Have You Ever… ことがある? (Podcast Recap! S2E2)

Have You Ever… ことがある? (Podcast Recap! S2E2)

Our second season’s second episode of the Nihongo Master Podcast introduces a language series in the mix: Study Saturday! In this series, we bring you a new grammar episode every Saturday — bite-sized and full of vocabulary words. They’re going to be very similar to the lessons Nihongo Master offers, so if you realise you love Study Saturday, you’ll love our interactive online learning system.

The series episode flow goes like this: grammar point, roleplaying scenarios, vocab recap.

And for our very first episode, we looked at one I personally use every day: Have you ever…? Like… Have you ever needed to ask someone if they had ever done something? Or tell someone that you have or have never done something before? Yes? Exactly! 

If you missed that episode, go check it out! Here’s a recap of what we covered in that episode, along with a list of vocabulary words that we used.

Have You Ever…ことがある?

Before we get to playing “Never Have I Ever”, we gotta know how to ask the basic question: Have you ever…?

To ask this question in Japanese, all you have to do is add “koto ga aru” (ことがある) / “koto ga arimasuka?” (ことがありますか) to the casual past tense of any verb.

We looked at this example: “Have you ever been to Europe?” 

For this question, we’ll use the verb for “to go” which is iku (行く), then change it to the casual past tense: itta (行った). Then, just add the phrase we mentioned before to make “itta koto ga aru” (行ったことがある) / “itta koto ga arimasuka” (行ったことがありますか). So when you have the subject and put it all together, you get: “yoroppa ni itta koto ga aru?” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがある?) / “yoroppa ni itta koto ga arimasuka?” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがありますか?)

In the episode, we gave a few more examples — check it out for more clarity.

We also looked at how to reply. There are two ways to go about this kind of question: “Yes, I have…” or “No, I haven’t…” While you could get away with a simple “hai” or “iie”, but why not up your game a bit? 

To say you’ve done something, the formula is pretty much the exact same as the question. Reply the example question with “yuroppa ni itta koto ga aru” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがある) / “yuroppa ni itta koto ga arimasu” (ヨーロッパに行ったのとがあります). As simple as ABC! Or, you could even cut it short to “itta koto ga aru” (行ったことがある) / “itta koto ga arimasu” (行ったのとがあります) — leaving out the subject. 

For the negative reply “No I haven’t…”, we gotta make a slight change to the ending — aru (ある) has to be in its negative form, which is nai (ない) or arimasen (ありません). So then it becomes: “yuroppa ni itta koto ga nai” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがない) / “yuroppa ni itta koto ga arimasen” (ヨーロッパに行ったのとがありません). Similarly, you can cut it short by leaving out the subject:  “itta koto ga nai” (行ったことがない) / “itta koto ga arimasen” (行ったのとがありません).

In short, the formula to ask “Have you ever…” is: 

subject + particle  + verb in the casual past tense + koto ga aru/arimasuka (ことがある/ことがありますか).

And for the answer of “I have/have never…”, it’s the same with a slight difference at the end: 

subject + particle + verb in the casual past tense + koto ga aru/koto ga arimasu (ことがある/ことがあります) for positive; koto ga nai/koto ga arimasen (ことがないことがありません) for negative.

For the full explanation with everyday examples, head over to Spotify or Apple Podcasts — we even have a few roleplaying scenarios using this grammar language a few times!

Vocab Recap

Just like our previous episodes, we wrapped it up with a vocab recap for all the Japanese words we used. Here’s a compiled list of it:

Kouhai (後輩) — people of lower status

Tomodachi (友達) — friend

Senpai (先輩) — people of higher status

Kazoku (家族) — family

Iku (行く) — to go

Yoroppa (ヨーロッパ) — Europe

Taberu (食べる) — to eat

Kankoku (韓国) — South Korea

Ryouri (料理) — cuisine

Kohi (コーヒー) — coffee

Koucha (紅茶) — black tea

Nomu (飲む) — to drink

Nominomo (飲み物) — drink

Tabemono (食べ物) — food

Ichiban suki (一番好き) — literally translates to number one like, but it actually means favourite

Igai (以外) — with the exception of, or except

Suki (好き) — like

Daisuki (大好き) — love

Meccha (めっちゃ) — a casual way to say really

Chuugoku (中国) — China

Ippai (いっぱい) — a lot

Onaka tsuita (お腹ついた) — to be hungry

hyaku pacento (百パーセント) — 100% 

Eigo (英語) – English language

Jetto kosuta (ジェットコスタ) — roller coaster

Noru (乗る) — to ride

Muri (無理) — impossible

Kowasou (怖そう) — looks scary

 Hitori de (一人で) — alone

Uso (うそ) — a lie

Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun

Issho ni (一緒に) — together

Ikou (行こう) — let’s go. It comes from the word “iku”

Shiata (シアター) — theatre

Pafomansu (パフォマンス) — performance

Miru (見る) — to see or to watch

Majikku (マジック) — magic tricks. you can also call it tejina

Omoshirosou (面白そう) — looks interesting

Chotto (ちょっと) — a bit, but it can also mean “wait”

Tanomu (頼む) — please

Tabun (多分) — maybe

Yakusoku (約束) — promise

And that’s the recap of our very first episode of our language series, Study Saturday. If this recap has been useful to you, perfect! You’ll love the Study Saturday podcast series — so pop open your preferred streaming app and give Nihongo Master Podcast a listen!

