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Generation 5 is one of the more polarising generations with a lot of people really, really hating it. The common criticisms of it are that the designs are unoriginal, basically just re-dos of earlier monsters, and that some of the designs are just irredeemably stupid in concept such as an Ice Cream monster.

Whilst I can certainly understand these complaints I can’t agree with them. For me Generation 5 is a superb generation. Not only does it have tons of original ideas it also has polish. The designs strike a wonderful balance between the early, iconic stuff and the later more complicated designs without featuring tons of extraneous details. The colours aren’t overly fussy but pop and compliment each other. It’s just overall great.

Partly this is because Nintendo seemed to take to heart the criticisms of generation 4 and took a real back to basics approach with the games Black and White. For the first time since Red and Blue we get 150 all new monsters. No evolutions or prevolutions of older monsters and no monsters from original games appearing at all in this one, until much later in the game at the very least. In that sense it’s a lot like generation one. And that’s not the only Gen 1 throwback either, consequently you get a lot of homages to older designs. Now I know that I criticised the last generation for going to the RGBY well too much but the approach taken in Gen 5 is much better. These aren’t extra evolutions but a reinterpretation of a similar idea, and usually a more confident and developed interpretation to boot. I’ll discuss that aspect more in individual entries.

The other big design theme is the concept of New York. The Unova region is the first region not to be  based on Japan but rather New York and Manhattan. Consequently we get a lot less natural designs and a lot more monsters based on inanimate objects and human themes, reflecting the lack of nature in New York when compared to the nature obsessed Japanese. It opens up the conceptual palette a lot more and means that even when monsters are similar to older designs they usually have a few key differences to distinguish them.

Finally the games themselves are brilliant, indeed they may be my favourite Pokemon games. There are so many refinements and improvements that just massively improve the game. Moving the Pokemart into the Pokecenter is such a small thing but such a time saving thing that speeds up the more tedious aspects of the game. Making TM’s re-usable is brilliant and opens up the combat along with move tutors for really powerful but rare moves. Then there are the new innovations which aren’t gimmicks but add real depth to the game and much needed extra dimension, month cycles, battle subways, black/white tower, online functionality, Pokemon World Tournament, etc.

Gen 5 was in fact my entire inspiration for these articles since it got so much hate from a certain section of fandom and I love it so much that I honestly felt I had to speak up for it.

Victini

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What? Not a grass type starter? but, but every generation starts with a grass type!

Well usually but here we get the first of our (many, waaaaay too many) legendaries in the mold of Mew, Celebi, Jirachi etc we have the spirit of victory Victini.

His big theme is the letter V, for the fifth generation and also for victory. As such we get his big V ears and his v for victory gesture. I love that gesture, it is far and away my favourite thing about Victini because it is so very, very Japanese and I doubt most people pick up on it at all. You see Japanese people almost always do the v for victory thing in photos. Seriously go google Japanese teenagers (you might want to safe search it), first picture on my google images is a classroom full of kids doing that gesture.

You want some more examples…

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And let’s have some of me and random Japanese people

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The ini part of his name comes from genie and hence his hammer pants (I find it odd that at least two pokemon have hammer pants. One may be an accident but two is a conspiracy). I have no idea about his bum wings though.

Snivy, Servine, Serperior

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*slow clap*

well done localisation guys, well done. Serperior may be my favourite pun since Geodude.

You see a lot more variation in the grass type starters than the water and fires usually and Serperior and his brood is no exception. Taking the vine of ivy and turning it into a snake’s body with an ivy leaf on the tail is just inspired. It’s not just a great concept well executed either, there are tons of extra touches that turn this from a good design into a stellar one. I love Serperior’s expression, it looks so smug and haughty and with his name that does so much to convey personality. I love the high collar and how that also serves to make him look regal.I love how they turned the Ivy into fleur de lis. I love that we go from a snake with arms and legs to it losing its legs, possibly the only example in pokemon evolution of something that actually happened in real life evolution.* I love everything about this guy.

Mostly though i just love the fact that he’s pokemon David Bowie as the Goblin King.

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*contrary to popular belief Serperior does still have hands, they are folded behind his back in an imperious pose.

Tepig, Pignite, Emboar

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BEHOLD! The three best pun names the localisation team has EVER done.

Pignite guys, Pignite. Whomever dreamed that up deserves a raise.

The concept with these guys is hysterical. They’re pigs on fire. If you don’t get that it might help to know that I named my Emboar BBQ.

As if that wasn’t brilliant enough they also have a parallel gimmick of being different kinds of wrestlers. Tepig’s head colouring is meant to look like the caps Japanese boys wear at the school sports day for their various manly physical games like slapping each other and climbing poles.

Japan just doesn’t care about health and safety by the way guys, schools totally have a “let’s let the boys slap each other” event at sport’s day and nobody bats an eye lid. In the U.K. that would be a national scandal.

Pignite (love that name) is obviously meant to look like a pro wrestler or an olympic wrestler in the American style. In fact he looks a lot like Andre the Giant to my mind.

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Emboar obviously is a sumo wrestler and pig sumo wrestler is such an obvious and brilliant idea I’m amazed it took us this long to get some version of it. It certainly has more character than the boring anthro monster Makuhita.

Of the three I find Pignite to be the best, mostly because of Emboar’s fires. I can’t tell what they’re meant to be, a beard maybe? I certainly can’t parse them as anything a Sumo wrestler wears. Everything on Pignite though either says pig or wrestler.

Oshawott, Dewott and Samurott

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Of the three starters Oshawott definitely fairs the worst. Oshawott himself is pretty terrible, it’s an otter, but blue (btw Nintendo the water starter doesn’t have to be blue, we get that it’s water from the animal you choose usually) in a baby-grow for some reason. It’s not even cute, mostly because of the frowny face and dead, soulless eyes….

like a doll’s eyes..

never blinking…

knowing everything you did.

*ahem* anyway, Oshawott, not cute.

Dewott though is brilliant. He looks more like an otter for starters and his proportions and pose make him look like a martial artist. Well specifically he’s meant to be a samurai with the razor shells resembling the armour plates samurai have and his big whiskers looking like the fake intimidating moustache on a samurai helmet.  He looks badass, ready to throw some razor sharp clams and straight up cut a fool.

And then Samurott ruins everything.

Firstly it’s really weird that he goes from being bipedal to being quadrupedal. There’s nothing that prohibits that in actual evolution (although I don’t believe it has ever happened) but it seems counter-intuitive in pokemon evolution to go from being more human to more animalistic.

And whilst there is some samurai stuff kept the move to four legs just really cripples the samurai concept.  There’s also a ton of stuff that straight up doesn’t work, like the helmet. That doesn’t look like a samurai helmet. The guys called Samurott, just give him a samurai helmet and have him stand up and this would have worked much, much better.

Patrat and Watchdog

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Considering Watchdog is supposed to be a cross between a meerkat and a crossing guard (no really, check out what Japanese crossing guards wear below and look at Watchdog’s markings.) I find it amusing that Patrat looks stoned as hell. Again it’s all in the eyes, he is tweaking and is looking for munchies. I’d say he cleaned up his act but even in his narc uniform he still looks like he’s tripping balls. He must be a dirty cop.

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Lillipup, Herdier and Stoutland

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boring dog, boring dog THE MOST MAJESTIC MOUSTACHE I HAVE EVER BEHELD!

Gen 5 is resplendent with awesome moustaches actually but just look at that thing! It’s the length of his entire body! That is the platonic ideal of all facial hair. It is the single most manly thing I have yet seen and it isn’t even on a man.

Soutland most pull all the hot bitches* with that thing.

*not sexist, he’s a dog.

Purrloin and Liepard

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I’m sorry localisation team but there is such a thing as trying too hard. It’s a decent punning effort but I’m afraid it doesn’t do it for me.

Don’t be sad though, you still came up with Pignite. All is forgiven in my eyes after that.

Pansage, Pansear and Panpour

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Simisage, Simisear and Simipour

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Generation 5 also has a lot more linked designs than previous games including these monkeys. It’s a very simple design but similar in concept to Eevee, take a basic body shape (in this case a monkey) and make amendments to it that fit the elemental theme. So the colour, tail shape and head shape change to match the element. Nicely done and nicely executed. Although I do query why Pansage has brocolli on his head and Pansear has a cartoon poop on his.

But for the evolutions we get the added conceptual twist of making them musicians. So Pansage evolves into a 1950’s greaser complete with faux leather jacket and massive quiff, Panpour turns into a 1960’s doo wop/girl group singer and Pansear turns into Liberace….but fat.

It would have been perfectly fine to just do more adult looking versions of panpour,sage and sear but adding the musician gimmick just makes them that bit more interesting. It’s little touches like that make me wonder why people call this generation unoriginal.

Munna and Musharna

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There’s a lot of baggage to this design to unpack. Firstly Black and White introduced the dream world, an alternate dimension which can be made real using dream smoke harvested from Musharna. It’s just an online gaming feature basically but like any new thing they introduce they feel like they need a mascot Pokemon and Musharna is it.

They’re also both callbacks to earlier games. Waaaaay back in Red and Blue there is a comment from an NPC about wishing for a Pokemon with a floral print on it. And only fifteen years later they decided to follow up on that idea. Musharna is also a callback from an older game, Diamond and Pearl which mention a researcher looking into the prospect of a Pokemon that can link with dreams. This is all a bit fan service but it’s kind of mind blowing that Nintendo recognises it has a continuation of fans from fifteen years ago still playing who will enjoy these nods and winks.

