Monday, November 30, 2009

apanese temple resorts to manga to woo visitors


HACHIOJI, Japan — Girls clad in maids' outfits are not traditionally associated with Buddhism, but that has not stopped monks at a centuries-old temple using Japanese pop culture to woo visitors.

The Ryohoji temple, built in the late 16th century in a Tokyo suburb, erected a colourful manga-inspired sign at its entrance in June and has since seen visitor numbers perk up -- especially young men.

But it went a step further at the weekend, setting up tents and opening up a temporary cafe staffed by bonnet-wearing girls sporting classic frills, one of the recent popular themes among fans of anime and costume role-playing.

The "maids" look authentic and old-fashioned in every way -- save for the short length of the skirts and the fake cats' ears on their heads.

And it seemed to work, the temple drawing hundreds of visitors on Saturday as the event coincided with a local autumn festival in Hachioji, on the western outskirts of Tokyo.

"I came over because this temple has been the talk of the Net," said Mitsutaka Adachi, a 26-year-old telecom software programmer, one of many first-time visitors to the ancient temple.

"I was a bit surprised to see this but it's fun," he told AFP. "This can motivate people to come here."

One of the maids, who only identified herself as Yurin, said it was "good that young people come to the temple."

"This is my first experience as a maid but I'm enjoying myself," she added.

Ryohoji's chief monk, Shoko Nakazato, 45, said he did not think it was inappropriate.

"I'm a manga generation who grew up watching them on television. I have little resistance to manga.... I wanted to tell the people that temples are a fun place to visit," he said.

Ryohoji previously had almost no visitors during the week, but recently up to 30 people, mostly young men, had come every day, Nakazato said.

Adding to the spectacle, Toromi, a singer who drew the manga characters on the temple's sign, was in a red-and-white costume inspired by a goddess worshipped at the temple.

"I'm so happy as unexpectedly many people came," said Toromi, who goes by one name and is a common sight in Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics district that is frequented by computer buffs and fanatics, known in Japanese as "otaku."

Ryohoji is also selling a 500-yen (five-dollar) card with cartoon characters which allows buyers to download three-minute motion pictures on to their mobile phones of chief monk Nakazato chanting prayers.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

It's the unreal wedding of the year


November 26, 2009
Photos courtesy Sal9000, via">

The honeymoon in Guam and, inset, Nene Anegasaki. Photos courtesy Sal9000, via

We may occasionally wish our spouses had an "off" switch but a Japanese man will have that luxury full-time after he married his virtual girlfriend in an official-looking ceremony over the weekend.

In a bizarre story reminiscent of the film Lars and the Real Girl, the man, known by his nickname SAL9000, fell in love with a fictional character from the Nintendo DS "love simulator" Love Plus.

Popular in Japan's geek subculture, the game invites players to pick a girlfriend and then challenges them to woo her by taking her out on "dates" and perform boyfriend duties such as saying "I love you" 100 times into the handheld games console.

Photos courtesy Sal9000, via">

The bride and groom in Tokyo. Photos courtesy Sal9000, via

The most successful lotharios can even give their virtual love interest a kiss by literally kissing the DS's touch screen.

But that wasn't enough for SAL9000, who wedded Nene Anegasaki in an official-looking but not legally binding reception in Tokyo on Sunday.

Unusually, before the wedding, he took her on a "honeymoon" to Guam.

The reception included a priest, an MC, a DJ, speeches from friends and family, photo slideshows, wedding music and even a bouquet. The entire event was streamed live on a Japanese video-sharing site, of which SAL9000 is a prominent member.

"I'm so happy so many people were able to witness this," SAL9000 wrote in a letter to tech culture blog, calling it a milestone in his life.

"Some people have expressed doubts about my actions, but at the end of the day, this is really just about us as husband and wife. As long as the two of us can go on to create a happy household, I'm sure any misgivings about us will be resolved.

"The two of us hope to continue to let our love for each other grow as time goes on."

Lisa Katayama, a US freelance journalist who covers Japanese tech culture for publications including, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and her own blog,, has been at the forefront of this virtual love craze.

She covered SAL9000's reception and in October interviewed young Japanese real-life couple Koh and Yurie, whose marriage took an unexpected turn when Koh took a liking to his Love Plus virtual girlfriend while on a business trip.

Yurie said she didn't have a problem with Koh's virtual indiscretions, saying "if he's just enjoying it as a game, that's fine with me".

