Archive for the 'Shops' Category

Okazaki City

Miso Factory Museum

Okazaki is a mid-size city located in the Aichi Prefecture, 30 minutes from Nagoya. The city has a population of approximately 350,000 people. My first impression of the city was a rather funny one because the first landmark I encountered was actually a Denny’s restaurant. It’s not exactly the kind of building that one associates with Japan. But since I was hungry and was too afraid of entering other restaurants, I went to Denny’s and ordered a Flower-topped hamburger (just because I’ve always wanted to try it – Thanks, Rozen Maiden!) and a dessert containing Nata De Coco.

Next to Denny’s there is a 100-yen shop called ‘Daiso’. I would eventually peruse this store many times to buy several things from notebooks to buckets because everything was so cheap (generally only costs 100 Yen). Looking back, I really miss these two places. I often went to these places with my friends either by bike or by walking from the student accommodation. We often stayed until late or came really late at night (1 am) just to study at Denny’s. The place was open until 4am so if we felt hungry, we could always order something there.

My first major trip within the city was a visit to the Miso Factory. Apart from fireworks, Okazaki is also known for its Hatcho-Miso. There is actually a Miso factory not far from the Okazaki Castle. So one day, my friends and I decided to give the place a ring and see if we can take a look at the factory/museum. It was quite memorable for me because it was the first time many of us knew each other. It was quite awkward at first but we really had fun cycling together and tasting some unusual Miso products such as Miso Ice cream (it was really good actually).

Denny'sFruit IceGyoza restaurant
Japanese houseMini ShrineRainy day

I also like some of the houses that we got to see in the city. These houses are not exactly traditional houses but they retain some of the Japanese characteristics that made them look different from houses in other countries. For example, I often encountered this small mini shrine in front of a house. I’m not exactly sure about the function of the shrine but it’s really beautiful to look at. I noticed similar shrine in front of the Miso Factory and in some other places. So maybe they serve as some kind of protection for the place.

When we’re not busy studying at the school, we often went out and explored the city. Some of the unusual building we encountered includes a place called ‘Wedding Plaza’. Apparently it’s a plaza where people go to shop for their entire wedding needs. I thought it was quite amusing because here’s this one big plaza and it sells nothing but wedding supplies. There is also a church next to the plaza and at one point I did see a wedding took place inside the church. So all in all, the area is one handy location for people who want to get married.

Okazaki also has some small temples scattered all around the city. The nicest one, in my opinion, is this small one located not far from Okazaki Castle/Park. I accidentally stumbled upon it while I was looking for Okazaki Castle. It’s such a small and quiet temple. At a glance, it looks deserted but the temple was in a rather good condition so I think it’s simply not used that often. But other than that, it is quite functional. I tried to take a panoramic shot of the temple and you can check it out below after I stitched them using photo manipulation program.

Wedding PlazaTempleFunny Car

I have so many memorable moments of this city. One of the moments was this one rainy night where we all went to an all-you-can-eat restaurant to bid farewell to two friends who were leaving earlier than the rest of us. It was a nightmare walking to the restaurant in such heavy rain. But we all had good fun even though the event itself was a reminder that many of us would soon leave the city as well. I also still remember going to Karaoke with these guys or going on a 5+ hours bike ride to somewhere outside the city.

These days, I can’t help but missing the city every now and then. Every time I open my Japanese textbook, for some reason I’m being reminded of the time I spent together with the friends that I made in that city. I actually try not to remember it as much because doing so makes me a bit depressed. I know that none of us who came to this city will ever have a similar experience like the one we had a few months ago. All of us are now living in a different country and doing different things. I even wonder if some of my friends still remember about it.

I often think it’d be nice if we can see each other again. But even if we plan some kind of a reunion, the chances that all of us can make it to the city within the same time frame is quite small. I mean some of my friends are now busy studying at University while others are interested in going to other countries to do working holiday. Oh well, I think it was one of those rare experiences that most of us don’t get to experience more than once and besides, I’m still in contact with some of those friends. I do want to go back this city again one day just to relive it all over again.

17/7/08 Addendum: I just read the whole article through again and realized how sappy the whole article sounds. Having said that, it really was one of the best times in my life and I was lucky to have had the chance to experience it. It’s hard to believe that 3 years have passed since I last spent my time there.


