I’ve Been Recognized!

I’ve been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! I don’t even know what to say, I’m so grateful! Thank you Ray so very much! Check out their content, they deserve all the views, readership and success in the world.

The Blogger Recognition Award Rules

So I’m supposed to give a bit of backstory on how the blog came to be, the journey so far, advice for new bloggers, and nominate 10-15 people.  I’m a tad long winded, so forgive me for the “how this blog started” portion’s length. I just needed to get its origin story off my chest.

How In Asian Spaces Came to Be:

On February 14th of 2017, I began working at my dream job. I wasn’t anyone very important of course, just one of four receptionists at a Japanese Cultural Center. After years of studying Japanese culture, watching its media and developing this insurmountable passion – I was finally living the life I always imagined.

I had never given a damn about any job I held before, I’d always just taken what was available to me. There were petty cat fights, aggression and harassment from management – but finally things had changed. It was different. I was different and for once, I wanted to try.

So I did the very best I could, each and every day. I arrived early, helped everyone to the best of my abilities, and enrolled at the language school on the premises to continue formal lessons in Japanese. I made a lot of enemies being so passionate about my job.

Certain co-workers would ask why I was there, and even email me job offers for other places. I didn’t speak fluent Japanese, never completed the JET program, and was not a Japanese from Japan. So why was I there?

I ignored the snide comments from visitors who also wondered how “someone like me” got there – asking questions like:

“Are you part Japanese?”

“Do you know someone higher up?”

Or remarking

“It’s nice someone let you work here”

All the while not realizing that upstairs beyond the public’s eye, the building was an almost even split between Americans of all backgrounds and Japanese from Japan.

Mind you it was never the Japanese who said terrible things, even when I eavesdropped on their conversations in their native language. It was always another “American”; usually not from New York.

Go figure.

But I survived, and I thrived each time I interacted with an expert from Japan, the head of a corporation, small business owners and people from the anime and manga industry. Unfortunately for the latter, some of these people were the type to treat you like gum stuck to the bottom of their shoe and then put on a dazzling smile for the public. I always have to laugh at the hypocrisy each time I attend an anime convention and there they are, conducting their panels and acting as if they walk on water and are the absolute finite pillars of the community.

That’s the funny thing about being a ‘lowly’ receptionist, people show their asses and never know the person they treated like shit could be right there in the audience, watching them.

You never know who anybody is these days, which is why you should treat people with respect and courtesy if they have never offended you. That is a given anyway, but people seem to forget the golden rule.

The best moments I had during my time there were:

  • Watching Okashi no Ie (おかしの家 ) in 2015, only to see Odagiri Joe walk through the lobby with his security and get into the elevator.  Later that night a film event would occur and he flew in from Japan to promote it. I remember hearing businessmen who had meetings with the higher ups speaking in Japanese about the actor, playfully making fun of his English name and stardom. It was even funnier when they saw me laughing and realized I understood them, and we joked about him together.
  • Watching a language learning series on YouTube years earlier only to realize that the location was the park across the street from my job, and the kind sensei in the videos was now the lovely sensei teaching me Japanese in real life.

It had felt like kismet, but all good things must come to an end.

A co-worker I never really got along with had become the new manager, and I interviewed for a vacancy in another department. I didn’t get the position, and suddenly began being sent to HR for things I didn’t do – forced to defend myself against the most ostentatious lies shortly after.

I spoke to the manager along her immediate superior in a meeting where I was told that “because you are dependable, we will keep putting you on unfairly and you’ll just have to deal with it.” I argued that newer employees had preferential schedules – while I never took off, never complained and didn’t mind being there, I just didn’t understand why they were treating me so poorly.

I learned around that time that only one of my three supervisors fought for me to have the new position, the other two spoke against me. I know which two more than ever now. I guess they didn’t want to lose their “dependable” work horse.

It only got worse from there. So one day, after my shift I told them I quit. I had a very long meeting with HR where she seemingly tried to stall me; not understanding why one of their best employees was completely done. I tried explaining the events that lead to this, even writing a very long detailed list of grievances as a last stand weeks earlier at my penultimate visit with HR.

I was told none of that mattered, that she “couldn’t see the forest through the trees” and that they (basically) believed the manager over anything I could possibly say.

So I left, and never looked back.

Months later I was still home, running out of money. Then one day, a Hail Mary came through that provided me a limited amount of income to live on. I tried looking for remote work and received a few interviews, but nothing stuck. I read that starting a blog while you search could be helpful, so I did that. I just wrote about daily WordPress challenges, and occasional short poems.

Until one day, I had the idea to write about Japanese culture, positive experiences, and things I’d learned from the center. It wasn’t until my coverage of AFNYCC and its response that really made me pause and say – “hey, this could actually work out”.

I purchased the domain shortly afterward.

