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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.
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.
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.)
Some people were waiting to have their photo professionally taken.
The entire convention took place in a ballroom, which included an indoor tent/lounge where people could chill.
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.
There were other video games that people played.
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.”
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.
There were board games and card game packs available for attendees to play with.
Here are some more pictures of Kamecon, including cosplayers.
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.
The cherry blossom trees on campus were in full bloom.
Here’s a shot of the Mall.
One of the terrapin statues that are located on campus.
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.
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.
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).
Here are a few miscellaneous cute items I found throughout the building.
This next photo shows a backdrop that was set up for anyone to take pictures.
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).
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.
The last photo shows the free stickers and buttons I received that that event.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
I only purchased one thing at this year’s festival.
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.
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.”
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.
Even though today is Thanksgiving Day, there has been a trend among the big box retailers to open their doors on the actual holiday itself. This is definitely a change from the old days when most businesses were closed and even the few that were opened on the holiday (such as supermarkets) would close their doors by 4 p.m. so their employees can spend the holiday with their families.
Now the big box retailers are not only forcing their employees to either spend less time at home or skip Thanksgiving entirely but they are also trying to entice their customers to give up more and more of their holiday time by having hot doorbuster deals on certain consumer items.
You can spend less time with your loved ones or eat Thanksgiving dinner unusually early so you can put on your coats and step out in the usual cold November weather while fighting other like-minded shoppers to grab some consumer items.
Or you can do the alternative. You can stay in your warm home surfing the Internet and go holiday shopping in my online Etsy shop. You don’t have to worry getting into the car and the online shopping experience is so quick and convenient that you can just order something quickly then go back to preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s a sample item that I’m currently selling online now that you can buy while you’re wearing your pajamas or casual clothes.
This is a customized one-of-a-kind tote bag that I painted by hand. To learn more about how I created this bag, you can read the post I originally wrote on February 14, 2013. If you’re looking for unique holiday gifts, you can order right here.
After spending a full day at Katsucon the day before, I woke up totally tired and sore. I was so fatigued that I had a hard time moving. There were times when I began to think that maybe I’m starting to get too old for anime conventions. I also remembered that for several days before Katsucon I spent long hours trying to finish the tote bag that I submitted to the Katsucon Art Show and I think all that work coupled with a physically grueling first day at the con took a physical toll on me.
So I spent the morning at home. I ended up eating the lunch I had originally intended to bring with me to Katsucon. Afterwards I decided to head out when I found mail in the mailbox. I got yet another reminder of the crumbling state of my marriage—I got a letter from my husband’s lawyer. I didn’t open it that day because I didn’t need to be bummed out before I got to Katsucon. (I opened the letter a day after the convention ended and it was basically a letter verifying that I received the divorce petition from a process server. Blech!)
I didn’t arrive at Katsucon until after 3 p.m. As I was walking from the parking garage I saw this sign from one of the many bars and restaurants that dot National Harbor.
When I entered the front lobby of the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center I walked past the hotel restaurant that had been temporarily converted into a Maid Cafe. I never checked that one out because the line of people waiting to get in was very long.
The check-in desk in the hotel lobby featured someone cosplaying as a robot that gained lots of attention from other people waiting to check into their rooms.
I saw the Asian ball-jointed doll meetup, which started at 2 p.m., was already in progress. I dropped off my tiny dolls then ran to the nearest women’s restroom because I needed to use the toilet after making the commute from my home to National Harbor. Once I emerged from the stall, I found this bottle marked "Vampire Blood" next to the sink where I washed my hands.
I managed to rejoin my dolls at the doll meetup, which was just starting to break up by the time I arrived. I still managed to get a lot of photos of gorgeous dolls (there were more of them than the previous day’s meetup). Someone also brought some homebaked gingerbread, which was very delicious. (I’m sorry I was never able to learn who baked the gingerbread because I would’ve complimented the baker.)
After the meetup ended I walked towards the Art Show and I found no bids on my handpainted tote bag. Then I walked around both the Artists’ Alley and the Merchants’ Room where I took some more photos that I wasn’t able to take on the first day due to low battery power in my cellphone. (This time I made damned sure that my smartphone was fully charged before I arrived at Katsucon.)
The biggest guest star at Katsucon was the Japanese pop band known as The Sound Bee HD. I missed out on seeing this band perform in concert mainly because the concert started after 10 p.m. and I grew too exhausted to attend a couple of hours before the concert. The group had a table set up in the Artists’ Alley and members of the band were there to greet fans, sell copies of their CDs, and sign autographs.
Both rooms had a variety of things available for purchase that one can’t find at a Wal-Mart or Target.
