When last we talked, we had just left the Tokyu Hands store in Ikebukuro. A short walk away from there is the Sunshine 60 mall, which was our next destination. Chances are, if youâ€™re trying to get somewhere, you can just walk down the street to it, or you can look for a department store, head inside, and follow the signage to enter one of the many underground tunnels connecting businesses, offices, etc. If youâ€™re reading this in Toronto, itâ€™s sort of like the PATH, but AWESOME and 1000 times as big. So, since it was 40+ degrees outside with the humidity (thatâ€™s like 90 to you filthy imperialists), we ducked into a lovely underground air-conditioned walkway. And what did we come across? A giant Toyota â€œauto-salonâ€ that was having some sort of amazing SGT. FROG event! Yeah!
Right this way to SGT. FROG! John Jakala would be SO EXCITED right now!
Look! There he is! Waitâ€¦ what?
Itâ€™s a green DS with a new SGT. FROG game. Ohâ€¦ Uh, huh. That really wasnâ€™t worth getting excited about. You couldnâ€™t EVEN buy the game, or any of the awesome merch. They did have arcade machines set up playing Ridge Racer 4, though. Anyway, hereâ€™s some SGT. FROG:
And Japanâ€™s answer to the Segway, and that adorable little Toyota robot:
If youâ€™re a regular reader of the blog, you know that Iâ€™ve recommended a graphic novel anthology many times named JAPAN: AS VIEWED BY 17 CREATORS. Itâ€™s published in English by Fanfare/Ponent-Mon, and it contains comics about Japan by 8 bande desinee creators, 8 manga-ka, and Frederic Boilet, a Frenchman living in Japan. Itâ€™s really quite good, and Iâ€™m going to take a moment to recommend it again: It recently received a second printing and is available from better comic stores everywhere. I highly recommend it. Anyhow, in the book thereâ€™s a story by a French creator, Nicolas de Crecy, who is quite wonderful anyway, but in this instance is turning his attention to Japanâ€™s character-based culture. In the story, the narrator isâ€¦ researching all of the different characters that adorn Japanese products (and also ideas tooâ€¦ Hello Kitty may brand every type of good imaginable, but here? Characters also appear alongside almost any message, from not letting your dog poop on the flowers to exercising proper train safety). The author is completely smitten with all of the various chara-goods, the adorable and bizarre drawings that cover soft-drink cans and are turned into cell-phone charms. The author finds the variety of them, the different styles and shapes, the sheer number of different characters overwhelming. I knew something about Japan going in, but Iâ€™m not entirely sure that I was ready for the density of the chara-goods culture. The first mall-shop that we stopped into was M.I.X., and it hadâ€¦ nothing but character goods:
More popular in death than it ever was in life.
You knew one day Elmo was kill the rest of the cast and dress in their skin. Admit it.
Itâ€™s gay sumo duck! Not shown: Everything from Thomas the Tank Engine to Lilo & Stitch toâ€¦ jeez, you name it.
Hereâ€™s the comic-strip explanation for the Elmo thing. This is the first part of â€œChris notices comics cultureâ€ by the way. This explanation (posted near the toys) is in comics format, where I feel like in North America weâ€™d end up with a single illustration or something like thatâ€¦ Andrew thinks it might be a little different, but Iâ€™m thinking â€œsingle imageâ€ at most, maybe with little insets. And itâ€™d be product photos instead of illustrations tooâ€¦ Anyway, I thought this was neat, and can even forgive the Comics Sans font, which looks pretty good in this specific contextâ€¦!
Iâ€™m really only taking a picture of an NBX apron to make Andrewâ€™s cousin Alison jealous.
A different store had perfectly designed square toys that I regret not buying.
The food court walkway entrance.
Andrew enjoys a crepe. This has been a theme of the trip so far, as the crepe’s here are plentiful and delicious and… everywhere. Well, everywhere “cool” where young people are.
The Sunshine City complex.
Oh, McDonalds. But more on that later.
Halloweâ€™en costumes and decorations.
Pingu! Just so you know, all of the beloved cartoons and characters from our childhoods? Hanging out in Japan.
Pokemon Megablocks (fake Lego).
This was weirdâ€¦ Childrenâ€™s author Eric Carle is a brand hereâ€¦ â€œThe World of Eric Carleâ€, and as such there are lots of â€œVery Hungry Caterpillarâ€ branded goods, like crayons, notebooks, etc.
Gotta catchâ€™em all!
Looks like Toys â€˜Râ€™ Us only stopped selling realistic guns in their DOMESTIC stores, eh Dad? Thatâ€™s a remarkably realistic looking plastic gun btwâ€¦
Hey, look, itâ€™s a little display of Star Wars stuff. Wait, what the hell is that in the center?
OMG. Is that a Japan thing? Or was this around the world? Because this is brilliant (though maybe not $28 brilliant?).
You donâ€™t have to look very far for sexy girl action figuresâ€¦ Toys â€˜Râ€™ Us Japan caters to children of all ages, from Pokemon to otaku shut-in!
Pretty frickâ€™n cool though.
I know this is going to seem stupid, but I totally forgot that a) MICROMAN figures are Japanese, and b) they are everywhere. This is a side-cap display of some of the basic models, and the Kinnikuman (ULTIMATE MUSCLE in the U.S.) figures. Not shown: The creepy Brandon Routh-styled SUPERMAN Microman figure. That I bought. Along with Supergirl. Iâ€¦ I needed someone for my Batman Microman figures to fight against.
I would have loved these as a kid. Real cameras, binoculars, and MP3 players that transform into robotsâ€¦
â€¦but as an adult, what I want is the transforming police(?) car that comes with the Moe cute little girl being menaced under her skirt by bad energy demon action figure. Note: THIS IS A REAL TRANSFORMERS ITEM.
The full-size version of the girl comes with a non-transforming car, and a convenient up-skirt poseâ€¦
Of course, Iâ€™m not one to judge. I almost bought this for a measly $45. You see, I had one as a boy, and the ultimate expression of adulthood is to re-purchase your youth. Luckily, the Japanese had me covered:
I had all of these. Never have I come closer to dropping $150 on toys in a single shot. But believe you-me, I was pretty fucking close in the Toys â€˜Râ€™ Us. I didnâ€™t grab any of them though. As my boss would say, â€œCongratulations! Youâ€™ve taken a step towards adulthood!â€ It is small consolation.
Ge! Ge! Ge! No Kitaro!
The new DragonQuest game (Dragon Warrior in the states) was released here just as we arrived. Itâ€™s kind of a big deal because itâ€™s for the Nintendo wii, and the DQ games have a history of supporting the â€˜winningâ€™ console in the console wars. (I think.)
Speaking of video games, the Nintendo DS games in Japan are outstanding! Whereas weâ€™ve got â€œBrain Ageâ€, about the only educational title on the system, theyâ€™ve got tons of â€˜gamesâ€™ like recipe/cooking instruction titles, a camera attachment and games that let you take advantage of that, and even:
Thatâ€™s right! Take the TOEIC test on your DS! Score high whilst learning the English language!
Also? Thereâ€™s a NANA game. I guess NANA is a certifiable hit, huh?
So we finally left Toys â€˜Râ€™ Us (damage: $100) and headed out into the mallâ€¦ and into glory! But you’ll have to wait. We’re running out of time in the hotel room in Himeji, and that castle isn’t getting any less incredibly old. Sorry guys! More later.