“The” update

So, guess where I’m living right now?

 –  – annc03

Yeah, I finally went and did it (three months ago, been too busy studying* to update this). I’m on a Working Holiday visa, which I actually got in June 2015, on the very last possible week you can get it. It’s intended for ages 18 – 30 inclusive, and I applied just before my 31st birthday. In fact, the visa itself was dated the day after my birthday. It lasts for a year, but when you arrive in Japan (I did about a month and a half before it expires), it allows you to have a year’s stay from the date of arrival. It also allows you to do most jobs (not bar work, or things in “the entertainment industry”), though, of course, Japanese language ability and understanding of the job market here are far bigger barriers.

Anyway, unlike the oversubscribed JET Programme, the working holiday scheme (when going from Britain to Japan – the other way is supposed to be more difficult) is incredibly undersubscribed. If you apply, you’ll get it – and I say that as somebody rejected out of hand from JET three times. Now that I’m here, I’m doing the online work for a qualification from something called TEFL Academy, which offers a dual 120 hour certificate (20 hours in the class, 100 hours online). After I’ve finished that, it’ll be time to look for jobs! …and stuff to talk about on here, I have a handful of things I can do, but it’s time for more study!

*-drinking, cycling and wasting time on 8chan and youtube.

Shonen Kurabu – November 20th, 1943

I’ve long dreamed of getting a story paper or comic from one of our enemies during (or, in the case of WW1, the years immediately before) the world wars, and in 2014 I finally got an issue of Kodan Kurabu from 1942! … but, aside from some funny cartoons, it’s not that interesting (I’ll still “do” it on Things Japanese one day). Then, in 2015, (from the same shop, even) I got a Boys’ Own story paper from 1943. This one is full of derring-do, talk of how the allies will be smashed by the might of Japan, etc… yet is tempered with air-raid advice, which indicates the situation on the “unreachable” Japanese home islands wasn’t as in keeping with the government propaganda as they would have liked.


Much is written in English about American and British comics during the war (most of it, in recent years, sneering contempt for “propaganda”, or mock-shock at the depiction of children in battles), but virtually nothing is said about the other side, so let’s say it! (Actually, there are a few English-language articles about Shonen Kurabu. But they’re all full of critical theory).

Unfortunately, even my modern Japanese is hardly up to scratch, so I can’t say very much. The written language underwent a number of rationalisations and simplifications in 1946, getting rid of a number of irregularities, such as words that are said with U (う) at the end being written with Fu (ふ), and also the “long Ku” (く), which actually means “repeat the previous two letters”. Even my old Japanese teacher managed to slip up on that, pronouncing it “Kuuuu” in front of a bunch of Japanese historians. This probably also explains my bizarre / incomplete translations on previous occasions. I knew some kanji had been removed from circulation, but not about words being “spelled” differently!

Anyway, this particular story paper is the issue of Shonen Kurabu (Boys’ Club) from December 1943. You might think that “Kurabu” being used for “Club” indicates a loan word, taken from English, which would be written with the katakana クラブ. But actually it’s written with the kanji 倶楽部, which also means “Club” in Chinese. The fact they are pronounced Ku Ra Bu in Japanese appears to be nothing more than an incredible coincidence! That didn’t stop them from going over to katakana after the war, anyway.


This one’s from 1951. Note the writing now goes in the other direction.

But, to drag ourselves back to the issue in hand, it opens with the usual ads and contents page, many of the adverts have a greater or lesser war theme…

sk43_04 – sk43_48 – sk43_49

We also get this page, which appears to be an imperial edict, right from the pen of Emperor Showa himself! Old British story papers used to get celebrities like Lord Baden-Powell (who may be familiar as the founder of the Scouts) to write to them, but I’m not sure one ever secured the reigning monarch! Anyway, it’s written in “court Japanese”, which is heavy on kanji, broken up by small katakana. There’s no hiragana at all! You can see a rather more famous example of court Japanese on this Wikipedia page.


The contents page is not the “usual” fold-out thing, due to paper shortages. It does contain some happy islanders, greeting their liberators, though. It also repeats the slogan from the cover, which is something along the lines of “Victory in the great East Asian war number” – perhaps indicating that this was an especially war-themed issue, even for the time?


Following that, the coloured plate that many Japanese magazines of the period seem to have (see my look at King from 1939). This one shows patriotic school children bowing to their teacher. The title is “Reliable / Level-headed Pupils”. Perhaps they are being rewarded for the best attendance record, or highest score in thier exams?


After a page on how some ancient Chinese “bone script” characters evolved into modern Kanji, there’s some more wash plates. This time thrilling accounts of derring-do at the front. Here some soldiers bravely charge an enemy tank. The title appears to refer to “meat bullets” who “sacrificed themselves”. Was it a suicide bombing (one guy’s got some big cylinders on his back), or just a last-ditch charge to avoid the shame of surrender?


Another plate shows an artilleryman, who has somehow ended up in the sea, with his gun on a raft, tellling sailors to rescue the gun first. That really is straight out of Commando!


Well, War Picture Library, actually…


The main body of the paper is, of course, the stories! They cover the land, sea and air campaigns (with some very faint and ghostly illustrations). There’s also the usual samurai tales, and a story that looks-like-comedy-from-the-illustrations-anyway. The first of the stories has an odd character in it, but the title is something to do with the water of a river (though it’s not “the river water flows”, or anything like that). It’s subtitled as an old legend of Japan.


The first adventure story is called Marai no Tora, or “The Malay Tiger”. I would have thought “Malay” would have been Marei (マレイ), not Marai, but there ya go. Anyway, it seems to be about a spy in Malaya, witnessing the cruelty of the British, and helping to lay the groundwork for the Japanese invasion. Just look at this picture of an old man about to be run down by grinning Tommies. The art style actually reminds me of Commando. Maybe they ought to do this same story from “the other end” XD.

sk43_12 – sk43_13 – sk43_14

There’s another very short story, or article, which I couldn’t initiallly understand the purpose of (it’s only over one spread). Until I realised it was called “The 8th of December”. In Japan, the date of Pearl Harbour!


Airmen are represented by this story, called Homeward Through the Jungle of Death. As the name implies, it doesn’t involve much flying – instead, it’s about a shot-down pilot on a trek through the jungle, meeting giant bats, alligators and a hulking native with an axe!

sk43_16 – sk43_17 – sk43_18

On the subject of the navy, the story Kuri Sailor’s War Account (“Kuri” meaning Chestnut, but I assume it’s the name of the ship, in this instance) is about sailors – seemingly either ratings, or young, junior, officers – as was common in old British navy stories, too. Anyway the illustrations are very faint and murky, but they show a torpedo tube being fired at a distant ship, and, in this one, a line being tied onto a burning carrier, probably so it can be towed to safety. It also starts with a section labelled “previous number up until”, aka “the story so far”, indicating a serial!

sk43_19 – sk43_20

The next story is Appare Katsu Tachira-kun, or “The Praiseworthy Boy, Katsu Tachira”. It’s billed as a true war story and seems, from the illustrations, to be about some boys who kept a lookout for spies / enemy soldiers, allowing a boatload of them to be machine-gunned before they reached the beach. This sounds like the sort of cautionary tale that was also rife in British comics of the time, even Tiger Tim’s Weekly! (Though in that, of course, the spies just ended up arrested).

sk43_21 – sk43_22

Except, there’s actually photos of Katsu Tachira and his friend, as well as the machine gunnners! There’s also a picture of some sort of list they kept, counting the numbers of men and women “seen” (it says “investigated”) in the north of… something.


Those letters, written over and over, mean “correct”, but they’re also the Japanese version of tally marks, as they take 5 strokes to write.

The first of the “historicals” appears to be called “Become the Camphor Tree of Justice”. I guess I’m missing some samurai metaphor. Anyway it has sword fights and archery. This one’s also a serial, it has a “story so far” section, and the first chaper appears to be numbered 14 (though, oddly for the time, written as “1 4” and not “10 4”).


There’s another historical tale called Book of the Spirit Times. Though “spirit” in this case is more “the essence of” something, rather than ghosts. Maybe it’s Book of Ages? Anyway, it has an illustration of some very angular-looking samurai…


There’s one main comic strip, 30 panels long (they’re all numbered). I can’t make head nor tail of the main title. It’s something about “flying big son XX’s look study”. It’s about a kid who goes to visit a training camp for pilots, called “Bear Valley Military Flying School”, with some incredibly primitive-looking equipment. I doubt “the west” was much better, though – no computerised simulators in those days!


There’s some sort of contraption with a bicyle-powered cockpit, and a model plane on the front (probably a general primer for how an aircraft handles). There’s also a fake fuselage with a box over it, perhaps for training pilots to fly by instruments.


Later there’s a cockpit on a zipwire (landing training?), and a big spinning wheel with a seat on it (a fitness test, for flying upside down?). The boy has been taken to the camp by his high-ranking dad. On the train back he falls asleep, then suddenly wakes up, saluting, and shouting that he wants to be the first pilot to bomb “Washinton”.

sk43_27 – sk43_28

“Washinton” doesn’t do too well out of the other comic strip, either. It opens with a formation of American bombers approaching Japan (at this stage, only Kyushu was in range, though the Doolittle raid, an effective “kamikaze” mission, had made token hits on other cities in 1941). Then some sort of intercontinental ballistic missiles get launched, with magnets on the end, drag the bombers all the way back to Washington DC (surely all those big, square buildings are the stereotyped apperance of New York?), and blow the city to bits. You wonder what the Germans would have thought about this strip “giving away their secrets”! (The only time Jane was censored was when there was a storyline about a secret plane called a “Meteor”, only weeks before the real thing went into service).


