You quickly come to notice just how many characters there are in day to day life in Japan. Pikachu smiles cheerfully from the side of a bus; Anpanman gives the peace sign outside of the local agricultural co-op; Hello Kitty warns you to keep the air clean for everyone and not smoke at the local train station.
Character advertisement is nothing new. Mickey Mouse and his ilk are plastered across the U.S. trying to get people to buy junk, visit the Happiest Place on Earth, and what have you. Here, though, it’s taken to another level. My Japanese teacher put it like this: movies, companies, etc. that have good characters succeed. The rest don’t.”
Which is why you can find the prefecture’s mascot printed on 100-yen shop tissues. It’s why every town you visit offers its own spin on anthropomorphic creatures, ranging from the marine to the avian, the cute to the ridiculous.
Tsuruga, a hub city that connects central Fukui prefecture to the coast, recently upped its character game by installing a riff on the famous “Philosoraptor” at the local JR station. Fukui is quite famous for its important role in dinosaur finds, research, and the like, so the move makes sense.
He or she isn’t called Philosoraptor outright, mind you; might be somebody would have to be compensated for that. Instead, the Hamlet-esque pose is just enough to get those of us who spend too much time on the web thinking.
If you’ve spent some time in Japan, what’s the most interesting or absurd character you’ve come across? Let me know in the comments below!
Though I didn’t think so when I was growing up, I had a really good childhood. I can’t remember a year when we didn’t take at least one trip. Sometimes it was only as far as Gettysburg, PA, though often we’d make the 20-hour trek to Walt Disney World, some 1,100 miles south of my home in Western New York.
I hated how early we had to get up to make our trips. Getting to Disney meant leaving at three in the morning; that way we could make most of the trip by midnight. Gettysburg, only a five-hour tour in the motorized carriage, still required beating the sun. Especially in my oilier, grumpier teen years, I was not fun to get going, I’d bet.
Now, though, there are few things I like more than getting up early for a trip. The world smells and looks completely different at sunrise. Muggy summer air blowing through the train windows, sweet with hints of flowers and baby crops, makes the perfect companion to processed orange juice at 6 A.M.
Especially here in Japan, where everyone is so close together, it’s hard to find a time in the day when you aren’t hearing what others are up to. Catching the first train, then, is a cure for a few things: nostalgia, the insanity that comes with constant ambient noise, and the need to see the world without it looking back.
I think I’m giving my new friends a mixed impression. At the bar, at the noodle shop, I’m fine just to sit back and let everybody else talk. I drink in the smell of ancient tatami mats and wood that make my grandpa seem like a newborn. So long as the vittles, beer, and conversation are equally plentiful, I’m good with just relaxing.
Once we get outside, though, I’m the boisterous, blathering fool I always was, and likely always will be. Is that a castle nestled in the clouds over there? We need to climb that. Now that we’re at the top of the castle, let’s go play around in that hilly woodland in the distance. No, why are you hopping in the car? Let’s just walk.
I’m terrible to be friends with.
Since I was 14, I’d dreamed about coming to Japan for an extended stay. I love it here, but something has changed. When I think of where I’ll be getting my morning coffee next year, I’m not thinking about my favorite coffee and confectionery dealer in Sabae’s Yokoecho. Instead, I’m thinking about taking down the purified forty-weight you can find in Old Montreal. I sometimes think about the alcohol-infused offerings at Boulder Coffee back home in Rochester.
In short, both wanderlust and the want to get home are making my feet extremely itchy. I’m going to do what I can to make my last five months in Japan memorable, but I’ll be glad to bid her salty shores farewell when I go — for a little while, anyway.
It’s been really exciting regularly writing for Words from the Road again. There has been a slight gap for new posts of a few weeks recently. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, it’s good, because I’ve been getting a lot of freelance assignments in addition to my teaching job. On the other, well, it means a less interesting, less vibrant space here for us all.
I’m happy to say I have a few posts that are just about ready to go live. They just need that final run through with a red pen.
In other words, WfR will be back soon 🙂