December 21st, 2007

It's that time of year again... And in Japan, that doesn't mean Christmas, it means New Year's Day. The New Year celebrations are a major festival in Japan, and only one of a handful of times every year when the local shrines are sure to be packed with visitors.

The end of the year also means parties. Every company office in the country has a bonenkai (lit. "Forget-the-year Gathering") to celebrate. Of course, it's mostly an excuse for salarymen to get drunk, which is hardly something they need, but it's still tradition.

Let's get ready to Rock out! The annual World Hobby Fair is all ready for January '08 (locations in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka), and Capcom has a special event prepared for those lucky kids who can make it there.

Anyone who brings along their Nintendo DS and a copy of Mega Man Star Force 2 can enter a wireless-play tournament, and get some good stuff for free while they're at it. The "World Master 2008" Tournament is open to all comers, but is split according to age. Junior Class is open to all elementary school kids from 1st to 4th grade. Senior class is for the older kids, from 5th grade elementary to 3rd year junior high (about 9th grade, in America). Finally, there's an open class for anyone else who wants to participate.

First on the table of goodies is a Rare Data card for the game itself. The "King Granger" data can be downloaded straight into the game file for the player's enjoyment. I don't know much about how this game works, personally, but from the pictures it looks pretty impressive.

The second item up for grabs is a new versus battler. You can download the data for "Brother," a web-battler whose icon is a very retro-looking Mega Man of years past.

If you're a Star Force fan who's in the area, best of luck!

Source: Famitsu

Here we are again, another week and another week's sales ratings. Which machine reigns supreme? The DS, of course, but this week, at least, it has some competition from the Wii and Xbox 360, so it's not all a runaway for the handhelds.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
6 Up from 8 Dragon Quest IV Square Enix
14 New Release! Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon ~ Labyrinth Forgotten by Time~ Square Enix
16 Down from 2 Tales of Innocence Bandai-Namco
18 Up from 25 Pokemon Dungeon - Time Explorers Nintendo
22 Up from 30 Pokemon Dungeon - Darkness Explorers Nintendo
29 Up from 43 Dinosaur King - The Seven Fragments Sega
30 New Release! Kingdom Under Fire - Circle of Doom Microsoft
39 Down from 6 Lost Odyssey Microsoft
43 Up from 44 Mega Man Star Force 2 - Berserk x Dinosaur Capcom
44 Up from 46 Mega Man Star Force 2 - Berserk x Shinobi Capcom
Source: Dengeki

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Three giant mechs, two art books, and a Gundam in a pear tree... er. *Ahem*. Just doesn't sound the same, now does it? Nevertheless, those nice folks at Bandai have chosen the 27th of December as the release date for their latest offense against the Inverse-Square Law, Super Robot Taisen OG Gaigen. To celebrate the release, any gamers willing to shill out the big bucks (about $90) can get a nice bit of swag as well.

Source: Dengeki Online

In a little celebration of their own, Square Enix held a performance this past Thursday to mark the release of Final Fantasy IV for the DS. Held at Tokyo's HMV building, the feature act of the evening was a performance by Ms. Emi Ida (pictured above), who sings "Theme of Love" from Final Fantasy IV's CD single "Tsuki no Akari (Light of the Moon)".

Source: Famitsu

And finally, we have the Tales series. Yet again. As mentioned last time, Namco-Bandai's Tales series is both prolific and varied, and around the time the company was gearing up for its big ten-million-served message the previous week, yet another Tales of... was being rolled out.

This time, we have Tales of Breaker, a mobile-phone game done in the style of the classic Tales games, with the side-scrolling linear battle system and vaguely generic fantasy setting. The story is broken into six chapters, with one chapter made available each month as the player progresses.

For anyone out there with a DoCoMo FOMA 900i and 525 yen to spare, it's just one easy download from Tales' EZ-web netportal.

Source: Dengeki Online
Hey you!

Sir! Reporting in for letter duty, SIR! Just kidding, although I did want to write you a mail last time, but well, you know the drill, time doesn't stop. Anyway, Japanese mobile phones? Just got one on Saturday (Softbank 820p), so I'm still learning how to use it, compared to my old one it's like a new world.

And in response to Annalou's letter from the column before the recent one: There IS a medium (maybe not necessarily a happy one), and it's even geographically in the middle: Europe! What's so good you ask? If you don't like what you see, just drive around 150 to 200 miles and you have a different culture, with different architecture, behavior and many times even a completely different language. It's all about diversity. The best thing about it though? Even if it's completely another world half the time you can use the same money, and it's easier to cross borders than from or to the US (concerning foreign countries).

And hang in there with Japanese, it get's even more fun to learn with increasing levels.

Now for my question: Since playing games in Japanese is an interesting topic, up to now what games have you played in Japanese? And what were the really frustrating experiences with them? I haven't played any, but decided a good start is replaying games I know by heart in English. For the record: The first one will be (of course) Chrono Trigger. It taught my a lot about English, so maybe it does now the same with Japanese.

Any other tips, aside from the ones you already handed out to Annalou? (My level is around 3-kyuu now, although I know a few more Kanji)

Keep up the great work,



Thanks for the enthusiasm, soldier!

The latest-generation mobile phones are something else, aren't they? If I'd really wanted it, I could have gotten video conferencing and a TV receiver with mine, but the first option wouldn't have been much use without someone to video-chat with, and as for the second... I really don't have that much interest in watching Japanese television.

Everyone should try Europe sometime, though I'd have to make a few suggestions. 1) Avoid the big population centers at first. Too many tourists go there already, so the locals are generally sick of Americans as it is. Especially around Paris. 2) At least make an attempt at learning the local language. Even if all you learn is "Excuse me, do you speak English?", that will do wonders towards improving people's opinion of you.

