Another week has passed by, and now I'm down to just four more in the Land of the Rising Sun. I can't believe that I've been here for over nineteen months, but a quick count on my fingers reveals that this is the case. It really is amazing how quickly a year and a half can pass, and the number of stories one accumulates in that time period is staggering. If I had it to do all over again, I'd still come, and I'd probably still pick Niihama. I am tempted to say that I'd pick someplace like Kobe though. Kobe was a pretty nice little city, but the hourlong commute to the Seishinchuuo school made me happy that I get to work by bicycle in five minutes. I will be quite spoiled when I have to have a real job, but that can't be helped.
In gaming news, I finally finished off Final Fantasy IV Advance, and the last of the extra bosses was pretty easy. I even got a cheap kill on the Omega-like extra enemy by using Kain's ultimate weapon. Kind of a sad way to add him to my beastiary, but I'll take what I can get. The game took me a whopping 33 hours to finish off, and that's saying something. I used to finish the SNES version in under ten hours. But I also have to admit that I took my time talking to all the villagers and stuff. It was a fun time, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good portable RPG. Give it a try, and with it out of my way, I've got nothing between me and my English copy of Wild Arms: Alter Code F. I was quite pleased by the Japanese version; I look forward to a version I can read.
This week's title means 'nap' in Japanese. I'm generally a pretty sleepy guy, and my schedule allows for me to have a huge gap in my classes on Tuesday and almost NO classes on Thursday. During this time, I sometimes crawl up in my loft and have a nice nap, and I get paid for it. I think all companies should have a designated nap time, but somehow, I don't think I'm going to get that luxury in America. I really WILL be spoiled when I come home...
That said, let's get this party started!
It was a stupendous week on the charts with fifteen RPGs. At first, I thought it was going to be more of the same; the only movement in the top six was the exchanging of the fifth and sixth ranked games. But after I got past those, there was a lot of change in there. There were a few Xbox 360 games in the list, and one of them was an RPG. The system MIGHT be able to pull itself out of the gutter and end up being successful in Japan. Honestly, I hope it does. I know a lot of people don't like Microsoft, but I think they are here to stay in the gaming market. And considering I have a 360, I'd like some decent games to end up on it. So I say "Go Xbox, go!"
For those that missed last week's chart, the top game is still Kahashima Ryuuta Kyouju Kanshuu: Motto Nouo Kitaeru Otona DS. That roughly translates to More Brain Training for Adults. I can't believe that with all the good games out, it's leading the pack AGAIN, but the Japanese do have some strange taste in games. That's not to say that it isn't good; it may very well be a real jewel. But somehow I don't think it's the same kind of game as the ones that frequently cross the pond into my homeland. I say whatever floats their 141,307 boats is fine by me. I'll happily be playing what I consider REAL games on my DS.
But enough of this. Let's see the numbers!
Idea Factory has announced that the newest title in their Spectral Force series of sim-RPGs will be Spectral Souls 3: Innocent Rage for Microsoft's new Xbox 360. Like the other games in the series, this one will be set in the fantasy world, Neverland, in the middle of the First Neverland World War. Players take the role of a nameless mercenary in the Noryus mercenary band that is not directly affiliated with any of the ten countries involved in the war and thus able to take jobs from any of them. It is entirely up to the discretion of the player as to which jobs and for which counties they choose to work, and these decisions greatly affect how the game plays out. Also, as character levels increase, the prestige of the mercenary band grows as does the importance of their missions.
Battles will be very similar to those in Spectral Force Chronicle. Attacks have three different levels of strength and are topped off a special attack. Combos return and are possible by using the "Force Gauge," which builds up slowly as a character takes damage.
Spectral Souls 3: Innocent Rage is due out in April of this year for the standard 7140 yen. So far, only one edition has been announced, so it remains to be seen if this game will have a special edition like most other games Idea Factory releases. Also, like other games for the 360, it will have Xbox Live content, but none of the features have been revealed yet. And for those interested in importing, the 360 has limited region-free capabilities. Since many third-party games are not region-specific, there is a possibility that this will be a piece of cake to import, but that is up in the air. In the meantime, feel free to check out the official site.
Square Enix has reported that their recent Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has hit the one-million mark for the combined sales of the DVD and UMD versions in Japan since its release on September 14 of last year.
The movie is slated for North American release and has been rated PG-13, but no concrete release date has been given.
