a colorful collection of dessert-themed fairies or sprites. Each sprite is presented in the form of a colored sketch and a fully CG’ed super-deformed version of them swimming among the culinary treat of her choice. The cover is printed on sturdy textured paper and the pages on the inside are thick and glossy.

"recipe" cover

The cover girl herself is nameless, as far as I know, although you may have seen her before on the front of Carnelian’s 2008 calendar. You can view Carnelian’s CG of this image on Pixiv, too.

Inside the front cover.

The first page of the doujinshi introduces each of the characters in chibi form on a light purple checkered pattern.

Anne

The first food fairy is Anne. In her chibi portrait, she is sitting among dumplings and traditional Japanese wagashi. (和菓子) (View on Pixiv.)

Sugar

The second girl is named “Sugar”, and she is most appropriately the fairy of sugary sweet doughnuts! Notice that she has cute little glazed doughnuts in her hair. XD (View on Pixiv.)

Ginger

Ginger is knocking on the door of a rather delicious looking gingerbread house, complete with gingerbread cookies and… almond pocky! She looks rather like Kogami Akira from Lucky Star. She even has the ahoge. o_O (View on Pixiv.)

Limone

Limone is the mascot for Jelly desserts. Bill Cosby would be proud. She must be sitting in a glass of mint jelly because her chibi form appears to be holding mint leaves. (View on Pixiv.)

Chocolat

No list of desserts would be complete without Chocolate! Miss “Chocolat” presents to you here a luxurious box of truffles and chocolate-dipped fruits. (View on Pixiv.)

Cream

Cream

Our final dessert girl is “Cream”. Standing with a candle atop a cake with chocolate snowflakes and cream puff snowmen, this illustration is somewhat Christmas-themed. (View on Pixiv.)

 Recipe

Recipe Girl

Once again our pastry chef is showcased, without the sprites shown on the cover. Just in case you missed anything, there’s a handy ZOOM LAYER version of the picture as well. It’s kind of a filler, but I’m not complaining!

Chibi backs!

Chibi backs!

The last of the colored pages shows the back of the chibi image you saw inside the front cover. Cute! It’s followed by the introduction to the monochrome section, which is printed in chocolate brown.

Monochrome Intro

Monochrome Section

The monochrome section starts off with the sketch of the cover girl and an introduction that I can’t read (sorry. :p)

Monochrome Pages

Sketches of the Girls

For the sake of not becoming too redundant, I compiled the photos of the sketch section into one image.

The back!

The end!

There you have it. I hope you’ll forgive the quality of my photographs. I use a point and shoot with bad lighting, but the important thing is that now you know what this doujinshi contains! After waiting a couple of years to find scans of this book with no luck whatsoever, I finally gave in and bought it, and I’m certainly glad that I did so.

What the Heck is a “Circle Cut”?!

13 Jan

In my long history of browsing Japanese art sites, it never occurred to me to figure out what exactly those little black and white rectangular banners are that you often see posted are for. I figured they had something to do with self-advertising, but I was never completely sure of their purpose. I decided to look through a few on Pixiv and noticed they all shared the same tag of サークルカット (or “circle cut”). “Circle” refers to the doujinshi circle and “cut”, I assume, refers to it being a clipping or cut-out.

Aoi Nanase's C77 Circle Cut

With a little bit of Googling I discovered that circle cuts are used for advertising oneself and one’s doujinshi circle in the catalog for Comic Market. When an artist applies to sell doujinshi or other goods at Comiket, they must also submit a black and white or greyscale circle cut as a sort of banner ad. These are arranged in alphabetical order by circle name and are side by side in rows. A full page of circle cuts is pretty fun to look at!

There’s a few different templates for making circle cuts. The most common one has a small blank “checkbox” in the upper left and to the right of it a box to put your circle name. The large portion below is where you put a piece of artwork and some text announcing your new doujinshi to be sold at the convention, or simply the URL of your website. Circle cuts need to be in black and white or greyscale for printing in the catalog. Many artists design them in Photoshop but some also draw them by hand. The hand-drawn ones often look amateurish, but they have a certain charm to them. This is the typical circle cut template:

Comic Market Template

Exciting, huh? You can acquire this, along with various other circle cut templates here. Then you can use this guide to create your own, even if it is just for fun. ;)

After I figured out what a circle cut was, I went on a hunt for some that I felt were particularly lovely. Here are a few examples!

Coffee Kizoku's c77 Circle Cut

Coffee Kizoku (Royal Mountain) had one of my favorites. I am completely biased towards it because I love coffee, but I think it’s a really adorable image. Make sure you check it out full size!

