Tokyobling's Blog

Rose Of Versaille Window Shopping – Isetan

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on February 25, 2015

I took these photos of the Rose of Versaille themed window decoration at Isetan department store in Shinjuku a couple of months ago. I meant to post this straight away but the photos got stuck in editing limbo for the longest time. Excuse me! Still, fans of the game-changing Rose of Versaille manga series from the 70s will get a kick out of seeing these – each window is decorated to the theme of one of the characters in the famous shojo (girl’s) manga about a girl who is raised as a son and takes up the post as captain of the guard in Paris just before the revolution. It is quite possibly the story that kick started a generation of female manga readers in the 1970s and as such the whole genre is indebted to this fantastic comic book series. Those who are not fans of the manga can still enjoy this masterclass in window decoration!

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Anime Ema at Kanda Myojin Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 23, 2015

I am still not sure when the tradition of self-decorated anime styled ema started over at the famous Kanda Myojin Shrine near Tokyo’s anime heart – Akihabara. Even then it is one of my favorite things to do in the new to visit the shrine and have a look at this year’s new ema. I visit quite early in the new year and since then I am sure there have been many additions, but these are some of the better ones I found. Normally you buy one of the plain ema at the shrine and write your prayer for the coming year, but some people take the extra step of decorating their own ema. All of these votive plates will eventually be consumed in a ritual fire that will help cleanse the prayers and the people offering them. You can see last year’s post on the same subject over here.

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Patlabor – Roppongi Hills

Posted in Places by tokyobling on November 1, 2014

If you are into the manga, anime and now proper movie, Patlabor, you should most definitely head over to Roppongi Hills as soon as possible to check out the scale 1:1 Mobile Police mecha suit they have on show right now. I walked past it yesterday and took these photos. It is really quite cool. I was a big fan of this manga many years ago, when it was still set in the future. These days a manga set in 1998-2002 does not feel quite as SF.

The movie this prop is promoting has an official site here, and it looks pretty cool. The reason it is in Roppongi is most likely due to the Tokyo Movie Festival taking place last week.

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Kamishibai and the First Superhero – Street Storytelling

Posted in Places by tokyobling on August 15, 2014

Kamishibai (紙芝居) is an old Japanese form of entertainment in which a story is told by a narrator showing colored paper sheets while telling a story to an audience. It first started in temples in the 12th century where monks and nuns would use picture scrolls to tell religious stories to their local parish members. Later professional story tellers would travel around the country first on foot and later by bicycle with their wooden boxes and story cards. In the recession of the 1920s the tradition surged in popularity as it was a very easy business to get into and allowed unemployed men a chance to earn at least enough money not to starve to death.

The stories told by the Kamishibai narrators were often serialized so that each time they visited a place they could keep telling a story from the point where they stopped last time, like modern day TV drama or comic book! People would be eager to hear the latest chapter in their favorite characters and it was easy for the narrators to adapt to what audiences enjoyed, instant feedback that today’s TV producers can only dream of. One of the first nationwide stories was about one of (if not the first) real superheroes, “Ogon Bat” (or Golden Bat) which was introduced in 1930, quite a few years before Superman or Batman. Ogon Bat had all the things we associate with super heroes today: he fought evil, had a super villain arch enemy, a cape, dressed in tights and had a background story to explain his amazing powers and invulnerability and he has a secret super hero base in the mountains. When he is called upon by a woman in distress, he sets forth to battle evil where it occurs.

Ogon Bat was a God of Justice from the ancient island of Atlantis who was put in suspended animation by the ancient Egyptians when Atlantis was submerged, with the goal of awakening him in the future when his powers would be most needed. His sarcophagus and sleeping body is discovered by a Japanese egyptologists, Dr Yamatone and his assistant, his daughter Marie. In the tomb they are attacked by the evil Mazo and in the struggle the tears of Marie fall on the sleeping body of Ogon Bat, waking him up to once again fight for justice.

Originally Ogon Bat looked quite scary, with a white-golden skull shaped head, a flamboyant costume with a large cape and collar carrying a spanish rapier. His image was later made a little more kid-friendly though, and the rapier was changed into a scepter. Ogon Bat could fly, was invulnerable just like Superman and had his base in Japan, as he followed his friends the Yamatone family back to Japan from Egypt. Terrific story! Ogon Bat was later to become both regular manga, trading cards and even an animated series and a movie in the 1960s. As American entertainment industry has done so many times before in everything from Westerns to Star Wars to Godzilla, I think the time is ripe to dust off this great old superhero!

But back to the Kamishibai. To this day you can sometimes see modern Kamishibai performers at festivals and in parks, mostly on the weekends, entertaining kids and adults. They often sell candy and accept donations for their storytelling. I doubt there are any people living only on Kamishibai these days, but a little money always helps to keep these old traditions alive! I have blogged about Kamishibai before, in Yokohama. In the comments to that blog post there was a link to a photo of this man who narrates comic books from his portable library to anyone willing to listen. I mention this because I ran into the very same man in Shimokitazawa last Sunday in mid-story. If you don’t know what he is doing it is most likely you will mistake him for a lunatic but he is in fact very entertaining.

I saw this Kamishibai artist, one of the most famous in Tokyo at this year’s Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa back in May. Here he is telling the story of Ogon Bat (黄金バット)!

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Kamishibai in Asakusa by Tokyobling is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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