ichigatsu no kokonoka
Akemashite Omedetou!

There's a lot I could say here about New Year's Eve in Japan. I could talk about the cultural importance, the former observance of the lunar calendar, the soba, mochi, and o-sechi I ate, my visit to Fujisaki Shrine with my girlfriend, etc. Honestly, for me there's a different day of importance that comes up not long after Christmas.

First of all, happy birthday, Mom. The present's in the mail.

As a far second, happy birthday to me. Yes, same day. Go figure.

To celebrate the combined Christmas and birthday season, I treated myself to a rare big-money game purchase. Namely, I sunk a lot of yen into a copy of Devil Summoner - Kuzunoha Raidou vs. King Abaddon +Plus. What's the +Plus for? This copy is a specially bundled package featuring a second major Atlus title. Here's the cover:

For 3000 yen (about $30) on top of the usual 6000 yen for a new PS2 game, I got a copy of Shin Megami Tensei 3 - Nocturne, Maniacs Chronicle Edition. As it turns out, the American version of Nocturne had extra material over the Japanese original, so Atlus produced the Maniacs Chronicle (American version plus one or two more things added) to keep the home audience content.

Now, a used copy of Nocturne, original version, can set you back more than 4000 yen over here. A copy of the Maniacs Chronicle Edition costs between twelve and fourteen thousand yen, or an average of $120.

Merry Christmas and happy birthday to me.

A few months back, I mentioned the Takarazuka theater, an all-female acting troupe known for providing inspiration for, and taking inspiration from, manga and anime. Recently, I heard that they were planning a new production based off a video game franchise. While it's not an RPG, this series does have an audience in the US, so I thought I'd mention it. From February 2nd to the 15th in Takarazuka, and from February 24th to March 2nd in Tokyo, fans of the theater can go see Phoenix Wright, Attorney at Law live and on stage.

Source: Dengeki Online
12/29 ~ 1/4 12/22 ~ 12/28 12/15 ~ 12/21 Previously Title Publisher Platform
1 2 1 NEW! Dissidia Final Fantasy Square Enix
7 1 NEW! NEW! White Knight Chronicle SCE
12 6 9 Down from 7 Pokémon Platinum Nintendo
14 7 NEW! NEW! Phantasy Star ZERO Sega
32 28 5 NEW! Tales of Hearts (anime movie version) Bandai-Namco
34 29 32 Down from 26 Inazuma Eleven Level 5
35 27 12 NEW! Suikoden Tierkries Konami
37 38 27 NEW! Harvest Moon - To the Wind Bazaar Marvelous
41 41 36 Down from 16 Chrono Trigger Square Enix
47 53 -- -- Patapon 2 SCE
Off-List Off-List 23 NEW! Fable II Microsoft
Off-List Off-List 25 NEW! Ragnarok Online DS Gung-ho Works
Off-List Off-List 44 NEW! Tales of Hearts (CG movie version) Bandai-Namco

There's less than a week left before the release of Devil Survivor, the first MegaTen game for the Nintendo DS. On January 15th, the countdown begins. If, seven days later on the 22nd, you wake up in the morning and Tokyo's not with us anymore, well then someone really screwed things up.

This entry in the series sees the revival of the COMP, the demon-summoning personal computer necessary for survival. The COMP has a long and varied history in the series, from the gauntlet-style handset of Shin Megami Tensei to the pistol-shaped interface of Soul Hackers. There's even been one shaped like a bass saxophone. To celebrate the series' entrance onto a new platform, the COMP has been reborn as a new, modernized piece of equipment:

I'm not sure whether to laugh or to cry.

In other scans, we see a bit more of Tokyo and how the isolation imposed on the populace by the demons' seal has affected things. As more and more people gain access to COMPs, demons become a commodity like any other. There's even an auction house dedicated to demonic day trading.

While some people are fighting against the forces which have sealed Tokyo, others are simply staking out what's theirs and defending it viciously. People like Jin and Haru. Jin is a nightclub owner, and Haru is the vocalist for one of the more popular indie bands in town. They've both lost people because of the seal, but don't seem to disposed towards helping others in the struggle for survival.

Human threats are bad enough, but strange, unknown demons are haunting the streets as well. On the last page of the scan we see Iza Bel, the Violet Abomination. In one of the screens there's also a Bel Del, so I think there's a name pattern to the major bosses.

I'm really looking forward to next week.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

It's tough being God, so the forces behind Sacred Blaze, coming soon to the PS2, have made available unto the god-player a small host of helper angels from among which an assistant may be chosen. This is important, as each angel's ties to a particular homeland affect that land's heroes. Just how remains to be seen, but in the meantime we can enjoy a look at the game's animated cutscenes.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

Once more we travel to Eden, the world of the 7th Dragon, now overrun by the toxic frowaro flower. Besides the struggling Kingdom of Kazan, a few small pockets of human civilization have so far survived the draconic onslaught. One of these is the Mareaia Archipelago, home of the Princesses.

The Princesses are masters of song and whip, wielding both with ease and attitude. Songs can heal or mete out punishing status effects. Whip skills like Ninetails hurt the enemy more directly. And then there are tag team efforts. Although the player can only have up to four characters in the active party at any given time, the others won't just sit there and twiddle their thumbs. Upon command, certain classes will assist others in combat, such as the devastating Princess and Knight combo. Who says chivalry is dead?