Japanese Entertainment

Japanese Entertainment

Introduction

One thing’s for sure: the Japanese love their entertainment. You’ll never run out of things to do because there will always be something to do — even in suburban towns that lie further out from the city areas. You’ll be surprised at what you can find in just a small Japanese neighbourhood.

From the traditional arcades and classic gaming cafes to the unique Japan-origin entertainment like karaoke and pachinko, you’ll find yourself making time to try all of these out rather than having too much time on your hands! There’s no age limit to these entertainments; kids from elementary and high school to salarymen and working mums can be seen in these entertainment areas — and there’s absolutely no shame to it! In fact, it’s more part of the culture!

Karaoke, Duh!

What’s a write-up about Japanese entertainment if you don’t mention karaoke? Maybe in other countries, karaoke isn’t much fun, but in Japan, it’s more like a tradition! Everyone loves karaoke, and it takes the role of everything — entertainment, party activity and even stress reliever.

In some other countries, karaoke is a mic in front of a bar, singing to a group of strangers — to be fair, that can be quite intimidating. In Japan, there are private karaoke rooms where you sing just with your group of friends! Not only that, but there are also food and beverages to go along with your karaoke. Sometimes, these drinks are even cheaper than when you go to a bar! 

Arcades Everywhere

If you think your local arcade is sufficient, wait till you see what Japan arcades are like! Japan has quite a number of gaming companies like SEGA and Taito. Of course, there are classic games like car racing, bike racing, basketball and air hockey, but Japan wouldn’t be Japan if it wasn’t for their uniqueness and originality. There are virtual horse racing games and tap dancing taken to a whole new level! They’re the kind where you have to see it for yourself to believe it!

Too extreme for you? Japan is all-inclusive and has “kawaii” games that cater to the ones who prefer a slower paced arcade game. My personal favourite arcade game is a Mario Kart racing game! Also, let’s not forget the famous claw machine games — you can win anything from soft toys to electronics. I’ve had my fair share of spending hours and hours on the claw machine level of an arcade trying to get a big bunny soft toy out (let’s just say it didn’t end so well).

Here’s a shout: search up “Nihongo Master podcast” on Spotify or Apple Podcast and scroll to Episode 8 to listen to a rundown of Japan’s video game culture — we have a whole section just for SEGA!

The Famous Pachinko

Quite similar to the Western slot machine gaming, pachinko is a type of recreational arcade game that is more frequently used for gambling. While gambling for cash is illegal in Japan, the pachinko games are like a legal loophole for that. The pachinko balls that you win from the games can’t be exchanged directly for money and can’t be removed from the premises, but if you collect a certain amount of pachinko balls, you can exchange it for special price tokens. 

It’s said that these tokens are legally “sold” for cash to a separate vendor. In some cases, these separate vendors are either the pachinko companies themselves or are working with those companies, who would then sell it back to them and thus making a profit.

Pachinko arcade games can come in all sorts — especially the newer ones that are highly customisable. Generally, you insert the pinballs in the game then launch them across the pachinko board, hoping they would land on one of the prize holes or point bars. 

Entertainment Unique to Japan

Image Credit: Greg Gladman

If brightly-lit, music-blaring arcades aren’t your thing, maybe unique Japanese entertainment will be. There are tons of cultural entertainment for your viewing — everything from the sumo (traditional competitive wrestling) and kendo (剣道, Japanese martial arts) competitions to the kabuki (歌舞伎, a type of traditional dance-drama performed in a kabuki theatre) performance.

Viewing these cultural and unique Japanese performances and competitions is not only entertaining, but they also give you an insight into the country’s customs and traditions. It’s like a history or social studies class, only in the form of stage production and sports tournaments. That’s like killing two birds with one stone!

Conclusion

Are you excited to get your game on? If you’re a huge gamer, you would definitely enjoy our Nihongo Master podcast episode, Pixels and Powerups (Ep 8) where we talked about the top 3 video game companies in Japan: Nintendo, Sony and SEGA.

But anyway, if you do find yourself in Japan in the near future, give these interesting Japanese entertainment a try. There’s nothing quite like emerging yourself in the culture when you’re travelling, and this is one of the more creative methods to do so in Japan!

A Walkthrough of Japan’s Fashion, Through the Ages! (Podcast Recap! S1E9)

A Walkthrough of Japan’s Fashion, Through the Ages! (Podcast Recap! S1E9)

Introduction

My personal favourite episode so far is episode 9, as we took a walk down Memory Catwalk, looking at  Japanese fashion through the ages.

Japan is full of traditional culture — salarymen in business suits rub shoulders with groups of young women wearing gorgeous floral robes, and trendy hipsters who combine their modern tees and trousers with stilted sandals from centuries past. But Japanese fashion didn’t always look quite like this — the story of how these outfits morphed and developed over the years is the story of Japanese history itself. 

Fashion reflects the times, and if you want the whole shabang of a walk down memory lane, give the episode a listen — this article is merely a summary of what we talked about!

