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Japandemonium R P G A M E R   -   J A P A N D E M O N I U M
Strawberry Pocky
1 . 1 7 . 2 0 0 5


Once again, it is Monday night which means many things. First, it means that it's time to write a new Japandemonium. Second, it means my weekend is more or less over. Third, it means I can download the newest episode of Gundam SEED Destiny, Mahou Sensei Negima, and Xenosaga. And finally, it normally means my weekly trip to the onsen, but I went to a new onsen last night, so I don't feel the need to go to one tonight.

Another thing that Monday night means is that yet another week has gone by. I simply cannot believe how fast time moves. As of yesterday, I have been a resident of Japan for seven months. I arrived in Japan on July 16th, and it feels like that was just last month. I am amazed.

In other news, the title for this week's column comes from the very yummy Tsubu Ichigo Pocky that I have been eating. Ichigo means "Strawberry" in English, and this very tasty version of strawberry pocky has little bits of freeze-dried strawberries in the icing. Yes, it is as yummy as it sounds. Possibly yummier.

Pocky is a stuff that I do not fully understand. Original Pocky is nothing more than chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, but I think that it must be laced with some highly addictive substance. You eat one stick, and you think, "Eh, this stuff's not too bad." Another stick leads you to believe that it's quite tasty, and by the third stick you are somehow convinced that it is the most delicious thing ever invented. THEN you find out that there are many many many types of this delicious stuff, and you become an addict. Personally, my favorites are the White Chocolate Almond Crush Pocky or Fran Duo, which is more of a cookie style pocky dipped in white chocolate AND milk chocolate. Honorary mentions go to Pocky G Berry (kinda like berry dipped Cocoa Puffs) and Pocky Reverse, where the chocolate is inside the crunchy shell. Needless to say, they're all pretty durn good, and I've litterally bought every box in this one store before, and in bigger stores I've cleaned them out of my favorite flavor. In fact, when my fiancee visited me, she went back with some 40 boxes of pocky to sell to her anime club.

Aside from a freshly cleaned apartment, I don't really have any news worthy of putting up here. I guess that means it's time to get this party started!

Dengeki Rankings 

We're back to the good days of RPGs where the chart is chock full of them. Counting Itadaki Street Special, 10 of the 50 games are RPGs. In fact, four of the top ten are RPGs, but not surprisingly, the top spot goes to Grand Turismo 4. It just came out, and it is dominating the charts. It'll probably be up there for another week at least, but we'll have to see.

In other news, the PSP is doing pretty well on the charts. There are eight PSP games, but only seven DS games. But the DS has some games that are pretty high on the chart. It's gonna be hard to compete with games like Pokemon Dash and Mario 64 DS, but the PSP is proving that it may be the first handheld that was not made by Nintendo to have a promising future since the GameGear. If you can't tell yet, I'm rooting for the PSP, and I'd like to see some competition in the handheld market. Nintendo was able to get away with things like a choice between a back light or the ability to use headphones because they had a lock on the market. I think it's good for everyone involved despite the differences between the PSP and the DS.

Position Title Publisher Platform
2 Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 3 Namco
6 Dragon Quest VIII Square Enix
8 Rockman.EXE 5 Capcom
10 Tales of Rebirth Namco
11 Itadaki Street Special Square Enix
13 Pokemon Emerald Nintendo
26 Digimon World X Bandai
33 Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Square Enix
40 The Legend of Zelda the Minish Cap Nintendo
42 Gagharv Trilogy Bandai

Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 3 Info

Namco For those of you wondering what Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 3 is, I did a little digging on the official site to find out what this game is about. With the help of Google translator and my Japanese ability, I think I can kinda sorta tell you what it's about.

In a certain town, a legend is passed down about a Scientist named Dr. Brown and two adventurers named Furio and Kyaro. Some ruins of an ancient civilization are found in the fissure that was most likely caused by an earthquake. Furio and Kyaro explore these ruins and discover a time travelling ship. After showing it to Dr Brown, he is able to repair the ship.

