Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!! and New Trials updates...

First off, many apologies for being MIA for the past month. Those of you who have stuck by New Trials for years probably know that Christmastime is usually eventful for New Trials updates. The only thing that can keep me from writing New Trials besides dire emergency in real life is exams or being stranded on a tropical island without internet access. This time, surprisingly, it was the latter. I took an unexpectedly early vacation trip to a tropical island in the Pacific ocean, hence the delay in Chapter 67 of New Trials. I have not been able to check emails, blog or anything. So, I start off Christmas with the apology. >.< I estimated the chapter to be done by end of November, but I forgot how crazy end of the year is with various events and whatnot, so I am feeling very sheepish and humble right now and don't want to give any false dates for when the chapter will be ready. But one thing I came to know for sure is, I'm not going to finish the chapter by today (my original goal). Lol. I've been writing like crazy for the past week ever since I came back from the trip, (I have been sitting on the beach, stressing about Chapter 67 even there) but the problem is, I am knit-picky and there's an aspect towards the end of the chapter that needs reworking and I can't release a chapter that I am not satisfied with. Either way, the chapter is 98% done and shall enter final editing stage soon. It's a long chapter, and it's getting longer if that is any solace. Sorry for the wait! I'll try my best so that Chapter 67 doesn't disappoint.

There is something very jarring sitting on a beach, soaking in the sunlight, listening to Christmas carols being belted out from the hotel. Sort of like being in a twilight zone. The place I was staying at was full of Japanese tourists and lots of cute, young couples, newlyweds and adorable children. I also saw for the first time what was presumably a gravure photoshoot. There were two Japanese models (very pretty) and they were posing on the beach all day long. You can't really make them out in the picture above, but it's the models, staff and cameraman. It's tough work, being a model, posing all day long in the same spot. The sunset was beautiful though. There were also lots of wedding photoshoots happening there as well. There was a poor bride that was doing a photoshoot by the beach side when it suddenly began to pour. She had to crouch underneath a parasol in her wedding dress and veil and wait for the rain to pass. But there was a huge rainbow after the rain passed. I saw it because the cutest little kid cried out, "Papa... Niji da yo! Niji!" The adults on the beach were to busy doing whatever day were doing, flirting, drinking beer, sunbathing, to look up at the sky, but the little boy pointed it out first. Children can see the world better than adults sometimes.

Here is a little preview of the New Trials of Card Captor Sakura Chapter 67: The Sacrifice:


“Kaijou, you’re going to be late for school!” Kinomoto Touya pounded on the door. Very graciously, he stated, “I’ll drive you and the Brat to school on my way to work.”

There was not answer. Touya glared at Li Syaoran, currently a guest at his house, as if it was his fault. “What’s wrong with her?”

Li Syaoran, hands shoveled in his sky-blue uniform jacket, loathing the fact that he had to be the news bearer, grimaced and mumbled, “Chang Eron broke up with her, it seems.” Yesterday, he had found Sakura in King Penguin Park, in tears because things had ended with Eron. Maybe he was too optimistic in thinking that Sakura would have been cheered up by today. And he felt an ugly resentment whelming within his stomach.

“You mean she’s hung up over some guy?” Touya scowled with renewed viciousness. “Why are we Kinomoto’s so unlucky when it comes to relationships?” He pounded on the door again. “Kaijou, you come out this second or else I’m going to come in and drag you out of bed.”

“I’m not going to school!” retorted Sakura, voice muffled by her pillow.

“That’s it. Where is this Chang Eron?” Touya growled, rolling up his sleeve.

“Stop it, ‘nii-chan. Just go away and leave me alone!” Sakura exclaimed from under her blankets.

Touya’s jaw dropped. His precious little sister had just called him a nuisance. Again he glared at Syaoran then smacked him on the head.

“Ow! What did you do that for?” demanded Syaoran, clasping the back of his skull. “Don’t you have the wrong guy here?”

“I don’t know. I just felt like hitting you for some reason,” said Touya. “Ugh, just looking at you makes my stomach curdle.”

“It’s not my fault!” exclaimed Syaoran.

“Yeah, sure.” Touya whacked Syaoran on the head one more time. “If Sakura is not out of her room, smiling and brightly calling out ‘onii-chan’ by the time I come home again, you’re getting more than a whack on the head. Understand?”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle AMV: Yuzurenai Negai

Happy Halloween! I unfortunately was not able to complete Chapter 67 of New Trials, but here is just a little something to pass time. Edit; I reuploaded the video for higher quality (Youtube butchers video quality these days) and added translation annotations to the AMV.