Pre-1600s

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Japan was heavily influenced by the Chinese in these early days in everything from food to language, so it’s only natural that the clothing was as well. Chinese fashion was the primary style of clothing in Japan. It was only in the Heian Era (794-1185) that there was a shift in not only the fashion but the overall culture of Nippon as a whole, when the identity of Japan became more distinct from China. 

We all know what the most famous Japanese traditional clothing piece is: it’s definitely the kimono (着物), a long robe with short, wide sleeves. The short-sleeved style of kimono-like robe popular in those days were known as kosode (小袖). This servedasa base layer upon which the fancier garments would be layered. Commoners were also wearing kosode-style clothing, just without the fancy layers on top. Usually, the kimonos were made from plain material, but high-ranking people at the Imperial Court had theirs made in brocades and top-quality silk.

Even on casual occasions, women would wear at least two or three layers of kimono, with each layer’s hem and sleeves peeking out from underneath the others. Plenty of novels and poems from the Heian Period took the subtle swish of kimono-clad arms past bamboo screens to flirt with the boys as a romantic gesture.

Colour played quite a big role too, as it was an indicator of rank. Want to know how? Listen to episode 9 of the Nihongo Master podcast!

Edo Era (1603-1868)

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When the Tokugawa Shogunate came into power during this era, they brought peace and stability to Japan for about 250 years. It was pretty chill, until the Shogun passed some pretty restrictive clothing laws. 

Only the nobles and military class were allowed to wear the most luxurious fabrics. Anything silk and satin, pattern and brocade, was limited to the high ranks. This law allowed people to strut their social status and power, because it would be several centuries until Louis Vuitton shoes and Gucci handbags allowed people to do that without the need for legal backing.

The traditional garment became an art form due to this, and that called for greater manufacturing capabilities and developments embroidery skills for new patterns. The wealth from the higher ups trickled down to the merchant class — and with it a nice helping of the arts, culture and fashion. 

Back in the Heian Era, the yukata (浴衣) was worn by the nobles after a bath. It’s kind of similar to a kimono — only it’s usually made from cotton or linen, extremely lightweight and worn loosely. During the Edo period, when public baths became more common, even the commoners were using yukata, and you’ll still see them worn as a lighter summer kimono today.

As the commoner class became more fashionable, the noble class also took to wearing the haori (羽織), an outerwear piece worn over the kimono. This thigh-length flowing jacket was pioneered by the Geisha, but both genders could be seen wearing it after the craze caught on. Most of the time, it was worn to protect their kimono from getting wet or dirty when they were out and about.

If you’ve been to a Japanese festival, you would most definitely have seen the japanese people wear the happi (法被). What to know what it is? Listen to the episode now!

So, in short: the Edo Era marked an important time in the history of Japanese fashion — as things got a bit more comfortable for everyday people, they could start to enjoy some of the finer things in life. 

Meiji Era (1868-1912)

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We also looked at the Meiji Era, which is arguably the most significant time in Japanese fashion’s evolution. Before this time, Japan was sealed off from the Western world, but thanks to the Meiji Restoration this all changed.

After World War I, there was a huge rise in the middle class. With more people working, more businesses raking in profits, and more taxes to be collected, there was a whole lot of money going around. What’s more, their old wardrobes were hardly going to cut it when the Emperor had issued a mandate in 1871 for all officials to wear Western clothes during work and official events. 

Men were quick to switch to suits and women started wearing Western-style clothing, too, after the empress herself started dressing in the latest Parisienne trends. Hair trends were adopted as well — when the Emperor himself cut off his topknot in 1872, his loyal followers couldn’t resist but to do the same. Western haircuts and facial grooming for the men as well as Victorian updo hairstyles for the women were huge.

Oh, schools changed their look too — the Meiji Era saw the birth of gakuran (学ラン, Western-style clothes for uniform), based on the Prussian Waffenrock, a kind of outerwear worn by German military. The women got the sera fuku (セ-ラ-服, sailor-style school uniform) came into the picture, inspired by the British Royal Navy uniform. 

Do you think the people wore Western clothing at home as well during the Meiji Era, or did they change back into their traditional clothes after work? Listen to the episode to find out!

Taisho Era (1912-1926)

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While the Meiji Era bombarded the Japanese with momentous modernizations day after day, and the Edo Era represented the old traditions, the Taisho Era struck a nice balance between the two.

Even though this era was short-lived, it made quite an impact. When the Emperor basically made everyone give up their comfy robes for woolen trousers, it was an analogy for some bigger societal changes which were happening at the time: the old ideological garb of medieval feudalism was being switched out for a shiny new Westernized liberalism. 

Some of the Japanese people took that as a way out of wearing youfuku and sticking to their traditional garb of robes. The liberalization of fashion to them meant the freedom to go retro traditional. Others took it to mean the complete opposite. 

It was also the time when even the lower middle class and working class were getting in on the Westernization trend. However, not everyone could afford them, so it was be merely adding a new piece of accessory in the outfit, like a short-brimmed hat for the men and a shawl wrapped around the neck for the women.

Chronologically trapped between Japan’s first major wave of modernization, and the more restrictive and totalitarian pre-war days, the Japanese people of the time took what they wanted from Western ideas and fused it with their own culture.

I guess we could say that the Taisho Era was like puberty for contemporary Japanese fashion — when it really started to figure out what it was going to be when it was all grown up.

