gokugetsu no juunana
Koutsuu anzen

It's a happy day here in Japandemonium, for the letter drought has come to an end! To celebrate, I'm making a column topic of the first one. It's short and topical, and perfect for an intro section. So, without further ado...

Tom asks...

I feel bad every time your column ends with no letters, so I have a question: what is the seatbelt law in Japan? I've noticed in a lot of anime (Spirited Away for one) that kids in the backseat don't have to wear seatbelts. Doesn't that seem dangerous, or is it that many people just don't ride in cars?

It's not that they don't have to wear seatbelts. It's that the Japanese seem largely oblivious to any sort of driving safety that involves what happens on the inside of the car. Lots of yakking on the cellphones, DVD players in positions that are likely to be distracting to the driver, nobody remembering to use seatbelts, kids getting up and changing seats -- including moving from the back of the car to the front -- while the car is in motion. As a teacher specializing in pre-school and elementary students, this just frightens me.

Honestly, it's like the Japanese (at least the ones around here) ignore any rule of the road that is not a direct traffic violation. They are careful about posted "No Turn" signs, yield to all pedestrians, and usually drive at or a little below the legal speed limit. But then there are all the seatbelt violations, cellphone violations, and the parking in handicap spots.

I really think the only reason we don't see more car fatalities over here is because the speed limits keep everyone at a happy 40 kmph (25 mph) on main roads and 50 kmph (just over 30 mph) on the major routes and avenues. The high-speed routes around here (roughly analogous to interstates or turnpikes) have speed limits ranging from 65 kmph (just over 40 mph) to 80 kmph (50 mph). I've heard that some of the major national routes go as high as 100 kmph (just over 60 mph), but I haven't been on any of those.

I think the bigger question is, how do they get anywhere at all at those speeds?

Since next Friday is Christmas Eve, there won't be a Japandemonium column. That makes today the final update for the month, so it's time for some more pinups from Hiroyuki Maeda's Lovely Lady Lab. This month, we have two beauties from two current titles.

First is Sophie -- sweet, innocent plot-induced amnesia victim and heroine of Tales of Graces, the non-buggy version of which has just recently come out for the PS3. From a different series on a different platform we have the not-so-innocent looking Aya Brea of Parasite Eve fame. I've heard that in the latest title, Aya's state of déshabille is a direct indicator of how much damage she's endured in battle. She must've gone through a boss battle recently, I suppose.

Source: Famitsu Weekly
Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Arrival! Monster Hunter Portable 3rd Capcom
2 New Arrival! Tales of Graces F Bandai-Namco
6 Last seen at 5 Pokémon Black/White Nintendo
13 Last seen at 7 Super Fossil Fighters Nintendo
14 Last seen at 2 Super Robot Wars L Bandai-Namco

Still trying to find a gift for that special gamer in your life? Last week's Famitsu has a few pages dedicated to all sorts of gamer-ish goodies, and most of them are even available online. Here are a few choice items.

This page contains all manner of things Capcom. There are Monster Hunter figures, cute little mascot card and tissue cases, a limited edition Phoenix Wright title, and even a mug with Chibiterasu (from Okamiden) on it.

On the next page, we have a set of wall posters from Square Enix, and a limited edition box for Shining Hearts complete with a calendar featuring all the beautiful ladies available therein.

And for our last page of the day, we have extra cuteness in the form of a Chocobo plushie reading a storybook. DQ's little blue slime is getting some attention too, as it's apparently started its own line of young women's fashion accessories. Pen cases, card cases, and handy pouches, to be exact. The bottom-left corner is dedicated to Dragon Quest bath balls -- slime-shaped lumps of bath salts, each containing a monster figurine in the middle. Collect all nine!

Source: Famitsu Weekly

I'll admit that when I first heard about Inazuma Eleven 3 - The Ogre, I was a bit confused. Why was Level-5 going down the route set by the Pokémon franchise, and delivering a rehashed/refined version half a year after the original? As I read on Dengeki's site earlier this week, there's a bit more to it than that. It seems that The Ogre has its own storyline which, to judge from the number of question marks, exclamation points, and interrobangs to be found in the screenshot commentary, is significantly different from Spark and Bomber. First, let's look at the rivals du jour.

This is the appropriately named Team Ogre. Nasty looking bunch, ain't they? The first bit of storyline fun and games starts with them. Apparently, they're from the future. Yes, the future. A mad genius from about three generations ahead in the timeline has decided to conquer the world by retroactively conquering its most popular sport, and the above are his minions. The below are their tricks:

With techniques like Death Spear, Death Rain, and Electrap, these guys obviously mean business.

On the side of our heroes, there are a few more players available for the Inazuma lineup. Presumably some of them are also from the future:

Aside from new tricks and new teammates, The Ogre also offers new locations to visit. The Dengeki article specifically mentions that these do not appear anywhere in Spark or Bomber, so they're probably plot-related.

Finally, there's the question of how Level-5 would fit a completely new plotline into the pre-existing anime version of the series. A short walk through my local YuMe Town shopping center helped provide the answer to this one.

Level-5 has their very own Inazuma movie opening in theaters next Thursday, just in time for the winter holidays. Personally I'm not that interested, but I'm sure a lot of my students will go see it.

Source: Dengeki Online

Red Company's having a lot of fun with the browser-based stuff recently, it would seem. Besides the upcoming rollout of Jipang Seven, based on the quirky Tengai Makyou series, one other series of theirs is getting in on the act.

