Don't know where to start ^^; Probably should start by thanking everybody who made 2010 a such fantastic year for us. Got to meet a load of new comrades in many different countries and learn a load of new stuff though experiencing so many life changing events - the biggest change being the TV show that I direct and present on called Culture Japan.
Fate has certainly been on our side in 2010 even when we were stranded by a volcano eruption in April. The eruption meant that we could not get back to Tokyo on our scheduled flight and thus got to spend more time in Paris and London. This photo was taken at Versailles. Was difficult to believe that the sky was filled with ash that prevented the aircraft from taking off. What ash?
Spent most of January 2010 preparing for the year - usually take the whole month to plan stuff that I want to be doing for the next 12 months.
Currently host an event called Tokyo CGM Night and the first one of 2010 was held at a hi-tec facility called Akiba-F which is run by the Japanese Red Cross Society. Tokyo CGM Night is an event where folks who love to share through online media get together with industry folks to mingle and explore new opportunities and friendships. Coverage and photos of Tokyo CGM Night 7 can be seen in this post.
Together with the Max Factory produced Indian restaurant Indotei, we developed a product called Mirai-chan Curry. The orange colors, the puni puni egg and the sweet lassi that comes with the meal reflects what Mirai-chan may taste like ^^;
The dish is currently only sold at Tokyo CGM Night but we may do vacuum pack versions.
Was contacted by the Japanese TV station TBS who asked if I would be a guest on one of their radio stations. Went along and got to meet the host of the show who was Fukuoka-san who also happened to be the Chief Executive Editor at Weekly Ascii. Ever since we've met, we have been working together on several projects which I cover later on in this post.
While I do hire many freelance designers and developers for part time work, Mirai-Inc is still a 2 man band. You hardly saw Chris in any of the photos last year because he works from home. No point dragging him into the office as he lives 2 hours away in Saitama. He does come in from time to time and our communication is done over Skype.
Was contacted by a TV production company called TV Man Union who were producing a show called "A is Asia" to be aired worldwide on NHK. The show talks about the lives of Asians in Japan and this episode covered the current life of a Chinese voice actress called kkryu and myself. They called kkryu and "up n coming Ace" and me an "Ace" but I still feel so much like a beginner ^^;
I think the NHK filming went on for nearly a month. Their crew would just show up during work and film me going about my daily life. At the same time, a Brazilian TV show called Fantastico also requested some time for an interview and ended up following me around for a while too. The Fantastico broadcast can be seen here.
While in Hong Kong, got to meet a load of comrades who I met though the community over at Figure.fm. Thought we would do something interesting that they hadnt done before and hijacked a shopping street for a Dollfie photo shoot ^^; You can see the shenanigans that happened on the day in the Dollfie Hong Kong post.
Saber had a lot of fun in Hong Kong too.
Started to work early for the 2010 April Fools which was to be a fully fledged OP for an anime title called "Chinka" including all the bells and whistles. The OP was warmly received worldwide and by the industry so much that the OVA was announced in the Japanese anime magazines.
We got a load of folks to work on the OP including:-
Masahiko Komino (小美野雅彦). He was the supervisor for the Chinka PV and previously worked on titles such as Baka to Test, Macross Frontier, Saki, Hayate, Kannnagi, Sekirei, Strike Witches and more.
Junichi Higashi (東潤一) managed the art direction and some of his previous titles include Seitokai no Ichizon, Sekirei, Witchblade, Queens Blade, Sora no Woto and his work also goes back to 1985 on Zeta Gundam.
Motion sketches was managed by Frontline who have produced titles such as Death Note, Welcome to the NHK, Ninomiya-kun, King Gainer, Gurren Lagann and Devil May Cry.
While Isshoni Working didn't become an anime title, we did make it into an iPad and iPhone app which is now called "Working Mirai" that you can download for free from the app store. The latest version has both portrait and landscape modes and images are optimized for the iPad and retina display for the iPhone 4. Also works for 3GS and iPod Touch too.
