Japan Travel: Check out our new instagram, JapanHighLow

As all of my blogging has fallen prrrrretty far by the wayside, I have tried to come up with some additional artistic pursuits to fill the void, ones that don’t take quite as much time, or don’t necessitate sitting in front of a computer (as I do that a LOT for my day jobs).

My husband and I have spent the past 18 months curating an instagram account featuring our Japan travel photos! Just like what I used to post here, except on Instagram!

It’s called JapanHighLow, and you can subscribe over at http://www.instagram.com/japanhighlow.

Here’s a little gallery of what you can see there, but head over and check it out. 🙂

TCAF in Tokyo – November 13-18

Heya! I’m pretty excited about my next trip to Japan, as I’ll be bringing along a collective of cartoonists and publishers as part of the work I’m doing with TCAF (The Toronto Comic Arts Festival).

I know I’d mentioned it a few times before, but now that the events are public I thought it warranted a blog post. Here are the quick-and-dirty details, but you can find all of the info and links and graphics and author biographies at http://torontocomics.com/news/tcaf-japan-2012-exhibition-details/.

If you’re reading this and you will be in the Tokyo area, I hope you’ll come say hi!

Oh, I’d like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting my trip.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $154 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil  a investi 154 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

TCAF Presents: En Masse in Tokyo
at Design Festa Gallery WEST Room 1-D
November 13th to November 15th
3-20-18, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Free to attend

On Tuesday, November 13th, a group of Canadian and Japanese artists led by En Masse mainstay Rupert Bottenberg will collaboratively create three brand new works from blank canvas’, with the public invited to (unobtrusively) view the creation process. Then, from the 13th to the 15th, all three new narrative art works will be on display and for sale at the legendary Design Festa Gallery, founded by acclaimed contemporary artist Takeshi Murakami.

TCAF Presents: Canada Comic Arts!
November 15th to December 2nd (Speaking Event November 18, 7pm)
Place: Shibuya Parco Part One B1F, Inside Parco Book Center at Presspop Gallery.

We are proud to present “Canada Comics Arts” curated by TCAF of Canada.

In trying to give us a chance to glimpse the presently expanding exciting comics and arts scene in Canada, TCAF has selected and brought over original artworks by amazing artists, Maurice Vellekoop and Love Love Hill, and also books by Canadian artists of their choice. The TCAF crew, artists, and publishers will be in store on November 18th from 19:00 to discuss what’s going on now in the Canadian comics/art/publishing scene. Authors will read short excerpts of selected works. Don’t miss out on this rare chance!

Kaigai Manga Festa, Tokyo, Japan
Featuring The Toronto Comic Arts Festival & Canadian Authors
Tokyo Big Sight, East-West Atrium, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koutou-ku, Tokyo
11:00am to 4:00pm
Admission 1000yen ($12.50CDN)

Kaigai Manga Festa is the first ever Tokyo exhibition of international comics and graphic novels. TCAF will be on hand to represent Canadian comics culture, with the support of Canadian publishers Drawn & Quarterly, Koyama Press, and UDON Entertainment. Authors include Rupert Bottenberg, Omar Dogan, Jeffrey Ellis, Agnes Garbowska, Dax Gordine, Love Love Hill (Collective featuring Wai Au, Kim Hoang, Julie Man), David Namisato, Benjamin Rivers, Miguel Sternberg, Maurice Vellekoop.

In addition, TCAF has created an original doujinshi in honour of the Festival’s 10th Anniversary, celebrating the wonderful original artwork that has been created to represent the festival.

And just cuz it’s kinda neat, here’s the TCAF appearances flyer in English/Japanese:

– Chris

New Taiyo Matsumoto T-shirts at Uniqlo

Thanks to a note from my friend David, I’ve been informed that there’s a whole new round of Taiyo Matsumoto t-shirts now available at Uniqlo Japan.

The last time I went to MoCCA, the Uniqlo on broadway had an explosion of manga Ts with a ton of Matsumoto designs, and I bought literally one of each of them. This time around, unfortunately, I am not going to be anywhere near a Uniqlo for the foreseeable future, and so I’m a little bummed for myself but super-excited for all of you that will have a shot at wearing the coolest t-shirts ever.

Go check out all 14 designs from Tekkon Kinkreet, Ping Pong, Sunny, and more at http://store.uniqlo.com/jp/store/feature/ut/taiyoumatsumoto/.

– Chris

Pizza in Tokyo


I’ve got a million other things I should be blogging about, but I was just talking some smack about eating Pizza in Japan/Tokyo and I recalled that, on my last trip to Tokyo I had some of the best pizza ever, in my hotel restaurant of all places.

I know Japan gets a bad rap for pizza, and I’ve had a whole bunch of truly awful pizza in Japan (married to/travelling with a vegetarian), but the restaurant in “The B Ikebukuro” is called Salvatore Cuomo & BAR, and it is a straight-up excellent Italian restaurant, and I had a wood-fired pizza with real prosciutto that was so good that I went back a second night to have it again (every other meal was Japanese food, don’t judge me).

