The Art of Japanese Fusion Cuisine

The Art of Japanese Fusion Cuisine

Introduction

If you think that Japanese cuisine is only limited to traditional ramen and sushi, you’re absolutely mistaken! Japan is such an innovative country with multiple outside influences that there’s no way that its traditional cuisine won’t be fused with another region’s cuisine. In fact, the Japanese have adopted various foreign dishes and turned them into their own kind of unique cuisine, collectively known as Japanese fusion cuisine.

This special genre of Japanese cuisine is undoubtedly a work of art. You can never get such dishes anywhere else in the world — only in Japan! And to top it off, the Japanese are mad for this local fusion cuisine! Let’s look into how the Japanese fusion cuisine came about and explore the various types that exist to this very day.

What is Japanese Fusion Cuisine?

What exactly is Japanese fusion cuisine? As its name suggests, it’s basically a type of cuisine that has both Japanese cuisine elements as well as other foreign cuisine elements. Hence the word “fusion” as both regions are fused together in a dish.

Most of the type, Japanese fusion cuisine combines the type of dishes often found in Western countries like steak, hamburger and omelettes with only Japanese ingredients. This technique not only adds a Japanese twist on the original dish but it also alters the flavours to suit the Japanese people’s taste palates.

The Japanese put a tremendous amount of changes into these Western dishes that they have basically modified them completely! What they regard now as Western food is so significantly different from genuine Western food. Hence, it became their very own type of cuisine, the Japanese fusion cuisine!

The birth of yoshoku

Yoshoku (洋食) is a term that refers to the Western-style dishes. It originated during the Meiji Restoration when there was a huge demand for modernisation in Japan. The country had the mentality that they needed Western ideas to further advance in society, so they adopted various Western dishes. However, it was difficult to get foreign ingredients back then, so the people had to make do with what they can, and that was using local ingredients.

A lot of the time, yoshoku is often written in katakana as it features Western dishes. Even though they may look slightly familiar, the flavour is undoubtedly different. Take omurice (オムライス) for example. Just from a glance, the omurice looks like an ordinary omelette with sauce topped on top, but in actuality it has stir-fried rice in the middle!

Wafu, the Japanese style

While yoshoku refers to the Western-influenced dishes, wafu (和風) just generally means “Japanese-style”. The Japanese have been inventive ever since the exposure to the western culture. The higher level to the yoshoku is basically the wafu, where dishes inspired by yoshoku are created with even more Japanese elements — be it traditional cooking techniques to even more emphasis on local ingredients.

Common Types of Japanese Fusion Cuisine

There’s not only one foreign cuisine that influenced the Japanese fusion cuisine. In the present day, almost every other type of cuisine is being experimented with by the Japanese! However, there are a handful of foreign cuisines that have significantly influenced the Japanese fusion cuisine scene. Let’s take a look at the various common types of fusion cuisines in Japan!

Japanese-French 

The Japanese have a long, intimate relationship with the French when it comes to their culinary affair. Hundreds, if not thousands, of well-known chefs in Japan today have at least once in their careers travelled to France to work under a skilled French chef. This has been going on since the Meiji and Taisho eras in the 1960s. These Japanese chefs bring back the unique flavours and traditional culinary techniques of the French cuisine and implement them into their own cuisine that’s ultimately a Japanese-French fusion cuisine.

Some notable Japanese-French fusion dishes here in Japan include the croquette — which is a ball covered in breadcrumbs and filled with vegetables, fish or meat — and the foie gras — a staple dish of the French made from the liver of a goose or duck. Of course, they’re all twerked to suit the taste palates of the Japanese here by using locally sourced ingredients and adjustments to flavours.

Japanese-Italian 

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gonmi/8576139131/

You’ll see pastas and pizzas everywhere in Japan, but they’re not the kind you get in Italy. The ones here are Japanese-Italian fusion, which means how they’re made and what they’re made of are customised for the Japanese people. Italian food is extremely popular in Japan, so much that ingredients important from Italy directly are easy to find now. But the Japanese are extremely inventive — they created Italian-inspired dishes like the “naporitan” (ナポリタン) and doria, which is more like a French gratin than it is an Italian dish. The naporitan is the Japanese take on the spaghetti bolognese, while the doria is a stir-fried dish consisting of rice, ketchup and cooked meat or seafood, topped with layers of cheese and white sauce. 

Japanese-Mexican 

Even though Mexican cuisine came much later to Japan in the 1980s, it still has a strong influence in the Japanese fusion cuisine now. Taco rice — a Japanese-style Mexican dish that started in Okinawa to cater to the U.S. military — boomed significantly and that’s when the Japanese showed interest in the Mexican dishes like tacos and burritos. It’s apparent that the flavours of Mexican cuisine is far different from the flavours of Japanese cuisine. So don’t expect Mexican restaurants in Japan to cater to your spicy taste buds — they’re pretty much wafu-style.

Japanese-Chinese 

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/43572617@N05/4041240899/

The biggest influence in the Japanese fusion cuisine is none other than the Chinese cuisine. The Chinese played a huge role in Japan’s history, so naturally, they had quite an influence in the Japanese food scene. Ever since the 1600s, which was when the first Chinese scholar introduced their local cuisine to Japan. The most famous Japanese-Chinese fusion dish that we now know and love is none other than the ramen (ラーメン). It actually originated from China, but over the years, the Japanese combined their own unique style of cooking as well as ingredients to create their very own version of ramen.

Gyoza (餃子) is also a Chinese dish that the Japanese reinvented with their own take. In Japan, you can get all sorts of Japanese-Chinese gyoza, from boiled to deep-fried.

Japanese-Indian 

The all-famous Japanese curry didn’t just come out of thin air. It is in fact inspired by the Indian curry, introduced in the late 1800s. The Indian curry is traditionally spicy and hot, but the Japanese taste is nowhere near that. It is actually quite the opposite. The Japanese prefer sweet, and even their type of spicy is not the same as the Indian cuisine. Hence, they created their own unique take on the Indian cuisine, which comes in all forms in the present day. From sweet curry to omelette curry, nothing is quite like the Japanese-Indian fusion cuisine.

Conclusion

When you find yourself in Japan, don’t only try out the local traditional Japanese cuisine. You should also have a taste of their unique Japanese fusion cuisine which you cannot find anywhere else in the world! It’s like having two different regions in one dish — how spectacular is that?

Karaoke Your Way to Becoming A Kanji Master!

Karaoke Your Way to Becoming A Kanji Master!

Introduction

It’s already a challenge to learn the first two Japanese writing systems, hiragana and katakana, but almost everyone can agree that kanji is the real killer. There are literally thousands of them in the Japanese language — some of them even look extremely similar to each other with only a stroke to differentiate! — and for those of us who were never exposed to these Chinese characters before, it can be more time consuming than anything else in the Japanese learning journey.

There is a fun way to memorising these killer characters, and that’s through karaoke! This famous form of entertainment, especially in Japan itself, can double as a Japanese language guide by supporting your kanji learning. How, you ask? Read on to discover the learning aspect of karaoke when it comes to the all-challenging kanji.

Karaoke Culture in Japan

There’s no doubt that karaoke (カラオケ) is huge in Japan! It did originate from the Land of the Rising Sun, after all. Pretty much everyone in Japan does karaoke — from the kids in school to the working adults. There’s no age limit to this entertaining activity!