Was in France in April for some work and managed to take some time out to see the sights - in armor ^^;
Took the Eurostar to travel back to London after 5 years of absense. I got a few culture shocks. The first was that the Eurostar looked nothing like how I saw it on Mission Impossible ^^;
The second shock was how much London had changed in the 5 years. Due to some traffic congestion charge applied to cars passing through the center of London, the streets were filled with folks on bicycles and there was a new Millennium bridge which I had only seen in Harry Potter - but this time it *did* look like the movies ^^;
I looked upon London with a fresh pair of reflective eyes and scenes of my childhood would playback as I walked through the city which I once really wanted to escape from - escape to the land of the rising sun. Everything looked the same and yet so different. I was at peace with my childhood and didn't hate London anymore.
Was an honor to be invited by the University of London (SOAS) to give a talk which was attended by folks who traveled from all over the UK - thanks for coming! You can see what went on that day in the SOAS post.
It had been more than 10 years since I visited the place that I graduated from. Was most nostalgic to walk around the corridors which I once used to run along to get to the part time restaurant job that I had after classes.
Group photo with some of the comrades who cstayed behind after the talk. Promise to spend much longer in the UK next time round.
Seen it happen to folks in the news and then it was happening to us. The volcano eruption last April spew up a load of ash which grounded air traffic all over Europe. Was probably a message/gift from the gods asking us to take a break instead of rushing back to Tokyo.
The news reports saying that the last eruption lasted hundreds of years didn't help the horrible feeling of having no idea of when we could go back home. Folks told us to relax and go sightseeing but thats easier said than done having no idea when the airline was going to ring us to give us any good news. Money was being needlessly spent on the hotel room too.
We were stuck in a hotel without a fridge but luckily it was cold enough to store our food outside our window.
Came back to Japan to sign copies of Otacool 2 for Kinokuniya.
Spent some time in May working with a TV production crew making a documentary about Japan for the French Canal Plus channel. The host of the show was Antoine de Caunes - he used to star on a TV show called Rapido back in the UK and I remember watching it as a wee lad back then. I tried not to lol too hard when he called my daughters "Puppets" ^^;;;;;
Took the Canal Plus crew along to Dollpa to cover the world of dolls.
During her time in Malaysia, Saber became a model for a jewelry company.
Started to work at the begging of the year to push the idea of a TV show to be broadcast worldwide that would focus on Japanese culture. After getting approval from the powers that be at Tokyo MX TV and then hunting around for sponsors, the show became a reality but only for a single pilot episode to be aired in June. You can read how the show came to be and see the entire Episode 0 below.
Seen what Japanese high schools are like in 2D anime and got the opportunity to show folks what it was like in real 3D. Visited Fujisawa High School for a day of Culture Japan filming. For Japanese folks its just an everyday thing but for me it was like being on a movie set - its just like anime!
More photos taken at the school in the following posts.
Fujisawa High School Photos 1
Fujisawa High School Photos 2
Group shot with the students of Fujisawa - just like anime characters ^^;
This photo went around the Japanese otakusphere when I said that I was filming some "live action Keion" - "Keion" being the romanization of the "after school music activities."
For some reason folks thought I meant the live action of K-ON! the anime ^^;
The second Tokyo CGM Night of the year had the most attendees to date which was held at one of the campus buildings of Digital Hollywood. We had attendance from Good Smile Company, Cospa, Volks, Obitsu, Kotobukiya, BNN, AmiAmi, Hobby Search, Rinkya and a load more which I'm forgetting ^^; We also had a live performance by Amano Ai and gave out a load of figures and other merchandise. Photos of the event can be seen in the Tokyo CGM Night 8 post.
Had the honor of being invited to an event called Anime Expo which was held in Los Angeles. I was given two slots which I used to share some of my experience and learning's. Was truly an awesome experience. You can see all Anime Expo related posts listed up below.
Managed to get a few hours off at Santa Monica to take in the sights.
My second time giving a lecture. First time was at Nihon University and this time it was at Digital Hollywood. The iPad actually performs better than the MacBook Air when it comes to presentations as my MBA cant play videos for too long without conking out. Wondering if there is a way to flip the slides on the iPad remotely.
Still got loads to learn while presenting but slowly getting the hang of it. Maybe ^^; The experience has helped my Japanese learning loads.
Didn't make any stormtrooper videos last year but a user out there went and revamped one of my previous videos. Loved his work so much that we hired him to do the Animation and Visual Effects for Culture Japan. The video in question is below and has currently got about half a million views on the Tubes.