I suppose if I were in better blogging form I’d tie this all together with something about preconceived notions and surprises and yadda yadda but I haven’t blogged since like March or something and so your closing thought is: Most of the pizza I had in Tokyo was terrible, but I had some amazing pizza too and I recommend it.

– Chris

Tokyo Rising: The Resilience of the Creative Class


Great short doc about Tokyo and Japan’s creative class following the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, featuring Pharrell Williams. Definitely worth the watch.

Sorry for the autoplay, nothing I can do about that. But click the trailer above to go to the website and view the whole thing, or http://www.palladiumboots.com/video/tokyo-rising#part1

– Chris

I’ll be your Kit Kat Sommelier for the evening…

Last month I started up a blog called Oyatsu Break! (http://oyatsubreak.com), a Japanese snack food review blog. I also hosted a Kit Kat tasting party with like 40 flavours of Kit Kats that I’d collected on my travels, and shared them with friends. One of those friends wrote the story up for The Toronto Star, and now here I am!


It looks like the photos have gone awol from the article for now, but it should be in the Saturday edition of the paper.

My thanks to Corey for a fun article, and if you’re interested in more Japanese snack reviews please check out the new blog.

– Christopher

I did a Kit Kat tasting party, it’s gonna be in the paper

“Environmental guilt = a garbage bag filled with Japanese Kit Kat wrappers. If it weren’t for my kidnapping and blackmail side business, this would be the worst thing I’ve ever done.” – Corey Mintz, Porkosity

I went to Corey’s and I shared about 40 different kinds of Japanese Kit Kats with some people, and they wrote about it, and Corey wrote about it, and it’s gonna be in the paper and some other stuff. Click on the “Porkosity” link above for a few more advance photos.

– Chris

Japan: Tradition. Innovation. @ Canadian Museum of Civilization, May 20th, 2011

Japan: Tradition. Innovation.
May-October 2011. Opens May 20th, 2011.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8
(Just on the other side of the river from Ottawa)

So, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but one of the coolest things I did last year was act as a special consultant on popular culture to The Canadian Museum of Civilization, for their new exhibit on Japan opening this week. Japan: Tradition. Innovation. is a unique look at the Edo-period origins of contemporary Japanese technology and design. Focusing specifically on consumer goods–things that we interact with every day–the show breaks down 400 years of cultural innovation into five themes; travel, automation, social status, consumer culture, and entertainment. Comparing woodblock prints to manga, contemporary Japanese street-fashion with armour and traditional garb, robots to mechanized dolls–it’s all cool stuff.

I specifically helped acquire materials for the manga and anime collections, including first-editions, cels, and some cool ephermera. I’m excited to see how it’s been placed into the context of the larger collection. It was an amazing opportunity to dig through all kinds of cool old manga and anime at Mandarake during my last visit to Japan (Oct/Nov 2010), divorced from my normal concerns of finding cool stuff to bring back to The Beguiling. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a bunch of first-edition Tezuka manga at the store, but I doubt they’d sell with the expediency that we’d need them too to make any sort of profit. Buying for a museum has a very different set of criteria. Oh, and as a special note, I’d like to thank everyone who helped me identify some of those pieces, it was very cool of you and I really appreciate it. Feel free to ask me for a favour in future.

Oh, and speaking of The Beguiling, the awesome comic and graphic novel store which I manage, we also acted as a sponsor of the exhibit! We’ve donated hundreds of manga to the exhibition’s “reading room”, which is essentially a wall of manga you can hang out and read at. It’s also roughly 50/50 French-language and English-language translations of Japanese material, which means we could include a bunch of stuff not yet available in English. I feel really good about the mix of manga included too, because it covers not only popular and contemporary series, but also classics, “art-oriented” works, and works that seek to explain certain Japanese customs, aspects of the culture, and traditions through manga. Oishinbo is as prominently displayed as Naruto, A Drifiting Life and The Rose of Versailles and Doraemon all getting equal face-time. So exciting!

The exhibit has a special opening this Thursday, May 19th at 6pm, for Museum members and the press only. I’m going to be there to see the public’s reaction to it for the first time, and I’m pretty excited! If anyone from the Ottawa/Montreal area will be there and would like to get-together and talk manga, drop me a line! If you can’t make it this week, don’t worry, the show’s on until October and I’m hoping we can put together some exciting programing at the Museum featuring manga and anime experts and professionals over the course of the summer. I’m also going to try to do a report on the exhibit here on the blog, if I can manage to remember my camera. 🙂

For more on the exhibit, check out http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/whats-on/event-detail&EventId=302.

– Christopher


Hey everyone, this is an event I’m helping to organize here in Toronto on April 17th. I would love it if you could attend, and help us spread the word!

