NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
Exciting news! In fact, FOUR bits of exciting news. Firstly, I am now joining the fabulous team at Tokyo Podcast. I’ll be making my introduction on Sunday and will be pointing listeners in the direction of new and exciting Japan-related sites and blogs every week. Secondly, thanks to the wonderful people at Cosplay Gen, I’ve obtained a press pass to Hyper Japan in London. I’ll be covering the World Cosplay Summit and European Cosplay Gathering preliminaries for them and will feature the rest of the events on my blog too. Of course, I’ll be linking you to all of these things from my blog as they appear online.
Thirdly, the blog finally has a custom-made banner! The winning banner is by Wai San for her konbeni breakfast piece. Head over the artwork page to see her other entry and link to her Deviantart account. I’m always looking for new things to add to the artwork page, so send anything you’ve got my way.
Finally, my blog views are OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND! I think this actually happened last week but I’ve only just noticed. I’d like to thank everyone who reads and has subscribed to the blog. Knowing that people really enjoy it is what makes it all the worthwhile.
News Story of the Week: Japan’s elderly population turns to gaming
What’s your reaction to your grandad attempting to play something like Dance Central 2 on the Wii? Embarassment, shame, amusement? Japan’s massively popular gaming arcades do not just attract teenagers and young adults but an increasing number of retired people. The median age at Yokohama’s Sega Corporation game arcade is not pre-teen but closer to post-retirement!
What is the reason for this social phenomenon? A rapidly ageing nation is certainly a key factor, with the population expected to shrink by 30% by 2060 when seniors will outnumber children 4 to 1. Gaming arcades have already spotted this trend and are actively trying to entice elderly people to their business with treats such as frequent player cards, both for mobiles and the more traditional stamp cards.
Most elderly people prefer the traditional analog games, such as the coin slot machines, rather than the shooting games. For them, the arcade is a more exciting alternative to staying home in front of the TV and it keeps their brain active. With an increasingly ageing population, the future of Japanese gaming arcades is certainly an interesting one.
Destination of the Week: Kamikochi
Kamikochi is a popular mountain resort in the Japanese Alps (Nagano Prefecture). It is only open between April and November and offers views of some of Japan’s best mountain scenery.
Running roughly 15 kilometers along a plateau, surrounded by tall mountains and active volcano Yakedake, Kamikochi is part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park. It is a protected area, with only a few souvenir shops, mountain huts and hiking trails, and accessible only by bus or taxi. Completing the picture is the suspended Kappa-bashi Bridge over the Azusa-gawa River. The resort is best enjoyed by hiking and the terrain is largely flat, so good news for unprofessional ramblers. For a challenge, you can take a steep climb to reach the surrounding mountain peaks.
Before the Meiji Period, only woodsman had access to Kamikochi. However, walking was later introduced as a pasttime and more people gradually visited the area. The first climber of the mountains was said to be a Buddhist priest from the Toyoma region, as mountain climbing was seen as a natural form of worship.
Japanese Saying of the Week: Monowa tameshi
This is a very simple proverb this week. ‘Give it a try’ or ‘it’s worth a try’. In other words, you’ll never know until you try.
Samurai of the Week: Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen
The Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen, otherwise known as the Takeda Nijūshi-shō, are one of the many famous military groupings of the Sengoku period. These men were some of the most trusted commanders of the Takeda armies and close advisers. Many of them died at the Battle of Nagashino in 1575 when their forces clashed with Oda Nobunaga’s. These retainers ranged from displaced samurai to family members to those whose lands were taken over by the Takeda. The full list of these generals can be found at the Samurai Archives website, so I will list just a few of the most interesting ones.
Many of these warriors were famed for their bravery in battle. Baba Nobufusa and Hara Toratane were said to have fought in over 70 battles without being injured. Yamagata Masakage dressed his troops in red to instil fear into the enemies, earning them the title ‘Red Regiment’. Some of the generals earned nicknames for their bravery, such as Akiyama Nobutomo ‘The Raging Bull of the Takeda Clan’ and Obu Toramasa ‘The Wild Tiger of Kai’. All of these generals, including Sanada Masayuki, the father of Sanada Yukimura, earned their place in history for the skills they displayed in various important battles including Uedahara and Mikatagahara.
Not all of these warriors were incredibly loyal. Oyamada Nobushige deserted Shingen’s son Katsuyori in favour of the Oda but Nobunaga later executed him for his cowardice.