It really is nice to be able to drop everything and relax for a bit - need to try doing it more often ^^;
August saw the launch of the Chinese version of the site which seems to be gaining traction in the Chinese community blog and search engines. Sorry about the delay for the French and Korean versions ToT.
The pilot showing of Culture Japan (Episode 0) was broadcast in Japan and across Asia. The feedback was positive and the big boss of Tokyo MX TV decided to reserve a slot for the first season of Culture Japan on the assumption that we could fund the show for 3 months - was time to go hunting for more sponsors.
Thanks to AmiAmi, Aki Takanori (Good Smile boss) and Takaaki Kidani (Bushiroad boss), we secured funds to go ahead with season 1.
The office during 2009 looked something like this...
A year later and the office is filled with a load of TV production equipment - most of which is not pictured here. There are a lot more people in and out of the office too. Photos of how the office space had changed over the year can be seen in the Desk Diary category.
In August, vividblaze and I started to work on what was to be my first attempt at music production. The theme song for Culture Japan was born - Mirai Mechanism went on sale worldwide last December. The final track was mastered by Tom Coyne who had mastered tracks for Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Britney Spears and more. Credits below.
Artist : vividblaze
Lyrics : Miho Tezuka & Chihiro Iwasaki
Music : Yasunari Okano
Arrangement : Yasunari Okano
Produced by vividblaze, Danny Choo & Chihiro Iwasaki
Vocal by : Miho Tezuka
Keyboards & Composed by Yasunari Okano
Chorus by : Danny Choo
Recorded & mixed by : Yasunari Okano
Mastered by : Tom Coyne
The lead singer Miho asked me to sing the chorus - but I cant sing to save my life! You can hear some of my screeching near the end of the video below which has a short version of Mirai Mechanism.
Currently working on writing the lyrics of my next production which will be sung by Mirai Suenaga.
September is when all the filming for the first season of Culture Japan started to take off. We worked hard, played hard and learned a lot along the way.
Kyudo is so cool and I got to visit Yashio High School to try my dab hand at the art of Japanese archery. More photos from the visit in the Kyudo post.
The first few episodes of Culture Japan were filmed in the studio but there is a cost involved and we were producing the program on a shoestring budget. A studio shoot involves the cost of the camera crew, lighting, sound and set layout. After filming, the data is then dropped onto a tape which we then have take to another studio to convert to Apple Prores.
We figured we could save the cost the studio and shoot elsewhere (like my office) without degrade of quality in the show and it turned out to work very well.
By this time, I had been learning on the job as a TV Director and had managed to pick up enough Final Cut Pro skills for me to edit a full program. Our shenanigans over the past few weeks is captured in the Japan TV Production post.
Awareness by the Japanese government for just doing what I'm passionate about was one of the highlights for me in 2010. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) invited me to speak at the Cool Japan Conference which was their kickoff to start the Cool Japan movement. You can see more photos that I took during the day which includes a figure show that I organized with Good Smile Company.
Was my first time being an MC and learned a lot after many mistakes on the first day - was very nervous ^^;
Met actress Elly Otoguro for the first time in March where she appeared with me on the A is Asia program. She had always been a fave idol of mine since I wrote about her back in 2006. I met somebody during the Tokyo Figure Show that I held back in 2009 and that person just happened to be Elly's room mate.
I promised Elly to have her on Culture Japan so decided to dedicate the whole show to her ^^; In Episode 10 of Culture Japan, we take the viewers on a tour of Shibuya. Photos that we took on the day in the Shibuya Tour post.
Thank you! Thank you so much for making this happen! figma Mirai Suenaga went up for pre-order and made it to the 3rd best selling figure at Amazon Japan. All details in this post. Thanks to everybody who pre-ordered! Goodsmile Company says that if there are enough orders then the Nendoroid will be next.
On December the 27th, we filmed the last episode of Culture Japan Season 1 at the Good Smile cafe which was aired in Japan on the 2nd Jan 2011. Season 1 is still being broadcast across Asia on the Animax Network and am currently working on getting the show exposed to more eyeballs worldwide.