Chimaroni?'s c77 Circle Cut

Chimaroni?‘s bold image of Horo on this circle cut certainly stood out to me right away! Again, I am biased because Horo is one of my favorite characters, but I think this circle cut is fantastic because it really catches your eye. (That’s exactly what you want when you’re advertising yourself, after all!)

Chisato Naruse's COMITIA90 Circle Cut

Screentones work well for circle cuts due to the black and white limitation, as you will see here in Chisato Naruse‘s advertisement for COMITIA90. You’ll notice that this particular cut is of different dimensions than one made for a Comic Market catalog.

A Full Color Circle Cut by Sayori

Artists will often post full color circle cuts on their websites. This one is by Sayori of NEKO WORKs. Don’t you wish the Comiket Catalog could be printed in full color? It’d be like a tiny artbook!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this somewhat trivial entry on the world of circle cuts. If you’d like to see thousands of circle cuts “in action”, do a Google search for a Comiket CD ROM catalog, as there’s plenty of torrents and direct downloads of them to go around. It’s fun to look at, even if you can’t actually attend a Comic Market in person.

Japanese Ink Stamps: Not Just For Craft Nerds!

7 Jan

One of the more unusual items that I have a passion for collecting are anime-themed rubber stamps. Unlike stickers, ink stamps last “forever” and can be used again and again on letters, cards and other documents. My obsession originated from swapping letters with my penpal, Vanima. She has quite a talent for papercraft and her letters are always exquisitely (yet tastefully) decorated with glitter, stickers and of course, anime stamps. Inspired by her creativity, I started to build up my own collection of anime character stamps as well in order to make my letters more visually stimulating!


Drawer #1 contains some roller stamps (Kare Kano and Cardcaptor Sakura), plastic-mounted stamps (Inu Yasha gashapon, Prince of Tennis), foam rubber-mounted stamps (Fruits Basket) and wood-mounted stamps (Sentimental Graffiti, Seraphim Call, Naruto, Saiyuuki, Tokimeki Memorial, Wolf’s Rain). There’s also 4 hand-carved stamps which were made by luvmegabyte on deviantArt.


Drawer #2 contains many of my miniature stamps. The little square ones scattered about are San-X Nyan Nyan Nyanko stamps. The cylindrical ones all along the bottom are self-inking Fullmetal Alchemist stamps. There’s also wood-mounted miniature stamps from Gundam Wing, Fushigi Yuugi and Tonari no Totoro. The larger, self-inking Magic Knight Rayearth stamps are very cheaply made and I imagine they were sold as gashapon or at convenience stores. I love them nonetheless. There’s a little group of 3 Marmalade Boy character stamps mounted on cardboard that Vanima gifted to me. I adore them! I imagine they were given as a furoku in a phonebook manga to be mounted on cardboard.


Drawer #3 mostly contains Di Gi Charat stamps, if you can’t tell. There are even more Di Gi Charat stamps that were produced that I really want and cannot find anywhere. (Help me find them?!) I got 8 of them from Anime Gamers’ U.S. store website when it was functional. The top 3 Ah Megami-sama stamps came with a limited edition video game in Japan. I bought them off of my friend Dave since he never used them. Then there’s that creepy Dokodemo Issho cat thing.


Drawer #4 contains a few stamps I feel really lucky to have gotten. I got a good deal on all of the culinary Slayers stamps from someone on LiveJournal who was selling their anime collection. Unfortunately, the set was missing Lina Inverse, so she’s on my list of stamps to find someday. The Tamahome and Miaka roller stamp (which is mounted on top of a mechanical pencil) was acquired on eBay and Totoro was a gift from my boyfriend. The Summon Nights stamps are actually 2 different sets (I should have opened them to photograph!) that I purchased from Animaxis along with the Howl’s Moving Castle set. The Jiji and his GF stamp says “Taihenyoku dekimashita!”, and it is one of many Ghibli stamps I’ve acquired from J-List. (The only anime shop that seems to sell stamps anymore… orz)


Drawer #5 has a Korean Doremi set, a really gorgeous Tonari no Totoro set in a wooden box, Fullmetal Alchemist, Kyou Kara Maoh!, Tsubasa and more Saiyuuki. The Doremi stamps often meld themselves into the bottom of their little box and are very difficult to remove. -_-;


