Tofugu » Just For Fun http://www.tofugu.com A Japanese Language & Culture Blog Tue, 26 May 2015 16:18:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Fabulous World of Japanese Socks! http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/20/fabulous-world-japanese-socks/ http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/20/fabulous-world-japanese-socks/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=51110 Recently I was talking with a group of people who had all lived in Japan. The conversation turned to socks, as it does. Everyone agreed that they missed Japanese socks passionately. One person, who was taking a trip to Japan, had already earmarked sock-buying time while he was there. If you haven’t lived in Japan, […]

The post The Fabulous World of Japanese Socks! appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Recently I was talking with a group of people who had all lived in Japan. The conversation turned to socks, as it does. Everyone agreed that they missed Japanese socks passionately. One person, who was taking a trip to Japan, had already earmarked sock-buying time while he was there. If you haven’t lived in Japan, you might not think that socks would inspire such affection, but that’s probably because you haven’t experienced the wonders of Japanese socks.

Tabi

pink tabi

Photo by Nozomi

If we’re going to look at socks, we should start with the traditional tabi. Tabi (足袋) are ankle high and recognizable by their split toe design and hook fastenings. The split between the big toe and the other toes means they are suitable to wear with traditional Japanese footwear such as geta and zori that resemble sandals with a strap that attaches to the sole between the toes. Traditional tabi are made of stiffer material than socks. This is good since it provides some protection for your feet (is it just my weird feet or are zori super painful to wear?).

Tabi are still worn today when people dress in wafuku, traditional Japanese clothing such as kimono. I have a pair that were required for a kimono class, and tea ceremonies are good places to spot tabi. The best places to buy tabi are department stores and specialist kimono shops. Unlike a kimono, a pair of tabi are not very expensive. The traditional colours are white and black, but these days you can find all kinds of cute coloured tabi.

jikatabi soles

Photo by Ton Schlösser

Jika-tabi (地下足袋) are a variation of tabi. They are tabi-boots with rubber soles. Although they are a 20th Century invention, you’ll probably have seen them on the feet of “ninjas” in movies. In reality they are worn by rickshaw pullers, workmen, farmers and construction workers, though they are not as popular as they once were.

The jika-tabi name illustrates something important to keep in mind: it means tabi that connect with the ground. From this you can infer something about regular tabi: that they should never touch the ground. The Japanese attitude toward the boundary between inside and outside can clearly be seen with the use of socks. Just as you never walk with shoes in the house, you should also never pop outside in your tabi (or any kind of socks.)

Sock Etiquette

shoes at genkan

Photo by Erik

In Japan your socks are on display far more often than in some other countries, thanks to the traditional code of leaving your shoes at the door. Your feet and socks can be on show many times a day and people aren’t shy about commenting on them. Wearing dirty or worn out socks is a big faux pas – if you want to make a good impression, you must have nice socks.

There are some regional and generational differences about sock etiquette when visiting someone else’s home. Younger people are often more relaxed. However, there were exclamations of horror as a lady in my calligraphy class told a tale of how a visitor had had walked on her tatami with his bare feet! Outrageous! This is just anecdotal evidence, but I can still recommend wearing socks you wouldn’t be embarrassed by while you are in Japan. Take into account the TPO (that’s a bit of Japanese English that means Time, Place and Occasion). For example, sports socks are not appropriate in a business setting.

But having impressive socks to show off is no hardship, because luckily for you there is a fantastic selection of all kinds of socks in Japan.

Modern Tabi

modern tabi socks

Photo by pekochan

Modern tabi take the split toe design of traditional tabi and pair it with modern materials. They stretch and pull on like a normal sock and don’t have a clasp closure. Personally, I never found them very comfortable, but some people swear by them, claiming they have health benefits. Split-toed running shoes have also become popular in recent years, so split toed socks suit them perfectly.

I’ve noticed a difference between modern tabi socks inside and outside Japan. In Japan they are just another kind of normal sock. You can find them in a range of colours, from ones suitable for work to wacky character socks. Outside Japan, where they are available, they still fall into the category of novelties, and tend to be very Japanesey-kitsch, patterned with sushi, ninjas or other Japanese cultural stereotypes. It’ll be interesting to see if they break out and become more mainstream outside of Japan.

Five Toed Socks

five toed socks

Photo by Bert Kimura

If one toe split was good, five must surely be better. Or at least that’s the thinking behind 5本指の靴下 gohon-yubi no kutsushita. Five-toed socks are basically gloves for your feet. They were invented in Spain, but popularised in Japan. Japanese researchers at the University of Tsukuba even did research that showed five toed socks improve circulation in comparison with standard socks. They also supposedly help prevent athlete’s foot. Despite their health benefits, five-toe socks are not considered very fashionable, but if you visit a sock shop in Japan, there will probably be a five-toed sock section.

Warm socks

socks galore

Photo by Chris Gladis

These socks might not be cute, but they are cosy. I lived in Hokkaido, so I valued any socks that would keep my feet warm. There are many brands of socks which claim to have warming properties. My favourites were Uniqlo’s Heat Tech range and the slightly cheaper versions I could find at my local Aeon department store. Look out for them if you want toasty toes. They are a seasonal item, more common in the winter. There are cooling socks which use a different blend of materials in the summer too.

Character Socks

kawaii socks for sale

Photo by Ricado Sosa

Chances are your favourite Japanese character or mascot comes in sock form. You can find socks emblazoned with the faces of characters from the big hitters like Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma to more obscure characters like Hokkaido’s Marimokkori or the bean dog Mameshiba. Manga and anime characters also frequently make appearances on socks. Wearing character socks is a fun way to brighten up your day with your favourite character in a subtle way.

Screen printed socks

screenprinted socks

Photo by Cory Doctorow

I haven’t seen screen printed socks much outside of Japan, though perhaps the fashion has spread and I’m just not aware of it. The obvious attraction is that you can have a bright, detailed image on your feet. Woo cute koala feet! The downside is that these socks are usually made of synthetic material so are not as comfy as cotton socks. Whether you want to make that trade-off to have astronauts or macaroons on your socks is up to you.

Fuwa Fuwa Socks

fuwafuwa socks

Photo by Ranee Flory

フワフワ or もくもく socks are fluffy just as their onomatopoeic name suggests. Whenever I was chilling in my house, I was wearing fuwa fuwa socks. Thanks to their softness, they are a great alternative to slippers. I bought mine at the 100 yen store. They usually come in pastel colours and cute animal designs.

Chair socks

chair socks

Photo by joannej

In Japan, even the chairs wear socks. You might be thinking, why would a chair possibly need socks? However, consider that tatami mats were not designed to withstand western-style chairs with legs. The socks help to keep the chair legs from scratching or denting the floors. If you want to clothe your naked chairs, the best places to find them are 100 yen stores.

Slouchy “Gal” socks

gal socks

Photo by Ogiyoshisan

ルーズソックス Loose socks, (or more accurately legwarmers) were a must-have in the 90s among school girls, but it was the gal subculture who went to extraordinary lengths to have the most slouchy socks possible. Some girls wore socks that were longer than their own height in order to achieve an extreme effect. These socks are sold by length, often over 1 meter long and usually come in white. Fashion is a great snake that eats itself, and so in 2014 slouchy socks returned as retro. You can find them in stores that cater to teenage girls.

Kon-Hai 紺ハイ

seifuku

Kon-hai, or navy-blue high socks are the fashion successors to loose socks. In the 2000s, loose socks were out and knee high navy blue socks came in. They are also sometimes called 紺ハイソ or 紺ソク. They are worn with Junior and Senior High School uniforms. They are distinctive for their navy blue colour and for often having a small, embroidered logo near the top. This logo can be anything from a generic horse, to Rilakkuma, to the Statue of Liberty. Of course, the association with school girls feeds into the fetishisation of this section of society. However, in everyday life, they are just normal socks worn by normal girls.

Sock Obsession

zettai ryoiki

Photo by Beryl Chan

Now, I like socks. I like wearing them. They keep my feet warm and comfy. But after doing the research for this article, I’d be a fool not to know that some people like socks for different reasons. Looking for information on Japanese socks can take you to some very sketchy corners of the internet, but an article on socks would not be complete without mentioning of the fetishisation that surround them. Socks are a part of many school uniforms and are part of the cultural icon status of school girls. Another aspect of these socks as icon is 絶対領域 Zettai ryōiki. The phrase zettai ryōiki comes from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion and is a reference to defensive shields. In terms of socks zettai ryōiki refers to the area of skin revealed between the bottom of a skirt and the top of thigh high socks. It is common in character designs in manga, anime and games, as well as in real life, either as cosplay or as a fashion statement. A great amount of mathematical analysis has gone into this phenomenon. This is not really my kind of thing, but as long something it isn’t hurting anyone, it doesn’t bother me. And it certainly hasn’t put me off Japanese socks. It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Japanese socks are just another part of “otaku” Japan, but reality is far more broad and complex. There are socks in Japan for every taste, and now I’m going to tell you how to find them.

Sock Recommendations

Tabio

tabio shop

Tabio’s goal is to be the finest speciality sock store in the world. They’ve been opperating since 1984 and seem to have been doing a good job so far. You can find Tabio stores in Japan, France and the UK, but all the socks are made in Japan. Tabio is where you go for grown-up socks. Their range of socks is extensive, coming in a variety of lengths, colours, materials (including alpaca and silk!) and styles. If you are looking for a style of sock, Tabio probably has it, from five-toed socks, to walking socks, and of course a modern version of the tabi sock with a split toe. There is even a whole selection of wedding-after-party socks. This is the pricier end of the sock market, with socks ranging from about 800 yen to over 3000 yen. Tabio has an English language online store in the UK as well as Japanese online store.

Uniqlo

socks at uniqlo

Photo by alisdair

My partner is a huge fan of Uniqlo’s men’s socks. They come in significantly more than a rainbow’s worth of colours (50 to be exact), they fit true to size, and they last a long time. Before leaving Japan my partner stocked up on Uniqlo socks. He’s slowly adding the unworn pairs to those already in circulation so his supply lasts until he can get back to Japan for more (or Uniqlo comes to Canada.) When a colleague going on a bussiness trip to Japan asked him what souvenir he’d like, he said Uniqlo socks. Such is his love for these excellent and very reasonably priced socks.

Uniqlo’s women’s socks are also very nice. They come in a wide variety of lengths, from footies to ankle socks to knee socks, as well as tights. Living in Hokkaido and now Canada, I’m particularly fond of the Heat Tech line at Uniqlo. They often come in two or three packs and the patterns and colours change every season. You can’t go wrong with Uniqlo socks. They are comfortable, colourful and hard wearing and priced reasonably for the amount of wear you can get out of them. You can find Uniqlo stores all over Japan. Luckily for us sock lovers, Uniqlo has expanded overseas too and you can shop online for all the socks (and other clothes I suppose) you want. They might not be as exciting as some other socks, but they are dependable.

Muji

right angle socks

Photo by ORAZ Studio

The no-brand brand Muji has some nice socks. It was my go-to place for comfortable ankle socks that last. Much like most of Muji’s products, they aren’t flashy, but they are good quality. But Muji does have one particularly innovative sock, the 90 degree sock. Apparently the right angle design keeps you from getting tired, although having never tried it, I can’t vouch for that.

Village Vanguard

village vanguard shimokita

OK, that’s enough sensible socks. It’s time for some fun ones. A good place to start is Village Vanguard, which describes itself as an “Exciting Book Store.” Not exactly the first place you’d look for socks. But if you go inside you’ll find a lot of fun socks, particularly character socks, as well as a bunch of other wacky, fun stuff. If you are looking for souvenirs to make your friends laugh, Village Vanguard is a good place to go, and not just for socks. It has an online store, but it can’t recreate the overwhelming experience of visiting in person.

Sock Dreams

Finally, if you are in the US and looking for Japanese socks closer to home, my recommendation is Sock Dreams. This company is based in Portland, Oregon and has a good selection of Japanese socks, particularly modern tabi, as well as socks from the US and around the world. They also have a bricks and mortar shop, if you prefer that over online shopping.

Buying Socks

sock store

Photo by fletcherjcm

It’s not hard to find specialist sock stores in Japan. If you walk around any shopping area in a big city, you’ll probably come across more than one. There are also often displays of socks in department stores. Buying socks is pretty easy too, but here are two tips to make it even easier. Japanese socks are sized by Japanese shoe sizes. Here’s a conversion chart so you can work out your size:

japanese shoe size chart

The second hint is to look for offers on three pairs of socks. I almost always bought socks in threes, saving money with this kind of offer in many different stores. If you see a display with a range of socks and a sign with the number 3 and a price then you are probably looking at a good discount. Sometimes if you miss the offer, the sales assistant will explain it to you, so if you don’t speak Japanese and someone selling socks is trying to explain something to you, look around for these signs. For example, these epic luchador socks illustrate a typical offer, 3 for 1000 yen or 400 yen each.

luchador sock sale

Photo by Simon Q

I hope you have happy sock hunting and happier feet!

Bonus Wallpapers!

