The week has flown by, and now I can count the days left in Japan using only my fingers and toes to help me. I have now 19 days in this country before coming home. It's an exciting prospect and a sad one at the same time. I will be quite sad to leave my post at the Niihama school. I've made many friends here, and I have memories and stories to last a lifetime. But I must admit that any sadness is greatly overshadowed by my desire to return to my home country. I'm getting excited about what many people would consider ordinary, like being able to cook two whole things at the same time! I might even go crazy and cook FOUR things at once and use all the available burners on my stove just because I can. But of all the things I'm looking forward to most is seeing my wife and family. I've missed them so.
In gaming news, I finally started playing Wild Arms: Alter Code F in my native language. The game is pretty fun, but some of enjoyment is gone from times past. This is at least my third time through the story of this game, so there's nothing new in that regard. One of the joys of an RPG is discovering what happens next, and that's just not there in this game. But for fans of the series that never played the first one, or even if you have, I'd say it's still pretty fun. I just wish I could use magic outside of battle. I can't remember if the original let me do that or not. If not, it should have. Also, be prepared for puzzles that are very annoying. Sometimes they border on being too hard to figure out, but the ones that are just hard enough are pretty fun. The visuals are decent for a PS2 game, and the music is awesome. I'd give it a recommendation to people looking for a game, but it's not as good as some of the other games I've played recently.
As for this week's title, onsen are literally hotsprings. Japan is a collection of volcanic islands, and there are hundreds of hotsprings. There are also hundreds of public bath houses that are also called onsen, but they are technically sentou. The water is just regular water that has been heated for large tubs that resemble very warm kiddy pools. Anybody coming to Japan should check one out, but it's a little embarrassing at first. Unless you're comfortable with full nudity in a room of strangers, it will be a bit awkward, but it's a pretty nice thing once you adjust. The baths are quite soothing, and I really enjoy the outdoor bath. No experience in Japan is complete without at least one trip to an onsen.
So without any further ado, let's get this party started!
This week has a few new faces, and a few dropped off the chart. But this week's chart has a respectable fifteen titles on it. Sadly none of them made the top five, but that will change eventually. There are some really big titles about to hit in just a few weeks. They're going to tear into the chart with a vengeance. For those wondering about the top spot, this week the honor stays with Kahashima Ryuuta Kyouju Kanshuu: Motto Nouo Kitaeru Otona DS Training. I suspect its high sales is due in part by its low price; it seems the Japanese will buy anything that is half the price of the other games on the shelf.
Fans of the music of Dragon Quest VIII got a treat on January 28 in the Ikebukuru ward of Tokyo. Kouichi Sugiyama, composer of most of the music of the Dragon Quest series, directed a full orchestra in a concert consisting of nothing but music from Dragon Quest VIII. This was the fourth such concert that featured only music from the game, and it received a lot of positive reactions from fans and Japanese media alike. Those lucky enough to be there sat in a packed house; the tickets sold out in only a few short days of their initial release.
And in other Dragon Quest news, the recently announced spinoff game Dragon Quest Yangus: Fushigina Dungeon has been fully titled and given a release date. That until recently, the game had been going without its subtitle. Like the other Fushigina Dungeon, which translates to Strange Dungeon, titles, the game will feature randomized dungeons. In fact, even if the player leaves one and come back, they will find that the dungeon they had entered before no longer exists; a freshly generated layout will be waiting for them.
Those wishing to discover Yangus's past can do so on April 20, but unlike the game featuring his future self, they will only have to pay the standard 7140 yen. No release has been announced outside of Japan, but I'm guessing this one might see North American shores someday.
This week saw two new websites go live. The most recent one is for Baten Kaitos II. The site is fully functional and has information about the story, characters, battle system, and even a trailer showing a tiny bit of gameplay. Those wishing for some more card-based action can pick this title up on Feb 23 for 6800 yen.
Also Marvelous Interactive has opened up a new website for their upcoming DS game Rune Factory. The site holds information about the story and the two main characters, Laguna and Mist. It also says that the game is due out sometime this year, but the price has not been specified.
Taito is bringing Ys IV: Mask of the Sun to owners of DoCoMo i900, i901, and i902 series phones. The game was originally released on the Super Famicom in 1993, and it received a nice facelift on the PS2 last May. This version is a scaled-down port of the latter.
The game went live on January 30, so any gamer wishing to take Adol on the road can do so if they pay the standard 525 yen.
Team Entertainment has put together a CD that is chock full of arranged music from Level 5's recently released Rogue Galaxy called "Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange." Ten sound creators got together and arranged ten songs chosen by the game's original composer, Nishiura Tomoji.