Taito has released some new screens that show off the many forms of magic that can be performed in Lost Magic. The game uses the stylus to draw magical crests to cast spells, and the crests can be combined into more intricate ones for stronger magic.
Lost Magic was released on January 19 for the standard price of 5040 yen. No announcement of a North American release has been made at this time, but I'm still hopeful.
Those that pre-order the Limited Edition of Nippon Ichi's upcoming Disgaea 2 will be in for a treat. The game will come with a 48-page, full-color guidebook full of character information and illustrations. They will also receive the game's soundtrack on two discs.
The Limited Edition will retail for a whopping 9240 yen, but those just wanting the game will only have to pay 7140. Both editions will hit Japanese shelves on February 23, and the game is confirmed for a North American release.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Doom series of first-person shooters has been turned into an RPG for mobile phones that is cleverly titled Doom RPG by Jam Dat Mobile Japan went live on January 12. It is loosely based of the original Doom series created by id Software and features the trademark first-person view in a turn-based battle system.
Players delve into a secret laboratory hidden on Mars to find the sudden cause of an alien invasion. The new game will feature many of the enemies and weapons that the other games had, so it will definitely be possible to go hunting Imps with the super shotgun or the BFG. Players can pick from one of ten different levels of difficulty while exterminating everything that moves.
Doom RPG is designed for W21T mobile phones and costs 525 yen for download on EZ Web. North American players that are interested in this game are in luck. The game has been available since last year. More information can be found on the game's official site, and it's even in English.
Nintendo has finally announced the release date for the highly anticipated Mother 3 will be April 20. The game has been a long time in coming, and it is finally becoming a reality on the GBA.
At this point, no release outside Japan has been announced, but I don't think I'm alone in crossing my fingers.
Square Enix and Suntory have set the date for when gamers can get their hands on their very own Potions. On March 7, everything from vending machines to convenience stores to grocery stores will begin carrying the 120 mL drinks for 191 yen each. There will also be "Limited Edition Premium Boxes" with six different 100 mL bottle designs and one of 27 different "FFXII Art Museum Cards" for only 600 yen. But there will only be three million of the special boxes, so it's likely they will go quickly, especially in the larger cities.
I thought I was going to have four letters, but I got a fifth in just in time for my usual update. Then I was delayed, and yet another letter has made it in time. This ended up being a pretty good set of letters. It amazes me that people still come up with good questions despite the fact that I've been doing the culture corner for around a year. I need to check on that; I wonder how many I've done.
I've got such good questions that I can't see any reason not to get to them. Let's go!
What's up? I used to read your Japandemonium articles all the time, but hadn't really been at RPGamer or even the net that much for a while until now. It's cool that you got married. Are you going to law school at Tulane? I'm originally from New Orleans (born there) but live in Baton Rouge. My friend Drew is now going to law school at Tulane. At the moment, I'm studying Japanese and living in Tokyo, which is fantastic, since the classes are allll in Japanese, with Korean and Chinese students there mostly. You're right though, using an English textbook is not the greatest. The professor I had at LSU doesn't really let you stretch your Japanese, which is a letdown, so I'm glad I came here. I studied in college for 2 years and on my own maybe a year or so, and SUCKED when I got here, but this school is so intense in Shinjuku that I'm feeling much more confident now. I have to learn at LEAST 6 kanji a day even, which is tough! I have a kanji test tomorrow even! Anyway, I have to come back to Baton Rouge when April arrives so that I can finish off my last 2 or 3 semesters of school.... which is bad because I've been in college too long already, lol. THEN... I'll probably come back here and teach English or something whilst studying Japanese more and trying to become as fluent as possible so as to pass the proficiency tests and get a bilingual job. My buddy teaches over in Chiba Prefecture and loves it. His advice is to do what he did and come on a 90-day visa and immediately job hunt. He says they're practically dying to hire you in many places, so you pick one you like, and go from there, thus having them get you the work visa. He's completely set now, and is the main English teacher at a little school in a shopping mall, and is loving it. I'll probably do it that way, 'cause I've got connections here and my aunt is even Japanese, and from Tokyo. My only problem right now is that I have no way to practice my Japanese with actual people back in Baton Rouge, as there are practically NO Japanese there, and my old professor refuses to help me. I'll do what I can though, so as not to lose what I've learned at all, and actually be better by the time I get back here. We should really hang out sometime if you're going to be in New Orleans. One more question before I go, is there a way to get manga IN Japanese in Louisiana, or even in the States for that matter? I'm finding it's a terrific study tool. Alright, gotta go, studying beckons!