I went to an anime convention and a Twister game broke out.
The next few photos are scenes from the World Cosplay Summit semi-finals that was held at Katsucon. I never knew that cosplay was a serious international competition like the Olympics or the Miss Universe Pageant. Basically the winners of the semi-finals went on to the finals (which will be held during another anime convention). Whoever won the finals would represent the United States at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan later this year.
There were plenty of cosplayers who didn’t take part in the World Cosplay Summit semi-finals and they could be found walking the hallways throughout Katsucon, such as these Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
This person dressed up as a futuristic robot version of Hello Kitty.
This guy wore a plushie on his head like it’s a hat in the Merchants’ Room.
Since Katsucon took place soon after Lunar New Year, a group of people came carrying a Chinese dragon.
This cosplayer posed for professional photographers.
Are they Anonymous? Are they cosplaying as V from "V is For Vendetta"? Or are they simply Guy Fawkes fans? In any case they were at Katsucon 2013.
After I walked around the convention for a while, I chilled out in one of the video rooms watching the anime series Fate/Stay Night. I first became familiar with this series when I was at Otakon last summer and I purchased this kit that’s based on one of the characters named Saber Lily. (I’ll admit that I haven’t worked any more on that kit since last September. I need to take it out again and work on it.) I downloaded the fansubbed manga version and it’s pretty entertaining. While the anime version is okay, I probably won’t be buying the DVD version because I personally preferred the manga version. The manga went into more details about the relationship between the characters while the anime version was mostly swordfights and it grew tedious after a while.
The one workshop panel I attended that day was one called "Kickstarter 101 With Obsidian & Dern." It was a fascinating view on the process of getting your work financed via Kickstarter.com. I took the workshop because I had a fantasy of getting a project funded via Kickstarter but after taking that workshop I learned that you really need to have a detailed production plan in order to have it work for you.
After that panel I grew very tired again so I drove home. I began to notice that my stamina for three-day anime conventions isn’t as strong as it used to. It’s another sign of getting older, I guess. <Sigh!> I’m sure that I’ll get to the point where even attending a convention for even a half-day will tire me out but I hope that doesn’t happen for several decades. <LOL!> At least driving home was easy compared with the previous night’s frightening commute (where I had to deal with both heavy rain and crazy drivers).
I had gone to the Katsucon anime convention in the past but it must have been at least five years since I attended the last one. (I remembered I attended the last one when it was still held in downtown Washington, DC instead of its current home in National Harbor, Maryland.)
The past few weeks I slacked off on doing major decluttering of my home because I decided to try participating in my first anime convention-related Art Show. (I’ve been to previous anime conventions but I’ve never submitted anything to the Art Show.) I purchased a blank canvas bag and did this two-sided painting of the Gardener Twins Souseiseki and Suiseiseki from the anime Rozen Maiden. (You can read the February 14, 2013 blog entry for more details about the painting of this bag.)
Even though I preregistered over the Internet (I was able to get a weekend pass at a discount) and it entitled me to pick up my pass the day before the convention opened, I wasn’t able to make it on Thursday because the pick-up time conflicted with my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced. (Since the meeting fell on February 14—Valentine’s Day—the group was holding an "Anti-Valentine’s Day Party" instead of the usual meeting and I really wanted to go to it.) So I woke up early and got to National Harbor as soon as possible. Luckily there was a separate line for preregistrations and it was shorter than the line for those who were purchasing passes at the door so I didn’t have to spend too much time waiting in line.
Once I picked up my pass I immediately headed to the Art Show where I entered my tote bag. I had put it in a display case but I also posted photos showing both sides of the bag since the display case could only show one side at a time. Here is what it looked like after I hung it at the Art Show.
By the time I got my pass and hung up my tote bag at the Art Show I was feeling hungry because it was around noon. In order to save as much time and money as possible, I opted to bring my own lunch, dinner, and sodas in a giant Wegman’s insulated bag from home. (The bag was pretty heavy to carry around at times until I consumed the food and drink.) So I sat in a chair in the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center lobby and ate my lunch. I have to admit that the entire large complex was pretty fancy. Here is a shot of the Convention Center atrium.
The only major snag that first day came when I realized that I didn’t have enough battery power in my cell phone so I couldn’t issue as many Twitter tweets as I wanted. I had a car charger but it would’ve meant going to the parking garage, finding my car, starting the engine, letting it run for up to a half-an-hour while my phone recharges, then go back to the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center. I found a Best Buy Express vending machine and I found that there was a battery recharger on sale for my cell phone. I sucked it up and charged $40 to the credit card to get that item.
