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Christmas in Japan

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our Anime loving friends! To get into the holiday spirit, this week’s post is about Christmas in Japan! Christmas in Japan is quite different from the celebrations in Christian countries. The major religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto, but the Japanese still celebrate Christmas despite a small population of actual Christians. The Japanese are great lovers of festivals and celebrations, and thus celebrate Christmas, though less in the religious sense and more in the commercial gift giving sense.

History

Christmas was initially introduced to Japan with the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century. Only in recent decades has it become popular in Japan, despite the fact that Christians make up a small percent of the population (about 1-2%).

The first recorded Christmas in Japan was a Mass held by Jesuit missionaries in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1552, but there may have been unrecorded celebrations held before then, perhaps going back to 1549 when Saint Francis Xavier came to Japan. Christianity was banned throughout Japan in 1612, but a small enclave of “Kakure Kirishitan” (hidden Christians) continued to practice underground over the next 250 years.

Christianity in Japan, along with Christmas, reemerged during the Meiji era. Influenced by the United States, Christmas parties were held and presents were exchanged. The practice slowly spread, but its proximity to the New Year’s celebrations made it a smaller focus of attention. During World War II, all celebrations, especially American ones, were suppressed. From the 60s, with an expanding economy, and influenced by Western media, Christmas became popular.

Today

Many western Christmas traditions have been adopted by the Japanese. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and other seasonal decorations can be found several weeks in advance and people enjoy having Christmas parties around Christmas Day. In recent years, European Christmas markets are also held in some Japanese cities and attract many visitors. December 25th is not a national holiday in Japan, schools and businesses are open as usual that day. December 23rd is the birthday of the current emperor, Akihito, and many celebrations circle around the Emperor’s birthday as well.

Gift Giving

Christmas presents are exchanged between people with romantic commitments as well as close friends. The presents tend to be “cute” presents and often include stuffed animals, flowers, scarves, rings and other jewelry. Christmas cards are also given to close friends.

More obligatory year-end presents are given during this season as well to people who have done favors for each other during the year. However, in contrast to Christmas presents, they are given between companies, to bosses, to teachers, and family friends. These presents are known as “oseibo’”(end of the year gift) and are generally things which are perishable or which wear out quickly for which the price can readily be checked, because of the system of “on” and “giri” (obligation and reciprocity, loosely translated). These presents are usually purchased at department stores so that the recipient can check the price and return something which relates to the scale of reciprocity.

Within the family parents give presents to their children, but the children do not give presents to the parents. The reasoning is that Santa Claus brings presents, so once the children no longer believe in Santa Claus, the children no longer get presents.

Christmas Romance

Another aspect of Christmas in Japan is that it has more in common with Valentine’s Day. Christmas Eve in Japan is thought of as a time for romantic miracles. It is seen as a time to be spent with one’s significant other in a romantic setting, so fancy restaurants and hotels are often booked solid around Christmas. Often times, girls reveal their affections to boys and vice versa. Because of this, extending a girl an invitation to be together on Christmas Eve has very deep, romantic implications.

Many single women in Japan wish to have somewhere impressive to spend Christmas, with that special someone, who will lavish them with impressive gifts. The whole evening must be very special, gorgeous and romantic. Japanese women with a significant other tend to show off this fact, flaunting it to women who do not.

Christmas Eve has become a night for couples to go out and spend a romantic time together at fancy restaurants or hotels in Japan. Many hotels host dinner shows featuring major singers, actors, and actresses. Tickets to these shows, due to the season, can be pricy. It isn’t easy to make reservations for such restaurants and hotels at the last minute on Christmas Eve.

Bōnenkai

The Christmas season comes during the month of the year-end parties. Friends, co-workers, or a whole company itself often book a section of a restaurant to have drinking parties, known as “Bōnenkai “ (forget the old year party). This leads to streets, subways, and trains full of people in varied states of intoxication during this season. The purpose of the party, as its name implies, is to forget the woes and troubles of the past year, and hopefully look to the new year, usually by consumption of large amounts of alcohol. Bōnenkai do not take place on any specific day, but they are usually held in December.

Although the Japanese have always been a people of great feeling and emotion, they are usually more reserved in expressing their feelings to others, so bōnenkai has been a way of showing public displays of gratitude. This is especially true for the company or business office bōnenkai where they can relax and not worry about the formal boss/employee relationship or rank and age divisions while having a good time.

Traditional Japanese Christmas Foods

The traditional Japanese Christmas food is the Christmas cake, a white sponge cake covered with whipped cream and decorated with strawberries. Traditionally, the father of the family purchases Christmas cake on his way home from work (or his wife does in the case where he has to work on Christmas Eve). Stores all over Japan carry Christmas cake and drop the price of it drastically on December 25th in order to sell everything out by the 26th. This resulted in an old expression in which young women were compared to Christmas cake: desirable until the 25th (birthday) and requiring heavy discounts to sell (marry) after that point. Japanese women over 25 years old were often referred to as “unsold Christmas cake”.

