Adventure near the Base of Mount Fuji (Shibazakura Matsuri)

Photography © Franki Webb

It’s been awhile since my last post, but to be honest it’s been awhile since I’ve done anything remotely exciting. I think about my life in Japan and all the happy times I’ve had, and it’s sad to say; most of those times were during my year on exchange. Working has now has zapped almost all the excitement out of my once adventurous life. Now I’ve turned to going abroad to find my thrills, China, Korea and Thailand seem so much more exotic to me now.
I do have one adventure to share with you though, last week I decided to venture out of Tokyo for a bit. I had seen posters all over the trains promoting the flower festival near Mount Fuji as I was taking the train to work. I needed an escape, I had to leave the chaos of Tokyo and breathe some fresh mountain air.
The festival is located near Kawaguchiko so on Tuesday morning at 6am along with my housemate, I boarded a bus straight there. The journey took almost two hours. We got off the bus welcomed with that fresh pine air, grabbed a coffee and lined up for a bus that would take us straight to the festival.  The humidity was overbearing in our retro 60s bus and took almost as long. I started becoming impatient, but I don’t regret the road-trip though, as soon as I stepped off the bus I could smell the fresh flowers which this festival is famous for. We were lucky enough to have clear day with a mild breeze that kept us cool from the harsh rays. The fields were covered with rows and rows of pink shibazakura, the pink was so vibrant it almost hurt my vision if I stared at it too long, but at the same time I couldn’t keep my eyes away. Two years prior, I had visited Chichibu’s Flower Festival which was equally as stunning. However, the one thing that Kawaguchiko had that Chichibu didn’t was Mount Fuji, standing at 3900m,  the combination of the pink fields and mountain seemed almost too surreal as if one were in a fantasy-setting. We lingered at the festival, trying to take detailed images with our memory and sniffing the fragrance. It wasn’t until almost two hours later we decided to venture around the town. The bus back took a more scenic route, we got off at Kawaguchiko station and found the path towards the lake.
(For 2,700yen I would say you get a good deal, especially if you’re blessed with perfect weather. If you live around Tokyo or Yamanashi, take some time out and visit. I promise you, there’ll be no regrets. )

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Kawaguchiko translates as Lake Kawaguchi in English, so there is no surprise that there’s a lake in town. I’m not sure if it due to my city upbringing, but I felt tranquil n this environment, no sirens, no pachinko music, no loud voices; it wasn’t just me –everyone seemed to be at peace. There is so much we take for granted living in the city that we don’t appreciate the little perks of the country.
The lake was surrounded by miles and miles of greenery, even the freeway built over the lake to connect the divide couldn’t distract me from the beauty.  We sat down by the lake and ate our energy bars, by the time we got to there our energy had almost run out.  I peered at the tops of one of the shorter mountains close by and noticed a cable car going up to the summit.
“Why don’t we try it? There might be a temple at the top or something?” I said. I wasn’t ready for the adventure to be over, I wanted more.   The two of us pondered over the boat on the lake and whether it would be a better option, but since the winds had become stronger over the past hour we decided against it and took the cable car up to the mountain.  The mountain was called Mount Kachi Kachi. It was famous for tanuki and rabbits or according to the brochure we were given.  I doubt that people went up to the mountain especially to worship the tanuki, rather they went up to see the spectacular view of Mount Fuji.  We were welcomed by a photographer, who eagerly practiced a little English on us before taking our picture in front of Fujisan (as the Japanese say). We went up a little further and saw some more breath-taking views of the surrounding area. It wasn’t just me, everyone eyes were glued to particular areas, the mountain range on our left, Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi. On top of the summit was a little shrine where we paid our respects (once we caught our breaths). We then climbed down, eager to enjoy the fresh air and get a chance to exercise.  By the time we got down to the bottom, it was time to make our way home, the air became a lot cooler and we started to shiver under our thin clothing. Unfortunately, our quest to find a non-Japanese restaurant failed (we were tired of Japanese food) and we “enjoyed” the cuisine 7-11 had to offer. We took our bus back at around 8.10pm hoping to get home before 10.  I wanted to stay longer, I just didn’t want my little quest to end and to return to the daily grind of city life.

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Distant Worlds Review

My London trip was filled with many adventures, but it was Distant Worlds, the Final Fantasy concert which I was most excited about. It was something I had always wanted to do since they announced it back in 2008. I was full of anticipation to hear Final Fantasy theme live in a beautiful hall along with friends whom also love the series.To tell you the truth,  I’ve always been obsessed with video-game music, and it’s been a secret love of mine ever since I first played Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic.  The Royal Albert Hall was elegantly decked out for the occasion. I had been once before when I was 9 to see Aida, but being that young I couldn’t really appreciate the importance of it. Now being 24, I could appreciate the sip of a cold beer while watching the orchestra pound out tunes that bounce off the back of  the walls sending shivers up and down your spine.

