Kyoto in the rain

 

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Kyoto station’s Christmas tree!

On the morning of the 23rd, a national holiday in Japan, we took a train out to Kyoto. The train ride went smoothly, and with the exception to the heavy rain, we had a pleasant stay. We started out with something to eat before heading over to see the castle.  The meal was some quality beef from Miyagi-ken! The restaurant is actually a chain one, and can be found near most Japanese stations. There is actually one near where I live. The name is however, on the tip of my tongue.

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Beef dishes can be expensive in Japan

Nijo Castle in Kyoto actually doesn’t look like a castle. Traditionally, this is how most castles in Japan looked like due to the influence of Buddhism. Nobunaga and other warring state generals changed how Japanese castles look. This castle definitely felt more like a temple or a shrine than a warring castle. However, the interiors were very similar!

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What a shape?!

It was a very rainy day, but the castle grounds were still as beautiful as ever. The rain was making it difficult to shoot on this day, so I didn’t take many shots. Unfortunately, photos are prohibited inside Nijo Castle. The walk from the JR station can be a bit far, but there was a subway nearby.

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Small store, big on culture.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Kyoani shop, located just below the actual studio! The rain was really heavy about now, and I was slightly disappointed about its size. However, there were rare things to be found here. Particularly posters and board games from older series! However, 50% of the store was made up of Free merchandise. I haven’t seen the show yet.

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I love chain Pizza restaurants! Especially, all you can eat ones. The wacky Japanese flavors and side menus!

We headed to the covered shopping area afterwards. Turns out there was a convenient station right by the Kyoani store. I didn’t have to get wet anymore and all we could eat Pizza was available before Blitz had to head home and get ready for work the next day.

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Kyoto Tower at night

On our walk back to the hotel and Kyoto station we got to have one look at the illuminated tower. I don’t usually stay the night in Kyoto and this was probably my second time ever seeing it. Quite a wet and eventful day with a lot of eats and sights. The prices were reasonable for what we did and see. The castle didn’t cost much and we got to enjoy a sweet sake drink with small amounts of alcohol. The next day we would begin our roadtrip to Western Japan! Note: All pictures were taken with an iPad on this day.

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Breakfast for the next day!

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Our rental car. A Honda Fit!

Kiso Valley in Nagano

Between Nagano, Nagoya, and Gifu lays a volcano responsible for over 50 deaths in 2014.  It was a tragic event, and some may say Mt. Ontake’s eruption a precursor to Mt. Fuji’s future eruption. However, only several dozen kilometers away, lays a cultural Easter basket of homes belonging to an era bygone.

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I had a chance to make my way up to this rice paddy dominated area, to take in the beautiful river, mountains and even waterfalls. Kiso Valley is famous for it’s long hiking trail, which runs through all that nature and a beautiful town. Tsumago and Magome are town’s very closely linked by trails, while Narai, the richer and bigger town, is further North closer to Nagano.

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Lined along the trail are sweet shops which serve a variety of ice cream in regular flavors and green tea flavors. Snacks and drinks are also available, but my favorite shop, felt like an old cafe from the 80’s with a small arcade table with the game Invaders built in.

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We were fortunate enough to be able to drive through all the areas including the waterfall. There was no shortage of parking, but the hot weather made walking through certain parts rougher. The waterfall areas were much cooler, and allowed us to enjoy beautiful photography shots with a cool breeze.

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Many of the towns in the area are sleepy, but had enough car traffic to warrant an Aeon supermarket in one of them. Although smaller, it was pretty much an Aeon in essence. The most beautiful scenery came from the setting sun, which illuminated everything in an euphoric glow.

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Nagoya’s World Summit of Cosplay 2015

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Make way established international events, this stealthy, but growing trend is breaking its way to become one of the biggest annual events in the 21st century. The 12th annual World Cosplay Summit took place on August 1st. While certainly, there have been events that fade to fad-om, this summit is here to stay.  Nagoya is not a city known for much, except for Toyota and former military production centers.  However, the former mayor has made it important to put Nagoya on the map, as the 3rd biggest city in Japan, Nagoya finally has an event Osaka and Tokyo would die for.DSC02599

Beginning with only 3 countries in 2003, the World Cosplay Summit has risen to 26 countries as of 2015. When the WCS finally hit 7 competing countries in 2005, they began to hold Championship events for prizes.  Brazil and Italy are tied for 1st with 3 wins each respectively, while Japan comes in a close 2nd.  France and Russia have one title respectively. I had the chance to see Italy win in the previous years and had to agree, they deserved the title for their brilliant performance in 2013.

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Who’s turn was it to win this year? Anime, manga and video game themes filled the Oasis21 lobbies and Osu parade. Most were just fans dressed up, but the professionals stood out with their homemade, colorful and in some cases gigantic weapons and armor. What contestants wore looked better than anything one could buy from any shop, these people were professional tailors and prop makers at heart.  I had a chance to cosplay in 2013 and this year as well, but my store bought clothes came nowhere close to their heart-filled efforts. This years event was slightly different from last year, as it would finally be held indoors with air conditioning.  Previously years had contestants wear their costumes in 35 degrees weather and in humid conditions, which combined with stress and exhaustion is quite dangerous! However, if people didn’t want to pay for tickets they could still watch it outside for free.

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The most popular winners in previously years had cosplayed and performed as the Legend of Zelda characters.  The cosplayers, had to put on a play which best represented the characters they were dressed as. Creativity,dress, authenticity, and design were key in winning.  Therefore, it was no surprise that another Legend of Zelda team won this year. This time it was from the Legend of Zelda’s Majora’s Mask. However, the biggest surprise this year was that the winners this year would be a latino country! Before they announced the winners, Mexico had secured the Nico Nico Live stream award. Then they were in tears as their name was read out for they had won Mexico’s first ever WCS grand prize.  They were filled with unbelievable joy for they were not only the North American champions, but the World champions as well!

DSC02574DSC02587My favorite performers were different, I preferred the Gurren Lagaan performance by Hong Kong. They combined real life and manga flawlessly, their battle and costumes lit up the room. The way they brought people back to the series won them loudest cheers. As I exited my press seat and the building, I learned that there were many fans happy to pose with them outside.  I didn’t have the chance to take great pictures outside the actual event, but I did take many at the Meijimura cosplay event one week before hand and the Osu parade. This year, it was incredibly more crowded than previous years for anime, manga and games continue to rise in popularity in Japan and world wide!

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