Friday, November 20, 2015

If You're Happy And You Know It

Ride a bike!

(But not in Toronto, in winter.)

It really is unapologetically pink...I guess I see why M was so dismayed when they opened this sucker up at Calgary Airport!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Young and the Chariotless

When I once again set foot on Canadian soil in August of 2010, basically the very first thing I did was purchase a bicycle. Having a new bike right away, I hoped, would take away the sting of leaving behind my mama-chari in Osaka, at the very last minute, as I hastily dropped the keys with a Post-It note on my co-worker's desk on the final day. Basically, I needed the bike right up until that day, and I didn't have time to deal with boxing it up for transport across the Pacific. I thought that at least if I left it at school, it would be used by someone, and perhaps someday I would see it again. I took the second key home with me, just in case.

The first week back home, I bought a cheap Wal-Mart bicycle. I needed to get to work, and I'd become accustomed to the independence of travelling by bike. I also bought a helmet, because unlike in Japan, I was significantly more concerned about being hit by a car. It was a Raleigh five-speed cruiser, and not an expensive one; it did have a partial chain guard, which was the main thing I was missing about my mama-chari at the time, as I remembered ripping up a few pairs of jeans on my mountain bike as a youth. It also had the curved handlebars I liked in cruisers. 

I have to assume the Japanese adapted their bicycles from European ones, as they were trading with the Netherlands as early as the 1600s; and Japanese bikes bear strong similarities to Dutch ones, from the covered chain guard to the skirt guard, both of which are very uncommon in North America. Fender mudflaps and rear racks occasionally show up on American-made bikes, but are standard in Japan, along with the rear wheel lock and ubiquitous front basket.  I would have liked to have had a bike with all the trimmings, but I had to settle for what Wal-Mart had in their inventory at the time. In retrospect, I was actually lucky to get a bike that had two out of the six features I wanted. I installed the rear rack and basket myself.

Eventually, as all Wal-Mart bikes are wont to do, it began losing steam in its 4th year, and during a particularly rough trip into the Nordheimer Ravine one autumn, my jacket fell out of my rear basket and twirled itself around the derailleur, which fortunately did not end in my dying in the ravine. The bike was never particularly great at switching gears again.

Dutch in action at Casa Loma
But we're going off on a tangent. As I searched for a replacement to my bike (I had moved to Toronto by then - taking the bike with me, wrapped in a tarp - so I had many more options) I decided that it had to be Dutch or nothing. I wanted a skirt guard; I wanted a proper rear rack. I walked down Bloor Street taking photos of bikes I liked and jotting down their make and model to Google later. I never walked by a bike without giving it a once-over. To my surprise, though, the premium to get such luxuries as full chain guards required paying CAD $600+ for the bike. As I looked at bike shop after bike shop, almost buying a Giant-brand Liv Simple, I realized that I would never be able to tick all the boxes affordably. I finally settled for a step-through Beater Bike, with a partial chain, and a rear rack at least. What I hadn't bargained on was how much less hill-friendly the Beater was going to be compared to my Raleigh, with its fat tires and five speeds. The Beater, gorgeous though it was, was useless on hills, and the tires were the perfect size for getting caught in streetcar tracks. Riding it was exhausting. So I went back to the drawing board, formulating a plan for my trip to Japan in February to just buy a cheap mama-chari, have them box it up right in the shop, walk it to the post office and pay to have it sent home. I figured I'd be out $150 for the bike, $50 for domestic, $100 for the international shipping. Maybe a bit from customs on the other side. That sounded a lot better than the $600-ish I was pricing for Dutch-style bikes with gears in Toronto.

I think you guys already know this is going to go downhill.

I left it until the last minute. I looked at bikes at Asahi Cycle in Rinku Town and Tokyo, but I never spotted one close to a post office. Eventually, when I was on my own in Tokyo with just 1 day left in the trip, I realized this wasn't going to work. I got home, went on Rakuten and found a seller that did international shipping for Daiwa bikes, and I bought a cute pink Nana+ bike. No need to drag anything to the post office myself! They shipped to Canada!

