Strong shift in force @Roppongi to Hokkaido and 18 December

Tokyo, 28 June – Darth Vader and the storm troopers at the Star Wars Visions will be packing up their set up at Roppongi Hills later today to quell cooler climes in Hokkaido. I managed to catch up with them a fortnight ago.

Making the quick trek up the spiral staircase past a queue for a rival exhibit (Naruto), I noticed that the lines were marked clearly with yellow masking tape. The Empire awaited along the middle path, before which a darkened indoor ticketing hall took in credits for entry. The steady stream of expectant fans were greeted by welcome signage overhead and a peek of the Death Star model and storm troopers taking aim at would-be trespassers.

Walking around the wall, I was greeted by who else but Vader himself in his meditation chamber. Standing silently, masked and plotting his next move as the soon-to-be-completed Death Star witnessed X-Wing duelling a smattering of the Empire’s fleet in a delay raid. New entrants were forced to bear with his theme song echoing across the hall, but the illusion of the enormity of facing an entire trooper platoon vanished at the mere sight of their posters adorning the glass panels above.

Eager ones lined up to pose with the protagonist, who stayed behind his iconic mask, while others shuffled along through the next portal to meet beings from other worlds. The visions were split into 6 sections – the original vision, the force, battles, sagas, the galaxy and droids. Inspirations for the saga led to the realization of the existence of the force, and then its two sides.

Fan art was coupled by a cast of retired weapons and bodies from the entire galaxy far, far away. Bubba Fett’s blaster, Jedi and Sith light sabres, mini models of the Jedi Council building and memorable battle scenes treated new and learned fans alike. Techie wannabes would have enjoyed the specs on the X-Wing, A-Wing and other vessels on display, while hitchikers could let their mind wonder across the worlds in a map of the entire galaxy.

Master Yoda stood quietly beside Amidala’s flowing white cloak, while the wirings of Vader’s mask lay open for all to see. Jabba the Hutt was there, the blue female alien dancer too, plus Ewoks and the bust of Chewbacca. The most impressive centerpiece was Hans Solo in cryogenic freeze. The stellar cast included the all-important droids, eventually the turning points in the saga, and a brilliantly gold C-3PO standing by to wave goodbye to a queue treated to tidbits from edited saga footage as they shuffled toward the store.

Of course, the chance to battle the man himself at the top of Roppongi Hills for just 500 yen and an image to last many lifetimes is surely the curtain-call poser. That is, before we say hello again to the galaxy come December 18 when the force awakens worldwide.

Star Wars Visions at Roppongi Tokyo City View

Staying on top with a book

Tokyo, 5 June – The Japanese Women’s national football team are enjoying a golden era. Sitting pretty atop the world since 2011, they went on to narrowly miss out on the 2012 London Olympics gold, but bounced back to win the last edition of the Asian prize in 2014. Nicknamed Nadeshiko Japan, the former a Japanese variety of the carnation and a synonym for reserved resilience in Japanese women, the team have had a few wobbles in their run-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup starting tomorrow. Off the pitch, preparations to consolidate themselves at the top of the game have already gained ground in Japan.

My interest in football and children’s content drew me to this book a few months back, waiting quietly amidst the Doraemon corner of a bookstore. (Take a quick peek inside at:

Pulling it out of the pile, straightaway the words on the cover struck me – for girls and boys alike! The order was clear, the target pretty high. Doraemon fans would be quick to realize that Shizuka has some innate sporting ability (when she did a body swap with Nobita and played a blinder in a baseball game), but the book goes beyond that by bringing in a new girl classmate. And guess what, that girl is an expert in football.

The book brings the usual suspects through a journey of learning the basics, from passing, heading, trapping and dribbling littered with rather blunt jokes by the willing cast. Besides the story, the book doubles, or rather it’s primary purpose is, as a quick intro to the rules of the game. It goes further, describing mini-games and drills to do with friends or alone. Moving through awareness of team mates and passing to tackling dribbling in the latter pages, the editors obviously recognize the difficulty and skill involved to maintain reader interest as she/he developed. A Shizuka-chan mini-series runs inside too, where she goes through some exercises to familiarize with the ball. The target can’t be any more clearer, and as a parent that would gladly take his children to a game, the idea certainly sold very quickly.

In my everyday routine, I’ve noticed many children’s football teams in Japan, and all-girl teams are not uncommon. The supervisors of this book, the Japan Football Association, obviously recognizes that for girls to develop their game, they have to play with their friends, and that often means playing among the boys, as did Homare Sawa, Japan’s most capped women’s player.

She’s no longer the captain, but still a highly influential figure on and off the pitch. The Japanese team is simply a joy to watch. They pass, link up and use the occasional dribble and feint to create and find space for team mates to capitalize. Not the most physical team around, their work and organization as a team are excellent. However, their recent string of successes seems to created some pressure, but the media have been very supportive, unlike their often scathing coverage of the men’s team. With such warm support and a book like this to help unearth and nurture new generations, I sure hope we get to enjoy this brand of football at the highest level in years to come!

『ドラえもんのスポーツおもしろ攻略 サッカーが楽しくできる』
(Doraemon Fun Sports Guides – Enjoy Soccer)
Shogakukan, Dec. 2013, 850 yen + tax