AMV: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle - Syaoran's Unyielding Wish
Medium: Sony Vegas Pro 8
Song: 「ゆずれない願い」 "Yuzurenai Negai" - "Unyielding Wish" (Magic Knight Rayearth Opening Theme 1)
Singer: 田村 直美 Masaaki Endoh (Jam Project) 
Album: Enson2 ~ Cover Songs Collection Vol. 2
Composer/ Original Singer: 田村 直美 Naomi Tamura
Romaji: Takayama Miyuki at
English Translation: Takayama Miyuki, Wish-chan. I wanted to create the "best translation" though I don't know if this is that. The original translations by Takayama Miyuki from were very good, and I referenced that heavily, but there were some lines that I cross-referred to Korean translations for. 

tomaranai   mirai wo   mezashite
yuzurenai   negai wo   dakishimete

Aiming for the unstoppable future
and embracing the unyielding wish

umi no iro ga akaku somatte-yuku
mujuuryoku joutai
kono mama kaze ni sarawaretai

The color of the sea is being dyed crimson
In a state of free-fall... [No gravity condition]
I want to be swept away by the wind like this.

itsumo tobenai HA-DORU wo
makenai kimochi de
KURIAshite-kita kedo
dashikirenai jitsuryoku wa
dare no sei?

I've always cleared impossible hurdles
by this feeling of not wanting to lose, but
whose fault is it if it's still not the best I can do?

tomaranai   mirai wo   mezashite
yuzurenai   negai wo   dakishimete
iroasenai   kokoro no chizu
hikari ni kazasou

Aiming for the unstoppable future
and embracing the unyielding wish,
I'll hold the unfading map of my heart up to the light.

dore dake nakeba asa ni deaeru no?
kodoku na yoru
hajimete genkai wo kanjita hi

How long do I have to cry before we meet in the morning?
The lonely night...
The day I first felt my limitations.

kitto, koi ni ochiru no wa
mabataki mitai na
isshun no jounetsu dakedo
ai ni tsudzuku sakamichi de
tsuyosa oboetai

Surely, falling in love
is a momentary passion like a blink of an eye, but
on the uphill path that leads to love,
I want to remember my strength.

tomaranai   mirai wo    yume mite
kuchi wo tozashi   hitomi wo   hikarasete-kita keredo
motto ooki na
yasashisa ga mieta

Dreaming of an unstoppable future,
My mouth was shut and light shone in my eyes, but
I was able to see an even greater kindness.

tobenai HA-DORU wo
makenai kimochi de
KURIAshite-kita kedo
SUTA-TO RAIN ni tatsu tabi ni

I've always cleared impossible hurdles
by this feeling of not wanting to lose, but
whenever I stood at the start-line
I got scared.

tomaranai   mirai wo   egaite
ude wo nobashi   kokoro wo   hiraite
Sketching out the unstoppable future,
stretching my arms out and opening my heart

tomaranai   mirai wo   mezashite
yuzurenai   negai wo   dakishimete
iroasenai   kokoro no chizu
hikari ni kazasou

Aiming for the unstoppable future
and embracing the unyielding wish,
I'll hold the unfading map of my heart up to the light.

I worked on this AMV on and off for the past month as it's been about a year since I made my last TRC AMV, Saga~This is My Raod. I initially was making another AMV, but somehow I ended up with this one instead. "Yuzurenai Negai" or "Unyielding Wish" aka "A Wish that Cannot be Yielded," was the opening theme song of the first CLAMP anime I ever saw, Magic Knight Rayearth, and till this day probably remains in my top 5 favorite opening themes of all time. I first saw this anime back in 1996; Magic Knight Rayearth was one of this anime that I knew immediately, simply from watching a 10-second trailer, from the first notes of the opening theme song, that I knew I was going to love. Fantasy, drama, romance, mecha, pretty girls, a bishounen male cast, beautiful music; this anime packaged everything I loved. Sometimes, the theme song completely represents the anime, and "Yuzurenai Negai" is a song that does that.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle initially seemed to follow the format of Magic Knight Rayearth, three individuals (well, plus an unconscious Sakura) journey to different dimensions for a mission, especially when the three mashin from Rayearth are used as Syaoran, Fai and Kuragone's kudan. I like this version of "Yuzurenai Negai" by Masaaki Endoh even better because his voice really compliments the guitar riffs and captures the exhilarating vigor of the song, whereas Naomi Tamura's original version captures more of the wistful tone (check out the acapella version; it's very beautiful as well). I thought the lyrics really suited Syaoran. Masaaki Endoh is from the Jam Project, a group of talented musicians who often participate in anime projects. Part 2 of the video is a trailer with Yoko Kanno's "Prologue F," my favorite bgm from Macross F. I was going for a "movie trailer" effect, or TRC (what everyone thought it would be) in 1 minute. And of course, I couldn't resist putting the orchestrated version of "Yuzurenai Negai" for the credits. A sign that a theme song is a good theme song is when the orchestrated version is even more beautiful. I remember hearing the "Yuzurenai Negai" strings version on one of the latter episodes of MKR Season 1, at an age when I wasn't really aware of the function of background music, and that tune to me was the most poignant thing about the whole anime. I was thrilled to find the MKR OST years later. I think I sometimes enjoy making the credits sequence more than the actual AMV. 

