Best Sports Anime

Best Sports Anime

Introduction

Sports anime is not your thing? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! You might think that a whole animated series focusing solely on a sport won’t be your cup of tea, but it’s arguably just as thrilling as any other real-life sports games! Trust me, I was that person, too — until I got hooked onto not only one but dozens of sports anime, one after the other.

Also, while the main theme is sports, the anime usually has other secondary storylines like friendship, romance and family — they provide much more emotion than you think. They go deep in the human minds, unraveling the various complexities as to why we push ourselves to the limit, highlighting the human instincts and drive. 

You’ll not only be educated on the sports with regards to its method of play and regulations, but you’ll also be able to witness the growth of the characters on the anime. So scrap the idea that sports anime is only graphic and action — it taps into other emotions, too.

Intrigued? Here are the best sports anime to get you going that’ll definitely pull on your heartstrings!

1. Kuroko no Basuke

Don’t tell me I’m biased — I know I am. But that’s not the only reason why this is the first on the list. While some may say this anime is quite overrated, Kuroko no Basuke is without a doubt one of the best sports anime out there — at least in the last decade. This animation has enraptured fans from day one. 

The base concept of the series revolves around the legends of the Generation of Miracles, a group of prodigies from Teiko Middle School’s basketball team. After graduating, the five prodigies went on their separate ways to attend various top-tier schools in Japan.

With that at the back of your mind, Kuroko no Basuke’s main storyline follows the journey of Seirin High School’s basketball team. There’s a rumour of a sixth prodigy, Kuroko Tetsuya, who went on to join this unique group of high school players. The others — as well as viewers — later realise that Kuroko is…not as talented as one might think for a prodigy. In fact, he extremely lacks in natural skill!

However, what he lacks in, he makes up in something else: a special technique. With that, along with a master plan, he plans on taking his new team to go against the other prodigies and grab the title of Number One in Japan!

2. Haikyuu

To be fair, as good as Kuroko no Basuke is, its hype does go up and down quite a bit. One anime that hasn’t really lost its momentum to this day is Haikyuu. Even after years since debut, this animation has been snagging new fans left and right, and even proactively maintains their current loyal ones. 

The story centers around Hinata Shouyu’s adventures. Hinata is just your typical, average boy — with a heart so full of passion for volleyball it might explode. From the very first time he witnessed a volleyball championship match broadcast, his mind — and heart — were set on playing the sport.

However, Hinata’s introduction to volleyball wasn’t as smooth as he’d wanted. Even though he was defeated and demoralised, the driven boy got back up and signs up for his high school volleyball team! Sounds smooth-sailing enough…not quite. 

His rival — yes, the one that destroyed him in the early days of his volleyball experience — is on the same team as him! What a twist! With this intriguing setting from the start, you can expect various character developments in between energetic matches with other full-of-personality teams.

3. Prince of Stride

This one is quite underrated, I would say. I, myself, stumbled upon it randomly — only because I was desperate to find another sports anime to watch. Luckily I did, because Prince of Stride is one of my personal favourite sports anime ever! 

This series combines parkour, free running, sprinting and relay all in one sport! Action-packed and full of wild animation, this extreme and unique sport called “stride” will get you obsessed, introduced through Honan Academy’s passionate first-year students, Nana Sakurai and Takeru Fujiwara. These two first-years entered Honan solely for the school’s reputable stride team, but much to their dismay, the stride club does not exist anymore — it’s taken over by the chess club!

With the problem being a lack of members, Nana and Takeru go on to recruiting new ones to revive the club, including first-year Riku Yagami who loves every sport and is a fast runner. The new and improved Honan stride club aims to win the prestigious End of Summer competition to bring glory back to its name!

4. Yuri!!! On Ice

Oh, I remember when this anime first came out — every media outlet was talking about it! My Twitter feed was flooded — so were my Instagram and Facebook! Yuri!!! On Ice made quite an impression during its debut.

This sports anime is perfect for those who have ever felt defeated by failure. The main protagonist, Yuri (duh!) Katsuki, was more than ready to hang up his ice skates after suffering the worst loss of his ice skating career.

When he met his idol who offered to coach him, the professional — and charming — Victor Nikiforov, Yuri decided to give it another go. He perseveres through various obstacles, professionally and personally, to come out top at an ice skating competition. You’ll be amazed by the magnificence of the sport through breathtaking scenes that are just brimming with emotions, as well as through the intimate connections of the various characters.

5. Chihayafuru

I bought a deck of cards as soon as I was done binge-watching this anime. Chihayafuru is all about the Japanese card game, karuta. Yes, it is an actual sport. Revolving around a strong-willed female protagonist, Chihaya Ayase — we love a good girl power — the anime follows the adventures of her and karuta, from childhood to now in her high school days.

In the beginning, it was Chihaya with two of her good pals, Taichi Mashima and Arata Wataya. From practice to practice and going on to kids competitions, they were an unbreakable crew. Life went on, and they gradually grew apart. 

Fast forward to high school, Chihaya is determined to establish a karuta club of her own with an end game: to get to the national championship with people who have the same level of passion for the karuta sport as her. Surprise, surprise — Taichi happens to be in her new high school, now popular and charming. She dragged him to join her, building up momentum to take on Arata — oh, did I mention he is the grandson of a master karuta player?

Trust me, the anime is not all about the game. As typical as it sounds, the whole set up is a love triangle waiting to explode — it did…eventually. Follow Chihaya’s adventures, as well as the other club members and karuta players, on one extreme roller coaster ride!

6. Free!

Oh, boy — Free! was the talk of the anime world when it first debuted. This sports anime is all about our favourite water sport: swimming. Encompassing beautiful art and graphics, passionate character and a splash (pun intended) of comedy, what’s not to like about this combo?

Follow the life of Haruka Nanase, a stoic but driven high school student, as he reunited with three out of four of his childhood friends. The group of four, along with one other, claimed an exciting victory for a swimming relay tournament when they were kids.

Now, with a new addition to the high school swim team, the group of boys is aiming for the top spot at an upcoming competition — and to everyone’s initial surprise, they have to face their former teammate who is now in one Japan’s top prestigious swim team.

7. Prince of Tennis

I personally have never played tennis before, and before this anime, I never wanted to. Leave it to Prince of Tennis to grab one’s interest and reel them into the wonderful sport. The series follows a young prodigy by the name of Ryoma Echizen, a talented tennis player who already made a name for himself at the ripe age of 12.

Winning competitions after competitions overseas, he returns to Japan and goes on to attend the prestigious Seishun Academy — a famous school where all the elite tennis players call home. 

Nothing like well-animated tennis competitions to bring you to the edge of your seat, time and time again, along with striking tennis techniques amidst the excellent graphics. Of course, like a cherry on top of the cake, witness Ryoma grow as an individual as well as a team player through his various connections with fellow teammates and even rivals.

8. Yowamushi Pedal

If you’re tired of passionate protagonists and want a change in a sports anime, this one is perfect. Yowamushi Pedal features Sakamichi Onoda who isn’t really disillusioned with the cycling sport but not obsessed with it either. It’s like the perfect balance. When he attends high school, he wanted to join the anime club (ironically) but it was disbanded, unfortunately. 

That doesn’t really matter, because he ends up joining another club unexpectedly and unplanned. Onada caught the attention of two freshmen who were in the cycling team, Shunsuke Imaizumi and Naruko. 

Onada did say no a couple of times, but eventually, the two managed to convince him to join the bicycle racing club. Yowamushi Pedal is more than just pride and glory — you’ll witness the significance of community that bonds over the shared passion in the sport, which flourishes into long-lasting friendships and beautiful scenes.

9. Hajime-no Ippo

I love a good boxing show — animated or not. Hajime-no Ippo is all about the good ol’ fighting sport done right. Unlike some of the boxing shows, this one is family and kid-friendly, educating you on the rights and wrongs as well as the sportsmanship of the sport.

When you think of a boxer, you think of a big, strong guy who everyone’s afraid of. Not Ippo Makunouchi — he’s actually the target of bullying most of the days. Not your average image of a boxer, I bet. When his professional boxing friend starts teaching him the ropes to this fighting sport, the bullying stops and the self-confidence grows.

Witness Ippo’s boxing career take off alongside his personal growth. Not to mention the impressive graphics — especially since this anime is quite an “old” one. Look out for other striking (yes, pun intended again) characters that deserve the spotlight too, once in a while.

