One day last week, JuMeSyn and I were discussing an old cache of coins he'd inherited, and that got me to thinking about coinage in Japan. In fact, Japanese coins haven't changed much in the last 50 years or so, but differences exist, if one knows what to look for. I found this out a few years back. I'd just visited home for the holidays, and had picked up the habit of checking my change (all those state quarters, y'know). Back in Japan, I was checking for my birthyear, and practicing Imperial-to-Gregorian date conversion. And then I found this:
The coin on the left is a normal 5 yen coin, or goendama. Every one of these coins minted since the early '60s has looked just like this one. The coin on the right is from the year Showa 29, or 1955. The differences are minor, but the older coin definitely has a different style of script, and uses the older version of the symbol for country. They aren't very common, but since then I have managed to find three just from convenience store change.
The 10 yen coin is hardly worth mentioning, as the only change of note between the old and the relatively new is along the edges where it can't be seen in pictures. Likewise, changes to the 500 yen coin have been limited to an alteration in color due to an alloy change a few years back (for anti-counterfeiting protection, I believe), and the design is the same.
The 50 yen coin, on the other hand, has changed a lot since the '60s. That big one on the left is the only one of its kind I have ever seen, gotten through the good graces of the ladies at Family Mart. They noticed me checking out the change one day, and asked me about it. Now, whenever they come across an old or unusual coin, they keep it to trade to me.
Most of my Japanese collectible coins have a face value of 500 yen, except for that first one. It's a 1964 Tokyo Olympiad 100 yen coin. The next is a coin for the 2005 Aichi Expo, and the only coin in the set that I actually found in change at a store. The third is for the Tsukuba Expo of 1985. After that is the commemorative coin for the Showa Emperor's silver jubilee in 1986. I'm still not completely certain about the fifth coin, but I think it was minted for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa's return to Japanese control, post-WWII.
The last three are part of the prefectural coins program. They're a bit like the state quarters in the US, except that they're not meant to be in circulation. You can purchase them from bank branches across Japan. The ones I have represent Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Shimane Prefectures.
Notice how none of these coins is more than 55 years old? The currency of Japan went through a major shift after the war, as a combination of economic sanctions and poor wartime decisions by the imperial treasury drove the yen's value from about equal to a dollar to less than one-third of a penny. For several decades the exchange rate was 360 yen to the dollar. Way back when, however, there was more than just the yen.
If you've played enough games or seen enough anime, you've probably seen the word zeni (sometimes spelled zenny) used to refer to currency. This is especially common in Capcom games. Well, these are zeni, also pronounced sen. The one on the right is a 10 zenny coin from Showa 21 (1946). It's not in very good condition, mainly because I think it's made out of aluminum and plastic. The one zenny coin looks much better, even though it's also the single oldest coin in my collection. The date shown on the coin is Taisho 8, or 1920.
And that's my coin collection. Time to get on with the column!
Do you like to party? Do you like to dance? Square Enix has something for you then. In apparent recognition of the fact that some RPGamers actually do leave the house on occasion, S-E has, in cooperation with Avex Music, produced the Dragon Quest Dance Mix Compilation. There are samples to be heard here.
In stores March 4th!
First of all, my apologies. For far too long, I have neglected my coverage of Shining Force Feather. Now, with the game newly arrived in stores, it is time to make amends.
Fans of the Shining Force series may be happy to hear that this game is a sort of return to the series' tactical roots. On their turns, characters are allowed a certain amount of movement across the battlefield, and may attack anything that comes within their attack radius. Once an enemy is engaged, the game cuts to a combat screen, wherein the player directs the character's attack.
Different attacks are mapped to the XABY buttons, and the results look vaguely similar to combat in Xenogears or Breath of Fire V. When allies are also in range, Union attacks (two-person special combos) and Connect Attacks (multi-character attack chains) also become available. Adding to the fun are Burst Attacks and Force MAX moves, which look satisfyingly destructive.
Our story takes place on the continent of Haiarn. Three thousand years ago, the land was threatened by a malevolent entity known as "Void," which was banished only thanks to special war machines powered by the mysterious Shining Force. Three millenia later, the remains of these machines are still to be found from time to time, but they seem to lack a necessary part to function.
Ten years ago, the Kingdom of Zairon rose victorious over its neighbors, and declared itself an empire. This did not sit well with the other nations of Haiarn, and the average Zaironian isn't enjoying the new age of iron-fisted rule either.
