Japanese Cinema Finally Goes To The Oscars

Japanese Cinema Finally Goes To The Oscars

Last year 9.8 million people watched the American Academy Awards on television. This prestigious ceremony celebrates the hard work and dedication that actors, directors, writers and film crews put into the movies they create together. However, it has taken a very long time for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to begin to recognize movies outside of Hollywood. This year is the 94th year of the awards, and finally a Japanese movie, Drive My Car, has been nominated in the Best Picture category. The academy is also taking the movie seriously enough to have also nominated it for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. Drive My Car is definitely one to watch, and of course watching movies in Japanese is a great way to learn the language.

Drive My Car

Drive My Car, which is written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, was loved by critics. It is based on the story by Haruki Murakami. The movie is about a renowned stage actor and director who, following his wife’s unexpected death, travels to Hiroshima to direct a production of Uncle Vanya. His journey finds him unraveling some of the mysteries that his wife left behind. It wasn’t just the acting that impressed the Academy panel, but also the impressive filmography. The logistics of making a movie is challenging and requires a professional crew to deal with the ever-changing sets and scenery. The transportation is intrinsic to the success of the movie. In Drive My Car, the filming locations were constantly changing, and this was beautifully portrayed.

Previous Nominations

There have been a few Japanese movies that have been nominated for an Oscar in recent years, but never for the main category of Best Picture. In 2018, Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda was nominated for Best International Feature Film, and in 2008 Departures, directed by Yōjirō Takita, won the category. Japan also has a strong tradition of animation. Mirai was nominated in 2018 for Best Animated Feature, Boss Baby in 2017 and The Red Turtle in 2016. A Japanese movie has only once won the category though, back in 2002 for the classic Spirited Away. In 93 years of the Academy Awards, Japan, which has one of the oldest movie industries in the world, producing a quarter of all movies made, has only won an Oscar 14 times.

A Changing Industry

The Academy Awards have really diversified in the last few years, with Korean movies like Parasite and Minari leading the way. The Oscars are paying more attention to movies in other languages, and this is opening up the incredible world of Japanese cinema to a far wider audience. This will also help Japan become more recognized not just for a strong tradition of anime and horror movies, but also for outstanding storytelling.

A Japanese movie being nominated for an Oscar is very exciting. This shows how important the Japanese movie industry is to the world.

Want to experience Japanese Cinema in it’s original form without subtitles? Sign up for a subscription to Nihongo Master today and start your journey to Japanese fluency!

We tried Sakuraco’s authentic Sakura Festival snack box!

We tried Sakuraco’s authentic Sakura Festival snack box!

We at Nihongo Master understand that learning Japanese is much more than just understanding words and grammar. It’s also getting a knowledge and appreciation for the culture and a part of any culture is its food! We tried Sakuraco’s Cherry Blossom event subscription box and we were blown away! So many authentic and locally produced snacks, straight from Japan. It’s a great opportunity to learn about each small company and learn some new Japanese food words as you go! Here are just a few of our favorites! Check out our instagram for more pictures and video of this gorgeous box and check out Sakuraco for monthly Japanese snack boxes delivered right to your door!

Sakura Wafer

These sakura cookies were almost too beautiful to eat! These gorgeous cookies had sakura designs printed on the outer wafer. Inside was a filling made of a sweet and smooth cherry blossom flavored cream. These cookies were sweet but not overly so, with a taste like a sugar cookie. The outer wafers were crisp and broke with a satisfying snap commonly found in Japan’s senbei. The cream inside was a perfect addition!

Sakura Daifuku

What would a Japanese treat box be without some daifuku or mochi? In this month’s box, we received a bag filled with individually wrapped daifuku. Daifuku are small mochi with a center filling, usually a bean paste. The daifuku included in this box were small, pink and white, and bore a striking resemblance to cherry blossom petals! They were flavored with cherry blossom and had a soft anki bean paste filling. They were sweet with just a hint of floral flavor. They were one of my favorite snacks included in the box!

Sakura Green Tea

Every Sakuraco box includes tea! Appropriately, this month’s tea was a sakura green tea. Cherry blossom green tea is one of my all-time favorite tea flavors, so I was ecstatic to see it included in this box. And the tea did not disappoint! It had a light, floral taste with a natural sweetness commonly found in sakura flavored tea.

Sakura Kanten

(vegan) This light jelly block has a delicate flavor that blends so well with the incredible sakura green tea in the box! It’s light pink color is lovely to look at as it reminds you of the sakura cherries it’s made from!

Sakura Kuzumochi

Kuzumochi is a Japanese wagashi made from kuzu or wheat starch. It often comes in the shape of a little mochi cake. The kuzumochi featured in this month’s sakura-themed box included a whole pickled cherry blossom within the kuzumochi. The jelly itself was sweet, similar to a jam, with a decadent flavor like a syrup. The blossom was a nice touch to help me feel closer to the sakura festivities going on in Japan!

