Over the weekend I took a business trip to the best place you can take a business trip to, Kyoto. The capital of Japan from 794 until Tokyo officially took on that role in 1869, Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, compelling the poet Basho to write, “Even while in Kyoto, I yearn for Kyoto.” While the city is home to some of the most amazing Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Japan, it’s also an energetic city, with a great local beer culture and lots of Internet startups. It’s got another unique feature, too: while most Japanese cities grew out of castle towns, with twisting, curving roads that are impossible to navigate if you weren’t born there, Kyoto’s roads are wide and straight, organized along a north-south grid. While most roads in Japan lack names, at least that anyone ever refers to (it’s common to say “turn left at the street with with the beauty shop and the pachinko parlor”), the streets in Kyoto have had names for more than a thousand years, with lots of history to go with them. It’s not rare for taxi drivers in Kyoto to point out interesting tidbits like, the bridge you just crossed over was famous as the location where infamous thief (and later folk hero) Ishikawa Goemon was executed in 1594.
Then on Monday my employee Yasu and I went to Osaka, which is an amazing, vibrant city that’s full of unique flavor and culture you just can’t find in Tokyo. While we walked around the bustling Dotonbori district, lining up to eat takoyaki (batter balls with octopus meat inside) and kushi-katsu (deep-fried meat and vegetables on wooden skewers that you dip in this amazing sauce before eating), I noticed something interesting: it seemed that less than half the people around us were Japanese, but rather tourists from China, Taiwan and South Korea. A taxi driver who happened to look like a scary yakuza but who was very kind and helpful said, “Yes, we call that ‘Asian power.’ The city is filled with tourists from neighboring countries, and we’re very happy to have them here, helping the local economy.” When Yasu expressed mild surprise at the sheer number of Asian tourists around us, I told him that I’d seen it all before, back when the Japanese suddenly burst onto the world stage in the mid 1980s. I’m optimistic that tourism, trade and taking a common interest in our shared popular culture will bring peace and happiness to Asia, despite ongoing disputes over various silly rocks in the sea.
Great news! The 2015 anime poster calenadrs from Japan are finally posted for preorder, and the start of 2015 Calendar Season can officially get started. Every year J-List sells hundreds of large-format calendars from Japan, with huge, glossy sheets filled with beautiful art from your favorite anime or manga series. This year’s lineup of anime calendars looks great, including Cardcaptor Sakura, No Game No Life, Knights of Sidonia, One Week Friends and a ton of others (with more being added daily). These calendars will start coming in stock in October, so get your orders in right now!