Hiromi-chan, Otanjoubi Omedetou!
There's something special going on in Japan this week. The Fifteenth of November is Japanese festival of Shichi-go-san, a major children's festival. Five-year-old boys, seven-year-old girls, and all the three-year-old children get to dress up in kimono and pose for pictures with their family at the local shrine. The festival's name means "Seven-Five-Three," which added together makes fifteen, hence the date chosen for the party. The three ages have long been considered milestones of childhood in Japan, and were originally celebrated in lieu of birthdays.
Speaking of which, it's also my girlfriend's birthday, so I hope you understand if this column is a little shorter than previous installments.
Well, RPGs still have a presence on the top 50 this week, but without the power of Pokemon, things would be looking bleak for the genre this time around. More than half of the games currently on the list have been hopping up and down the top 50 for at least a month (or a year, in the case of Pokemon), with almost all the new RPGs showing up in the last few weeks dropping off the list as soon as they appear. Why? Who knows. There's a major influx of new RPGs on the horizon, coincidentally in time with Thanksgiving, so we'll just have to see what the ratings look like in two weeks' time, now won't we?
I am happy to announce, as a follow-up to last week's news item, that the mobile-phone game Aegis: The First Mission is now available on phones other than those provided by DoCoMo. I might be back with more information on this game in a week or two.
If you're just tuning in for the first time this week The First Mission is a spinoff of Persona 3, and takes place 10 years prior to its parent game. I won't be saying anything more about the storyline, though any fan of P3 will probably know what things must have been included in this game.
Y'know, I was all ready to have a great "Disney does... (insert city name)" joke, but then I realized that there really aren't that many Japanese placenames that start with D. It's kind of odd, actually, but I was only able to find one, small city that would have fit the pattern, and I really couldn't do that to Dazaifu. It's a good town, with a nice big shrine -- very scenic.
Anyway, back to the Mouse. Disney has recently abandoned its attempts to break into the American cell-phone market, but only to try for something a bit more challenging and lucrative. The Japanese keitai (mobile phone) market is possibly the largest on the planet, and now the nation's #3 phone provider, SoftBank Corp., has agreed to rent out several of its unused phone wavelengths to Disney, and to market Disney's phone models in their nigh-ubiquitous branch offices. Starting next spring, people in Japan will be able to get their very own Mickey-phones.
So what's next? Will a game company take up the chance, and develop a cell phone model specifically for gaming? Only time will tell.
Ever had that urge to let out your inner ninja? Go on, you know you have. Well, if you're in the mood to go sneaking around Akihabara in Tokyo later this month, here's an event you might want to check out. Success Software, makers of the DS game Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja will be holding a series of really short fashion events at four different stores in that area, all in the space of one afternoon. Like the ninja, they will sneak in, hold photo ops, and to the timely go the spoils.
The occasion? The upcoming release of Izuna 2 : Sign of the Demon Descending (only a rough translation of the title, I'm afraid). The event? Four cosplay competitions. The time? November 29th, to coincide with the release of the new game. Each event will last about 20 to 30 minutes.
And now for the place. The first event will be in front of the main Gamer's store in Akihabara, at 4 o'clock. The second will happen in front of MediaLand's Akihabara branch at 4:50. At 5:40, the third event will start in front of the SofMap Akihabara Amusement Store, and the fourth will be at the Messesan'ou main branch at 6:30. Anyone wishing to participate will need to dress up as Izuna or her big sister Shino, a major character in the new game. Here are a few reference pictures:
Oh, and various actors and members of the design staff will be on hand to answer fan questions and sign autographs, if that kind of thing interests you
I know we in the US have our impressions of the way things are in Japan, but exactly how big is the gaming industry over there? Is there anything that really stood out to you about gaming that you didn't expect? Is it all hype that everyone and their grandmother plays games?
The short answer is, yes, gaming is big in Japan. Really big. Of course not everyone is interested in games over here. Just like in America, the under-30 demographic really carries the industry along. But one thing that did surprise me about Japanese gaming was how the big companies were trying hard to attract the older generations. Since Japan's population distribution is only going to become more umbrella-shaped in the next few decades, it probably shouldn't have been so surprising, though.
Nintendo has really been on the ball with it, though, with tons of published software for the DS that specifically targets the older crowd: crosswords and sudoku, electronic dictionaries that take advantage of the DS touchscreen, mind-training games for seniors, English practice games for practically all levels, digital travel guides for about half the planet, and even DS cookbooks for housewives. With all this available, the old story about everyone in the country having a DS isn't quite as ridiculous as it sounds at first. It is true that a heck of a lot of DS units have been sold, and not nearly all of them went into the hands of kids. I know at least one grandma who decided to get one for the learning games, and more power to her.
Dear Gaijin, I've heard that over in the land of Japan, the toilets are far from what we would expect of a toilet over here. Toilets can play music, spray water on your nether parts, and even heat the seat! Is there any specific reason why these toilets do not seem to make it over to North America?
From what I've seen, only a third of all public toilets are like that in Japan, and usually only in office buildings or really nice public areas. This is much better than a different third of all public toilets, which are often the older-style squatting toilets prefered by more traditional Japanese. How anyone can use those without falling over and soiling something, I have no idea.
Those super-hi-tech toilets can be confusing! Many's the time I heard a foreigner tell of his first few days in Japan, when he accidentally hit the bidet function on the office toilet by accident. It's a bit of a shocker, if you're not expecting it. As to why they never bring them to America, though? My only guess is that the last time they showed one of the things to a focus group, someone hit the wrong button combination and morphed the toilet into a miniature Gundam, or something like that. Seriously, half of us can't handle all the buttons on our VCR correctly, how are we to deal with that level of complexity in our toilets?
Anyway, big thanks to you and Mac for the questions today!
Well, I managed to put a little more into it than I'd planned on. There is a lot of stuff coming out in the next week, though, so I'll try to get on top of it for your Japanese cultural bemusement
Your man in Japan