Sakura Jelly

(vegan) Another delicious jelly offering, but this time a lighter, spoonable dessert! IU also tried it on some wonderful crusted bread from our local bakery. A light and smooth treat, also pairs excellently with the tea. The jelly also has apple in it to give it more a sweeter taste.

Milk Manju

Manjus are a traditional Japanese sweet with a cake-like outside and a bean paste or jam filling. The manju included in the sakura box was sweet and dense like any good manju should be with a slight hint of spices.

Apple Cookie

The box included a couple apple-flavored snacks because their light and crisp flavor pairs well with the floral cherry blossoms. These apple cookies were made with apple pulp from Nagano’s famous apples boiled in honey. The result was a delicious, crisp cookie with a slight apple flavor and a bit of spice, similar to an apple muffin.

Nagano Apple Jam Bun

Japan offers some of the best sweet buns and pastries out there! The one included in this month’s box was a soft pillowy bun filled with a sweet apple jam made from Nagano apples! According to the box’s brochure, these buns were made with a technique used by Italian bakers for soft, moist dough. This treat was the largest snack found in the box, and it was satisfying, but not too filling.

Sakura Side Plate

In each box comes a delightful souvenir. This side plate was one of three possible designs and holds the snacks provided in such a beautiful way! A lovely addition to any tea time set up.

Senbei Boat

This is one of the more unique treats featured in this box! Senbei are a type of Japanese rice cracker that are crispy but light and airy. These senbei came in their own edible boat, which evoked images of boat rides down canals to view cherry blossoms. These senbei come in a variety of flavors, many of which are commonly found in sushi, such as shrimp, crab, and wasabi.

Sakura Senbei

These thin, little cookies have a beautiful cherry blossom design printed on each. These cookies are classified as senbei, and they have a texture like a waffle cone or a fortune cookie. They are crisp, light, and go excellent with the sakura tea included!

Chili Arare

With all the sweets included in this month’s box, a savory snack is a nice respite. Included in this box was the chili arare. Arare are a type of Japanese cracker, usually with a puffy texture. These arare were made with hot chili oil from Okinawa and chopped spring onions. The brochure advertises these crackers as being spicy. While they did have a bit of heat to them, they weren’t too spicy, even for those with a low spice tolerance such as myself. I worried I wouldn’t be able to enjoy these due to their spice, but that wasn’t an issue. I was surprised how much I enjoyed them!

Delicious traditional Japanese treats with your gorgeous Sakuraco Box Subscription

Delicious traditional Japanese treats with your gorgeous Sakuraco Box Subscription

Amazing Beauty & Incredible Quality

There are many Japanese snack boxes on the market, but not many like the Sakuraco box. If you want a taste of traditional Japanese foods, straight from Japan, Sakuraco. box is the way to go! Experience Japan’s unique and beautiful culture with a wide variety of goodies every month! Each box includes an informative packet about the snacks and tea inside, including the local businesses that have helped prepare the foods, so you can learn about lesser-known parts of Japan’s culture as you snack! This box is truly worth it if you want to learn about Japan and its culture on a personal level. See more about all your box possibilities here!

Each box is themed around a certain region, season, etc., and they are packed with snacks that will keep you filled until the next box arrives! Below are some of the highlights from the box I received, which was all about Mount Fuji and its surrounding areas.

Awase Fruit Jelly. I have never gotten jelly in a subscription box before, so this was quite a surprise! This jelly has a delicious, light apple taste. The fruit in it–including a cherry from Yamanashi–were still fresh.

Red Fuji Cookies. These cookies pay homage to the Mount Fuji with their shape. These adorable little chocolate cookies are in the shape of Fuji-san, with strawberry icing on top to mimic the snow. They are very similar to the famous Apollo chocolates in Japan–and they were one of my favorites in the box!

The Kyoho Grape Chocolate Crunch snacks tasted like nothing I’ve had before. These treats are made of toasted corn flakes covered in chocolate. The chocolate is infused with grapes from Kyoho, which are famous for their rich flavor. They certainly made for a delicious and unique treat!

The White Peach Milk Manju was another favorite of mine. This little treat is dense and filling. Made with a white peach puree from the Yamanashi prefecture, this milk manju bun was a satisfying treat.

The Sakuraco Box also included mochi! This was a wonderful surprise. What was even better about this surprise was that these mochi were hidden under a small Mt. Fuji Owan Bowl. This bowl, upside down, looks just like Fuji-san and can be used for decor. Or it can be turned upright to be used as a bowl!

The Kinako Mochi were so delicately wrapped, I almost didn’t want to open them and ruin the wrapping! These mochi are more on the savory side. They are made with roasted soybean and go well with tea.

