No, I’m not talking about conspiracy theories that talk about our end times and the Illuminati. I’m talking about dance, and definitely no ordinary dance. WORLD ENDING DANCE… *ahem* … well, maybe not. But absolutely remarkable dance, at the very least. John wrote about Polysics, the most eccentric band in Japan somewhat recently. I think World Order gives them a run for their money.
Archives for January 2012
Japan has had many different names in its time. We in America are lucky. We just have “America,” “The United States,” and “The United States Of America.” I don’t think we’ve really been called much else, at least not as an entire nation. Japan, on the other hand, has been called so many different things, not all of them particularly flattering. But, luckily for them they’ve had plenty of names to choose from, and for now it looks like most of the world is going to stick with Japan (even though Japan uses a different set of names to call themselves with). So what was “Japan” known as a long, long time ago? Who were these people thousands of years ago? Who were they even before time itself?? Let’s find out. [Read more…]
Last year, I wrote about a plan by the Japanese government to give away 10,000 free airplane tickets to Japan to boost its slumping tourism industry.
Unfortunately last week, the Japan Tourism Agency announced that the “Fly To Japan” project had failed to get funding in the Japanese government’s budget
While I’m really disappointed that I won’t be able to get to Japan on the government’s dime, I can definitely understand why the plan didn’t go through.
It might come across as a little insensitive for the government to spend so much money on free airplane tickets when there’s still so much that needs to be cleaned up and rebuilt in the Tohoku area. Not to mention that tourist money wouldn’t likely directly help earthquake and tsunami victims.
Alternatives Ways To Japan
If you had your little heart set on those free tickets to Japan, fear not! There are still plenty of ways to get to Japan if not for free, then very cheaply. If you’re really serious and determined about going to Japan, then there are tons of great opportunities out there for you. Here are some alternate routes of getting to Japan.
If you’re going to college or university, there are often very inexpensive ways of traveling abroad through your school, either through partnerships with other schools or through grants and scholarships. Even some high schools offer programs to Japan. If you can show that you’re eager and serious about learning, then your school will usually try its best to accommodate you.
Koichi and intern-turned-writer-extrodinaire John both went to Japan through school study abroad programs, and Koichi wrote a great guide a few years back on how to get a scholarship, which you should definitely read here.
The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme is a well-known and long-running program created by the Japanese government that takes native English speakers from other countries (mainly the US) and places them into teaching positions all across Japan.
The program requires you to have a university degree, but other than that there’s basically no teaching or language experience required.
Not to mention that JET is an actual job, meaning you’ll be paid for going to Japan. Pretty good deal, right?
Last year, I wrote about WWOOF, AKA World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF is more of a working vacation than a leisurely visit, but you’ll nevertheless have a place to stay and food to eat in Japan. If you’re at all interested, there’s tons more information in the post (and comments!) here.
Make Your Own Way
Of course, if none of the above methods sound appealing to you, you can always try to make it to Japan with your own, hard-earned cash. This can be tough because it means that you’ll not only be planning everything from start to finish, but you’ll be be paying for everything too.
Fortunately visiting Japan on the cheap can be a lot easier (and more rewarding) than you might think.
Places To Stay
Hostels are always an inexpensive option, and should be a familiar concept to anybody who’s traveled on the cheap before.
There are also tons of online resources to help you connect with people who want to give you a a place to stay. Sites like Airbnb and CouchSurfing will let you find people who will let you stay at their homes.
And if you’re comfortable enough, you can look at what the homeless do in Japan. Last year Koichi covered how the homeless in Japan live cheaply, including staying in capsule hotels and internet cafés. Might not be the most appealing option, but it certainly does the job.
Where To Go (Avoid The Big Cities)
Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are all great, world-class cities. I have nothing against them, but if you want to visit Japan cheaply, you should avoid them at all costs.
Because these cities are so great and popular, they’re usually pretty expensive. For that reason, you should gravitate away from the well-known tourist destinations and check out the many other cool and interesting parts of Japan.
But really, the bottom line is that if you really want to go to Japan, there are tons of ways for you to get there. And believe it or not, there are even lots of people who want to help you out! You just have to know where to look.
I’m sure that there are many, many more groups and organizations that can help you get to Japan that I didn’t mention in this post. If you know of any more, please let us know in the comments so we can spread the word!
EDIT: For those of you asking about getting cheaper airline tickets to Japan, check out Koichi’s post “How To Get Cheap Airplane Tickets To Japan” here.
Well 2012 is here so you might be asking yourself “what new J-drama should I kick the year off with?” Luckily for you I’ve just recently found one that I really like and have no qualms about recommending to everyone and anyone. And that drama is Watashi ga Renai Dekinai Riyuu (私が恋愛できない理由 ((The Reason I Can’t Find My Love)) aka “Wataren”. It’s a pretty standard romantic comedy (romedy?) spanning ten episodes, but it’s definitely one of the better shows in the genre, especially as of late. Its viewership rating was 15.8% (Kanto) which isn’t too bad at all (Densha Otoko‘s was 21.04% to give you a bit of perspective – there’s usually a good chance of anything higher than 15% being worth checking out).
It was also highly anticipated and its first episode received a viewership rating of 17%, the most successful first episode since Tsuki no Koibito (which was also really good) in the summer of 2010.
And we all know that Japanese dramas are great. Even the venerable Koichi himself once said, “One of the most addicting things in the world is Japanese drama. If I needed to quit cocaine or something like that, this is what I’d use to kick it.”
