Shu-shu-po-po! That's my new word for the week. One of my little chibikko students just loves to shout it whenever he sees a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine (or any other train, for that matter). It took me a while to figure out what he was talking about -- it's the Japanese equivalent of "choo-choo train."
Trains are very popular in Japan, and not just as convenient modes of public transportation in a country where gas prices are dancing around $1.50... per liter. There are many regional trains with special decorations or designs -- such as the Huis Ten Bosch Special, which I took during Golden Week. It's not unusual to see people having their pictures taken with special trains in the major stations, or to see little kids with their parents, waving bye-bye as the shu-shu-po-po roll out.
There's a good deal of merchandising involved as well. The Shinkansen has its own cutesy mascot, who appears as its own brand name of clothing. Train models are widely available in the stations, as are dolls modeled off the train stewardesses.
So, if you're into trainspotting, come on over! You'll find many kindred spirits over here, especially in the pre-school crowd.
Okay, now I've seen everything. It's no secret that Japanese businessfolk will do anything for a pickmeup. The market for genki drinks is ridiculously huge. But for too long have the salarymen had to wait precious minutes for that mix of vitamins, royal jelly, and nicotine acids to hit their system.
Now they're pumping it into their veins directly.
Granted, it's not the same exact mix as the drinks, but still, that's pretty far out there.
Well, we missed a week or two, but we're back with the sales reports from May 5th to May 11th. While Link's Crossbow Training isn't actually an RPG, I felt it was worth mentioning anyway. The big shocker as I checked the lists was that Pokémon Diamond & Pearl have actually made it back on the list, again, and are actually climbing higher. And here I thought I was joking on April 1st...
Well, we've mentioned quite a few games in Japandemonium these past few months, some more often than others. But sometimes there isn't enough material on a game to warrant a full section. So, it's time for some shortish updates, and even a few new items:
First, here's a small update on The World Revolves Around Me, mentioned here a few weeks back. It's not much more than we had the first time around, but at least here we can get a look at an actual game screen, and see that the game does have a free-roaming map after all. Also, we get a little bit of info on the Selfishness System, which the heroine uses to literally rewrite local reality to serve her whims.
Next up is Dokapon Kingdom, the Wii counterpart to Dokapon Journey, which was part of the April 21st column. Again, it's not much, but there are pictures for the Warrior, Thief, Devilman, Magician, Entertainer, Magic Knight, Ninja, and Alchemist classes. Strangely enough, the Warrior and Magician classes look to be completely different from the equivalent classes for Dokapon Journey -- even to the point where in DK, the names are written out in katakana, but in DJ they're in kanji. Strange.
We looked at Lord of Vermilion here a few months back, and while there isn't anything new to be said about it for the most part, the pictures of the new cards are interesting enough.
Also, here's a quick first look at the Kateikyoshi Hittoman Reborn! (Home-Tutor Hitman) RPG, currently out on DS. This is all I have on it at the moment, as I apparently missed that issue of Famitsu a few months back. While I'm not a big fan of the series, I'm sure there are some folks out there who'd be interested in seeing this.
And last, there's Pokémon Battle Trio (Batrio), which was last reported on here. Hopefully the nice explanatory pictures in the scan will be clearer than my attempts to explain it the last time around. On the second page, it's talking about how certain legendary Pokémon have been added to the game.
Source: Dengeki DS & Wii Style Magazine
Source: Famitsu Magazine
Unlike the above, this is a major update. Square Enix's mystery adventure RPG Sigma Harmonics was last mentioned here, with commentary on the adventure-game aspect of the game. Well now we have some specifics on the story to share as well.
Sigma Kurokami, the bespectacled hero of the game, isn't just some average kid pulled into insane situations (not that that ever happens) -- he's the son of a long lineage of demon-slayers, whose signature style involves the use of sound waves.
His partner is Neon (rhymes with rayon), a classmate and fellow heir to a demon-slaying legacy. Her trademarks are the jaunty cat-eared beanie, and a variety of magic cards, which she uses to summon weapons and various magical effects.
As mentioned earlier, Sigma Harmonics is at heart a mystery adventure. Someone seems to be rewriting the past, with disastrous effects in the present. The what, where, why, and how are left to the player to find out. The when is apparently variable, with the heroes being catapulted between past and present regularly as they pursue leads in the Kurokami mansion and elsewhere.
Wherever you go, however, there are monsters. The Ouma are this game's patent mysterious monster franchise. What they are and where they come from is unknown -- heck, I'm not even sure what the first kanji in their name even means. The butterfly monster in the scan is neat, though, in an elegantly threatening way.
