Welcome to Anime Expo, the biggest J-subculture convention in the United States!
Greetings Netizens of the world and welcome to Anime Expo 2017! Every year seems to get more and more packed with goodness; but with it, more and more crowded! This year had an overall unique attendance of 115,726 people including the Pre-Show night! Going up 17% from 2016, the total turnstile attendance was 357,178!
Anime Expo shows no sign of slowing down. With the expansion into the JW Marriott, the pre-show night, and 800+ hours of programming, you would have to create Shadow Jutsu clones of yourself to be able to see everything! Anisong World Matsuri made a strong return with popular idol groups from Japan and various other artists performing on stage for over two nights! AX also hosted an EDM concert, Neon District, where famous DJs in the J-subculture world spun the tables til the wee hours of the morning. World premieres and U.S. premieres of highly anticipated anime were also on the books. Parties, celebrations, & anniversaries among the anime world – such as Hatsune Miku’s 10th-anniversary dance celebration – were in full effect during the long weekend! My point is this: this convention was a haven of J-culture sensory overload!
So with the insane legions of crowds, Anime Expo took the initiative to distribute passes on-site two days before the official day. Technically, that means there was a Day -1. I decided to pick up my press badge on Day Zero in order to catch the first Anisong Concert and the pre-show nights at the 21 & Up lounge – featuring a live DJ, drinks, & dance! Welcome to the place where J-culture enthusiasts can geek out in their cosplays & let loose on the dance floor!
Voice of the Cosplayers
My final two days at the convention were filled with panels & cosplay interviews. I cannot stress enough that it is no longer the convention that keeps me coming back. Instead, it’s the community. The Industry panels are intriguing, the endless events and programming are fun to attend, but they are so overcrowded with apocalyptic lines that it’s hard to enjoy.
So what keeps people coming back to this chaotic battlefield of a convention? The community, of course! This isn’t my opinion, entirely – view the videos below to hear the voice of the cosplayers!
Until next time!
It was quite the enjoyable ride seeing the anime industry show off its latest works and hearing straight from the production studio presidents, animators, writers, producers, etc.! Being here, without a doubt, creates the sense of belonging for fans of the J-subculture. Even if social norm don’t, there is a social norm among AX that says “we get it” and “we are here because of it”! If you haven’t been to Anime Expo but plan on doing so, it is like taking a full fledged vacation. Be sure to plan out your budget and choose your events among the programming schedule wisely. The phrase, “So much to do, so little time” fits this event perfectly.
A big shoutout to all the amazing people I met that made my visit a memorable one. And to the event staff for keeping things in order (relatively ;P ) despite the raucous crowds. I hope to meet you all again, soon!
Full event pictures link below!
Click the image below for full event photos on Flickr!
Anisong is short for Anime Song and Matsuri means festival in Japanese. Put it all together, and you get Anime Song World Festival! Anisong was created by various industry partners, including Sony Music Entertainment, BANDAI NAMCO Live Creative Inc., and Anime Consortium Japan Inc. Anisong World Matsuri aims to give an anisong experience unlike any other featuring well-known musical groups in the Japanese sub-culture global community.
The beginning of a classy experience
It is certainly exciting when you go to Japanese music festivals. Walking into the theater and hearing upbeat J-pop vocals was quite the welcoming experience! While the music may all seem the same, the vocals, music, & dance choreography has such vibrant contrast that each group’s unique traits & quirks just naturally come through – even if you can’t understand the lyrics or see the different costumes because you’re too far away!
Interacting with the performers
J-pop concerts tend to be highly interactive, especially in the anisong world! Equipped with penlights, one can quickly become part of the show and perform with their favorite idol groups! The Japanese call this ouen suru (応援する), which loosely translates to “cheering on”, or supporting. Without delay, the audience becomes a sea of glowing lights moving in rhythm to the beat of the music. Be it a simple fist pump motion, twirling circles, or slowly raising towards the sky, there are various moves that aid in the visual appeal of the live performance. For example, slowly raising lights towards the sky indicates a rise in tempo in the music. This not only builds anticipation on the audience’s side, but also on the performers side! The result is a concert where everyone goes all out!