Finally both designs are kind of a do-over of Hypno from the original games. Hypno was based on a Japanese myth about a monster that eats people’s dreams and the monster is usually depicted as a tapir like creature. Hypno though was not one of the more successful RGBY designs, being basically a tapir stood up. Munna and Musharna are much more distinctive creatures with more appealing designs even if they basically are still tapirs.

Pidove, Tranquill and Unfezant

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Speaking of do-overs, apparently enough people thought that Pidgey from RGBY looked nothing like a pidgeon, missing the point that he was a wood pidgeon, that they decided to do another pidgeon. Although rather than evolving into a bigger pidgeon with a punk rock haircut he evolves into a pheasant with a masquerade mask. These three are fine, if a bit fussy. The localisation team are trying to force the puns too much again though.

Blitzle and Zebstrika

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Zebra but with the white parts turned into lightning bolts is such a simple and inspired premise that I’m amazed it took until Gen 5 for it to happen. That said the execution is not perfect. I don’t like the shape of Zebstrika’s tail, just leaving it as a bolt would have been better than the spark ending. There’s also still a lot of curved white lines where I would have made them all straight with bolt shaped kinks. I also think Blitzle’s single mohawk-esque bolt is much better than Zebstrika’s two horn bolts.

Roggenrola, Boldore, Gigalith

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The localisation team must have been absolutely gutted when presented with the design that became Roggenrolla. Having already used the pun in Geodude Japan goes ahead and gives them a walking geode. What the hell are they supposed to do with that?!

Like Pidove before it this trio is another do-over of an RGBY monster, namely Geodude, Graveller and Golem. It’s sufficiently different to work as it’s own monster though. I love the use of geode’s as eyes, I also like the gem spikes which are intimidating and dangerous looking. The only thing I don’t like is the weird spike on Roggenrolla’s head which make’s it look like the spike is his head and is just confusing.

Woobat and Swoobat

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For years I though Woobat was an incredibly lazy design. Basically just a ball of fur with bat wings and inexplicable heart shaped nose. Then I saw these guys.

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I’ll quote my long suffering girlfriend’s reaction when she saw that picture;

“OH MY GOD LOOK AT THEM! They look like mini pigs. Mini pigs with fur.” and then she just made some squeeing noises. It went  on for a while but she seemed happy enough.

If anything the Pokemon version is butcher and more macho than the real animal.

Swoobat though is a total mess. He’s supposed to be a foxbat, hence the head, but they’ve kept the heart nose which now looks out of proportion and doesn’t match the head shape. I don’t get the thinking at all behind the collar or the tail. They look like they’re going for cute but it’s just loads of random elements shoved together. It totally lacks cohesion.

Drilbur and Excadrill

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Do-over of Diglett but Drilbur actually looks like a mole. A mole with giant steel drill hands, again that is such a strong concept I’m amazed it wasn’t done earlier.

Excadrill  unfortunately, is not so assured. This is a shame because in game he is an absolute monster, easily one of the most powerful beasties in the game (in fact a lot of competitive websites ban his use entirely). The body is just a larger more dangerous looking version of Drilbur which is fine but what spoils is it is the weird second head. I know what they’re going for, the idea is the extra drill looks like a larger more dangerous head with the real head hidden underneath. But the sizes and positions mean it doesn’t quite work.

Audino

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This generation’s big pink big eared girly monster to go with Clefable, Blissey and Wigglytuff only with….long ears?  I did some reading and apparently the ears are supposed to resemble stethoscopes so this is another nurse themed monster. Again I’ll stick that one in the “this is probably someone’s fetish” pile with Chansey.

Timburr, Gurdurr, Conkeldurr

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Timburr has by far the best evolution gimmick I have ever seen. His 2 x 4 evolves with him into a girder and then concrete pillars. That makes,NO, SENSE, WHATSOEVER! I don’t know if I have to explain this guys but evolution doesn’t work that way. It makes perfect sense in the world of Pokemon evolution though and is so out there and crazy that I don’t know how you could not love it.

Unfortunately the monster holding the tool is not quite as inspired. Especially Gurdurr. Why is Gurdurr a clown? Because he is. He has a big red nose and curly hair. He might have disturbingly big and veiny arms but he is unmistakably a clown. A muscular clown wielding a steel girder….well it’s original at least.

Tympole, Palpitoad and Seismitoad

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OH MY GOD KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!

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Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

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Good god that thing is hideous. I know it’s supposed to be headphones but the incredibly human face on the tadpole just freaks me out. That’s David Lynchian in it’s terror. Children should not be exposed to that. It looks like something anti-abortion protestors would have on a placard. Creepy.

And the other two evolutions look like frogs with huge cancerous growths.

Throh and Sawk

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This right here, this is the very definition of lazy. These are the platonic ideal of boring anthro monsters. They’re wearing clothes for gods sake, wild animals should not be wearing judo gi. Where did they get them from anyway? Do they rob dojo’s? Are they born with them on? Do they mug martial artists? What does a naked Throh look like? Actually never mind, I don’t want to know that last one.

Sewaddle, Swadloon and Leavanny

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Hey Throh and Sawk, here’s another wild animal wearing clothes. MADE FROM LEAVES. You see the difference, how one is plausible animal behaviour and one is drawing human’s and then messing up the face.

High concept aside these three aren’t great but I love Swadloon’s hilarious frowny face. For a bug all snuggled up in a rug he sure looks pissed off.

Venipede, Whirlipede and Scolipede

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Don’t these all just look bored? I think it’s the heavy lidded eye. They look less like they’re interested in battle and more like they just want to get it other with so they can go back to watching TV. It’s fitting because these are boring designs. It’s also rare that I ask this but can we have more detail on Scolipede please. His front looks like some kind of layers error in photoshop where they copied over everything except his front carapace.

Cottonee and Whimsicott

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Whimscott is adorable. Look at that happy face, that little guy just wants cuddles. And you know they’d be brilliant cuddles because he’d be so fluffy!

These two are great example of how you do a plant Pokemon right, they took cotton plants and decided that they looked a bit like sheep and boom, Pokemon right there. Sheep but with cotton instead of wool.

Petilil and Lilligant

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And here’s how you do plant pokemon boringly, it’s a nondescript plant shape with a face. Dull.

Basculin

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Second stab at a piranha does manage to look like a piranha, which is a plus, but like most fish pokemon is basically just a cartoony fish and so is dull.

Sandile, Krokorok and Krookodile

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Not actually based on a crocodile, despite all its name being crocodile puns, but a caimen. (see below you can tell due to the distinctive nose)

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These three are part of a baffling subset of Pokemon designs that take an animal that lives in the water but makes it a ground type…because….clever? I mean it’s an okay idea once but it seems to crop up repeatedly and it wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire to start with.

Also Krookodile’s nose looks like a dick. There, I said it. Are you all happy now?

Darumaka and Darmanitan

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Yay an attempt to get all intellectual and show off my knowledge of Japanese culture.

I mentioned that in this generation we got a lot more Pokemon based on inanimate objects and Darumaka is one of the first examples of this. Although he and his evolution both look kind of like monkeys they are in fact based on this.

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That’s a Daruma, a kind of Japanese doll based on a representation of the monk and Bodhisattva ( a Buddha who teaches rather than ascending) named Bodhidharma, credited with bringing the Japanese tradition of Zen Buddhism to China (obviously Buddhism originally came to Japan from India by way of China but Zen is a specific kind of Buddhism).

There are lots of legends regarding Bodhidharma  but the one pertinent to his doll is the following, from wikipedia;

Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have travelled to the northern Chinese kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Monastery. After either being refused entry to the shaolin temple or being ejected after a short time, he lived in a nearby cave, where he “faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire time”.

The biographical tradition is littered with apocryphal tales about Bodhidharma’s life and circumstances. In one version of the story, he is said to have fallen asleep seven years into his nine years of wall-gazing. Becoming angry with himself, he cut off his eyelids to prevent it from happening again.[25] According to the legend, as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plants sprang up; and thereafter tea would provide a stimulant to help keep students of Chán awake during meditation.[26]

The most popular account relates that Bodhidharma was admitted into the Shaolin temple after nine years in the cave and taught there for some time. However, other versions report that he “passed away, seated upright”;[21] or that he disappeared, leaving behind the Yi Jin Jing;[27] or that his legs atrophied after nine years of sitting,[28] which is why Japanese Bodhidharma dolls have no legs.

You’ll notice from my picture that the doll only has one eye. This is a Japanese tradition, the dolls come with both eyes blank, one is supposed to paint one pupil whilst making a wish and then the other once the wish comes true. These wishes are more in the style of New Year’s resolutions than desires so you might for instance wish to lose weight and then the blank eye stares at you accusingly until you do.

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Darumaka and Darmanitan are based on the doll (which has a very consistent stylised form) than the man himself. Darumaka is basically a Daruma doll with arms and legs but it’s such an unusual design for a doll that I really don’t mind that at all, I think Darumaka looks great.

Darmanitan is even better though taking the basic shape and re-interpreting it as a rounded ape like monster. It keeps all the cool unique design aspects of a Daruma but makes it look more like a viable animal.

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Darmanitan also has an alternate form called Zen Mode which is basically just a Daruma doll but blue, and considering you can get blue Darumas that is a touch on the lazy side.

Maractus

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It’s a cactus with a face, and we already have two of those. Did we need this?

Dwebble and Crustle

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Kind of this generation’s Paras being an insect with a big thing on its back but with a more thought out concept here that I’m amazed hasn’t been used before. It’s a hermit crab which instead of stealing a shell has stolen a rock. Simple idea, well executed. The evolution though is inspired as the rock turns into a massive slice of earth complete with geological layers. I feel like the logical leaps in evolutions in this generation have been more thought through and rather than just making a bigger uglier version of the prevolution there’s almost a kind of a joke to many of the changes.