Socks-1280
[Desktop – 5120×2880 / 1280×720] ・ [Mobile]

The post The Fabulous World of Japanese Socks! appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/20/fabulous-world-japanese-socks/feed/ 9
BAKA! Japan’s Most Popular Profanity http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/11/baka-japans-most-popular-profanity/ http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/11/baka-japans-most-popular-profanity/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=50563 “Baka” is the most commonly used Japanese swear word. It usually means foolish or stupid, but can take on a whole range of meanings depending of context, relationship, and various other factors. In kanji, it’s usually written 馬鹿. When separated, the literal meaning of those kanji are 馬 (horse) and 鹿 (deer). These kanji were selected simply […]

The post BAKA! Japan’s Most Popular Profanity appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
“Baka” is the most commonly used Japanese swear word. It usually means foolish or stupid, but can take on a whole range of meanings depending of context, relationship, and various other factors. In kanji, it’s usually written 馬鹿. When separated, the literal meaning of those kanji are 馬 (horse) and 鹿 (deer). These kanji were selected simply because of their sounds “ba” and “ka”, but there are several other combinations that would have served the same purpose, such as 母娘 (Mother-Daughter), 馬娘 (Horse-Daughter), 破家 (Broken-House), 莫迦 (Trillions-Beautiful voice), 馬稼 (Horse-Earning money), and 跛家 (One foot-House).

It’s also commonly written in Hiragana as ばか or in Katakana as バカ. On the internet, it is sometimes written as “ヴァカ” or “βακα.”

Although baka can be used in several ways, there is certainly a negative connotation attached to it (it is a swear word after all). Thus it’s not typically used in public or legal situations.

For example, if you say “baka” to a subordinate in your company, you may have to spend some time in HR watching videos on an old VCR for a few hours. There is a certain amount of caution that needs to be exercised before pulling this puppy out of your Japanese language arsenal.

Therefore, we are going to study the word “baka” so as not to be 馬鹿 by misusing it.

The Origin Of Baka

horse-and-deer

Photo by GalaxyFM

There are several theories on the origin of baka, which regrettably means we can’t be sure which one is correct. The oldest written usage of baka is in Taiheiki (a Japanese historical epic said to have been written by Kojima Houshi in the 1370s). At the time the word was not 馬鹿 but 馬鹿者 (ばかもの / stupid person). So the theories which take into that 馬鹿者 was the first usage of the term are more believable than others. There’s a multitude of interesting theories but today we’ll focus on just five of them.

#1 A Story from the Shiki (The Records of the Grand Historian from China)

During the era of the second emperor Kogai of the Qin dynasty, his eunuch Choko planned a rebellion in an attempt to usurp his power. He wanted to find out which courtiers were on his side and came up with an idea. He brought a deer to the Imperial palace, offered it to the emperor and said, “I’ve brought you a very rare horse”. Understandably, the emperor got confused and asked, “Isn’t this a deer?”

With a divisive line drawn, Choko then moved towards the courtiers asking, “This is most certainly a horse, is it not?” Those who were afraid of Choko replied, “Yes, this is a horse” and those who did not fear him answered, “No, it’s a deer”. Choko later killed the courtiers who answered deer. From that, the phrase “指鹿為馬” (しかをさしてうまをなす / Pointing at a deer, calling it a horse) arose to describe using power to insist that something is one thing though it is clearly another.

It’s believed that baka comes from this story and this theory is actually the most widely accepted. However, one inconsistency is that the ‘ka’ part of ‘baka’ is actually a Japanese reading and wouldn’t have been read this way in Chinese.

#2 The Sanskrit Word “Moha”

Another word that can be read as “baka” is the kanji 莫迦, which is from the Sanskrit word “moha”, meaning “ignorance” and “illusion”. In this theory, it’s theorized that monks began using baka esoterically and it came into common usage later on. This theory was put forward by an Edo period Japanese scholar, Sadakage Amano, and is used in most major Japanese dictionaries, including the Kojien. However, some studies question this theory since “ignorance” was not among the meanings for baka when it was first used.

An interesting addition to this theory is that in Bengali, the official language of Bangladesh which has its origins in Sanskrit, the word “baka” means “stupid person”.

#3 Wakamono (Young People)

In Japanese “若者” (wakamono) means “young people”. In this theory, the “w” of wakamono was for some reason changed into a “b” when referring to young people as stupid and, thus, “馬鹿者” (bakamono) came into being .

Kunio Yanagida, the father of Japanese native folkloristics, said that the editor of Kojien, Izuru Shinmura, presented this theory but didn’t leave any documents supporting it when he died. So the truth of this theory is still uncertain. What is known, however, is that Shinmura was unwilling to accept the Sanskrit theory of “Moha” for the Kojien.

#4 Bankrupt Family

The word “破家” (baka) in the Zen Buddhist scripture means ‘a family bankrupted’ and it’s said that “馬鹿者” (bakamono) came out of this to refer to a person as “someone that is so stupid that they could allow their family to go bankrupt”. This theory was presented by a professor at Tohoku university, Kiyoji Sato, and adopted by a Japanese dictionary 日本国語大辞典 (Nihon Kokugo Daijiten).

#5 The Family Name 馬 (Horse)

In Bai Juyi’s poetry anthology 白氏文集 (Hakushi Monju), there is a poem about a wealthy Chinese family with the name 馬 who spend all their money on stupid things and eventually go bankrupt. It’s considered 馬鹿者(bakamono) was born as a 馬家者(bakamono), which can be broken down as 馬(Horse)-家(Family’s)-者(Person). This theory was presented by Osamu Matsumoto in his book “全国アホ・バカ分布考” (Zenkoku Aho・Baka Bunpu Kou).

How To Use Baka #Nuance

baka-sticks

Though we can’t be sure how it came into being, we know that baka eventually emerged to take its place as the nasty little word we know and love today. That said, let’s go over how it’s being used presently and learn how to “mind your Ba’s and Ka’s”.

The often observed implications of the word are “insufficient knowledge”, “insufficient thoughtfulness”, “insufficient understanding”, or “abusing the stereotype”. The meaning changes depending on the person who says it, the person/object/situation it is directed towards, and the situation in which it is used.

I know that sounds confusing. With so many possibilities, surely you’ll have trouble knowing exactly when to use it. However, unlimited possibilities mean you pretty much can’t get it wrong. The beauty of the many nuances is that you can just blurt out ばか at any random time and people will automatically correlate the meaning most suited to the current situation. You (mostly) can’t lose!

Be aware though that its usage is quite different regionally. For example, in Kanto (Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa), baka is generally used for mild ridicule, whereas it’s the go-to word when you really want to curse someone out in the Kansai region (Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Shiga). Thus, it’s important to note that people take this word very differently depending on where they’re from.

If you know a bit of a certain dialect, you may have heard the synonym “阿呆” (あほ / Aho), which is the most commonly used profanity in Kansai. Although both are very similar words, there are slight differences between them. Baka is often used when someone’s will or effort to understand is lacking, whereas aho is used when someone’s ability to understand is completely lacking. So aho is generally the more nasty of the two.

The place where one must practice the most discretion though, is Hokkaido. People from all over Japan have moved to Hokkaido so there is no way of immediately knowing which side of the Aho / Baka fence someone might fall on. The nastier of the two words may differ depending on the area of Hokkaido you’re in. Hokkaido-ans also have their own regional version of baka, which is はんかくさい (Hankakusai) or in the old dialect たくらんけ (Takuranke), but more on that later.

How To Use Baka #PositiveMeaning

tsuribaka-movie

Baka is often used to mock someone, but it can also be used in a good-natured way. Like the English word “silly”, it could express stupidity, foolishness, and irrationality, but can also describe ridiculousness, an inebriated state, or even feelings of endearment for someone. If you tell that beautiful woman walking down the street or the handsome guy from accounting that they are baka, you’re not likely to get a phone number. But watching how baka is used between people can reveal the kind of relationship they share.

Someone who is really into something can also be called baka. In this case, “baka” means that you are so keenly interested and involved in something that your attention for other people or other things is lacking. For example, there is a famous movie called “釣りバカ日誌” (つりばかにっし / Tsuri-Baka-Nisshi / Fishing Fool’s Diary) in which the the main character is a salaryman whose top priority is fishing. This particular meaning is often self-appointed and sometimes denotes a sort of respect.

Some more examples of this usage are: 野球馬鹿 (Yakyu-baka) meaning someone who is really into baseball. If you are really into learning Japanese, you might call yourself日本語馬鹿 (Nihongo-baka).

Baka can also be used for someone who works so diligently and purposefully towards a sole endeavor that they become a master of that one thing. For this type of 馬鹿, there is another expression, which is “愚直の念” (ぐちょくのねん / Guchoku No Nen). 愚直 means simply and stupidly honest and 念 refers to a sense or feeling. An example of this usage is the title of the manga『空手バカ一代』(からてばかいちだい / Karate Baka Ichidai / A Karate-Crazy Life).

How To Use Baka #Combination

chewbacca

The most common word paired with 馬鹿 directly translates as something you might have combined with the phrase “dummy” or “meanie” when you were three. 大 (おお / oo / Big) is commonly added to the beginning of baka and is used when someone is being really stupid, or大馬鹿 (おおばか / oobaka ) a “Big Stupid”.

This is also used when somebody goes a little kooky. Instead of using 大, young people often add激 (げき / Geki / Intense) or 超 (ちょう / Chou / Very) which form to become激馬鹿 (げきばか / Gekibaka / Intensely Stupid) or 超馬鹿 (ちょうばか / Choubaka / Very Stupid). It’s not the exact same pronunciation as the character Chewbacca, but it’s good way to help you remember.

Another common word paired with 馬鹿 is 馬鹿野郎 (ばかやろう / bakayarou / stupid man). I supposed the equivalent in English would be something like “dude”, as 野郎 (やろう / yarou) is slang for ‘man’. However, unlike dude, it can take on a bad meaning like jerk, schmuck, or other more inappropriate names. Combining 馬鹿 with such a word can come off pretty strong, but if you’re through the roof 馬鹿野郎 is not strong enough. For intense situations you need the big guns.

If you add 大 in front like 大馬鹿野郎 (おおばかやろう / oobakayarou / Incredibly stupid person) then you’ll definitely cut the offending person down to size.

Sometimes, 野郎 (Yarou) is replaced with a neutral word, such as 者 (もの / mono / person), or with a more nasty word like たれ (tare). When you add 小 (こ / ko /small) instead of 大 in front of 馬鹿, as in 小馬鹿 (こばか / kobaka), you get the meaning of ‘to look down on someone’.

Examples of Usage

few-screws-loose-screws

Photo by Andrew Dobrow

To get a better idea of when and where you should use each instance of baka, I’ve put together some situations so you use the right baka at the right time.

#1. To rail at someone who made a mistake or did something stupid.
“ ばか!” “ばかもの!” “ばかやろう!”

#2. To regret that you or someone else did something stupid.
“馬鹿なことをした” (I/You/He/She/They did such a stupid thing.)

In this case, you can add a suffix like 馬鹿なことをしたよ(yo), 馬鹿なことをしたな(na), 馬鹿なことをしたね(ne), 馬鹿なことをしたもんだ(monda) to the end for adding some more specific nuance. As for ね (ne), here is the explanation what kind of meaning it will add.

#3. To look down on someone who doesn’t know something you consider to be common knowledge.
“〜も知らないの?馬鹿だね” (You don’t even know ~? You are such a simple minded person)
“テストで0点取ったの?馬鹿だな” (You got a score of 0 on the test? You must be pretty dumb.)

#4. Someone who can’t think objectively or rationally about something.

“親馬鹿” (おやばか) – 親 (おや- Oya) means parents and combines with baka to become 親馬鹿 (Oyabaka) means ‘overly-fond parents’. In this case, a parent loves their child/children so much that they can’t think objectively or rationally when it comes to them.

#5. Someone who is only well learned in one subject and lacks common knowledge. In this usage, the meaning of baka is similar to otaku.
あいつは数学馬鹿だから。(あいつはすうがくばかだから) (He is crazy about math.)
あいつは野球馬鹿だから。(あいつはやきゅうばかだから) (He is crazy about baseball.)
あいつはサッカー馬鹿だから。(あいつはさっかーばかだから) (He is crazy about soccer.)

#6. Something that is useless or broken.
ネジが馬鹿になる。(ねじがばかになる) (The screw loosened and won’t fasten anymore.)
嗅覚が馬鹿になる。(きゅうかくがばかになる) (Your sense of smell has become stupid.)

#7 Used as a prefix to express something extraordinary.
馬鹿正直 (ばかしょうじき) (Super honest)
馬鹿デカイ(ばかでかい) (Super big)
馬鹿騒ぎ (ばかさわぎ) (Party out)
馬鹿受け(ばかうけ) (Super funny, Very popular)
馬鹿売れ (ばかうれ) (Sold very well)

Baka Dialects

godzilla-makes-a-plan

I briefly mentioned the Hokkaido dialectal differences for baka earlier, but why not learn each prefectural dialect, as well? Some places just use ばか and don’t have dialectical variation, but most have fun ways to call people stupid. (Note: Some regions in the prefecture may use different expressions. The Japanese dialects are not perfectly divided by the prefectural boundary.)

Okinawa: ふらー
Kagoshima:ばか
Miyazaki: しちりん
Oita:ばかたん
Kumamoto:あんぽんたん
Nagasaki: ばか
Saga:にとはっしゅ
Fukuoka:あんぽんたん
Kochi:あほー
Ehime:ぽんけ
Kagawa:ほっこ
Tokushima:あほ
Yamaguchi:ばか
Shimane:だらじ
Tottori:だらず
Hiroshima:ばか
Okayama:あんごー
Wakayama:あほ
Nara:あほ
Hyogo:だぼ
Osaka:どあほ
Kyoto:あほ
Shiga:あほー
Mie:あんご
Gifu:たわけ
Aichi:たーけ
Shizuoka:ばか
Fukui:あほ
Ishikawa:だら
Toyama:だら
Niigata:ばか
Nagano:ぬけさく
Yamanashi:ぬけさく
Kanagawa:ばか
Tokyo:ばか
Chiba:ばか
Saitama:ばか
Gunma:ばか
Tochigi:うすばが
Ibaraki:でれ
Fukushima:ばか
Yamagata:あんぽんたん
Akita:ばかけ
Miyagi:ほんでなす
Iwate:とぼけ
Aomori:ほんじなし
Hokkaido:はんかくさい

Which one is your favorite? Mine is にとはっしゅ in Saga. It sounds cute, doesn’t it?

