In Japan

Practicing Japanese on the JET Program: At Work and in the Community

Now that you're settled on JET and have prepared your Japanese study regimen, it's time to use all Japanese all the time! But wait. At work you have to use English all day. And the majority of your time on JET is spent at … [Read more...]

Anime’s Great Deception – The Difference Between Anime and Cartoons

Even as a child, I sensed something different about cartoons like Robotech and Voltron. Compared to other shows, they struck me as serious, dramatic and stylish. Each episode contributed to a longer narrative and when … [Read more...]

Ashigaru – Japan’s Overlooked And Underappreciated Warriors

Samurai get too much credit. Japan’s foot soldiers, the ashigaru, started as nothing more than farmers pulled from the fields to swell a daimyo’s army. Yet as time passed they became a professional fighting force included … [Read more...]

The Epic Diplomacy of Winter Sonata in Japan

It’s no secret that Japan and Korea have a strained relationship. It wasn’t even 20 years ago that Korea lifted their ban on Japanese media (it was partially lifted in 1998, and fully lifted in 2004). While they aren’t the … [Read more...]

What Is a Butsudan? And Why Are People Paying $630,000 for Them?

Have you ever been to a temple in Japan and thought, "I wish I had some of this amazingness in my house?" Then the Japanese butsudan (仏壇) is for you. A butsudan is a small, household Buddhist shrine. Its exterior often … [Read more...]

The Books Behind Your Favorite Studio Ghibli Films

While there can be no doubt that Studio Ghibli draws strongly on Japanese material, such as the folk tales of the tanuki in Pom Poko or Shinto gods in Spirited Away, Ghibli is by no means culturally isolated. We may be … [Read more...]

Kappa: Japan’s Aquatic, Cucumber-Loving, Booty-Obsessed Yokai

The kappa is one of the most famous traditional yokai in modern day Japan. Even if you think you've never heard of it, you've probably encountered a reference at your local sushi bar. Ever wonder why cucumber roll is kappa … [Read more...]

The Secret Japan Air Self-Defense Force Gundam – And Other Stories

In August 2014, Japan’s defense ministry announced a new “Space Monitoring Force.” It will utilize personnel from the Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), the country’s air force. This new team is supposed to become active by … [Read more...]

Inside the Japanese TV Industry: An Interview with a TV Salarywoman

Last year, we interviewed a Japanese TV announcer, Naomi Uemura, and she taught us How To Speak Beautiful Japanese. Since she provided some intriguing insight into the business, I wanted to learn more about the Japanese TV … [Read more...]

The Other Side: What Do Japanese College Students Think of English?

Tofugu readers tend to be dedicated to improving their understanding of Japanese language and culture. So I think many reading this can agree that learning a foreign language can be a reeeeeeal pain. Learning a new way of … [Read more...]

Printed, Painted, and Sculpted Kitties – Cats in Japanese Art

Cats are an obsession in modern Japan. Most people have heard of cat cafes by now, but did you know there are cat shrines and even cat tourism?  Tama the cat was appointed stationmaster of a Wakayama train station … [Read more...]

The Taming of the Shroom: The Umamitastic World of Japanese Mushrooms

Mushrooms are an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, and there are so many varieties to choose from.  Hopefully this guide will make things a bit easier on you.  It will tell you what a mushroom is, their types and … [Read more...]

Have a Rice Day! Rice Cooker History, Features, Futures, and More

My brother had warned me, "Once you go rice cooker, you don't go back." He was right. I had grown up in a household where we cooked rice in a pot, on our stovetop. In college I used a hotpot to the same effect. Then … [Read more...]

25 Reasons To Join The JET Program (And 8 Reasons Not To)

If you're reading this, you must have some kind of interest in the JET Program. This isn't a decision to be made lightly, though. As a JET alumni myself, I've experienced (and heard stories of) the incredibly positive … [Read more...]