Wrapping it all up
Anisong World Matsuri provided quite the experience – premium entertainment for any fan of Japanese sub-culture, be it J-Pop, anime, or even pachinko! All things considered, attending this four hour concert was like peering straight into everything I love about Japan. The idol groups and the audience created a remarkable atmosphere; the singers, with their stunning vocals and cutesy interpretive dance moves, presented a cultural cuisine that could not be matched.
The whole program is visually, audibly, and physically mesmerizing. Dare I say a uniting experience? I had never met the people on my left or right before, but the moment when our favorite group, Aquors, took the stage, we stood up arm in arm, jumping and waving our penlights!
And it has been a quick year since my last visit. Phoenix Comic Con just keeps on growing in popularity with every year! Last year was a huge jump in attendance, from over 75k to 106k and my visit this time around seemed to be even more crowded! But even amidst the Arizona heat and crowded convention (thankfully well air conditioned), there were many things to check out. Let’s go and see!
For those that may not know, Phoenix Comic Con started back in 2002. Every year, vendors gather to provide a multitude of multi-genre entertainment and comic books. There you have it! It’s a triple Phoenix. Phoenix Comic Con at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona!
Make it past the crazy registration line to pick up your pass, and you go straight into the convention, where the exhibitor hall, conference/meeting rooms, ballrooms, etc. are open for exploration!
I decided to take it easy on Day 1 and enjoyed the exhibitor hall.
I was happy to get more in depth with the exhibitors this year and discovered booths that are unique. Anime Coast, for example, hand-picks items in shops in Japan that are rare to find and/or out of print. Original art book prints from animation classics such as Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina, and other sub-culture goods took me straight down memory lane (and down to the ATM)!
Make your way to the upper decks of the convention to see the Hall of Heroes. Here you can see elaborate displays such as Doctor Who booths, Star Wars movie scene set ups, and Legos built by the Arizona Build team. There is also an artists’ alley, which features many individual artists presenting their workshops on paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
From Dragons to contemporary art, you can find almost anything here! In the back, you can find media guests such as English dub anime voice actors and pop media culture icons. You can even line up for an interview, selfie, and/or autograph from your favorite stars!
Panels are among the cream of the crop
Particularly relevant to the convention itself are the panels – programs that caters to every genre are available. From books and authors, celebrity autographing/panels, photo ops, comic books, etc. There are even generic panels to specific topics panels from anime to pop media tv/movie talks. The options are staggering – to the point to where you can’t attend them all. You will have to pick and choose your battles on this front. But stand tall and brave. The convention has made browsing their storm of a schedule easy with apps available for Android and iOS.
Game Rooms & Escape Rooms for your enjoyment
Probably the most engaging next to interactive panelists. The most fun you’ll have are in the game rooms hosted by Game On Expo. It is a free entertainment room to enjoy beloved classics and modern hits. They even featured an original Xbox Halo 2 Lan parties on a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) displays (think of the old box TVs before flat screen HDTVs). If that isn’t a trip down memory lane, I don’t know what is! However, I did find it entertaining to hear kids say, “look at that poor resolution” or complain about the lack of technical features of games that weren’t even available 15 years ago.
Dare to Escape AZ Escape Rooms? At entrance fees. You can play scenarios where you are trapped in a room and must explore hints/clues and solve mysteries to escape successfully. However, there are time limits! Tis a thriller to enjoy among the many programs in place!
In conclusion, Phoenix Comic Con has something for anyone and everyone that walks through its doors.
If it is your first time going to a convention, definitely check out all the panels you can, explore the massive exhibitor halls, and enjoy the amazing cosplays that all the attendees worked on all year round. In fact, you are encouraged to dress up yourself! The variety of actual programs, panels, exhibitors, etc. and goes beyond the scope of this article. Hence, To see more on what Phoenix Comic Con has to offer, do head over to their website! Til’ Next time!