Why do the Japanese love karaoke so much? Well, what’s not to love? It’s pretty much a gathering of friends singing to their hearts’ content into a microphone to their favourite songs. That, in itself, sounds like extreme fun! While it’s more common to see a group of people in a karaoke room, it’s not unusual to have just one person singing alone. It’s such an effective method of stress relief that there’s no shame in screaming into the mic and getting out all that overwhelming emotion!

Karaoke is so greatly loved in Japan that almost every corner has at least one karaoke joint. Big karaoke companies have outlets scattered across the whole country — even in quiet neighbourhoods where you wouldn’t expect to find a karaoke joint.

Why Use Karaoke To Improve Kanji?

There’s a reason why karaoke is extremely enjoyable and stress-relieving, and that’s because it’s so easy and effortless. If it’s such a fun activity, why combine it with something serious like learning? Well, learning can be fun too, depending on the method you’re using to learn. Using karaoke to learn kanji not only improves your kanji ability but it also has various other positive gains!

Immerse in the Japanese culture

Everyone can agree that karaoke is ultimately part of the Japanese culture. “When in Rome, do what the Romans do,” they say. When in Japan, you do karaoke! Not only will regular karaoke help improve your kanji but it will also shed light on the cultural aspect of this activity. At the end of it all, you’ll definitely have a newfound appreciation for this form of entertainment.

Connect with people

While karaoke can be a solo activity, it’s arguable much more fun with a group of people! Karaoke is the bridge that brings people of the same mindset together. With a bunch of other people around, you might even be more motivated to improve your kanji. Sometimes, you can even make new friends through karaoke! This form of entertainment helps you to improve your kanji as well as expands your social circle! That’s killing two birds with one stone!

A fun alternative

Let’s face it — anything is more fun than facing a textbook to study. Who doesn’t like an alternative to the traditional methods of learning? Karaoke is the answer to all your prayers! With this, you get to sing along to your favourite tunes while still picking up a thing or two learning points. So don’t ever feel bad saying yes to a karaoke invite!

How Can Karaoke Help with Kanji?

Now that we got past the reasons to use this activity to improve your kanji, it’s time to look into the technical bits of the method. And that is how karaoke can actually help. It’s all about the combination of visual and listening aspects of learning that we don’t get from sitting down with our textbooks.

In a song, there’s often repetitive words and phrases. During karaoke, there’s a screen that shows the lyrics of the song. With songs that have kanji words in it, sometimes there is also the furigana, which is a Japanese reading aid written in the hiragana characters, on top of it. Because some kanji are bound to be repeated multiple times throughout a song, you’ll end up memorising the right pronunciation of the kanji. That’s because repetition helps our minds to remember things better. And in the future, you wouldn’t even need the furigana anymore!

On top of that, you’ll naturally be able to recognise the kanji outside of the karaoke room. As you’re more exposed to the same kanji over and over again, you’ll end up recognising the strokes and its patterns just by the visuals of the kanji.

Recommended Songs to Karaoke To

There are thousands of Japanese songs out there, how would you know which ones are the best for improving your kanji skills? Most Japanese songs go by the same style and that is repetition. But there are some that are more suited than others, especially with the kanji used in the song. You wouldn’t want to learn a kanji that no one actually uses. You would ideally want to be exposed to kanjis that are used on a daily basis. Here are some recommended songs to karaoke to that will be great for your kanji learning and improvement!

“Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” by SMAP

One of the all-time bestselling songs in all of Japan is by a boy group called SNAP, and it’s the song called Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana (世界一つだけ). Despite being a 2004 release, it’s still extremely popular to this day, especially for karaoke! Because it’s such a big hit, everyone from children to older adults know this tune. The song describes people as flowers and how we have the potential to grow and blossom. Rest assured that the kanji used in these are extremely useful for your Japanese learning.

“Makenaide” by ZARD

What better way to motivate you to improve your kanji at karaoke than to sing along to an uplifting song? Makenaide (負けないで) is by a group called ZARD, and the song title translates to “please don’t lose”. Naturally, it became an anthem for sports, making it the Japanese equivalent of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. With such an upbeat tune and a memorable chorus, it’s definitely a fun karaoke song that features everyday words and kanji for you to pick up!

“Koi Suru Foochun Kukkie” by AKB48

Koi Suru Foochuun Kukkie (恋するフォーチュンクッキー) is an extremely popular Japanese song by the famous girl group AKB48. The beat to this song is super catchy and captivating, you won’t be able to stop dancing to it! The lyrics to this song features well-used kanji that are easy to follow, making it the perfect song to karaoke to while improving your kanji!

Conclusion

Karaoke is definitely the ultimate way to get you pumped up to improve your kanji reading and recognition. At the same time, this form of entertainment is supposed to be enjoyable. Hence, there should be a perfect balance between learning and fun so that you’ll be able to fully benefit from using karaoke as a kanji guide!

The Uniqueness of Japanese Etiquette

The Uniqueness of Japanese Etiquette

Introduction

It’s not surprising that a country like Japan would have its own set of etiquette to follow — its rich history calls for it. Many of us wouldn’t even know of these unspoken rules until they’ve experienced it for themselves. But why wait for that to happen when you can be educated on it beforehand?

Even though the Japanese people don’t expect foreigners to know every single one of the Japanese etiquette, it’s good to know the basics. Impress your Japanese friends or prepare for your next Japan trip with these top 15 essential Japanese etiquette tips!

What is Japanese Etiquette?

Before anything else, what is Japanese etiquette exactly? In short, it is basically a set of expected behaviours of people in Japan. Just like any other culture, the etiquette can vary depending on the relationship you have with the other person. 

The Japanese etiquette is believed to have existed since the beginning of the country, or even way before Japan became Japan. Back then, Japan consisted of multiple groups of people that vary in terms of customs. Because of that, some regions in Japan may not have certain etiquette another part might have. 

It’s also believed that the Japanese etiquette might have changed and evolved over the course of history. What the Japanese used to practice might not be an active practice now. Or what the Japanese practice now might not have existed back then. Regardless, there are still a few Japanese etiquettes that apply throughout this island nation with a long-standing history behind them. 

Categories of Essential Japanese Etiquette 

If we had to count all the Japanese etiquettes that exist, we’d eventually lose count because there’s too many! Hence, this article will highlight some of the more important ones that are practiced daily. These essential Japanese etiquettes are great to know so as to not unintentionally offend the Japanese people (even though they probably won’t take any offense — they’re too polite and nice for that).

At Home & Other Accommodations

Regardless if it’s at another person’s home or just a local Japanese accommodation like a ryokan, there are some Japanese etiquette to take note of.

1. Shoes off

This Japanese etiquette is one of the most important ones, but it can easily slip one’s mind as well. Especially when back in your home country, taking off shoes before entering the home is not a thing. In Japanese homes and accommodations, people are expected to take off their shoes at the entrance. 

Bonus tip: sometimes in bathrooms, there will be bathroom slippers offered. In this case, leave your house slippers (if you have them on) outside the bathroom and switch for the bathroom slippers when you enter. Don’t forget to switch back after you’re done — it’s extremely common for foreigners to wear the bathroom slippers all the way back to the dining table. Don’t worry, no one will fault you for that. It’s an extremely common mistake!

