While the crowds were flocking to see the latest innovations in the Japanese automotive industry for the Tokyo Motor Show, there was another big car event in Odaiba last week.
As Nissan and Toyota et al showed off their concept cars that might just indicate the future of mobility (or the labors of an generously funded R&D department), November 24th also saw a one-day-only Itasha exhibition out in the bay.
Itasha are heavily — well, let’s be honest, overly — decorated cars that reflect the owner’s tastes in moe. A typical Itasha will feature shojo girls and other anime characters, and of course is driven by a self-professed otaku.
On Sunday, over 80 cars were driven down to Odaiba to be shown off to the world.
This “three-dimensional” Madoka car was spotted earlier this year and caused a storm on Twitter. Nice to see it back.
[All images via MyNavi.]
Thunderbirds, the classic Sixties puppets TV show created by the late Gerry Anderson, is still quite popular in Japan.
We reported last year, for example, on the Thunderbirds-themed restaurant in Jinbocho.
“Thunderbirds 2086″ was a short-lived anime based on the British Supermarionation series, while eagle-eyed anime bloggers have spotted many other references in anime that pay homage to Thunderbirds. Japan even produced its own marionette tokusatsu TV called “X-Bomber”, though it, well, kind of bombed.
Visitors can enjoy 3D films, as well as models and exhibits showing off the workmanship behind the original series’ effects.
There is even a Thunderbirds 2 that you can interact with (details aren’t clear at time of writing — we’ll have to wait till next week to find out more).
Kentaro Yoshida, executive officer of TFC, Japanese agent for the Classic Thunderbirds brand, was quoted as saying: “Miraikan with the help of so many of the big names behind technological innovation in Japan, has done a great job of creating an exhibition that will appeal to a wide range of age groups. And of course Thunderbirds, with its enormous following in Japan, is the perfect vehicle for the exhibition. With its 50th anniversary coming in 2015 it still looks futuristic.”
The first 500 visitors on the first day have also been promised original Thunderbirds merchandise.
The Thunderbirds Expo runs from July 10th to September 23rd, with tickets for adults costing ¥1,300 and ¥700 for kids.
All this Thunderbirds love is one thing, from the cult following to ironic retro love or genuine popularity amongst a new, younger generation — but we think things went a bit too far when the Japanese Self-Defense Force started to use Thunderbirds on their recruitment posters.
While the world goes mad for Christmas, anime fans are gathering in Akihabara for the Fuyu no Rajikan Matsuri 2012 (Winter Radio Kaikan Festival 2012), where so-called “itasha” (cars decorated with characters) will be parading on December 23rd and 24th.
The underground car park of the Akihabara UDX building is playing host to the Christmas Itasha Festa, with Hatsune Miku-themed and other customized vehicles strutting their wares to camera-totting crowds. Not quite The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but still pretty cool.
Owners pay ¥6,000 (around $70) per day to exhibit their vehicles in the car park. There will also be regular cosplay in the venue.
Such decoration trends have been becoming popular of late, spreading to trucks, bikes and more — and have been gaining recognition in mainstream culture as well. Previous Itasha festivals have been held in Odaiba, Maebashi and elsewhere.
“Ita” is a word commonly found in the otaku lexicon, literally meaning “painful” (itai) but here referring to the amount of money (and effort) involved in expressing your moe in this way.
Whatever you think of otaku anime — and we know that many people have issues with its attitudes towards women and young girls — undoubtedly it is a subculture that truly celebrates individual playfulness in a fun way.
Gundam nabe, anyone?
In these colder months locals in Japan tend to indulge in some nicely warming nabe hot pots.
Following the million-selling success of the previous Zaku Tofu, you can now get your hands on yet another molded tofu, this time in the form of the Z’GOK (Zugokku), one of the mobile suits that feature in the anime franchise Gundam, all courtesy of food-maker Sagamiya. The idea is that you then plonk this oddity in your nabe hot pot to show how your otaku hobbies define your culinary tastes.
