| 15:00 = 08:00
|| woke up
We needed to wake up early today to be ready for the February 3rd
festival at Asakusa. The festival celebrates the casting out of demons
by throwing beans at them. Catching the beans is good luck.
In some versions, children run around, wearing face masks of demons. At
Asakusa (浅草), there were no children taking part, but
monks from the temple and guest celebrities cast the beans to the
waiting crowd. However, we hear that the ceremony takes place twice at
Asakusa, and the later one is attended by more famous people. Whom, we
didn't find out.
| 19:15 = 12:15
|| Asakusa (浅草)
|| Bought a yutaka (浴衣)
¥3160, from a shop about two blocks north of the temple.
It was a nice one, blue with white designs. It's still too cold
outside to wear it, but I might consider wearing it to work one day. At
least it'll give me something to wear for a cosplay or Halloween. ^_^
| 19:45 - 20:30 = 12:45 - 13:30
|| Asakusa temple
|| Bean-throwing festival
During the festival, people throw beans to ward off the spirits, but the
bystanders must catch the beans for good luck. This is a festival
children sometimes particpate in by wearing masks of demons. In some
anime, you may have seen festival kiosks selling masks with the shapes
of faces of popular anime characters and demons - those are the kind
that were also for sale near this temple.
The festival began about 30-40 minutes late because of an improperly
parked car or two. There were two announced requests for the driver to
remove the car, but still the start was delayed.
men arrived carrying
paper lanterns on poles, who then
onto the railings of the temple balcony above the crowd.
After about ten more minutes, the abbot and a couple of luminaries,
including a politician, arrived to begin the ceremony.
The ceremony involved the monks and special guests
crowd, who were supposed to catch them. Apparently, children are
not directly involved in this version of the festival.
| 21:00 - 21:15 = 14:00 - 14:15
|| Nandaro Shop
To my surprise, near the entrance of the Asakusa temple, there is a
"Nandaro" is the name of the Nihon TV
mascot Miyazaki designed for them. Although the mascot is used by Nihon
TV, the shop is filled to the brim with Studio Ghibli merchandise,
rather than Nihon TV. I
bought pins there, each with the name of and recognizable character from
a Ghibli film:
| 21:30 - 22:00 = 14:30 - 15:00
|| Arrived at Mitaka-eki
|| Meeting people on the way to Gainax
We arrived at Mitaka-eki (三鷹駅) with 20 minutes to spare
before our scheduled visit to the Gainax studio. We first had to meet
up with Machiko's husband, then meet the person who had arranged our
Because Niko was a little hungry, we went to a standing-only udon shop.
Niko had a mini-curry dish, and Machiko and Bryan also had something to
eat. Ordering was interesting, in that outside of the restaurant doors,
there was a vending machine with the restaurant's menu on it. Each dish
offered could be ordered and paid for at the same time, before entering
the restaurant. The machine accepted coins and bills, and presumably
gave change, too, but I took that for granted and forgot to look.
Niko and Machiko were finished quickly, but Bryan was last
to order. Machiko went to ask for directions at a kouban
(交番), a local police station which has only one or two
officers on duty. Their purpose is mainly to provide visitors with
directions and assistance, rather than crime-prevention, although their
presence is certainly a deterrent.
| 21:30 - 22:00 = 14:30 - 15:00
|| Waiting for Toshi
We're waiting in the train station just outside of the ticket gates for
Toshi to arrive to help us find the person who kindly arranged our visit
Bryan was taking some video of the people walking by as a snapshot of
everyday people. Because it was Saturday afternoon, some of the people
travelling through the station were school students returning home after
a half-day at school. Of course, they were wearing uniforms of the
style we learned to expect in anime. Although it may appear obvious and
natural to some of you, my impression of everything we saw in Japan that
matched what I had seen in anime was changing my impression of the
country and its culture. What I came to realize is how
accurately anime portrays many elements of Japanese culture.
This means that I had to reevaluate the impression of Japan that anime
had given me, and look more closely at what I had previously not
considered accurate portrayals of everyday life: the sound crows make,
the layout of city streets and railways, the hustle and bustle of daily
life at a train station, the zoning laws, what people wear, what they
look like, how they color their hair (^_^), what they eat for breakfast,
the size and thickness of one slice of bread (^_^), and so on.
Okay, you can think me hopelessly naïve to have had this kind of
reaction, and you of course have the right to stop reading and dismiss
what I've written as the horribly misinformed scribbles of an Ugly
American Tourist. ^_^ Don't get me wrong, however. I have the utmost
respect for this country and its culture. I'm just using this
travelogue as a way of describing to you how my visit to Japan helped me
understand it better and misunderstand it less. Of course there is
a lot more that I haven't learned yet, and I may return to Japan someday
to follow up on that. In the meantime, this visit was an eye-opener;
I'll never watch anime in the same way ever again. I'll be better
prepared to recognize which parts are grounded in fact, and which are
the departures from the norm that the writer/animator has chosen to use
as shortcuts, as emphasis, or as significant story elements.
In short, I'll enjoy it more.
| 22:00 - 01:00 = 15:00 - 17:00
|| Touring Gainax
Gainax has offices in a couple of
buildings on a street a few blocks away from Mitaka station. There is
a building with a sign
indicating "2F: GAiNAX", but that's not the main studio building.
I don't have many shots of the outside of the main building, which is
two stories tall, but there are two shots of the entry way:
through a circular
opening in the wall to the right of the front door, and of the
machine flanking the entrance.
I don't have many written notes during the tour, of course, since I was
busy looking around, but I'll relate what I remember of the visit.