2. Gift away

When visiting another one’s home or place, the Japanese regard gifts as of high importance. It’s just a sign of appreciation and thankfulness for the other person’s invite. The gift should generally be equal or higher priced than the one you received prior (if you did). Do take note not to splurge too much on a gift — the other person would have to fork out just as much or more for your return gift.

3. Sitting 

The Japanese have a “proper” way of seating known as the seiza (正座). This traditional way of seating is in a sort of kneeling position with your bottom resting on the heels of your feet. Even till this day, the Japanese naturally take on the seiza sitting position when seating on the floor, especially tatami mats. You’re not expected to adopt the traditional way of seating, but it’ll definitely impress a few people if you do.

Daily Interactions

Not every culture has the same unspoken rules when it comes to daily interactions. Regardless of whether it’s among friends or people who you aren’t so close, there are certain etiquettes to follow in Japanese culture.

4. Personal space

Generally, the Japanese people are less of a physical contact bunch of people. They are more for their personal space. Any displays of affection including hugs and kisses and even handshakes are not common in Japanese culture. It might be a bit unusual for some other cultures, but the Japanese would rather politely bow or give a friendly wave as greeting.

5. Timing

Whether it is meeting a friend or an appointment with a client, never be late in Japan. In fact, being early is actually being on time. So if you’re on time, you’re considered late! While the Japanese are too polite to confront you about your tardiness, it’s considered rude to be even the slightest late. Try to be at least five minutes earlier. There’s basically no excuse you can give to explain your lateness — trains and buses in Japan are always accurately on time.

Dining

In every culture, there’s always a set of table manners. In Japan, it’s no different — except that their rules are exclusive to the Japanese culture. Some are extremely specific and miniature, but there is a handful that should be kept in mind whenever you’re dining out in Japan.

6. Chopstick manners

The ohashi (お箸) etiquette is one rule you should try your best not to break. The Japanese regard the chopsticks quite highly, so fooling around with them is frowned upon. For example, you should never use chopsticks to point directly at another person or wave them around. Sticking them in a bowl of rice and passing food from chopsticks to chopsticks are reminiscences of a funeral rite, so avoid that as much as possible.  

7. Counting the change is impolite

In some countries, it might only be natural and automatic to count the change you get in return at convenience stores, restaurants and other cashiers. Try not to do that in Japan. There’s a sense of trust among people in Japan, and the cashier people would never shortchange you on purpose. It’s considered impolite to count your change in front of them as it’s a sign of distrust.

Public Manners

It might be redundant to mention, but there’s always a set of etiquette to follow when in public. On top of the universal set of etiquette rules, Japan has a few unique to them. Some of the Japanese might expect these etiquettes to be followed as they’re basically a sign of respect to the people of the public.

8. Lowered voice

One of the most significant unspoken rules in all of Japan is lowered voices on public transports. Whether it is a bus or train, the Japanese people expect hushed voices when speaking to one another. Raised volumes and speaking on the phone in any volume is frowned upon. It is quite and unusual Japanese etiquette — imagine a packed train in Tokyo, the busiest city in Japan, being extremely silent that you could hear a pin drop.

9. No to eating or drinking on the streets

In Japan, it’s impolite to eat or drink on the streets. This raises the question, what if you’re hungry or thirsty? Japan is scattered with convenience stores and vending machines, and the people of Japan expect people to eat or drink there and then. Having the bins next to these places are convenient for that. The streets are considered dirty, so the Japanese would avoid eating on the streets because of then. It’s also best to avoid eating on trains even though it’s not prohibited so as to respect the people commuting with you.

10. Hold on to your rubbish

This is probably the first few things when you find yourself in Japan, and that is the lack of bins in the country. Yet, despite that, the country is one of the cleanest countries in the world! The Japanese hold on to their rubbish until they reach home or if they see a general waste bin somewhere. The bins next to vending machines are dedicated to vending machine users only, hence you should not bin it there if you see it.

11. Stick to your side of the road

Japan is known for its order and abiding citizens. That can be proven by the way the Japanese walk on the streets in an orderly fashion. There’s always a mutual side as to where the people should walk so as to not cross paths and walk into each other. Even on pavements, escalators and subway platforms, there are signs to indicate which side to stick to. This Japanese etiquette is extremely convenient during rush hours and similar situations so you wouldn’t be in the way of others rushing to work, and vice versa.

12. Smoking

Some countries might allow smoking anywhere, but it’s actually illegal to walk and smoke in certain areas in Japan. There are designated areas for smoking so that the smoke from the cigarette won’t bother others around them. Cigarette buds can also be hazardous as it can burn someone accidentally, especially in a crowded area. Hence, this Japanese etiquette is more to show consideration for others.

Business

Japanese business etiquette is one of the more important ones in Japanese culture. It’s so crucial with quite a number of unspoken rules that it deserves a whole write-up for itself. However, there are three main ones that one should be aware of on the off chance that you came across a business opportunity during your time in Japan.

13. Business cards

Business cards are the very basis of any business transaction in Japan. They’re more of an extension of oneself, hence business cards are expected to be treated with respect. Receive and give business cards with both hands. Always read the business card that’s given to you intently — it shows that you appreciate the person.

14. Calling names

Name-calling in Japan is quite important. The Japanese always called each other by their family name rather than their first name, especially in a business context. Calling by the first name indicates familiarity with the person while calling by the last name is a form of respect. There are also various honorific titles to attach to the name. Most of the time, “san” (さん) and “sama” () are used for people of higher rank or status.

The Golden Rule of Japanese Etiquette

If there are too many unspoken rules in the Japanese culture, just remember this one golden rule of the Japanese etiquette: be respectful. The Japanese are extremely understanding especially when it comes to foreigners who aren’t aware of their local customs. All of the Japanese etiquettes are based on the concept of respect, so if you remember to practice that, you’re all set!

Conclusion

The Japanese etiquette is just as beautiful as the country. Without these traditional customs and unspoken rules on behaviour, Japan wouldn’t be what it is today — inspiring. Before your next trip to Japan, or if you’re already living in this beautiful country, take note of these essential Japanese etiquette tips to impress the locals you’ll encounter!

Gaming is an Underrated Japanese Language Guide

Gaming is an Underrated Japanese Language Guide

Introduction

Let’s face it, we’ve all played a type of video game at least once in our lives. And better yet, we enjoyed it. Would you believe if someone told you that video games can be an extremely useful tool in studying Japanese? You better believe it, because it is!

Those who have mastered hiragana and katakana along with basic grammar could easily use video games as a Japanese language guide. While it is not for the ultimate beginners, it is still good to take note of your future usage. Having to sit down with a Japanese textbook after a long day of school or work might not be the number one thing you would want to do. Instead, grab your controller pad or computer for some Japanese learning fun! This is your ultimate guide to making the best out of gaming as a Japanese language guide!

Gaming Culture in Japan

It’s quite common knowledge that Japan has one of the largest, most successful gaming industries in the world! I bet we didn’t even know we were playing a Japanese video game when we were little.  The Japanese market is the second largest in the whole world in terms of the game software. Everything from Nintendo and Sony Entertainment to smaller yet influential gaming companies has taken not only Japan but the entire world by storm.