The most difficult part was gathering all the different episodes sub-free or cutting out the subtitles (the process took up much memory on my hard drive). But besides that part, making AMVs is very enjoyable process to me and I usually end up being much more appreciate of the production and thought that went into creating each frame of an anime, and I end up picking up a lot more details than I would just passively watching that episode. For example, I didn't really notice how much emphasis was put on "holding hands" in the anime. Having somewhat of a hand fetish, it was interesting compiling all these clips. When I make an AMV, I try to tell a story rather than just paste together a random assortment of clips to music. The last TRC AMV I made, Saga, was intended to relay sort of the epic nature of TRC, which is why I focused more on the OVAs which is post-Clone!Syaoran revelation. I wanted to make another AMV which focused more on the prototypical adventure-theme aspect of  TRC, which represents the earlier half of TRC, back when everything was jovial, spirited and happy, aka before the Record Arc. Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is a manga which I think really has two parts and the atmosphere and tone of the manga drastically changes from the Tokyo arc onwards. I bet I wasn't the only one who felt cheated upon learning that the "Syaoran" that we all grew fond of through the course of the manga and anime was a "clone." It's been a year since the manga ended, and I am still grappling to really understand the totality of the manga and waiting for xxxHolic to perhaps tie up some more loose ends. Somewhere along the way, TRC switched from the typical shounen adventure to a twisted Jungian philosophical study of character archetypes where are hero pulls a Jekyll and Hyde. I still hold my belief that though CLAMP tricks us in the end of the TRC manga with a pseudo-happy ending for "real" Sakura and Syaoran," aka the Tsubasas, it doesn't change the fact that Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is the chronicles of "Clone!Syaoran" or to me, the original Syaoran, the hero (or anti-hero) of this story. Anyhow, I hope this AMV helps recall happier times.

I also included the English lyric translations on my other TRC AMV, Saga~This is My Road. The two AMVs are meant to be viewed together, "Yuzurenai Negai" as Part 1, "Saga" as Part 2, as they sort of counterbalance each other and represent the two faces of TRC for me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The New Home of New Trials: The History of Wish For a Star: A CCS Shrine

Many apologies for the fiasco last week when officially closed down after 7 years of business, leaving the website inaccessible for a couple days. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with Robert Arrowsmith, formerly from the team, who speedily responded and has very kindly agreed to continue hosting Wish For a Star: A Card Captor Sakura Shrine on his newly opened web hosting business at The good news is, the website remains as, less confusion that way. Thank you very much for all of you who have expressed concerned and offered help; I was very touched by the support, and this whole business was a very educational experience. Robert kindly moved all my files to the new server and has set up an account for me at robswebsites, making a very smooth transition, and I am very excited for a new beginning, a new decade more of New Trials! 

So once more, many thanks to Robert and for hosting The New Trials of Card Captor Sakura!!!

This whole experience has been a spring-cleaning reminder for me, and I thought it would be interesting to draw up the history of New Trials on the web.

The History of New Trials Website Timeline

Fall 1999 - As a 13 year old, I began writing the New Trials of Card Captor Sakura, Syaoran and Friends. The first couple chapters of New Trials was sent to three or four Card Captor Sakura fanfiction sites that could be found on, all of which our no longer in existence to my knowledge.

