You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Japan’ tag.

Why entertainment public relations can be unprofitable despite having clients who hit the big time.

Art galleries are exhibiting the work of Grenfell Tower fire victim Khadija Saye.

A computer designed Stanley Black & Decker’s new tool, marking a big shift from relying on humans to do the job.

Permanent Japanese residency to be possible for foreigners with anime-related jobs after one year.

USA Today did an investigative report about how many truck drivers are forced into debt and frequently worked past exhaustion.

Someone purchased the first Apple computer that was released in 1976, the Apple-1, for $355,500 at an auction.

XOD: A new and open source visual programming language for Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.

How to choose standout fonts for your embroidery projects.

98-year-old Russ Gremel donated $2 million in stock to create a 395-acre wildlife refuge.

Why the last thing open source needs is more corporate oversight.

This Ethereum-backed art could be the future of collectibles.

These crochet baby flip-flops are too adorable.

Open source documentation is bad, but proprietary software is worse.

How these crochet octopuses are helping premature babies.

Home robot Kuri can now recognize pets, see and stream in HD.

Artificial intelligence dolls and robots are this year’s Christmas must-have toys.

German breeders develop open source plant seeds.

A free tutorial on how to make fake succulents from pine cones.

Download more than 2,500 images of vibrant Japanese woodblock prints and drawings from the Library of Congress for free.

Download 36 vintage Dadaist magazines (plus other avant-garde books, leaflets, and ephemera) for free.

30 years, 30 great anime titles.

Ramadan

The best way to learn HTML is by watching this death metal video.

The story behind Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica.

Studio Ghibli to open its first anime theme park in Japan.

Captain Underpants could dramatically alter the U.S. feature animation industry.

Violent rabbit illustrations found in the margins of medieval manuscripts.

Meet the British student who wants people to study in North Korea.

When Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg sound the same dire warning about jobs, it’s time to listen.

Birdhouse window feeders that look like little houses inside.

Diversity in open source is even worse than in tech overall.

Mark 1, an open source and cute alternative to Amazon Echo.

Traditional capitalism needs “extra” people, but managerial capitalism has no use for them.

50 people spend 2 months to crochet giant urchins above Singapore’s Marina Bay that each weigh 220 pounds.

The wartime spies who used knitting as an espionage tool.

A fan of VHS tapes builds a functional video store in his basement.

This computer can predict if you’ll die within five years.

Knitting beats gang culture in South Africa.

Google and Rhizome team up for digital art preservation.

Turn your smartphone into a hologram projector using everyday items.

Tips on how to use emojis correctly and in a professional way as part of your marketing campaign.

Is American retail at a historic tipping point?

Artist crafts classic Stephen King-style book covers for classic songs.

3D printing replicates body parts.

Japan’s largest anime store opens up to international shoppers, but there’s a catch.

Eight things no one tells you before you become a YouTube sensation.

Apple’s most powerful computer in years will be in stores by Christmas.

Facebook releases several new open source tools for video and virtual reality.

How one writer became disappointed by Patreon.

Twitter has a serious problem with bots.

The truth about succeeding in business with your husband.

3D printed cars are the future. But are they safe?

Is multimedia journalism the way forward?

Streamers flock to YouTube Live, but the money (and crowd) is still at Twitch.

Find out if a robot will take your job.

Too many dolls: Is American Girl overextending itself?

PBS travel guru Rick Stevens sacrifices $4 million nest egg to house dozens of homeless women and kids.

Why photography is such a difficult business to get into.

You can now 3D print a tiny pretzel made of glass.

You can now live stream to YouTube from your phone if you have at least 1,000 subscribers.

Microsoft lets users access accounts without passwords.

Robots will soon become our children’s tutors. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

How Android smartphone users can stop Google from tracking your every move with its Google Timeline feature.

Nazi-looted art claim sets new test for Germany.

L.O.L. Surprise is the top selling doll for the past five months with over 2.5 million sold.

Adult animation brings more approachable culture to traditional TV.

How YouTube’s shifting algorithms hurt independent media.

Woman makes spectacular PowerPoint presentation persuading man to date her.

Software audit highlights major security weakness across all open source software.

How to make your kid’s art last forever without cluttering up your home.