Source: Famitsu Weekly
Release date Title Publisher Platform
01/08/09 Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360 Platinum Collection) Bandai-Namco
01/08/09 Kingdom Under Fire (Xbox 360 Platinum Colection Microsoft
01/15/09 Disgaea 3 (The Best) Nippon Ichi
01/15/09 Fallout 3 Bethesda
01/15/09 Devil Survivor Atlus
01/22/09 Zill O'll ~infinite plus~ Koei
01/22/09 Fragile Bandai-Namco
01/22/09 Zubo Electronic Arts
01/22/09 Monster Racer Koei
01/29/09 Mega Man Legends 1 & 2 Value Pack Capcom
01/29/09 Tales of the World - Radiant Mythology 2 Bandai-Namco
01/29/09 Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - Echoes of Time Square Enix
01/29/09 Atelier Annie Gust
01/29/09 Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - Echoes of Time Square Enix
Another Satisfied Correspondent

Sorry for the extraordinarily late reply! The trip was fantastic. It was painful to leave at the end of the 2 weeks. If I went into everything we saw that was interesting this email would be a few pages long.

The trip couldn't have gone any smoother. Even when we were lost/exploring we were having a good time and those moments were probably the most fun. Funniest moment was probably visiting a temple in Kyoto and not realizing it was a 2-3 mile hike up a mountain. My sister and I are sweating like crazy while 70-year-old Japanese men and women are just strolling by like it's no big deal. Of course we could barely read anything so anytime we went to a nicer restaurant it was "omakase onegai". All the places we stayed were the perfect size and not too expensive. Traveling was a breeze with the JR pass. Can't thank you enough for your quick/helpful reply, and thanks for the follow up. We are both already trying to figure out how and when we can go back.

Thanks again,



Glad to hear back! It's nice to know you had a good time. You were headed for Tokyo, Kyoto, and ... Hokkaido, right? I too have encountered unexpected obstacles while visiting some very lovely places in Japan. The best ones are usually the ones with the worst public transportation access. There's one mountain near Iizuka in Fukuoka Prefecture that has some beautiful Buddhist statues, but in order to see them all, you have to commit to a three-day hike. It's worth it, though.

Be sure to write in again! Where else interests you?

Squeak Like You've Never Squeaked Before, Men!

G'day sir. I hope the end of December treated you well.

One version of 'I' that I forgot to mention last time: 'washi.' I've only seen this one used by old men but am unsure as to its connotations.


It's an old version usually used by old men. I used to think it was just a contracted form of "watashi," but it seems to have its own kanji symbol (though no one ever uses it).

Exactly what does 'jibun' mean? I hear it frequently and still haven't made the connection. Am I correct in understanding that 'inochi' has something to do with one's life, or is that way off?


Jibun means "self." Whether that's myself, yourself, herself, etc. depends on context. If used possessively, it means "my own", "your own", etc. And inochi is the Japanese word for life. Simple as that.

How many uses does 'shin' possess? Does it have more than the 'truth' meaning applied to various situations I understand?


You're not thinking ideogrammatically. Japanese and Chinese as languages don't put too much intrinsic meaning on individual syllables. The more complicated the word, the more likely there's a single dictionary meaning, but for as short a phoneme as shin, well, there are a lot of kanji symbols that include that syllable as a potential pronunciation. Eighty-seven symbols, to be precise. However, since shin is usually an on'yomi reading (derived from Chinese pronunciation), it's usually found as a part of other words, and not by itself. The most likely meanings you're likely to hear are those which commonly show up as prefixes: new, divine, or true (as in absolute). The intro sequence to the original Shin Megami Tensei manages to reference all three at the same time.

Now for a couple of differently aimed questions. Have you ever read The Tale of Genji, and is it even possible to understand a novel that is now 1000 years old without some form of update? Also, how much material has The Tale of Genji been responsible for that you know of?


I tried reading it once, but I think the translation I had was a little too dry to get into. You might want to shop around, see if there's one that fits your tastes. As to the seond half of that question, I've enjoyed reading the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Song of Roland, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Book of Job. Of those five, only two are near to being contemporary with Genji, and the oldest one is in competition for the Top Ten Oldest Stories Ever Recorded.

Anyway, back to the topic. Genji is still taught in every high school in the country as part of the Classical Japanese class, though usually with translations and annotations available. Did you ever have to read something so old that it needed to be retranslated into your own language? Like maybe Chaucer? In any case, Genji Monogatari and its counterpart Heike Monogatari are so commonly known in Japan that it's inevitable that references will crop up in any form of media you'd care to name. In the end, it's like asking if canon of the Arthurian Legend (most of which was written in the same general time period) has had any effect on modern English literature.

Also, I wonder how much gaming material from Korea has made it to Japan.


MMORPGs. Occasionally a few other titles. Mostly MMORPGs.

Thank you for your time, and may the forces of evil become lost on the way to your house.



And blessings unto you as well. Always a pleasure.

Well, time to go eat some birthday cake. Presents or questions about the holidays or anything else Japanese will be warmly welcomed.

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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