In the rest of the scan, we can see some of what looks to be a customization system for Sigma's baton, and an introduction to his father, mother, and Grandma Ume.
All I can say is, I'm digging the style
Source: Dengeki DS & Wii Style Magazine
Everyone could see this coming. With the next Pokémon movie, Giratina and Sheimi of the Floating Paradise, coming up this summer, Nintendo has announced it's going to do what it always does when the movies roll out: give out free legendary pokémon to anyone who shows up. This time, they're offering two: the Illusory Pokémon Sheimi/Shaymin, and the Continental Pokémon Regigigas.
Regigigas is actually available on pre-order -- special early download tickets have been available from the Pokémon Centers, Seven Eleven and other approved sources across Japan for about a month now, with the giant itself being available from June 20th to August 31st.
Shaymin will be available at the theater for any and all excited children with a DS and a copy of Pearl or Diamond, which means from July 19th to approximately September 30th.
As a gaiden (spinoff) of the Super Robot Taisen series, SRT: Infinite Frontier can't be expected to hold to the (admittedly loose) rules of continuity of its parent series, and these scans really reflect that. First and most obvious, the propagandists have switched from an emphasis on promoting giant robots to one that apparently promotes double-D cup body armor. Not that we're complaining or anything.
The hero of our story this time around is Harken Browning, pilot of the Zeit Krokodil (that's German for "time crocodile," apparently), who is accompanied by the buxom android bodyguard Ashen Breidel (the one with green hair), the star princess Kaguya (red hair), and the demon princess Suzuka (blue hair). The robot, Jaki Gan-Oh (Evil Demon Gun King), belongs to Suzuka.
Together, the four of them are off on a grand tour of the Infinite Frontier, a series of six worlds linked by strange holes in reality: the sci-fi world of Lost Elysia, the fantasy world of Elfeteil, the ocean world of Varna-kanai, the oriental-themed divine world of Shinraku-Tengen (possible translation is "sacred paradise"), the desert world of Dunepolis, and the devil world of Folmidheim. I won't list a full description of each one here, but feel free to ask if you want to know more.
Of course, the interesting part lies in the guest cameos. There are at least three special characters making an appearance on the Infinite Frontier -- Reiji and Shau Mu from Namco X Capcom, and KOS-MOS from Xenosaga.
The third page shows off some of what can be done in battle. Aside from straight up hitting people, the player can choose between special techniques, Spirit Skills (more or less magic), and Super Robot attacks. Special techniques take COM points to use, which are gained through successful regular attack combos. To do combos, you have to time your A-button hits on regular attacks so that the character hits for max damage. A few of the possible special attacks can be seen at the bottom of the page.
On the last page of the scan, we get a look at some of the villains Harken and his friends can expect to meet on their journey. And what a varied bunch they are... There are a couple of pirates, several members of something called the Orchestral Army, some rival nobles from the Sacred Paradise, a sphinx-ish guy in a giant cat robot, and an android with a grudge against Ashen Breidel. A real mixed bag, it looks like.
Unfortunately, as with all SRT titles, copyright issues will probably prevent this from ever coming to America. Shou ga nai, ne?
Source: Dengeki DS & Wii Style Magazine
Hi, I feel the need to write another letter to Japandemonium, so here goes: It says in your trivia that Golden Week is one of three longer holiday periods. What are the others? I'm guessing that one is New Years but I'm not sure.
Yup, New Year's is one of the other major holiday periods. The third one is Obon, the Shinto day of remembrance for the dead, and the center of a holy season which has become the backbone of Japan's summer school vacation.
On a different subject, what is it like to teach English? I've heard that in order to teach English in Japan you don't even need to know Japanese, but that seems a little silly to me. How are you going to answer beginner's questions if you can't speak Japanese? (Nevermind that it's useful to know Japanese in order to get by in Japan). Also, how much of teaching English is explaining the grammar and how much is just correcting the students? My English is correct most of the time but I wouldn't be able to explain grammar to save my life.
Well, if you're teaching over here, odds are you'll be teaching eikaiwa, which is to say, conversational English. Trust me, students get enough grammar drilling over here through their regular school lessons. What they don't get is any idea of how to use what they're memorizing (or even what it means, sometimes). Most of the companies have curricula based around learning the phrase, and not the parts -- i.e. learning to ask for something in the context of actually asking for something, instead of having the parts all explained to them individually. Especially with the little kids, teaching grammar becomes a hindrance to understanding, so it's easier to teach them through example. Even with the older students, high school or college, it can become a problem, because the students tend to focus too much on the grammar, and if they hit something they don't know, they shut up completely. So, as part of their sales pitch, the eikaiwa companies came up with curricula to compensate, and help students learn to use context and basic logic to figure things out.
