I thought it was about time I wrote a little something on my trip to Tokyo last year for TAF 2010. I was lucky enough to spend a week in the capital of the land of the Rising Sun in March last year. It had been 11 years since I’d visited Japan previously on a school exchange and ever since then I’d wanted to return some day. This time I was there to attend the Tokyo Anime Fair (awesome) and visit a number of art and design galleries, and if time allowed, Akihabara.
Our hotel was very close to the immense Shinjuku train station which was very handy once we figured out what tickets we needed and what platforms we had to get on (only went the wrong way once). It wasn’t until about day 3 that we got a decent handle on the public transport system and got a nifty little card pass called PASMO. It’s like Myki but it works and isn’t useless and proved invaluable during the trip.
The first few days were spent checking out what Tokyo had to offer in terms of art and design. This wasn’t limited to the galleries but also the signage of tiny pachinko parlours all the way up to the giant digital signage of Shibuya. Giant TV screens/lights and billboards as far as the eye can see, it was an awesome sight (and very distracting when crossing the road. On one of the days leading up to TAF we went to a little gallery down a side street in one of the suburbs of Tokyo. It was a bit of a journey to find the gallery after we got off at the wrong stop and couldn’t figure out why Google maps (on the iphone) was sending us to office buildings and petrol stations.
Once there we found that the gallery was actually closed for a public holiday. However one of the staff there was kind enough to let us have a look around. We saw some fantastic artwork ranging from traditional media (paint on wood) to digital prints and sculpture. The staff member spoke really good English and actually helped us find a number of other sites we wished to visit. We ended up ordering some artwork prints which the artist sent to the gallery and we picked up on our last day in Tokyo. They now have pride of place on my wall in my lounge room.
During our time in Tokyo we visited a number of other galleries and museums. On one particular day the weather turned on us and we walked in freezing cold rain for hours trying to find an art museum only to find we’d gone the wrong way. A police officer was kind enough to draw us a map and we found our way after a long slog back the way we came. It was also on this day that the cheap umbrellas we bought copped a beating from the wind. Just before entering the final art gallery for the day I was stupid enough to aim my umbrella in front of me. Wind picked up at that exact moment and POW!, the umbrella instantly inverted and self destructed. After attempting to fix said umbrella fruitlessly for 5 minutes I gave up and tossed it in the umbrella stand. Dan thought this was hilarious. I did not.
There was a high point to the bad weather though as we took shelter in the Honda building and were lucky enough to see one of the daily demonstrations by ASIMO, the Honda robot. I even got my photo taken with it! That and the fact we were off to TAF the next day helped me get over the loss of my umbrella. (Side note, two ladies actually stole our umbrellas one morning after breakfast from the umbrella stands outside the hotel restaurant. Evidently we missed the sign that said “Free Umbrellas”)
I am going to have to condense my experience at TAF as the event is so large I don’t think one blog entry will do it justice. We attended the 2 business days that precede the main public days. After traveling to the Tokyo Big Sight (yes that’s how they spell it) I was overwhelmed by the size of the complex. It was like Jeff’s shed times 100. TAF only took up 2 of the massive rooms at the Tokyo Big Sight. After registering (the lady there liked our robot business cards) we spent the whole time walking around the various studio stalls. We saw giant inflatable anime characters and the famous girls dressed in skimpy cosplay outfits that were surrounded by guys with massive SLR cameras.
There were new anime movies on display, new series and new figurines (awesome). I spent a great deal of time looking at the Gundam and Studio Ghibili sections. The Macross stalls were also awesome. At TAF we were also lucky to see a presentation by a Japanese VFX director that had spent some time at WETA working on Avatar. This was fantastic as he was the first Industry person I’ve seen that actually spoke about the pipelines used by big companies.
What made it different (and better) than previous presentations of pipelines was that he actually showed their directory structure and working methodology. What was really interesting was that he said how this differs from large anime productions. Basically in Japan there is no real structure of pipeline control which often leads to poor productions , budget blowouts and compromised final products. He said they had the raw talent but it wasn’t run well and he was hoping to bring the knowledge he gained at WETA and in the west and apply it there in Japan. Very interesting stuff. TAF was full of inspirational work and I got so much out of the presentation and the various stalls and galleries. Anime is part of the reason I became a designer so it’s always good to see behind the scenes at such a great event.
After TAF we had some free time which we used to visit Harajuku and Akihabara. Akihabara is heaven for me. It’s filled with electronic and toy/figurine stores. I went nuts. Everything was so cheap and they had so much stuff you can’t get here in Australia including a 1/6th scale Akira Kaneda Bike that I bought. The real question was how much could I fit in my suitcase? A fair amount it turns out. Not content with the stuff I bought in Akihabara I also made more purchases at the Tokyo airport. I couldn’t help myself. Besides, when would I have the chance to go to Japan again and get cool stuff like that?
All in all it was a fantastic trip. I got some inspirational material and inside knowledge on how large VFX companies work. I also got to see some fantastic Japanese artwork and anime at the largest Anime Industry Event in the world, not to mention all the cool toys I got too . Japan is a fantastic country and there is no other country in the world even remotely like it. You just have to watch their TV to see that.
JOLIENA JOLIEN X!
Posted by Campbell