Culture

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...]

Sonny Chiba vs Bruce Lee: The Debate Finally Put to Rest

"He's the cat they call The Street Fighter! Yeah he's pretty cool. He's no Bruce Lee, but who in the hell is?"(Phillips) It's the Asian cinema equivalent of Batman versus Superman, of Ali versus Tyson, of Schwarzenegger … [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...]

Interview with Sarah Feinerman from Design Festa

International Art Event Design Festa is an explosion of creativity that happens twice a year at Japan's largest convention center, Tokyo Big Sight. It's the largest art event of its kind in Asia, so big that it recently … [Read more...]

Exploring Shueisha (and an Interview with a Manga Editor!)

Recently, I interviewed a manga scriptwriter named Araki Joh, the author of several best selling manga series published by Shueisha, the publishing house behind the Jump line of manga. If you're not familiar with Jump … [Read more...]

Interview with Araki Joh, the Best Selling Writer of Japan’s Most Intoxicating Manga

Manga and alcohol are a wonderful mix. Sadly, few artists explored this pairing before Araki Joh wrote the manga, "Sommelier," in 1996. It is the story of a Japanese wine connoisseur living in France and was eventually … [Read more...]

Kid’s Anime for Japanese Learners

When I started learning Japanese, the inability to pick up on words in anime, movies and music frustrated me. Aside from "Okā-san!", "Otō-san!" and "Kusou!", I had trouble catching words and phrases and my listening skills … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]