Japan is flooded with gaming arcades owned by the major gaming companies — Taito and Sega are just to name a few. Compared to the US where there are only 4,000 gaming arcades, Japan has over 20,000! There are also cafes specially made for video gaming and are just as easily found all around the country.

From game consoles like the PlayStation to standard computer video games, there’s no denying that Japan has it all and is dominating the scene effortlessly.

How Can Gaming Help with Learning Japanese?

You might be wondering how something so fun can be used to learn Japanese. Well, it can! Even though most mainstream video games have been translated to English for the mass audience from overseas, the original version always exists! It might be easier to just switch to English out of convenience, but try out the original language for a change — you’ll be surprised at just how useful it can be in multiple ways, and how much better your Japanese language skill got! Here are some of the ways gaming can help as a Japanese language guide:

1. Specially-made language games

While this might be the most straight-forward way that gaming can help with learning Japanese, it is a good stepping stone to take to learning Japanese the fun way. There are some games that are made for learning languages, particularly the Japanese language. One example is My Japanese Coach and it was made for the Nintendo DS, released back in 2008. This game is from a series called My Coach which includes everything from language learning to quitting habits like smoking or even losing weight. The game teaches beginner Japanese like the writing systems, basic grammar and vocabulary words to start you off with your Japanese language learning. It truly is a game that’s a Japanese language guide — and there are more just like it out there!

2. Improve your listening skills

Like mentioned before, even though the game comes in English, there might be a possibility that there’s also the original Japanese language option. Especially if the game is made by a Japanese company, there’s a higher chance of that being the case. Instead of playing the game with English audio, why not test your listening skills by having Japanese audio instead? When there aren’t any other language crutches to help you while you play your game, you’ll automatically pay closer attention to the words the game is saying. With this constant practice, you’ll definitely improve your Japanese listening skills at the end of every day — all while still enjoying your intense (or not) game.

3. Repetitive words and phrases

Even in English video games, there are bound to be words and phrases that are repeated throughout the game. If you start a new round of a game, words like “start” or  “end” will always appear, and phrases like “let’s go!” are common as well. It’s the same in Japanese video games — if anything, they have more repetitive words and phrases! As the same things are being mentioned a couple of times, it’s easier for our brains to absorb and process them with their meanings. Because of this, gaming makes a great Japanese language guide.

4. Visual learning by reading

If you’re not that confident in solely depending on Japanese audio, why not try using Japanese subtitles with English audio? Games are surprisingly more about reading (and doing things) than it is listening. Not only will this method boost your reading speed but you’ll be able to recognise the Japanese characters more quickly. It’s better than listening to Japanese audio with English subtitles because you tend to be more engrossed in the English subtitle instead. With the roles reversed, your brain catches the English audio as you link the meaning to the Japanese subtitles.

Recommended Games to Boost Your Japanese Language Ability

The gaming industry is huge, so it might be a bit overwhelming to choose a few to be the Japanese language guides. Depending on your level of Japanese, some might not be as ideal as it can be too difficult or too easy. We’ve listed out a few video games of various levels: beginner, moderate and hard.

1. Pokémon (Beginner Level)

Who doesn’t like Pokémon? It’s perfect for people of every age and gender! This video game franchise is arguably the most popular one ever! It started off as just a hand-held gaming system back in the ‘90s but has since expanded to other video gaming systems. Pokémon is so popular that it even has animated movies and TV shows bases on the characters. The aim of the Pokémon games is as simple as it gets — you have to catch them all. 

Pokémon is perfect for beginners because everything about the game is written with small kids in mind. Hence, all the characters’ names are written in simple katakana, and the language used is basic and easy to follow with the hiragana.

2. Ni No Kuni (Moderate Level)

This video game is extremely known for its wonderful animation for a role-playing game. Ni No Kuni is a collaboration between Studio Ghibli and Level-5, a game design company, and the whole vibe is exactly what the Japanese are into — kawaii (かわいい, meaning cute) aesthetics mixed with a bit of challenge.

Ni No Kuni is perfect for those looking to improve their Japanese conversations as this game has more than a few casual conversations to follow. It uses everyday words that are useful for anyone looking to improve their Japanese language ability, making it the perfect Japanese language guide. On top of that, Ni No Kuni has a few no-risk reading comprehension that can be of use to up your Japanese reading ability.

3. Final Fantasy (Hard Level)

If you have not heard of Final Fantasy, then you must have been living under a rock. This video game franchise started off as a simple role-playing game on a small Nintendo gaming system back in the late ‘80s. It has since then boomed into a world so famous that it has multiple spin-offs and sequels as well as movies based on the game. 

Final Fantasy is perfect for those who are confident in their Japanese ability skill but just want a bit of fun revision here and there while leaving room for improvement. The characters in this game each have their own unique personality that is visible in their Japanese language. With all the slang words and accents, you’ll be more exposed to the varieties of the Japanese language and essentially decide which one you’d want for yours. Don’t be scared of Final Fantasy as a Japanese language guide, though. The dialogues all have subtitles, so if you feel stuck or overwhelmed, that language crutch is there for you!

Tips and Tricks to Getting Started

You might still be a bit hesitant or unsure about how to go about using gaming as a Japanese language guide. That’s normal — anything new can be quite scary. Especially with gaming, you might end up getting sucked into the game rather than balancing out the gaming and learning. Stick to our tips and tricks to getting started and you’ll be on your way to being guided for the Japanese language using games!

1. Pick a familiar game

The first thing is to pick a familiar game to start off. It’s definitely not recommended to get into a new game as everything can be unfamiliar and a little scary. You’ll end up being more stressed over not getting the game right, and on top of it all, you won’t be able to focus on the learning aspect. Try picking a game where you’ve nailed down how to maneuver around so the game can be more of use as a Japanese language guide.

2. Pick a game you like

At the end of the day, this is supposed to be a fun way of learning. Why trouble yourself by picking a game that you have no interest in? Decide on a game that you like and enjoy so the learning aspect can be enjoyable as well. If it’s a game that you don’t particularly like, you might end up getting bored of it too quickly, and eventually getting stressed rather than having fun. It is still a game, after all.

3. Make online friends

Everything is more fun with more people. Try making some friends on the game you’re playing and take advantage of the benefit of immersion. Plug in your headset and turn on your microphone. Take a step further by conversing with Japanese native speakers even if you’re not that fluent in the language just yet. Over time, with the right vocabulary for your game, you’ll definitely improve your Japanese at least a level up.

4. Take notes

Keep a notebook next to you. You don’t have to jot down every single thing, but it’s a great habit to have. Write down words or expressions that you don’t know or have never heard before and look it up after the game. This is a great way to build up your vocabulary list. What’s more, the game is quite likely to use the same words and phrases again.

5. Say out loud

To fully benefit gaming as a Japanese language guide, you should use it to practice your verbal communication skills as well. On top of just listening and reading, try adding in the third method as well by reading sentences out loud and copy what some characters are saying. Through this, you’ll be able to pick up on the various intonations, tones and emotions in the words. That’s an extremely great skill to have in the long run!