Not just nabe, there’s nothing to stop you customizing other dishes or making toppings for just about anything really if you are desperate to turn your meal into scenes from the meccha series. If you are fast enough, you can also get your hungry hands on dessert tofus too.
And until January 11th you can even upload your own pictures of your Gundam nabe concoctions to a special Z’GOK nabe website and then prizes will be given for the most original entries. Take a look at some of the entries so far.
So, get your chef’s cap on and start cooking up that anime tofu masterpiece!
No more flabby anime fans. Stop watching Evangelion and get off the couch. You’ve got walking to do!
That’s what health gadgets maker Tanita is banking on with this Evangelion Digital Pocket Pedometer, a limited edition tie-up fitness device now on pre-order, to be sold in Lawson convenience stores from March next year.
As you might expect, there are different versions for different characters — Asuka Langley Soryu, Kaori Nagisa, NERV, and the insanely popular Rei Ayanami — aimed at otaku, hardcore or not, who like the series and want to get fit.
And if you live in Tokyo you will also be able to take part in a competition with other Evangelion pedestrians, with data of your route sent to a campaign website that tracks a map of everyone’s promenades. There are locations from nineteen key Evangelion scenes placed virtually into the Tokyo landscape.
You can use the FeliCa reader in the Loppi terminals in Lawson stores to upload your calorie burn-off, walking distances and more to the website where you can manage your progress (there’s apparently a ¥2000 yen six-month fee for use of the service). Just don’t then get tempted in the shop to buy one of those fatty cream buns.
If you walk 8,000 steps in a day you get one point. Sending your data to the site from a Loppi terminal rewards you with another point. Every ten points means you can apply to receive special (but unspecified) tie-up merchandise.
The idea is that fans walk 400,000 steps or 280km in 50 days. The more you walk, the higher your ranking (and we all know how competitive subculture fans can get).
Lawson seems to like positioning itself as the convenience store of choice for otaku (though it’s not alone among competitors). It previously held a campaign selling merchandise for the K-On! and Puella Madoka Magica franchises, plus there was the now infamous Evangelion-themed store in Hakone in 2010 that was so popular it had to close almost immediately.
Konkatsu is the “marriage-hunting” dating activity popular recently. Kind of like dating for the serious-minded.
Well, it stands to reason that even otaku (which very broadly translates as “geek”) should have events and services looking to supply them with future partners. And that they should attend them in their own inimitable style.
An “Ota-konkatsu” series of match-making events has been held in Kuki City in Saitama since 2009. The town is home to one of anime’s “holy sites”, the Washinomiya Shrine, which was a location in the 2007 television adaptation of Kagami Yoshimizu’s manga Lucky Star. Since then it has become a much-visited “pilgrimage” route for anime fans (in this way, anime tourism connects to regional re-development campaigns — but that’s a subject for another day and another blog post).
The tenth Ota-konkatsu event was held recently, involving nine men and eight girls. This time it was visually a bit different, though. Everyone was wearing masks!
Being shy types, no doubt the self-professed otaku would have appreciated being able to conceal their youthful faces. But these weren’t just any masks; they were naturally masks for popular characters from anime or manga. Even the MC’s face was hidden (rather ominously, in our opinion). The whole thing resembled a kind of masked ball for geeks.
Cleverly combining cosplay and match-making, fans could celebrate their favorite characters, as well as potentially your Mr. Right or Mrs. Right. Plus, with no one looking at your face, you know that finally, it’s not about your looks, just your personality!
The male and female participants arrived at different times so that no one would see each other beforehand. After donning their masks, you didn’t then take it off till after the event was over, thus preserving your modesty and anonymity (presumably you could exchange contact details and meet up with someone you hit it off with, sans mask, at a later date).
The event seemed to be a success so the organizers have already organized a follow-up at the end of this month. It costs ¥4000 (about $50) for guys and just ¥1000 (about $12) for women, including the use of the masks.
Previous Ota-konkatsu events at Kuki have involved group cooking events and typically have a limit of up to 20 or 40 participants per session.