Problem is, most Japanese students in my experience don't do well when it comes to figuring things out from context. One of the oldest clichés in the business is the student who cannot answer "How are you today?" because they don't expect to hear "today" at the end, and it trips them up.
The reason the companies don't look for knowledge of Japanese in their recruiting is because A) that limits the potential number of applicants, and B) the teachers might be encouraged to talk with the students in Japanese, which the high muckity-mucks feel detracts from the conversational English experience.
Again jumping to a different subject, what sorts of bilingual English/Japanese jobs are there in Japan? I know there's teaching English, but what else? I know there's translating and intepreting but I'm not sure about the specifics.
Well, there are a lot of interface jobs, like running liaison between ship captains and the port authority, or manning the bilingual hotline for the post office. There are also some jobs in the restaurant sector, like ethnic restaurants or bartending, where foreigners have had a bit of luck finding jobs. As well, there's a strangely large number of foreign or half-Japanese radio DJs in this country.
Okay, one more subject change (Note: this is going to seem really random): I'm thinking of being a farmer someday and I'm also thinking of living in Japan someday. I've heard that a lot of farmers are getting older and that the new generations of farmers don't want to take over. Does this mean that it would be possible to get farmland in Japan even though I wasn't born into a Japanese farm family? I've been trying to do research on what it takes to become a farmer in Japan but with no success. The only thing I've really found so far is WWOOF Japan. I'm not about to pack up and leave for Japan without knowing what I'm getting into so I want to read up on the subject as much as possible. Do you have any ideas where I could find information on farming and becoming a farmer in Japan?
Hm, interesting idea. There are a lot of small farms in Japan, most of them growing rice (the government gives subsidies for that). What with 10% of Japan's population now living in Tokyo, and 50% of it in the Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka metropolitan areas, there probably are a lot of young folks turning their backs on the farming tradition. There are plenty of small produce shops near my apartment, which are stocked with locally grown stuff from pensioners' farms.
The problem with getting your own land would be that Japan's laws make it difficult for foreigners to purchase buildings or land without a local sponsor or backer. Things might be easier if you become a naturalized citizen or marry into a farm family, or simply make good contacts over here first. Odds are you wouldn't ever hold land over here in your own right, however.
And unfortunately, the only other site I can find is here. This article might interest you, though.
Thanks for reading my letter. I hope my brain wasn't too random and sudden with the subject changes today. Have a nice Golden Week!
Thanks for writing in! Huis Ten Bosch was nice, but too short a trip, unfortunately. My girlfriend and I could have used a bit more time off.
I came across this site which sells the trendiest stuff out of Japan these days, and it got me curious about something. How long do trends typically last in Japanese commercial culture? Do trends last a long time, or do they last in short bursts like every few weeks or months?
I hope this question isn't too stupid for your column. If it is, just forget about it.
Have a nice day,
As anyone who knew me in high school could have attested, I am about the least trendy person on the planet. That said, trends in Japan seem to go in true Darwinian patterns over here. This is just my perspective, of course, but in the high-competition markets like gaming, anime, or mobile phones, companies will occasionally start throwing out any gimmick they can think of, and whatever strikes the right chord gets replicated endlessly for as long as the market can stand it. Which can be decades, at times.
For the short term fads, I have no idea. I'm about 900 kilometers away from Shibuya and Akihabara, after all. I only see the sort of fads and trends that have lasted through the ordeals of Tokyo to make it to the outer prefectures. Hip-hop everything has been in fashion since before I arrived here, and you can even see a few loli-goths in the shopping arcades from time to time, but aside from that, nothing much.
Well, as the train pulls out of the station, I must again send my apologies to everyone. I knew there were going to be delays with this column, I just did not realize how many there would be. Apart from my own work-related stuff, it's Sports Day season for the secondary school system in Japan, which was mucking stuff up all last weekend (but that's a rant for another day). So, between all the usual, metaphorical pains in the butt, and one very real pain in the butt that required a specialist's attention (and oh, wasn't that a fun way to spend a morning...), this column has languished in a state of semi-completion for far too long. I hope it was worth the wait!
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,