10. Captain Tsubasa

Last but not the least on the list is an old-school anime, but one extremely popular that it has its own gameplay on the various video game platforms — Nintendo Switch, PS4, all of that. Captain Tsubasa continuously wins the hearts of many to this day, revolving around the sport football (or soccer, for those of you who call it that). It’s so legendary that even players like Lionel Messi are known to be inspired by it.

This anime introduces the captain of a high school football team, Tsubasa Oozora. He’s an extremely passionate one, this one. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t realise that football is a team sport — and throughout the anime, the highschooler has to figure out the balance between improving his personal skills as a striker and boosting the team’s overall performance.

It’s all about teamwork — in life and in sport. Captain Tsubasa is a great anime example that educates the viewers on the value of teamwork. Also catch the other characters that are prominent to this anime, not just the captain. As I said, teamwork makes the dream work!

Conclusion

There are so many sports out there, and there are even more sports anime that weren’t mentioned on this list. However, this curated list of the top 10 Japanese sports anime is the perfect place to start your adventure with sports animation. I assure you, you’ll be hooked to every single one of them even if you’re not interested in the sport — because I know I did. So get comfy and get your binge on!

10 Common Japanese Reaction Phrases

10 Common Japanese Reaction Phrases

Introduction

A reaction is natural and automatic — if someone said something surprising, our first response would be somewhere along the lines of “are you serious?” or “really?” For native and fluent English speakers, we didn’t really need to consciously learn how to react — it just comes out naturally.

The Japanese people have a whole different way of reacting; actually, a couple of ways. If you’ve ever watched an episode of an anime or Japanese drama, you probably have heard at least one on this list. Some of them are pretty unique — so much that it’s pretty much part of the Japanese culture!

So without further ado, let’s dive headfirst into the top 10 common Japanese reaction phrases!

1. “Ehhhhhh?” (えーーーーー?)

The first one on the list — and the phrase that inspired this whole article — is the classic “ehhhhhhh?” It’s pronounced as “え”, but extremely exaggerated: “えーーーー?” I guess how long you drag it out depends on how shocked you are by what you’re told?

I hear this everywhere — on the streets, at a restaurant, even in the ladies’ toilet! It’s pretty much the go-to reaction response to anything. Your friend told you she just got a new dress: “Ehhhh?” Your housemate cooked a big meal for everyone: “Ehhhhh?” You woke up late: “Ehhhh?”

As I said, it’s multi-purpose. It’s kind of like “really?” in English but with a bit of the shock factor — just a bit, like a sprinkle. 

2. Uwaa! (うわ〜!)

The next on our list is “uwaa!” (うわ〜!) This expression can be translated roughly to “wow” in English. Unlike the first one, “uwaa” can’t really be dragged out too much — actually, I don’t think I heard anyone drag it out at all, rather the opposite: cut short, like “uwa-!” (うわー!)

Similar to how you would use “wow” in English, this reaction phrase is used when someone told you something surprising or amazing. It’s like you can’t believe what you heard, or something that someone did is impressive. 

An example can be of a recent usage personally — when someone told me that they tried surfing for the first time this summer, and I was pretty amazed and surprised that I automatically reacted with “uwaa!”

3. Uso? (うそー?)

This phrase actually consists of the word “lie” in Japanese, but “uso?” (うそー?) is kind of like saying “nah, you’re lying to me.”

It’s a step up from “uwaa!” when it comes to the surprising factor. Let’s say your friend told you that they went swimming with sharks, does that sound believable? In English, you’d go, “nah, that’s not true. That’s definitely a lie.” In Japanese, you cut it short and just say, “uso?”

It’s like calling out someone for lying but in a joking way…in the form of a reaction. I guess that’s the best way of explaining this phrase.

4. Sugoi ne! (すごいね!)

Say “sugoi ne!” (すごいね!) when you feel happy for your friend or find something pretty great. It can be a reaction to someone speaking to you or just an exclamation if you see something randomly that caught your attention. The phrase actually consists of the word “sugoi” (すごい)to mean great and “ne” (ね) as an attachment at the end for a softer tone. You could leave the “ne” out as well.

For example, your friend just found out that she got a whole month off of work so she’s booking a spontaneous trip overseas! That sounds great, doesn’t it? React with “sugoi ne!” Then, she comes back from her trip with a beautiful tan and a new hairstyle — looks so good, right? Tell her that by saying “sugoi ne!”

This phrase can have a less positive impact depending on how you say it. Usually, it’s said with a cheerful tone, but if it’s not with it, it kind of sounds just a little bit sarcastic.

5. Suge! (すげー!)

Yup, you guessed it — “suge!” (すげー!) is the slang form of our previous reaction phrase. It takes the word “sugoi” and kind of change it to have a more masculine tone. Most of the time, “suge!” is used by guys rather than girls as they tend to avoid sounding harsh and risk being less feminine. 

The way to use “suge!” is exactly the same as “sugoi ne”, so that’s pretty simple right? 

6. Maji?/Majide? (まじ?/まじで?)

This one’s my personal favourite even though I don’t use it as often as I want to. “Maji?” (まじ?) or “majide?” (まじで?) — either way works, there’s actually no difference at all between the two — is kind of like saying “are you for real?” or “are you serious?” “Majika?” (まじか?) works just the same, too.

I’d say it’s a step up from “uso?” — when you really, really, really don’t believe something and is taken aback by surprise, you use “majide?” I feel like it has a cool ring to it — maybe just my gaijin (外人) ears not being used to it. 

I was pondering whether this phrase is used by more guys or girls, but at the end of the day, I think it’s pretty much balanced. If it so happens that your guy friends say it more than your girl friends, that’s just coincidence and personal preference for the girls.

7. Honto? (本当?)

Remember out first phrase (“ehhhhh?”) and how I said it sort of roughly translates to “really?” It does, but “honto?” (本当?) actually translates to that meaning better. It’s like “for real?”

You can also say “hontoni?” (本当に?) which is pretty much exactly the same as “honto” — I’d say the only difference is that “hontoni” might have just, ever so slightly, a politer tone. “Hontoni” is like “really?” and “honto” is like “for real?” — see the tiny difference? 

If you want to be polite, use the polite form of “honto desu ka?” (本当ですか?)

8. A-! (あー!)

Do you know that moment when you’re trying to remember something or your friend is telling you about something and you’re trying to recall it, and all of a sudden it popped in your head and you go, “oh I know, I remember!” — or somewhere along those lines.

“A—!” (あー!) is pretty much that reaction when you know what they’re talking about or you finally remembered the thing you were trying so hard to recall. Say your friend is going on and on about that one night where you both went out and got dinner: “remember that time when we ate pizza and drank all that beer?” After a ton of racking through the brain, you go, “A—! Yes!”

The “a—” is kind of cut off at the end — no elongation whatsoever. 

9. Sounano? (そうなの?)

I feel like “sounano?” (そうなの?) has a polite tone to it as well. It’s like saying “is that so?” In English, saying that doesn’t come as often (or maybe it’s just me), but when it does, it’s usually when you’re speaking to someone who has a softer vibe to them or someone you’re not so familiar with.

There’s another way of saying this phrase and that is “sounanda?” (そうなんだ?) — pretty much the exact same thing; no different for guys and girls.

This reaction phrase is not too polite though, since the polite form of this phrase is “soudesuka?” (そうですか?)

10. Are? (あれ?)

Last but not least is “are?” (あれ?). No, it’s not pronounced like the plural form of “is” — it’s “ah-re”. I would use this when the opposite situation of “a—!”: when I forgot something that was practically at the tip of my tongue.

More commonly used is when you’re confused at what you just heard — maybe your friend is telling you about how much they love cats but you actually thought they loved dogs: “Are—? Don’t you love dogs more than cats?”

The Wrap-up

Phew — that was a tough one trying to explain the reaction phrases. I hope the examples clarified any confusion, but if not, send our way a couple of “あれ?” so you’re making it clear that you’re quite jumbled up there. Anyway, for those that you did catch, try using them the next time you’re talking to a Japanese friend — or any friend, for that matter!

Bubble Tea in Japan

Bubble Tea in Japan

Introduction

Bubble tea has more than one name — bubble tea, boba, tapioca; whatever you call it, it’s all talking about that sugary drink with balls of goodness at the bottom of the cup. This Taiwanese-born drink needs absolutely no introduction — just the brief mention of “bubble tea” brings ideas like tapioca and bubble tea into mind.  Bubble tea has taken the world by storm, and Japan is no exception. In fact, the capital city Tokyo is one of the biggest victims to be brainwashed — in a good way, of course — by this pearly goodness. 

