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Thursday 9th July 2015

Jack Neighbour prepares you for life in Japan


With the UK economy in the horrendous state it’s in, there’s no surprise that increasing numbers of young people are fleeing the jobless wasteland that our Great Britain has become in search of greener pastures, where they can drink and sleep in peace without being labelled as wasters. Japan is becoming a popular haven for the fallen to run to after they realise that a degree in the Arts will get you about as far as you can throw it.

Traditionally, travelers have favoured places like India or Malaysia for their spiritual and cultural awakenings, but in recent years people have turned to Japan for its modern living, cheap(ish) lifestyle and an abundance of job opportunities for those willing to pass on their native language to the locals.

I happen to be one of those poor aforementioned people, taking the plunge to move abroad after flailing around for the best part of two years trying to find permanent employment. The reality is that our generation (86-96 birth-dates) is quickly becoming ‘lost’ with no prospects in sight. Even being armed with the best grades, a decent portfolio from Uni and being a generally likable person, no matter what the industry, you come out of the interview with the same feedback:

JapanYes, it really was a better idea to jump straight into that dead-end admin role instead of following your dreams and hoping to somehow better yourself as a person. So flee we do, into the warm embracing arms of the working holiday visa and fly away on the first cheap, indirect flight we can find. Or I did anyway. There are many, so many things that are wonderful and enriching about Japan but before you can truly experience them, there are a few minor obstacles that need to be overcome. They seem like nothing to worry about, but as a foreigner with no Japanese skills, what starts as a small inconvenience on your first day can rapidly develop into such a disheartening series of events, you’ll be sat in an internet café booking your flight home and applying for Job-seekers allowance before you know it.

So here it is, my definitive list of pitfalls on your first few days in Japan, everything listed below is something that I encountered and eventually overcame (with the help of MangaUK's Fraser Overington). Here we go:

1. Leaving the airport.
When I arrived in Narita I was tired and had no one meeting me, I had to get from the airport to Shinjuku station with no phone and no internet. The signs are predominantly in Japanese and very few staff members speak English, you can either be proactive and break out your phrase book or just stand and stare.ConfusedThere are two options available here, you should make your way down to the subway area and look for the JR barriers, they are green and the ‘JR’ is always written in Roman Script. You can ask at the help desk for a Suica (Swee – ka) card, basically a Japanese Oyster card. This will let you travel anywhere on the JR line if you charge it with money. If you approach the desk and simply say “Swee – ka wa?” it should all work out alright. This essentially means “What is Suica?” but to a Japanese official it means “please help me, I’m a foreigner and I have no clue what I’m doing and if you ignore me I’ll die.”

Then, through a pantomime of gestures and a lot of crying, you will bea ble to pay for a card, its about 3,000 yen (18 quid), 500 yen for the card and 2,500 in credit. If you want to put more money on the card there are always green charge stations both before and after the barriers, they all have English language options as well, thank god.

I did not do this. I wandered over to a desk where I could see ‘Shinjuku’ written on the departure board. As it turns out this was for the Narita Express ,a slightly more expensive venture but easy enough, I just held up one finger and said “Shinjuku” and they typed the price into a calculator. It was roughly 3,000 yen to go, its slightly faster than the JR line but I was faced with the problem of how to travel after I arrived. So you need to get a Suica card anyway, might as well be as soon as you land.


2. Getting around with no GPS (no phone)
If you don’t know the area and you are on your own, there are usually very few options but to wander around in a gradually increasing radius, systematically learning your surroundings and then quietly lamenting because everything looks too similar. The answer? Go old school; use a paper map or a print out from Google maps that you prepared in your home country with all your technological luxuries and your common sense.

