Last time, we were about to talk about Gokokuji. It was the Tuesday of our trip, and we had plans to meet up with our editor friend, whom we'll call T-san. He said to meet at the Kodansha building, and we had instructions on how to get there...based on when we went a year ago and would have been leaving from Ikebukuro. We had no idea how that would translate into directions from where we were staying in Asakusabashi, so we decided to just spend our morning in Ikebukuro.
We weren't planning to meet up until his lunchbreak, so that gave us time to do something we somehow missed when we were in Ikebukuro earlier this trip--stop by Mr. Donut! Frankly, we couldn't believe we forgot to do it...oh wait, yes we could, because we deliberately decided to go to Hokuou instead that day. But we regretted it later because obviously Mr. Donut would be doing some Halloween thing and seasonal desserts are one of our favorite things ever. Of course, we're usually disappointed because there's almost always a use of some fruit or vegetable that we don't want to eat, but we still love the concept.
Anyway, the point is, we were going to Mr. Donut now. And sure enough, they were doing a Halloween event! In fact, it was a collaboration with Sanrio...who seems to be collaborating with everyone lately, but in this case it meant little donut stands with My Melody and Kuromi. Why would donuts need a stand, you ask? Because these donuts were done up to look like scary Halloween faces, so obviously you needed to stand them up or they would be reclining. Basically, they took the donut and dipped just the top of it in chocolate or pumpkin-flavored chocolate or strawberry-flavored chocolate (they don't really use frosting so much as different flavors of chocolate), and then they had white chocolate chips with pupils drawn on them (in different shapes to make different expressions), and each donut had two (obviously (although three would have been interesting)). We got one of each variety, and they also had...I think it was a cruller with a baked chocolate topping, which means they dipped the donut in the chocolate and then applied more heat to the chocolate to make it extra toasty, and it was all pretty good and super adorable. There will be pictures, of course.
I kind of want to say something about the guy who rang up our order, but the weird thing is, although he was memorable enough for me to register that there was something worth noting, it wasn't memorable enough for me to remember it. I seem to remember thinking he was very...enthusiastic? I don't remember.
When we finished our donuts, we still had plenty of time before our appointment, so we headed over to the Marui shopping mall to see if they had any cool displays like the pop-up book one they had when we went before. It wasn't open yet, so we got to be there for opening again, and I like to mention this because I think it's so neat. Whenever the mall opens, they have some of their sales ladies stand at the doors and bow as they open. It's nice, because it really makes you feel valued as a customer.
There was an anime-related art gallery going on, but it was actually for an otome game, I think, and it was one we hadn't played, so we didn't care about any of it. I may have taken a picture of all the life-sized cardboard cutouts for future reference in case we came across the series later, but I really don't remember. There was also a wall with art done in a very classical Japanese style, and they were all one-panel comics about modern problems. For example...okay, a lot of them seemed to be "that feel when" kind of thing, so there was one that was like, "That feel when you catch your reflection in the glass and start checking yourself out, then notice there's someone on the other side of it." And there was one that was, "That feel when you see two babies talking gibberish to each other and it seems oddly like a real conversation." And "That feel when someone is wearing flesh-colored pants and it looks like they're not." I think I took a picture of the whole wall, but the one I made sure to get a closeup of was the one that was, "The look someone gives you when you tell them you only watch dubs." I'm sorry; I'm the antagonist in that picture.
Our appointment was at noon, and at about eleven-thirty we started getting antsy about getting there on time, so we headed to the train station. Little did we know that our next stop was literally the next stop from Ikebukuro. In other words, it only took about two minutes to get there. We were ridiculously early, and we weren't sure how to deal with it. Mostly we walked back and forth in the train station. So we got off the train, walked all the way across the station's long hallway to the right exit, checked out the display in front of the Kodansha building, then thought, hey now might be a good time to stop at the restroom, so we went back into the station, walked all the way to the other side of the long hallway, made a pit stop, and walked all the way back, then decided we weren't freakishly early anymore, just a little early, and braved the Kodansha lobby. As a result, we were rather out of breath by the time T-san came down from the lobby. He asked if I was okay, because I was still breathing hard.
