Meet the 3 real life Onsens From Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’!

Meet the 3 real life Onsens From Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’!

Are the words “Spirited Away” ringing any bells for you? No? Well, stop whatever you’re doing right now and go stream it. This is a 2001 animation film that took the world by storm. It’s all about fantasy and adventure by the world-famous Hayao Miyazaki.

It’s thanks to this film that Japan’s tourism boomed. It’s just another masterpiece that proves that Studio Ghibli has no limits to their imaginations. Picture enchanted forests and floating castles among other fantasies you can think of.

But the thing is, every artist has their muse. Miyazaki was inspired by a few places in Japan to create Spirited Away. We can’t jump into our TV screens, but we can definitely pop by these inspired places when travelling to Japan.
Let’s take a look at the 3 onsens (温泉) that were muses to the art that is Spirited Away.

1. Dogo Onsen Honkan (Ehime Prefecture)

Image Credit: Dogo Official Website

The first onsen is Dogo Onsen Honkan. This is officially confirmed as the main source of inspiration for the bath house, Aburaya. It’s the only one that’s been recognised as one. You can find this hot springs in Ehime Prefecture, in Matsuyama City.

This onsen is the oldest onsen in Japan. It can be dated back to more than 1,000 years ago! I can’t even imagine the number of people who have taken a dip in here..

This bathhouse’s structure has been the same since it was first built. At the moment, the onsen is under renovation since 2019 for some preservation works. There’s some Western influence amidst the Japanese ones in the architectural design. That’s what makes it different from other onsens. The animation crew sketched Dogo Onsen before creating Aburaya. You can see clearly the similarity between the two buildings from the windy, maze-like interior.

2. Sekizenkan, Shima Onsen (Gunma Prefecture)

The next onsen is the Sekizankan in Gunma Prefecture. This ryokan has a few similarities with the bathhouse in Spirited Away. Can you miss the blaring red bridge in front of the building? Although Chihiro held a breath when crossing the bridge in the movie so others wouldn’t realise she was human, you don’t have to do that here.

This onsen town is called “Forty-thousand Hot Springs”. It’s also known as “the cure for forty-thousand ailments”. The mineralised waters here are believed to aid movement disorders, weight loss and other similar issues.

There are three buildings at this onsen. The first one is the Main Building, a wooden ryokan built in 1691. The second is the Sanso Building that’s built on a hill in 1936 in the Momoyama Era style. To get between these two buildings, you have to go through an underground passage. If you’ve watched the movie, you’d understand this reference.

The third building is the newest, called Kashotei. It’s also built in the woods, but at the highest points of the grounds. If you want a bit of privacy, here’s where you can get it.

3. Kanaguya, Shibu Onsen (Nagano Prefecture)

The third onsen is Rekishi no Yado Kanaguya. Although this is also not confirmed by Studio Ghibli as one of the sources of inspiration, it’s undeniable. This onsen has been around for more than 2 centuries, all the way back to 1758. It’s found high up in the Japanese Alps, in Nagano Prefecture.

This four-story wooden bathhouse is designed with so much detail. An example is a window that has the shape of the ryokan’s family crest. Another is the corridor on the third floor having a water mill gear that’s shaped like Mt. Fuji.

Even with 29 guest rooms, they are all designed differently from one another. Choose between a Japanese-style one or stained glass-decorated one. You can visit here numerous times and have a different experience each time.

It’s safe to say these onsens are worth visiting, regardless of whether you’re a Studio Ghibli fan or not. Watch the film before your Japan trip and you can look out for resemblances when you do visit. Immerse yourself in the culture and history of these Japanese bathhouses!

17 Different Ways To Say “Bye” in Japanese

17 Different Ways To Say “Bye” in Japanese

Just like how you learn how to say hello when picking up a new language, you also learn how to say bye. If you haven’t checked it out already, we have an article about ways to say hello, too. 

In English, we have a few different phrases that we use interchangeably when bidding farewell to someone — “see you”, “catch you later” and the standard “bye” are just to name a few. Would it be so surprising to say that it’s similar in Japanese?

There are tons of ways to say bye — some are more general while others are used in specific settings. Some are better to use with people you’re familiar with; others are more appropriately used in the formal setting.

We’ve compiled a total of 17 ways in this list — shall we take a look at what they are?

1. Sayonara (さようなら)

The first one is the one that we learn first when picking up Japanese: sayonara (さようなら). This is the direct Japanese equivalent of goodbye. There is one major difference, though: you can use “goodbye” in a casual setting without it holding any heavier connotations, whereas “sayonara” has a strong sense of finality — if you say it to someone, it’s like as if you expect to not see that person any time soon. 

A lot of Japanese people don’t really use this as compared to the rest on this list.

2. Jaa ne (じゃあね)

This next one is one you hear quite often in anime (アニメ) and J-drama — “jaa ne” (じゃあね) is used in casual situations to say bye. This is kind of like saying “see ya” to your friend after school when parting ways. 

You’ll hear this phrase often among friends and people who are familiar with each other, like relatives.

3. Mata ne (またね)

This phrase is similar to the previosu one. “Mata ne” (またね) has the word “mata” (また) in it which means “again”, so this phrase somehow means “see you again”. “Mata ne” is most often used among casual friends.

If you’ve listened to any episode of our Nihongo Master podcast, we end it off with “mata ne” every time!

4. Mata ashita (また明日)

“Mata ashita” combines two words: “mata” and “ashita” (明日), which means “tomorrow”. This phrase can translate to “see you tomorrow”. Just like the previous one, you use this with friends and family casually, but with one slight difference: you use this if you’re meeting them the next day. 

You can change the word for “tomorrow” for something else — if you want to say “see you next week”, you can say it as “mata raishuu” (また来週). 

5. Mata kondo (また今度)

Another “mata” phrase to say bye is “mata kondo” (また今度). The word “kondo” means “next time”, so this phrase is like saying “see you again next time”! Compared to the other two, this casual phrase is used when you haven’t really planned a date to meet next, but implying you’d want to — or at least, I do it that way. 