Oddly enough, another food in the Japanese Christmas tradition is a chicken dinner, specifically from Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC made a successful advertising campaign during the ‘70s in Japan that made eating at KFC around Christmas a national custom. Many people even make reservations for their “Christmas chicken” months in advance and people line up out the door at their local KFC to pick up their orders. As a result, many in Japan believe that Westerners celebrate Christmas with a chicken dinner instead of the more traditional ham or turkey.

Will you celebrate Christmas with a Japanese flair? Are you going to have a Bōnenkai with your true love while eating KFC and Christmas cake? Feel free to leave a comment!

Cosplaying on a Budget

Looking to join the Masquerade but don’t have a lot of money to put into a costume? Don’t know how to make fancy armor pieces as intimidating as your favorite chivalrous character’s armor? Just want to throw a neat costume together and not put in a lot of time and effort? Here are some tips and tricks that might help you put together a winning costume!

For those of you with sewing skills, the sky is the limit! Costume patterns at various levels of skill to create are easily found at fabric stores and online. The largest investment will most likely be your time and effort in making your costume (unless you spend a lot of money on fancy fabric), but in the end, you have something custom made for you and by you! You get bragging rights that what you’re wearing was earned by the sweat of your brow.

For those of you with minimal sewing skills, Closet cosplay is for you! Closet cosplay is where you wear costumes made with minimal prep from items straight out of your closet. Some good examples can be found at http://closetcosplay.tumblr.com/. Thrift stores and resale shops are your friends! Sailor style school uniforms might be hard to come by, but in many recent school series (and today in real life), many schools have moved away from the sailor uniforms to a simple blazer and skirt or pants. Pick up a blazer, add a fancy looking school logo patch, and you’ve got a school uniform! In going with a blazer theme, many series had characters dressed in a suit. Roger Smith, and Spike Spiegel, and Lupin the Third always looked good doing what they do. Besides, who doesn’t look good in a suit and tie?

Even if you can’t replicate a character’s costume down to the last detail, there’s always room for reinterpretations and artistic license. Hanie Mohd’s series of “DC Girls in Sweaters” (http://haniemohd.tumblr.com/tagged/DC-girls-in-sweater) shows popular super-heroines with parts of their capes and cowls swapped out for comfy sweater and hoodie versions of their outfits. Your costume doesn’t have to be exact. It merely needs to convey a sense of the character you want to portray!

If you’ve ever taken a Japanese martial art, such as Judo, Karate, or Kendo, you may already have part of a samurai outfit! The traditional uniform consists of a keiko-gi (the white cotton jacket and pants set), and some martial arts use a set of hakama (traditional pleated outer pants). A set of keiko-gi and hakama can be on the pricey side for decent quality ($30 to $70 for either), but as these are clothes for a physical sport, they are usually are designed to be very durable and comfortable. Together with a hanten or haori kimono jacket, they make up something resembling traditional samurai garb. Even without the kimono jacket, many (high school aged) anime characters wore their kendo-gi. Go as Kuno-sempai from Ranma 1/2!

For body armor pieces, sporting goods stores have sports pads that may work as serviceable items. If there’s a particular piece that you’ve been eyeing, oftentimes items from that sport are drastically discounted after the season is over. With a little silver spray paint, many a Sephiroth costume had the shoulder armor made from football pads. Even much of the post-apocalyptic armor in Mad Max was made from football pads, motocross armor, and other sporting equipment.

For more exotic or custom props and armor pieces, papercraft is a good and economical way to go. Minimally, the skill requires you to be able to shape and glue together pieces cardboard or cardstock, and then paint or decorate your piece. The difficult part is finding a good structural design that will hold up to at least casual use and still look good. Additionally, just as sewing a costume, the biggest investment will be your time and effort, but again, you will have something unique that you created!

For making custom baubles, small jewelry, and military insignia, Shrinky Dinks plastic sheets work very well! In lieu of buying actual Shrinky Dinks brand sheets, look for any plastic containers with #6 plastic recycling symbol (such as doggie bag containers from a restaurant). It’s literally the exact same material. The plastic sheets can be colored with felt-tip pens, acrylic paint, colored pencils (or just about anything that can withstand the heat) and then cut into the desired shape. Heat the plastic at about 325 to 350 degrees for about one to three minutes. The plastic shrinks by about 2/3rds the original size when heated and becomes thicker and more rigid, while retaining the colored design.