Japanese Gaming Words to Start You Off

Before you set off on your fun Japanese learning adventure, it might be good to have a few gaming vocabulary words under your belt. There are some that appear in almost every game. Here’s a short and brief list of Japanese gaming vocabulary words to start you off:

Menu — menyuu (メニュー

Level — reberu (レベル)

Select — sentaku (選択)

Settings — settei (設定)

Start — kaishi (開始

Save — sebu (セーブ)

Continue — tsuzuki (続き)

Quit  — shuuryou (終了

Music — ongaku (音楽) 

Character  — jinbutsu (人物)

World  — sekai (世界)

Strength — chikara ()

Health — tairyoku (体力)

Conclusion

While gaming can be used as a Japanese language guide, it’s important to remember that this is supposedly a fun way to learn and study Japanese. Hence, it shouldn’t be a chore in any way! Even if you’re a huge gamer who would want to marathon a couple of hours straight, it’s best to pace yourself so you’ll remember what you actually picked up during the gaming session. Regardless, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be using gaming of various video games as an essential Japanese language guide to your Japanese language learning journey!

Japanese Food Culture

Japanese Food Culture

Introduction

There is something so unique about Japanese food culture. Every process is like a work of art in itself — from preparation and cooking to the actual eating. There are various things that come into play when dining at an eatery in Japan. And it’s never the same for all types of restaurants. Depending on what they serve, there’s a set of etiquette attached to it.
 
That just goes to show how significant the Japanese food culture is in Japan. Why is that? Here’s everything you need to know about this extravagantly rich culture of Japanese food!

The Art of “Washoku” in Japanese Food Culture

There’s a special term to describe the collective of all Japanese food, and that’s called “washoku” (和食). The characters in Japanese translate to “Food of Japan” — isn’t that beautiful? The art of washoku is blending every ingredient seamlessly with one another to create a magnificent cuisine each time. There’s a sense of harmony between every dish served together. And every course or meal is prepared with the idea of this beautiful tradition in mind. Each bite and sip is another insight to the Japanese way of life.
 
This term came about to differentiate the Japanese cuisine from the other foreign ones that were introduced to Japan. They are known as “yoshoku” (洋食), which are Japanese ingredients prepared using Western and other Asian culinary techniques.
 
Washoku is so influential and important to the Japanese culture that it’s recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.
 

History of Japanese Food Culture

It’s no secret that Japan is rich in culture. That also includes Japanese food culture. The culinary techniques of the Japanese food culture started centuries ago. They have been preserved over the years through generations and generations. To this day, the same culinary techniques are actively used and practiced. 
 
Such techniques came about from the practice of religion in Japan and access to supplies. When Buddhism was first introduced to Japan in the Kofun period, any consumption of meat and fish was prohibited. Spices like pepper and garlic were also sparse in the country, hence the Japanese used it minimally in their cuisine.
 
Over time, the types of regulated meat increased. Fish were the first type to get the green light to be consumed due to Japan being an island nation. It was then prepared in various forms, from raw to grilled. The Japanese became experimental with their servings of fish in their dishes. Anyone who could afford fish would have them in their meals to make up for the lack of animal protein.
 
It wasn’t until the Meiji Restoration that the people of Japan were allowed to consume meat when the emperor of the time embraced the cuisines of Western countries. That included a variety of meat dishes. 

Characteristics in Japanese Food Culture

While rich in tradition, Japanese food culture can also be quite flexible. Traditional techniques can be evolved ever so slightly to suit the modern-day taste palates. However, there are certain factors that still come into play to fit the concept of washoku.

Focus on Seasonality

The Japanese put an emphasis on “shun” (旬), the seasonality of food. The dishes prepared at a certain time of the year is based on the season it’s in. The flavours introduced fits perfectly for the weather at the point of time.
 
In Shintoism, the current native religion of Japan, it’s important to have respect for nature. The people of Japan take advantage of what is in season, like bamboo shoots in spring and chestnuts in autumn. Everything from “umi no sachi” (海の幸, referring to the fruits of the sea) to “yama no sachi” (山の幸, referring to the fruits of the mountains) is prioritised in to be included in the menu.
 

Traditional Ingredients

On top of the seasonal ingredients, other traditional ingredients are also important factors in Japanese food culture. Fish, tofu and seaweed are seen as traditional ingredients. Meat consumption is as well, but there isn’t a specific type. It is more of a general guideline. 
 
Another traditional ingredient is oil. But more of lack of. Other than for tempura (天ぷら), oil is being used only lightly in Japanese food culture.

Presentation

In Japanese food culture, how the meal is being served is as important as how it tastes. The people of Japan view the presentation as high importance in any meal they serve and also being served. Everything from bowls to cutlery is carefully placed. Not to mention the actual dish itself. Each ingredient decorates the plate harmoniously, just like their flavours.
 

Types of Food  

There are so many different types of food in the Japanese food culture, but they all can be categorised into four main categories: rice, noodles, meat and seafood, and soy products. These categories are extremely significant in Japanese food culture. Let’s take a look at each one!

Rice

Rice is a staple food in Japan. The cultivation of rice is known to be the main pushing factor to the evolution of Japanese culture, especially the food culture. Rice in Japan has several varieties including Koshihikari (越光)
 
Some Japanese foods that use rice are onigiri (オニギリ), which are rice balls; mochi (餅), which are rice cakes; and sake (酒), which is a type of rice wine.
 
Did you know that there are a few ways to say rice in Japanese? Meshi” (飯) refers to cooked rice while “kome” (米) refers to uncooked rice.

Noodles

Homemade Japanese Pork Tonkotsu Ramen with Mushrooms and Eggs

In Japanese food culture, there are three types of noodles: udon (うどん), soba (そば) and ramen (ラーメン).
 
Udon noodles are made from wheat flour. They are served either hot or cold, depending on the season. Toppings like raw egg and tofu can be added to an udon dish.
 
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat. They’re thinner in size and darker in colour than udon noodles. They can also be served cold or hot with similar toppings as udon.
 
Ramen noodles are thin egg noodles. They’re generally served hot with a choice of either soy sauce broth or miso broth. Toppings are usually slices of pork with bean sprouts. There are different variations of ramen throughout the country and some prefectures have a specialty that can’t be found anywhere else. For example, you can only get corn-butter ramen in Sapporo.

Meat & Seafood

Meat and seafood are also essential foods in Japanese food culture. The consumption of fish is especially high in Japan due to the country being an island nation. Fish and also other types of seafood are eaten in a variety of forms. Everything from raw to grilled — the Japanese will eat them! Sashimi (刺身) and sushi (寿司) are the main suspects of seafood dishes!
 
Despite the ban on meat in the earlier years of Japan, the Japanese still consume quite a lot of it today. They have become a part of the Japanese diet, with yakitori (焼き鳥), gyudon (牛丼) and yakiniku (焼肉) as standard meat dishes nowadays.

Soy Products

Last but definitely not least on the list of food categories in Japanese food culture is the soy products. The Japanese use soy in a number of their essential dishes in their cuisine. Mix soybean with rice and you’ll get the basic paste of many Japanese dishes, miso (みそ). Other soy products that are commonly found in Japanese food culture are natto (納豆), which is fermented soybeans, as well as tofu (豆腐), which is soybean curd.