For those looking for the original music from the game, they have nothing to worry about. Both the arranged CD and the OST went on sale on January 25 for 3150 yen each.
Hudson has released several new screenshots showing their upcoming Far East of Eden: Tengai Makyou Ziria. The game is coming along nicely and is starting to look like it belongs on the new system. Previous looks at the game have been unimpressive.
This week I got a couple good letters. What I lost in quantity, I made up in quality. That's what's important. Since I'm running short on time, I'll just get to the letters. So let's get to them, shall we?
After a long hiatus, I return with more questions.
Have you noticed how many (american) games come out in the next two
months? Kingdom Hearts II, Tales of Legendia, Grandia III, it makes
my hands tremble in excitement. . . and my wallet tremble in fear. Is
there a time of year when a lot of games are released in Japan?
Around Christmas or golden week maybe?
On another subject, I'm glad FFAC got a PG-13 rating. All the rumors
point to a March release. I can't wait to hear an English dub. . . I
can understand some of the Japanese, and the imports have subs, but
it just isn't the same as English.
Finally, about the new Final Fantasy potions suntory is releasing,
do you have any idea how I could get my hands on one after they come
out? An American release is unlikely, but I've just got to see how it
tastes. If there's no practical way to get one, would you taste one
in my honor (if you're still in Japan)?
Thanks for answering,
P.S. Late congrats on your wedding.
Good to have you back. As for the gaming season, Golden Week is a HUGE season for games. It is THE holiday season in Japan, and publishers aim for it pretty well. If I'm not mistaken, Nintendogs and Jump Superstars came out around then. If not, they just did REALLY well that week. I see a fair number of games coming out on April 20. That's just a week before Golden Week, if that means anything to you.
As for dubs vs. subs, I prefer subs 100000:1. It's not just because I can understand the language, but I prefer watching things in their native language. I don't speak a lick of Chinese, but I watched Crouching Tiger and Hero in Mandarin. I also watched Run Lola Run in German. But I DO understand that some people like watching things in their own native language. So I hope you're happy with the dub work. I'm rather fond of the Japanese cast.
And finally, I will be unable to taste that Potion you seek. If you want some, I'm sure import sites will have it, and you can bet your bottom dollar someone on Ebay will auction some off. If you're willing to pay for it, you'll be able to sample all you want for a highly inflated price.
Thanks for writing!
Howslife? Mine's quite busy now (tomorrow another test), so this is going
to be a short (or shorter one). Well, first of all thanks for answering
the questions of last week. That were quite some tips! I guess I've got
enough to cook and fins-outs for the next coming week! I think I'll do
those okonomiyaki first. I've heard of it before, some call it pizza and
some call it pancakes. Whatever it is, it looks yummy!
Talking about pancakes, strangely and funny enough, the pack I'm using is
called "Hot Cakes", so my little sister was right (without knowing
though!). You haven't answered my question yet if you're willing to
translate (just a rough one) the back of it (when I send a picture). Or
maybe you could give the characters for eggs, milk, butter, flour, water
and some other kind of stuff, so I at least can know the ingredients!
Oh, what do you recommend as toppings for your pancakes, except for
strawberries (what you told last time). I always eat it with powdered
sugar and always found it weird to eat them with cheese or bacon or
As for the mail of John Guffey, I've also got a question about the
"darker" side of Japan. For some reason it seems it's a culture where you
can get stressed easily. From what I've seen and noticed from
documentaries and movies, it's seems that a lot is about to perform well
and perform all the time (even from a young age on). Like the school
system and the honor system. Well, I could be wrong, but do you notice
that a lot - that people seems (a bit) stressed out? Well, I could be
wrong, so you correct me if I am! Maybe it's also other reasons, as Japan
has quite a history behind it.
But I guess a lot of countries seem quite cool when you're not living
there. Every country has it's negative sides...
Oh! I'm wondering for quite some time, but keep forgetting, what is the
relation between you and Adrienne Beck? If she translates, what's left to
do except for putting it online and adding pictures in a webpage format?
Or am I missing something, like you adding or changing stuff or something?
Or do you only get a rough translation?
And something I've been wanting to ask: what do you think of my
quote/signature? You put it up everytime, but I have no idea whether you
like it or not. But I do ask everybody I know what they think the meaning
is. Even though it's not that hard, I've gotten quite different
interpretations! (not to hijack your column with non-Japanese related
stuff, but I was just curious!)
Well, that's it I guess. I'm going to start studying again. Thanks again!
PS. DO you have a bento box? And oh, what are bento stores?
"We all know that birds fly, but now can
you tell me where they are actually flying to??"