T-san had invited some other people to join us, and I feel really really bad about this because I'm not sure of either of their names. We think one of them is the M-san who joined us the last time we went to Kodansha, because she said nice to meet you again, and she introduced us to a Japan-based American editor, who edits for a bunch of Kodansha's digital stuff. And that's where things get confusing, because someone asked the American editor...we'll call her Altair, because that's the series I remember for sure that she works on...someone asked Altair if she'd been to Gokokuji before, and she said she went once with...M-san! And I was like, "Does that mean the person with us now is not M-san?" I'm sure there were context clues that would have helped, but we were having an afraid-of-people sort of trip to Japan, so it was easy to miss important details. And we've always been terrible about learning names, so that certainly did not help.
Anyway, once we were all assembled, we headed toward Gokokuji, which is the Buddhist temple that the train station we got off at is named for. First we stopped at a Family Mart to get drinks, which T-san was kind enough to pay for, and then it was off to the temple. There were more stairs, and since I had explained that I was out of breath because of all the stairs, T-san asked if we'd be okay. Actually, it went down a lot funnier. We got to the temple entrance, and all looked at each other like, "...Stairs." Then T-san asked if we'd be okay, and I said, "Daijoubu desu. Ganbarimasu!" which means roughly, "I'll be okay. I'll do my best!" It makes more sense in Japanese, though.
As we climbed the stairs, Altair told about another Japan-based American editor who refuses to take escalators and has an app on his phone that tells him how many stairs he's climbed. Apparently one day, before noon he had done the equivalent of climbing 24 flights of stairs. Japan has a LOT of stairs.
When we got to the top of the stairs, we were confronted by beautiful temple grounds. (I'm pretty sure "confronted" is not exactly the right term...Athena suggests "met." Yes, that's much better. This is why we work as a team. (Incidentally, this is how our work process goes.)) First we went to the offering box because I think that's just the polite thing to do. Like, "We visited your temple. Thanks for keeping it so beautiful. Have some money." T-san noticed that we pulled some money out of our Yato-emblemmed coin purse, and we said yeah, Noragami's still our favorite series, and he thanked us. Awwww.
Now that we'd all paid our respects, we found a bench to sit on and T-san pulled out the treats he'd brought: daifuku! Naturally, this made us think of Kofuku and Daikoku, because in their song they say, "Put 'em together and we're Daifuku!" It also made us think of Uncle Hades from KamiAso, who loved daifuku and happens to be played by the same voice actor as Daikoku. It also also made us very nervous. We had been aware of daifuku as a thing for a very long time, but the idea of beans as a dessert has weirded us out since we tried imagawayaki back in the '90s.
But! since we had told T-san that we're not very adventurous about food except for sweets, and he had paid enough attention to get sweets, and we figure we owe it to ourselves to try Japanese style sweets, we were brave! And we ate them! And I can honestly say that they tasted very good, but it was hard to sincerely say that at the time, because it was such an unusual thing (to us) to eat that we had to process first. I think what made it the hardest was that there was a soft bean filling, which was fine, but there were hard beans in the mochi...outer part, and they kind of popped, as beans do, but we don't eat a lot of beans, partly for this reason (but mostly because they're usually featured in dishes that have a lot of other things we also don't want to eat), and so it was like, "There's something popping in my mouth! I'm not used to this! I don't know if I like it!" But I think now that we've experienced it and we know what to expect, we can probably brave daifuku again without so much trouble.
On the other hand, apparently these were especially good daifuku, because even T-san who bought them was like, "Wow, these are really good." I really want to emphasize that they tasted really good! It's just our weird picky eating habits that made us hard to eat them in a way that made it seem like we were enjoying them. Fortunately, nobody asked, but I'm still worried because they would have seen our faces while we ate... We like to think we would have had good poker faces, and looked analytical at worst, but you never know. But hey, maybe everyone else was so busy enjoying their daifuku that they didn't notice.
