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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
hazuki no muika
Sofuto kuriimu
Konnichiwa

The rainy season is pretty much over and done with, and now we have the heat. Oh, the heat. While it's not quite as much an oven as it is back home, when the temperatures are in the high 90s and the humidity is over 50%, any means of beating the heat is ever so welcome. As it would happen, I've got a letter in my backlog that touches on this subject. I'll just let the question do the introduction:

Kinsraven asks...

I've heard of bizarre savory ice cream flavors in Japan. What's the weirdest ice cream flavor you've seen or tried in Japan?

Oooh... where to begin... All the weirder flavors in Japan tend to be for soft-serve ice cream (sofuto-kuriimu), and I've tried quite of few of these over the years. Often on a dare. Sometimes more than once. Here are my assessments.

Melon (canteloupe) -- Meh. It's not bad, but it's not to my taste either.

Kurogoma (black sesame) -- It's about as weird as it sounds. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you have a particular fondness for sesame, then it's not so bad.

Genmai (brown rice) -- This one tasted remarkably like its own ice cream cone.

Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) -- Don't try this one yourself. Dare someone stupider than you to try it instead, and revel in the schadenfreude.

Kinako (soy flour) -- While it sounds odd, it actually tastes a bit like peanut butter. One of the better flavors, in my opinion.

Murasaki-imo (purple sweet potato) -- I get this whenever I find it available. Unfortunately, it tends to be a seasonal flavor.

And then there are all the varieties of citrus fruits that are grown in Japan. Here's a short list: amanatsu, dekopon, mikan, ponkan, komikan, tankan, shekwasha, and yuzu. These are all the ones that I have seen as soft-cream flavors. Some of them were better than others, and for the most part they were worth the money.

We're into hazuki, August, the eighth month of the year now, and that means school is just around the corner. Best to enjoy it while you can, say the student body of Class of Heroes 3. The lovely, adventurous co-eds from the vaunted center of higher education and monster-whacking all decided to hit the beach together. Luckily, a mildly pervy member of the video game paparazzi was on hand to catch it on film and sell it to various gaming stores across Japan.









These are all collectible telephone cards, except for the last two which are a book card and a mini-cushion, respectively. Adventurous xenophiles will have to do a bit of questing, though. Each of these items is exclusive to a particular chain of gaming paraphernalia shops: Imagine, Gamers, Fammy's, Messe San Ou, Medialand, and Source: Famitsu Online

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
2 New Arrival! Fate/EXTRA Marvelous
3 Last seen at 7 Inazuma Eleven 3 Spark/Bomber Level-5
4 Last seen at 2 Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Road Victory Square Enix
5 Last seen at 1 Fire Emblem - Mystery of the Symbol, Hero of Light and Shadow Nintendo
8 Last seen at 5 Last Ranker Capcom
13 Last seen at 8 White Knight Chronicles 2 SCE
14 Last seen at 10 Harvest Moon - Twin Town Marvelous
20 Last seen at 16 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
22 New Arrival! Class of Heroes 2G Acquire
24 Last seen at 23 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (PSP the Best) Capcom
27 Last seen at 22 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 Square Enix

If Gameloft is good at anything, it's the copying of successful series' formulae to create cheap downloadable knock-offs. Just take a look at their latest DS-ware game, Monster Chronicle.


Out of a cluttered field of monster-collecting titles, this one has to be the most unabashed Pokémon clone I have ever seen. Seriously, look at these screenshots. All I can say is, are they accepting applications for the dev team doing the inevitable sequel? I've got a lot of Maikemon sitting in my notebooks with nothing better to do.










In an attempt to make some use of the DSi's built-in gimmicks, players will have the ability to import small images via the DSi's camera and paste them over monster images to produce "original" creatures. The intended use is to add faces, giving people the chance to turn their boss into an ugly little monster who needs to be stomped into the ground.



Source: Famitsu Online

Ever since the beginning, Solarobo's title has always been followed by a certain two-symbol combination of kanji in parentheses. They're not part of the title, but they were still important to it. They mean "tentative." Solarobo - From Here to Coda has always been a standby title, put there to provide a name for the advertisers, but never finalized. So what's the real title now?


Solatorobo: From There to Coda. If I hadn't long since come to the conclusion that the Bandai-Namco marketing division was largely off its rocker, this would make me question their competence. They had a perfectly good name, and they made it clear from the start that it was temporary. Then what do they do? Add a single syllable in the middle and shout "Ta-da!" It's actually something of a let-down.

"To" happens to be the syllable that more-or-less corresponds to "and" or "with" in English, so the name actually means "Solar & Robo," which does make a bit of sense. Still, in the unlikely event that this game makes it to foreign shores, I would hope someone has the brains to get that extraneous syllable dropped. It just makes it too much of a mouthful.

On the other hand, here are a few items that I would hope do make it to the US.







