30th July 2020: Vampires in Madrid (Spain)

The world is pretty much topsy-turvy these days, isn’t it? I’ve been literally staring at the computer screen for about an hour, wondering how to start, how to explain. I’ve erased the opening paragraph about four times too (≧▽≦). Thus, I will just spare you the introduction, explanations, justifications, and so. It took me a while to decide in favour of my little trip to Madrid.

Vampires, the Evolution of the Myth, or Vampiros, la Evolución del Mito (#VampirosCaixaForum) was scheduled before the whole COVID-19 debacle. Once things started opening up in Spain, the exhibition was rescheduled to run in Madrid for a couple of months through summer. And for a while I pondered whether it was… I’m not sure how to put it… worth the risk? For months we had been told to avoid public transport, which is my main mean of moving around, so in the end I decided what the fuck, if I was doing this, I was going to drive into the centre of Madrid – for the very first time in my life. For the record I don’t particularly enjoy driving, I much prefer being driven, and my sense of directions when driving is… not the best, so I borrowed a GPS, picked up my sister, and drove off.

After only getting the wrong exit once, we left the car in an underground parking lot and walked ten short minutes and we were in front of the Caixa Forum Madrid. Caixa Forum is a cultural space owned by a savings bank in search of tax deductions that organises shows and exhibitions. We had a compound ticket for 12:00, which included both exhibitions in the building, and a theme lunch. And so we went.

Vampiros: La Evolución del Mito, “Vampires, the Evolution of the Myth” is an exhibition originally organised by La Cinémathèque française, which is a French French non-profit film organisation that holds one of the collection of cinema-related objects and documents in the world. As they are specialised in films, the vampire exhibition focuses on the figure of the preternatural being throughout cinema.

The first room is focused on the book Dracula, and the Romantic interpretation of the myth – Romantic as the literary period, not the lovey-dovey stuff. Highlights include a facsimile of the first scene of the manuscript of Bram Stoker’s version of Dracula for theatre, aside from early editions of the novel and other vampire books such as John William Polidori’s The Vampyre and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. There were also some surprising items – some of Francisco de Goya’s wood-prints. Goya was one of the most influential painters in Spain, also grounded in the Romantic movement. Good stuff.

The second room was dedicated to Nosferatu, one of the key films in the vampire genre, with some promotional material and film props – this was the ward with best and most important number of items.

The following room was dedicated to the romantic, erotic and sexual vampires. It had two main focuses – one was the Dracula portrayed by Bela Lugosi as the epitome of the elegant, seductive vampire, first in Broadway, then in the 1931 film by Universal Studios. The centrepiece of the room featured two pieces of the wardrobe in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula worn by Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, along with several designs for the wardrobe (which could not be photographed, but you can peek at in some of the pics). Finally, we got to see the suit worn Tom Cruise as Lestat and Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire. I missed some more Christopher Lee, as there were barely some photographies of his performance in Dracula (1958) and its sequels.

On one side there was a small area dedicated to the vampire as a political metaphor. The final area was dedicated to the pop vampire, including magazines, comics and graphic novels, some Japanese manga, and so on – even Count Dracula from Sesame Street! Then again, he was on a screen. I would have killed to see the real puppet.

All in all I got the impression that the exhibit lacked ‘the real thing’ and abused the film montages. I was expecting a few more props and less bits of films which… after all I’ve seen most (≧▽≦). The truth is that the myth of the vampire starts much earlier than the “Medieval” vampire featured in the Romantic fantasies, and can be traced to early succubi or the Lamia myths in Ancient Greece if you think about Western Culture alone. The Romantic and Victorian writers just made the myth cool as it was once more popular due to a sort of “vampire hysteria” that crossed the Balkans the previous century – that’s probably the main reason why Bram Stoker chose the figure of a Transylvanian warlord to create his character. But in the end it was a good way to break the activity fast.

Then we moved on to the next exhibition, Cámara y ciudad. La vida urbana en la fotografía y el cine, “Camera and the city: urban life in photography and the cinema” which… was okay, I guess. I guess I’m not a photography / video kind of person (≧▽≦).

After perusing the shop for a while, we moved to the cafeteria, where a “theme menu” had been designed. Let me detail that for you:

  • El frenesí vampírico / Vampire frenzy: virgin – I think – Bloody Mary
  • Estacas de la muerte / Death stakes: aubergine tempura with sweet and sour sauce
  • Reencarnación / Reincarnation: Goat cheese, sweet beet and raspberries salad
  • Inmortalidad / Immortality: Macerated sea bass with lime, orange, coriander, salt and pepper, with a side of mango and tortilla chips
  • Embalsamamiento / Embalmment: Duck magret with a red wine sauce and mushrooms
  • Drácula / Dracula: Crème anglaise, jelly and raspberry mousse.

Let me tell you, this was amazing – and fortunately the portions were small so the final amount was more than adequate.