Let's change the subject. While we ate our daifuku, we talked about how beautiful the grounds were and T-san pointed out the spider lilies, so that he could explain their Japanese name. Actually, I think we looked into this when we were translating Nabari no Ou, but we'd long since forgotten about it because Nabari was unfortunately not a very memorable series for us (although it is worth remembering, because it was the first long series we translated for Yen Press...which we also got around the same time as Higurashi, which turned out to be way longer...anyway...). But anyway, the Japanese name for spider lily...and actually, first T-san pointed to the flower and said, "Do you know what those are called?" and I said spider lily because I remembered that much from Nabari, and he said, "Oh yeah, that is the English name."
Then he explained that the Japanese name is higan-bana. He confirmed with us, "You know higan, right?" I blinked a couple of times, and then remembered, duh, it's only a huge part of Noragami (it's been a while since we worked on it last, okay?), and I was glad he gave me enough time to respond before getting all shocked or anything, and I was able to say, "Oh yeah! It's the Far Shore!" Then together we explained Far Shore for the benefit of Altair--it's basically the realm of ghosts and spirits. In Japanese tradition, there is one day (I think T-san said day) when the spirits of the dead can come back from the Far Shore (this is where I got to feel smart again; I was like, "O-bon!"), and because spider lilies bloom on that day, they are called higan-bana (bana means flower).
And that's why there's that one picture of Yato and the stray surrounded by higan-bana, and then I felt bad again, because T-san was like, "And that's why, you know that picture...?" and I was like, "...?" So he pulled it up on his phone (I bet lyschan knows exactly what picture it is) and showed it to us, but that was good because then everybody else got to see it, too! And of course it was beautiful, because it was Adachitoka. The interesting thing is that he pulled it up on Instagram, and I don't know if it was an official Noragami-related Instagram or if it was just the result of a Google search, but if it was an official Instagram, I wish I hadn't been too nervous to ask about it, because I would want to follow it (even though we're not really on Instagram).
After the lily discussion, we were finished with our daifuku, so we walked around the temple grounds some. Part of them are taken up with a cemetery, so we got to discuss the differences between American and Japanese cemeteries. One of the interesting things we noticed (and actually, I think it was T-san who pointed it out, because we would have just been like, "Huh, there's an oddly shaped thing") was that some of the Japanese graves have a little mailbox sort of thing where you can leave business cards. This way, the families of the deceased can know who was there to visit. When discussing American cemeteries, T-san said, "Yeah, all the names are on the ground, so if you're looking for a specific one, you get a serious crick in your neck." (These are not exact quotes; I'm retelling based on the gist of what I remember.) He told about the time he was in a cemetery in...I think it was New York...looking for the grave of a certain rock star for a different manga he edited, and he only managed to find it because he happened across a friendly homeless man who was a fan of the rocker and knew the cemetery forwards and backwards.
We kept walking through the cemetery until we came outside the temple, and then we turned down a small street. We weren't really sure what was happening at this point; we just followed T-san, who seemed to have some kind of plan, and talked to Altair about the new Sailor Moon translation. I also noticed all of the gigantic spiders who had built webs across the street. (The webs really did go all the way across the street, but the street was only a yard or two wide, so they weren't that big, and the spiders built them high enough not to bother anybody.) I think it was M-san(?) who noticed the little mantis that was walking across the street. It was a good time. (I actually don't mean anything by that. We like spiders because they reduce the cockroach population (cockroaches have NO concept of personal space), so as long as they keep to themselves, we love them. They were pretty gigantic, though. Not, like, tarantula-sized, but bigger than the standard house spider we get here in Southern California.)
At the end of the street, we came to a little Shinto shrine. ...Okay, not one of the really little shrines that are at street corners. It had a bell and an offering box. So T-san paid his respects, then Altair and M-san(?) paid their respects, and then we freaked out because first of all, we weren't sure it was a good idea to worship at a shrine but we were too nervous to figure out how to excuse ourselves. We thought maybe it would be okay to say we're just here saying hi to the local spirits, without a worshiping attitude, and later we worried that we would be in trouble for that, but we did it anyway, and we were still freaking out because even though we've written a note about this multiple times, we weren't sure of the exact process of omairi, and the silly thing about it is that there was a sign right there with pictures and everything, and I think it was even in Japanese and English and I'm pretty sure this paragraph is making about as much sense as my whole thought process back when it happened (which is to say, not much), and we were worried about offending people and stuff but we figured we'd be okay with gaijin power (the one white privilege we have in Japan...), but it turned out to all be okay, because since we were standing with our backs to everyone for the first time, they got distracted by how long our hair was. Whew.