6. Mata aou (また会おう)

Similarly, “mata aou” (また会おう), which has the meaning of “let’s meet again” is a casual way to say bye and somehow implying that you want to meet again. The polite version of this phrase is “mata aimashou” (また会いましょう).

7. Kyou arigatou (今日ありがとう)

Moving on from the “mata” bye phrases, we have “kyou arigatou” (今日ありがとう). This combines two words: kyou (今日) to mean “today” and arigatou (ありがとう) to mean “thank you”. Together, it holds the meaning of “thanks for today”. It’s used pretty similar to the English translation.

8. Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)

This next one is a pretty common one: otsukarsama (お疲れ様) means “thanks for your hard work”. While it’s said for the usage of its actual meaning, most of the time, it’s used to say bye. You’ll hear this quite often — when you’re finished with work and parting ways with your coworkers at the end of the day or after club practice at school.

The more formal version is “otsukaresama deshita” (お疲れ様でした), but you can even be super casual by dropping the “sama” and “deshita” to make “otsukare”.

9. Ki wo tsukete (気をつけて)

This phrase is used just like the English phrase “take care”. That’s actually the exact translation for ki wo tsukete (気をつけて). When you’re parting ways with someone, you can combine this with any of the other phrases above to say bye — or even on its own.

10. Genki de (元気で)

While you can say the previous phrase as a way to say bye to someone who’s going on a long trip or moving to a different city or country, it’s more appropriate to say “genki de” (元気で) to mean “take care of yourself” or “all the best”. Genki (元気) actually means “healthy” or “lively”, but in this case, it’s like a wish for someone who’s going away.

11. Itte kimasu (行ってきます)

No more chat about going away for a long time — this one is used when you’re off for a while and will return. Say, you’re leaving for work or school in the morning, you say “itte kimasu” (行ってきます) to your family members before heading out the door.

If you hear the phrase and you’re the one not leaving, you can say this phrase back: “itterasshai” (行ってらっしゃい), which means “go and come back”. 

12. Bai bai (バイバイ)

I bet you can guess what this phrase means — “bai bai” (バイバイ) is the katakana (カタカナ) version of “bye-bye” in English. You use this casually, of course, and most of the time, girls are the ones using it. Guys can say it as well, but it does have a slight feminine tone to it.

13. Tanoshinde ne (楽しんでね)

While there’s another way to say “have a good day” in Japanese, it’s not as common as saying “tanoshinde ne” (楽しんでね). It translates to “have fun”, but people use it as a way to wish someone a good day as they say bye.

14. Osaki ni shitsureishimasu (お先に失礼します)

We have tons of casual ones, here’s a formal one: osaki ni shitsureishimasu (お先に失礼します). This is one that you use in the office to your senpais (先輩) or higher-ups like your boss and supervisor. If you’re leaving before them, you should use this phrase as it means “excuse me for leaving work before you.”

You can say this to your colleagues as an “apology” for leaving work to anyone that is still there working. Even if there is no work left, you can still say this.

15. Odaiji ni (お大事に)

If you’re not feeling well and go to the doctor’s in Japan, the doctor will say this to you when you’re leaving: “odaiji ni” (お大事に). This phrase means, “get well soon” or “feel better soon”. You can use it when you’re visiting friends or relatives who are sick, and instead of saying bye, you can use this phrase instead. 

Even if it’s just a phone call, you can still use it!

16. Ojama shimashita (お邪魔しました)

In Japan, when you go to someone’s home, it’s polite to greet with “ojama shimasu” (お邪魔します). This means “I’m intruding” or “I’m bothering you”. I think it’s because it’s someone else’s private space and you’re in it. Regardless of whether you’re invited over or dropping by impromptu, you still should say this phrase.

It’s the same for when you leave — you have to change the phrase to its past tense: ojama shimashita (お邪魔しました). This literally means “I’ve bothered you” but it can translate to “thanks for having me over” in nuance.

17. Osewa ni narimashita (お世話になりました)

Last but not least, another business one: osewa ni narimashita (お世話になりました). When you’re talking to someone who has helped you at work or a client, it’s best to say this phrase when saying goodbye. It literally translates to “thanks for everything” but it means, “thanks for taking care of me and supporting me”. 

You can use this when you’re ending a phone call with a client or to thank your coworker for helping you out big time. 

Which one of these ways to say bye will you use next time? Are there any ones that you have already been using and new ones that you’ll start using from now on? I hope you have these 17 “bye” phrases prepared for when you’re saying bye to a friend or a business client!

8 Japanese Culture Facts You Have to Know!

8 Japanese Culture Facts You Have to Know!

Japan is a country rich in culture and history. There’s no denying that. The Japanese people pride themselves in their cultural heritage. Everything from food and clothing to customs and manners, there’s a seamless blend of old and new in Japan’s culture.

 A lot of Japanese cultural aspects are worlds apart for most of us. Whether you’re planning to just travel to Japan or settling down here, you might be curious about some Japanese culture facts before your trip. Here are 8 Japanese culture facts you have to know! 

1. Bowing is the Japanese way of handshake

Senior Caucasian Businessman and Young Japanese Entrepreneur Bowing, Kyoto, Japan

For most Western countries, the handshake is the most common way to greet someone. Regardless of whether or not you are close to the person, a handshake is the most ideal. In Japan, however, the handshake is replaced with a bow. Bowing is basically the Japanese way of greeting.

There are various types of bow and with various customs attached to them. It can range from a slight nod to a full 90º bow. It depends on the situation what kind of bow to use. Arms are usually at the side of the body, but sometimes you can bow with your hands behind your back or on your chest. 

When in doubt, a standard 45º bow with hands by your side is a safe bet.

2. Baseball is very popular 

Just like how football is extremely popular in America and soccer is popular in the UK, Japan has baseball. Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, even though sumo is the country’s national sport. While sumo is the sport people often associate the country with, baseball is the sport most locals watch and play. 