I’ve been home a little over a year now, and for the first time in my life I can truly say I’m happy. I don’t have much money coming in, but I’ve decided to take things one day at a time. This may sound strange, but a lot of random occurrences and coincidences (if you believe in those) have been cementing my decision to become self-sufficient. To be my own boss, and work for myself.

I now have two websites, where I can talk about whatever I’d like without fear that some editor above me will reject my thoughts. I’ve made progress on stories and projects I placed on the backburner years ago when I didn’t have time for myself, but rather had to work on making others rich and successful. One of my short stories should be ready to drop within the next two months, scripts for graphic novels are now completed. Other short stories only need a few edits before self-publish, my novella is halfway written and I’ve finally finished those short film scripts I’d written in college – because I really should put this expensive Cinema Studies degree to use.

I’ve moved on and I feel good. I still have my original goal to stride towards concerning this website, and I know I’ll get there someday. I have shared it once before on Twitter, but I’ll keep it a secret for now until I’m able to do it. Within the next two years it should come to fruition.

And to the person from the company who has been keeping tabs on me in private mode on LinkedIn since I quit: if you’ve found this website I have a message for you.

I hope that the woman who lied on me – we both know who she is – finds happiness. I hope it is something she has dreamed about for years and it’s so perfect it doesn’t feel real. And when she does, I hope someone systematically destroys her experience each and every day.

When that does happen, I’d like her to think of me and realize that in this world, you do reap what you sow.

Half the staff that were employed while I was there have since quit, so 山田 太郎さん, you should really focus on your existing relationships and how to improve your workplace, rather than trying to figure out what I am doing.

I am grateful and excited to start this new chapter of my life, and thank you to those who read this blog. It’s been a struggle, but better days are ahead!

Now, for the nominations. I nominate:

A Nerdy Perspective

Global Debauchery

Living in Japan

Seeing Wide

The Comic Vault

The Navigatio

The Shooting Star

TravelLit

Travels With Nano

#moe404 

Advice for New Bloggers:

  • Try to self-host as soon as possible. It gives you a greater sense of agency over your content and because you own the domain, definitive authority.
  • SEO and promoting your own work on social media is really important. There are many resources, but Neil Patel’s website is a great place to start.  He goes into long tail keywords, short tail keywords, SEO optimization, DA, Backlinks, and a whole bunch of other stuff I had no clue existed until I started blogging.
  • It may seem like no one is reading, and you’ll get discouraged. But then one day out of the blue, you may receive a nice comment that motivates you to keep going. People really are reading, even if it seems like sometimes you’re just talking to yourself.
  • Join a blogging community or Facebook group to meet and network with others. Twitter has a really supportive community, you can start with the hashtag #BloggingTribe and narrow it down to find your niche.
  • Schedules and consistency are important. I’m really bad at keeping schedules, but people need to know when to look for your new content or series so they can support you. They want to know when to drop by and say hi, let them come!

Thank you again Ray, and congratulations to everyone nominated! I wish you all the success in the world, please continue making original and amazing content!

✰In Asian Spaces

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I’ve been Nominated!

I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award! It’s such an honor and has taken me by surprise. I would like to thank Andrew Comte of excuse my Thai (@excusemythai ) for thinking of me and the work we do on the blog. Please check out his blog, he does some amazing work concerning Thailand and ultimately has a goal of creating a non-profit to help provide rural Thai families with children’s school supplies.

So the rules are to nominate fellow bloggers, and list seven things about myself.

I nominate:

K, Amalog – A millennial lifestyle blog with a focus on underrated locations in Europe. (@amalog)

Mikhail Koulikov, Anime and Manga Studies – Takes an erudite approach to Japan through the cultural mediums of anime and manga. (@AnimeStudies)

Simon Gao, I can’t believe it’s not animeFeatures wacky and obscure Japanese film reviews that lend great insight into J pop culture and the inner society as a whole.

Japanese Tabi – An expat living in Japan and experiencing the country as the locals would. Hopefully they come back from hiatus soon! (@japan_tips17)

Jennifer, Japan’s Wonders – A glimpse into the lesser known areas of Japan, coupled with phenomenal photography!

Kay, Kdrama Kisses Brings you the latest in kdrama news, media and reviews. It is a great site to find your next new seasonal obsession! (@Kdrama_Kisses)

Karandi James, 100 Word Anime – Your one stop source for a spotlight on the anime community and reviews for ongoing shows! (@100wordanime)

7 Things About In Asian Spaces

I really enjoy taking walks in the rain. I don’t know what it is, but it creates an extremely peaceful atmosphere. The air smells fresh, the earth is quiet and cars move more slowly. No one is rushing and the earth seems still for a few hours.

I’m a huge fan of Lofi music and lately I’ve been getting back into Bon Iver.

I’m a woman! Lol. I’m intentionally vague on this blog and I notice that when interacting with people on social media they assume I’m a man for some reason. It’s actually kind of funny.

