Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Travel report: Sengoku Basara tourism part 1 - TAF 2013 and Capcom in Tokyo

I started to write a single post about my two visits to Shiroishi Castle from the perspective of a Sengoku Basara fan. It soon became so long that I ended up having to split it into three parts - all because I kept wanting to include details of other things I did on my trips!

Therefore, this first post is all about some of the other Sengoku Basara sights I've enjoyed on my trips to Japan. The castle will come afterwards.

Tokyo International Anime Fair

I went to Tokyo International Anime Fair 2013 (TAF) for the first time on Saturday 24th March 2013, one of the public dates. Buying a ticket in advance was easy thanks to the convenience store reservation system and there was no queue at all when we arrived at Tokyo Big Sight just after 10:00am - we were inside within minutes. The most surprising thing was how tiny the event was, spread over the three East halls. It always looks huge when people post photo reports, but I'm used to attending much larger gatherings whenever I head to Big Sight in search of doujinshi at Comic City or Comiket. I'd never seen the venue so quiet before! The other culture shock was how many foreigners there were. Many of them arrived dressed in cosplay before making a beeline for the fenced-off cosplay area. The whole thing felt just like one of London's MCM Expo events (only without the rampant piracy and stormtroopers).

Dragonball, One Piece and Toriko at the Toei booth

The reason I went to TAF wasn't for the anime coverage this time, even though I was pleased to see Kobayashi Yuu participating in a Ginga He Kickoff panel. It was for something much dorkier: I wanted to buy the special Sengoku Basara goods that appeared on this blog previously!

I'd already planned to go to Miyagi a few days after the event but I knew I wouldn't have enough time to visit the San Juan Bautista (Datemaru) or Ishinomori Mangakan in Ishinomaki. Popping to TAF was much simpler, so I hurried to the Production I.G. sales area to pick up some of their 'San Juan Cioccolata'. The chocolate wasn't the only Sengoku Basara merchandise that Production I.G. had on offer; you could buy posters, fans, postcards and limited edition Mini Sengoku Basara pins. 

Pochi Warrior Kojuurou and Musubimaru

Even though I'd have been satisfied with just the chocolate (which makes a lovely warm drink when blended with hot water or milk), Sengoku Basara was out in force at the event and there were several other goodies to be found. The best place for shopping turned out to be the Miyagi/Sendai Animation Grand Prix booth. 

Katakura Kojuurou
It was easily one of the most bustling booths at the entire show, with several yuru kyara costumed mascots walking around and a bevy of friendly staff members. After the terrible earthquake and tsunami which struck Miyagi Prefecture in 2011, the tourism industry has been working hard to promote travel to the area and counter the sensationalist news reports which scare people away. At the time of my visit the face of Musubimaru, the mascot of Sendai, was plastered on walls all over Tokyo imploring people to consider visiting Sendai for their holidays.

Thanks to these efforts I was able to meet Musubimaru himself as well as Pochi Warrior Kojuurou, one of several official mascots belonging to Miyagi's Shiroishi City. In the photograph above, Kojuurou is dressed in Katakura Kojuurou's famous kabuto helmet while Musubimaru is wearing armour styled after that of Date Masamune.

Another take on the first Katakura Kojuurou is pictured on the left, this time representing the Oushuu Katakuragumi. They're an amazing group of history enthusiasts based in Shiroishi who promote tourism to the local area while dressed in Sengoku-era costumes. He was very serious, even when posing for this photograph. I loved his armour and stoic attitude.

Anyway, as well as costumed characters, tourism brochures and cheerful staff, half of the booth was devoted to character merchandise related to the Miyagi area - and most of it was from Sengoku Basara. Given that the anime ended two years ago, it's impressive that Production I.G. and Capcom continue to release enough merchandise to give it such a solid presence at anime events. One thing to note is that since the booth was promoting Miyagi prefecture, all of the merchandise related to Date Masamune and Katakura Kojuurou. I didn't mind that at all.