100 days later, Furio is awakened by Dr. Brown and Kyaro to try to prevent the changing of history. Someone has been using the time machine to alter the past, so Dr. Brown entrusts it to Furio and Kyaro to set things right. By traveling in time, the heros embark on a quest to save the world.

Other than that, I can't tell you a whole lot except that the taiko drums of Taiko no Tatsujin (Taiko Drum Master) make some kind of cameo appearance as what appears to be possibly a boss fight. I didn't have time to fully read that bit in the newest Shonen JUMP magazine, so I'm not really sure on the details concerning the drums. But I do know that there is a sequence where a song must be played using the buttons on the GBA as one would play the taiko drum controller found in the arcade and PS2 versions of Taiko no Tatsujin.

All in all, it's looking to be a rather interesting RPG for those interested in the Tales games and are up for a game with Japanese text.

Square Enix Rereleasing Two Playstation Games

Square Enix Square Enix has decided to cash in on two more older games by rereleasing them as a part of "PS One Books" brand in Japan. This time around, it's Dragon Quest IV and Star Ocean 2: The Second Story that will once again be appearing on Japanese store shelves.

Dragon Quest IV was originally released for the Super Famicom, but was ported to the PSX in 2001. This time around, gamers can snap it up for a measly 3675 yen.

Star Ocean 2: The Second Story first graced Japanese Playstations in the summer of '98, but for those with an itching for some more Star Ocean goodness, possibly after playing Star Ocean : Till the End of Time, will be able to pick up this game for a paltry 2625 yen.

Both games will be available March 3 at a local retailer near me.

More Tantra Info and Screens

Tantra will add three new major areas and many new quests, weapons, and armor in its first major update, Kathana 2. In celebration of this new update, there will be two limited-time-only quests available from 1/12 to 1/19.

Also, for the first time, I have some very yummy screens for you to drool over. I have to say, this is a very pretty game. Be sure to click on these, because the thumbnails simply do NOT give them justice.

Culture Corner: Ask Sensei 

This week, I'm pleased to see that my inbox has several questions, and I'm picking up one question from the forum thread on the previous column. I love seeing letters come in throughout the week. This week, we've got some follow-up questions from last week, and plenty of other good ones. Let's get to it!

Ohayoo gozaimasu, Honorable J Sensei,

I looked back in your articles, and though I've found reference to them, and gleaned a few facts from what you've said, I was wondering something. What exactly are the two "good" programs for teaching English in Japan, and just what exactly are the details on them? Maybe they have a website you can recommend? Anyways, thanks for the info, and darn you for getting FFXII before us, even though it's not out yet. J/K

Sincerely,

Justin

The two basic ways to teach English are to go via The JET Programme or by many of the eikaiwa that exist. If you are interested in going the eikaiwa route, GEOS, AEON, and NOVA are considered the 'big three.'

Almost everyone knows of the Jet Programme that is interested in teaching English in Japan, and most think it's the only way. It is a good way to go if you want more typical school experience. JET teachers are assistant language teachers who will teach in one of Japan's many public high schools. The advantages to this program are the high pay (yearly salary of 3.4 million yen) and having evenings off. You also get all the same breaks as the students, including the three week long winter break. The downsides are that every JET teacher's job is different, so you won't know what you're getting into until you get there. Also, you have to be in class in the morning like regular students, and as far as I know you don't get any vacation time that you pick. Plus, I believe that you can only renew up to five years with JET, so it is not really possible to start a career with them.

GEOS and AEON used to be the same company before splitting some time ago, so they are quite similar. Both schools use the teninsei system, which means that students will have the same teacher throughout their contract. The good sides to these schools is that you know EXACTLY what you will be doing before you get there. Since these are businesses, they are uniform throughout Japan. You also get your own classroom that you will be able to decorate as you like. The pay is decent at around 3 million yen per year as a base salary, and the hours are a double edged sword. I teach from from 1 to 10 pm Tues-Fri and 11-8 on Saturday. It's nice being able to sleep in, but your evenings are shot.