Conclusion

dunce-parade

Photo by Steve Voght

Harlan Ellison once said “the two most common elements in the world are hydrogen and stupidity.” With so many ways to be stupid, we humans need just as many ways to call it out. So study up on these variations of “baka”, so you’re ready for whatever dumb situations life throws at you, or so you can accurately describe yourself when you absent mindedly find yourself in baka whirlpool of your own making. Whether talking about your love of fishing or blowing off some steam with some casual Japanese swearing, be sure to use 馬鹿 responsibly, effectively, and maybe even a little bit foolishly.

Bonus Wallpapers!

bakaintensifies-1280
[Desktop – 5120×2880 / 1280×720] ・ [Mobile 1 / 2 / 3]

The post BAKA! Japan’s Most Popular Profanity appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/11/baka-japans-most-popular-profanity/feed/ 42
The Dragon Ball Training Guide to Self-Improvement http://www.tofugu.com/2015/04/29/dragon-ball-training-guide-self-improvement/ http://www.tofugu.com/2015/04/29/dragon-ball-training-guide-self-improvement/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=50861 Olympic judoka and UFC champion Ronda Rousey turned some heads and busted some scouters when she appeared at this year’s Wrestlemania wearing a Dragon Ball Z t-shirt with an image of Vegeta and the phrase, “It’s over 9,000!” “You think there’s a bigger Dragon Ball Z fan in mma than you?” an interviewer once asked. “No!” She scoffed, then explained […]

The post The Dragon Ball Training Guide to Self-Improvement appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Olympic judoka and UFC champion Ronda Rousey turned some heads and busted some scouters when she appeared at this year’s Wrestlemania wearing a Dragon Ball Z t-shirt with an image of Vegeta and the phrase, “It’s over 9,000!”

“You think there’s a bigger Dragon Ball Z fan in mma than you?” an interviewer once asked.

“No!” She scoffed, then explained how Dragon Ball Z inspired her to train and admitting that she had a big crush on Vegeta. “I would have gone cartoon for (Vegeta)!” she says before bursting out laughing. “Dude, he knocked up Bulma and then ditched out to go train… that’s hardcore.”

But Rousey isn’t the only celebrity or sports figure inspired by the likes of Goku, Vegeta and company. Marcus Brimage, another UFC fighter, claims Dragon Ball inspired him to be a fighter. MMA pioneer Carlos Newton called his style Dragon Ball Jiu-Jitsu, and mimed a kamehameha as a victory celebration. In other sports, Spanish tennis sensation Rafael Nadal is also a fan of the series, “I have all the DVDs, from the first one to the last one.”

Rapper Soulja Boy made a rap inspired by Dragon Ball (warning it’s both vulgar and horrible). Apparently smoking up makes him look like Gohan. Other artists, like XV, Machine Gun Kelly, J-Live, Wu-Tang Clan’s the RZA, Lupe Fiasco and Childish Gambino (to name a few) make Dragon Ball references and word play, know what I’m saiyan?

The action series, Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama garnered worldwide fame. With all the powering up, transformations, wishes, special techniques, colorful characters, and violent battles, kids’ll tell you Dragon Ball is fun to watch. But underneath all that action lies life lessons and sound advice for self-improvement.

Like the athletes and lyricists mentioned above, we can all use Dragon Ball as inspiration. The series motivated me to work out, take my running hobby to the next level, and improve my Japanese. And Dragon Ball continues to inspire me to buckle down and get things done today. So next time you need motivation or seek to kick it to the next level ask yourself, WWGD? (what would Goku do)?

Not Awe But Inspiration

hercule-or-mr-satan-depending

When Dragon Ball Z first hit Cartoon Network and gained mainstream popularity in the US, fans discussed the show with awe.

“How cool would it be to be strong like Goku?”

“Did you see when he trained at 100 times gravity?!”

“Wish I could fire off energy blasts!”

Everyone talked about the show’s crazy, over the top moments. They mimicked kamehamehas, did the fusion dance, and argued over power-levels, remaining spectators instead of applying Dragon Ball‘s lessons to the real world

Ronda Rousey couldn’t train with her cartoon crush Vegeta, but she took inspiration from Dragon Ball and became a champion. Rafael Nadalalso hasn’t turned Super Saiyajin (yet), but watching him will convince you he can. I haven’t run Snake Way, but I’ve run a marathon and an ultra-marathon in its place.

Sure we may never blast a big bang attack, drink of Korin‘s “sacred water,” or instantly alter our hair color. But we can take the lessons and strategies that lie beneath all the lightning fast punches, teleportations and power blasts and use them to improve our lives.

Getting Started

Commit and Make Sacrifices

piccolo-and-gohan-become-friends-already

When you want to make an omelet, you have to crack some eggs. Set a goal and commit to it. But remember, commitment means sacrifice.

Kid Gohan’s (forced) commitment to training meant he couldn’t study, enjoy being spoiled by his mother, hang out with his woodland pals, or enjoy his favorite hobby, crying. Later in the series, college-age Gohan commits again when he sits still for over 24 hours, allowing Old Kai to unlock his hidden potential.

When we make a goal, we have make sacrifices to achieve it. Gonna pass the JLPT? Invest time in studying. Gonna lose weight? Better forego movie theater popcorn and a skip those bar crawls. Like Gohan, we all have to make sacrifices when we commit to a goal.

Create a Routine

goku-getting-all-trained-up-with-his-shoes

Piccolo removes his weighted hat and armor before battle. Kid Goku often stretched and warmed up with calisthenics. The Z Warriors prepped for battle by donning their battle gear – at least until said outfits got torn to shreds.

Tell your body and mind that it’s go-time by maintaining a routine. Create a regimen around whatever you’re preparing for. Do the same warm up, down the same drink, use the same writing utensil, and repeat the same mantra whenever you practice.

In A Fighter’s Mind Tim Ferris writes, “Routine can help us enter Musashi‘s mind of no-mind or the zone… It’s a kind of relaxed super-competence.” Routine can help our minds relax, fall into a rhythm and perform without distraction, overcoming the distractions and nervousness when we finally face our challenge.

Reach and Then Redefine Your Limits and Goals

vegeta-training

Goku didn’t rest on his laurels when he pulled off his first kamehameha, or when he beat Piccolo to win the Tenkaichi Budōkai Tournament. Goku’s constant progresses redefined him and what it meant to be Saiyajin throughout the series.

In his book 10-Minute Toughness, Jason Selk calls this the “Plus One Concept,”

The best way to climb a mountain is to take one step at a time. (The) +1 concept (is) the idea that success can be achieved by meeting a string of basic, incremental goals in the present that will will ultimately lead to excellence in the future… Believe in yourself and your ability to make gradual improvements, and the results will follow.”

As with Dragon Ball‘s cast of characters did, expect gradual “plus one” improvements as you work your way to your goal.

When you achieve one goal, set another and aim higher. Passed the JLPT level 4? Congratulations, now aim for level 3. Ran a 5k? Try a 10k. Watched 20 episodes of Dragon Ball in a day? Next time watch 21.

In Turn It Up! Jeffrey Spencer states, “Even though most people want an easy life and think it will give them the life fulfillment they seek, my experience tells me that the happiest people are those who perpetually seek goals and whose lives are appropriately challenged, so they remain alert and focused on moving forward to a better future.” New challenges keep life interesting, satisfying and therefore happy.

The Two-Fold Path To Improvement

Surround Yourself With Badasses

goku-and-krillin

Okay, maybe Krillin isn’t the best example, but thanks to a series of badass teachers and foes, Goku became one of the baddest beings in the universe.

Goku learned the kamehameha from Master Roshi. He pushed himself to learn King Kai’s Kaio-ken technique and the Genki Dama because of Vegeta. Majin Buu led him to Super Saiyajin 3, Beerus pushed him to Super Saiyajin God, and the list goes on.

Like Goku, surround yourself with people above your level. “Badasses hang out with other badasses…. Make friends with successful people. If you want to become better then you need to allow the good influences of other people to rub off on you. Let them bring you up to their level” (Badassyoungmen.com).

Whatever your goal, find a great training partner or a rival. Let them push you. Learn from them and improve. Want to learn Japanese? Find a senpai or native speaker. Want to get better at a martial art? Train with a higher belt rank. Want to become a great cook? Learn from a master chef.

Had training with mediocrity satisfied Goku, he would have never defeated the likes of Piccolo, Vegeta, or any of the other threats to earth. Thanks to the laundry list of badasses Goku faced and trained with, he became the supreme badass we know today.

Blaze Your Own Path

goku-and-frieza

Holy contradictions Saiyaman! Rich just finished telling us to surround ourselves with badasses, but now he’s telling us to blaze your own path?! Aren’t they opposing strategies?

Yes and no. Just look at Goku’s wardrobe. He entered his first tournament wearing Master Roshi’s 亀 (kame/turtle) logo and donned King Kai ‘s 界王 (world king) logo before changing to his own 悟 (go/enlightenment) logo.

After enjoying the tutelage of various masters, Goku becomes his own master. During his solo voyage to Namek, Goku trains alone – improving his techniques and making them his own. When he finally arrives on Namek, its under his own “悟” mark.

Although one needs others to learn from and aspire to, self discovery is also essential. By blazing our own paths we can make others’ teachings our own and find what best works for us. Study Japanese from teachers, converse with native speakers, and then review alone to make what you learned concrete. Learn new techniques from masters and then practice alone to perfect them and make them your own.

While advocating both training with badasses and blazing your own path sounds contradictory, we can employ both strategies to reach maximum heights. Like Goku, utilize both tactics to build the best possible you.

Embrace Downtime

Push the Limits, Then Rest

resting-with-roshi

Follow the Kame school tenet – train hard and rest hard. Sayajin push their bodies to the limit and recover stronger than before. Dragon Ball‘s lesson is clear – rest is vital.

Hard work needs to be rewarded with rest and recovery. “Athletes (or anyone) must learn to toe the fine line of doing what is needed without overdoing it” (Selk). Overdoing it can grossly inhibit one’s motivation, performance, and overall well being.

Similarly, mental exhaustion can lead to “difficulty concentrating, impaired creativity, and negative attitudes toward one’s self, others, one’s work and life” (Bartlett 130). In general overtraining and overstudying lead to inefficiency and unnecessary suffering. It’s probably one reason, among many, that Vegeta is always so pissy.

Good old fashioned “R & R” gives muscles time to recover and grow and allows new information to soak in. Research shows sleep is beneficial for absorbing newly learned information and technique (Claudia Nagel). So whether pushing yourself physically or mentally take a break and come back refreshed for a renewed effort and maximized benefits.

Visualization

visualization-with-krillin-and-gohan

When Bulma, Krillin, and Gohan head to Namek, Krillin and Gohan make the most of their downtime and space capsule’s confined space by practicing visualization. The two meditate and envision battling one another. Although their level of psychic connection might be difficult to pull off in reality, visualization reaps big rewards.

Visualization is creating a mental picture of a situation, such as seeing yourself giving a speech, (taking a test, scoring a goal, etc.)… Also called mental rehearsal, visualization helps you overcome the mental and emotional causes of anxiety. (Verderber 35)

Through visualization, also called a “mental workout,” we imagine the execution of our goal and positive results. Countless athletes (golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Olympic gymnasts Julianne McNamara and Peter Vidmar) swear by visualization, which builds confidence, increases efficiency, combats anxiety, and gives a sense of experience.

Scientists believe that we may experience real-world and imaginary actions in similar ways… Whether we walk on a mountain trail or only picture it, we activate many of the same neural networks – paths of interconnected nerve cells that link what your body does to the brain impulses that control it…. Imagining yourself doing movements can help you get better at them. (Rodriguez)

So if you’re taking a test, imagine what it takes to perform your best – at your desk, opening your test booklet, reading the questions and knowing the answers. If your competing physically, imagine your techniques, be it throwing the perfect spiral, sinking a free-throw, and pulling off the perfect sequences in a karate kata.

Review Your Motivation

name-from-db

Goku and company rarely reviewed their motivation because it stared them in the face; as a matter of life or death for themselves, their loved ones, and the entire planet. In the first Tenkaichi Budōkai Tournament, Nam exemplifies the power of motivation, hoping to win the tournament and prize money to buy water for his drought stricken village.

During downtime review your motivation. Are you saving the planet? Helping others? Trying to land a new job? Supporting your family? Trying to be the best you?

In Running With Kenyans, Adharanand Finn proposes that one reason Kenya churns out great marathoners is that running provides an escape from poverty. Major race winnings prove life altering for the both runners and their families. Suffering in practice and the event can’t compare to the everyday hardships the runners will face if they don’t win.

Take it from Nam and periodically review your motivations. When we are worn, training becomes tiresome, and our drive wanes, it provides a much needed spark. Review them again before the big event, fueling your resolve down to the final stretch.

Gametime

Don’t Forget Your Routine, Sacrifices, or Motivation

nekkid-goku

From tournaments brimming with spectators to intergalactic face-offs, Goku always showed up, warmed up, and faced his next challenge.

Remember that routine you made? Don’t abandon it now. Remember all the hours you sacrificed, don’t let them go to waste. Continue on as you have. Different circumstances can’t phase you now, you prepared for this!

Did Goku ever show up to a fight lacking pants? Maybe once. Did Goku ever show up to a fight lacking confidence? No.