If you are interested in more savory snacks, Sakuraco Includes those as well. In this box, we received Miso Arare, a crispy rice snack with soybean sauce and red miso seasoning. The box also included Ototo Soy Sauce chips. These chips are flavored with iwashi sardine shavings from Mizutani Shoten, a century-old company in Shizuoka.

This month’s tea was Sencha with Matcha Tea. It wasn’t too bitter as matcha can sometimes be, and I really enjoyed the flavors and fragrance of this tea. It is perfect for cooler weather!

The box also included multiple types of crackers, or Senbei, to enjoy with tea. My favorite of which were the Almond Mochi Four Seasons Senbei. These crackers were light and had a great flavor made from almonds. The other crackers included aji shirabe, edamame, and soy sauce flavors. The Kokeshi Doll senbei were my favorite in terms of packaging. These treats look like little Kokeshi dolls. The wrapper of each features a kimono, face, and hair. The head is made from a roasted peanut and the body is a soy sauce flavored senbei.

Lastly, what would a tea-subscription box be without a few tea-flavored treats? Green tea is one of my favorite flavors when it comes to sweets, so I was happy to see multiple in this box! One of my favorites was the Green Tea Leaf cookies. These are tiny butter cookies made from tea leaves from the Shizuoka prefecture. They are the perfect little sweet to have along with tea. Another favorite was the Green Tea Dacquoise. This is made from two green tea infused meringues with a matcha cream center. Both green tea treats were sourced from Takayanagi Seicha. This is company located just outside Mount Fuji that is known for its tea. The booklet included in every Sakuraco Box included information about Takayanagi Seicha, their history and what they do. It helped me feel really connected to the food I was eating and made me appreciate the snacks even more!

I am very grateful I got to try Sakuraco’s Mount Fuji inspired box! This box was like no other snack-related subscription services I’ve tried. There is so much to explore within these small boxes. Try unique treats you won’t find outside of Japan, and learn about the lesser-known but equally important parts of Japan. This box is for anyone who wants to feel closer to Japan and its culture–and get some great snacks while they’re at it!

Basic Japanese: Verb Conjugation

Basic Japanese: Verb Conjugation

Verbs are crucial in language learning. Some may argue that it’s the very foundation of some languages. It would be hard to express yourself if you don’t know verbs. 

In Japanese, knowing the various types of verbs and its basic conjugations is extremely significant. But don’t let that scare you off yet, because as soon as you master the basic conjugation, you will be able to express yourself in Japanese and get by in Japan. This article is a comprehensive guide to the basics of verbs and conjugations! 

For more in-depth expansions and discussions, we talk about verb conjugations in our Nihongo Master Podcast Season 9 Episode 4!

Types of Verbs

In any language, some sentences require a verb. Verbs are action words like “to see” or “to write” or “to do”. There’s not much categorisation in English when it comes to verbs and their conjugation, but in Japanese, it all boils down to two categories: ru verbs and u verbs. 

Ru Verbs

Ru-verbs are known as ichidan doushi (段動詞) They are easy to distinguish from the rest, most of the time, as they are verbs that end with ru (る). Ru verbs have the base of the verbs remain when conjugating. Examples are 見る (miru, to see) and 食べる (taberu, to eat).

However, there are some verbs ending with ru that are not ru-verbs, but in fact the next category of verbs.

U Verbs

U-verbs are also known as godan doushi (五段動詞). These are verbs that end with u (う) vowel sound at the end. When conjugating this type of verb, the stem’s final vowel changes to another vowel in the hiragana chart. 

Examples are 書く (kaku, to write) and 話す (hanasu, to speak), 買う (kau, to buy) and 飛ぶ (yobu, to fly). Bear in mind that there are u-verbs that also end with ru, like 知る (shiru, to know). But these types of verbs still fall under the u-verb category. To know which they are, you have to memorise them.

Irregular Verbs

There is also a category for irregular verbs, and that category only has two: する (suru, to do) and 来る (kuru, to come). They have unique conjugations that are only for them, and the only way to know them is to memorise them. 

A lot of nouns have these irregular verbs attached to them to make nouns. For example, 勉強する (benkyou suru, to study) is a combination of “studies” (勉強) and “to do” (する).

Stem Form (ます form)

The stem form is a type of Japanese verb form that’s often used to make other types of conjugation. It’s also known as the masu (ます) form. Just like how in English, the word “see” can become “see” or “saw” or “seen”, Japanese words rely on conjugation from the stem form. 

For ru-verbs, you can get the stem form by just taking away the ru (る). For example, 見る (miru) becomes 見 (mi). 食べる (taberu) becomes 食べ (tabe).

For u-verbs, the stem form is achieved by taking the う (u) vowel sound out, 

For example, 書く (kaku) becomes 書 (kak). 話す (hanasu) becomes 話 (hanash).

