While seven wasn't really considered a lucky number in Japan until the idea was introduced by the West, the seventh night of the seventh month has been a big deal for over a millenium. The Imperial court adopted the Chinese festival of Qi Xi back in the Heian Period (around the 11th century or earlier), and over the centuries it accumulated local Shinto practices until it evolved into the Tanabata festival as it's celebrated today.
The festival has its origins in the legend of "The Cowherd and the Weaving Girl", possibly one of the most widely known Chinese folktales ever. In modern Japan, however, the festival is not as big a deal as one would think. There are big festivities held in some parts of the country, but the holiday is most popular in kindergartens and elementary schools, where the teachers put up a large stalk of bamboo from which the students hang wishes written on paper. Usually, these are wishes for things to achieve in the future, like "I want to be a doctor when I grow up," or "I want to be an elephant!" (hey, these are kindergartners we're talking about...).
If one really wants to see a celebration, head over to Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture in early August. That's when the biggest Tanabata festival in the country is held. The reason for the date (August 7th instead of July 7th) is due to the fact that until fairly recently (in the last century or so), the date of the Tanabata festival was set by the lunar calendar, which usually had the seventh day of the seventh month fall sometime in August. This year, the lunar date for Tanabata is actually August 26th. I'm kind of sorry that I'm literally on the opposite side of the country, because it sounds interesting.
Understatement of the century: Japanese love Dragon Quest.
Seriously, the number of pre-release reservations for this game was in the millions before it was delayed four months, and there's no telling what the final number is. Dengeki's website is boasting a direct link to the entire list of DQ9 updates on their front page. For that matter, Dengeki and Famitsu have had huge updates on the game almost every day for the past week. Geo-Geo, one of the biggest game retailers in the country, is offering 10% discounts, and I'm not sure what else the other stores are doing to sweeten the deal. All I know is, if I want to be able to get a copy, I'm going to have to do it early. That's why I reserved my copy through the convenience store down the street from my school. I know I'll be over there by 7:30 just to have time to plan for classes that day, so I might as well make the most of it!
Okay, maybe I won't get much planning done at all. Better do it all on Friday, then...
Top of the list this week is Atelier Rorona which between the 25th and the 28th sold nearly 50,000 copies. Being a Gust game in an admittedly niche series, I can't imagine they printed many more copies than that. Which would explain why every store I looked at this past Monday was completely sold out of this game. Peeking forward a bit, I can say that Rorona keeps it up for at least another week. Nothing seems to be stopping the juggernaut at #1 on the list, though -- Wii Sports Resort, which in the same time period sold well over 350,000 copies. At least, not until this next weekend....
This week is a really slow one for RPG news, so we have something else that looks interesting -- though granted, it bears enough superficial resemblance to several roleplaying titles' battle systems that I might be able to make some argument either way.
What we have here is a challenge to Monster Hunter's control over its particular genre of co-op fantasy action. God Eater is Bandai-Namco's newest big title due out this fall. Up to four players can team up to take out incredibly large enemies with improbably large weapons, which is pretty much how Monster Hunter plays. There's a story mode in there as well, but we all know what the draw of a game like this is supposed to be -- tons of action and carnage.
For those who care, the frame of the plot on which the action rests centers on the Aragami, a bizarre collection of life-forms bent on laying waste to the world. A group of humans calling themselves the God Eaters have found a way to harness the powers of dead Aragami, creating powerful weapons called shinki (translated in the scans as "deus ex machina"). Each shinki has three set forms-- Blade, Gun, and Predator-- which can be chosen at will.
So, why talk so much about a game here if it's not an RPG? I dig the monster designs. Enough said.
When the news is sparce, go for the cheesecake! And right now, that means Queen's Blade - Spiral Chaos. As a special goody for those who order in advance, Bandai-Namco is offering an assortment of collectible telephone cards with images of the game's buxom battlers. The first picture is an image off of a towel that's also being offered.