Scraggy and Scrafty

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Scraggy and Scrafty are kind of a cute idea and an example of how stuff like Throh and Sawk could be handled better. What they’ve done is taken a human behaviour (hooligans that wear their pants really low) and looked around for an animal behaviour they can graft that onto (lizards shedding their skin). That’s neat, and it’s exactly how they should approach fighting types.

Alas that’s all the praise I have for these two, especially Scraggy whose face looks like a complete afterthought. Sugimori-san can draw lizards so why has he given us the emoticon for derp?

Sigilyph

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Sigilyph is a dream catcher turned into a Pokemon. It’s also an incoherent visual monstrosity that hurts to look at, but so are dream catchers.

Yamask and Cofragrigus

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Pokemon has occasionally dabbled in some dark themes. In previous generations we’ve had child stealing balloons, the animated dead husk of an insect’s shed skin that seeks to capture souls, the lord of nightmares, the god of the land of ghosts and whatever the hell is up with Lopunny. Ghost types in particular have always posed a tricky question, what exactly is a ghost type? Are they the ghosts of pokemon? Are they normal animals displaying behaviours we might associate with ghosts? Most of them appear to be haunting some kind of object so the shape and nature of the object distracts somewhat from this question.

Yamask, however, approaches the issue dead on. Yamask is unequivocally the soul of a dead human transformed into spectral form.

Observe the pokedex entry;

“Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry. These Pokémon arose from the spirits of people interred in graves. Each retains memories of its former life.”

The implications of that are horrifying. These things used to be humans, people with hopes and dreams and other people who loved them. They’re now reduced to floating spectres that are captured and forced to do battle for the amusement of 10 year olds. They are enslaved by other people. Infinitely, because being ghosts already they will never die and know freedom. AND THEY REMEMBER BEING HUMAN! No wonder they cry. If they could talk they presumably would articulate the longing and pain they have, how they yearn to be free of their torment, but no, all they can say is their own name. Not even their human name but the name of the monster they have become, their slave name.

But you know what’s worse? All of those facts are known. They were worked out by researchers who put it in the Pokedex. That means that humans in the world of Pokemon are aware that when they die they can turn into a monster and aware that those monsters retain human feelings and yet go ahead and enslave them anyway.

Pokemon is pretty fucked up you guys.

Tirtuoga and Carracosta

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Carracosta’s mask makes me think he looks a little bit like a blue ninja turtle. Interesting fact, the ninja turtles wren’t turtles. As a rule of thumb turtles have flippers, tortoises have a foot and terrapins are semi-aquatic and have a kind of webbed clawed flipper. When you see them before they mutate the TMNT are actually terrapins.

All of which is a long way of saying I don’t have much to say about Tirtuoga and Carracosta.

Archen and Archeops

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Like Cranidos before them Archen and Archeops get points just for being based on one of my favourite dinosaurs, Archeopteryx.

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You might be looking at that artist’s impression and saying, “Adam, that’s a bird,” but that would be exactly why it is awesome. Archeopteryx is one of the earliest birds and one of the last dinosaurs and the strongest fossil evidence that dinosaurs did indeed evolve into birds.

Trubbish and Garbodor

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Of all the inanimate objects given a face in this generation my favourite is far and away Trubbish. That little guy just looks so cute. His eyes gazing up at you seems to imploringly ask, “why, why does everyone hate me? I only want love.” Awww Trubbish, it’s because you smell of garbage little dude. Don’t worry though, I love ya.

Zorua and Zoroark

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Zorua has one of the coolest in game abilities as at the beginning of fights it doesn’t look like itself but the last Pokemon on your team. It’s an illusion Pokemon casting spells to appear like something else.

There’s not much in the design to suggest that though, except really subtly. Zorua and Zoroark are based on foxes, known for being cunning and the expression on their faces really suggests an intelligence and sly quality. Beyond that though these are sleek, dangerous looking designs but they’re basically just cartoony foxes, one of which is stood up.

Minccino and Cinccino

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A chinchilla with a fashionable goatee and a chinchilla dressed up like a 1950’s hollywood starlet in elaborate furs. I find the idea of a furred animal wearing furs to be…conceptually troubling at best. This is one for the girls that like to squee at cute things with very little thought put into it.

Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle

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Now this, this is brilliant. Gohita and it’s evolutions are basically a boring anthro monster. But they’re a boring anthro monster based on something so bizarre that I can’t help but love it.  They’re based upon Gothic Lolita fashions. You might have read the word Gothic there and started picturing pale, thin boys in black jeans and cure t-shirts wearing eye liner and obsessing over death but that’s not really it at all. Gothic Lolita is a Japanese subb-culture and it’s less morbid and more about a fetishised version of Victorian fashion, taking the visual signifiers of that time period, lace, bows, petticoats and exaggerating them until you get something like, well, these;

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as you can see, we’re dealing with Tim Burton’s perfect women.

Gothita is not a great version of a Gothic Lolita Pokemon but that they tried at all is just magnificent.

Solosis, Duosion and Reuniclus

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This is a cell, undergoing mitosis.

Again, the concept here is so brilliant that the design doesn’t really matter to me but the design is spot on too. Simple and iconic and selling the high concept beautifully.

But this seems to be a design a lot of people hate, they don’t get why there is a gooey baby rabbit and have missed the point entirely. So let me explain, the green ball is the cell, the light green thing inside it is the nucelus, the “brain” of the cell as it were, those eyes, cytoplasm, that squiggly thing, the name escapes but that’s a cell component too.

And then the cell splits becoming two, starting with the nucleus splitting. Only in this case it doesn’t finish splitting so it now has two brains, hence greater psychic powers, and eventually it has three brains, not rabbit ears. And it looks like a baby because cells split during the development of embryos. Everything here has a purpose in serving the high concept and the high concept, abortion monster, is so fantastic that the design just flat out works. The only people who hate this monster are those that do not get the concept.

Ducklett and Swanna

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What I like with Swanna is that it’s dressed up in a swan lake ballet costume. So it’s a swan dressed as a swan. deep.

What i do not like about swanna is the feather bra, please stop suggesting Pokemon have breasts Nintendo it’s starting to get creepy.

Vanilite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe

vanillite vanillish vanilluxe

God dammit I just told you to stop putting bras on Pokemon!

If you don’t like 5th Gen Vanilluxe seems to be the prime example people use. And it is pretty indefensible, I’ve moaned before about designs that I didn’t think worked as real animals and you can’t make any sensible argument for the floating ice-cream cone.

But.

In a generation with a Gothic Lolita monster, an abortion monster, a walking candle and gears with faces ice cream cone with a face doesn’t really stand out. And they’re rapidly running out of ideas for ice types, beyond just taking an existing animal and making it white with some ice bits. It’s stupid, yes, but so adorably stupid that I can’t help but love it.

Deerling and Sawsbuck

deerling sawsbuck

As ever with a new feature comes a mascot Pokemon for it and this game introduces a season cycle. The idea being that with every change in season Deerling and Sawsbuck change to match it.

This is a great idea and whilst the execution on Deerling is meh the execution on Sawsbuck is fantastic. Turning his antlers into tree branches is a solid idea for  a plant type to start with and having those branches change like a tree changes in each season is just inspired. The actual animal underneath those branches is simple and uncluttered (so your eye is really drawn to the selling point, the antlers) but does subtly change season by season too. Sawsbuck is a terrific Pokemon, a real stand out of the generation.

Emolga

emolga

Why is this not an evolution for Pachirisu? It looks just like it except it flies. Dull.

Karrablast and Escavalier

karrablast escavalier

also

Shelmet and Accelgor

shelmetaccelgor

Although not next to each other in the Pokedex I’m dealing with these four together because of their relationship with one another. You see Shelmet and Karrablast only evolve when traded with each other. Shelmet busts out of its shell and turns into Accelgor whilst Karrablast starts wearing the shell to become Escavalier. That’s a kind of clever idea but these designs aren’t great.

Shelmet just looks stupid, entirely because of the lips. Those lips are dumb and I don’t think I need to explain why. And I have no idea what Karrablast even is. Some googling suggests it’s supposed to be a carabid beetle, which it in no way resembles.

Escavalier is okay, I like his lance arms but that’s it.

images (2)

Accelgor however I do like since it is a homage to masked rider and as previously mentioned i am all for Pokemon based on elements of Japanese culture.

Foongus and Amoongus

foongusamoonguss

This generation’s do-over of Voltorb whose gimmick was that he looked like a Pokeball. Remember kids, if anyone accuses Gen 5 of being unoriginal you point out that Gen 1 contained a ball with a face and his evolution, a bigger ball with a face.

Foongus is not as good as Voltorb though since he only looks a Pokeball from above.

Fillish and Jellicent

frillishjellicent

The concept of these two is spooky as hell. They rule an underwater castle, made of the ruins of sunken ships, together as king and queen and surrounded by courtiers. That is brilliantly creepy  without straying into the horror of child abduction or infinite slavery.

I don’t have much to say about female Jellicent because i’m too in awe of male Jellicent;s tremendous facial hair. He rivals Stoutland for most magnificent Pokemon moustache.

Alomomola

alomomola

Sunfish are such odd looking creatures that they make perfect Pokemon without really needing many changes but Nintendo decided to make this a more conceptually complicated creature by turning its fins into hands.

They do this a lot actually, Lugia, Kyogre, they’re quite big on turning things that aren’t hands into them. And then you get guys like Wobuffet staring at his useless stumps and praying for digits. It’s like Arceus only had  a limited number of hands and it was first come first serve.

