Bar Dio – JoJo themed bar review!

Unpopular opinion: I don’t like Akihabara that much these days. When I first went aged 14 it was exciting but now I’m old and it’s too big, too loud, and too full of sweaty pervs who don’t shower enough.

Luckily there is anotdoor Bar Dioher, slightly less well known, nerd hub for me to frequent. Nakano is a couple of stops from Shinjuku and it’s a great mix of anime otaku culture in the Nakano Broadway shopping complex and traditional style izakaya in the surrounding side streets.

If you go down one of these side streets you will find some stairs and a massive coffin for a door. As a fan of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, of course you don’t ignore this ominous sign and go right in all guns blazing.

Bar Dio is a Jojo風Bar (themed) bar and the level of detail is astounding. I’ve been to some themed bars where the appeal is getting drunk on regular stuff surrounded by some figures which is fine, but Bar Dio goes all out. Every corner of the decor is JoJotastic and every item on the menu has some cleverly appropriate JoJo title. I recommend the chan chan cocktail, it’s creamy and delicious and  its matcha component makes it green for a certain character. We also enjoyed a nigerun dayou and a Rohan Kishibe during our visit, I’ll leave you to imagine what they have in them.

One of the things I liked best about Bar Dio is the clientele. When were there everyone literally talking about Jojo the entire time. It was a mixed crowd in terms of gender and age and everyone was talking about their favourite seasons and characters as well as having lively debates on theories. Once they realised we could speak Japanese and loved Jojo they were happy to include us in their conversations and I felt more out of place for having only watched the anime than for being a foreigner! Music from the anime was playing in the background most of the time and at one point the owner put on an entire episode. Actually the one he chose was pretty pivotal (part 2 episode 20) so be careful if you come here having not watched it all and want to avoid spoilers.

Bar Dio JoJo bar
シーザー!!!!!

The owner doesn’t say that much and I thought he had this sort of enigmatic quality about him. Who is this guy?? How did he come to love JoJo SO MUCH?! He seemed to be pleased to have some foreigners who could speak Japanese and asked us questions about Jojo fans in the UK as well as our favourite characters. He let us try on some of the really high quality costume stuff he had around which I don’t think he does for everyone so that was nice of him.

 

Bar Dio is good just as a bar. The atmosphere is friendly, the food is good and the drinks are excellent. But if you love Jojo this may well feel more like a pilgrimage than a night out, in the best sort of way.

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JoJo Bar Dio
It could be ambiguously interpreted which toilet to go into…

 

Building blindness: Getting hopelessly lost in the suburbs of Tokyo

Yesterday morning, I went out for a half-hour jog and came back three hours later. I have never gotten so lost in my entire life.

I left the house with the modest aim of getting some light exercise, exploring a little bit of the local area and coming back in time for breakfast. Because my running clothes don’t have pockets I thought I would run free and only take my key with me. Unfortunately for me it turns out that my local area is pretty interesting. About 20 minutes into my jog I found a river with a pretty path next to it. “It would be a shame if I didn’t run down this nice path,” I thought. “I’ll remember where I joined it, so I can get back easily.” Ten minutes later, the river came to a big green space with an interesting forest bit. “Well I simply have to do a lap of this!” Even after that, if I had gone back the way I came, I would probably have been ok. But no. I was enjoying my exploring and thought it was a good idea to to go back ‘the pretty way.’

My sense of direction is nothing to write home about in the UK but I do have one. If I’ve been somewhere recently I can generally find it again without too much trouble. I can even find north on a good day. But it seems that I left whatever modest navigational powers I once possessed on the plane. I can’t find anything in Tokyo without a map or a smart phone. The big problem seems to be that I can’t recall landmarks that would help me remember where I’ve been. The streets all blur into one.

I have discussed this phenomenon of losing sense of direction with fellow expats and it seems I am not alone in experiencing this ‘building blindness.’ A friend suggested that our eyes haven’t yet adjusted to Tokyo architecture and the buildings all look the same to us. I think it could also be something to do with not being able to read. To clarify – I can read hiragana and katakana without any trouble but I can only recognise around 250 kanji, which means I can’t understand around 95% of place names. I think in our own countries we log information from names of buildings and signs into our mental maps without fully realising it. In Japan however, I only perceive these potentially useful markers as squiggles.