...except that they only shipped to Canada through their proxy service. I had used Tenso before, but not in a few years, and the hoops they had me jump through just to get the bike shipped anywhere were out of this world. I waited two weeks without seeing my item appear on the "my page" section, even though the domestic shipping said it'd been delivered. I emailed them, and had no response for days. I emailed again, and still nothing! What!? I started to worry that maybe this company was less reputable than I originally thought. I sent a third help request, which got a response at last, and was informed that since it was oversized, they hadn't yet connected it to my account, oh, and also it was too oversized to be shipped abroad. It had arrived fully assembled. I learned later that this is the standard for bike shops. Tenso said they were unable to downsize it for me by removing the pedals/turning the handlebars as they were not trained to do so.

From there we began the lengthy process of finding a solution where I wasn't out $200+. They offered to ship it elsewhere in Japan for me, but in order to do that, I had to verify my address in Canada. Mind you, I'd already done that when I bought things through Tenso in the past, but it had to be done again, including scans of my driver's license and the receipt of a postcard at my mailing address. Only when they were satisfied that I really lived at my address in Toronto would they allow me to redirect the bike to a friend in Tokyo.

I don't have tons of friends in Japan whom I'd be comfortable asking for a favour so large as "can you receive this bike in the mail, take it to a bike shop to take it apart, and put it back in the mail?" and even fewer that I wouldn't mind being laughed at by. (As genuinely fond as I am of my co-workers at 〇〇 High School, and as much as they already knew I was quirky, I prefer not to be remembered as "that one that asked me to ship a bike to her".) In the end, I asked my friend Nicole, of Irish Chocolate fame. She returned to Japan after leaving 〇〇 University and is now an English teacher in Chiba. She saved me from a separate mishap involving Mister Donut cups (better write about that someday) and so I thought might be able to intervene again. Luckily for me, Nicole agreed, and some time later my bike appeared, fully formed, at her apartment.

Nicole, bless her, bought a bike-sized cardboard box online and wheeled it all down to her local shop, where they took it apart and packed it up. Then she brought it back (how!?!?) and called Japan Post for an at-home pickup. didn't fall within Japan Post's size guidelines. The JP Post guys returned two hours later with the box in tow. It was too big! She reported that it would have to be done via a commercial shipping company like FedEx. Now we were getting way, way too expensive, and I wasn't sure what to do next. I'd already sunk more money into the box and the domestic shipping to Nicole, and the losses were too big for me to cut now. We decided to Frankenstein the box to make it smaller, since that approach worked for Emily when she sent her kotatsu home, but after some measuring, it literally needed to be half the size. Nicole promised to look up some options when she got home from her vacation in Europe.

I decided to take a different tactic. My roommate, M, had made plans to go to Japan for a concert in October. I decided to ask her if she'd check the bike as her second piece of luggage (oversized). She agreed without too much protest, to my relief, and so I asked Nicole to have the bike courier to Narita Airport instead. Surprise - the luggage shipping company that we usually use for the airport, doesn't accept bikes. Nicole had to call JAL ABC, because apparently Sagawa thought we were asking them to ship some expensive French racing bike worth $8,000 and not the little steel mama-chari I bought at Daiwa Cycle for under two hundred bucks. Luckily JAL ABC agreed to take it (after warning me about a COD fee) and it was delivered to Narita on the day M was to return to Canada.

Ah, but it's not over yet! As I gallivanted through Montreal on a rainy Saturday night, just before midnight, my cell phone alarm went off, reminding me that "M Is At The Airport Right Now." And then there's an email in my inbox dated 30 minutes prior, saying "Does your bike have suspension? Because if it does, I can't take it with me." Followed by, "If you don't answer soon, I have to leave." Oh noooooooo--

I emailed back as quickly as my thumbs would function, NO, NO SUSPENSION


After all, what was the next step if the bike got stranded at the airport? Call ABC and try to convince them to ship it back to Nicole (I really wanted to stop bugging her) or to another friend? Jes kindly agreed to receive it when I sent a desperate-sounding email asking for her address, but I didn't want to face the phone call where I explained that I, an uninvolved third party, wanted to use a foreign credit card to have this package sent not back to the sender or recipient but to someone else altogether. Also, what was Jes going to do when she got it? It was just too big!

Luckily, M hadn't checked in yet, and decided to forge ahead. Air Canada, bless them, accepted the box without complaint, and it was successfully on its way to Canada at last. I waited until 2:30 AM for the inevitable email about something going wrong, before finally dropping off to sleep. In the morning I called for an airport van cab, and then I called the bike shop to arrange assembly, and then I recruited a friend with a car. BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE.