It was a little later than 15:15 when we left the CaixaForum centre and headed off the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, a museum built from a noble family’s art collection which also hosts temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibition is chronologically organised, and here are some of the pieces by famous artists: Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Degas, El Greco, Tiziano… and hm… many very modern painters I… can’t understand.

Finally we decided to call it a day before people started coming out of work and leaving town so that we did not get into a traffic jam, and I am very proud of myself for taking the drive – which was my wee white whale for a while. I’ll see myself out now (≧▽≦)

Distance: Approx. 120 km driving; 6.08 km walking

Also, as an afterthought, I ordered the Vampire exhibition book online. I did not at first because I did not feel like carrying it around as it is thick. But they home-delivered and I actually saved 2.5 bucks?

PS: New logo! What do you think?

2nd January 2019: Jurassic and 19th Century Madrid (Spain)

I was in the middle of winter holidays and a couple of family members asked me if I had plans – I said I was getting tickets for a dinosaur exhibit in Madrid, and they jumped in. We made arrangements to head over there on the 2nd of January and spend the day in Madrid. I don’t think they really realised what it meant to be around me and the “terrible lizards” (≧▽≦). But off we went.

General entry ticket for 2nd January 2019

The Jurassic World: Exhibition was held in Madrid. The whole thing is organised in-verse, as if you actually visited the island.

Jurassic World the Exhibition logo and title

After you walk in, there is first a small introduction on the “boat” as you travel towards Isla Nublar. There you are given the instructions (mainly, keep your hands to yourself), the boat makes dock and you are let into the Park. Keeping in touch with the spirit of the films (not the book though *giggles*) there’s a Brachiosaurus there to greet you, just like the first animal you see in Isla Nublar (and later the last).

Pretencious gate with two columns on the side, reading Jurassic World. A brontosaurus head peers down at you

You also catch a glimpse of a Parasaurolophus.

The head of an herbivore dinosaur (parasaurolophus) peering through the bushes

Then you get to the “stables” where you get to see a Triceratops mama with her baby.

Mom and baby Triceratops behind a fence that reads Gentle giants petting zoo

Afterwards, there is a small room that represents the laboratory where the dinosaurs are made – I could have made it out with a critter but there were only baby Iguanodon.

Fake amber pieces and DNA extactor along with an incubator with eggs and baby dinosaurs

Next, you walk into a tiny museum with some fossil reproductions and actual scientific information…

Reproduction of carnivore dinosaurs skull and bones, along with the drawing of a huge T-rex fooot print drawn on the ground to compare it to a human one

… right before everything goes to hell and back when you’re shown a hologram of Owen Grady talking to his velociraptor Blue and you get a… guy in a velociraptor costume prancing around (≧▽≦).

Person disguised as a verlociraptor

The next room shows the Tyrannosaurus rex cage (by the way #TeamTRex here, in case you did not know) behind her cage, menacing and staring.

T-rex animatronic, showing the huge head behind a fence

The final room is another garden in which you get to see a Stegosaurus being stalked by the made-up Indominus rex.


Head of the Indominus rex, looking like it's stalking prey

And at the end of the exhibition, after the shop even, you find the velociraptors, which have apparently escaped and are ready to attack!

Jurassic world velociraptors on a wrecked crate

All in all, being the dinosaur geek I am, I had a blast. I’m not sure that my poor family members that had wanted to tag along with me knew what they were bargaining for (≧▽≦).

However, they were still willing to put up with my for a little longer, and together we drove off to the centre of Madrid, and somehow ended up at the Museo Cerralbo. They asked if there was something I wanted to see, and the Cerralbo Museum was running a couple of Japan-related specials I was curious about. The museum stands in the Palace of the same name, and it holds the collection of the late Marquis Cerralbo.

The museum is… crammed and chaotic, but interesting in its own way. It holds thousands of pieces, from worthless-looking mementos to priceless paintings by masters such as El Greco. Art experts say that the Cerralbo collection was the most valuable of its time.

Collage of cerralbo museum. A room with two samurai armous. A centrepiece made with swords. A long table, set, with chairs along and an ellaborate lamp hanging from the ceiling. The hall of the museum, with a staircase with an ellaborate balaustrade and a glass lamp hanging from the ceiling.

The museum was holding a designated route focused on the Japanese pieces it has, including samurai armours.

Collage of Asian and Japanese pieces of the museum: hars, a samurai armour, and an hexagonal carey box

Furthermore, there was an origami exhibition on the lower floor.

Origami pieces: a phoenix, a snake, an orca, corals, and a life-sized hippo

After the museum we sat down for lunch at a fusion Asian-Japanese restaurant, because the family members “wanted to try” – although they were rather scared of the food. Eventually they managed to enjoy it too, and even have seconds – however I needed to make a run to get my tablet serviced.