When I was younger, my mom used to have this elaborate plant wall in the house. As I’ve grown, it doesn’t look as big anymore but she has a green thumb for sure. Me? Not so much. Luckily, succulents (desert plants) seem to like me…so there’s that haha.

I grew up and still live by the ocean and miss it when I’m far away. On warm days or after a storm the air smells like salt water and sometime seagulls fly overhead.

Shinkai Makoto is my favorite animation director, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (from Deep Below) is my favorite film by him.

I absolutely ADORE period dramas of any kind! Some of my favs are: The Borgias, Reign (some differ on calling it a “period drama” because it aired on The CW but I digress) and The Last Kingdom. I would add Game of Thrones, but only before season 5 – after that it kind of went to shit.  I may be turning into A Song of Ice and Fire book snob…

Thank you again Andrew for the nomination (and sorry I’m getting to this so late!!)

I never thought I’d receive something like this! Everyone, please check out the bloggers I’ve nominated! They are all gems!

✰In Asian Spaces

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Hishigaki, the Hitotsume-Nyūdō | Natsume Yuujinchou | The Youkai of Anime

A new installment in the Sunday series – this week focusing on Hishigaki from Natsume’s Book of Friends.

This series will explore yokai, their history, and prevalence in a series. Japan is a land where spirituality is prized over religion, and Shintoism is viewed more like tradition than a bind. The tradition of visiting temples on the New Year, adding yuzu fruit to baths during the Winter Solstice, Jizo statues and local shrines are so old that no one remembers its origin story.

See our previous posts on Nyanko Sensei, the Maneki-Neko, Madara, the Okuri-Inu

Series Name: Natsume Yuujincho [夏目友人帳]

Number of Seasons: Six

Original Air Date: July – September 2008

Manga: Yes (ongoing)

OVA/Movies: Yes

Character Name: Hishigaki

Yokai Name: Hitotsume-nyūdō [一つ目入道]

Association: Manipulation of appearance, one eye, sacred regalia.

Episode of Appearance: Episode 1, Natsume Yuujinchou (Season 1)

Description:

A rather large youkai with one central eye, long grey-white hair, wearing white kimono with brownish-gold trim. Hishigaki is first introduced to Natsume Reiko standing near an ojizosan statue of a Buddhist priest holding shakujo.

O-jizo-san (地蔵菩薩) can range in size and are patrons who look over children, the underworld and weary travelers.  If I remember correctly, in Spirited Away – it’s been a while since I last saw the film – Chihiro and her family pass small forest jizo before crossing the river and entering the spirit world.

jordy-meow-418063-unsplash (1)A 錫杖, or Shakujo are staffs adorned with six golden rings and can also be referred to as “the pilgrim’s staff”. It is believed that the six rings represent the realms of karmic rebirth aided by the guidance of Jizō; a Bodhisattva that has attained enlightenment and wishes to help humanity essentially transcend suffering.

You may have seen this staff before.

It’s usually one of the divine instruments carried by a wandering Buddhist priest or monks who happen upon ungodly creatures in legends and decide to seal them with prayer. A contemporary depiction that comes to mind is the pervy priest, Miroku, from the anime Inuyasha.

The Episode

Seemingly one of the first yokai Natsume Reiko adds to The Book of Friends, Hishigaki chases the school girl’s grandson through a forest decades later- mistaking him for Reiko.

A woman is seen praying before leaving a manju bun. Given Hishigaki’s attire, it can be safe to guess she may be a sort of shrine guardian living on the outskirts of the forest.

Alone and hungry, Reiko seemed to provide a temporary salvation from her stationary existence. The youkai watched the seasons change while remaining in the same place, waiting for the girl’s return. When she never did, the spirit felt betrayed and wanted her name back.

It has been said that sometimes loneliness is not that bad. However, once companionship is found and taken away once more – it can become too much to bear. This seems to be the case with Hishigaki, who began the route of turning into a vengeful spirit.

Beliefs of Shintoism and the Influence of Buddhism

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I labeled this entry as Hitsotsume-nyudo due to her features, but I also wonder whether or not she could have been a Miko (shrine maiden) who went through a death ritual – giving her the white kimono garb.

Miko (巫女) are commonly known and identified by their bright crimson and white attire. Today in Japan the young women mainly sell omikuji (御神籤) or fortune slips at temples, assist priests in low-level rituals, and sweep the sacred grounds with brooms. Shrine maidens of the past had more pressing duties that carried weight far greater than today’s incarnate.

“…At the shrines of Ise, Kasuga, Kompira, and several others which I visited, the ordinary priestesses are children; and when they have reached the nubile age, they retire from the service. At Kitzuki the priestesses are grown-up women: their office is hereditary; and they are permitted to retain it even after marriage.”

Depending on prefecture, girls or women were thought to be property and wives to the gods, who in turn spoke through them and endowed with ritual dances and incantations for exorcism.