It wasn't until she arrived in Calgary and they opened the box for inspection that M realized the extent to which I had thrown her under the bus.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

VHS Tape Bonanza

A box of tapes on their way out of the library
The Japan Foundation Toronto is moving, and though that means a lot of changes and adjustments for those of us who found Bloor and Avenue pretty convenient, the upside is that the library is overhauling, which means clearing out old items, which means VHS TAPE GIVEAWAYS.

You might have guessed from my persistent interest in all things retro, that I have just a teensy bit of nostalgia for decades past, with the 80s/90s (my formative years) entrenched firmly at the top. That means I don't just treasure the memories of taping my favourite shows on the family VCR - I still own the family VCR. I actually received a VCR-DVD combo unit for Christmas of 2013! However, 99% of my tape collection is at my parents' house, so I left it there to begin the long project of dubbing dozens of old favourites onto DVD whenever I visit them for the holidays.

So, when the Japan Foundation Toronto decided to get rid of most of its videotape collection to save space...well, needless to say, the airport x-ray techs probably got a kick out of my suitcase as it went through the scanner on my most recent trip back home. It was so hard to resist! I found some fabulous Tokyo-in-the-late-80s-early-90s snapshots with videos like Neighborhood Tokyo, Tokyo Date, NHK The News 1985 and Norimono Ippai. Lots of glamour shots of the pre-extension Yurikamome Line in that last one. I also scored the Ichikawa classic Tokyo Olympiad, and four out of a set of Japanese recent-history programs covering events like the Hanshin earthquake, the marriage of the crown Prince (now Emperor), and the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123, which was actually just in the newspaper here, as the 30th anniversary was yesterday.

All in all, a pretty impressive bounty of pre-millennial pop culture. I'm sad that these tapes can't be borrowed from the JFT library anymore, but on the other hand, it was good timing for me, because I was able to take the time to watch and enjoy them all, and they won't end up in a landfill, either. I was happy to see how quickly the rest of the tapes (there were at least 500 given away over two days) were picked up by other patrons to take home.

Looks like at least a few others out there still have VCRs!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ajimu Adventure

For my 2011 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project, I decided to write a story about small-town Japan. I had written a story set in Tokyo for a previous year, and I wanted to go in a different direction, even though I had very little experience with small-town life. (〇〇 City is not exactly the size of Osaka, but it's very, very far from being inaka.)

I enjoy research - I'm the sort of person who will get caught up for hours on a winding path of Wikipedia articles. I particularly like learning about urban development, and trains. (I probably have a massive article due in the near future about our train journey from Hokkaido to Kyushu taken in February.) So for me, not knowing much beyond the JET Journal perspective on inaka life was not a deterrent, but a challenge!

While preparing for NaNo this time, I decided to choose a place I was interested in, and then do the research to make the setting plausible. I had of course lived in Osaka and I had written extensively about Tokyo the previous year, so it was time to go further afield, and there was an obvious first choice. I'd recently re-read Ash by Holly Thompson (set partially in Kumamoto), and also discovered the blog nipponDAZE, which chronicles JET life in Oita-ken in the 90s. Kyushu was right up my alley, and I was sure there had to be a town somewhere near Beppu - where Emily and I spent New Year's in 2010 - that a disillusioned exchange student might find her calling in. A few Google searches of JET blogs in Oita turned up a match in the town of Ajimu, recently merged into the greater city of Usa, with a population short of 8,000 people and no train station of its own. At the time, it was not available on Google Street View. (It is now, if you want to have a look.) I made email contact with a JET alumni who had a fabulous website - I'm sure Joel never expected anyone would try to write a novel based only on his blog's descriptions of Ajimu - and started from there.

As with any NaNo project, of course, November ended and then I was slammed with the JLPT, prepping for Christmas, nengajo, and the usual writer's burnout that comes when you devote 30,000 words to a topic and then realize you don't know where the story is going. So I never quite finished the tale, though I intend to go back and revisit it for NaNo 2015. 