Tactical gear and uniform items for military costumes can be found at military surplus stores. You can strive for accuracy in a military costume, but always remember to be respectful to actual people in the military. Avoid doing anything showing disrespect to any branch of the military of any nation. Be especially careful with symbols of known hate-groups, past and present (i.e. swastikas, SS and Nazi insignia, etc.). Even though it’s just a Hetalia costume, not everybody in the immediate area of a convention may know that and be offended. Many conventions ban these symbols outright (ACen included). No matter what costume you’re wearing, other people have a right not to play along. Many may appreciate your dedication to playing your character, but you don’t get a free pass to act rudely just because you’re cosplaying as a Klingon or Lobo.

Prop and Replica Weapons Advice (Included Free of Charge!)

Prop and replica weapons are a touchy subject for conventions and police. Many conventions have very strict policies, if not ban them outright. For the few conventions that do allow them, most have standard rules. Whether it’s Anime Central or any other event, always find out what their weapons policy is before you go. When in doubt with any prop or replica weapon, don’t bring it! For Anime Central’s official weapons policy, visit http://www.acen.org/content/acen-rules.

Most conventions don’t allow any actual metal blades such as knives or swords, even if they have dulled edges. Wooden swords, bokken, and rubber training knives are usually okay. Real firearms are banned outright unless you have a legal and legitimate reason for carrying one in public (if you’re not sure whether you do or not, you most likely don’t).

Crossbows and other archery implements must be rendered incapable of shooting projectiles, usually in the form of unstringing the bow. Some conventions might be okay with the bow being loosely strung with a flimsy material such as yarn.

Airsoft and replica guns must also be rendered incapable of shooting projectiles, usually in the form of leaving out any magazines and disconnecting batteries (for electric powered guns) or air tanks (for gas powered guns). They must also have a permanent blaze orange tip to indicate that they are replicas. Rubber training replica guns are usually okay. Squirt guns shouldn’t have any water in them. No one wants to clean up a wet mess.

Bonus Chicagoland Locations for Cosplay Shopping!

The Army-Navy Store is the quintessential Chicago military surplus shop! They have lots of uniforms and outerwear, and a decent selection of tactical and survival gear. They are located in the Lakeview area (near Belmont and Lincoln). For more info, visit their site at http://www.armynavysales.com/.

Belmont Army Surplus isn’t just military surplus. They also have large selection of vintage clothes from all the modern (and fashionable) eras, and they have a well stocked skate shop. Their military surplus ranges from a wide variety of uniforms (both work and dress), to lots of tactical and survival gear. They have 2 locations in Chicago: the Lakeview area (near Belmont and Clark), and the Wicker Park area (near Milwaukee Ave and Division). For more info, visit their site at http://www.belmontarmy.com/.

American Science and Surplus is a great place for all sorts of weird things. Their primary stock is scientific equipment, such as test tubes and beakers, but they also stock lots of electronics and parts along with neat toys and other educational stuff. It’s the perfect place to outfit a steampunk costume! Additionally, they have an interesting selection of military and police surplus equipment too. They have 2 locations in Chicagoland: the Jefferson Park area (Near Foster and Milwaukee Avenue), and the west suburb Geneva. For more info, visit their site at http://www.sciplus.com/.

Ragstock has many options for costuming. Most of what they sell are vintage, overstock, and secondhand clothes. They also stock lots of costumes for Halloween which become drastically discounted after. There’s a selection of military surplus uniforms and some equipment (at their Lakeview location), and oddly enough, a wide array of real kimonos imported from Japan at dirt cheap prices (at both their Lakeview and Wicker Park locations). They have 4 locations in Chicagoland: the Lakeview area (near Belmont and Clark), the Wicker Park area (near Milwaukee Ave and North Ave), the north west suburb Schaumburg (in Woodfield Mall), and the south west suburb Oakbrook. For more info, visit their site at http://ragstock.com/.

How did you put together your costume? Feel free to leave a comment!

A Fan’s History of Anime

There are many accounts of the history of Anime in the United States, easily found through any search engine, but to different people, Anime means different things. Here is one of our staffers, David Ordoñez, Copy Editor in the Art and Publications department, giving his otaku’s eye view of the history of Anime:

Let me tell you when I realized that Japanese animation was something special, something completely different from American animation. It was when I was a freshman in high school in the mid 90’s, developing an interest in girls, but not having enough savvy to socialize with them. I would wake up every morning and watch this show I heard some people talking about. It was about a group of magical girls fighting an evil queen from the moon. I know, it sounds pretty hokey, but to a 13 year old boy, watching schoolgirls in short skirts winning love by daylight and fighting evil by moonlight was pretty cool.