Fall 2000 - I first created Wish For a Star: A CCS Shrine, a site dedicated to Card Captor Sakura and my fanfiction at the now defunct as of 2010 Old-timers will remember the days of exceeding bandwidth and geocities being down to much of our chagrin. Kirei Blossom pointed out to me that an archive of the site can be found at

October 2000 - Digidynasty created an account for New Trials at and maintained the account till 2006-ish, followed up by Amethyst Beloved who maintained the account until late 2009, when I took over uploading chapters. The 26th marked "Wish-chan's" 10 year-anniversary on

August 2003 - Bilal from kindly offered to host Wish For a Star: A CCS Shrine and thus created the account of For 7 years, I had wonderful hosting at Revolutionhosting.

February 4, 2004 - Kirei Blossom opened up the Yahoo Group: The New Trials Ring, home of all discussions relating to Card Captor Sakura, CLAMP, fanfiction and New Trials at and remains administrator of the group with Selenityshiroi.  

January 2008 - Began posting fanart up at

February 2009 - I started a blog at to post New Trials updates and other various information, reviews and commentaries. 

October 17, 2010 - officially shut down without notice, throwing me into a state of panic. I looked into many different server options and everybody had been very helpful via Yahoo Group, this blog, email and Facebook. I got in touch with Robert Arrowsmith who was a part of the Revolutionhosting team. He had opened up a new web hosting service site at and kindly offered to continue to host with the same conditions as I had at, even retaining the same domain name. Robert is the awesome hero who moved all my files over to the new server and even preserved my old stats from revolutionhosting and deserves a holler of thanks. 

October 27, 2010 - An FTP account has been created for me by Robert at and the move is complete. The website address remains at and is now hosted at robswebsites.  

Looking back, it seems like fall-time has generally been an eventful period for New Trials. Because of the impermanence of the web, I think I've learned that it's important to have multiple back-ups of everything. It's bittersweet thinking that New Trials has been reborn three times already in the past ten years. First as a nomad fanfiction being hosted on other CCS fanfic sites. Sadly, I don't even remember what they were called because they no longer exist. Then the first home at Geocities, which disappeared earlier this year. Revolutionhosting also is gone. Now, New Trials is in its fourth home, fourth arc, and I am very excited and dedicated to bringing about the finale of New Trials!

Music Spotlight du jour is another oldie from the nineties (which doesn't seem so long ago to me). This whole experience has been about planning ahead, but ended up being a trip down the memory lane. You know those songs that seem to transport you back in time to a certain period? This song was the theme song at my junior high Semi-Formal (and probably was the theme song for every other school dance party in the late nineties). It played over and over again that night, and throughout 1998, on the radios, on TV, in stores, to the point where I never wanted to listen to it again. Yet, all these years later, it is still a beautiful song and no one can deny that it's a nineties love song classic which probably will be remembered for decades to come. This was a song that was ironically constantly on my playlist as I wrote Chapter 66: The Truth in the Heart. Savage Garden ever-so-popular almost to the point of cliche song, "Truly, Madly, Deeply." Yes, cheesy nineties pop songs are healing to the soul and brings out the wide-eyed, teenage romantic in all of us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Before anyone starts to panic, yes is down, forever, it seems. I have gratefully had free webhosting thanks to Bilal from for 7 years, since 2003. Unfortunately, has closed down. I was ready to continue working on the next chapter of New Trials, when I checked the site and it was gone without a trace, though it was up this morning. Since I have not received any sort of notice it was closing down, I am not even sure if I have all the website information saved, but I'm pretty sure I have all the chapters at least.

Even more unfortunately, the backup location, is also down because Geocities officially closed down earlier this year. At this point, I am too tired to think of how much work there is to be done trying to find a new server. I have mentioned numerous times I am very computer-illiterate, and it's amazing to me that I've been managing a website for a good ten years (Geocities since 2000-ish, since 2003-ish). Anyhow, many thanks to Bilal-san for introducing me to and providing me with such wonderful (free) webhosting service for these past 7 years. I probably have not expressed that gratitude enough but I, also unfortunately, lost all my hotmail emails circa 2007 when hotmail decided to dump all my emails (yes, I hold a 3-year grudge).

Currently, (well, it's been less than an hour since I have found out about the *destruction* of I am searching for a new webhosting site. Please feel free to give me suggestions for the new home of "New Trials of Card Captor Sakura." The face of the internet seems to have changed greatly over the years, and I would like to find hosting that is reliable, without advertising, hopefully free (do they even have those anymore?) and can survive the next 10 years or so. And really, I do want everyone's input because I want to put reader-priority foremost, and I don't want to go through this kind of fiasco again, where both my websites are down without any notice.