As the years go by, the popularity and hype of bubble tea seem to only be growing — and to be very honest, I see no end to it! This bubbly drink has since evolved from the classic Taiwanese milk tea to all sorts of renditions; Tokyo is definitely one city to be hold accountable for their creative mixes and creations.

Let’s take a look at how bubble tea dominated the streets of Japan, as well as the top bubble tea shops in the capital city, Tokyo.

The Rise of Bubble Tea in Japan

Rewind a couple of years back, Tokyo (and Japan) streets in every neighbourhood are lined with local ramen (ラーメン) stalls, konbini (コンビニ) and unexpected small boutiques. When the trend of bubble tea started brewing, it didn’t take long for the Japanese people to pick up on it. That’s when the ordinary Japanese-looking food and shopping districts started to get invaded by fresh-looking, kawaii (かわいい) bubble tea shops that attract the crazy crowds, all lined up outside the stall with possibly no end.

I have to admit: I wasn’t one for bubble tea. It was too…overhyped. I’m more of the down-low, hipster kind of girl. But even with my stubbornness and extreme disapproval of the trendiness, the boba goodness got me hooked! As did many other girls, and guys, like me.

With crazy demands, the only solution to that problem was to have bubble tea shops popping up constantly at every corner of this neon light city. And what’s more, it’s not only Taiwanese chains — local Japanese cafes and restaurants added bubble tea to their menu, as well as local businesses solely offering bubble tea fill up the gaps on the streets. You can tell the difference of the classic Taiwanese drink to that of the Japanese’s; local ones have a unique touch in their menu, experimenting and pushing boundaries no others thought of. Can anyone actually say no to a Japan-exclusive bubble tea?

Tokyo’s Top Bubble Tea Shops

We all know the reputation that Tokyo has: a fun, crazy city with innovation and creativity oozing everywhere. Of course, that applies to bubble tea as well. In this lively city, not only will you be spoilt for choices for the classic Taiwanese bubble tea, but you’ll also have a selection of wild and exciting new mixes.

If that hasn’t gotten you pumped up about the bubble tea craze in Japan, let’s take a look at the top bubble tea shops this dazzling capital city has to offer!

1. Comma Tea

First off, we have Comma Tea. If you’re wondering why they’re called that, they have an explanation for that. In our busy daily lives, we’re all too caught up with everything that we sometimes forget to take a break. The idea of a “comma” is like pressing pause on life when you take a sip of bubble tea, free from the shackles of work piles and personal problems.

This local Japanese bubble tea shop has not only a single shop in Tokyo, but multiple ones nationwide. Every cup is customisable — adjust the sweetness to how you like it and pick the toppings that suit your taste. 

If it’s your first time and you’re lost clueless, what you don’t want to miss out on is their signature black tea. Go for the Bruleed Brown Sugar Latte, a bubble tea drink topped with a layer of lightly-bruleed creamy foam.

2. OCHABA

One of the newer bubble tea shops on our list is OCHABA — opening its doors in March 2019. Ever since then, their success has been unimaginable. What makes OCHABA different from the rest is that they are the first-ever brand to use Japanese tea in their drinks! With each sip, you’ll taste the Japanese authenticity from the tea leaves harvested from Shizuoka itself. 

If you think that’s amazing, you’re in for a treat. No, really — an actual treat! OCHABA is not your typical bubble tea shop that uses sugar pearls and jelly balls — instead, their toppings are a little closer to home. 

Pick from a whole range of Japanese sweets for your bubble tea toppings — mochi (もち), warabi (わらび) and shiratama (しらたま) are just to name a few that are offered. The combination of Shizuoka tea with wagashi (和菓子, Japanese sweets) might as well make this drink the most authentic Japanese drink in the country!

3. ZJins

You’ll be in for quite a treat at this local bubble tea shop. Ask any local youth on the streets of Harajuku if they know about ZJins, and their answer will always be yes. This is another not-your-average bubble tea shop; ZJins set the standards for brand collaterals at a whole other level!

Just one step into the store is like being in a fairytale — this bubble tea shop flooded Instagram with aesthetically pleasing drink accessories and a beautifully divine interior. Flowers, fruits, purplish-pink atmosphere — all that, and more!

That’s not to say that the actual drinks are rated below the appearance. Select from a variety of drinks — from classic milk teas to cheesy mixes, not to mention fruity flows! Keep an eye out for their seasonal menus that will constantly impress you, raising the bar higher and higher each time.

4. Alfred Tea Room

For this bubble tea shop, you don’t want to leave your camera phones at home, ladies (and gents). Alfred Tea Room hits the streets of Tokyo, all the way from Los Angeles. You can’t miss this one — the all-pink aesthetic is definitely an eye-catcher. 

Oozing warmth and friendly hospitality, don’t think that the highly-presented drinks are just for the ‘Gram. If anything, they exceed every high expectation one has for bubble tea. The drinks menu is quite extensive — pick from the bestselling category, with the top choice being the Peach Blossom Latte. Rest assured the quality is second to none, with syrups and tapioca being made in-house with their very own recipe.

5. Tapista

If you’re walking randomly in Japan and stumble upon a store with pastel pink and minty green aesthetics, it’s without a doubt the bubble tea shop Tapista. They basically own the combo — easily spottable, highly reputable and extremely famous. 

What you get from the store’s presentation is just a sneak peek into what their drinks are all about. Trust Tapista to pull off a bubble tea drink so extremely beautiful that it’ll be a shame to drink it. This bubble tea shop is full of surprises — unique flavour combinations that make up the drinks menu, natural sweetness for toppings that give the flavour an edge over the rest, and of course customisation that twerks each up to their drinker.

6. Fortuner Tea Box

For those who are such cheese enthusiasts, what if I tell you that there’s a bubble tea shop in Japan that specialises in cheese bubble tea? Yes, you read it right — CHEESE bubble tea. Fortuner Tea Box prides themselves in being one of the best shops out there to offer cheese tea.

Known more famously as a cheese tea shop, Fortuner Tea Box tops off every drink with cheese foam, adding a new dimension of flavours for each and every drink. Say no to straws — not only for the environmental causes — but also for the cheese foam. Switch to a lid that allows you to drink directly from the cup.

Don’t forget to add your selfie with a cheese foam mustache alongside the other aesthetically pleasing photos of this unique bubble tea shop!

7. Pearl Lady Cha Bar

Another local Japanese bubble tea shop not to miss out on is Pearl Lady Cha Bar, with countless stores all around Japan! Serving the freshest bubble tea since 2009, this bubble tea shop has quite a reputation. It’s everyone’s go-to and number one choice.

Pearl Lady Cha Bar never keeps their tapioca pearls for more than 24 hours. In fact, they don’t keep them at the end of each day at all! Every day, a new batch of those round, sugary goodness is made to ensure the freshest and chewiest for every cup sold. What’s more, you can pick the size you fancy for your pearls.

Bubble tea lovers go to Pearl Lady Cha Bar for their classics as well as their limited edition and seasonal ones. There’s one particular range that got the attention of many: the Nilgiri tea range. From Berry Black Latte to Rose Black Tea Latte, the constant evolution of this bubble tea shop makes the loyal customers stay loyal, and the new ones into loyal customers.

Conclusion

Bubble tea shops in Tokyo — or Japan in general — are not short of surprises and creativity, just like the country itself. Anything and everything you want from a cup of boba, from the unrealistic imaginations to the traditional cravings, you can find them here. Put “bubble tea shop-hopping” on your list of things to do in Japan on your next trip to this sweet, bubbly country!

Temples vs Shrines in Japan

Temples vs Shrines in Japan

Introduction

If you don’t already know, Japan has two major religions: Buddhism and Shinto. Most of the Japanese people are either one or the other — with an exception of some of them who follow the Christian faith. Although, many Japanese people actually regard their religious practices, regardless of which one, as just part of their culture rather than faith or belief. 

That’s all well and good, but those of us visiting Japan might not be able to differentiate between the two, especially when it comes to temples and shrines. The two religions have become so closely knitted together that to the untrained eye, they both look the same. But that’s, in fact, wrong. They are vastly different in a few ways — appearance, religion and way of worship — which I’ll briefly explain in this article.

But first, let’s take a look at temples and shrines individually.

What is a temple? 

Temples are called “tera” () in Japanese. It is a place of worship for the Japanese Buddhists. There is at least one temple in every Japanese municipality, but some cultural hotspots like Kyoto can have hundreds. Some temples used to be monasteries — some of them still are. Most of the temples store sacred Buddhist items and if you’re lucky, you might see some of them on display.