Anime shops


I’ve been wondering lately what I want to do with this blog. Personally I feel guilty for neglecting it. It feels as if the blog is incomplete. Because of this, I decided to continue blogging what I saw/experienced while I was in Japan. Of course since I am not in Japan anymore, what you read is no longer up to date. But I don’t think it matters, at least not for me. I simply want to turn this into some kind of journal which I can read back and reminiscence. Hopefully by the time I almost run out of things to talk about, it’ll be time for me to go back to Japan again. :)

With that in mind, I’ll just start with a post about anime shops. The first anime shop I visited was Soft in Akihabara. Since that was the first time I entered a full-on anime store, I was a bit shocked to see a store full of nothing but anime and anime related goods. If I remember correctly, the first level is dedicated to manga, the second level is for anime and games, the third level is for hobby kits, and I can’t remember what’s on the fourth and fifth or if those levels actually exist. Either way, it was one hell of an eye opener for me.

When I think about it, it’s weird that I didn’t buy anything back then. I was probably a bit overwhelmed by the sights and too busy looking for a PSP. In addition to this, I had to spent 2.5 months in Okazaki, so I was afraid that I’d run out of money unless I only buy what I really needed. However, during the four days of my stay in Tokyo, I went at least 3 times to Akihabara just to look around the stores. I managed to get some photos but since I was always in a hurry and tried not to use flash, the pictures ended up blurry.

Lamtara shopCapsule toys
Capsule toysBleach fans

My second visit to an anime shop happened when I went to Nagoya with a friend. We were actually looking for a denshi-jisho (electronic dictionary) and a digital camera. However, on our way to the electronic shop, we got lost and stumbled upon a big Animate shop. He’s actually not a big anime fan since the only anime he’s seen were Full Metal Alchemist and Honey and Clover. Nevertheless, he’s nice enough to put up with me when I told him that I want to see the shop for ’5 minutes’. In reality, we probably spent at least 20 minutes inside the shop since the shop is quite big.

The first floor contains mostly manga and I wasn’t in the mood to buy any so we went to the second floor which has a lot of Shitajiki (Pencil Board). Looking back, I really regret the fact that I didn’t buy the Yakitate!! Japan pencilboard while I was there. I wanted to buy the Tsukino and Kawachi one but once again, my tight budget forced me to think “I’ll buy it later before I leave Japan”. I never did. I saw a lot of Mai-Hime pencilboard but the pictures don’t look that special to me and I was still bitter from the ending, so they didn’t register on my ‘must-purchase list’.

Anyway, we then went to the anime section of the shop. I noticed a lot of Air boxsets. Who the hell said that this thing is hard to get? There were a lot of unsold Air boxsets in almost every anime shop I went to. There are also a lot of other rare boxsets there, but strangely, I didn’t feel the desire to purchase any of them. Maybe the amount of anime available in that shop took its toll on me. It started to become not special anymore. By the time we got to the figurine section in the third or fourth floor (can’t remember), I felt that I’ve had enough and we both exited the shop without buying anything.

DVD boxsetsIn front of Animate shopCapsule stations
Jump ShopJump ShopJump Shop

When we got out of the shop, we noticed that there are a lot of capsule stations lining up in front of the shops. Capsule station is basically a mini vending machine device that offers various mini-figurines/keychains. Some of these are quite cheap (around 100 Yen) while others can cost you up to 300 Yen. I noticed that there were some Range Murata-designed figurines inside one of those capsules. However, when I found out that they’re not painted, I decided not to waste my 300 Yen on it. I didn’t bother to check the rest of the capsules since by then, I felt bad for my friend who have been patiently following me around while I was browsing the shop.

I actually made a lot of trips back to Nagoya every week while I was in Japan. However, it’s not until the last few weeks before I left the country that I found this nifty little shop called Jump Shop. Judging from the name, I’m sure everyone can guess that this is a shop that specifically sells various goods related to Shounen Jump series such as Naruto, Bleach, and Death Note. One of the things that immediately attracted my attention was this nice-looking figurines of both Ichigo and Orihime. I can’t exactly remember the price but I remember it being quite affordable, had I still have a lot of money. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much left.