The controversial My Friend Cayla doll have been banned in Germany. Parents must either destroy their child’s doll or face a fine of roughly $26,500 and two years in prison.

For animators looking to get into video games, there is a growing community just for them.

Where YouTube went wrong.

Six things you should never store on your work computer.

Why open source pharma is the path to both new and cheaper medicines.

It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).

Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.

Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.

Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

Passover

As I look back on this, I have to admit that I really pushed my body to the max. That was because the night before I went to Light City in Baltimore, where I waited outside in the cold for over two hours waiting for my animation, The March of Liberty, to finally show on the big screen. I was so stiff and sore the following day that I ended up skipping church.

I still pushed myself to check out the first annual Kamecon because I like seeing cosplayers all dressed up, I was attracted by the $3 admission fee, it was held on the campus of my alma mater (the University of Maryland at College Park), and it was held just three miles from my current home.

Compared to other anime conventions like Otakon and Katsucon, Kamecon is relatively small. The entire event was held in one of the ballrooms at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union building. But the participants were pretty enthusiastic as they donned costumes and hung out. Here are some photos I took.

There was a line at the ticket office located next to the Hoff Theater but it wasn’t too bad. I think I may have spent about 15 minutes in line at the most.

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

I decided to bring my Canon Digital Rebel EOS camera with me to this event. Here’s a selfie I was able to take thanks to the restroom mirror. (Yes, I was wearing the My Little Pony Rainbow Dash hoodie in order to blend in a little bit with the cosplayers.)

Kamecon 2017

Some people were waiting to have their photo professionally taken.

Kamecon 2017

The entire convention took place in a ballroom, which included an indoor tent/lounge where people could chill.

Kamecon 2017

There was a Jubeat video game that had a cool cube design. I didn’t see anyone play it mainly because it was directly imported from Japan and that machine required a 1 yen coin, which doesn’t do any good for the vast majority of Americans present.

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

There were other video games that people played.

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

I took a few shots of two cosplayers who were dancing alongside one of the dancing video games while it was playing Lady Gaga’s hit song “Poker Face.”

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

I even shot a short video of those two dancing cosplayers.

The ballroom was divided, with half of the room being reserved for Artists Alley. There was a photography ban of that area (unless the photographer gets permission from an Artists Alley participant) so I took only one wide shot of the entire area from the other side.

Kamecon 2017

There were board games and card game packs available for attendees to play with.

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

Here are some more pictures of Kamecon, including cosplayers.

Kamecon 2017

Kamecon 2017

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Kamecon 2017

I also took a few pictures of the University of Maryland campus because it was such a lovely warm sunny spring day. But I didn’t take too many pictures because I was growing tired from both checking out Kamecon and Light City the night before. Here’s a long shot of the Jim Henson Memorial.

University of Maryland

The cherry blossom trees on campus were in full bloom.

University of Maryland

University of Maryland

Here’s a shot of the Mall.

University of Maryland

One of the terrapin statues that are located on campus.

University of Maryland

March is Women’s History Month, which ended just two days earlier, but there was still this poster featuring the University of Maryland’s famous female alumni including Connie Chung, Dominique Dawes, Gayle King, Sarah Winnemucca, Judith Resnik, Adele H. Stamp, and Carolina Rojas Bahr.

University of Maryland

Santa Claus

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11

Here is the 12th and final part of my series on how I celebrated a Tabletop Christmas this holiday season. I timed it so it would run concurrent with the traditional 12 days of Christmas, which begins on December 25. As I kept on writing new posts each day, I noticed that the 12th day falls on January 5 despite the fact that the traditional end of Christmas falls on January 6. In the past I would hear January 6 being referred to as “Twelfth Night.” I did some research and, thanks to this webpage, I now know that I didn’t make any mistakes when I began these posts on December 25 and reached the 12th post on January 5. That’s because January 5 have long been observed as the Twelfth Night, not January 6. The Twelfth Night is traditionally observed as “Epiphany Eve,” and it used to be a grand occasion for feasting since it was the final night of Christmas before the Feast of the Epiphany on the following day and it marks the official end of Christmas.

Besides, January 6 is also the anniversary of the day I wrote my first post in this blog so I’m not too upset or worried about ending this series on January 5.

This final post in this series focuses on other Christmas decorations besides tree ornaments.