If you think these are a bit much, consider this: there were three other images in the set which were deemed too explicit for use on the site. This game makes no bones about being for the fanservice.
Another minor item for your enjoyment is the official site for Star Ocean - Blue Sphere. Anyone feeling nostalgic for Star Ocean - The Second Story and wanting to see some better pictures of the new cellphone remake should definitely check it out. There's tons of material, including special animated sprites and various screens for each character of the game.
Bokumo Gaijin-desukedo - Asian Gaijin desu. Not sure if that makes sense.
It makes more sense than many attempts at Japanese I've seen!
Sorry to hear about the bad rainy week. Here's hoping things are better for you by the time you receive this!
I have a couple of questions for you:
1. I'm getting married in October and me and my wife-to-be are planning to go to Japan for honeymoon. Our first stop is Tokyo, followed by Kyoto, Osaka and then back to Tokyo for our flight home after 12 days. Do you suggest we purchase the Japan Rail Pass (14 days)? It's really expensive at over 45,000 yen per head and I'm wondering if it'd be cheaper to purchase the tickets separately for each trip.
A little snooping around the internet reveals that a one-way ticket from Tokyo (Shinagawa Station) to Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station) on the Kodama or Hikari Shinkansen lines (the ones that you can use the rail pass for) would cost you a total of 13,240 yen (about $120) for a non-reserved seat or 13,750 yen for a reserved seat. If you do Kyoto, then Osaka, and then straight back to Tokyo, that would be... (*gets out calculator*) 13,220 yen to Kyoto, another 2,730 yen to go to Osaka from there (1380 yen for non-reserved seating), and then the 13,240 yen back, for a grand total of... 29,210 yen round trip per person (all reserved seating) or 27,860 yen if you don't reserve a seat for the Kyoto-Osaka stretch. You could also forgo reservations on the rest, but that would only save you an extra $10 or so and it would make things a little chancier on the longer sections of the trip. Also, the train lines often give small discounts for people who buy multiple tickets at once, so you could probably whittle a little more off that total.
The full Japan Rail Pass includes all trains run by Japan Railways except for the Nozomi Shinkansen line, though, so if you're planning on using the local trains a lot as well, it might be worth considering.
2. Best place to experience (within humble budgetary constraints) onsen in Kyoto or Osaka?
Unfortunately, I'm not so familiar with the hot springs in Honshu. If you were planning on visiting Kyushu, I could give you oodles of recommendations, but... Here are some reference links instead. And for Osaka as well.
3. Akihabara is a must-stop for me (while the lady busies herself perhaps in Shibuya!). Really interested to get one of those limited-edition DSi (Sa Ga 2 bundle, mmhm?) about to be released over there. Will I have problem downloading and playing the DSware stuff in the future?
The Magic Eight Ball says "yes." DS cartridges may be region-free, but Nintendo has instituted region-locking for DSi-specific software due to differing internet services between countries. Internet browsing and photo sharing aren't included in the lock-out, however.
4. Lastly, you've been staying there for quite some time now. Have you got yourself any fancy hairstyle done by a local stylist? Japanese have some interesting and bizarre taste in the way they do their hair...
That's it. Thanks for all the interesting updates you've been doing. Thoroughly enjoyed reading them!
First, I refuse to pay more than $15 for a haircut, so I've never bothered with the fancy hair salons in this country. Second, most Japanese hair products are tailored to the locals, who predominantly have very straight, black hair with a slightly coarse texture. My hair has a completely different texture, a slight wave to it, and can't seem to settle on a specific color in the summer. As far as many Japanese are concerned, I already have a weird haircut, no matter what I do to my hair. True story-- first time I had my hair cut in Japan, the barber asked me if I wanted it colored and permed... again. He looked quite surprised when I informed him my hair was 100% natural.
Thanks for the letter! I thoroughly enjoyed answering it!
I really don't have to say what I'll be up to this weekend, do I? Seriously. If you can't guess from the column, then I give up on you.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,