Introduced during the Meiji Period and became popular after World War II, Japan has two professional baseball leagues. Because it’s popular among school students, there are dozens of high school and university teams, too. Just like how American fans are with football matches and British fans at soccer matches, Japanese fans go crazy with chants and singing during baseball games. 

3. Drinking and eating while walking is rude

This next one is something I’m guilty of doing all the time. It’s pretty common to see someone munching on a bag of chips or sipping coffee on the way to work in a lot of country’s. In Japan, drinking and eating while walking around is rude. When buying food or beverage at a convenience store, you’ll see people standing outside the store and finishing their purchase before walking away.

Nowadays, it’s becoming less rude as compared to the olden days, but it’s still considered low-class behaviour and looked down upon. Some also think that it’s because eating and drinking while walking can make the streets dirty. Whatever the reason is, let’s avoid doing this as much as we can when in Japan.

4. Omiyage aren’t just souvenirs 

When we start learning Japanese, we learn the word “omigaye” (お土産). It usually translates to “souvenir”. The word actually has more meaning to it. It’s not like what we would refer to as souvenirs, like magnets and keychains. Omiyage refers to gifts you bring back for family, friends and co-workers after a trip, usually specialty food from various regions. 

Omiyage is often expected in Japanese culture. It’s not like Western countries where it’s more of a special gesture. It’s best to get ones in boxes with each item individually wrapped. This makes it easier to share with a big group of people. 

5. No tipping culture

Some countries require tipping in restaurants and cafes. It can be hard to adjust when in another country. In Japan, you don’t have to adjust too much, because tipping is not part of the culture here. If you were to leave extra change at the register, chances are you’ll have someone call you back because they thought you forgot your change. 

6. No slamming taxi doors

When you’re in Japan, remember not to slam the taxi doors here. That’s because the taxis here are all automatic. You don’t even have to touch the door handle to get in or get out of the taxi. The driver will open and close the door for you. 

Because Japanese taxi drivers are used to that, they’re not used to having the doors slammed. So keep in mind not to do that. It might give them a tiny scare from the sound of the slam!

7. Chopstick etiquette is crucial

If you’d been to Japan before, you would know that the most common utensil served at restaurants is the chopstick. You rarely see a fork in sight. Chopsticks are no casual matter in Japan. You’ve got to respect the chopstick etiquette. 

There’s actually a long list of things you can and cannot do with chopsticks in Japanese culture. One of the biggest no-no’s is to stick them upright in rice. This image is associated with funeral traditions.

It’s also inappropriate to pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another. The reason behind this is for hygiene purposes. 

8. Business cards are an extension of yourself

If you’re in Japan for business, bring a lot of business cards. In Japanese, this is known as ‘meishi’ (名詞). A business card is considered as an extension of oneself. Because of that, you ought to handle them with care. For both receiving and giving, be sure to do them with both hands. 

When you receive a business card, be sure to read it carefully and place it in front of you until the meeting or encounter ends. Do not shove it in your bag or back pocket of your trousers. This is considered extremely rude. Put it away in your wallet or a file. Similarly, when you give your business card to another person, they would treat it with utmost care.

Which is the most important Japanese culture fact?

There are dozens, if not hundreds, more of Japanese culture facts. But these 8 are important for you to know, especially before going to Japan. Which one of these are the most important in your opinion? 

20 Most Helpful Japanese Words

20 Most Helpful Japanese Words

Are you planning a trip to Japan soon and know zero Japanese? Or are you just getting started with the Japanese language? Either way, it’s important to get off on the right foot when dipping your toes into a new language. There are a handful of Japanese words that are more helpful than others. It’ll help those of you who are travelling to Japan survive day-to-day interactions, and ease into the language for those who are committed to studying Japanese.

Here we have a list of 20 of the most helpful Japanese words and phrases that you should have in memory before anything else. 

1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは)

Nothing is more essential than a hello. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is the Japanese equivalent. It’s used in both formal and informal situations. You can use this at any time of the day. It’s such a broad greeting that you can use it in a lot of situations. It’s also a way of saying “good afternoon”.

2. Konbanwa (こんばんは)

While konnichiwa is the general greeting, there’s one for just the evening. That’s konbanha (こんばんは). This translates to “good evening”. Similar to konnichiwa, you can use konbanwa informally and formally. Just like how we use “good evening” only after the sun sets, we use konbanwa when it’s nighttime. 

3. Ohayou (おはよう)

So we have a general greeting which duals as an afternoon greeting, and an evening greeting. Now for the morning greeting: ohayou (おはよう). This greeting is slightly different from the first two where they can be used in both formal and informal situations. Ohayou is used mostly in informal situations. You have to add on “gozaimasu” (ございます) to make it formal: ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます)

4. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます)

To show your gratitude, you thank them. In Japanese, you say “arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). It has a similar ending as the formal morning greeting, making this version of “thank you” a formal one. Sometimes, this can be accompanied with a bow.

To make it informal, you can leave out the “gozaimasu”. “Arigatou” (ありがおう) can be used when you’re thanking someone casually. 

5. Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

Whether it’s a cashier offering a plastic bag to pack your goods or you’re ordering a dish on the menu, you ought to respond with “please”. You can use this Japanese word: onegaishimasu (お願いします). This has a more polite and honorific tone to it. Whenever you’re making a request, add this word at the end of your sentence. 

6. Yoroshiku (よろしく)

You can use yoroshiku (よろしく) like how you would use “please” as well. The word can loosely translate to “please take care of me” or “please treat me favourably”. You also use this to make a request as well as thank a person 

It’s also usually used when you just met someone new. Like how you’d say “nice to meet you”, you’d say “yoroshiku”.

To make it more formal, add the previous word to make “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします).