Why? He knows he put in the time and effort. You did too. Think back to all of your sacrifices and, like Goku, let your preparation fuel your confidence.

Face Your Fears

krillin-and-piccolo-fight

Despite training under Master Roshi with Goku, Krillin lacked confidence when he had to face his former senpai, a fellow student from Orinji temple at the first Tenkaichi Budōkai Tournament. He even considered quitting until Goku convinced him to “give it his best shot.” Krillin does and handedly beats his senpai’s baldheaded ass.

Despite our preparations, many of us lose confidence down the stretch. When the time comes review your motivation and remember all your sacrifices. Don’t get scared off when the finish line is in sight.

Take the test. Make the speech. Run the race. Don’t let your fears sabotage all your preparation. Face them head on!

Let Go

goku-as-super-saiyan

Sometimes, despite all the sacrifice, despite training with badasses, despite blazing our own paths and sticking to routine and considering our motivations, things still go wrong.

We lock up during a speech. Our minds go blank during a test. We are asked a question in Japanese and can’t understand despite having studied the words and grammar being used.

At the start of Dragon Ball Z, Goku didn’t even know he was Saiyajin. A few story arcs later he faced his toughest foe, Frieza, and things were not going well. Frieza crippled Vegeta, reduced Piccolo to a bystander, and blew Krillin to dust.

What did Goku do?

He let go. He got angry. And bam! He turned Super Saiyajin. “Five minutes” or about one hundred episodes later, Goku defeated Frieza.

Bruce Lee once said, “And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit, it hits all by itself… Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.”

Stressing over the situation makes it worse. When the going gets tough, relax and let go. Chances are routine will kick in and you’ll regain your stride. Like Goku, by letting go we discover new abilities and reach heights we never knew we could achieve.

When the Dust Has Settled

Forgive

goku-forgives

One of Dragon Ball’s greatest themes is that of forgiveness. Pure-hearted Goku befriends forgives everyone – from the jerk Krillin, to the corrupted Tien Shinhan, to the devil in Piccolo, to the fascist Saiyajin prince Vegeta, and most recently the god of destruction Beerus. At this point no one should be surprised if he befriends Frieza at the end of the new movie, Revival of F.

In fact, he would have become best buds with Frieza had Frieza ever chilled out. Of course in reality there’s a point where our best interests lay in burning bridges (for Goku it came in the form of Frieza and Cell). But we can lead less stressful lives (like Goku) if we (like Goku) learn to forgive and forget.

Be a Life-Long Learner

learn-forever

Take it from the SSLLL (Super Saiyajin Life Long Learner) himself. Did Goku stop learning after he mastered the kamehameha? No. Was he satisfied after reaching the first level of kaiyoken? Or the second? Or third? No way. Had he been, he might have never learned the spirit bomb, teleportation, or reached Super Saiyajin…what level is he up to now?

Goku is a life long learner. He may take a rest, but he never gets stuck in a rut or loses his appetite for new experiences. And Goku’s satisfaction doesn’t lie in victory itself but in the constant act of learning, improving, and challenging himself.

Never stop learning. Smell opportunity and take advantage. Recognize and even relish your accomplishments, then move on to the next goal.

Enjoy the Journey

snake-way

Vegeta spends most of Dragon Ball Z frustrated, unsatisfied, and unhappy. While Goku trains with a smile, Vegeta wears a scowl (and the occasional pink shirt). He takes no joy in the process, never achieves his goal, and subjects himself to a long, angry journey. But by the end of the Buu saga, when Vegeta finally sits back and lets it all soak in, he comes to a realization.

Yet you (Goku) showed mercy to everyone, even your fiercest enemies, even me… You fought to test your limits and push yourself beyond them, to become the strongest you could possibly be… It makes me angry just thinking about it. But perhaps it’s my anger that’s made me blind to the truth for so long. I see it now… You’re better than me Kakarot. You’re the best.

Don’t be Vegeta; or at least don’t be the Vegeta that took about 250 episodes to relax. Remember: it isn’t about the goal, it’s about the journey to achieve it. In 10-Minute Toughness, Tom Selk advises, “Remember that you stand to experience more joy and satisfaction from striving to reach your goals than from actually achieving them.”

Like Goku, enjoy the journey. When you face your next challenge, enjoy the process. No matter the outcome of the effort, value the experiences and progress made in challenging it.

Unleashing That Saiyajin In All of Us

goku-is-super

So next time you watch Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z or any other series please enjoy it! But allow the lessons they offer to motivate you to face new challenges and become the best version of you that you can be.

RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan sums it up best, “Today I believe we’ve all got a Saiyan inside us… That’s what we’re all trying to reach, through all the chambers of our lives.”

Bonus Wallpapers!

KumamanFusion-1280
[Desktop – 5120×2880 / 1280×720] ・ [Mobile 1/2]

Sources

  • Bartlett, Steven J. Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health.
  • Be a Badass By Surrounding Yourself With Other Badasses.
  • Egan, Carol. 4 Slam-Dunk Strategies to Improve your Confidence.
  • Finn, Adharanand. Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth.
  • Nagel, Claudia. Learning Best When You Rest.
  • Petrie, Trent A., and Eric Denson. A Student Athlete’s Guide to College Success: Peak Performance in Class and Life.
  • Rza, and Chris Norris. The Tao of Wu.
  • Rodriguez, Tori. 3 Easy Visualization Techniques.
  • Selk, Jason. 10-minute Toughness: The Mental Exercise Program for Winning before the Game Begins.
  • Sheridan, Sam. The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game.
  • Spencer, Jeffrey. Turn It Up! How to Perform at Your Highest Level for a Lifetime.
  • Ungerleider, Steven. Mental Training for Peak Performance: Top Athletes Reveal the Mind Exercises They Use to Excel.
  • Verderber, Rudolph F., Kathleen S. Verderber, and Deanna D. Sellnow. Essential Speech.

The post The Dragon Ball Training Guide to Self-Improvement appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2015/04/29/dragon-ball-training-guide-self-improvement/feed/ 12
10 of Hello Kitty’s Most DISTANT Relatives http://www.tofugu.com/2014/08/12/10-of-hello-kittys-most-distant-relatives/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/08/12/10-of-hello-kittys-most-distant-relatives/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:00:40 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=41918 There was a time when I hated Hello Kitty. But once I understood her complexity and accepted her into my life, a whole world opened up. Sanrio, not unlike Marvel or DC, is an entire universe of characters, and exploring a universe is half the fun of discovering nerdy things like this. When you first get […]

The post 10 of Hello Kitty’s Most DISTANT Relatives appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
There was a time when I hated Hello Kitty. But once I understood her complexity and accepted her into my life, a whole world opened up. Sanrio, not unlike Marvel or DC, is an entire universe of characters, and exploring a universe is half the fun of discovering nerdy things like this. When you first get into comics, you learn about your Spider-men, Wonder Women, and Wolverinis. After awhile though, you dig deep enough to find hilariously bizarre or mind-blowingly boring superheroes like “Matter Eater Lad” and “Captain Planet”.

The same is true with the Sanrio universe. Sanrio may push the puppies, kitties, and lambies to the forefront, but underneath there’s a lot of fun to be had with the outliers. Who created them? Why? I wouldn’t say any of them are necessarily “bad”, but some can be incredibly unimaginative while others are so imaginative as to be downright bizarre. It’s these characters that I’ll be extricating for this list: Hello Kitty’s distant relatives. When these dogs, elephants, and hamburgers roll up to the Sanrio family reunion, the other characters avoid eye contact.

These oddballs defy Sanrio’s image of polished cuteness and stand out as wonderfully strange or uncharacteristically dull. Fill up your plate with mash potatoes, because I’m sending you to sit and talk politely with the side of the family Hello Kitty tries to forget.

10. Peter Davis

peterdavis

It’s a white dog named Peter Davis. This character at least gets points for being one of my favorite things: a dog with a bland first and last name. But the goodness stop there. Peter Davis was born in England and, what ho! Pip pip, old chap! According to his bio on sanrio.co.jp, he’s very proper, noble, fashionable, and clean. Well, well Peter Davis. You’re boring and stereotypical!

9. Dokidoki Yummychums

dokidokiyummychums

Dokidoki Yummychums is almost Sanrio’s answer to Aqua Teen Hunger Force as they a group consisting of meat, fries and shakes. Though that’s not what makes them bizarre. It’s the idea of cute food. Linda touched on this a few months back, but what strikes me as odd about this concept is the way cuteness is tied to protection. Things that we find cute or adorable are often the things we naturally want to protect (small animals, babies, email passwords). Mixing that protection concept with food is incongruent. And hilarious.

It’s a small, but extant, mind-bender. “Me am want eat food. But me am want also protect food. Me not know what me want!”

This food-cuteness hits me in a different way as well. I love hamburgers. Definitely in my top three of favorite foods. But I never realized I wanted to hug a hamburger, until I saw Dokidoki Yummychums. And why not? Hamburgers have brought me so much joy! I can finally release my subconscious urge to hug an enbunned meat patty now that it has eyes and a face and looks like it wants a hug! And with that invitation, of course I would reciprocate. Thank you hamburger. Thank you for everything.

8. Zoujitensha

zoujitensya

Zoujitensha, or Elephant Bicycle, is an elephant riding a bicycle. According to his bio, he is an “urbanite with good taste”. At least his design matches his personality. Both are flat and unappealing.

7. Hangyodon

hangyodon1

Hangyodon (literally, “Mr. Half-fish”) is another example that showcases Sanrio’s ability to make anything cute. He is a monster, something traditionally created to scare and repulse us. So is he that weird? Not in and of himself. What’s weird is how popular he is.

Hangyodon has a large number of goods attributed to him. He’s high up on the second tier of the Sanrio roster, like the Aquaman of the Sanrio Justice League (pun intended?). But with such a long list of cute animal characters behind him, you would think he would get bumped farther down the popularity rankings.

Hangyodon is a smart character design because it plays on our pity for monsters. Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Shrek are all stories which exemplify this. These stories resonate because we all feel unattractive or clumsy or even monstrous at one time or another and we all hope someone will love us despite our unattractive qualities. We all want to be understood.

His official Sanrio bio says he is “a lonely romantic who wants to be a hero someday” but we don’t need words to tell us that. That’s the power of Hangyodon.

6. Country Fresh Veggies

countryfreshveggies

Country Fresh Veggies. Their name describes them, giving me literally nothing to write about. It’s a basket of damn vegetables. They have eyes and appendages, so they are slightly less boring than others on this list, but not by much. Even their bio on sanrio.co.jp merely says, “Today, the fields are full of just-harvested, fresh vegetables.” Nuff said, I guess.

5. Gudetamago

gudetama1

Gudetama is a lazy egg. His name comes from the words gudegude (lethargic) and tamago (egg). While most Sanrio characters have several hobbies and goals, Gudetama has none. He knows he’s going to be cooked and eaten and wants to get it over with.

As far as sub-characters go, Gudetama is given more attention than most. There are pictures, goods, and YouTube videos showing him sleeping…

sanrio-gudetama

Stretching…

gudetama-stretch

Whining…

gudetama-whine

And generally lazing about.

gudetama-lazy

This goes beyond relaxation. Gudetama is dead to the world. Is there any social commentary to be found in this? Does Gudetama reflect the attitude of Japanese young people reluctant to enter Japan’s notoriously stressful workforce? Probably not any more than Garfield reflected America’s love for lasagna in 1987. Either way, the egg laziness idea is a truly genius design choice.

Rilakkuma is a very popular lazy bear character, from Sanrio competitor San-X. But do you know what else can be lazy? A cat, a mouse, a badger, a panda, a shoe, anything! It’s easy to think of a noun and assign it the adjective “lazy” (Note to self: copyright “Cecil the Lazy Shoe”). But an egg yolk actually looks lazy! Someone at Sanrio looked deep into their breakfast and imbibed it with a personality that fit its shape. And that’s creativity- looking at something from an angle that everyone else is missing.

4. Geetown Special

geetownspecial

Geetown Special is a group of three alligators. Let’s go to the sanrio.co.jp bio for more insight:

“A group of three alligators.”

Was there any thought put into these three? They have no story, they’re nearly identical, and not even in color. I understand that some Sanrio characters are merely designs for cards and tote bags, but those that are should be categorized as such. Leave the charactering to anthropomorphic things with some appealing connection to offer the recipient. Later, gator.

3. Shiri Rappers

shirirapper

Hula-hooping, rapping butt vegetables.

I just wanted to make it clear from the outset what we’re dealing with. Shiri Rappers comes from the Japanese oshiri (butt) and the English “rappers” (rappers). According to sanrio.co.jp, the Shiri Rappers are human-friendly butt fairies who, upon hearing a human’s cry, will rush to their aid and begin hula hooping/rapping with all their might, thus dispelling the human’s sadness.

As delightfully bizarre as this sounds on its own, I’m afraid it refers to a smartphone game.

In the game, the Shiri Rappers pop out of the ground, doing their gyration dance until you tap them. And you get points. I don’t see this as helpful to mankind, unless they are serving the particular pocket of mankind that needs to poke butt vegetables in order to live.

So, my initial joy at discovering the absurdity of the Shiri Rappers was diminished slightly upon finding that their story was created to explain their actions in a smartphone game. But dammit, the Shiri Rappers are hula-hooping butt vegetables and no one can take that away from me. Thanks Sanrio!

2. Boy and Girl

boyandgirl

Welcome to the bottom of the boringness barrel. Boy and Girl. I used to think Patty and Jimmy were unimaginative, but Boy and Girl make Patty and Jimmy look like Ren and Stimpy. These two are like Hello Kitty clones turned human and sapped of all charm and style. The salt in the unimaginative wound is their name: Boy and Girl.