Artists Help Japan: Toronto
Toronto’s Illustration Community Fundraiser for Quake and Tsunami Relief
At REVIVAL, 783 College Street, Toronto
…Sunday April 17th, 12 Noon to 12 Midnight
Free To Attend – All Ages


Kei Acedera [Alice In Wonderland]  –  Kalman Andrasofszky [X-23]  –  Jason Bradshaw [Boredom Pays]  –  Bobby Chiu [Alice In Wonderland]  –  Svetlana Chmakova [Nightschool, Dramacon]  –  Julie Faulkner [Promises Press]  –  Ray Fawkes [Possessions]  –  Agnes Garbowska [Girl Comics, Marvel Comics]  –  Scott Hepburn [Star Wars]  –  Stuart Immonen [Fear Itself]  –  Dale Keown [Pitt]  –  Eric Kim [Oni Press]  –  Ken Lashley [Black Panther]  –  Alvin Lee [Street Fighter, Marvel Vs. Capcom]  –  Jeff Lemire [Sweet Tooth]  –  Francis Manapul [The Flash]  –  Kagan Mcleod [Infinite Kung-Fu]  –  Alex Milne [Transformers]  –  Joe Ng [Street Fighter]  –  Ramon Perez [Captain America]  –  Marcio Takara [The Incredibles]  –  Marcus To [Red Robin]  –  Eric Vedder [Darkstalkers]  –  Chip Zdarsky [Prison Funnies] – Jim Zub [Skullkickers]  +  More To Be Announced!DJ SETS + MUSIC PROVIDED BY:

TORONTO—Toronto’s Illustration and Artistic Community comes together on April 17th in a 12 hour art-event at Revival. The unique event will raise money to aid relief efforts in Japan following the devastating recent earthquake and tsunami there. Spearheaded by a consortium of Toronto illustration studios, the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event is the local iteration of a charity movement begun by Pixar Art Director Dice Tsutsumi. The Toronto edition will feature live art shows, a silent auction, and dozens of artists and illustrators selling commissioned drawings, with all proceeds benefiting the Canadian Red Cross.

“As artists we are tremendously inspired by Japan and Japanese culture,” says Bobby Chiu, the illustrator, teacher and founder of Toronto’s Imaginism studios behind the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event. “We were all personally affected by the quake, tsunami, and resulting damage. It is important to give back for all that Japan has given us, and we can think of no better way to do so than with our art.”

Artists Help Japan: Toronto will feature more than 24 artists and illustrators from the Greater Toronto Area creating original drawings for 12 hours! This is an unprecedented opportunity for the general public to commission an original drawing from a professional artist and watch its creation in process; the artist’s fee will be donated entirely to the Canadian Red Cross.

In addition:
– Dozens more cartoonists will donate original art, books, and other rare items to be featured in a silent-auction on-site at Revival Bar.
– Live art demonstrations from Toronto Illustrators on stage, with the final pieces to be auctioned off live at the event
– $1 from the sale of every drink at Revival Bar will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross.

Admission to the ARTISTS HELP JAPAN: TORONTO event is free, and all ages are welcome. The event will run from 12 Noon to 12 Midnight.


Artists Help Japan is a charity movement initiated by Dice Tsutsumi, an art director at Pixar Animation Studios, who was also behind 2008 Totoro Forest Project to help preserve Sayama Forest in Japan and Sketchtravel Project, to gather the force of communities of artists and creative minds around the world. We believe artists have special roles to contribute to the society. http://artistshelpjapan.blogspot.com/

Artists Help Japan: Toronto is spearheaded by Imaginism Studios President and illustrator Bobby Chiu, who was contacted by Dice Tsutsumi to run the Toronto event. Working with Illustrator Alvin Lee, Udon Entertainment CEO Erik Ko, writer/artist Jim Zubkavich, and Christopher Butcher of Toronto comic book store The Beguiling and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the team hopes to bring together Toronto’s diverse and exciting artistic community to engage the public in an unprecedented fundraising endeavour.

All proceeds from Artists Help Japan: Toronto will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross, specifically earmarked to aid in Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief.http://www.redcross.ca/


Revival Bar has been entertaining guests, visitors and fans as a premium event space since 2002. Revival has generously donated the use of their main space for the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event, and will be donating $1 from the cost of every drink to the fundraising efforts.http://www.revivalbar.com/

Help Japan

I’m having a tough time with what’s going on in Japan right now. I never visited Sendai but we did travel through/nearby in 2009, on our way from Nikko to Aomori. It’s further south than I had thought, about half way between the northern tip of Japan’s main island and Tokyo. Travelling by train I saw a lot of the countryside; the news reports from the area matched my memories of travelling which has made the disaster more personal. I still can’t imagine what it’s like for the people who are there though, and my sympathies and condolences go out to everyone affected.

I’ve donated a few dollars and watched the news constantly, and at this point there’s not much else to do. I did want to put up a brief post saying that I hope things get better, and if you’ve ever enjoyed my travelogues or photos of Japan I hope you’ll consider donating a few dollars to the various organizations trying to aid folks in distress.

I recommend: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/, who are the first organization to send people and aid into the hardest-hit areas.

Also the Red Cross is setting up a relief fund. If you text REDCROSS to number 30333 in Canada, or 90999 in the U.S., you can donate $5 or $10 really easily and every little bit helps.

Thanks for anything you can do,

– Chris