Vote Now! Nara’s New Mascot Contest

Contest is over – #2 won on April 17

inally! The time has come to vote on Nara’s New New Mascot. I got a lot of submissions for this contest, so unfortunately I had to narrow it down to my favorite top ten to make voting easier on everyone. Also, I haven’t read any of the submissions for the “continue this story” contest, but I’ll be getting to that within the week. I hope the City of Nara sees this article and realizes the error of their ways.

The mascots will be listed after the break. Afterwards, there will be a poll that will allow you to vote on your favorite! Please vote for your favorite New New Nara Mascot by using the number/name I gave each mascot (which can be seen on each image). The winner of this contest gets a brand spanking new Japanese textbook of my choosing, so make sure you vote now! Somebody’s education is on the line!

Voting will end in one week! (That’s April 17 at Midnight my time) [Read more…]

mother cafe maid

Maid Cafes Just Got Creepier: Mom Cafés.

Those silly otaku are finally wishing they had met their moms. See? Never leaving your room does have implications.

They are finally putting down their Gundam model constructor kit. They are finally putting Street Fighter II down. Some of them are even facing that big yellow orb in the sky and huffing and puffing their way on over to “Mother Café,” a particularly maternal café in Osaka with “older looking women” who are actually instructed to nag you about things… “Just to get the experience to be more accurate.”

“Takeshi-kun! You really need to pay for your visit this time.”
“But moooommmmm.”
“No, seriously, you actually have to pay for this.”

You’d think you could experience nagging from your actual mother, if you wanted to. So how in the world did this place come into existence?

Apparently, “Mother Café” was created because “there wasn’t really anywhere that had a library of over 10,000 different manga, and also allowed people with a bit of a maniac streak about them to pursue their hearts’ desire.” Maniac streak is right. [Read more…]

american buildings too tall

Godzilla’s New Life 5: American Buildings Too Tall

For a while now, I’ve been doing my Godzilla (or Gojira, if you want to be cool) series over on my other site, Koichiben. It is all about Godzilla’s new life in Portland, OR, USA, and how he deals with all the things we take for granted. He is a monster, you know.

I was planning on uploading this video over on Koichiben, but that was before I took a look at the new statistics tracker that Youtube recently put up. It’s a really neat feature that shows all sorts of things, one of them being a geographical tracker; basically, I can see who watches my videos and where they are.

It turns out that all of my Koichiben videos are watched primarily by people in Japan…except for my four Gojira videos, which are all primarily watched by Americans, the Brits, and Australians (don’t worry Norway, you’re in there somewhere too!). Based on those statistics, I decided I should go ahead and pull the series over here. Just makes more sense, I think.

This video is kind of a mix of all the other ones, with a few new things added in. Godzilla’s New Life 5: American Buildings Too Tall was actually made for a Video Art class here at school (Art classes + thesis is what second semester senior year is all about), so it’s a much different style from my previous ones. This one goes a little into the back-story of Godzilla coming to America, some of the things he goes through, and then the story of what happens after he gets back from his Hawaiian vacation (Godzilla #4). Poor Godzilla. Times are a little tough for the lizard. So, without further adieu, check out the video! I hope you laugh, even though it’s a bit darker than previous ones. I really enjoyed making it, anyways. [Read more…]

Using Technology to Learn Japanese Questions

sadderface.jpgSo, I have more questions for you.

This time the questions will be shorter/easier and more specific. Although the previous data was incredibly helpful (and I will be using so much of it), I’d like to focus a little on “the use of technology to learn Japanese.” By technology, I mean everything from Mixi.jp, to your Nintendo DS, to your iPod. For those of you who are learning Japanese in a “formal” setting (i.e. in a classroom with a teacher), I am also curious to know if you use technology in your classroom, and if you do, I want to know what it is. Anyways, the questionnaire and polls are below. This one shouldn’t take very long for you to fill out, so if you can help me out, I’d really appreciate it.

Just like the other data, this going towards a thesis all about “how people learn Japanese,” which I will be making available to everyone after it’s all done in an e-book format. So, just know that if you are contributing, you will eventually get something back in terms of information that could be helpful, or at least interesting, to you personally!

Without further adieu, here it is [Read more…]

A Huge Thank You! Japanese Learner Trends!

