Tuesday, July 22, 2014

J-Pop Summit Festival 2014

First of all, please take my "review" with a grain of salt, because we only stayed at the J-Pop Summit Festival in SF's Japantown for about 30 minutes before calling it quits.  We did not stop in union square to watch any of the concerts either.  So I'm sure we barely scratched the surface of things to do within our quick walk through, but I'll document it anyway for my own memory :P
Originally I had planned to go to the film festival portion of the event, mostly because saying that you're going to a film festival sounds super fancy to me. Haha! However, we decided not to since I wasn't really getting excited about any of the titles available during the times we'd be there.

So instead, Sak, Penga-Sis and I donned our casual-otaku wear and boarded the Caltrain/Muni to get to Japantown. From the minute we stepped off the wild 38 bus (that dropped us off in the middle of the street), the only word to describe the place would be "packed".  Booths were set up all around J-Town, at the square, inside the mall, out on the blocked-off street. And between the booths - a steady, constant flow of human bodies. 
Not the place to be if you don't like crowds.
Now, I don't typically mind crowds.  Crowds only mean something good is going on, right? But I don't like unorganized crowds.  And during the brief time we were there, I didn't see organized crowds.  It was very hard to see where lines stopped and started (or even what they were for), and unlike a convention which has clearly marked staff members, I didn't see anyone directing people where they should go for this or that.

As to what there was to do there?  In addition to the already great shops in Japantown, there were also artist booths, vendor booths, and food booths.  A lot of the food looked really, really good - but again, the lines were phenomenal. (Though I should note we did arrive around a normal lunch time.)  There was a full-on ramen event taking place, which seemed cool - but again, gigantic line.  Plus it was hot, a rare "nice day" for SF. I earned a lobster patch around my neck where I forgot to apply sunscreen.

Sak picked up some freebies from the crunchyroll booth, since we are premium members. We heard someone come up and ask if anime was popular here in the states. @_@
Which brings me to my next observation of why I didn't really enjoy the festival.  I didn't feel like it was a unified celebration.  At anime conventions - simple, you're celebrating anime with other people that like anime.  There are offshoots of course, but the majority of the people are there for that reason.  A chocolate festival - simple, you're there to sample chocolate.  But this one? Although it's called a JPop Festival, I felt like a lot of people were there just for the food.  Others were there to cosplay.  Not a bad thing, but I'm sure many people there don't know anything about JPop. (Myself partially included, I haven't followed the JPop/Rock scene since the early 2000's with L'arc and Gackt, Koda Kumi and M-Flo, etc.)   I don't think any of this is bad, but I don't think it makes for a very cohesive festival.  

Anyway, I enjoyed the art booths, and we picked up a couple things - the most adorable guinea pig card ever (check out her work, it's all SO CUTE), and a plastic laser cut tsundere necklace (Sis') (didn't catch the vendors name, unfortunately).

After our quick walk through, we decided to leave, mouths gaping at the sight of a line to get in the grocery store. Wow. We were hot, hungry, and didn't want to stand in some unknown line.  So we MUNI'd back down to the FiDi and ate some teri bentos at a very uncrowded restaurant down by the water. Relaxing!

Our friends went the day after (because I am horrible and FORGOT to update the plan), so I'll have to see how their trip was, but I doubt we'll be returning year after year to this festival. Not unless there's some major crowd control!

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Sushi Eraser Kit

In stock at our local Japanese grocer are a lot of these fun kits for making your own erasers.  They are about $10 each, which is a bit more expensive than my average craft fling, so I only bought one kit to start with - sushi of course!

I'm actually quite pleased with the kit - the molds it comes with are hard plastic, which can definitely be reused for other clay or eraser projects in the future.  I'm very tempted to buy the other kits now that I know this, because really where else are you going to find a sushi mold?? Very cool.
To try this kit out, my sis was up for helping, and Sak served as the on-call instructions translator, haha.

It's really pretty simple though.  Spray the mold with some water to prevent sticking.
Roll up a lump of "eraser clay" and put it in the mold.
Lock the two mold halves firmly in place to shape the lump.
Then trim the excess clay away and remove!

Rice lumpies. Hehe.

Anyway, repeat with other colors to create your sushi, and then to "cure" your eraser, submerge it in water within the box and microwave.  Since my microwave was twice as powerful as the microwave chart given in the instructions, I halved the cooking time. (about 2 minutes for me)
By the way, I learned that the proper word for rubber "curing" is vulcanization.  Which is a pretty cool sounding word.

"Hey babe, watch me vulcanize this rubber."

@_@ Okay, maybe not.

Anyway, once everything is done, cut out the paper bits to finish the scene.

While not as pretty as the box, the finished erasers still exceeded my expectations!
 Small. Still pretty soft.  I have no idea how they'd fair as actual erasers, because why would you want to use something this cute??
There was still quite a bit of clay left over too, probably enough for one or two more nigiri pieces.
Needs some wasabi.  Also, I  would probably glue down the toppings to the rice.  While microwaving the two pressed together sort of keeps it in place, it doesn't feel like a very strong bond. Though you might like it that way, if you're one of those people at a sushi buffet that only eat the fish tops and hide the rice under an oyster or crab shell. Huhu >.>"
Overall, lovely little kit. I'll have to look at the other kinds they have available, because I think it's definitely worth it for the unique molds.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

San Jose's Japanese Friendship Garden

After a company picnic in San Jose last weekend, Sak, Penga-Sis and I decided to check out the nearby Japanese Friendship Garden to walk off a few of the many calories we consumed.
If you're looking for a pretty walk that's also free of charge, definitely check this garden out! It's fairly large, with plenty of benches to sit at, and the grounds are well kept.
One of two(?) entrances

The water in the pond was a ridiculous bright green due to an abundance of algae.  Maybe some algae eating fish in addition to koi would be good? Or maybe the sudden warm whether spurred the slimey growth?

There were quite a few birds out on this particular sunny Saturday.

I'm sorry this one's kinda..gross. But this guy was pretty proud of his catch and kept waggling it around :P
Picturesque garden birds in the middle of silicon valley.
There's also plenty of lovely spots for photos or selfies, haha.
Reflecting at the tea house
Random squat

The geese shoulda been a little closer to Sis to get a duck-face group shot :P
This is probably my favorite shot. Ninja! 
Overall, this was a really nice park!  It's sister-city is Okayama. I wonder if they have a San Jose themed garden there @_@. What kind of plants would it have? Poppies?

For the negatives, I was upset at the amount of people leaving their trash out on the grass though. Clean up after yourselves people! Gwah.  And then again at the little kids with their nets and cups trying to catch the baby koi and small fry fish. I dunno about that. If you want to play with the fish, they do have some fish food you can buy to feed them.

Anyway, I'm thinking I should visit more Japanese gardens in order to practice my photography...because Sak and I will be visiting Japan again this Fall! AH I CAN'T WAIT.