Finding and “Using” J-Dramas
A while back, Koichi wrote a great post entitled Studying With Japanese Drama: The Step-By-Step Guide. If you watch a lot of dramas, or plan to in the future, you should do yourself a favor and give the guide a look-see. It will be invaluable in making your Japanese studies all the more enjoyable.
And for those of you who have no idea how to treasure hunt for great dramas, DramaWiki is a great place to find them. One of their most useful tools is the Upcoming J-Drama page where they list the dramas from every television season and give plenty of details about them. DramaWiki is definitely your one-stop-shop when you’re hunting for J-dramas. It’s helped me find almost all of my favorite Japanese shows. But enough of that, let’s get on to what this new show is all about.
Left to right: Mako, Fujii, and Saki.
Well, Wataren highlights the lives of three women, Fujii Emi (Karina), Ogura Saki (Yoshitaka Yuriko), and Hanzawa Mako (Oshima Yuko of AKB48). They’re all looking for love but each one has something that is getting in the way of their romantical happiness.
Fujii works for a lighting company as a lighting technician, where she is surrounded by men due to the nature of the profession. This has shaped her into a very tom-boyish woman who is very much one of the guys. She has a straight-forward and generous personality, but is unconcerned about general feminine interests such as fashion.
You’ll rarely if ever see Fujii in anything more extravagant than jeans and a t-shirt, let alone a dress. She is often treated like one of the guys by her boss and colleagues, and feels that being in love is tiresome. However, she cannot forget about her ex-boyfriend and co-worker and hopes to someday fall truly in love.
Saki is prideful and determined, but fails in landing a desirable job. As a result, she starts to work at a bar as a hostess, keeping the fact a secret from her parents. Her love interest in the story is a little bit more involved than Fujii’s so I’m not going to spoil anything for you by detailing it here.
Mako is the youngest of all, having attended the same high school following Fujii and Saki. She is earnest and responsible, but on the other hand, rather clumsy and afraid of taking chances on a romantic relationship.
Mako gets into all sorts of dumb office romance situations and her part of the story easily frustrates me the most. She’s just really naive when it comes to love and relationships. (On a side note, I really prefer Oshima Yuko with long hair rather than the short style she’s sporting in this drama (although it kind of makes sense for her character). Long hair works a lot better for her I think.)
But anyway, the three main characters end up living together in the same house, and it is there that they share each other’s experiences, bitter or sweet, desperately struggling with their individual love lives. Drama ensues, laughs are had, and overall it’s a delightful show that I would heartily recommend to any fan of J-drama, especially those who like romantic comedies (or any of the actors from the show, they all do a good job).
Synopsis credit to DramaWiki.
I looked around for a trailer or something for the show but the best I could come up with was the first five minutes of the first episode which kind of sets up the feel of what the show will be about (pursuing love vs pursuing career success, etc) and briefly introduces us to the three main characters. No subs for the video (sorry) but I think after reading the synopsis, even without subs the video below is pretty easy to follow along with (if you have any questions on what anything means, feel free to ask in the comments).
All in all it’s a very good show and it takes you along for an emotional but ultimately satisfying ride. I haven’t been this into a J-drama for about a year or so and I was really glad to find it. You should at least give the first episode a watch.
I know from the synopsis that the show doesn’t sound like anything special and I don’t really know how to explain what sets it apart, but it’s just really well done and really well acted. The cast really makes the show here I feel. It’s super emotional and really tugs your heartstrings in all sort of directions. I feel like a lot of people can relate to the show in one way or another because it seems so real and believable. I fully recommend this show. It’s really good.
And Just In Case…
If you totally hate J-dramas, here’s an awesome and totally unrelated Japanese music video for you. Enjoy.
Japanese vending machines are a magical thing. Not only are there more vending machine per person in Japan than anywhere else in the world (1 vending machine for every 23 Japanese people), but they’re also incredibly inexpensive and convenient.
For a mere １５０円, you can have any Japanese soda, milk tea, iced coffee, or other novelty beverage your heart desires.
But that’s not all; the Japanese have vending machines for practically everything. Want a fresh banana straight from a vending machine? You got it!
In short: they bring clunky American vending machines to shame.
Japan has upped the ante once again and begun to stock its vending machines with the greatest product of them all: the internet.
The Problem With WiFi In Japan
As Koichi wrote about a few years ago, finding wireless internet in Japan can be a huge pain. While Japan has some of the speediest internet in the world, it can be tough to find a public place to get your internet fix.
Fortunately, beer titan and vending machine operator Asahi has decided to combine Japan’s fast internet and awesome vending machines into a vending machine that dispenses honest-to-God free wireless internet.
The wireless signal reaches out about 50 meters (or about 150 feet) and auto-kicks people after half an hour, so no four-hour-long WoW raids on vending machine wifi while slurping down can after can of Boss Coffee.
Once you connect to the WiFi, you’ll be welcomed by a screen that shows you everything that’s available in the vending machine, along with information about local businesses and tourism. Definitely a lot more friendly than stealing your neighbor’s WiFi.
Line ‘Em Up!
Asahi hopes that customers will be drawn in by both the free internet and tasty beverages like moths to a flame.
And it helps that the Japanese are notorious for loving to wait in line. The longer and more useless the line, the better. A brand new doughnut shop? Better wait 4 hours in line for a taste.
Perhaps the hope is that as people start hovering around Asahi vending machines to siphon some of that sweet, sweet WiFi, more people will be attracted to the machine. If there are people loitering around a vending machine, then surely there must be a good reason, right?
Will Asahi’s new vending machines create popular hangouts around soft drink dispensers? Well, probably not, but it’s still a pretty cool idea, and will be definitely welcome in WiFi-starved Japan.