Tofugu » Saturday Timewaster http://www.tofugu.com A Japanese Language & Culture Blog Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:39:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Kid’s Anime for Japanese Learners http://www.tofugu.com/2015/03/30/kids-anime-japanese-learners/ http://www.tofugu.com/2015/03/30/kids-anime-japanese-learners/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=47249 When I started learning Japanese, the inability to pick up on words in anime, movies and music frustrated me. Aside from “Okā-san!”, “Otō-san!” and “Kusou!”, I had trouble catching words and phrases and my listening skills developed at a slow rate. I used to sit back and wonder, “Will I ever be able to understand what they’re […]

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When I started learning Japanese, the inability to pick up on words in anime, movies and music frustrated me. Aside from “Okā-san!”, “Otō-san!” and “Kusou!”, I had trouble catching words and phrases and my listening skills developed at a slow rate. I used to sit back and wonder, “Will I ever be able to understand what they’re saying!?”

A trip to the video rental shop answered my question. Instead of the anime, drama or comedy sections, I scoped out family and children’s DVDs. Among them I discovered Chibi Maruko-chanOden-kun, and other shows that served as more suitable learning material for a beginner. Although not easy, these programs featured language closer to my level, particularly when compared to the complicated plots of the anime and movies I had been watching.

At last I could improve my listening skills while being entertained! Some of these cartoons, like Anpanman, are made for toddlers and feature simple stories, simple Japanese and clear pronunciation. Others, like Nintama Rantarou, take aim at older children and feature a slight level-up in Japanese and plot. But all of the following shows can be used as study materials. But don’t take my word for it – give them a try!

Strategizin’

Photo by DGlodowska

When using anime as a learning tool, kicking back with a bag of popcorn won’t lead to major gains (although chewing gum might help.) It’s best to formulate a concrete plan of attack. Koichi offers tips, tricks and strategies on the subject in his excellent article How to Learn Japanese from Anime, and here are some techniques I find useful.

Watch an episode multiple times to challenge your ear. During the first viewing, turn the subtitles off and try to pick out single words or listen for understanding. You can repeat the process as many times as you want and even take some notes. On the final viewing, turn on the subtitles to see how successful you were.

When watching Japanese cartoons, shows or movies, decide whether to listen for overall understanding or for single words or phrases. When I first started learning Japanese I focused on listening for words and phrases I had studied. As my Japanese improved I focused on trying to understand the overall content of statements and conversations and ignored focusing on single words.

A more painstaking method involves listening to the dialogue and trying to write out the Japanese. This method works best when the anime features Japanese subtitles to compare your work with afterwards. You can also use this method with Japanese music and then check the lyrics online. This technique’s advantage lies in its focus on raw Japanese. Since you don’t need to understand what you write, you can invest total focus on listening. Although time consuming, this study method’s big yields means it’s worth investing time in.

As with any studying strategy, it’s best to try a variety of approaches to find what works best for you. But even when you do, changing things up keeps studying fresh and revives motivation.

Get to the List Already!

impatient tv watching cat

Photo by Carbon Arc

This list features cartoons with varying degrees of Japanese. True beginners (one year of study or less) may not be able to use cartoons for a study tool with great results. But thanks to their simple plots and clear Japanese, the series in this list offer a great starting point for listening improvement.

Anpanman (アンパンマン)

One of Japan’s most popular childrens’ characters is based on a familiar snack food. Welcome to the world of Anpanman, an anpan (bread filled with anko, or sweet red bean paste) headed hero. Sure his weakness is water, but when dampness strikes, the kind old baker Uncle Jam saves the day with a fresh head of bread.

What started as a series of picture books by Takashi Yanase in 1973 grew into an industry spawning clothing, toys, video games, snacks and a hit cartoon. Making its debut in 1988, the cartoon continues today with over one thousand episodes and annual movies and tv specials.

Anpanman reigns supreme among children ages 0 to 4, so the dialogue and stories stay simple. Beginners looking to get their feet wet in Japanese should find Anpanman their best bet. And as a bonus you learn about the Japanese diet: from melonpan to currypan, the delicious cast of characters features foods common to bakeries and supermarkets across Japan.

  • Pros: Aimed at young children. Anpanman features simple stories and simple dialogue perfect for Japanese language beginners of any age. Learn about Japan’s unique takes on bread.
  • Cons: Almost too cute and maybe too childish. Also, Anpanman‘s characters might make you hunger for foods unavailable outside of Japan.

Chirubii (チルビー)

Make it past Chirubii‘s cute, dancing rabbit opening and you’re in for a treat. The series features (slightly) animated versions of popular Japanese picture books with enthusiastic narration and colorful background music. Chirubii aims at children without becoming too infantile. By featuring books from various authors, this cartoon’s visual style varies from episode to episode and the stories never get stale. Watch Chirubii and experience some of Japan’s best picture books while leveling up your listening skills!

