Tag Archives: Japan Spotlight

Japan Spotlight – Tashiro-jima (Cat Island)

Tashiro-jima is a small island off the mainland of Japan in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It doesn’t have a large population, consisting of approximately 100 which is down from the 1000 that inhabited the island during the 50’s. One of the reasons the island is well known is for its other name – Cat Island.

Tashiro-jima happens to have a large number of felines that live on the island who stay healthy by people feeding them. It’s believed that feeding the cats delivers both good fortune and wealth, which allows the cat population to be constantly growing. In fact, the population of the felines now out numbers humans and according to an article in Sankei News from 2009, states that there are no dogs on the island and it is actually forbidden to bring them to the island.

There is also a cat shrine called Neko-jinja located in the middle of the island, situated between two villages. The island used to raise silkworms for the silk which naturally attracted mice, being a natural predator of the silkworms. The cat population helped this production as the cats kept the mice population to a minimum. The Miyagi prefecture is home to at least 10 cat shrines going along with the 51 monuments made of stone.

Below you’ll see a gallery of Cat Island taken by photographer, Fubirai, where he spent the past 5 years taking pictures of the cats and getting to know them.

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Japan Spotlight – Looking At Manga Cafes

What we know as internet cafes are commonly called manga cafes in Japan. These are spaces where you can grab a coffee, grab some internet time, read manga for a fee and some even have cats that frolic around you as you grab some down time.

If you’re in the Gifu prefecture, you can hunt one down called Manga Kissa Hanako which for the outrageously great price of ¥450 provides you with an all you can eat buffet. If lunch is more your thing, you can grab a 2 hour lunch for ¥880.

If your taste buds are after something more though, then Pancake Conpara Cafe might be more your thing. It manages to put pancakes and a manga cafe into the mix and results ins something all unique. The pc’s are all in a separate section of the venue so you can happily eat away while checking your email.

All you cat lovers out there will love this next one. It’s a manga and cat cafe put together. This is a fancy 5 floor cafe and while manga cafe visitors can’t come into the cat cafe section however the manga from the cat cafe is allowed into the manga cafe part. The best part? The drinks are free.

Internet cafe on 1F~3F, cat cafe on 4F~5F

Anyone out there have any experiences with these type of cafes in Japan?

Japan Spotlight – Game Bar A Button

Melbourne and Brisbane both have the Mana Bar, a video game themed bar, that serve a purpose, draw crowds and have great drinks as the drawcard. Akihabara in Japan has the Game Bar A Button which every self respecting Otaku should visit while in Japan. It is tiny and extremely crammed and you’d be lucky to fit in more than 20 people! But take a look at the pics below and admire the nostalgic memorabilia on the walls and bar counter. Famicom, Dreamcast development kits and more adorn the walls making for interesting conversations and childhood memories to come back to you. There’s years of gaming memories on the walls and heaps of pics signed by people in the industry and while you can’t play any games there, there are bar patrons playing with their PSP’s and DS’s while sipping a beer. The atmosphere is very underground making you feel almost privileged to be there, like you’re a part of something that not everyone gets to experience. I was there with a friend and ended up making friends with another patron and playing a few games with him, the people in there are extremely friendly recognising another kindred spirit.

The bar has a PSP hooked up to the sound system is kept busy pumping out tunes via the Internet Radio on the handheld specifically anime/game and J-Pop tunes, very toe tapping stuff to game to 🙂 It’s a bit tricky to find but make it worth your while if you’re in the area, it’s a great little find, hopefully the map below will assist you in getting there.