 

Showa Era (1926-1989) to Present Day

Image Credit: tomoike_2525

The Showa era (1926-1989) pretty much set the fashion scene up as we know it today. With the American occupation came a wave of americanization. This was also the iconic period of time that various Japanese subcultures were formed — if you had listened to one of our previous episodes (episode 7), you’d know the teenage tearaways known as the Yankii started stomping around the streets of Japan during the Showa era. 

Moving through the 70s and 80s, things started to get pretty weird, with the arrival of more subcultures like Lolita and Visual K. These were all about expressing yourself in the most visually ostentatious way possible. 

Everyday fashion here remains quite sedate and modest, though — every man in a business suit, students, mothers, and school-kids on their day off tend to wear simple, loose-fitting pants and t-shirts. I bet Uniqlo got their whole aesthetics from that.

The rise in unique fashion movements and clean-cut contemporary styles weren’t the only things the Showa era had to offer. The good ol traditions stayed alive, and can still be seen today.

Kimonos went from traditionally handmade to mass production. We talked a bit about why traditional kimonos are priced so high in the episode, so check that out if you’re interested. We also talked about the process of handmade to mass production.

Vocab Recap

Here’s the full list from our various vocab recaps in the podcast episode:

 

Kimono (着物) — traditional Japanese clothing

Hakama () — a skirt-like garment worn over kimono robes

Umanori (馬乗り) — a type of hakama with split legs 

Yukata (浴衣) — a loose kimono worn after a bath, or in summer

Haori (羽織) — a loose jacket usually worn over the kimono

Geta (下駄) — traditional wooden raised sandals

Obi () — a thick sash which ties around the waist of a kimono

Happi (法被) — an overcoat with a family crest emblazoned on it

Youfuku (洋服) — Western-style clothing

Gakuran (学ラン) — Western-style male school uniform

Seira fuku (セイラ服) — Sailor-style female school uniform

Chonmage (ちょんまげ) — topknot hairstyle popularly worn by men

Akusesari (アクセサリー) — accessory

Tokei (時計) — watch 

Hōshoku (飽食) — jewelry. Or nowadays people commonly use the katakana version: juerī ジュエリー

Sebiro (背広) — business suit, also known casually as a suutsu 

Kurubizu (クールビズ) — the summer business style

Hana (はな) — flower

ikebana (生け花) — traditional Japanese flower arrangement

Conclusion

We looked at how the Japanese fashion scene came to be the unique blend of tradition, westernization, and crazy experimentation which we know today, just in 500 years all in one podcast episode. If you want to hear more about each era’s fashion, head over to Spotify or Apple Podcast to give Episode 9 a listen!

Japanese Food Replicas

Japanese Food Replicas

Many who have stepped foot in Japan will notice the array of displays of food with exceptional detail and texture in glass boxes. The first question that pops into mind is: is it real?

Known as the sanpuru (サンプル, sample) by the Japanese, these food replicas are a glance into what to expect at the restaurant — from the actual bowl to toppings and side dishes included. The details of the food replicas can even boil down to the bubbles of oil in a ramen bowl. If a picture says a thousand words, an actual 3D model of the meal will speak volumes. 

With exquisite detail and deceptively real appearance, the Japanese food replicas should be considered a high-level work of art. Let’s look at the rich history and cultural influence behind these magnificent, delicious samples.  

How did it begin?

Image Credit: Mia Bettolo

The original capital city of Japan, Kyoto, is the birthplace of the very first known plastic food replica. This art dates back to 1916 during the Taisho Period and the mastermind, Sojiro Nishio, who initially created wax sculptures of human body parts for doctors and medical students to use for study. Later on, he was approached by a restaurant to make wax models of their dishes.

Another iconic name linked to the origin of Japanese food replicas is Tsumoto Sudo, an anatomical model maker in Tokyo. Various eateries also approached to create wax models of food and that was when there’s a slight significant boom in the food sample business.

Yet the most famous story is not of the two but of Takizo Iwasaki who called the Gifu prefecture his home. The story is that he had made a wax model of the famous Japanese omelette rice — it was so realistic that his wife and other people who’d seen it couldn’t tell it wasn’t real. The original omuraisu (オムライス, omelette rice) is still on display at his company, Iwasaki-bei. 

The food replica industry only took off in the 1930s, two decades after the first known creator of the “sanpuru”. Some restaurants had the idea of displaying actual foods but then decided to opt for these fake food replicas to keep the pests away.

How is it made?

Image Credit: Free Images

Initially, these food replicas are made of wax. Unfortunately, the matter had its weaknesses — wax is not the best matter in heat, and there have been cases where the wax food replicas melted in the showcase when they were under direct sunlight. Later in the 1970s, these wax replicas are now made of resin — it’s durability has significantly improved and opens up more doors for the creative hands to add in miniature details that would’ve been impossible with wax.

The first replica workshop is by the famous creator Iwasaki himself and it is said to be the leading company in the industry, claiming more than half of the Japanese food replica market. Gujo Hachiman and Sample Kobo are close competitors. All three workshops specialise in different types of food replicas, though, but they’re more than capable at replicating anything.

The process of the food replica first requires a mould. As these replica workshops want their crafts to be as detailed as possible, they would request the restaurants to send them a sample — more commonly a real dish frozen and shipped to these workshops. The moulds are filled with PVC, baked at extremely high temperatures and then airbrushed and painted to match the original dishes.