Even just for your very first day, you would be amazed by how much easier it is to get around with a rudimentary scribble of where to go and what to look out for. You might feel a bit of a tourist and you’ll look like one too, but lets face it, you’re a foreigner on the streets of Japan,you’re never going to blend in seamlessly.Stand out

3. Registering your foreigners’ card.
You can do nothing without first registering your foreigners card. Carry it with you always, get caught without it and you can be deported on the spot! I just placed it in my wallet where my drivers’ license was. If you try and rent, buy a phone, or open a bank account, no one will do anything without seeing a registered card.

You need to go to your local Ward Office, which is a bit like a city council office. I cannot stress enough that it has to be your local one. Wherever you are living, permanent or temporary, you must find the office in that area, if you go anywhere else, the staff will not allow you to register your card. I met Fraser who speaks some Japanese to try and help me, I traveled for an hour to go and see him and register at the nearest Ward office. Obviously it was not anywhere near my local one so they told me (very politely) to do one.LostThe good news is that most Ward Offices do actually have English speaking staff, it’s not a high level of English but as with most things, a mixture of broken phrases and gestures usually gets the job done.

Find the location on Google, go there and allow at least an hour. Once there, it is relatively simple; take a ticket wait till your number is called and give them your card. They will check your address and print it on the back of your card, then you’re done!

Now then, until next time….


Akira (the Collector\'s Edition) Triple Play Edition (incl. Blu-ray, Dvd, Digital Copy)

was £29.99
Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime masterpiece! Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality.

Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon - telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project's most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again. 
AKIRA The Collector’s Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001

Pioneer/Animaze English dub!



Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.


How to Cosplay

Amber Lawrence on the top ten ways to perfect cosplay without ending up on a snark site.
The most important thing anyone needs to know about cosplay is that it’s all about putting on a silly costume for a day, hanging out with your fellow geeks and revelling in geekish joy. But if you combine the increasing numbers of people getting into cosplay and the speedy and anonymous nature of the internet, you end up with a lot of websites out there dedicated to showcasing “Cosplay Fail”. So, if you want to have some costumed fun for the weekend but are worried about faceless internet critics nitpicking at your efforts afterwards, here are our survival tips…

Bleach music: Fumika

Tom Smith on Bleach’s most powerful voice
What does the anime series Bleach, Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys and grainy mobile phone videos all have in common? For 25-year-old singer Fumika Mitsui, they mark the point where her wildest dreams came true.

Tales of Vesperia Cosplay: Estelle & Rita

Paul Jacques finds a princess and a... erm... scholar
Cosplaying away at Birmingham's Comic Con, Meg Atwill dresses up as Estellise Sidos Heurrasein (or Estelle for short), accompanied by Aimee Tacchi as the whip-wielding scholar Rita Mordio, both from Tales of Vesperia.
Following its phenomenal success in UK cinemas last Autumn, Manga Entertainment are thrilled to announce the re-release of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' in 3D for a limited time in 56 sites across the UK.

Bandai Museum, Tokyo

Rayna Denison checks out Bandai’s toy museum
In the dark days between the closure of the first Bandai-Gundam Museum in 2006 and the proliferation of Gundam cafes across Japan’s capital over the past few years, a small glimmer of mecha-shaped light remained for anime fans near Japan’s capital: the Bandai Museum in Mibu, Tochigi Precture. This new “Omocha-no-machi” Bandai Museum opened in 2007, following the demise of the original museum in Chiba, offering a huge collection of toys from the Edo-period to the present day.
The Comic Artist and His Assistants follows the adventures of a very perverted comic artist, Aito Yuuki. To celebrate the show's UK release, we decided to take a look at our favourite perverts from the anime world.

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #5

Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth?
Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!
Over the next few weeks we will be choosing our favourite Japanese and English voice actors. Disagree with our choices? Make sure you let us know your favourites!
This week we have the long-awaited Evangelion 3.33 and the extremely popular sports anime Haikyu!! for you! What are you picking up this week?
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Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. FIVE THINGS TO PREPARE YOU FOR LIFE IN JAPAN : PART 1 from the UK's best Anime Blog.