Monthly Archive: November 2015

Travel blog: Puli, Taiwan

20151126 03Today, we had a trip around the mountainous region of Puli in central Taiwan. After getting the high-speed train to Taichung, we were met by a driver and taken through a whole lot of tunnels until we reached central Taiwan. My uncle was arranging everything, so we didn’t know what was coming – and the itinerary turned out to be typically eccentric. First, we visited the impressive, ostentatious Chung Tai Chan Monastery. It’s a huge and imposing edifice, built around 15 years ago with the polish, scale and brash inelegance of a Disneyland themed ride. But it’s not meant to be tasteful, it’s meant to be brash and spectacular, and I very much enjoyed it for that. 20151123 02 In the main hall were huge floor-to-ceiling statues of the Four Heavenly Kings of Chinese Buddhism, with fierce expressions on each of their four faces. Then upstairs were serene seated buddhas, inspiring devotion in many of the visitors. Heading outside was a room full of golden statues, though the ones in the corridor outside were more imposing, and nearby a smaller room displayed more tasteful small-scale religious sculptures. Outside could be found a deer park with only cartoony stone deer, plus a prayer bell it was fun to ring. The bell had a twin but that one had a long queue. 20151124 02 I think I was lucky to get in an elevator with a group I wasn’t really supposed to be with, which took me to a floor with an indoor pagoda and thousands of little buddhas on the walls – an odd but very impressive sight, again with nothing at all compromised for the sake of good taste. Unfortunately I went only to that floor and not the others apparently only accessible by lift. Afterwards, I rushed to the museum because all this was crammed into just 40 minutes (and I had to leave behind the rest of the party for being too slow!) but it turned it was under renovation. 20151124 01 Next, to the unimpressive pole marking the geographical centre of Taiwan, which surprised me because until then I didn’t realise we were in the centre of the country rather than by the coast (as I’d slept on the drive through all the tunnels). 20151126 04 From there we went for lunch, which as with much of the rest of the day, was strange – they roasted whole chickens in drums with lychee wood for a vague flavour, added huge amounts of garlic and plopped the thing in front of you on the table. I was tasked with ripping the thing apart for us to eat, wearing thick gloves. Though not a very pleasant task, it was only like having a Nando’s, really, only with the feet and head still attached. I feel it’s hypocritical to eat meat but pretend it wasn’t a creature, though, so wasn’t squeamish. Found the meat a tad bland and the sauce greasy, though. 20151123 03 The next point of call, after driving past very weird buildings from around the world, built as tourist attractions up a mountain (because why not?), was the highest road in Taiwan. Being a very mountainous country, Hahuen-Shan was a long way from the highest possible peak to climb – though the tour guide thought it was the 2nd, it was actually the 43rd – but driving to altitudes only about 300 metres lower than the summit of Fuji is still quite impressive. 20151123 04 On the way down the mountain, we had the kind of surreal experiences typical of our family outings in Taiwan. For some reason, there was a farm up there on the mountainside set up as a tourist attraction. With sheep and ponies and really, really stinky toilets. So we ran around trying to take photos with sheep. Silly creatures. 20151123 05 Stopped at the English country manor part of the buildings-of-the-world attraction, but while we could have had very cute-looking cakes in a fantasy tearoom in a strange neogothic-Tudor-neoclassical manor, instead we found a Swiss chalet tucked around the back of it and had very tasty cakes there, and coffees out of quaint little mugs. 20151123 06 It may sound like the opposite of what you’d expect from Taiwan, but this is exactly the sort of thing we always seem to find when we do the kind of tourism trails that attract the locals and the mainland Chinese! 20151123 07 Took some silly pictures with my brother and then got back in the car for the drive back to Taichung. If we carried on down the same road, we would get to Taroko Gorge, but we’d been there back in 2015 so didn’t go again. I wouldn’t mind actually seeing Taichung City itself, which has enough temples and other attractions for a day trip, but this odd little adventure was fun, too – and the strange kind of thing we always seem to find ourselves doing in Taiwan! 20151123 08

Hallowe’en and Modelling in Korea

Definitely not real

The last few days I definitely had more photographs taken of me than at any other point in my life!

Hallowe'en is time for dressing up!