It can sometimes be hard to draw the line that intersects Shinto and Buddhist influences in Japan as they seem intertwined. Shinto beliefs are practiced in the course of daily life, while Buddhism dominates death and funeral rites.

The deceased are sometimes dressed in shinishozoku (死装束); which can translate to burial clothes or clothing worn when committing ritual suicide such as seppuku or harakiri. It is an all-white kimono with an off brown almost gold-ish obiage, or what resembles a thick sash in the middle. Occasionally, a triangular hat could be placed on the body. There are few prevailing theories regarding the hat that spirits are depicted wearing in paintings or historical records.  A 天冠, or Tenkan could either be defined as a coronation crown used during the Imperial period (1890 – 1945) or it could be related to the ‘celestial crown’ adorning Buddha and other divine beings.

I read somewhere that the Tenkan was an invention of Kabuki Theater to differentiate human actors from those portraying yurei, or spirits. Japan seems to have a history of associating certain articles of clothing or manners of speech with the ayakashi – however until I can relocate the work and source it I won’t elaborate further on that particular theory.

Could Hishigaki been a human in a past life who worked at a local temple or shrine?

But then, where would the one eye factor in?

I came across this Wikipedia page that suggested “cyclotropia” was a thing in ancient Japan due to a diet historically low in animal protein and fats. So in other words, some fetuses developed only one working eye due to poor nutrients on the mother’s part. At first glance, it could be slightly believable, as the Japanese diet consists of healthy seasonal vegetables and rich aquatic lifeforms.

However, upon further searches, nothing else can be found except vague allusions to conditions followed by heavy medical jargon. I sifted through the medical journals hoping I could probably find answers quickly, but unfortunately I just didn’t have the patience and fortitude to give it much credence.

That is not to say something like this could not have existed in many ancient cultures. It just seems like a very Western perception to suggest another culture had deformed children based on a diet that did not heavily favor meat and other livestock that is popular, but extremely unhealthy today.

Another definition I found attributes it to severe cases of cross-eyes. But also cites the Wikipedia post so for now, it’s a mystery.

The Legends      

Hishigaki has the appearance of the ōnyūdō (大入道), or “giant priest” due to her size. However, these yokai tend to be depicted as ‘normal’ humans in appearance aside from their grandiose size. They are also bald, which she is obviously not.

Thus, bringing us back to the Hitotsume-nyudo for classification purposes. Although typically depicted as males, these youkai ambush travelers on the outskirts of cities and towns and are adorned as wealthy priests or monks. They are also able to control the perception of their size at will, an ability Hishigaki seems to possess – despite not having the fancy clothing.

This yokai was particularly difficult to identify as it seems to be a mix of different archetypes and could even be an original character Midorikawa made for the episode. If I come across differing information later on in this series, I will be sure to update this post and clarify its renaming.

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And with that, we are at the end of the first episode! Next week, I’d like to cover a film by one of my favorite animation directors so the theme will be a bit different but the format will remain the same. The following week we will either resume covering yokai from Natsume’s Book of Friends episode two, or cover an episode of another series I have in mind to slowly alternate back and forth.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 and  Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Standard Edition by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

I’m really glad more of you out there have stumbled upon this series thanks to #FolkloreThursday on Twitter! Do you have a favorite yokai anime character?  Are you enjoying the glimpse into the massive Natsume’s Book of Friends fandom? Do you believe Japanese folktales and legends have moral lessons to learn, or are they solely accounts of exaggerated creatures and monsters? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us to be notified when the next article is posted!

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*Quote taken from (Hearn, Lafcadio “Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation” pg. 77)

Nyanko-sensei, the Maneki-Neko | The Youkai of Anime | Natsume Yuujinchou

Kicking off the #YokaiSpiritSunday series on the official first day of fall, today we will take a look at Nyanko Sensei from Natsume’s Book of Friends!

Of late I’ve found myself writing a lot about yokai, or Japanese spirits. I have always had an interest in them, and read books pertaining to all types of ghosts and supernatural phenomena.

Years ago when the last local Borders Bookstore went out of business, I stocked up on a hodgepodge of encyclopedia on mythical creatures and universal folklores. Since I spoke of strange things so often, a friend in high school gifted me a book on youkai one year. I tried channeling this passion into the now-defunct YouTube channel I often reference in older posts. It was not doing well, and since I loved the channel so much I didn’t want to also see a series I put my heart into go down.

So it’s been here, in my head and heart for about five years. More ideas are stored here as well, ideas I would like to share on this blog. Eventually, I’d like this WordPress to be more than a blog, more than a website, more than a well-known name. I want it to be a community, a tangible place where people can feel safe. A place where people can discover that there is more substance in anime then they previously believed. People, especially Westerners, have this cognitive tendency to associate animation with childhood. They truly don’t believe animation is just another medium to explore stories, themes, and cultural consensus. In film school, I tried my best to cover animated films or shovel in a bit of discourse on why they matter. It was appreciated, which is one positive thing I can say about my ‘liberal’ compadres and professors.

