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JAPANDEMONIUM
Kaisen Setsudan June 27, 2007
Konnichiwa

OK, I have a message for Verizon. I am not your travel agent. I always thought people exaggerated the perils of out-sourced customer service. As I sat without DSL service all last week I discovered the assumptions are all too true. Day after day of re-explaining my issue to each hapless new employee left me imploring Shiva to rain icy tridents down upon any and all Verizon branches within his commercially-devastated nation.

One guy I got didn't even pretend to know what he was talking about. He claimed to be calling up data from the main office and sat in silence for a while until...
"What time is it?"
"What... time?"
"Yes, what time is it there?
"Um, it's about 6:30"
Silence
"What's your favorite movie?"
"My favorite movie?"
"Yes, please tell me your favorite movie so perhaps I can watch too."

But it didn't stop there, he simply came out with it and asked
"Where is a good place to visit in America? In America near you."
"New York City is a good place to go."
"Ah, New York City."
...
"Is it big?"
"Yea, it's... it's pretty big."
Still no data from the main office
"Where's a good place to go at night?"
"I dunno... Kansas?"
"Oh, Kansas? Is that like a bar, or a disco?"
"More like disco, it's a nightmare you can't wake up from."
"What?"
"Nothing, is there any update on my DSL?"
"I'm sorry sir, there's no update call tomorrow" *click*

And so it continued... But in the end I got re-connected and boosted up to my proper speed. So, let's get down to business.

I'm going to save Dengeki and news for this coming up Monday. This will be a mini-column because I don't want to completely skip this week. Although it won't be all that mini because I have a good amount of questions to respond to.

By the way, Kansas is alright in my book. See, I live in New Jersey so it's okay if I make fun of other states. It's like if someone is a minority, or they just pretend like Carlos Mencia, they get free license to make racial jokes!

OK, I'll do one article. Around this time during my stint as a Japanese teacher, I celebrated Canada Day with some friends. My office was dominated by Canucks. Well, just one, but she was really intimidating! So in honor of her, Happy Canada Day to all readers braving the frozen tundra up north.

Now how do I legitimize this by relating it to Japan? I'm glad you asked, because around this same time we had a birthday party for my curly hockey-jockey. It falls on Bastille Day, so it's easy to remember, and means that more people were celebrating her birthday worldwide than the actual holiday.

We went to Nakatajima Beach near Hamamatsu city and made bonfires on the beach. We also sampled the plethora of funny fireworks Japan has to offer. I put on a little show running down a row of fireworks trying to get them to go in succession. Some had a more horizontal trajectory than others, but all in all it went pretty well. Most of my body hair has grown back by now.

On to the pictures! They're water-marked because I never used the water-marker before and I was curious...







Source: My Computer
So my first letter this week was from staffer-favorite JuMeSyn. His signature style of utilizing superfluous vocabulary was prevalent in his letter, so I decided to respond in kind.

This is a test

Howdy howdy

Some RPGamer staff emails seem prone to eating my messages, so I'm going to keep this brief until correspondence has been actuated. On that note: am I the only one with an interest in Japanese culture who fails to understand the appeal of giant robots? Transformers never appealed to me and the presence of giant robots just doesn't have an impact upon my desire to watch anything.

Mike 'JuMeSyn' Moehnke

Is it just me, or is his last name Monkey?

Counter-point

Correspondence has like, totally been actuated.

Personally, my affinity for automatons of monstrous magnitude is all but nonexistent, I assure you. One can infer from Japan's fascination with autonomous metal constructs is that they have a penchant for compensating for the weakness of the flesh through artificial developments. Those who were seen as the most powerful of Samurai warriors, would be donned in exotic suits of armor, which were oft extremely heavy and adorned with what some would decry as superfluous decorations. An apt comparison could be made to Gundam armor, or perhaps an Evangelion; two animated robot series that have garnered quite a cadre of "otaku" in our generation. A meager human sits within a piloting chamber inside Isaac Asimov's nocturnal emission and is suddenly the world's great savior.