Hey guys! We’re back with another OWLS post. For those of you that don’t know, every month we (the OWLS team) dedicate at least one blog post around a central theme. This month’s theme is strength.
I’m going to do something a bit unorthodox this time.
Normally, I would talk about an anime, but I don’t think even the most well-crafted show has ever tugged at my heart quite like my trip to the Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima.
Seeing the Dome has been something I promised myself I would see ever since I started studying Japanese. I’ve studied history. I learned all about WWII in school. I knew what happened on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 AM local Japan Time. But I really didn’t understand what it truly was until I saw it.
My wife and I were sitting quietly on the train. It was an unusually cold day in April, so cold, actually that the cherry blossoms hadn’t even begun to bloom. We had just spent all morning sightseeing the shrines of Miyajima and were onto our final destination before we headed to Shikoku.
I knew what we were about to see. I knew it was probably going to be overwhelming. How would I react? It’s something I always wondered.
The train finally came to our stop. As we got off, I looked around at a major metropolis. Tall buildings that cast shade over every street, crowds of people jumping between restaurants, taxis filled with salarymen hurrying off to their afternoon meetings. Baseball ads were on display in every store featuring a team that looked like they ripped off everything, from the logo right down to the mascot, from the Cincinnati Reds. The Hiroshima Carp had just won their first Central League Baseball Pennant since 1991. When I looked closer, I noticed everyone was wearing Carp gear. Businessmen donned Carp ties, women had Carp scarves wrapped around their necks, even the homeless wore Carp baseball caps with pride.
Such a great city!
Hiroshima was full of energy, and I found myself falling in love with it. But I knew the Dome was just around the corner. My wife looked at her phone and pointed to the next block ahead. I looked to where she was pointing and noticed the top of the dome poking out over the trees.
I suddenly felt my heart sink into my stomach. I tried to muster a “Ryoukai!“, but I had a massive frog in my throat, so I simply nodded in acknowledgement.
As we finally approached the Dome, an incredible force came over me. It was like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. This was the spot where the atomic bomb went off. This was the epicenter of instant death and destruction for tens of thousands of people. This was where the course of history changed. The frog was still firmly lodged in my throat as I stood in complete silence, unable to comprehend the magnitude of what was right in front of me. All I could do was think “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Be strong…”
After my legs started working again, my wife and I started to make our way to the Peace Memorial and Museum.
I turned around to get one final look at the Dome and noticed a crew of BBC journalists leaning on the fence surrounding the ruins of the building. They, too, were speechless. The cameramen all had their cameras on the ground, mouthing very long, exaggerated wows while the field reporter stood in the middle of the sidewalk, his arms hanging lifeless by his sides as he stared at the ruins in complete silence.
We finally made our way to the cenotaph at the front of the Peace Memorial. Here, many Japanese were laying flowers in front of the monument and praying. Off to the side, schoolkids were vowing to fight for a peaceful future while asking people to sign anti-nuclear weapon petitions.
We stayed at the Memorial for a brief moment before heading into the heaviest part of the trip – the museum.
The atmosphere was incredibly quiet at the main entrance. Everyone seemed to be preparing for something horribly tragic. The dome itself was somber, enough to leave anyone speechless, but what was waiting in the exhibit was something far more powerful. Tickets purchased, we made our way down the hall and into the exhibit. “Don’t cry. Don’t Cry. Be strong…” I kept saying to myself.
What I had just walked into was a firsthand account of Hell.
The hall was covered in life-sized photographs of survivors of the blast. Parts of their limbs were missing, skin and muscle melted, bones disintegrated, patches of their clothes fused to whatever remained uncharred on their bodies. Behind them were ruins of homes, schools, offices. Things that stood in tact literally seconds ago were reduced to nothing but ash in the blink of an eye.
I managed to take a few pictures inside the museum. I feel like they can explain what happened much better than I can. But beware: some of these are graphic. If you don’t think you can handle it, then by all means, please scroll through (I promise this has a happy ending!). You’ve been warned.
