Meaningful Japanese manga?

The appearance of religious figures in manga isn’t all that uncommon, with Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha series in particular covering in comic form the story of Siddhartha.

The more recently released ‘Saint Young Men’ by Hikaru Nakamura on the other hand takes a somewhat less serious approach, with Buddha renting an apartment in present-day Tokyo.

japanese manga

A situation made all the more surreal by the fact that he shares the place with another famous fella, Jesus Christ.

japanese manga

Perhaps to allow them to blend in somewhat, they are a suitably stylish pair — with Jesus even boasting a T-shirt that boldly proclaims, “Dad, Me and the Holy Spirit” (父と私と精霊) — although it is nice to see them both bearing their customary coiffures.

japanese manga

Living in the capital’s western suburb of Tachikawa, heaven knows what situations they will find themselves in, but it would certainly be interesting to see their stance on the south of the station’s somewhat seedier side.

japanese manga

(via the FG Forums)

Pussy Galore

With the help of celebrity Aki Hoshino, Sanrio Corp. launched the bi-weekly ‘Hello Kitty Accessory Collection’ on Tuesday, a new magazine that each edition will feature a different country as its theme, providing information on history and culture. Plus, of course, details on the masses of Kitty related merchandise available – both present and past.

hello kitty magazine

Hello Kitty herself will actually provide the undoubtedly fascinating facts in each publication, with the famous feline appearing ready to branch out into more challenging and rewarding territory; the new approach presumably tempting young Hoshino-san to help promote the new venture, with the 29-year-old actress and model saying, “I got a phone call from Kitty yesterday and we decided to wear matching outfits. I really love Hello Kitty”.

hoshino aki and hello kitty

The first edition will focus on Britain, and, like all future issues, will include trinkets of some description or other; a charm bracelet and pouch modeled on Victorian fashion being the first giveaways. Items which Hoshino will presumably be keen to snap up, after divulging that her home is filled with Kitty-related goods.

One such item it seems is a Hello Kitty ring, which she wore for the occasion, forcing one gossip-loving reporter to ask if it was from a boyfriend. Hoshino coyly responding by saying, “Not yet, but my home is packed with Hello Kitty stuff, so I want a guy who is going to like Kitty, too.”

A position that many of those partial to a bit of pussy now and again will surely be more than happy to fill.


Lesbian longing

Following in the online footsteps of the successful Japanese web diary-turned-novel, Densha Otoko (Train Man), Harukarin Blog has sold well since its bookshop debut in May this year. Yet whereas Densha Otoko documents the feel-good feats of a train riding geek winning the heart of a commuting cutie, Harukarin Blog is far less candy-coated, covering the less traditional territory of a man attempting to save his relationship after his girlfriend comes out as a lesbian, with 23-year-old protagonist Harukarin Nakagawa opting for the decidedly drastic approach of agreeing to his partner’s request that he undergo a sex change. A few snips and the odd injection designed to satisfy her needs and thus salvage the union.

harukarin blog

Such an unconventional approach to saving a relationship no doubt helped to fuel interest in the saga, but for the very same reason many people have quite understandably dismissed the diary as mere fiction, with one online critic writing, “The whole story of a guy’s girlfriend of five years telling him she’s a lesbian and asking him to become a woman is just ridiculous.” Others have also hit out at alleged factual inaccuracies, bursting Nakagawa’s claims that his breasts started blossoming shortly after starting hormone treatment. One mammary malcontent stating, “It’s medically impossible to develop a bust as fast as the writer claims.”

Such criticism has resulted in Ameba Books changing the publication’s title, which was originally Seitenkan Dokyumentari Blog (Sex Change Documentary Blog). Yet despite this, the company remains very protective of its lesbian and laceration laced love story, with spokesman Kenichi Yamakawa boasting, “I don’t really think it matters one iota whether the book’s factual or it’s creative. What’s most important is that it’s a high quality piece of modern literature.”

Book bother

Presumably realising that a brief book burning bash would raise more than a few eyebrows, prefectural officials in Fukui city instead opted to simply remove books they disagreed with from a local library.

It appears that those in charge of promoting gender equality in the region felt that some books were too radical. So radical in fact, that the idea of readers making their own minds up was simply inconceivable, resulting in around 150 books being taken off the shelves. Some of the titles deemed dangerous including one on how to divorce, another on the subject of making schools free of gender and the wonderfully named ‘A Theatre Under The Skirt’ by Chizuko Ueno, a Tokyo University professor and expert in gender studies.