Another “comic”, of sorts, is this page of “Japanese-style songs”. And two other letters I can’t make out at all! Anyway, they seem to be short poems, actually, not songs. Or maybe they’re all verses of one song. Anyway, they show kids doing things like obeying thier teacher, taking food and water to women who are working as air-raid wardens / fire watchers and, erm, stealing apples. There’s probably meant to be a point of contrast, somewhere!


There’s a later section called “Poems for People in Small Countries”, which features a Burmese teacher (and, on the next page, Japanese soldiers coming away from a shinto shrine, cheered by schoolboys). The text doesn’t look much like poems, though.

sk43_31 – sk43_32

As for factual content, though the horrors of sustained firebombing were yet to come, Kyushu was experiencing sporadic air attacks, so there’s an article about air-raid precautions. Readers are advised to sleep near their bundled-up possessions, ready to head for the shelters. There’s also diagrams of American bombs, and advice to wear padded clothes and an “air raid hood”. I’ve seen one of those hoods in the Osaka Peace Museum, it’s not much more than a padded balaclava; I wouldn’t trust it to protect me against a thrown stone, let alone bomb fragments!

sk43_33 – sk43_34 – sk43_35

There’s another diagram showing the lethal range and height of shrapnel from a high explosive bomb. Note the nearby shelter – unlike Britain’s corrugated Anderson shelters, the usual Japanese bomb shelter was a short trench, with wooden planks over it. By the time of the major city bombings, the Americans had developed cluster incendiary bombs, especially designed to start the most intense fires possible in Japan’s wooden residential areas. The resulting firestorms sucked up oxygen from the lowest spaces first, suffocating families to death, even if they were untouched by the explosions.


Another article is about an assault course youngsters can build (or, perhaps, get their teachers to organise). It features bars to balance on, walls to climb, nets to crawl under, etc. All as a primer for future military training, when the readers are old enough. There’s also another article about general fitness, with push-ups, running, etc. One picture shows how you should motivate yourself by imagining you’ll one day be a soldier, charging into battle!


There’s also an article called Minna Sendo Da, which is roughly “It’s Everybody’s War!”. An illustration shows Japanese and American boys building model planes, while the men fight in the skies above. Basically it’s like those poems in the contemporay Beano, telling children to “do their bit”, even if it’s just saving waste paper. Fortunately, the Kyoto kid who bought this one hung on to it, instead!

sk43_38 – sk43_39

Still, it wasn’t all worry and self-sacrifice. The article Sea Eagles Hitting the Enemy’s Fleet is about successes the Japanese naval air arm have had against allied ships. Pearl Harbour is well known, they also sank HMS Prince of Wales, which had survived the infamous encounter with Bismarck, where the Ark Royal was blown to pieces by a shot in the magazine. The artist doesn’t seem to have had many reference pictures, though. An American carrier is drawn in the “top heavy” Japanese style, and a battleship, seen later, looks a bit Yamato-ey too. No internet image searches in those days!

sk43_40 – sk43_41

This is accompanied by Filming The War at Sea, which is apparently (from the pictures, anyway) an account of a Japanese ship being attacked by American planes, but it survives, and the crew rescue one of the pilots.

sk43_42 – sk43_43

More light-hearted is an article called Koko ni Konna Kufuu, or “How to Make These Useful Devices”, including a frame apparently designed to stop roosters, but not hens, getting seeds, and a thing for clipping an umbrella to a belt, leaving your hands free.


This section advertises the next issue, as a “New Year Number”. As well as the continuing adventures of The Malay Tiger and the good ship Chestnut, there’s an article / interview with a submarine captain who sank a ship, and got a picture of it through the periscope.


I beleive the Japanese government banned all “entertainment publications” at some point in 1944, as the paper shortage became desperate (and, no doubt, to free up the lumberjacks, paper factory workers, and writers, for army service). But Shonen Kurabu was among several magazines re-started after the war. The picture I showed earlier is from 1951, but, if we look at the publishing details (which, at the time, always gave the date of first publication), we can see they both have the same “first published” date:


Continuity was clearly intended, though the later Shonen Kurabu is quite a different publication (more comics!). I’ll also give it a review one day.


(And there was a spare image left over… erm…)

From Eroica with Love

What do you get if you cross this:


With this:


And set it here:


During this:





Unfortunately, you only get the very first book of it! The “Champions”-like characters disappear after the first three chapters (and, in fact, are barely mentioned in the third), though the series has been running on-and-off since 1976! I don’t know if it’s running at present, but the Wiki page says the most recent series began in 2009. Though the Wiki page may not necessarily be up to date.

Anyway, let’s focus on the good bit. The three characters appear on the very first page. They’re a trio of Brits called Caesar Gabriel, Sugar Plum and, erm, Leopard Solid. Well, it was both Japan AND the 70’s, who cares about cultural accuracy?


Sugar Plum visits the National Gallery, to look at her favourite painting, when she notices a beautiful man called “The Earl” nearby. He tells her to enjoy the painting, because she won’t see it again. Then Leopard calls to her with telepathy. He was involved in a serious accident, but shrugged it off with only a scratch.


Anyway, after that, they meet up with the even-more-beautiful Caesar, who has all the girls fawning over him. Even though he looks like a girl himself – now, I’m no expert, but wandering around London, looking like that, in 1976 would have been more likely to have got your neck snapped. Unless it was Soho, anyway. Somebody even says he “looks like a character from a girl’s romance comic!”. I only really know about the girl’s romance comics of the 50’s and 60’s (and precious little, at that), but I really doubt any 70’s ones featured guys who looked like that! …unless she’s talking about Japanese ones, anyway. Naturally, there’s no girl’s romance comics in Britain today, and ‘the enemy’ would be up in arms about anything featuring only straight relationships, and targeted at a specific gender, if anybody tried to publish one!


There’s then a bit of backstory, about how the three characters got their powers – and also who has what. It’s possible these characters were directly inspired by The Champions, which originally came on (in Britain) in 1968. The Champions all had “superhuman” (well, technically, the maximum human ability in every form of athleticism) strength, speed, stamina and senses. They also had boosted intelligence and telepathy. The three Eroica characters all have the abilities ‘shared out’. Leopard has the strength and speed, Caesar has the intelligence, and Sugar has the extra senses, and is even able to see visions of the future! They can all talk by telepathy, though – even over hundreds of miles!


The Champions got their abilities in Tibet, after stealing a secret bio-weapon from China, and escaping in a damaged plane. They were found by a race of monks, who have hidden away in the mountains, and who gave them their abilities whilst healing their injuries. The Eroica characters simply got lost in Peru, and were found by a mysterious man from the lost Inca / Nazca civilisation. Anyway, they got back to London, and are all attending “London University” (well, actually, 19-year-old Caesar is already working there as a tutor!), when Erioca appears on the scene, and starts stealing famous works of art, from all over Europe. Eroica also has a large number of followers, which allows him to rob many places at once. They also dress as women, quite convincingly XD.


Note one of the guards is reading Princess XD. Where did he get that? I doubt Japan Centre was open in 1976!

Anyway, Eroica quickly turns out to be the Earl. He loves “beautiful things”, and steals them. He keeps some of the art for himself, but holds most of it to ransom, leaving his accountant to work out how much they can make from selling each piece back to the original owner. Later, we find out the accountant is in love with him, but the Earl just gives him more work to do.


Anyway, before a painting was stolen, Caesar said he liked it, which leads a very stupid Japanese cop, called Taro Bannai, to assume he is Eroica. The cop is also a “master of disguise” (but it always just looks like him with different clothes on), and, for some reason, has flowers coming out of his mouth. He also appears to just vanish after Chapter 2/3 XD.

erioca_13 – erioca_14

He also can’t remember anybody’s name

Anyway, Earl gets away with his stolen loot, but he’s seen something else beautiful he likes – Caesar! …Who has also worked out that Erioca will rob the Tate Gallery next. They try to set a trap for him, but the gang spot them – as does Taro Bannai – who keeps showing up in different disguises, going “At times, I’m the…”. They also hide at a gig, as extra members of the band! Apparently the band are characters in another Princess story called “Sons of Eve”.


Anyway, while that’s going on, Earl finds and kisses Caesar, who comes down with a touch of the yaois:


While he’s recovering, the other two make an angel statue based on him, and bury it in Oxford, where they know it will be found. Sure enough, it’s soon dug up, “accurately” dated as more than 2000 years old (XD), and put on display at Oxford University. Erioca steals it, even though it’s an obvious trap, by simply decoying the other two out of the room, and stealing Caesar as well as the statue! He flies them to a private island, but a tracking device was hidden in the statue, and Leopard can swim as fast as a boat, so he and Sugar organise a rescue mission. This comes off, in a screwball comedy kinda way, and the Earl and his gang leave the island, leaving all their stolen art to be returned to it’s rightful owners.