Lunch. Sushi, chicken skewers, rice dish and noodles dish

Once it was up and running, and family had come to find me, we walked towards the shopping centre in Principe Pío for dessert – yoghurt ice cream with berries and smarties. A great way to end the day!

An old station from iron architecture epoch repurposed into shopping centre

Frozen yoghurt with berries sauce and smarties

24th March 2018: The day I saw Hatsune Miku (Madrid, Spain)

“Vocaloid Opera – The End” is an opera for an in the digital world. It was written by Keiichiro Shibuya and performed by Hatsune Miku. Hatsune Miku [初音ミク] is a vocaloid idol. In case you’ve never heard of vocaloids, the idea is a bit complicated. A voicaloid is a singing voice synthesizer software product, basically a computer-generated singing voice. The software was released in 2004 and it exploded with popularity in Japan. Hatsune Miku was given a humanoid shape when it was released in 2017 – and it was definitely a she. So, in a way, Hatsune Miku is a voice synthesiser with a cartoon-female-human form.

Yeah, weird. I have always thought so too. But it was dirt-cheap (8 quid), and there was a session at 18:00 on Saturday that I could attend without a late train back. So I dyed my hair purple (because no, I’m not showing up to a blue-haired character’s show in blue hair), got out my thick faux-fur-neck coat and off I went.

The show was being held at Naves Matadero is a former slaughterhouse turned arts centre. It has turned the buildings into theatres, showrooms and so on. As I walked around the area, looking for my theatre I saw a hell of a lot of families with kids under ten, there to see “the doll” or “the cartoons”. I’m not kidding, during the first ten to fifteen minutes of the show, about twenty families left (≧▽≦).

Entrance to the venue, showing the sign of Naves Matadero Nave 11 and Vocaloid Opera the end

“Vocaloid Opera – The End” explores the concept of an artificial being obsessing about death. The whole show is digital, just like Miku, as she wanders the world wondering about “the end”. She seems trapped in a surreal nightmare, with several scenarios that don’t make that much sense. Miku is followed in her trip by a plush rabbit (Alice much?), she talks on the phone and there is a multiple-eye monster around.

Booklet and ticket. Both read Vocalod Opera the end, with the dates. The booklet shows an image of Hatsune Miku, crying blood, the whole booklet is tinted yellow

The music has an electronic flavour, and at times repetitive. It’s loud and you feel it more than hear it. There warnings about bright and strobe lights all around and I understood why – the whole thing relied heavily on CGI and lighting. The chosen topic, along the images were claustrophobic, and I think that was on purpose – there are different “dying” options: drowning, gas masks, withering off.

The climatic “aria” peaks with Miku asking the spectator “Am I dead? Or just asleep? You decide. It makes little difference to me.” In the end, she is a human creation so, like humans, she will “die” sometime too (aaaaand I have opinions about this because I believe that some human creations transcend their authors). And a final downside: knickers. Seriously, what’s with Japanese people and knickers?! She’s a CGI doll – true, wearing CGI clothes designed by the former artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, but a CGI doll!

That was all that I did, but here are some pictures I managed to snatch a few pictures, including of the actual 3D rendering of Miku.

Picture of the composer, dressed in yellow

Life-sized sculpture of Hatsune Miku, wearing a chequered dress that shows her waist, and heels. Her hair is flying as she turns.

14th – 16th October 2017: Vienna, Austria

14th October 2017: Arrival and the Inner ring: Butterflies and Dinosaurs

Between flight and transfer to the city on Saturday morning, I arrived in the city of Vienna at 1pm. As my hotel was between the station and the city centre, I took my chances for an early check in and I was lucky – it was. After dropping my luggage I headed off to walk around Vienna’s Inner Ring, the Ringstrasse, which is a big boulevard that runs around all the old city of Vienna (Unesco World Heritage Site). A bunch of things were on my way and it seemed easy enough to find one’s way around. My hotel was located in a building close to a park, and had three floors, on the 11th, 12th and 13th floors of a building, which gave me some views of the city.

On Saturday the plan was wandering around, but as I am who I am I ended up improvising. My first stop was the outer Vienna State Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, where a young man dressed as Mozart tried to sell me tickets for a show.

Vienna opera house, a baroque building in light colours with huge windows and an arched entrance

I continued on my walk and I saw the Albertina, a modern art museum, but I was actually heading to the Imperial Palace greenhouse, which is the home of a café and the Schmetterlinghaus, or Imperial Butterfly House. This is an area of the greenhouse where a bunch of butterflies are free to fly around and feed on a bunch of flowers, plants and pieces of apple. I was lucky enough to catch a few good shoots and I was very happy to have decided to go in (albeit I have to say that I was really keen on going there since I had seen that it existed). I really had a blast and enjoyed this, so it was a must that I don’t regret having missed, especially since the 6.50€ for the ticket. I spent around forty minutes in there chasing butterflies.

Vienna Butterfly house: a former greenhouse, and a few close-ups of different butterflies on bushes.

