Sunday, August 29, 2010

Super Comic City - Osaka

The 30th of October of 1998 (Friday) was an important day in my life. La noche temática, a program from the Spanish public TV, emitted a documentary called "La noche de los manga".

Thema Manga, Mangaka - 01/21 - Intro et Sommaire - 1998
アップロード者 Alexkiddmw. - クリエィティブ動画をもっと見る。

The documentary, a co-production between TSR2 and Arte France, had a total duration of 187 minutes and covered in detail the world of Japanese animation and Manga. I was moved by the images, the music and the idea of discovering a new hidden world (am I, after all, another Spanish conqueror? :P). The documentary explained the process of creating manga and animation in Japan. In particular, I recall one scene where thousands of manga amateurs were gathering around in a huge event to sell their self-published material. Back then, attending such an event was a mere dream for me.

Back to reality, a few weeks ago, I was hanging around in Toranoana manga shop when I spotted an interesting book at one of the floors dedicated to dōjinshi 同人誌 (self-publishing) mangas. It was a book about one of those events that I dreamed about a decade ago!! I thought it was time to make those old-good dreams come true!!

And there I was, a few weeks later, in Osaka ready to participate for the first time in a dōjinshi event: the Super Comic City - Kansai 16. The event took place in Intex Osaka, a huge building complex that had plenty of room for the 14.000 stands where Japanese manga amateurs were passionately selling their work. It was organized by Akaboo, a company that prepares similar events during the whole year. It was completely full of people, much more than what I had imagined. Amateur (and not so amateur) artists were selling their own mangas, illustrations, hand-made postcards, badges and even dolls!! Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures inside the building to illustrate it.

Although this time I attended just as a visitor, I would love to attend someday with my own comics. In order to participate as an author you need to fill a form. I found a free magazine called Piggy in Toranoana which includes the forms to apply to many of these events but you can apply directly from Akaboo website. An interesting detail on the application form is that small rectangle on the down-right corner reserved for you to show a catchy cut of your art.

That cut will appear eventually in the event's guide book, which can be bought in advance at the manga shop or directly on the day when the event takes place (the book qualifies as entrance ticket). This is very useful for the attendants to think in advance which stands they want to visit first.

Many of those amateur artists dream of becoming professional manga artists (mangaka) someday. One way to accomplish their goal is to take part in one of the numerous manga contests that are held in Japan. Some of them feature prizes that simply make my jaws drop. For instance, the picture above (extracted from the event's guide book) advertises the Shinjin comic contest, sponsored by Shogakukan, whose biggest prize is 5000000 yen (46572 Eur at 29/Aug/2010).

There are many people that love drawing manga. And many more who love reading them. And of course, "a lot of people" stands for an opportunity for business in a free market society. There exist a plethora of companies to help the artists achieve their goals. From printing companies specialized in amateur mangas to transportation services that can bring your boxes full of manga directly to the building. Inside the building, you can buy all kinds of tools for drawing such as tracing tables, color pens, manga patterns, etc. There is even a service to send home the mangas that you bought.

12 years after watching that documentary, I still feel as if I was discovering a new hidden world...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hakodate (函館)

A few weeks ago I went to Hakodate (函館), south of Hokkaidou (北海道).

I went there with some of my lab colleagues in order to attend a Japanese conference on Embedded Systems, called SIGEMB (情報処理学会 組込みシステム研究会).

The day we arrived, we noticed that the temperature was not as cool as we expected. In fact it was almost as hot as in Nagoya. Many people go to Hokkaidou during Summer holidays to escape from the excessive heat in other parts of Japan. As the conference started the next day, we had some free time for tourism. The picture above was taken from the Goryōkaku Tower where you can have good views of the city of Hakodate.

The next day, we went to the Future University (未来大学), where the conference was held. The building was surprising at first, spacious and modern. However many of us were wondering how many people would move to such an isolated place as the one where the University is located at. I made a presentation there and in fact, it was my first presentation in Japanese!!. After the presentation I received several questions, also in Japanese. There was one question that I could not understand correctly at first because the accent of the person asking the question (most probably from Osaka 大阪) was a bit difficult for me. There were some interesting presentations. I especially liked one about clone code.

The day after the conference we had some time for ourselves. We took a train to Nanae town (七重町), rented some bicycles and went around the Oonuma lake(大沼湖), which is near an active volcano called Komagatake (駒ヶ岳). Actually, I wanted to climb that volcano but they said that I had to apply at least 3 days in advance!

During the afternoon I went to climb Mt. Hakodate (函館山), which is famous for having one of the best night views in the world. The path to climb it is quite nice and I could see some squirrels. Do not go out of the path because there are snakes. Specially be careful with the so-called mamushi マムシ!

The day had been a bit cloudy so I didn't have the chance to see the long-awaited night views of the city. Instead, I enjoyed the beautiful colors of the sunset while wearing my new t-shirt :D (Note: kuma means bear in Japanese). I went down at night using the cable car.

Now that I am finishing this post I realized that I didn't mentioned anything about food in Hakodate. Trust me, if you ask any Japanese what is worth doing in Hakodate, they will all tell you to eat as much seafood and fish as you can! This is because you can enjoy very fresh seafood at much cheaper prices than in the rest of Japan.

Apart from seafood, there were also some other interesting places that we went for lunch such as Hakodate Genghis Khan (函館ジンギスカン) which is basically a yakiniku (焼肉) restaurant, the Lucky Pierrot hamburguer chain or some place near Oonuma lake (大沼湖) which served a huge dish of ankake yakisoba (あんかけ焼きそば).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kamikōchi (上高地)

A few weeks ago, I went with Simon to visit a beautiful region in the northern part of the Japan Alps (Nagano prefecture), known as Kamikōchi (上高地).