Oh and the name is pallindromic (reads the same forwards as backwards) for an animal with greater than regular symmetry, I’d be more impressed if the name meant anything.

Joltik and Galvantula

joltikgalvantula

How cute is Joltik? The answer is all the cute, he is all the cute there ever was. The smallest Pokemon ever is logically based on a tick. I would have found it impressive that they made a tick cute but to make a tick look that cute is some kind of miracle.

And then it turns into out and out nightmare fuel. That’s cruel Nintendo. Funny though.

Ferroseed and Ferrothorn

ferroseedferrothorn

Boy there sure are a lot of inanimate objects with faces in this generation.

Klink, Klang and Klinklang

klink klangklinklang

Yep, lot’s of inanimate objects with faces.

At least they didn’t feel the need to stick a horn on them.

Tynamo, Elektrik and Elektross

tynamo eelektrikeelektross

Elektrik is based on a lamprey and since I am a cruel and sadistic man who enjoys tormenting others here is a photo of a lamprey’s face.

Boca_de_lamprea.1_-_Aquarium_Finisterrae

Oh you’ve seen it now, and you can never unsee it. Good luck sleeping tonight.

Elektross is based on a lamprey, but with arms, ARMS THAT ARE ALSO MOUTHS! That’s Lovecraftian in its horror.

Elgyem and Beheeyem

elgyembeheeyem

Little Green Man (LGM) and Bug Eyed Monster (BEM) here are boring anthro monsters with frankly bizarre heads. I get that Elgeeyem is supposed to look like a stylised “grey” alien but I don’t get the thinking behind Beheeyem at all.

Litwick, Lampent, Chandelure

litwicklampentchandelure

There are lots of ghost Pokemon that resemble objects and plenty of Pokemon this time around that are just inanimate objects with a face but what I appreciate about these three are the touches that elevate it above that concept. Like the pattern on Chandelur’s face that resembles a stitched mouth or the shape of Litwick’s wax resembling famous Japanese horror character Kitaro.

kitaro manga

Plus I just find candles to be quite spooky and ghostly things.

Axew, Fraxure and Haxorus

axewfraxurehaxorus

Axew and Fraxure look stupid, mostly because they’re generic dinosaurs whose defining feature, the blades, just look tacked on rather than integrated.

The axe is much more integrated on Haxorus and giant dinosaur with an axe for a face is the kind of ten year old fantasy Pokemon should be indulging more often.

I have to question the colouring choice of making the axe red though. That makes it look like it’s slathered in the blood of Haxorus’s enemies. These are kid’s games right?

Cubchoo and Beartic

cubchoobeartic

When I first saw Ursaring way back in Gen 2 my initial reaction was that they’d missed a trick by not making the bear an ice type, since there are so few ice animals and polar bears are one of the more prominent examples. Well evidently they thought the same as years later we finally get our polar bear. But rather than being just a white bear they have to give it some extra gimmick so now we have a snotty bear cub whose snot freezes into icicles. Eh, it’s okay. I feel they’ve missed a trick with Beartic since his proportions look odd. His head and shoulders are really small and his legs and lower body really big. It’s the wrong way round really, if they want to sell big, powerful bear monster it really needs big wide shoulders, as it is it looks really gangly.

Cryogonal

cryogonal

Cryogonal is why I don’t get all the hate for Vanillite because he has all the same problems but is infinitely more boring. It’s an inanimate object that cannot possibly move, breed, eat or be anything approaching a real animal, with a face. But, whereas Vanillite had stacks of persoanlity Cryogonal has barely any, you can barely tell a face is there. And it is simply covered in distracting and busy lines. It’s not even a good drawing of a snowflake since it lacks fractal details and is pretty blocky really. I hate everything about this Pokemon.

Stunfisk

stunfisk

This generation’s Slowpoke aka the dumb looking guy. He does look dumb, but that’s on purpose so you can’t criticise it. What I can criticise is the upside down exclamation mark on his back. What’s that all about, is he Spanish?

Mienfoo and Mienshao

mienfoomienshao

THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD DO FIGHTING TYPES NINTENDO.

Here’s the high concept here, Chinese martial artist, so they have the long baggy sleeves associated with traditional Chinese dress and Mienshao has the long moustache associated with Chinese folk characters like Pei Mei (who you may remember from Kill Bill part 2) but rather than sticking it on a boring anthro monster they stuck it on a weasel and it suddenly works, so, much, better! Being based on a real animal just gives it so much more of a coherent visual identity and for my money makes the non animal aspects (sleeves and moustaches, and that’s number three in the awesome moustache team by the way) pop out more.

These are great designs, especially Mienshao who looks sleek and deadly and fast, has stacks of personality in his expression and has a beautifully and subtly suggested high concept.

And also a great moustache.

Druddigon

druddigon

So, that’s where all the horns and spikes they usually stick on animals went in this generation then? All on poor Druddigon.

Poor guy, he looks like a 90’s comic character, give him some skulls and and some pouches and he’d be right at home in Bloodstrike.

Golett and Golurk

golettgolurk

Yeah, you guys already used the name “Golem” on a creature that wasn’t a golem and have used the golem concept before but with more a creation myth thing going on, now you’re just doing a straight up golem. That’s a touch lazy guys.

Actually, to be fair the concept here still isn’t a straight up golem so much as an ancient robot. And whilst a golem was an ancient robot this is much more robotic, having gears and command symbols and glowing with energy. Ancient civilisations creating a robot is neat idea but its not very pokemon-esque at all. In fact there are a lot of things here that you don’t see very often in pokemon, like the patterns on the shoulder pads and fists, and the eyes which have kind of an Incan thing going on with them. But then the shape and the skirt is more Greek. They certainly do a good job of invoking ancient civilisations but I think the high concept might be too far out there for Pokemon. What about this is an animal?

Pawniard and Bisharp

pawniardbisharp

Of all the things I thought they’d make Pokemon out of, a pawn and a bishop from chess would have ranked really low down on my guesses.

These two are out and out messes. Pawniard is shaped basically like a pawn but seems to have been inflicted with a variant of 90’s “spikes everywhere” disease known as “blades everywhere.”

I mean the head one is okay, the hand ones are fine, but the chest ones? They look dumb and add nothing.

Bisharp is even worse, he looks nothing like a a bishop, has even more extraneous blades and also has a fourth colour added which just makes it even more busy.

Bouffalant

bouffalant

This is a buffalo with an afro, a buffalafro if you will. There is nothing about that, that isn’t amazing.

Rufflet and Braviary

ruffletbraviary

Native Americans have feathers in their headdresses, let’s do a bird that looks like a  Native American brave. That’s a fine concept  okay execution except, again, Braviary has weird proportions. His neck is too long and his legs too long to be a convincing eagle, he looks more like a stork/eagle hybrid and I have no idea why.

Vullaby and Mandibuzz

vullabymandibuzz

That baby is wearing a human skull as a diaper.

Soooo how does that work then? Because when you hatch a Vullaby it already has the skull. Is it like a death’s head moth thing and it only looks like a skull but is just part of Vullaby? Or is the first thing a Vullaby does in this life dismember a human to hide its shame?

Either way it seems very cute for something wearing! a! fucking! skull!

Mandibuzz has a btucher’s apron and a bone thorugh its top knot which I’d say would be racist, but its a vulture, not a person. So I guess it gets away with it.

Heatmor and Durant

heatmordurant

I’m less surprised that t took us 5 generations to do an ant than some of the other animals that took this long (seriously still no tiger, cheetah, panda or gorilla still) because, well, ants are tiny and kind of hard to make monsters from. The solution they came up with was not that inspired, just make a regular ant bigger and colour it so it looks like steel.

Heatmor fares a bit better since steel ant implies a difficult challenge for an anteater and making his tongue flame was an elegant solution. The rest of his design is a mish-mash of pointless elements though, what’s up with his wrist bands? And I don’t even want to know what’s going with his crotch.

Deino, Zweilous and Hydreigon

deinozweiloushydreigon

Two words, bad and ass.

Let’s get the dull stuff out of the way first, we have a monster who goes from one head, to two, to three and the name is a riff on the german counting system, ein, zwei, drei. That in itself is awesome. The monster that concept was attached to is a generic dragon but that’s fine since the aim is to focus on the heads. The execution of the heads is great, especially as the closed pattern opens up like bus on a flower coming into bloom. I also like how much Deino looks like a Beatle.

Really though this trio is all about Zweilous, a three headed dragon with scary torn wings and terrifying eyes swooping down from the sky to rain destruction upon you. He’s even a rare example of something with what seems to be an extraneous line but that I can point to and explain, the purple liens break up what would otherwise be a boring expanse of blue.

Okay, he’s a shameless rip off of King Ghidora.

king-ghidorah

But you know what, King Ghidora is my favourite Kaiju. So if you’re going to rip something off, rip off the best.

Larvesta and Volcarona

larvestavolcarona

It’s a caterpillar and a moth done in a cartoony style. What is there to say. My only comment is I like that the fire typing is subtly incorporated in the sun pattern on the wings and….head spike, things rather than just making it bright red. Volcarona is a fantastic Pokemon in game but a lackluster design.

Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion

cobalionterrakionvirizion

The next (after Victini) of a whopping 13 different legendaries introduced in this generation (still less than Diamond, Pearl and Platinum at 14 though) featuring two completely separate trinities of characters what we have here is the three musketeers re-imagined as deer/antelopes. The three muske-deers if you will. That’s a neat idea, the three musketeers are a classic trio of characters with distinct personalities, the fat boozer, the classy womanizer and the more serious and heroic one reflected respectively in Terrakion, Virizion and Cobalion. I also like the idea of linking the sword fighting the musketeers were famous for with the horns of a deer/antelope.