And in an even stranger story, Katayama wrote a piece for The New York Times about Tokyo resident Nisan, 37, who fell in love with a stuffed pillowcase emblazoned with a depiction of a teenage video game character.

Nisan insists he has real feelings for the character and says he carries the pillowcase everywhere he goes.

"When I die, I want to be buried with her in my arms," he said.

But Katayama says people who dismiss these love affairs as the preserve of wackos are simply placing judgment too quickly on something they're not comfortable with.

She said people needed to stretch their imaginations to consider how far they would go in loving something that's not human.

"Here [in the US] it's OK to love your dog, it's OK to even love your car, but it's not OK to love an anime character," she said in a phone interview.

"We draw the line there in Western culture but in Japan some people still draw the line at cars and some people draw it a little further.

"I don't know if it's a good thing for society but we're always replacing things that humans used to do with technology, so it's not too far off to think that things like romance and sex can be replaced by technology."

Man Actually Marries His Anime Girlfriend On Guam


Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Saturday, 21 November 2009 18:53


By Jeff Marchesseault

GUAM - Doe-eyed, innocent, and cute beyond belief. What single guy wouldn't go for a girl like that? But given the fact that Nene Anegasaki is an anime character in a dating simulation game, most guys who enjoy spending time with her don't mind the constraints on the relationship. After all, it's just a game. But one boyfriend's love knows no bounds.

Several stories surfacing online are taking curious note of a man's actual church nuptials with Nene right here on the tropical vacation resort island of Guam, a hot spot for Japanese and Korean weddings and honeymoons. The couple may come from different worlds but they'll reportedly celebrate their wedding together among family and friends in Japan.

One blogger at, reports:

The two were married when a man brought his DS along with a copy of Love Plus to a church in Guam. There's no word on honeymoon plans, but the two will be holding a small reception for family, close friends and the internet on November 22nd. (Seriously, there will be a webcam and stuff.)

Read the story, "Guy Marries Video Game, We Don't Judge".

Read the story, "Man Weds 2D Virtual Girlfriend in Real Life".

Read the story, "Man marries his Love Plus girlfriend".

Read the story, "a man and his video game girl: the love plus marriage".

Read the story, "When a Man Loves a Video Game Character"

Taking the Ubuntu gospel to the Anime nation


by David M Williams
Sunday, 29 November 2009

People all over the world use computers for many different reasons. Yet, often Linux evangelists focus on those who already have a technical bent through initiatives such as software freedom day. The Ubuntu community in Massachusetts decided its time to reach out to a new crowd.
Ubuntu is possibly the most accessible and popular Linux distribution available today. With the release of Karmic Koala – version 9.10 – just weeks ago it is also presently enjoying a status as the most current operating system on the planet, even moreso than Windows 7.

Anime, on the other hand, is the term ascribed to animation, be it hand-drawn or computer-generated, which originates in Japan. Popular Anime franchises include well-known and successful cartoons such as Astro Boy and Pokemon.

The Ubuntu Massachusetts Local Community (or “LoCo”) has put careful thought into how they could prosetlyse the unreached. It occurred to them that a reasonable proportion of Linux geeks are also Anime geeks.

Consequently, the LoCo is now working to establish a Linux advocacy stand at the coming Anime Boston 2010 convention. The convention expects some 16,000 visitors which thus offers the potential for both Ubuntu and the principles of open source software to be espoused to a great many people who might otherwise not hear of them.

The LoCo is aiming to design Anime-themed flyers and materials explaining how free software can be used to create artworks, to watch DVDs and other media, and ultimately support the computing needs of the Anime-loving crowd.

In addition, English translations of the unique Ubunchu Manga will be handed out. Manga is the term ascribed to Japanese comics and thus has a close relationship with Anime. Ubunchu is a comic about Ubuntu Linux, and quite likely the world’s first Manga – or comic of any form – used to evangelise an operating system.

Ubunchu tells the story of high school teens who argue over which operating system is the greatest. Their view of Linux is steeped in visions of arcane command-line instructions and hours of inscrutable tweaking but this is blown away when they boot Ubuntu Linux and have it up-and-running with nary a few clicks of the mouse.

It’s likely the Massachusetts crowd are onto a clever thing; certainly, both Linux and Anime are out of the mainstream and even share cult status in some circles.

Unfortunately, at this stage nothing is certain with the LoCo still needing resources before they can fully commit to the booth. If you’re an Anime-loving Ubuntu-using geek in Boston, give them a call.

Perhaps Linux user groups around the world might like to similarly consider community events that they could find common ground with.