Credit: urbankchoze
Credit: urbankchoze

I found many fascinating things on my adventure. Multiple parks, a tennis court, a shrine, a gynecologist clinic and a traditional Japanese shopping promenade blasting folk music on loud speaker. Whether I could find them again is another matter.

At first it was kind of cool being lost on a sunny morning when the suburbs of Tokyo weren’t yet fully awake – the romantic in me was enjoying the surreal, dreamy aspect of the experience. I wandered into a posh bit and saw some gorgeous traditional houses next to a graveyard and I wondered if some mysteriously beautiful woman was going to come and induct my lost little self into the occult (yes, I’ve watched my fair share of anime).

But then being lost went on. I wasn’t seeing anything I recognised. The day was getting hotter and I was tired and hungry.

Finally, the horrible moment when I could no longer kid myself: “I have no idea where I am, I don’t have a phone, my suica (Japanese train pass) or any money. I may not understand the response if I ask for directions in Japanese and I can’t read any of the signs. Sh*t.” I was also aware that my boyfriend, who was barely awake when I kissed him goodbye, might be a tad alarmed that I left for a jog at 8.30am and was not back two hours later. To add insult to injury, I was also wearing tiny little purple running shorts and a hideous headband.

Eventually, I found myself at a station about 2km away from where I live. I was squinting at the train map wondering how on earth I had ended up here and some kind gentleman asked if I needed any help. I told him where I was trying to get to and he burst out laughing. “How?” he asked. But then the absolute sweetheart walked with me for about 10 minutes and pointed me in the right direction. Japanese people in general seem to be very kind when you get lost.

Kind sir, if we ever meet again I owe you dinner. God bless you for taking the time to help a very confused and hungry British girl wondering around Tokyo completely lost.

And so I returned home to my worried boyfriend and some excellent scrambled eggs. Getting inducted into the occult by a woman in a kimono against the backdrop of a spooky traditional Japanese house can wait for the next time I get lost. Which I inevitably will.

Adventures at London Anime Gaming Con

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I grew up going to cons. My parents are old school sci-fi nerds and convention organisers (my Mum was organising a con in the USA when she was pregnant with me, so I never really had a chance at a normal life).

Pre-gig selfie with Megan Valentine
Pre-gig selfie with Megan Valentine

Saving up my pocket money to take the train down to London with my nerdy friends for MCM Expo and buy some pocky and an Edward Elric plushie was a defining aspect of my teenage years. So when I was asked to perform at London Anime Con, the answer was a resounding yes! I had never been to the convention before but I knew several regulars and I had done an interview with the convention’s sister publication, The League of Extraordinary Cosplayers, after my performance at the lolita event Enchanted six months previously.

I was also really pleased to be performing right before Heroine Syndrome, an anime pop punk band who I met when we were both performing at Enchanted. I really like their music, we’ve become good friends and have collaborated on a number of occasions. Arthur Rei was kind enough to play tenor guitar from me so we drove down from Leeds in my Vauxhall Vectra and had a great time enjoying the con and hanging out with Heroine Syndrome before it was our turn to go on.

IMG_7773For my set, I played a combination of original songs and anime, gaming IMG_7766soundtracks on the main stage. I performed my cover of Itsumo Nando Demo from the Spirited Away soundtrack, To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy and Hikoukigumo from The Wind is Rises. The latter two I had never performed before and I hope to record them as they’re both fun pieces. I had a lot of fun and the audience seemed to really lovely people, thank you to everyone who came up to me afterwards!

IMG_7777

Afterwards we had great fun dancing to Heroine Syndrome’s set. They played a lot of songs from their upcoming EP ‘The Wrong Side of the Road’ as well as some covers of anime soundtracks from Naruto and Digimon. I particularly enjoyed their catchy original ‘Songfic,’ which also seemed to go down particularly well with the crowd. And lead singer Megan Valentine looked awesome in her Sailor Neptune cosplay!

If all goes to plan I’ll return to London Anime Gaming Con in July. I hope to see you there!

Photo credit: Briarley Van Zyl
Photo credit: Briarley Van Zyl

Check out this awesome video of Heroine Syndrome’s performance, with hitherto unreleased audio from their upcoming EP. Also features exclusive footage of me dancing over-enthusiastically 😉