These two cute decorations were originally Avon cologne bottles. I used to frequently get Avon products for birthday and Christmas presents because my mother had a co-worker at her job who sold Avon products on the side and this co-worker made plenty of extra money whenever she brought those Avon catalogues to her day job. Avon used to sell their colognes in various containers shaped like animals and people. I tried looking online to see if Avon still sells their colognes in special containers only to find that nowadays Avon uses the typical cologne bottles that other cologne and perfume manufacturers use. The newer bottles may be pretty but they lack the distinction and novelty of the older Avon cologne bottles.

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Both containers once held Sweet Honesty cologne. This brought back memories of when I used to frequently dab Sweet Honesty on myself. I found that Avon still sells Sweet Honesty cologne even if it no longer sells them in the novelty containers.

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This next item is a vintage angel doll that I’ve owned since I was a child. I used to call her “Bernie Angel” because she reminded me of my cousin Bernie. This angel has long black hair, just like my cousin used to wear her hair. (These days she wears her hair very short.) Bernie Angel has survived all kinds of things over the years, especially the time when my parents’ dog, Napoleon, swiped her and attempted to use her as a chew toy but we managed to get her away from the dog before he did any major damage. I brought her with me to college when I attended the University of Maryland as my one token Christmas decoration. Naturally she came with me when I got married and she’s still with me.

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Bernie Angel is a doll with no joints and she’s in a permanent kneeling position with her hands folded together in prayer.

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I pulled back her hair to show her sweet face. Her eyes are permanently closed. She has rouge on her cheeks, blue eye shadow, and pink lips.

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Here’s another side of Bernie Angel.

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Here’s the back.

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She has a tag attached but it’s stuck together in a permanent folded position and I have a hard time trying to separate the sides, which is why I have two photographs of this tag. The tag actually reads: “© 1996 KAMAR ® MADE IN JAPAN.” I tried doing a Google search only to turn up nothing. I have a feeling that Kamar went out of business a long time ago. This doll was made at a time when “Made in Japan” meant cheap imported goods that tended to fall apart. The fact that this cheaply made doll has survived all those years is pretty miraculous.

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The next photo shows three Ginger Cottages that I currently own. I first got into them when I purchased the incense burner that’s shown on the far right of the next photograph a few years ago. I’ve since added the other two buildings. I generally prefer Ginger Cottages over the more popular Department 56 villages because they are about half the size of the Department 56 and they fit both my small home and my budget much better. On top of it, Ginger Cottages are made in the U.S. (in fact they are made in central Virginia), which is a definite plus in my book since most consumer items seem to be made overseas in China and other Third World countries.

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The one thing I love most about Ginger Cottages is that if you shine a light through a hole in the bottom of each cottage, it’ll reveal a surprise, such as the giant nutcracker peering out the second story window.

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Yesterday I wrote about how my support group for people who are separated or divorce throws a post-Christmas party each year where people bring a wrapped present for the White Elephant Gift Exchange. In previous years I received two items that I now keep among my Christmas ornaments. The next photo shows a small candy jar that’s decorated with peppermint treats.

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Here’s another White Elephant gift I received. This one is a set of snowmen salt and pepper shakers, which I’ve only used as decorations. (I’ve never actually filled them with salt and pepper.)

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The next few photographs show various noise-producing Christmas decorations, all of which were given to me as presents. The first picture shows a jack in a box Santa Claus that my parents gave me when I was around seven years old. This toy was made in Japan and I still have him after all these years. It’s among the few toys I have from my childhood and he’s still in pretty good condition. The white paint is slightly faded in spots but that’s noticeable only if you take a very close look at his face. There is silver duct tape holding the box top to the rest of the box because the red cloth-like tape that held the two together had frayed with age. Otherwise, he still works just as well as he did the day I got him. Basically Santa squeaks when he pops out of the box.

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The next photograph features a small plastic Santa Claus puppet that I also have from my childhood. Whenever you press a button at the bottom of his yellow base, Santa moves around and his little bell makes a ringing sound. This puppet is still in very good condition and it still works after all these years.

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The next photographs show a ceramic music box featuring a pair of doves wearing Santa hats. When the music box is wound up it rotates as it plays “Deck the Halls.” This music box was among the last Christmas presents I ever received from my Aunt Linda before she died of breast cancer when she was only 48 years old.