Ah, the impermanence of websites. Somehow, it seems like New Trials has just disappeared without a trace off the internet. It's a bittersweet feeling; I feel like I am parting with a long-time friend, but at the same time, here heralds the mark of a new decade of an updated *Wish For A Star: The New Trials.* 

Many apologies for the inconvenience, but on a brighter note, you can still read "The New Trials of Card Captor Sakura" as always at

I will continue to communicate through this blog (I guess it was a good idea to make one, after all ^_^), and most of my recent artwork is up at and I will continue to communicate through

Update: Kirei Blossom from the Yahoo Group has informed me that a Geocities back-up can be found here: It has my old website and chapters till mid-Arc three posted up there. So, between that and, you can still read New Trials till Chapter 67 comes out. ^_^

Update 2: The amazing Selenityshiroi-sama from the Yahoo Group has kindly posted up a backup for most of the New Trials chapters till Arc 3 here:

RIP 2003-2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tokyo Trip Part 5: The Quirks and Final Thoughts

Tokyo Tower
 I am always eager to see how the world looks through the eyes of another person and how that person chooses to express his or her vision. There was once a very poignant line from perhaps the most soul-touching anime/manga that I have ever seen, when the protagonist Takemoto Yuuto wishes "How I wonder what it is like to see the world through Hagu's (his main love interest and fellow artist) eyes." That is why I love animation so much, because it is one medium that is a direction interpretation of the director's vision and needs to be planned out panel by panel; nothing is left to chance whereas in say a movie, each actor, set conditions, etc. all bring in their vision and interpretation into how a certain scene will unfold. In animation, there is really nothing left to chance, every little movement, every blink of eye, every little bird and critters in the backdrop, are all planned (save the limitations caused by budget restrictions). A friend once commented that the ingenuity of Japanese animators and mangaka is that they have taken a landscape that is very ordinary to the Japanese people and made them great symbols and landmarks. Miyazaki Hayao can take the idyllic country side or something so simple like a girl going up stairs and somehow reinterpret the mundane into something charming and new, or the way Makoto Shinkai uses light filtered into the classroom or trains takes the everyday and transforms it into a surreal, brilliant world which makes your heart ache a little bit because its so beautiful. Whenever I see a Ferris wheel, I cannot help being reminded of Honey & Clover (the circularity of life being a major theme), and when I saw Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge, I couldn't help being reminded of CLAMP (and destruction).

And life goes on... Odaiba Ferris Wheel
Fuji TV in Odaiba
I had so much fun in Tokyo, and this trip really was just an overview trip, where I could see, do and eat as much as I can in a limited time, hence it was like a preview trip. Now that I got a good preview, I would love to return and see all the places I didn't get to see and delve into places in detail. Though it's really hard to choose what my favorite place was, I think Odaiba was the most impressionable to me. There's something strangely surreal, a bit futuristic about Odaiba, which is an artificial island made in the Tokyo Bay. It was tourist friendly with shopping, dining, onsen and great scenery, and yet, it was still more quirky than commercial. There was a cat cafe (the Japanese love cats), the strangely eerie (in my opinion) Fuji Television building with the globe, the Urikamome monorail which gives you an awesome view of the Bay area, the Ferris Wheel, supposedly one of the largest in the world, and the great view of Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower and the Statue of Liberty's mini-me. There was even an onsen called Oedo Onsen Monogatori, which is designed in 1800 Edo-style, where we got to wear a yukata and soak our poor, tired feet. There are many cute shops in there as well.  

Cat Cafe in Odaiba... Reminded me of the Nekobasu in Totoro ^^
Urikamome Train Station
Oeda Onsen Monogatori
I actually understood a lot more Japanese than I thought I would (thanks to all the anime and drama I watched), but I think this trip really taught me the more practical languages used when shopping or ordering food. After all, being able to say "You are my most important person" or "the hurt in my heart could be heard like the sound of rain" or something nonsensical like that is of of no practical use. The single most useful word I found was "sumimasen" which an translate to "I'm sorry" or "excuse me" depending on the situation, whether you are calling a waiter, or you are pushing through a crowd of people up the stairs in the subway, or you are about to ask a question. On the first day we arrived in Tokyo, my friend and I were walking down the street late at night and a man, a bit drunk, started up a conversation with us, first asking us (the tourists) directions, then tried to invite us to karaoke. We said "sumimasen" and we excused ourselves. After many failed prior attempts to take a good shot, I was able to snap that full shot of the Ferris wheel dangerously sticking my head out of the taxi window on my way to the airport. "Sumimasen," I told the taxi driver and he chuckled. 

