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Manga Tour '09 Day 1: US/Canada/Aussie Manga Artists Journey to Japan

By November 23, 2009

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JourneysThings have been a little quiet on my blog for the past week or so -- mostly because I was off having way too much fun in the manga motherland, Japan!

If you recall, I was last in Japan for the Pop Japan Travel's Mind Over Manga tour in August 2008. This time, I went back for more, but was accompanied by a pack of talented (and fun) manga / comics artists from the U.S., Canada and Australia.

13 of us pooled our creative forces together to create Journeys, a 100-page original doujinshi / comics anthology to sell at Comitia 90, the quarterly show for independent artists / original manga, illustration, games and music. Comitia is held at Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center in Odaiba (home of the much bigger / more fan art-oriented Comic Market a.k.a. Comiket.) I'll post more about Comitia soon, as I work on my day-by-day reports about my trip.

Pop Japan Travel logoWe started planning our trip to Tokyo / Kyoto about a year ago, as Canadian comics creator Svetlana Chmakova (creator of Dramacon and Nightschool) contacted me and mentioned that she'd like to participate in Comitia and check out Japan for the first time along with a group of her artist friends.

We started out with a good-sized group of interested participants, but in the end, schedules and budgets weaned down our "circle" of artist-travelers to:

While they weren't able to join us on this tour, these artists also contributed to our Journeys anthology:

  • Tacto (Creator of Inner Edge, who collaborated with Dee on Hello World for the anthology)
  • Mor, John and Stela (who collaborated on a short story Sketchy Travel)

We were also joined on the tour by our new friends Greg, Christina, Mylene and Dwain, who also love manga, anime and Japanese pop culture, and came along to take it all in with our group.

Tokyo TowerSeveral of us started our journey to Japan in Los Angeles, where we met our PJT tour guides Gigi and Masa for our 10-hour flight to Narita Airport. Queenie flew in from Australia, Dee came directly from Singapore, and Leisl and Svet came in from Toronto.

We arrived in the late afternoon, got oriented at the Hotel Pacific Tokyo in Shinagawa (conveniently located near the Shinagawa train station), then took a short subway ride to visit the Tokyo Tower.

The Tokyo Tower is a familiar sight to many manga and anime fans, as it's the setting for several climatic scenes in numerous series, including Please Save My Earth, X 1999 and Magic Knight Rayearth. There were no psychic battles or magical girls hovering around the Tower that night, but the weather was relatively clear, so we could enjoy a 360-degree view of the Tokyo city lights.

Dee and Myung at Tokyo TowerI had last visited the Tokyo Tower almost 20 years ago, and a lot had changed. For one thing, it's been renovated to have a much more sleek, modern atmosphere. Stationed around the main observation deck were interactive video modules that allowed us to scroll and experience the view from Tokyo Tower from morning through night. The screens also pointing out various neighborhoods and landmark buildings (thankfully in English).

Also new was a "look down" window on the floor of the lower observation deck that allowed visitors to peer down a glass panel to look straight down almost 150 meters to the ground floor. For an extra 600 yen (about $7.00), I took a short elevator ride to the top observation deck at the 250 meter level to check out an even better view.

The evening crowd at Tokyo Tower consisted mostly of elderly tourists and a few young couples who took in the romantic sight of the city lights, so it wasn't as crowded as I recalled from my prior daytime visit. Still, it was a nice introduction to Tokyo on our first night in Japan.

Tokyo Tower viewCheck out more of my photos from Tokyo Tower and the first few days of my manga journey at the Mind Over Manga Tour 2009 photo gallery. Hang in there, there's more reports to come, including tomorrow's report on Day 2: Tsukiji Market, Harajuku and Odaiba.

Want to experience Japan for yourself? Pop Japan Travel has several tours planned for 2010, including a December 2009 tour to Jump Festa, a massive event for Shonen Jump manga fans, the Feburary 2010 Cold Steel tour to the Sapporo Snow Festival, a Gothic and Lolita fashion tour in April 2010, and a boys love / yaoi manga tour called Fujoshi Paradise in May 2010. Check the Pop Japan Travel tour page for more info on these, and other upcoming journeys to Japan. You can also follow PJT on Twitter or be their friend on Facebook.

Image credits: Journeys © Queenie Chan, Dan Hess, Svetlana Chmakova, Becky Cloonan, Dee Dupuy, Leisl Adams, © Pop Japan Travel / Digital Manga Publishing, photos: © Deb Aoki

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