What I like the most about this trinity though is that these look like three different animals but they also look like a trinity with enough shared elements to link them together. Pokemon has done this before of course, the legendary birds and legendary dogs were examples of this but they’ve also messed it up before (Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf). Even the shared elements though suggest personality rather than being copied across. All three have a shoe design but Cobalion has spats, reflecting his classy nature, Terrakion has sandals suggesting Japanese martial artists and Virizion has feminine boots. Similarly all three have horns, but Cobalion’s are high and proud, Terakions massive and curved forward and bulky and Virizion’s curved and feminine.

These are strong individual designs but really shine as a trio.

Keldeo

keldeo-resolute keldeo-ordinary

And to go with the three musketeers we have Dartagnian, the younger more impetuous wannabe member.

On its own this is not a terribly brilliant design. We have a unicorn with the tail replaced with a wave design, something similar to Rapidash but much less well executed, particularly because of the bright red mane which detracts from the water theme.

But teamed with the three muskedeers the design sings a lot more, how do you do a younger, weaker version of the muskedeers? You give it only one horn. boom, instant symbolism, the rest of the design really takes care of itself after that.

For some reason we get two versions of Keldeo, a normal form on the right and a Resolute form on the left. I vastly prefer the resolute form .For starters the horn is much clearer and more prominent and as that is the main symbolic element it really should be. On the normal form the weird blue bits don’t really look like anything, they just detract from the middle horn and make it look like Keldeo has some kind of armoured forehead. Also the pose and facial expression on the resolute form just says Dartagnian to me more.

Tornadus, Thundrus and Landorus

tornadus-incarnate   landorus-incarnatethundurus-incarnate

And here we get our next trio, and one of the laziest things Pokemon has ever done. This is exactly the opposite way to do a trio and the far worst one. The three muskedeers were three different animals with shared design elements. This is the same monster with a pallette swap and some design elements shifted. It looks like a copy-paste and it is terrible.

I’m not a huge fan of the monster design once to be honest, let alone three times. It’s a riff on Fujin and Raijin the Japanese gods of wind and thunder who are usually represented thus.

fujin_raijin1

As you can see they’ve taken that basic design and shifted some elements around. Rather than standing on the cloud the cloud becomes a bottom half and the row of drums or bag of wind turns into a kind of tail/tentacle feature. It’s not bad in concept but in execution it has a serious problem. It just looks too much like a guy. I think this might be what I dislike about Anthro monsters. You capture these guys and put them in a ball. I find it much easier to do that to a cat or dog based monster than something that looks like a guy, complete with arms folded and another fantastic moustache. That feels too close to slavery.

Fortunately Nintendo solved that problem by revealing these are illusionary forms of these monsters and actually they really look like this.

tornadus-therianlandorus-therianthundurus-therian

So this is much better. For starters they look like animals and like the Muskedeers they look like different animals with shared design elements. It’s just now the design elements are problematic. The shared design elements seem to be clouds, those tail/tentacles and bitching moustaches. But now it’s not clear that they’re supposed to refer to Fujin and Raijin. If you looked at Tornadus you would see bird, you would see cloud but you would never think Japanese wind god. It’s as if the uninspired designs had to exist for these better ones to make sense, and if that’s the case you just need to start over again as clearly this is an ill conceived concept Nintendo.

They have other problems too, most notably Thundurus’s bra, belly button piercing and low hipped pants. He’s dressed like a stripper, and it’s bad enough that they’re doing sexy Pokemon again but he still has the moustache! That, that’s just confusing.

Reshiram and Zekrom

reshiramzekrom

It really says a lot that about how the quality of the colouring has improved that we can have a monster that’s only white coloured and another that’s only black coloured and yet they still make sense, can have highlights and levels of shading on them. And I suppose with the game being called “Black and White” they have to at least try and do a mono-colour design, kudos for pulling it off.

Beyond that I don’t have much complimentary to say here. These are two fairly generic video game dragons. They don’t look like Pokemon, they have too many extraneous lines and no obvious high concept hook to be a Pokemon, they look more like a Digimon or hell a Yu-Gi-Oh design. The one distinctive feature of them, the generator/jet engine tail is poorly conceived and poorly integrated. You have a sleek silhouette on Zekrom that looks like some sort of dangerous super fast dragon and than give him a massive fat arse, it spoils it.

Of the two I prefer Zekrom though since I like his wings better  I prefer his reptilian face to Reshiram’s fox face and he lacks Reshiram’s disturbing feather cock.

Kyurem

   

kyurem-normal

Well this is an absolute mess.

I honestly don’t know where to start with how bad this is. He has all the same problems as Zekrom and Reshiram, (fat arse, cluttered lines) without the saving grace of being monocolour and with a few new problems to boot. Like his gimpy arms. Or how the pose makes it look like his right wing is smaller. I didn’t think perspective mistakes would be a thing I’d criticise a professional artist for but, just look at it. It’s even worse in game I assure you. And what on earth are the weird glass tips on the end of his wings meant to be?

You know what’s even worse, Kyurem is meant to reference 9/11. Yes, the terror attacks on New York, that 9/11. You see this generation is based on New York and Kyurem is said to have fallen from the sky. He lives in a scarred and destroyed area of Unova destroyed by his impact, that’s supposed to be ground zero and he’s supposed to look like a plane. I can kind of see the plane design, especially if you focus on the lighter grey elements, but just, Jesus. Way to keep it classy Japan. 9/11 is really something I want to think about in my children’s video game.

Ah ha, but, like Torandus, Thundurus and Landorus Kyurem got a second set of forms in Black and White 2.  So maybe like that trio he has a terrible design here as part of some link to a better design coming.

Let’s see.

kyurem-blackkyurem-white

Sigh.

So the idea here is that Kyurem, Reshiram and Zekrom used to be the same monster. Years ago the three split with Zekrom and Reshiram becoming two halves of the same coin and Kyurem a kind of withered husk they left behind. But in the second game an item called the DNA splicer is found allowing Zekrom or Reshiram to recombine with Kyurem.

I think the nicest thing I can say is that they should do look like a fused together monster. There are better ways to do that involving visual cohesion and thought but, sure, you could just slap different bits of each monster together and call it a day, that works too.

Meloetta

meloetta-pirouettemeloetta-aria

Oh thank god a good one.

Meloetta is a boring anthro monster (trademarked) but one with a gimmick and clever integration of the gimmick is really all an anthro design needs to elevate it to decent. In Meloetta’s case she’s music based and much of her design is based around musical notation, especially her arms and her hair (which is simply sheet music coloured in). The two separate forms sell two different ways of enjoying music, aria is a singer complete with dramatic gestures and a radio mike and pirouette form is a ballet dancer complete with tutu skirt. Everything else is pretty much a straight line suggesting legs and a head. It’s not the best design but it’s absolutely fine.

Genesect

genesect

This is a Kabutops.

And above is what happens when a team of criminals turns one into a cybernetic uber-predator.

Genesect is one of only two Pokemon designs that just straight up have a gun strapped to them, the other being Blastoise. And while Blastoise having cannons makes little sense in Gensect’s case it is because bad guys strapped a cannon on it. This raises the question of if you’re allowed to strap guns to Pokemon in organised Pokemon leagues. I’d assume not or you’d see a lot of suicide bombing Rattata, unless nobody thought to do it before now.

This is a gimmick Pokemon, the gimmick being, it has a gun on its back and really the design all works to sell that, the hunched pose, the minimal details on the legs and arms. The only other element we really need to care about is the face which looks dangerous and evil, especially with the double pupils in the eyes. This is not the best design but it achieves out what it wants to do comfortably.

Oh and it can turn into a spaceship too.

m02

I want my transforming Genesect toy and I want it now, so I imagine that’s mission accomplished for the design team on that one.

Overall Gen 5 is easily my favourite generation. Although people moan about the ice cream monster and the garbage monster really there’s worse or similarly bad designs in other generations. Most of the bad Pokemon here are either copies of each other (the Tornadus trio) or stuck with unnecessary details (Pawniard) not rip offs of older designs. Most of the variations on older designs, (Munna, Pidove, Drillbur) are vast improvements on the originals or at least distinct enough to be their own monster not just a rip off. Then we get original ideas that are fantastic, like fiery wrestling pigs, evil chandeliers, the three muskedeers and Dartagnian. It’s  a great balance between originality and classic ideas and I love this generation.

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No post tonight, my brain is tired. 

Instead you get this.

A deer attempting to eat metal.

A totem pole of robots.

A misogynist bar.

An actual record found in an actual shop in Shibuya.
(Obviously German beer drinking music was popular enough to warrant a sequel)

The most unappealing Italian restaurant ever.

RanDOM ENglisH CapitALIsAtioN

Something highly disturbing from Shinjuku.

And the most excited shoe shop you have ever seen.

and frankly you should be thankful you even get that.

I apologise but this post gets a wee bit poetic and flowery in the middle.

Momijidani is one of Japan’s two famous “viewing” seasons, the other being hanami in Spring. Momijidani means to go view the beautiful maple leaves that turn Japan’s forests into beautiful vistas of red and gold every autumn.

One of the most famous sights for Momijidani is Miyajima Island near Hiroshima. The island is covered in a wide variety of maples and even has a park dedicated to maple trees.

My girlfriend being wiser and more sensible than I rightly thought that it would be a great place to spend a long weekend. And she was right.

