People

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 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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

Yakan Chuugaku: The Japanese Night Time Junior High Where The Uneducated Learn To Read Good

In recent years, many people from different countries have been coming to Japan. Their reasons for studying Japanese are as various as their backgrounds. Due to this diversity, local governments have begun shifting their … [Read more...]

How to Spice up Your ALT Lessons with the Nine Intelligences!

The Nine Intelligences: by itself the term sounds like an elite spy group or a color-coded hero team. "Gentlemen, we're clearly in over our heads.  The world is in danger.  Only The Nine Intelligences can save us … [Read more...]

10 Not-Japanese Foods Lost in Translation

Food is a great way to share culture, but sometimes it can be difficult. Like any other art, certain cultures value certain traits more than others. What's delicious to one may be disgusting to another. Add difficulty … [Read more...]

So You Want To Be A Japanese Translator? Starring Susanna Fessler

Here at Tofugu we get countless emails from people who want to be Japanese translators. While my own experiences are limited, I thought there would be no better person to ask than my former Japanese literature professor … [Read more...]

Interview with Medama-Sensei: The Racism-Battling Monk of YouTube

"In a couple of days, I will be gone for 1 year to become a buddhist monk in a forest monastery" is the Twitter post from last year that explained why one of my favorite Japan-video-makers had been absent on Youtube for a … [Read more...]

The Island In-between: Tsushima and the Sō Family, Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 in this series, make sure to go back and read it, before starting this one. Part 2 will make more sense and you won't be missing out on all the cool drama, intrigue, cultural faux pas, and … [Read more...]

A Long History Of Japanese Names, Part II

In the the previous Japanese names article we learned the history of Japanese family names and about the complicated 氏姓 (Uji-Kabane) naming systems. Do you recall my mention of a new naming system, 名字 (Myouji/Azana), … [Read more...]