We had always wanted to visit Tokyo, so when my husband got word we’d be moving here for his job in late 2013 we felt like we hit the lottery. Every day since has seemed like a paid vacation, even with a few hardships here and there. Still, we’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Living here is a dream come true for us because we’ve both loved Japan from afar for a long time. I have been interested in Japan ever since I first learned about the land of the rising sun when my kindergarten class took a virtual field trip there in the 90’s. I don’t remember what all I saw on the tape. Maybe architecture? Food? Or maybe examples of beautiful kimono? Whatever it was must have resonated with me because I have had a long distance love affair with this country for many years.
Since starting my life in Japan I’ve turned to freelance editing, writing, reporting, and some occasional modeling to pass the time (and make some money). You may have even seen me on television because I am in a handful of this year’s episodes of the Cool Japan television show on NHK. In my free time, I host English conversation at a nearby community center and at an English café. I also co-organize a MeetUp.com group. I do what I can to stay busy.
While I appear to be an average working professional, rest assured that my crazed otaku-ness comes out when I find something kawaii. My eyes dilate, my blood pressure increases, and I start squealing as I rush to purchase my new treasure as quickly as possible. My guilty pleasure? Most anything cat or Rilakkuma related. As far as anime goes, I enjoy a variety of anime themes and art styles. Some of my favorites (in no particular order) are Bubblegum Crisis, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kill la Kill, the Gundam series, Ghost in the Shell, and Show by Rock!.
I didn’t always have an interest in Japan-land, though. I was introduced to otaku culture by my best friend (now husband) when we were teenagers. To make a long story short, I grew up with a very hoity-toity background. I went to cotillion and was a debutante, so back then I didn’t really understand the whole otaku thing. Alternative sub-cultures just weren’t part of my world. However, I was able to appreciate other aspects of Japanese culture such as minimalism, traditional art and architecture, and popular design motifs without raising an eyebrow. The otaku culture just had to wait for me until I was older, and lucky for me it gained popularity over the years!
After I moved overseas and was free from the stigma and judgment of those around me I was able to explore new interests. One hobby I decided to try was cosplaying. Everybody cosplays for different reasons, but I didn’t know that before I started. I just thought people who liked dressing up did it because they liked the character. I’ve learned that some people want to look cool, cute, or sexy, while some people want to emulate their favorite character in real life. Others are really good at sewing and costume creation and want to show off their talents. I got into cosplay to feel better about myself.
In June 2014 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After a summer of surgeries and radiation treatment, my body, my hair, and my attitude were all significantly affected. I felt like I needed a change. Cosplay allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, but also helped me find new comfort in being able to slip away from my struggles for a little while. In cosplay I was about to feel cute and like I wasn’t dealing with cancer. During my recovery I found acceptance and happiness in this new world.
My first complete cosplay was Hatsune Miku, my husband’s favorite character. She’s a vocaloid, not really a character from an anime or manga. She’s digital, though, and there’s a huge fan base for her. I bought the costume locally, bought the wig from Amazon.com, and made the hair accessories myself using a YouTube tutorial. Keep in mind I had very little crafting skills and rarely wear makeup. This was all very new to me, and my current cosplay is the result of several failed attempts at styling and accessory building.
I even spent several frustrating evenings practicing my makeup at home before I ever took my Miku cos outside. I quickly learned all the ways not to apply liquid eyeliner- talk about a huge mess! During this trial and error phase I found a cosplay enthusiast group through MeetUp.com. After some heated internal debate I decided to bite the bullet and attend my first event without the slightest clue about what would be waiting for me when I arrived to the cosplay studio.
Even though I didn’t know how to pose, didn’t know anybody, and couldn’t speak much Japanese everyone was kind and welcoming. I truly appreciate how helpful and warm all the other cosplayers were to me, and it is because of them that I was able to have a wonderful first cosplay experience. After that, I was hooked. I started buying cosplay and lolita items whenever I saw them on sale at local resale shops. As you can imagine, that led to closet packed with costumes and shoes, and a substantial shelving system to hold all my wigs.
In Japan what they say about housing is true. We have minimal storage space compared to our 3 bedroom home in the states, so whenever I am doing something with my wigs or costumes I have to pull all of my supplies out of my closest and drag them into the living room. It’s quite a bit of trouble to have to haul out all my supplies and put them all back up each time I need to work with them, but shikatanai! (it can’t be helped!).
I have a passion for life. I love living here, and I love my life here. Every day I attempt to fully immerse myself in my local culture and try to learn something new, and I look forward to sharing what I experience with the readers of AroundAkiba.com! Yoroshiku ne!