Interestingly, Kōsaka Masanobu was one of Shingen’s lovers (as the practice of the older samurai taking on a younger one was widely practised and often encouraged in that period), although this was something that the two officially denied in a love pact.
The concept of the Takeda Nijūshi-shō was actually drawn up by an artist during the Edo period and merely drew together Shingen’s greatest warriors, not necessarily ones who all fought at the same time.
Bento of the Week: Nyanko burger
Here is a healthy vegetarian bento! Walnut rice cheeseburger with the popular Nyan Nyan Nyanko character. Sweet and delicious. You can even make it yourself with the recipe that Happy Little Bento has kindly put together. The rest of her bento are also well worth checking out!
Source: happylittlebento @ blogspot
Series of the Week: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
There are two Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) series – the one that strayed from the original manga when it was nowhere near finished, and the one that sticks to the original story by Hiromu Arakawa. Brotherhood is the second ‘series’ and it has pleased fans both new and old.
The world of FMA is one of alchemy. Two brothers and aspiring alchemists, Edward and Alphonse Elric, try to bring their mother back from the dead but fail miserably. Alphonse’s soul is ripped from its body and Edward loses his leg and then his arm when reattaching his brother’s soul to an inanimate suit of armour. It makes for a rather dramatic opening scene; screaming children with bloodied bodies. In order to restore their bodies back to normal, they travel across the country riddled with political intrigue and corruption, looking for the Philosopher’s Stone. However, will they still want to use it once they learn the secret behind the stone’s creation?
If you watched the original FMA anime (2004), you might be put off by committing time to watching a retelling of the story. DON’T. Brotherhood (2010) is much darker than its predecessor and includes a lot of characters and plotpoints that the original anime series overlooked, which notably riled up its creator. While the original 2004 was running and made some dramatic changes, Arakawa took her revenge by dragging the FMA manga down a much darker route. The result for the manga, and FMA Brotherhood, was therefore emotional and dark. I’ve lost track of how many times I welled up when watching it.
This series has everything; loss of innocence, explosive fight scenes, complex characters, a political backdrop and war. It’s dark and gruesome but brilliantly told. The fact that the main characters are still children makes it even more emotional. Both the manga and Brotherhood series are masterpieces in their own right and you really should dedicate time to both of them if you can.
Source: 10/10 (quite simply, a masterpiece)
Weird Thing of the Week: Valentine’s Day in Japan
Valentine’s Day is, of course, a Western celebration that the Japanese have embraced . . . with a twist. Instead of men wooing women with chocolates and flowers, it is only the women who give presents to men. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is seen as the perfect (and possibly only) day for women to express their feelings. In reality, this tradition was merely something thought up by a smart chocolate company that knew women were more likely to spend a lot of money on their products.
To complicate it even further, receiving chocolates from a woman does not necessarily mean that she fancies you. It could just be ‘Giri-choko’, obligation chocolate, intended for family, bosses or platonic male friends. A man that she is romantically interested in will receive the more coveted honmei-choko. ‘Giri’, mutual obligation, is very important in Japanese culture as you are obliged to return the favour if someone does you a favour.
It’s not all take take take for the men, however, as they are expected to return gifts to women on White Day (March 14), a day that is a Japanese creation.
Instead of saying ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ in Japan, you should say ‘omedetou’.
Recipe of the Week: Sweet Berry Sushi
Alright, so this might not be a traditional dish but it’s sweet and therefore ideal for Valentine’s Day! This was the Bronze Winner from the Original Sushi Competition 2003, over on eat-japan.com.
- 180g sushi rice
- A selection of berries(any kind)
- Some chocolate sprinkles
- 10 mint leaves
For the crepe mix:
- 1 egg
- 70g wheat flour
- 15g bar chocolate
- 15g coca powder
- 250cc milk
1) To make the crepe mix, first grate the bar of chocolate finely and melt it (by putting it in a bowl then placing the bowl into boiling water, halfway up the bowl). Strain the flour and cocoa powder well and mix in the egg, milk and melted chocolate (in that order),then strain.
2) Cook ten crepes from the mix in a very light oiled, or non-stick frying pan.
3) Mix the rice with the chocolate sprinkles. Wrap it in the crepes and put into small glasses.
4) Put the berries on the rice and place the mint leaves on top.
I’m putting together a Japanese wishlist as it’s my birthday in just over a month. As such, I’m craving green tea Kit Kats! I love matcha and Kit Kats, so this is an obvious choice for me. Any other suggestions as to what I should buy or ask for, send me a link!
Also, as I forgot to mention it last week, check out February’s book of the month!