Sam in Japan

One reason I came to Japan was to look for monsters. One place I’ve found them is Mandarake, in Nakano Broadway.

It’s a hive-like mall of small stalls selling manga, anime, idol merch and all kinds of other stuff. My favourite things were the toys and figurines from old tokusatsu films and dramas.

Everything was lovingly preserved and going for eye-watering collectors’ prices. Some items were quite charming and endearing…

…others less so.

More faces of Tokyo coming soon.

Spotted this guy soon after arriving here. I knew how he felt.

This fellow below was guarding a shrine at Mount Takao. I think the wire was to protect me, not him.

I met these two characters below at Meiji Jingu, a very solemn and serious place.

…More faces of Tokyo to follow. 😀

To Odaiba, to visit Japan’s “Future Museum,” the Miraikan. The trip across Tokyo Bay on the (driverless, rail-less) Yurikamome Line made me feel like I was in the future already…

…so when I arrived I was delighted but strangely unsurprised to find what appeared to be a real giant mech under construction.

The Miraikan’s exhibits were beautiful and inspiring. By the time I took this shot, looking up at the Fuji TV Building…

…my imagination was reeling.

The book I’m currently writing is set in the future. I came to the right place. 😀

On my first, daylight visit to Asakusa I was short of time, the rain was slashing down and the place was packed. My second was much nicer.

The crowds were almost gone, so the souvenir and snack shops of Nakamise Street were closing up…

…but in their night-time lighting the temple buildings…

…looked magical.

This, below, is a view of the north (back) face of the Hozomon:

See those giant sandals? They belong to the Buddha’s bodyguards, the Nio. Everyone else might be heading home, but at each gate the Nio were still standing watch against evil, ready at any moment to come to life…

… and take their full size

…with swift and horrifying consequences.

I could see it would be prudent to keep any evil thoughts to myself. ;D

Friday night, at the Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku:

I took this pic at the Tori no ichi – a festival about good luck.  These…

…are bamboo rakes, to help you ‘rake in’ good fortune, each one so elaborately decorated that they made the place feel like a dragon’s treasure horde.

Other stalls at the festival were selling all kinds of delicious things to eat, including my new favourite Japanese food, takoyaki.

Under the sauces and bonito flakes imagine six small portions of scrambled egg fried into golfball shapes filled with pickled ginger, green onions and (you can see a tentacle, above top right) these guys:

I didn’t buy a rake. I already felt lucky enough.

Near-fatal faux pas leaves author forced to climb mountain, tell gods he’s sorry: this week on Trapped By Monsters, Don’t Tangle with Tengu.

What Am I Doing Here in Tokyo? It’s ok, sometimes I ask myself that, too. ;D The answer is, I’m writing a book.

I’ve been researching and planning this story since May (and before, but that’s when I got serious). It’s wildly ambitious, thoroughly outrageous and occasionally I’m not sure if I’m good enough to manage it. [BTW: I think that’s the proper attitude to have going into a new project. I mean, how could it have a chance of being truly awesome, otherwise?]

Also? I just passed the ten thousand words mark on the very first draft.

One of the great things about being a writer is that you can take your work anywhere. I’ve always known this in theory, but now I’m happy to be able to confirm that it works in practice too – even for a creature of habit like me. 😀

In other news, the time is coming once more for my blogging arrangements to move to a brand new website, created especially for my forthcoming novella for Barrington Stoke, MY NAME IS O. Major works are going on behind the scenes as I’m typing this: The Mighty WebSphinx rides again! Watch this space.

My brother – who has his own experience of what it’s like to live in a foreign country – asked me a very good question in an email recently. Wondering how I was finding life in Tokyo, he asked “Is it utterly alien and unsettling, or are you enjoying the change of scenery and weirdness-on-tap?

The answer, of course, is both.

On Friday in Tokyo it p!ssed with rain all day. I spent the afternoon feeling cold and homesick, and even got as far as wondering if I’d made a mistake in coming here. But then I pushed myself out for a walk and took this picture:

This is Shimokitazawa, where I live. This scene is five minutes’ walk from the house I’m currently sharing. I’ve been here over two weeks now, and every time I’ve gone out in this neighbourhood I’ve discovered something new and amazing.

This weekend there was a festival in another cool Tokyo neighbourhood, Koenji. There was live wrestling (with a gaijin baddie-!)

…an astonishing street performance by an orchestra of young players and cheerleaders…

…and an incredibly unsettling shop dummy with a rabbit’s head:

(The sign around the dummy’s neck says Don’t Touch. I didn’t want to.)

To finish with pics for now, here’s some taiko drumming that just happened to be going on right there in the street the next day in Shibuya as I was walking past:

There have been times when I have been scared, intimidated, infuriated and baffled here – not by the place or the people, I hasten to add, but by myself and my reactions to being so far out of my usual element.

But I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it. 😀

More soon,


This week on Trapped By Monsters: surgical masks, J-Pop and the terrifying yokai known as Kuchisake Onna.

Yesterday was a national holiday in Japan – Bunka no hi or Culture Day. I spent the afternoon walking around the forest of Meiji Jingu

…where I was lucky enough to catch an astonishing and beautiful display of martial arts. There was sword fighting…

…spear fighting…

…and a particularly jaw-dropping display of how even a katana-wielding samurai in full armour can be vulnerable to a well placed blow with this hook-bladed hatchet:

But even more amazing was the demonstration of Yabusame – traditional Japanese archery from horseback.

The participants arrived in ceremonial procession…

…fully decked out in gorgeous period regalia…

…and proceeded to charge past the crowd at full tilt, loosing their arrows at the targets.

The horse and rider in my pic above are just speed blurs. Imagine how the target must look from the saddle!

As a total samurai movie geek I was in absolute heaven.

It was an awesome day…

…full of sights I’ll never forget.

I was grinning like an idiot for the entire afternoon. ;D

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