7. Kudasai (ください)

Remember the two words we used to make requests, onegaishimasu and yoroshiku? There’s also a third one: kudasai (ください). In comparison to “onegaishimasu”, kudasai is a more familiar way to make requests. It’s more common to say “onegaishimasu” on its own while with “kudasai”, it’s more common to attach a verb or noun before it. I’ve heard it being said on its own as well, though.

8. Sumimasen (すみません)

You might find yourself in a situation where you need to apologise or excuse yourself. For example, you’re crammed into a train and need to go through the crowd to make your way out. To say “excuse me”, you use this Japanese word: sumimasen (すみません). It works in a similar way to get your waiter’s attention at the restaurant. Just like how you’d call out “excuse me”, you can call out “sumimasen”.

This word can also be used to apologise formally.

9. Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)

While “sumimasen” can be used to apologise, a more useful Japanese word to say sorry is “gomennnasai” (ごめんなさい). You use this word just like how you use “sorry”. You can cut the word short to “gomen” (ごめん) for the casual way of apologising to friends. 

Credit: Parker Ulry on Unsplash

10. Itadakimasu (いただきます)

So far, the Japanese words were responses. This next one is more of an exclamation or remark. “Itadakimasu” (いただきます) can be translated to “thank you for the food”, but it’s used just like how you’d use “bon appetit”. You say it before you start eating your meal. At the end of it, you can say “gochisousama” (ごちそうさま) which can translate to “thank you for the food” or “the food was delicious”.

11. Omakase (おまかせ)

Omakase (おまかせ) is a very useful word when you don’t know what to order. When you request “omakase” at a restaurant, you’re leaving your dish up to the chef or the restaurant. You’re basically going to be surprised by the shop. This culture of “omakase” is regularly used in sushi restaurants and a big part of kaiseki (懐石), a type of Japanese traditional cuisine.

12. Osusume (おすすめ)

While omakase leaves it up to the chef, osusume (おすすめ) is just the recommendation. The chef or restaurant is not making the decision for you, but rather recommending you their best options. This can not only be used at restaurants but also in other places like retail shops.

13. Ii (いい)

This next word is pretty simple. “Ii” (いい) translates to “yes”. You can also say “hai” (はい), but “ii desu” (いいです) has a nicer tone to it. You can use this to agree with something, or also to brush something away. For example, if you want to say “it’s okay” or “it’s fine”, you can say “Ii desu yo” (いいですよ), “Daijoubu” also works in that case.

14. Iie (いいえ)

To say no, you can use the word “iie” (いいえ). This is a formal way of saying no or rejecting an offer. You can add the word “kekkou” (結構) to emphasise on the “no”. “Iie, kekkou desu” (いいえ、結構です) is like saying “no, thank you, I’ve had enough”.

15. Daijoubu (大丈夫)

“Daijoubu” (大丈夫) is a flexible and extremely helpful Japanese word. It can be used to say “it’s okay” or “never mind”. It can also be used to agree by saying “yes, that’s fine”. It’s a one-word answer for quite a lot of questions that can sometimes cause miscommunication (in a good way).

16. Iranai (いらない)

To reject a request, you can use “iie”. To reject an object, you can also use “iranai” (いらない). This helpful Japanese word translates to “I don’t need it”. If a cashier asks you if you need a plastic bag, you can respond with this word. The same goes for declining a copy of a receipt or straw.

17. Douzo (どうぞ)

When you’re giving way to someone or letting them know they can go ahead of you, use this helpful Japanese word: douzo (どうぞ). In that situation, it can be translated to “after you”. You can also use this word when you’re signalling someone that they can start something. Say you’re letting someone know they can start presenting during a meeting, you can say to them “hai, douzo” (はい、どうぞ), which translates to “please, go ahead and start”.

Credit: Fraser Cottrell on Unsplash

18. ~ wa doko desu ka? (〜はどこですか?)

When travelling to a new country, you can quite easily get lost. I use this phrase on a daily basis to ask where the toilet is. It’s always best to know how to do that in Japanese. The phrase is “doko desu ka?” (どこですか?). All you have to do is add the location you’re asking about before the phrase. In my case, “where’s the toilet” is “toire ha doko desu ka?” (トイレはどこですか?).

19. ~ arimasuka? (〜ありますか?)

Whether you’re shopping or asking if there’s a toilet nearby (this seems to be an essential stop for everyone), you’re going to want to ask “do you have…?” or “is there…?” For both questions, you can use this Japanese word: “arimasuka?” (ありますか?) Similar to the previous phrase, you just add the item or location you want to ask about before the word. If you want to ask if there’s an S size, say it like this: “esu saizu ga arimasuka?” (エスサイズがありますか?)

20. ~ ikura desu ka? (〜いくらですか?)

Another useful phrase is asking about the price. Almost everything in the world is about money, so we can’t leave this helpful Japanese phrase out: ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?) You can use this phrase on its own and just gesturing to the item you’re asking about, or you can add the word before the phrase: “kono kaban ha ikura desu ka?” (このカバンはいくらですか?) translates to “how much is this bag?” 

Be sure to memorise your numbers in Japanese first!

Memorise them all!

While there are dozens more helpful Japanese words to add on, these 20 are a good starting point to building your Japanese language skills. Whether you’re using it for travel or daily conversations, it’s best to cover the essentials. Start memorising them all now if you haven’t! 

Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Do you want to work in Japan? Have you landed a job position yet? Thousands of people dream about working in the country of their dreams and living their best life in Japan, but the Japanese work life can be quite a working culture shock for some.

Whether or not you‘ve secured a job in Japanyet, it’s best to get a few tips on how to navigate the Japanese working culture and come out of it successfully. Here are 9 tips for success when beginning to work in Japan!

1. (Try to) Learn Japanese

It’s not uncommon to get a job in Japan that doesn’t require Japanese. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the language at all. Even if you’re not allowed to use Japanese at work, it shouldn’t hinder your learning process. 

When you can communicate in Japanese, even at a basic level, you open so many more doors of opportunity for yourself. It can definitely help you grow and move up in the country. You can choose to go to after-work Japanese classes or self-learn, but definitely practice consistently. Making Japanese friends definitely will help.