These were the only pictures I managed to take. I couldn’t bear to focus too long at each piece of the exhibit. But there were also sections dedicated to the children who died of radiation poisoning, displaying graphic images of the progressions of their sickness, their preserved 1,000 origami cranes, letters they would write, letters written to them, their eulogies, etc. Expanding on radiation, they also dedicated a section to all the medical side effects suffered by the victims. Images of physical deformations, severe burns, and flesh completely ripped off of entire sections of bodies covered the walls of this exhibit. Finally, interviews of the survivors were played as we made our way out of the exhibit. They described their perspectives of the horrors, but also urged the younger generations to seek peace. It was absolutely surreal.
I finally managed to muster my first word since laying eyes on the Genbaku Dome.
There was really nothing else to say. I had been surrounded by the remains of what was literally Hell on Earth all afternoon. As an American, I felt like I truly understood the great responsibility of what it now means to be the most powerful country in the world. This was more than just a bomb. This was as close to the power of god that humans have ever been.
My wife then reminded me that we had half an hour to catch the bus to Shikoku. But I wanted to see the cenotaph again. I wanted to show my respect to all those that had lost their lives one last time.
As I walked up to the cenotaph one final time, I was able to make out the writing on the stone’s face.
安らかに眠って下さい 過ちは 繰返しませぬから
Please rest in peace for we [humanity] shall not repeat the error [the evil of war].
I nodded to my wife, and we started off toward the bus station. As we walked along the back side of the memorial, on Aioi Bridge (the original target of the atomic bomb), I looked out onto the landscape. Lined up along the river were cherry blossom trees (not yet in bloom). Along the river were groups of people laughing, having picnics, and enjoying the beautifully clear day. Off in the distance was the Genbaku Dome.
Then it hit me. The force I had felt when I first laid eyes on the Dome wasn’t terror, or fear, or evil.
No. What hit me was the incredible force of humanity’s greatest strength – forgiveness.
The people of Hiroshima, and all of Japan, have, since that day, transcended hatred. The grief will forever be embedded in Japan’s DNA, but the people have continued to endure it. They have proactively pursued harmony and everlasting world peace.
The meaning of the Genbaku Dome was clear. I smiled for the first time that whole afternoon, staring at the incredible scene before me. Then, I looked over to my wife, a Japanese citizen. A Japanese citizen married to an American military member.
“We need to get going. My family is waiting for us,” she said.
Greetings Netizens! I’m super glad you’re stopping by today because this is an astounding time for the Japanese sub-culture community here in Tucson. Why, you ask? Well, Jeremy Daniel has graciously opened Otaku Nation, a merchandise shop of sorts that doubles as a rich community for the otaku culture. Check it out!
–> Now supplemented with video 😉
I headed to the grand opening shortly after 5 PM, just in time to snap some photos and video before it got too crowded. It felt a bit nostalgic walking into the store. The place is set up exactly like the subculture shops you see in Japan – loads of card games, promotion posters, and anime merchandise. I felt like I had stepped through a wormhole and ended up in Akiba (minus the “Irashaimase-!”).
But what sets this store apart is the fact that it also serves as a “mini-con on-demand”. For example, Japanese card games are rising in popularity and finding a shop that is up to date with the latest and greatest is a rare find (especially ones that hand out A LOT of free stuff). Also, they offer space for people wanting to host informative lessons like plastic molding for cosplay, or learning Japanese. As long as it’s Japanese, Otaku Nation is A-OK with it!
Beyond the card games, tables/tournament area, etc., the store also holds a variety of high-quality anime merchandise that you don’t see in most stores. It even features custom products from local artists! A thriving local community is important wherever you live, so seeing Otaku Nation so enthusiastically bolster the locals beyond a new venue was inspiring, to say the least.
So we have the latest and greatest in Japanese card games and a few sections to look at local artist’s work. What else can we find here at Otaku Nation?? Community events by the fans for the fans. You read that right! Jeremy prides Otaku Nation as being a place where the community can thrive.
“You can be a community leader here. You can be a follower here. You can learn here.”