Japanese Food Culture Etiquette 

Now that we have the basics of Japanese food and its different types solid in our heads, it’s time to learn the ins and outs of the Japanese food culture. There is a certain etiquette to follow when dining in Japan. Even though certain types of restaurants have other or more rules, these are the basics that apply to all:

Do Not Tip

Some countries practice tipping. In Japan, they don’t. In fact, it’s considered rude to tip the staff. Tipping can lead to the chefs feeling degraded as the staff of Japanese restaurants are considered to be highly paid already. Compliment with words rather than coins.

Table Manners

The Japanese are particular about table manners. Chopsticks are somewhat sacred in Japan, so do not place them in inappropriate places. For example, sticking it straight up in a bowl of rice and laying them across the bowl of noodles are definitely not recommended.

Don’t Be Messy

It should be an unspoken rule, but when dining out or at someone else’s place, try to leave a tidy meal area. Don’t put your napkins on the plate — instead, fold them and place them at the side.

Try to Finish Your Food

It might be hard for some of us, but do try to finish your food. In Japanese food culture, it’s considered impolite to leave unfinished dishes after a meal.

Useful Phrases To Know 

Whether you are dining out or having a meal at someone’s house, there are two common phrases that are extremely useful to know:
 
Itadakimasu!” (頂きます!) — This is an extremely useful phrase that has a few translations into English. It is said before beginning to eat. While it literally translates to “I humbly take”, it doesn’t quite explain the actual meaning. It’s basically a salutation to begin eating, like “let’s eat!”
 
“Gochisousama deshita!” (ごちそうさまでした!) — This phrase is used at the end of the meal and translates to “it has been a feast.” This is a respectful acknowledgment to the host or chef for their hard work in preparing the meal.

Conclusion

I bet by the end of this article you’re an expert at Japanese food culture. Everything from the rules of dining and the right things to say to the different cuisine types, you’ve got it covered! So put on your bib and start digging into all these delicious Japanese foods!
Ways J-Pop Could Boost Your Japanese Language Ability

Ways J-Pop Could Boost Your Japanese Language Ability

Introduction

Music is a form of entertainment, but it can also be a language learning tool. Yes, that’s right — a tool for learning languages. Focus on fun rather than formal ways of studying. Switch your Japanese flashcards with some J-pop music downloaded on your phone. These J-pop artists singing harmoniously into your ears is a definite way of boosting your Japanese language ability. 

Don’t believe us? Read on and your doubts will all be resolved!

What is J-Pop? 

J-pop is short for Japanese pop. Natively, it’s known as simply pop. J-pop is a music genre that is considered the musical mainstream in Japan. It’s an essential part of the Japanese culture as well as a lot of other people all around the world.

While the music of Japan has been around for centuries, J-pop only entered the scene in the 1990s. Even though it was influenced by Western culture and artists like The Beatles, today’s J-pop doesn’t resemble its original influence at all. J-pop has morphed into something quite unique and special. No other genre can quite resemble the essence of Japanese pop — be it in the sense of tune or aesthetics.

Music’s Influence in Japan 

Japan is all about their music. A day out in the country brings about konbini (コンビニ) tunes, restaurant playlists and even chimes before the shut of the train doors. It’s safe to say that music takes up an enormous part of the Japanese people’s life. It is in their culture, after all.

There is much evidence to support this claim, but there’s one major one that no one can deny: karaoke (カラオケ). Japan has had a massive karaoke market — ever since the 1970s. The Japanese cannot resist the urge to sing their hearts out into a mic in front of a screen with lyrics. It just goes to show that music isn’t only significant to music artists, but generally the whole mainstream population.

Why Should I Use J-Pop to Boost My Japanese Ability?

Isn’t it already a given? Music is fun! Take advantage of this form of entertainment as a means to learn and boost your Japanese ability. Why pick the traditional method of book and pencil to practice Japanese when you can have a poppy, upbeat Japanese tunes to guide you to better understanding the language!

Don’t you think it’s easier to memorise a lyric than a vocabulary word? Well, if a vocabulary word is in a J-pop song, you’ll memorise it in no time! That’s because J-pop songs are made to be easily comprehensible for everyone, locals and non-locals alike. The lyrics are never too complicated to understand or decipher. Plus, there’s always English translations readily available for your reference.

On top of it all, J-pop introduces slang and casual language — stuff that doesn’t often appear in Japanese textbooks! This is especially great for Japanese language learners because you would want to be able to hold a conversation in Japanese naturally rather than rigidly.

Ways that J-Pop Boost Your Japanese Ability

If you’re thinking there’s no way something as enjoyable as J-pop can be of help to your Japanese language learning, you’re wrong. And we’re here to prove that it can! Here are some ways J-pop boost your Japanese ability:

1. Repetition

When learning a language, the best way to remember it is to do it over and over again until it’s stuck in your head. From reading and writing to speaking and listening, this method works for all.

J-pop automatically does the repetition for you. Pre-choruses and choruses often repeated multiple times in a song. Sometimes, a single word is repeated throughout! By the end of it, you’ll be able to sing along the next time without having any referencing.

2. Reading

Whether it is singing along to the lyrics on the screen during karaoke or following the words of a web search of the lyrics to a J-pop song, this definitely triggers your Japanese reading abilities. Even if a kanji (漢字, which are Chinese characters that appear in Japanese text) pops up, there’s almost always furigana (ふりがな) that comes to the rescue, which is the hiragana pronunciation for the character. J-pop songs act as a reading practice in disguise!

On top of it all, because you’ll be exposed to the same kanji over and over again, you’ll be able to recognise it far more easily in the future!

3. Listening

It’s a given that you listen to a tune, but when you listen to J-pop, you’re subconsciously practicing your listening skills of Japanese. After a few repeats of the same song or a whole playlist of J-pop, you’re bound to pick up the essence of the lyrics.

4. Pronunciation

A textbook can’t teach you exactly how to pronounce certain words, but J-pop songs can. Singing along to a J-pop tune is bound to improve your Japanese speech and pronunciation. As you’re more exposed to the sounds of the Japanese language, you’ll have a good sense of how Japanese words sound like, as well as any future ones you may learn.

5. Metaphors

More often than not, J-pop songs use metaphors in their songs. It’s a way of flowering their lyrics — it can get silly at times.

Nonetheless, these metaphors are great learning tools to bump up your Japanese language skills another level or two. For example, a line “umi ga oshaberi wo yameru” (おしゃべりやめる) literally translates to “the sea stops talking.” But when you decipher it, it actually means “the sea waves are silenced.”

Just like how phrases in the English language levels up your fluency, metaphors in J-pop songs can boost your Japanese language ability.

J-Pop Artists That Can Help Your Japanese

Now that you know the ways J-pop can help your Japanese learning, you need to fill your music playlist with some J-pop songs. Here are the best J-pop artists with easily comprehensible songs to get you started: 

Koda Kumi

Source: https://img.imageimg.net/artist/koda/img/product_1030884.jpg via https://rhythmzone.net/koda/discography/detail.php?id=1017194

Koda Kumi is one of Japan’s most popular J-pop artists. Her songs are often featured in Final Fantasy games — yes, that’s where you’ve heard of her before. She has a deep, husky voice that’s rather unique. This J-pop artist is recommended for those of lower-intermediate and upwards. Some songs to give a listen to are “Real Emotion” and “1000 Words”.