  • Pros: Chirubii offers Japanese aimed at the youngest native Japanese learners, so it makes for great listening practice! The variety of stories and art keeps Chirubii fresh and interesting.
  • Cons: The minimalist animation may turn off some viewers.

Nihon Mukashibanashi (日本昔話)

If children’s books and anthropomorphic bread don’t interest you, you might enjoy some good old fashioned folktales. Nihon Mukashibanashi offers up classic stories brought to life by various artists in various animation styles. Like the two series mentioned above, Nihon Mukashibanashi‘s Japanese stays simple, although some of rural and old folks’ Japanese might be difficult to pick up on. Overall Nihon Mukashibanashi offers deep cultural roots with a relaxing vibe.

  • Pros: Like Chirubii, Nihon Mukashibanashi’s assorted art styles keep the visuals interesting. The traditional source material offers a distinct Japanese flavor.
  • Cons: Like most fables and fairy tales, the stories get repetitive. How is it that so many old men saved magical sea-life?

Ganbare! Oden-kun (がんばれ!おでんくん)

Welcome to coolsville. Unlike the childish Anpanman and Chirubii and old-fashioned Nihon Mukashi-banashi, Oden-kun offers up a hip, groovy and occasionally psychedelic flavor. Created by actor (All Around Us), writer (Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad) and all-around talent Lily Frank, Oden-kun reflects its author’s unique personality and art style.

The story stars Oden-kun, a small kinchaku or mochi-filled bag of tofu who lives in a big pot of oden (a Japanese stew of sorts). His friends include egg-headed girls, a wise old slice of daikon radish and even a sausage-headed alpha-male. Oden-kun uses the mochi in his head to get him, his friends and his customers out of hairy situations. But don’t worry, after being pulled from the pot and eaten, Oden-kun and his pals eventually reappear for new adventures.

  • Pros: With slow and clear pronunciation, Oden-kun‘s Japanese is easy to pick up on. Unique plots and characters make Oden-kun one of the most fun children’s cartoons to watch.
  • Cons: Some viewers might find the show’s depictions of god (dude chilling on a cloud with a beard and bishop hat) offensive. Another one that might give you cravings for Japanese dishes that you can’t get at home.

Nintama Rantarou (忍たま乱太郎)

If ninjas are more your style, give Nintama Rantarou a try! The show focuses on the titular hero Rantarou and his friends Shinbei and Kirimaru as they train to be ninjas at Ninja Gakuen. Childish jokes (some involving poop) give you the chance to learn childish Japanese words (like poop) and make this show a fun watch.

  • Pros: Did I mention ninjas! And a great sense of humor.
  • Cons: Fast talking makes this one more difficult than the previous series on the list.

Sazae-san (サザエさん)

A long-running classic, Machiko Hasegawa’s Sazae-san depicts the everyday trials and tribulations faced by a Japanese housewife and her family. Although often compared to Chic Young’s Blondie character of the comic-strip of the same name, Patrick Drazen compares Sazae-san to Peanuts‘ Charlie Brown, as a “wishy-washy” character engaged in the balancing act of everyday life (Anime Explosion 143). Watch Sazae-san to tune up your Japanese skills while reflecting on a low-key idealization of family life in Japan.

  • Pros: The long running classic is grounded in reality. Suited for all audiences.
  • Cons: Born from the post-war 1940’s, perhaps Sazae-san’s world is overly romanticized.

Chibi Maruko-chan (ちびまる子ちゃん)

My favorite family show, ,the long running Chibi Maruko-chan has made the jump from analog to HD. While Sazae-san focuses on a Japanese housewife, Chibi Maruko-chan follows elementary school student Sakura-chan and her experiences at school, at home and around her neighborhood. Another show based in reality, Sakura’s reactions and thought-process reflect an authentic innocence that make the series both touching and humorous.

  • Pros: A funny, realistic portrayal of a Japanese child’s world.
  • Cons: The narrator’s sense of humor, which often flatly stating the obvious, may get lost in translation.

Crayon Shin-chan (クレヨンしんちゃん)

If a cheeky (in more ways than one) version of Japanese family life is what you’re looking for, give Crayon Shin-chan a look. Shin-chan and his eccentric family put humanity’s imperfect, but realistic shortcomings on display. Shin-chan is best compared to Bart Simpson of the early 1990s, a young troublemaker with his own colloquialisms. But like the later Simpsons episodes, Shin-chan’s universe is not constrained to reality. Crayon Shin-chan offers a crude but “real” representation of Japanese family life with language to match. As such, it’s one of the more difficult series on the list.

  • Pros: Learn Japanese as cheeky little kids speak it.
  • Cons: One of the most difficult to understand on the list, thanks to Shin-chan’s voice and pronunciation.

 Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール)

No introduction necessary, but here goes: The world-famous series that grew into the definitive shonen action-battle series started off as an action-comedy. Before Dragon Ball Z popularized fights spanning hundreds of episodes (at least that’s how they felt) and extended episode recaps, Dragon Ball kept things relatively simple and humor-based. Fans of the series know what to listen for and some of the characters’ slow, clear pronunciation make Dragon Ball an apt Japanese learning tool. And given its world-wide popularity, Dragon Ball should be the most accessible series on the list.