A few days later, Caesar is drifting about in a dream world – he’s fallen in love with the Earl! …and that’s the end of chap 1.


In chap 2, it all starts to go a bit wrong, as Major Klaus Heinz Von Dem Eberbach (XD) is introduced. He’s an uptight secret agent who works for NATO, and is given a mission to investigate Caesar, who they suspect of having special powers (much like The Champions, who are secret agents, and pull off impossible missions, without ever telling anybody, even other secret agents, about their powers). The Major thinks Caesar is a “sorry excuse for a man”. He later meets the Earl, who immediately comes on to him. He thinks he is a “degenerate” XD. Anyway, Earl is after Caesar, and some more paintings, which are partly under the Major’s care (he’s related to the aristocratic family they originally belonged to). The Major tries to drag Caesar away somewhere, to test his abilities (the other two characters are sidelined in Scotland, though he can still telepathically talk to them. They are later arrested by mr flower-face man).


Anyway, after many capers, the Major, Earl and Caesar end up on a tiny island, with a tank. NATO forces come, take Caesar and the Major back, leaving the Earl behind. His own men come, and he steals the tank XD.

After that, the three “Champions” characters vanish entirely, and the plot devolves into a screwball comedy where the Major has to capture some secret microfilm, which is hidden in exactly the same place as a work of art Earl wants to steal. Usually the KGB are after the same secret, and the two end up having to work together to defeat them. It’s basically the same plot in nearly every chapter, though they are still pretty funny. The accountant and “Agent G”, a NATO spy who has to drag up in his introduction story, and just keeps on dressing as a woman in every other story, become the love interests. The accountant also starts to obsess over underwear XD.

erioca_19 – erioca_20

Even by volume 2, it’s a double act XD

Anyway, the Wikipedia site said the original series ran irregularly from 1976 to 1979 in “Viva Princess” (maybe a quarterly “one off stories” sister to Princess?), and then monthly in Princess until 1989. It restarted in 1995, and ran irregularly until 2007, then came back again, this time in Princess Gold (dunno… maybe a different monthly for new tales of the ‘most famous’ Princess characters?), in 2009, and was still going in 2012… and may still be going now, but the Wiki page might not be up to date! I did see some issues of Princess in the Japan Centre in London, but they were like £13.50 each! (that’d probably be the going rate for a monthly comic of 500-odd pages in Britain, in Japan they’re about £4).

Eroica was one of the first manga to “find penetration” in the west, being circulated in illegally-photocopied fan-translations around the US in the 1980’s, Mainly among the “slash fiction” community, which is a rough equivalent to the amateur yaoi doujinshi-making community in Japan. Only slashers write text stories, tend to be older / middle aged women (rather than teens-twenties, as in Japan), and don’t have vast million-attendance conventions, or 7-storey shops dedicated to their hobby XD. Well, actually, that’s only come about in recent times in Japan, too. Shonen-Ai / BL / Yaoi manga used to be infamous for bad artwork, gigantic pointed chins and “yaoi hands”, which were bigger than the character’s heads. That was because, as a niche genre, it couldn’t attract the best, and most expensive, artists. That’s all changed today!

Natually, with something so “exotic” and also “gay themed” reaching the west, ‘the enemy’ had to start sniffing around. The wiki article uses the word “objectification”, and cites academic papers with titles like “Pornography or Therapy? Japanese Girls Creating the Yaoi Phenomenon” (Jesus Christ…). Be ever vigilant against Critical Theory!

Niko Niko Manga

Hmm, not posted on here for ages… so lets take a look at some more random antique mangae! This one appears to be from the late 1940’s, and is interesting in that it’s “full colour” – though not every colour is on every page! And there’s only 8 pages anyway.


Niko Niko Manga appears to be the “overall” title. This particular one is called Hikoza Bakuseu Douchuu – which appears to be “A country boy’s funny journey”, though some of the readings of the kanji (as given by the katakana furigana beneath them) appear to be misspelt or obsolete (“za” should be “zai”, for instance).


The story is broken up into a lot of smaller, funny segments, a number of them revolving around a trumpet. Here it blows some cakes into a dog’s mouth, by accident. Later on, a chicken gets it stuck over her head, wakes the guys, and runs off with it XD.


There’s also a sumo sequence. The older of the two main guys winning by flipping himself over and tickling his opponents feet. Later a robber attacks them, so they prove how tough they are by appearing to stab a rock with a sword. When the thief tries it, his sword bends. They didn’t tell him their own sword only had half a blade!


Later on, it snows. They stand still and get covered with snow. A guy comes along, so they scare him by pretending to be living snowmen, then steal his belongings, like ya do. The “Police”, carrying lanterns, come and arrest them, bringing them before some local official.


Some guy in the palace recognises them, and everybody starts bowing to them and letting them go. The guy in question might be the (formerly masked) thief from earlier. Anyway, after that they decide to trip up a monkey to steal his bananas, but he uses his tail to hook onto a branch and pull them back up. Then… the story just ends XD.

At the time, Britain had a lot of similar short, fun comics with often rushed-looking artwork. The late 40’s saw a huge range of quickly-published short-runs and one-shots, pumped out by dodgy spivs who had somehow got hold of some still-tightly-rationed paper. (Back then, a comic was something that was guaranteed to sell out – unfortunately, that’s far from the case today). Niko Niko Manga reminded me of a British publication called Comicolour, published by Gerald G. Swan, who was the “third” comic publisher to Britain’s “Big Two”, in those days.


I only have an annual, I doubt the ‘regular’ Comicolour had full-colour covers

The interior art has the same red-green and red-blue colouring as Niko Niko Manga. Though in this one, every story is separate. Nearly all drawn by the same artist, though! The super-prolific “Bang”, AKA Harry Banger.


Hiko Shonen – May, 1917

Since yesterday several days ago marked the centenary of Britain entering World War 1 (though Japan did not enter the conflict until 23rd August), I thought I might as well look at one of the old manga / light novels I bought on my last trip there. I thought this one was from Taishō 3 (1915), but, now that I look again, it’s actually from Taishō 5 (1917). Old Japanese publications often have the date they were first published on the cover, along with the date of that issue (usually in tiny writing up near the spine, which can become illegible on some items, as they get bumped and rubbed).


So, then. Hiko Shonen (literally “Flight Boy”  – I’d say a less literal translation might be “Boys’ Flying Magazine”… but only a minority of the content is about flying) started in December 1915 and, judging from the on-and-off sale dates, appears to have come out every 3 weeks. It has roughly 110 pages, and is very definitely in the light novel (or “story paper”!) category, though it also contains a few very simple strips.


As you can see from the cover, naval matters must have been on people’s minds at the time! Well, Japan is an island nation. On the inside front cover is this strange passage, made up of kanji and katakana (though the kanji have hiragana furigana). Is it an advert? Facing it is more writing, with a boy holding up a flag. This is written a bit more conventionally.


Actually, is that a ‘map’?

After that, we come to the contents page, written with red ink over a tattered Imperial Russian Navy flag! Though Japan had decisively beaten the Russian navy in 1905, they now found themselves on the same side, fighting Germany and Austo-Hungary.


After that, there is what may also be an editorial page and then A LOT of adverts! There must be 25-30 pages of them! They’re in virtually the same style as contemporary ads from The Boys’ Friend, Chums, Union Jack and so on – though perhaps slightly more old-fashioned (the type of ads those British publications had in around 1907, rather than 1917). Among the things advertised are guns (airguns or .22 rimfires? Or maybe even more powerful ones – gun control was very lax in those days), pocket watches, fountain pens, mouth organs, clarinets, magic lanterns and – given a pervasive Japanese stereotype – lots of cameras! Interestingly, a lot of these have English names like “The Little Nipper”, though they have Japanese place names printed underneath. Others have names in Katakana – angular letters more easily stamped into metal and wood.


After wading through that little lot, we reach the actual content – and what do we start with? an article on the Battle of Tsushima! Japan may have found herself allied to Russia, but neither side had to like it! (the Russians would, of course, soon have bigger problems of their own).


Which part counts as the “Crossing the T”?

There’s then an article which is apparently about tying people up! Perhaps, given the development of long-range bombing aircraft (the Germans did, right at the end of the war, build aeroplanes capable of reaching London – which were a lot harder to shoot down than the ponderous Zeppelins), the Japanese feared an invasion by paratroopers?


There’s a few more photo-illustrated articles, including this one, about a motor race? Japan wasn’t super involved in the fighting, so they must have had petrol spare! (Or it could be a race in the USA or somewhere).


Look at the size of the crew!

And, speaking of Zeppelins, here’s a picture of one that was shot down near the British coast, apparently after an attack on London. No photograph this time, though the illustration is very well done. There’s also an article about the navy, with the text printed in light green ink, which renders it near-unreadable!


After the factual stuff, it’s time for the stories! Beginning with a “manga”, which is four pages long, and has four panels!  The story is written in blocks of text above the panels, and both the blocks and illustrations are numbered, just in case people forget which way they should read them, like.


Oh, and it’s about a kid who invents paragliding – with lots of balloons, a chair and a car!

