NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
I guess the first blog is the hardest, as I’m struggling to think of a witty introduction…
If you made it this far, thank you! I hope that this blog will prove to be popular, useful or just downright interesting. The plan is to have a set of regular features and then I will add on anything else that I think readers will find relevant. So, here we go…
News Story of the Week: Honest Japanese People
Everyone is aware of the tragic Fukushima earthquake in March but, unless you’re keeping up with the Japanese news, it’s hard to get an idea of just how ongoing the problems really are. Every country has its doom and gloom periods, as the riots in England just the other week have shown, but there are still these amazingly uplifting stories to be found. The difference in Japan is that these stories are good deeds on a massive communal scale.
Uniting in the face of a natural or man-made disaster is nothing new but I found this particular story particularly moving. In total, $78m has been uncovered in the rubble (largely in safes) and this money has been RETURNED to the owners. Having been in Japan myself and had the equivilent of 50p sent to the police station for safe-keeping by my hotel after I checked out, I know this really happens. I have never felt cheated by anyone in Japan, when it’s easy to take advantage of an unsuspecting tourist. The Japanese are, on the whole, refreshingly moral. You wouldn’t get this in many other countries in the world. Take a look at the story below:
Destination of the Week: Akihabara
Alright, so every person who has ever heard of Japan has probably heard of Akihabara, but it seems like a good introductory destination. I’ll avoid using the word ‘otaku’ as I know a lot of people don’t like it but, if you are inclined towards being one, Akihabara is as close to Valhalla as you’ll ever get.
Akihabara is a district in Tokyo (there are plenty of them) which is full of flashing lights, anime shops, cosplay maids and all other things anime and manga. I have a love-hate relationship with this place, mainly because it ate into my purse so badly both times I went. Nowhere else in the world would you spend £40 on an alarm clock but, if it’s one that talks in the voice of your favourite anime character, you buy it. End of.
Here are some dos and don’ts for anyone who is yet to visit this amazing place. If you already have, hopefully these tips will make you smirk with the benefit of hindsight.
- Bring plenty of money. Most places don’t accept international cards as Japan is still a very cash based society.
- Have lots of 100 yen coins ready (about 80p) for the gashopon machines. There are all sorts- ones that print little posters, key rings, sweets etcetc.
- Remember your camera. You will take pictures of everything to do with your favourite show!
- Visit the Gundam Cafe, even if you have no idea what Gundam is. It’s right outside the underground, so impossible to miss.
- Go if you are tired. Walking into Akihabara is like being bombarded with neon lights and disco balls.
Source: Sophie’s camera – September 2010
Japanese Saying of the Week
‘All we have is today, so let’s live it to the fullest.’
Short but beautiful and to the point. It doesn’t need a huge explanation (unless you’re a Philosophy student, which I’m not) so I’ll just say that every encounter is different and cannot be repeated, so treasure every experience, even if it feels like it’s the worst thing in the world.
This phrase comes up often in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, as the meeting shared over a cup of tea cannot be repeated. Tea is amazing and this phrase tells us why!
Samurai of the Week
The samurai, the famed warriors of Japan, are undoubtedly my favourite part of the country’s history so this is probably going to end up being my favourite regular piece.
My introductory samurai for this week is Honda Tadakatsu, one of the fiercest generals of Tokugawa Ieyasu (otherwise known as the unifier of Japan). I will probably feature Ieyasu at a later date but, for now, I’m going to concentrate on his right-hand man. For those of you who don’t know much about samurai, I’ll start of with an amusing fact: the best way to recognise a warrior on the field was by their helmet. What a helmet Tadakatsu had. Deer antlers! If you saw that on the field, you knew you were in for it.
The military history of Tadakatsu himself is similarly impressive. Perhaps the best battle to pick out would be the Komaki Campaign (1584). Whilst Ieyasu, his commander, was off fighting troops of his rival Toyotomi Hideyoshi (who he later served under, but that’s ANOTHER story), Tadakatsu rode out with his men to challenge Hideyoshi. He was outnumbered by about 60 to 1 but Hideyoshi was so impressed by his bravery that he ordered no harm would come to him or his men. That’s right, you don’t mess with Tadakatsu!
Bento Box of the Week
This is just a small and cutesy feature but everyone loves bento boxes! For those of you who don’t know, these are school lunch boxes but they are a thousand times better than your standard Western ones. No, the bento box can be as creative as you want it to be. How else do you get your children to eat all that healthy rice and vegetables? Make them into a cartoon character, of course!
Series of the Week
I hope to strike a fine balance between old, new, popular, obscure, anime, manga and video games. That way, there’s a chance that you might come across something you’ll want to check out and I won’t just keep plugging my favourite shows! I will be doing that at some point though…
This week I’m going to talk about a lesser-known show called Mermaid Forest (Ningyo no Mori), which came out in 2003 even though the animation looks like something from the 90’s.The story is centred around an ancient legend in which humans become immortal by eating a mermaid’s flesh, at least sometimes. Most people cannot handle it and turn into hideous beasts instead. I was expecting pretty visuals until I saw some of the mutations and then I was a little creeped out.
Mermaid Forest greatly balances of beautiful mermaids (and male and female leads) with the horror element. I highly recommend it to anyone as it is only 13 episodes long and makes for some good storytelling.
Score: 9/10 (-1 because the mutant mermaids scared me)
Weird Thing of the Week
I am yet to find a particular go-to site for all weird Japanese things (apart from the one cited on this photo), so will make do with this well-know picture this time round. I’ve talked a little bit about anime on this entry and now you get to see the horrible things that it can produce.
Want to know the weirdest thing?
They’re all guys!
Why, Japan, why?
I actually saw two guys going round like this at an event in London and it TERRIFIED me. It got worse when parents let their little children go over to have their photos taken with them. It was like cross-dressing anime Disneyland!
Final thoughts for this week…
I hope this has been insightful or, at the very least, amusing. Japan has a lot to offer and the reason I am planning to keep a ‘snippet’ blog like this is to share things both with people who may not know much about Japanese culture and those who already do and just want something new to look at. If you have anything interesting you think should be submitted for next week, post a comment below!
Thank you for reading! Have a good weekend.