For its masu form, there is an additional step where you switch it with い (i). For example, 書く (kaku) becomes 書き (kaki). 話す (hanasu) becomes 話し (hanashi). Depending on the type of conjugation, you would either use the stem form or masu form.

The irregular verbs don’t have a set of rules to follow, you just have to memorise their conjugation. する (suru) becomes し (shi), and 来る (kuru) becomes き (ki).

These verbs are now in their stem form. Stem form is used in a lot of types of conjugation, like 〜たい (~tai), to say “I want”. This conjugation type is covered in Season 2 Episode 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast. We have a recap article that you can read here too.

For the ます form, all you have to do is add the “masu” to the stem form. The masu form is the formal version of the plain form of the word. 

Type of verb: Plain form – Stem form – Masu form

Ru-verbs: 見る – 見 – 見ます

U-verbs: 書く – 書き – 書きます

Irregular verbs: する – し – します

Past Tense

The past tense of verbs is the next step you should take on your verb conjugation learning journey. In this section, we will look at how to conjugate to the plain past tense, and the formal past tense. 

Plain Past (た)

The plain past tense refers to the past tense form of the plain verb. This conjugation depends on the verb categories as well.

For ru-verbs and irregular verbs, you add た (ta) to the stem form. For example, 見る (miru) becomes 見 (mi), then becomes 見た (mita). する (suru) becomes し (shi) then becomes した (shita).

For u-verbs, it gets a bit complicated. It depends on the last hiragana. 

  • If it ends with う, つ or る, add った (tta) to the stem form. For example, 笑う (warau) becomes 笑 (wara), then becomes 笑った (waratta).
  • If it ends with む, ぶ, ぬ, change the last hiragana to んだ (nda). For example, 読む (yomu) becomes 読 (yo), then becomes 読んだ (yonda).
  • If it ends with く, change the last hiragana to いた (ita). For example, 書く (kaku) becomes 書 (ka), then becomes 書いた (kaita).
  • If it ends with す, change the last hiragana to した. For example, 話す (hanasu) becomes 話 (hana), then becomes 話した (hanashita).

Formal Past (ました)

The formal past tense is the past tense form of a formal verb. It’s so much simpler than the plain past tense, as all you have to do is add た (ta) after the masu form to make ました. For example, 見る (miru) becomes 見ます (mimasu) then becomes 見ました (mimashita). 読む (yomu) becomes 読みます (yomimasu) and then becomes 読みました (yomimashita).

Negative Form

The next category we’ll look at is negation. Similarly, ru and u verbs negate differently, and it’s also slightly different from the stem form. We’ll also break it down to plain negative and formal negative.

Plain Negative (ない)

The plain negative form is the negation of a pain verb word. 

For ru-verbs, it’s very straight forward. Take the ru out and replace it with nai (ない), for informal, or masen, for formal. 見る (miru) becomes 見ない (minai). 食べる(taberu) becomes 食べない (tabenai).

For u-verbs, take the う (u) vowel sound out, and replace it with あ (a), then add ない (nai). 書 (kaku) becomes 書か (kaka) then becomes 書かない (kakanai).  話す(hanasu) becomes 話さ (hanasa) then becomes 話さない (hanasanai). There’s one exception to the plain negation, and that’s the u verb ある (aru), which becomes ない (nai).

For irregular verbs, add nai to the stem form. For example, する (suru) becomes しない (shinai).

Formal Negative (ません)

The formal negative is the negation of a formal verb word. 

For ru-verbs, take take the ru out and replace it with masen (ません). 見る (miru) becomes 見ません (mimasen). 食べる(taberu) becomes 食べません (tabemasen).

For u-verbs, take the stem form, then add masen (ません). 書 (kaku) becomes 書き (kaka) then becomes 書きません (kakimasen).  話す(hanasu) becomes 話し (hanashi) then becomes 話しません (hanashimasen).

For irregular verbs, add masen (ません) to the stem form. For example, する (suru) becomes しません (shimasen).

Past Negative

The last conjugation on the list of basic verb conjugation is the past negative. This is a lot simpler once we know how to do the negation and past tense separately. It’s a matter of combining the two together. Similarly, we’ve split it up to plain and formal past negative.

Plain Past Negative (なかった)

The plain past negative is the plain negation in the past tense. It’s like saying “I did not…” To do this, for all types of verbs, you negate it first, then conjugate the past tense.

Regardless of the category, you take the word and change it to its plain negative form, then change the い at the to かった (katta). This creates なかった (nakatta), and it is the way to make an い ending into its past tense form.

Type of verbs: Plain form – plain negative form – plain past negative form

Ru-verbs: 見る – 見ない – 見なかった

U-verbs: 書く – 書かない – 書かなかった

Irregular verbs: する – しない – しなかった

Formal Past Negative (ませんでした)

The formal past negative is the negation of the formal form of the verb. This is conjugated similarly to the plain past negative. You negate the word first then conjugate to the past tense. 

