Hey all, how’s it going? I’ve made it safely to Japan and am spending my first few days being a tourist and checking out what I can before flying up to Sapporo for the exchange program. I’m currently in Osaka, the jewel of western Japan’s Kansai region. I’ve only been here for a day, and my experiences here already ranked it as one of my favorite places so far.
Roy and I are staying at a quaint little hostel where the rooms are everything I’ve heard of when it comes to small Japanese rooms. It barely fits our bunk bed. However, despite the spartan look of the room, the place is really nice. We have our own A/C unit, the showers and toilets are just down the hall, and the place is super clean. I think we may have come just after they renovated the place.
Anyways, today we were guided by our wonderful professor, Dr. Jayson Chun from the University of Hawaii at West Oahu. As he lives here in Osaka during the summer, he showed us around his neck of the city. It was very rainy today, but I’d take rain over the sweltering Japanese summer any day.
He took us to a local blue-collar restaurant where the food was all prepared fresh and right in front of you. I just have one word to describe the food there. DELICIOUS. I can’t begin to describe how good it tasted, and it was all just $10!
One of the places he took us was Osaka’s equivalent to Tokyo’s Akihabara, DenDen Town. Just like Akiba, DenDen Town is an area that has numerous shops dedicated to electronics and, of course, ANIME! This place has tons of shops to fulfill all of your otaku needs, without the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s city.
We also stopped by Dotombori, the area famous for the running Glico Man and the giant crab.
We didn’t stay too long as it was getting late, and we had to go back to DenDen Town before the stores closed. We spent almost 4 hours earlier in the day just scouting out the area, so by then we knew exactly what we wanted. I couldn’t resist and bought myself some stuff direct from the source. Beats paying shipping!
Anyway, it’s getting late here, and we have a big day tomorrow. If you read my blogs from January, you may remember me going to the famous shrine at Fushimi Inari. I didn’t get to hike all the way to the top last time because of the Kakehashi Project’s schedule, but this time … I’m gonna make it all the way to the top! Look forward to it!
Hey all, Lancen here. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I guess I got caught up in the freedom of summer break. Well now that the semester is over, I’m finally back … Or am I?
Well I am back, but I’m also leaving. Where am I going? Why, back to Japan of course! I recently had the honor of being selected as one of six students from the University of Hawaii at West Oahu to attend a month-long exchange program at Tokai University in Sapporo, Japan. There, we’ll be studying the Japanese language to increase our skills, as well as taking in the culture of Japan through field trips and cultural activities (summer festivals, just like in the anime!) I’ll be in Japan from June all the way until August!
However, my friend Royce and I will be taking an additional three weeks to travel around the entirety of the country to really make our experiences there unforgettable. We’ll also be meeting up with some of the friends I made during the Kakehashi Project back in January!
We’re both very excited to be travelling together and experiencing our own self-guided journey through the beautiful country of Japan. Just like last time, I’ll be making an effort to post about my experience there, travel blog style. I’ll be revisiting sites I went to in January, this time on my own schedule. Be sure to keep watch, as I’ll be posting articles and pictures documenting our journey as we go. Anyway, I’ll be flying off to Osaka soon. Until then!
… and off he goes on another adventure. Hi everyone, Jason here. You may know me as the blogger who’s been busy enough with a new job (and other things during downtime) that it’s taken me three months and counting to write up a proper preview of Anime Ohana Fest and the Hawaii Anime Awards. You know, the pair of events happening this Saturday. Gaaaaaaaahhhhhh.
While I’m working on (slowly) transcribing this interview, though, there’s a bit of housekeeping that we need to take care of here. Those of you who follow this blog somewhat regularly know that Lancen came on board with us here at Otaku Ohana as an intern back in January. He’s added a new dimension to our coverage ever since. Heck, he’s probably written more over the past semester than tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I have managed to post in the past, what, year or so? (Adulting is haaaard.)
Talent like this rarely, if ever, falls into one’s lap like this. Lancen just kinda gets what we’re about here. Which is why, even though Lancen’s internship semester officially ended back in mid-May, I’m happy to announce that he’s now officially the third member of our Otaku Ohana blogging team. I’m looking forward to his summer dispatches from Japan, and I hope you will, too.
Continuing from the last article (Jason’s note: Here’s a link to it, published close to a month ago … yikes, I’m sorry! I’ve been a bad and terribly busy editor …): What do you do to survive in the economic climate of Post-Bubble Japan? Everything your parents told you to do to be successful doesn’t work anymore. Your job prospects are almost nil if you aren’t in the top 10 percentile of graduating students, and you now have a huge influx of hyper-capable women to add to the already huge competition pool.