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The next few photos feature a Hallmark music box ornament that my late mother-in-law gave to me as a birthday present. (My birthday and Christmas are only 10 days apart.) While there is a loop at the top to hang it from a tree, I have always chosen to put it flat on the table instead. When this ornament winds up, Mickey rocks right and left as the music box plays “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

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I made a short video demonstrating the four noise making decorations that you can see and hear for yourself.

I’m going to end this series with a decoration that is actually the first Christmas decoration I put up each year. It’s an Advent calendar and I usually put it up soon after Thanksgiving so I can be ready to start the countdown to Christmas on December 1. I originally purchased this calendar many years ago at the now-defunct Frank’s Nursery and Crafts.

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The entire calendar is mostly made from felt. The ornaments for this calendar are kept in this attached plaid bag marked “SMALL ACCESSORIES” when the calendar is in storage the rest of the year.

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When it’s time to take out the calendar, I remove the ornaments from the SMALL ACCESSORIES bag and place them in numbered slots.

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Starting on December 1 I remove one ornament from a numbered slot and place it on the tree. (The ornament attaches to the tree with velcro.) I keep it up until December 24 when the entire tree is filled and the numbered slots are empty. I leave this Advent tree up until January 6 when I take it down and put it in storage with the rest of the Christmas decorations.

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So that’s it for my 12-part Tabletop Christmas series. I’ll leave everything up through tomorrow (January 6) then I’ll start dismantling everything on January 7 until everything is packed away in boxes and stored in the attic.

I recently checked out the grand opening of a new place in College Park, Maryland called SCETA Japan Center and, as part of the festivities, they held a Little Japan Festival. Okay, I’ll admit that it’s a far cry from a massive anime convention like Otakon but it was still a pretty nice occasion (and the fact that the weather was pleasantly sunny with low humidity helped). Here are my photos from that event, starting with the building itself.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

There were all kinds of Japanese language books on display, including this one on hedgehogs (which brought back memories of the time when I once had a pet hedgehog named Spike).

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

Here are a few miscellaneous cute items I found throughout the building.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

This next photo shows a backdrop that was set up for anyone to take pictures.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

Someone saw me take that last picture and told me what it was. She then offered to take my picture with my own smartphone and I obliged despite my one skinned knee (which I obtained the day before when I fell as I was leaving the Hon Fest in Baltimore).

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

There was also a special Japanese Arts and Crafts Edition of the board game Monopoly that was written in both English and Japanese on display.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

The last photo shows the free stickers and buttons I received that that event.

SCETA Japan Center Opening, College Park, Maryland

SCETA Japan Center is dedicated to teach Japanese as well as providing information about Japanese culture and tradition. Check out the website for more information.

I’m starting a new series of videos based on my experiences with a new doll that I’ve just purchased from Target. Her name is My Friend Cayla and she’s not your typical doll. She’s interactive and has both Wifi and Bluetooth connections. I’m only making the videos in the hopes that I can earn a little extra money through YouTube’s profit-sharing program. For the next week I’m going to release one new video per day in order to coincide with the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend in the United States. I don’t know if it will work out but, if it does, I could end up with at least a part-time revenue stream.

Below if Part 1, which is a basic prelude that explains what led me to purchase a My Friend Cayla doll from Target. It includes short clips from two other videos I shot years ago (2009 Barbie Convention in Washington, DC and 2010 Otakon Convention in Baltimore, Maryland). I also mention instances of interactive living dolls in pop culture such as The Twilight Zone‘s “Living Doll” episode, Chucky from Child’s Play, Mitsukazu Mihara’s Doll manga, Yumiko Kalahari’s Dolls manga, Rozen Maiden, and Chobits.

Anyway, if this prelude video isn’t your cup of tea, wait until I start uploading more videos, all of which will deal with my direct experiences with the My Friend Cayla doll. (By the way, if you’re intrigued by the doll, check out the official website.)

So, without further ado, here is Part 1 of my new multipart series about my experiences with the My Friend Cayla doll.

