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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #512  (Vol. 11, No. 3)  This edition is for the week of January 11--17, 2010.

"The Lovely Bones" †by Mike Smith
Kingdom of the Spiders †by ED Tucker
Comic Book Craze Part 1: The Marvel Years †by Chris Woods
Toy Shopping in Japan: Toy R Us Osaka †by Jason Fetters
Hypocrite Part Ii .... Movie Notes .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Toy Shopping in Japan: Toy R Us Osaka

One Saturday afternoon, when I was living in Osaka, Japan, with a Japanese host family, I was really bored. I had a college exam covering Kanji (Chinese characters) that you have to write in the right order or you get it wrong on the test and I was really dreading taking that. In Japanese you have 1,945 Kanji that you have to memorize both the meaning and how to write. I was up to around 400 that I would be responsible for. You never know which ones will be included on the exam until that day. As you can tell, I really needed to get out of the house. My host mother knew that I liked anime, manga, and collecting Japanese toys so she recommended the Toys R Us in Osaka.

Using my cell phone, I contacted Eric, my best friend in college and a fellow pop culture fan, and told him that I had found the ultimate place for us, Toys R Us. Eric collected the rubber kaiju toys from Godzilla movies. We would often shop together and up to that time the best toy store we found was Kiddyland at Hirakata Station. Kiddyland had a wide variety of toys, video games, and a cool talking Godzilla alarm clock, which I had to purchase. Every morning I wake up to the sounds of Godzilla growling at me to get motivated.

I met Eric at the platform at Korien Station, a train station on the Keihan line, at 10am. Existing the station, I saw a Tsutaya, a Japanese Blockbusters that sells used VHS tapes and I made a mental note to return to check it out later. Numerous shops lined the street. Walking down the main street, I saw the usual shoes stores, clothing stores, and various small restaurants. Streets curved off the main road, seeming to wind around into nowhere. I didnít take any of the side streets because I get easily distracted and lose my way and forget about whatever my current goal is.

Passing a karaoke bar, I thought I was going the wrong way and briefly discussed this with Eric. In Osaka, you could walk around for a long time before getting to where you wanted to go. Toy R Us was probably further down.

Finally luck was with us, when we both spotted a huge department store off in the distance.

As the building grew larger with each anxious step, we picked up our pace. I could see 30 or more bicycles all crammed against each other in one long row. In America, unchained bicycles would be gone in seconds, but not in Japan.

Eric made a joke that if we where in Chicago some guy would just drive a truck here and put all the bikes in the back.

We neared the doors and I wanted to rush inside, but Eric stopped me because a family was trying to exit. Inside the department store was a McDonaldís, that great icon of pop food culture, hundreds of clothing items, and cosmetics. I didnít see the Toys R Us.

Looking around the bottom floor, we took the escalator to the second floor. Here was a small video game arcade in one corner, several sticker picture booths to make those small pictures with your friends, and I turned to the right to see the electronics area, which is one of my favorite shopping areas.

At the far end, just past all the electronics, I saw Toys R Us, and shot off for it like a fireball.

Walking through the electronic sliding doors, I saw Doraemon, the magical blue cat that has been in anime from 1969 and is stilling currently being produced, making it the longest-lasting Japanese anime with 1787 episodes that easily beat out The Simpsons.

There was also cool Gundam model kits and robot toys. I got a Gundam model for my birthday when my Japanese college roommate, Junnichi, went back briefly to visit his family.

Just as in the U.S. store, various candies bombarded you at the entrance. Lots of Ultraman, Hello Kitty, and other anime characters had their own candy line. At the time I was 27. When I was in Toys R Us, I felt like an 8-year old again. Eric and I walked down every aisle, stopping first to gawk at the video games for the Sega Dreamcast and Sony Playstation (PS1.) Through the glass I saw a train controller for a bullet train game. You traveled throughout Japan driving a bullet train and you had to avoid wrecks, make destinations on time, and control your speed.

Eric is a huge Godzilla fan, so we ran over to the action figure section. There were rubber monsters everywhere. I find the section devoted to Ultraman. I first saw Ultraman on US TV, back in the 70ís. There were rubber monsters from the old show I remembered. I saw a box that had all the Ultraman vehicles including the space ship, the submarine, and the cool car the Science Patrol drove around in. I believe there was also a miniature Science Patrol building.

Meanwhile, Eric found a remote-controlled Godzilla and we talked about the old toy Godzilla from the '70ís with the hand that shot off and the plastic strip with painted flames that popped out of his mouth.

Going down another aisle we saw model trains. Eric looked for a Keihan line train and I check out some Shinkansen models (the bullet train.) The train models had remarkable detail and with the use of decals and paints created an amazing miniature.

At Toys R Us, we found enough anime-related products to cause the Western fanboy to sit and drool in the aisles for hours. Eric found something that was so strange that I almost brought it with me back to the states. It was a toaster that burned the image of Hello Kitty onto a slice of bread. That was just so weird, and I knew no one back home would have one. Being a Hello Kitty product made me reluctant to purchase it so I bought a Gundam toy robot instead.

In America, at places like Merlinís Books, I found some Gundam plastic models but I always wanted a real toy with no assembly required. I didnít even care about which series it was from because I didnít want to leave Japan without buying one Gundam toy. It even came with a laser katana and a few guns. Why would anyone want a big toy robot without weapons?

After that, it was time to go check out the electronics to see all the computers with Japanese Windows '98 and the Mac OS. Interesting to see those programs in Japanese. Then it was time to head back downstairs for McDonald's where I got my Japan-only favorite, the Teriyaki burger.

Next time, I will write about my experience in Osaka, when I was working as an English Teacher and the toys I bought.

Stay tuned.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. †Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. †All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.