New mascot!

Say ‘hello’ to the blog’s new mascot! A massive thanks to the-dazhrak-lady, who was the winner of the blog’s first every competition way back when – the original mascot competition! Now that the blog’s two years old, I thought it was time for a change and asked her to design another and she kindly obliged! I hope you all like it!

No prizes for guessing who my favourite samurai is…


This week’s post is quite short, for reasons I am about to explain, but I have an announcement first. The blog will now be updated every Tuesday. I’ve been quite sporadic in posting over the last few months, so now you know when to expect content! You can still hit that ‘subscribe’ button on the right, though!

OK, so it might not be an especially big announcement but it’s building up to my next point… I’m writing a book! A fantasy book, in fact, so I’m working very hard on that at the moment and will hopefully have a first draft completed at the end of this year.

Don’t worry, I still love blogging and have no intention of stopping! I just love writing too much!

Next week, we’ll be visiting an amazing Japanese restaurant in London. Post your guesses below!

Cosplay competition and DVDs to be won!

Do you cosplay, live in the UK and fancy winning some fantastic new anime DVDs? You’re in luck – the blog’s teamed up with the amazing guys at MVM Entertainment to offer not one, not two but THREE cosplayers the chance to win some anime DVD goodies!
Here’s your chance to get your hands on MVM Entertainment’s latest anime releases: Shana Series Two Part 1, Needless Part 1 and Bodacious Space Pirates Part 1. Oh, how we spoil you!
Read on to find out how to enter!

Step one: Like MVM on Facebook and send your cosplay photo (including your name, character name and series) to by midnight Sunday 24th March. Please send only ONE costume photo per person – it gives everyone a fair chance of winning!

Step two: All the photos will be uploaded to a folder on the Sophie’s Japan Blog Facebook page on Monday 25th March. We then need YOU to ‘like’ your favourite cosplays. There’s no limit to how many photos you can like!

Step three: Voting will close at 9pm Sunday 31st March and a first, second and third place will be drawn from the votes… and announced on the blog!


The prizes…

Third place: One of MVM’s exciting new releases

Second place: A selection of two of MVM’s exciting new releases

First place: All three of MVM’s exciting new releases

Cosplayers of any age, level and skill are welcome to enter, as long as the costume was made by you! If you’re not entering the competition, we hope you still join in and vote!

Good luck and play nicely!


Photo credits:

The Versatile Blogger Award!

I was very kindly nominated by Sequins and Cherry Blossom for a Versatile Blogger award! I don’t think I’ve ever been nominated for anything before, so thank you very much!

The rules say that, in order to qualify, I have to:

  • Give 7 facts about myself
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award


So, here we go…

1) I am working on a fantasy trilogy called the ‘Eristalis’ trilogy and hope to eventually publish all three books one day.

2) I have been to Japan twice before and hope to be able to go again next year… and blog about it, naturally.

3) I had surgery for a spinal condition called scoliosis when I was 15. I still have the scar to prove it, as well as some very strange-sounding hiccups as a result of the doctors deflating a lung (the lung and spine are doing wonderfully now).

4) I studied History at university and my dissertation was on Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence.

5) I rarely drink but when I do it’s nearly always colourful cocktails.

6) I have a tabby cat called Kiki, who I miss like mad when I’m away (as well as my parents!)

7) My job involves lobbying, and I love it!

And now, for my fifteen nominees…


Blame the Monkey

Cardboard Cities

Diverse Japan



Japan and Korea: Life, Language and Religion

More Things Japanese

Musings of Nessie

Rilakkuma Desu

Sakura Panda Tea Time

Travel Japan

Travelling Tales of Ciara

We See in Pixels

Why I Won’t Talk

I follow all 15 of these blogs and they are all well worth checking out. Obviously there’s a Japan/travel theme going on here but, hey, there’s a lot of us, OK?

Also coming this week… a mystery film review and a mystery competition announcement!

The best Final Fantasy song OF ALL TIME? Vote now!

I’ve been on a bit of a Final Fantasy Distant Worlds soundtrack spree and it occurred to me… what is the best Final Fantasy song? Is it really Sephiroth’s theme, or is it just so mainstream? Yes, I did say that while donning my special hipster glasses.


Or maybe that song’s so popular for a reason?

There’s only one way to find out… fight/vote! I am calling on every Final Fantasy fan to leave a comment below listing up to 5 of their favourite Final Fantasy songs. On the 31st January the polls will close (and I will have the fun task of tallying it all up and posting the Top 10 results).