Many post-bubble men lost their confidence in life after not making it in high school. Others held onto belief and worked their way through the top colleges only to be greeted with rejection because they weren’t in the top 10 percent. When faced with these seemingly impossible barriers, almost anyone would lose confidence and hope. As a result, many young people began to retreat from the world. Life’s struggles were too painful, and they were too ashamed of their failure after trying again and again and again. How could they face their parents after failing so many times?
This phenomena is what created the image of the stereotypical otaku in Japan. Young men (and women, too) would retreat into various hobbies and the Internet to cope with the struggles of life. These otaku were people that were unable to fit the mold of the expected, mainstream Japanese male. Unable to secure a steady office job or a relationship, many ended up surviving off working various temp jobs. As for relationships, some would find love (watch the movie Densha Otoko) while others would retreat into the fantasy of anime and manga and forego the need to find a partner (i.e. Love Hina).
Seeing that society had already labeled them as irregular, the otaku sub-culture decided that instead of always worrying about what the rest of society thought, they would instead revel in their irregularity. This mindset would help them forget about their societal struggles, and they linked up with other like-minded individuals in person or on the Internet, creating a safe environment where they could act freely.
However, the circumstances proved too great, and they retreated even further into themselves. These people would end up becoming what are known as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and hikikomori (shut-ins). NEETs were people who tried again and again to make it in the world, but the lack of opportunity and selective hiring practices of the companies proved too much, and they just gave up. They end up staying home all day, every day, absorbed in their hobbies, trying to ignore the world. A more extreme version of this is the hikikomori, or shut-in. The individuals totally isolate themselves in their rooms, refusing to go outside. Their spirits have truly been broken.
In recent years, it’s been thought that there are more than 1 million hikikomori in Japan, yet it is a problem that is rarely addressed. Perhaps this is because of the Japanese cultural respect for privacy, as well as the social stigma and shame that comes with being related to a hikikomori. However, it has been gaining more recognition in recent years, as the problem has remained strong despite the economy starting to take an uptick, and there are efforts to bring these shut-ins back into society.
A good anime to show the struggle and mindset of the Otaku NEET/hikikomori is the underappreciated title Welcome to the NHK. (Jason’s note: You can watch the series on free Crunchyroll streaming now.) In this anime, Tatsuhiro Satou is a hikikomori who’s been holed up in his apartment for more than two years. He dropped out of college after being disillusioned with his education and hearing the rumors some people in the neighborhood spread about him … or at least what he thought he heard them say. His parents support him by sending him money, but he must lie to them about his lifestyle.
He cannot bear the shame he must be to his parents by being a hikikomori. However, he receives a glimmer of hope from a girl named Misaki, who wants to help him out of being a shut-in. Along the way, he re-unites with Kaoru, an old friend from high school.
As Satou works with Misaki to recover from his hikikomori ways, he must face the anxiety and pressure he had been ignoring for two years. He deals with the crippling fear of interacting with others, and his own sheltered mindset. He wants everything in the world to be perfect and fine, where nothing bad can happen to him, but reality just doesn’t work that way. His mind and spirit are fragile. It was shattered once already, and his effort to work with Misaki is like trying to hold together a broken vase with scotch tape.
However, one should not look down on these shut-ins and NEET. They tried just as hard as everyone else. They just didn’t make it. The society of the post-bubble still made it possible for anyone to achieve their goals. The only difference is that those opportunities are located on a mountain and you have to fight, claw, and step on other people in order to get it. This hyper-competitive environment was something that developed when the post-bubble generation.
In the most recent years, this world of competition has only become more competitive as a new generation comes of age. This is the generation born after the burst of Japan’s economic bubble. This generation is what some in Japan have been called the “Enlightened Generation.” Unlike the Post-Bubble generation, which knew what life was like before the burst, this generation was born with no knowledge of “the good ol’ days.” Yet, they still struggle with the same difficulties of the post-bubble, if not more so. However, that is changing as the generations age, and what was once impossible at one point has now become possible.
If you could Re:Startat a point in your life and fix the mistakes you may have made, would you? In my final article for the semester, I’ll talk about the Enlightened Generation and their take on the world.
The future is grim. You did everything your parents told you to do to succeed. You studied hard. You passed your exams. You graduated and applied for a job at a company. Surely, there would be a job waiting for you. Just like it had been for your father.