Brother Google watches over our travels.
With that said, Ajimu was at the forefront of my mind when I planned my two weeks in Japan this past February. In 2011, I often daydreamed about quitting my telephone job and moving to Kyushu to write the great Japan-set YA novel, living at Khaosan Beppu and trading cleaning services for room and board. Or, if I had some savings, in a little one-room apartment with a tatami floor, because I'm still not over that. By 2015, though, I was at a different point in my life, and there wasn't much chance of getting a lot of time for creativity while travelling. I decided to somehow fit Ajimu - even though I had never driven a car in Japan, and our primary destination was Hokkaido - into the trip. My travelling companion had little interest in hot springs, but Kyushu was close to my heart now, and she obliged me, for whatever reason. I applied for an international drivers' license and booked us two nights in a ryokan, following our day in Kyoto. We worked an almost-nonstop pace from Sapporo to Beppu, via blue train and shinkansen, in three days. 

Alighting in Beppu, Cassie and I spent the night, then rented a car the following morning for my "research trip." (She manned the camera and is responsible for most of the photos below.) We spent four hours wandering and driving in the area without any direction at all, just exploring. At first, I really thought I was imposing, because we could have been at the Hells in Beppu by that point, or - so I imagined Cass would prefer - way back in Nakano Broadway, working the gatchapon machines. Somehow, though, Ajimu became a grand adventure. The tiny, run-down shrine on the cliffs, the bronze turtle statues, the quest to find some restaurant - any restaurant - to eat at - we were soon laughing and snapping photos of everything, getting lost, running away from adults who we thought might be suspicious of gaijin taking pictures of the school, and slowly navigating hairpin curves in the road while the super-confident local drivers leaned on their horns behind us. Oh yeah, and going through the ETC toll lane by accident and bringing all toll operations to a halt while we tried to sort out what was going on. (The rental car had an ETC broadcaster, but no card in it.) We were actually very sad to leave Ajimu without seeing it all, but had another appointment to keep in Beppu that afternoon.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the highlight of the trip, particularly for Kyushu - the rain would start pouring that evening and chase us all the way back to Kansai. And a good memory. I hope if you've been to Ajimu town, you'll enjoy our photo memories of the day.

Arriving from the highway

Cassie mans the camera while I drive down what we think is the main road

Small-town feel

We're keeping an eye out for places characters might visit

These apartment buildings look like someplace a JET might live!

We asked the GPS to take us to the post office, and so we pulled in here to decide where next it turned out, we were RIGHT beside the school!

A peek inside the baseball clubhouse (?)

School view

School from the opposite side

Ajimu's famous for its wine, and turtle soup. Grapes are everywhere!

Street shots

I thought this was very striking

Great mansion name!

Decided to drive over this bridge and see what was on the other side

Turtles on the bridge

Neither of us can resist torii gates

Not the same gate. This one appeared on the other side of the tunnel you see above, and leads up the mountain. We decided to climb the stairs; see what we could find

I was not expecting to find a Peace Pole here

Had we come six weeks later, this place would undoubtedly be flush with sakura

Stone tablets at Sanjo shrine

Seems to be falling into disrepair. We didn't see anyone else at all, either

Strolling on the shrine grounds

Sanjo shrine grounds

A weathered path

This river borders the town in the northwest

Back in the car to continue adventuring
A winery? Or could it be something like the Town Hall?

We drove to the next town by accident

This was a fun-looking spot!

"Walking in Ajimu."

On the outskirts of town, now; ready to return to Beppu
But first, lunch at the Konoiwanoshō

I really wanted ice cream...
Plenty of the Ajimu special; turtle soup (I just had the dangojiru)

Thanks, Ajimu! See you again!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

So the JLPT

Someday I will know my results.
Another JLPT come and gone, and results came out this week. I always resolve to talk a little bit more about it after I take the test, because honestly, something seems to get lost in the shuffle every time...with National Novel Writing Month happening in November, I often end up not thinking about the JLPT at all between October 31 and December 1. Not a great habit, I know, but one of these years...

The JLPT in Toronto administered by York University is one of two locations where the test is given in Canada. (The other is in Edmonton, AB.) Now, as a person who lives in The Big Smoke, I have no right to complain about how "far away" York is. (I may have done a little bit of complaining prior to my move here from the Atlantic provinces, though.) I can't even complain about the distance from my house, seeing how I chose to move away from Downsview the year before last. That doesn't mean that on test day, getting to the JLPT is a picnic!

So here is my advice for next year's JLPT applicants; common sense, to be sure, but maybe they're more of a reminder to myself for next year...?