Some other features are that you can start a career with both companies and renew for as many years as you like. I have heard stories of teachers who have been in GEOS for 17 years. Also, you get 10 days paid holiday that you can take whenever you like along with national holidays and two one-week breaks in May and around New Years respectively. You can also get overtime pay if you teach for more than 26 hours in a calendar week.

The biggest downside to Eikaiwa is that there is a lot of pressure on students to renew. This is most apparent with GEOS where teachers are the ones that approach students for renewal. This focus on business turns off many people, but if you are a good teacher and don't mind approaching students for renewing expensive contracts, GEOS gives you 1-1.5% of the price of the renewed contract as a bonus. This, combined with overtime, can net a teacher in a big school as much as 40,000 (around 400 US) in extra payment. AEON does not offer this, but they pay 5,000 yen more per month and cover housing fees over 43,000 per month.

NOVA is the largest of the 'big three' and will take just about anyone. Their system is the 'ticket system' where a student's contract consists of several tickets that are exchanged for lessons. This exposes students to many different teachers, possibly from many different English speaking countries allowing them learn many types of English such as British or Austrailin English. Your benefits here include the fact that they will take just about anyone who speaks English, and I hear their base pay is a bit higher than GEOS. (GEOS pays 'minimum wage' for foriengers at 250,000 yen per month which is roughly 2500 US.) Your downside is that your lessons tend to be rather boring, and I'm told you live in shared apartments. Most teachers regard NOVA as the worst school to teach for, but the NOVA teachers I've talked to all seem to like it well enough. And, since NOVA has roughly ten times as much money as GEOS, they get REALLY nice locations for their school.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference, but I'd recommend you check out all four of the above listed programs. There are nice sides and downsides to each program. I happen to like GEOS, but I'll admit that it's not without fault. Also, all the companies listed above will find you a furnished apartment. Furnishings may vary, but you'll get enough stuff to live a decent life in Japan. So, if you're interested, give it a shot.

Hey Jordan,

First off, love what you've done with the column.

Second, I want to go and live in Japan but teaching with JET or Geos isn't for me. Anything you recommend?

Jon

If you don't want to go JET or GEOS, you can try applying to one of the small Eikaiwa or just come to Japan and look around. It's not too hard to rustle up a teaching job, but you'll have to fly to Korea to change your visa status. This page has many links that may also be of help to you. If you don't find much that you like there, try googling for stuff. There are a few sites that will let you post resumes online.

Hope that helps!

Somebody wrote in last column asking about the legend that is X Japan. To answer, I'll quote a popular website pertaining to Japanese music.

"It would even be an understatement to call this band legendary. It is safe to declare X Japan has been the most influential band in Japan's history and a major landmark in general music history. No, I am not crazy; they are that big."

This site is a valuable resource for anybody looking for information on some of the top (and lesser known) Japanese artists. Strangely enough, the pictures of the band on the site are all pre-1993, before they looked drastically different (and probably more accessible to the average westerner). I highly recommend importing the albums not released by Tofu Records in the west, as those songs and videos only (barely) cover the first half of X's long and prosperous career.

Just thought I'd share a bit about this brilliant bit of Japanese culture. I feel everyone should have the chance to hear X Japan's revolutionary sweeping ballads and hard-hitting rock. (...and when they mix them both) ^^

-Fukuyama Sorahiko

Thanks for the info! Now that I've had a week to think about it, I think I HAVE heard of X Japan, but I haven't listened to their music yet. One of the bands I like just released a new CD, so I'll probably rent some X Japan stuff along with it in the near future. Thanks again for writing!

Here's a question you probably don't get asked much: How are animals treated over there? Did you/do you have any pets(if I missed this from a previous column, sorry)? How's the stray situation? Are there really random cats sitting on fences that bite your finger when you point at them?