  • Pros: As a popular series abroad, it’s easy to obtain. Those who have already watched it in English know the plots and therefore what kind of words to listen for. For example, in the clip above Roshi (the old man) is trying to get Lunch (the girl) into the bathroom to peep on her. Since I know his intent, I know to listen for words like bathroom and bathtub.
  • Cons: When the action gets heavy, useful vocabulary dwindles. Goku’s (the main character) voice can be the most difficult to listen to.

Doraemon (ドラえもん)

The big, blue robot cat from the future debuted on the printed page as a manga in 1969 and on television in 1973. Doraemon has been a mainstay of Japanese television and movie theaters ever since. Sent from the future to help his inventor’s great great grandfather Nobita, Doraemon can pull all sorts of crazy inventions from the “magic pocket” on his tummy (think Felix The Cat’s magic bag of tricks).

Doraemon revolves around Nobita’s school and home life, though it occasionally crosses into the fantasy realm. Thanks to its sense of humor and innocent fun, Doraemon remains a favorite among all ages and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more recognized and beloved character in Japan.

  • Pros: Witness the closest thing Japan has to Mickey Mouse (aside from Kitty-chan?), in a long running, influential cultural mainstay. Even after hundreds of episodes, Doraemon’s unique and silly inventions will keep you guessing.
  • Cons: Although the inventions are interesting, the series’ plots get repetitive. Nobita’s bungling helplessness gets old.

Jarinko Chie (じゃりン子チエ)

Experience family life – Osaka style. Jarinko Chie deals with the eccentricities of Kansai life, the seedier, more in-your-face side of Japan. Experience Chie’s hard-knock life, complete with yakuza encounters and badass cats. Chie offers a refreshing change from the other child characters on this list as she faces the challenges of a broken home head-on and proves more responsible than many of the adults that surround her. But beware, taking on Jarinko Chie means taking on Kansai-ben (Osaka’s local dialect). Jarinko Chie is like a gritty, more capable Chibi Maruko-chan.

  • Pros: Experience Kansai-ben!
  • Cons: Experience Kansai-ben…

SpongeBob Squarepants (スポンジョボブ)

The popular American cartoon series has also seen success in Japan. SpongeBob and his friends speak with loud, clear pronunciation. While stories get crazy, the simple jokes and visuals make the dialogue easy to understand. Since the series is originally in English, it’s easy to find a source to compare the Japanese to. But since the series is originally in English, getting your hands on Japanese episodes might require buying the Japanese DVDs.

  • Pros: American humor (for Americans). Voice actors speak very clearly.
  • Cons: Some jokes don’t translate accurately, so the Japanese dialogue may differ from the English equivalent. Japanese episodes are hard to come by.

Access

video store

Photo by Andy Nystrom

Access to these shows would have been nearly impossible just a decade ago. But thanks to the internet, most are easily accessible. Video sites like Youtube offer episodes that can be viewed for free. There’s even an official Doraemon channel you can subscribe to. Can’t find the series by searching in English? Try searching in Japanese. If Youtube doesn’t give you what you want, try different video hosting sites (like Dailymotion).

Online marketplaces like Amazon.jp, Rakuten, Yesasia, Play-asia, and CDJapan offer many of these series on DVD or Bluray. Both shops have made international ordering easy by offering English versions of their stores and accepting foreign credit cards. Some series can be found at Amazon.com. I found Oden-kun, Chibi Maruko-chan, Anpanman, and even Jarinko Chie there.

But beware of region restrictions that prevent imported disks from playing on domestic DVD players. Luckily region-free DVD players that can play DVDs from any country are inexpensive. Amazon sells units at under $40.

Although I don’t have a region free DVD player, I set my computer’s DVD drive to region 2 so I can play Japanese DVDs. I also play them on my Japanese Playstation 3. Although playing import DVDs can be problematic, there are many easy solutions.

If you want English subtitles, things get a bit trickier. Most Japanese DVDs do not feature English subs. Japanese SpongeBob DVDs feature both Japanese and English options. And most Western-released Dragon Ball DVDs feature both languages. So those are you’re best bets. Funimation’s Western release of Crayon Shin-chan, however, does not feature Japanese language options. So if you buy Crayon Shin-chan DVDs for study purposes, make sure to get the Japanese release.

Doin’ Time

Photo by Unsplash

As Koichi explains, learning Japanese from anime takes work. Passively watching while reading English subtitles results in few gains if any. But by buckling down and deciding on a specific strategy we can dramatically level up our listening levels.

When it comes to listening skills, we all develop at different speeds, but putting in the time and effort can help push things along. But finding the right study material helps. And since many Japanese children’s shows feature simple stories and simple Japanese, they make a great starting point. Most of the series mentioned above feature 15 minute shorts, a length perfect for repeated, focused viewings.

