People

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...]

The Island In-between: Tsushima and the Sō Family, Part 1

You may have never heard of the island of Tsushima, but for hundreds of years it was the door between Japan and Korea. Tsushima’s location was ideal for international trade, situated roughly fifty kilometers from the … [Read more...]

Becoming a Child in Japan: Learning Through Curiosity and Humility

If you're an adult in your home country, you have an idea of who you are, how others see you, and how to act in a way that reflects how you want to be treated. However, when living abroad in a country whose language and … [Read more...]

Badass Chicks in Japanese History: Murasaki Shikibu

Second in a series chronicling—you guessed it—female badassery in Japan. As you might have guessed from the inaugural article in this series, the sword-slinging samurai Tomoe Gozen seems like a tough act to follow. That … [Read more...]

Five Ways To Experience Japan Without Leaving Home

I’m sure for a lot of us, visiting or living in Japan is high on our list of things to do. But when you can’t make the trip overseas, there are lots of ways to experience Japan without getting on a plane. In fact, some of … [Read more...]

Lords of Kumamoto: Kato Kiyomasa and the Hosokawa

Last fall I visited Kumamoto Castle. Though mostly a reconstruction, it’s impressive nonetheless. There is currently a regular live show on the castle grounds, in which actors dressed as famous samurai stage mock fights … [Read more...]

A Crash Course in Japanese Poetry

I remember reading Japanese poetry for the first time in the second grade. Don’t ask why it stuck with me; I just remember reading a haiku by Matsuo Bashō and thinking it was awesome. I remembered it well enough that I … [Read more...]

Mr. Heavy Metal: An Interview with Marty Friedman

Imagination time: You're one of the world's greatest guitar players and a pioneer of the metal genre. You've had an illustrious career in the U.S. and it shows no signs of stopping. You're at the top of the world! Where do … [Read more...]

HELP! I Don’t Know How To ALT!

Summer is almost here, bringing with it sweltering heat, limited edition Crunky ice cream bars, and a whole new flock of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Maybe your dream of coming to Japan is finally coming true. Soon … [Read more...]

The Empire Built On Egg Shells: An Interview With TanKuma Owner Gensho Nishigaki

What an eggy week it has been! I wrote a travel review of an Egg Vending Machine and a raw-egg-on-rice (tamago-kake-gohan) restaurant called Tankuma. I also wrote simply about the famous Japanese dish tamago kake gohan. I … [Read more...]

Japanese Food Models, Yesterday And Today

If you’ve ever visited Japan and had to order food without benefit of being able to read Japanese, there’s one thing that’s a lifesaver: those plastic food replicas lined up in the windows of many restaurants. With their … [Read more...]

How To Speak Beautiful Japanese: An Interview With Yomiuri TV Announcer Naomi Uemura

I know most everybody here loves to watch Japanese television. That’s why I thought it would be interesting to interview somebody who was actually on Japanese TV. I was surprised when I heard back from Yomiuri TV’s 25 year … [Read more...]

Japan’s Epic History Of Discrimination Against The Mustache

If you ever go to Japan, you’ll come to realize that almost all men, especially salarymen, don’t have mustaches (or facial hair for that matter). Although shaving your mustache can sometimes cause trouble (watch Koichi’s … [Read more...]

Hiroshi Yamauchi: The Very Non-Whimsical Willy Wonka Of Nintendo

In the west, we like our media kingpins to be creative. And not just creative on a few things in their lives, but visionary geniuses we can laud as people worth worshiping. Walt Disney and Jim Henson are two great … [Read more...]