AKB48

Source: https://www.akb48.co.jp/about/discography/detail_cd/?media_id=367

Need a little bit more of a beat to your J-pop tunes? AKB48 is just for you! This J-pop artist is a Japanese girl group with quite a large number of members. They’re extremely popular with super catchy tunes. Their songs are perfect for beginners as well! “Heavy Rotation” is a definite must-listen, and if you like that, you’ll like “Let’s Become Cherry Blossom Trees”.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

A J-pop artist list is not complete without Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. She’s the very definition of J-pop. Because of her creative fashion aesthetics, she’s often referred to as “Harajuku Pop Princess”, “J-Pop Princess” and even “Japan’s Lady Gaga.” What grand titles, am I right? Don’t miss out on her top hit “PONPONPON”, as well as some other legendary ones like “Tsukematsukeru” and “Ninja Ri Bang Bang”.

Arashi

Last but definitely not least, we have the legendary Arashi. This J-pop group can be considered one of the pioneer artists of the genre, being active since the 1990s. Their songs are easy to follow and catchy, so it’s definitely recommended for beginners. “Monster” and “Love So Sweet” are some of the top songs of this famous J-pop group.

Conclusion

The more you find fun and interesting ways to hone your Japanese language skills, the more motivated you are in learning the language. And J-pop is unquestionably an amusing way to get into the studying mood. So the next time you go to karaoke, don’t feel bad about not picking up a Japanese exercise sheet. You’re basically practicing your Japanese at karaoke anyway!

 

The Cultural Influence in Modern Tokyo Fashion

The Cultural Influence in Modern Tokyo Fashion

Introduction

Japan is one of those countries that is abundantly rich in culture. With their centuries of history, it’s no wonder. It’s only natural that it influenced the ways the Japanese dress back in those days. What if we were to tell you that the Japanese culture is still influencing modern fashion in Japan? Would you believe us?
 
Tokyo is not only the capital city of Japan but also the hot spot for creativity to run wild. This is especially true in the expressive language of fashion. We’ve all heard about the crazy and wild outfits that the fashion neighbourhood, Harajuku, churns out. Little did we know that there are still culture infusions in these modern-day Tokyo fashion. It’s not limited to just that, though. The everyday casual wear of the local Japanese, too, have a bit of culture in them.
 
If you look closely, you’ll see. But to make things easier, we’ve broken it down for you!

History of Traditional Japanese Clothing

Before we get to how culture is seen in modern Tokyo fashion, we’ll briefly look at the history of traditional Japanese clothing.
 
The Japanese did not begin wearing what we know now as traditional wear. In fact, back then, it wasn’t even known as that. The Japanese used to wear skins of animals they hunted back in ancient times. They turned them into simple pieces of clothing.
 
After Japan opened up to other countries, the Japanese took on fabric to make their clothes. It was only during the Middle Ages that they made a unique fashion of their wear. It’s believed that it was this time the “kimono” (着物) we know and love was born. Kimono is literally translated to “thing to wear” because back then it was literally a thing to wear.
 
Over time, the layering of the kimono became popular, especially for the nobles and royalty. Colours came into play. They could represent anything from seasons to the political class. The middle class were often seen in linen-made kimonos.
 
The everyday wear of the Japanese went from the kimono to other simplified forms of it like the “yukata” (浴衣). Now, what was known back then as everyday wear are now formal wear used only during special occasions like weddings.

Common Types of Traditional Japanese Clothing

There’s a term to call the traditional Japanese clothing, and that’s “wafuku” (和服). It literally translates to Japanese clothes. This is to differentiate them from “yofuku” (洋服), which refers to Western clothes. 
 
There are many different kinds of wafuku clothing. There’s so many that the list can go on and on. Instead of listing every nitty-gritty of them down, we’ve highlighted the main ones that are more common than the rest.

Kimono

As mentioned before, kimono was just “a thing to wear” back in the days. Now, it’s highly regarded and reserved for special and formal occasions including weddings and Coming of Age Day. In the past, the colours represented the political class of the wearer. In the present day, it’s based on one’s age as well as marital status.
 
The traditional wear of the kimono for men is much more simpler than the women. But the general form is still the same. It’s usually made from silk fabrics that are hand-sewn together. The women’s kimono can have up to 12 layers of clothing!

Yukata

The yukata is also known as a summer version of the kimono. They’re made of lightweight fabrics like cotton as it’s much more breathable. Women’s yukata are often more brightly coloured while the men’s yukata are often more neutral and muted. Men’s ones are even shorter in length.
 
In those days, the yukata is usually worn in public baths where the wearer would use it to cover the body as well as dry themselves off. While that’s still being practiced today, the yukata can also be seen on some Japanese people during summer festivals, known as “natsu matsuri” (夏祭り).
 
Some onsens (温泉) and ryokans (旅館) also provide their guests with yukata. This is a great way to experience wearing traditional Japanese clothing!

Hakama

This piece of traditional clothing is often seen but not really recognised. The hakama (袴) was traditionally used by samurais as part of their uniform. The pleated skirt form of the hakama protects the legs of the samurai when riding their horses.
 
In the present day, the hakama is used during Japanese sports like kendo (剣道), which is a traditional Japanese martial arts. They’re also worn during university graduation ceremonies and by “miko” (巫女), which are shrine maidens.

Haori

 

You may have seen this piece of traditional clothing sold as souvenirs at tourist attraction sites. It’s even become a trendy fashion piece! The haori (羽織) is a lightweight coat that is jacket-length. They’re usually worn over the kimono. The haori for men, like the kimono, is simpler in design and colour as compared to the haori for women. 

Modern-Day Japanese Clothing

Fast forward a few centuries and we have modern-day Japan. What the Japanese wear now casually is a drastic jump from the traditional Japanese wear back then. Other than the rare occasions, you won’t see the Japanese casually wearing the kimono out for a stroll.
 
It’s no question that there’s been a major influence by the Western countries in Japan. Trousers were rarely seen in the past but now, regardless of gender, the Japanese take on different variations of trousers. Prints and patterns from other regions of the world can be seen on the pieces of clothing sold in Japan.
 
Generally, the modern-day Japanese clothing has been simplified.

The Famous “Harajuku Fashion”

On to the hot topic for Tokyo fashion, and that is the neighbourhood that pulls in the creative minds. Harajuku has been known for decades now to be the iconic neighbourhood for fashion in Tokyo. Every trend started from here. Harajuku fashion is just a big umbrella term — there are multiple subcultures in it.
 
But let’s not get into every single one of them. Because just like traditional Japanese clothing, the list will go on and on. What’s similar about all of them is that the looks are out of this world! You can only see them in Japan — Harajuku in Tokyo, specifically. And the best part of it all is that no one judges you on your expressive outfits. That’s what this neighbourhood is all about.

Cultural Influence in Tokyo Fashion

Regardless if it’s crazy outfits or if it’s everyday wear, modern Tokyo fashion has one thing in common. And that is all of them have cultural influences one way or another. How, you ask? It’s actually obvious if you know what to look for.
 