Buddhism came to Japan in the 6th century from China. In the 1100s, the capital of administrative for the faith moved to Kamakura — if you ever find yourself in the area, don’t skip out on paying the big Buddha (hotoke-sama, 仏様) statue a visit. Buddhists believe that part of the spirit of Buddha lives inside a statue of them. There were various forms of Buddhism, but the most popular to this day is the Zen.

Don’t be surprised to see some of the structures on temple grounds being used as homes — monks do live at a temple. They also train on the premises as well. 

The most famous temples in Japan are the golden Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto — also known as the Golden Pavilion due to the top two floors being covered in gold completely — and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

What is a shrine?

Source: Giuseppe Milo

The temples are for the Buddhists, so the shrines are for the Shinto believers. Also known as “jinja” (神社) in Japanese, the Shinto places of worship are also where the Shinto gods (kami, ) dwells. Where a shrine is located is quite significant — the location is linked to a holy ceremonial place in the past, making that bit of nature sacred. 

Shinto is a native religion of Japan. They believe the afterlife and even the belief itself isn’t the most important — it’s the current world and fitting into it that should be prioritised. No book, place, god or prayer is better than the other; there is no fixed practice. It’s a lot about nature when it comes to Shinto.

Shrines are notable by the torii (鳥居). While literally translates to bird abode, it’s used to symbolically mark out the sacred grounds from the mundane ones. You’ll usually see it at the entrance of a shrine, and sometimes within it itself. There are sacred objects of worship stored in the shrines, away from prying eyes, where it’s believed to represent kami — local spirits of the place and even bigger phenomena like the Sun goddess Amaterasu alike.

There’s no one specific time not to visit a shrine, but when sick or in mourning, some believe it’s best not to because it’s a sign of impurity and should be kept away from holy grounds. The best times to visit a shrine are to pay respects to the Gods, pray for good health and fortune, and also to sightsee and appreciate the culture and history within.

New Year is the most popular time to visit a shrine — dozens of people make their way to the nearest shrine when the clock strikes midnight to pray for good health for the year. Wedding ceremonies are also conducted here.

Quite a number of Japanese customs have roots in the Shinto belief, including ikebana (生け花) which is Japanese flower-arranging, sumo wrestling and designs like architecture and gardening.

The most famous shrines in Japan are Meiji Shrine in Tokyo and Fushimi Inari Shrine, or more popularly recognised as the one with the lined torii all the way up the hills.

Temples vs shrines

Since it’s obvious that the two places of worship are of different religions, it begs the question of how can anyone mistake one for the other? Well, centuries ago, the two religions were connected as one and the places of worship were interchangeable. That affected the architecture and structure, one influenced by the other. Even to this day, some Japanese people adhere to both religions.

It is believed — centuries’ old of belief — that weddings (kekkonshiki, 結婚式) are often a Shinto ceremony, and funerals (soushiki, 葬式) are more often than not a Buddhist one. Because of that, they are conducted at shrines and temples respectively. 

Let’s take a look at the other notable ways temples and shrines are significantly different.

Appearance 

As mentioned before, it might not be obvious at first glance as to whether the place of worship is a temple or a shrine due to its intermix. However, the two types of worship places do have iconic differences in appearance.

Shrines have the torii at the entrance — most of the time, they are red. So, if you spot this one at the foot of the holy grounds, you’re most likely entering a shrine. Further into the vicinity, you’ll see structures that reflect the same vibe as the torii, but with much more complicated architecture — including statues like foxes, but some shrines may have other animals, too.

Temples don’t have the torii, of course, but they do have the sanmon (山門) — the main gate of the temple. It’s slimmer and smaller than a torii, so you can’t really classify the two as the same. You’ll also be more likely to see a Buddha statue somewhere on the temple grounds. Don’t be spooked off if you see a cemetery — it’s quite normal to have one. 

Way of worship

Worshipping in a temple and shrine are slightly different. It’s best to know and understand the mannerisms, even though some Japanese people don’t know the differences themselves. They do have one thing in common, which is the bowing act called Ojigi (お辞儀).

Here are the procedures for a temple visit:

  1. You are to bow your head before passing through the temple gate. 
  2. Instead of walking in the middle, walk along the side of the road instead. 
  3. There’s a station to cleanse yourself — which includes washing and rinsing your mouth. The large communal water pavilion known as the temizuya (手水舎) is where you conduct your purifying ritual known as the misogi (), where the body and mind are purified before you face the deity. The process of the purification ritual is simple: pick up one of the ladles resting on the pavilion and, using your right hand, fill the ladle with water. Pour water on your left hand, and then repeat the process with the left hand (to wash your right hand). The last step is to rinse your mouth, and after scooping water using the ladle, pour some in your left hand to rinse your mouth. For the final scoop, pour the water on the ladle itself, and set the ladle down on the pavilion.
  4. After that, touch the incense smoke and wave it towards you. It’s believed that the smoke can make any parts of your body that have been injured better.
  5. Then, head over to the main structure of the temple where people pray. Bow once, throw money into the offertory box (saisenbako, 賽銭箱) — it doesn’t matter how much — and then have your hands clasped together to pray.

A shrine visit, also known as omairi (お参り), has a slightly different routine.

  1. Just before entering the sacred compound, bow at the torii before walking through it. 
  2. Similarly, you’re not supposed to walk directly in the center of the walkway. The main approach to the shrine is known as seichuu (正中), and is considered the passageway for the gods.
  3. Cleansing yourself is also part of the routine. It’s similar to the one for the temple visit.
  4. Unlike the temple visit, there is no need for the incense waving at a shrine. Proceed to pay your respects and conduct your prayer. This is where it’s different from the temple visit: after throwing money in, ring the bell or gong if there is one (usually there is) to tell the deity of your presence. Then clap your hands twice and bow (this is a sign of happiness and appreciation for coming close to the deity), say your prayer, then clap your hands twice again and bow once more.

Conclusion

Now that you’re at the end, I hope you’re cleared of any doubts and questions of how temples and shrines are different from each other. It’s understandable how they can be classified as one — and the Japanese people won’t foul you on that — but it’s also good to appreciate the subtle differences of the two types of worship places in Japan. So keep in mind the ways of worship for temples and shrines — you might need them when you’re sightseeing the major ones in Japan!

Does Japanese Halloween Exist?

Does Japanese Halloween Exist?

Introduction

People all over the world go on a hunt for the perfect costume, bring out their spooky decorations and RSVP to tons of themed events come October. The month of Halloween unites all the industries, even in Japan. It might as well be in the Japanese blood to go all out for anything and everything. Japan is pretty festive all year round, so why skip out on the Western spooky celebration? 

But, just like everything else in Japan, the country has a twist in how they celebrate Halloween. It’s not quite the same as in the West — no houses will be decorated and trick-or-treat is not practiced — but expect the streets and shops to be flooded with Halloween spirit.

Let’s take a look at how Halloween actually came to the country, as well as the present traditions the Japanese have during this festive season.

History of Halloween in Japan

Source: Hideya HAMANO (flickr)

So, how did Halloween get introduced to Japan? This Western tradition is quite a new holiday in Japan that it’s not even an actual holiday — much like Christmas. 

Before Halloween caught on with the locals, this celebration was only celebrated by foreigners. A lot of them dressed up in random costumes, filled up bars and packed the trains with drinks in hand. All these public spaces turned into their very own parties and disrupted the flow of daily life in Japan. 

The Japanese people saw no reason to celebrate this Western spooky festival — they have their very own (which we’ll get to in a minute). But Tokyo Disneyland made a move in 2000 by hosting its first Halloween event, just like the other Disney resorts in the rest of the world. More and more people started to visit this attraction in autumn, and with the rising popularity, even Universal Studios Japan caught on! 

And so did restaurants and retail stores — Halloween-themed merchandise popped up on the market as well. Everything from orange, black and purple combo decor to pumpkin goodies are scattered around the country. 

Japanese Halloween Traditions


  Source: Tim Brockley (flickr)

Not all of the traditions of Halloween made its way to Japan — trick-and-treating is one of them. There’s no such practice here because the idea of knocking on people’s doors randomly goes very much against the Japanese culture. In Japan, doing all of that is considered as bothering others unnecessarily — a big no-no in Japanese culture.

What did actually survive the trip from the West is the dressing up. In fact, the Japanese were more than welcoming with the activity. I mean, Japan is the world of cosplay, anyway. Regardless of age and gender, the locals participate in this tradition.