Then I saw the Austrian National Library, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.

Severe-looking stone building with columns and windows.

After that I back I walked through the Hofburg Palace, Hofburg Wien, and the Michaelerplatz or Saint Michael Square.

Collage of the former Imperial palace. It is a stone building with columns and windows, and arches

After that I crossed the palace in the opposite direction and ended up at the Heldenplatz, which gave way to Naturhistorisches Museum, the Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs, because there were dinosaurs, which is the home of the Venus von Willendorf, a tiny statue of stone dated back 29,500 years. The museum also holds a collection of minerals, meteorites, preserved animals, dinosaurs, an animatronics dinosaur and a multitude of artefacts from Prehistory to the Middle Ages. I also saw the same dunkleosteus that they have in the Tokyo Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan. Have I mentioned dinosaur animatronics?

Collage of the Natural Museum: the building, with a dome, a whale skeleton, an Albertosaurus skeleton, the head of a Dunkleosteous fish, a huge salt stone and the Venus von Willendorf, a small naked woman statuette in golden stone

Following the museum I continued down the Ring Boulevard and it did not take me long to stumble up the Pallas Athene Brunnen (Monument to Palas Athena) and the Austrian Parliament Building, Parlamentsgebäude. The latter was under reconstruction.

Vienna parliament house, under renovation. There is a Palas Athena in white marble with a gold helmet standing in front of it.

I continued my walk until I found the Vienna Town hall, called the Rathaus, where there was a kind of Videogame trade fair or something going on.

Vienna town hall - neogothic building with a lot of towers and spikes.

Then I went on walking towards the university and the church of Votivkirche, a neo-gothic building next to the university.

Gothic church under renovation

Afterwards I went down to the hotel because this is not summer vacations after all, just a weekend escapade and I seriously did not have that much energy. On my way I walked past the stables of the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) stables and I saw some pretty horses.

Two white horses from the Vienna riding school

And even from the hotel (literally from bed), as my room had views, I could take some pictures of the sunset and the lit buildings. And then I went to sleep at a horribly early hour because I was beat and for some reason I managed over 8 hours of sleep.

Sunset over the skyline of vienna. The buildings are dark and the sky is orange

15th October 2017: Palaces, churches and the Cinema

Because my hotel was **** for a change (I have to say that when I think about the whole weekend the word “decadent” is what comes to mind), I had a kettle and instant coffee ready for me – this was my breakfast. After that I did the online for my flight the following day and of course running into technical difficulties, and I left the hotel at around 9:30, which was a bit later than I had intended.

I was coming up to the Belvedere Palace, and on my way there I took a diversion to see the Karlskirche or Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church), which I could see from my hotel and illuminated at night. This is a baroque church that sometimes holds classical music concerts.

The church of St. Charles; a Baroque church. It has a dome, and two twisted columns in front.

After taking a wrong turn once or twice this I headed out to my original target, the Schloss Belvedere (Upper Belvedere Palace). This is a Baroque Palace (seriously, Vienna is full of Baroque) that has been turned into a painting gallery. The most famous author in this gallery is Klint, but if I have to be honest, I’m not too appreciative of him – must be my likings for the realists. In the end, I liked the palace itself better than the painting collection, specially the reception room and the staircase.

The Upper Belvedere Palace, a Neoclassical building in white stone.

As I had bought a three-combo ticket including Upper and Lower Belvedere and the Winter Palace, I walked down the Belvedere Gardens to the Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere), which holds the “Medieval Treasure” and temporal exhibitions. The best thing was the gold and mirror room and the marble gallery.

A huge garden with a palace in the background. The garden is artificial in a way, with perfectly-trimmed grass, fountains, and bushes.

The Baroque entrance to the lower Belvedere palace, a stone gate with sculptures on top. It looks like it wants to stare you down. The palace peers through the three open doors in the background

Then I headed off to the centre of the city to see the Winterpalais des Prinzen Eugen (Winter Palace of Prince Eugene), which was not the best thing ever but hey it came within the three-museum combo.

A Neoclassical palace with flags hanging over the door

Then I headed off to Domkirche St. Stephan (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), which is the gothic Catholic cathedral. It is not Baroque but Gothic. The entrance was free, but it also had a paid area, including the catacombs. Unfortunately I was too late for the current tour and too early for the following one, so I decided not to stick around, else I would have got the combo for the catacombs, the tower and the treasure.

A gothic cathedral. Collage showing the outside, with the tower and the ornate windows, and the inside showing the pointed arches inthe nave, and the organ.

As it was, I saw the cathedral and then headed off down different streets and saw the outer area of Katholische Kirche St. Peter (Catholic Church of St. Peter).

Façade of a Neoclassical church

And then headed out to the Michaelerplatz to check the inside of the Michaelskirche (Catholic Church of St. Michael).