It may or may not be worth noting that when we got to the shrine, T-san and M-san(?) looked at the list of kami enshrined there and both said, "I don't know who any of these are." We wanted to speculate out loud about maybe those were the enshrined names of different, more well-known kami, but we couldn't remember what the word for that was. Oh well. It's in volume nine of Noragami somewhere.
Anyway, the significance of this shrine is that one of its sponsors, and a company that was a mere few feet away, was Futaba...something. Printing? I don't know. I took a picture of their logo... But the point is, it's the company where Kodansha sends its manga before the final printing, and T-san had arranged with the president himself! to give us a tour! We asked if it was okay to take pictures, and the president said yeah why not?, and M-san(?) said okay tell us if there's anything we shouldn't take pictures of, and he was like, "You can pretty much just take pictures of everything."
And so we had a tour of the final stages of manga before printing, and because of convenience, we happened to go in backwards order, so we started with the very last phase, which is double-checking. And there just happened to be someone at that station double-checking a new series for Kodansha, so we got to have a demonstration! ...which didn't turn out to be as perfect as hoped, because for several pages there was nothing that needed changing.
Right, so how it works is after all of the processes have been completed, they send it back to the editor at Kodansha (I think), who marks all the places that need changing, like this font here needs to be bigger, this line needs to be thicker, change this word to this, etc. T-san said it's a big help when the checker already knows the editor's preferences. Ideally, the changes then get made and sent back for this final check. And the really cool thing about it is that they have this software that can scan both the pre-change version and the newest version, and check for differences to make sure the changes have actually been made. I think the president told us how super fast it goes, but I don't remember the numbers. The point is, it saves a LOT of time.
We went to the scanning area, where they were scanning and cleaning up an old classic manga that was going to get a new digital release. I think it had golf in it. But it was kind of intense to see the lady at the computer zooming in and erasing dirt and stuff.
I don't remember what they were doing at this one station, but they were working on Fire Force, so that was cool. The only thing I remember about that part is that we were like, "Hey, we translate that!" and then there was some discussion about how hard it must be to fit the English word "Shinra" in a bubble that only had three characters in the Japanese version. I remember thinking, "lys would be better equipped at answering these questions..." T-san or M-san(?) explained that we don't do the lettering; we just write the words.
And speaking of lettering! We found out how they do lettering for manga in Japan! It's pretty much the same as in the States! They even use InDesign, I think. But there's a bit more to the process. Someone has to take the name (that's the rough draft of the manga) and type all of the dialogue from the name into a script. Sometimes they have one already sent to them, but not always. The woman at the lettering station seemed to mutter something about how some series are harder than others *coughWelcometotheBallroomcough* and T-san muttered an apology in response. Then someone takes the script and copies and pastes it into the pictures. I don't know if I'm describing that very well, but it's basically what I understood happens in American lettering.
We went to the graphic design department, where they design manga covers and T-shirts and things. There was a Your Lie in April shirt on display. It was neat. We also went to the department where they make promotional videos for manga! The guy at that station pulled up a ton of videos for us to watch. He was all, "You can see these videos were made from the same template." There was one that got released with some of the text backwards, so we got to see both versions of that. I don't remember what manga it was for, though. I might have taken a picture, so if I recognize it, I can tell you then.
We also went to the department (and by the way, when I say "department," I usually mean, "One or two guys or girls at a computer") where they develop software and apps. The president was like, "Now's your big chance to show us your great projects!" And the one guy was like, "Uh...I got nothin'. Sorry." The other guy showed us how he was developing an app that reads the manga out loud, so that was pretty cool.