2. Accept criticism

In Japanese work culture, criticism is often part and parcel of the job. Expect it every other day, if not every day. When you do receive criticism, don’t be defensive. Accept it and thank them for the feedback.

If you start telling others that they’re wrong, you aren’t helping anyone, especially yourself. You’re actually making it worse by losing the respect of others. Japan’s work culture is where criticism is given more than praise, so be sure you’re prepared for them.

3. Don’t question or answer back to superiors

The hierarchy at work is pretty strict in Japan. Remember who are your superiors and who are your subordinates. When your superiors tell you off for doing something wrong, don’t answer back or question them. Simply accept and move on. 

This hierarchical structure applies even for locals and not just foreigners. You can only start giving orders around when you yourself become a superior, how ever long that may take.

4. Work overtime

In Japan, expect to work more hours than you signed up for. It’s common in companies to work past the time you’re supposed to leave. Overtime is kind of required even though it doesn’t say in the contract. 

Most of the time, overtime is usually paid. However, if it’s not, suck it up. If you start making a fuss about not working overtime without pay, you might get a bad reputation in the company. An extra thirty minutes is a small price to pay to be on the good side of the higher ups. 

5. Wait a few years before rocking the boat

In Japanese companies, the longer you are in the company, the more respected you are. If you just entered the company, wait a few more years before pitching your brilliant new ideas. You might be ostracised and get backlash. Others might think you’re trying to change the place when you are just a newbie.

In Japan, unless you have authority to carry these new ideas, they aren’t as valuable as you might think. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth for some companies. 

6. Don’t make excuses

This next point is linked to point number 2. When you are given criticism or someone has misunderstood something about you or your work, don’t make excuses. Simply accept it and apologise. If you apologise by saying “moushi wake gozaimasen” (申し訳ございません), this literally means “there is no excuse”. It’s better to apologise without actually admitting fault than to come up with excuses in Japanese work culture. And also let them know that it won’t happen again, and make sure it doesn’t!

7. Dress the part

The work attire in Japan is quite uniform for most companies. Salarymen often wear a suit and tie in cooler seasons, and a smart casual version called “Cool Biz” in the summer. This is when it’s acceptable to wear short-sleeved shirts with no ties to beat the summer heat.

Women are sometimes expected to wear work heels, but some companies are taking this rule out of their attire rules. Makeup is often kept at minimum and basic, and this also includes hair colour and hairstyle. 

This work attire also depends on the industry you’re in. If you’re in the creative industry, you can get away with quite a bit more. Check with your coworkers first if you’re unsure about the dress code for your company. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

8. Be punctual 

There’s a saying that goes “time is money”. It’s quite applicable in Japan. Japanese people are known to be punctual or early when it comes to timing. Whether it’s a formal meeting or a casual meet up with friends, timing is quite important to the Japanese people. 

When you’re on time, you’re considered late. Always try to be at least five minutes early to avoid this. Even though you can call in advance to inform them you’re going to be late, Japanese people will apologise profusely when they are late to an appointment. 

In a work setting, if you’re late to a meeting, it leaves a bad impression on you. It’s not the most ideal, especially if you’re the one presenting. Definitely come prepared and come on-time, if not early.

9. Be a team player

Last but not least, always be a team player when in a Japanese company. In Japanese work culture, teamwork is more important than individualism. If you take credit for yourself only, you wouldn’t have the best reputation at work. As they say, there’s no “I” in “team”.

There’s also this Japanese national characteristic known as “omotenashi”, which is the Japanese hospitality of politeness and care for others. Be sharp of your coworkers’ feelings and tasks. Offer to help out if they need a hand while still keeping your boundaries. Sometimes, some people want to do all the work themselves, so you wouldn’t want to annoy them with that.

Start planning your career in Japan!

The Japanese working culture can be quite a difficult one to decode, but if you’re alert and motivated to improve, you’ll definitely get the hang of the Japanese work environment. You have these 9 tips to get you started with succeeding in work in Japan – get on working that job position or promotion! 

10 Very Best Sites to Watch Great J-Drama!

10 Very Best Sites to Watch Great J-Drama!

I remember when I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Japanese drama – I would keep tabs on my favourite actors and actresses’ upcoming releases, and as soon as they aired on Japanese television, I would hunt for them online. 

I consider myself an expert at finding online websites to stream Japanese dramas. As a teenager, I wouldn’t pay a penny to watch anything, but as an earning adult, I could afford to spend a few – so our list consists of a mix of both free and paid sites for you to watch Japanese dramas!

Paid Websites

1. AsianCrush

AsianCrush is one of the best paid websites out there, but it’s not fully paid, though – there’s their free site which you can still stream from, but ads are appearing on the video every now and then. With the paid version, at $4.99 per month, you get no disruptions and access to more uploads.

You can also watch tons of drama genres on this website like action, horror and comedy – all of the videos are of HD quality, at least 720p and up! This website is one of the more popular ones and has a range of listings, depending on which part of the world you’re in.

2. Viki

You might think that Viki is expensive, but it’s charged at $9.99 per year! Pay once and you don’t have to think about it again until the next year! Run by Rakuten, one of Japan’s leading companies, this website is also available to stream for free! You’re only limited to watching videos in 720p, but I think that’s a small sacrifice to make.

A distinctive feature of Viki is that you can watch a Japanese drama with your friends and family anywhere in the world – there’s a watch party function on it which is pretty unique to this website, in my opinion.

There’s also an app for Viki so you can stream easily on your mobile phone. 

3. Midnight Pulp

One of the largest video streaming platforms available, Midnight Pulp is a lot of people’s go-to for horror, thriller and action Japanese movies – their Japanese drama listing is pretty darn good as well. If you’re into interesting, dark Japanese drama plots, this website’s for you.