Another famous tradition of Japanese Halloween — even though it’s more like a weekly event than just on Halloween — is to go down to Shibuya and drink all night long. Locals and foreigners alike are seen mingling and having the time of their lives. This gathering event over the years became more and more chaotic, so much that a truck was overturned during one of the Halloween madness and now, public drinking is banned in Shibuya during the Halloween season. 

There are also tons of other parties, parades and festivals all throughout Japan, specifically Tokyo, with people flaunting their costumes while enjoying the music, food and atmosphere! Japanese companies and schools also have Halloween parties for their workers, faculty and kids!

Another West-imported tradition of Halloween is pumpkin-carving, even though it’s not as popular in Japan. One thing to note: the pumpkins here aren’t orange, they’re purple! If you’re looking to get the whole traditional jack-o-lantern, you might need to fork out a bit more for imported orange pumpkins.

Halloween Decorations

 Source: Hideya HAMANO (flickr)

Remember when I said that the Japanese go all out? They do, even for this West-imported holiday. You can literally see their enthusiasm on every corner and street in the country. As soon as October rolls around, expect Halloween-themed everything!

The most common Japanese Halloween decoration is food — every shop will have some sort of Halloween treat. Some will even go all the way and have special Halloween menus using seasonal ingredients like sweet potatoes. Yes, pumpkin too, but in Japan, it’s all about seasonality! Let’s not forget cutely decorated dishes, complete with witch hats and pumpkin carvings.

There are also tons of light decorations on the street lamps, alleyways and neighbourhoods — and it’s different every year! 

Celebrating Halloween in Japan: Where To Go?

Don’t panic if it’s your first time celebrating Halloween in Japan. You probably won’t know exactly where to go, but I’ve got you covered. You can easily walk into a local bar in a Halloween costume on Halloween and see others all dressed up too. 

But if you want the full experience, there are quite a few spots for that!

Shibuya

Looking for a chill but not so chill space to party, Shibuya is your best bet. It’s the original Halloween spot where the expats go to party, and nowadays, the Japanese people are also joining in the fun with their own wacky outfits!

As soon as you step off the train, you can’t miss the crowd. Surrounding the Hachiko statue and near the Shibuya Scramble, you’ll see everything from zombies and spooky ghosts to bloody doctors and animal onesies. 

On Halloween night, it gets extremely packed — so packed that you take one step every two seconds and it takes you at least five minutes to get to the other side of the Shibuya Scramble. What does that say about this popular Halloween location?

Pop in and out of bars and clubs to celebrate your Halloween night. Restaurants, however, can get booked up fast, so make a reservation in advance if you want to have a nice Halloween dinner with your group of friends.

Tokyo Disney Resorts

Source: PeterPanFan (flickr)

The best place to celebrate Halloween in Japan is where it all began: Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. If you want to read up some more on these Disney Resorts, check out our article, “A Guide To Tokyo’s Disney Resorts”

At these famous amusement parks in Japan, you’re guaranteed an extremely fun time; the rides are already thrilling on normal days, but when it’s Halloween, most of them switch it up and have a spooky theme. 

You might even be greeted by characters walking around dressed in costumes (on top of their actual costumes — how cute), and every corner is propped even more with webs and pumpkins. If you think the original Disney treats are tasty, wait till you have a bit of the Halloween treats. 

Visitors come all dressed up too — but of course, expect tons of Disney costumes. But anyway, you’re lucky enough to be able to snag a ticket for Disneyland or DisneySea on Halloween, a time with numerous exclusive entertainment. Who would ever say no to that?

Universal Studios Japan

Source: Hideya HAMANO (flickr)

Not in Tokyo? Don’t worry, Kanto has their own Halloween spot: Universal Studios Japan. It’s just as amazing, full of fun and attractions that are also themed for Halloween!

USJ has the whole amusement park turned upside down for the season and you’ll get exclusive entertainment that only comes around that time of the year. Don’t be bummed that you can’t get to the Disney Resorts, because USJ is even more spooky on Halloween, because they have Halloween Horror Nights! If you’re looking for a bit more of a scare than usual, this is a safe bet.

Obon: Japan’s Very Own Spooky Season

Source: Daniel Héctor Stolfi Rosso (flickr)

Halloween pales in comparison to Japan’s own spooky season, Obon. Some say that compared to Obon, Halloween is like the kid’s version of it.

Obon happens in the hot August summer and it’s one of the most famous festivities in the whole year. During this holiday season, the Japanese believe that the dead visit the household shrines and the families visit as well as clean the graves of the deceased. Similar to Halloween, ghost stories are being told and people visit haunted attractions all throughout the whole traditional spooky month.

Conclusion

While Obon is still strongly practiced, the fact of the matter is that Halloween now also has a foothold in modern Japanese culture — dressing up in dramatic costumes, drinking all night long in Shibuya and devouring spooky-themed treats. While it’s not as traditional as the other, it’s still an annual practice to go all out to get the best Halloween experience they can ever imagine.

Top 10 Japanese Celebrities To Follow

Top 10 Japanese Celebrities To Follow

Introduction

On billboard magazines and gossip websites, Western celebrities pop up more often than anyone else. What about Japan? Japanese celebrities are just as talented and successful as the rest who are yet to be discovered by the Western audience. 

There’s one notable difference between Western celebrities and Japanese celebrities: while many can rise to stardom from tons of auditioning in Hollywood in the West, Japanese celebrities usually start their career with modeling or being a part of a pop idol group. Through those, they gain popularity by appearing in variety shows, movies and television shows. 

There’s a term for them — they are called tarento (タレント), coming from the English word “talent”.

Japanese celebrities aren’t that popular in the west, except for a notable handful. If you’re interested in diving into the Japanese celebrities pool, here’s a list of the top 10 Japanese celebrities to follow!

1. Naomi Watanabe

First on the list is Naomi Watanabe. She may or may not need an introduction — the latter being more true. This half-Japanese half-Taiwanese celebrity is an actor, comedian and fashion designer. She’s not your average celebrity; many would say she doesn’t fit the “image” of a Japanese celebrity. But that’s what brings her the charm.

Naomi is the most famous Japanese celebrity on Instagram, especially catching the attention with her celebrity impersonations like Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Not only that, but she also has a knack for making people laugh with her down-to-earth personality, positive energy and passion for what she believes in, including body positivism. 

This bubbly personality also has her own fashion line where she stays true to her beliefs and offers clothing sizes from small to plus-size. Naomi Watanabe is a celebrity role model, aiming to break beauty standards in Japan.

2. Yoko Ono

Another Japanese celebrity to follow is John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono. Her husband once said she’s “the world’s most famous unknown artist”. Born in Tokyo, she moved to New York with her family after World War II.

Be prepared for this one — she’s a tad bit off her nut. Just do a quick Google search of her appearance during one of The Beatles’ performances where she started screaming into the mic out of the blue! Not only did it catch the other performers off-guard, but also the sound engineer who hastily muted her mic.

What can you say? This conceptual artist and avant-garde musician has some unique tricks up her sleeve. Her most famous performance is Cut Piece, where the audience cut her clothes with scissors.

Yoko Ono isn’t defined by her screaming moments, though. She is also a peace activist, and to this day, she is actively supporting gun control and going against fracking.

3. Jun Hasegawa

This Japanese celebrity is another one who isn’t fully Japanese — she’s only half Japanese, and the other half is American. Jun Hasegawa was born in New Hampshire and lived in Hawaii until the age of 14. Soon after, she came to Japan and pursued her modeling career. It paid off, most definitely, as she is now one of the top supermodels in Japan.

Jun is a regular model for fashion magazine ViVi. That was her stepping stone to being big in the modeling industry. Because she is a “haafu” (ハーフ), which refers to anyone who is half-Japanese, she is more popular due to her unique features. Even being well past the age of 30, Jun is still regularly modeling.

She’s not only a big model celebrity in Japan — her popularity extends to the international market. Jun has modeled for top fashion magazines like Vogue and Elle.

4. Rola

What I tell ya — half-Japanese people are dominating the Japanese entertainment scene (in a good way). Rola is another “haafu”; she is half-Japanese and half-Bangladeshi. She was born and raised in Bangladesh till she was about 9 years old, then left for Tokyo and continued her life here. When she was in high school, she was scouted and that was when her modeling career began. Rola is also a model for ViVi.