Instead, everything your parents told you was a lie. Companies are no longer hiring younger workers en masse, preferring to hold onto their older employees to not break their promises of lifetime employment to them. Only the top 10 percent of graduates are even considered now, with those missing that cut falling by the wayside. What’s even scarier is that the competition to enter the workforce is nothing like what your parents faced. Hyper-confident and hyper-capable women are now able to enter the running, and the companies are scooping them up in droves.
Welcome to the Post-Bubble Era of Japan. As you may recall from my last Anime is Culture article, Japan started making huge concentrated efforts to rebuild their broken country after World War II. With the rise of democracy and assistance from the American government (as shady as it was, it did help their recovery), Japan rose from the ashes like a phoenix.
With Article 9 in place, the Japanese were prevented from funding a full standing military. Instead, they focused on promoting their peace policies by developing technology that could be used to improve the lives of people around the world. In doing so, during the 1970’s and ’80’s, Japan became an economic powerhouse. Companies like Toyota and Sony were worldwide names that put out products sought by millions around the world. This would be Japan’s economic bubble.
Such success led to the prosperity of the Japanese people. During this time, the vast majority of Japanese considered themselves middle-class on the socioeconomic scale. Men would go to school and then apply for company jobs. After graduation, these companies would pick them up, and their careers would be set. Everyone was able to earn a living wage and live relatively comfortable lives.
However, this would not last. Around 1990, the economic bubble burst, causing thousands of companies to lose money and default on loans. This led to massive unemployment, and a huge economic crisis fell upon the people. The generation of young men and women that came of age during this time were promised the same opportunities that their parents had enjoyed, but the bursting of the bubble effectively shut them out. Instead of accessible employment, there was now a small window where only the elite could enter through.
This grim and foreboding atmosphere was what influenced the tone and stories of anime during the ’90s. One of the greatest examples of a post-bubble series is the highly influential anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the series, the world has been destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as the Third Impact. As a result, more than 50 percent of the human population was wiped out, and those who are left struggle to survive in a world where the sea is dyed red like blood.
The main character, Shinji Ikari, is a young adolescent man that is forced by his father to fight in a giant robot against alien lifeforms known as “Angels.” However, this isn’t the only struggle he faces. He also struggles to come to terms with the new social norms he’s entering into.
He is forced to do the dirty work of NERV headquarters when fighting the Angels. When he’s not fighting, he’s under rigorous testing and examination. Not only is he constantly bombarded by work like this, he is also surrounded by capable women that outshine him. Rei Ayanami, the First Child, is a model soldier, following her orders without dissent or complaint, almost like a machine. Asuka Langley Soryu, the Second Child, is a German-born pilot that demonstrates superiority in everything she does.
This is representative of the the world seen by the Post-Bubble Generation. Shinji is the post-bubble male who has to struggle to survive in the unforgiving world of NERV, which is representative of the Japanese company. He managed to get in, but only because his father is the head of NERV. However, his performance as a pilot is an utter disappointment compared to the other more capable women, and it shows in his father’s favor for Rei. This relationship he has with the other pilots shows how the post-bubble male viewed his job prospects. If he was lucky enough to get a job, he still would never be able to compete with the influx of women into the workforce.
This mindset lead to many men losing confidence in themselves. Just like Shinji, they viewed themselves as weak and unable to do anything by themselves. They want to rely on the help of their parents, who know that they are struggling but can’t really help. This leads into Shinji’s struggle with the adults in his life. Much like his strained relationship with his father, Gendo, the post-bubble male wanted desperately to gain the recognition and acceptance of the older generation, but they were left to fend for themselves instead. The companies would only accept them into the fold if they found a use for them, just like how Gendo did with Shinji. The women who entered the workforce ahead of the post-bubble men could now exert their power over these young males, and the shift in gender-power dynamics was incredibly daunting to them.
On one hand, you have Ritsuko, NERV’s chief scientist and the one in charge of monitoring the usefulness of the EVA pilots. She is cold, calculating, and regards Shinji not as a person, but more of a lab rat or tool to further her own research and goals. On the other hand, there’s Misato, Shinji’s direct superior and caretaker. She pushes herself onto him, making him roommate with her. While she does it in good nature, Misato lords her femininity over Shinji as she tries to mold him into what she believes is a better man.