Let’s say you work for a creative company and your job is to creatively use your creativity to create creative characters. If your boss asks you, “What should we name this boy and girl?” and you answer, “Boy and Girl!”, you should be fired.

1. Heysuke

heesuke

Heysuke. Yes, it is an angry, naked baby, but what makes it stranger than the Shiri Rappers? Heysuke’s story on sanrio.co.jp:

“Who? What the heck? It’s a kind of a suspicious, mysterious baby. For some reason, it’s laughing in the nude. Where it came from is a mystery. Is it a boy? A girl? Heysuke doesn’t even know for sure. The place where it lives is right next to you. One thing is for sure, he loves to be naked. It’s birthday is January 1st.”

Heysuke is a suspicious, ever-laughing, genderless naked baby who lives right next to you! The reason Heysuke gets the number one slot is its ambiguity. Most Sanrio characters’ designs have a specific vibe and their story bios expound upon that vibe, adding detail. But not Heysuke.

It’s cute as a baby, but its angry face makes you wonder what the hell is wrong. Then Heysuke’s story bio confuses us more by explaining that it’s laughing, suspicious, and lives right next to you. Suddenly this baby feels threatening, which is a tough concept to digest because it’s a baby. Everything about Heysuke is perplexing and strange.

Oh, and Mami pointed out that it’s wearing muscle-relaxing patches on its shoulders. WTF, Heysuke?

Heysuke was introduced on January 1, 2000, so maybe it was meant to be some kind of Baby New Year. But it never caught on anywhere ever. All the other characters on this list, weird as they are, have enjoyed some kind of success, appearing on various goods and being drawn in various poses.

Heysuke was only drawn once and, as far as I can tell, no goods bear its likeness. And so it remains: laughing, naked, and staring at you.

Explore the Chara-verse!

sanrio-group

Okay, you’re done. You did your time at the table with the weirdos. Now you can go back to your Hello Kitty and your rap music. But hopefully you’ve learned a valuable lesson. There’s a whole world of Japanese characters to explore, within Sanrio and beyond. You may find more wacky treats when you search through them for yourself. Japanese mascot characters are a universe not often explored even by die-hard Hello Kitty fans. But if you dig design, animals, colors, or fun things in general, I encourage you to delve into this multiverse. You may just find yourself voluntarily sitting at the table of outcasts at the next Sanrio family reunion!

Bonus Wallpapers!

mascotmayhem-1280
[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600]

The post 10 of Hello Kitty’s Most DISTANT Relatives appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/08/12/10-of-hello-kittys-most-distant-relatives/feed/ 15
How To Shoot A Samurai Film http://www.tofugu.com/2014/07/29/how-to-shoot-a-samurai-film/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/07/29/how-to-shoot-a-samurai-film/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:00:22 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=40626 A couple of months ago I went to TOEI UZUMASA EIGAMURA, which is both a theme park and an active movie set. The studio has been around since about 1955. But, with the decline in popularity of traditional samurai films the studios had to make up for some of that lost yen. In 1975 they built the […]

The post How To Shoot A Samurai Film appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
A couple of months ago I went to TOEI UZUMASA EIGAMURA, which is both a theme park and an active movie set. The studio has been around since about 1955. But, with the decline in popularity of traditional samurai films the studios had to make up for some of that lost yen. In 1975 they built the theme park portion: A traditional samurai village, with actors who play the parts of samurai, ninja, villagers, etc. You can go there and see how samurai films are made, take pictures with samurai, and participate in/see various attractions. I wrote about most of it here in a travel article about TOEI UZUMASA EIGAMURA.

Now, I don’t want to ruin the experience of going there for you. You should go yourself if you are able to (it’s a lot of fun!). But, I do want to give you some “pre-information” about this place so you can further enjoy the studio set. If you want to go there without knowing anything beforehand though, you can stop reading right now. But, if you want to live vicariously through my time travel experience, read on. Ready? Light. Camera. Action!

A Small Town From The Edo period… Or The Showa Period… Or Modern Times…

edo-01

The most common time period used in the main town is the Edo period. The street set of the Edo period is used for a vast log of films since the periodical setting is changeable. Recently a TV movie film called 宮本武蔵 (Musashi Miyamoto), starring Takuya Kimura from SMAP, was shot here. This is despite the fact that the story’s era was a little earlier than the Edo period, when roofing tiles didn’t exist yet. So, they put some woven mats and wood on top to hide them.

edo-02

Sometimes they need to shoot in a period that’s later than the Edo period. One example is a scene from one of NHK’s morning drama series: “Carnation”. This series takes place in the Showa period. They didn’t need to change the tiles for this, but they did need to change the sliding paper doors (shoji) to glass doors. They also needed to change some of the vertically written signs to horizontal ones. This set even comes with the capability to erect poles for power lines and once the cables are thrown up the set instantly looks more modern.

Since the time period of this set is changeable, a very modern film could be filmed here as well. I heard that Kamen Rider and the samurai drama “Abarenbō Shōgun” were shot on the street at the same time (separate parts of the street though). On one side was Kamen Rider on his motorcycle and on the other was a samurai on his spectacular horse.

Anyways, my point is: this set is very flexible! Perhaps that has to do with how even in modern Japanese society we keep a lot of the traditional things as well. To shoot in modern times, or to shoot in times before the Edo era… all it requires is a few small changes and it feels like a couple hundred years have gone past. If you go to a rural area of Japan, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

A Lot Of Contrivances

house-with-wheels

Since they have to make full use of the movie set, they have a lot of tricky modifications on each building and other things on the street. Do you see something odd about the image above? It’s slightly off the ground. In order to easily alter the set, some buildings have wheels on them, this one included. it requires just five or six adults to move.

additional-front

Or take this for example: You can attach a new front wall to a building to make it look like a different building. If you look carefully, you will find some buildings that have double walls on the front, like the image above. The picture of the woman’s face on the wall inside (called otafuku) can be changed out if need be too.

nagaya-2

This here is a part of the Nagaya set, which are row houses from the Edo period and are now what might be called “apartments.” Because the walls between the two residences were so thin, you could easily hear an argument between the couple next door. As you can probably expect, the well in front of the nagaya is empty, so an actor/actress has to rely on their acting skills to convincingly collect water. It is also moveable so they can expand the washing area depending on the film.

People living in nagaya usually shared one well and nagaya mothers tended to be in close proximity to the well since many of their responsibilities, such as cooking, laundry, and cleaning dishes, all required water. I know it is a stereotype, but many of them apparently liked chatting about rumors and often gossiped beside the well. This is how the phrase “井戸端会議” (Ido-bata-kaigi), which literally means “meeting beside a well” and figuratively means “housewives gossip circle” or “water-cooler chat”, came about.

edo-03

Many buildings are set up to only be used for outside shops and don’t have an interior. This one, however, has a nice inside including fresh (plastic) fish and vegetables. Looks tasty!

The Only Half Bridge

bridge

This bridge is called Nihon-bashi (Japan bridge), but if you put a different name-sign in front, it can be a different bridge too.

My photo may not really show it, but it’s actually very short and steep. (Maybe slightly over 10 degrees). It’s a little trick used back in the time when CG didn’t exist. If it was shot from a lower angle, it appears very big and long on the screen. The other side is not actually a bridge, either. It’s just steps for actors / actresses to wait their turn. Because of that, there is an absolute rule that they only shoot from this side and the actors / actresses only come from the other.

Oh, and there is no water flowing underneath. If they shoot someone jumping off the bridge, they take a shot of that person going into a river in a different place. Sometimes they go on a little trip to Saga Prefecture to take such a scene. I also heard about one time when they used a pond here in the park and combined it with a moat scene shot in a different place.

A Pond With A Dinosaur

pool

The pond I just mentioned above happens to have a dinosaur in the middle for some reason. The dinosaur has been there since the theme park started, although now it is the third generation dinosaur. Two dinosaurs were placed there at first – a mother dinosaur with her baby. Perhaps due to wear from the elements, they were later replaced with this guy. I asked the workers his name, but sadly nobody knew it.

In spite of having the dangerous dinosaur, this pond is apparently used for a lot of scenes. The depth is different between the left side and the right side to diversify the scenes. A drowned body floating is usually shot in the shallower side, whereas someone who is killed by a samurai and drops into the water is done in the deeper side. There is usually only one set of samurai actor / actress costumes and wigs made (especially for those who will be killed or drown), so only the people who are most experienced and reliable in terms of falling into the water get these scenes.

For the big stars, the water is completely cleaned and warmed up. Needless to say, the dinosaur is forced to go hunt some sheep or something when shooting needs to be done.

Red-district Yoshiwara Street

yoshiwara

Yoshiwara was a famous licensed brothel district in the Edo period. There are two gates granting access to this street. The front gate is called “Oomon” and the back gate is called “Uramon”.

yoshiwara-2

If you go in there, you’ll find the street to be very short. Yet when they shoot there, they change the signs and curtains of each house and combine them together when they edit, so that the street appears as if it is very long in a film.

yoshiwara-3

The size of some of the doorways can also be altered and is done to change the appearance of the houses.

dosoku-genkin

The upstairs of these buildings are only used for shooting, but you can go into the first floor of some places. However, make sure to take your shoes off if you see this sign, 土足厳禁 (dosoku-genkin).

Modern Architectures

bunka-kan

Just as a quick side note, they don’t only shoot traditional films but contemporary films as well! So, you’ll see some modern buildings that can be used as film sets.

bunka-kan3

This big staircase inside the modern building pictured above is often used for scenes that often include some big-shot politician with confidential information getting surrounded by a bunch of press. You may see this staircase while watching a Japanese drama or film.

shizukani

There is actually a pretty good chance of encountering an actual shooting while visiting, too. While I was there, they were shooting 大岡越前 (Ōoka Echizen), though photos were not allowed. While shooting, there are a lot of people standing with a fan with writing on it that says “おしずかに(Oshizukani)” which means “Quiet, please.” However, JR trains operate nearby the studio and they can’t read what the fans say. So, the assistant director always has a train schedule in hand and it is his/her job to scream, “Hey, we’ve got only 5 minutes for next train! Hurry up!”

studio-13

As I mentioned above, the exteriors of the buildings in the theme park are primarily what is used for shooting. Indoor shots, on the other hand, are done inside actual studios, which are located right next to the studio park. Sadly, this area is off limits to us normal people.

As you can tell from this article, I was truly interested in the film set. I hope you enjoyed this article and it encourages you to visit as well. There are a lot more than movies in this park too, including TOEI actors and actresses dressed up in historic costume, and many other touches that add to the atmosphere of a historical town. Actually, I even was able to conduct an interview one of the samurai actors, and his interview will be coming out tomorrow! Now that you know what the set and park is like, I hope you look forward to hearing more from someone who is often on the inside. If anything, you can find out how many people he has killed.

See you tomorrow!

Bonus Wallpapers!

shootingasamuraifilm-1280
[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600]

The post How To Shoot A Samurai Film appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/07/29/how-to-shoot-a-samurai-film/feed/ 16
What is Godzilla Doing When He’s Not Knocking Buildings Down? http://www.tofugu.com/2014/06/03/what-is-godzilla-doing-when-hes-not-knocking-buildings-down/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/06/03/what-is-godzilla-doing-when-hes-not-knocking-buildings-down/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 16:00:19 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=39893 Because the new Godzilla film (see our review) recently came out, and because we basically just love all things Godzilla, I thought I’d treat you to something that makes Godzilla about a hundred times better. Sadly, you’ll never see any of this in the new Godzilla movies, but at least now it’s confirmed that giant […]

The post What is Godzilla Doing When He’s Not Knocking Buildings Down? appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Because the new Godzilla film (see our review) recently came out, and because we basically just love all things Godzilla, I thought I’d treat you to something that makes Godzilla about a hundred times better. Sadly, you’ll never see any of this in the new Godzilla movies, but at least now it’s confirmed that giant rubber suits > CGI Godzilla every day of the week. Let’s take a look at some old-timey behind the scenes Godzilla photos that I came across on i09. It really makes you appreciate how much work went into each film, if anything.

get-a-drink

The first Godzilla suit ever made was 220 pounds and the first Godzilla suit performer, Haruo Nakajima was said to have drained a cup of sweat after a day of acting.

godzillakid-and-kid

Son of Godzilla feels a lot like those Ewok Star Wars movies to me, but you gotta love the suit and the child acting.

godzilla-lobster

The Godzilla VS The Sea Monster set looks amazing. A giant pool, some wires, and a lot of tall boots.

godzilla-vs-kingkong

An ape, a giant lizard, and a Shinto priest walk into a bar…

godzilla-drunk

This particular Godzilla apparently had a drinking problem.

shopping-godzilla

Nothing says Christmas more than Godzilla with a ton of shopping bags.

godzilla-kisses

This makes me the most jealous man in the world right now.

too-much-work

Little Godzilla is all tuckered out after a day of smushing buildings.

godzilla-dance

Godzilla, the greatest power forward this world has ever seen.

godzilla-and-lover

What’s going on in the bottom right of this photo?

too-much

I hope there isn’t a person inside of that suit, still.

godzilla-and-children

Oh sure, people say that Gamera was a friend to the children, but the original true friend was Godzilla.

godzilla-take-one

I like to imagine the joke that the person inside the Godzilla suit said right before this photo was taken.

godzilla-vs-mothra

That guy is looking inside of Rodan’s… ahem.

sad-friends

Aww, look at that little guy.

godzilla-parade

The world’s greatest crossover.

mechagodzilla-head

Ahhh! Your neck! Your neck!!

godzilla-pool-party

Time for a poooolll parrtttyyy!

godzilla-dancing

When Godzilla jumped the shark.