However after some assembly members rumbled the dirty deed, the books appear to be on their way back, library head Riyuko Sadaike rather unconvincingly saying, “We removed the books just to check their contents. We will return them to the shelves as soon as possible as we have received the protest.”

All in all a rather unsavoury affair, although as an isolated incident it’s hardly indicative of a return to ‘the bad old days’. No, surely for that to be the case we would have to see the likes of people clamouring for a change in the country’s pacifist constitution, the forcing of public employees to sing the national anthem and high-ranking ministers suggesting the emperor should visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

Oh, hold on a minute…

Butlers and boy love

Tired of their manga and maid loving male counterparts having all the fun, Japan’s growing number of female otaku (geeks) have decided to hit back – the opening of a ‘butler cafe’ graciously getting things going.

swallowtail butler cafe

The Swallowtail coffee house in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district is decked out like an English manor house, with customers subserviently greeted with a “Welcome home, Madam.” A concept that may seem a little odd, but it’s one that appears to have a ready-made audience, Emiko Sakamaki, the woman behind the eatery, explaining, “When I visited a ‘maid cafe’ last year, I thought there should be a cafe with a similar concept for women. And I saw people post some messages on the Internet that they wanted such a butler cafe. I thought the cafe could be accepted.” And accepted it has been, with tables being fully booked until May 12, the management asking customers to make reservations online to guarantee themselves a table.

Swallowtail’s vast majority of visitors it seems are women in their 20s and 30s, with Ayako Abe of K-Books – which runs the cafe and has several shops that sell manga depicting love between beautiful youths – explaining the market for such establishments by saying, “Our shops’ prime target customers are not women in their teens and 20s, but those in their 30s and 40s who got used to ‘boys’ love’ comics while they were young, and come to the stores with their daughters.”

Not that any such ‘boy love’ goes on whilst beverages are being served, with Swallowtail’s handpicked group of 20 ‘butlers’ having spent a month studying about various kinds of tea leaves and how to make a good cuppa. A training program however that may need a few minor adjustments, with visitor Noriko Suzuki commenting, “The butlers looked nervous serving tea and cake, but I liked the ambience of the coffee shop. I felt like I was peeking into the world of girls’ manga comics dealing with butlers.”

A focus on the cafe’s decor and atmosphere that Sakamaki-san believes differentiates the likes of Swallowtail from the decidedly less sophisticated places catering for males. “Men would not mind if maid cafes use cheap tables and pipe chairs as long as the waitresses are pretty”

A comment that may,

maids japan

or may not be true.

Rogue radishes

News-starved residents of Tokyo are currently going crazy over the appearance of a ‘daikon’ (Japanese radish) in the city’s Higashikurume district, the robust root vegetable miraculously pushing its way through the asphalt by the side of a road.

gutsy daikon

The radish’s emergence in an urban area without a hint of greenery has needless to say surprised many locals, with a Government official speaking for the majority by excitedly exclaiming, “I have no idea how the seed got here.” Yet sporting leaves that span the width of a human hand, and boasting a respectable diameter of 4 centimetres, the dynamic daikon can even be seen from the road, immeasurably brightening the morning trips of thousands of commuters.

This daikon dementia follows a similar incident in Aioi, Hyogo Prefecture, where an equally courageous radish recently appeared – local residents even going as far as naming it ‘Dokonjo Daikon’ (gutsy radish). A heartwarming tale that ultimately ended in tragedy, as a callous criminal sliced off the top of the vegetable; however its remains were rushed to a nearby agricultural research centre, where officials are still trying to bring it back to life. Town spokesman Jiro Matsuo tearfully stating, “People discouraged by tough times were cheered by its tenacity and strong will to live.”

Yet if the unthinkable happens and the daikon dies, it will continue to live on, its story having been painstakingly immortilised in a 48-page book; a project in no way designed to cash in on the radish’s tragic story, with an Aioi Municipal Government official claiming that with ‘Ganbare Dai-chan’ (Hang in there, little daikon), “We want to reproduce the radish and add a new page to its history.” Author Ayumi Miyazaki, who laboured for a full two months to produce the masterpiece, also adding that she hopes the book will leave a lasting impression of the radish as it grew through the asphalt.

daikon book