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Interview with Ken Taya, aka Enfu, the Master of Japanamericana

When the review copy of Ken Taya's art book, "Enfu: Cute Grit", arrived at the Tofugu office, I knew I had something special in my hands. It was one instance where judging a book by its cover was very appropriate. I sat … [Read more...]

QuantityNotQuality-5120

Why Quantity, Not Quality, Makes You Fluent In Japanese

I'd like the start this article with a quote from "Art & Fear", a book written by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on … [Read more...]

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Christians in Kyushu, Part 2: The Shogun Strikes Back

Be sure to check out Part 1 before engaging in this epic second part. When we last left off, Oda Nobunaga, the padres' most powerful patron had just perished.  The next great unifier to take his place was a general of … [Read more...]

doctorfugu-5120

How To Survive Japan’s Medical System

While I was living in Japan, the scariest thing for me was the thought of getting sick. Having to deal with medical issues in a language I didn't fully understand and in a system I wasn't familiar with sent chills through … [Read more...]

ninkyoeiga-5120

Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara: The Death of Yakuza Cinema

2014 has proven a sad year for Japanese cinema with the passing of two legends: Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara. Although close in age, the two came to represent opposing eras of yakuza cinema - Ken Takakura's honorable … [Read more...]

ubume-5120

Japanese Horror Fiction: Emotions Unearthed

The New Year is bright and shiny and new and you're probably thinking about your resolution to study more kanji, while Halloween is far in the rear-view mirror. Well, I’m firmly of the belief that Halloween should be … [Read more...]

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GTO 2012 Review

Has Japan caught a case of reboot-itis? In the case of GTO, it has! And as a fan of all things GTO, I looked forward to this reboot with great anticipation, because more Onizuka is always a good thing... right? … [Read more...]

stfj-5120

Christians in Kyushu, Part 1: Guns and Rosaries

In 1543 the first Europeans arrived in Japan. Two (maybe three) Portuguese merchants aboard a Chinese ship were blown off course and forced to land on the island of Tanegashima, just south of Kyushu. Only six years later, … [Read more...]

talkingtunnelsbruh-5120

An Exclusive Interview with the Seikan Tunnel Stations

The Seikan Tunnel is an undersea tunnel running from Honshu, Japan's main island, to Hokkaido, its northernmost island. A train station can be found at each end of the tunnel: namely Yoshioka-Kaitei Station (Fukushima, … [Read more...]

yumyuminsects-5120

Wined, Dined, Brined, and Intestined: Acquiring a Taste for Japanese Delicacies

The world has fallen in love with Japanese cuisine. It has even been recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. You probably know all about the big stars of Japanese food: sushi, noodles, onigiri. Maybe you've … [Read more...]

owl-cafe-japan

Owl Cafe: Fukuro no Mise

Whatever other worries Japan has about its economy, there's one business where it's clearly the world leader: animal cafes. While Americans were pathetically excited about a temporary cat cafe in New York, Japan long ago … [Read more...]

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Spiders in Japan: The Tiniest Kaiju

Arachnophobes be warned. Today's article is all about our little eight-legged friends. Spiders, and monsters inspired by them, have held a place in Japanese culture for centuries. Japan is also currently dealing with the … [Read more...]

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Bushido: Way of Total Bullshit

The term bushido calls forth ghosts of Japan's hallowed samurai class.  A class so bent on preserving honor, they'd rather slit their own bellies in ritualistic suicide than live a shamed existence. In The Last … [Read more...]

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Kanzanji Temple

The Kanzanji Temple was established on the slopes of Mt. Tateyama by Kobo Daishi (Kukai) in 810AD, and is a branch of the Shuuyouji Temple on Mt. Akihasan. It was one of three places I visited while in Hamamatsu and was … [Read more...]

utsukushii-5120

Beauty is in the Language of the Beholder

Is a rose in full bloom beautiful? How about a decaying flower losing its petals? Are straight teeth or crooked teeth more aesthetically pleasing? Would you rather put a gilded porcelain vase or a warped, weathered piece … [Read more...]

goth-review

Goth: A Novel Of Horror

Otsuichi's Goth tells the stories of Kitazawa and Morino, two Japanese high school students with a disturbing passion for death and murder... and boy is it disturbing. I felt kind of dirty reading it.  Goth is actually a … [Read more...]

glaaaaahsses-5120

Megane Culture: Japan’s Love Affair with Glasses

Glasses. I choose to wear glasses. I own contact lenses, and I can finance laser eye surgery, yet I still choose glasses. Glasses just make sense. Perhaps if my profession deemed eyewear to be an obstacle, say skydiving or … [Read more...]

