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My Anime Boston 2011 Panels: Hello Kitty Theme Park, Family Geekdom

23 Feb

Dear Daniel at Sanrio Puroland

Hello Kitty's boyfriend (husband?) Dear Daniel, in the Sanrio Puroland afternoon parade

Long-term readers of this blog might just remember that my favorite non-Disney theme park is Sanrio Puroland, the five-story indoor Hello Kitty theme park I visited in 2002.

Sanrio Puroland is located in Tama City, about 30 minutes outside Tokyo. You can take the subway there, if you don’t mind traveling through a good number of stations where the signs are written only in Japanese and Chinese characters. Luckily, I had a Japanese friend in Tokyo who gave me excellent directions, and my then-five-year-old son and I found our way there with little difficulty (the rest of the family decided to spend the day in Tokyo rather than visiting Hello Kitty’s homeland . . . gee, I can’t imagine why!).

This April, at Anime Boston 2011, I’ll be presenting a session titled, “Hello Kitty Holyland: A Personal Journey.” From the not-yet-published Anime Boston 2011 program guide:

Sure, you love Hello Kitty, but did you know she has her very own fivestory indoor theme park in Tama City, a quick commute from Tokyo? And have you ever considered making the ultimate Sanrio pilgrimage? Come to this panel to hear first-hand stories of my journey to this site where gaijin rarely tread with my then-five-year-old son, and watch the super-hard-to-find Sanrio animated and live action video that inspired three generations of my family to cross the Pacific.

If you’re going to be at Anime Boston, stop by to say hello! I’m also presenting as part of The Family That Geeks Together:

Ever wonder about this anime stuff your kids are into? Worried you could never understand all these crazy shows? Wish you could clue the parents into how great your favorite shows are, or why you spend all your free time editing AMVs and haunting costume shops? An actual family – two parents & a 14-year-old – talk about their shared love of anime and cosplay, offering tips on bridging the generation gap from either side. Bring your frustrations and questions, and come away with practical ideas for how to make anime cons a new family tradition.

Detailed information about both these panels, as well as my husband‘s panel on Anime and the Japanese Experience of  War, is available on our family Facebook page.

Would You Love a Disney 3G iPhone?

4 Jan

Pink Tentacle has a summary of a recent DIME magazine article about upcoming events and products expected for Japan in 2008, including this section on Apple and Disney tapping into the Japanese mobile phone market:

Of the countless new electronic products to be unveiled in Japan this year, few are likely to generate the amount of buzz that will accompany the Japanese launch of the yet-to-be-announced 3G iPhone. For the time being, would-be iPhone fans are holding their collective breath for all the gory details and specs, which may or may not come out at MacWorld 2008 (January 14-18).

Disney is also expected to make a splash with its entry into the mobile phone service market in spring. Working with Softbank, Disney will deliver mobile content to subscribers and help to develop new handsets — which means we can probably look forward to an explosion of character-themed phones as the year progresses. (On a separate but related note, Tokyo Disneyland will be holding a year-long celebration to mark its 25th anniversary. Festivities will include the grand opening of the 705-room Victorian-style Tokyo Disneyland Hotel this summer.)

Tangentially, Blue Sky Disney this week spoke of a rumored appearance by Disney at the upcoming MacWorld conference January 14-18:

It’s long been known that the Mouse has been having a closer and closer relationship with the Fruit company. There has been speculation that in the next year or so Apple could possibly come out with a version of Disney Mobile or Disney “branded” iPhone/iPod but no tangible proof is available yet. Mr. Reality-Distortion-Field has been making his presence known in the Boardroom.

I recently picked up a Crackberry, in the hopes that I can converge both my iPod mini and Palm Pilot into my phone, and therefore have two fewer devices to carry, charge, etc. (While I have at this point completely given up my iPod the overall convergence is still a work in progress, one of the results of which was a long rambling email sent last night at about 2AM to one of my podcasting buddies, ranting about the inconsistent and sometimes strange use of ID3 tags among podcasters in general, not that I’m a geek or anything.) Would I give up my Crackberry sometime down the line if a Disney iPhone became available? Maybe. Even I have limits.

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel Scheduled for 2008 Opening

26 Sep

From Theme Park Insider:

Rooms on the upper three floors of the [planned] nine-story [Tokyo Disneyland] hotel overlook World Bazaar (the TDL Main Street) and will have a prime view of Cinderella Castle and the fireworks show. Conversely, guests will be able to see some of the top floors of the hotel from the Park’s hub.

Man. As if I really needed another reason to want to go back to Tokyo!

Tokyo Dancing Storm Trooper

5 Sep

This is why I need to move to Tokyo. Akihabara, to be more specific. Now.

Hat tip to Silent Kimbly, yay!

Peter Pan Got it Right: Growing Up is Overrated

9 Jan

The Japan Times reports that Adulthood day turnout hovers near record low. But the turnout is only low as a percentage of the overall population . . . people are still celebrating this holiday, it’s just that there aren’t as many people in this particular demographic niche.

About 1.39 million Japanese — some 720,000 men and 670,000 women — reached that milestone in 2006, about 30,000 more than the smallest group on record did in 1987, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a recent statement.

Tokyo Disneyland’s Coming of Age Day events were fairly well attended:

At Tokyo Disneyland, where the Urayasu Municipal Government in Chiba Prefecture held its official ceremony, about 1,200 people, or about 76 percent of the new adults living in the city, took part. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters celebrated the occasion with them.

