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Special Report: I Live in a Mansion I Culture Corner I Sayonara
JAPANDEMONIUM
Suzu Ga Naru December 25, 2005


Konnichiwa

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope everyone is having happy holidays. Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year, so being home for this one is quite special. I had to work on last year's Christmas, so I'm even more happy to be home this time. I hope everyone gets to spend some quality time with their families. In the end, that's what I feel is the most important part. Sure, we all want a few new games and some other neat stuff, but in the end, spending time with the family is what it's all about. Here's hoping we all get plenty of that.

In gaming news, I just picked up Boku no Watashi no Katamari for the PSP. Sadly, the game is a bit of a disappointment. The story is OK, but the controls are lacking. The original games were quite intuitive, and you picked it up quite easily. I am now around eight hours into it, and I have JUST gotten used to using the control pad and the four buttons for movement. It's a digital approximation of the analog tank controls we all know and love. The graphics are decent, but they are definitely not as detailed as in the PS2 versions, and the environments are smaller. But the real kicker is that there is NO new music. It's all rehashes from the first two games. I guess they just picked out their favorite tracks or something. Personally, I'm quite sad. But despite all these things, the game is still fun. To overcome the idea of small areas to roll around in, levels have multiple goals and time limits. After you go from ten centimeters to a meter and a half, you teleport to a new place to go to ten meters and stuff like that. The levels are fun, though. All in all, it's a bit of a disappointment, but it's still a fun game. Once you adjust to the controls it becomes a lot better, and the music is still great. I just wanted new music that would ALSO be great. Fans of the series can consider picking it up, but it's not a must have like the other two. Personally, I'm not sorry I got it, so that should say something of the game.

As for this week's title, it means 'bells ring' in Japanese. Any of you that know the Japanese lyrics to Jingle Bells will recognize it as the next line after jinguru berusu (jingle bells) is repeated twice, but to me, it has another meaning. The bells that will be ringing for me are wedding bells. On December 26, Caroline and I will wed. So I can say with relative assurance that I have in fact been a good boy, because I am getting EXACTLY what I want for Christmas. Christmas will forevermore have even more meaning to us.

So it is with my most heartfelt wishes that you all have as happy a holiday season as I will have. Merry Christmas to all!



 Special Report: I live in a Mansion
Japandemonium

Many of you have been wondering what my apartment looks like, and I've been meaning to take pictures of it for a long time. But anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that I am a bit on the messy side, so I've been waiting until my apartment was clean to photograph it. The title of this report comes from Japanese. Apartments such as mine are referred to as 'mansions.' Kind of the opposite of what I normally think of when I think of a mansion, though...

As for some dimensions, my main living space is ten feet by teen feet, and my loft is ten by seven and a half. I haven't measured my kitchen, but I expect that it is probably ten to twelve feet long and ten feet wide as well. Of course, in that area I also have my bathroom, my toilet, and a closet for my living room. The total square footage is under 300 feet, I'm sure. It's quite tiny, but it is enough to live somewhat comfortably if you aren't claustrophobic.

As I have stated before, my apartment is 45,000 yen per month. At the current exchange rate, that's around 420 dollars for such a small place, but the sad thing is that my apartment is about one and a half times bigger than the apartment I stayed at in Kobe. Those of you that come to Japan will have to get used to tiny living spaces. The good side is that they will teach you the value of neccessity; you absolutely cannot have anything you do not need. The bad side is in the smaller apartments, you can stretch your arms out and touch one wall with your toes and the opposite wall with your fingers. Such is the price to pay for living in Japan.

Without any further ado, let's take a good look at my home, shall we?




















  Culture Corner: Ask Sensei

I got a nice selection of letters in the one day between when I posted last week's column and when I flew out. This column is actually being written in the air despite the date of Christmas. If your letter isn't printed, that would be why. My time with my family is short, so I'm trying as hard as possible to avoid working on the column while I'm home. All letters sent to me while I'm away will be answered in the next column.

That said, let's get to 'em!



Music and Models


Hey sensei,

I know I haven't written lately, but I've been using the holidays for my games (or trying to - my PS2 is starting to break and I'm hoping for cash as a present to help replace it). You said the Japanese have crazy shopping sprees and I believe it. I heard at some time, however, that around Christmas they also act a little more Christian as opposed to Shinto/ Buddhist. Is that true?