Cajun in Tokyo,
When I get back, I'm probably going to build houses. As I'm sure you're aware, New Orleans is in bad shape right now. I'd like to help rebuild it, and I think it'll be the best paying job I can find. I just want to support my wife, so I don't care what I do. I'll only be in New Orleans for a few months anyway.
As for manga, your best bets are eBay and Amazon. They should be able to help you. Also, buy a truckload to bring back with you before you leave. That'll work too, but that's assuming you have the room in your suitcases. If you don't, I fully understand.
Thanks for the letter. Drop me a line in about a month. I'll be back in NOLA by then.
First off, I want to say congrats on your wedding, and I hope the two of you have a wonderful and happy life together. I read Japandemonium every week, though this is the first time I'm writing in.
See, I was playing Upwords the other day, and it made me think, and wonder: Does Japan have games like this? I don't know a lot about the Japanese language, but I do know the alphabets pretty well, and I have the feeling that they might work well with this sort of game. At the very least, it could make for a fun way to practice one's knowledge of Japanese language and alphabets, if such a thing does exist. Hmm, curious.
Keep up the good work with Japandemonium. Here, have a tilde or two. ~~
Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad that people seem to enjoy my column. It may be one doozy of a writing job, but it's pretty fun. And in the end, that's what's important to me. Well, that and getting news to people in a timely manner.
As for UpWords, I've never seen anything like it, but I have no doubts that it most certainly exists. The Japanese seem to enjoy word games, so someone has surely put two and two together on this one.
Thanks for the letter, and I appreciate the tildes. In this day and age, we never get any back. Good to have such nice readers like yourself.
Hey Sensei, revamparts here.
I've always wanted to visit Japan thanks to my interest in video games, but also thanks to the bustling Tokyo, serene Kyoto, and a culture that from the outside seems like it would be the perfect fit for me.
Now there's always a ton of reading you can do, and from the west Japan has a certain aura about it that makes it special. One scene in Lost in Translation shows Scarlett Jahannsen walking through a perfectly clean park in Kyoto and passing a tree that passers by have tied white ribbons onto to give the effect of a real tree. Whenever anyone wanted to they could just tie one on and go about their business. Here in the U.S. however I know for a fact that it would be vandalized or destroyed.
So that's great and all, but like any other place Japan isn't perfect. We all know about the male dominated society among other things (whether or not that's a flaw for one person or another). So how about you? After living in Japan, can you say that its aura has worn off? After interacting with so many people I would assume that Japan is much like America just because most people act similarly no matter how different they think they are. I'd really like to know because we as gamers often see the best parts of Japan: Hiroshige and Hokusai woodblock painting like landscapes and that Otaku craze with all the collecting and categorizing. But like anywhere else there are liars, thieves, and just plain bad days for everyone!
John Guffey (a.k.a. revamparts)
Japan DOES seem to have this magical aura about it, but the truth is, it's very different than we think it is. Before I say another word, I'm going to say that I feel that is neither bad nor good. I don't believe that the Japanese truly understand America, either. The self-image that a country projects is often not the reality, and this is very much so in Japan.
Japan is NOT the otaku paradise that so many of us think it should be, but it's not a bad place to live at all. It IS generally cleaner, but there are far too many cigarette butts all over the place. That makes me pretty sad, but aside from that, there is far less to complain about. The people just seem to try to preserve nature, but at the same time, they do a lot to destroy it. Fight Club mentions "single serving friends," but this is a single serving country. Everything is individually wrapped, put on a styrofoam platter, and otherwise not good for the environment. But at least they recycle as much as possible. But I'm still bothered by people that pay 150 yen for a little plastic cup of iced coffee with a straw rather than get nearly seven times as much for 128 yen in a cardboard carton. Everything has to be small, cute, and ready on the go.
You also ask about the people. They really are friendly. I've honestly not seen people that are more helpful to tourists than the Japanese. They're good people, and if you come to visit, I'm sure you'll be very happy with the experience. I'd recommend anyone with the time and money make it to Kyoto and Nara for some of the best sightseeing in the world. Tokyo is quite cool too, but I only barely scratched the surface of it.