I don’t really have a lot to add about Miyajima since the last time I wrote about it. The floating torii is still a truly amazing sight. The view from the top of the mountain still offers a stunning panoramic vista of the surrounding area and the dramatic, moody mountains that burst from the sea like monsters rising from the depths. The climbed down is still pleasant and calm and takes you through beautiful primeval forest. There are still monkeys, deer and monkeys and deer together. The town of Miyajima is still charming and old fashioned and a delight to stroll through. It is, basically, still my favourite spot in Japan.

The main changes this time were to the climate and the amount of people in attendance.

Obviously it was autumn and as I said we had gone there to admire the autumn leaves. And they are definitely worthy of admiration. Autumn has always been my favourite season in Britain for the combination of the nicest temperatures of the year (September is warm but not so warm that you sweat from walking), the confluence of several festivals such as bonfire night and Halloween (which obviously isn’t a big thing in Britain but is to a horror movie buff like me) the beautiful crisp quality to the air and the glorious colours of the trees.

Japanese Autumn lacks the festivals and is still so wet that it jumps from hot to cold almost immediately but it more than makes up for it in the quality of its leaves.

I mean, wow! Words fail me.

The amount of forest in Japan helps this effect too. Japanese cities are largely devoid of trees (although Hiroshima is an exception) but just beyond every Japanese city is a dominating mountain range covered top to bottom in ancient forest. These forests are mostly a lustrous dark green but they are dotted here and there with bright apple reds, fiery oranges and sunflower yellows. In autumn every view in Japan gains a breathtaking multi-coloured backdrop.

Chief and most important of the autumn trees are the maples, the momiji which the season gets its name from. Not only do these trees effect the most dramatic change and most exciting of colours (just look at some of those reds and let your jaw hang loose in wonder) but the shape of the leaves further enhances their beauty. Symmetrical, angular, intricate, eye catching the classic maple leaf shape is the perfect canvas on which to display these autumnal compositions.

Autumn also grants the surrounding view a wonderful mist. From the top of the mountain the surrounding islands which rise so magnificently from the waters are draped in a mysterious fog. Thin enough that it doesn’t obscure the view but just thick enough to lend the islands an air of mystery and a vague ethereal quality.

Put basically Miyajima looks really pretty in autumn.

However, unfortunately, the Japanese people are well aware of this and they flock, in their thousands, to come see it.

This is a constant problem for the traveller in Japan. There are just a lot of Japanese people. And lots of these Japanese people want to do the same things as you. The Japanese are very good at enjoying their own country, much better than Brits are, and they love to travel and see the sights in Japan.

So you can be sure that at any major festival or any scenic spot that is particularly associated with a season there will be other people there in their thousands getting in your way and spoiling the view and the quiet.

Frankly I’m used to this by now and having to struggle through enormous crowds of people no longer bothers me quite so much as it did but it can still rankle sometimes, especially when we had to wait more than an hour for the cable car to the top of the mountain. Nor did I have the island entirely to myself last time either but whilst last time on my climb down the mountain last time I saw 3, maybe 4 people in total this time around I passed a group of 3 every 10 seconds.

The food is still awesome too. I introduced Fran to the delights of barbequed oysters. She didn’t like them and so I got to eat hers as well. She has no idea what she’s missing, they were tasty and juicy and perfect and meltingly delicious. I want some more just thinking about it.

And momiji-manju, basically tai-yaki but in the shape of momiji leaves, is still the finest invention in the entire history of Japan.

I’m back!

As promised Mummyboon is back onto its former regular schedule. To start you off I have some exciting news about deer.

Yes, deer.

I have blogged about the sacred deer of Nara before when I visited the city the first time. For anyone interested in my opinions of the deer and the famous enormous Daibutsu-den (great Buddha) at Todai-ji please check out this post from last year.

Since then my opinion of Nara is much the same. It’s a lovely city, very leafy and the main historical attractions are gorgeous and well worth the visit.

This time around I had gone to Nara with my partner in crime (or girlfriend if you will) to see a famous festival exclusive to Nara, the Shika no Tsunokiri or Antler Cutting Festival.

It seems that around the mating season the male deer start to get a bit crazy. They frequently clash with other bucks, rub their horns up against the trees (damaging the ancient primeval forest) and pose a danger to themselves and to the many tourists that flock through the city. So the priests at the shrine, along with local volunteers, participate in a festival to cut the antlers from the bucks. The festival has ancient roots so I’m not entirely sure how much of it is merely a tradition and a game and how much stems from a cause of genuine safety. Considering that the parks are full of both bucks butting each other furiously and very small children it is safe to say that there definitely is some safety purpose behind the event.

The event is held in Kasuga Taisha, the main shrine in Nara and the one from which the tradition of keeping tame deer stems. Kasuga Taisha is a pretty lively and colourful shrine with many different festivals associated with it. Okay, every shrine in Japan that consists of more than a covered statue has lots of festivals associated with it, but Kasuga Taisha has exotic, unusual and interesting festivals that attract a lot of attention. Besides the Shika no Tsunokiri it is also famous for the lantern festival in February and August, where all of the enormous stone lanterns that surround the shrine are lit and visitors are invited to admire the combination of lamplight, ancient woods and deer.

We approached Kasuga Taisha at about 2:40, a good 2 hours and 40 minutes after the festival began and loooooong after I intended to be in Nara. This was in part because I badly misjudged the amount of time it takes to get to Nara (I always forget just quite how far away it is) but primarily because many of the trains we intended to catch were delayed due to “human accident damage” i.e. a suicide on the rails.

Not to make light of what is obviously a tragic event and a damming indictment of the alienation in modern society and modern Japanese society in particular but I have never understood the impulse for people to kill themselves on public holidays. Why do you want to make your last action on the planet one that will annoy hundreds, if not thousands, of people?

Anyway, late arrival or not we didn’t actually miss much. Apparently the festival functions largely like a short show that lasts about 15 minutes and is repeated for three hours every Sunday and holiday in October. Visitors join a short queue and then are led into an amphitheatre. The theatre is roughly oblong with curved ends and long straight sides like an ice hockey rink. Visitors sit or stand all around the edge and peer down onto a field. Surrounding the field are very high walls which the seats join onto so that spectators are about 8 or 10 feet above the field. At either end of the field is a stake or post stuck into the ground. In the field are about 10 men known as Seko along with a Shinto priest and three bucks. The deer are gathered and corralled into a “deer house” (basically a very large pen, along with some does, food, water, etc) beforehand and three bucks are used in the ceremony at any one time.

Some of the Seko are armed with Danpi, basically a long bamboo pole with a red flag on the end. One of the Seko has a blue flag. Apparently the bucks will avoid the red but will move towards the blue. About 4 men are holding Juji basically a lasso but with the circular part stretched across a bamboo frame shaped like a cross.

The bucks are mostly just standing around, eating grass and occasionally butting heads with one another. They are clustered at one end and the Seko are gathered at the other. Eventually once the crowd is full the game begins.

Some of the Seko armed with flags begin to chase the deer, making noises and calling out. The deer spring about trying to escape but the men begin to herd them towards the other end of the field. As the bucks reach the far end the remaining Seko use their Danpi to make a wall forcing the buck to run around the edge of the field and speed up. Finally the Seko with the blue flag stakes it down and the buck leaps towards it. As he passes it the Seko’s with Janji strike the bucks horns. The bamboo cross is knocked away by the force of the buck and the noose immediately tightens around the antlers.

Well, this is what happens in theory. In practice the bucks have to be goaded to dash past the Janji several times before a successful contact is made. Whilst this is happening the audience is tantalized by the various missed throws, the times when the rope catches but the buck dislodges it or moments when the buck decides not to play the game by the rules and make a mad leap or a dash towards one of the Seko, threatening him with those antlers.

Eventually a rope is tied around both antlers and the buck is dragged towards one of the posts. He struggles, pulling his head this way and that and attempting to get free. Sometimes he does so but the rope is immediately snatched up again. Eventually with all 10 of the Seko pulling at him he stands no chance and is brought to hell and left to bang his head fruitlessly against the post.

Now all of the participants begin to restrain the buck, using primarily their own strength they hold him still and carry him onto a tatami mat. They rest his head on a pillow, hold him down and bind his legs.

Now the priest comes over. He offers the buck a drink of water and pets him until he begins to calm down. The priest then takes out a saw and goes to work swiftly removing the antlers.

Finally he raises the antlers up, turning to let the audience see and offering the antlers to the kami of the shrine.

Whilst the priest is sawing at the antlers several of the remaining Seko are holding up a bright red wall which stretches across the field. This prevents the remaining bucks from attacking the prone one or interfering in the sawing.

The antlers raised, the buck is untied and he immediately leaps up and moves, almost nonchalantly, out of a gate and back into the “deer house”. His demeanor doesn’t seem to suggest loss, anger or annoyance but rather a graceful defeat. His movements say “well, I put up a good game but you won in the end lads.”

Rinse and repeat with the remaining two bucks and you have an interesting afternoon.

Despite all the difficulties involved getting there I greatly enjoyed the Shika no Tsunokiri. It genuinely is a thrilling spectacle. I’m not usually one for spectating at sports but there is something very different when the deer are involved. The way they move, the grace and power in their assured, confident leaps is hypnotic. They are simply amazing and beautiful to watch. In a way the loss of their antlers is a big anti-climax. Whilst you do root for the Seko and the capture of the deer feels like a victory seeing these proud stags divested of their antlers is a little bit sad. However the momentary sadness is more than made up for by the thrill of simply watching these animals move.