Having only been exposed to American made cartoons and their associated tropes, I took the show’s overall plot to be pretty static: The girls fighting the big bad evil queen and her bumbling henchmen. The plot seemed to progress as most cartoons at the time did, the good guys gather up their forces, the bad guys continually make completely ineffective efforts to try to take over the world solely by focusing on a small geographic area where the good guys just happen to live (cartoon bad guys never seemed to have read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”).

Around 40 or so episodes in, they finally come face to face with the evil queen for a toe to toe fight. I’m thinking to myself “Wow, this is pretty epic. I wonder how the evil queen is going to escape this one and fight another day.” It gets to the point where the leader of the girls is building up to her big final attack, and I’m thinking, “No… they can’t kill the evil queen. That’s not how cartoons work!” The final attack is unleashed, the evil queen is destroyed, and I’m floored.

They’ve just killed the big bad.

He-Man always had Skeletor, the Thundercats always had Mumra. My expectations of cartoons had just been shattered. What are the Sailor Scouts going to do now they don’t have Queen Beryl to kick around? Are they going to move on to something bigger and better? Or worse yet, is the show over?

Of course, “Sailor Moon” wasn’t over, but the bigger surprise is that they did move on to something bigger and better: new story arcs, more character development, and bigger bads to fight! From that point on, I knew that just because a show was animated, didn’t mean that it had to be just for children.

The Japanese were making epic shows prolifically, before the Americans were, where watching the previous episode was largely required viewing. With many American cartoons, most episodes were stand alone packages (with the exception of an occasional two-parter).

Anime wasn’t just superheroes, cute animals, and their misadventures. Anime looked at real life. It looked at sex and not just romance, violence and not just slapstick, death and not just struggle. Storytelling today has improved because of the writing style of early anime, so much so that many shows, both American and Japanese, are so well written that they make the revolutionary anime of the early days look pale in comparison.

I don’t watch “Sailor Moon” anymore because my tastes have changed since then. I know that there are lots of other great shows out there now too, and it’s a lot to filter through to find the real gems, but the Sailor Scouts will always hold a special place in my heart as the show that started it all for me.

What’s your point of view on the History of Anime in the United States? Feel free to leave a comment!

Asian Shopping Locations in the Chicagoland Area

Don’t know where to find a wallscroll for your favorite anime at a place that isn’t at a convention? Looking for the ingredients to make good sushi? Do you just want a really good bowl of shrimp fried rice? If you’re in the Chicagoland area, either living near or just visiting, here are some excellent places to find good Asian food and fun Asian things!

Chinatown (South Side, Cermak and Wentworth)

Located on the south side of Chicago along Cermak Avenue and Wentworth Avenue, a block away from the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line “L” stop, Chinatown is well known for its restaurants and shopping! There are lots of Asian themed items you can find, such as qipao/cheongsam (traditional Chinese garb), martial arts weapons, and tea/herbalism shops. Many shops also sell licensed Anime toys and collectables. You can find lots of plushes, wallscrolls, models, and toys at many of the shops along Wentworth Avenue such as Giftland! Don’t forget to visit the shops and restaurants at Chinatown Square Plaza long Archer Avenue as well. Try the bubble tea at Joy Yee’s! Many Chinese festivals are held along Wentworth Avenue throughout the year, such as the Chinese New Year Festival. For more info and a list of events, visit the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce’s site at http://www.chicagochinatown.org/.

New Chinatown (North Side, Broadway and Argyle)

There’s also New Chinatown (also known as the West Argyle Street Historic District, Little Saigon, or Little Vietnam), located on the north side of Chicago along Argyle Street and Broadway Street, right on the Argyle Red Line “L” stop. The Argyle stop was even remodeled with an Asian theme during the 1980s! New Chinatown is an excellent place for Asian dining and has many excellent Chinese bakeries.

H Mart (Niles and Naperville)

H Mart is a chain of Korean grocery stores with two locations in Chicagoland, one in the southwest suburb of Naperville and one in the north suburb of Niles. In addition to a large grocery selection, complete with fresh produce, butcher and seafood section, and a bakery, they have a selection of in-store shops selling, jewelry, Asian house wares, and toys and collectables. For more info about H Mart, visit http://www.hmart.com/.

Mitsuwa Marketplace (Arlington Heights)

Mitsuwa Marketplace is a chain of Japanese grocery stores with a Chicago location in the north suburb of Arlington Heights. Their grocery selection has some of the finest goods imported from Japan. They have an excellent seafood section, along with a large bakery and many restaurants. Their sushi section is always cheap, in large proportions, and delicious; but get there before the lunch and dinner rush otherwise a lot of it is gone! Gabatto Burger is known for their tasty burgers, but their stuffed pancakes are delightful! Their Asian house wares selection is excellent, well stocked with kitchen gadgets and Japanese flatware. There’s even a large bookstore specializing in Japanese books, with a small section of Japanese publications in English. For more info about the Chicago Mitsuwa location, visit http://www.mitsuwa.com/tenpo/cica/eindex.html.