Living and working here presents an entirely different set of challenges. I come from America, and I am really much more American than I thought. The way we think just doesn't jive well in this society; it's really opposite in a lot of ways. We're more about the self, and we have a whole different set of standards. I don't really have time to go into it all, but it's just different. We're not better, nor are they better than us. But it is a different world over here. Working for a Japanese company is harder than it looks; I don't have the undying love for it that I'm expected to have. In a way, it's like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. It's hard to explain it fully, but it's something that becomes readily apparent when you live here.
So yeah. It's a great place, but it's not the paradise we think it is. A lot of people imagine anime all over the place, beautiful women, skirts up to here, and pretty much every other stereotype that we get from games and anime, but they're not really true. Well... there ARE some skirts up to here, but that's another story for another day. I'd recommend that people try it if they can, and visiting is perfect. Just long enough to get the good sides of the country with little of the negatives. That said, some of the best parts of the country can only be discovered by living here.
I hope this makes something that resembles some sense or at least answers your question. Thanks for writing in. Always good to have staff send letters.
I just wanted to thank you for posting that link your Japandemonium
topic. A thousand times over. I am in my 4th semester of Japanese
classes at college, and here they have an "immersion" technique of
teaching where they don't talk to you in English. Needless to say, it
leaves lots of questions unanswered. The site is wonderful for
answering my nitpicky questions. Thanks a ton!
You're very welcome. When I found that site, I knew I had to share it with everyone. It's the BEST "textbook" I've ever seen. I like that it teaches Japanese from the ground up rather than the way most books teach us. After being a language teacher, I realized how poor all the Japanese books I've ever seen were. I just wish this were in hardback so I could take it with me. Thank goodness I have a laptop.
Thanks for writing! I appreciate the kind words.
This is a long overdue email, but I just wanted to thank you for the awesome
column and wish you luck back in North America. I'm a 3rd year undergrad in
Ottawa, Canada, and following your journey has helped me decide to try for a
Japanese teaching position as well. I doubt I would have ever gone through
with it without your column showing me how interesting and fun it could be.
So once again, thanks to you and good luck with law school and marriage.
I never expected to inspire someone through my column to try teaching in Japan, but I'm really honored to be your inspiration. Living in Japan is a fantastic experience, and the things you learn about yourself and your home are priceless. It's not always easy being half a world away, but if you can handle the distance, I think it's worth it. Even with a long-distance relationship, I wouldn't change things even if I could.
Good luck with your experience. I hope yours is even better than mine. Thanks for the kind words and for writing in!
Howslife? I guess I missed one again. At the time I usually write you an
e-mail I got held up by a friend and some other stuff I won't bore you
with. Well, first of all, thanks for answering my questions the last time
and thanks for that great link - it seems quite complete!
I actually don't know if I still have some questions left from your
response and have not much time to figure it out, so I'm about to ask you
some questions about cooking. I've been really into cooking lately and
have bought some cooking books about Japanese meals. I actually never
thought it would be that easy! Where Chinese food (and some other
East-Asian countries) is more based on garlic, onion, soy sauce, oyster
sauce, salt and paper (am I missing something), it seems that the Japanese
basic ingredients are soy sauce (Japanese though), mirin and dashi. It's
not much! The problem is that for Japanese food you need have good meat or
fish (which is something I don't have most of the time), like beef or
salmon. I really like making tempura, it's quite nice, because you can
I guess that wasn't really a question... hmmm, here is one! What are
Japanese recipes that you recommend (except the basic stuff everybody
knows of, like teriyaki/sushi/etc.) - so something that's probably not
that much known in the West, but is probably common in Japan? Something I
also can make at home?
Maybe a stupid question, but do all Japanese soy sauce have alcohol in
them? I haven't seen one without and it would be handy for my Islamic
friends who aren't allowed to have alcohol in any form whatsoever.
Oh, I also bought a Bento book, which is okay I guess, with a lot of
ideas, but I'm missing something here and that's a Bento box! Do you know
where you can order one online (or anybody else)? I know jbox.com sells
some, but the problem is that most of them have figures/figurines on them.