And don’t forget to go back later to check your progress. I love revisiting a series from years ago. Nothing has been more satisfying than cultivating what feels like a sixth sense and understanding dialogue that was once just a bunch of indecipherable sounds.

Bonus Wallpapers!

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

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Creative Sketches on Japanese TV [Masquerade] http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/29/creative-sketches-on-japanese-tv-masquerade/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/29/creative-sketches-on-japanese-tv-masquerade/#comments Sat, 29 Jun 2013 16:00:21 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=32112 In my years on the internet, one Japanese TV show has popped up over and over again in GIFs, videos, and excited discussions. Even though the people who post about this show usually speak no Japanese and don’t know the name of it, this particular TV show seems to break through language barriers to amaze […]

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In my years on the internet, one Japanese TV show has popped up over and over again in GIFs, videos, and excited discussions. Even though the people who post about this show usually speak no Japanese and don’t know the name of it, this particular TV show seems to break through language barriers to amaze people around the world.

The show? 欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の全日本仮装大賞, also known as Masquerade in English.

The show’s premise is familiar: teams of people compete to wow judges and audiences alike with their talent. What makes Masquerade different from America’s Got Talent (other than Nick Cannon and a Snapple™ sponsorship) is its focus on incredibly creative sketches full of clever visual tricks.

These sketches take place anywhere from under the sea to a skydiving plane flying high above the ground. Not to be clichéd, but the only limit to these sketches seems to be the contestants’ imagination.

Fortunately for those of us who can’t catch Masquerade on Japanese TV, the show has an official YouTube channel full of some of its coolest, most imaginative sketches. You might even recognize some of them!

Many of the sketches are done with stagehands that blend into the background, very much in the Japanese tradition of kuroko (黒子), the stagehands dressed in all-black in traditional Japanese theater.

While many of the sketches are incredibly impressive, some of them can just be plain bizarre:

From the imaginative sketches to towering meter that fills up after every performance, Masquerade has a plethora of endearing qualities that make it clear why the show has spent decades on the air.

For more, check out Masquerade’s official YouTube channel!


Wallpapers

Want the excitement of Masquerade as your desktop background? Our incredible illustrator Aya has you covered!

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Wallpaper (2560×1440)

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Ugly Logo Contest Winners http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/22/ugly-logo-contest-winners/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/22/ugly-logo-contest-winners/#comments Sat, 22 Jun 2013 16:00:16 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=31835 Last week, we kicked off a contest, mainly for my own amusement, to see who could create the ugliest version of the beloved Tofugu mascot. The prize was a free copy of Japanese, an iOS app that includes a Japanese-English dictionary, study tools, and more. I got a bunch of great entries, but had to […]

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Last week, we kicked off a contest, mainly for my own amusement, to see who could create the ugliest version of the beloved Tofugu mascot. The prize was a free copy of Japanese, an iOS app that includes a Japanese-English dictionary, study tools, and more.

I got a bunch of great entries, but had to sadly whittle it down to ten. Here are the winners:

snot-fugu

I didn’t have a clear definition of “ugly” in mind when I started this, but this drawing gave it to me in spades. No other submission was as hard to look at as this crazy-eyed, snot-nosed fugu on a bright red background.


artsy-fugu

Not only was the fugu itself really ugly, but this person went above and beyond the call of duty to explain their artistry. Very dark and post-modern.


ren-stimpy-fugu

The illustrator of this fine fugu said that they took inspiration from the ugly, all-too-real closeups in the 90s cartoon Ren and Stimpy. The inspiration is clear, and ugly enough to earn this person a free copy of Japanese.


crazy-eye-fugu

This fugu isn’t just ugly, it peers into your very soul when it looks at you with that piercing, disturbing glare. Little does it know that I sold out my soul long ago. Joke’s on you!


motivationalfacks

This ugly, ugly collection of fugu with passionate pleas written all around it (“u ken lern japenese furm me dun eet mee”) was not only hideous, but heartwarming as well.


brick-fugu

This dark, brick-like fugu seems like something you’d see popping out of the wall in a horror movie or while playing Amnesia. Look at those mouth, those eyes—not something I’d like to run into.


vomiting-fugu

Vomiting fugu. Enough said.


high-heel-fugu

I didn’t even think that this fine piece of artwork was particularly ugly, but I was too by our lil Tofugu fugu in red high heels not to pick it.


toefugu

While I suspect that this was all done digitally, this submission has a lot of real-life textures (like brush strokes and glitter) that made the ugliness of the “Toefugu” really stand out.

Honorable Mentions

There were a few submissions that either weren’t eligible to win or didn’t want to win, but I liked nonetheless and wanted to include here.

johns-fugu

Our own John submitted his this repulsive piece of art, complete with ugly brick texture and saved in the wonderful BMP format. Most of you sent your pieces in a lossless form, which almost defeats the purpose. Haven’t you people heard of compression artifacts?!