The rest of the day was nothing particularly blog-worthy. Fran and I visited the Daibutsu (it is still amazing) and the enormous bell (which is also still amazing) and we fed deer in the park. I didn’t do this the last time I came to Nara because I had nobody to feed deer with. This time around I gamely had a go and it was, well, rubbish really. I think you need to be a kid to get any sense of wonder from it. Still I am glad I did it because I got to see the spectacle of Fran being mobbed by 3 deer at once. As she frantically tried to feed them all she had they butted up against her and frantically scrambled for food. She got very annoyed that I was taking pictures instead of coming to her rescue but the memory of the sight of her was more than worth it.

We finished the day in a café called “Shizuka’s” which I can highly recommend. Shizuka’s specializes in a Nara-specialty known as Kammameishi. Basically an iron pot in which rice is cooked together with fish and vegetables. We ordered the Nara special consiting of crab, prawns, eel, burdock, onion, egg, peas and rice all cooked together. It came served in the pot together with miso soup, pickles and some vegetables cooked in broth; as most Japanese meals are. It wasn’t exactly a culinary revelation but it was tasty, cheap and very filling. Like most Japanese cooking the idea is to let the quality ingredients speak for themselves rather than heavily season the dish and in this respect it was superb.

We had yet another delayed train on the way home but not even that could dampen a unique and thrilling experience.

Hiroshima Day 2

The plan for Day 2 was to get up early, head to Miyajima Island to climb Mt Misen and then spend the rest of the day on Miyajima getting some photos of the “floating torii.” Reportedly, one of the three most beautiful and most photographed views in all of Japan.

Of course the problem with this is that I lost my camera. So I had to hang around in Hiroshima until 10 o’clock when the shops opened, find an electronics shop, buy a camera, charge the battery and then head to Miyajima. I eventually arrived at about 1 o’clock, a good 3 hours after the planned time.

However, whilst I was not too pleased about having to fork out for a camera and being late any residual anger I had left me the minute I came into view of Miyajima.

It’s wonderful.

The ferry that takes you to the island crosses in front of the famous floating torii on its way there. Unfortunately for me the floating torii only floats during a high tide and as I approached it was low tide and the torii was surrounded by nothing more beautiful than sand and tourists. Even so it was still an impressive sight. Elegantly constructed and massive it dwarfed the people surrounding it and is immediately eye catching.

I was going to have to wait until high tide to see the torii but I had to climb the mountain straight away if I wanted to have a chance to visit anything else. Pausing only to feed my complaining stomach some yakitori (which was delicious and juicy and the best I have ever had) I headed off to Misen.

The first stage of the climb requires leaving the small town that surrounds Itsukushima-jinja and the torii and heading up the slope to the cable car. The town of Miyajima is phenomenally touristy but still really nice. Moving away from the main shopping arcade it’s quiet, decidedly old fashioned and full of winding narrow hilly streets, interesting little shops and handsome older Japanese style buildings. Oh and there are tame deer wandering through the streets too which adds a certain novel charm. Pretty as it was it was also bloody steep and I was knackered just reaching the cable car.

On the way up the mountain I saw what may be my 2nd favourite sign so far in Japan.

The second stage of the climb is to get on the cable car which, yes I realise, is a bit of a cheat. Time was a factor though and I resolved to take the scenic route down. The cable car ride was absolutely stunning. Miyajima sits at the entrance to the Seto Inland Sea, which isn’t inland at all but is between two of the main islands of Japan. The Seto Sea is full of tiny but tall mountains formed from volcanoes. They rise out of a perfect blue ocean like the teeth of some great monster. Small islands you could walk around in an hour but impossibly tall and pointy for their size. They’re absolutely gorgeous, some of the most captivating scenery I have ever seen.

Eventually we got to the top of the cable car where I was greeted by what is easily my favourite sign in Japan so far.

MONKEYS!

Yup monkeys. Deer too. At the top of the cable car there is a rock park with a small observatory that is full of macaques and deer. I love monkeys. These were far less terrifying than the ones in Yamasaki too as they weren’t circling us to try and steal our food. It was a bit freaky though when one nearly fell on me after leaping off a roof.

Also how cute is this sign.

As it was spring time there were lots of little baby monkeys running about too. I saw one incredibly sweet little thing climbing out of a hole. When his mother spotted me with my camera she immediately swept him up in her arms and turned her back to me.

This pair on the other hand had no shame.

And may I just go on record as saying that distended monkey nipples are some of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.

Shudder!

Although I could have stayed all day I had a mountain to climb. So I embarked on stage 3, up the path to the peak.

The path to the summit wanders through a primeval forest that is pretty dark and absolutely full of animals. May favourites were the frogs that made a noise like a video recorder rewinding. Not that that means much to many of you young whippersnappers but trust me they sounded exactly like a rewinding video.

After about 20 minutes I reached a temple dedicated to Kobo Daishi, the monk responsible for inventing kana. The main claim to fame for this temple is that Kobo Daishi once ate at this spot on his way up Mt Misen on a pilgrimage. The cooking fire he used is apparently still burning and the focal part of the temple is a shed containing a small fire and an enormous cast iron pot. Highly doubtful that a priest would have an enormous cast iron pot which he just left behind but interesting nonetheless.

I thought that this temple was at the summit but I spotted a staircase and guessed that I needed to keep going. Then I came to an open plain with some rocks and figured I’d reached the top but no, another staircase. This happened about 5 or 6 times before I eventually, mercifully came to the actual summit.

Whereupon the grey clouds that had been doggedly pursuing me all day parted and I stared down upon one of the most serenely beautiful things I have ever seen.

The view was amazing. As I mentioned last post no matter how high you climb in Japan you can always see mountains and I could here. But their character was totally different to those I had seen on my way here. The mountains on the land are soft, dark green and wave like. The whole landscape is little more than a bumpy plain of dark green hills. Here the trees were bright green and contrasted against the absolutely glorious blue of the sea. And they didn’t roll but jutted straight up in the air. I could see all the way to Shikoku!

I just sat and stared for ages. A good half hour easily, with my lower jaw hanging heavily down. I was dumbstruck.

Then I spotted that there was an observation tower and more stairs to climb. *sigh*. I climbed it but the view was not significantly improved by the extra 10 ft of height.

Underneath the observation tower was a house on a hillside with a little café attached. I went inside and got a beer and some crisps and ate staring at the sublime vista. The man who served me was one of the smiliest men I have ever seen. I assume he lives near the top of the mountain, or at least spends most of his day there and the smile is the result of the absolutely stunning scenery.

And then it was time to head down.

Just as I was about to set off I passed a couple just reaching the peak. The girl was wearing enormous high heels, real stilettos. God only knows what she’d done to her feet on the climb up.

There are a couple of different routes down the mountain but the one I wanted to take passed a shrine on the way down. The colourful shrine of Daishoo-in which promised a koi carp pond, a Zen garden and basically everything one could possibly want in a shrine.

Unfortunately that route was shut so I instead headed off back through the forest.

It was shockingly quiet. Japan is so full of background noise that I can never get used to the moments in its countryside that suddenly goes quiet. It’s like stepping outside of the real world and into some fantasy setting. I half expected a kappa to leap from the water at any second.

The path followed a stream down to the base of the mountain. Periodically at points along the stream there was half a dam across it made of stones. I discovered at the bottom that these are actually erosion defences. In the 1930’s buildings at the bottom of the stream and much of the scenery of the forest was destroyed by a freak monsoon that caused the stream to burst its banks and flood. The town of Miyajima embarked upon a plan to stop this happening by installing some flood defences. However they faced the problem that all of the flood defence ideas would involve building some kind of dam that would detract from the beauty of the area. Then they hit upon the idea of disguising the dam to look like a traditional Japanese garden. And it works! The garden at the base of the mountain is lovely and completely hides all the flood defences at the bottom and the dams going up the mountain are shaped to fit into the surrounding area. It’s a rare example of local government actually improving on something and getting it right.

According to the “lonely planet” guidebook the descent takes “a good hour.” I managed it in nearly half of that and I wasn’t exactly running.

At the bottom I made my way quickly to “Itsukushima-jinja” before it closed. Itsukushima-jinja is the shrine for which the island is properly named (Itsukushima) and is the shrine that the floating torii marks the entrance too. It is a very unusual shrine in that it is mostly not on the island at all but rather is constructed like a pier jutting off the beach. The reason for this is that the god the shrine venerates is the entire island itself, which is considered to be holy. Because the island is so holy common people weren’t allowed to set foot on it. They had to cross over from the mainland, pass through the floating torii and worship on the shrine.

Although it looks quite nice from a distance and is quite unusual the actual shrine itself is pretty dull and doesn’t boast any interesting relics or statues. The one feature that I did enjoy was this bridge that joins the island to the shrine. In older days messengers from the Empress Suiko would cross this bridge to give messages to the shrine. The bridge is actually so steep that it can’t be crossed normally and special ladders are needed. I love that, a bridge that you can’t cross. How fantastically pointless.

The other thing the shrine offers is a good view of the famous floating torii. By this point it still wasn’t quite floating so I decided to have a wander up to it to see it up close.

It is, I can report, very big. Although it isn’t the biggest torii I have ever seen. On the arms about halfway up the torii are piles and piles of rocks that tourists have thrown up there. I have no idea what the point of this is but I decided to have a go too. I overshot the arm completely and splashed in the water opposite, startling an American gentleman who was lost in admiration for the torii.

As time was getting late I set out to find two things. Food, and a giant rice ladle.

Now the giant rice ladle was a bit of a whim. On my way up the mountain I had glanced at a map that marked out a “big ladle” as a site of interest. It wasn’t marked on my map though and now that I was searching for it I couldn’t find it or the map I had seen. After a brief search I gave up and went off in search of oysters.