Neoclassical church, showing the white and pointy bell tower. The image is tilted so the tower fits in the frame

I checked the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) for tour tickets, but I was late for that and it was all sold out, so I decided to go to the station and buy some food in the supermarket for both lunch and dinner. On the way I crossed the Stadtpark to see the floral clock and the Johann Strauss monument – Johann Strauß Denkmal.

Finally, I headed off to get some rest at the hotel, and have a shower. At 18:15 I walked down to the cinema at the corner of my hotel building, the Gartenbaukino, because in the end that was the reason I was there – to attend the Austrian premiere of the X JAPAN documentary We are X as Yoshiki was going to be around for a Q&A session afterwards.

There had been a small mix-up with the ticket numbering (all of them had been printed out with the same seating number!), which was solved efficiently. We watched the documentary We are X and then there was a Q&A with Yoshiki himself. There were emotional moments as the fans thanked him for everything he had done and for his music.

Entryway to the cinema. It reads We are X Live + Q&A mit Yoshiki 20.00

Yoshiki sitting in front of a burgundy curtain. He is wearing his sunglasses and a black suit, boots and a golden blouse

After the Q&A some of us stayed talking at the cinema gate and the manager, who had solved the ticket problem, came out to close – and he told us where Yoshiki would be leaving from. And that’s… the story of how I got to talk to Yoshiki, I got his autograph and took a picture with him and I will never, ever, ever forget the rush of that.

I have to say I did not sleep much that night. All the excitement caught up with me and I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over again. in the end I think it was around 2:30 that I could turn the lights off.

16th October 2017: Airport Monday morning

After checking out of the hotel I walked back to the train station and took the CAT towards the airport. I had taken an earlier train than I had already planned and boy was I glad to do so when following arrows at the airport took me as much as 20 minutes. Something I learnt in this trip is how friendly Austrian people are, and that they have a great sense of humour, as apparently one of their star souvenirs is “no kangaroos in Austria”. The return flight was not as good as the first, but it was on time and I could arrive to work smoothly for a crazy week.

23rd & 24th September 2017: San Sebastián Film Festival (Spain)

23rd September 2017: Let’s go!

Overnight, I headed off to San Sebastián as a Weekend Escapade to the Festival de Cine de San Sebastián International Film Festival that is held over there because they were projecting a Japanese film and the main actor and the director were coming over to present it. The film was “Sandome no Satsujin” [三度目の殺人], the director is Hirozaku Kore-eda and the actor in question was Fukuyama Masaharu, of whom I am a big fan.

I started off at 22:00 on Friday as I had to take a bus to go to Intercambiador de Avenida de América, which is one of the bus hubs in Madrid. My bus to San Sebastián left at 00:30, so in the end I had to wait for almost two hours until I could board. I was dozing for most of the trip so it did not feel too long. I arrived in San Sebastián bus station at around 6:50 in the morning and I had decided that I would go to the so-called Shell Beach, Playa de la Concha, to watch sunrise. I had been told that cafeterias would be open at that time, but not even the one in the bus station was ready.

A beach at night. The sea is calm and it reflects the city lights

My plan of watching a sea sunrise was trumped by the fact that the sea is towards the west, but I still could take a couple of nice pictures.

The sun rising, tinting the sky and the sea blue and orange

Among them were the beach itself, the “skyline” and the Catedral del Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Cathedral).

A gothic or neogothic church clock tower, spiky with pointy arches

I wandered around, found the theatre where the film was going to be projected and as the sun started warming up, I started feeling less like a homeless dog.

The sun rising along a promenade

I found the local Starbucks at around 9:00 to get some rest, a coffee, and a cookie before I went to the Aquarium, which opened at 10:00. The Aquarium de San Sebastián is a bit more of a museum than anything else. The first part (second floor) is dedicated to the history of ocean commerce, with different types of ships, and rooms focused on the local harbour, companies, traditional boat racing and whaling. This includes an actual right whale skeleton and several sperm whale teeth and some baleens. The second part (first floor) is dedicated to general fishing and the local oceanography society, including machinery and live specimens.

Finally, after all this, you get to the actual aquarium (yay). There are several small tanks and then a big tank with a walk-through tunnels. The inhabitants are pretty standard, with lots of small fish and several magnifying-glass tanks to make the animals look bigger than they are. The third floor hosts the tropical fish including the piranha and the clown fish. All in all it is a nice place, however, it was under construction and some tanks were covered by dark plastic. After that I left the aquarium and I decided to go up Mount Urquil, which hosts a castle and quite nice views of the city and the ocean.

A small building entrance which yields to the aquarium. Collage showing different exhibits inside: a whale skeleton, a seven-grilled shark in alcohol, a trilobites fossil, a shark jaw, a starfish, a shark swimming above through an aquarium tunnel, a lionfish, sarks swimming in the aquarium

I walked by John Malkovich while heading there, but he did not look like he was in the mood (or the clothes) to be recognised, so I did not bug him. Then I started my climb up the mount towards the the local castle, Castillo de La Mota, along the batteries of cannons. The castle has a small history museum, and a look-out balcony, and the top has been transformed into a church, with a giant Christ overlooking. The truth is I was mostly improvising on my visits as the week was hell between work and the death of a family member.