As usual, you have lots of questions and made it barely on time. Luckily I don't have much media to do today, or this would make me late on getting the column out the door. If possible, try to get emails in by monday night.
As for the pancakes, I put lots of things IN my pancakes. They are not merely toppings. For lighter things, I stir them in the batter, but heavier things I drop in the pancake right after putting the batter in my frying pan. Some of my favorites include: chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, kurumi (like a walnut), bananas, apples, raisins, cherries, blueberries, and cinnamon. Sometimes I'll combine several of those at once. I usually combine apples with cinnamon, and I'd have tossed raisins in there if I could have. Pretty much, my pancakes are almost half filler ingredient, and they're always a lot better for it. Also, I can be 99% sure that ingredient you don't know about is oil. It's key for making them light and fluffy.
As for okonomiyaki, I suppose it does resemble a pizza, but it's more like a pancake in its cooking. Pizza is a doughy bread that you bake with toppings on top. Okonomiyaki come from batter grilled on a griddle, although both potentially have meat and cheeses on them.
It's interesting you'd mention that particular dark side of Japan. The pressure to do well is EVERYWHERE. In America, I go to kindergarten, then go through regular elementary, middle school, and finally high school. Then I apply to college. In Japan, you apply for every school. Kids have to apply to get into certain pre-schools. If they do, they can get into a good elementary. This sets them up for a good middle school, and that in turn gets them into a good high school. If a student doesn't pass the test for their school of choice, and yes, there ARE tests to get into good elementariness and even pre-schools, they must try again at they the next opportunity. This leads extremely young children to feel very stressed to succeed with mothers pushing them as hard as they can. Should kids feel like they've done something wrong, they DO cry because they feel like they've let their parents down. These kids stay stressed out pretty much until they get to high school.
Then you have the matter of juku, the cram schools. These are test-prep schools that teach how to pass the entrance exams for various levels of school. Originally, they were a leg up for people that took them. Now they are a multibillion dollar industry because EVERYONE does it. Now it is a leg down if you DON'T go to juku. You literally have to go to be competitive. The Japanese government realizes they have created a monster, but they are powerless to stop it. Juku make a lot of money, and people have become addicted and reliant upon them. In my opinion, the ones that lose are the Japanese. They must pay around 1000 dollars or more per year per child, and the children lose that much more of their childhood. It's really sad, but it's not all bad. The kids do make friends at juku, but they have little time between school, juku, piano lessons, dance lessons, English lessons, calligraphy, and every other lesson their mothers can put them through to make them 'well-rounded' people.
As for me and Adrienne Beck, she translates most of what goes in my column. She's far better at translating than I am, so I mainly use what she sends me. But this is not always the case. Sometimes I will find a story and translate it myself, and not all stories come from her. The truth is, without her, this column would be a LOT harder to do. What does that leave for me? Well, I have to type the stories. I know that seems easy, but really it can take a long time. I don't just copy and paste her stories, I take them and then put them into my own words when I can. It can take a while, too; this email alone is pushing 30 minutes. I also have to format it for HTML, add in the media, do the Dengeki rankings, do the Culture Corner, proof, upload, and post. It's harder than it looks, but it's made doable by Adrienne's help.
Bento shops are kind of like fast food shops, but they sell boxed lunches. For 500 yen or less, you can get rice, some kind of meat, and usually a tiny salad. It'll all come out hot and on a plastic tray. They even toss in a pair of chop sticks, so you can eat it as soon as you get it. I generally either get ton katsu, omuraisu, curry, or some other daily special bento. It varies from day to day. Also, I do have a bento box, but I don't use it. It's too small for me; I eat a bit more than the average Japanese. Rather than carry two or more, I just go to bento shops and get what I need, but my wife has one. I think she uses it, too.
Finally, I've never really thought about your sig. I just post it because it's there. I suppose it means exactly what it says. Everything is moving and going places, but we really don't know where anything is going. We just know there's some sort of grand scheme in place, but as to what it is, we can only watch. Dunno. I'm not sure if that's close or not. To be honest, I figured you just liked the quote. I post it because it's always there. Most people don't have sigs, but you always do.
At any rate, thanks for the email again. I can always count on you, but try to send it in earlier next week. I can get pressed for time, and this makes it harder to make it out on time.
And thus another column comes to an end. I have only two more left in this country, then I have to pick up and move to the other side of the world. Your regularly scheduled column will probably go up late that week, but I hope to have one when I move. I won't be able to do a column the week after, so I hope you guys can forgive me. I'll come back ready for a nice column the second week after I come home, though.
Catch you on the flip,