CLAMP Manga Galore in Shibuya
Wall of mangaka in Shibuya... I didn't see the no photo sign until after I took the photo. Can you spot a mangaka you know?

Cosplay store in Harajuku...
The problem is, I can utter enough of the language to minimally get by, but that's it. And then, they begin speaking so rapidly that I lose track. On my way back, at Haneda Airport, I was checking in my bags and the man assisting me rapidly began listing off all these questions, to which I just replied, "Hai, hai." I did understand the first couple, but then, I completely lost track of what he was saying. Either way, when I arrived back in Seoul, my luggage was the third one out because it was labeled with a "Priority" sticker. I have no idea why, but I can assume it must be thanks to my lack of language skills.

Maneki Neko... (Lucky Cats)  everywhere!!! I wasn't supposed to take photos in this certain store in Asakusa.
Lastly, on our way back, I was unluckily in the center aisle seat, but I was able to catch the timing to see Mt. Fuji. The seat belt signs hadn't gone off yet, and the flight attendant initially told me I couldn't go over to the window area, but I went "Sashin o kudasai" which was the only words that I could think of. And the flight attendant understood right away and went, "Ah, Fuji-san..." And so, I was able to snap this beautiful shot of Mt. Fuji up from the sky.  
Mt. Fuji submersed in clouds...
I don't know why, but still, the best part of a trip is coming home. "There is no place like home." 

Tokyo Trip Part 1:The Places
Tokyo Trip Part 2:  The Shopping
Tokyo Trip Part 3: CLAMP x Blythe Dolls
Tokyo Trip Part 4: Food
Tokyo Trip Part 5: Final Thoughts

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Trials CD Drama

Exciting news, winxc1ub from the New Trials Yahoo Group is holding auditions for a New Trials CD Drama! Discussion is going on at the Yahoo Group. If you are interested in lending your voice to the characters of Card Captor Sakura and New Trials, then contact her. Check out her lovely New Trials AMVs on her channel and her CCS fanfic and fanart on her deviantart account.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tokyo Trip Part 4: The Food

Harajuku Crepes

The Savory
There is literally so much good food to each in Japan. It's hard to choose, but I would saw the shabu-shabu was the best food I had in Japan. Shabu-shabu is basicially a thinly sliced beef and vegetable hotpot.  We went to a very traditional place and was served in a tatami room, which was expensive but worth experiencing once. The beef literally melts in your mouth and everything is very traditional and formal. I especially enjoyed the konnyaku with was moist and chewy. 

Japanese pasta is delicious as well, different from the typical Italian style because they often put their own twist like adding fish roe or the likes. The second night, my friends and I were so weary and hungry we stumbled into any restaurant in Odaiba. It was a chance find, but it's a place I would definitely go back again. The night view of the harbor was gorgeous, and I ordered a salmon and spinach cream sauce pasta which was heavenly--abundant salmon. Usually, cream sauce makes me queasy after a while, but this was not too heavy, and I finished the entire dish. Plus, the staff was super friendly and seeing that we were tourists, they let us enter the back portion of the restaurant which was closed off, and let us take pictures of the gorgeous backdrop of Rainbow Bridge, seen below.  

Of course, more casual eating can be done at local izakayas. I especially love gyoza, pan-fried meat-filled dumplings, which can be found in China and Korea too, but I still love all variants of dumplings. I wanted to to go Tsukiji Fish Market known for their fresh sashimi, but there was no way I was waking up before 5AM and eating raw fish first thing in the morning. But all the sushi I did have was delicious--melted in my mouth. I didn't get a chance to go to a proper donkatsu or ramen place, but hopefully next time. 

The Sweets
Japan is known for its sweets. Their delicious puddings and mochi and crepes and cakes. If I had more time, I would have tried everything, but the room in my stomach was limited. I tried sweet potato soft-serve ice cream in Asakusa which was delicious. I'm an ice cream mania. I've even tried wasabi-flavored ice cream before. The best soft-serve ice-cream I've ever tried was during the Hokkaido Fair at Mitsuwa, New Jersey, a Japanese market in New Jersey. I had milk-flavored and pear-flavored swirled together, and I swear, it was the softest, silkiest ice cream I had ever had. (Hokkaido is known for its milk-flavored stuff), and I loved the rich, round, milky taste left in my mouth afterwords. I do love anko (red-bean) and black sesame and kinako (soy) and green tea flavored ice cream out of the Japanese flavors, but not so much wasabi. 