So while I was eating lunch I decided to recharge the cell phone with the new battery. It worked for a while then it stopped recharging. I read the manual and found that the battery needed to be recharged and it didn’t have much juice left. The battery didn’t come with any wall adapter and I really didn’t want to pay more money at the Best Buy Express vending machine to get one so I basically dealt with a cell phone with low battery power for the entire day. As a result I ended up making tweets about the day’s events the following morning. I kept on taking photos with my cell phone until I lost battery power entirely.
Once I finished eating lunch I shopped around in the Merchants’ Room. I did mostly window shopping because I’m currently in the process of decluttering my home and I’m trying to be conservative in spending my money due to my husband suing me for divorce. There were plenty of things on sale and if you weren’t careful, you could easily go broke buying all kinds of stuff that you really don’t need to survive but they looked irresistable.
This one statue on sale made me feel old. It’s Kimberly from the early 1980’s video game Space Ace. I remember when I used to play that game in the arcades. If the statue hadn’t been out of my personal price range, I would’ve been tempted to buy it because of both the video game and the fact that she shares the same name as me. (LOL!)
The next three photos are from the most bizarre booth I saw in the Merchants’ Room. The military-style armbands promoted tolerance of same-sex relationships by using terms like Yaoi and appropriate symbols. But the hats reminded me of Nazi hats from World War II and there was even a giant swastika against a psychedelic background on display in the background. That booth had me scratching my head.
I read on the Den of Angels forum of a series of Asian ball jointed doll meetups that were going to happen during Katsucon. I was on the fence about being able to make any of those meetups so I decided to pack my smaller 1/6 and 1/12 scale dolls just in case because they are lighter and easier to carry than my larger dolls. (I’ve carried some of these larger dolls around at anime and doll conventions in the past and it turned out to be such a pain to lug them around.) I slipped these small dolls in a plastic bag then put them in the large Wegman’s insulated bag. Here are the dolls I brought with me to Katsucon from left to right: Orient Doll Ji, Soom Mini-Gem Uyoo, Soul Doll Kimmy, and Bobobie Sunny.
I arrived at the meetup right at the 2 p.m. start time. The Asian ball-jointed doll meetup went off pretty well for me with no drama. Everyone was pretty nice and I got a chance to see some gorgeous dolls. Here are the photos I took of that meetup.
After the Asian ball-jointed doll meetup I walked around and took photos of cosplayers and people carrying various plushies until my cell phone battery finally died.
Someone cosplayed as Merida from the Disney/Pixar film Brave.
This cosplayer was in a wheelchair yet was still able to rock it in this awesome looking costume.
This cosplayer in the next photo appeared as his personal fursona Azure.
Here’s Belle from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast.
Spiderman poses with a friend.
It’s a unicorn!
According to the comments and messages I got through Flickr, the woman in the next photo was cosplaying as Kougoyku Ren from the Japanese anime Magi.
The last two photos feature a total blast from my own past. Yes, it’s Gumby!
I attended my first panel at Katsucon. It was called "Publishing for the Speciality Market" and I was mildly curious about the topic since I can draw and write and it was supposed to provide tips on how to make an income off of your work. That panel was a definite eye-opener. It’s disheartening to hear that there is only one major distributor of comic books in the United States (Diamond Comics) so if your idea for a comic book gets rejected by this one publisher, you don’t really have any alternatives. As for me, I could see myself maybe doing a web comic or digital e-book in some distant future as a hobby but I found that publishing my own comic book/graphic novel to distribute myself or convince Diamond Comics to distribute to be downright daunting and scary.
Immediately after the first panel ended I attended a second panel called "Bad Anime, Bad!" That one is definitely self-explanatory. I saw clips of anime that have either a) awful animation, b) lousy dialogue, c) poor translation, or d) all of the above. I’ve seen this same panel at other anime conventions in the past and it’s amazing that the guy who runs it always gets new examples of anime so bad that it’s really hilarious.
After watching bad anime, I settled down in the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center lobby to eat a pre-packaged dinner that I brought with me. What was funny was that I had some people sitting near me asked me where I got my dinner from and they seemed disheartened when I said "Wegman’s." (LOL!)
After dinner I managed to attend one last panel in the evening. It was called "Steampunk to Cyberpunk: A History" and it was an interesting presentation that compared the steampunk with cyberpunk sub-genres of science fiction. When that panel ended I was so exhausted that I decided to drive back home. (In order to save money I opted to commute to this convention instead of staying at any of the hotels located in National Harbor.) I had this harrowing commute because it was raining very hard and the streets were so slick that they resembled mirrors. On top of it there were crazy drivers on the road who were speeding on these very slick roads and it was a challenge to avoid accidents. At least I made it home okay.