So what do you do when your world view and job prospects mirror the apocalyptic world of Evangelion? How do you survive in the world when you can’t get a job because of the rise of women and the highly selective hiring process? We’ll discuss this in my next “Anime is Culture” post, “Hide to Survive: Otaku, NEET, and Hikikomori.”
Just a short walk from the famous Ala Moana Shopping Center, customers can find a quaint little restaurant and wine bar named Bread and Butter. However, there is something unusual about this small dining spot. Outside of the shop, a large statue of Pac-Man stands, welcoming customers in. Neon lights fashioned into the shape of the classic Pac-Man ghosts shine through the windows of the restaurant, catching the eyes of many a passerby. Welcome to the Pac-Store Hawaii!
A few weeks back, I had the fortune to attend the press event and grand opening for the cafe. I was there to take pictures and assist Boss Yadao with reporting on the cafe here while he writes up an article for the local paper. (Boss Yadao’s note: You can find that article right here.) The event was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We got in early as press, and managed to get some good pictures of everything the place had to offer. However, the venue quickly filled up once it was opened up to the public, with over a hundred people coming to enjoy the cafe and share their love for Pac-Man.
Pac-Store Hawaii is a Japanese pop-up cafe, made through the collaboration of Bandai Namco, and Diamond Dining International Corporation. It is the first of its kind in America. These types of collaboration cafes are something that are unique to the Japanese anime, manga, and video game industries. Perhaps some of you readers have heard of the character or series-themed cafes one can find in Japan with collaborations with series like Fate/Grand Order, Re:Zero, or studios like Studio Ghibli.
At these cafes, customers can enjoy an environment filled with themed decorations and furniture featuring their favorite characters in the current collaboration. In the Pac-Store, the tables are decorated with adorable pictures of different Pac-Man characters and mascots. Hanging on the walls, Hawaii-themed artwork can be found, featuring the characters enjoying local activities like hula dancing or surfing. Fittingly, the store has its own Pac-Man game cabinet, where customers can play and vie for a spot on the high-score board.
However, the main event at any cafe is definitely the food, and the food one can find there is definitely a sight to see. This cafe serves up some incredibly cute food, all in the form of Pac-Man and his buddies. From Pac-Man shaped pancakes to the Ghost-shaped Red Velvet cake, there are so many different choices, and they’re all so pleasing to the eye that you just want to buy them all, just to take pictures of them. Lucky for me, they set out the entire menu at the press event, so I got to take pictures of all of these delicious looking novelties.
Speaking of novelties, there are also special edition merchandise that can only be found at this specific cafe. This is one of the other draws of these types of cafes, as some of the merchandise they sell is limited to that one specific spot, and it’s only available for a very limited time. The Pac-Store sells a range of different items, from T-shirts, to tote bags, hats, and even jewelry.
Aside from all of the things to see and eat at the press event, the boss and I also got a chance to hold an interview with the masterminds behind this cafe. Hide Sakurai, the President and CEO of Diamond Dining International Corporation, met with Kai Tanaka of Bandai Namco about a year ago with the idea of opening up a pop-up cafe using his Hawaii location, Bread and Butter. We asked him why did he choose Hawaii when his company has other locations in other parts of the world that have larger populations and influxes of tourists. In other words, please support this pop-up endeavor as it may lead to other pop ups of Bandai Namco series/franchises in the future (*cough* Tales series and Gundam please*cough*)
Anyways, I’m very sorry this article took so long to put out. I’ve been swamped with homework and projects as the end of the semester draws near. I’ll be pushing to get at least two more articles of “Anime is Culture” before the semester ends and my stint as an intern comes to a close. Those articles will be examining the popular anime of recent years like Attack on Titan and Re:Zero. Look forward to it!
Hey everyone! Sorry I haven’t posted recently. Besides last weekend being the dates for the local area’s only anime and manga convention, I dislocated my shoulder and have had my arm in a sling until yesterday! However, I’m fine now, and the doctor said I can resume light tasks with my arm again. Never underestimate LARP (Live Action ROle Play) events at these conventions!
Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the convention. Despite the mishap, I got to do everything I wanted to do in my previous post. The How to Draw with Voice Actors panel was incredibly entertaining. The panel featured the talent of English voice actors Christine Cabanos (Silica from Sword Art Online), Carrie Keranen (Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill), Brittney Karbowski (Black Star from Soul Eater), and local-born actor Micah Solusod (Soul from Soul Eater).