It’s been two years since I last attended the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival that’s held in downtown Washington, DC as part of the larger National Cherry Blossom Festival. I thought about going down early in the morning so I could check out the Cherry Blossom Parade that precedes the Sakura Matsuri by starting at 10 a.m. But I was too lazy to get my act together so I could arrive that early so I basically ate breakfast and lunch at home then headed out to the Sakura Matsuri in the afternoon. (I was glad I ate my meals at home because nearly all of the food vendors had very long lines.)

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I even dug out this Japanese imported Stitch hat that I purchased at one of the Otakon anime conventions that were held in Baltimore. I know it was before my marriage broke up because I bought it with my then-husband in mind because he was such a huge fan of the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch and Stitch was his favorite Disney character. I also remember when I modeled the hat for him and he was thrilled with it. That hat had been sitting in a drawer since my husband left but I decided that I could continue to use it because I think it’s a cute hat. Besides, it enabled me to blend in a little bit with the other people who were cosplaying. I even had several people at the festival notice my hat and telling me that they loved it. When I arrived in downtown DC, the one of the first things I did was to take a rare selfie of me wearing that hat.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Like most other years, the festival was very crowded. I still enjoyed myself as I looked around at the sights and sounds of the festival. I even took a few silly pictures while I was there. I recently started to follow the official Sonic the Hedgehog accounts on Facebook and Instagram and it was through social media I learned that there is something called Travel Tuesday where people can submit photos of a Sonic doll or stuffed animal either at an event or some famous landmark (like the Eiffel Tower). I decided to pack my articulated Sonic vinyl doll so I could take his photo for Travel Tuesday. Here are the photos that I submitted but, as of this writing, none of them have been selected for Travel Tuesday.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I also played around a little bit with the Hatsune Miku photo app on my smartphone. I thought it was appropriate since that character originated in Japan. (Although now that I look at the pictures, I realized that I should’ve varied the girl’s pose just a little bit since she had the same facial expression and pose. Oh well.)

Hatsune Miku at the Sakura Matsuri

Hatsune Miku at the Sakura Matsuri

Hatsune Miku at the Sakura Matsuri

I basically walked around shooting pictures of cosplayers and the various items I saw on sale. I noticed a lot of ram and sheep plushies on sale this year, which makes sense since 2015 is the year that’s known alternatively as the Year of the Sheep, the Year of the Ram, or the Year of the Goat.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I only purchased one thing at this year’s festival.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Yes, it’s chocolate gelato made by Dolci Gelati and it was very delicious!

While I heard musicians perform on the various stages throughout the festival, I only managed to capture one of the acts with my smartphone because it was one of the few times that I was even able to get close to a stage because everything was so crowded. As for the act that I captured, according to the program book, she is a pop singer from Kyoto named Jonetsu Mariko. I thought I recognized the name for some reason and the program book said that she was making a return appearance to the Sakura Matsuri. After I got home, I searched through this blog and I found out that I previously saw her at the 2010 Sakura Matsuri and I had also videotaped her that time. (She appeared under the name Jonetsu Marie and Shabondama High School.) In any case I took a still photo of her.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I even shot a short video of her performing on stage.

That video was the only one I shot at this year’s Sakura Matsuri.

I also saw that NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata was there with his race car, just like the last time I attended the Sakura Matsuri two years ago. Once again he appeared with Eneos, which makes motor oil. Eneos also had a bean bag toss game called “Cornhole.”

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Getting on the Metro so I could go home was a bit of a hassle. The last photo shows the long line that I had to stand in just so I could enter the Federal Triangle Metro Station. I’m only lucky that I had the foresight to put enough money on my Metro SmartTrip card for a round trip so I wouldn’t have to stand in another line at the farecard machines.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Groundhog Day
Back on New Year’s Day I went to Tyson’s Corner Mall because I wanted to see what it was like to be at the American Girl Place on the day that it formally unveiled its new Girl of the Year doll. All I learned was that not only was that store totally crowded but the rest of the mall was also so full that it was difficult to find a place to sit anywhere in the mall. (Not everyone was there for the new 2015 Girl of the Year rollout at American Girl Place. I think there are a lot of people in the DC area who just love to go to the local shopping mall on New Year’s Day.)