  • Aim to arrive midway through the registration period. The lineups taper off a bit towards the middle and end of the registration period. Of course, you don't want to cut it too close, and have the TTC or something else make you too late to write the test, but too early isn't great either, and you'll be lined up awhile before sitting around for an hour just waiting. And getting nervous. Not to mention that aiming to arrive for 8 AM on a day when the subways are not running (meaning leaving my house at 6:30, meaning rising at 6) is asking for you to open up that test book and be so glassy-eyed that you don't know where to start. Don't panic if something goes wrong and you're going to get there right at the end of registration time. You have a few minutes' leeway while the orientation is taking place!
  • Expect to hear from York not too long after you sign up for the test. I say "not too long" because I'm not positive when it is actually supposed to come; for the last two years, I didn't receive my email with my voucher at all, and I waited far too long expecting it to come before I reached out to them. You need the voucher to write the test. Perhaps even more importantly, if you don't receive the voucher, you should still show up. Last year (2013, that is) I thought about the fact that I didn't have a voucher yet about 2 weeks before, and I contacted JLPT support. I was able to get it. This year (2014) I remembered the night before the test, as I ran through the checklist of things I needed to bring the following morning. That's why I was awake at 2 AM Googling phrases like "forgot JLPT voucher" and "JLPT York reprint voucher" and the like. I weighed whether or not it was going to be necessary to rise at 6 and go to York only to be turned away at the door. Luckily, buried somewhere on the site, I read that vouchers could be reprinted at registration. And I wasn't the only one not to receive their email - the line to reprint vouchers was much longer than any other line that morning. In short: You should receive a voucher with your test number. If you don't receive it within a few weeks of registering, ask. 
  • Bring something to eat. This test is long and the breaks just barely give you enough time to inhale a small snack. Our group had technical difficulties and started late, which meant that our breaks were cut down. (For the final one, the time of the break's end even was shortened and changed after many of us had left the room.) It took much longer to finish the test than expected, by something like 45 minutes, and I was ravenous enough that after every section I was wolfing down Polish chocolate that I had won the night before as a prize at a Polish wedding reception. Not sure what I would have done without that Jezyki Kokos,  Delicje cookies and especially Katarzynki, chocolate-covered soft gingerbreads. I might not be alive right now, without Katarzynki.
As for the test itself, I don't actually know how I did on it. That's because you need the voucher to log in online to see your results, and of course, there's no voucher in my email for me to refer back to. I emailed York to get my voucher number, but the password I was provided (generated by them, not by myself) doesn't work in the login page. So did I pass? Hard to say. I guess I'll find out when the paper results are dispatched the month after next...?

Maybe next year I will be able to choose between the JLPT and NaNoWriMo as a focus. Fingers crossed for the July version making its way eastward someday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Old JLPT Feeling

I will never be an N1 Master
I have quite a few unfinished drafts hanging around in my posting queue...whoops! Things have been very very busy for me lately. I've been working a lot of overtime, ended a relationship, taken up long-distance running, gotten a cat, bought Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. I'm pretty tired most days, so when I come home, I just want to sit at my kotatsu and space out while reading blogs. Except that a lot of the blogs I used to read daily have tapered off in post frequency or, like one of my favourites has, stopped posting entirely. While being frustrated that my daily reading content seems to be vanishing, I failed to consider that perhaps somebody out there actually likes reading my blog and was disappointed to see my posts dwindling. Well!

With that in mind, I decided today was the day for a quick post, though I suppose the topic is rather same old, same old. Last year I took a beating when I walked into the room, sat down, wrote the first section of the test, and then turned around to say to an acquaintance behind me, "Did we come to the N2 room by mistake??" It was a disaster.

This year, I tried to crack the books way back in July, with the intent to study relentlessly until October 31, and then leisurely review during November on days when I didn't have the energy for novel writing. (I don't think it's a coincidence that I have passed the JLPT and won the National Novel Writing Month challenge, but never in the same year.) Suffice to say that it's October 22 now and I'm still on Week 4 of the So-matome grammar book, with two weeks of grammar and six weeks of reading comprehension to go. I did read Chi's Sweet Home, volume 11, on the subway yesterday. That counts as study, right?