Modelling isn’t her only role — she is also a TV personality and author. Her Instagram is not as popular as her Twitter handle where she is the most-followed Japanese celebrity there. A passion-driven woman, she has her own fragrance line, a few released books and also starred in the 2016 Hollywood movie, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

5. Kento Yamazaki 

Switching it up a bit, here’s a male Japanese celebrity to follow: Kento Yamazaki. He is an actor as well as a model — because every celebrity in Japan is most likely a model, right? This name is not at all unfamiliar — in fact, Kento is one of the most popular Japanese celebrities in the country. His Instagram followers number won’t reflect that though; he only started using Instagram not too long ago.

Kento is best known for being the “shoujo (少女) prince”, referring to his lead roles in shoujo mangas’ live adaptation. Shoujo mangas are aimed at a younger, female audience and they usually involve a prince-like male lead.

He has moved towards a different direction recently, picking up roles for adult, intense movies and shows.

6. Masami Nagasawa

Masami Nagasawa is one of the most talented actresses in Japan — she not only stars in movies and television shows but also does voice acting. One of her more notable roles is Kimi No Na Wa where she was the voice behind Miki Okudera.

Masami’s dedication and passion can be seen immensely whenever she performs her role. It’s extremely prominent in the Taiwanese drama show she was in called Chocolat — for the role, she picked up the Mandarin language and practiced day in and day out for half a year. 

Need proof of her talent? Masami has won countless awards including a Blue Ribbon Award for Best Supporting Actress. She’s been nominated for a Japan Academy Award for Best Actress. This one is definitely a Japanese celebrity to keep an eye on — you’ll never know what she’s going to achieve next.

7. Kiko Mizuhara

Another model-celebrity in our midst, it’s Kiko Mizuhara. Some may know her as the girl who dated South Korean pop star G-Dragon, but it’s been clear time and time again that she has proven herself worthy of the success she’s getting.

She started her career at quite a young age: when she was 12, Kiko was scouted and went on to star in Seventeen Magazine. Originally from Kobe, she moved to Tokyo to continue pursuing her modeling career. Her hard work paid off and she made a name for herself in the modeling world. 

Even overseas brands are interested in this Japanese talent — magazines like Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Nylon wanted her on their spread. What’s more, she’s the first Asian ambassador for Dior!

8. Tomohisa Yamashita

A Japanese celebrity list isn’t complete without at least one Johnny’s on it. Tomohisa Yamashita was a former trainee in Johnny & Associates, a Japanese talent agency and debuted as part of a popular idol group called NEWS in 2004. A few years later, he debuted as a soloist alongside pursuing further his acting career.

Today, Yamashita isn’t part of the idol group anymore and focuses on his solo singing career as well as his acting career. He has had extreme success in his past, especially the Code Blue series.

Regardless of a few scandalous reports and gossip every now and then, Yamashita is still favourably loved by the Japanese market. He’s even a regular TV host and pops up as celebrity guests on other varieties. 

9. Haruna Kojima

Make way for Haruna Kojima, a Japanese celebrity who took the path of joining a girl group to start her career instead of modeling. She became extremely popular after being qualified for one of the top Japanese girl idol groups, AKB48 — a group that has over 200 members! Haruna was a singer for the group for over a decade before deciding to leave and pursue a solo career.

Haruna not only continued singing but also ventured into acting — starring in movies like Tofu-Pro Wrestling and Cabasuka Gakuen. She’s a busy celebrity, doing all the acting and singing with side projects like her own online clothing shop and managing her YouTube channel.

10. Takayuki Yamada

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo8n1O7HusV/

Of course, we have to end the list off with a legend, Takayuki Yamada. This Japanese celebrity was born in Okinawa and moved to central Japan to pursue his acting and singing career. I’d say, he’s not your typical celebrity. If you follow his Instagram, you’ll be greeted by his refreshing sense of humour and realism. He’s also in a band — as do all hot and popular stars are — called The XXXXXX, where he is the lead singer.

Takayuki is also known to take on a wide range of acting roles, and people are convinced that there is no role he isn’t capable of. He’s extremely notable in the TV drama Socrates in Love, and roped in the international popularity when he starred in Crows Zero film series. To top it off, Takayuki also produces a live-action web series called Saint Young Men — what can’t the guy do?

Conclusion

This list of the top 10 Japanese celebrities to follow will get you right on the way to getting to know the Hollywood of Japan. Talents in Japan can be young and old, local and international, single-talent or multi-talented — regardless of it all, the Japanese entertainment is always churning out new celebrities, so be ahead of the game!

Top 10 Japanese YouTubers

Top 10 Japanese YouTubers

Introduction

YouTube has, without a doubt, been dominating the world in this day and age. Every year, it grows in users who log in religiously to watch their favourite YouTubers — both locally and internationally. It’s a wonderful platform for anyone to garner a huge following for something they’re passionate about — not only does their content circulate around audiences of their own region but it also reaches other parts of the world as well.

Japanese YouTubers are no different; they have gained quite a following of not only Japanese audiences but also the international ones, thanks to the likes of YouTube’s worldwide accessibility. Some of these Japanese YouTubers are so successful, they have their views and subscription numbers in the millions!

Everything from comedy and entertainment to food and music, these Japanese YouTubers have got them covered. Here’s a list of the top 10 Japanese YouTubers you should definitely check out — if you haven’t already.

1. Hajime Shacho

First on the list is definitely Hajime Shacho. This YouTuber has been holding the title for the largest number of subscribers in Japan for a very long time — he has almost 9 million subscribers with a rough estimate of 7 billion views in total!

Hajime Shacho is originally part of the multi-channel network called UUUM that’s created by another YouTuber. Joined the YouTube community in August 2012, he has since achieved milestones in his YouTube career. While this YouTuber has three different channels that focus on various entertainment — including Q&As, product reviews, lifestyle videos, experiments and hidden camera videos — this channel focuses all-around comedy; that is his main act, after all. He even has YouTube movies that are released for YouTube premium members.

Not convinced yet that Hajime Shacho is worth watching? Tell that to his Twitter followers, where he is known to have the fifth-largest Twitter following in Japan!

2. HikakinTV

Another famous YouTuber that you cannot ignore is HikakinTV, with about 8.6 million followers — not far behind Hajime Shacho! — and also almost 7 billion views collectively. Co-founder of the Japanese multi-channel network UUUM, Hikakin is considered one of the pioneers of Japanese YouTubers! Hikakin rose to stardom in 2010 when his “Super Mario Beatbox” video went viral, reaching almost 4 million views. Since then, his channel is dedicated to beatbox covers as well as tutorials.  

Hikakin is quite a successful Japanese YouTuber, especially since he has collaborated with popular named acts like Ariana Grande and Aerosmith — these collaborations did quite a solid for his career.

He’s not only a beatboxer; Hikakin also has a gaming channel called Hikakin Games. It has almost 5 million subscribers and takes you on adventures through different gaming programs — all the while making you laugh and keeping you entertained.

3. Fischer’s

Onto our next YouTuber — who is not only one single person, but a group of seven individuals. Fischer’s is run by a group of good friends who met and created the group in high school in 2012, and went on creating comedy content like skits, vlogs, food and gaming related videos. They have about 6.5 million subscribers that garnered around 9 billion views! 

One of the most impressive achievements of the team that runs Fischer’s is breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest game of tag — the group of YouTubers gathered almost 11,000 people to play the biggest game of tag in the whole world! The group initially aimed for just 10,000 people to break the previous world record, but they’ve exceeded their own goal.

4. Yuka Kinoshita

The fourth YouTuber on the list is the number one female YouTuber in all of Japan! Yuka Kinoshita is not only kawaii (かわいい, cute), but she is also surprisingly a big eater. Her channel, with about 5.5 million subscribers, is all about food product reviews and eating videos — known as “mukbang” where she films herself eating while answering some questions asked by her viewers.

Even though she speaks Japanese in her videos, Yuka has quite an international following as all her videos are accompanied by English subtitles.

She is not only entertaining on YouTube; Yuka also stars in a Japanese TV program called Ogui (大食い), which means “heavy eater”. 

5. Tokai OnAir

Tokai OnAir is a YouTube channel that is also run by a group of individuals — this time, it is by six guys from Okazaki City in Aichi. The group formed when they were in high school and, similar to Fischer’s, went on YouTube to create comedic content. With about 5.5 million subscribers, Tokai OnAir became their hometown city’s official tourism ambassadors — a huge achievement for them.

Even though the channel was created in 2013, it took them a few years before successfully garnering a following. What made them rise to fame was their human bowling video in 2017 — not only was the video a huge hit, the group also came out on top of the Japanese YouTube charts when it comes to subscriber growth and view count in that year.

