Monday, August 29, 2011

Fun Japanese on-the-go gaming

As with many expats who return from a stint abroad, I'm kind of fighting to retain as much of the language as I can. I've written before about how studying a language should be fun, an opinion I've encountered on plenty of other J-blogs. While I find reading enjoyable, it can be too much effort after a long day to sit down and read a book in Japanese when I just want to unwind. Movies and TV shows are good, but I don't have a stock readily available and I'm quite picky. So I've been using games when I can. I wrote a while ago about Radiant Historia, which I'm still inching along in. Good game, just too many cutscenes with a ton of dialogue.

I also wrote some time ago about a little game for the iPhone/ iPod Touch called Game Dev Story. Game Dev Story is a little sim game in which you take on the role of the owner of a startup video game development company.

I remember another title, Hot Springs Story (or ゆけむり温泉郷), also being available a few months ago, but I didn't download it until recently. Hot Springs Story is a bit different from Kairosoft's previous title. As might imagine, you have to manage an onsen in this game, but now you have no control over any of the people. Instead you choose which demographics to market to, what to research, and how you want to physically build your establishment.

It looks like Kairosoft (or whoever does their localization) has been busy. I just checked in again on the iTunes store a couple of weeks ago and discovered a new game availabe: Pocket Academy. In this one you must successfully manage a prestigious senior high school. It's somewhat of a mix of the other two titles in that you build the campus but also can choose which teachers to hire. Once you do, however, they act autonomously, as do your students. One of the fun parts of this game is that you can decide to use various kinds of research points to either unlock new types of rooms and structures, level up teachers, or teach special classes to build up students' grades. You can also make and gain items to influence students' behavior by increasing their stats, persuading them to join a club, or advising them to pursue a particular career path.

As you can see, the Japanese title is 名門ポケット学院2, so I guess this must be a sequel. It looks like Kairosoft has a plethora of games out in Japan for normal cell phones, so it's no wonder.

The only complaint I have is that after a while the games just tend to slip into repetitiveness. Although there is a set period during which you can try to achieve a high score (meaningless to me), there are scripted events that are independent of this. Some events are triggered by things you do, though, and while that can be quite fun, it can also lead to periods where you're unsure if you've done everything there is to do or if you've missed something. There are no proper endings that I've seen.

All in all, these games are a good bit of fun, and if you like sim games they will probably keep you entertained for at least a few days. On top of that, they come with both English and Japanese versions, so you can play either one depending on your iPhone's settings. Definitely worth it in my book.

Update: Haf also mentioned in the comments section that a couple of these games if not all of them are also available on the Android. Excellent!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Get thee to Okinawa

I've intended to write about my trip to Okinawa for a while and wanted to include it in Loco's last summetime get-together, but things got away from me with moving, and I wanted to include some pictures from our snorkeling adventure, but the company hasn't gotten us any (working) photos...

But now that the time for this month's Japan Blog Matsuri has rolled around and our gracious host, Alice of SHAFT, has introduced the theme of Summer Lovin', well...time to show you some pictures, I guess.

Yoshie and I made the trip in early June, which is apparently right before or at the start of typhoon season. Luckily we had beautiful weather for the weekend we were there.

We visited the main island where most of the main attractions are to be found. After getting in, renting out car, and driving to and checking in at the hotel, we explored the main street area a bit and Yoshie shopped for a bathing suit. We had some awesome taco rice and posed with a big stringed instrument.

That night we went to a pretty nice Italian restaurant that was owned by a friend of Yoshie's boss.

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed to the beach for some snorkeling. The water was a little cold, but we warmed up after swimming around a bit. It was a cool experience, although for some reason the suit really seemed to chafe my armpits. When I took it off there wasn't any rash or redness, just hurt like hell when I was wearing it for some inexplicable reason. Anyone ever experience that while wearing a wetsuit?

Next we stopped by this famous confectionery and had some free cake. Our vacation was some package deal, so it came with coupons for free or discounted stuff at all these random places.

At some point we also stopped by the equivalent of a highway rest stop and I had some amazing Mexican food. Man, the Okinawans know how to make a taco.

Next stop was the famed aquarium, complete with 3 whale sharks (and a mess of other stuff) in the same giant tank.

They also had dolphin shows, of course.

Amazing how they still oo and ahh after the first dozen flips.

Oh, and a fish called オジサン. In English, that's kind of like saying "mister."

Not "Mister Fish." Just "Mister."
That night we found a cool Tex-Mex place near the main street area and I had a Mexican pizza, mmmm-mm. I'm telling you, all the good, reasonably-priced Mexican food restaurants in Japan are hiding in Okinawa.

American food: cactus and liquor. Sounds about right.
Our last day before heading out, we stopped by an A&W. Man, it was better than I expected. And the root beer was fantastic. Also the only place I can recall getting free refills in Japan.

Okinawa is definitely worth visiting during your time in Japan if you like beaches and hot weather. And the atmosphere was quite interesting. I felt halfway between Japan and America while I was there (I suppose due to the military influence). The roads and a lot of the foods reminded me of being back home in the States.

If you decide to plan a trip, feel free to drop me a comment or email if you think I might be able to offer some useful advice!

Also remember to check out the other entries in this month's Japan Blog Matsuri.

J-Word Play #20 (Answer)

Man, things are getting away from me here. It's already been a week since our last riddle?

Last week's was:


First a round of kudos to:

Cocomino's wife. Cocomino also received kudos last time, but feel free to check out his blog if you haven't yet (or even if you have). Some good stuff about life in Japan (as a Japanese, which is quite rare for an English blog).