It was definitely not fun being in this kind of shop and not having much money. Unfortunately, after buying digital camera, PSP, electronic dictionary, and lots of manga, there’s not much left for other types of souvenirs. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop my spending mentality when I saw these nice-looking Zangetsu and Zabimaru keychains. There are a lot of keychains being sold inside this store but none of them looks like they worth the price that you have to pay. These two, however, look so detailed and exceptional that I ended up buying them despite the relatively expensive price (700 Yen each) in comparison to other keychains (which usually only cost around 200 Yen each).


Night Stalls

Night Stalls

I’m sorry that I haven’t updated this blog for a while. Along with my promise not to publish articles without carefully checking their legibility, there have been some unexpected development here in Japan. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I didn’t expect my study workload to be this heavy. In addition to attending school from 9am to 2.30pm, we are expected to learn many new vocabularies and finish our homework every day. It feels like high school all over again – only far more fun, I think.

On top of this, I also didn’t expect to make new friends while I’m here. But that’s exactly what happened. Back in my country, I barely had the time to socialize with other people since I work from 9 to 5. I do have some friends that I sometimes spend time with. But since all of us have a job, we don’t get together that often. This is why I had quite a lot of time to blog back then. When I first arrived here in Japan, I thought I’ll be using most of my time to study and the rest of the time to blog. However, it wasn’t long before I met some really nice people here.

Candied StrawberriesSmall itemsBaked Fish
Fishing gameIkayakiAtmosphere

Anyway, moving on to the actual story, Japanese night stall is something that I never experienced before I went to Japan. The stalls don’t open until around 6pm-ish, if I remember correctly. The products on offer usually are snack foods like Ikayaki (grilled squid on a stick), Takoyaki, Oden, Candied Apple/Strawberries on a stick, Churos, etc. Unfortunately, the price is rather expensive in comparison to almost similar items you can get at a nearby convenience store. Having said that, I think it’s good to buy them just to soak in the atmosphere. In addition to the food stalls, there are also various game stalls where you can pay 300 yen to try a fishing game, for example.

The night stalls that I went to just happened to be set up not far from the Okazaki Castle. And since I went to the Castle a bit late in the day (around 4pm-ish), by the time I finished taking all of the photographs, the stalls were already opened. I saw a lot of high school students visiting the stalls in pair. I supposed, it is a rather romantic place to spend the time together with your loved one. The place was also filled with working mother/father taking their young children so I got the impression that the place attracts different types of people despite the high number of students that filled the area.


Akihabara and PSP


One of the reasons, sorry scratch that, the main reason that I chose to stay at Asakusa was its close proximity to Akihabara, the one place where electronic, games, and anime fans gather to satisfy their expensive hobby. If you already have an addiction to any of the things mentioned above, it’d take a lot of willpower and restraint to stop yourself from going on shopping spree. I don’t know what actually stopped me from blowing all of my budget at once but I’m glad I managed to restrained myself.

On the weekend, some streets are purposely off-limits to cars so pedestrian can run around the area safely while spending their hard-earned money. This place is simply *unbelievable*. Here we have an entire suburbs dedicated to selling electronics, games, and anime. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this anywhere else in the world. Hell, there are many buildings that has nothing from its first to sixth level but anime, manga, and character merchandises.

AkihabaraAkihabaraMai Hime

The best thing about the place is that if you look hard enough and have enough luck, you can probably find one of those ‘limited edition’ anime box/DVD that the Japanese online retailers don’t carry any longer. Strangely for some reason there’s nothing that I want to buy at that point. I saw some Mai Hime DVDs but there’s nothing unusual about them so I don’t want to waste money buying them. I also think that this is because my mind was mostly on a ‘find the cheapest PSP available’.

So in the end I ended up getting a PSP and a game. I have to say that this thing unbelievably good-looking. I love the sensation of playing Ridge Racers on a moving Shinkansen. It has to be experienced to be believed. I also managed to re-encoded some of the anime that I have and put it into the memory stick. And the result, as you can see in the picture above, is quite stunning. It’s really fun to be able to watch Tsubasa Chronicle or Speed Grapher while I’m at a food court, etc.


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