You’ve got enough to choose from…

Of course, there are some rules:

1) List no more than 5 songs! The idea here is that it will challenge you to think more about your choices.

2) Only songs from Final Fantasy I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII and XIII. There’s enough choice here without bringing the hundreds of spin-off games from the GBA, DS and PSP into it!

Don’t forget the ‘oldies’ like 1-3, or anything ‘post-Final Fantasy VII’… that is, if you really think their songs were the best! Also, take your time! Think back to your childhood memories when you were playing the games and dying over and over again in that one accursed boss battle. I have no input in this poll whatsoever (because I’ve already posted about my favourite Final Fantasy songs before) so it’s all down to you. Your comment might not appear straight away as it will need verifying but I’ll be checking regularly so everything counts!

So, get posting! While you’re at it, check out my post on Final Fantasy Distant World: London from last year. Oh, and make sure you share this page and spread the word!

This week’s photos were taken from this Photobucket page.

Hyper Japan Christmas 2012: THE VIDEO!

Have I mentioned that there’s no internet where I’m staying at the moment? This makes blogging rather difficult but hooray for Starbucks wifi!

So, here it is. Short and to the point – my video of Hyper Japan 2012. I got plenty of material from the weekend that I will be blogging about over the next few weeks but, for now, please enjoy this video!

Every cloud…

Or, why losing isn’t necessarily losing.

If you’ve been keeping up with my ramblings on Twitter, you probably saw that I wasn’t selected for InsideJapan Tour’s Blog to Japan finals. Obviously, I was very disappointed, not only because I’d spent three odd weeks scripting and editing my video and another six hours just trying to format it for Youtube, but also because I really wanted to have a fantastic trip around Japan and do something fantastic for the blog.

HOWEVER, I am not writing this to moan about losing or question the powers that be. I realised a couple of things whilst putting together my entry and would like to dedicate this week’s post to something else…

First of all, I am thankful to InsideJapan for running the competition. I’d never made a video like the one I submitted as part of my entry before and it was a great opportunity to solidify why I love Japan so much. Even though I didn’t win, the blog will be here to stay for a long time (I hope) and the ‘Send Sophie to Japan’ piece now has its own dedicated section for all to see in the months/years to come. I won’t stop blogging just because I didn’t win my first blogging competition but I know what to do for next time (you can guess what I think I might have done not-so-well yourself).

Secondly, I’m starting to plan a proper trip to Japan next year. I’m lucky enough to have been before but I’ve realised a two week holiday really isn’t enough for what I want to do. So, I plan to spend a month studying the language followed by a month’s travelling. I spoke to my friend Oana, who I went to university with and met at the Anime and Manga Society, before InsideJapan announced their finalists and we said ‘whatever happens, let’s just go there’! Keep an eye out for a guest travel article I wrote for another blog recently (I’ll post a link when it’s published), as that will give you a good idea of some of the places I hope to visit.

Finally, the people I have met through the blog in the past year and since I posted my Blog to Japan entry are worth a special mention. I gained about 50 new followers in those two weeks (not exactly Youtube star figures but I’m bloody pleased with them!) and so many people retweeted and commented on my entry. Special mention #1 goes to my sister Grace (who appears in the end of the video) who bought me a good luck card and Pocky and generally put up with my ‘ohmygawd’ness. Special mention #2 goes to Tokyo Hearts author Renae Lucas-Hall, who stumbled across my entry and liked it so much she sent me a signed copy of her book! I don’t think that happened to any other entrant, so I’m particularly pleased with this. I’ll be talking more about the book next month, so stay tuned…

So, after a brief wobble, I’m back on form and plan to make Sophie’s Japan Blog better than ever! I’ve already planned ahead for the next few weeks and there’s some pretty exciting stuff… plus an AWESOME secret competition. I’ve only been blogging for a year but I’ve already realised how much followers and readers make a difference. So, thanks all!

Next week, I’ll be talking about my trip to the British Film Institute London to see a one-day special screening of the anime movie Tiger and Bunny: The Beginning. On the off chance you’re going there too, post below and come say ‘hi’ on the day!

The beautiful thing about blogging…

A lot has happened since I began blogging last year. Perhaps the most surprising thing is the amount of people I have met. Who’d have thought that sitting in front of your computer would get you doing so much? As part of the blog’s birthday celebrations, I thought I’d share some of its highlights and encourage some new people to blog.