Invasion-of-the-Astro-Monster

I want a trailer, a massage, and a bottle of saké, this instant!

creepy

This is not right.

making-ghidora-fly

It’s amazing the things they did to make things fly.

group-photo

Never, ever, put your fingers in there.

godzilla-date

Date night, part two.

rodan

All that work, only to have it crushed. Gloriously crushed.

godzilla-castle

So much skin to peel off.

mothra

Ahhh yesss. This one is developing well.

godzilla-1954

“A little more stomping, and quit looking at the camera.”

posing-for-group-photo

So many monsters!

hawaii-godzilla

Now that Tokyo’s destroyed, it’s time for Godzilla to take a little vacation.

portrait

Selfie!

godzilla-teaches-people-how-to-write

In its free time, Godzilla would teach orphans how to read.

walking-mechanism

When you get inside a Godzilla suit, you have to learn how to walk all over again.

godzilla-suit

Original Godzilla suit, handmade by this guy.

behin55a

What do you mean you don’t want to knock down the castle?

2680938158_10aff63c6b_o

“You’ve got yourself a deal, friend. This littler Godzilla is all yours.”

content_nakajimaafterforinternet

I can’t imagine what it’s like to wear one of these underwater.

fipPD4i

And last but not least, I leave you with quite possibly the greatest photo ever taken.

Bonus Wallpapers!

kaijuknittingbuddies-1280
[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600]

The post What is Godzilla Doing When He’s Not Knocking Buildings Down? appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/06/03/what-is-godzilla-doing-when-hes-not-knocking-buildings-down/feed/ 7
Truly The King Of All The Movies: A Review Of The Film “Godzilla” http://www.tofugu.com/2014/05/16/truly-the-king-of-all-the-movies-a-review-of-the-film-godzilla/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/05/16/truly-the-king-of-all-the-movies-a-review-of-the-film-godzilla/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 16:00:27 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=39619 Godzilla. What a film. For some reason this past week I’ve been getting tons of emails from people asking me to watch and review this film, and for once I am more than eager to help out with that. Unlike the Dragonball movie review from a while back, which felt like a swift kick to […]

The post Truly The King Of All The Movies: A Review Of The Film “Godzilla” appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Godzilla. What a film. For some reason this past week I’ve been getting tons of emails from people asking me to watch and review this film, and for once I am more than eager to help out with that. Unlike the Dragonball movie review from a while back, which felt like a swift kick to the dragonballs, Godzilla is a great film. That’s right, I pulled some strings, called the right people, and now I’m writing this after watching this film midnight last night. So how does the film Godzilla stack up? Should you watch it? What does the official Tofugu review conclude? Let’s find out.

Plot Summary

gojiramovieposter

Spoiler alert!

The film Godzilla (Gojira) starts in a mysterious fashion. Several ships explode and sink off the coast of Odo Island, Japan. Authorities who are sent to the island think the cause is underwater mines or underwater volcanic activity. Basically, they’re clueless. You and me though? We know what’s up. We’ve seen the movie posters after all. Locals of Odo Island also seem to be in the know. They tell of a “god” who lives beneath the sea that they had to sacrifice ladies to back in the day to quench its hunger. That “god” turns out to be Godzilla, and appears on the island in an extremely iconic reveal.

godzilla-appears

After some running and screaming, Godzilla goes back into the ocean. After being poked a little bit, he shows up in Tokyo, demolishing everything in his path. There’s some fighting, there’s some smashing, and there’s a lot of running away. Things are looking pretty bleak for a while, but eventually they figure out how to kill it. Don’t worry, though, as they allude to at the end of the film, this probably isn’t the only monster like this down there in the ocean. Sounds like somebody saw Pacific Rim.

A Living, Breathing, Atomic Bomb

godzilla-and-train

What is Godzilla, exactly? The name comes from the combination of two animals, a gorilla (gorira) and a whale (kujira). As someone who is really into the hybridization of animals (Tofugu, WaniKani, *cough cough*) I completely approve this chimera. This may have been more from some of the earlier iterations of Godzilla though. The final product was said to be more like an iguanodon, tyrannosaurus, stegosaurus, and alligator hybrid. It’s easy to leave it there and say that’s what it is, but the correct answer is a lot more interesting. Godzilla is an atomic bomb brought to life. The film was made and released not long after the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and people still felt that fear. Says Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka:

The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind. If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn’t know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.

This is why artillery fire, fighter jets, and 50,000 volts of electricity can’t stop Godzilla. One criticism I occasionally see is that it’s “unrealistic” that Godzilla doesn’t feel the attacks of the Japanese army. Well, if you assume that Godzilla is an atomic bomb in flesh and blood form, it’s now a lot easier to understand why these weapons had no effect. There’s nothing quite like nuclear warfare in terms of its devastation and invincibility. That being said, they did try to shoot down an atomic bomb. Of course, that just made things worse for everyone and Tokyo was leveled.

There are plenty of other references to atomic bombs and the fear they held (and hold even today). Godzilla’s skin texture was inspired by the keloid scars found on atomic survivors. Godzilla also carries a dangerous nuclear weapon: “Atomic breath.” This power is “a nuclear blast that it generates inside of its body and unleashes from its jaws in the form of a blue or red radioactive heat ray” Wikipedia.

godzilla-atomic

The biggest atomic kicker, though, are all the references to the use of atomic weapons by humans. Remember how I mentioned in the plot summary that a couple of boats were sunk in the beginning of this film? What I didn’t mention was that survivors came back from the ships with radiation burns. This is a reference to an actual event that took place on and near Bikini Atoll.

On March 1, 1954, the Daigo Fukuryuu Maru (aka Lucky Dragon 5), a Japanese fishing boat, got caught in some nuclear fallout after the US’s Castle Bravo Thermonuclear test on Bikini Atoll. Although the Daigo Fukuryuu Maru was outside the danger zone set up by the US military, the explosion turned out to be twice as big as expected. On top of that weather patterns blew nuclear fallout outside the danger zone, exposing the fishermen to a fine radioactive ash. The story doesn’t end well for the people who were on that boat, though. Later that year on September 23 chief radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died, making him the first victim of a hydrogen bomb.

Now back to Godzilla. Where were we? In the film it was suggested that nuclear testing was what “awoke” Godzilla from his slumber. Basically, the lesson here is that if you screw with nature it will screw you back, so, don’t screw with nature. Not only that, but the radiation from the nuclear testing may have made Godzilla even stronger than it previously was.

godzilla-kids

Basically, atomic bombs are no good, kids. Listen to uncle Godzilla and the lessons he’s trying to teach.

It’s Not Just About The Monster

godzilla-love-triangle

The American version of Godzilla (“Godzilla, King Of The Monsters!”) really helps to highlight this fact. This version was dubbed (forgivable, I guess) and got a lot of new footage for American audiences (not as forgivable). They added in the character Steve Martin (played by Raymond Burr) who was a reporter on his way to Cairo. He sticks around to cover the story of Godzilla acting as a kind of documentary-style narrator throughout the film.

Not only did they add footage but they removed footage too, which included (in this reviewer’s opinion) some of the best parts of the film: namely, the non-monster portions. A lot of the original focused on a love triangle between three main characters, which played into the monster-portion of the plot as well. Raymond Burr was kind of like the third (fourth?) wheel that made everyone else uncomfortable, so they suddenly couldn’t act out their dramas. This killed one of the best parts of the film. On top of this, other dialogue was trimmed. One scene, which has the Japanese Diet debating about the US’s use of atomic bombs was cut (it would make US audiences uncomfortable, presumably). Even the overall theme of nuclear holocaust was softened (if not practically muted) as well. The film become purely about the monster and not about the message.

But, the message is what I loved most about the Japanese version. Sure, the giant monster was there and was totally badass, just like the American one. But, it had some feelings. It made you think. It asked you questions. You come away wondering what’s right and wrong (more on that later), but you also come away thinking “awesome, I love seeing giant dinosaur/whale/gorilla monsters leveling a city.” All that, and you get a love triangle drama as a bonus. If you’ve ever seen any Japanese drama, you know that this is a recipe for success.

Suffice to say, if you have a choice between the original and the American version, choose the original. It’s not only about the monster.

A Message Of Hope And Shinto

godzilla-dying

Spoiler alert!

In the end, they use the “Oxygen Destroyer” which “disintegrates oxygen atoms” on Godzilla, disintegrating him to bones and then nothing. It’s eluded to that this “Oxygen Destroyer” could have been a new energy source as well, which has a lot of connections to nuclear power. With power comes responsibility to use it correctly… but, that’s obviously not going to happen. The creator of the weapon (Dr. Serizawa) commits suicide and takes the weapon along with him so that the secret of this power goes with him to the grave.

Another possible interpretation is one of hope. There has always been talk of renewable and unlimited energy. If one could simply create a reaction in water by taking all the O2 out of it, couldn’t that become a great new energy source? Perhaps what they were trying to say here is that if someone were to come up with something like this then nuclear power could be killed (remember, Japanese folks weren’t so up on nuclear things back then). That being said, this new energy source is dangerous as well. It’s certainly a somewhat grim (though somewhat hopeful) outlook on our future.

That brings us to the question: Is nuclear power good or bad? I have my own opinions, but producer Shogo Tomiyama has a more interesting one. He said that Godzilla is like the Shinto “God Of Destruction.” The God Of Destruction has no moral compass and cannot be held to our standards of good and evil. “He destroys everything and then there is a rebirth. Something new and fresh can begin.”

After reading that quote and thinking back on the film I found myself becoming less and less sure of things. Is he saying that the destruction that Godzilla causes good? Is he saying it’s bad? On one hand, some people say that the bombing of Japan was good because look at the 180 Japan made, going from warlike and imperialistic to peaceful and democratic. On the other hand, is the destruction itself really okay if the end result is “good”? I think that what they’re trying to say is that neither is true. We as humans just can’t use our own moral compasses to come to a “correct” answer. Like Godzilla itself, it’s too big for us to deal with. We can have opinions about it, but in the end there’s not much we can do to make a difference when something this big and this terrifying comes about. And, if it does… well… you just move on, and life comes back and destruction comes back and the cycle continues on and on and on…

The Final Verdict

godzilla-final-verdict

This is a giant, smashing, atomic breathing, great film. I absolutely recommend you go see it. This is probably the best if not one of the best Godzilla movies to date, and it’s certainly the deepest and smartest one as well. There will be imitations, like a man wearing a rubber godzilla suit wearing another rubber godzilla suit (who is then wearing a CGI suit), but there’s nothing quite like Godzilla the original. It’s a classic and one of the greatest films ever made. If it wasn’t for The Seven Samurai, which came out in the same year, Godzilla would have won Best Picture in Japan. Speaking of which, that’s another good film. They’re both worth watching (so put aside an entire day to watch them).

Story: 8/10 – The more you think the deeper the rabbit hole gets. Understanding the social issues of the time will help you to enjoy this film a lot more.
Special Effects: 9/10 – Some little gaffes but overall a remarkable amount of craft was crafted.
Overall: 10/10 – Nothing truly beats Godzilla. No seriously, nothing. If you watch the other films this is almost always true.

Anyways, you should go watch this movie now. I don’t know why suddenly everyone was interested in Godzilla reviews, filling up my inbox with requests, but I hope this helps you to decide whether or not it’s worth seeing. RAWWRRRRRRR!

Bonus Wallpapers!

godzillareview-1280-red
[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600]

The post Truly The King Of All The Movies: A Review Of The Film “Godzilla” appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/05/16/truly-the-king-of-all-the-movies-a-review-of-the-film-godzilla/feed/ 11
SHONEN JUMP and Tofugu Debut: Kumaman, The Manga http://www.tofugu.com/2014/04/01/shonen-jump-and-tofugu-debut-kumaman-the-manga/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/04/01/shonen-jump-and-tofugu-debut-kumaman-the-manga/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:45:02 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=38537 We know that readers of Tofugu are big fans of manga. We at Tofugu are big fans of manga – in fact, One Piece from SHONEN JUMP is one of our favorites of all time. There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t discuss and argue about the intricacies of each of Eiichiro […]

The post SHONEN JUMP and Tofugu Debut: Kumaman, The Manga appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
We know that readers of Tofugu are big fans of manga. We at Tofugu are big fans of manga – in fact, One Piece from SHONEN JUMP is one of our favorites of all time. There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t discuss and argue about the intricacies of each of Eiichiro Oda’s chapters (seriously, how did Usopp pull that off?). So all that being said, I really gotta say… this announcement is super exciting for me and for all of us here at Tofugu.

That’s right, FOR THE NEXT 12 WEEKS WE’LL BE WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING A NEW MANGA SERIES FOR SHONEN JUMP, and it will be all about the back story of our beloved character: Kumaman.

jumpcover-kumaman

Although it’s only a 12 week contract we’re hoping it will turn into a longer term thing, though I guess that just depends on numbers. Ever since I was a kid it was my dream to write my own manga. It’s pretty much all I thought about. With Aya as the illustrator, and with SHONEN JUMP’s publishing power, that dream is finally going to become a reality, so we’ll be focusing most of our time on the manga side of the business, because, frankly, we were given a lot of money to do this.

The manga will be in all Japanese, but I know how you internet pirates work! Guess what? We’ve scanned and translated our own manga into English, and will be making it available to everyone for download (see bottom of the post). So don’t even bother, MangaStream! We just beat you at your own game.