The downside to this website is that it’s a paid streaming service. It’s at $4.99 per month, but you can get a month of free trial to see if you like their services. Just a fair warning though, if you’re more into the lovey-dovey Japanese dramas, this one’s probably one to miss out on – they’re very committed to the darker storylines.

4. Netflix

Who hasn’t heard of Netflix? I use it on a daily basis! If you don’t already know, Netflix is one of the best sites to watch Japanese dramas! They don’t necessarily have the latest updates, but they’re convenient and almost always have English subtitles.

We all know Netflix comes at a cost of about $7.70 per month, but you can try it out for 30 days for free if you don’t have a subscription yet. Japan is opening up to online streaming services like Netflix, so there are ones that are Netflix-exclusive like Alice in Borderland!

5. Amazon Prime

Last but not least on our list of paid websites, we have Amazon Prime. Amazon is one of the world’s largest technology companies, and in Japan, Amazon and Amazon Prime are used widely. Some might say their streaming service is more widely used than Netflix! 

Even if you don’t have a prime membership, you can rent the shows to watch. Depending on which Amazon you use, you might not get subtitles, though – I have Amazon Prime for Japan but most of them don’t have subtitles to go with it, which is a shame! I bet if you have Amazon US or Amazon UK, they’ll definitely have subtitles for the shows!

Free Websites

1. KissAsian

Moving on to free websites, KissAsian is one of my favourite sites to watch Japanese drama! KissAsian is an online streaming site that’s free to use. They’re extremely on the ball when it comes to updating newer episodes that have already been aired on Japanese TV. In fact, as soon as it finishes airing in Japan, you’re going to be able to find it on KissAsian within the next few hours! 

A plus side I like about KissAsian is that you can request for a Japanese drama to be uploaded or report a problem, which gets solved almost instantly! 

One annoying thing about KissAsian is that it has one too many ads! You’re probably going to get a pop up with almost every click, not to mention some captcha along the way. Their domain always changes as well, which can be quite confusing. But, if you have it bookmarked, most of the time they’ll redirect you to the new domain.

2. DramaNice

Another free online streaming site for Japanese drama is DramaNice. It’s extremely up-to-date as well, just like KissAsian. Similarly, they’re not only just for Japanese dramas but other Asian dramas as well!

In comparison to KissAsian, DramaNice’s website is more mobile-friendly. You can download directly from the website to your phone or laptop and comment on the site. I personally find the discussion sections pretty useful at judging which Japanese drama I should put on my watch list and which to avoid.

While KissAsian has only subbed videos uploaded, DramaNice does have raw videos – meaning uploads without any subtitles. Hey, if you want something instantly, you can’t be picky, right? They do update the Japanese drama listing pretty fast, but not all of them are subbed!

However, on DramaNice, the advertisements come at the beginning of the video and you can’t skip them. But hey, if we’re pretty used to YouTube already, this website is a breeze. Oh, and also, be sure to bookmark the website as DramaNice also changes its domain quite frequently.

3. ViewAsian

Here’s another free website that I use to watch Japanese drama: ViewAsian. Most of the videos are subbed and you can search for drama by categories like crime, action and romance.

If you’re watching a movie then this won’t matter but if you’re watching a drama, there’ll be a thumbnail on the drama listing to show you how many episodes are in it. It’s much more convenient than having to click one by one – imagine deciding on watching one and then finding out it has hundreds of episodes!

4. Dramacool

Dramacool is one of the streaming sites I used when I was younger. It appealed to me more than the rest at some point due to its simple web interface – navigating around was a breeze and it was easy to find Japanese dramas that I wanted to watch. On top of that, it lists the latest episodes updated for the season on the front so you don’t have to go around clicking to check.

There are even multiple video servers for you to switch to if the default one is not playing or plays slow. There is also a “switch off light” function that darkens the website screen when watching your Japanese dramas to have that cinematic effect.

5. JDorama

The last of our free websites to watch Japanese drama is JDorama. It’s one of the most popular ones out there! On some other free sites, you won’t be able to find old dramas, but here, you can find those that were released from as far back as 1964! Oh, and don’t worry, there are also newer ones on the website as well.

JDroama is one of the oldest and yet popular websites to watch Japanese drama online for free. It has a section where you can find the most famous Japanese shows in each season of the year. Aside from that, you will find the trailer of each movie and TV show on its homepage. Moreover, it has a vast community where you can join and discuss trending shows in Japan. 

With both paid and free websites, five of each, what excuse do you have not to watch Japanese drama? Which will you choose — are you going to test out the free websites or bite the bullet and go for the paid ones? 

Want to Learn Basic Japanese Language Fast? Here’s How!

Want to Learn Basic Japanese Language Fast? Here’s How!

The question that everyone wants to know the answer to when they’re interested in picking up Japanese language is: “how long does it take to learn beginner Japanese?” Whether your reason for wanting to learn the language is because of your upcoming trip to Tokyo or you want to watch anime without subtitles, it’s still a question that pops in your mind.

There’s no one straight answer to this question. There are a lot of factors that play a part in the duration of one’s learning journey. Read our other article to find what these factors are!

We’ll have a look at a general timeline of learning beginner Japanese in this article. This is provided that you work with a tutor and regularly practice. 

Learning writing systems: 2-4 weeks

The Japanese writing systems are important. There are three: hiragana (ひらがな), katakana (カタカナ) and kanji (漢字). Some might prefer to learn Japanese with romaji (ロマじ) but I definitely don’t recommend. You should learn the writing systems alongside learning basic grammar and phrases.

Learning the first two writing systems can take 2 to 4 weeks to ace. The key is to be exposed to the writing systems every day, whether you have a practice sheet to write them down or flash cards. 

Kanji, on the other hand, is a long, long process. Pick up a few characters as you go along on your learning journey. I’d recommend learning from the JLPT lists from the easiest up, as they cover more basic and everyday kanji in JLPT N5.