6. SUSHI RAMEN (Riku)

You might think that this channel is about the Japanese noodle dish, ramen (ラーメン), but it isn’t. SUSHI RAMEN (Riku) is a channel run by the YouTuber known as Riku Horiuchi — active since 2013 with just over 5 million subscribers.

SUSHI RAMEN (Riku) is all about experiments. His videos cover content like stunts and extreme challenges that you wouldn’t normally participate in but curious about. But don’t worry, that’s where Riku comes in and does it for you.

He also has a second channel with about the same name, Sushi Ramen 2nd. This channel has about a million subscribers and quite similar to the first one — so why not subscribe to both?

7. Seikin TV

This YouTuber is the brother of another famous YouTuber that appeared earlier on this list: HikakinTV. Seikin is the older brother of Hikakin and created his own channel, SeikinTV, which boasts almost 4 million subscribers. You may even see videos of the two brothers singing together on Seikin’s channel.

Most of the time, SeikinTV’s content revolves around music creation, comedy and vlogs like DIY project tutorials. In fact, these videos are the popular ones that gained a large following for Seikin. There are even product review videos, everything from chocolate molds to strollers — he’s so popular for those videos that he has a nickname for it: “the master of product reviews”.

8. Mizutamari Bond

Focusing on comedy with an emphasis on the dramatic, Mizutamari Bond is made up of Kanta and Tommy, two good friends that started the channel whilst studying at university. With about 4.3 million followers, this comedy duo takes the Japanese YouTube scene by storm. One of the videos went viral when Kanta flips a massive pan of fried rice — the rice wasn’t real, though — as part of pranking Tommy.

Did I mention the emphasis on the dramatic? All of Mizutamari Bond’s videos have such a variety style of content, with overemphasized subtitles and superimposed images. It’s nothing short of entertaining when it comes to these Japanese YouTubers.

9. Hikaru

This Japanese YouTuber takes a twist on the comedy genre that’s such a big hit in Japan. Hikaru’s channel has just over 4 million subscribers with videos that are unconventional and original — a breath of fresh air in the community of comedic YouTube.

Through his style of dark humour, he retells stories of urban legends, supernatural experiences and anything similar to the likes. Hikaru also has another channel called Hikaru Games where he walks his viewers through some of the most famous Japanese video games — and being the country that invents a reputable amount of video games, there are quite a few.

10. JunsKitchen

Last, but definitely not least, is JunsKitchen. This YouTube channel has short of 5 million subscribers and has captured the hearts of many cooking enthusiasts as well as cat lovers — that’s because JunsKitchen combines cats and cooking, all in one video! You won’t get enough of his cute furballs.

Junichi also has another channel where he manages it with his wife, called Rachel and Jun. There, you’ll get more than just cat and cooking content — but once in a while, those furballs will make an appearance!

Conclusion

These are just the top 10 Japanese YouTubers with a huge amount of following — that’s not to say that the ones with smaller numbers are less respectable. The Japanese YouTube community is full of entertaining content where some are even yet to be discovered but deserve more attention. So hop on the Japanese YouTube entertainment — starting off with these top 10 Japanese YouTubers!

Bar Hopping in Tokyo: The Top 7 Bars To Go To

Bar Hopping in Tokyo: The Top 7 Bars To Go To

Introduction

The bustling city brimming with vibrant energy and bright skyscrapers has more to offer than just a photogenic landscape. It’s also home to thousands of drinking spots with an array of cocktail, beer and wine options — not to mention a wide variety of Japanese alcohol including sake. 

Locals and foreigners alike are spoilt for choice in Tokyo; with so many options, it’s a challenge every night to find a bar —  or a few bars, if you’re in a bar-hopping mood — that you know is going to be worth your time. 

You’re lucky you came to the right page. We’ve shortlisted the top 7 bars in Tokyo that are definitely go-to’s — everything from refined cocktail bars to the casual chill standing ones. Read on to find out what they are!

1. 8-bit Cafe

This is not your typical bar — 8-bit Cafe is a concept bar where you can play all your favourite retro video games while sipping on your go-to alcoholic drink. Just around the corner from Shinjuku Sanchome Station, this is definitely a must-go for classic gamers!

This bar prides itself on custom-made cocktails named after characters and games that you won’t get anywhere else except here — try the Princess Peach or even the bestselling Dr. Mario which mixes gin, vodka, Dr. Pepper and Coke, and served in a beaker with a side of two sugar pills in a test tube.

2. Zoetrope

A fan of the hardcore whiskey? Zoetrope is your ultimate stop, then! Lying in the heart of Shinjuku, this cosy bar is like finding a diamond in the rough — it has a whiskey selection like no other in all of Japan with over 300 types of domestic whiskey. 

The owner, Atsushi Horigami, is truly dedicated to Japanese whiskey and is known as one of the pioneers of local whiskey collectors.  You’ll find rare bottles like 18-year-old Kirin Fuji Sanroku single-malt all the way from Fuji Gotemba distillery. If you don’t know your whiskey knowledge, Horigami is more than willing to guide you through the learning journey of it all. 

If you’re not all that into whiskey, Zoetrope also has a wonderful collection of Japanese rum, brandy and beer — so there’s always something for everyone at this dimly lit bar.

3. Tasuichi

One of my personal favourite bars in Tokyo is the laid-back yet buzzing bar in Shibuya called Tasuichi. This is one of the most famous bars in all of Tokyo, especially among travelers and expats in Japan. You’ll definitely make friends and memories every time you step foot in here.

While it is a hot spot for foreigners, there are quite a few Japanese folks that come here as well. It’s a standing bar, so that makes it so much easier to mingle around and meet people. One thing’s for sure, though, is that Tasuichi can get loud and rowdy — that doesn’t really matter when the drinks are as cheap as ¥300, does it?

4. Two Dogs Taproom

Love beer and pizza together? Head over to Two Dogs Taproom that’s just a three-minute walk from Roppongi Station. This bar-restaurant has sort of an industrial theme that gives off the nostalgic American feel, making anyone feel at home — dare I say, even the non-Americans!

Choose from the 25 craft beers on tap — not a single one of them will disappoint you. The beer range is a collection of both Japanese beers and international ones. I recommend trying them all if you’re a beer enthusiast.

Of course, pair your pint of craft beer with homemade pizzas — their signature is the Californian-style pizza that’s made from Campo Grande Pomodorini-Perati Hall tomatoes for the sauce and then fired up at the bar restaurant’s very own wood-fired oven.

Happy hour is the time to be at Two Dogs Taproom — weekdays are often full of locals and foreigners hang out over the weekends, so you can take your pick of the kind of vibe you want to be in!

5. Hub

Another one of my go-to bars in Tokyo is, of course, the famous Hub. This is a British-style pub that has more than one location — there are tons of Hubs scattered all around the city! It’s kind of similar to Tasuichi, only there are seats and it doesn’t get as loud or rowdy; there’s a comfortable balance for that. The drinks at Hub are at extremely affordable prices, alongside classic British foods like Fish N’ Chips to eat alongside your pint of beer or glass of cocktail.

You’ll get a good mix of locals and foreigners here, and despite it being a seating bar, don’t be afraid to mingle around — the environment is perfect for that!

Hub also shows sports, especially British football, so if you’re ever in town when the Premier League is on, you know where to go!

6. Albatross

Golden Gai is one of the most famous drinking streets in Tokyo — if not already number one. With so many options to choose from, one would question which one’s the best to get a pint to start off the night. Albatross is your bar; it is without a doubt one of the hippest bars in the city doubling as an art gallery as well, established in 1997.

You’ll notice the chandelier as soon as you walk in — that’s their signature look. Drink prices can be anywhere from ¥600 to ¥1,500, but you have a wide selection to choose from that’s considered reasonable for the price.

They also have locations in Koenji and another one in Shinjuku as well, so if the Golden Gai outlet doesn’t suit your fancy, head down to the other two!

7. Ginza 300 Bar

Onto the last on the least, but definitely no less compared to the rest, is Ginza 300 Bar. This is the ultimate super value drinking spot, right in the middle of the city’s expensive neighbourhood — quite ironic, actually. You’ll get a good balance between foreigners and locals at this bar.

This bar has a ticket system where you buy at the entrance and exchange it for your order. As the name of the place suggests, everything on the menu — drinks and foods alike — are only ¥300! No cover charge as well!

It is a standing bar, which can be a plus or minus point depending on how you look at it. If the one you go to gets crowded, just pop by to any of the other two locations just around the corner from the first one! 