whoa-5120

How To Cope When Japan Isn’t Perfect

Life is life wherever it happens. Even if your dream of living in Japan has come true, you can still be blindsided by awful things sometimes. Bad things happen everywhere, but living in a foreign country can add an extra … [Read more...]

rascalyea-5120

Rascal’s Secret Plan: the Raccoon Invasion of Japan

Ah, mother nature. Forests and hills, rivers and oceans, blossoms and bees. Truly, the beauties of the natural world are essential to a happy life. Of course, mother nature has another, harsher side. Storms, droughts, … [Read more...]

japanese-for-travelers-cover

Japanese for Travelers

I’ve always lived by the “never buy a guide for a country outside of that country” saying. Whether it’s a map, tourist guide, or language guide, they’re pretty much guaranteed to be better quality and more accurate if you … [Read more...]

youkai-watch-review

Yo-kai Watch, Season 1

Call an onmyoji or an exorcist! The children are possessed. Youkai have taken over Japan! What started as a game has grown into a nationwide phenomenon and Yo-kai Watch (妖怪ウォッチ) can thank its anime adaptation for its … [Read more...]

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Kawaii Box

Monthly box subscriptions are all the rage lately. When the people behind Kawaii Box contacted us about reviewing their monthly box of cuteness we were pretty excited to see what they had to offer. As a quick … [Read more...]

yamagakuzu

Kuzukiri Yamaga

In the countryside of Southeast Nara there is a straw-thatched roof cafe known as Yamaga, located in an idyllic setting. The reason I came here wasn't all that interesting. It's pretty close to my hometown, and I … [Read more...]

excavator-5120

Miyagi 3 Years after 3.11: Slogans Are Cheap

It's been three and a half years since the disaster struck Japan. After writing about the situation in Fukushima prefecture, I was able to visit the tsunami disaster areas in Miyagi prefecture. Three and a half years … [Read more...]

skeletalwriting-5120

The Skeletal Structure of Japanese Horror Fiction

Mankind has been telling scary stories ever since we decided to start telling stories at all. It only makes sense—a lot of scary crap happens in life. The horror genre was born from folklore and oral tradition that … [Read more...]

mochisamuraighost-5120

Over a Thousand Years of Service: Japan’s Oldest Businesses Reign Supreme(ly Old)

Businesses die like anything else. I used to give joke directions to a house where I lived that involved a whole sequence of useless instructions like "turn left where the dry cleaner used to be." If you've lived in the … [Read more...]

fabiokuma-2560

Wasei-Eigo: I Can’t Believe It’s Not English!

Borrowing words from other languages is a phenomenon as old as language itself. That’s why, even though you probably don’t speak French, Latin, German, Spanish, AND Japanese, you can somehow comprehend the following … [Read more...]

japanese-respect-language

Japanese Respect Language

Japanese respect language, or keigo 敬語, can be a very useful when speaking to and about bosses, higher ups, coworkers, etc. without sounding like a rude jerk in Japanese. In Japan, a new guide comes out every year … [Read more...]

Ando_Lloyd

Ando Lloyd

Ando Lloyd is a J-drama about androids, the future, and feelings. I started watching this show due to it starring Kimura Takuya and being a sci-fi drama. I haven't seen many sci-fi J-dramas, and this one looked intriguing. … [Read more...]

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Dealing with Disaster: Three Years After Fukushima

Living in Tokyo, I don't hear much about Fukushima's disaster recovery. Three years after the disaster, Tohoku's recovery only directly affects me through little donation boxes supermarkets and drug stores. The actual … [Read more...]

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Shunga: Japan’s Ancient Erotica

Vending machines selling school girl's panties?  Grown men reading pornographic comics in public?  Gender segregated train-cars to protect women from gropers? Ear-cleaning parlors with very happy-endings?  With situations … [Read more...]

teachinganon-1280

The Life Of A Junior High Night School Teacher

Last week, we learned what a junior high night school was and, as I mentioned, today we are going to hear from a teacher of one of those schools. The person I interviewed just started as a junior high night school teacher … [Read more...]

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Japanese Legal Loopholes: How Japan Looks Innocent While Breaking the Law

One of the big questions I asked myself while in Japan was "why?" Just "why." Not the usual, little "why's" that accompany a trip to a foreign nation like, "why are squatty potties so hard to use?" Rather, I couldn't help … [Read more...]

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Japan’s Three Climates: A Virtual Journey Through the Wilds of Japan

This is a story about you. Three years ago, you began to feel restless. Not “ time to take up a new hobby” restless, but more like “time to travel the world and have exciting, new experiences” restless. So you came … [Read more...]