As for games I've played in Japanese.... Well... I don't think we have enough space for all that. A full list would probably be about the length of the entire column. So, what do I have on the shelf now? Persona 1 & 3, Devil Summoner (Soul Hackers & Kuzunoha Raidou), Final Fantasy IV & X, both Magical Vacation games, five different Seiken Densetsu games, about two-thirds of Gust's Atelier franchise, a couple of Nippon-Ichi strategy titles, four SaGa games, and a bunch of titles that no one has ever heard of.

Chrono Trigger should be a good choice for a starter game, though. The story's pretty straightforward, you're already familiar with it, and it's from late enough in the SNES's lifespan that the type-fonts should be pretty easy to read. Word to the wise, if you value your eyesight, be careful with NES or early SNES games. Due to size limitations, they usually use a cramped font for hiragana and katakana, with few kanji. Even original Game Boy titles are easier to read, sometimes.

A good online reference can be handy. You seem to be familiar with the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam (JLPT), so you probably already know Kanji-A-Day, which is really useful when studying for the exam, but for kanji reference I prefer's online dictionary. That one allows you to look for kanji by stroke count or radical, and is good for when you have no idea what the pronunciation might be.

Keep on truckin'. I'll be here.

Culture Corner Double Feature

Hi, I was surfing Youtube the other day and I found Japanese Christmas songs with really cute animations.

Here and here and so on...

kawaii ne? (cute huh?) However when I looked for Hanukka songs in Japanese, I couldn't find anything. Of course I don't know how Hanukka is spelled in Japanese either...(Speaking of which, I don't know how to spell it in English, so I apologize to the Jewish folks) Anyway, I know Christianity isn't a big thing in Japan, so I was curious about other religions. I know Shintoism and Buddhism are big but what about other religions? I'm an atheist myself, but I find it interesting how different parts of the world have different distributions of various faiths. (Sorry, that was a really weird sentence. What I mean is, the fact that Japan is predominantly Shintoist and Buddhist while the U.S. is largely Christian and Jewish is interesting).

Anway, got any comments? Are there Japanese Hanukka songs hiding somewhere on Youtube?


Honestly, there likely aren't any. Judaism has never really been known for proselytization, so there can't be many Japanese Jews, and the holiday hasn't been commercialized to the level necessary to make it noticeable to the Japanese public.

As for the religious makeup of Japan, I had a talk with my girlfriend recently about just that. Only a small portion of the population belongs to an organized religion or sect in Japan, be it one of the dozen or so Buddhist disciplines, the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or another Christan group, or Soka Gakkai (an evangelical Buddhist group that manages to be more annoying than the Witnesses). Most of the population follows the traditional "Shinto in life, Buddhist in death" path, and don't think much of it otherwise. Many people I've known here can't really tell anything about either religion, or remember any real religious or mythological stories. They just pray at the shrines, buy random blessed items, and let the professional priests and monks do their own thing, without paying much attention to the religion itself. In other words, the majority of Japanese are functionally agnostic.

Which is why they don't see any problem with appropriating any cool-looking foreign holidays as long as it doesn't conflict with their national work ethic

Also, what are the different genres of videogames called in Japanese? I'm pretty sure RPG is still RPG but what about action, shooter, puzzle, simulation, sports, etc.? Also, seeing as the U.S. has EBGames/Gamestop, what does Japan have in terms of major video game retailers?

eetoo....nani o kakereba ii desu ka? (umm....what should I write?) I wonder what it's like to be a profesional translator? I might like to do that if I ever get good enough at Japanese. By the way, do you like to watch Japanese TV shows? I watch fansubbed versions of anime and Super Sentai. Are there a lot of anime tie-in video games in Japan? It seems like there would be.

Okay. That's all the rambling I'm going to do for now. Oh, before I go though, what is the video game rating system in Japan and how does it work? Is it enforced? I think I'm really done now.

Ja ne,



A lot of the major game retailers here, like Tsutaya and GeoGeo, also carry large stocks of used games. There are several large networks of secondhand stores for videos, games, and manga as well, so it's not hard to find a place to shop in Japan. Used to be, if I was really bored on a weekend, I could go into one with a thousand yen in hand, and pick up all sorts of games on the cheap. Anything from a "retired" console, like SNES or old Game Boy, tends to be priced really low, like a few dollars at most. Which is why I have so many useless games now. At least some of them were good for a laugh...

Japanese TV, however, I tend to avoid. The majority of Japanese television seems to be insipid, poorly-acted dramas, or talk shows wherein B-list celebrities try different foods (and make funny faces as they express how delicious the stuff is). The good stuff is hard to find amid all the dross that is Japanese daytime TV, and I am thankful for the all-anime channels on cable.

Most anime tie-in games in Japan are classified as either Adventure (play along with the game storyline), or Simulation (relationship game). A few, usually action titles, end up as fighting games, or the occasional RPG. Japanese game companies use more-or-less the same classification system that we do for games. The biggest difference I can think of is that strategy games, like the various Nippon-Ichi titles, are often classified as Simulation (as in, military simulation), and even the classification "S-RPG" refers to simulation, not strategy as it does in America.

There is a rating system in Japan, and when it applies, it's enforced, at least at the big stores. The Japanese tend to mark stuff differently in any case, with heavy violence or grotesque imagery (the very wording used on the rating sticker) making for a stricter rating, while giving a lot of leeway in adult material.

Anyhoo, hope you don't mind me splicing a few mails together. Keep on writing!

Well, tomorrow is my last day of work for the year, which means... not a bonenkai, because we had one three weeks ago. Instead, a certain someone gets to play Santa for fifty or so elementary school kids. Wish me luck, everyone. After that, it's home for the holidays!

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari
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