Not too long ago, a good friend of mine recently went to Japan to take a vacation and decided to go site seeing. But on one faithful night while traveling through Akihabara with another web comic artist, wah__ of Mistake of Youth
The two decided they would go to a gaming bar where they would end up meeting face to face with the creator of Touhou himself…ZUN (seen in the right in the picture below)!
Meet Konstantin Koptev (left), a good old friend of mine that I’ve known since the days of the Tsunami Channel. To explain, Konstantin was a Russian who moved to the US and attended CMU in Pittsburg where he met a Japanese man named Akira Hasegawa who the two would work together on ideas for comics until Akira later created the Tsunami Channel
I would eventually come across this web comic series and then meet the two of them online and eventually became good friends and kept contact with them ever since. (I even have my own blog spot on there if you look back a few pages in the Tsunami Channel, the same for Konstantin).
Sometime after the Tsunami Channel
came to a halt because of Akira's life changing when he returned to Japan, I began to take my interest in Touhou and later found out Konstantin was into it as well. Thus, the two of us would become involved in Touhou.
Eventually Konstantin moved to the West Coast where he would make a living and on occasions take trips to Japan. And as mentioned earlier, on the day of October 25th, 2012, he managed to do something I didn’t think most of us would do.
Sit down, and actually talk face to face with ZUN (as seen right of picture)….
I have asked for permission from Konstantin to share his story and picture to the community and was told that he even asked ZUN if it was ok for him to do the same, so in the end I have been given permission to provide you this interview.
As of October 31, 2012, at around 1 AM Central time, I was able to meet up with Konstantin and have a talk with him about his adventure in Japan and discuss with him about the event of him meeting up with ZUN.
As of this point of the discussion, I will proceed to our interview where I talked to him about that night…
Totaku: Alright, I guess before I begin, I was kind of curious if you wouldn't mind me sharing my story with the community since they may find this interesting.
Konstantin: Sure thing, though I'd like to reiterate that I was pretty intoxicated throughout the encounter, and got progressively more so as it went along.
Moreover, my Japanese is not exactly fluent, so What I think was said and what was actually said may not be the exact same thing.
Totaku: Something tells me I figured you must of gotten pretty drunk while hanging with ZUN.
Konstantin: Well, we did meet at a bar
Totaku: Anyways, I guess I’ll began by asking about how you two ended up meeting.
Cause I kind of wondered how you managed to spot him while at a bar. I'm surprised he wasn't busy with a meeting or at an interview at the time since I hear sometimes when he goes to bars is while discussing matters with fellow staff members.
Konstantin: Met up with wah earlier that night, and mentioned that I've been a fan of his blog and comic and have been meaning to buy him a beer. He suggested a couple of bars in Akihabara (since that's where we were), one of them being The A Button.
Since the idea of a gamer bar was extremely appealing to me and extremely Akiba, we settled on that. So we're sitting at the end of the bar, drinking, occasionally chatting with the bartender, who's a big-time gamer, naturally, when I notice that among various game paraphernalia strewn around the bar, there are quite a bit of Touhou stuff.
I congratulate the bartender on his taste in decor, and mention that I'm a huge Touhou fanboy.
At that point, wah mentions that ZUN actually drinks there occasionally, and that he met him there earlier on. At this point I'm pretty fuzzy whether it was wah or the bartender, but one of them looked at the table in the corner, right next to the end of the bar where we were sitting, and mentions that that's ZUN sitting right there.
I look over and it, in fact, was him! Minus the hat, but definitely looking like ZUN and wearing a ZUN shirt
Totaku: I bet you were quite excited!
Konstantin: After the initial holy crap wears off, I check with wah whether it would be appropriate to buy ZUN a beer, and, getting a positive answer, proceed to do so. I keep on drinking and chatting with wah, trying not to stare too hard, and eventually the beer makes it to the table, the bartender talks a bit to ZUN, and he turns around and takes notice of us. This develops into about an hour-long on-again off-again conversation between me, ZUN, wah, the bartender, and the guys at ZUN's table.
Totaku: Makes me kind of curious, what did you talk to ZUN about?
Konstantin: Various stuff.
Totaku: Anything fascinating in particular.
Konstantin: First off, the obligatory “I'M A HUGE FAN OF YOUR GAMES” fanboy drooling. Followed up with thanking him for his general contribution to doujin culture, which led to a discussion of the difference between doujin and indies, Touhou fandom in the West, the scope of the fandom, and what different people find attractive in Touhou.