While I was at American Girl Place on that day, I saw crowds surrounding one of the new accessories that were made for Grace Thomas. It’s a bakery fit for an 18-inch doll complete with miniature food (which isn’t really edible), miniature kitchen utensils, a miniature refrigerator, a miniature oven, and other miniature things. I made a mental note to return to that store at a later date so I could get a closer look at that bakery because of 1) the amazing details and 2) the fact that this item, which is supposedly made for a target audience of girls between 8-12, costs a whopping $500!

After waiting a few weeks, I decided to give American Girl Place a try again in order to check out that bakery in more detail. I went on a weeknight mainly because I learned a long time ago that the best time to go to that store is Monday-Thursday both day and night. That’s because the kids are in school during the weekday, they tend to spend the late afternoon involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, and they spend the evening doing their homework and preparing for the next day at school. That store tends to be nearly empty on those days so one can more leisurely peruse the inventory without having to deal with hordes of kids running around, grabbing things, and having meltdowns because their parents wouldn’t buy them something that they really wanted.

Once again I took the Silver Line Metro to the Tyson’s Corner station then took the pedestrian bridge to the mall. When I arrived I saw that the Christmas tree that was there the last time I visited has been dismantled but the ice skating rink is still there.

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I briefly sat in one of the outside couches that are surrounded by these special glass tables that put out flames that heat the area. I was fascinated by the flames that heated the area.

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Here is a shot of one of the life-sized bird sculptures that decorate the plaza area outside the mall entrance.

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Like I wrote earlier, I returned to the mall because I wanted to get a closer look at that bakery because a floor model was so crowded with kids that this next photo was the best shot of inside the bakery that I could get on New Year’s Day.

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I’ll admit that I originally wanted to get a closer look at that bakery because I intended to write a post comparing a real-life bakery with that $500 miniature reproduction. A few days before my trip to Tyson’s Corner, I took photos of a local family-owned bakery in my area that has been in business for decades. It’s called Raulin’s Bakery and it’s located in Beltsville, Maryland in a shopping center.

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The next two shots show the inside of the bakery. Raulin’s has some incredibly tasting desserts of all kinds. If you’re ever in the Washington, DC area, you find yourself in the Maryland suburbs and you’re dying to satisfy your sweet tooth,  check out Raulin’s. (And, no, I’m not being paid to write this either. I’m just a total fan of their sweets.)

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So I was all ready to take some close-up shots of this bakery so I could write a post about the $500 bakery. When I arrived at the American Girl Place, I found that—believe it or not—the $500 bakery was sold out! The only thing remaining at the place where I saw that bakery on New Year’s Day was this pad of tiny slips advertising the bakery along with the hefty price tag.

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I was kind of surprised that it was sold out because, to be honest, I just didn’t think there would be too many parents willing to pay that much money for a doll accessory and I thought that the bakery would still be in the store when I made a return visit. When I looked online at the American Girl site, I saw that the bakery was on backorder until February 13. I wonder if there was a situation where each American Girl store was initially allotted only one or two bakeries while its online store was similarly limited to no more than 10 bakeries and all of them were sold out because so few of them were available to begin with. It sounds plausible to me because I just don’t see too many parents willing to buy something that expensive as a toy for their child to play with. When I mentioned that bakery and the $500 price tag in a Facebook post, some of my friends who are parents of children who are in American Girl’s target demographic totally balked at the price.

Even though the bakery was out of stock, there were smaller bakery items available that I could still photograph and write about. There’s Grace’s Pastry Cart, which costs $150, and occupied the same space that once held the $500 bakery.

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Compared to the bakery, the pastry cart is pretty small and would take up less space in any home. I have to admit that the details on this cart were really amazing to behold in person.

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I was impressed with the realism of the miniature pastry boxes that held miniature pastries of various kinds.

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The display for the cupcakes and other smaller pastries had a removable cover. One could also remove the tiny cupcakes and pastries as well.

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I was especially impressed with the tiny bread basket holding tiny loaves of French bread, each in their own tiny bag.

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The realistic details on the French bread were amazing.

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I also got a closer look at the 2015 Girl of the Year. Her name is Grace Thomas, she enjoys baking very much, and she would like to own her own bakery when she grows up. I have to admit that, in terms of looks, she is definitely an improvement over the previous Girl of the Year, Isabelle Palmer. Grace looks very striking with her blue eyes, freckles, and brown hair.