Now, for the main events – the text stories! They seem to be complete – or, at least, there’s no obviously-boxed serial recap. But, of course, they might just not have a re-cap. Or it might be written into the story, like DC Thomson ones were. The first story is called Sawaki Niku(w)otoru Nihonkai Kusen, which is apparently, erm, “Battle of Tsushima to Dance Meat Springing Blood”. Anyway, it’s about the Battle of Tsushima, which ended the Russo-Japanese war, and opens with yet another Russian Navy flag. Appropriately thunderous illustration of the battle, too.


Undamaged Russian ship diplomatically to the fore.

The next story is an aviation-related one called Dai Hiyaku, or “Big Leap”. It features a very primitive-looking aeroplane about to take off in front of a crowd of people – so is presumably about the early days of powered flight (less than 15 years previously!). Interestingly bold ‘headings’ in the text contain the kanji for “11” and “12” – chapter numbers, implying a serial? (still no ‘recap’ though, and the letter that is used to represent “chapter” today is not present).


Following this, another flying story, this one set in the the war! To be precise, the the Darudanerusu – or Dardanelles, better known today as the Gallipoli Campaign. Presumably this story is about a British or ANZAC flyer, though could maybe be about a Japanese pilot improbably ending up there (the Japanese Navy was sub-hunting in the med during the latter part of the war, they were also one of the first nations to experiment with sea-launched air raids).


Not sure about those coats with the two rows of buttons, though. They don’t look RFC… but then again, you couldn’t exactly Google Image Search in 1917.

The story involves the capture of a recognisable(ish) Breguet 14 – a plane then in use by the Turkish Air Force. No crescents drawn on it, though!


The next story is definitely a new one, starting with a bold “Ichi” character, for one! It’s called Umi No Rōgoku, or “Prison of the Sea”. Though maybe a less-literal translation might be “Prisoners of the Sea”. It features crudely-stereotyped Germans, continuing to wear their spiked helmets even when indoors! Perhaps it’s about the maritime blockade which was causing severe suppy shortages in Germany. Or maybe about the end of the “race to the sea”, where the opposing trench lines tried to outflank each other, until they reached the Belgian coast.


“Can ve not dig undervater trenches?”

The next section is a long(ish – 4 pages!) photo-illustrated article about a woman who appears to have the name Aato Sumisu… which de-katakanised is …something Smith? Art? Mart(h)a? she looks white, anyway! And, if I’m reading the letters right, she appears to be 15 years old. Oh, and she’s a pilot!


Yes, that bicycle wheel nailed to an upright plank of wood is the controls of an aircraft!

In World War 2, women were used (in Britain, anyway) as transport pilots, delivering newly-built aircraft from the factories to thier squadrons. Was this “Aviatrix” one of thier forerunners?


The next story doesn’t have furigana on the title, and one of the kanji is very complicated (and possibly obsolete), but it’s something about a “heaven tower”. Anyway, it involves Germans being scared by a “monster”, which, in the style of stories of this time, will probably turn out to be something rigged-up which looks harmless in daylight.

Another illustration in the story has some “giants” being given orders by a small man in uniform. Though they might be “savage” Africans being bossed about by a “civilised” White or Japanese person.


After that… more ads! Those big letters on the right say “Nihon Shonen”, which means “Japan(‘s) Boys”, but it’s also the name of another story paper, which I have an issue of.  I’ll review that at some point. Down the side there’s “Shonen Ponchi” – maybe a humour magazine called Shonen Punch? On the left there’s some ads for toys. One of the planes is called a “Smith”… named after the woman in the article, perhaps?

After the ads, there’s the inevitable samurai story. This one called Senchau no Meikuwa… which involves kani that I recognise (“fry” and “flower”), but with obscure readings. The title is apparently “Meika of War Fried”, according to Google Translate, anyway! It involves a horse chase.

The next story is very short, and is called Kenkiushitsu No Kuwaikua, which is something to do with a laboratory (again, it uses odd and obscure readings of kanji). It’s only over two pages, and one of them has a big picture. In English it would probably be a couple of paragraphs!

After that, a story I don’t even need to translate the name of! It’s called Yamanote Sen, or “Yamanote Line”, which is a railway line that runs in a big circle around the districts of central Tokyo – which is more like a load of small cities joined together, rather than one big one. The Yamanote Line stops at the various “town centres” of those cities. Anyway, this is perhaps some sort of mystery or spy story. The main character looks like Charlie Chaplin!


The next story appears to be another one set in the past, or at least the one illustration has people wearing kimono, rather than “western clothes”. But then again, I suppose quite a few people still did, in the Japan of 1917. Anyway, the story is called Ketsujifu Jidan, again using apparently-obsolete readings of the kanji. They literally mean “Blood Ten Study Association”. The “Association” is pronounced “Dan”, which is the only translation Google offers. Perhaps that letter has been removed from Japanese entirely.

The next section’s title is even worse. It’s Tetsuken, which is written 鐡拳, and the Google Translation “English” for that is “鐡拳“! Anyway, it appears to be a lot of short passages of text, with sub-headings. But, more interestingly, along the pages there’s a “film strip” comic strip, apparently about some villain in a “blobby” jacket and flat cap making some evil plan, perhaps to defraud an old man and his daughter (the first panel is an old man and young woman, anyway). A boy is thrown into a river, and later spots the man sabotaging a boat. The man catches him, and locks him in the boathouse. The boat sinks, but apparently only in shallow water, so everybody is okay. Meanwhile, the boy escapes the boathouse and unmasks the villain, who is arrested.


The strip is pretty self-explanatory, though there’s a few speech bubbles too. Interestingly, the characters all have boxes floating next to them, containing the same word each time – are these thier names? (The boy’s is “Pitaa”, or Peter, the villain is “Shon”, possibly Shaun, and the woman is Tijii, which might be Tilly). Also, look at that policeman – the two rows of buttons look a bit archaic, and the helmet is a bit wide… but could he be a British “bobby”?

I’m not sure, but the text passages on these pages might be an explanation of the story. Though they could equally be long jokes, readers’ letters or the other sort of content similar British publications would run!

When I first saw the next item, I thought it was very interesting – a 1917 superhero story! About a “pudgy little girl” who “wears a one-piece swimsuit with ‘Gold’ written on it” and who is able to beat up adult villains.


And demons?

I thought I’d found a super-obscure old character, so I immediately stole her for a big “monster montage” in my stupid Final Fantasy-based webcomic called Insanity Please (no direct link, due to adult content!)



But then a guy on my Facebook page posted a clearly-more-modern image in response:


But when I asked if she was better-known in Japan than just “somebody who was in one story paper 98 years ago”, he just liked my comment, but didn’t reply or explain anything XD. So I went and showed the picture to the Japanese guy at my job, instead…

Actually, “she” is a pudgy little boy who wears an apron with “gold” written on it, who is called Kintaro. He was either born to a witch (or great samurai), or adopted by one, and fought many monsters with his animal companions. Oh, and the story was probably hundreds of years old even in 1917! It ends with what I thought was “the superhero girl losing her clothes and flying off on a magic fish”. But actually part of the Kintaro story involves him fighting a giant demon fish, so that’s probably what this illustrates!


This is followed by a spread about a boy at the post office… maybe a subscription advert?


And then, back to the Boys’ Own stuff! This time a story called Pirate Island, which is easy to translate because the title is written in English! What-appears-to-be the credits are all in kanji, though, so it’s probably not a translated foreign story.


The title page has a guy in a European-style suit of armour (Japan never really had all-metal plate armour like that), but that must be either part of the treasure, or the guy who originally buried it. The story itself is set in modern times, with a guy wearing what looks like some sort of tartan cap, with binoculars. And on the next page – steam warships!


Presumably, one of the allied nations, and the Germans, both find out about a buried treasure at the same time, and are racing to get it first.


Following them is a section featuring lots of small blocks of text, with a few small illustrations at the beginning, and frequent breaks for bold ‘titles’. At least one part of this section has haiku poems, another is called Monohazuke (the “Zu” unusually, for today, written with a modified Tsu, rather than a modified Su). Apparently that means “Those Immersed”. Above it, a boy is putting part of a kanji together – perhaps these sections are a guide to writing? There’s also several bullet-pointed “lists”. Some of these are all-kanji, and look like Chinese. But they might be people’s names – contemporary British publications used to publish lists of competition-winner’s names, or new members of thier fan clubs.


Free string!

Then… moooore adverts! But not so many this time, only about 5 pages. The back cover features a picture of a very European-style house, though it’s probably in Japan. After Japan opened up to the world, they started to imitate European architectural practices… but the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 saw the end of that! (They then noticed that all the old wooden temples – able to flex rather than crumble – had survived).


Also, down the side it says something about “Great Japan country”…

Going to Japan again… this month!

I’ve not really done the promised writing about places I went to on my previous trip (or the two before that…), but I’m off again, on the 13th of May! Here’s the planned list of things to do:


Flying, first to Munich, and then to Haneda! Not on an A380 though 🙁 While in Germany I want to get an issue of “Wendy”, a horse-themed girl’s adventure comic, which apparently is at least partly made in Britain (even though it’s in German). And also an issue of Der Landser, if I can find one. I think it’s been cancelled now, though.


I think this might be Frankfurt, I’ll know when I get there again XD.



Ueno park.