This series will explore yokai, their history, and prevalence in a series. Japan is a land where spirituality is prized over religion, and Shintoism is viewed more as tradition than a bind. The tradition of visiting temples on the New Year, adding yuzu fruit to baths during the Winter Solstice, Jizo statues and local shrines so old that no one remembers its origin story.

These beliefs are shown in anime, either in the literal sense or the symbolic metaphysical. I am not Japanese, nor will I ever be. I do not attempt to be Japanese, I merely love the richness of the culture and accept the good and the bad. I try to be objective in my writing, and I will try to do so as this series goes on. I am an American at heart and although there will be some things I will never understand, that does not mean that we cannot try – together.

So I bring to you all, a new series to the blog that is near and dear to my heart: The Youkai of Anime series.

This time, we will take a look at Nyanko-sensei from the anime Natsume Yuujinchou, or Natsume’s Book of Friends. I will be rewatching all six seasons of the series and writing about the various yokai (and yurei) in each episode. Naturally, this will take a while. I don’t want to spam any one subject on In Asian Spaces, so it will be updated most likely each Sunday. I will also cover other shows, mixing them in so that one show or one subject is not the central focus.

Think of this as a yokai catalog, detailing folklore spirits in Japanese anime.

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Series Name: Natsume Yuujincho [夏目友人帳]

Number of Seasons: Six

Season 1 Original Air Date: July 8th – September 30th 2008

Manga: Yes (ongoing)

OVA/Movies: Yes

Related Media: Hotarubi no Mori E [蛍火の杜へ] or Into the Forest of Fireflies Light

Character Name: Nyanko-sensei

Yokai Name: Maneki-Neko [招き猫]

Association: “The Lucky Cat” “The Beckoning Cat” “The Waving Cat”

Episode of Appearance: Episode 1, Natsume Yuujinchou (S1)

Description: A plump, reservedly “ugly” calico cat with stumpy legs and beady eyes. Red markings on his cheeks that hint at his true ‘majestic’ form.

In episode one of the series, Natsume is being chased by a spirit. He runs into a shrine and passes onto purified sacred grounds. Accidentally knocking over a lucky cat statue, he releases Madara from his long imprisonment. As of season six of the anime, we have yet to find out who sealed Nyanko sensei.

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Are you all familiar with the tales of the maneki-neko?

A maneki neko, is usually a calico cat figure holding a koban in one paw with the other outstretched. A koban was a form of Japanese currency in the Edo, or Tokugawa Period (1603-1868). Edo was the former name of what we know today as Tokyo.

There is a lot of debate on whether the mankei neko is Chinese or Japanese in origin, which I cannot fully say. I came across a few articles that speculated the relationship of the figures to sex work and hinted at a changed or hidden meaning. Then again, theories exist on whether or not Spirited Away is about the sex industry, so anything could be interpreted as such. Meaning this is not to deny that it may have existed, this post simply won’t discuss that possibility any further.

The Legends

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During the Edo period, a lord of a surrounding district took shelter under a tree. A cat from afar beckoned him into a nearby temple. Upon leaving, the tree was struck by lightning. Thinking it was a divine act, the lord decided to patron the temple in gratitude.

It is a good time to note that riches historically were tied to how much rice one had. I remember a favorite Japanese teacher explaining a great way to remember the word for rich person. お金持ち(おかねもち)takes the words 金(かね)(o)kane, which is gold and 餠(もち)mochi, for sticky rice. The “o” is used to denote honor or show respect, making it sound less harsh.

Therefore, a person who has a lot of rice becomes a wealthy person in Japanese society. One koku of rice was thought to be the amount needed to feed one person for a year in this society. One koku in terms of currency was thought to hold equivalency to one ryô and in turn, one koban.

Another legend states that a feline beckoned wandering samurai into an adjacent temple. The group dwelled in the haven until the end of a storm. Long after, one samurai continued to frequent the temple and offered patronage. He revealed himself to be feudal lord Naotaka Li, the temple in question Gotokuji in Tokyo, Japan.  Li donated crops and rice fields to the struggling monk who dwelled there.

This temple’s lucky cats differ in appearance than the rest in that they have a bib-like collar and bell in place of koban. The site reportedly has a high count of deceased neko buried on the premises.

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I have read further legends that combine these two stories to some degree. One even suggests the cat was a Japanese deity in disguise – Bodhisattva Kannon, a goddess of mercy. The common factor seems to be a temple near ruin that is saved by a chance encounter with a wealthy benefactor.

Aside from this information, there doesn’t seem to be much else on the English speaking side of the web. The same archaic books, ukiyo-e, and sculptures are referenced and offered up as evidence but never a true…definitive answer as to how this begun.