This applies to all categories: first change it to its formal negative form, then add deshita (でした). This makes masendeshita (ませんでした).

Type of verbs: Plain form – formal negative form – formal past negative form

Ru-verbs: 見る – 見ません – 見ませんでした

U-verbs: 書く – 書きません – 書きませんでした

Irregular verbs: する – しません – しませんでした

You’re now a verb expert!

And with that, we  wrap up our comprehensive guide to Japanese verbs and its basic conjugations! There are many ways to conjugate a verb – we have the various types of conjugation on our blog as well as our Nihongo Master Podcast. Check both of them out now!

Where to Buy Kigurumi

Where to Buy Kigurumi

Kigurumi is big in Japan. It has always been big. Now it’s big all over the world! Started as a trend back in the ‘90s, who would’ve thought that it would be here to stay? But it did, and we’re all for it!

Now we’re not here to talk about what kigurumi is and how it came about. To know more about kigurumi, we have a whole article on it here! This article is a quick guide on where to buy it. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you first: it’s not hard at all to get your hands on a pair or two. Because it’s so popular now, kigurumi is easily accessible worldwide! 

We’ve listed a few places where you can get yourself a kigurumi, both in and outside of Japan. Keep on reading!

What is “kigurumi”?

Okay, I know I said we wouldn’t cover what kigurumi is in the intro, but we kind of have to… The word “kigurumi” (着ぐるみ) actually is a combination of two words – kiru (着る) which translates to “to wear” and nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ) which translates to “stuffed toy”. So when you have them together, it refers to costumed characters. Kind of like mascots. Some say that kigurumi can also be a part of cosplay. 

Back in the day, you would get an oversized head along with your animal onesie. Often times this head is in the “chibi” (チビ) style, which is like an anime drawing style. Now, you just get a onesie with a hood. If you’re lucky, you get ears along with it.

While kigurumi was originally used to promote businesses and companies as well as donned by cosplayers, nowadays it’s just for fun. It’s on the streets, in trains, in shops…at least in Japan anyway. 

Buying kigurumi in Japan

I was quite surprised that I couldn’t find a guide online for buying kigurumi in Japan itself. I guess it’s because it’s everywhere. For those of you who have never been to Japan and are planning to get one when you’re here, I’ve got you covered.

Don Quijote is the ultimate place to go for all your costume needs. This is a chain discount superstore that you can find in almost every city and big neighbourhood. There’s always a section in the store that’s all for costumes, and I bet some even have their own sections for kigurumi. If you go to the ones in Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo, I’ve seen them with their own kigurumi section! You can have your pick there. Oh, and it’s sold all year round – not just during Halloween season.

There are also other stores that sell kigurumi, too. While not all outlets have them, Tokyu Hands often has a section for costumes. You’re better off trying in bigger neighbourhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, too. 

Dollar shops like Daiso, Seria and Can Do often have their own costume areas, too. Of course, when it’s Halloween season, the section expands even bigger, but I’ve noticed that there are a fair share of outlets that sell them all year round too.

I’ve also noticed that Amazon Japan has quite a few certified sellers for kigurumi. Though you shouldn’t hold me to my word, I would recommend browsing through Amazon Japan and getting expedited shipping while you’re here. You could do that in your own country, but shipping can get expensive. And sometimes, they don’t ship outside of Japan. This might be a shout!

Buying kigurumi outside of Japan

For those of us who are outside of Japan and would like to get our hands on a pair of kigurumi, you’re in luck. There are a lot of online shops that sell them! I told you it’s popular.

The best place to look for kigurumi is Kigurumi Shopi. They are the OG when it comes to creating the best quality and design of kigurumi for overseas. This company is an exclusive North American distributor for SAZAC as well, which is Japan’s most respectable and successful manufacturer of kigurumi. You can’t match their quality, design, attention to detail, textile and service. 

SAZAC also has retail shops all around the world in Asia, Europe and the Americas. So wherever you are in the world, you’re going to be able to get your hands on a kigurumi from here – if not offline, then online.

For UK kigurumi lovers out there, Kigu  is a SAZAC-partnered company where you can get your high-quality kigurumi, too!

While that’s the place to go to for your highest quality kigurumi, nowadays, since kigurumi is so popular, you can get animal onesies just about anywhere online. Amazon, Etsy, EBay, AliExpress and all the online platforms have their version of animal onesies. Bear in mind that they might not be the best of qualities, but if you’re looking to grab one quickly for a party or event, they might just be the place to go to.

Get your kigurumi today!

From the best of my knowledge, experience and research, I have come up with this quick yet detailed guide of where you can get kigurumi, both inside and outside of Japan! So if you’re excited to get one on your trip in Japan, or just for a party in your hometown, we’ve got you covered. Go get your kigurumi today!