Where have you gone shopping for Asian food and goods? Feel free to leave a comment!

Bon Festival and Floating Japanese Lanterns

Anime Central isn’t just about Japanese movies and comics. We promote all the cultural aspects of Japan and encourage everyone to learn more than just Japan’s popular culture. You don’t need to go all the way around the world to learn more. There are many things you can do in the local area! This week, our post falls during the Bon Festival, where Buddhists honor their ancestors!

The Bon Festival is a Buddhist observance honoring the spirits of ancestors. A “spirit altar” (shōryōdana) is set up in front of the Butsudan (the individual family’s altar) to welcome the souls of ancestors past. A Buddhist priest is asked to come and read a sutra (Buddhist prayer). Among the traditional preparations for the ancestors’ return include cleaning family graves, preparing a path from the grave to the house, and making straw horses or oxen so the spirits don’t have to walk from grave to home. The welcoming fire (mukaebi) built on the 13th of the month and the send-off fire (okuribi) built on the 15th or 16th are intended to light the path.

Tōrō nagashi is a Japanese ceremony in which participants float paper lanterns (chōchin) down a river; tōrō is traditionally another word for lantern, while nagashi means “cruise, flow”.  To mark the end of the Bon Festival, small paper lanterns containing a burning flame are either set afloat to a large body of water, or made as flying lanterns and let go to float away into the night. Their light is intended to guide the way for deceased family members’ spirits. Usually the person who lets the lantern go will write a message on the side. Traditional Japanese beliefs state that humans come from water, so the lanterns represent their bodies returning to water (traditionally the sea).

Tōrō nagashi may be done on other days of the year for other reasons, such as to commemorate those lost in the large scale tragedies (such as the bombing of Hiroshima). In the United States, in the state of Hawaii (which has a large Japanese population), participants float paper lanterns on Memorial Day, remembering those lost (especially during World War II) and they commemorate the end of the war.

The Bon Festival takes place in Japan around the middle of July or August, depending on location and if one follows the Chinese lunar calendar or the Christian Gregorian calendar.

Visit your local Buddhist temple for more information about the religious significance of the Bon Festival.  For information to find Buddhist temples and organizations in the Chicagoland area, visit http://www.buddhistcouncilmidwest.org/members.htm.

For more info about the Memorial Day lantern floating in Hawaii and across the US, visit http://www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com/.

May you bring honor and joy to the spirits of your ancestors!  How do you celebrate and honor the spirits of your ancestors? Feel free to leave a comment!

An Interview with ACen’s Assistant Department Head of Art and Publications

An Interview with ACen’s Assistant Department Head of Art and Publications

Anime Central is a convention run by fans for fans! As such, we like show you the faces of those who volunteer their time to help run the Convention. This week’s post is an interview with our Assistant Department Head for Art and Publications!

The Art and Pub department handles all the various art and writing that goes out to the public. Their biggest focus is the Program Guide because without that, you’d have a hard time knowing what’s going on at the Convention! In addition to the printed Program Guide, they’re also in charge of the App version of the Program Guide. Now the guide fits even better into your pocket!

So without further ado, here’s a little about the person who catches all (most) of the typos!

Name: David Ordoñez

Department: I am the Assistant Department Head Art and Publications where we create any items that go out to the public such as the Program Guide and Press Releases. Primarily, I’m the Copy Editor for all our publications (Program Guide typo-free since… well, never).

Staff/for how long: Logistics (‘05-’07); Merchandising (’08-’10); Blogger (’13-Present), Copy Editor (’11-Present), and ADH (‘12-Present) for Art & Publications

A little about yourself: By day, I’m a customer service phone rep for a medical waste disposal company and a Petty Officer in the US Navy Reserve one weekend a month (barring any deployments). I also have a BA in English from NIU, which when folded up makes a lovely hat. I also enjoy sunsets and long walks on the beach. Nobody cuddles as hardcore as the Ordomancer.

What are some of your favorite anime related media? Final Fantasy (6, 7, and 9), Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, Avatar: The Last Airbender, anything Studio Ghibli and Pixar

What was your first ACen experience? My first ACen was 2002. I brought my violin with me. I can play pretty much anything by ear, and was playing themes from various video games, shows, and movies throughout the weekend. While impatiently waiting for the dance, I started playing conga music and of course, a conga line formed behind me. Because of repeated violations of the fire code, conga lines are now forbidden at ACen. You know you had a good time when you set precedent for future events (FYI, if I see anyone starting a conga line, I *will* break it up).