Hiroshima as a whole is famous for sea food and Miyajima specifically for barbequed oysters. Whenever I have eaten oysters in the past it has always been raw and they have always been disappointing little blobs with the exact texture and flavour of an enormous bogey. I had never had them barbequed before and OH! MY! GOD! Why on earth don’t we cook oysters in England?! These were juicy, delicious and sweet. Like giant mussels but oh so very tasty. I am sorry to say that I gorged and went back for seconds.

No sooner did I seat myself for seconds than I glanced up and spotted that all this time I had been engrossed in my oysters I had failed to spot the giant ladle.

Well actually it’s more of a spatula, but I’m sure we can all agree it’s a very big spatula.

Full on oysters I sought out ice cream to wander along the beach with. As most of the day trippers had gone home by this point a lot of the shops were closing up but I found one woman with a wide selection of ice creams.

Including wasabi.

That would be horseradish ice-cream. How could I refuse?

The wasabi ice cream was unusual but not unpleasant tasting. It had a sweet and creamy taste but a fiery hot after taste. The effect was to make you want to eat more ice cream because every bite demanded some cream to cool your mouth down. Despite this I couldn’t finish the ice cream and so I fed the remains to a deer. Deer will eat anything; they’re like giant pretty rats.

To rid my mouth of the taste of wasabi I sought out another thing Miyajima is famous for. Dorayaki in the shape of a maple leaf. Only I had it taiyaki style. That means deep-fried maple cake filled with anko. Scrumptious. The outside was warm and crunchy then a layer of gooey warm cake and finally a layer of warm oozing sweet anko paste.

I think if offered it, I would eat taiyaki every day. It would make me very fat but very, very happy.

In fact I liked it so much I had two.

And now finally the tide was in so I set off to get some shots of the now floating “floating torii” and then headed back to the hotel.

Nara represents a huge milestone for me as it’s the first significant travelling I’ve done in Japan without anyone to help me. To most normal people this isn’t that impressive but I’m facing the handicaps of a) not speaking or reading the language b) not really understanding how the train timetables work c) having the worst sense of direction of any human being ever and d) being generally without feck.

Only one of these setbacks significantly affected my journey and that was my inability to understand how train time tables work, a problem that caused my trip to Nara to take about 3 hours.

When I got there though, more than worth it.

Nara famously has wild sort’ve tamed deer roaming the streets. These animals are held sacred in the Shinto religion as messengers from the gods. It is said that the city was founded when a god riding a white deer landed on the spot of the shrine and pledged his protection to the people if they would build him a shrine there. Consequently deer have always been kept in Nara rather than hunted as they are in the rest of Japan.

I knew all of this from the guidebook but it doesn’t really explain quite how many deer there are. I assumed they would be confined to forest areas and park land but they wander about the open parks and the city proper fairly freely. And there’s thousands of them! You can barely go 10 ft without crossing a deer, they’re literally everywhere you look. It’s a totally disconcerting experience but very, very cool.

You can buy deer biscuits for the almost nothing price of 150Yen but as I didn’t have anyone with me feeding deer seemed a little bit of a waste. I spent plenty of time watching the various tourists feeding deer though, including 2 memorable girls. One of whom was really, really freaked out that deer were coming so near her and started running, but as she still had food in her hand the deer gave chase and so she ran faster leading to the deer running even faster. God only knows what would have happened if her boyfriend hadn’t calmed her down.

The 2nd happened later in the day where I saw a Japanese girl being swamped by at least 15 deer and probably more. They were inches from her butting up against her body trying to get at the food in her hand. She was squealing like a cartoon character faced with a mouse, needless to see both me and her friends thought this was piss funny and howled in laughter. Problem was the girl was stood in front of a shop which was being overrun by deer and the shopkeeper was significantly less pleased. He was screeching at her to go away and she was both terrified of the deer and him.

There’s not many places you can see a 3 way battle between deer, scared girls and shopkeepers.

Also some of the deer have learned to bow over the years too and that’s phenomenally creepy. Really they bow when you give them a biscuit. This isn’t training as such, it’s a learned response which is the same principle you train animals with but nobody set out to teach the deer to bow, they just… do. It’s really weird but more than a little bit cool.

Anyway having taken 3 hours to get there I briefly refreshed myself with lunch of Tempura (basically anything deep fried in a really light batter) and Miso-shiro (soy and fish stock soup) before I set out to explore Nara proper.

My first stop was the Todai-ji temple complex , home to Daibutsu-den, literally “the big Buddha hall”, the largest wooden building in the world.

Daibutsu-den is impressive enough on its own. It’s a truly gorgeous building and rises with a sort of stately grace from the surrounding countryside. Nara is a lot more park-like than other Japanese cities with lots of open grass areas, something you almost never see in Japan and all this wide open space really suits Daibutsu-den. It makes it look huger and even more impressive.

But the real draw would be the big Buddha the building is named for. The big Buddha in this case daibutsu (which means great Buddha) is actually Dainichi, the Japanese name for the Buddha that represents dharmakaya. Dainichi is not a Buddha proper but rather an unmanifested aspect of Buddha. He belongs to a section of Buddhism that functions a bit like agnostic christianity. Basically Dainichi is the sum total of everything in the entire universe but is simultaneously empty (because in most Buddhist thinking the universe doesn’t exist). He is for all intents and purposes god and when all things in the universe die or decay they become Dainichi.

Inside Daibutsuden is a statue of Dainichi and it is the largest image of Buddha in the entire world. To give some sense of scale one of his fingers there is the size of a grown man. He is enormous! He is also incredible to look at and simple breathtaking. Daibutsu is easily one of the most stunning, awe inspiring purely amazing sights I have ever seen in my life. He doesn’t quite top the Basilica De San Marco in Venice but he’s certainly right up there.

Dainichi is seated on a lotus leaf with 7 petals, 7 in Buddhist numerology being a symbol for infinity and symbolising that all if infinity is contained within dainichi. Behind him is a golden wheel featuring numerous Bodhisattva’s (basically trainee Buddhas or saints to Buddha’s god). This symbolises the sun and also that all the aspects of Buddha stem from Dainichi.

Size aside he isn’t much of a looker. There’s not a lot of detail and his face is frankly pretty badly done but this detracts not one bit from the experience of looking up at him. Truly one of the wonders of the world.

Alas because he is so big and high up and because the temple is so under lit my camera’s flash couldn’t penetrate the darkness and get a photo of him. I could see the statue perfectly well but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get a photo, so I’m resorting to nicking one off the internet.


This was the best I managed.

And while the lighting was not conducive to photography it certainly helped the impact. Todai-ji uses the temple trick of putting wooden bars across all the windows. This means even in bright light the light in the temple is slanted slightly and everything is a little indistinct. This helps give a really holy mystical air to the space and really enhances the impact of this enormous statue.

Seriously, It’s big!

One thing I noticed again was the horrible capitalist money grabbing of the temple. There stalls inside the temple gates outside Daibutsu-den selling tat which I didn’t mind but there were tat stops right inside Daibutsu-den practically next to the statue in the same general space that Buddhist services were held. I don’t look it when catholic churches do it and I like it even less with something so magnificent within spitting distance.

I did buy a few postcards though…..I mean I had no pictures did I.

there are also 2 enormous Nioo guardians protecting the Buddha inside the hall. But frankly while they are really impressive they suffer a little by comparison.

After Daibutsu the rest of Nara is a little bit unimpressive. It’s a really nice place for a walk full of gorgeous autumn leaves, deer and glorious views but it’s all a bit second rate after the big Buddha. Still I was there and it is a really lovely city, or at least the parks in the centre are.

The main attractions after the big Buddha are an enormous bell affiliated with the temple and the Kasuga Taisha shrine.

The bell is in all fairness properly enormous and apparently takes 17 monks to ring it but again suffering by comparison next to the enormous statue.


Kasuga Taisha is the shrine. Typically in Japan shrines are affiliated with Shinto (which was the dominant religion in Japan for centuries) the pagan religion which ancestor and pagan god (kami) worship ideas in Japan stem from. Temples are associated with Buddhism which was imported from China. At some point the two separate religions got smooshed together into the pseudo religion which is the most common religion in Japan. Kasuga Tasiha is a Shinto shrine and the origin of all the deer roaming about. Sadly despite it’s historic import (of which I know little) it’s a pretty poor shrine in my view. The approach to it is lovely though. A path winding through the forest surrounded by deer and lined on every side with stone lanterns. In certain festival every single one of these lamps is lit and the effect must be quite dazzling. I’ll try to check it out.

A bit tired of temples and shrines by this point I decided to do some museum hopping and managed to see a collection of ancient Japanese statues in various materials (interesting…but not for very long) and lots and lots of swords and armour (extraordinarily cool).

During my museum hopping i managed in the course of taking off and putting on my shoes (a little tip to anyone who visits Japan. Buy shoes without laces.) to tear a big gash down one side and having done a full day of walking about my feet were in agony so I headed off home.

On the way I stopped to pick up some Doriyaki from a street vendor.

Doriyaki is a Japanese dessert that is the favourite food of flying blue robot cat and Japanese cartoon character Doraemon. He’s onto something because Doriyaki are amazing.

They consist of 2 little discs a bit like pancakes but tiny and much thicker. The 2 discs form a sandwich with a filling of “an”. An is a sweet red bean paste that gets used in a lot of Japanese desserts. Basically imagine really sweet kidney beans. I go back and forth on an. In some places I really like it but other times its just waaaay too sweet. The an soup that Japanese kids eat sometimes is just waaay too sicky sweet but Doriyaki are amazing. Just the right sweetness, cakey but always moist, warm and filling but small too. I love Doriyaki.

Anyway I finally got to the train station and headed home.

Of course this time I knew what my time table mistake was and cut an hour off my return journey.

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