Latest Updates [2018]

Last update(s):
High School DxD: V24 (Life.0) (19/3)
Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha: V7 (Complete) (4/11)
Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi V7: Chapter 6 (20/3)

No spoilers please, I only read as far as I translate.

Next update(s):
High School DxD V24 Life.1: ~April.
Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi V7 Chapter 7: ~March or April.
Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha V8 Chapter 1: ~May.

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Night Photography

Just thought I’d share some photos I took with a mate many nights ago now. I enjoy photography as a hobby and occasionally experiment with new techniques – it’s also one of the reasons I enjoy travelling.

We went out to Maroubra (a coastal Sydney suburb) to take these in the evening. It was our first time experimenting with steel wool in photography so we wanted a nice backdrop in all of our shots. This involved using long exposures of 10 ~ 20 seconds. One of us lit up fine steel wool that was stuffed into a metal whisk and swung it around while the other focused the shot and hit the buttons. As the wool burns and the sparks fly out, it doesn’t last more than around 20 seconds anyway. The effect that you see is a result of the camera’s shutter being open for the duration of the motion, and thus it captures the moving elements of the image as a trail.

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For anyone interested in trying this, remember to tie your whisk to a sturdy string! I ended up losing my whisk because the string snapped…so we had to drive a fair distance to the nearest supermarket for another one.

Light painting is a similar technique which involves moving a glowing object in a long exposure against a dark background to trace out an image. Using the LED light on the back of our phones, we were able to use almost the same settings to capture a few of these, though they’re not quite as spectacular as the steel wool ones.

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Anyone else into photography? I love doing landscapes, though lately I’ve been getting more interested in long night exposures and star trails.

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Open Offers

It’s usually the other way around with these things…people throw their requests at me, but this time, I thought I’d put these two out for anyone interested.

I’ve kept this one in the background for a long time now, and I’ve worked on it ever so slowly whenever I felt up to it. The Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann manga. The anime is one of my all-time favourites, and I’d love to see the manga translated, even if it follows the same storyline as the anime. I bought the manga around a year and a half ago now, started scanning volume five to pick up from where the last scanlation team stopped, and finished the translation for the first chapter in volume five more than six months ago. But I’m totally not an artist, and couldn’t redraw anything, so my typesetting was awful and it sometimes took me even longer than the translations for each page. Thankfully, MistaL came along to help me with the project’s typesetting, cleaning, and proofreading. You can find chapter 22 up in the menu now, and chapter 23’s translation is halfway done. But still, I find myself biting off more than I can chew. So to any scanlation groups out there, or anyone with the commitment to see this through to the end, here’s my offer:

I’m happy to supply scans, and I’m sure MistaL is happy to continue working on the project. All we need is a translator! I know translators are pretty rare, but hey, as an incentive I’ll throw in all of my physical volumes. Once a chapter or  two are done and I feel like I can leave it in your hands, I’m happy to send you all of my volumes.

Now for the second one…Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi. This is one that I’m working on now, and rest assured, I will continue to work on it regardless. But I’d really appreciate if anyone would be interested in lending a hand. There are twenty volumes, and I’m currently on number seven. I don’t expect anyone to see this through to the end. It’s a lot of work considering that these are light novels, and not manga. But everything counts, and I’d appreciate it even if someone could only do one volume to help progress the project. As an incentive, I’ll send you all twenty volumes!

Source: Amazon. Mine look pretty much the same.

I’d love to do this for other series as well, but these are actually the only two that I own all of the volumes for at the moment. So, maybe more of this in the future.

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Journey’s End

I’ve been putting this off for a while, but I feel like it’s finally time that I finish off my blog series on Japan. After going from Hokkaido down to Tokyo and then the Kansai region, my last stop was Hiroshima. It was a nice, relaxing way to end the almost month-long trip.

I arrived into Hiroshima late fairly early in the day, which I planned so that I could see Miyajima Island (Itsuku-shima). Miyajima is supposedly one of the most scenic locations in Japan and a so-called Island of Gods. I spent a fair half of the day from morning to late afternoon here just walking around the entire island. The Great Torii and Itsukushima Shrine are often regarded as the most well-known attractions, and they’re hard to miss given that the ferry passes right by them on the way from Hiroshima. I’d definitely recommend a day-trip to the island if time permits, as you’ll probably be able to catch the high-tide and low-tide as I did. At high-tide, the Great Torii and shrine appear to float on water for some great photo opportunities, while at low-tide, you can actually walk down and right up to each of them.