Upon examination of your missive, I can postulate you have other queries you wish to submit. You may now do so without fear of reprisal from the e-mail filter's dubious sorting techniques.

~ Bret

P.S. Transformers are gay

Unfortunately, this only encouraged him further...

Ah-HA

The seeming of prior correspondence causes the inference that vocabulary usage must be heightened henceforth. Such an eventuality does demand dense discourse, so perusers may experience intimidation. As a devotee of Sakura Wars, I must devote an inquiry specifically to knowledge regarding it as possessed by you. A proper gauge of its popularity at its origination nation is difficult to discern, causing my curiosity to turn towards reminiscing from an individual with the potential of having unearthed said information. An entirely differing direction of information your experience can potentially illuminate lies within the area of translation, and the economic sustenance of such. Recognizing that (unless unrevealed) your experience lies not in the realm of software but that of printed material (upon which I cast no aspersion whatsoever as its utility remains high for all foreseeable temporal periods) I direct this query solely towards whatsoever knowledge may be possessed as to the expenses incurred by text-only translations. This limitation I incur with the knowledge of vocal additions requiring requisite increased dimunition of assets. And as regards the political spectrum of the Pacific Rim, a query shall be directed. Shinzo Abe's probability of decreasing or reigniting intense unhappiness directed towards Japan by the victims of its aggression post-Pacific War, by means of locating himself in close proximity to the graves of acknowledged war criminals mainly interred within the Yasukuni Shrine, would be considered what level by yourself? Composition having arrived at a tolerable concluding position, this missive I deem acceptable.

Cordially,
JuMeSyn

Counter-point

...

idk my bff jill?

Japandemonium - Stuff for Annalou

Osu!

I recently came back from a 6 month stint in Japan, so here are some suggestions from me (mostly food related):

Try unagi. That's eel for those who don't know their Japanese fish. I thought I would be the one food I would never eat over there, but it is now my favorite Japanese food. It can be prepared in a myriad of ways, and they are all good.

Also try takoyaki, karaage, onigiri, and (if you are old enough) beer. Takoyaki is fried balls of dough and octopus--sounds gross but is really good. Karaage is fried chicken, but tastes much, much better than what we eat in America. Onigiri are rice balls. They come in a variety of flavors packed with fish, meat, vegetable, or sugary goodness. Lastly, Japanese beer (again, if you're old enough) also has a different taste than it does here in America. I recommend Asahi.

Here's a don't for you: DON'T eat at McDonald's. It tastes almost identical to how it does in America and your approximately 84 meals (4 weeks x 7 days x 3 meals per day) could (and should) be spent eating various uniquely Japanese foods.

Counter-point

Unagi is great stuff. I remember one sushi restaurant where they would blow-torch it right in front of you. It's delicious and sweet and easy to chew, unlike squid or octopus.

Takoyaki is good as a snack. They have stands almost analogous to a cotton candy or hot dog vendor, where you can pick up a pack of octo-balls. Kara-age is fried chicken and like he stated, let me reiterate that it is much different from fried chicken you may be used to at home. Onigiri is another perfect snacking food. It's very portable and cheap as well. When I went hiking around Kyoto, I'd always bring some rice balls for sustenance, salmon-style being my favorite. Lastly, we come to beer. Japanese beer is delicious and plentiful. Asahi is a soild choice, although I was partial to Kirin Ichiban. After a long day of teaching, I'd grab a double size can for the busride home. We called it a "bus beer" and it started a long tradition of drinking to forget some five-year had punched you in the umeboshi just hours ago.

Stuff for Annalou (continued)

Since you asked for games here are two recommendations:

Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten - This is a wonderful kanji dictionary for the DS. Since it is DS you can sketch the kanji on the lower screen to look it up. It can also function as a basic dictionary. Just keep in mind that it was made for Japanese people to look up English and kanji, not the other way around. You can find the product here: http://www.play-asia.com/paOS-13-71-9g-77-b-49-en-15-kanji%2Bjisho-70-198v.html I would recommend just picking it up in Japan, as it can be found in most game stores. Just memorize the package, as it has FAR too many kanji to try and remember.