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Her hair is very long in the back and it’s quite lovely. It felt very soft to the touch. If it weren’t for the fact that this doll has a retail price of $120, I probably would’ve bought her on impulse. Instead, I decided to save my money and just take pictures of the doll.

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The next photo shows Grace and her French bulldog, Bonbon, flanking Grace’s Bistro Set. Compared to the $500 bakery and $150 Grace’s Pastry Cart, this bistro set is a relative bargain at only $85. There aren’t as many tiny food and drink items as the ones in the bakery and pastry cart sets but Grace’s Bistro Set still looks pretty cute.

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The next few photos show the attention to detail regarding the food, drink, plates, eating utensils, and even the Eiffel Tower-style menu holder. I lifted the chair briefly and it feels like it’s made out of metal and it has some hefty weight to it.

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I’ll admit that I was disappointed at not being able to get a closer look at that $500 bakery. As a consolation to myself, I decided to browse the store’s BeForever line (which consists of the historical dolls that originally gave American Girl its start) until I came across this item that belongs to Samantha Parkington, who’s supposed to represent the early 1900’s, which was at the height of the Progressive Era in the United States. The next photo shows Samantha inside of her ice cream parlor. Ice cream parlors hold as much sweet allure for me as bakeries, especially during the hot summer months. (Since it’s still the dead of winter as of this writing, I currently don’t feel very tempted to order myself an ice cream cone or hot fudge sundae.)

Like the $500 Grace’s French Bakery, Samantha’s Ice Cream Parlor would take up a significant amount of space in any home, looks very realistic, and is full of incredible details. With a retail price of $300, the ice cream parlor is also very expensive yet just $200 cheaper than the bakery.

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I was impressed by the realistic cracks in the ice cream scoops and the tiny roses painted on the bowl.

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The candy jar lid in the next photo didn’t open at all (probably because having those miniature gumballs spill out would’ve provided choking hazards to very young children) but the details still looked very realistic.

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The cash register looked like it was made from metal.

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The pink “marble” on the soda fountain looked realistic and there was also a very charming Tiffany lamp on top.

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The menu in the next photo looked interesting—especially the listed prices. You definitely know that this ice cream parlor represents the early 20th century, especially since nickels and dimes don’t really buy much of anything these days. (LOL!)

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I also saw this area dedicated to horses and stables for dolls. The Stable and Supplies in the next few photos cost $110. But that’s just for the stable and related supplies itself. The horses cost extra.

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The Chestnut Horse that the doll is riding on costs $75 The Paint Filly standing in the stable costs $48. The Apricot Poodle Puppy costs $28. Of course the doll and her riding outfit are also sold separately.

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The next photo shows this doll-sized piano that was really interesting because it looked very realistic.

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I even saw volume control and an input/output button. I didn’t see anything listed about this piano on the American Girl site. I don’t know if it’s a new piano or one that has been discontinued. (If it’s the latter, then why was it displayed in the store like it’s currently available?) The closest I’ve found to an online description is this entry on the unofficial American Girl Wiki.

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Since the next big consumer holiday is Valentine’s Day, there were plenty of Valentine items that one could buy. One cute idea was this doll t-shirt, which came with its own envelope in case someone wanted to mail it to a doll owner in place of a regular card.

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There were the American Girl pets who were waiting to be someone’s Valentine.

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I usually don’t pay any attention to Bitty Babies but I really loved this cute Valentine’s outfit.

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The next couple of photos show American Girl’s Bitty Baby line, baby dolls that are priced cheaper than the other dolls (yet they are still more expensive than what one would find in a big box retailer) and are meant for children who are too young for the American Girl doll. They are designed to withstand more abuse from a toddler. I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of baby dolls (even as a child I always preferred older looking dolls like Barbie to baby dolls) but I thought that the store display looked nice.

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I also got a closer look at the area dedicated to Grace where shoppers are invited to take their own selfies next to a standee of Grace and Bonbon and upload them online.

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I was impressed by the realism of this area, especially since it occupies just a small corner of the store.

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I also took some photos of this display of the BeForever doll known as Kit Kittredge. I never used to care that much about the doll until last year when American Girl retooled the entire historical doll line as BeForever and all of the historical dolls received new outfits that, in most cases, were definitely an improvement over what they used to wear. Kit is supposed to represent the Great Depression and she is said to have a great interest in journalism and photography.