Why does it exist?

The food replicas are without a doubt part of the Japanese’s culture now. Its existence has positively impacted the country in more ways than one — be it as a marketing strategy for the restaurants to draw customers’ attention or even just for its uniqueness alone.

Most diners appreciate the food replicas as it gives an accurate sense of what the meal will look like and the size of it. Most of us are pulled by the sight and smell senses, and having a blown-up menu of 3D food models is more likely for one to be drawn to that eatery.

Many foreigners who have seen it have the link of these food replicas and Japan engraved in their minds, and hence shining the country in a more intriguing light. There has been a continuous buzz on the food replica topic everywhere around the globe, and tourists who come to visit have been known to have “see the Japanese food replica for myself” on their bucket list — if it’s not already a priority, that is.

The wrap-up

At the end of the day, everyone can agree that this groundbreaking creation that began to exist more than a century ago is nothing short of a work of art. Everything from the workmanship and detailed craft to the popular usage and worldwide appreciation calls for endless praises. If this modern-day, food is being replicated in Japan, what other mind-blowing creations can we expect in the future from this innovative country?

A Walkthrough of Japan’s Fashion, Through the Ages! (Podcast Recap! S1E9)

Japan’s Top 3 Video Gaming Companies! (Podcast Recap! S1E8)

Introduction

For our eighth episode of the Nihongo Master podcast, we talked about a topic which is probably close to a lot of your hearts: video games. 

More than any other country in the world, Japan led the charge in the development of video game tech and software. Space Invaders and Pacman ruled the arcades of the early 80s, while franchises like Final Fantasy and the Legend of Zelda dominated the polygonic days of the 1990s — their modern-day descendants still continue to top the charts with each new installment.

Hardcore enthusiasts will be able to rattle off countless Japanese companies who have been influential on the video game scene, but we only stuck with three of the biggest: SEGA, Sony, and Nintendo.  Between these three companies, they have more iconic characters than anyone could possibly remember. And in broad terms, their story is the story of Japanese video gaming culture as a whole. 

Let’s look at the summary of what we talked about in the podcast!

 

Nintendo

Back in 1983, the Japanese could also enjoy coming home to unwind with a game on their brand new Nintendo Famicon (short for family computer). This gorgeous lump of red and white plastic was a vision of retro heaven. In Europe or the US, this device was better known as the NES (or Nintendo Entertainment System) which was the updated model released around the world in 1985. Both consoles took their respective markets by storm, and placed the pixelated crown right on the head of Nintendo’s top in-house game developer Shigero Mayamoto. 

These early consoles were also game-changers in terms of the characters and IPs they introduced to the gaming world — we dropped a few names, and if you want to test your gaming knowledge, give the episode a listen! 

Nintendo cemented their position at the top of the video game food chain in 1989, with what was technically their second bash at producing a hand-held console: the Gameboy, which was a smash hit, and sold over 120 million units! By 1995, Nintendo dropped Virtual Boy, a rudimentary VR headset, and about the same time the Nintendo 64 dropped — it held its own against the new heavyweight on the scene, the Sony Playstation. And so began the endless arguments about console superiority which still dominate millions of internet forums to this day. 

However, the PS1 still outsold the N64. By the time they released the Gamecube in 2001, Nintendo had the PS2 and Xbox to contend with. These struggles have never fully left Nintendo, as proven by the paltry sales of the Wii U in 2012.

Whatever the case, Nintendo is far from dead and buried. The Switch, which is Nintendo’s half-portable half-console hybrid from 2017, was nothing short of revolutionary. It returned to the innovative, accessible roots of the company’s gaming philosophy, and brought some of the best games of this generation despite being considerably less powerful than its rivals on paper.

Want to know more about Nintendo? Give episode 8 a listen on Spotify or Apple Podcast!

Sony

In 1993, the Sony Interactive Entertainment branch of the company was formed. Want to know how they decided to start the company? I won’t tell you here — but you know where to get the answer!

In December of the following year, the Playstation barreled onto the scene to bruise the cheeks of Super Mario with a well-placed roundhouse kick to the head. The groundbreaking 3D graphics and iconic square-circle-triangle-x controller raised a massive hype, and Sony got its feet well and truly planted in the video game market almost a full 2 years before Nintendo could respond in kind. 

This meant that the Playstation could be marketed as the console for adults — in stark contrast to the usually more cartoonish visuals of Nintendo’s system. Lara Croft rings a bell to anyone? Refresh your memory with a listen of Sony’s rundown in episode 8!

Within the next few years, a solid lineup of action heroes stood alongside her as the flagship main characters of Sony’s console. Classics like Solid Snake from Hideo Kojima’s stealth-action classic Metal Gear Solid, zombie-hunting Chris Redfield from Resident Evil, and Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7 all came from Japanese studios. These were the franchises which would sail Sony over into the 21st century as the new titans of gaming culture. 

The PS2 managed to shift an amazing 155 million units worldwide over the 12 years following its launch in March 2000. By switching to DVDs instead of CDs, the games were meatier and the graphics more realistic; not to mention a more appealing console. Then came its successor the PS3, continuing the trend of appealing to grown-up gamers, making it a direct like-for-like rival of the new Xbox and Xbox 360. And 2013’s Playstation 4 brought virtual reality to the lineup with the Playstation VR headset. 