Onto the main subject of the letter, merchandise. It seems that there are figurines made for every cool game and anime ever released. I've got a Vincent Valentine 1/8 scale figure and thinking of getting a Tifa. (Although I would kill for a 3D Highwind model) Soundtracks are the same. On the net, I can't find good ones for under $50! And I know they're cheaper - I ordered the Tales of Symphonia OST for about $50, and when I got it, it said 3850 yen on the side. Are these items common in Japan? Even on the web, they're slightly hard to find. Besides, I like buying things in person better than online - you know you're getting what you pay for. If they are in Japan, are they everywhere, or just in specialty stores?

Those are my questions, hope you've got answers.

Thanks,

Nick.

P.S. Merry Christmas


Sensei

As for whether or not the Japanese act Christian, I'm not really sure. That's a tough one to answer, but I can tell you that there are models or figures for everything imaginable. Most of them are pretty easy to find. Often, you do have to go to a specialty store, but there are plenty around, so it's not too hard to find what you need. You can also get them online via Japanese retailers. And yes, a model of the Highwind WOULD be really nice.

As for the soundtracks, they are pretty easy to find. Any music store should have a decent selection, and a specialty store will have an even better selection. You can also rent music for a tiny fraction of the price to buy it. You're not supposed to copy the music that you rent, but I figure what the Japanese don't know won't hurt 'em.

Thanks for writing, and Merry Christmas!


Shortest. Question. Ever.


Best thing about your time in Japan. GO!

-Jerry


Sensei

Wow, you win the award for the shortest Culture Corner email ever. Congratulations. Umm... best thing about my time in Japan? That's a tough one. I've had some great experiences. Seeing Kyoto and Nara was really great both times, and climbing Fuji is something I'll never forget. Plus, just teaching kids is something all its own. There is something to be said for watching a seven-year-old girl read a book in English when you taught her to read that book. There is also something to be said for hearing a baby speak her first English words on her own that weren't just repeating after me.

I guess that by typing this answer, I've found my answer. The best part of living in Japan has been teaching my kids. My adults are really great too, but these kids started from the ground up. I don't believe the previous teacher did a very good job, and from what I've heard, she hated kids. I truly love these kids, and teaching them has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my entire life. I will treasure those memories forever.

Thanks for sending in a letter, and have happy holidays!


Sorry... *sparkle*


Hello, sensei! I’m sorry to hear you're so cold... Those two extra sparkles you gave me last time are keeping me toasty warm though!

I have a question for you today. I know about a dozen different ways to apologize to someone in Japanese, but I've never received any sort of tutorial for accepting an apology. Could you please enlighten me as to the common 'apology accepted' phrases of Japan? I must know what to do if someone falls at me feet screaming incoherent apologies, sensei! Or at least... when someone is telling me to stop doing that to them...

May the lights on your Christmas tree be as bright as the sparkles you emit and your tea as warm as the cheeks of someone beholding you.

Kyrie


Sensei

Hrm... I've never really thought about it. Most people just use daijoubu for most everything here. You can also use something like 'ii yo,' which would be something along the lines of 'it's ok'

Thanks for sending in another email. It's always fun to get one from you, and I'm glad those sparkles have been put to good use. Japan is a mighty cold place since they have yet to discover central heating and decent insulation. But just in case those two wear out, here's a couple more to keep you going! *sparkle* *sparkle*

By the way, that's an AWESOME closing to your letter. Have happy holidays, and send me another sometime!


Sicondera!


I figure I might as well ask the hard questions. :) Being a former JET participant and 2-year resident of Japan myself, I know coming back home is a time of some major mixed feelings. What are you really going to miss about living in Japan, and what can't you wait to get back to in America?

Your friendly, neighborhood translator,

Sic


Sensei

That's not a hard question to answer, but it is a hard question to think about. As much as I gripe about my job, the truth is I love it. Sometimes I hate working for GEOS; they do some pretty stupid things, but the students make it all worthwhile.

As I mentioned before, teaching the kids has been a wonderful experience, but the adults have been really great, too. While they haven't learned as much as the kids have, I've formed some pretty deep friendships with some of my students. I'm nearly the same age as a couple of them, and they are more than just customers to me. These are people that care about me, and I truly care about them. Leaving Japan will break my heart because I know that I will never get to see most, if not all, ever again. It will be especially hard on Kizuki, the baby that I teach. She has known me for more than half of her life. Her mother says she looks forward to Friday each week because of her English lesson with me.

