Every country has their pop culture icons. While most fade into obscurity outside their homeland, there are those hailing from media strongholds that represent their nation to the rest of the world, for better or worse. Australia had Crocodile Dundee and the late Steve Irwin, Britain has Dr. Who and James Bond, and the United States has a massive legion of comic book super heroes. Japan is no stranger to this either, as in the past 25 years the world has seen a flood of animated and video game characters saturating the pop culture of our own respective countries. Yet before the coming of Pikachu and Sailor Moon, Japan had one star already well established.
Most people with an interest in Japan have at least heard of the yakuza, Japan's centuries-old organized crime gangs. Frequently the subject of film and fiction, they are often portrayed as glitzy mafiosos. However, few people have a clear idea of their actual origins, or of the changes which have taken place in the organization during the last decade or so.
Living in Japan is a great opportunity to dive into the rich world of Japanese music, but getting to the good stuff can be difficult. If you're only living in a place for a year, how are you supposed to find all the best music in that short time? This article will serve as a starting point, offering just a few suggestions to help you get into the music here. These aren't just my personal suggestions, because that wouldn't be terribly useful to most people. Rather, the stuff listed here is material that also tends to be popular with most JETs...assuming they ever have a chance to hear it!
Part I of this parody series examines what we have all come to know as "the JET experience," by offering a comical role reversal which places a Japanese citizen in London as an ALT.
There are ten sake breweries located in Saijo. I remember visiting approximately three of them as part of an English language tour. Most of the sake breweries are clustered together in a single neighborhood in Saijo. One of the guides told us that the breweries are easily recognizable by their tall brick chimneys, each proudly bearing the name of the brewery.
Have your students asked your ketsueki-gata (血液型), or blood type? Have you noticed that celebrities in Japan often have their blood types listed as part of their vital statistics, and people even know the blood type of their favorite anime character? In Japan, blood type is seen as an important indicator of personality and personal success, similar to the way that Westerners sometimes put faith in astrology. Out of the four blood types, A, B, AB and O, each has positive and negative traits associated with it.
October is, in my opinion, the best month here in Japan. The weather is perfect, there are four whole days off work (!!), and of course, there are two days every October when people from all over the country come to the town of Saijo to drink copious amounts of alcohol. In fact, when attending the famous Saijo Sake Festival, you are expected – encouraged, even – to drink lots and lots of sake (I even saw kiddies who would have been at least ten years under the age limit tastetesting some of Saijo’s finest with their parents!) and everyone looks the other way if you end up acting like a complete fool.
I know, I know, Valentine's Day is silly. It's a card company invention. It's selling us the false notion that love is all about hearts and flowers and teddy bears carrying pillows shaped like hearts. But just because it's silly, doesn't mean it can't be fun...
There is something about the animation work of Hayao Miyazaki that captures the imagination. The artwork, the stories, the myth all combine into timeless works of animated cinema. Much of this comes from the core concepts and ideals that Hayao Miyazaki uses when making his films. In many ways the process is just as interesting as the final result. But to see how his mind works you have to take a journey to the outskirts of Tokyo and visit the Studio Ghibli Museum.
Some fifteen years ago, when watching “Jurassic Park,” (anyone else suddenly feel old after that statement?) a standard was set to which all other children’s terrified faces could be compared. As the T-Rex approached the overturned car of children Lex and Tim, no look could more appropriately convey “this is the end of it all” than young Lex’s. That is, of course, until I went to the Betcha Matsuri in Onomichi on November 3.