Arrive at Haneda! My first hotel is near Ueno park, so I’ll need to ride the full length of the Tokyo monorail, to connect to the Yamanote line (which goes in a big circle through many of the main districts of Tokyo). After dropping off my luggage, I want to visit:

Korea Book Center – this is a shop run by the Chongryon, who are the descendants of slaves from Korea bought to Japan, who have decided to align themselves with North Korea (though, curiously, aren’t in a hurry to go back there. A lot of thier children are becoming naturalised Japanese citizens instead). Anyway I hope there will be some North Korean comics! Oddly, the name of the shop is written コリアブックセンター, which is actually “English”, written with Japanese letters XD.

Senso-Ji – I go here every time I go to Japan. Except this time I only want to go to a nearby shop and get another cool watch. I got one on my last trip but lost it in Kyoto. It was yellow and had the digital numbers “fading into the distance” a bit like an epic film title XD


Senso-Ji gateway

Sky Tree – Last time I went, I intended to go here on the first day, but was too tired and dirty. I might still be this time, too. But I’ll go up anyway (also, there may be public showers in Haneda airport XD). Also there’s an old book shop near the base of it, and it will be a nice walk there from Senso-Ji (you can hardly miss it).


Sky Tree


Jinbocho – The famous book shop district. Last time I went I only went to the ground floor shops (mainly). But actually in Japanese cities, the tall narrow buildings often have a different business on each floor, so I’ll go to the lifts and check out others. The guy who runs the Comics 212 recommends a place in a 9-storey building that does loads of secondhand mangae, and curry!


Ikebukuro – This place is great, it’s like a mini-Tokyo inside Tokyo XD. Of course, I’ll be going for the “Akihabara” bit, which is full of Yaoi. There’s a place called Otome Road with several multi-floor shops full of BL and Yaoi. I call it “Yaoi Lane” XD. Also Sunshine 60 and the surrounding streets ain’t bad.


Yaoi lane.


Gundam Front – This is where the full-size Gundam RX-79 is, on Odaiba. I meant to go here on my previous Japan trip too, but ended up pointlessley wandering around the Sumida River area instead -_-

Hikawa Maru – A preserved ship in Yokohama, which was once a liner, then became a hospital ship during the war, and helped repatriate Japanese soldiers and people from China and Korea after the war.


Over there XD

Yokohama Landmark Tower – Just a quick visit, the views are wonderful, but I’ve not been up it during the day (if it is still light when I’m done at Hikawa Maru, anyway XD

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Kawasaki – Blah blah, waiting for…

MUCC at Club Citta – MUCC! A cool Japanese rock band, playing at Club Citta, where I once went to see Heathen, Kreator, Exodus and Testament. Not really listened to them all that much, but what I heard sounded cool. Also B’z aren’t playing when I’m there XD.



Katsudi Matsumoto Museum – This is a small museum (it’s actually attached to his old family home, and his children or grandchildren run it) dedicated to a pre-war manga artist, who created the first (well, apparently second, but the first one had really crude artwork) “sophisticated” manga, with “film-like” “camera angles”. It was called “The Mysterious Clover” and was about a sort of zorro-like woman saving peasants from greedy nobles. It first came out in 1934, as a 16-page free gift in Shojo no Tomo (“The Girl’s Friend” – unrelated to our own tabloid-sized story paper XD). Only 3 years later, our own Puck bought about a similar revolution in British comics, called The Golden Arrow. Shame we didn’t keep the same momentum Japan did.

Eisei Bunko Museum – A museum dedicated to the art collection of Hosokawa family, who were an old Japanese noble family that started to collect art in the 14th century, though apparently didn’t tell anybody until after WW2 XD. Now parts of the collection are displayed in a museum, while the rest is in the care of a university. For hundreds of years, the family just collected and collected – so the collection is still not properly catalogued! XD

Kabuki-Cho rock bars / Ni-cho – Might want to try and pull a floppy-haired, black-eyed piece in Shinjuku Ni-chome, but there’s no bars there that play proper music. So I’ll probably go to Kabuki-cho (if you google map “Shinjuku 2-chome”, you actually get Kabuki-cho XD), where there is bars that play proper music. And go into one and request a load of Macc Lads.


Kabuki-cho entrance. My ex-girlfriend took me there, I had no idea what it was XD.


Yasukuni Shrine – The shrine to dead Japanese soldiers from 1868 – 1945. Already seen the museum, I’ll be going for the market that will supposedly be on there today (though some websites say different), and to buy more CD’s of 30’s and 40’s Japanese music in the museum shop.


Saitama Manga Museum – Bit of a trek, this one. I originally planned to go to the nearest station to it, which involved a 90-odd minute journey on one of the Tobu lines, after taking other local trains back across Tokyo. Then I decided to go to the JR station which is alightly further away, but lots of express trains with hardly any stops go there XD. Anyway, the museum hosts an exhibition about Rakuten Kitazawa, who was the first person to use the word “manga” to refer to cartoons and comic strips. He was also involved with Tokyo Puck, a “home grown” cartoon / humour / news magazine, oddly written in Japanese, Chinese and English!

Shinjuku in general – Cat Cafe!!! And maybe a stroll around Ni-chome by day, looking for “art shops” rather than bars.




JR Pass – Claim my JR pass, for free JR travel across the country!

Anything missed on another day OR Sakura Museum – I’m bound to get lost / be slow, so I’ll save this day to do anything I missed out on on the previous days. Or if I did manage to do everything, I’ll go out to the town of Sakura in Chiba, and visit the Museum of Japanese History out there. I tried to find it once before buuut… got lost. I went totally the wrong way out of the station XD.


A road I shouldn’t have been looking at XD.



Some Shikoku

Go to Kochi – Time to visit my JET friend, who is working in Kochi, which is in the southern part of Shikoku. I’ll take the bullet train from Tokyo to Okayama, then transfer to the Nanpu, which is an “express” that goes through some incredible scenery (it’s like Wales but the mountains are higher and the rivers bluer). But it has to go at about 40mph for most of the way, because there’s lots of blind corners and a boulder or tree might have fallen on the line. Last time I did this journey (in reverse) it took about 10 hours -.-, but I’ve planned a bit better this time, it might only take 7 XD.


Some Kochi

Showa Book Shop – Every destination I’ve Google mapped, has been followed up by a search in same the area for 古本屋, or “old book shop”. Well actually 古本店 is “old book shop”, 古本屋 is more like “old book room”, but is apparently the more common term. Anyway, this shop is between Kochi station and where my friend lives, so I might as well stop off on the walk XD.


Ryoma Museum – I tried to find this last time I went to Kochi, and confidently set out to walk to it, until I got to some tunnels and felt confused. Actually I needed to go through the tunnels, and then I’d still only be about a third of the way there! But this time I’ve Google mapped it! And also there’s a tourist bus that goes there from Kochi station.

Kochi Tram System – After the museum I’ll walk to the furthest terminal of the Kochi tram system (well, only the north-south line anwyay, the east-west one is super long), and ride it all the way back to Kochi station again. It ought to be a brisk trot, and I might also go up a ‘mountain’ (which the tunnels go through) and see if I can spot any small shrines or things up there.


Kochi trams.

Old books – Oh, and that “brisk trot” passes several old book shops, as does the east-west tram line, if I have time to change XD.


More Kochi book shopping – More old book shops in Kochi, this time from the areas around the main station.

Nanpu + Shinkansen to Kyoto – Back on the Nanpu, and through to Okyama, where I’ll get the bullet train to Kyoto.


Kyoto cool book shops – I google mapped some bookshops near Kyoto station, one of them lets you go inside, and they have several boxes of EXACTLY WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR. Well, they did, when the pictures were taken. I went on thier website and (with automatic translations) saw that they have issues of some things from 1908 for only ¥3000, which is what I paid in Tokyo for a book from 1976 which is a reprint of something from 1936 XD.


Kinkaku-Ji – The famous golden temple, which dates back to the 1950’s… well okay, the original one was hundreds of years old, but a maniac burned it down. Anyway, last time I went there I got right up to the entrance, but it started to rain so I went back to the city centre (on a very slow, stupid, tram-train thingy with loads of stops really close together, you could jog quicker!). By the time I got there it was sunny again -.- . Oh well, this time I’ll actually go in!


The way in to Kinkaku-Ji

Manga Museum -Yep, have to go here again! Mainly to see if they have any more British comics (IE, any more than one mention of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred from the Daily Mirror), and to find out the title of a manga about Zero pilots I saw in there once. If I haven’t already found copies of it in my bookshop wanderings.



Kiyomizudera – We had this on a calendar at work ages ago, in 2012 or maybe even 2011, so it’s about time I went! It’s “right over the other side of the city”, only Kyoto is not really that big, east-west speaking, so I should be able to walk there from my hotel.

Souvenir shopping? – There’s bound to be shops selling “really Japanesesy things” near Kiyomizudera.

“Kyoto Jinbocho”  at Shiyakushomae subway station – A bunch of old book shops clustered vaguely around this subway station. Might be worth a look, if I have any money left.

Costume Museum – If I have any time left, there’s a museum of old Japanese clothes and models of court scenes right near my hotel. Dum de dum.


Back to Tokyo – Should only take 2.5 – 3 hours on the bullet train. Then Yamanote round to my hotel.

Akihabara? Shinjuku? etc – Akihabara because it’s gotta be done once, or maybe rock bars in Shinjuku again, depends on time and tiredness.