Also random asides about cultural and linguistic comparisons between Japanese, American, and Russian stuff.
At one point he mentioned being interested in what a Western con was like.
Totaku: Oh, that’s actually very fascinating! Because someone from the Maiden of the Kaleidoscope crew was interested in wanting to someday see if they could get him to come here to the US to attend a con.
Konstantin: And I _think_ suggested that he'd be interested in visiting AWA at some point (at which point I plugged Sakura-con, and Seattle in general, as a hub of US Touhou fandom)
I also mentioned that I've purchased all of his games, often paiying $30-40 for the privilege. To which he remarked that they should have been in the $10-15 range.
Totaku: Yup, import costs are really expensive.
Konstantin: So I think if the case could be made to him that people abroad want his games and are getting ripped off due to lack of a legitimate licensor, he could be persuaded to consider some sort of Western release. Though he made no indications that he was actually considering such a move, or was, in fact, open to such.
Totaku: Figured as such.
Konstantin: It did come up that there are fan translations out there, and that the fans are sufficiently able to understand most of the cultural references.
Pretty much I did my best to try to express my thanks for the whole massive thing he spawned, to convey the fact that there's a large Western fandom following the whole phenomenon, and to lobby for catering to that fandom.
Totaku: But anyways, I guess ZUN was quite impress to know that western fandom is out there.
Course when I think about it, he's been exposed to Walfas, and some westerner have come out there, to try to meet him, but approaching him directly has been pretty hard to do. You're probably one of the few from the West that actually had a chat with the man himself.
Are there any other interesting points or view ZUN brought up based on your chat with him?
Konstantin: Aside from that, there was also some discussion of his trip to Europe and beer in general.
Totaku: This brings up a very fun question one fan mentioned he was curious about. Any mention about his favorite brand of beer?
Konstantin: He seems to consider Kirin lager to be one of the smoother beers, and thus tends to prefer it, though he doesn't really have a favorite beer.
Totaku: Mmm is that so? Oh and since you brought up about the US, have you mentioned about the micro breweries we have here?
Konstantin: Not really, though I did mention that I've been to a Belgian pub with over 400 local beers at one point. Not sure if I told it to ZUN in Japanese or wah in English, though. I was pretty tankered at that point.
Totaku: Hahahaha I imagine so, I wonder how well ZUN handles his beverages? Anyways, Did he also mention anything about Whiskey in his discussion? Another fan brought this up since he said he noticed ZUN had a thing for Whisky based on a twitter pic he found.
Konstantin: Not really, or at least not that I can remember. Wouldn't be surprised, but I never asked. Plus I know nothing about whiskey anyway…
Totaku: Did you two talk about any kind of comparisons on your and his views on Touhou fans and their interest?
Konstantin: Did explain to him the concept of secondary fan, to which he supplied an equivalent Japanese term, which I can't for the life of me remember
Totaku: Did mention anything about his married life in particular or is he still his same old productive self?
Konstantin: He seems to be working. He did mention he was going to an upcoming music-oriented con. I think M3
Totaku: Ah I see. I also heard he's going to the beer festival that's taking place later this year as well. Or at least he supplied his new art piece of Beer-ko for the event.
Konstantin: Anyway, I should really be trying to get some sleep, jet lag not with standing.
Totaku: Ah ok well, I think you answered enough questions for now. If I may ask, may I use your photo you taken as well?
Konstantin: Sure! I specifically asked him if it was OK for me to publish the photo on the Internet.
Totaku: Anyways, thanks a lot for the time!
Konstantin: And I guess I should really de-lurk and join the english-language fandom at some point
Totaku: I’ll post you the link when I get it fixed up.
Konstantin: In my defense, I didn't even know ZUN was a customer at that bar when I picked it. Anyways, have a good night!
Totaku: Yes sir, good night to you too!
That concludes the discussion I had with him that night about the event.
I’m going to see if I can get him to talk some more about the event in the course of the next few days. But as for now I thought it be best to share with you what I did get to learn about his time ZUN since he allowed me to share it with you all.
We both had hoped to one day meet ZUN in our lives, but we had no clue that one of us would meet him up and talk with him!
The interview was done via instant message and I do have the discussion saved if needed. Konstantin also has a twitter
if you want to see more facts regarding this.
Anyways, hope you enjoy this interview. I hope he can provide me more for you all to listen to since he doesn't mind sharing his story to you all.