Why did you join staff? I wanted to go to the Convention for free! I started on the Logistics staff, which was a lot of hard work and heavy lifting, but the cool thing about it was that all our work was done before and after the Convention, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the Con itself. I got lucky to get on that staff as a lot of positions do all their work during the Convention (and now I’m in yet another position that does all their work before the Con). However, I was on the Merch staff a few years where all that work was during the Convention, but I managed to scam some extra ACen shirts and swag on the cheap! I had a lot of fun yelling at the top of my lungs hawking ACen swag. Every staff has its work to do, but every department does their fair share, and the perks are totally worth it!

What tips do you have for attendees to enjoy ACen more? Keep your packing as simple as possible. If you can’t carry all your luggage by yourself, you’d better have a big enough cart to lug all your stuff around. And for the sake of others, please bathe.

What were your most interesting experiences with the Program Guide? Did you catch any typos? Feel free to leave a coment!

Japanese Gardens in the Chicagoland Area

Anime Central isn’t just about Japanese movies and comics. We promote all the cultural aspects of Japan and encourage everyone to learn more than just Japan’s popular culture. You don’t need to go all the way around the world to learn more. There are many things you can do in the local area! This week, we’ve made a list of beautiful Japanese Gardens in the Chicagoland area. If you’re coming from afar, if you can spare the time, and if they’re on the way, make a brief stop to soak in other aspects of Japanese culture.

Osaka Garden at Jackson Park; Chicago, IL

Like most Japanese gardens in North America, Osaka Garden is a mélange of many influences, including elements of stroll, tea, and pond gardens. The site has been laid out as a stroll garden, alternately hiding and revealing its elements as one walks through it. The visitor enters through the gate and follows a stone path leading to the tea house. Along the way, one finds meandering streams, a waterfall, and a small turtle island (kame-shima). The color scheme is relatively subtle with various shades of green becoming the canvas for the rest of the garden elements.

The Fabyans’ Japanese Garden at Fabyan Woods; Geneva, IL

The Fabyan Villa was the home of Col. George and Nelle Fabyan from 1905-1939. The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Prairie-style house contains the Fabyans’ private collection of Asian artifacts, natural history specimens, original furniture and more! Documents and photographs detail Col. Fabyan’s involvement in the Treaty of Portsmouth and Japanese international relations, the Bacon/Shakespeare controversy, code-breaking that significantly influenced both World Wars and pioneering research and development in acoustics. The Japanese Garden was installed around 1910, which affords the opportunity to experience the uniqueness of Japanese gardening and enjoy a moment of harmony with nature while strolling the winding path of this 100 year-old site.

Sansho-En and the Bonsai Collection at the Chicago Botanic Gardens; Glencoe, IL

The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden (also called “Sansho-En”, the Garden of Three Islands) is designed in Japanese style with over 280 types of plants conducive to gardening in the Midwest United States. It is a four-season garden with curving paths and pruned trees, framing distant views of lakes, grassy hills, woods and gardens beyond. The three islands are named “Keiunto”, “Seifuto” and “Horaijima”. Additionally, the Bonsai Collection is regarded by bonsai experts as one of the best public collections in the world. It includes 200 bonsai in twenty-seven styles and more than 60 kinds of plants, including evergreen, deciduous, tropical, flowering and fruiting trees.

Anderson Japanese Gardens; Rockford, IL

Anderson Japanese Gardens were established in 1978 by John R. Anderson and landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu on the site of Anderson’s home. The gardens are designed in a 13th-century “pond strolling” garden with several waterfalls and ponds, streams, rock formations, winding paths, and a sukiya style tea house and guest house. The “Garden of Reflection” is a contemporary Japanese-inspired garden, with bronze angel sculptures. Plantings include Japanese maples, cloud pines, azaleas, magnolias, and rhododendrons. The gardens are home to many species of colorful fish, minks, and ducks. In the “Garden of Reflection” beetle traps hang over the water to encourage these fish to surface for food.

Moriyama Japanese Gardens at the Ewing Cultural Center; Bloomington, IL

The Moriyama Japanese Garden, located on the grounds of Ewing Cultural Center, was established in 1986 as an example of the friendship between the cities of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, U.S.A., and Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan. Named in honor of Motoichi Moriyama, the first chairperson of the friendship committee in Asahikawa, the garden has been the site of celebrations and ceremonies and is as beautiful in spring as it is after a winter snow. It provides a place for quiet contemplation and a beautiful site for hundreds of people who enjoy it each night of the summer when they come to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Are there any other Japanese Gardens you’ve been to? Feel free to leave a comment!

Anime Central After Action Report

Whew! What a Convention! It’s almost hard to believe that we packed that much fun into a whole weekend! What’s that? How much fun did we pack into last weekend? How about some numbers?