In the middle of this is a young adventurer named Jin. While exploring an old ruin from the Void War, he stumbles upon a Core Unit, a biological artefact designed to power and control the ancient machinery. Her name is Alfin, and she is both saccharinely cute and annoyingly perky.
Unfortunately, a Zaironian prince has found himself a Core Unit as well, and.... I think we can all see where this plot is going. Let's hope the developers can do something interesting with it.
Last month, we mentioned the game Crystal Defenders, a mobile phone program now for download on various consoles. Now, just a month later, comes Crystal Defenders V2, a larger, expanded version with more classes and options. The Yahoo! Softbank network has also had V3 available for several months, so that too may be on the horizon.
Flight Plan's Manichean tactical RPG, Sacred Blaze is out in stores right now, and the developer is letting its love of a certain Japanese gaming magazine shine through with some odd accessories for the game's characters:
Subscribers to Famitsu's five magazines will receive special "Words from the Gods," i.e. passwords, which can be used to get gift items in the game. Said items include DVD-like halos, visors with logos, Famitsu spellbooks, and even a full-head mask of Nekki, the Famitsu mascot.
Even those of us without regular subscriptions to foreign gaming magazines can enjoy dressing up the characters, however, as most equipment changes will result in a different look for the character in question.
As far as mobile phone gaming goes, Gameloft is at the top of the field. Their wiki page has a very long list of titles they have made for cell phone companies in various countries. If you look closely, however, you'll find they haven't done much in the role-playing market so far. The only RPGs on the entire list are ports of the first two Might and Magic games. That's about to change, it seems, as the latest issue of Famitsu features two new games from them.
Mecha Tactics : AD 2072 is a futuristic tactical RPG. The game allows for a lot of customization with mecha types, which leads to many possible designs appearing in the game. All appearances to the contrary, this is not a Front Mission title. It's available for 315 yen on all three Japanese cell phone networks.
The other RPG is an action-oriented title called Saber - The Great War Chronicle. The core portion of the game centers around eight quests, with some forty breeds of monsters to encounter and dispatch, but the blurb in Famitsu takes care to point out that more missions and content will be available for download soon.
Love is in the Air
Hi, you said we could/should ask "romantic questions" so I have one. What exactly is White Day? Is it like a duplicate of Valentine's Day or something? It was in my Japanese text book and I've never heard of it (though I've never been in Japan during the spring either). I think my teacher said it was something like everyone who got gifts on Valentine's day gives gifts to the person on White Day but I really don't remember...
I think I covered this one last year, too. White Day is sort of the Japanese answer to the particular version of Valentine's Day that got foisted on them by the chocolate industry. What I mean is, V-Day came to Japan as a way of selling chocolates, and was promoted as a way for (presumably shy) girls to show they liked someone. Then a marshmallow and cookie company in Fukuoka decided to reverse the tradition for March 14th, and promoted the idea of boys giving the girls cookies and marshmallows. So, White Day is a highly commercialized knock-off of a highly commercialized version of a 2000-year-old Roman holiday. Go figure.
To add to the fun, both V-Day and W-Day have spread to China and Korea. The South Korean government even went so far as to create ten more relationship-themed holidays, one for the 14th of each month, with a matching color scheme. As far as I know, the only one to have any impact is April 14th, or Black Day, when all the people who did not get chocolates on V-Day or cookies on W-Day go and eat black noodles to show how lonely they are.
I feel like I should ask something at least remotely related to games too but I'm not sure if I have a question right now.... Oh, I know! First of all, have you ever played Final Fantasy X in Japanese? There's this "foreign language" in the game that is really just a code. In the English version they just made one letter equal another like o=y for example. I was wondering what they did for that in the Japanese version. Did they switch around the hiragana or did they spell things out in romaji first?
Yes I have, and the Al Bhed language is done as a straight-up katakana substitution code. This is actually a lot easier to do in Japanese, what with katakana being a syllable-based system and all. Each of the Al Bhed primers taught three bits of the substitution code, to cover all the symbols.
Thanks for reading my letter of random questions! Oh, one more random question, what percentage of Japanese games do you suppose end up getting translated and released overseas?
Good luck with next year's happyoukai thingy,
I really have no idea on that one. More and more every year?
Thanks, and good luck to you too this year, Annalou!
And that's a wrap! I hope everyone has a good weekend. Next week is full of class observations, so wish me luck, please.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,