Between the morning high-tide and late afternoon low-tide, I also got to explore a bit of the old town, but I was feeling a tad adventurous, so I hiked up some way to Mount Misen on an unmarked trail. I was following a few of the nature walk routes when I spotted a climbable rock formation which I followed up. I then proceeded through a multitude of thickets as I moved further up the mountain until I got to a decent vantage point some distance between the road and the summit. Unfortunately, most of the view was obstructed by trees, though it was unique in its own right.

Having spent most of the day on Miyajima Island, I came back to Hiroshima to explore Peace Memorial Park at sunset, followed by some of the shopping districts. One thing I’ve come to love about Japan is how many of their shopping districts look the same regardless of the city. It’s usually a long street, with part of the street covered by an arched roof. It’s a highly characteristic look that I’ve come to associate with Japan. Of course, I also dropped in to a bookstore to pick up a copy of DX.4 which was released the previous week. I actually gave myself a bit of a scare at first when I couldn’t it with the rest of the DxD volumes, but then I shuffled around to the front of the aisle and found it along with the other new releases.

The city of Hiroshima had a distinctly different ‘feel’ to it than the other cities. Personally, I think it’s the effect of the A-bomb. Hiroshima was one of the cities to suffer such a tragedy, and that has really affected the people living there and what they’ve done in rebuilding the city. To be honest, a major part of the city feels like it could be part of Peace Park. It’s kept immaculately clean and the colour of the surroundings is simply gentle. Peace Boulevard (Heiwa Ōdōri) is probably my favourite road because of the feeling that fills you up as you walk down it. The museum is definitely worth a visit as well, it’s one of those places that feels incredibly solemn, but remains firmly positive. Having studied the book “Hiroshima” by John Hersey as part of extension English in high school, many of the survivor stories and remnants really resonated with me.

I finally made my way towards Hiroshima Airport around midday for my flight home in the afternoon. Hiroshima Airport was rather small, isolated, and quiet, but it gave me the chance to see more traditional Japanese houses that are characteristic of the countryside. As I headed home, I was already beginning to reminisce on the journey so far, and all the experiences that I was so grateful to have. I would return in a heartbeat, but it’s time for me to save up again.

Let’s wrap up with a few personal top tens 🙂

Top Ten Most Commonly Heard Words

  1. Arigatou Gozaimasu (Thank You)
  2. Dozou (~Please)
  3. Sumimasen (Sorry)
  4. Hai (Yes)
  5. Yabai & variations of it (Dangerous/Bad/Oh shit)
  6. Sugoi (Amazing)
  7. Daijoubu (It’s okay/fine)
  8. Kowai (Scary)
  9. Okyakyusama (Customer/Guest)
  10. Oniisan (Do I even need to tell you? Surprisingly, most of the time this word was directed at me, and not to an actual blood-related oniisan)

Top Ten Locations

  1. Akihabara
  2. Hiroshima’s Peace Boulevard
  3. Kyoto’s Gion District
  4. Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park Area
  5. Osaka’s Dotonbori
  6. Miyajima Island
  7. Lake Toya Area, Hokkaido
  8. Himeji Castle
  9. Furano, Hokkaido
  10. Kagurazaka, Tokyo

Top Ten Foods

  1. Ramen (especially Hakata)
  2. Okonomiyaki
  3. Takoyaki
  4. Japanese Curry
  5. Sashimi/Sushi
  6. Cold Soba
  7. Yakitori
  8. Gyudon
  9. Omurice
  10. Mochi
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Journey to the West

Perhaps I should be a little clearer…I meant the west of Japan. Anyway, here we go…

After all the great times I had in Tokyo, I didn’t think it could get any better, though I knew I was only halfway done. While Tokyo is generally regarded as the capital city, the cities of the west side of Japan have a distinctly different feel. Though they might still be called ‘cities’, they seem to maintain much more of their heritage and the style of old Japan. And while I didn’t believe it to be entirely true, I do have to admit now that people generally seem much friendlier in west Japan than in the east. I’m going to cover the Kansai region and its surrounds in this post, while the next post will wrap up my saga in Japan.

After leaving Tokyo by plane, I arrived into Kansai in the late evening, and headed straight to my hostel to drop off my bags before heading out to explore what Osaka was like after midnight. Naturally, most streets had become quite bare at this time, but the dotonbori district still had a characteristic charm about it, especially with lanterns lit up across the length of the waterway. Though many people I know don’t do this, I like to explore cities in the dead of the night, and there’s no safer place to do it than Japan. Often, you get to see a different side, and you can appreciate the beauty that it has to offer without any of the distractions of the day. I didn’t walk too far on this occasion though, as I had a big day planned out the next morning.