Game Bar A Button site

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Japan Spotlight – Akihabara

Any Otakus visiting Japan must go past Akihabara. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone a few times during our two trips to Japan and I can vouch for the eye opening experience it is. The whole district is one big oasis for anything and everything relating to modern Japanese pop culture. There are literally endless shops filled with anime, manga, video games, J-Pop music and tons more. Electronics fans are also catered for with a vast array and selection for any parts you may need or want to pick up on the cheap compared to most other countries. The further away you get from the train station, the smaller shops become but this is offset by the bigger bargains you will find. The streets themselves are filled with the kind of people you’d expect as well with their trendy outfits sporting their favourite characters on them and not just restricted to the youth. You’ll also find grown men and women especially in many cafes from Starbucks to Excelsior Caffé, having multiplayer games on their PSP’s and DS’s. On the first trip, Laucha and I walked into an Excelsior Caffé and were met by at least 6 different groups of 4 at separate tables all paying Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G, this was before 3rd came out. I was really astounded by the tight knit group that these gamers have found for themselves with like minded people. Upon coming back to Australia I tried, via the Official Australia Playstation forums, to start what I called a Hunter Party, with no success. It saddens me to think that in my home country, it seemed that no one wanted to meet in real life, for some like minded social interaction. Oh well.

Akihabara has a whole swathe of cheap, second hand game stores such as Traders and Super Potato. During the second trip, on our last night, I went to Akihabara with my sister intent on seeing Super Potato one last time. However they close like clockwork at 8PM which was right when we got there 🙁 Shattered but not defeated I suggested a brief walk around to see what else we might find, which turned out to be a great idea as I came across the aforementioned Traders. A second hand store dealing in more modern games and handheld consoles, I found the Nintendo DS section and found what I had been looking for. Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars! For those in the dark, these play out like a brawl game but with anime and manga characters, this game will never be released in Australia or anywhere else due to the licensing nightmare that would ensue. In Japan, all the major rights are owned by just one player, Shonen, whereas in Australia, as with most other parts of the world, they’re owned by various different companies. This means that all the copyright owners would have to sit down and discuss money, how the character would be used and so forth. Too hard and and just not viable for the small market it would attract despite that these two games are host to some of the best gaming ever produced 🙂

Super Potato is a store that I see constantly mentioned by visitors to Japan and for good reason. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I am confident in saying that it is the best retro game store I have ever laid eyes on. It’s where I picked up three of my treasures. My mint copy of Rez for the Sega Dreamcast, a brand new never opened Visual Memory Unit for the DS and the platinum pack for Metal Gear Solid back on the PSX with all the goodies intact from the dog tags to the t shirt, soundtrack and artbook. All this rarity for $40AUD!!! Bargain 🙂 They have a floor dedicated to Nintendo, Sega and various other consoles and handhelds. There is literally nothing from yesteryear that they don’t have and it’s all in mint condition. The Japanese gamers know how to look after their stuff.

There are expensive stores as well and they’re usually the real glitzy ones that you can spot a mile away but for the most part everything, price wise, is within reach for the everyday gamer, considering how exclusive some items were. There’s definitely bargains to be had, but bring comfortable shoes as there’s a ton of walking to be had!

One of the other unique features in Akihabara are the Maid cafes where  you can have a meal and the maids dote over you and power up your food with cries of “Moe Moe, Kyun, Kyun!” They do speak some English but we had very little problem navigating the menu and ordering food. The maids are very animated and speak in high pitch voices as they do in the animes so it isn’t for everyone! They do charge by how long you stay there as well, but 1 hour should be heaps of time to eat, talk, interact with the maids and if you like, have your picture taken with a maid of your choice which makes a great souvenir. You can take pics of your food however you can’t take pics of the inside or of the maids. We only went to Maidreamin’ which is on busy Chuo Dori, the main street, there are others but be wary, as some of the maids aren’t there to serve you food but to offer you…services. But they’re usually pretty obvious by the flyers they’re handing out.

Akihabara at night is a must visit as well, with it’s multitude of neon signs and the bright lights illuminating massive billboards advertising anime and new games. It truly is a unique experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world with heaps to buy and see, so bring your extra deep pockets. For me personally, things I want to buy next time I’m there would be the Cloud Black PS3 edition which isn’t cheap but looks beautiful and the Ouendan games for the DS or as it’s called in the West, Elite Beat Agents. It wasn’t until I saw through my pics that I realised the PS3 was in of the shops I had walked through…never mind, there’s always a next time!

Check the gallery below for my pics of Akihabara that I constantly look at 🙂 Before we know it, we’ll be back there with more pics and goodies! There’s also a video I shot on my camera of Akihabara at night where you can Club Sega and the Akihabara train station overpass which seems to be in quite a few animes.

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