Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tokyo Toy Show and Gundam at Odaiba

Yesterday started off with a quick stop at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Shinagawa to see the Micropop show featuring the latest generation of Japanese artists. The show will tour internationally, so look for it! It's going to Germany next. At the museum shop I picked up a graphic book on children's advertising in the Showa era. (1000 yen entrance fee)

Then I hopped on the train to Odaiba to check out the Tokyo Toy Show (free!). Odaiba is a man-made island that unlike the claustrophobic feel of Tokyo is designed with wide open spaces. The island is home to the Big Site convention hall (where the Toy Show was being held), shopping malls and entertainment centers as well as office buildings and residences. There are also an odd assortment of museums and attractions including an onsen theme park and a mini replica of the Statue of Liberty. While it may be a good date spot or nice for a family outing, I think Odaiba was poorly planned. Lots of wasted space and it feels too hodge-podge in terms of the layout.

The Toy Show at Tokyo Big Site is a place for toy companies big and small to show off their latest products. It's a trade show that is open to the public on the weekend. Most of the toys were standard fare you would find in any toy store. The Bandai section was popular with Power Ranger action figures and card games. Anpanman and Hello Kitty were everywhere. And there were a lot of cooking toys. The coolest toy there was a Mickey Mouse Transformer.

From Big Site, I took a long walk to one of the big shopping malls. Inside, there is an interactive sports-type attraction called "Muscle Park." Muscle Park is kind of like being on a Japanese game show. There are games to test your reflexes and balance. Sports-related games like pitching and kicking a soccer ball. And even a replica of the "Ninja Warrior" TV show, called "Sasuke" here in Japan. It's kind of pricey though. I paid 700 yen for the pleasure of embarrassing myself in the pitching game. I couldn't even hit the target...

My final destination was the life-sized Gundam set up on Odaiba for the summer to celebrate the anime robot's 30th anniversary. I know it sounds weird to want to see a giant robot, but it was pretty freakin' cool. And there were a ton of people there, some were even picnicking. It kind of felt religious, and Gundam was their idol. At the top of the hour, music blares from the speakers and smoke comes out of the robot's exhausts, then it moves it's head--and that was it. When they build a Gundam that can walk and shoot a giant gun, then I think the fans will get down on their knees and pray to it, I know I will.

The Gundam is 18 meters high. I don't know how tall that is, but it was huge!

The Gundam will be up through August 31.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shimokitazawa street art

Went to go see LAZYgunsBRISKY (again!) at Shelter in Shimokitazawa last night. (7/15/09) 3000yen cover. They were promoting the launch of a new mini-album and played an hour-long set with two encores. Packed house but a pretty mellow crowd. This band has quickly become one of my favorites, ...and they're just getting started!

Also, check out some of the street art in Shimokitazawa. They've painted on some of the shutters of the shops, so you can't see it during the day. I only noticed it on the way home after leaving the club:

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Shimokitazawa has been called cool, hip and indie, so naturally I had to check it out for myself. Located a few stops away from Shibuya, the neighborhood is a cluster of shopping, music and dining. Part of Shimokitazawa's charm is that it hasn't been taken over by the generic chain stores. No Uniqlo or Don Quixote, though I did spot a Suta-ba--what they call Starbucks here.

People waiting in line to buy takoyaki. The shop is on the left. If you don't want to wait in line, there are plenty of places to eat and drink in the neighborhood.

A very quaint antique toy store called Omurice. I wasn't allowed to take any pictures inside. Lots of clothing stores in Shimokitazawa and other places to spend your yen.

Neat store concept. People rent out a small box for 3000yen a month to sell their handmade crafts and accessories.

Dinner at Cowboy. The menu only has four dishes: A hamburger steak, the jumbo hamburger steak, chorizo sausages and chili con carne. I ordered the jumbo, 400 grams of beef covered in demi-glaze sauce with a small side of corn and potatoes and a plate of rice for 900 yen. Oh, what I would give for some barbeque sauce!

Shimokitazawa has some cool record shops and a bunch of places to hear live music. I went to the Daisy Bar, but the bands were so-so.
2800yen cover. Line-up: The Bohemians, The Suzan, Radio Foundation.

After the show, caught a photo with The Suzan. I think I'm being emasculated by the lead singer!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tanabata Matsuri

7/7 is known as "Tanabata" in Japan. The story of Tanabata is about two "star-crossed" lovers who can only meet once a year on this day. The most famous Tanabata festival in Japan takes place up north in Sendai.

On Saturday, I went to the town of Hiratsuka, located about 30 minutes from Yokohama, for the local Tanabata celebration.

The main attraction for a Tanabata festival is the colorful paper streamers that decorate the streets. At night the streamers are lit up. Another custom is to write your wish and tie it to a bamboo pole.

Here are some pics:

"Two buttheads" Even smoking is cute in Japan.