Its been a great experience making the show and learned a lot of what goes on in the industry. Have been involving you the reader in season 1 and will continue to get you even more involved in season 2. A few of you already work on the show as freelance and hope to open more job opportunities.
A list of all Culture Japan related posts below.
Nitroplus had been working on a 3D model of Mirai-chan for a few months which would interact with their mascot character Sonico. Mirai-chan's data was completed in December so we had her and Sonico help out in the studio with the camera work. Was the first time I saw my girl come to life and which was a moving moment ^^;
2010 was the 10th anniversary for dannychoo.com which started off as a place for me to experiment with web technologies as I learned them from the Internets. As you can see from the screenshot back then - I used to dislike everything that wasn't Windows + IE ^^;
At the end of 2009, the top page used to look like this with the 6 pack in the top left and mascot in the top right.
Been upgrading the conversion tools and UI over the year and adding new features such as Favorites, interactive polls, comrade lists, activity streams and you can download posts in PDF format too. Probably should write up a post on what Mirai Gaia does soon.
And when Culture Japan started to broadcast across Asia, I started to loose track of the publications which wrote about my shenanigans.
While I didn't get round to it as often as I should, I did manage to document life in Tokyo throughout the year in the A Week in Tokyo series which I've listed up below.
Came to Japan about 11 years ago after falling in love with Japanese culture through games, manga, anime and idols. Had no idea I would end up working in the Internets and after serving at companies like Amazon and Microsoft, I incorporated a company called Mirai which was initially to build websites. I initially thought that we was going to do well with the web services we had to offer but things didn't exactly turn out well.
I hope I don't give the impression that everything in my life is rosy because its not - life is not supposed to be all plain sailing but there is a good reason for that.
All the hardships that we encounter are an opportunity to become stronger - not weaker.
You got a leak in your boat? You fix the leak and make your hull stronger so that it don't leak again.
Your boat going around in circles? You fix your rudder and maybe implement some GPS so that you can continue to your destination.
Your sails got a battering from the previous storm and cant hold enough wind to set you sail? Reinforce those sails and maybe print a huge 2D girlie on the sails to make an Ita-boat.
Giant octopus constantly trying to bring your ship down because the only self esteem it can achieve is to get your attention? Ignore and continue sailing fast and strong as your time should be spent focusing on getting to your destination. By learning how to ignore the haters, you will grow stronger.
Cant find any more fish in the seas surrounding your boat to feed yourself and the crew? Change course and look for fresh waters to discover new varieties of seafood.
By doing absolutely nothing about your situation, you will be certain to sink and drown. By doing something - anything, you will achieve some sort of result whether desired or not. An undesired result however is a new found learning that you would not have gained if you did nothing.
Something always leads to something. Nothing always leads to nothing.
As you go about being proactive in life, you will be able to identify what your passion is. Once you start to live that passion then you will be able to do anything as everything just follows - it always does. Always!
I love Japanese culture and I love sharing. By continuing to share my passion over the years, the focus of my company became clear which was to disseminate information on Japanese Culture worldwide and bridge the gap between Japan and the world. This bridging became a need by Japanese companies of late and my company naturally over time started to fill that need. Mirai Inc is now in much better shape.
The keyword for 2011 in Japan is Kaigai which means "overseas." Whether its thanks to the Cool Japan movement or not, its constantly on TV, print and a conversation topic in bars and on the trains.
This year I'll be working on more projects to bridge the gap between Japan and the international community and have already started working on a project this year. I think the result of the first project should be available to you within the next 2 weeks.
I also want to increase the touch points which enable me to disseminate more information about Japan. Will continue making more seasons of Culture Japan and do more work on event planning.
Another trend I've seen really take off in Japan is the IP scene (Intellectual Property). Companies are developing their own IPs which gives them more freedom than having to apply and pay for a license to make character goods from other anime/game titles. Black Rock Shooter (Good Smile Company), Milky Holmes (Bushiroad) are just two examples.
I'm currently working on expanding the Mirai Suenaga brand on three timelines - two of which I also started to work on in 2010:-
Also working now on other character IP's which will appear in the first quarter of 2011.
I think I've babbled on for too long now. Thank you so much for your continued support and hope you have a fantastic 2011 - go and make it a great one because the only person who can do it is you.
And just out of interest, when did you start reading this site and how did you discover it?