When I do travel to Japan next spring, I will be sure to visit the Gotokuji shrine. It seems like a good place to buy maneki neko in Tokyo, given the legends surrounding it. I’ll even write on an Ema board, or wish board to pray to the benevolent spirits.

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Despite his initial shady nature, I’d like to think Madara is Natsume’s lucky cat. Throughout the series, he serves as a protector and ‘teacher’ or sensei.

“The association between karma and merit is highly significant for my discussion of the Japanese notion of luck. During my fieldwork I was frequently told that misfortune could be averted by taking appropriate spiritual precautions. One way in which this can be achieved is through establishing a relationship with certain deities.” – Inge Maria Daniels, Anthropologist.

Note: Anthropology has a problematic historic association with eugenics. However, I found this textual quote of interest pertaining to this discussion.

Given the tone of the series, (in my own interpretation) Natsume Takashi is slowly paid back good karma in the form of friendships and as an orphan, his family’s history.  Instead of running from or fighting spirits he encounters, Natsume would rather try and speak to them first. With Nyanko-sensei’s instruction, he learns to protect himself and engages youkai only when necessary. Sensei could be interpreted as his special protection deity, particularly considering Madara’s true yokai identity.

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Next week we will discuss Madara/Nyanko sensei and his true form.

(It is really majestic!)

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out another ongoing series, such as NEET in Anime. I have a few more shows in mind to draw from, but tell me about any series I should definitely cover! At me on Twitter and use the hashtag #YokaiSpiritSunday!

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 and Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Standard Edition by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Are you a fan of Natsume Yuujinchou? Which anime series will you watch during the fall season? Do you think sensei isめっちゃかわいい?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to follow our growing community on Twitter, Reddit, WordPress and Instagram!

[Quote on karma sourced from “Scooping, Ranking, Beckoning Luck: Luck, Agency and the Interdependence of people and Things in Japan” by Inge Maria Daniels.]

Everything You Need To Know About AFNYCC 2018 | Anime Expo x NYCC Collab

Increasing each year it has felt more like a chore than tradition to attend NYCC. It’s something I attend with a family member and I occasionally cosplay at the tiny events that anticipated the con’s arrival.

As I have gone on a small tangent – which I completely scrapped from this blog post – I was stationed eagerly in the virtual queue for an hour and a half this morning. I used my presale link intended to purchase tickets.

I already have one Friday NYCC ticket and thought to buy a Saturday NYCC ticket during the general sale. Then late last night, “Anime Fest” was announced. I read the email, sighed, and went to bed.

This morning I decided to give it a go – scraping my idea for a Saturday ticket and deciding to try out the Anime Festival; hence my current situation as I typed a three-page rant.

Why didn’t they advertise this sooner? Why couldn’t I have purchased the tickets along with my original NYCC tickets back in practically May?

Here are the facts we know so far:

  • NYCC Literally forgot that they had New York Anime Festival – which ran from 2007 – 2011.

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After it ended, the anime merchandise was regaled to the upper right corner of the convention center – the polar opposite direction of Artist Alley. You had to weed through Chinese vendors with bootleg merchandise (I remember a lady selling a knock-off Nyanko Sensei plushie for $40) and cycle between the cosplay booths, cutesy Japanese character inspired plushies, and the same three booths that sold T-shirts and wall scrolls of the same characters for varying prices.

  • Want to plan out who you will see during Anime Fest? Too bad, regular con rules apply. Meaning, you won’t know jack until closer to the con. You are expected to pay upfront and just cross your fingers something cool happens on the day of your choosing.

 

  • Did I mention these events are concurrent? Either choose to attend comic con (like some of us who already purchased tickets) or choose AF. Will there still be events and vendors related to Japanese Culture in the regular convention? Who knows, it’s a mystery.
  • Can you purchase a 3-day or 4-day ticket to both events? No. Can you purchase a 3-day or 4-day ticket for NYCC? No. Since the renovations that one year in the Jacob K. Javits Center during the con, NYCC has decided to do away with those money saving options. Then last year, as many of you may remember, the prices were upped for funsies. Still no scheduled guest announcements sooner, however, just pay and wait.
  • Wait, so In Asian Spaces, you say that the Anime Festival event is away from the Javits Center? Well, where is that event being held? NYCC has events spaced out to different ventures, it couldn’t be that far – right?

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Oh, you sweet summer child.
  • But…there will at least be a free shuttle bus for the ticket holders’ right?? Right?? Pier 94 is at least a twenty-minute walk. What if you cosplay a difficult character? You’d have to walk back and forth between both events on the same day!? Clearly, they wouldn’t do that – right?? Oh, you sweet summer child.
  • Wait a minute…you said NYAF was unceremoniously bumped off back in 2011 and has almost but dissolved since 2012 – aside from fandom remnants and bones thrown by high profile anime culture guests such as Danny Choo and Naruto Creator Masashi Kishimoto. Anime NYC premiered last year and was a smash hit. Do you think Anime Expo teamed up with New York Comic Con to try to dwindle their sales and carve back out a market they never really catered to in the first place? Hmmmm….