Views from and of the ruins of the castle - the sea, the wall, and the old cannons

After that I had lunch and headed off to the theatre to check out the coming out of people. At this point I planned to wait for the actor and the director to come into the theatre, but for some reason I checked out the schedule, and the name of the actor had been taken out of the presentation! That made me sad for a little while, but I decided that I was okay with it, that it would not be a drama. I had taken my chance, and at least I had gotten some air after all the pain and drama throughout the week. I guess that helped relativise the sadness. I went to a park near the beach to get some sun and enjoy the last days of summer.

A 19th century building with large windows. A banner on the façade reads Festival de San Sebastián 65

A banner for the cinema festival, showing posters for different films. The third murder is on the bottom left

Around 15:00 I returned to the theatre, Teatro Victoria Eugenia to start lining as I wanted a seat close enough to see the subtitles- and I found a place on sixth row which was pretty good. As this was a special people’s vote session, we got a ballot to give our opinions. Then I settled to wait, and eventually at 16:00 the presenter came in, and to my surprise, she announced Kore-eda and Fukuyama. That made me so happy I could have died right there and then, and the best was still to come. Kore-eda told us about the film. Apparently several people consider that he has changed genre, but he told us that he disagrees and that he still tried to make a human drama. However, he thought that we should judge. Then Fukuyama told us that he enjoyed San Sebastián and that they had been having pinchos and that he was happy to have returned. I was shaking so hard I could barely hold the phone as I recorded.

The stage inside the theatre

Director Kore-eda and actor Fukuyama Masaharu on stage

Promo of the film The Third Murder from the Festival Webpage

All this would have made me very happy already, but there is more. “Sandome no Satsujin”, or “The third murder” tells the story of a lawyer whose job is to defend a man accused of murder. As this would be the defendant’s third murder, if found guilty he will be handed the death penalty. The film is a complex story, completely unpredictable – or I was too enthralled to see the ending coming – but when everything fell into place I felt like gawking.

Furthermore, there was more to come – at the end of the film both Kore-eda and Fukuyama had stayed behind. as I was coming out I looked up and told them “otsukaresama deshita”, and both of them bowed and replied “arigatou”. Then we waited for them to come down from the second floor, from where they had taken the ovation. I dropped my vote and rushed through the red carpet. As other people talked to the director I made a beedive towards Fukuyama. It was then or never, and it turned out to be then.

Director Kore-eda and actor Fukuyama Masaharu waving for a picture on the street after the film

I was shaking inside but I managed to tell them that I had been a fan of his since Galileo times and I asked for his autograph. He told me thank you (at some point the interpreter tried to help, but I was busy dying and trying to get my meaning across). He signed my Galileo booklet and I asked him to take a picture with me, to which he also agreed. And thus I fulfilled my wildest dreams (and look horrible in the picture). After Fukuyama had continued on the red carpet I managed to sit down on a curb and I was on the phone with my friend C*****, who prevented me from going completely hysterical in fanby bliss.

After I told her everything, I was pretty dead so I headed off to he hotel (pension) that I had booked for the night, and pretty much giggled and crashed, and uncrashed and giggled some more. At 23:00 I was completely zonked out, not without realising that I had headed to get some rest without grabbing my freebies and some merchandising I wanted from the festival.

Fukuyama Masaharu's autograph on a DVD booklet

24th September 2017: And back

I left the hotel early, around 8:30 to head towards the cinema area and buy the short Festival guide (not the big one for 22€ but the little one for 1.5€) and get the free newspaper. I bought a coffee to go and headed back to the bus station, when my bus was at 10:00. I could not sleep and the Wi-Fi was not working, but I could watch Youtube videos on the seat screen. I managed to get home around 17:00 after a couple of buses, and I was pretty much dead. However, it was totally worth it. I think this is why I was hyper enough to decide to go to Vienna next month…

5th & 6th of November 2016: Barcelona (Spain) for We are X

I was supposed to have travelled to London in March 2016 to see X Japan’s concert, where they were also going to project the We Are X documentary premiere. Unfortunately, that was postponed to 2017 due to PATA’s health issues. I really hope it works out next year. However, the decision was made to start premiering the documentary in different music festivals, and the second I heard that it would be shown at the In-Edit festival in Barcelona I got a ticket for it. Furthermore, I actually won two more tickets in a giveaway.

These two tickets I got I gave to a couple-friend of mine who had been so nice as to let me stay over at their place. I took a train around 8 am and was in Barcelona mid-morning. I went directly to their place and we just hung out until it was time to go to the Multicines Sala 5, where the documentary was going to be shown. We were actually the first and, press aside, we were the first ones in. We sat dead in the middle of the cinema and a group that walked in ten minutes later wanted us to move. And sorry, random person, but the answer is not. We were not really a “queue” but we were waiting for a couple of hours, so I was not going to give my chosen “best seat” out of the whole theatre for a group of ten people.