To quickly summarise my life in the past year: I graduated from university, took a couple of unpaid internships, moved to London for a paid internship then stayed there for three more months looking for my next job. After finally realising that London was just too competitive and too expensive, I moved back to Manchester. A month later I got my job in a B2B (business to business) scientific and technology PR agency and have been there for four months. The blog has been a constant thing all the way through and it kept me busy when I was really down about applying for job after job and getting nowhere. Of course, I wouldn’t be blogging when I’m busy and happy if I didn’t enjoy it!

So, how can blogging get you a job? Well, it’s not an instantaneous miracle for sure. First, you need a theme, one that you’re interested in and one that you can write about for a long time. If you don’t think you’re much of a writer, take photos or draw instead. Second, you should spend a bit of time investigating – what blogging platform to use, how to spread word about it and so on. Expect a lot of changes along the way. If you look back at my old posts you’ll see there used to be a very rigid ‘weekly list’ structure, which meant hours of writing and a lot of skimming for the reader. The getting a job bit comes after a lot of patience and perseverance. Having something that you are passionate about and willingly spend a lot of time on for free is a good trait in a potential employee.

Rather than give you a long chronological passage saying ‘this happened, then this happened’, I’ll quickly run through the high points of Sophie’s Japan Blog and some goals for the 2012-2013 year!

  • Being approached by Yatta Magazine to repost my blog
  • Interviewing voice actor Vic Mignogna at MCM Expo
  • Writing an article on the Takarazuka Troupe for Diverse Japan
  • Taking part in Tokyo Podcast
  • Interviewing Peter Payne of J-list
  • Getting a press pass to Hyper Japan and writing a review in Cosplay Gen magazine
  • Receiving an email from a reader in Russia saying how much she enjoyed the blog! :)

Goals for the next twelve months…

  • Actually go to Japan and blog about my trip!
  • Interview some more voice actors (dream candidates are Troy Baker and Patrick Seitz)
  • Feature some more guest authors on the blog
  • Go to a Japan convention elsewhere in Europe (suggestions below!)

If you’re thinking of starting a blog yourself, go for it! Also, if you’re already a blogger, please leave a comment below and share your own story.

Next week’s post … we’ll be rounding up Britain and Japan in the Olympics! Don’t forget to enter this month’s special giveaway if you haven’t already.

WIN! Memoirs of a Geisha

Last week I promised on my Facebook page that if I reached 100 ‘likes’, I would run a giveaway. Within an hour my numbers jumped from 98 to 105 (not HUGE numbers but I’m still happy), so here’s your giveaway. One lucky person will get their hands on the blog’s book of the month, Memoirs of a Geisha.

The rules

It’s as easy as that. Entries will close 9pm Thursday 31st May and a winner will be selected at random and contacted for a postal address. When you leave a comment make sure you enter an email address (which will be invisible on the blog) when prompted so you can be contacted.

The book will be sent from an online store (my own copy is so dog-eared I don’t think anyone will want it!) so this giveaway is open to the UK only.

See you next week!

I’m back (almost)!

Wow, so it really has been a month since I last blogged. It’s been a manic few weeks so I’ve not had the time to write much, hence the lack of activity. However, the blog will be returning soon with a few small changes, as detailed below:

  • I may no longer be able to do the regular ‘of the week’ posts that this blog is best known for on a weekly basis. They take 4-6 odd hours to do in total and it’s a mad rush to finish things every week…
  • Which leads me to the second point. I plan to keep this as a ‘weekly’ blog but the posts may be shorter and may feature just one story, event etcetc. I’ll also be doing more ‘top ten’ and ‘top five’ lists.
  • There will be no more ‘samurai of the week’ feature. This is by far the longest part of the blog to write and I usually spend far too much time on this one section. Not to mention, I’ve exhausted the main list of samurai. I may do a ‘famous Japanese person of the week’ feature later on.

So, as promised (FINALLY) I will be doing a feature on Hyper Japan next week. It will be relatively short and focus on the Sushi Awards as I have already covered the other aspects in this here video.

A special competition announcement!

I think this is the first time I’ve posted twice in one week. Shocking!

I’m posting this now so I can draw your undivided attention to this art competition I’m running. All details are in the video but I have posted the details here as well for your convenience.

* Draw anything you want, from an animal to your favourite anime/manga character to your original character . . . As long as it’s related to Japan.
* Get your entries in to by 11pm Monday 6th February 2012!

* The winner’s artwork will be the blog’s new banner AND they can request a special feature for the blog
* 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will also be featured in the blog’s ‘artwork’ section

I don’t have a deviantart account to spread word about this competition, so if you have one I would be very grateful if you could share it with your friends!

I’m also on Twitter @SophienoKatana