I just want a black one - full black - know where I can get one? I'm
currently using tupperware and it's quite funny taking bento or just other
rice meals with you. Even the simplest egg will make people say: "that
About the two weddings, I guess that normal for most Asian countries. I'm
Indonesian and a lot of Indonesian couples have two weddings. Sometimes
it's like yours, a traditional and a Western one, but a lot of the times
two weddings are finding place in two different countries: one here and
one in Indonesia, so all the families can experience a wedding of the
As for sake (I suddenly remembered!), I never knew it was sake, but did
suspect it. I'm familiar with it and I'm quite fan of it. It makes me
loose on a very controllable way (if that makes sense), because it's the
only alcoholic drink that doesn't make my head heavy after a lot drinks! I
like it! But I wonder why they always translate it as beer? Even though it
is technically correct, it is more commonly known as rice wine (that's how
I call when people don't know what it is).
Well, hope I was on time today! Hope to get some nice answers again!
PS. I tried the "hot cake"-mix (as my little sister calls it that way
because they call it like that in Akuzukin Cha Cha) and it's pretty good!
I have actually no idea whether I'm doing it right, but I think it's the
same as yours (white wrapping, 3x200g). There are some pictures on the
back saying it's possible to make doughnuts, cookies and something else -
is it okay for me to send you a picture, so you could tell me how to make
those? I really want to make doughnuts, but came to the conclusion it
takes too long and too much effort to do so!
PS2. I know, that was a way too long Post-Script!
"We all know that birds fly, but now can
you tell me where they are actually flying to??"
I figured I'd be getting an email from you pretty soon. You don't miss many columns these days.
As for cooking, there are several recipes that most Americans don't know much about. For starters, there's omuraisu. I gave the recipe for that in the omuraisu column. It's basically just chicken, onion, rice, and ketchup with a thin egg omelet on top. It's yummy.
Another common dish that should be easy to prepare is okonomiyaki. This is something akin to a wheat pancake with cabbage and meat in it. It's a traditional food of Osaka, and you can put just about anything you want in it. There are several recipes online, and while I've never made it, I do eat them from time to time. They're one of my favorites, but they're around 800 yen. I try to keep my meals under 500. I'm cheap like that.
I suppose you could also try Japanese hamburgers. I've never looked for a recipe, but it's something like a Salisbury steak. Basically, you put onions and seasonings in beef, sauté it in a pan, and then add demiglaze on it. They're good.
Still another idea would be any of the donburi. I've never made them, but I LOVE eating them. I suggest oyako don or katsu don. 'Oyako' literally means 'parent and child' and consists of egg and chicken over a bowl of rice. Katsu don has ton katsu, a deep fried, breaded pork tenderloin. It's similar to tempura, but the breading is different. There is some kind of sauce that goes on top, and it's really yummy. It's a favorite, but I've not been swinging by the bento shop that sells it nearly as much these days.
I'm running out of things to cook, so I'll go on to the bento boxes. Your best bet probably is Jbox. For those in America, it's called Jlist over there. There will be some sillier bento, but that's hard to avoid. They should have some respectable bento for a decent price. You can also try eBay, but aside from that, the only other option is to go to a Japanese market. We have a Japanese grocery in New Orleans, and they sell a variety of Japanese cookware. I never looked for bento, but I'm sure they have them. If you can find an Asian market, you should be able to find a bento box.
As for the sake, I don't know why they'd translate it as beer. I've never seen it that way myself, although I have seen it as 'tea' on Cartoon Network. Sake isn't bad, but I don't drink much. I tend to drink water or tea these days.
In regards to the two weddings, I'm pretty excited. It'll be traditional, so I'll be wearing an ao dai. The ao is pronounced 'ow' and the 'dai' is pronounced as if it began with y instead of d. I've never seen a Viet wedding, so it'll be an experience for me. I'll put pictures up if people want to see. I also have pictures of the American wedding if people want to see those.
And finally, our pancake mixes are different. I use Morinaga. It comes in packs of four bags of 200 grams. I know the one you're using, but I can't recall the name off the top of my head. I've never used that kind either. Morinaga was always cheaper, and I was hooked after the first time I tried it. Best pancake mix EVER.
Thanks for the email, and I don't mind if they're long. I'm just glad someone takes this much interest in my column. Have a nice week!
Some things came up, and the column had a half-day delay. I'm sorry that you had to wait a few more hours for your weekly dose of Japanese goodness. The column did get a little bit of extra work while you waited. I hope that is enough. For now, I'm tired, and I'm going to get some rest. I have full plans on taking a nice long hirune tomorrow!
Catch you on the flip,