Stop by to join or even lead in workshops such as Gundam model building, cosplay contests/parties, art contests, etc. Any activity that is inspired by Japanese sub-culture, Otaku Nation is thrilled to host you! Whether it’s strengthening the community, building relationships, or just kicking back and having fun, Otaku Nation has promise, and they’re delivering.
Do head over to their primary medium for updates on Facebook, “Otaku Nation AZ” for the latest and greatest. They are going in an exciting direction, and we will do our best to keep the world informed.
If you haven’t already, please do check out the video above to get a first-hand look at the grand opening!
Today, we’re off to another Arizona-based Japanese convention. And its name couldn’t be any better. Honestly, it’s a perfectly executed pun, Con Nichiwa!
Based in Tucson, Arizona at the Tucson Convention Center, Con Nichiwa is in full swing. They’ve got a little bit of everything – booming vendor halls, dance parties, raves, karaoke, a full display of cosplay, Japanese video game arcades, and a full-fledged maid cafe!
What separates the Con Nichiwa from most major conventions?
While most convention panels and events encourage “participation” in the sense that enough seats are filled, The Con Nichiwa staff actively engages with the attendees to not just sit around and watch but to join in on the festivities.
Let’s head inside and see what it is all about!
I arrived on scene late in the afternoon on Friday. Unfortunately, l missed a good chunk of the day’s action (thanks work…), but I did manage to catch the Japanese Fashion Show! On display were a number of intricate fashion styles and cosplays that are currently trending in Japan. Furthermore, the participants were all simply observers that were invited onto the stage to participate ^^
I always feel a sense of admiration when I see cosplayers show off their hand-crafted outfits. The J Fashion Show was showmanship at its finest!
Fast forward to Saturday, the second day of the convention
I decided to check out a full slew of panels – from anime talks to dance parties to masquerades. I was in for a very busy day ^^
In the Grand Lobby, I caught a few major performances while trying to “blend in” with the massive gaggle of cosplayers. One specific noteworthy performance was the traditional Japanese cultural dance by the Tucson-based group, Suzuyuki Kai.
Do you enjoy arcades?
AZHPGaming is a traveling arcade that provides unique games and hosts tournaments in southern Arizona! Aside from well-known games like Street Fighter and Tekken, they also carry other lesser-known genres like modern musical rhythm games (Hatsune Miku Project Diva Series, anyone?! ^^). Unlike other arcades, AZHP provides high-quality arcade gaming controllers (also known as sticks) for the players to use! A huge step above the competition.
Super Lani Chan struck again with her famous Dance Party!
The fun did not even end there. Super Lani Chan hosted an Odori, a festival of sorts mixing the old and the new. She was joined by her instructor of Odaiko Sonora, Karen, in playing the Taiko drums to modern J-pop beats! I couldn’t help but watch. It was a festivity for the attendees to join in on the fun and dance off any negativity!
Sugar Pink Cafe is a performing and traveling maid and butler cafe ready to bring you the best service and entertainment!
As stated on their Facebook page, the cafe goes from convention to convention providing different themes from anime, video games, etc. for the customers to enjoy, relax, and get away from the hustle and bustle of the convention halls. The theme for Con Nichiwa turned out to be Vocaloids (my favorite)!
The Arizona Lolita Community has graciously put on an extravagant tea party for lolita fashion enthusiasts, providing a haven for relaxation. The theme was Alice in Wonderland and attendees joined in with their very own mix of Lolita fashion as there are a variety of lolita styles. From frilly one pieces to multi-color palettes of dresses with endless customizations and accessories, the passion was a sight to behold as the “Arizona Lolitas” showcased their handcrafted outfits!
Click the image below for full event photos on Flickr! Videos soon…
I’m writing this post from the motherland, JAPAN!!!
To start off, we are very excited to announce that Chasing Japan has teamed up with OWLS!
Since we first came up with the idea to host a site, Louis and I have been busy finding ways to connect with different people from all over in an attempt to build a rich otaku community online. But as it turns out, we didn’t have to look very hard at all. The seeds of such a community have already been planted by the OWLS Bloggers.