Sadly for John, he couldn’t win since he, y’know, works here. Sorry bud!


spray-paint-fugu

This person actually said in their email that they couldn’t use the prize even if they won it, and just wanted to enter for fun. I respect that, and thus they earn a spot on our honorable mentions.


mescale-fugu

I love this upset fugu, but it’s not ugly, just sad. What’s the matter, little guy? Found out that you’re doomed to be sashimi?


rorschach-fugu

I received this submission with the message “My most sexual greetings from Israel.” I’m not sure what that means, or what it has to do with the drawing itself, but this ugly minimalist masterpiece found a place in my heart.

This person actually turned down the prize, apparently just wanting to submit their creation for the love of art. That’s a-okay with me.


Thanks so much to everybody who participated! This was a lot of fun and I loved checking my inbox every day and seeing your hideous creations.

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The Creepy Future of 3D Doll Cloning http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/15/the-creepy-future-of-3d-doll-cloning/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/15/the-creepy-future-of-3d-doll-cloning/#comments Sat, 15 Jun 2013 16:00:53 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=31636 The toys of the future are here and boy are they creepy. A Japanese start-up company known as Clone Factory has stirred up a storm on the internet with their 3D printed human faces on doll bodies. Whether the creepiness comes from the hyper realistic faces or just the disparity between the realism of the […]

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The toys of the future are here and boy are they creepy. A Japanese start-up company known as Clone Factory has stirred up a storm on the internet with their 3D printed human faces on doll bodies. Whether the creepiness comes from the hyper realistic faces or just the disparity between the realism of the printed faces and the primitiveness of the doll bodies, these things are weird. Really weird.

How It’s Made

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Making these abominations is actually quite simple. The model sits themselves down in a chair, has some coordinates projected onto their head, and then pictures are taken. These pictures are then processed by a computer and the model’s lovely mug is printed out in doll sized plaster by a 3D printer. From there, they airbrush on any fine details as needed.

doll5

I’m not sure how long the total process is, but the final result is pretty astounding. Now everyone can have their own little miniature version of themselves. For a price of course, but more on that later.

o-THE-CLONE-FACTORY-facebook

When ordering your doll, you get a choice of body. Some choices are creepier than others. The more out of proportion everything is, the weirder the doll ends up looking I think. I’ve heard of companies that make plushies in your likeness, but this is definitely next level right here.

Wait, They Cost How Much??

doll1Yeah, these things aren’t cheap. They’re about $1,300. Now, why would someone want to spend so much money on a doll? Well, some people just have too much money. Other than that, these dolls have become popular with women who want to have creepy custom mementos of special events in their lives, such as a wedding.

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Women can have their face, just as it looked on their wedding day with makeup and everything, plastered on a doll with their wedding hairstyle and their wedding dress and all. It’s almost like having a 3D picture to remember the event by. To some people, the $1,300 is worth it.

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I don’t think I’d be willing to spend more than $100 for something like this, but then again I can’t really think of any reason other than novelty for wanting one myself.

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Perhaps if there’s a strong demand for these sort of things, and 3D printing continues to become cheaper, these goofy dolls will fall in price as well. For now though, I think I’ll stick with regular action figures.

doll6

Oh yeah, they’ll also clone your pets too.


So tell me, how much would you spend for one of these custom dolls? Would you even want one? Do you think they’re as creepy as the rest of the internet does? Let us know in the comments!

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Maru Turns 6 http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/08/maru-turns-6/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/08/maru-turns-6/#comments Sat, 08 Jun 2013 16:00:03 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=31372 There’s no shortage of excellent YouTube videos coming out of Japan (even if some of them are just ripped from NicoNico) made by a lot of different people; but hands down the most famous Japanese YouTuber isn’t a person, but a cat. Maru, a Scottish Fold cat, has become famous around the world through YouTube. […]

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There’s no shortage of excellent YouTube videos coming out of Japan (even if some of them are just ripped from NicoNico) made by a lot of different people; but hands down the most famous Japanese YouTuber isn’t a person, but a cat. Maru, a Scottish Fold cat, has become famous around the world through YouTube.

We’ve written about Maru before in our roundup of Japanese cat videos and in our list of awesome Japanese YouTubers, but we thought that we’d write about Maru again for one reason: Maru’s 6th birthday just recently passed (May 24th).

In celebration of Maru’s 6th birthday, his anonymous owner created a video montage of some of his best moments from 2012:

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With 259 videos with over 200 million views, you could probably call in sick to work and spend at least a week watching nothin’ but Maru videos; and I gotta say, I wouldn’t blame you.

Maru’s biggest claim to fame is his love of cardboard boxes—jumping into them, sliding into them, and just generally trying to stuff his chubby little frame into any kind of container that he possibly can.

But there are plenty of other great Maru videos that will make you neglect your own cat to watch a Japanese cat on the internet (because that’s where we are as the human race now).

For more of Maru, check out his YouTube channel or official blog.