What I have been doing is kanji study, thanks to being frequently trapped on buses and trains with nothing to read and no cellphone games installed on my phone. (I was able to safely end my addiction to Hot Springs Story after beating the game for the third time.) Though there are a few apps that I've tried out before to help get daily study in, I think I've finally found "the" app for Android, and it's called KanjiSenpai. I had to turn off the drawing component pretty quickly, but otherwise I'm finding it to be really good. It uses the usual spaced repetition system (SRS) but it seems to be much better at coming back later and making sure I really know the answers to ones I guessed. Plus, it rotates between offering the meanings and the readings of compounds, as well as making you choose between several cards that are very similar, which is great for me. You can also remove cards that you're 100% certain you know - I took out number kanji, for example, and the cardinal directions, days of the week, and other kanji I use in everyday life - but the app is still going to check in with you 500 cards later and make sure you know them. If you've been looking for a good study app that will teach you the kanji rather just quizzing you on what you already learned from a textbook, this is it.

Another good one I had been using before finding KanjiSenpai was TenguGo, which cost me a dollar-something and had an interface I liked well enough. The quizzes came in small, easily-devourable packets (harder to put off studying when you can say "Meh, I'll just do one quiz,") and the tengu threw me a little on-screen party when I finished a certain number. However, it assumed you already knew all the kanji in the quiz. You can opt to "review" items (see the screenshot) but it packs just a bit too much info into its screen, and by the time I got to item #10 I had already forgotten #1. The SRS method is much better for me.

One other app I had been using before I switched to studying grammar via textbook is one called "N3 JLPT PREPARE" (yes, very descriptive) by V-Next software that does kanji, vocab and grammar quizzes. You can choose a quiz with 30 words, 50 words, 70 words, 90 words, 100 words or - not for the faint of heart - 200 words. The search function also seems good at a glance, though I never actually remember to use it. (Google Translate is always too close at hand.) My intent was to come back and use this app to quiz myself once I'd learned enough items to actually pass a quiz. Maybe it's time for a quiz right now!? I'm not getting any younger - and December 7 just gets closer and closer!

Anyone want to share their own recommendations for JLPT study apps?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Photo of the Day - Shinjuku, 1992

Today I was linked to this fantastic HD video on YouTube of Tokyo in 1992. It's so clear! I really dig urban history, so I snapped a few screenshots of my favourite moments. The video includes this nice shot of Shinjuku's Studio ALTA, a look at the Rainbow Bridge during construction (!), and a Shibuya scramble crossing that's so unrecognizable that I didn't even realize right away that I was looking at the entrance to Center Gai. Wow. Check out the video, and for extra credit, have a look at this blog post about Studio ALTA, featuring a photo of the lower half of the building, in 1989!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Japanese Music in Concert

T.M. Revolution performing at Otakon 2012
For a music fan, I'm not willing to expend a lot of energy or cash to go and see a band - in fact, I'm lucky to go to a concert every 3 years at the most, and usually only shell out for nosebleed seats. However, I've actually seen a few really good Japanese bands while living here in North America. I've seen bands that would be playing sold-out shows in Tokyo, and paid next to nothing for them.

The secret is...anime conventions.

Almost all of the big conventions feature a musical act. Here in Toronto, I hit up Anime North every couple of years when they have a particularly interesting guest. I'm also in Baltimore almost every summer, and been able to see some fantastic acts at Otakon. T.M. Revolution, L'Arc~en~Ciel, JAM Project (including Okui Masami and Kageyama Hironobu, for you anisong fans out there!), Home Made Kazoku...all free with the price of admission to the convention. How good is that? When friends in Japan heard that I'd seen L'Arc, live, they were completely bowled over. 

In Osaka and Tokyo, I saw ZARD and AiM and Wada Kouji - now, those last two are definitely a story for another day - but going to a see a big-name show was pretty unlikely. Unlike my friend Brynn, I just don't have that kind of interest in any one band - plus I've been lucky enough to see T.M.R. in the U.S. not once but twice!

Quite a lot of Japanese artists have come to Toronto to perform as well - Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was here a couple of weeks ago, and though someone offered to sell me their tickets at the last minute for cheap, it wasn't enough notice to actually go. Too bad! I also missed out on B'z the year before last, which was really unfortunate. These are fairly big-name artists, though, that it'd be tough to get good tickets for in Tokyo, and here they are performing at the Sound Academy in T.O.!

New York, L.A. and other bigger North American cities also have plenty of Japanese performers who slip under the radar, both at local venues and at cons. The next time you're looking to find some new J-artists, why not check out a convention? You might be surprised at who you can get to see, practically for free!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


But better late than never.