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.
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.
While traveling across Japan, it is highly likely you will step into at least one temple or shrine. The architecture, history, culture, and natural beauty of temples and shrines make them great places to visit. There are a few rules you may not be familiar with that are common across the country. It is important to follow the rules to help preserve these religious sites and allow others to have a pleasant experience.
Take Shoes Off Before Entering a Building
This may seem basic, but it is not always obvious to visitors that you are expected to remove footwear before entering buildings. There is an area you can take shoes off and put them in a storage bin or leave to the side. Slippers are typically provided by the site for visitors to use while touring the interior. It is acceptable to walk around in socks if your feet are too big to fit into slippers. If you wear a men's size 10 or larger shoe, you should plan to wear thicker crew socks as a precaution.
Follow the Guide Arrows and Path
It is important to travel along the designated route inside buildings to help keep the flow of foot traffic moving. You may be asked to not stop along the way if the site is very busy and crowded. In addition, staying on pathways prevents damage to the grounds and floorboards not protected for visitors.
Do Not Take Photos Where Prohibited
There may be signs posted asking visitors to refrain from taking flash photos or pictures in general. One reason for this is to protect paintings and other art from damage and deterioration due to the intensity of a camera flash. Another is to prevent traffic from slowing down due to everyone taking a picture of the same thing. Third, temples and shrines want to prevent pictures taken of treasured artifacts and encourage gift shop sales. Regardless of the reasoning, you should respect the signs posted.
You Can Participate in Various Cultural Practices
When visiting a temple or shrine, you may see other visitors breathe incense or take a sip from flowing water with a wooden cup or other instrument. It is acceptable to follow their lead by saying a prayer and also partaking in these cultural practices.
Ask About Shuinchou Stamps Before Taking a Tour
You should ask how each temple and shrine stamps a shuinchou book or look for signs upon entering, The reason is because some places are busy and will collect them at the beginning of a tour to complete. Others may give a pre-made insert to put in a book. The most enjoyable experience is watching someone create the stamp, but this is not always the case. Keep in mind that not all temples and shrines provide stamp opportunities for a shuinchou.
Japan is not the only country that has a cherry blossom season. The Tidal Basin around the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is another such place. This area is full of cherry blossom trees given to the United States by Japan. Each spring, the blossoms go into full bloom for locals and tourists to enjoy. The timing various depending on the weather just like in Japan. An annual festival known as the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held around the blooming time period. The festival hosts multiple activities and events in the heart of Washington D.C. The history of how the cherry blossom trees were donated and more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival can be found here. Another great resource for blooming forecasts is the full bloom watch for Washington D.C. found here. This site gives updates on the latest information for peak blooming and previous season information. The average full bloom time period is similar to that of Japan. You should expect the peak bloom in Washington D.C. to occur, on average, between the last week of March and the first week of April. It is quite the spectacular and you should expect a plethora of tourists and traffic during the peak bloom period.