450 pages

I want to thank all of you for your help. By filling out my questionnaire I (might) be able to finish my thesis on time! I will be getting to all of your thank you cards eventually, though I wouldn’t expect them right away. I still have to finish my thesis first, and then I’ll get cracking on them, I promise. I’ve read through all of them and I’m incredibly impressed. They were full of things I never expected. For example, who knew that almost everybody hates pair work? I certainly didn’t. Also, did you know that people who are self taught have the tendency to be more comfortable with speaking, whereas those who are taught in a formal setting (like school) tend to be more comfortable with reading and writing?

Anyways, the best part about the survey was when famous bloggers who blog on Japan helped me out. I have to say I was startled when I got submissions from some of the big names. Although they are really just normal people like you and I, I thought you might want to see what they had to say, since they are “professionals” on the subject, and all. [Read more…]

koichi has a sad face on

Help Me Help You (Plus Extended Nara Mascot Contest Deadline!)

koichi has a sad face onHey Everyone. I need your help in a big way. I’m doing my senior thesis on Japanese Pedagogy (basically I’m researching how people learned Japanese, how they are learning it now, and how it should change in the future). I need to interview a lot of people who are learning Japanese to get a better feel of things. Below is a form with a bunch of questions regarding this topic. I would appreciate it so much if you filled it out (if you are learning Japanese). I don’t have much I can offer in return, but I will write you a thank you card (with my bare hands) and send it to you, if you provide me your address. I won’t use it for anything else but this, I promise. So if you could fill out the form after the break, I would appreciate it so much.

In somewhat not related news, I am extending the deadline for the Nara Mascot and Story contest by 2 weeks. Get your submissions in by April 9th. Right now there are around 6 or 7 in, so I hope to get a few more by the time the time is up. It will be voted on after the deadline and the winner will get a Japanese textbook of my choosing (depending on the winner’s level and what they already have). If you finish the story, you have a chance of winning some Japanese goods (also of my choosing). So now that you have two more weeks, don’t wait anymore! I really enjoy seeing your submissions, so please try it out if you’re interested!

The form of questions for Japanese learners is below, all you have to do is [Read more…]

Excuse me, has you a flavor??

Obake Series: Tanuki

Before we get started with this long overdue article, let’s take a small quiz. No cheating!

Tanuki are: A) Badgers, B) Raccoons, C) Wolverines, D) Raccoon dogs

Here’s a tanuki macro to help you out:
Excuse me, has you a flavor??

The word tanuki is often mistranslated as “raccoon” or “badger”. By looking at them, though, you can tell that’s clearly not what they are. I’ve wondered what the actual translation was for years now but have been too lazy to look it up until just recently. So, for those of you who knew enough to choose D, congratulations! Raccoon dogs, or tanuki (狸), show up all the time in Japanese folklore and fairy tales, and are fairly unique in that they’re one of the only “real” yōkai. I mean, you’ll probably never see a kappa or a bake-zōri, but a tanuki sighting isn’t quite so far-fetched. To begin with, let’s start with stereotypical tanuki image: [Read more…]

new nara mascot

Nara’s Super-Creepy New Mascot wants you to Win a Japanese Textbook!

This Contest has been extended to April 9, 2008!

Nara-City, the capitol city of Nara prefecture, is known for it’s beautiful temples and overly aggressive biting deer monsters. This year, Nara Heijo-Kyo Capitol is celebrating its 1300th year anniversary, and will be holding a big a event. Usually when this kind of thing happens, whoever is running the event comes up with an over the top mascot that cutes you into coming. This year, the Association for Commemorative Events seems to be taking the opposite approach.

Nara’s new creepy mascot

Perhaps the event is expecting too many people, and Nara is too small to support them, so they are trying to scare visitors away? What’s he doing with his hand? Trying to touch you in inappropriate places? He kind of looks like Buddha…except for the fact that he has antlers coming out of his head. I would never spend any time alone with this guy. In fact, I wonder how he eats, because no restaurant I know of would let someone with no shoes and no shirt in, even if summers do get warm. Also, I know what the thing on his forehead is supposed to be, but honestly, it just looks like a third nipple (actually, his only nipple from the looks of things) smack dab between his eyes. Nara Association of Commemorative Events, what were you thinking? [Read more…]

genki textbook

Japanese Textbook Review: Genki I

genki textbookOver the next month, I will be reviewing some of the mainstream Japanese text books that are currently being used by Japanese language learners; from there I will move on to reviewing programs that use technology to teach Japanese (such as Japanesepod and Rosetta). Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, it’s pretty big chunk of my senior thesis (which is on Japanese pedagogy). I’ll fill you in on the details later, but for now, let’s get started with this review.