I took a train from Nagoya (Ltd. Express Shinano) to Matsumoto city. After meeting in Matsumoto (he was coming from Tokyo) we took a bus to Kamikōchi.

We spent our first day walking around the lake and admiring the mountains that were surrounding it. Perhaps the most famous touristic spot there is the views of Mt. Hotaka from the Kappa bridge.

We stayed in a mountain lodge called Nishitoya (nice place, good service and delicious dinner). The next morning we woke up very early and decided that the mountain we wanted to climb was Mt Nishi-hotaka (西穂高岳) with 2908m of altitude.

After an hour or so, we found ourselves in the middle of the snow without appropriate equipment such as crampons (アイゼン). Although it wasn't the first time for me to climb in the snow, it was for Simon.

Our first milestone was Mt. Nishi-Hodoku (西穂独標) at 2701m of altitude.

Here the hike became quite difficult due to the continuous ups and downs through dangerous cliffs and rocks.

We continued for a while because we really wanted to climb Mt Nishi-Hotaka but finally we decided to go back after reaching the Piramid peak (ピラミッドピーク) at 2740m of altitude. We were quite tired, it was becoming increasingly dangerous and we didn't have the necessary equipment. Plus we had to go back early in order to make it for the bus that would bring us back to Matsumoto (松本).

In Matsumoto, I took the opportunity to visit its castle for an hour before coming back to Nagoya. It was a very tiring hike but I am glad that nothing bad happened to us on those cliffs!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Study some Kanjis a day!

Just a short post to mention that I recently opened a new blog dedicated to the study of the Kanji. This is the address:

It is more like the diary of my own study rather than a systematic approach to learn them but I hope it is useful for other people!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mt. Kama - 鎌ヶ岳 (かまがたけ)

Last weekend I went to Mie prefecture (三重県) for a hike in the Suzuka mountains where I had already gone for two other hikes, Gozaisho (御在所) and Fujiwara (藤原岳). This time I climbed Mt. Kama (鎌ヶ岳) which is 1.161m tall. Similar to the hiking trail to Gozaisho, the starting point for Mt Kama is Yu-no-yama-onsen(湯の山温泉). This time instead of going by train I took a direct bus from Nagoya Meitetsu bus station (1 hour bus ride - 1280yen each way).

The hiking trail is really beautiful!! It crosses many streams, rocks and nature. In fact I managed to see a huge snake on my way!!. Sometimes there are difficult parts where you need to use your hands but in general, anybody with a bit of experience can climb it. In the picture above, you can see the views of Mt. Gozaisho from Mt Kama.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Helsinki, Finland

My flight back home to Nagoya was quite cheap at the cost of having to spend one night in Helsinki.

But looking it from the positive side, I had a whole morning to visit Helsinki. So after spending the night on a bench at Helsinki-Vantaa airport I took a bus to the city center (cheap urban bus number 615). The last stop of the bus is in the central train station, a good place to start walking around.

My first impressions about Helsinki were quite good. Houses were beautiful, everything seemed to be ordered and clean.

Also despite it has a very good economy, the city didn't look very big. Maybe a good place to life if you don't mind the cold.

As we see, somebody didn't mind about that :D

On the other hand the level of life is quite high. Fortunately, there is always a cheap McDonalds to survive.

In Helsinki, like in many other European cities, there are trams on the streets. In Spain there are few places with trams I think, notably Bilbao (probably the best tram in the universe of course hehe)

I read that one of the main buildings in Helsinki was the Cathedral so I went to have a look. Honestly, it was not so impressive.

Although I didn't have too much time I decided to take a boat to check Suomenlinna, a famous fortress in some islands near Helsinki that are included in the Unesco world heritage.

It was a good decision. The trip by boat across the frozen sea was awesome. It looked like those documentaries about the Antarctica or something hehe.

The fortress in the islands was huge and worth visiting it. Also there were very nice views both of the city and the partially frozen Baltic sea.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mazury - New year's eve 2009-2010

I spent New Year's eve with Maria and part of her family in Mazury, a region with many lakes in the north east of Poland.

The small and hidden village where Maria's uncle has a house was called Racibor. It is so hidden that it doesn't appear in google maps. The closest place is Spychowo.

Poland in general was cold, but north of Poland was even colder so smoke was coming out of many chimneys. This region reminded me about a comic I drew last year, titled Mayak.

Yeah, it was cold hehe probably the coldest place I had been until then, with temperatures around -16C.

But I was born in the Basque country, so it was not long before I got used to the cold :P

Maria's uncle's house was in a beautiful location near a lake whose surface was completely frozen. Although at the beginning I hesitated whether it was really safe to walk on the lake, finally I decided to cross it. Next day, we found out that it was a bit reckless from my part (^^).

One night we all rode sleds pulled by a tractor. We went to the forest in the middle of the night and had a barbecue there, surrounded by wolfs (a few weeks before they found a huge wolf nearby).

Inside the house it was very warm, thanks to a firewood. They had two dogs who were quite calmed until you would put a balloon nearby!

I played billiard long long hours!!I kind of started getting the hang of it. When something like this happens i can't help it and it's hard to stop myself!

I did not mention anything about the delicious and abundant food that we had. In the picture just a few dishes that we ate. It was very tasty and I learned many polish words for food :D

More pictures at Maria's website here and here.