You can label me a fan of Japan; I can not possibly summarize the impression it left upon me, but I’ll give it a go.

I loved and will miss: the attention to detail, the cleanliness, the cute-factor of everything (signs, vehicles, uniforms, etc.), Tokyo’s sheer pride and boldness in being a true megalopolis (if you’re going to be a city, then really be a big city), the super-politeness that permeates every interaction, the Studio Ghibli museum (I was teary-eyed in the very first room), the low-level of cynicism in the culture, the amazing food (even if I’m not a big fish-guy), the everywhere-vending machines (which include toasty hot chocolate!), the super-fantastically-efficient subway/train system, the karaoke, the availability and mainstream-ness of comics / art / games / tech / everything that is “nerd” over here, pasmo, the Tezuka museum, the temples of Kyoto, the countryside in Kochi out on Shikoku island, the ultra-crowded and exciting shopping districts, and our little rental apartment in Mejiro.

I went with Ben, Clio, Sharif, Amy, Kazu, and Phil and I’m pretty sure we were all at least slightly (if not severely) sad to leave, and have made up our minds to live there at some point. We’ll figure that out later. The trip was a combination of research and education (for the artists, students and instructors) and fun, and I had the privilege of meeting a lot of interesting people (Kodansha publishers, amazing artists who have contributed work to Nucleus: Tadahiro, Icco, Yoko, Fuco, Aya). I got to visit some friends (Aiko, Von) and make some new ones. My camera never left my side, so I ended up with way too many photos, but they are neatly organized by location in my flickr collection. Everyone else took a ton of photos as well, so here are links to everyone’s (they did a much better job than myself of summarizing/explaining people and places in their captions):

In other awesome news, Kazu’s graphic novel Amulet (book 1) has been released, and the final product is fantastic. I had the privilege of witnessing his rollercoaster journey through the production of this book (in our studio), and the joy of helping out on a couple pages. Go pick it up at major bookstores or on Amazon!

Christmas was good. We had a Nucleus party at the studio (complete with hilarious Nucleus-quiz and gift-exchange), and I spent the holiday with my family. We’ll be ringin’ in the new year at the studio tomorrow night as well – I’ll see you all in 2008… big things are happening on all fronts!