Also, what is Popolocrois about, anyway?

XeroZohar

I'm going to dedicate this reply to the memory of Genki-kun, my dwarf hamster that passed away a few months ago. *wipes away a tear* As for the pet situation, many people have pets. Cats and small dogs are probably the most common. I see lots of weiner dogs here, which makes me happy since I like them so much. Most of the pets are well kept, and when owners walk their dogs, they almost always pick up the droppings. You do see what I think may be an occasional stray, but some of the cats could just be outdoor ones. The stray problem is probably a bit worse in the bigger cities where if a pet gets away, it'd be harder to catch and easier for it to breed. I don't know if the Japanese have their own version of Bob Barker reminding us to all spay or neuter our pets.

And for the other two questions, I've never seen any cats bite me for pointing at them, but I have had a couple suddenly run from out of the trash area at night and scare me half to death. And I know absolutely nothing about Popolocrois. If anyone can help out XeroZohar, I'll put your email in Japandemonium if you include a question or reply personally via email if you don't and mention you in the next one.

Hi, Jordan,

Love your Janpandemonium. Now that I think about it, I have 2 quick questions.

What's the weather like there? I live in the frigid northeast (of the US). I know Japan gets snow, but do they get the tonnage we do?

Also, in your last column, someone asked if you had any H games. What the heck are H games?

Thanks & glad to hear you had a great Christmas.

Jbumi

Your weather is going to vary depending upon where you are. Japan is roughly the same size and shape as the US East coast. In Hokkaido, you get up to a meter of snow in a day, and in Okinawa you wish it'd drop below 80 in the winter. As for here, it's pretty durn cold. High's are in the 40s or 50s, and lows are in the 30s. This is made worse by the fact that the Japanese have yet to discover insulation, so my apartment is very cold unless I use my very expensive heater and let the heat go right through my walls.

As for H games, the H stands for hentai, which is Japanese for 'pervert.' The term generally refers to adult material in Japan, specifically animated material. H Games range from dating sims with an invite to come in to games that resemble a Choose Your Own Adventure hentai movie where you play the lead character. The Japanese have one of the most liberal opinions of adult material and do not see it as being vulgar or crude as is often the case in America. It is not uncommon to see a business man reading an adult manga or magazine on trains or buses. That said, the Japanese also have some really strict censoring of adult material with movies and games being censored by pixelation of um... all things south of the border.

Personally, I don't see the appeal, but it's a huge industry here, and new H games and adult movies come out all the time. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but they are staggering.

If you'd want more info, I'm sure a simple google search will provide more links than you'd ever be able to visit in your lifetime.

Jordan,

I know you've described the process through which you went to Japan to teach English. Out of curiosity, and a strong desire to see some foreign lands, could you describe the teaching experience now that you're in the midst of it? What do your lesson plans consist of?

Thanks,

-Adam

Lesson... plans? You mean I'm supposed to have a plan before I go in there? In all honesty, at GEOS, it's pretty simple. Every GEOS book has a teacher's manual with a detailed suggested lesson plan (usually with options) and props for teaching. I just pick what I want, whack it on a photo copier, do some cutting and maybe some pasting to heavy paper, and I'm pretty much done. Lesson planning took a lot longer when I started, but now I don't even write them down anymore. I just make the props I'll need and kinda wing it. But I DO read the lesson plan in the book and look at the textbook page I'll be teaching so I'm familiar with it. Then, I just go in there and do it. After seven months, I pretty much have it down pat. It's really that simple. And with kids lessons, I don't even read the teacher's manual anymore. Kids' lessons are mainly just games with a decent chunk of writing in GEOS workbooks. Heck, I don't even plan the games in advance. I decide on the fly whether to do one vocab game or another. All the materials for games are in my classroom from picture flashcards to magnetic stuff that sticks to my white board, so I can pretty much decide as I go.