We covered more content on Sony in the podcast episode — so give it a listen if you’re a Sony enthusiast like me!

SEGA

The iconic SEGA arcade towers in Tokyo’s Akihabara district were a local landmark for almost two decades. SEGA has been a major name in arcades since way back in the 60s, so there are still some other outlets dotted around town. Alongside the usual dance rhythm games, there are also some distinctly Japanese offerings — want to know what they are? We talked about a few intriguing ones in the episode, so give it a listen!

SEGA was the first major casualty of the console wars — they haven’t released a console since 1998’s SEGA Dreamcast bombed at the box office. To get your hands on any SEGA gear nowadays, you’d have to head along to a secondhand store in one of the retro electronics hotspots. 

The SEGA Mega Drive was the one that brought all the power of SEGA’s trademark 16-bit arcade machines to a home console in 1988. SEGA Genesis is what it’s more widely known as in America. Being a 16-bit machine in an 8-bit era, it naturally had the edge when it came to graphics and gameplay and was a huge hit. Think Golden Axe, Street Fighter 2, Castlevania, Sonic the Hedgehog. If you wanted to be the coolest kid in class back in the late 80s, you’d better have those games sitting on your bookshelf. 

But despite riding high throughout the early 90s, their 1994 Japan-released SEGA Saturn console totally flopped in the US one year later thanks to the forward-thinking folks at Sony who undercut it on price and one-upped it on just about everything else. Even with Dreamcast in 1999, PS2 got in the way of any potential huge success. 

They’ve kept making software even until now, with a hand in some pretty big franchises. If you’re a PC gamer, you’ll be well aware of this from the Total War series, or Football Manager. 

Vocab Recap

Here’s the list from the vocab recap in episode 8:

 

Adobenchā (アドベンチャー) — adventure

Retoro (レトロ) — retro

Gēmu (ゲーム) — game

Shujinkō (主人公) —  protaganist/main character

Kantan (簡単) — easy

Futsuu (普通) — normal

Muzukashī (難しい) — difficult

Aitemu (アイテム) — item

Reberu (レベル) — level

Teki kyara 敵キャラ— enemy character

Kakutō gēmu (格闘ゲーム) — fighting game

Akushon (アクション) — action

Rōrupureingu (ロールプレイング) — roleplaying

Keikenchi (経験値) — exp/experience points

Chika-ra () — strength

Subayasa (素早さ) — agility

bācharuriariti (バーチャルリアリティ)— virtual reality 

Shokugyō (職業)— profession/job,  character class

Tsuzuki (続き)— continue

shūryō (終了)— quit

ākēdo (アーケード) — arcade 

otaku (オタク) — geek or nerd

taiko (太鼓)— traditional Japanese drums

shimyurēshon gēmu (シミュレーションゲーム) — simulation game

chūkohinten (中古品店)— secondhand store

Shoshinsha (初心者)— noob, or more generally: beginner

otsukaresama desu (お疲れ様です)— a phrase which basically means “good work”

gēmuōbā (ゲームオーバー)— game over 

Haisha (敗者)— loser, or defeated person

Shōsha (勝者)— winners

Conclusion

So that’s the summary of Japan’s leading video game companies — as I’ve mentioned, we covered so much more in the episode so I highly suggest giving it a listen. There’s some exclusive content that I left out here on purpose, and you wouldn’t even know what it is…until you head over to Spotify or Apple Podcast right now and type “Nihongo Master podcast”!

Let’s Take A Look At Japan’s Cinematography (Podcast Recap! S2E1)

Let’s Take A Look At Japan’s Cinematography (Podcast Recap! S2E1)

If you like film, specifically Japanese film, then why not give our podcast’s Season 2 Episode 1 a  listen? In that episode, we talk all about it and the top genres that make up cinematography in Japan. 

Japan has one of the oldest and longest film industries in the world, going back to over a century ago. Horror lovers consider The Ring and The Grudge as classic Japanese scare fests, and who hasn’t watched Godzilla? The King of Monsters became a pop culture icon. And the 2016 animation Kimi no na wa took the world by storm as soon as it was released.

We looked at the top 4 genres of Japanese cinematography: animation, jidaigeki, kaijuu eiga and yakuza. Here’s a recap of what we talked about! 

Animation

Japan is the king of animation — I mean, they have anime. To the Japanese people, anime is any type of cartoon, Japan-made or not. But to the rest of the world, anime refers to a style of animation that’s made in Japan.

With the earliest anime dating back to 1917, anime has a long-running history. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the prominent anime art style emerged, thanks to animator Osamu Tezuka, also known as the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney. And if you haven’t heard of Ghibli Studios yet, you got a whole lot of catching up to do — quickly get in-the-know with our episode!

The 2001 anime film, Spirited Away, directed by world-renowed Miyazaki Hayao, had been warming the number one seat for ages before the spot got snagged away not too long ago. I won’t go into detail about Ghibli, but having a museum just to showcase their animation works says quite a bit about the animation studio. You won’t meet a Japanese person that doesn’t know Ghibli.

