I’ve come to notice in Korea that few people past their twenties will openly admit that they watch anime, read manga, game, or collect toys. That said, I was surprised to see that a variety of toy conventions pop up in Seoul year-round, and each one well attended by almost exclusively adults. So while I felt like a lone nerd when I initially moved to Seoul, over time I realized that this country is full of people just as nerdy as me; however, unlike me, most don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops.
Here’s me full of wide-eyed wonderment before entering the con. It’s a bit smaller than some of the other toy and pop culture cons in Seoul (i.e. Seoul Kidult Fair) but it still made me giddy as hell. The majority of the convention consists of exhibit and sales space for indie toy designers, although you can also find a couple booths selling nendoroids, Gundams, anime and Sanrio blindbox toys peppered throughout.
I know it’s cliche, but for me Disney is seriously the happiest place on Earth. Like, really. Then as the mecca of all things anime and fandom-related, Japan comes in close second. Since I’m currently in Asia, it only made sense for me to go to the one place that combined the two–Tokyo Disney. To give a simple and concise review, it was wonderful. But for someone living in the states who has access to both Disneyworld and Disneyland, is it really worth the long trip to another country to experience another facet of the Disney Kingdom? Well, take a look at my adventure and you be the judge.
First, meet Juan, my travel companion during the trip. When I decided that nothing would make me happier than going to Disney dressed as Nana Osaki, Juan agreed to don my Hinata Shouyo Haikyu! uniform so I wouldn’t be alone in my dress up efforts. You may have heard that Disney has strict rules against adults entering the park in costume, but if you choose something subtle and unrelated to Disney or else opt for Disneybounding as opposed to straight up Disney cosplay, it’s no biggie.
Tokyo Disney has two separate parks–Disneyland and DisneySea. DisneySea is the reason I absolutely had to make this trip. I’ve been to Orando’s Disney World more times than I can count so I jumped at the chance to see something entirely new. DisneySea is nautical exploration themed and while it does include some rides and sights you can find elsewhere, the overall experience is very exclusive to Japan.
Last year while I was working as a kindergarten teacher in Seoul, one day I had to take my students to a puppet show. The puppet show was entirely in Korean, so I never understand exactly what was happening, but I did know one thing–it was about poop. I sat through an entire maybe 30-40 minute long puppet show about farting raccoons with indigestion that had to battle evil alien space poops. Why am I telling you this? Well that whole puppet show served as my introduction to Korea’s interesting relationship with poop. In a country that has a toilet-themed park and a well-known dung-obsessed cartoon character, that puppet show really wasn’t all that odd.
Might I also add that maybe only a week or two after arriving in Korea I was quickly introduced to “dong chim” aka “poop needle” aka the “funny” prank some of my students would do where they’d make their hands into a gun shape and try to poke their fingers up my butt. All that said, when I found out there was a poop-themed cafe just a couple train stops from my house, I was a little less surprised than you might expect.
Myeongdong area in Seoul is an all-around great place to visit. Its glittering streets feature both high end and budget shopping, row after row of killer street food vendors (i.e. stuffed clams and fresh pomegranite juice), and not to mention random celebrity sightings. But the area that I really love in this trendy shoppers haven is the quiet yet colorful Zaemiro street aka Seoul Comics Road.
Featuring statues, signs, and street art, Zaemiro is lined with art from comics and animations around the world. It’s a somewhat meandering street and at times not the most pedestrian-friendly, but that’s in part what gives it its charm. A trip there gives you a chance to explore–you never quite know where you’ll find the next art installation. And the work itself ranges from cute and conventional to wtf (beefcake Pikachu? ehhh).
Perhaps I’m a little bit spoiled in that I expect virtually every nerd event to involve toys. So while Seoul’s monthly anime cons were like a cosplay miracle, the fact that none of these cons had toy or figure vendors sort of put me in a panic. Where are my toys? How can you deprive a nerd of their toys? Thankfully the Seoul Kidult Fair helped to assuage my fears that I would leave Korea without an opportunity to fangasm over some sweet figures.
The Kidult Fair is an annual toy and hobby expo, hosted in a convention hall within the Coex megamall. It’s a combo of toy vendors, industry innovators promoting their products (i.e. 3d printers), contests, and toy and art exhibits, along with a massive gaming space. For someone like me, it was an endless heart-attack risk. I ran amok with the hyperness of a child, scouring through bins of discounted anime figures and marveling at the display of BJD dolls.
One of the more notable sights was the exhibit of felt sculptures and papercrafts. At the end of the exhibit there was an area to buy your own papercrafts, along with a workspace where you could assemble your purchases–with the aid of staff members if need be. Well aware that I lack goth the patience and precision for that, I was happy just admiring the pieces and identifying my favorite video game and anime characters.
Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki.
For fans of anime and animated films in general, those words should bring some very distinctive images to mind. Scenes of magic, warmth, and unparalleled beauty and depth. Studio Ghibli–the studio behind memorable films such as Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro–makes the kind of films that captivate and leave viewers in awe. These are the kind of films you wish you could step inside and experience again and again. Luckily, those in Seoul get to do just that.
During my recent trip to Japan, I took a trip to the official Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka. And while the experience was a lovely and emotional one, it was not nearly as immersive and squeal-inducing as this temporary exhibit.
Tucked away in the mega shopping plaza, i’Park Mall, the exhibit is a magical and detailed Studio Ghibli fan’s dream. (more…)