Wallpapers and GIFs!

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DIY Japanese Candy Kits http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/01/diy-japanese-candy-kits/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/06/01/diy-japanese-candy-kits/#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 16:00:10 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=31200 Japanese candy seems exotic and exciting to most of the rest of the world; between the novelty flavors, seasonal varieties, and unique packaging, Japanese candy really intrigues people. One type of candy in particular that seems to always grab people’s attention is the do-it-yourself candy kits. With little more than the included ingredients, water, and […]

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Japanese candy seems exotic and exciting to most of the rest of the world; between the novelty flavors, seasonal varieties, and unique packaging, Japanese candy really intrigues people.

One type of candy in particular that seems to always grab people’s attention is the do-it-yourself candy kits. With little more than the included ingredients, water, and a little patience, these candy kits transform from packets of powder and bags of putty into miniaturized versions of gourmet dishes.

The YouTube channel RRcherrypie has created an incredible number of videos showing viewers how to assemble these strange and interesting candy kits.

The appeal of RRcherrypie is not only does the channel introduce me to these novelty, do-it-yourself candy kits that aren’t really known in the West, but it’s also clear that the people behind RRcherrypie take a lot of care in what they do.

The attention given and the precision that these people take to assemble these candy kits is astounding. While most people would write off these candy kits as playthings for children, RRcherrypie treats these kits as if they were a craft. Many people find the deliberation found in RRcherrypie videos soothing and relaxing.

The identity of the people behind RRcherrypie is surprisingly mysterious. RRcherrypie’s official website states, in somewhat broken English, that RRcherrypie is a group of 3 or more people. We don’t tell you each individual person’s profile, because the imposter tries to pretend to be us. And the members would change often because we have a job.

The idea that a group of people got together to form an anonymous, candy-making collective is a little silly, but it’s endearing to me.

For more, check out RRcherrypie’s YouTube channel and official website.

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Automatic Mario Stomps Out Sweet Tunes http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/25/automatic-mario-stomps-out-sweet-tunes/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/25/automatic-mario-stomps-out-sweet-tunes/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 16:00:16 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=31017 Some people like playing video games. Other prefer their video games to play themselves, giving birth to the fad of hacking Super Mario World levels that move Mario to the end without any player input required. Still, others took it farther. It wasn’t enough that the game played only itself, it had to play music, […]

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Some people like playing video games. Other prefer their video games to play themselves, giving birth to the fad of hacking Super Mario World levels that move Mario to the end without any player input required. Still, others took it farther. It wasn’t enough that the game played only itself, it had to play music, as well. And thus begins the legend of 自動マリオ – Automatic Mario.

The typical Automatic Mario music video has Mario being ferried across the level by moving platforms, bouncing off enemies and custom blocks that send him flying. Most videos are uploaded to the Japanese video sharing site, Nico Nico Douga.

Melt

Theme song to Doraemon

This next one gets a bit Mario-ception, being a Super Mario World rendition of a vocal version of a song from Super Mario World. Sometimes blocks and other background objects are used to create graphics related to the song. Can you spot the KY in this video?

Western Show on Super Mario World

Even Luigi gets his own 自動ルイージ – Automatic Luigi:

Danjo

Cirno’s Perfect Math Class

Not to be outdone, some videos feature four separate levels playing out at the same time, to cover even more parts of the song.

Little Busters!

There’s even a four screen version of Queen, one for each member of the band.

Don’t Stop Me Now

Interest in Automatic Mario peaked around mid-2008, but there are still a few new videos being submitted to Nico Nico Douga every so often. In closing, I’ll leave you with an eleven minute medley of songs.

Kumikyoku Nico Nico Douga Grand Finale

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The Beautiful Bento Art of Mari Miyazawa http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/18/the-beautiful-bento-art-of-mari-miyazawa/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/18/the-beautiful-bento-art-of-mari-miyazawa/#comments Sat, 18 May 2013 16:00:40 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=30861 Japanese artist Mari Miyazawa plays with her food. Like, a lot. As a parent, she sent off her kids with homemade bento lunches, that much is normal; but where Miyazawa differs from most mothers is that her bento creations are works of art. They’ve been featured in photo exhibitions and on TV shows in Japan […]

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Japanese artist Mari Miyazawa plays with her food. Like, a lot. As a parent, she sent off her kids with homemade bento lunches, that much is normal; but where Miyazawa differs from most mothers is that her bento creations are works of art.

They’ve been featured in photo exhibitions and on TV shows in Japan and abroad. You’ve probably seen bento art before, but Miyazawa is maybe the most prolific and skilled of the many bento artists out there.

Bento art is called キャラ弁 in Japanese, a combination of the word for “character” and “bento,” and Miyazawa is a master at creating different characters using lunchtime materials.

kyara-breakfast

panda-bento

big-bento

assorted-kyara-bento

bird-bear-bento

Bento Theater

Not content with just her amazing bento box art, Miyazawa has dipped her toes into animation as well. Her YouTube channel is full of what she calls “Bento Theater.”