Conclusion

There are so many drinking bars in Tokyo to choose from — it really is a tough task to shortlist it to only these 7. But with this list, you’ll have a better idea of where to start your night depending on where you go as well as how much you’re willing to spend on a drink. From affordable standing bars like Ginza 300 to the more fancy cocktail bars like Zoetrope, you’ll definitely find one that fits you best!

How to Stay Motivated Learning Japanese

How to Stay Motivated Learning Japanese

Figuring out how to stay motivated learning Japanese isn’t an easy thing to do. Language learning is hard, it can be super frustrating, and there will always be a million things you could be doing instead of studying. Of course if you’re in high school or college taking a language class means if you don’t study, you don’t pass. But self-learners have a whole other problem. How do you stay motivated when you’re the only one making yourself study? How do you stay motivated when your friends are going to the beach or to see a movie? How do you stay motivated when you just got a new video game you’re dying to play?

These are all great questions, and with summer just around the corner we thought we would a handy guide to help you stay on top of your studies this summer, and the whole rest of the year as well!

Use It or Lose It!

One of the strongest motivators to keep you learning should be the fear of forgetting what you already learned! Taking a break and coming back only to realize you have to review SO MUCH that you already learned should be a powerful reason to keep at it every single day.

Everyone Has 15 Minutes a Day

how to stay motivated learning japanese
Should you study for more than 15 minutes a day if you really want to get better? Of course. But if 15 minutes is all you have, it can definitely make a difference. On Nihongo Master this might mean just coming in to do some drills and keep things fresh!

Schedule Your Learning Time and Stick to It


Telling yourself “I’m gonna study later” is great if you actually do it, but making loose, unspecified plans is a great way to break them. When planning your studies for the week be sure to set aside specific tasks for specific times. “From 6-6:30 I’m going to do Nihongo Master drills.” “From 6:30-7 I’m going to do my WaniKani.” Most people who are self-studying use multiple tools and websites so building out your study plan at the beginning of the weeks means you know exactly what to do and when each and every day. When you have that time set aside, you can be sure not to have anything else scheduled and you will be much more likely to complete your tasks!

Feeling Frustrated? Take a Japanese break!


Learning Japanese is HARD with confusing grammar and thousands of kanji and sometimes you just wanna give up! If you start feeling like that, then take a break to do some FUN Japanese stuff. Watch your favorite anime or J-drama. Leave the subtitles on so you’re not working so hard. Dance around to your favorite J-Pop band. Whatever reason you love Japan and Japanese culture, it can help you stay motivated. Working too hard and getting burnt out is a surefire way to give up.

If you’re not into Japanese culture and are just learning for work or for family then remind yourself why those things are important to you! Go spend some time with the person you are learning Japanese for. Or make a list of reasons why this new Japanese job is the best thing ever! Everyone has a different reason for learning Japanese and sometimes you just need a little reminder!

Get a Skype or Email Buddy

japanese skype buddy

Having a set date (weekly is best, but every other week works too) to speak or write Japanese can keep you on track even if the rest of your study time is falling by the wayside. Letting your studies slip is a great way to feel like “Well, it’s too late now, may as well give up!” But it doesn’t have to be that way! Just having your weekly Skype date with a Japanese friend, or another learner, means your brain will be using all the Japanese you’ve already learned. Like we said before, use it or lose it!

Get a Study Buddy


Find someone else to join up with and set times you will both be on the site. You can chat together while you’re learning and you won’t want to let your teammate down!

If you don’t have a study buddy on the site, then at the very least you should tell other people about your plan. Tell your best friend, tell your mom. Write it on your calendar and post it on Facebook! The more people you tell your study goals to, the stronger the will to keep up with them will be.

Record Yourself Speaking Japanese Every Week

how to stay motivated learning japanese
Whether it’s just a few sentences or a 10 minute YouTube video, recording yourself is the best way to practice your pronunciation AND track your improvement. You don’t have to post it anywhere or share it with the world, but HEARING your own progress each week is a great source of motivation. It can be both validating (when you hear how much you’ve improved) or inspiring (when you realize you need to practice more to get better)! If you have a Japanese friend, send it to them and have them grade your pronunciation.

If you are old maybe you have one of these cassette recorders…but the microphone on your computer should also work just fine 🙂

Make an Inspiration Board

japanese inspiration board
OK, so this one might seem a little girly, but whatever. Boys can make cool inspiration boards too! Put up pictures of your favorite anime, the places you want to visit in Japan, anything!! Add fun or inspiring quotes (maybe in Japanese AND English) and put it somewhere you’ll actually see it. Every. Single. Day. Being reminded of the WHY behind your choice to learn Japanese is the best way to keep your motivation levels high. Obviously, if you forget why you’re learning Japanese, it won’t matter much to you if you give it up.

Here are some good motivational quotes to get you started:

進み続けてさえいれば、遅くとも関係ない。
“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

木を植えるのに一番良かった時期は20年前だった。二番目に良い時期は今だ。
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Don’t Get Frustrated!


Frustration, feeling inadequate, and feeling like Japanese is too hard is something EVERY learner goes through. Japanese is tough! But if you’re coming up on some grammar you just don’t get, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, just go back a little bit in your learning. Maybe read a kid’s manga children’s book that is easy to understand. Try practicing with a beginner learner so you can help them while feeling better about yourself! Reminding yourself of how far you’ve already come can jump start your motivation to keep going forward.

Create Rewards for Your Achievements

Rewarding good behavior is called positive reinforcement and it’s a technique that almost all teachers and parents use to help encourage good behavior. But there’s no reason you can’t use this technique on yourself! Set specific goals each week and month and build in small rewards for accomplishing them. This could be things like studying for an hour a day for 6 days means you earned a night out at the movies with your friends. Or if you get above a 95% on your next quiz, you can get that pair of shoes you’ve been saving up for. Whatever prizes will help you stay on track, it’s totally up to you! The trick is to be strict with yourself and never reward yourself if you didn’t really complete the challenge! Self-studying requires a level of honesty and self-discipline and no one is there to hold you accountable except yourself!

Figuring out how to stay motivated learning Japanese is going to be different for everyone. What works great for your friend might not work as well for you. The key is trying as many tactics as po

KFC, Christmas, and Japan: An Annual Tradition

KFC, Christmas, and Japan: An Annual Tradition

KFC Japan Christmas 2018

Just like with Halloween, Christmas isn’t celebrated in nearly the same way as it is in the western hemisphere. As you might already know, Christianity never really took hold in Japan so very few members of Japan’s population identify as Christian making this holiday more of a secular, unofficial event. In fact, people don’t even get the day off which means it’s not uncommon to see holiday traffic jams in Tokyo as people attempt to get to work that day.

Also like Halloween, this isn’t really a holiday for children. While it’s common for families to exchange gifts on the day, the real people that businesses target on this day are couples in love. This is a holiday where men and women will shell out big bucks for special holiday dinners at fancy restaurants along with extravagant presents to prove how much they love the person they are with. As noted in my Halloween article, Christmas is the holiday that Japanese people will collectively spend the most money on annually.

What if you don’t feel like having a special dinner out with your beloved though? Well, in that case, you’ll be making your way to the top pick for traditional Japanese Christmas food… KFC. What? Not what you were expecting? That’s alright, most people outside Japan are confused the first time that they hear this tidbit of information about Japan but the story of how this came to be is actually quite interesting if not a little vague.

There are actually a couple of different stories going around about how the tradition of fried chicken on Christmas became the norm. In one story, the manager of the first KFC in Japan, Takeshi Okawara, overheard a couple of ex-pats in 1970 talking about how they wished they could find turkey to eat on Christmas in Japan which led to him having a dream about selling a ‘party bucket’ on Christmas as a substitute. Another story is that a Christian school in Japan ordered KFC for their Christmas party and asked the manager if he would dress up as Santa Claus for the kids, a request that was obliged, and led to more Christian schools ordering chicken for their parties.

Regardless of which story is the actual truth, in 1974 KFC saw a chance to seize the market and launched a brilliant nationwide ad campaign called Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii (Kentucky for Christmas) and wow, did it work! Now, it’s become an annual tradition for KFC to advertise their special holiday packages in the last part of the year.

Ever since that fateful year, KFC and Christmas in Japan have become synonymous with each other. These days people will reserve their party buckets (which now come complete with sides, Christmas cake, and champagne) weeks in advance and those who forget will stand in line for hours to get their traditional holiday meal of fried chicken.

While this might seem unthinkable in other parts of the world, it just goes to show that Japan, in many ways, is unlike any other.