As for the lessons themselves, it depends a lot on the lesson style and level really. My kids range from 18 months to 15 years old, and my adults range from a 15 year old to a 50-60 year old housewife. Activities range from games to simple substitution drills to discussions about a topic like punishment of criminals or recycling. The levels of students ranges from one guy that can barely speak any English at all to people that I speak at native speed and hold some interesting conversations with.

GEOS takes anyone that can afford to pay for lessons, so we get a wide variety of students. Without having everything pre-made for us in books, we'd never be able to do it, especially since most GEOS teachers have no prior teaching experience. Dunno if it's what you thought it'd be, but it sure is easier than I was expecting.

My dream is to one day go through GEOS or JET and become a correspondent to some gaming publication. Sorta like you I guess. Anyway onto my questions...

For a graduation present, my parents said that they'd pay for a trip to Tokyo for one week. It would be my dad and I that would go. They said that before the end of the school year however, I'd need to plan out an agenda of some sort of what we'd do for that week. I know that I'd want to spend a few days in the Akihabara (sp?) district, but other than that, I really don't know.

Since you live in Japan, I figure that you may know a few good places to visit that relate to Japan's history, or are just plain interesting to go to. If these areas were near or in Tokyo, it would be all the better.

I have one last question. I've been using a computer program to learn Japanese, but I'm completely lost, considering that the program decided to just jump right into the days of the week before even giving an introduction. If you knew of a program that you consider to be in the top tiers for learning Japanese, it would be most appreciated.

Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work!

Where do I begin? I've never been to Tokyo, but my travel guide devotes nearly 70 of its 400 pages to Tokyo alone. My recommendation is to buy a good travel guide and plan use that. I have the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. It wasn't cheap, but man is it good. Let's give this a shot...

In central Tokyo, you have Akihabara, Ginza, Hibiya, Jinbocho Bookseller's District, Marunouchi District, and Nihonbashi District. Ginza is the most Western part of Tokyo, and houses the Sony Showroom. Also in central Tokyo are Tokyo Tower, Nakajima tea house, the Sumida river boats, Imperial Palace, Yasukuni Shrine, Kanda Myojin Shrine, and the Kabuki-Za Theater.

Northern Tokyo has Ueno park, where you can see the Kanae-ji temple and the Ueno Zoo with it's pandas. The National Museum is there too. There's also Yanaka District which survived the bombs of WW II and the earthquakes. There's also the Senso-ji Temple, which is very famous.

Western Tokyo has Hinjuki, Shibuya, and Roppongi, along with the Sword Museum and Meiji Shrine among others.

Pretty much, the question is not what TO do, but what NOT to do. And, if that's not enough, Mt. Fuji is nearby, and if you go in July or August, you can make the climb to the summit. Take my advice. Buy a book, look at descriptions, and read up. One week will only be enough time to scratch the surface. Plan for travel time between the districts and plan on one part of the city per day. It IS the world's largest metropolis, so there's plenty to do. The same could be said for Osaka and Kyoto, which are close enough that you could make your trip there instead.

As for learning Japanese, your best bet is to buy a textbook. I know books don't have plug-ins and some of us geeks aren't sure just how they work, (they don't even have batteries!) that's gonna be your best way to learn stuff. And, you can take it with you. Your local big bookstore should have plenty to offer. If they don't, take a trip to your nearest university and buy THEIR textbook. They'll sell it to you. What do they care if you aren't in the class?

Sorry if this wasn't as in-depth as you'd like, but there's just TONS of stuff to mention. It will at least give you a few terms to google at least. I hope you have a happy trip! Drop me an email and tell me about it when you get back!

The Final Grumble 

Whew! Another column done. News is still a little thin right now, but I'm doing the best I can. I'm getting enough questions each week to do what I'd consider a decent column anyways. Less news just means I devote more time to the Culture Corner....

It's cold in here, so I'm going to wrap this up with a request to shoot me some emails for the Culture Corner.



Catch you on the flip,

-Jordan "Hey, my floor's clean!" Jackson

Nothing like some past columns after a hard day's work!

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