Of course in Harajuku, we had the crepes filled with strawberry, vanilla custard and whipped cream. It was pretty huge, so three of us shared it. In Japan, be sure to try out the royal milk tea (one of my favorite drinks). They also so have interesting ice cream floats, like the melon float (putridly Shrek-green, but delicious).  

Basically, everything I put in my mouth was delicious. Even the airplane food, and I hate airplane food. I rode All Nippon Airways, a Japanese airlines competitive with JAL, and on my way back, I had for early dinner a little bento-style box complete with vanilla pudding for dessert. I unfortunately did not get to try nearly every that I wanted to try, but hopefully next time, I can try everything I didn't get to this time. Because we walked around so much, I think we burned off all the calories pretty quickly.  Of course, I brought back home half a trunk full of snacks ranging from castella (kasutera), mochi (rice cakes filled with sweet red bean and white bean filling), yokan, a traditional Japanese dessert consisting of sweet jellied azuki beans (I got the ones embedded with chestnuts), Hokkaido Shiroi Koibito, white chocolate sandwiched between two cookies that simply melts in your mouth, hiyoko, savory manju shaped like little chicks filled with sweet white beans (a favorite of mine as a child). If it isn't obvious, food is one of my favorite subjects to talk and write about.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tokyo Trip Part 3: CLAMP x Blythe Dolls Collaboration

Venus Forte
I've always loved dolls. Perhaps I'm a girly-girl or perhaps I love the idea of make-believe or perhaps I see dolls as works of art. Or I just like pretty things. I have an affinity for inanimate objects, it seems, and as a child, I used to believe that my stuffed animals and dolls had souls. It was a very burdensome belief, because I used to feel sorry for a doll when I liked it a little less than the another doll. But surely I'm not the only one who cried a bucket of tears when watching Toy Story 3. Truthfully, I was not a big fan of ever-so-popular Blythe dolls because I personally prefer dainty Victorian-style porcelain dolls, and as Mokono-sensei put it very well in the CLAMP interview from Me & My Blythe "To be honest she appeared very scary at first."

Perchance, I was at Odaiba Venus Forte on my second day in Tokyo (actually, it was not perchance, it was a girl's shopping quest), when I saw the huge banners advertising Blythe Doll's 9th Anniversary Charity Exhibition Manga Girls Inspiration. I first heard of the CLAMP x Blythe collaboration at Chibi Yuuto Chronicles and thought of course our adorable Sakura-chan should be made into a doll. (Tomoyo would approve 100%.) I've always been fascinated by the Sakura-doll in Sakura-chan's room in the CCS anime, that Tomoyo made for her. Admittedly, there is something deliciously creepy about Blythe dolls which surprisingly works with Sakura! I love the original CLAMP design (many thanks for the image to Chibiyuuto) for Kinomoto Sakura, which looks like an evil chibi-Sakura. I've never seen her drawn with that kind of expression before. When I saw the design, I couldn't help thinking, why does that face look so familiar? And then I realized it reminded me of a fanart I drew of chibi-Syaoran many years back for Kirei Blossom (creator of the New Trial Yahoo Group).

I was traveling with two illustration majors who luckily share my penchant for pretty things, hence I pointed to the big poster and asked, "Oh my gosh, is this here?" And we preceded to hunt down the location. The exhibit was originally held in the Omotesando Hills in June, and I did not know it was moved to Venus Forte. And thus, perhaps a quarter of an hour before closing time, we stumbled upon doll's galore
on the first floor of the shopping complex. Mind you, these are not just ordinary play-dolls. They are works of art. The costume, the hair, the concept. This exhibition was themed "Manga Girls Inspiration" hence there were many familiar character designs everywhere. And I knew that Sakura-ninkyo would be somewhere, so it was quite a fun search. Unfortunately, the Watanuki-doll seems to not have made it to this exhibit. 