We had 80 fascinating panels!

We had 127 amazing vendors!

We had 173 wonderful artists!

We had 28,692 attendees this year!

The Kalafina concert on Friday was awesome! They put on a mind-blowing show! Keiko, Wakana, and Hikaru’s vocals were magnificent!

Eric Maruscak spent hours creating one of his massive chalk murals. We’ll post a time lapse video of this year’s mural down the road!

Wow. That’s a lot of fun in one weekend, and we’re crazy enough to do it again next year and the year after that too! We’ve had lots of fun last weekend, but we should never lose sight of what Anime Central is about. It’s not just about anime, manga, or cosplay. When it comes down to it, Anime Central is about the fans: otaku who happen to have a shared love of all things anime. The Convention couldn’t have happened without a lot of people, and we’ve got a lot of folks to thank.

A big thanks goes to all our wonderful guests. The Convention would be a lot more boring without your unique industry insider perspectives! We hope the adoration of your fans will encourage you to come visit us again next year!

Thanks to all the artists and vendors who brought such wonderful items our Exhibit Hall. We hope that you had a fun (and profitable) time at your booth last weekend, enough to come back and do it again next year!

To all of our staff members and generous attendees who volunteered as Gophers at the Convention, thanks for taking the time out of your busy lives to help make a fun weekend happen for everyone! This year’s Convention may be over, but we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that next year’s Convention is even bigger and better than this year’s!

And to each and every one of our 28,692 attendees, thank you. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t even have a reason to have the Convention. May your love of all things anime bring you back to see us again next year and the many years after that.

The Exhibit Hall is empty, already swept clean. The hotel lobbies are quiet and tranquil once more. Guest, staff, and attendee alike have gone home with memories from last weekend that will last a lifetime.

 

But wait! Just because the Convention is over, doesn’t mean that the fun is over!

Anime Central isn’t just about anime and manga. We encourage everyone to explore the many cultural aspects of Japan and Asia. Keep an eye on this blog and we’ll continue to post on this blog about cultural topics and events, focusing on the Chicagoland area but with a broad eye for the rest of the world too! You’ll need to stay informed about next year’s Convention, so we’ll continually post news about next year’s Convention on the blog as well!

For news about next year’s Convention, you don’t have to follow just the website. Come find out in person! The ACen Road Show makes appearances at other fan conventions. We run games and contests, recruit staff, answer questions, and have a great time doing our very best to get the word out about our show. You can even get badges for next year’s Convention at the special Road Show pre-registration rate of $38.00! That’s the best rate you’ll find anywhere, lower than the earliest early-bird price! The Road Show rate is only available to attendees registered at the convention or event that the Road Show attends; we give this rate to show appreciation and support to other conventions. For our Road Show appearance schedule, visit http://www.acen.org/road_show.

Now that the Convention is over, feel free tell us what you did and didn’t like. The best way to make Anime Central a better convention is with your feedback. After all, the whole point of this Convention is for you, the fans!  We don’t improve unless you tell us what needs improving. To give your feedback directly, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iapmP4RdHvppdg0AManRWvCQMoLmGTsZaDIyKTBDdEU/viewform

And so, with the deepest bow, and from the bottoms of our hearts, to everyone involved: Domo arigato gozaimasu! See you next year, Space Cowboy!

Last Minute Announcements and What to do when you get to the Convention

The Convention is coming up this weekend! We’re all so excited! Our staff is geared up and getting everything prepared for an awesome weekend. Are you ready?

You’re on your way to the Convention! What do you need to do when you get there?

If you’re driving to the Convention, make sure you have enough cash to park your car. Some lots accept credit cards, but many do not. We posted about the local parking rates on our previous post at http://www.acen.org/blog/?p=242!

If you’re staying at or near the Convention, check into your hotel room. Bring your luggage up and make sure your room is in good condition. If you have a costume, now might be a good time to put it on!

Go to Registration and get your badge (unless you already had it mailed to you). You can’t get into the Convention without your badge! Be sure to grab a copy of the Program Guide, or download the Guidebook app in advance at (link). Take the time to see what’s going on in the Program Guide, so you can plan out what to do while you’re there!

Before you leave home, are you fully packed for the Convention? Do you have everything you need, ready to go? Here’s what you’ll probably need in order of likely importance! Print off this handy checklist!

Wallet/Purse

- Government issued identification

- Cash

- Credit cards

- Anime Central 2013 Badge (if you pre-registered and had it mailed to you)

Consumables

- Important medications and medical equipment (ace wraps, blood testers, etc.)