We’re very excited to call everyone on the OWLS team our friends, and we’re really looking forward to more collaborations in the future ^^
Gundam Wing and the Sanctuary of War.
As members of OWLS, we’ll be participating in monthly blog tours where a specific topic is given, and we write about it (easy enough, right ^^). This month’s topic is “sanctuary”. For this topic, I really wanted to talk about something I’m familiar with, something I deal with on almost a daily basis – and that’s military life. And what better way to illustrate this topic than with Gundam Wing!
Finding safety and stability in the Mobile Suits
The story of Gundam Wing is of 5 boys who are given highly advanced weapons to pilot in order to stop Operation Meteor, a retaliation attempt by the space colonies against the people on Earth. These boys are highly trained, highly intelligent individuals selected by their Mobile Suit creators mostly because of their dark pasts:
Heero Yuy was trained to kill at a very young age and became a top assassin at age 11.
Duo Maxwell has seen more death than any of the other Gundam pilots.
Trowa was a wanderer with no story or name until he became the pilot of Heavyarms.
As 1 of 30 siblings (test tube babies), Quatre thought of himself as disposable and allowed himself to be kidnapped before becoming a Gundam pilot.
Wufei, seeing his fiance killed right before his eyes, set off to define what justice meant to him.
It’s obvious from the bullets above that the first bit of stability for the 5 pilots was their Gundams and the mission. Through these, they gained a sense of purpose and even managed to connect with one another on a more personal level.
Sanctuary in the Mission
Heero Yuy, specifically, never cared whether he lived or died. His sole purpose in life was to fulfill his mission. This was clearly illustrated in the series a few times. First, when he tried to self destruct on the beach during the first episode because the mission’s secrecy had been compromised by Relina. Second, when he detonated his Wing 01 in Siberia once he learned Lady Une had set a trap to destroy the colonies unless the Gundams were turned over to Oz. And third, the biggest example of faithfulness to the Mission, was his attempts to assassinate Relina throughout the series.
Relina’s character was very complex. A combination of an idealism and bad luck, really. She longed for total pacifism, and inadvertently got involved with the Gundams when she saw Heero passed out on the beach in episode one. And because she saw him, she knew too much and had to be discarded.
Somehow though, Heero could never manage to kill her. In the end, it was Relina who actually got through to Heero. During Wing Zero’ s descent to Earth to protect it from the falling Libra, Heero declared that he would survive, showing that he had gotten a will to live rather than simply see a mission through.
What happens when it’s all over?
Though the Gundam pilots find sanctuary in their Mobile Suits and their mission as a whole, they also realize that there is a definite road to victory. The war must end.
But what happens to them when the war ends?
Finding sanctuary in war did not mean that the pilots were nothing but bloodthirsty warmongers. Quite the opposite actually. Most of the pilots adopted Relina’s worldview of total pacifism, and worked tirelessly to see her ideal come true. They even launched their Gundams into the sun to erase all traces of them. Everyone but Wufei, however. Wufei, continuing his search for justice, kept his Gundam – and even became an enemy when he joined forces with Mariemaia.
Each pilot went his own way, living a quiet, peaceful life until it was time to take action, in which they would quickly dispose of the problem and return to their peaceful lives.
The Sanctuary of War for the Gundam pilots translated into something more – they were able to find stability and purpose in their lives outside of fighting. Had it not been for their desire to fight, they would have never have been able to find the desire to live. And because they found the desire to live, they also found things worth living for.
I have read about these events in history classes and even in autobiographies, but the presentation of the museum itself was eye-opening. Inside, you could see stockpiled luggage, personal belongings of people who were forced to live in the internment camps, etc. The entire visit brought me to respect Japanese Americans even more. Though they were brought under such harsh conditions, they continually strived to live well-intentioned, meaningful lives.
Many galleries of photos that were taken by the residents were also on display.