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I was really impressed by the miniature newspaper, photographs, camera, and film.

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Notice that tiny roll of Kodak film in the next photo.

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I ended my visit to the American Girl Place by checking out the place in the back of the store where people can buy something to eat. The sit-down American Girl Bistro was closed early for the evening (which is the only major disadvantage of coming to the American Girl Place on a weeknight). But the takeout area where one can buy drinks, candy, cake slices, and cookies was still open. I noticed that Grace Thomas flanked this area, which is appropriate since she’s supposed to be a baker.

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The cookies served in the takeout section comes in two sizes—one for a human and one that’s sized for a doll.

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I order two chocolate chip cookies to go. The store clerk put them in this really tiny American Girl shopping bag that I thought was so cute that I took photos of that bag when I got home.

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The cookies were wrapped pretty well. They basically tasted like the typical Nestle’s Toll House cookies that are pretty common (due to the fact that they are relatively easy to bake).

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I took a photo of my Julie Albright doll with the tiny shopping bag. If I cut the handles a bit shorter, this bag would be a perfect doll accessory. What a cute idea!

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I did other things at Tyson’s Corner Mall besides hanging around the American Girl Place. I came across these shiatzu massage chairs. I’ve seen them at other malls and I’ve even sat in them and paid the money so I could get a quick massage a few times. What made these chairs at the Tyson’s Corner Mall different is that they also provided USB ports so one could get his/her mobile device recharged while undergoing a massage. I was thrilled with the idea until I found that I needed my own cord in order to get my cell phone recharged. Nevertheless I paid $1 to get a 3-minute massage. (One can get longer massages for higher prices but, for me, three minutes having some machine rub and squeeze me is about as much as I can take.)

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I stopped by the Disney Store where I found these interesting looking small plush animals. Basically they are Disney characters re-shaped as these cute logs or something like that and they are sold under the label Tsum Tsum. I later learned that Tsum Tsum was something that started in Japan as a video game and when Disney released real-life plushes based on the game they were a huge hit. So now Disney is trying to spark a similar craze in the U.S.

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I had a good laugh out of seeing Olaf the Snowman from the Frozen movie as one of those Hawaiian hula dancers that people would put on the car dashboard.

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I walked past the Montblanc pen store where it displayed a special limited-edition John F. Kennedy pen.

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I stopped by the LEGO Store where I saw a few interesting kits on sale (including one based on the Disney Frozen movie).

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I walked past this Steinway & Sons store, which sells—what else?—Steinway pianos. I paid more attention to it than I usually would mainly because I went to this mall just a few days after I visited this piano store in College Park with an interesting building façade that is currently in the process of going out of business.

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I basically looked in the windows because I’m not in the market for a piano. (One of those Steinways would overwhelm the living room of my townhouse.)

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Besides, if I really want a Steinway piano, there’s an app for that.

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I usually don’t blog about public restroom toilets in shopping malls but I noticed that the toilets in the Tyson’s Corner Mall have two different flush buttons depending on how much body waste you eliminated. (Basically the green button is for urine only while the other one is for when you eliminated so much that you need more water to get rid of it.) On top of it, if you’re slow in deciding which flush button to use, the toilet will automatically flush using the right amount of water based on the amount of waste detected. This would be especially of interest to my Unitarian Universalist congregation because, for the past few years, the denomination (especially the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee) has been emphasizing The Human Right to Water, especially as it relates to the scarcity of water in Third World countries and the water pollution resulting from oil spills and fracking here in the United States. I still remember when the minister at my congregation gave a sermon on how important water conservation is and what we can all do to conserve as much water as possible.

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The next photo shows an aerial shot of Wasabi, this sushi restaurant where the food is delivered on a long conveyor belt and all you have to do is select the plate of any food item that interests you. The food is incredibly fresh and I really love eating there even if it’s a bit on the pricey side.

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Here’s a panoramic shot of the same place, which shows how long Wasabi is.

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By the time I decided to leave the mall it had grown cold and dark. Because I was there on a weeknight, the only people who used the ice skating rink were the mall employees.

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I also took the last couple of photos of the outdoor couches surrounding the warming table with flames inside. The darkness of the night really makes the flames stand out more.

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