Tokyo Five, an American living in Japan with his wife and three kids. Have a look for another cool blog for a wife variety of Japan-related content.

And now for the answer...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Soba Ale

There's this large liquor warehouse near where I'm living now that has all kinds of interesting drinks. The last time I was there, I saw a beer brewed in Oregon with a label entirely in Japanese...I wish I still had the photo, but it seems to have gotten lost in the void.

I went back  the other day to look for that beer and didn't have any luck, but I did see this other interesting one.

Morimoto Soba Ale. Note that it's not a Japanese product. I didn't try it this time, but perhaps I'll give it a go in the future. Always interesting to see kanji in the wild, though, especially outside of Japan.

Monday, August 15, 2011

J-Word Play #20

I have some ideas in the works, but for now here's another riddle!


As usual, feel free to email me your answer: blueshoe[at]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Radiant Historia

I've been wanting to post more, but I'm doing this freelance job at the moment that has been just eating all my time and energy, and on top of that my mom and sister are away in Colorado for the week so I'm watching the house and pets. I'm exhausted.

Anyhow, before they left, I had been using a little of my spare time now and then to play a DS game I picked up before I left Japan. It looks like there's an American version, as well, and both have gotten good reviews. It's called Radiant Historia (ラジアントヒストリア).

I'm only a couple hours in, and sometimes I'm slow because I need to look up unfamiliar kanji that are used often, but overall I'm getting the idea of most of the dialogue and plot points (I think... actually there was this one scene with an evil-seeming queen that just went over my head).

So far I'm quite pleased with it. I'm not very far into the story, but so far it reminds me of a somewhat darker Chrono Trigger. The animation style is very reminiscent of the latter SNES games and the music is easy on the ears. And it's a good way to keep up with my Japanese a bit. The only downside is that because it's in Japanese I need some mental energy to play it, and that's something I've been lacking recently.

To you gamers out there - have you heard of or played this one? If you've played it, what were your impressions?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

J-Word Play #19 (Answer)

Last week's riddle was:


First, some kudos and link love to Six mats and Cocomino:

Six mats is one of my blogging sempai, an American who has been living in Japan for almost a decade now. If you're interested in photos of Japan or some posts about daily life, or in reading about his experience in Sendai (group zero of The Big Earthquake), check out his blog!

Coco is an English-blogging, photography-loving, well-traveled Japanese father based in Saitama. His blog is also a great way to read/see more about life in Japan, especially the domestic side of things. If you have some time, why don't you pop over?

Ok, and now for the answer...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Culture of Money (Part 2)

In the comments section of Part 1, Shaun mentioned that repatriating to England he was surprised at the dirty bills, being used to the largely crisp, clean yenners. I've also been experiencing some money-related reverse culture shock, but of a different nature.

The single dollar bill. I've grown to dislike it.

Japan, the UK, Europe, Canada - all have coins for their one-dollar-like denominations. It's not that we don't have $1 coins in the U.S., it's that they're not popular and thus don't stay in circulation for long. I regularly listen to an NPR podcast called Planet Money, and they sometimes talk about this. Apparently people just don't like the coins; they'd rather have light bills rather than heavy coins.

The solution, of course, is to just ignore public opinion and discontinue the single dollar bill. This is what happened in Canada, and it resulted in successful $1 and $2 coins.

As for me, I don't mind the extra weight so long as the coins aren't huge. $1 coins would be a lot more convenient for vending machines, and it's a lot easier to just quickly stick a few $1 coins in your pocket when you get change than to pull our your wallet and put them away.

In Japan, there are six types of coins: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen. I've written about how the 500 yen pieces are excellent for saving. Most people, even men, carry around personal bags in Japan, so weighing down your pockets rarely becomes and issue. Many wallets also have pouches for coins (which I don't believe is unique to Japan). And the 100 and 500 yen pieces are so easy to spend that they don't weigh you down long, anyway (the multitude of convenience stores and vending machines help see to that)!

Though I think the U.S. would do well to follow the lead of Japan and so many other countries, I'm not holding my breath. We're still holding on to Fahrenheit and resisting the metric system, after all.

What do you all say? Paper or metal?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Culture of Money (Part 1)

I was talking to my girlfriend Yoshie a little while ago and she mentioned that she had gotten annoyed just before coming home. I asked her what happened, and she told me about how a client had given her a nice 10,000 yen (~$130) tip tonight (she's a piano player). She then went to a convenience store and bought a few small items to get change. Unfortunately, the clerk gave her back dirty-looking 1,000 yen notes. I chuckled and when she asked me why, I could only say that in the U.S. most people don't really care about the condition of the cash we get as we're just going to spend it soon anyway.

True, there may be occasions that call for crisp bills in the U.S., but generally I've found the Japanese to be much more particular and conscious of their cash. There are special money envelopes that you can buy as you might buy Hallmark cards in another country, with ribbons and kanji to indicate different occasions, from weddings to funerals. And it is common custom to go to the bank and get fresh, crisp bills for such gifts, especially for weddings, as the fresh, new money is hoped to bring good luck upon the fresh, new couple. Though we do give cash gifts in the States, the Japanese are much more ceremonious about it, perhaps partly due to the fact that people don't use personal checks in Japan. I imagine it would be a little difficult to gussy up personal checks as gifts, but then I probably shouldn't underestimate the originators of tea ceremony and Hello Kitty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

J-Word Play #19

Haven't had one of these in a while. Here's another one from Nazo Nazo King. See if you can crack it!


As usual, send me an email if you think you know the answer: blueshoe[at]