Nakano Broadway – this is like the “backup Akihabara”, and all indoors! Anyway, it’s also got a big buy-back counter. I’m bound to have bought a ton of otaku material I don’t need, so I’ll sell off things to lower my case weight here, and just keep the best (read: oldest and most jingoistic and/or pornographic) stuff!

Ikebukuro – Last day in Japan, possibly ever. So it’s gotta be spent in Ikebukuro! Just wander about.


Back Home – Fly out of Haneda to Munich, them from Munich to home.




Dentist – eek. Should have booked this for the day before the holiday, the time would have flown by, then!

Back to work – With lots of omiyage. And the best old book I found, to show to the adorable woman who likes old books XD.


HIJMS Mikasa

Right then, lets actually write about some Japanese things! Starting with one of the highlights of my most recent visit, the Mikasa!

The Mikasa is the only pre-Dreadnought battleship left in the world, and is preserved as a museum ship at Yokosuka, which is a town on the very southwestern edge of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area (and not, as I previously thought, Yokohama! I was staying in an eastern suburb of Tokyo and the Mikasa took over 2 hours to get to from my hotel).

Construction was begun in 1899, at Barrow-in-Furness, where you can still find a Mikasa Street, close to the river where the shipyard (presumably!) once stood. She was launched in 1900 and fitting-out took until 1902. The Mikasa was actually similar to the British HMS Formidable, but with two extra 6-inch guns (most of the armament was 4 12-inch guns, in the main turrets, 14 “medium” 6-inch guns and 20 “small” 3-inch guns). She was also armed with four torpedo tubes and a number of smaller quick-firing guns and machine guns.

She became the flagship of Admiral Heihachiro Togo, commander of the Japanese fleet during the Russo-Japanese war (and now enshrined at Harajuku, not far from the huge grounds of the Meiji Shrine). Togo had been trained in naval tactics in Britain, and his service in the war earned him the nickname “Nelson of the east”. Ironically his first taste of battle was as a shore gunner for the Satsuma Domain, fighting against the British navy!

Her fighting career was primarily in the Russ0-Japanese war, first in the Battle of Port Arthur, and the later Battle of the Yellow Sea, both of which might politely be called draws. Mikasa was probably nearby during the other naval engagements around Port Arthur too, when the Russians made various attempts to put to sea, and the Japanese made attempts to block the harbour. Both sides did so under fire from enemy ships and, in Japan’s case, shore guns. Most of the losses in these battles were caused by mines, though.

Mikasa, and Admiral Togo, were to earn immortality in the Battle of Tsushima, which was a decisive Japanese victory. The Russian Baltic Fleet, primarily older warships, had sailed all the way around the world (including around the Horn of Africa, as Britain controlled the Suez canal. The Baltic Fleet had, shortly after setting off, fired on British fishing boats, which hardly helped relations either). On the 27th of May 1905, the Baltic Fleet finally reached the Sea of Japan, where it was sighted by the Japanese fleet and engaged. Togo was able to “cross the T”, sailing his fleet in front of the Russians, and allowing his ships to fire broadsides into them, whilst they could only use their forward guns. The Japanese lost only three small torpedo boats, whilst the Russians lost 21 ships, including 6 large battleships. The war ended shortly afterwards.

Mikasa went on to play a minor role in World War 1, as a coastal defence ship (by this time, the “all big gun” Dreadnoughts ruled the waves, their mixed-armament predecessors relegated to support roles). Then as a shore bombardment ship during the Siberian Intervention, when Japan supported(!) Imperial Russia against the Communists. She was due to be scrapped in 1923, following the Washington Treaty which restricted the number of warships certain nations were ‘allowed’ (Japan’s quota half that of the USA and Great Britain). However, the signatories to the treaty were persuaded to allow the Mikasa to be turned into a museum, she was cemented into the ground, just offshore, and had her guns deactivated.

The Mikasa museum ship was first opened in 1926, and closed again at the end of World War 2. During the late 40’s and 50’s, she was reduced to a bare, rusting hull. I’m not sure what happened to the guns and machinery – some people say they were removed by the Japanese government during the war, to be melted down and made into modern weapons. Others say they were removed by the Americans, after the war was over. Either way, a campaign by American, British and Japanese naval officers saw the ship semi-restored (the ‘main guns’ are now fibreglass, and you can’t enter the turrets). She was re-opened as a museum in 1961, though apparently the below-deck areas only opened much more recently. A lot of the areas below decks are still closed off, I don’t know if they’re being worked on, or if they are just where the staff have offices and store rooms.

Mikasa Park Area

“Mikasa Park” begins quite a long way from the ship, and includes several ordinary streets, a school and what might possibly be one of the entrances to the US Navy base in Tokyo. Or at least, I confidently walked up to a gate where an oriental-looking guy in uniform was on guard (quite why a decommissioned ship would need an armed guard…). I confidently started speaking “Japanese” to him, but he didn’t seem to understand. I also noticed quite a few large white guy with trophy girlfriends lining up behind me. The guy eventually just gestured “back and round the corner”, so I carried on. Then walked into a school (-_-), where the guy on the gate did understand my “Japanese”, and told me to go back and round the corner again. I finally found a long street with a number of water features and “nautical themed” decorations.

mikasa_001 – mikasa_002 – mikasa_003

mikasa_004 – mikasa_005 – mikasa_006

mikasa_007 – mikasa_008 – mikasa_009

There’s even a “lighthouse” phone box XD


The Park Itself

I finally got into the actual Mikasa Park, and saw the ship for the first time, along with a statue of Admiral Togo. If I remember rightly an adult ticket is 500円. It then tipped it down (though was still super hot and humid), but fortunately the small gift shop has a large covered area I could shelter under and drink bottles of tea.

mikasa_011 – mikasa_012 – mikasa_013

mikasa_014 – mikasa_016 – mikasa_015

mikasa_017 – mikasa_019 – mikasa_018

mikasa_020 – mikasa_022 – mikasa_021

mikasa_023 – mikasa_025 – mikasa_024

mikasa_026 – mikasa_028 – mikasa_027

mikasa_029 – mikasa_031 – mikasa_030

The metal arches are, if I remember rightly, memorials to the war donated by Russia.


Not sure what the significance of the locomotive is XD

On the Decks

You can walk around the park for free, the ticket is only valid for getting on board the ship. Fortunately, as it was a wet day, there was almost nobody around. I took hundreds of photos, which I can use for reference in any Victorian / Edwardian-era navy comic that I may write in future. First I toured the decks and superstructure, though I forgot to go out to the bows and take pictures looking back at the forward guns and bridge.

mikasa_033 – mikasa_035 – mikasa_034

mikasa_036 – mikasa_038 – mikasa_037

mikasa_039 – mikasa_041 – mikasa_040

mikasa_042 – mikasa_044 – mikasa_043

mikasa_045 – mikasa_047 – mikasa_046

mikasa_048 – mikasa_050 – mikasa_049

Some of the rooms on the superstructure can be opened, but not entered

mikasa_051 – mikasa_053 – mikasa_052

mikasa_054 – mikasa_056 – mikasa_055

The Z signal flag, hoisted alone, was code for something along the lines of “The Emperor expects every man to do his duty”. It is also displayed at the Togo Shrine, and can occasionally be seen at nationalist protests.

mikasa_057 – mikasa_059 – mikasa_058

mikasa_060 – mikasa_062 – mikasa_061

One of the 6-inch guns. Presumably the plate in front of it was removed during battle, so it could be aimed.

mikasa_063 – mikasa_065 – mikasa_064

The ‘pillbox’ thing is the armoured bridge, where the ship could be steered from during battle. Of course, Togo just stood on the roof of a wooden cabin during the action! The thing up on the mast is what remains of one of the “fighting tops”. These were once equivalents of the old-fashioned crow’s nest – only steel and bristling with quick-firers and machine guns.

mikasa_066 – mikasa_067

The last picture is the small medical bay. There’s only one bed, presumably other injured crew members were laid in passageways below decks.

Below Decks

Almost everywhere “indoors” in Japan has a blanket ban on taking photos. The Mikasa didn’t appear to, but I only used the flash sparingly, and preferably when I was alone, so some of these pics are dark or blurred. Still, if you want reference pictures for the naval architecture of the late Victorian, Edwardian and WW1 eras, you could do worse…

mikasa_068 – mikasa_070 – mikasa_069

mikasa_071 – mikasa_073 – mikasa_072

mikasa_074 – mikasa_076 – mikasa_075

The Captain’s Cabin. Quite small, as the largest cabins aboard the flagship were reserved for the Admiral!

mikasa_077 – mikasa_079 – mikasa_078

Admiral Togo’s meeting room and cabin. Note the gun mounted on the fine, deep-pile carpet!
I once read a serial in The Boys’ Friend from 1904, in which the main characters are taken aboard the Japanese flagship and actually meet admiral Togo in his stateroom. The original writer of the story could not, of course, ever hope to visit such a place – but I did!

mikasa_080 – mikasa_081

In addition to some quick-firers for protection of his own cabin, he has his own shrine to pray at.

mikasa_082 – mikasa_083 – mikasa_084

The galley and one of the several bathrooms, with actual baths! Presumably officers only…

mikasa_085 – mikasa_087 – mikasa_086

The small shrine for the men, and the officers’ dining room

mikasa_088 – mikasa_090 – mikasa_089

The lowest deck had many small cabins around a large room (full of trestle tables with model ships on, when I went). Possibly the cabins were for NCO’s, and the men slept in hammocks swung from the beams.
The last picture is the upper half of what was probably once the engine or boiler room (or, at least, it’s more or less beneath the funnels). Sadly the mighty triple-expansion steam engines are long gone, they would have made awesome reference pictures. The big room instead contains a number of model ships (one of an earlier British-built Japanese ship, dating from the 1870’s), displays on naval tactics and uniforms and other artifacts

The tour of the Mikasa “ends” (or at least, it’s the place I went to last) with various displays about the modern Maritime Self-Defence Force. Their modern, slab-sided destroyers are probably sightly smaller than the Mikasa, and have a much smaller crew, but their weapons have a range, accuracy and power that could not even be dreamed of in 1904.