Distant Worlds opened with an introduction of some important people like Uematsu who was there being as whimsical as always, followed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the one and only creator of the original Final Fantasy. Knowing he was in the same room as me only more excited than I had previously been. The adrenaline and most likely the pint of beer running through my system started to make me feel a little nauseous.  I started to relax when they began performing  the original Final Fantasy theme followed by a medley of songs from the first 3 Final Fantasies. It was memorable and a great way to prelude to some of the more popular games in the series. Then of course came songs from 4 and 5.  When it came to 6, I had expected them to perform Terra’s Theme, but they chose to opt for “The Phantom Forest” I understand the need to branch out and try other songs and not always go for the most popular, but to be honest I felt more than a little disappointed.

Arnie Roth decided to play “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and encouraged the audience to sing a long, which sounds great, but I wasn’t particularly up for, I just wanted to sit back and relax to the music. After, they played, “Force Your Way,” from Final Fantasy VIII, again I let out a low disappointed sigh,  I was again expected another song, the more epic “Liberi Fatali” and although 8 is probably my least favorite game in the series, I really do appreciate the soundtrack.   The orchestra’s performance of You’re Not Alone from Final Fantasy IX definitely lifted my spirits after a string of disappointments. I think if they didn’t play “To Zanarkand”  from Final Fantasy X, it wouldn’t have been only me in the audience who felt duped.


The second part was filled with an array of songs from all the Final Fantasies, as I’m not a huge fans of any of them after 10 so you can imagine how let down I was when they performed two songs from the online game, Final Fantasy 14. However, Crystal Kay’s rendition of “Eyes on Me,” was definitely worth the wait, I’ve been a fan of hers since I was 18 so it meant more to me to watch her perform live than it was listening to “One Winged Angel” live. After this, they performed a new piece; an opera written by Uematsu for Final Fantasy VI that didn’t even feature in FFVI  and went on for at least ten minutes eating up precious performing time.  It would have been fantastic if they cut it by about 3 minutes and omitted the narration.

Despite the pleas from the crowds to perform, “Aeris’s Theme” as the closing act, Arnie decided to end with “Final Fantasy Theme,” honestly I wouldn’t have minded so much if it weren’t for the fact that he had already played that set piece during the opening .  It seemed like a wasted opportunity to end the concert with a bang.  Overall, it was enjoyable, but I have to admit my expectations were a lot higher.  I guess, I can always book again when they perform in Tokyo, but next time I’ll ask for the playlist.

London Comic Con

Hello! I’ve started my new blog, because I’ve realised there are so many memories I want to record and look back on. Hopefully this blog will remain unlike so many of my other blogs now that are left forgotten in the dark raptures of the internet. I also want to let all my friends and family know about my life. Since I don’t seem to sit still in one place for very long, I thought this might be a good place to let everyone know what I’m up to.

So first things first, I went to London Comic Con, formerly known as the London Expo. London Expo was targeted for mainly anime fans, but most recently the organisers have successfully transformed their image to overall geek fest, with fans of Western comics, video-games and cult dramas turning up. I’ve been going to the London MCM Expo on and off for the last 6 years and I have to say  I was taken back by how much the event has changed. Literally thousands of people were queuing up inside Excel Convention centre to get inside.  It was almost as busy as Tokyo Game Show and that is saying something for an event that started with such humble beginnings. There were many people of interest at the event, including Ali Hillis (Lightning, FFXIII) and Courtaney Taylor, ( Ada Wong, RE6) , they were a pleasure to meet despite having a huge queue of people waiting to see them, they didn’t seem tired or remotely bothered by it.  I also had the chance to see Adam Howden, (Anders, Dragon II).

Of course, many people at the show turn up in cosplay and I was not an exception. It’s good to see a variety of cosplayers at the event instead of the usual Narutos and Zeldas, people spiced things up with Commander Shepherds, Lollipop Chainsaw and other new video-game series.  However, despite having a larger number of attendees and more guests, there were things which did disappoint. Although the event is much larger with far more attendees than ever before, the organisers didn’t seem to take into account that possibly a wider space might be needed so although there were many things to do and see at this year’s event, it was almost impossible to do anything in such a enclosed space.

Overall though, I enjoyed it, the event suffers from a lack of organisation and planning, making many of the attendees frustrated and bitter. Though, the fact it can draw so many visitors is also a sign of progression, events like TGS still have overcapacity issues and lack of pre-planning so maybe their is still chance for London Comic Con to sort itself out and become an event to match San Diego, but I don’t think it will be happen any time soon.