Download “Kumaman: The Bear Bang Theory” Early

kumaman-shot

The first chapter, “Kumaman: The Bear Bang Theory” is a history of Kumaman and how he got to where he is in the present timeline of the manga. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say Kumaman has had a rough life! Even though the chapter isn’t out in Japan until May 2014, we’re releasing the first chapter early, because we can, and because we love you. The contracts are signed and nothing says we can’t do this (I think! That contract was super long and in these weird Chinese characters), so hopefully it doesn’t get us in trouble. Plus, we’ve already cashed the check. I’m writing this post from Vegas, after all! Hit! Hit! Hit!

If you’d like to download it and read it in it’s full glory, it’s all yours. Note: you will need some kind of PDF viewer like Preview (OSX), Adobe Reader, or even most modern web browsers. Also note that since this is a manga made for Japanese customers first, the panels should be read from right to left. It will be very confusing otherwise. We did translate everything to English though, so at least that part won’t be confusing.

Okay! Get to downloading! Chapter 1 is here! I can “bearly” wait! ha ha.

Update: Manga now available in the Tofugu Store.

kumadownloadbutton

I’m super excited for this Tofugu business pivot and I hope you are too. Let’s all forget about Japanese language education and all think about manga and the hot tubs full of money that come with manga publishing. Thank you, and please enjoy!

P.S. This was an April Fools joke (sorry!), but maybe someday it will become real. You never know. Thanks everyone for enjoying the comic!

The post SHONEN JUMP and Tofugu Debut: Kumaman, The Manga appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/04/01/shonen-jump-and-tofugu-debut-kumaman-the-manga/feed/ 21
Send Your Stuffed Animals On A Tour Of Japan So You Don’t Have To http://www.tofugu.com/2014/03/26/send-your-stuffed-animals-on-a-tour-of-japan-so-you-dont-have-to/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/03/26/send-your-stuffed-animals-on-a-tour-of-japan-so-you-dont-have-to/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:00:21 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=38438 Did you ever have an idea that you were sure no one else would ever think of? And then, because we have the Internet, you found out that there were people doing the same thing all over the world? That’s what happened to me when I started taking photos of my stuffed Kogepan toys on […]

The post Send Your Stuffed Animals On A Tour Of Japan So You Don’t Have To appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Did you ever have an idea that you were sure no one else would ever think of? And then, because we have the Internet, you found out that there were people doing the same thing all over the world?

koge-pan-tours

That’s what happened to me when I started taking photos of my stuffed Kogepan toys on my vacations. I took them with me to California, to New York City, and around the monuments and museums of Washington DC. I thought I was original and maybe a little bit odd. Then I went to post the photos online and discovered there was more than one Flickr group devoted to traveling stuffed toys.

And now, I’m kicking myself for not realizing that this was actually evidence of a huge under-served market. Sadly, I was not as brilliant as Sonoe Azuma, who three years ago opened a travel agency for stuffed toys in Japan.

It’s called Unagi Travel, and it started out because Sonoe Azuma had the same hobby I did: she took photos of her stuffed eel Unasha and blogged about it. Now Unasha serves as stuffed animal tour guide and together they’ve taken about 450 stuffed toys from all over the world on trips around Tokyo as well as excursions to other areas. Her customers are so satisfied that more than half come back for another trip, and one, a hippo named Kaba-san from Osaka, has been on six trips.

hippo

Customers can choose from various options: a tour around Tokyo including Asakusa, Meiji Jingu Shrine and Tokyo Tower, a one-day tour to an onsen, a weekend in Kyoto, and special tours that are sometimes offered, including to the Tohoku region. While you follow along via social media, your stuffed animal will see the sights and learn about Japanese culture, like calligraphy:

shodo

…and have Japanese meals that you will envy:

azumitours-eating

unagitravel-frog

If your toy is a real free spirit, you can surprise it with a Mystery Tour. The Mystery Tour may visit other parts of Tokyo, Azuma told us, such as Shibuya, Ginza, or Roppongi, or places in nearby prefectures such as Kawagoe or Odawara. Or it may have a cultural theme, and your toy may come home knowing more than you do about architecture of the Meiji period or bronze statues.

unagitours-duckreading

Tours are limited to ten so everyone gets enough personal attention. You’re assured that your animal will never be placed directly on the ground, and asked whether your toy has any food allergies, whether it gets seasick or carsick, and if there’s anything in particular your creature wants to see or do on the tour.

unagitours-stan

The form that customers fill out also asks how long you’ve been together and has you tell something about the toy’s character. Along with the photos, the answers to these questions often show up on Unagi’s Facebook page, so it’s fun to follow even if you’re not sending a toy on a trip yourself. People have all sorts of creative stories about their toys, and there’s often the hint of interesting human stories behind them as well.

One toy from France on a recent trip was said to have been with its thirty year old owner since she was one day old, and loves chocolate and knitting. A pair of handmade cats from Nara Prefecture called Custard-san and Hana-san from Nara Prefecture were said to be on a mother-daughter trip together. They’re supportive of each other, and the mom loves to listen to enka. And a toy called Little Brother Bear was returning to Tokyo where he had lived sixty years ago.

unagitours-train

All sorts of creatures are allowed, as long as they weigh under 250 grams, and you need to mail your toy to Tokyo. The Tokyo tour is $45; special tours cost more, like $95 for two days in Kyoto.

unagitours-bed

Do you have more questions about this? So did we. Azuma was kind enough to answer a few questions for Tofugu:

Tofugu: What kinds of toys do foreigners send? Are they different from Japanese, or does everyone like the same kind of stuffed animal?

Unagi: Foreigners tend to send us realistic animal toys, whereas Japanese tend to send us cute toys. Regardless of whether it’s from Japan or overseas, the teddy bear accounts for a large percentage.

Tofugu: What’s the most unusual toy you have taken on a tour?

Unagi: It was a Japanese spiny lobster.

Tofugu: When you go on overnight trips, how do the innkeepers feel about having stuffed animals as customers?

Unagi: Once the business understands the concept, we are very welcome.

Tofugu: Your job sounds like so much fun. What do you like about it?

Unagi: I’m happy that I can make my customers happy and energetic. For example, there was a man who applied for our trip in order to make his wife happy, who was very busy raising their child. After the trip, he gave us the feedback that our trip became a good pastime for her and she really enjoyed it. Although this is a small business, it’s very satisfying for me because I can do something for someone else. This job also requires imagination, creativity, and interpersonal skills. That part of it is also fun for me.

unagitours-meiji

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “What is the matter with these people? What normal adult would pay good money to send a stuffed animal on vacation?” If you don’t get the fun of this, maybe what you need are some of the heartwarming tales: One customer who was in a wheelchair wanted her toy to go down narrow alleys that she was unable to navigate. Or you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by Connor the Chemo Duck from Tennessee, a stuffed therapy animal for children with cancer, especially when he went to Senso-ji temple to fan himself with the healing smoke.

unagitours-duck-incense

unagitours-duckfriends

And if you’re thinking this is one of those uniquely weird Japanese things, not so fast: right now, Azuma says that half of her customers are from overseas.

There was actually once a similar business in Prague – the owner was half-Japanese, and it eventually failed, and one in Berlin seems to be hanging on, although they seem to do tours far less often. But I think there’s global potential here. I’m thinking maybe I need to open a company like this of my own. Don’t you think Japanese stuffed animals would love to come see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC?

kogepan-wadc

If you’d like to send your stuffed animal on a tour of Japan, be sure to visit Unagi Travel’s website to get more information.

Bonus Wallpapers!

nigurumitravel-1280
[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600]

Links:

References:

The post Send Your Stuffed Animals On A Tour Of Japan So You Don’t Have To appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/03/26/send-your-stuffed-animals-on-a-tour-of-japan-so-you-dont-have-to/feed/ 19
Thank you. Don’t Touch My Mustache. http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/28/thank-you-dont-touch-my-mustache/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/28/thank-you-dont-touch-my-mustache/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=37375 Everybody takes to using various short cuts and methods for memorizing vocabulary terms or phrases when learning a new language. And for learning Japanese, it is no different. It is not uncommon to be studying pronunciation of a foreign language and think, “this word sounds like…” in order to help you remember it. One of […]

The post Thank you. Don’t Touch My Mustache. appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Everybody takes to using various short cuts and methods for memorizing vocabulary terms or phrases when learning a new language. And for learning Japanese, it is no different. It is not uncommon to be studying pronunciation of a foreign language and think, “this word sounds like…” in order to help you remember it. One of the fun things about learning Japanese (at least for English speakers) is that it can allow for the possibility of being creative with mnemonics. A mnemonic device is defined as a technique that aids information retention and memorization. In my time of being around the Japanese language, I have heard English expressions, or joke phrases, that are not quite puns, that sound like Japanese words and phrases, and are popularly used as mnemonic tools. One of the most famously used being, “don’t touch my mustache”. Can you guess what that means?

Quick Tip: How To Say “You’re Welcome”

mustache

Photo by Ari Helminen

どういたしまして (do-i-ta-shi-ma-shi-te) You’re Welcome

Greetings and general pleasantries are typically some of the first vocabulary words one learns when studying a foreign language. With Japanese we learn “hello” as konnichiwa, “goodbye” as sayonara, “good morning” as ohayo, and “thank you” as arigatou, to name a few. Here’s a quick tip: when trying to remember how to say “Good Morning” in Japanese, it may help to recall Ohio, like the state. And if you ever find yourself forgetting how to say “You’re Welcome”, all you have to remember is “Don’t Touch My Mustache”.

The exact origin of the use of the phrase “don’t touch my mustache” is unclear, though some personal accounts date it back to being commonly used in World War II, and some speculate that perhaps it started with Commodore Perry’s expedition to Japan. However it first came about, the idea behind it is that the English phrase “don’t touch my mustache” is thought to sound very similar to the Japanese word for “you’re welcome”, which is どういたしまして (doitashimashite).

You may have to try to say it a few times. Or say it rapidly all together so it sounds like the phrase is slurred, but it does seem to replicate a similarity in its sound.

Don’t Touch My Mustache in Pop Culture

Extending past the confines of the Japanese language classroom, the idea that the phrase “don’t touch my mustache” sounds similar to どいたしまして in Japanese has been alluded to in a couple of instances in American pop culture.

“A Majority of One”

a-majority-of-one

A first example is from a 1961 movie titled “A Majority of One” starring Alec Guinness and Rosalind Russell, and directed by Mervyn Leroy. Alec Guinness stars as Mr. Koichi Asano, a Japanese businessman. Rosalind Russell stars as Bertha Jacoby, a Jewish widow from Brooklyn who ends up moving to Japan when her son-in-law Jerome, who works for the government, has been promoted to a position stationed at the American Embassy in Yokohama. Although in the beginning things between Mr. Asano and Bertha are rocky, eventually Bertha is able to warm up to him. This film is a love story which explores lessons learned in tolerance and prejudice in a time after the war. There is a scene in the film where Guinness and Russell are having a conversation and she asserts that she knows a little Japanese including “you’re welcome, which sounds like ‘don’t touch my mustache’”. You can listen to the conversation here.

“Toy Story 2”

toy-story-2

What might be the most popular reference to “don’t touch my mustache” appeared in Pixar’s Toy Story 2. In Toy Story 2, the sequel to Pixar’s original Toy Story, the hero Woody is stolen by a toy collector who wants to sell Woody and other toys he has collected from the same “Woody’s Roundup” franchise to a museum in Tokyo, Japan. This sound clip is from a scene where Al, the Toy collector, is finishing up a phone call with the Japanese investor from Tokyo. They have just accepted his offer for Woody and feeling ecstatic, Al hangs up the phone call with “Don’t touch my mustache”.

Interestingly enough, Toy Story 2 was not Pixar’s last phonetic reference to a Japanese vocabulary word. They included another one in 2001’s Monsters Inc. In Japan, store employees to greet their customers by saying いらっしゃいませ (irasshaimase) when they enter the store or restaurant. In Monsters Inc, whenever somebody entered Harryhausen’s Sushi Restaurant, its employees shouted “Get a paper bag!” which was intended to be a phonetic reference to Irasshaimase. What do you guys think? Do they sound similar?

Don’t Touch Dug Up Potatoes

potatoes

Transitioning from don’t touch my mustache to don’t touch dug up potatoes, another fun fact about mnemonic gag expressions is that sometimes they can go both ways! A popular Japanese memorization aid is the expression 「掘った芋いじるな」(hotta imo ijiru na), which is a way of studying how to say “What time is it now?” in English. Translated literally to “don’t touch dug up potatoes”, it was first recorded to have appeared in a language study textbook written by Nakahama Manjiro, also known as John Manjiro.

Manjiro was a fisherman who hailed from an area now knows as the Kochi Prefecture of Japan. He and his four brothers were shipwrecked and rescued and taken to Honolulu. He decided to stay on board his rescuer’s ship and was consequently one of the first Japanese people to visit the United States. He studied English for a year in Massachusetts and in 1850 made way for San Francisco before returning to Japan in 1851. Upon his return to Japan, Manjiro worked as an interpreter and translator for the Shogunate, advising on foreign matters. He wrote a book called 「英語練習帳」which can be roughly translated to English Learning Workbook in which the “hotta imo ijiruna” approach is referenced for transliterating English into Japanese.

Other “This Sounds Like…” Expressions

In order to complement some of the phrases brought up in the article today, I thought it would be fun to look into some other “sounds like” phrases that could be used for increasing one’s Japanese language vocabulary. So, here is a short list of a couple other expressions I’ve been introduced to from friends and discovered on the internet that I thought were worth sharing:

ありがとうございます [ arigatou gozaimasu / thank you ] = Arigatou Godzilla-Mouse

危ない [ abunai / dangerous] = Have an Eye!

