Phillip Clayton - September 23, 2004 - 8:12 Eastern Standard Time
So much space to fill, so little to talk about. Luckily, resident staff reviewer and PR Manager Paul Koehler has bestowed us with some commentary this week regarding his recent trip to Japan. So, without further adue, take it away Paul!
Tadaima! Hey everyone, itís Paul ďAmishĒ Koehler, RPGamerís Public Relations Manager and one of the staff reviewers. I had the extraordinary privilege of working as an American Counselor in Japan this summer, teaching English to Japanese students from elementary to high school level.
Iíll confess to you right now that I donít nearly have the inside scoop to give you as Andrew Duff did in one of his columns shortly after he returned to the States. However, going to Japan was an eye-opening experience. Not only was it my first time outside of North America, it was also a look at a completely different culture that has provided us most of the games that all of us who read this site revere so much.
Nevertheless, video games arenít the heart and soul of the culture, either. If any anime fans are reading this, I might add that the word otaku (translation: freak) has all the negative connotations that it does in the states, and then some. Worst of all was a documentary I caught on one of the NHK stations while in an isolated mountain camp in western Aichi prefecture.
It chronicled the adventures of a female anime fan in the Houston area as she prepared for one of the local conventions (Oni-Con, iirc). The coverage wasnít flattering though. Even one of the bands playing at the con mentioned something along the lines of ďWe like the fact that these Americans love our music, but they are a little strange
All cynicism aside, fans of console games will appreciate the trip. First off, thereís the ďpromised landĒ of Akihabara Electric City in Tokyo. Like many of the more popular spots in Tokyo (Shibuya, Asakusa Shrine, Shinjuku, Ueno Park, etc.), itís filled with its share of tourists. Nevertheless, you canít blame anyone for going in whatís often regarded as one of the best areas in the world to get top of the line electronics, and games. I myself picked up Tales of Destiny 2 (PS2), and Mother 1&2 GBA while in the district.
Letís not get mistaken though: like just about everything else in the country, games are going to be put at a much higher price threshold than they are in North America. Case in point: preorders for Dragon Quest VIII were going for over 8000 yen (USD equivalent: ~$72.00).
Even with the price gap, there are plenty of ways to get around it. Since Japanís bubble economy burst in the early 90s, there has been a plethora of discount stores that have popped up across the nation. Besides the ever-present (and quite nice) hyakuen shops, there are your usual video game stores. I want to give props to the Mambo used video game store in Toyohashi, Aichi-ken. There, I was able to pick up strategy guides for Dragon Quest VII and Star Ocean 3, plus a used copy of Tales of Phantasia GBA. Grand total? Under 4000 yen (USD equivalent: ~$36.00).
One other interesting observation: the gap between Japanese and North American/European release dates is closing quickly. A good case study is the upcoming Nintendo DS. Japanese release date? December 2 American release date? November 21. Even many of the students I talked to are starting to get the idea that one of their most famous cultural exports are the games themselves. A good half of the American male staff that I worked with wanted to come to Japan partly because of their experiences with our particular sub-culture. We even had a group of high school girls participate in a mock Kingdom Hearts/Final Fantasy battle skit. It was great.
Thatís that for now. If I get some of my pictures processed in the near future that will be of interest to anyone, Iíll be glad to upload them and tell individual stories later. For now, I must go, but if you read this columnÖ.arigatou gozaimasu!
Thanks Paul. I have no idea what "-30-" means, or even if it was intended to be included here, and I definately don't know what "arigatou gozaimasu" means. So I'll just pretend that the latter is some kind of ages old Japanese proverb that means "May this column rock, and its host mysteriously acquire some good games in the mail through an anonymous source."