While Christianity never made too much of a foothold in the Japanese culture, Christmas is one of the most widely recognized holidays in the country. There are heavily decorated trees in every store, lights on every building facade, and carols both traditional and modern play incessantly as you shop. One of the most popular items of the season, however, is the Christmas cake.
Japanese-style Christmas cakes are picturesque little things, heavy with white frosting and topped with berries. The words "Merry Christmas" will certainly be found written somewhere on it. Every grocery store, bake shop, and convenience store in the country offers them on order, for prices ranging from around $25 to around $60. I've never liked them, personally, as they have this generic, picture-perfect quality to them that seems to be more important than taste. Certainly they're no substitute for grandma's homemade cherry chocolate cake.
By now, the Christmas cake is firmly entrenched in Japanese tradition, and it has been for decades. They've been in the public consciousness for so long, they once entered Japanese slang for a while. Back in the 1980s, around the time of the bubble economy, the Japanese economy saw a rise in the number of young woman who delayed getting married in favor of careers. At the time, the average marriage age was early to mid 20s for women, and with the usual Japanese chauvinism, the new generation of working women in their late 20s and 30s were sometimes referred to as Christmas Cakes -- as in, not much in demand after the 25th. This is a bit of slang that has fallen by the wayside in recent years, largely because the number of women choosing career over marriage has only increased in the last two decades, and the average marrying age for women is now somewhere in the late 20s or early 30s.
Famitsu Weekly really does have some interesting side-columns, and I've been collecting a few for the last few months. I shared some back in October, and now here's what I've found since then:
Hiroyuki Maeda continues with his regular series, the Lovely Lady Lab, with these three pinups. The first is of course Aigis from Persona 3. The second is Ayane from Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive. The last is Shiori of Tokimeki Memorial fame.
Just trying to bring a little cheer to the holiday...
Sgt. Frog and the gang have been dragged into a mysterious fantasy world. What's a frog to do? For someone as genre-savvy as Keroro, the answer is obvious: Find the Bad Guy, and kick his butt! This is a fantasy video game, after all, surely there's a Dark Lord or Demon King or somesuch lurking in the shadows.
By Jove, I think we have a winner! Introducing Lord Agon, dis-armed and dangerous. He's not alone, however. He's brought his little sisters into the fight.
First is Alea, in her kimono, platform sandals, and Noh mask. The serious one of the family, she's bored with the fantasy world, and wants to see what the "real world" has to offer. Next is Ilynx the Dominatrix, whose appearance really says it all. The youngest sister is Mimikuri, who is twelve years old and a little brat. Watch out for that teddy bear.
When one's lost and wandering, it's always good to have company. In Shiren 4, the titular wanderer isn't the only one who's out of place. A wayward cowgirl has found her way to the tropics, and she's willing to lend a hand if it helps her get home too.
Meet Milly, a straight-shooting paragliding enthusiast who somehow got blown far off-course while en route to Texas. Since she's a firearms specialist, she has no problem sniping monsters from relative safety behind Shiren.
No amount of meat-shielding is going to protect a person from the traps on this island, however. There are flood traps, magma traps, spike traps -- you name it, the dungeons around here seem to have it. Fun times!
So, will this odd pair make it out alive? Will they find the Jaguar's Eye and thus procure the safety of the game's maiden-fair before she gets sacrificed? Rogue-like enthusiasts will get to decide that for themselves come Feb. 25th.
I've said this several times in the past, and each time I've been a bit surprised by it, but... the Playstation 2 isn't dead yet. Again. Bandai-Namco and Flight-Plan have announced another RPG for the system, this time a Summon Night game.
Summon Night Granthese - Horobi Tsurugi to Yakusoku no Kishi (The Ruined Blade and the Promised Knight) takes the series to a new world -- Jewelnotes, the Shining Realm. Once upon a time it was a unified, peaceful land, but territorial disputes began to break up its political unity. Then someone brought the Sword of Disaster into play, and the political breakup of the realm turned far more literal than anyone would have ever wanted. Now Jewelnotes lies shattered and plunged into the dark ages.
In series tradition, this is about the time the heroes are brought into the fray. In the tiny pocket dominion of Cuscus three disparate allies (along with their twiggy mascot) have summoned Millette and Lost from the Kingdom of Graibell to help them with their troubles. The question is, will they be able to help Dino the Demorl, Coco the Melmer, and Folt the Forite save the world?
I reckon maybe.
The folks at Nippon Ichi know that no man is an island, and they're showing that understanding in the upcoming Absolute Hero Makeover by providing the hero with a family of his own. Of course, the great Makenonger is the sort of guy who still lives with his parents, and one can only imagine the kind of "support" he's going to get from mom, dad, and annoying little sister in his new vocation.
Standing on the sidelines are a pair of characters only identified at this point as "The Couple". They, among others, witness the adventures of heroes like Makenonger every day on the television, adding commentary, moral support, and perhaps something more in times of great need.
It looks like Nippon Ichi is really playing up the TV superhero show parody in this one, and in more ways than just silly costumes and sillier battle poses. The television-viewing audience definitely plays some role in how things turn out, though from the screens it's difficult to tell if it's more than just moral support. What's certain is that the commentary is going to be as snarky as can be.
And finally, what superhero epic would be complete without some antagonism? The darkly handsome cowboy-looking guy is "The Reckless Detective Kikender", rival to the great Makenonger and general bad-ass. He's out to beat the bad guy as well, but when you're going up against a guy named Tanaka Deathdark you're going to need more than just attitude.
Seriously, this is shaping up to be a classic. Classic B-movie, perhaps, but still classic.
Most Likely a Letter
I'm well aware that the Japanese language borrows a lot of words from
English, but there's one that I'm not sure of whether it's bastardized
English or just coincidence. The phrase is "most likely." It sounds
something like "osuraiku." Are they trying to say "most likely" in
English or is there a Japanese phrase that both translates to and sounds
like "most likely." This has been bothering me for quite some time now.
To keep more in the spirit of the column, what are your favorite English
words used in Japanese conversation and are there any that make you
cringe hearing them?
The word you're thinking of is osoraku, and it is 100% Japanese.
As for loan words that I like, I'd have to go with any that make my job of teaching English easier. For example, the phoneme "-tion" would normally be a pain to teach to anyone, but there are so many loan words in Japanese that use it (like potion, attraction, audition, or carnation) that it's actually not so difficult at all. It's the contracted words, like puramo (plastic model) or waishaatsu (white shirts), that annoy me, since my students will often assume that any non-Japanese word in katakana is appropriate English. I have taken to including a toy frying pan in my food-themed lessons, just so I can bonk a student on the head when they ask for pan instead of bread.
Thanks for writing in!
And that's all she wrote for 2009! Next Friday is Christmas and the week after is New Year's, so don't expect a new column for three weeks or so. I'll do my best to keep up with the material and ensure that the first column of 2010 is a big one. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Best wishes from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,