Saturday, 18 November 2017

Barks in Japan- final thoughts

I had a great first trip to Japan. It was fairly easy to get around, the food was great, most people spoke some English (phew), the scenery was beautiful. In this final post on my trip, I thought I'd jot down a few notes on the scenery aspects of my visit, and illustrate with some photos. My views on the city may be useful for modern or near future cypberpunk, and my notes on the country will help me for sengoku era gaming.


Tokyo is a megacity, well over 10 million people. The infrastructure is very supportive. The buildings are at least three storeys as far as the eye can see, in every direction. Cars are compact, streets are narrow, bikes are everywhere. Underpasses are extensive. Vending machines are incredibly common, with less physical depth than I'm used to , and selling hot drinks as well! Pavement is scarcely existent outside of the city centres. Overhead telephone lines are a complete spider web (hard to replicate on the gaming table!). Private gardens are small and a luxury.

Can't see the edge of town from here!

Mount Fuji is behind the haze

View out to central Tokyo

Rooftops of Kyoto

Bullet trains (shinkansen) are my new favourite way of travel. Smooth, fast, lots of leg room, on-time to a fault, and no check-in or security like an airport. And so cool.

Shinji looks like he's grown a pair. Even Rei looks like she has a personality!


The traditional gardens I visited were lovely- although ten-year old me wouldn't have been so appreciative! It takes a lot of effort to make them appear so natural, if you know what I mean. Winding paths, little ponds and streams with bridges or stepping stones (and koi), mossy ground. Stone lanterns are common. The torii gates have quite an orange component to their colouring, which is a vibrant contrast to the green surrounds. Cherry blossoms in spring, bright red maples in Autumn.

Edo castle grounds, Tokyo

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto. I love those pine trees.

Katsura River, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto. A hillside path with thousands of torii

Shirakawa Minami-dori, Kyoto- the most beautiful street in Asia.

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Takinomiya Shrine, tucked away in Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto
Koko-en, Himeji

Koko-en, Himeji

Can you tell I liked Kyoto?! I had a great little trip to Japan, but barely scratched the surface. I am looking forward to going again!
Mount Fuji from the shinkansen

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Barks in Japan- hobby shops

In Japan I had a few days in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. In between being the tourist, I dropped in to hobby shops when the opportunity arose. This list is far from nuanced or exhaustive, it is purely where I happened upon.



Akihabara is a central suburb known for electronic gadgetry. It has a strong nerd/ geek culture. I found a nine floor building (Akihabara Radiokaikan), and every floor was a different nerd heaven. Especially if you're into CCGs or large display figurines.

Yellow Submarine

YS is a chain of gaming stores across Japan. The bulk of their business is CCGs, but they do have boardgames. On the 6th (?7th) floor of the Radiokaikan building is a big YS store, with a large gundam and scale model focus. It had some boardgames as well. There were some beautiful scale models on display.

Girls und panzer?


Shinjuku is another major suburb of Tokyo, with the world's busiest railway station. It also houses the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can take a free lift to the observation level on the 45th floor for views across Tokyo.

If it was a clear day, Mount Fuji would be in the distance!

Yellow Submarine

There was a YS in Shinjuku- much smaller then the Akihabara one. It had a few boardgames.

Tokyu Hands

Tokyu Hands is a department/ variety chain store, where you can get just about any household good, hardware, stationery, kitchen utensil, luggage, etc. I went to their flagship store in Shinjuku, and found a few boardgames. It is next to a good bookstore, Kinokuniya.


Yellow Submarine

Another YS in Kyoto- again, mostly CCGs with a small selection of boardgames. I think it had a paltry amount of GW stuff as well.
Entrance to YS Kyoto, on the 4th floor

Bunkyodo Hobby

This is a basement hobby store focussing on scale modelling, and had a very good range of stuff.

Hiroshima and Kure

Yellow Submarine

The last YS! Again, CCGs, some boardgames and a tiny amount of GW. Quite a few 1:144 planes.


I think it was called Cleverland, but it was on the 4th floor of the Futabatosho Giga Hondori store, barely a block from the YS. A good selection of model railway (N-scale) and scale modelling/ gundam stuff. This display case nicely summarises the miniature situation in Japan- lovely scale models, castles, and mecha and girls in mecha.

Malta Hobby

On the walk to and from the Kure naval museums, you'll go past Malta Hobby, which is a scale model store packed with teetering piles of plastic kits.

General notes

  • Many 'hobby shops' solely exist for collectable card games.
  • Gundam, 1:144 and N-scale railway models are a big thing (no pun intended)
  • Scale modelling is also a serious thing
  • There is a small Japanese board game industry, but I found it hard to work out what was worthwhile for a non-Japanese gamer. I may have to delve deeper into BoardGameGeek.
  • Many Japanese editions of European and North American games exist
  • Collectable large figurines are a big thing. Especially if they're schoolgirls with ginormous weapons.

This scenery range is cool if you're into kaiju
or Evangelion


I was very restrained- I got a gundam marker pen for 180 yen, and a Japanese edition of Sushi Go.

Next time- final thoughts and more pictures.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Barks in Japan- Kure naval museums

I took a 30 min train trip from Hiroshima, along the Inland Sea, to Kure. Kure became a shipbuilding town after the Meiji restoration of the late 19th century. It is most famous for constructing IJN Yamato, then the world's heaviest armed battleship, in the late 1930s.

Yamato Museum

The Kure Maritime Museum is better known as the Yamato Museum. It is a well-laid out museum with adequate English signage, following the history of Kure's shipbuilding from its earliest days, through early 20th century conflicts and pivoting to post-war merchant vessels. The highlight, of course, is the spectacular 1:10 scale Yamato model- 26m long! There are also many 1:100 model ships, and some WW2 midget submarines and a Mitsubishi Zero.

IJN Yamato

46cm guns

Yamato was sunk in April 1945 by aerial attack, on a one-way mission to Okinawa. Her wreck has been located and she lies in 350m of water.
Bow on the left, stern and mid-section flipped on the right.
Brace yourself for a lot of 1:100 model ship pics! We'll start with early 20th century and move forwards chronologically.
Dispatch boat Miyako

First Class Cruiser Tsukuba

Submarine No.6. This boat sank, and the trapped captain became a posthumous hero for his recovered notes.

Battleship Kongo

Battleship Nagato.

Aircraft Carrier Akagi

First Class Cruiser Mogami

I-16 and I-52. Note the midget submarine!

I-37 and I-400. Note the seaplanes and midget sub!

Postwar tanker Nisseimaru

Tanker Ihi
Even my eyes glazed over when faced with more ships...

All those models above are the same scale!

Mitsubishi Zero

Kamikaze submarine/ manned torpedo

1:3000 scale model of Kure

The Iron Whale

On the other side of the road from the Kure Maritime Museum is the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Museum, better known as The Iron Whale, for obvious reasons.

SS-579 Akishio
JDS Akishio is a Yushio-class diesel-electric boat which was in service from the mid 1980s to the mid 2000s. She's 76m long, and has had holes cut in her so visitors can walk around without having to squeeze through hatches.
On the inside.
The JMSDF Museum is free, and has one floor devoted to submarines, and another devoted to minesweeping. Japan send the minesweeping tender Hayase to help clear up the Persian Gulf after the Gulf War.
Postwar submarines

Hayase- note the rotary cannon on the bow.

20mm rotary cannon from the Hayase for destroying surface mines.

Kure is a nice little day excursion from Hiroshima. Highly recommended for those of a naval interest.
Panoramic view out over the shipyards

Next time- notes on Japanese hobby shops.