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I recently returned from a trip to the style-obsessed, ultra-futuristic, mega-meta-tronic city of Tokyo! That dynamic duo, Chris Butcher and Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling book store here in Toronto organized the trip for a motley crew of Canadian artists to attend the Kaigai Comics Festival at Tokyo Big Site, a monolithic convention centre straight out of “Logan’s Run”. There were many highlights of the trip, including a reception at the rather forbidding, all-granite Canadian Embassy (coffee and maple leaf cookies were served in the library for the formal part, followed by a more relaxed round of beers in the staff lounge). One afternoon a few of us attended a Kabuki performance which was possibly the most utterly strange and foreign experience of the trip: fantastic sets, costume and makeup combined with extreeeeemely stylized acting and music. The air of reverent quiet in the theatre explodes alarmingly  when audience members shout out the names of beloved actors at top volume at key points in the drama – a kind of traditional Japanese version of ‘bravo’. My work was featured along with the fab trio of girls of “Love Love Hill”, a collective which does manga-inspired comics, at the Shibuya district Parco department store’s PressPop Gallery. Chris, Wai Au, Kim Hoang , Julie Beet and I gave an interview and did  readings there to a small but discerning audience. Thanks a zillion to Yaki and Masu of PressPop for this wonderful exposure! Almost the best part of the trip was a tour of the Studio Ghibli Museum on my last day. Set in a beautiful, serenely quiet old park, worlds away from the non-stop hustle and blare of downtown, the museum everywhere and in the smallest details displays the tremendous talent, generosity, wit  and sensitivity of its presiding spirit, Hayao Miyazaki. Animators’ studios are recreated complete with teetering stacks of reference books, bricabrac, ashtrays and toys in which you can get right up close and personal with real sketches and mind-blowingly detailed background art, casually thumb-tacked to the walls. Sigh… I had such a great experience traveling to this amazing place thanks to some of the wonderful people I met. In particular I’d like to thank Andrew Woodrow, David Namisato and Jeff Ellis who were so generous and  knowledgeable and showed me so much of the city. Author Jocelyne Allen was our tireless, delightful and nutty translator. It was great to meet cartoonist and manga expert Deb Aoki and fab comics creator Ryan Cecil Smith (picture with me above in the wondrous Jimbocho district, the used and rare books section of town) Also thanks to Gary Sherman, who faithfully recorded the trip in photographs. Chris Butcher deserves the highest of Hallelujahs for the superhuman work he did organizing this trip that was so enjoyable for us all! Love ya, kid!

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