Drawer #6 contains Pokemon and Hello Kitty Rollers, a set of Candidate for Goddess and a number of hand-carved stamps. While these stamps are difficult to show you because of how they are made, they are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and treasured that I own. I discovered them on eBay one day and I ended up purchasing almost every stamp listed by the seller at the time because I was so impressed with them. I have since made friends with the stamp artist, Yoshito, and I plan to commission him to create some stamps of my favorite characters in the future as well. They are so exquisitely and professionally carved, you would not believe it. The stamps I have here by him are of Belldandy (Ah Megami-sama!), Horo (Spice and Wolf), Konata and Kagami (Lucky Star), Cloud (FFVII) and Sephiroth (FFVII). They are amazing! If you ever wish to have a handmade stamp, I will refer you to Yoshito. He is very happy to have new customers and is a remarkably friendly fellow!


Drawer #7 is the last drawer (for now) and it contains a very old set of Hello Kitty stamps as well as a set of katakana (I love this!) and a kawaii girl themed Western Zodiac set. I’d like to get my mitts on a hiragana set (I know there is one!) but I have yet to find it for sale.

In case you are wondering about the “drawer” thing, my stamps are kept in a very sturdy wooden set of drawers that I purchased a number of years ago at The Container Store for around $40. They are long and deep, and could not be more perfect for storing my collection!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into my rubber stamp world. You can actually find much more detailed descriptions of each stamp, along with translations of the Japanese ones, in my Japanese Stamp Collection gallery on Flickr. Unfortunately, my collecting of anime stamps has slowed to a near halt because of the sheer fact that anime stamps are rarely produced anymore, save for those by Studio Ghibli. While the Ghibli stamps are of remarkable quality, they are also very expensive and continuing to order every set of them would likely take away from the variety in my collection. It seems that from now on, my stamp collecting will end up being limited to searching for rare out of production stamps from the ’90s on eBay and Yahoo Japan auctions.

Kamijo Eri’s 2010 “Colors” Calendar

25 Dec

Every year during the Christmas season, I go on vacation to Walt Disney World. Being an anime nerd as well as a lifelong Disneyphile, I will tell you that you can spend tons of money in Disney World without ever actually purchasing any items related to Mickey Mouse. In fact, if you’re an otaku or simply a lover of Japanese culture, there is one store in Disney World that you will go crazy in, and it’s called Mitsukoshi. It is located in the Japanese pavilion of EPCOT’s world showcase, and it is one of the largest stores in Disney World not dedicated to character products. This store is actually a “miniature” version of an actual department store chain based in Tokyo, Japan.

Browsing through Mitsukoshi is ridiculously fun, and as any department store should be, it is divided into different sections such as food/dishes, clothing, anime/manga collectables, stationery and more. Every year I manage to spend a lot of money in this store both on myself and on Christmas gifts that are otherwise difficult to get outside of ordering them from Japan. It really is the highlight of my trip to Disney World every single year!

This year, in addition to picking up some rad presents for my friends, I scored a really fantastic calendar that I’ve photographed to share with you all. The artist of said calendar is named 上条衿 (Kamijo Eri) and her website is called digipop. In addition to her calendars, Mitsukoshi sold all kinds of art prints, stickers and postcards with her work. I was immediately attracted to her cool shoujo art style, which is done in vectors.

Opening the box!

What really sold me on this calendar is the fact that it comes in a sleek white 8×10 frame, so that you can display it on your wall the same way you did any framed photograph or artwork. You’re buying the calendar primarily for the art, right? So it is only appropriate to display it that way!

In addition to coming fully framed, the calendar comes with a sturdy black cord to hang the picture with. Handy!  They’ve included everything but the wall to hang it on.

The above image is the cover artwork. Check out the details on those fingernails!

The artwork for January and February is this lovely geisha illustration. I’m liking the mix of the traditional Japanese theme with the modernistic feel of vector art.

The March and April illustration is the piece of art that caught my eye, and the picture that the sample on display calendar had in it. I’m not sure why, but I absolutely love pictures of girls with berries, or even food in general. It makes a sweet girl even sweeter, perhaps? ^_^


May and June get a goth-punk girl illustration. I’m not really into this theme, but I do like this image nonetheless. The girl’s hair is especially cute. Her outfit looks an awful lot like Himamori Amu’s (of Shugo Chara!) doesn’t it?


July and August get my 2nd favorite illustration in the calendar. It could be because my favorite color is purple, which goes wonderfully with black. This image is a great combo of cute and sexy, with frilly lace, butterflies and a little bit of provocative chiffon. :D


September and October get the appropriate color scheme of orange and black, with a sexy wand-wielding witch girl… and a skeleton.