Mother 3 - A GBA game, so if you have a DS you'll be able to play this as well. Very, very simple Japanese and a fun RPG.

Since both of those games can be played on handhelds, there is no region lockout. Hurray for not having to buy a Japanese system to play them on! If you happen to have a Japanese PS2 I would recommend almost any RPG. Since most have spoken dialog these days it is a good way to learn speech patterns and how to read some new kanji. I decided upon the Super Robot Wars series myself, but I'm a fan of giant robots.

Counter-point

A kanji dictionary is absolutely invaluable. One caveat, especially with Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten is that you need to learn how to write kanji properly. Get the rules of stroke order down-pat and you should be good. The programming recognizes a lot of symbols by order and direction of strokes rather than the finished picture. I can draw a symbol worthy of display at the Louvre, and the game will still say, "It appears you are trying to draw an ass. Is this correct?"

Stuff for Annalou (continued)

My last piece of advice is to try to do as much as you can, no matter if you make a fool of yourself. With that in mind I leave you with an anecdote.

My first night in Japan we ate at a ramen shop. The 13 hour plane ride was a great strain on those of us who couldn't sleep through it, but we HAD to get some culture. On the way back to the dormitory we saw an electronics store that was still open, a Tsutaya I believe. We went inside. I decided to get a game that was on sale (a Fullmetal Alchemist RPG). When the cashier rang it up it came up the wrong price. I, in my sleep deprived state, thought I asked the cashier "Sumimasen, kore wa ikura desuka?" or "Excuse me, how much is this?"

I instead asked, "Sumimasen, kore wa iruka desuka" or "Excuse me, is this a dolphin?" The cashier and I shared a good laugh over it, and since the place was near my dorm, and therefore a place I frequented, he recognized my face and was always very nice to me.

That is all. Hope you have fun in Japan! It was a wonderful experience for me as well. Oh, I also agree with everything Bret said. Just didn't want to cover things that have already been done.

-Alex Kaiser

Counter-point

Good advice, hopefully Annalou got to see this before taking off on her excursion.

I remember a game-related problem of my own. I was still pretty new to the area and had bought the new Naruto fighting game for the Gamecube. This was before the anime drowned me in filler episodes causing a mass exodus of Naruto episodes from my computer into the Great Cyber-Beyond.

I love just exploring new areas in Japan, so I would walk for hours up and down random streets in my city. I found this shop about a 20-minute walk from my apartment, which specialized in Nintendo products. I noticed a 3rd Naturo brawler had been produced and picked it up. I wound through the city once more, heading home confident that Rock Lee was about to open the Chakra gate of Pain on his classmates.

However, it was the gate of Shock that was opened as the game case was revealed to be completely empty! Now what do I do? Will the guy believe me? I figured it's Japan and the cashier will most likely apologize profusely and award me a new copy. Still, no matter what, I was doomed to come out looking like a foolish gaijin. So, back I trudged to the game store thinking of what to say. "Sumimasen ga...", "Eeto boku no geemu..." , "Oi! Bakayaro! Doushite ko... nah that's no good."

Eventually I arrived at the store, and the shopkeep greeted me as happily as before. I simply stared at him a bit and he stared back. After dodging a stray tumbleweed, I passed two words through my lips, "Kara... po..." and held up the game case. He laughed and realized his error and became quite concerned. He quickly grabbed a new game from behind the counter, bowed, apologized and sent me on my way.

Another happy ending to another awkward, tongue-tied day in rural Japan.

I hope you enjoyed the "mini" column today. Ironically, it seems a little bigger than average. I'll be back beginning of next week with some gaming news and a new Dengeki chart!

Mata ne,


Bret "CactusLeaf" Mayer

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