- Bottle of water, with lanyard

- Snacks & munchies

-Chewing gum/breath mints

Electronics

- Cellular telephone

- Laptop computer/tablet

- Music player

- Power/charging/data cables

Stuff to have autographed

- Books/movies/collectibles

- Autograph notebook

- Pen/marker/writing utensil

Toiletries

- Toothbrush & toothpaste (not optional!)

- Deodorant (also not optional!)

- Soap & shampoo (very much not optional!)

- Towel (are you a hoopy frood?)

- Feminine hygiene products (if needed)

Clothing

- Cosplay costumes

- Warm & comfy clothes

- Shoes & socks (both comfy shoes and any costume shoes!)

- Clean underwear!

- Sleepwear

- Swimwear (for the hotel pool, if it has one!)

Anything else you can think of? Feel free to leave a comment!

Packing for the Convention

“What should I bring to the con with me?” Well, that all depends. What do you want to do? How long are you staying? There’s a lot to consider. It’s never good to bring too much or too little.

Whether you’re planning on coming for the day or staying the whole weekend, make sure to have all the essentials you can’t live without, and we’re not talking about just your smart phone. Don’t forget to bring any medication you might need. Bring a bottle of water, preferably a bottle with a lanyard, so you don’t have to hold it in your hand the whole time. Stay hydrated because Otakudom is thirsty work!  Be sure to bring your wallet, ID, and cash/credit cards. You’ll need to pay for your badge and any souvenirs you want to buy. The best things in life are free, but Otakudom isn’t cheap!

Don’t forget the appropriate cables and accessories for your phone, computer, or any other electronics you plan to bring too! At least make sure your phone is charged and ready for emergencies. There are emergency charging stations with a variety of different plugs in the Convention Center lobby, but they may be in use when you get there, especially during the busiest times of the Convention.

This may be your only chance to meet that celebrity you love so much, so bring all the things you want autographed with you too! Don’t bring too much to sign, as a celebrity may have limits to what they will sign. At the very least, they may make you go back to the end of the line after a certain limit. The full rules for autographs are posted in the program guide, but a celebrity may have addition rules beyond that.

If you are planning on staying more than one day, make sure you have all your toiletries with you. Your toothbrush and deodorant are not optional! The hotel you’re staying at will have complimentary soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and towels, but make sure there’s enough to go around if you are staying in a room with friends. Hoopy froods always knows where their towels are.

Don’t forget regular clothes too! Your costume may be too complicated to put on at a moment’s notice, or you might just want to relax in a t-shirt and comfy pants. Make sure you always wear clean underwear; you never know what might happen!

Odds are you’re coming to the Convention to buy stuff! If you’re just coming for one day to see a few panels and do a quick browse of the exhibit hall, all you need is enough backpack space to carry what you purchased, and enough room in your car to be able to take it home. Your friend probably wouldn’t appreciate having to hold 3 broadswords, 5 wall scrolls, and 7 boxes of manga in his lap the whole drive home. Even if you’re planning on staying for more than one day, and you’re getting a hotel room to have a place to sleep and somewhere to keep your stuff, make sure that you have enough room to take everything home with you after the con is over.

Are you planning on participating in the Masquerade, or do you have costumes you worked hard on and want to show off? How intricate are you costumes? How many parts do they have? How many costumes are you planning on bringing? The Convention is only for 3 days, so unless you’re looking to go through Lady Gaga amounts of costume changes, one costume per day is usually enough, but feel free to wear as many costumes as you like, as long as you’re having fun doing it!

On Friday, the Convention is usually starting; you’re excited for the con, and have a lot of energy. You might be tempted to wear your fancy (heavy), intricate (delicate), detailed (uncomfortable) costume on Friday, but most people aren’t getting to the Convention until later in the evening. Saturday is usually the best day to show off your costume because you’ll have the whole day and evening to show off your ensemble. Saturday is also the night of the Masquerade. If you’re going to wear a costume on Sunday (still highly recommended, as the fun still isn’t over yet), make sure that you don’t pack parts of your costume so deep in your suitcase that you can’t get them, and that when you do take it off to leave, you should still have room in your luggage and/or vehicle to take it with you! Sunday is Children’s day, so make sure your little ones join in on the fun and get to cosplay too!

For Friday and Sunday cosplay, a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Dress as a character who wears a laid back or casual costume. Arthur Dent travelled the universe in nothing but his pajamas and bathrobe. If you’re coming from work on Friday you might even be coming to the con *in* your work clothes. Why not make your work clothes work for you? Many characters look dapper in a suit and tie which is always workplace office appropriate. If you’re lucky, Friday is casual day in your office anyway. If you can get away with it, just wear your costume to work! See how many people notice. You might discover a fellow otaku you previously did not know about.

What are your tips and tricks for packing for the Convention? Feel free to leave a comment!

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