Building vocabulary: 2-3 months

Of course, you’ve got to build up your Japanese vocabulary. Similarly, this is best learnt alongside learning basic grammar, but you’ll have to learn more than 200 words to reach a basic comprehension level. This includes greetings and numbers. Similar to learning kanji characters, learning the vocabulary words from JLPT N5 lists is the best way to start building your vocabulary. 

You’ll soon begin to recognise these words used in conversation among locals and start to understand based on context clues. When you reach this stage, start taking down the words you hear that you don’t know and search it up after. This greatly helps you to know more conversational words.

Learning phrases & beginner grammar: 2-4 months

Once you know a few Japanese words, it’ll be easier to practice beginner grammar points. Even if you know some Japanese grammar and phrases, it would be difficult to put it into practice when you don’t know the Japanese words for certain things.

Beginner Japanese grammar gets easier the more you learn. At the start, it can be difficult to adjust to the sentence structure, especially if your native language is like English where the sentence structure is the opposite way. But the more you learn and practice, the more natural it becomes.

My advice is to not be too hung up on particular details. Don’t worry about which particle to use. If your aim is to be able to communicate at the basic level when you travel to Japan, then it wouldn’t matter as much. If you aim to take a proficiency test in the future, you should pay attention, just not obsessively. 

Tips to learning more efficiently

Learning a new language can be a challenge. Rather than a challenge of understanding, it’s a challenge of effort and motivation. When our motivation is down, it affects our progress in the learning journey. We’ll give you 3 tips to learn Japanese more efficiently.

1. Consistently practice

Practice is the key here, and you have to do it consistently. The ideal situation is to set aside a couple of minutes each day to memorise the writing systems and new vocabulary words, and a couple of days a week to study the grammar points. It’s not too hard to set aside this time to study Japanese if you are really motivated to be able to speak it.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

From my personal experience, I get too self conscious about being wrong. It affected my potential to improve. So I advise you to be more daring than me and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t worry if you get something wrong. You’re just learning, anyway. The Japanese locals are always more than happy to help those who have interest in their language. 

3. Make studying fun

Some people might think that studying is a chore. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be. Studying can be fun if you make it to be. If you think earning alone is boring, find study buddies to study together. If you don’t like writing, get flash cards to act as visual aids. There are so many ways to study. You just have to find the style that suits you and keeps you motivated to study Japanese!

6 Months For Basic Comprehension… Challenge Accepted?

A rough estimate to learn basic Japanese is 6 months. I’ve known friends who’ve done it in 3, and some others took longer. At the end of the day, it really depends on each individual. So what do you say, do you accept the challenge to learn basic Japanese in 6 months? Check out Nihongo Master for a fun and easy way to go from absolute beginner to fluent! Good luck! 

Top 10 Most Popular Japanese Words! Thanks, Google!

Top 10 Most Popular Japanese Words! Thanks, Google!

The Japanese language isn’t new to most people – they’ve at least heard of it. But while not a lot of foreigners know how to speak it fluently, there are a few Japanese words that are more popular than others. We have Google to thank for that. They’re used in English conversations – heck, they might even be used in other languages’ conversations, too.

So, what are the most popular Japanese words? We’ve shortlisted the top 10 for you in this article. If you can get all 10 of them right before reading, you’re a tensai (天才)!

1. Anime (アニメ)

Who is surprised that the first Japanese word on this list is “anime” (アニメ)? It’s, without a doubt, one of the most popular Japanese words. Anime refers to Japanese animation or cartoons that originated from Japan. This genre of animation has become so popular that the Japanese word for it also caught on. I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t know the meaning of this word as soon as they hear it instantly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the word “anime” becomes an official word in the English dictionary! 

2. Otaku (オタク)

The next popular Japanese word is “otaku” (オタク). It’s considerably less popular than the word “anime”, but those who are an actual otaku would know what it means. “Otaku” is a Japanese term to refer to those who have obsessive interests, particularly in Japanese culture, anime or manga (漫画), Japanese comics. Usually, this word is regarded as offensive and has a negative connotation. However, in recent years, it’s becoming a more neutral term.

3. Karaoke (カラオケ)

Who doesn’t like singing their hearts out? Karaoke (カラオケ) is not only popular in Japan but also abroad, too. Karaoke places are everywhere in Japan. You can find a karaoke box on almost every street, fully equipped with state-of-the-art karaoke systems, comfy sofas and an extensive food and drinks menu. 

Karaoke in Japan might be different from karaoke elsewhere, but it’s a word popularly used to refer to any type of singing openly or with a group of friends. 

4. Ramen (ラーメン)

It would be unbelievable if this word isn’t on the list. Ramen (ラーメン) is undoubtedly one of the most popular Japanese words. This noodle dish has become a signature dish of Japanese cuisine around the world. Even those who’ve never been to Japan would consider ramen as one of their favourite dishes. 

5. Teriyaki (照り焼き)

Another food-related Japanese word that’s one of the most popular words is “teriyaki” (照り焼き). This word refers to the style of cooking in the Japanese cuisine where the meat is grilled or cooked glazed in soy sauce. Chicken is commonly used in this type of cooking. 

Teriyaki-style dishes are so popular worldwide. I’m convinced that some people wouldn’t even know that teriyaki is a Japanese word!

6. Sushi (寿司)

Who doesn’t like sushi (寿司)? This is also another type of Japanese cuisine. The word “sushi” has become so popular – just as popular as the actual food itself. This rice and seafood combination has stolen the hearts of many all around the world. There are even variations to the original version of the Japanese sushi – a lot can agree that the sushi in America is vastly different from the ones you get in Japan itself.

7. Sudoku (数独)

Anyone who’s into puzzles and a slow burn game would love sudoku (数独). Heck, even those who don’t like it would know about it. This puzzle game is a great way to give your brain a good workout. There are nine boxes of nine boxes in them. Each row and column has to contain numbers from one to nine. Each box also has to have one of each number. It’s not a game for the weak, and definitely if you don’t have the patience. But it’s undeniable that it’s a popular game, and so is the Japanese word.