As we walked from one department to another, T-san told us that most of Kodansha's manga is being made digitally these days, but not Noragami, because it's way too elaborate. All I could do was agree. I do wish I could have discussed it more. Our Japanese was kind of on the fritz that day. Too much nervousness, I guess.
...And I think that covers it for our tour of Futaba. We all thanked the president for taking the time to do that for us, and he was like, "Nah, I happened to have nothing better to do today." M-san(?) and Altair were happy because they had some ideas on things they could do for the international manga. And we were happy because that was a really cool thing we got to see.
We walked back to Gokokuji, and on the way there, we saw some of the narrow streets resident kitty cats, who proved to be a bit of a distraction as T-san kept walking and we stopped to try to pet them... (Altair was with us, so we weren't the only ones!) Anyway, Gokokuji was at the other end of the train station's long hallway, so when we got back there, it was time to part ways. This time we thought oh hey, maybe we should get a picture with everybody! We're so bad at thinking of taking pictures with people. So Altair took a picture of us with T-san and M-san(?) (I'm really sorry for not being sure of your name, M-san! (and Altair!)), and now we have photographic memories! (By which we mean "memories in the form of photographs," not "memories in our heads as clear as photographs.)
And we parted ways. We had that sort of nervous energy you get after you spend time with someone and you're worried that you weren't acting the best, so we worked it off by doing something completely ridiculous. We did the Sailor Moon stamp rally. See, the Tokyo Metro was doing a stamp rally where you go to different stations, stamp the pamphlet thingie, and then you can win fabulous prizes! And the prizes really were very nice. (We can't help thinking of My Little Monster: "It's jam!!" We don't know why, but for some reason we can't help loving that jam stamp rally. We think it's because it was so enthusiastic about giving away jam.) But it was still a ridiculous thing to do, because in order to qualify for the prizes, you had to send in your stamped thingie and wait for them to do a drawing. We weren't going to be in Japan when they did the drawing, so there was really very little in it for us.
Nevertheless, we did it! We went to every one of those stations! And this was after wearing ourselves with about a bazillion stairs. I forgot how tiring just being in transit can be. We did get out of the underground station and look around a little bit when we got to Azabu Juban, because that's where Sailor Moon lives! But we didn't really know what to look for, so we just wandered a little bit, were disappointed that the McDonald's was closed for refurbishment (we were hungry and we know McDonald's has food we will eat (by which I mean fries and shakes)), and then we went back to the stamp rally. We got all of them! And they were all really cute; designs by Ikuko Ito from SuperS. And it helped us get a good idea of how to find our way around, so we were a lot more confident when we had to make two transfers to get to Disneyland the next day.
I think after the stamp rally was when we got back to the hotel and watched a show about studying! But this is Japan, so it's not any old boring show about studying. They had it set up like a 100 ghost stories marathon--you know, how in Japan they do the thing where they light a hundred candles, and then someone tells a ghost story and they put a candle out, until they're all out. Well, the teenagers on the show held candles and took turns telling real horror stories about what happened to them in high school, like about being confident to take a test and seeing it covered none of the material they studied. To make it even better, the stories were then reenacted by two old guys in wigs. It was hilarious. The best was when the one girl told a story that happened in her English class, so the guy dressed as the English teacher had a blond afro and a giant fake nose. We were like, "Yup, that's what white people look like." (We may be biased because we, too, have large noses.)
Then they made a little horror movie about a girl who was stalked by a guy that wrote notes in Classical Japanese, as a way to teach them how Classical Japanese works, and to help them remember by making it scary. It turns out the stalker was just her next door neighbor (hence the "I am always beside you" note) who didn't know how to express himself in non-creepy ways.
And then we got ready to go...to Disneyland! But I really have no idea how long I've been typing, because we've been multitasking, but I feel like this section is longer than usual, so I'm worried. I hope it's at least an amusing long read!
Today I'm thankful for piles of kittens (the latest litter likes to sleep in a pile, despite the ridiculously hot weather), T-san's kindness in showing us around places, getting treated to daifuku, getting to learn more about manga, and fun Japanese educational shows.