There we go

The blog has now been updated to the newer format, like my comic blog was about a month ago. Of course, the new and “improved” format makes creating 3-across image “galleries” far more difficult, and can ruin some of the existing ones. It also attracts many more spam comments (the “best ever spam blocker” that it comes with can’t be activated, either). I’ve had to put comments into lockdown, and they will need approval before appearing. I rarely come to this blog, so approval may take months, however if you use the same name on each comment genuine ones ought to be approved automatically, after your first one has been.


Another post taken from my comic blog 

I was on a manga-related forum a while back, where there was this guy giving it the usual lip about how “western comics” were failing because they’re “all superheroes”, and how manga is “succeeding” because it “has variety”. He went on to astound us with the amazing news that in Japan, there’s “even NAVAL MANGA”.

Of course, we know that’s complete nonsense. In fact, here’s a completely non-Japanese NAVAL MANGA I bought only a few weeks ago:


Which is actually a 25 year old reprint, but Commando can theoretically produce brand new NAVAL MANGA at any time.

Of course, the British comics industry (when somebody can be bothered to invest the millions it needs to make it worthy of such a name again) could do better. For instance, while we do have NAVAL MANGA, we don’t have a 400 page monthly anthology ABOUT CATS.


Nekopanchi, issue 73, October 2012

Nekopanchi seems to literally mean “Cat Punch”. One of the first ‘modern’ Japanese humour magazines was Japan Punch, a Japanese(ish) version of the british Punch magazine which was produced by immigrants. For a while afterwards “western style” cartoon illustrations (as opposed to funny Ukyo-e pictures) were actually called “Ponchi-e”, cementing the magazine as a solid phase of Japanese cultural history. Which may be the inspiration for the name Nekopanchi.

The issue opens, as is customary, with a colour section. First of all with an unsullied, and signed, reproduction of the cover illustration (more comics ought to do this, if they’re going to bury their covers under a million neon-coloured blurbs. And that goes for Japan and the UK!).


On the back is this, Either a slightly-blurred photo, or an AMAZING painting. I can’t quite tell. The background suggests it’s a photo, but the cats don’t look quite right to me.


The strips themselves appear to be a mixture of short comedy strips and longer instalments of advenure serials. Except they’re all ABOUT CATS (did I mention that?).



The lead story in this issue (though the order probably cycles, as is typical in Japanese comics. Even Naruto isn’t always at the front of Shonen Jump!) is called Kizutora Neko no Koume-chan. No idea what “Kizutora” is, but “Neko” is Cat, and -chan implies the name of somebody young and/or female, so presumably it’s about a cat called Koume. The story itself appears to be a kind of light-hearted soap, featuring one family, and the cat’s experience of what is happening. I suspect all of the cat’s dialogue is along the lines of “FEED ME, INFERIOR BEINGS”. This is followed by a more cartoonish story about the same cat going into a forest and having a meeting with other cats. Presumably about how to make humans work harder.


Our mouths are A’s

This story also features cats meeting in a forest, but appears to be a bit more ‘serious’ (and is brilliantly drawn). It appears to be set in a fantasy world based on the Edo period, where cats and humans can talk to each other, and some sort of giant goblins also exist. Oh and the cats appear to be led by a dematerialising giant monk. Or maybe he is Buddah himself.


This spread shows a couple of short gag strips commonly known as “yon koma”. No doubt “the faithful” insist that these are an ancient Japanese tradition, steeped in the mysteries of the orient and passed down through the generations from father to son. In fact they are exactly the same as newspaper strips like Dilbert, just vertical. They were probably originally inspired by cartoons in… Japan Punch! Because foreigners care more about British comics than the British do. There’s also an apparently complete story about a couple who are seemingly being kept apart by a “ghost” linked to an evil dragon statue, but a cat is able to see and fight the ghost XD.



This one is called Last Boss, and appears to be about a scarred cat who fights other cats for control of the neighbourhood. There’s also a small kitten who dares to stand up to those terrifying monsters called “swans”.


This story appears to be about a police cat who helps a woman to solve crimes. Later on it even gets it’s own uniform! Of course, her superiors aren’t impressed to begin with, but then the cat appears to pick out a suspect who (I suppose) is shocked into confessing that he really did it.


Some more gag strips, and a short story which appears to be about a very cute, small stray kitten that decides it wants to be adopted by some people, so just stands in their garden and refuses to leave. I’ve seen that before!


cha cha cha cha

More gag strips, this time with very simple, big-eyed artwork.


I beleive that gate is one leading to a temple near Tokyo Tower

Another story which is like a cat experiencing a soap opera. Except this time the ghost of an old artist is involved! The artwork is very good, though the people are drawn in an 80’s-looking style. Could it be a reprint from that time? It’s not out of the question for there to have been cat-related comics back then too! Japan’s comic industry is just the absolute best. Nobody in other countries should rest until their own is as good (though that does not, of course, mean mindlessly copying “the manga style” and complacently assuming it will fly off the shelves).


This is also marks the 6th anniversary of Nekopanchi, so there is a short article with several drawings (perhaps sent in by readers) to celebrate. Could you imagine such a “focused” comic lasting 6 years here? It’s hardly guaranteed even The Phoenix will! Still, though Nekopanchi is monthly, it’s actually quite small (by Japanese standards). The pages are about the size of reprint books, and most monthlies have 6-700 pages, or more.


Oh yeah, that book is about a dog detective XD

You may be wondering if there’s a similar comic about dogs (or ABOUT DOGS, even). Some people who know a little Japanese may even be thinking about looking out for an “Inupanchi” next time they go there. Well actually the dog-based equivalent is not called Inupanchi (or “Dog Punch”) but Wanpanchi (or “Woof Punch”).


“You’re biting my ear”

I’ll keep my eyes open for that next time, perhaps. Not that I can really read any of this stuff, and my next visit to Japan is likely to be the last, so I might never actually be bothered to learn the language properly.

Anyway, by way of comparison, here’s a couple of looks at British stories which are also about animals.


Nibbles, from the 1976 Beezer Book (which I actually bought when I was a kid in the 90’s, and read over and over! Far more entertaining than the annuals I had then) is a fantastically-drawn tale about a red squirrel who saves a boy after he falls down the stairs, by attracting the attention of the neighbours.

nekopanchi17.jpg – nekopanchi18.jpg

Daring Adventures for Boys is a book from the 20’s or 30’s with a lot of stories that are told from an animal’s point of view. Most of these stories result in the animal being killed by human hunters. I did actually wonder if the book was more modern than it appeared, and had been written by some animal rights organisation, but another story is about a black boy coming to a boarding school and ‘daring’ to be a better boxer than the white champion.


Aha, I’ve discovered that, if you create a blog post then view it as code, all the links to images are “absolute”, meaning I can now mirror blog posts without having to upload the same images twice!

Anyway, this was originally a post from my comics blog, but it’s about an antique Japanese comic, so is worth repeating here. I originally thought King was basically “The Shonen Jump of the 30’s” (though, of course, mostly text stories – Britain’s most popular comic through most of the 30’s was The Magnet, which was all text stories!). But later learned that it was actually aimed at an adult audience (adults of the time though, so it’s not full of t*ts and innards). It’s probably closer in style to British magazines of the 1900’s – WW1, such as The Penny Pictorial (which I have the first volume of, and will one day review on the comic blog!).

Curtis Hoffman, who lives in Japan and who runs a great blog about mangæ, has made a series of 3 posts about King. It was the first Japanese magazine to sell a million copies, and was the subject of a museum exhibition in late 2009:




King – Volume 15 (Shōwa 14 / 1939), issue 3 (March).


Rather unassuming cover. Horizontal Japanese was read right-to-left at the time, but is left-to-right (キング) today.

King was first published in Taishō 13 (1924) and was a monthly of about 520 pages. In common with British adventure comics of the same era, it was mostly illustrated text stories with a few comedy strips and articles. Judging from the illustrations, the text stories were mostly serious, but some were comedy. The illustrations themselves are in either line or wash, and are almost entirely black and white. A few of the comedy strips have light colour tones, and a photo article near the front has the photos reproduced in a strange blue/green tint. Unlike a lot of British comics of the era, it’s absolutely awash with adverts, and even has a couple of colour insert “postcards” with ads on them.