8. Sakura (桜)

One of Japan’s most iconic look is its spring cherry blossoms known as “sakura” (桜). People all over the world travel to The Land of the Rising Sun during this season to witness the beautiful pink blooms that take over the landscapes of the country. Because cherry blossoms are so popular and closely associated with Japan, the Japanese word for it also becomes extremely popular!

9. Kawaii (かわいい)

Whether or not you watch anime, Japanese dramas or movies, you probably have heard the Japanese word for “cute”, and that is “kawaii” (かわいい). It really is a cute way to compliment your friend or girlfriend. Just the sound of the word is cute in itself. Maybe that’s the reason why this word is so popular – so many people who don’t even know Japanese know the meaning of this word!

10. Mottainai (もったいない)

Last but not least, one of the most popular Japanese words is “mottainai” (もったいない). This is an adjective that has the meaning of “wasteful”. This word also has a different meaning, to mean “reduce, reuse, recycle”. I guess, in general, this word can be used to describe anything that could go to waste, so why not practice the three R’s? It’s used among a lot of gaijins (外人) to talk about giving away their furniture when they move out – talking from personal experience. 

Which is the most popular Japanese word for you?

There are actually a long list of Japanese words that are popular. I might argue that more than half of them are food-related, but who could argue against Japanese food being amazing? Anyway, the Japanese language has countless words that are underrated in meaning and popularity – what Japanese word do you think should get more attention? And what Japanese word is the most popular, in your opinion? 

Japanese office culture & things you need to know about work in Japan!

Japanese office culture & things you need to know about work in Japan!

Working in Japan is like a dream for a lot of us. Japan has an abundance of jobs for foreigners, and we have a whole article on the best ones you can apply for. However, Japan’s office culture can be quite foreign. Its emphasis on harmony, teamwork and hierarchy isn’t something all of us are familiar with. 

So if you’re planning to move to Japan for work, prepare yourself for some deep roots in traditional values in the working environment. Start off with our list of 8 characteristics of Japanese working culture. Some might come as a surprise to you!

Long working hours

Yes, the rumours are true. Japan’s work culture includes long working hours. In fact, the country has one of the world’s longest working hours! There’s a concept that’s actively practised in Japanese offices: the concept of of “gaman” (我慢) and “ganbaru” (頑張る), which is the passive endurance and active perseverance, 

Overtime work can go unpaid, and employees are often expected to work overtime. The paid leave that is given to employees is also commonly not taken because the Japanese fear of inconveniencing their coworkers if they do it. 

Don’t let this scare you from working in Japan. Not all companies are like this. Especially in recent years, the country is taking measures to prevent the overworking culture. I’ve never had to work overtime and not get paid! 

The work hierarchy

In Japanese culture, there’s a strong emphasis on hierarchy. This is also present in the office. The relationship between a junior and senior is important. This is known as the nenkou-joretsu (年功序列) system. Seniors are expected to be respected because of their higher position. 

This hierarchy isn’t just title; it affects promotion and salary, among many others. New employees start off at the bottom of the chain. With each new promotion, their title and salary go up. 

With this system, it encourages employees to stay with a company for a longer period of time rather than hopping from one company to another. However, similar to the long hours, Japanese companies are gradually changing to the global merit-based system. 

There’s no “I” in “team”

There’s a strong emphasis on teamwork in Japan offices. The group harmony (or wa 和, in Japanese) is more important than individualism. Rather than voicing out your own personal opinions or interests, you’re expected to work as a team and maintain peace with one another.

It’s a more holistic approach as compared to Western companies, where individuals are encouraged to stand out from the rest. 

While it may be seen as a negative approach, the positive side of this team mentality is that team members take care of each other. When one member struggles, the whole team does. The managers often take up the role of mentors, so workers often get guidance at work. 

Mandatory after-work drinking

If you love to drink, you would love to work in a Japanese company. One of the social etiquettes of Japanese working culture is the after-work drinking. In Japanese, this is known as “nomikai” (飲み会). Japanese companies bring out their employees to drink often to strengthen their relationship with each other and the company. It’s also a way to network in Japan and get the opportunity to climb up the corporate ladder.

Work drinking parties can get out of hand, to the extent of someone passing out! It’s such a common sight in Japan, unfortunately. It’s best to know what your alcohol limit is. But also make use of the free drinks – the boss usually always pays!

An open workspace

To add on to the team mentality in Japanese office culture, the office layout often features an open structure. Known as obeya seido (お部屋制度), desks are grouped together with team members to encourage communication and cohesion. Because of this layout, Japanese offices can get noisier than those with the cubicle layout. For those of us who are more used to a cubicle at the office, this might be quite a change. 

It’s the journey rather than the end-goal

Some companies only care about the results. For Japanese companies, it’s the process that matters. They evaluate based on what work was done and how it was done rather than just what resulted from it. With this type of approach, employees focus more on the actions taken and problem-solving. While results are important, the journey is just as crucial. 

Lonely lunchtime

Even though Japanese work culture involves frequent after-work drinking, lunch breaks are often spent alone. It’s not an uncommon sight to see a salaryman dining alone during his lunch break. In fact, most locals prefer this!

That’s because lunchtime is considered personal time away from work. Most take this time to run personal errands or just peace and quiet by themselves. Since a lot of Japanese people plan their lunch break in advance, it’s best to ask the day before if you want to have lunch together with them the next day. 

No “water cooler breaks”

Chitchat is common in any office. Even in Japanese offices, there’s always chatter among team members. However, taking breaks and chatting is not part of Japanese office culture. Even spending too much time on your phone is frowned upon. Others might have the impression that you’re not taking your job seriously and slacking off. 

If you need a break, take a quick power nap. It’s more acceptable than chatting with others, which might even be taken as disturbing others while they are working!

Work-culture shock?

The office culture in Japan is definitely different from a lot of other countries’ work culture. It’s an environment that might need getting used to, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’s just as fun! Do you think you’ll be work-culture shocked on your first day on the job in Japan?