Makes sense to me, but then again, I celebrated my fortieth birthday cruising the skies of London with Tinker Bell.

Tokyo Disneyland Brings Halloween to Japan

30 Oct

Reuters India has an interesting piece about Halloween in Japan, which attributes the celebration of this holiday to the influence of Tokyo Disneyland. Um, cultural imperialism, anyone?

Most people trace the start of Halloween in Japan to Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983. The same year, a Tokyo toy store sponsored the first “Harajuku Pumpkin Parade”, now an annual event in a Tokyo shopping area popular with youth.

Merchandisers have seized on Halloween as a welcome oasis in a long dry stretch from the summer holidays to Christmas.

“After all, in October there’s nothing else to catch anybody’s attention,” said Masako Asaji, who has filled her restaurant’s window with tiny Jack o’lanterns.

(Wow, Harajuku Pumpkin Parade . . . I can only imagine the fashion. After all, this is the neighborhood which brought us Gothic Lolita style.)

Now, I know that cultural imperialism is a strong charge to wave around, and having wandered the ultra-cosmopolitan streets of Tokyo, I’ve seen wonderful adaptations of gaijin fashions and cultural traditions. But I can’t help seeing this against the backdrop of the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa.

Sanrio Puroland: My Favorite Non-Disney Theme Park

23 Sep

Astute readers may have noticed that I go by the name Kitty-chan, which is the way the Japanese refer to Hello Kitty. And yes, there’s a story here. In addition to being a Disney fan, I’m a bit of a Sanrio geek as well, which has also had some impact on my family travel agenda.

In June of 2002, my extended family and I spent two weeks in Japan, splitting our time between Tokyo and Kyoto. The trip was amazing, truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We visited temples, rode the bullet train, found the Toho Studios’ Godzilla statue, visited the truly amazing Arashyama Monkey Park, and visited plenty of other places both on and off the well-beaten tourist path. (Note: images below are all thumbnails — click on them for larger image.)
Night on the Ginza
My son, then five, in the Ginza

But the attraction that spurred my interest in visiting this beautiful and varied country in the first place? Sanrio Puroland, a five-story indoor theme park dedicated to Hello Kitty and her friends. I’d seen a commercial for the park at the end of a Hello Kitty video my brother-in-law had brought back from Tokyo for me, and I was hooked.
Sanrio Puroland is located in Tama City, about 30 minutes outside Tokyo. You can take the subway there, if you don’t mind traveling through a good number of stations where the signs are written only in Japanese and Chinese characters. Luckily, I had a Japanese friend in Tokyo who gave me excellent directions, and my then-five-year-old son and I found our way there with little difficulty (the rest of the family decided to spend the day in Tokyo rather than visiting Hello Kitty’s homeland . . . gee, I can’t imagine why!).

I didn’t see any signs for Sanrio Puroland when we exited the train, so we just started walking and hoped we’d see the place. I will never forget the moment we turned the corner and saw the building, coming over the horizon looking like a sickly-sweet birthday cake.

Sanrio Puroland

We stumbled around for a bit looking for the entrance, and when we finally found it, we were greeted warmly but not without confusion by the cashier, as I fumbled my way through basic Japanese to buy tickets. I understood her confusion once we entered the theme park: it was populated almost entirely by Japanese women and their very young children. My son, even at 5 years old, towered above the others, and of course we were both quite obviously gaijin. But no matter, I was entranced, and part of the appeal for me was to have a thoroughly non-American theme park experience (I was saving Tokyo Disneyland for later in the trip).

Once we’d recovered from the initial shock and excitement, we grabbed a bite to eat (no easy feat, given my lack of significant Japanese language skills), and then hit the arcade to play a few games. I was glad to see that my favorite Sanrio character, Badtz-Maru, was well-represented.

Badtz Maru Basketball

Badtz Maru and Friend

Another Badtz Game

We then moved along to the feature attraction, the Sanrio character boat ride. Oh. My. God. Every Sanrio character you can think of, and then some.

Monkichi
Monkichi!

Keroppi
Keroppi!

Purin!
Pom Pom Purin! (Surrounded by the pleasantly strong aroma of baking cake, no less!)

Bad Badtz Maru
And the infamous, the well-loved, Bad Badtz-Maru!

But was the day over? Oh no no no. It was time for the afternoon parade! Now, being an indoor theme park, Puroland can darken the room at 2PM and hve a “nighttime” parade. The costumes were stylish, the choreography strangely stunning. We sat on the floor, surrounded by people who no doubt wondered what on earth these gaijin were doing here, and watched enrapt as Hello Kitty and her various dancing friends came through.

Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty!

Dear Daniel
Dear Daniel!

Badtz and Friend
Bad Badtz-Maru, and an attractively-dressed friend!

And alas, as the parade ended, so did our energy; jet lag was taking its toll, as was the contact culture shock and excitement of visiting Japan. So, it was time to head back to the subway. But not without a hug goodbye for a new friend.

Hello Kitty's Grandfather

Now, you might think that our little adventure at Sanrio Puroland would have quenched my thirst for all things Sanrio. You, dear reader, would be wrong. I haven’t been back to Japan since that trip, but when I do return, I’ve got a new destination in mind. Sanrio Harmonyland is located in Oita prefecture, in the southern part of the country where many Japanese vacation. There’s footage of Harmonyland in that same commercial that got me hooked on Puroland in the first place. Since Japan is such a beautiful and welcoming place to visit, how can I resist?

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