Those who pre-order the game's special package will receive these three bits of mixed media. There's the obligatory art book (96 pages), the official soundtrack (45 minutes), and finally a dramatic DVD that gives some backstory for the game's main character and his little sister. Altogether, the collector's edition costs 7,140 yen, while the game itself costs 5,040 yen.

Source: Dengeki Online

There's a new game coming from Sega that's bound to catch the interest of at least a few people out there. Not because of the graphics, and not because it's on the PSP. No, this one gets special attention because of a particular word in its title.



It's to be assumed that Shining Hearts is a new entry in Sega's Shining series, though how (or even if) it's related to the rest of the games in the series is still unknown. What's known is that it's a game about a guy.



This guy, in fact. His name's Nick, and he's just arrived on the island of Windaria seeking fame and fortune. What he finds are these three:




Nellis, Amil, and Eali run the Little Magic Bakery in Windaria's capital city. Nellis is a huntress who scouts for good ingredients. Amil is a magician who runs the technical side of things. Eali is a cleric who puts a bit of love into each loaf. While Nick's getting himself established in Windaria, they're also his bosses. Adventuring doesn't pay the rent, at least not immediately, so he has to take whatever work he can get, apparently.

One of them will most likely be living happily ever after with the Hero once all is said and done. It just seems to be that kind of game.


Then there's the resident MacGuffin, Kaguya. If ever there was a Japanese name that screamed "secret and mysterious past," it would be hers. Whoever she is, her existence makes her a primary plot element by default.



And finally we have these two. Dylan is the Arch-Buccaneer of the local seas. He's also notoriously unpredictable and there's no telling what side he's on (except for his own). His frequent partner-in-plunder is Mistral, also known as the Sea Witch. There's no real debate as to what side she's on. She's specifically after a certain item of Kaguya's, and her reasons are not nice.

If this game is a part of the Shining series, it doesn't take after most of its series-mates. It's not tactical, and it's not an action RPG. It seems to have a fairly normal four-person team battle dynamic going on. See for yourselves:















Source: Famitsu Online

Once upon a time there was a funny little game, a combination of action, RTS, and beat-mania that just happened to include some of the basic attributes of an RPG as well. After much deliberation, the powers that be at RPGamer decided against including Patapon coverage on this site. As the third Patapon title nears, Famitsu has made its own statement as to the series' proper genre classification.



I hadn't been paying much attention to Patapon 3 before this, but after seeing the article I decided to look into it some more. Heroes, equipment, skills that are learned by leveling, class changes -- I don't know which if any of these things were available in the previous games of the series, but as they're presented on Famitsu's site they seem to add up to the action-RPG title the magazine gives.






In the latest Famitsu, two new hero classes were introduced: the shield-bearing Guardilla and the magic-wielding Pingleg. Fighting alongside them are Ton, Kan, and Chin, three rough-and-tough Patapon types who, while not Heroes on their own, can certainly hold their ground in battle. In the end, they'll have to face the Dark Hero, Fangir, who leads the evil tribes that are out to destroy the Patapon.





Between the game's main story quest and the reported plethora of side-quests available, Patapon 3 is shaping up to be a fun ride no matter how you choose to define it. Pon-pon-pata-pon, pata-pon-pon!










Sometime later this month Intense Games, a studio mainly known for its work under D3 Publishers on various projects, will release a new RPG on the DSi-ware downloadable platform. Dungeon RPG PicDun is an oddly styled dungeon crawler with a first-person perspective. It's hard to tell from the media on hand, but it seems to be largely or completely controlled by the stylus. The hero has to explore the depths of the dungeon, mapping as he goes, and slashing to bits various enemies along the way.









There is no word as to what the story is like, if there is one at all. Neither do we know who the two young ladies in the artwork are. The game's official site has a gameplay movie, though. Check it out if you're interested.

Source: Dengeki Online
Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Persona 3: FES (PS2 the Best) Atlus 8.5.10
Persona 4 (PS2 the Best) Atlus 8.5.10
Zill O'll Infinite Plus (Koei-Tecmo the Best) Koei-Tecmo Games 8.5.10
Tales of Phantasia Narikiri Dungeon CROSS Bandai-Namco 8.5.10
Battle Spirits - Digital Starter Bandai-Namco 8.5.10
Magna Carta 2 (XBox 360 Collection) Bandai-Namco 8.5.10
Super Dimensional Game Neptune Compile Heart 8.19.10
Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP the Best) Sega 8.26.10
Source: Dengeki Online
Nyaaa~!

Hi Gaijin san,

I just read your Noraneko column, and being a cat fan myself, I felt an urge to send you an email. I recently saw a video about a cat cafe in Japan and was wondering if it's a popular thing right now. I'd be really interested in checking one out when I take a trip there next month. And I've also been wondering, do Japanese people generally prefer cats to dogs for pets? That would be my guess based on the cat cafe and numerous cat clips I've seen from Japanese pet owners. I ask because with all the similarities there are with Japanese and Korean people, that's one completely opposite preference I've noticed. I don't understand why, but Koreans tend to hate cats.