You can find a whole playlist here.

Do It Yourself

Maybe the best part about Miyazawa’s YouTube channel is the instructional videos; she’s kind enough to show us all how she whips up her amazing culinary works of art.

Putting together these dishes might not be especially easy or practical for you to do. Still, Miyazawa’s artistry is inspirational and might be enough to encourage me to

via Metafilter

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Capybara in Japan Take Baths, Think They’re People http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/11/capybara-in-japan-take-baths-think-theyre-people/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/11/capybara-in-japan-take-baths-think-theyre-people/#comments Sat, 11 May 2013 16:00:36 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=30622 When we visited Japan earlier this year, we visited the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park (which you can read more about here), a place where Japanese macaques bathe in natural hot springs. I thought it was pretty funny that the monkeys were so spoiled in such a human way; the monkeys bathe in the same kind […]

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When we visited Japan earlier this year, we visited the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park (which you can read more about here), a place where Japanese macaques bathe in natural hot springs.

I thought it was pretty funny that the monkeys were so spoiled in such a human way; the monkeys bathe in the same kind of tub a person would use.

What I didn’t realize until recently was that monkeys aren’t the only animals in Japan who get treated to a relaxing, hot bath.

At Nagasaki’s Bio Park, its collection of capybara, a type of rodent from South America, get spoiled with a hot bath in the winter time.

In the summer, the capybara get another seasonal treat: watermelon.

At Bio Park you can actually walk up and pet the adorable, docile capybara as evidenced by this video:

But not everything is rosy for Bio Park’s capybara. During feeding time they have to compete with their greatest natural enemy—the swan:

Strangely, Bio Park’s capybara aren’t the only ones in Japan who get special treatment. Up in Ishikawa, its zoo’s capybara also get to enjoy hot baths in the winter:

And in Fukuoka’s Torias Hisayama Zoo, the capybara lounge with other animals (like kangaroo and meerkats) in front of a heater to keep warm.

All in all, I’d say life is pretty good for capybara in Japan. Even though they’re far from their native South America, they get the royal treatment.

Wallpapers & Animated GIF

Once again, our illustrator Aya has provided desktop backrounds and animated GIFs. Enjoy!

Wallpaper (1280×800)
Wallpaper (2560×1440)

Animated GIF (700×438)
Animated GIF (1280×800)

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New Form of Japanese Advertising Too Sexy? http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/04/new-form-of-japanese-advertising-too-sexy/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/05/04/new-form-of-japanese-advertising-too-sexy/#comments Sat, 04 May 2013 16:00:05 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=30491 It’s edgy, it’s innovative, it’s in your face. It’s also super sexy. But could it be… too sexy? Japan’s latest advertising fad is sweeping the nation, offending, arousing, and selling product faster than you can say, “Damn, baby – you want fries with that shake?” The Science of Absolute Territory Image source The premise behind […]

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It’s edgy, it’s innovative, it’s in your face. It’s also super sexy. But could it be… too sexy? Japan’s latest advertising fad is sweeping the nation, offending, arousing, and selling product faster than you can say, “Damn, baby – you want fries with that shake?”

The Science of Absolute Territory

zettai-ryouiki

The premise behind this new advertising scheme is taking advantage of something known as zettai ryouiki or “absolute territory”. Zettai ryouiki is the exposed area of skin between the hem of a woman’s shorts or skirt and their leg wear. Often, a woman’s zettai ryouiki will garner more attention than any cleavage she might be sporting.

zettai-ryouki1

Since zettai ryouiki is defined by the length of the stockings, socks, or boots she’s wearing (I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring), Japan has developed a ranking system to define the grade of zettai ryouiki on a girl. It’s as obvious to me as it is to anyone that only grades A and B are to be considered true zettai ryouiki.

aflo_kzda000253A

Zettai ryouiki focuses on young and innocent sexuality and is most often worn by girls who are somewhat aware of their attractiveness but not so much that they’re going over the top with it. Fun fact: many tsundere characters find themselves sporting zettai ryouiki. Had you noticed?

The Advertising

Leg-Ads-JapanOf course someone would find a way to monetize this leggy phenomenon. A company calling themselves Absolute Territory has started to hire girls to sport ads on their zettai ryouiki, earning up to $125 a day. Over 1,300 girls are already participating in this new marketing fad and the only requirements apart from being a female (sorry Koichi) is that you must be over 18, and have at least 20 social media contacts.

green-day-thigh-ad

The girls have to wear the ad for at least eight hours during the day, taking pictures and uploading them to social media periodically to prove they’re keeping to their end of the bargain. Since men’s eyes would naturally wander to the girl’s milky white thighs anyway, Absolute Territory is taking advantage of this by placing an ad there.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bpquq8z-S0′]

Everybody from RocketNews24 to Green Day has been hopping on this advertising bandwagon. Not everyone, however, is keen on the idea. The Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau along with their prefectural government put the kibosh on any plans to make use of this new advertising stating that placing ads on the thighs of young women to advertise Okinawa is not in line with the prefecture’s brand image.

zettai-ryouiki-advertisement-r24

When they were still toying around with the idea, the offices received numerous complaints bashing the sexy plan as “undignified” and “not an appropriate use of taxpayer money”.

thigh-5

Since this sex advertising would be funded with government money taken from the people, it’s obvious that some would be outraged at the thought. Fortunately the government decided to kill the plan before it went into action. Even though they knew the campaign would definitely be effective in getting the attention of young people and males, they didn’t want to do anything to harm the overall image of Okinawa.