Top 3 Japanese Facial Gestures you need to know!

Top 3 Japanese Facial Gestures you need to know!

Japan is known for a lot of things. Sightseeing, nature, and neon lights are among them. But those who have been here for quite some time would also know Japan for its high context culture. If you don’t know what that is, read our blog post about it.

Anyway, an aspect of the Japanese’s high context culture is body language and facial gestures. Aside from the language barrier, you’d have to be able to decipher body language and facial expressions too. This can be quite a challenge, especially if you have no idea what to look out for in the first place.

So, if you’re looking to know how to grasp the concept of Japanese body language, you’ve come to the right place! We’re zooming into facial gestures that are part of Japanese body language in this article. Head over to this other article where we look at the top 8 body gestures to know in Japan!

Japanese Facial Gestures 

There’s no doubt that communication can be like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. You get the pieces but you have to put them together. It’s all part and parcel of the high context culture! Japanese facial gestures take up quite a chunk of the Japanese high context culture. Sometimes, no expression is a gesture in itself!

So while it can be straightforward, it’s best to not roll the dice on it. There are a few things to take note of when it comes to the Japanese way of communication. They sometimes communicate with their facial expressions rather than saying it out loud. 

We’re going to highlight the top three facial gestures (感情表現 in Japanese) that give you an insight into what they’re trying to say: the one eyebrow raise, eye contact and the head tilt.

1. One Eyebrow Raise

This first one is the one eyebrow raise. Normally, if someone is doing that to me, I would be thinking that they’re waiting for an answer or reply. Sometimes, it also signals that they don’t understand. 

In Japan, it’s almost the same. When you get a one eyebrow raise, they’re telling you that they don’t understand. But not only that, they’re also asking you to repeat it. I guess that’s the difference – in Japan, no words are needed to ask someone to repeat.

Sometimes, you can get scrunched up brows instead, but they both mean the same thing. 

The best thing to do in cases like this is to repeat. If you were speaking in English, try repeating it slower and with easier phrases. I’ve gotten this a couple of times and in my case, they were just hesitant to ask me to repeat myself. 

2. Eye Contact

Another facial gesture to note in Japan is eye contact. To be more specific, the lack of eye contact. I’m used to making eye contact with people. It’s normal to me. In fact, I prefer talking to someone while making eye contact rather than not.

In Japan, it’s not always the case. Some people aren’t comfortable with eye contact. If that happens to you, don’t be offended. They’re not uninterested or bored. It’s just part of their body language. Prolonged eye contact is something they’re not used to or comfortable with. 

In cases like this, try to glance around to break eye contact. You’ll notice them doing the same. Try your best to be natural and not awkward about it!

3. The Head Tilt

Last but not least, the head tilt is a common facial gesture I get so often. This is often paired with the one eyebrow raise. This facial gesture is similar in meaning to the first one as it often tells you that the other person didn’t quite catch what you said.

However, this one, from my experience, is more of confusion rather than not understanding. 

Regardless of the difference, you’re also requested to repeat yourself. Similarly, rephrase your sentences so you’re not getting the head tilt again!

Are You Raising Your Brow Or Tilting Your Head? 

Body language can be quite difficult to grasp in general, regardless of which country. It’s a skill we constantly need to keep on learning. In Japan, it’s good that there’s a consistent set of gestures that can be easily decoded! You’re one step closer to mastering the high context culture here!

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!

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? 

16 Best Sites to Stream Anime in 2021

16 Best Sites to Stream Anime in 2021

All the anime lovers out there, this one’s for you! The Japanese animation is great and all, until it’s hard to find a platform that streams it. If you’re getting into this magical world of anime and don’t know where to start streaming, you’ve come to the right place. Even if you’re not a newbie and are looking for alternative options, stick around. In this article, we’ve highlighted some of the best websites to stream the latest anime in 2021. These 12 sites are a mix of free and paid platforms. Rest assured that all provide the best quality animation.

1. KissAnime

The first option is KissAnime. This has been my go-to streaming site since the early days. A lot of other listicles on the web mentions that this site is down. It’s because it changes url all the time due to copyright issues. This streaming site offers free anime movies and shows. The parent company of this website also runs sister sites like KissAsian. This website updates often. You’ll be able to stream the latest episode of new anime series immediately.  KissAnime offers both sub and dub versions of anime. Whichever your preference is, this site has got you covered! You can even download and watch it later when you don’t have internet access. 

2. Crunchyroll

The next streaming site for all your anime needs is Crunchyroll. This website is a business started in the United States back in 2006. This is one of the most loved sites for anime lovers outside of Japan. It’s a leading global platform for Japanese media content. It provides sub and dub versions of anime. This site updates often so you don’t miss out on the latest episode. On the site, you can stream thousands of anime for free, whether it’s a classic or a new release. You can upgrade to the premium plan and get rid of ads for good!  This site also offers manga collections. The best part of it all is that Crunchyroll is 100% legal! 