The idea was for one voice actor to draw one of their characters, using a reference, with their drawing projected live to the audience, but not to the other panelists. At the same time, the featured actor described the character to the other panelists, who had to draw what they thought the character looked like. The results were both incredibly creative, and insanely hilarious.
You can see most of the panel right here in this video posted by YouTube user Pipperry Took.
And here are the last few minutes.
I also got to participate in the Cardboard Megabrawl. My friends made some ridiculous looking armor for me in our 1-hour time limit. However, that was short lived as this was the event where I dislocated my shoulder. Haha, it was fun while it lasted, but I’ll have to rethink my strategy for next time if I don’t want to risk popping the same shoulder out again.
Despite the mishap, I continued to attend the convention after the docs at the hospital treated me. I was in a sling for the rest of the weekend, so I couldn’t really take any pictures. I did manage to catch Cristina Vee’s 2nd autograph session. I missed the first one because of the shoulder the previous day. It was so exciting to meet one of the voice actresses whose work I’ve been following for years!
Events like Kawaii Kon are few and far between here in Hawaii, but that makes these types of conventions all the more worth it to attend. I am always amazed at how quickly the convention center is transformed from an empty building into three floors of otaku-dom.
These conventions are such a huge contribution to the community. They create a safe space, in a sense, for people to freely express themselves. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from; your religion, sexuality, etc. Everyone is there to do one thing, and that is to celebrate and enjoy our love for anime, manga, video games, comics, cosplay, and all other facets of the otaku and nerdist kingdoms. If only the world could reflect that sort of unity.
Anyways, that’s it for my post-convention report. It’s not much because of the injury, but I’ll try to make up for it with other interesting articles, like my next one! My next Anime is Culture post will be addressing the topics of hikikomori and the pressures of Japanese society portrayed in anime/manga. This might hit some people a little close to home, but please look forward to it!
Hey all! Sorry for the lack of a post last week. I had an extremely busy weekend and no time to write, or even watch anime. Anyways, for those who don’t know, this upcoming weekend is Hawaii’s very own anime convention, Kawaii Kon!
Every year, thousands of attendees, both local and out-of-state, visit the Hawai’i Convention Center to share in their love and enjoyment of the Japanese anime and manga culture. Usually I would be setting up a table to sell my artwork, but this year I’ll be just a regular attendee. Well, not so regular, as I will be making an effort to write a report for each day.
The boss asked me to write about 3 events or activities I’m excited to attend, so I’ll do just that.
How to Draw with Voice Actors 3-4 p.m. Friday, Ballroom B
As something of an artist myself, this event really caught my eye. I’ve always been stuck behind a table for many of my previous conventions, so I could never attend events like these. I really wanna see if my favorite English voice actors can draw the characters they voice, and hopefully there will be an opportunity to request a character for them to draw!
Meeting Cristina Vee
Cristina Vee Q&A 11 a.m.-noon Friday, room 315
How to Draw With Voice Actors
3-4 p.m. Friday, Ballroom B
Women of Animation
1:15-2:15 p.m. Saturday, Ballroom B
Ask an Anime Character
Noon-1 p.m. Sunday, Ballroom B
2:45-5:15 p.m. Saturday and 1:30-3 p.m. Sunday
Cristina Vee is by far one of my favorite English voice actresses to date, playing roles like Noel Vermillion (Blazblue series), Sakura Matou (Fate series), and Homura Akemi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica). I have been requesting her appearance for years now, and it’s so nice to see my request coming true. I can’t wait to get my Blazblue merchandise signed, and hopefully I’ll be able to draw her a little something as a gift for all her hard work!
The Cardboard Mega Brawl 3-4 p.m. Saturday (setup 2-3 p.m.), Exhibition Hall 2 & 3
Every year, I’ve built cardboard armor for my friends to compete in. This year, it’s my turn to pit myself against the other fighters in the ring. Using only cardboard, duct tape, and pool noodles, teams have an hour to hastily construct armor and weapons, then pit themselves against one another, trying to knock off the cup targets placed on each others’ armor, or completely destroy those cup targets. It’s crazy yet controlled in these wack battles. I also have a couple of friends competing, and I hope I get to battle against them.
Anyway, those are my top things I’m looking forward to so far. I haven’t totally checked out the schedule, and sometimes things are added last minute. I’ll be making an effort to write about my convention experiences every day of the convention, and hopefully I get a lot of good pictures. Until then, I’ll be cramming homework so that my weekend is totally stress free. I was also thinking of doing something special on this blog, but we’ll have to wait and see. 😉