Other things I'll miss include onsen and temples. I am a Christian, but the feeling you get when you walk into a temple is so different than what you get when you walk into a church. Both can be beautiful, but churches are places of gathering. Temples are places of solitude and self-reflection. The feeling of being in nature and being able to meditate in one is simply amazing.

As for onsen, well, I never thought I'd really fall in love with public bathing, but there's a communal feel to it that is just really nice. Plus, the baths are really, really comfortable. When I'm really stressed and need to relax, few things feel as good as a trip to the onsen. Sadly, onsen just would never work in America; people are WAY too self conscience and homophobic. I just can't see a group of men bathing together in America. I'd recommend that anyone that comes to Japan try it. It's worth it.

As for what I miss most about America, first and foremost, I miss Caroline. I also miss being able to read. My kanji never really improved over here, but that's only because I was a slacker. I really should have worked harder.

I also look forward to food. Pizza just ain't the same over here, and there is no Mexican food at all. It'd also be nice to get a loaf of bread for 99 cents again, or buy a dozen eggs for 1.25. Pretty much everything is cheaper in America when it comes to food.

There are other things, but this list would go on forever if I listed them all. Basically, I just miss my home. Granted, Japan is my home now, but America is my true home. That's ever going to change. As much as I love it here, I'll never be able to live here forever.

Thanks for the email and the many stories you translate for me. Japandemonium wouldn't be possible if it weren't for your help. Merry Christmas, A-Chan!


One From Everyone


Dear Sensei,

How are Christmas and New Years celebrated in Japan? In what ways are they different?

Every single RPGamer Staffer


Sensei

Since I got this question from about four different staffers, I figured I'll just lump 'em all together and answer it in one go. Christmas is somewhat similar to the way we celebrate it. The Japanese go out and buy a Christmas tree, and they decorate it much like we do. The only difference in that is our trees are usually a whole lot bigger, but then again, so are our houses. I can't really fit my mother's nine and a half foot tree in my tiny apartment...

Another big thing for the Japanese is Christmas cake. If they know ONE thing it's Kurisumasu keeki. Honestly, I don't have a clue what is so special about Christmas cake, but it seems to be a French tradition. Maybe it's some kind of special cake, but I wouldn't know. They usually have this cake at the Bonenkai, or end of the year party. It's kind of a general purpose Christmas, New Years, and just regular party party. The Japanese are always up for a party, especially if it involves good food. It also usually involves copious amounts of beer, but we actually had no booze at the GEOS party. Everyone was too cheap to drink, and I don't really care much for beer, so I was all the happier to not have to drink it.

The Japanese also have Santa and presents, but they don't get NEARLY as many presents as we do. Most children will get A present, and it's generally not very expensive.

As for New Years, that is a HUGE day in Japan. Everyone wants to stay up for the sun rise, and they will ring the temple bell 108 times. Everyone also eats sanuke udon, which is quite tasty. They also eat special foods that can go for three days without spoiling because no one wants to cook over that holiday.

As for the religious aspects, people go to a Buddhist temple to pray for their sins before the new year, and then they go to a Shinto shrine to pray for the upcoming year. And as I mentioned last week, they will all get protective charms and fortunes for the year. The fortunes are given a 'luck rank.' The ranking is:

  • Dai Kichi (great luck)
  • Chu Kichi (middle good luck)
  • Sue Kichi (pretty good luck)
  • Sho Kichi (a little good luck)
  • Kichi (good luck)
  • Kyou (bad luck)
  • Dai Kyou (really bad luck)
  • I have never seen anything below kichi, but I have heard of people getting kyou and dai kyou. I got sho kichi last year. Here's hoping for Dai Kichi this year.

    Thanks to everyone on staff that wrote in to help make this week's Culture Corner that much better.



     Sayonara

    Well, that's all I have for this week. I wanted to give something to my readers as a present. I'm sorry that all I've got are pictures of my apartment and a Culture Corner, but it's all I've got. This holiday season, make sure you get plenty of family, food, and fun. And if you get get time, squeeze in a little gaming.

    Take care and stay warm! Say hi to Santa for me if you see him!

    Catch you on the flip,


    Jordan "Merii Kurisumasu" Jackson




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