Jidaigeki

Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai in Masaki Kobayashi’s SAMURAI REBELLION (1967). © Toho Co., Ltd.

Literally translating to “period dramas”, jidaigeki movies are more often than not set during the Edo period (1603-1868), and gives an insight into the lives of samurai, merchants and farmers of the time. There can be all sorts of storylines, but the most popular kind features an action-packed sword fight between samurai. 

A name you’ll hear often when talking about jidaigeki is Akira Kurosawa, one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinematography — so noteworthy that Star Wars creator George Lucas was inspired by Kurosawa’s period works. If you look closely, some of the elements in Star Wars were heavily influenced by chanbara filmmaking.

If you want to dip your toe in the jidaigeki waters, I’m not going to spill all the beans here — Season 2 Episode 1 has everything you need to know in a neatly packed few minutes! If action, sword fighting and an underlying interpretation to storylines spark your interest, jidaigeki should be your go-to. 

Kaijuu Eiga

Monsters and special effects? Count me in! Kaijuu eiga, a subgenre of tokusatsu to refer to special effects films, is all about monsters — gigantic ones.

Yes, we’re talking about Godzilla. In fact, ever since its release in 1954, the kaijuu genre popularity skyrocketed through the roof! Although this film is Toho Studio’s most famous creation, the production company has made numerous major successes as well, earning themselves the association of being one of the top studios for kaijuu movies.

It’s not just big creatures rampaging through the city causing havoc — these monsters have metaphorical references. As for Godzilla, it’s a metaphor for nuclear weapons, referring to the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Want to know other ones? You know where to find the answers to that.

Kaijuu films have such an influence in the world’s film industry — King Kong, anyone? 

Yakuza

The final genre we talked about is yakuza. You might’ve heard of it if you listened to our Subculture Mania podcast episode (S1E7). The Yakuza’s influence in Japan’s film industry goes back all the way to the days of silent movies. Though over the decades it has shifted to something pretty different to the original, yakuza were kind of like the Japanese Robin Hood.

Yakuza films typically feature heroic gangsters with honour who live by their underworld moral code. The characters defend the traditional Japanese ways in a rapidly modernising island nation — the good guys in traditional kimono with conservative ways, and the bad guys in modern suits reeking of exploitation.

There’s a consistent theme of conflict for the heroes — their duty towards their gang and their own emotions. Which outrules which? Unlike Western movies where emotions are prioritised, in yakuza movies, duty is number one.  

The Showa Zankyo-Den movie series, first released in 1965, sums up the ningyo genre in a neatly-packed series. The title says it all; in English it translates to “Brutal Tales of Chivalry”, telling the tale of power play and rises and falls of gangs in a small Japanese town. 

We mentioned a few movie titles in the podcast episode, so if you’re interested, check that out. 

In any Yakuza film, one thing’s for sure though — you’re going to get some good retribution-fuelled action scenes, a bit of blood here and there, and a hell lot of tattoos.

Vocab Recap

So here’s a list of all the vocabulary words we used in the episode!

Anime (アニメ) — animation, but more specifically animation made in Japan

Manga (漫画) — Japanese comic or graphic novels

Onsen ryokan (温泉旅館) — hot spring Japanese inn 

onsen (温泉) — hot springs

Ryokan (旅館) — traditional Japanese inn

Sugoi (すごい) — great or amazing

Jidaigeki (時代劇) — period films, usually set in the Edo period

Chanbara (チャンバラ) — sword fight films

Rōnin (浪人) — a samurai without a lord

Kaiju (怪獣) — films that feature giant monsters

Eiga (映画) — movie

Eigakan (映画館) — movie theatre

Tokusatsu (特撮) — films with special effects 

Kame (かめ) — turtle 

Yakuza (ヤクザ) — Japanese gangsters

Ninkyo (任侠) — chivalry

Giri (義理) — duty

Ninjo (人情) — empathy/emotions

If you’re wondering why we didn’t cover horror, well, listen to our special Halloween episode which has 3 Japanese ghost stories that’ll do the trick of giving you a fright. But in any case, these 4 genres concludes the Japanese cinematography quite nicely, don’t you think?

What To Love About Japan

What To Love About Japan

Introduction

People all around the world dreams of going to Japan. Regardless of what occasion you’re in Japan for, this country will far exceed your expectations in more ways than one. At one point or another, you definitely have stumbled across pictures or videos of the Japanese sakuras, maybe even the rustic streets of Kyoto. For some of us, they were what drew us into the fascination of Japan. 

This country has more in store for you than just the jaw-dropping landscapes — every corner is full of excitement and new ventures, even for those of us who are in Japan for longer than just a week or two-long holiday! Food, fun and freshness — what more can one ask of a country? Out of the thousands of reasons why, here I highlight the top 5 that will definitely get your hypes up about Japan!

1. Alcohol

Can anyone actually say no to good alcohol? When you’re in Japan, all alcohol is good alcohol; you definitely won’t be able to say no to them! Brace yourself for the huge alcohol range Japan has — not only are the Japanese beer of the best quality you can ever get in the entire world, but you also have other Japanese alcohol like umeshu (梅酒) and sake () at dirt-cheap prices! 

That’s not even the best part. I personally love the fact that every konbini (コンビニ) is fully stocked with a variety of alcoholic beverages! Everything from beers to fruity-flavoured three percenters like Horoyoi (ほろよい) — my ultimate favourites — is just footsteps away from your home. 