By the way, I agree that people should adopt stray pets rather that buy them from stores. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a pet at a store when you can save a live from the streets? I adopted my cat from a shelter and I think she's as cute and lovable as any cat you'd find at a store!

Thanks for reading!

Gaijin

Hey! Sorry it took so long to get to you. This "one letter a week" thing sounded like a good idea at the time, but if I get too many topical letters... Well anyway, I hope I'm getting this one responded to before your trip to Japan, at least.

As for pet preferences, the Japanese largely favor dogs. Commercial series like this one (for AIFUL, a consumer finance company) set off a fad for chihuahuas and other small dogs a few years back. Chihuahuas, dachshunds, corgis and yorkies are all popular breeds. The Japanese local breeds like the shiba and the akita have regained popularity in recent years as well. However, the real winners in the pet races are the smaller animals that can be kept easily in cages. Turtles, frogs, goldfish, hamsters, and especially stag and helmet beetles are very popular with children because they can easily be held and carried around, and are also popular with parents because they're generally cheap and easy to take care of. If you want some more basic info on the subject, you can look here.

If you can find a cat cafe wherever you're going, I'd definitely recommend it. It's just a nice way to relax for a while. Kago-nyan in Kumamoto has some of the cutest kittens you ever did see.

Hope you have a good trip! And thank you for reading!

No Experience Necessary

Hello,

It's just occuring to me as I write this, how do you begin a casual letter in Japanese? I was thinking of putting ohayou gozaimasu or konnichiwa but then it occurred to me that I have no idea what time of day it will be when you read this. Is there some standard word I should use?

Gaijin

While there are formal expressions used to start letters in Japanese (haitei for regular letters, haifuku for letters of reply), neither of them are used in normal Japanese correspondence. Letters that I have seen often start with the recipient's name followed by a tone-appropriate honorific (-chan, -san, -sama, depending on tone and context) and nothing else.

Okay, on to my actual question. I'm considering teaching English in Japan as a job after college. I know some Japanese, but I've never taught English before. I've heard that you don't need experience for some of the entry level jobs, but what do you think? If teacher training is the way to go, do I need a major four week course like CELTA or would a shorter less expensive course still be helpful?

Gaijin

If you're just planning on coming over for a year and want to make some money at the same time, then no, you really don't need any teaching experience to get an eikaiwa job over here. The bigger school franchises often prefer to hire less experienced employees since that way the management can mold the teaching style in whatever way they wish. If you want to stay for the long haul, or get a job with one of the more specialized or higher class schools, then certification would certainly help.

Also, I'm a little overwhelmed by all the options. There's the JET program, there's being an assistant language teacher via some other program, there's being a teacher at an eikaiwa... Any thoughts on the pluses and minuses of those options?

Gaijin

If at all possible, JET is the way to go. Fewest hours for best pay. It's also the most competitive, and the total numbers of JET positions have been going down in some areas. There's been a rise in the number of private ALT companies that do about the same thing as JET, though. The eikaiwa companies used to have the best hiring chances, but the meltdown of NOVA three years ago and the recent financial collapse of GEOS have made things a little less certain.

Let's see, I haven't asked a gaming related question yet....Oh, I know, what Japanese RPGs would you recommend that aren't too high of a language level? I've never taken the JLPT but I would put myself somewhere after level 3 and before level 2. Pokemon comes to mind but I'm a little reluctant to get it in Japanese because I know it will definitely come out in English a few months later.

Thanks for reading my long rambling letter. I hope you don't get soaked too badly because of the rainy season.

-Annalou

Gaijin

The general rule of thumb here would be to go with the games aimed at younger kids. Pokémon is just the best example. GameBoy and DS titles are good because they usually have easier reading levels and lower kanji counts (or even no kanji). Many of these are available in English, but there are a lot of lesser-known titles to be found in Japan. The big problem there is that they're also usually impossible to find unless you're in Japan and just happen across a copy.

I'll just take this opportunity to plug SaGa 2. It's a remake of Final Fantasy Legend II, so there's a good chance you might have or might be able to play the original in English, but the game text is expanded in the remake, with lots of little bonus scenes and a much higher kanji count, and the changes to the visuals and gameplay are so drastic that it's a very different experience. It's also a recent release, but unfortunately does not look like it will come to the US.

Thanks for reading my long rambling columns!

It's hot as heck right now in the oh-so-appropriately named "Kingdom of Fire" (Kumamoto). Next week is Obon, and I have plans to travel for most of that week. So there won't be a column next week. This week's surprisingly long column should make up for that. I'm actually amazed I was able to finish it, considering I worked overtime three days this week.

Anyhoo, next week I'll be in Nagasaki for a few days. By unfortunate timing, I'll be arriving on the anniversary of the atomic bomb. How ominous. See you all in two weeks!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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