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  • Well, at least there’s fan verification – right? Surely we’ll all get our tickets in a timely fashion? Wait, what? In Asian Spaces – you say you waited an hour and a half in the virtual queue and had a fabled 75% sold out Saturday Anime Fest ticket only to add it to your cart and have the website tell you it was sold out? And you have receipts?

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Amazing!

  • Then you found out it was a possible glitch?

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  • So if I have a NYCC ticket and want to refund it for simply AFNYCC – can I do that? –Good question

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So at least as of right now…yes. Subject to change. High probability this information is subject to change.

  • Should I attend other smaller anime conventions around NYC such as Liberty City Anime Con, Anime NYC or even AnimeNEXT in Atlantic City, NJ? – Sure, why not? Be liberal with your hard earned spending money and shop around, since con loyalty gets you nowhere once a con gets too big for itself and decides you are expendable – even if you’ve been attending for seven years faithfully. #noanimedlc – too much?

Regardless, this was a disappointing experience that is all too often now becoming synonymous with New York Comic Con. I hope that when fall rolls around, the convention will have been worth all of this trouble. I also hope the con realizes that its competitors will win out because they have heart – something they haven’t had in years.

Are you attending any conventions this year? Let us know in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more news and updates revolving around Japanese Culture and conventions!

Brooklyn’s Own Cherry Blossom Festival | Sakura Matsuri 2018

This past weekend I attended Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Sakura Matsuri festival in celebration of Japanese culture. It was held throughout the entire garden with events spaced out and designated to certain subset areas. Although it was foggy with moisture clinging heavily to the atmosphere, as the day progressed the sun came out and blessed attendees with the most amazing atmosphere.

Going through security was painless, and we received these pretty pink maps of the area, events, and activities happening throughout the day. I went on Saturday, and judging by the website Sunday’s events differed slightly and were geared towards families with kids.

It is no secret as this seems to be happening around the entire country, but we have been experiencing absolutely abysmal weather here in America. New York, in particular, is still averaging in the 40s when we are usually in the low 60s with humidity in April.  It even snowed earlier this month, which is a very rare and strange occurrence in spring. I could go on a tirade about the effects of global warming and capitalistic corporate interests, but it was a happy day so we will convey only happy thoughts.

Now I have a confession to make that admittedly, I am vaguely okay with: I am bad with directions. I’m a visual learner and can usually remember landmarks and buildings before memorizing street names and signs. It’s the same with people; I can remember faces well but not names. I do know how to read a map and follow directions, but if the map is just vague names and places I’ve never seen before my brain somehow goes “nope” and cancels the information out.

So despite many signs around the gardens with the iconic “you are here” red dots, having a map in my hands and even asking the physically ever-present staff – I could not for the life of me find some of the locations of these events.

I walked around in what felt like a loop trying to find some of the stages listed in the pamphlet to only sigh and stare at distant flowering trees.

I found the Cherry Esplanade stage by accident while I was looking for the Osborne Garden. In the Osborne Garden, I couldn’t find the Japanese Market. I had to continue to a hill, up some stairs to the right and came across the J-Lounge Stage. I now wondered where the J-Lounge Game Stop was – had I passed it? Did I miss it in the sea of people now pouring into the gardens at the three designated entrances?

Again, I am quite uncertain when it comes to directions.

However, there were truly stunning cherry blossoms flowered throughout the gardens. Several of the blooms were found in the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden toward the center of the festivities. The tour line was very long and I decided to move on instead of waiting. Judging by the crowd size and group limits, it would have been about twenty minutes before I could have been admitted – which would have been pushing toward the noon cut off time. The torii gate and koi pond could be viewed without going into the wooden gated enclave, and I opted to queue up to take photos.

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Many people were very kind and respectful, but there is always someone who decides to ignore the line and photobomb your perfect shots.

Walking around aimlessly I found many cosplayers, but not as many as I initially expected.

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Last year while I was still employed at a Japanese cultural center, I had a conversation with a co-worker inquiring information on the event. She expressed her displeasure at how many cosplayers and “weebs” turned out. I viewed a few weebs (some during the subway ride to the event – brightly colored dyed hair, decked out in anime merchandise gushing excitedly about their favorite anime and what to do first at the festival) but it was mainly people of all backgrounds coming to celebrate Japan on a nice weekend out.

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A good amount of visitors were also wearing vibrant playful summer yukata with sneakers underneath. I can understand not wanting to wear geta sandals on such uneasy terrain.

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Later on, a really humorous moment occurred when stand-up comic Rio Koike asked the Japanese in the crowd to make some noise and everyone laughed when only a handful of people responded.

One of the less funny aspects of the festival was the pricing of food.