What’s more, unlike some countries in the world, Japan has no time limit on purchasing alcoholic beverages — so you don’t have to rush down to the nearest konbini two minutes before 11pm to get your night’s alcohol fix. I know that has been one of the best parts of Japan for me!

2. The Summer Is Nothing Short of Fantastic

Image Credit: Toshihiro Gamo

While Japan is famous for its spring season where the cherry blossoms dominate the country’s already beautiful nature, the summer in Japan is also a time of the year to be excited about. 

 The warm weather has the perfect combination for a getaway holiday: sun, sand and sea. Japan has more than a few beaches that are ideal for your sunbathing as well as beach and watersport activities. Okinawa might be the first stop that pops in your head — after all, it is Japan’s very own Hawaii — but even the cities not too far from Tokyo have awesome beaches that are even less crowded. 

Even the cities and towns have tons going on during the summer, so much that even the beach lovers might give a pass on a trip to the beach for a chill at a summer beer garden nearby or a day out dressed in yukata at a summer festival.

Summer Festivals

Enjoyed by both locals and travellers, summer festivals are ones to definitely be on your calendar! There’s the traditional Japanese summer festival that everyone looks forward to each year. Both guys and girls get dressed up in yukata, the summer version of a kimono, and walk down the rows and rows of stalls. After a whole day of munching on local street food and playing games, visitors end their day watching the fireworks in the evening.

Summer festivals aren’t just limited to the traditional one, though. There are quite a few other types of summer festivals — music ones are quite popular, consisting of local as well as international artists and attracting people all around the world; also keep an eye out for others like film festivals.

Summer Beer Gardens

Image Credit: sodai gomi

What’s a summer beer garden, you ask? Well, it’s exactly like how it sounds. Japan has a trend of indulging in refreshing beer during the hot summer months — so much like it’s a seasonal rite of passage. Beer gardens pop up in these months to cater to the demand of the people. Reasonably priced with a casual party atmosphere that’s perfect for gatherings of family, friends and even colleagues — what’s not to like about beer gardens?

Beer isn’t the only thing on the menu. Some of these stalls offer delicious foods that are perfect for both a la carte and food pairing to your beer. 

3. A Food Heaven

Speaking of food, who doesn’t love food? More correctly, who doesn’t love Japanese food? Sushi, ramen, yakiniku — you name it, of course, Japan has it; it is their local cuisine, after all. The best part of it all is that this is the only place on Earth where you can get the most authentic and truest flavours of Japanese cuisine.

Hiroshima is for okonomiyaki (お好み焼き); Osaka is for takoyaki (たこ焼き); Kobe is for beef (牛肉); Yokohama is for ramen (ラーメン); Fukuoka is for blowfish (ふぐ); Hokkaido for cheese (チーズ) — but what’s best is that you can get all of them in any city in Japan! 

Other than the Japanese food you already know, there are tons more you don’t! What about their unique cuisines like the kaiseki or kappo cuisine, where you sit back and relax while being served by the head chef of only the finest ingredients available during the season. You might think you know seafood before the dining experience, but be prepared to admit defeat and learn a thing or two from it. 

4. A Perfect Blend of Modern And Traditional, City And Nature

Japan has the best of both worlds: the modern city landscape and the preserved nature. One moment you’re surrounded by high rise buildings and neon lights, the next you’re deep in the woods surrounded by the cool natural breeze. Having both at your fingertips is extremely convenient, especially for an escape from the busy city life to the peaceful nature, or a buzzing night out instead of the quiet suburban life.

With about 3,000 kilometers from north to south in the Japanese archipelago, locals and travellers alike are spoilt for choices when it comes to natural sights — everything from the mangrove jungles in Okinawa to the drift ice in the seas of Hokkaido are experiences not to be missed out on. You don’t even have to travel to the ends of the country for some natural views; take in the beautiful coastlines and breathtaking volcanoes alongside preserved forests housing thousands of monkeys, deers, bears and other wildlife.

On the other side of the coin, there’s the wild and exciting city life of Japan that has the complete opposite atmosphere as well as activities to offer. The major cities like Osaka and Tokyo are definitely city stops to take if you’re an outgoing soul who needs bubbly afternoons and pumping evenings. For the shopaholics, better get your shopping shoes on — there’s a lot of ground to cover in Japan!

5. As Safe As Houses

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Their crime rates are only getting lower and they have the second-lowest homicide rate after Iceland and the second-lowest assault rate after Canada. 

The best thing about being in Japan is not having to fear for your safety every second as you walk down the streets. No one will mug you in public, pickpocket your phone from the back of your jeans pocket or snatch your wallet on the top of the table you’re dining at. 

It’s so safe that there is at least a police box every five minutes’ walk down a neighbourhood street, so if you’re ever feeling unsafe during your walk back home, just pop in them and let the officers know.

Conclusion

The reasons mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg — there are so many more reasons as to why Japan is awesome. Most of the time, you have to experience it for yourself to understand the level of awesomeness this country is. There’s nothing quite like The Land of the Rising Sun, and I confidently believe that it’s a country everyone should at least once in their lives step foot on. So, what’s holding you back? Get your tickets booked now!