This was a Saturday evening, and there had already been a premier on the 1st of November so there might be more fans there, but in general I was a bit taken down by how few fans there were, most felt like people who had a whole-festival ticket.

The documentary tells the story of X JAPAN, one of my favourite Japanese bands, from the point of view of its founder, drummer and pianist Yoshiki. The band crumbled at the height of its popularity when guitarist Hide died by hanging, and the singer ended up brainwashed by a cult. Everything is told from Yoshiki’s own point of view, which makes the film biased, but still poignant.

After the film we went back to my friends’ place and had dinner. The next morning, they wanted to show me their little orchard in the outskirts, and I was treated to the best paella (Spanish rice) that I have ever had in my life – so awesome I even forgot about taking pictures! It was sad that I had to leave by 8pm, so I was only in Barcelona for about 32 hours, but it was so well worth it.

Collage showing the entrance to Multicines 5 and the Beefeater In-Edit screen before the film started

8th March 2015: Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary in Guadalajara (Spain)

When I was young I used to love the anime Saint Seiya. Then, as I grew older, I read the manga, then I sort of drifted away from it, until somehow new fandoms and old fandoms collided – and it as announced that YOSHIKI was writing the theme song for the film Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary. That grabbed my attention, and eventually Selecta Visión announced that they would release them in cinemas in Spain.

When it was announced that it would be showing in the shopping centre cinemas in Guadalajara for a couple of sessions only, I decided to buy my ticket online. It was strange for me for several reasons – the main of them was that I rarely go to the cinema to watch something dubbed. Also, the online shopping was weird -instead of getting a ticket, you got a number and then you had to input that number on a machine to get your actual traditional ticket printed.

I drove to the shopping centre, which was rather dead as it was a Sunday at half past six, the shops were closed and the restaurants not open yet. The audience of the cinema was comprised by a class of special needs kids and a lot – and I mean a lot of super-excited fathers with their young sons, who had no idea what the whole fuss was about. I enjoyed the film – I had resisted watching it bootleg although it had leaked on the Internet. It was a different, lighter take on the Battle of Sanctuary. I did, however, miss the Virgo Shaka vs Phoenix Ikki battle – because after all they’re my favourite characters. When the film ended, I stayed behind for the whole credits and YOSHIKI’s song “Hero”, beautifully sang by Katie Fitzgerald. I was literally the only person left in the cinema through it, and I had to apologise to the cleaning crew, who told me no problem. And hey, I got to see the mid-credit scene on my own!

Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary

After the film, I walked to the car and drove home to watch it again in its original version, because I am that kind of geek, and I was not too impressed with the dubs – but hey, that’s me, I’ve always preferred the originals.

1st February 2015: Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Madrid (Spain)

You can say that this was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment improvisation – I literally woke up and decided that I wanted to go and see the Space Pirate Captain Harlock. I found a cinema in Madrid that showed the film and I hopped on a train to get there. I arrived in time for an early lunch before I headed off for the film, as the only version in Japanese was at half past three.

This was one of the first times I ate and went to the cinema alone in Madrid, and it was a strange experience. My relatives always say that a person eating alone is sad, and as I’ve been hearing that for a long time, and sometimes it resonates, specially when I’m in Spain. I originally wanted to eat sushi, but in the end I decided against it and went to UDON instead, where I ended getting the membership card. I decided to try the Chicken Yaki Udon – much better than the ramen, in my opinion, as they were real udon noodles, unlike the ramen which uses tallarini – and a koroke (croquette), and I had cheesecake mochi for dessert.

After lunch I headed off to the Yelmo Cines Ideal to watch the film. I had no seat number and I did not need one as we were literally… five people in the cinema. It was a small cinema theatre, and when I arrived there were three or four people, I figured that more would come, but when the previews started we were just five, and five we stayed. When the film finally started, I was really impressed by the quality of the CGI – I already knew that the voice-over was going to be great, what with Oguri Shun and Miura Haruma.

The plot of the film reminded me a little of Space Battleship Yamato, but that might just be me being biased. Even if I vaguely remember watching the anime from the times I was a child, the film felt at the same time nostalgic and new, so I could really enjoy it. Although it is a bit on the predictable side, it wraps up really well.

After the film, I backtracked and it turns out I was home before anyone even noticed I was gone. I should get away more often (≧▽≦).

13th August 2014: Samurai vs. Kaiju {Japan, summer 2014}

We started the day in Asakusa [浅草], which would be one of my favourite places in Tokyo if it was not so crowded all the time. This time not only I wanted to visit the main Sensōji [浅草寺].