So tell me, what are your thoughts on this new advertising trend? Is it too sexy for use? Does it ruin the image of the people and companies who use it for advertising? Do you think this trend would ever catch on in your home country? Let us know in the comments!

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The Hilariously Impractical Japanese Typewriter http://www.tofugu.com/2013/04/27/the-hilariously-impractical-japanese-typewriter/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/04/27/the-hilariously-impractical-japanese-typewriter/#comments Sat, 27 Apr 2013 16:00:11 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=30332 Growing up in a computerized world, I’ve never really thought too much about the problems faced by people using typewriters. It’s pretty damn hard to make a Japanese typewriter (known in Japanese as a 和文タイプライター). Instead of the simple 26 letters in the English alphabet, Japanese has 48 hiragana, 48 katakana, and thousands and thousands […]

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Growing up in a computerized world, I’ve never really thought too much about the problems faced by people using typewriters.

It’s pretty damn hard to make a Japanese typewriter (known in Japanese as a 和文タイプライター). Instead of the simple 26 letters in the English alphabet, Japanese has 48 hiragana, 48 katakana, and thousands and thousands of the Chinese-derived kanji characters.

Unsurprisingly, it’s really hard to come up with a typewriter that can incorporate 1,000+ characters, but people still tried their damndest to make it work.

In 1929, a man named Kyota Sugimoto invented the first Japanese typewriter and, in the decades that followed, many more people tried their hand at making a better Japanese typewriter.

old-japanese-typewriter

They came in various shapes and sizes, but the underlying pricinple was more or less the same. You used a giant plate full of the 1,000+ characters included on the typewriter and gradually steered the plate to the character you wanted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

japanese-typewriter-legend

But it gets even more complicated. Some typewriters had interchangeable characters, some wrote vertically, others wrote horizontally. Apparently, certain characters, because of their complexity and the surface area, required more force than others. All in all, not very user friendly.

newer-japanese-typewriter

These typewriters might have given writing a certain formality and uniformity, but they were also basically slower than handwriting and really, really complicated.

Fortunately nowadays, Japanese people don’t have to deal with these cumbersome, complicated machines; computerized word processing has more or less solved the problem much more simply and elegantly than Japanese typewriters.

Still, there’s some mystique in these intricate devices. Even if they don’t make life especially convenient, they’re a fascinating relic of a time when Japanese was trying to bridge the gap into the modern world.


Read more: Gatunka – Japanese Typewriters

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Japanese Dog Is Smarter Than You http://www.tofugu.com/2013/04/20/japanese-dog-is-smarter-than-you/ http://www.tofugu.com/2013/04/20/japanese-dog-is-smarter-than-you/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 16:00:16 +0000 http://www.tofugu.com/?p=30208 Japan, more than any other country, seems to have mastered the art of using adorable pets for internet fame. In the past we’ve covered some of Japan’s greatest cat videos (including the incomparable Maru), and the adorable combination of an old Japanese lady and her odd-eyed cat, and a little Japanese boy and his best […]

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Japan, more than any other country, seems to have mastered the art of using adorable pets for internet fame. In the past we’ve covered some of Japan’s greatest cat videos (including the incomparable Maru), and the adorable combination of an old Japanese lady and her odd-eyed cat, and a little Japanese boy and his best friend.

So I wasn’t surprised when I discovered Purin the Super Beagle, an extremely talented dog owned by a man living in Shibuya, Tokyo. Purin is, embarrassingly enough, probably smarter and more talented than I’ll ever be.

Purin (Japanese for “custard”) first caught my eye when I found this video of her catching a ball in mid-air with her paws. It’s a cute video, not only because of Purin’s talent, but the softly excited「やった!」from the owner with each successful catch.

Beagles are notoriously smart, so it makes complete sense that Purin’s range of tricks doesn’t stop there. She can also jump rope:

Skateboard:

And maybe most impressively, she can catch a sword. The trick is based on an old samurai trope called 真剣白刃取り, where somebody stops a sword at the last minute with their bare hands.

Fortunately, Purin’s owner uses a foam sword, which is probably for the best since Purin seems to want to bite it anyway.

purin-catching-sword-landscape

purin-catching-sword-portrait

You can find more pictures and videos on Purin’s YouTube channel, and her Facebook page.

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