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Wow, everything was inflated. $20.00 for karaage? $8.00 for onigiri? I think I was floored because I know the Japanese (American) convenience store prices of these items and where to get high-quality items cheaply.

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Regardless, people brought picnic blankets and sat on great lawns watching the events on the stage.

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Because of our bad weather, many of the sakura trees had not blossomed.

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There were about three that were in peak bloom that attracted huge crowds.

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I spent a good deal of time taking photographs of them as the petals blew in the wind.

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It reminded me of the start of a new school year in anime.

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In addition to live performances of Kabuki Buyo dances, there were taiko drummers, tea ceremony demonstrations, and anime culture themed music along with a Naruto dance party event.

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Wandering over to the Japanese Market you could find wagashi, kokeshi dolls, a bookstore selling language and travel-centric materials, handmade merchandise and Wuhao’s Tenugui wraps.

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A display of an urban tea terrarium and mikoshi, 神輿 or portable sacred Shinto palanquin used during transportation to new shrines or festival ceremonies.

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So many concurrent events were ongoing and I heard that there would be a BBG Parasol Society Fashion Show, but unfortunately, I was not able to stay the entire day to see the performance. I caught glimpses of a few people walking around with parasols, so I’m sure it was a wicked event!

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All in all, I enjoyed my time at the Sakura Matsuri and loved the laid back mellow atmosphere. Brooklyn is always a welcome calmed pace in contrast to Manhattan. I even bought a travel book from a nice lady who set up shop outside of the nearby Brooklyn Museum.

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I’m not sure what other cherry blossom festivals are around New York or even NYC for that matter, but this one is definitely worth attending if you enjoy traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.

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No outside food is allowed, but bringing water bottles is a good idea. Also, a blanket to sit out on the lawn and of course a camera. If you would like to take professional or commercial photos or even bring a tripod, you need to apply for a permit beforehand. I arrived at the garden about half an hour after the event began at 10:00 am, and I suggest you follow the website’s advice of arriving during off-peak hours.

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The crowds really do suddenly materialize, and it’s nearly impossible to get great shots or find a choice area to set your blanket down.  Selfie sticks also are not allowed, but people do tend to sneak those in.

I’m not sure if this would be considered a review of BBG’s Sakura Matsuri, but it is a fun event and very welcoming of people from all backgrounds; It’s also kid friendly for parents. Security had a huge presence and would only politely ask guests or their children to not pick the flowers or take photos deep within the shrubbery (which I witnessed a few times. Like grown adult people actually hid in bushes and tried climbing into the trees).  I will without a doubt be returning next year.

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So, have you been to a Japanese Festival before? What is one festival you dream of attending? For years now, I’ve wanted to attend the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori prefecture. I love the colorful floats and want to taste the super authentic hot festival foods. Also, Aomori is known for their great apples! Maybe not this year, but hopefully next August I can attend for myself in person.

Tell me what your favorite festival food is! Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more coverage of Japanese events around NYC (and beyond!). We also just launched an Instagram page which you can follow here! Let’s travel together!

In Asian Space’s Target Event List 2018

Years ago, I spent countless hours watching YouTubers and reading blog posts about events I’d always wanted to attend. Advice, general knowledge, and even some insider tips learned from trial and error were shared with their audience. When I finally ventured out to some of these events, I didn’t feel like a complete noob and I felt so grateful someone had left a trail for me.

I’d like to do that for someone else, using this platform that is continuing to grow.

I want to show people just how many aspects of Japanese culture can be learned through watching anime.

Eventually, further down the line I’d like to create a Patreon. But this will come after more content has been added to the site and I’ve begun all of the series I have in mind to bring to you all.

For now, I will leave this list of events In Asian Spaces hopes to attend. Some of these events I have attended, some I’ve just learned about and some I’ve always dreamt of seeing.

If you would like to, I will also leave a link for Paypal donations that will go towards ticket, transportation, lodging and event associated fees. Those who support the site will receive a special gift unique to the experience.

Sakura Matsuri, Brooklyn Botanic Garden April 28th-29th , 2018 (x)

Japan Day 2018 Central Park May 13th , 2018 (x)

JapanFes Okinawa Music Festival June 2nd, 2018 (x)

Anime NEXT June 8th-10th, 2018 (x)

Otakon August 10th-12th, 2018 (x)

Liberty City Anime Con August 17th-19th, 2018 (x)

JapanFes Summer August 26th, 2018 (x)

All Japan Ramen Contest/Japanfes September 8th-9th, 2018 (x)

J1-Con September 14th, 15th & 16th, 2018 (x)

New York Comic Con October 4th-7th, 2018 (x)

Konamon (okonomiyaki) Festival October 6th-7th, 2018 (x)

NY Local Ramen Contest October 21st, 2018 (x)

Anime NYC November 16th-18th, 2018 (x)

Trip to Japan Late Spring 2019

Thank you for your support, and let’s continue to grow together.