Originally announced to the world mid-November, RoCWorks' Sakura Taisen - Taisho Romance Academy takes the series' simulation aspects and adapts them into a browser-based school sim title. The unofficial name of the genre is gakuenmono, which is to say a relationship-centric adventure in a school setting. The article in Famitsu states that this is the first time the Sakura series has ventured so far into this particular sub-genre, but I'm thinking that the series' GBC title was pretty similar to this.

Hidenori Matsubara is providing the art, and the lovely ladies of Sakura Taisen are all expected to make appearances. Service begins sometime next spring.

Source: Famitsu Online

To hold Sakura Taisen fans over till the browser game's released, here's some different Sakura-related goodness:

It wouldn't be December in Japan without another staqe production from Sega. This year, we have the "Sakura Taisen Paris Flower Troupe & New York Star Troupe Live 2010." Incidentally, I now know the kanji for New York City. Cool.

I won't get into specifics on the plot because I don't have the time to translate a text-heavy play by play of a three-act production.

For anyone interested but unable to attend, the Live 2010 DVD goes on sale March 24th, 2011.

Source: Famitsu Online

Every Friday a new issue of Famitsu appears in stores in my neighborhood, but not always at the same time every week. Sometimes I can find it on my morning walk, other times I won't see a copy until well into the afternoon after the column is finished. Today, I got it early, which is how I can now comment on the following game. I thought it would be a shame to keep this one hanging till next year.

The name of the game is Queen's Gate Spiral Chaos, a shameless sequel to a brazen beginning. The titular Queen's Gate is an ancient and dangerous artifact that ties time and space into odd shapes. If activated, it pulls people and things from various levels of reality without rhyme or reason. Thus we have a battle of control, with one side wanting to use the Gate for its own purposes, and the other just wanting to shut it down.

If you look at the top of the righthand scan, you can see a few of the new faces and figures to grace the series. First is Marron Macaron, who appears to be a major character this time around. She is, and I am not making this up, a magical patissiere. How this translates into battle prowess is unknown. The gal in black with the bat-winged headband is Aris, a treasure hunter who opened the Queen's Gate in order to pursue her interests in ancient artifacts.

The other two characters shown might be familiar to those who like a lot of fighting games. From the series Guilty Gear comes Dizzy, a halfbreed human-Gear (living weapon) with angel and devil wings sprouting from her back. Also appearing is Shiranui Mai, heroine of the King of Fighters series.

Unfortunately we don't have any screens for you all to ogle just yet, but they're sure to come soon. Check in next year, okay?

Source: Famitsu Weekly

What with all the commentary on the boards about Aya Brea's "Santa Soldier" costume in The Third Birthday, I knew I had to share this. In the latest Famitsu we can see a few more of the various wardrobe choices Aya can make as she fights grotesque mutants.

In addition to the Santa Soldier outfit, Aya can dress up as a maid, a knight, a businesswoman, or even as Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. And these are just the outfits they're showing us. Who knows what else might be hidden in the back of her closet?

Source: Famitsu Weekly
Yay! Another Letter!


My name is Adrian and even though I have sent you an e-mail before, I am still hoping that this one will not be too much of a bother either.


It's never a bother!

Anyway, while I was reading Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, which is a manga turned anime show that satirizes politics, media, and Japanese society, I came upon a chapter that makes fun of 'amakudari'. Apparently, 'amakudari' is an institutionalised practice where Japanese senior bureaucrats retire to high-profile positions in the private and public sectors. I have also learnt that ‘amakudari’ means ‘descent from heaven" and that it refers to the descent of the Shinto gods from heaven to earth. Still, I am pretty sure that the story was focused more around corrupted bureaucrats than heavenly gods. Well, at one point in the manga, an amakudari from MEX enrolls as a high-school student (the manga focuses on a teacher and his students as they go about making fun of the world) in order to get hold of some retirement money. To make a long story short, I was wondering: have you ever had to deal with one of these 'amakudari' at your school? And if so, has he ever suggested that you organise three legged races in order to build up class unity? Whenever I read this manga I always think about you and your class. Although, I know that your kids are smaller and I am pretty sure that you are not a super negative teacher otherwise you would constantly be in despair.


Just once have I had to deal with someone like this, and it was actually a retired high school principal so I'm not sure if it fits the profile you mean. Higher-level Japanese school officials are technically public servants and bureaucrats, though. And the guy was a pompous jerk in any case.

On a different note, I would also like to ask: how do Japanese people celebrate the winter holidays? I know that ‘X-mass’ is pretty popular around the world, but I would like to know about traditional celebrations more than anything else.


Just spell it as "Christmas," please. I hate the abbreviated form. To answer your question though... Celebrate? Not really, unless they're Christian converts. Some Japanese high schools won't even begin the winter holiday until the 28th. New Year's Eve is the big holiday in Japan, and Christmas is just an exotic newcomer that makes a nice setting for romantic dates. Even New Year's isn't celebrated as much as it used to be, as most Japanese aren't practicing Shintoists either. Still, the shrines are always busy the night of the 31st. People will go there to say a short prayer and toss a 5-yen coin into the offering box.

Thanks for taking the time to read this! Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.



And thank you for taking the time to write it! And a happy new year to you too!

And that's all for this year! In the next seven days, I have two school Christmas parties and a Family Show to worry about, and it's not like a lot of people will have the time or inclination to check out the column on the big day anyway. So see you all next year, okay?

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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