After emptying my wallet in the event halls I fell victim to the strategically-positioned souvenir stall in the lobby of Tokyo Big Sight, which had put out some Sengoku Basara daifuku along with other anime-related treats to attract the TAF audience. Naturally, I couldn't resist stocking up on the Takeda-gun strawberry cream daifuku and Date-gun zunda cream daifuku. I'd tried the zunda ones on a previous trip and already knew that they were delicious. To make things even better, all of the boxed snacks I bought at the fair came with stickers. 

The Madoka Magica snacks just weren't as interesting

It's worth noting that there have been a lot of political issues surrounding TAF in recent years, leading to the founding of an alternative called Anime Contents Expo (ACE). I'd have gone to that one too except they scheduled it for the exact same weekend as Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~. Although I don't know which of the two events is better overall, I cannot fault Tokyo International Anime Fair for the way it caters for Sengoku Basara addicts.

Capcom Official Shop e-Capcom

Since I was in the Odaiba area already for TAF, it would have been a waste not to visit the official Capcom shop nearby in the Aqua City mall (close to Daiba station). Having been there twice before didn't stop me spending plenty of money in the Sengoku Basara section. The enormous Masamune standee outside always makes me feel at home.

Odaiba Hittou, Date Masamune!

The post won't be complete without pictures of some of the things that were purchased that day. The small packs in the bottom right are creamy Tirol chocolates. They were originally sold in boxes containing forty-five different designs covering every warrior in the games down to Haruhisa and Kanetsugu (I bought a box last year). The e-Capcom shop still sells some of the designs as individual sweets, though the selection is becoming increasingly limited as the box sets have completely disappeared. Some normal sakura mochi Tirol chocolates are shown next to them for comparison.

Edible treats from TAF 2013

The next picture includes a few of the items I picked up at the Capcom store. The stickers at the top are from the special sticker machine which lets you create your own designs (I chose a cute Toyotomi-themed design along with one of my favourite words), while the Kojuurou sticker in the middle was a free gift for spending over a certain amount. The ink paint postcards are from Production I.G.'s shop at TAF and the badges are from the Miyagi tourism booth.

Goods from the Capcom shop and TAF 2013

Sengoku Basara Karaoke

I promise that I do sensible things occasionally on my trips to Japan, other than hunting down game tie-ins. It's just that the more normal activities aren't so interesting to write about. Everyone knows that anime and game fans can have a great time shopping in Tokyo's Akihabara district, but what's special about the area if you're a Sengoku Basara tourist?

The door has a Masamune design
As it happens, the Showa-dori branch of Karaoke Pasela has a Sengoku Basara Official Concept Room which can be hired upon request. It also has concept rooms themed around other series in the same building, such as Monster Hunter, Hakuouki, Cyborg 009, Bakuman and the omnipresent Evangelion. This particular branch isn't in the main 'electric town' part of Akihabara; instead you have to take the Showa-dori exit from the station and look for the old-fashioned karaoke building nestled between a bank and a noodle shop.

The Sengoku Basara room is bathed in red and blue light and decorated with kamon crests and artwork from Sengoku Basara 3. A complete set of Revoltech figures from the series is on display in a box embedded in the ceiling as though to taunt fans who can't afford the ridiculous prices Mitsunari's figure fetches these days...

Of course, the karaoke machine has all of the major themes from the game available (along with a vast range of other types of music). I find it very difficult to sing T.M.Revolution songs - not that it stopped me from trying. My poor friends.

Upon leaving, the staff let everyone in my group choose a Sengoku Basara coaster as a memento. My dear friends relinquished theirs to me for some reason, so I ended up taking Masamune, Yukimura and Oichi coasters home. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

That wraps up my coverage for now. The next two posts will be about my adventures in Miyagi Prefecture, so if anyone is still reading please look forward to more grainy pictures soon!

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