Incidentally, here’s an older issue seen in the Tokyo-Edo museum in 2009.

Like several Japanese comics today, the issue opens with colour pages, however these are just illustrations and plates, rather than strips. There’s a large fold-out section at the front (with ads on the back of the flaps – cram ’em in!) with nice illustrations along the top, matching the theme of the cover. This appears to be the contents page, or at least the lines all end with numbers.


If each vertical line is one story / article, it would appear there’s credits too!

Then there’s a wonderful full-colour plate, the title of which appears to be “parting from the breast”. The woman seems to be stopping her baby breastfeeding so that he can be given a Japanese flag, at a train station. Before I translated the title I assumed it was a picture of a welcoming ceremony for army medical officers coming home from the front. Anyway, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the Penny Dreadfuls, as well as papers like Chums and Chatterbox, would give away free full-colour plates occasionally. This one is actually printed on the pages themselves, I wonder if every issue included a painting?


A 520 page wedge of 75 year old paper can’t be folded right back for decent photos, mind you.

Following this is “Celebrity Success Album”, which has pictures of men at home with their children or reading big scrolls. I think the big scrolls may be awards from the Emperor, or maybe university degrees. According to my dictionary the word used for “Success” in the title means “Success in life”, so perhaps it’s showing readers the comfortable home life they can have if they work hard.


Had to hold the pages open with a torch. I normally use a really heavy weight, but didn’t want to damage this, it’s very possibly the only one in Europe!

Following this is another article, called something like “Situation Photo Sketch Report”. Basically news photos. The only news in Japan at that time was their battle to establish an area of influence in Manchuria, in northern China. They called this Manchuko, and it was unpopular with most of the Chinese people, and also with the other colonial powers who had already established their own areas of influence there. Guerrilla attacks on Japanese soldiers led to escalating reprisals on both sides, which resulted in what is euphemistically called “The Manchurian Incident” (because war was never formally declared).


The air force parading over Tokyo, with Mount Fuji in the distance


Northern China can be very cold! Though to us Commando readers we only really imagine imperial Japan fighting in steaming jungles.

After these articles we come to the first set of comic strips, of which there’s several ‘batches’, most of the strips are only single pages of 5 panels, often numbered (though that wasn’t unheard of in British comics at the time). From the artwork and overuse of a small katakana TSU, a ‘sound extender’ for making screams and shouts, at the end of each line, I gather they are all comedy. Most appear to revolve around family life and naughty children doing the unexpected.


This one appears to be about a sumo wrestler?


Mischevious kid doing… something.

Of course, most of the issue is filled with the text stories. These are in two or three “columns”, which are horizontal, as the writing is read vertically. Each story is introduced with a large picture accompanying the title, and has other illustrations throughout. Some, on their first full page of text, have a large amount of writing in a box. This is presumably a “story so far” section for serials. Others don’t have this, so the comic must have had a mixture of both complete stories and serials, just like British contemporaries such as Detective Weekly and Thriller.


This one is called “Love and Hate’s Writing”. Less literally, it’s probably “Love and Hate Letters”

There appears to be two basic kinds of stories, those set in the Edo period, when Japan was all samurai and ninja and isolated from the world, and those set in modern times. Romantic stories appear to be set in both periods, while other modern stories look like they’re about detectives, comedy or war. The stories set in the past look like they’re all quests to satisfy ones honour, fighting loyally for your lord and so on.


The would-be suitor gets advice from his friend? Those boxed out bits are probably adverts, they’re on almost every text story page!

The most obvious detective story is Hiyauban Tantei Jitsu Wa Shifu, two of the characters (Jitsu and Shifu) appear to be obsolete in modern Japanese (the Wa is “speak” or “story”, and may be in a compound with either or both). Hiyauban Tantei means “Reputation Detective Work”. The story seems to revolve around a house burning down and the masked detective investigating, finding a glove near the crime scene. Later on a submarine is involved!


This is a clue in any language

There’s also a war story, from the illustrations it appears to be about base camp life / wounded soldiers in hospital, rather than battle. Or maybe the illustrators just didn’t draw a battle scene. It’s actually pretty short, and is called Two Soldiers. Now that I look it actually appears to be a bedtime story told to a kid!


He’s not a ghost, it was the flash!

A more general adventure story is called Chikahi No Hayashi. Hayashi is “Forest”, but it’s spelt with wierd kanji (Chinese characters with both a sound and a meaning) here. Chikahi is “Vow”, so the story may be called Vow in the Forest. Either way it appears to involve a man and woman walking about in a forest and witnessing at least one murder.


All she seems to do is watch people get killed and cry. At least it’s a memorable holiday!

As well as grim and grimy stories like that, there appears to be more light hearted, comedy ones. You can usually tell by the illustrations. In the Edwardian period Union Jack would often use a certain artist when they did a comedy story, for instance in Butler and Page Boy from 1905/6.


Moving on to the historical stories, which all appear to be set in the Edo / Tokugawa Shogunate period. This was a span of around 250 years in which Japan was isolated from the world, any foreigners (with the exception of, apparently, some “Mexicans” from the very early history of “Mexico”, which was actually just a Spanish colony at the time) who went there would be killed, and it was also punishable by death to try and build an ocean-going ship. During this period the Emperor lived in the capital, Kyoto, but was powerless while the Shogun, the real ruler (though technically the Emperor was still called the ruler) lived in Edo, or Tokyo. At the time Japan was at peace with itself, and most people worked as farmers, merchants or artists. But it was still a highly-stratified, class-based society with the samurai as protectors of their feudal lords, and upholders of the law. Of course, the Shōwa Nationalist period was awash with stories harking back to this day of a “Japanese Japan” with a strict code of honour and everybody knowing their place.

…even though “Bushido” as we know it today was actually invented in the 19th century, and was heavily inspired by the honour code of British Victorian gentlemen.

kingu15.jpg – kingu12.jpg

This story is called Gokunan, or “country difficulty”. Presumably it’s about a rebellion.

Another historical story, with fantastic illustrations, is Wori Zuru Hi Henge. I can’t make head nor tail of the title, one of the kanji is fantastically complicated and has probably been taken out of use. Words I can work out are “Crane” (as in the bird) and “Transform / Become”. Mind you it’s possible part of the title is somebody’s name.


A wandering warrior with a baby, just like Lone Wolf & Cub (or Shogun Assasin). With less flying body parts.

There’s also historical comedy stories. Or at least this is the universal image for “toothache”, “you made those rock cakes out of real rocks” or “I’ve found the sixpence in the Christmas pudding!”.


Don’t think a Japanese story would have that last one, though.

 Oh, and also apparently revolvers and guys able to quickly draw and shoot them were not unknown in the Edo period. News to me.


The sundial struck noon

King also contains plenty of articles, with a greater or lesser degree of illustration. This one appears to be “moral lessons” of some kind. The first image (top right) is probably about showing reverence to the Emperor. On the next page there’s a guy giving up his train seat for a wounded soldier, and a crowd seeing the marching soldiers off from a temple.


Bit o colour again

There’s also an article which appears to be about religious observances, which at the time was “State Shinto”, a nationalised version of the indigenous Japanese religion. At the time they’d even banned Buddhism as “foreign”, even though it had been in Japan well over 1000 years by then!


Kids lined up with traditionally-shaved heads

There’s also what appears to be profiles of historical figures, with ukiyo-e style pictures or paintings.


With one old photo

There’s also, inevitably, articles about the army, with pictures (and probably profiles) of soldiers, as well as photos of actions and equipment.


Some mortars being fired at the bottom… are those white helmets?

There’s also some profiles of more modern figures. Most of them Japanese, but there’s also a picture of a future ally…


At the time quite a celebrated leader, actually. He reined in the mafia and Studebaker named a car the Dictator after him.

I make a policy of not going on about the adverts in old comics, mainly because people who have apparently never heard of inflation constantly waffle on about how Corgi cars used to “only” cost 2¾p, and other such nonsense. But I’ll make an exception here, mainly because a lot of the ads have really good artwork.

This one appears to be about becoming a railwayman or sailor. They’re the same style, no doubt the railways were nationalised at the time. Both ads have a box saying “Nippon Daiichi”, which is either “Japan’s best” or “Japan is best”.


Puff puff puff

The well-known Japanese love of photography is evident, that camera looks years ahead of ones I see advertised in British comics of the same time. There’s also a nice quack remedy – a magnetic headband?


Look at that thing! Other countries were still using wooden accordions.

This appears to be an advert for an upcoming story, or perhaps a seperately-published book. The big characters roughly translate as “Flame of Battle”.


Also used as the title of a Commando, many years later

And here’s one of the coloured postcards, advertising face cream. Another one advertises Club “dentrifice”, which appears to be the name they used for powdered toothpaste at the time.


Actually that’s called Club Cream

The back cover has an advert with a baby – just like the Pears Soap ads which graced the back of The Boys Friend Library for many years. It also has a small English section with the US copyright notice, date and issue number.


Oh and it’s orange.

Aand finally, here’s an image of King next to some more modern Japanese comics – Boys’ Monthly Magazine, and the weeklies Morning and Shonen Jump. It’s page size is a bit smaller, but then again it was mostly text. A much better comparison would, of course, be to the text story paper Lynx Library. But that’s still in a box on a ship somewhere!