Now, I may be wrong about this, but Osaka doesn’t seem to have many attractions outside of the dotonbori district, so it can be explored in the space of one to two days, maybe more if you’d like to go deeper. And that’s why I’d recommend the Osaka Amazing Pass for one or two days to anyone planning to visit. You can almost certainly get great value from it since it covers public transport, and almost all of the attractions in Osaka that you could possibly want to visit. Personally, I was able to fit all of the following in one day:

  1. Tsutentaku Tower – an observatory that overlooks part of the city of Osaka
  2. Tennoji Zoo – a city zoo in Osaka that has a fair variety of animals, including penguins and polar bears (I seriously feel sorry for them in summer)
  3. Keitakuen Garden – a traditional Japanese garden
  4. Shittenoji Temple – supposedly one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan
  5. Osaka Museum of History – I found the view of Osaka Castle from above more interesting than any of the exhibits
  6. Osaka Castle – a beautiful and majestic Japanese castle from the outside, while the inside had some nice exhibits on the history of the castle
  7. Prefectural Government Observatory – another observatory, though this offers a view of a different part of the city
  8. Dotonbori River Cruise – an entertaining 30-minute cruise up and down the length of the waterway. Though there is little about anything historical, the guide usually points out any interesting places along the river
  9. Floating Garden Observatory Umeda – yet another observatory, again in a different part of Osaka
  10. Suminoe Hot Springs – nothing beats a nice hot soak after a long day, they’re open till 2am, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy it

I never planned on going to see an idol group, girl group or any musical performance in Japan for that matter, but I was on the river cruise when it passed by the live public performance of a girl group called Kamen Joshi. It was really nice to see something like that live, and I ended up going down to high-five all of the girls afterwards, even though I felt strangely guilty about it because they literally stood there for a few hours after their performance ended to high-five and take photos with everyone.

Moving on to the next city in the Kansai area, I happened to be in Kyoto while the Gion Matsuri (festival) was on, which is regarded as one of the largest festivals of the year. Kyoto is like the second capital of Japan. It embodies the long-standing culture and style of Japan in an era that has passed. There are plenty of old-style buildings here, and you’ll be able to find a shrine every few streets down. The city has done extremely well to preserve so many of its assets and culture despite the changing times – you could look down some streets and believe that you had gone back in time. I highly recommend renting a bicycle to explore the many sights around Kyoto – it’ll be worth your while as you get to see a lot just by cycling around the area.

In terms of food, the main specialties of this area are takoyaki and okonomiyaki – two things that you must try. Takoyaki are soft balls of flour with octopus stuffed inside, and served with a glazing of sauce, bonito, and green onions. They’re a great snack, and they can be quite filling too. Okonomiyaki is like a savoury Japanese pizza or pancake – it’s made of a batter with cabbage, and topped with slices of meat, sauce and bonito flakes after being cooked on a hot plate.

To the south of Kyoto lies Nara. Nara is a great day-trip because it only takes about an hour each way, and while it offers several unique attractions, most of them can be seen in a day. The most iconic aspect of Nara though would be the fact that wild deer run free throughout the city. There’s no place I’ve seen in the world quite like it, and I was actually quite surprised by the number of deer.

Before I move on to the the last part of this area, I’d just like to say that Japanese people are incredibly generous and kind. While on my way down to Kobe via train where I would be staying the next night, I had to pass through Osaka. It was late at night, and I had planned to get a few hours of rest in a net cafe before I caught the first train to Kobe so that I could drop off my bag and then head over to explore Himeji. I really only needed an hour or two at the net cafe so that I could take a shower and refresh myself, so I decided to take a nap in a local park first. Just as I was about to fall asleep, an old man on his bicycle came past me and struck up a conversation. His English was surprisingly good, and we were able to talk for quite a while on various random topics – a wonderful cultural experience. He had trouble sleeping and had decided to go for a ride on his bicycle instead, and though this was a fairly safe area, he still warned me and offered to let me stay the night at his apartment. That was truly, one of the nicest things that a total stranger had ever said to me, though I felt that I would impose on him too much so I politely declined. An interesting thing he told me was that I would probably be far safer here than any Japanese person, because many Japanese people see foreigners as alien-like beings and try to avoid them as much as possible.

Himeji Castle is probably the most beautiful castle in Japan. While some may argue on this point, the pure white walls of Himeji Castle make it look incredibly grand and majestic, especially from a distance. It’s one of the best preserved castles in Japan too, despite the earthquakes and the bombings during WWII. It was a great way to finish up this section of my trip and wind down.

You may have noticed in many of my photos thus far a multitude of black spots in the images – this is a fault in my phone’s camera. I had a proper camera in Hokkaido, and another phone camera for the rest of the trip, though I had some issues with the latter which limited my use of it. I thought about using Lightroom to fix them up, but it’d take too long. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading!

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