November and December get a beautiful girl in snow, of course! Her rosy cheeks really make this picture feel complete. It’s too adorable! All it needs is a snow bunny.

Just in case you are wondering, this is the back of the framed calendar. There’s two loops for you to tie the enclosed cord to in order to hang the calendar on  wall hooks or nails. You could also buy some picture hanging wire if you’re worried about the cord not being strong enough (although I’m sure it works fine.) One interesting thing to note about the calendar that I didn’t notice until long after I bought it is that the glass actually isn’t glass – it’s hard plastic! You’d never know it just from looking at it, so don’t let it detract you from buying this calendar. It’s absolutely gorgeous and it is a cheaper buy than many Japanese calendars tend to be. Each picture is quality printing on card stock.

You can purchase the “Colors” calendar for $25 USD at Mitsukoshi in Disney World or you can order it from FEWMANY for 1575円 using a deputy service or other means of purchasing products online from Japan. It appears that the artist also attends Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con, so you may have opportunities to purchase her work at those events in the future if you go to them.

I hope that you enjoyed this look at Kamijo Eri’s calendar for 2010. I do apologize for the quality of my photographs, but they get the job done of showing you what the calendar is like. If you love it as much as I do, please consider buying a copy to support the artist, and don’t forget to visit her website!

I hope that everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Browsing Japanese Websites Made Easy

4 Dec

My Japanese is far from fluent, but I vastly enjoying surfing Japanese websites. Perhaps your Japanese isn’t so good or you want to know how to surf Japanese websites without having any knowledge of the language at all. No problem! There’s a lot of tools and tips that will help you to do this. In addition to being really fun, surfing these sites will actually help to improve what lingual knowledge you do have if only because of your constant exposure to foreign writing. Regardless of whether or not that’s your goal, browsing a website in a foreign language is not as daunting as it seems when you have some basic knowledge and some fun web widgets to help you out!

Google JP IME

If you can read or write any Japanese whatsoever, you should have a Japanese IME (Input Method Editor) installed which will allow you to type in Japanese. Basic home editions of your operating system come with a Japanese IME, but it is not installed by default. Please refer to Declan’s Guide to Installing the Japanese IME. Alternatively, you can try out Google’s  Japanese IME Beta, which I am personally coming to enjoy using more than the default one for Windows. I do not intend to write a guide on using the IME in this post, but there are many places on the web which can teach you how to do so. It’s easier than you may think!

Rikaichan in Action

In addition to keeping Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC in my bookmarks bar, I use a really fantastic Firefox plugin called Rikaichan. This addon is essentially a dictionary that, when activated, translates words (in glorious detail) when you mouse over them. I much prefer to use Rikaichan to translate individual words or kanji over putting an entire webpage or paragraph into Babelfish and letting it generate rubbish. Ever since I discovered this addon, I cannot live without it. It is amazing. Download it now. Seriously. (You may also be pleased to know that it comes in other languages!)

Even if you don’t know Japanese, you will begin to learn some simply through clicking through websites over and over again. Artist websites in particular tend to have the same basic bare bones structure in that almost all of them have an “About” page, a “Gallery” page, a blog and a page that references their professional work or doujinshi. I can assure you that after you click on 日記 (read as “nikki”) 100 times on varying websites and are always sent to a blog of some sort, you will eventually forever recognize those kanji as being exactly that – a blog or diary link. Isn’t symbology great? For what it’s worth, here’s a little handful of common words you’ll come across and what they mean. Even if I didn’t tell you what they are, I’m sure you’d eventually come to recognize them due to their heavy, repeated usage across the Japanese web:

プロフィール – Profile

イラスト – Illust. (Short for “Illustration”.)

ギャラリー – Gallery

オリジナル – Original

版権 – Copyright (Often refers to Fan Art.)

ゲーム – Game (Usually video games.)

その他 – Other (Refers to other subjects.)

18歳 – 18 years (of age. If you found this, it means that page probably has porn on it. Good find, bro! ^_^b)

Trust me; you’ll recognize these and many other words in no time. Even so, a great deal of Japanese sites have their navigation in English, so browsing them really should be simple. The reason I strongly suggest you also use a Japanese IME is for search purposes. When you’re at places like Pixiv or Yahoo and you want to search for sites or images of a specific series, subject or character, it’ll make life so much easier to write it in Japanese. Romaji isn’t going to get you very far, and your other option for Japanese input is  to copy and paste (yuck!). ;)

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