Below, I have provided plentiful pictures of the whole exhibit, though they do not do justice to the actual dolls. They were indeed a pain to put together, but please enjoy. You can see the little placates for the dolls that were manga-inspired. I wish I read some Japanese. My favorites included the Kiki from Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service and some of the elaborate Goth looking dolls. It was nostalgic to see Magical Princess Minky Momo, probably the first mahou shoujo series that I ever learned of at age 5 or 6. I used to have a Mink coloring book and hairpin.

Seeing the CLAMP x Blythe Collaboration Sakura-doll was all the more serendipitous because I hadn't planned on seeing this exhibit, hadn't even been thinking about it, and yet stumbled upon because I wanted to ride the Yurikamome (the elevated trains where you can see the awesome night view of Tokyo Bay area and Rainbow Bridge). Hence, at that moment, I thought, ah synchronicity. My trip to Tokyo had been very last minute and was very short, hence it was centered around food/touring/shopping. I didn't get to go to Akihabara and manga/anime stuff was (unfortunately) not a priority at this time. And even so, I was brought to Kinomoto Sakura.

Click on image below to enlarge.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tokyo Trip Part 2: The Shopping

Harajuku (原宿)
As a fan of Japanese street fashion, I definitely had been looking forward to going to Harajuku. Harajuku is definite fun and vibrant and different. On weekends, I heard many cosplayers gather. Unfortunately, it wasn't the weekend. However, there were still many people with very distinctive fashion styles walking down the streets ranging from street-wear sweet lolita to indeed some very strange garbs that I cannot quite describe. I remember receiving a comment on deviantart regarding why I draw the girls' skirts so short. In case anyone was wondering, yes, school girls do wear their uniform skirts that short. Another fashion quirk. During my time in Tokyo, I swear I have never seen more black parasols in my life. Japanese women take very good care of their complexion, hence black parasols and fingerless gloves that come up to their upper arm in the sweltering 36 degrees Celsius heat. It was one of the hottest heat spells in Japan this year while I was there, and I am surprised I did not melt away.


I saw a hoodie with bunny ears and a tail just like the one I drew for Sakura. It was adorable; I was half tempted to buy it. There were many stores where you could buy some quality cosplay outfits. If you go to Harajuku, you must try the delicious crepes. Takeshita Street has a lot of fun stores as well, including a very bling pet store with the most adorable accessories! There are so many teddy bears in Japan. It made me happy.

Omotesando (表参道)
A posh shopping area. Pricey and full of brand names. But if you just walk down the street for 5-10 minutes, you stumble into Harajuku. Omotesando Hills is a shopping complex that was designed by Tadao Ando, Pritzker Architecture Award recipient. Apparently you're not allowed to take pictures in the building.

Ginza (銀座)
Can be considered the "Fifth Avenue" of Tokyo and a luxurious shopping district with several notable departments stores (including Matsuya and Mitsukoshi, under renovations while I was there). It is generally very pricey to shop in the area but the building designs and decorations are worth looking at. On Saturdays, the main road is blocked for the shoppers. The Swarovski building is very pretty and there was a pretty cherry blossom design crystal ornament. Apparently, you're not allowed to take pictures there either.

Roppongi (六本木)
Roppongi is probably best known for its nightlife and Mori Tower. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend much time in the area and was too pooped in the nighttime and my feet were ready to fall off. The Galleria had many pretty stores and the Suntory Museum of Art. Apparently, the store full of pretty nick-knacks below doesn't allow pictures.

I learned that in Tokyo, there are a lot of places that you are supposed not allowed to take pictures of. I already mentioned Shibuya in Part 1 as a fun shopping area, but I personally preferred the Omotesando/Harajuku area because I think there is a broader range of styles available. I got the cutest floral print lacy sundress for 1900 yen in Harajuku after taking purikura with my friends--and boy these purikura machines make you look like an anime-character. My friend told me that the fabric in Japan is usually very good and durable and lasts for years. There were so many pretty, lacy clothes I was in absolute heaven. Warning, everything runs small in Japan; I'm a US Size 4/small and I'm a "Large" there. There are a lot of "free-size" clothes in Japan, meaning one-size. My feet are somewhere between 6.5 and 7 in US size, but there, I'm 24 "Large." I did manage to find the cutest pumps at the Ginza Marui department store on my last day which were on sale for less than 5000 yen... A good find.

Tokyo Trip Part 1:The Places
Tokyo Trip Part 2:  The Shopping
Tokyo Trip Part 3: CLAMP x Blythe Dolls
Tokyo Trip Part 4: Food
Tokyo Trip Part 5: Final Thoughts