3. 9Anime

9Anime the world’s best site to stream anime, both dub and sub. For English-speaking audiences who prefer dub, you’ll be content with 9Anime. 9Anime has a few different inbuilt servers. If one is not working, you can switch to another. You can stream any anime from the huge collection in 1080p quality. If you don’t see the one you want, their customer support replies fast via mail. It’s best to stream 9Anime on VPN as it’s not accessible worldwide. But don’t worry, their millions of users guarantee you safe usage of the site. 

4. Animelab

Animelab is perfect if you’re looking for a 100% legal streaming site that’s up-to-date. It updates as early as 1 hour after the broadcast of the latest episode. It has free features that allows you to stream without paying. There’s also the paid option to get rid of ads and other features.

5. GoGoAnime

Another worldwide popular anime streaming service is GoGoAnime. Like the previous one, this website has a few servers you can stream from. If one is not working, switch to one of the other seven. GoGoAnime aims to stream Japanese animation in the highest quality possible. Their big library of anime includes latest episodes, complete with dub and sub. You can even download it to your phone and watch on-the-go. A highlight of GoGoAnime is its chat room. You can have conversations with other users and discuss about anything anime.

6. My Anime List

The best part about MyAnimeList is that you can stream anime without any ads. This website is quite underrated compared to the rest. The interface is great at helping users to search for anime they’re interested in. On top of updating their catalogue often, MyAnimeList offers both sub and dub anime. You can browse through their anime library based on reviews, popularity and ranking.

7.  Hulu

Founded in the US, Hulu has been providing unlimited anime streaming since 2007. It only offers paid subscription of as low as $10 a month. You’re guaranteed quality, regular updates and secure streaming. 

8. Funimation

This next one is an American based company owned by SONY. Funimation is one of the most loved anime streaming sites in the present day. It aims at offering foreign content, including Japanese anime, to the Western viewers. Funimation provides anime with subtitles. Yet, a lot of their viewers love watching anime with English audio. That’s because the website caters to Western anime viewers as the main audience. One downside is that Funimation is only available in specific countries. This includes the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Don’t let that stop you, though. Accessing the site is possible if you use VPN.

9. Anime Heaven

Another favoured free anime streaming site is Anime Heaven. All episodes on this site are of 720p quality and above. You get both dub and sub versions of your favorite anime series. A great feature of Anime Heaven is that it allows users to download videos to watch later on.

10. Anime Planet

Anime Planet is among the top recommended sites for streaming anime. Not only do you have access to high quality anime content but you can also read manga series, too! This streaming site is 100% and has thousands of episodes for you to browse through. A feature that I love about this streaming site is that you can track your progress. Not only that, you can create a collection to share with your friends.

11. Chia-anime

This next streaming site has more than anime. Chia-anime has the largest library of Japanese animation, movies, series, soundtracks and manga. It’s your one-stop website for all Japanese content you need. Its interface is easy to manoeuvre and everything is well-categorised. It also has various streaming players so you’ll get to switch to another one in case of any problems. Best of all, this anime streaming site is free!

12. AnimeFreak

I’ve used this streaming service since Day 1. Anime Freak is great for streaming anime because you don’t have to sign up for an account. You can stream as much content as your heart desires.  Not only can you stream the latest anime in high quality but you can also get the latest anime news. It keeps you updated on anime-related information, so you don’t have to go anywhere else to be in the loop.

13. D Anime Store

D Anime Store is a fan favourite. Launched by Japan’s mobile phone company, NTT Docomo in 2012, it offers a monthly subscription of $4 a month. One downside is that they don’t have subs or dubs with their anime. If you’re confident with your Japanese, this is an accessible streaming service.

14. U-Next

This next anime streaming site is also a popular one in Japan, but you can access it overseas as well. It does not only have anime but also TV shows and dramas. You can access this on various platforms like TV, computers and game consoles. It’s a paid subscription but you’re not going to break the bank with it.

15. Netflix

Who doesn’t know Netflix? This streaming service is now one of the most popular sites to stream anime. Recently, its catalogue of anime shows have been rising. There have been partnerships with companies like Ghibli Studios with this franchise. You can count on more! The best part is that some anime are Netflix exclusives! This means you can’t stream them anywhere else but Netflix!

16. Amazon Prime

Last but not least, we have Amazon Prime. A lot of anime, both classic and latest series, are available for streaming on this platform. It’s a great one if you’re a regular Amazon shopper. A lot of anime series are part of the subscription. Even if it’s not, you can rent it for cheap. Trust me, it’s worth it!