[Pics via Mantan]
Monteroza, a major nationwide Japanese izakaya chain operator, is currently offering a discount for customers with name connections to the five pilot characters from the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The Ayanami Wari campaign is named after Rei Ayanami, the popular heroine of the franchise (wari means “discount”).
There are some variations in the possible discount you can get but if you share a surname or first name with, say Rei Ayanami or Shinji Ikari or Kaworu Nagisa, your group may be able to claim as much as 77% off your meal if everyone has a Evangelion moniker of some form.
There are also limited edition Evangelion shochu drinks available in the 1,950 Monteroza restaurants, including Shirogiya.
The campaign is apparently a celebration of the chain reaching just short of 2,000 branches, though the reason for the Evangelion tie-up is a bit of a mystery. Do they get a lot of Evangelion fans and otaku customers? Or perhaps they hope that they will get enough re-tweets to generate the level of publicity to make it worth the budget? Well, I guess we’re contributing to that now. Still, it’s hard to imagine this kind of stunt being done in other countries.
The onomastic discount campaign runs from October 1st to November 30th.
We all like the feeling of sleeping beside your loved one, right?
Well, how about those times when your said companion is not nearby or even if you don’t have someone at all — but you still want the experience of forty winks next to the warmth of female flesh.
A new shop, Soine-ya (literally “bed-sharing shop”, soine means to sleep beside each other), has just opened its…er, beds in Akihabara, letting you sleep next to a woman for those times when you want to feel the warmth of female flesh beside you.
Stereotypes aside, we reckon any man (or woman) could relate to this but most likely this will be aimed squarely at lonely otaku (geeks) who want to snuggle up close to a maternal figure.
It doesn’t come cheap, though. Just twenty minutes will cost you ¥3,000 (nearly $40), or ¥6,000 (nearly $80) for an hour.
If just sleeping in a girl’s lap is more your think, you can fork up ¥1,000 ($13) for just three minutes. Alternatively you could get the Hizamakura Lap Pillow.
Since it has only just opened, the profiles for patrons’ sleeping partners have not been updated but at some point you should be able to view who is available for bed-sharing that day.
This may be the first such place in Japan, though its existence does not surprise this blogger at any rate. It is located two minutes from Akihabara Station, so might just make a perfect resting place between otaku figurine purchases.
Sometimes it seems there is a cafe for every theme in the pulsating, organic mass that is the city of Tokyo. From cat cafes to robot ones in Kabukicho, Gundam eateries, maid cafes and more… every subculture or hobby seems to get its own bistro of some kind.
We recently stumbled upon the Thunderbirds Cafe in Jimbocho of all places, a strange location for a strange place. We would have thought that somewhere in Akihabara would have been more appropriate for something paying homage to a Sixties puppet science fiction show but then, perhaps with the demographic, salaryman town is a better choice.
It has been created by Pasela (with licensing from Gerry Anderson), known for their themed karaoke venues. You get to it by going into the basement of one their karaoke complexes, pushing through layers of fake foliage (you are entering Tracy Island of course!) before prizing open the air-lock-style doors.
Inside you are confronted by a model of one of the show’s heroes in a “rocket”, and then several tables, including ones in “pods” based on each of the famous Thunderbird machines, which are also on display in replica form. This is a fan boy’s dream come true.
On the opposite side is a TV always playing episodes on loop (random excepts from the soundtrack also continues out of the restaurant’s speakers, slightly jarring if you want a quiet bite to eat).
The upholstery and design of the place is quite nice and new (it only opened earlier this year). It might be kitsch but it’s been done with a budget of reasonable levels, it seems.
The menu is standard Tokyo cafe fare, though they have attempted to create or match a dish with as many countries around the world as possible (after all, this is “international rescue”). The food also comes with Tracy Island-style palm tree decorations.
The staff also give you a chipper Thunderbirds salute when they take the order and pepper the customary keigo with “stand by” and other snatches of quasi-dialogue from the series.
We asked the manager about the clientele (there were only three other customers when we were there) and he said that it is mostly older fans of the original franchise and often people who work in the area.