First, I was part of a cosplay event for Hallowe’en in Ikebukuro. If you’re unfamiliar with the place, Ikebukuro is very pleasant entertainment district just two or three stops north of where I live in Shinjuku, where there is a strong bias towards the female fans. Thus, if you like cute female idols, big-busted sci-fi heroines and pervy books about little girls, you go to Akihabara. If you prefer butlers, boys who get very intense over sports rivalries and pervy books about young boys, ’Bukuro is the place to go. Plus there are plentiful arcades and an extremely nice mall where you can find Jump World, Namja Town and as of fairly recently, the new Tokyo Pokémon store.

The kind of thing you find in Namja Town

An event had been set up for Halloween in the park outside Sunshine City, usually famous for having lots of cats. The World Cosplay Summit representatives had a time slot, so they decided to use that time to showcase Japan’s representatives, Mariko and Mahio ( and in their phenomenal costumes from Magi.

As well as them, the WCS, being focused on global cosplay, wanted some international representatives. Happily, I was asked to be one of them, and so for the first time in quite a while, I cosplayed. My last two cosplays (including one from Magi!) were at a point where my self-confidence was very low and I really didn’t look good, so it was quite a relief for me to actually return to cosplaying and feel good about it. So I decided to fulfil a longtime urge and cosplay Kagamine Len. As it was Hallowe’en, my first idea was to cosplay him in a ‘Trick and Treat’ costume, but I didn’t like them much. Alice in Wonderland is one of the most popular choices for Hallowe’en costumes over here in Japan, so I decided on Alice in Musicland Len.

I'm late!!

Bunny bunny bunny

I don’t have a sewing machine or hot-glue gun over here so I wasn’t about to make the outfit. I bought the ears, bowtie and waistcoat and then used my own shirt and shorts and socks. I’d bought a clock-bag with the rest of the costume but I didn’t like it so bought a working one and added one of my necklaces. I made a winder thing but it was terrible so last-minute I ended up replacing it with some cap from a squeezy bottle. Which worked! I met a great crowd of international cosplayers from America, Israel, France, Brazil, Russia, Spain and the Philippines, who were all super-friendly. Most of them had cards with their cosplay pages to hand out, but I don’t have anything like that! It seems it’s typical here for cosplayers to have a whole book full of their different costumes to pick from. 20151101 19 The first thing we did after rehearsing and preparations was take part in a mini-parade. We thought it would be down a road, but it was just along a red carpet to a tiny little box-stage where you could pose and then move on. There were a huge number of cameras waiting there. A little odd, but fun! After that we did our stage event, which was a straightforward appear-and-pose type affair, and once again there were huge numbers of cameras – including some truly enormous L-series bazooka lenses worth a hundred times what my costume cost.

Mahio takes a group selfie

That selfie

On the mini stage. So mini!

I’m happy I went to the event. I got the bug for cosplaying again and no longer consider it something to keep hidden away. I met some very cool people, all of whom I’d like to see again, and I’m looking forward to similar events next week.

The group

Up on stage

I really like this one


There was a karaoke event for the participants afterwards, but I was meeting friends in Shibuya for Hallowe’en. It was everything it was promised to be from last year’s pictures, and about twice as crowded as I expected. The whole area around Scramble Crossing was just a throng of people, and it took about 20 minutes just to shuffle to 109. We got a lot of people posing with us and wanting pictures and it was fun to meet a group of friends for a while. Couldn’t stay for long or drink much, though, because the next day, it was off to Korea!

Out in Shibuya

Unfortunately we missed the flights from Haneda to Gimpo at a decent price, so had to go via Narita, Kansai and Incheon, but it wasn’t really difficult. I came to take part in a fashion event in Seoul for a Japanese magazine, modeling some body art. I’m very glad I took part because it was a lot of fun and the tattoo-style art was impressive. It isn’t going to change my life or take me to the runways of New York, but it’s a fun sort of thing to do as and when I can. The next few times I do something similar, as there are a couple lined up, it will be clothing-related.

I had a sparkly design on the back, too!

Tomorrow, back to Japan – then back to work the next day. But weird adventures will continue very, very soon after!

Strutting my funky stuff

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