Each summer, collegiate baseball teams from multiple nations travel around and play each other at minor league ballparks. Around July 4th, one of these special games is played at the BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC. In 2017, Cuba and USA collegiate teams played each other. This year, a Japan and USA team played on July 3, 2018.
The minor league baseball ballpark in Charlotte, NC attracts many visitors around July 4th because of the fireworks display after certain games. I went to the Japan vs. USA game with a few friends including my buddy Dan, an avid fan of Japanese baseball. He enjoys following the Seibu Lions. After nine innings of play, Japan won with a final score of 1-0. It was a very defensive game with teams struggling to get players in scoring positions. According to Dan, a few players from last year's Japan collegiate team were recruited to Japanese major league teams. Last October, Dan went on the Japanball baseball tour in Japan. Baseball in Japan is a different experience than what you see in the United States. I highly recommend attending a baseball game in Japan if you ever go during the regular season.
We thoroughly enjoyed attending the game and were lucky to sit in a shaded area. The fireworks display was enjoyable as well. Each teamed showed good sportsmanship and enthusiasm on the field. The USA team gave the Japan team long sleeve shirts to commemorate the occasion. The Japan team's roster and game results can be found here.
I recently attended Heroes Convention (June 15-17, 2018) held annually in Charlotte, NC. The event attracts many comic book and web comic fans from across the region. There is a large variety of artists, vendors, and writers manning booths. While the main theme of the convention is tied to comic book heroes, there was an abundance of art, merchandise, and cosplayers related to Japanese anime.
The front half of the convention center hall was dedicated to vendors selling a wide assortment of merchandise including clothing, figurines, comics, key chains, etc. For every booth catering to the super hero fanatic, there was another with a variety of anime-themed wall scrolls, trinkets, and other items. I recognized a handful from previous Japanese conventions around the state of North Carolina. Get Some Game (a hobby shop I frequent in Charlotte, NC) had a booth selling everything from Harry Potter wands to Mobile Suit Gundam models. The owners are great people and I stopped by to say hi and see what they were selling. As I walked further through the area to the artist alleys, I passed by a number of people cosplaying as characters from Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and even Samus from Metroid. It was surprising to see people dressed as anime characters at a convention better known for comic enthusiasts.
Toward the rear of the hall, I visited my friend John Hartness, writer and creator of the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter series. While speaking with John, I noticed a booth nearby with anime pictures. The artist had some amazing original Dragon Ball Z fan art. He was selling drawings of Frieza and the Ginyu Force to a customer. While many people attend this convention to meet and purchase artwork from artists in the comics community, there was a noticeable amount of anime-inspired pieces also for sale.
I high encourage anyone interested in super heroes, anime, fantasy novels, and even Star Wars to visit Heroes Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center June 14-16, 2019. You will not be disappointed with the quality of original art, books, merchandise, and panels offered. The amount of highly skilled artists and creators attending Heroes Convention was truly impressive.
June 2018 celebrates the one year anniversary of my last trip to Japan as well as the creation of this website. I visited Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo with my fiance (Ashley) and her mother in June 2017. My fiance's mother was living in Iwakuni, Japan at the time and meet us in Osaka to start the trip. I cannot recommend getting off a 13 hour plane and then taking a train ride from Tokyo to Osaka in the same day. We had a wonderful trip, new experiences, and learned much about each other. Traveling with others and traveling solo can create completely different experiences. As a male, it can be quite challenging sharing a bedroom and bathroom with two females for over a week. I wrote a journal chronicling our journey (as I also did on my first trip) and sent daily emails out to friends and family. The positive feedback I received from readers is what inspired me to share my knowledge and experiences with others.
Moving forward into the next year of writing, I will expand topics by touching more on what Japanese culture means to me. Starting in July, I plan to go deeper into the emotional connections with Japanese culture and how it has continuously inspired me since 2004. I hope you continue to join me on this adventure as we cross into the second half of the year.
Kimonos are Japanese formal attire worn during ceremonies, festivals, weddings, and other special occasions. They are generally made with wool, silk, and other fine materials. Kimonos are heavier in weight than yukatas and contain a lining. They are usually custom made for an individual and come in multiple styles. Women have a few footwear options with a kimono. Men typically wear tabi socks along with multiple footwear options as well. There are a number of accessories necessary for wearing a kimono such as a juban and obi belt. Descriptions of the different parts of a kimono are available here.
Where to Buy a Kimono
New kimonos are typically custom made for an individual and can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. However, used kimonos sell for unbelievably low prices in Japan. For example, the male kimono and obi pictured was under $60 together. The domestic demand for used kimonos is extremely low, but there is a decent demand from tourists. You can find used kimonos available at second-hand shops ranging in styles, colors, sizes, and prices. These shops are generally located near popular tourist spots. There are also a number of online outlets that sell kimonos with a variety of options .
How to Wear a Kimono
Wearing a kimono is a multi-step process. It requires some practice and essential accessories. A good guide to putting on a female kimono can be found here. A very extensive guide including tabi sizing for male kimonos is available here.
Yukatas are Japanese kimonos made of cotton and other lightweight materials. They do not include a interior lining like regular kimonos. This makes them breathable and great for warmer temperatures. Yukatas are worn by men and women. They are worn for summer festivals, special events, and ceremonies. Sandals are the preferred footwear with yukatas. They are also quite popular in the modern fashion world. Woman are wearing traditional and non-traditional styles as a statement piece in multiple ways.
Where to Buy a Yukata
Yukatas are relatively affordable and make a great souvenir or gift. There are plenty of boutiques, department stores, and other retailers selling yukatas. You can also find second-hand shops selling them at discount prices. When purchasing one in Japan, pay particular attention to the length of the garment. You do not want to buy one that is too short; especially, if you are tall. Clothing in Japan runs smaller than what you would find in the United States. If you are a tall male, it can be difficult finding larger sizes that fit correctly. There are multiple online stores that sell affordable yukatas in many styles, patterns, and sizes. You will want to purchase a obi (sash for tying a yukata) as well.
How to Wear a Yukata
Yukatas are worn in the same way as a kimono. The most important part of wearing them is to wrap the left side over the right and use a obi to tie it securely. Tying an obi into a bow can be a little challenging. Here is a video for women that can assist with putting on a yukata. If you are looking for assistance with putting on a male yukata, this step-by-step guide offers simple instructions.