shimotsuki no nijuuhachinichi

As might be expected, the Japanese don't really "do" Thanksgiving. There was a national holiday on Wednesday, but it's the local equivalent to Labor Day. My best day of the week, though, was Monday. That was the day I went up a mountain.

Mount Aso is a large volcano in the center of Kyushu. The name is applied collectively to five separate peaks that form a single unit in the middle of the Aso Valley. I can still remember the first time I visited the area, actually. It was about six years ago, when a fellow regular at my favorite ramen restaurant needed a third person on a short road trip south. After an hour or two going around mountains and across little passes, the land suddenly fell away to reveal the broad expanse of the Aso Valley. We stopped at a park, and it took me a little while to really get the local geography. The ridge I was standing on was more of a cliff that extended towards both ends of the valley as far as I could see. If you look at a map of the region, you can see it extending in a broad circle, with Mt. Aso at its center stretching and connecting to the eastern edge. Essentially, it's not a cliff, and the Aso Valley is not a valley. Cliff, valley, and mountain altogether form one of the largest somma calderas on the face of the Earth, with a circumference of approximately 120 kilometers.

On Monday, a friend and I visited Mt. Naka, currently Aso's only active peak. While temperatures down in the city were around 15 degrees Celsius, up at the top it was hovering around the freezing point. The volcanic fumes were pretty heavy, but I got some pictures anyway.

If you look really carefully, you might catch a glimpse of the vivid sea-green waters at the heart of the caldera. Getting any closer would be foolhardy, as the soil in the area is really loose and easy to slip on. In fact, while we were there rescue crews were out in force trying to find someone who had apparently decided to ignore the warning signs, jump the fence, and was now missing somewhere farther downslope. We never did hear if they found the moron.

Anyway, we had a really nice time up there. This is Chika, by the way. She says "Hi." She thinks this whole "column" thing is amusingly otaku-ish, but at the same time she can hum along to the Dragon Quest theme song.

Well, time to get to the gaming stuff!

The Dragon Quest 25th anniversary year continues, as Square Enix held an exhibition last Friday in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. It was a smallish affair, with only 300 people or so attending, but S-E made sure to have plenty of appropriate snacks on hand. Not to mention appropriate employees to serve the guests.

Loto Cookies for all!

Source: Famitsu Online
11/07 ~ 11/13 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
3 New Arrival! Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke SCE
6 Last seen at 4 Final Fantasy Type-0 Square Enix
8 New Arrival! PokéPark 2 - Beyond the World Nintendo
12 Last seen at 6 Dragon Quest Heroes 3: Of Pirates and Plob Square Enix
16 New Arrival! Meirou X Blood Reloaded Kadokawa Games
24 Last seen at 23 Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PSP The Best) Capcom
25 Last seen at 20 Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time Nintendo

The Masou Kishin sub-series of Super Robot Wars has always been an odd duck, even before it was retroactively inducted into the Original Generation series. Its two titles, Lord of Elemental and the upcoming Revelation of Evil God, are the only games in the entire superseries where the giant mecha aren't technically robots. They're massive golems put into motion by the elemental spirits which inhabit them. True, it's largely an academic difference, but it is definitely fantasy material as opposed to science fiction.

Anyway, a new title means new characters and new elemental lords, so here are a few:

The new guy on the block is Tsrein Zan Lekaniban. No, I am not sure how to spell his first name exactly. His giant partner is the Meteor Spirit Leoga, powering the elemental lord Leogeira. Tsrein is a patriotic young warrior in the service of the Antiras Squad.

Next is Mephyl Xania Borlang (and again, I'm guessing at the spellings). She's a researcher and a long-time friend of Tsrein. For some reason, she's powering the Delgiran, an elemental lord powered by the Volcano Spirit Delkina.

For the next few we have pictures of the elemental lords, but not of their pilots. We can infer names from the screenshots, however. At least one of these is an upgrade of a previous mech, and perhaps all of them are. I really don't know enough about the series to comment.

This one is definitely an upgrade. It's the Nols Rei, piloted by Xenia. It's also the only one I could confirm with a short internet search.

Described as an upgraded and perfected model, the Galgard is powered by the Lightning Spirit, Galnansa. Its piloted by a guy named Zash.

Last, we have the Zain, powered by the Snow Spirit, Zana. It's pilot is apparently a woman named Simone.

And to round things out, a few screenshots:

Source: Famitsu Online

About a month ago, we got a first look at the upcoming Shining Blade. Several characters were introduced, but if previous Shining titles are anything to go by, there are a lot more people involved in the plot. In fact, Famitsu's site has announced that there is one more protagonist for this game, and she has an entourage of her own.

Like Reiji (mentioned last month), Sakuya is a bonded Soul Blader. She's also the leader of the Valeria Liberation Front. Much of her past is mysterious, but she was apparently able to create the Prismatic Soul Blade through the alchemic arts. Her constant companion is Rin-rin, the Black Cat Sage. He looks like a cuddly kitty, but in reality he's a tricky cait sith (fairy cat, not animatronic fortune teller).

If you can understand Japanese, then Yuki-hime's (pictured left) true nature should come as no surprise. In her other form, she is the Snow Princess Soul Blade. It seems that Reiji is the only person who can actually touch her, for some reason. On the right, Isari is an accomplished hunter of dragons and other monsters. It's people who give him problems.

This last pair hail from the kingdom of Runevale. Aira (on the left) is the Snowflake Witch-Princess. Hermina (on the right) is a musically gifted magician who is dispatched by Aira to find a means of protecting Runevale against the predatory interests of the Empire.

We still do not have a definite release date for this game, but it's supposed to be coming next spring.

Source: Famitsu Online
Nihongo, Ninokuni, and Pants


How have you been? I have recently started my University 1st year with courses that focus on English and Japanese and so far, so good. I am hoping that I will no longer have to beseech various video game companies to translate and distribute Japanese niche titles. However, the outrageous prices and the fact that certain consoles are region-locked though might pose a bit of a problem. How do you cope with the prices? I found the PS3 version of Ninokuni on playasia for $74.90 without the shipping fees and $99.00 on yesasia with free international shipping. How do Japanese gamers in general manage to buy games?


For starters, the actual prices in yen don't fluctuate so much. The yen-to-dollar exchange rate has been less than 100 yen to the dollar for a long time now, howver, and the import prices reflect that. I paid about 7180 yen (with a small pre-order discount) for the game, which comes out to about US$92 at the moment. When I first came to Japan, that same 7180 yen would be equivalent US$60. Though I suppose PS3 prices have always been a little high to begin with... But seriously, Japanese prices have always been higher than in the US for all sorts of media. It's crazy sometimes. It's also why I rarely buy new. Used game stores are my friends.

And speaking of buying stuff, did you go shopping for a new pair of pants? Where do people in your area usually go shopping? Are there any trendy stores?

Dewa, mata ato de ne.


In my case, I have to shop at the big and tall stores over here. Unfortunately, big and tall in Japan often means "sumo proportions," so there's a whole different issue. When I go shopping, I usually go to the lower-end retailers like Uniqlo, as those places will usually have at least a few jeans or cargos in a 36 American size. The cut may be a little tight around the legs, but that would be because I walk so much. "Legs like tree trunks," as my boss once said. These stores will usually have free or cheap alteration services as well, which is good because the pants legs will always be a little too long for me.

Thanks for writing in, and sorry I couldn't include the hiragana text you put in your letter. My new HTML editor doesn't seem to like it much.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States! I'm missing the turkey, really I am. At least I have other things to be thankful for at the moment.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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