You have all these choices. What’s stopping you from streaming your favourite anime series now? Or you could rewatch the old ones. Regardless, our list of free and paid streaming services has got you covered on where you can go to watch them!

Let’s Purikura! All you want to know about Japanese Photo Booths!

Let’s Purikura! All you want to know about Japanese Photo Booths!

I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed how popular those photo booth stickers are at the moment. When I first came to Japan, I was surprised at how popular they are in Japan, too.

Introducing “purikura”, the Japanese word for that exact thing we’re talking about. Before TikTok dances and Instagram filters became huge on the streets, purikura was top on the vain game.

So what exactly is it? How did it come about? Where can I find them? How do I take a purikura picture? All your answers are just a scroll down away!

What is Purikura?

So, what is purikura (プリクラ)? This word is a short form of “purinto kurabu” (プリント倶楽部), which means “print club”. Print club refers to the photo booths that you see all around Japan. It’s incredibly popular – all the local youths are crazy about it.

It’s the perfect activity with friends or on a date. It’s also the perfect souvenir because it’s a unique Japan activity.

You might be thinking, “it’s just a picture in a photo booth.” True, but purikura is more than just that. Worldwide, we have those official photo booths for ID photos. Sometimes, at events, you get photo booths that print pictures in film roll style. In Japan, it can be done any time, anywhere. You can customise it however you like.

While it functions the same way of any other photo booth, it’s more like a photo shoot. After you’ve taken your 5 consecutive pictures, you get to edit them. Everything from stickers and fonts to filters and frames. You’re in control of how it’s going to look when it’s printed.

The History of Purikura


So how did this fun activity come about? It all started in 1995 when the first ever print club machine was invented. The Tokyo-based game software company, Atlus, was the brains behind it. Originally, it was just a pose-and-print situation. You could only add frames around it.

Then comes other gaming companies like SEGA. They developed the print club machines to include so much more. This was also the time when the word “purikura” was tossed around.

In 1997, things really took off for the machines. An extremely popular Japanese band called SMAP featured purikura on local television. Amusement centers and arcades where they were found were filled with people getting their own purikura.

Nowadays, you get all sorts of purikura. Some machines have themes. I know people who prefer certain photo booths over others because they have better filters. 

Where to Find Purikura


So you’re interested in taking some purikura of your own. Where do you go to get them? Where can you find them? The better question is, where can’t you find them? They’re quite literally everywhere. I don’t think you can go a day walking around any part of Japan without coming across a few purikura booths. 

Almost every arcade in Japan has a floor dedicated to purikura machines. If you’re in Shibuya, you’ll likely spot them on the first floor. Sometimes, they’re bunched up in an area. So if you cross the street, you’ll see another group of purikura booths!

If you just want your picture taken to mark the occasion, any purikura will do. But if you’re like me and some of my friends, you want the best purikura booth. Venture around to find the one that has filters and edits you like best.

Styles of purikura booths include Harajuku-style kawaii (かわいい), princess style or hime (姫) and natural beauty. Trust me, there are others that are way more dramatic. Some places even have preparation areas for you to get ready!

How To: Purikura

Tokyo2010_MG_5722-1  Purikura

It might be pretty straightforward for some people, but others might be intimidated by purikura if it’s their first time. Don’t worry, we got you covered. We’ll guide you through how to take purikura pictures! 

Step 1: Posing for the pictures

It’s simple, really. A lot of these purikura booths suggest pose options for you. All you have to do is follow them. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to. You can go all out and pose any way you want.

There’s a timer for everything, so don’t take too long to pose. As soon as you walk in the booth, the timer begins. Usually you only have a couple of seconds before it flashes. Be quick!

You’ll usually have a green screen behind you so you can choose cute backdrops. I highly recommend to not wear anything close to the colour green.

Step 2: Edit the pictures

Don’t worry if you didn’t pose too well. You can edit yourself after the pictures have been taken. Remember when I said there’s a timer for everything? There’s a timer for editing, too. Don’t worry, it’s not a few seconds. It’s a few minutes.

But even then it’s not enough. There are so many ways to edit. You have to choose between hundreds of stickers, animal ears, time and day stamps, markers and borders. You’ll have all the privacy you need to edit behind the curtains, so don’t be shy to go crazy.

There’s really no one way to do it. That’s the best part about purikura editing.

Step 3: Print out the pictures

All that’s left to do is print. After the timer runs out, you get options on which layout you want your pictures to be printed in. Pick the one you like and wait a minute or two. It’ll be printed out and you’ll have your sticker pictures!

Usually, the booths print two copies. You can choose to cut it out and divide it among your friends or partner. If you join their rewards program, you can order a digital copy for free! This way, everyone has a version of the original.

Will you be trying purikura when you go to Japan? I have to admit that it’s one of my most favourite things to do in Japan. It’s cheap, fun and fast! On top of it all, you get to mark that special day with your friends or partner.