いただきます [itadakimasu / about to receive [this food] or let’s eat] = Eat the yucky mess

As you can see they kind of somewhat barely resemble the original thing word. Which brings me to my next question:

Is it Passable for Japanese?

While many such expressions including the ones mentioned above may be useful in creating memorable associations with Japanese phrases and vocabulary which in turn could assist with language learning, could they actually be useful as passing for spoken Japanese? They are clever, many are humorous, but for the most part I feel as though they only vaguely resemble the Japanese phrases they are trying to reproduce. Perhaps if spoken with a swift tongue, “don’t touch my mustache” could be recognized as “doitashimashite”, but assuming that the universal association between “don’t touch my mustache” and “you’re welcome” in Japanese does not exist, if it’s enunciated too clearly, it might be missed. And similarly, if a Japanese person were to ask me about the time using “hotta imo ijiruna” I would almost certainly have to ask them to please repeat the question. But regardless of whether you have heard the mnemonic before, or it’s something new for you, or if it happens to be a personal principle that you live by, now you know that if you ever need to say“you’re welcome” in Japanese, all you have to do is remember “don’t touch my mustache”.

So, what do you guys think? Are these helpful devices for language learning? Are they passable as substitutes for Japanese? Or are they going to end up hurting you in the end?

References

The post Thank you. Don’t Touch My Mustache. appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/28/thank-you-dont-touch-my-mustache/feed/ 48
An Exclusive Interview With Tonoharu Creator, Lars Martinson http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/15/an-exclusive-interview-with-tonoharu-creator-lars-martinson/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/15/an-exclusive-interview-with-tonoharu-creator-lars-martinson/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 17:00:55 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=37220 If you are considering teaching English in Japan, my best advice as a former ALT is to buy a copy of Tonoharu Part One and read the introduction. In the first sixteen pages of this graphic novel, cartoonist Lars Martinson lays bare the assistant language teaching experience, making way for a story seldom told about […]

The post An Exclusive Interview With Tonoharu Creator, Lars Martinson appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
If you are considering teaching English in Japan, my best advice as a former ALT is to buy a copy of Tonoharu Part One and read the introduction. In the first sixteen pages of this graphic novel, cartoonist Lars Martinson lays bare the assistant language teaching experience, making way for a story seldom told about the life of a foreigner in Japan.

A former English teacher himself, Martinson draws from his own experience to create a fictional account of a young man named Dan Wells. The story is often ambient and introspective, emphasizing the day to day events of life abroad. Our hero, Dan, is a passive character rarely found in American storytelling. Martinson expertly guides Dan through the story and keeps him balanced, so we can easily look down on his passiveness in one scene and sympathize with it in the next. This expertise makes Tonoharu more than a mere parody of teaching English in Japan. It is a purposeful tale of a fully realized character teaching English in Japan, which in itself is rare.

The art, of course, is what draws most people to check out the series in the first place (myself included). Martinson’s style is reminiscent of the Belgian artist, Herge. The intricate backgrounds contrast with the simpler designs of the characters, allowing the reader to inhabit the story’s environments. Of course, there is little I can say that the art itself can’t say better.

lars-martinson2-700pxImage from Lars Martinson / Media

Lars Martinson studied East Asian Calligraphy for two years in Fukuoka after his initial experience of English teaching. His own personal style, compounded with his knowledge of ancient inking technique, really shows and the art alone is worth a purchase of both volumes.

A paperback edition of Tonoharu Part One is due out this summer. Until then, hardcover editions of both parts are available through most book retailers and Martinson’s own website: http://larsmartinson.com/buy/

For the tech-savvy, Martinson’s more light-hearted e-comics are available digitally: http://larsmartinson.com/e-comics/

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to correspond with Lars for an EXCLUSIVE Tofugu interview! Below are insights into his stories, his art, his process and, most excitingly, the future volumes of Tonoharu!

For those who may not know, who is Lars Martinson?

lars-martinson-700pxImage from Lars Martinson / Media

I’m an American cartoonist that has spent half of my adult life in Japan. For the past decade I’ve been working on a graphic novel series entitled Tonoharu.

What is Tonoharu about?

Tonoharu tells the story of a young American who moves to rural Japan to work as an assistant English teacher. It is based (in part) on my own experience doing the same from 2003 to 2006.

Because Tonoharu is fictionalized and not a direct telling of your Japan experience, what inspired you to tell this story? Did you have an “aha” moment?

I’ve always been frustrated by how hard is it to relate my experiences in Japan to friends and family back home. It’s sort of like when you try to describe a dream to someone. It’s fascinating to you because you experienced it firsthand, but it’s almost always tedious for the listener because they don’t have the same frame of reference. My inspiration to create Tonoharu came from a desire to bridge this gap; to describe the experience of living abroad in a visceral way.

You’ve mentioned elsewhere that your main character, Dan Wells, is not you but merely a fictionalized character. That being said, how do you as his creator feel about him and his decisions? Was he difficult to write?

I’m certainly more driven than Dan. I made much more of an effort to improve my Japanese abilities when I first arrived in Japan, and have a clearer sense of what I want to do with my life. That said, I share a number of qualities with him, so he wasn’t hard to write. Like Dan I’m introverted, and often struggle to form meaningful connections with people around me.

How much Japanese did you know when you went on JET? How did the language barrier affect your experience?

I knew very little Japanese when I first arrived. Just a little bit of hiragana and katakana, and basic grammar. It improved quickly, but even now I feel like I have a long way to go. I heard somewhere that you can become fluent in three European languages in the same amount of time it takes to learn Japanese, and I believe it. It’s a huge undertaking.

One interesting consequence of my mediocre Japanese abilities is I tend to be more forthright when I speak it. It’s easy to be evasive in English since its my native tongue, but in Japanese I don’t have the language skills to dance around the subject. So I’m forced to distill what I want to say down to its naked essence. There’s a Dostoyevsky quote that goes “Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.” I feel like this applies to how I use English compared to how I use Japanese.

Your main character, Dan, goes through a difficult bout of negative culture shock in the first volume. Did you have a similar experience?

lars-martinson3-700pxImage from Lars Martinson / Media

Most people who live abroad experience culture shock to some degree, and I’m certainly no exception. I sometimes worry that I favored those negative moments a little too much in the first volume of Tonoharu, because many people who read it seem to assume I had an unequivocally horrible time in Japan, which certainly wasn’t the case at all.

You went back to Japan to study calligraphy for two years after finishing JET. How did that trip affect your art and your relationship with Japan?

Before I really got into it, I had no idea how deep East Asian calligraphy is, both in terms of history and technique. I’m now convinced that it’s the most sophisticated line art tradition in the world, hands down.

When a cartoonist wants to improve their penciling, they usually study Western art fundamentals such as perspective, anatomy and composition. I would argue that Eastern art fundamentals are just as useful to learn comic inking. Practicing East Asian calligraphy has improved my inking more than anything else I can point to.

Regarding your calligraphy learning experience, was it more of a disciplined practice that enhanced the skill you already had or was there something inherent in East Asian calligraphy that got added to you? Do you have any stories about the learning experience?

The discipline was certainly a huge part of it. Art classes in the US tend to emphasize personal expression over technique, so student critiques can be vague and coddling. The calligraphy classes I took in Japan were the exact opposite. We would be tasked with replicating a piece of classic calligraphy as accurately as possible. We’d show our attempt to the professor, who would point out where we went wrong, and we’d try again. They were technical exercises rather than creative ones, but they helped me learn how to control the brush in a way I never would have if left to my own devices. These skills, in turn, benefited my creative work.

Beyond technique, East Asian calligraphy has a number of qualities that informed my development as a cartoonist. It’d be too lengthy to get into them here, but if anyone’s interested I wrote a few entries about it on my blog:

http://larsmartinson.com/thoughts-about-lines/

What inspires you as an artist in the realms outside of comics? Music, film, visual art, etc.

I’ve always been fond of stories told through pictures, so most of what inspires me has visual and/or narrative elements. Wong Kar-wai movies, Knut Hamsun novels, and Hokusai’s sketchbook collections spring to mind as sources of inspiration. For music I really like Scandinavian folk; Hedningarna and Triakel are particularly good.

Recently I’ve become intrigued by the narrative potential of video games. I played Persona 4 Golden on the Vita last year, and it’s taken a place among my favorite narrative experiences in any medium. It paints a surprisingly subtle and nuanced portrait of a Japanese school life for a game that features demon-summoning and serial murder.

What is your favorite manga or manga artist? What draws you to that manga/artist?

I read tons of translated manga when I was in high school. Favorites at the time included Masamune Shirow, Johji Manabe, and Rumiko Takahashi. Eventually my interests drifted elsewhere, so I have to admit I’m not too familiar with the current manga scene. My favorite manga these days is hardly cutting edge: “Sazae-san” by Machiko Hasegawa. I explain why I admire it in this comic:

http://media.boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/sazae_930px_1.jpg

http://media.boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/sazae_930px_2.jpg

http://media.boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/sazae_930px_3.jpg

What has been the reaction of Japanese people who have read your graphic novel?

tonoharucover-700pxImage from Lars Martinson / Media

More than anything Japanese people tend to be surprised by the format. The Tonoharu books are hardcovers with two-color interior pages, which is all but unheard of in the manga world. Manga is usually first serialized in weekly or monthly b&w anthologies, so creative choices such as page sizes and printing methods are out of artists’ hands. Conversely, anything goes for American indie comics, so there’s a lot more diversity in terms of presentation, use of color, and binding.

Many of our readers have expressed interest in moving to Japan to become mangaka. What advice would you have for them?

I’ve never actually worked in the Japanese comics industry, so I’ll refrain from speculating on that in particular. But in broader terms, I wouldn’t advise pursuing a “career” as an artist unless you can’t imagine being happy doing anything else.

By some measures, Tonoharu has been a massive success; it’s been covered in the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly, translated into French and Spanish, and has sold out two hardcover printings with a paperback edition coming down the pipeline. But for all that, I’ve never made anything even approaching a living wage off of my work. Granted, I don’t have many books to sell, since I work at a glacial pace (spending more than ten years on three books is pretty ridiculous). But either way, trying to make a living as an artist rarely makes financial sense no matter how productive you are.

That said, I’m certainly not trying to dissuade people from pursuing something they’re passionate about. Obviously I wish I made more money from my comics, but I don’t for a second regret creating them. I guess my advice to someone looking to work in the Japanese comics industry would be the painfully obvious; strive to improve your craft as much as possible, and become proficient in Japanese. And make sure you’re having fun doing it, because there’s a good chance it may not provide as much monetary compensation as you’d like.

Tonoharu Part Two ends with a cliffhanger. What is in store for Dan in the third volume?

With each book, I’ve tried to capture different aspects of the experience of teaching in Japan. Notably absent in the first two books is any sort of meaningful interaction between Dan and his students, so I devote a significant chunk of the third book to that. This makes for some of my favorite scenes in the whole series, so I hope readers enjoy it as well.

What is your opinion of Japanese cake?

Almost always disappointing.

The post An Exclusive Interview With Tonoharu Creator, Lars Martinson appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/15/an-exclusive-interview-with-tonoharu-creator-lars-martinson/feed/ 17
Color-Me-In Bear Abs: The Tofugu Coloring Book #1 http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/03/tofugu-coloring-book/ http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/03/tofugu-coloring-book/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 17:30:14 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=37120 Working on 42039849023 illustrations for Tofugu, it didn’t take long for me to think about the many things we could do with the art that we’ve collected over time. It also didn’t take me awhile to be like, “Wouldn’t it be great if little kids would be able to color in Kumaman’s abs? Forreal?” And […]

The post Color-Me-In Bear Abs: The Tofugu Coloring Book #1 appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
Working on 42039849023 illustrations for Tofugu, it didn’t take long for me to think about the many things we could do with the art that we’ve collected over time. It also didn’t take me awhile to be like, “Wouldn’t it be great if little kids would be able to color in Kumaman’s abs? Forreal?” And it took less time for everyone in the staff to shake their heads and say, “Do you want to leave little children scarred for life by a creepy-ass bear with an amazing six pack for the rest of their lives?”

“Yes.” I said. And this happened.

tfgcoloringbook-03AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

Worried that your baby brother and/or little kid doesn’t appreciate your love of Kumaman? We have 20+ pages of different Tofugu illustrations outlined and made pretty, all compiled in one ginormous PDF to make them think otherwise!

tfgcoloringbook-01Random Tofugu employee showing off his finished piece. SO PRETTY.

There are other characters featured in the the coloring book (not limited to): Koichiffany, Hayao Miyazaki, Gomenjira, an alpaca, Shinzo Abe, cute vampires, Fugurobots, Matt Cain, and a giant squid! There’s also funny odd captions on every page that will make you think twice bout printing these pages out to give it to your children/siblings/mum/etc.

(Coloring book is now available in the Tofugu Store)

Color in the pages. Put it up on your fridge. Just do it. Make us proud. And make Kumaman proud.

tfgcoloringbook-02/SIGHS IN THE BRILLIANCE

And, because we want to see some finished products, we thought we’d hold a little contest!

PRIZES!!??

Go ahead and print out a page (or many pages) and color something in. Take a picture with your finished page and post it in the comments. We’ll pick out around five that we like sometime next week and send those lucky people some Tofugu/TextFugu/WaniKani stickers. Possibly bonus points if you make a small child do the coloring dirty work for you. Also some bonus points for a creative picture. JUST IMAGINE IF YOU COMBINED THE TWO!

Have fun, thank you for the great year, and we look forward to seeing what you can do with this!

The post Color-Me-In Bear Abs: The Tofugu Coloring Book #1 appeared first on Tofugu.

]]>
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/03/tofugu-coloring-book/feed/ 26