We met Toshi at the train station and he led us to a Sizzler restaurant
(yes, the American steak restaurant chain) on the corner across the
street from Gainax, where we met Ogata-san, an editor for ASCII
magazine, a Japanese computer industry magazine, whose wife AOKI Mitsue
(青木光恵) is a manga artist whose original stories
and characters are due to appear in an upcoming series to be animated by
Gainax. (!) Machiko, our host, knew of them through her own work as a
contributing writer for ASCII magazine, in two issues of which she wrote
about my roommates and I as examples of anime fans in the United States
after hearing about me and my anime gatherings at work, through her
husband, who is also a Microsoft employee, and met us while they were
living in the States, at my 24th birthday party!
Bryan had corresponded with Ogata-san in the past, trading books about
comics and manga with him, but this was our first face-to-face meeting.
| 22:30 - 01:00 = 15:30 - 18:00
|| Spoke with Muramatsu-san
Muramatsu-san (村松?), the Assistant Producer of the Gainax TV
guided us upstairs after we removed our shoes and put on some slippers
for guests. The ground floor, which we didn't see much of, was where
development of computer games takes place. The second floor was where the
animators worked, and the third floor was for management. We spent most
of our time on the second floor letting it all sink in. We were inside
Gainax! The studio that produced
Nadia - the
Secret of Blue Water,
and of course,
A note about Kare-Kano
Kare-Kano's full title is Kareshi Kanojo no
and was written by TSUDA Masami (津田雅美).
The manga began running in the shoujo magazine Lala in December of 1995,
and has been compiled into at least 6 tankoubon/volumes (単行本).
Thanks go to
Webpage for the information used here.
Some things we learned while speaking with the assistant producer:
What I wish I had asked, but didn't remember to:
- Kare-kano had no OP animation because the story of each of those
episodes was too long to allow time for it.
- The live camera ED scenes for the first 14 episodes were done by
dragging a cameraman on a wheeled cart.
- The change from live camera to animation for the ED sequences
coincides with the change in directorship from Anno to Sato, which
has an interesting story behind it (see below).
- There are ~60 people who work in the main Gainax building. Twenty
on each floor.
- There were only four or five animators present when we visited,
because they generally work during night until the morning. We got
the impression that this is common practice at animation studios.
However, Studio Ghibli has encouraged people to work during normal
business hours instead of at night to avoid having its employees'
personal lives completely disrupted by work. ^_^
- Animators' desks were very closely crowded together, and often had
belongings strewn among the
model sheets, backgrounds, prop models, and drawing equipment.
Sadly, I don't have pictures of the messier desks, so the pictures
you see linked above are cleaner than normal. ^_^
- At the time of our visit, they were working on episode 26,
although the most recent episode to be broadcast on TV was 19, and
the one undergoing postproduction was 23. The studio works on
a handful of episodes at once, in various stages (planning,
storyboarding, key animation, outsourced animation, audio
recording, and broadcast), to streamline production.
- The picture of the animation desk mentioned earlier actually turned
out to be of extra interest, because it contained props that were
used in the making of episode 19, which was to air the next day!
Note the paper cutout, backgrounds, character model sheets, and
storyboards in this
annotated photo. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the
tray on the floor which had the large panning backgrounds. I
didn't know how significant they were (they were just lying there
on the floor, after all!) until the next day, after watching the
episode in question!
- There were receipts for Pizza-La (a popular pizza-delivery chain)
here and there on some desks. It appears that pizza is just as
popular in Japan as in the US for late-night fare.
- Why is it that every time there is a cut from one scene to another,
the cel after the cut jumps down, left, then up? This is most
noticable when the scene after the cut is static for at least a
second or two. Then again, in Anno's anime, this is almost always
the case, so it's particularly noticable and becomes annoying if
you're sensitive to that sort of thing (and I am). This
frame-centering problem is present not only in
Kare-Kano, but in Evangelion.
Why we think Anno left the production of Kare-Kano
Note: I'm not absolutely certain these are the reasons, nor are they
necessarily the sole reasons, for Anno's departure from the production
Anno objected to the restrictions placed on TV anime by TV Tokyo after the
Pocket Monster incident, so in protest, he decided to have nothing more to
do with TV Tokyo and left the production of Kare-Kano in the hands of
Sato, who joined Gainax after having worked for the government in a public
works management position.
| 00:00 - 01:00 = 17:00 - 18:00
|| Tea with Ogata-san
After visiting Gainax, and meeting the Kare-kano Asst. Producer
Muramatsu, we went with Ogata-san to a Sizzler restaurant just down the
block from Gainax, at the intersection. There we had drinks and asked
Ogata-san some questions. Well, Bryan and Niko mostly, as I did not
know this person, and had no intelligent questions to ask of him.
During this time, I was jotting down the answers to the questions that
we had asked at Gainax. He noticed this, and asked me if it was a Palm
Pilot. I said that it was a little different from a Palm Pilot, and
handed it over to him while Toshi explained that it was a Windows CE
device similar to a more common model found in Japan: the Casio
Meanwhile, Ogata-san's 1.5-year-old daughter, Shun, was attracting a bit
of attention by knocking over drink glasses, playing with the sugar
packets, and chewing on the non-smoking signs on the table.
| 02:30 - 03:30 = 19:30 - 20:30
|| Ogata's house
|| Dinner and Microman Show & Tell
Mr. Ogata and Toshihiro went to Mr. Ogata's house, where Bryan showed
off his Microman toys, and helped Mr. Ogata's wife with a problem she
was having with E-Bay. Bryan also
promised Mr. Ogata's wife that he would ask his friends in Los Angeles
to find information about a monthly Barbie flea market. Also check into
Betty Boop, which she likes very much.