Now, because photographs were seen as potential intelligence threats at the time, cameras were not allowed in the camps. But thankfully, the Military Police decided to look the other way. Pictures depicting the imprisoned Japanese Americans giving their utmost efforts to try and make good of a grim situation were on full display. From photos of youth sports clubs, to images of ambitious children ready to take on the world, to seemingly normal, happy events such as birthday parties, it was obvious the men and women of the camps took it upon themselves to continue to make their children’s lives a little bit easier.
The ambition of the Japanese Americans did not die while incarcerated.
Throughout the whole ordeal, a glimmer of hope always shimmered in everyone’s minds. Families and friends continued to aim for better lives. When the war ended, some of them went on to play major league ball, some started businesses, others started families. The stories go on and echo throughout the museum and in the hearts of Japanese Americans and their descendants today. Nothing short of inspiring and amazing!
It’s a great place to log my progress as a photographer and connect with others just like me who are trying to make some noise in a crowded digital world. I’ve managed to settle into a few really neat photography and art communities where I’ve discovered countless talented individuals that put my work to shame ^^. One artist, in particular, I want to focus on today is someone I’ve become well acquainted with, Maya Sternchen.
Maya is an incredibly talented digital artist from Osaka. She paints beautiful, fantasy-themed portraits that have a child-like innocence about them. Her attention to detail is second-to-none and the colors she uses, coupled with the depth she creates with light and darker tones, really draw you into the stories she conveys.
And her work has definitely turned a lot of heads. In fact, right now, she’s preparing a gallery for her professional debut in May! She spends most of her days going over her work, staying up until the wee hours of the morning making sure every little detail is perfect. You can even watch her work via Instagram Live where she does Q&A sessions followed by demonstrations. Her work ethic is highly respectable!
So why fantasy?
When I asked her what draws her to fantasy, she explained that her childhood memories of star-gazing with her mother on cool, quiet nights really compelled her to start drawing.
The sounds of the wind, the smell of the grass, the sound of rain falling, these are all natural and peaceful things. But they all convey powerful emotions. I always try to bring that power out in my drawings.
How can you show Maya some love?
If you’re like me and absolutely drawn in by the pictures’ charm, I can’t recommend enough that you follow her on Instagram @maya.sternchen!
Also, be sure to check out her mentor, Shu Littlebit. A pro among pros in the Japanese digital art scene. Maya also recommend the work of 内尾和正, THE grand master in the fantasy art world.
For now, Maya doesn’t have a professional website (probably will after her debut), but she’s highly active on Instagram. She’s incredibly talented, and an all-around great person. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future!
Whenever I hear the words ‘cherry blossom’ (or sakura), I automatically think of Japan.
Now is the particular time of the year when people all over Japan gather under the cherry trees to watch the delightful flowers bloom. This is certainly not something you see every day (the blooming season lasts about a month), and unless you’re in Japan (where the cherry blossoms are basically everywhere), it can be very difficult to find a place to enjoy a hanami (cherry blossom viewing party).
The 12th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival was held at the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden, located in Balboa Park. The event lasted for three days, from March 10th to the 12th, featured Japanese street food, unique gifts, beer and tea gardens, cultural performances, children festival games, and of course, the namesake’s cherry blossoms!
I visited on a Saturday. A beautiful, bright sunny day, perfect for sitting down on the grass, to partake in the Japanese tradition of Hanami. I gathered under the sakura with friends and family, enjoying the food, drinks, and music while soaking in the ambient beauty of the flowers!
As I carried my camera with me, I enjoyed walking along the pathways, rivers, and ponds lightly coated with sakura petals. In the plaza areas, there were tons of food & merchandise booths. Seeing as it had gotten warm, I sought instant refreshment in the Beer Gardens from some fresh Asahi beer. There was also a traditional Tea ceremony. The precise movements and care for tea making were a sight to behold (it is even rarer to see this in person than the sakura).
The festival was an interesting mix of relaxation and celebration: from dance and music performances; to lying on the soft, green grass; to seeing cosplayers parade around the grounds. The blend of the cultural festivities is a must-have experience if you are interested in Japan!