In Japan

Japan’s Robot Theater and the Rise of the Android Actor

ROBOTS CAN ALREADY VACUUM YOUR HOUSE AND DRIVE YOUR CAR. SOON, THEY WILL BE YOUR COMPANION. ~"Friend for Life" By Adam Piore for Popular Science (November 2014) Or so predicts Popular Science magazine in response to a US … [Read more...]

Hideo Nomo, Baseball Rebel With a Cause

2014 marked the 50th anniversary of Masanori Murakami's Major League Baseball debut. Sent to the San Francisco Giants farm system for developmental purposes, Murakami sparkled when he took the mound in the minor leagues. … [Read more...]

The Ghibli Dictionary: A Japanese Study Guide Revolution!

Last year, a new English-Japanese dictionary was released in Japan for Japanese people learning English. This may not seem very special until you hear the title: Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Padawan … [Read more...]

Don’t Get Sued! Libel, Slander, and Defamation Laws in Japan

Scandal erupted back in 2007 when a Japanese weekly magazine, Shukan Gendai, reported that Asashoryu, a grand champion sumo wrestler, had bought his way to the top, paying off opponents in exchange for winning matches, and … [Read more...]

A Neurotic’s Tips to Tokyo Travel

The first time I went to Japan was because I was invited to a conference. Despite studying the language and being interested in the food, gardens, and culture, I'd never had the nerve to plan my own trip. I was terrified … [Read more...]

Japan’s Sacrificial Lamb – The Okinawa Military Base Controversy

Despite its small size, Okinawa sure has giant problems. Due to its strategic location, Okinawa has struggled as a pawn in Japanese and US affairs since before World War II. Today, the independent kingdom turned … [Read more...]

Japonism: How Japan Shaped Modern Art

Art is pretty awesome. One of the most awesome things about art is how it can bring people together. Throughout history, neighbouring peoples have constantly exchanged aesthetic ideas, inspiring the form and content of … [Read more...]

Christians in Kyushu, Part 3: The Last Stand

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 to understand the history of Japanese Christianity that bring us here! When last we left our holy heroes, the situation for Christians in Japan had gone from tenuous to … [Read more...]

What It’s Like Going To The World’s Largest Yukigassen (Snowball Fighting) Tournament

In February of 2013, the Tofugu staff made a four-day stop at the Showa Shinzan International Yukigassen tournament. We had written about Yukigassen in the past, which is what originally piqued our interest. We had to see … [Read more...]

Tanuki: The Magical Canine with Gigantic Balls

The fox and tanuki seem quite similar at first glance. They're both smallish, wild canines native to Japan that play a prominent role in the country's folklore. In real life, both are adaptable and successful over a wide … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]