I spent a couple of hours going through Genki I. I would summarize the book for you, but I think they do a much better job: “Aim and Purpose: Genki, An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese is a textbook for beginners in the study of the Japanese language. Students can complete the elementary-level study of Japanese in the 23 lessons of this text, which is divided into two volumes. The book is designed maily for use in university and college courses, but it is also effective for high school students and adults who are beginning to learn Japanese either at school or on their own.”

Overall, I was very impressed with this textbook. I don’t remember what text I used when I first started learning Japanese, but it certainly wasn’t as swanky as this one (swanky is a good thing). I can see why so many Japanese classrooms use this as their only textbook. It has good flow, it does well building lessons on top of each other, and it always gives you just enough information to get you thinking a little bit (good for weeding out the people who only think they want to learn Japanese, but are actually just lazy).

Still, there were a few pitfalls. To find out what they are, and to find out if this Japanese textbook is right for you, click on, my friend, click on. [Read more…]


How to Talk Like a Samurai

talk like a samurai

It seems as though bushido, i.e. “the way of the warrior,” is getting pretty popular amongst several (mostly otaku) groups in Japan. Not only are people speaking like Samurai – using Samurai grammar, vocabulary, etc., but people are starting to “act like them” as well.

Here’s a quote from Japan’s Weekly Playboy (2/18):

“Samurai are supposed to be strong, quiet types, right? So they sit there with their arms folded, saying nothing. After about an hour, they’ll come over and pay, handing out their cash without showing their wallets. A modern wallet wouldn’t match their image. The otaku girls in (the Tokyo shopping district of) Akihabara really like these guys.”

Supposedly, a lot of Japanese are trying to return to their roots; trying to regain that “Japanese uniqueness.” Samurai movies, video games, and comics are currently very popular. More people are wearing kimonos out in public. Even a new magazine devoted solely to the concept of bushido came out at the beginning of this year. Although I’m not sure if this fad is to last, or make any impression on normal Japanese language, I thought that it would be fun to learn a little bit of Samurai lingo just in case. So, if you want to impress your Japanese friends (or give them something to laugh about), click on, friend, click on. [Read more…]

twitter in japanese

Using Twitter to Practice Japanese

twitter in japaneseA couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Mixi to practice your Japanese. This week I will be talking about another valuable (but fun) online tool that is a little easier on the busy learner. I started getting into Twitter because I thought it would be a cool addition to this site. Every day (or so) I am publishing little tidbits about Japan in 140 characters or less. These are things that don’t necessarily deserve their own article, but are important to know. If you’re interested, you should follow my Twitter channel.

I’ve only started twittering recently, but I’ve noticed that there is a huge population of Japanese Twitterers using the site. If you go to the public timeline, you will be surprised to see that 25% or so of the “Tweets” are in Japanese, depending on what time you’re looking. What makes it so perfect for us Japanese learners is that they are short. Very short. Anyone can easily translate one of them a day (or more if you are fairly proficient at reading). But first thing’s first. What the heck is this Twitter thing, anyways? [Read more…]

Tofugu’s Japan Week in Review 2: Origami in Space, Expensive Fish, (To)Fugu Death

January 5 – January 25 (that’s like…3 weeks in review!)
Here’s to another attempt at keeping up with all that silly Japanese news. I feel like not making a video to go along with it is the best way to go. Only the really special topics deserve that moving picture frame. And now, without further ado:

No more smoking in Tokyo Taxis [road rage triples]
no more smoking in taxisToo bad for all you smokers out there who happen to enjoy taxi rides. Tokyo taxis no longer allow you to smoke whilst riding, which shows that Japan is getting less smoker friendly (except for Pachinko Parlors, which seem to be getting even more smoky). This trend doesn’t only exist in Tokyo, though. Right now, over half of Japanese taxis are smoke free. With Japan’s smoking population continually dropping (now at around 30%), I think we can expect to see more and more places banning smoking. It’s about time, now Japan can jack their life expectancy up into the hundreds. [source]

Researchers to launch origami from space [dumb Japanese science]
origamispaceplane.jpgResearchers from the University of Tokyo have been drinking a lot of saké lately. Teaming up with the Japan Origami Airplane Association (wtf??), University of Tokyo researchers are planning on creating a paper aircraft that is “capable of surviving the flight from the International Space Station to the Earth’s surface.” It will be a 3.1 inch long origami plane made of heat resistant paper. Because it moves at much slower speeds compared to a real space shuttle, it’s expected to receive less friction from the atmosphere, thus less heat. A launch date has not been set. [source] [Read more…]