Compare the styles of traditional Japanese clothing to what the Japanese wear today. There are a few key similarities between them. 

Kimono-style aesthetics

Kimono has such a huge impact in the world that it’s even used in modern fashion today. This traditional wear of Japanese culture features a distinct collar as well as the wrap around the waist. That has influenced many modern clothing designs you see on the streets. Not only that, but the prints have also influenced modern fashion as well! 
 
There are countless ways the kimono has influenced today’s fashion. The pairing of the wrap with casual clothes seems to be the most popular option.

Layering

Layering is such an iconic trait of the Japanese traditional fashion. It’s seen in the kimono and various other traditional wear. Today, the Japanese also incorporate the form of layering into their daily wear. Even during hot summer days, you’ll see the Japanese layering their outfits. It’s just the cultural influence taking effect!

Baggy Silhouettes

The Japanese culture is very much all about modesty, from their actions and words to clothing. As seen in the traditional Japanese clothing, it’s always fully covering the wearer. In modern Tokyo fashion, the conservative style still continues. Many Japanese are still donning baggy or non-fitting clothing to achieve the baggy silhouette. This is mainly due to the cultural influence of modesty.

Conclusion

Who would’ve thought that the modern fashion of Tokyo has cultural influence from back in the day? That just shows how strong the Japanese culture is. It’s able to be preserved from the ancient times and still visibly seen on the streets to this very day! If you find yourself in Tokyo one day, why not try and see if you can spot some of these cultural influences in modern fashion for yourself?
Japanese Language-Focused Gatherings

Japanese Language-Focused Gatherings

Introduction

Opening a Japanese textbook to learn the language would get your theory skills as solid as a rock. But what about actually using it? Regardless of whether you’re travelling to or living in Japan, you would want to be able to put your skills to good use. The question is, then: how?
 
It sounds like an easy task to meet local people to practice your Japanese with. Little did you know it actually isn’t effortless at all! Not to worry, there’s this wonderful thing called the Japanese language-focused gathering. This type of gathering can consist of speaking or writing in Japanese, or just talking about Japanese in English. There are all types of language gatherings that covers any sort of event you can think of.
 
Then the next questions follow: what is it, and how do I get into it? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This is your one-stop to all you need to know about the matter!

What is a Japanese language-focused gathering? 

As it suggests, a Japanese language-focused gathering is a gathering that’s committed to the Japanese language. There’s no rule to the flow of these sorts of gatherings. It’s not like a curriculum in school. It can be anything under the great blue sky! One thing’s for sure, no two gatherings will ever be the same.
 
If you’re wondering who goes to these gatherings, the answer is basically anyone and everyone. From local Japanese people to expats and foreigners like us, everyone’s welcome to participate! You’ll meet people near and far. But regardless of where we come from, we’re all here and using our Japanese language skills!

What happens in a Japanese language-focused gathering?

Japanese language-focused gatherings can target the different usages of the language. Some gatherings can be all about conversing in Japanese. Even with that, these gatherings can be categorised into different fluency levels or topics. So you don’t have to worry about being intimidated by big words! 
 
Some can be about reading, and the same categorisation applies. It’s exactly like a book club, only the books, or “hon” (本), are in Japanese.
 
Level up your Japanese language-focused gathering game by attending some that kill two birds with one stone. Some gatherings are a group of people cooking or painting together, and at the same time practicing Japanese. What better way to master your language skills than doing something that you love while at it?

Why go to a Japanese language-focused gathering?

The question shouldn’t be why, but why not? It’s a fun way to learn Japanese while not actually learning. You’ll be surprised at how much more you pick up when you’re out and about using it instead of being cooped up in a room with your textbook.
 
Not only are you improving your language skills, but you’re also making friends! Who doesn’t like making friends? Japanese language-focused gatherings expand your social circle in this great, wonderful country!

Ways to find Japanese language-focused gatherings

At this point, you’re convinced about this whole Japanese language-focused gathering. Now, you’re wondering how you can go about finding them. You don’t have to browse around the web for hours because we’ve already done that for you! We’ve even made things simpler by collating it into a list! Here are the top five ways to find some Japanese language-focused gatherings:

1. Meetup App

The Meetup app is one of the best ways to find Japanese language-focused gatherings. The layout of this app is so easy to maneuver. There are so many “ebento” (エベント) going on at one point that your calendar is going to be packed in no time. You can filter the events based on what you’re looking for under specific categories like sports or arts. If you don’t have anything in mind, browse by the date to see all that’s going on that day or in the week.
 
If you’re interested in a group that hosts events and gatherings catered to your interests, you can even follow that specific group. You’ll get notifications when they post a new upcoming event. There are some recommended groups that are perfect for Japanese language-focused gatherings. Tokyo International Friends is a group that consistently hosts great gatherings focused on spreading the knowledge of Japanese culture and language

2. Facebook Events

You would never have guessed to use Facebook to find Japanese language-focused gatherings. This platform is, in fact, one of the best ways to search for them. Facebook is packed with groups and pages that are always hosting events to bring people together. Both local Japanese people and foreigners in Japan are part of these Facebook groups! 
 
Just like the Meetup App, there are groups that host specific events like study sessions or casual cafe chills. What makes the Facebook groups stand out is that there’s a group chat where you’re welcome to converse in Japanese in it any time

3. Classes

While the first two are free options, this is one that may require a bit of extra cash put in. Regardless, it’s still an ideal way to find some Japanese language-focused gatherings. Take a class in something you are interested in. It can be an art class, a cooking class or a martial arts class. These classes can be in full English, but some can be in basic Japanese all the way to fully fluent Japanese. Isn’t that a great way to practice your listening skills?
 
What’s more, you’ll be leaving with a few extra friends of the same hobbies! These classes are rather easy to find. It’s literally a Google search away! As there are various classes offered out there, filter them by area and price to suit your preference.

4. Accommodation Company-Organised Events

Depending on where you’re staying, the company that hosts you may or may not have events organised. A foreigner-friendly company that hosts various share houses and apartments would definitely have them. There’s bound to be a gathering or two each week that gets people mingling. Even hostels have some sort of event organised! 
 
Usually, these sorts of gatherings are more of a casual chit chat over drinks. You’ll be able to make friends and you’ll definitely be able to use your language skills. Some companies do offer more specialised events that introduce you to Japanese culture like a karaoke gathering.

5. “Gaijin” publications

Look at local publications aimed at foreigners, or “gaijin” (外人), travelling to Japan. Some Japan-based magazines and websites have a section that lists out all the events going on that week or month. Everything from concerts and parties to art exhibits, these publications cover them all! Some recommended publications are Time Out Tokyo and Tokyo Weekender for happenings in the capital city.
 
While it is not exactly a Japanese language-focused gathering, it is a great way to put yourself out there and meet like-minded people. It’s also a chance for you to put all your theoretical Japanese skills to use, especially if you’re going to an event that is fully local. It’s not a bad idea to brush up on your friend-making skills, either

Conclusion

Are you sold on the idea of Japanese language-focused gatherings yet? Books and exercises can nail your grammar and vocabulary down, but this is the easiest way to ace your communicating skills in Japanese! While at it, you’re building yourself a wonderful circle of friends in the country! What are you waiting for, then? Get going and sign up for some!