The Sensoji temple in Asakusa, whose most prominent feature is the huge red paper lanterns

I also wanted to check out the smaller protective Shinto Shrines on the side, like Asakusa Jinja [浅草神社].

Small shrine with two stone torii, two stone lanterns and two fox statues flanking them

The second temple of the day was Sengakuji [泉岳寺], close to Shinagawa [品川]. The name does not really ring a bell by itself, but Senkakuji is also known as the Temple of the Forty-Seven Rōnin, as here is where all of them are buried. The Buddhist temple itself is nothing special. It has the graveyard where the samurai are buried, and a small museum attached where you can see a replica of the drum used in the attack, along with pieces of armour and one copy of the declarative letter that they wrote. Another part of the museum holds wooden statues for all of them.

A Buddhist temple, and a row of gravestones with the names of some of the 47 Ronin

After having lunch in Shinagawa (in a… Mexican… kind of place called “El Caliente”) we headed off to Roppongi [六本木] to see Godzilla. Not the movie, but the sculpture that has been planted in Tokyo Midtown [東京ミッドタウン]. As a matter of fact, it was a very Godzilla [ゴジラ] summer in Tokyo. The Godzilla visit was done in two parts, one before sunset and one after it had gotten dark.

Godzilla coming from the ground, roaring

The two visits to Godzilla were separated by horrible horrible American food (I shall never willingly set a foot on a “Wendy’s” again) and going to the cinema to watch “Rurouni Kenshin – Kyoto Inferno”, the second instalment of a movie trilogy based on the manga of the same name.

Poster of the movie. It shows a man dressed in red traditional clothes, with an X-shaped scar on his cheek. Behind him, minor characters and the antagonist, covered in bandages.

Oh, and before we got back to Godzilla, we saw a gazillion and a half of Doraemon [ドラえもん] underneath Roppongi Hills [六本木ヒルズ], and pictures were taken with them.

A lot of people-sized Doaemon in different poses. Doraemon is a cartoonish ear-less blue and white cat

And here Godzilla tries to eat stuff (there are many good restaurants underneath Tokyo Midtown anyway):

A close-up of the Godzilla statue at night, lit purple and blue, and looming on a skyscraper

27th December 2013: The Terracotta Army in Madrid (Spain)

This was a bit of an unplanned event. I had been in Madrid the previous day with a friend and we had seen that the exhibition was going on. Unfortunately, there was a huge queue to go in, so we could not stay. Instead we got tickets on the internet and chose a standard “lunchtime” hour so we were almost alone watching the exhibit. That was awesome. The exhibition was held in the Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa underneath Plaza de Colón (Colombus Square) in Madrid.

The Terracotta Army is called the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. It was discovered in 1974 close to the city of Xi’an (Shaanxi Province). It is comprised by hundreds of larger-than-life soldier statues built out of terracotta. They are part of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, the first emperor of China. There are over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, aside from 150 cavalry horses. There are different types of soldiers and they have different ranks. Their function would have been to protect the Emperor from the spirits in the afterlife. Forty thousand bronze weapons have been found among the soldiers. For reference, they were buried with the Emperor around the year 210 BCE!

The Exhibition “Terracotta Army – Guerreros De Xi’an” displays about 150 replicas of the best-preserved soldiers, weapons and chariots, along with different decorative elements and a reproduction of the Pit 1, where the bulk of the warriors were found. It was a very interesting exhibition that made me actually want to travel to China to see the actual Mausoleum for real!

Afterwards we had tickets for the cinema, because “47 Ronin” was running, and the Cines Ideal show non-dubbed films, and basically… there was Akanishi Jin in it. The films has its… merits… somewhere… I mean I loved it but it was pretty bad – I’m not precisely known for liking deep, intellectual films anyway (≧▽≦).

3rd July 2013: Tsutaya, Manatsu and Odaiba (yes, again) {Japan, summer 2013}

Being the fanby I am, I wanted GACKT’s Best of the Best CD set, the special pack, and I headed for Shibuya [渋谷] first thing in the morning for it. After a successful buying, I headed off for TOHO Cinemas to watch the Galileo movie, Manatsu no Houteishiki. Fortunately enough, it was not Suspect X, so not depressing at all (don’t get me wrong, Suspect X was awesome, but it still left me heart-wrenched XDDD)


After that there was an Odaiba trip, changing into the yukata and attending the VAMPS Tanabata festival. The idea of the Tanabata Event was to make a sort of “summer festival” and you had to attend in yukata – I bought one I did not feel comfortable in, and I got quite a few stares and felt the most unwelcome I’ve ever felt in anything related to J-rock. It was most a talk show than anything else and after the event was over I did get to meet very nice fans… so it was a bit on the strange side, all things considered.

After that there was purikura and exhaustion XD. Very, very fanbying day, right? XD At first I felt a bit bad that there was nothing “cultural” to be done that day, but after all everything I did could only be done in Japan so I figured out that it was all right ^^