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!

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!

All You Need to Know About Kigurumi

All You Need to Know About Kigurumi

I bet you’ve seen the pictures on social media. Heck, I bet you’ve seen it in real life. Everything from animals to cartoon characters, it’s in the form of a onesie. This trend has been catching on even more worldwide, but did you know that it originated in Japan?

Yup, that’s right. These pyjama onesies started in Japan and now it’s a worldwide phenomenon, some say. And they’re called “kigurumi”. Now, I bet you have more questions than answers. But you’ve come to the right place. We have all the answers you have about kigurumi here. All you have to do is read on!

What is Kigurumi?

Cute Harajuku Kigurumi

The word kigurumi (着ぐるみ) comes from combining two words. The first word is kiru (着る) which means “to wear”. The other word is nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ) which means “stuffed toy”. Kigurumi refers to costumed characters, like mascots. They’re a huge part of Japanese culture, similar to how cosplay is.

Kigurumi is originally used for promotional purposes and by cosplayers. Most of the time, you get an oversized headgear in the chibi (チビ) style. Basically, you’re going to look like an anime character. You’re dressed from head to toe in a full bodysuit.

Nowadays, especially outside of Japan, it’s more widely known as animal onesies. They look and feel way more comfier than the former. If you’re invited to a kigurumi party, you’re expected to look like an animal, not an anime character.

Kigurumi, whichever type it is, is everywhere on the streets of Japan nowadays. It’s so common that it’s normal. It could be a green dinosaur onesie or a schoolgirl anime character. No one would really bat an eye at the sight.

Types of Kigurumi


So we briefly mentioned the two common variations of kigurumi. Kigurumi comes in various types: kigurumi cosplay, kigurumi masks and kigurumi pyjamas.

Kigurumi cosplay, or kigurumi kosupure (着ぐるみコスプレ) in Japanese, focuses on Japanese pop culture. People dress up in kigurumi-style costumes in the character they like. This includes anime characters as well as some American fictional characters. Common kigurumi cosplay includes Pikachu, Hello Kitty, Pokemon and anime characters. 

Sometimes, kigurumi cosplay can revolve around sex appeal, especially when it comes to anime characters. Not all the time, though. This type of kigurumi is also used for stage shows of anime both in Japan and overseas. 

Another type of kigurumi is kigurumi masks. In Japanese, this type of kigurumi is called animegao (アニメ顔) to mean “anime face”. It’s similar to the previous type we mentioned. The only difference is that this kigurumi involves only the face. The body is then dressed up in normal clothes.

Kigurumi masks started off as masquerade masks, but now has evolved to be anime characters. Now, kigurumi masks have included other types of cartoon characters like Frozen and other Disney shows.

The last type of kigurumi is kigurumi pyjamas. It involves pyjamas usually in the style of a onesie. Most of the time, the kigurumi pyjamas are in the shape of animals. This type of kigurumi is the one we see often on social media. It has become a hit in countries outside of Japan. Europe and America have embraced kigurumi pyjamas with open arms.

Kigurumi Origins


Kigurumi began in the mid-1990s. It’s said that a company called SAZAC started it all in the fashionable streets of Harajuku and Shibuya, where most Japanese subcultures are born. It was used as a simple way out of cosplay. All you had to do was wear the mascot-like outfit and you’re a walking anime character!

Some say that kigurumi could be traced back to the 1600s when kabuki (歌舞伎) and bunraku (文楽) were formed. Kabuki is a traditional and theatrical dance-drama that is still performed today. Performers wore masks and elaborate makeup to look like creatures and ghosts. Bunraku is a traditional puppet theatre performance. Puppeteers would be in black clothes with hand-made masks on.

When kigurumi took off in the 90s, so did the manufacturing of masks. Japanese entertainers like musicians and celebrities started following this trend. By the time the mid-2000s rolled around, kigurumi was the norm.

Despite the media reporting on kigurumi, it wasn’t until the early 2010s that the Western countries caught onto the trend. Now, even though kigurumi isn’t interpreted as it was originally, it’s a hyped-up Japanese trend worldwide! 

The Boom of Kigurumi Outside of Japan 


Before the late 2000s, kigurumi was merely an underground trend. The hype of the kigurumi trend in America and Europe boomed when anime and manga started to spread in these countries. People started loving Japanese media. People wanted to dress up as their favourite anime characters. 

Comic and anime conventions started becoming a regular occurrence in the West. Cosplay, the act of dressing up, started to grow. And what better way to dress up as anime characters than embracing the original kigurumi type of animegao?

Around the same time, popular shops in Japan like Don Quixote started selling “hot” and “must-have” souvenir items that include kigurumi onesies. Travellers from the West brought them back home to share with friends and family. Bloggers and influencers wrote about and posted them all over the web. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Kigurumi seems to have undergone a couple of changes throughout time. And it seems like it’s going to undergo a few more changes. Now they’re Halloween costumes, toddler sleepwear and even kigurumi accessories. What can’t this hot Japanese trend do? 

Should you use Anime To Learn Japanese? The Answer May Surprise You!

Should you use Anime To Learn Japanese? The Answer May Surprise You!

I love anime and I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this article, you at least have a passing interest in it as well. Learning to speak Japanese via any form of popular media can be quite daunting and challenging. However, it can also be very rewarding as you can learn some great new vocabulary from it as well as formal and informal uses of those same words.

That being said, it stands to reason that you shouldn’t use anime, manga, or any other form of pop culture as a strong basis for learning by itself but rather as a supplement to your regular learning habits. It should also be noted that viewers are encouraged to watch their pop culture actively complete with taking notes on new vocab words rather than passively since it won’t do you any good to only catch the gist of what the characters are actually saying.

Most of the anime on this list were chosen because they have simple sentences and words that are suitable for learners who aren’t as advanced in their studies yet. For that reason, I’m not guaranteeing that you’re going to find the titles on this list to be masterpieces of the medium.

While many experts feel that learning from pop culture should be reserved for intermediate learners, I know that there are plenty of you out there who are itching to jump right in and start learning from the media that you’re actively consuming anyway. With all, that out of the way here are some titles that you can watch right now to help you master Japanese!


Bottom Biting Bug (Oshiri Kajiri Mushi – おしりかじり虫

Aimed at a MUCH younger audience, this series of shorts (each episode only lasts about 5 minutes) originally started airing in 2012 and features a young bottom biting bug who helps people feel better both physically and emotionally by — you guessed it — biting them on the bottom. This is going to give you very basic vocab and grammar lessons but don’t expect any significantly deep plots.

© Madhouse · Broccoli / Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat Production Committee

Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat (ぱにょぱにょ デ・ジ・キャラット)

Another series of shorts aimed at a younger audience (though not quite as young as the first entry on this list), this adorable series first started airing in 2002 and ran for 48 episodes. Featuring very easy to understand plots, this is a good series to watch so long as you remember that Dejiko and her friends don’t always speak normal, everyday Japanese.

© Pierrot – Aloha Higa

Polar Bear Cafe (Shirokuma Cafe – しろくまカフェ)

The first entry on this list that isn’t a short but rather made up of full-length episodes, this 50 episode series first aired in 2012. What makes this series so good to watch isn’t just that the characters are adorable and stories are simple but the puns! Every so often, Polar Bear will break out a string of Japanese puns which are not only hilarious but also great for picking up new vocab that comes complete with visual cues.

© Madhouse – Kanata Konami

Chi’s Sweet Home (チーズスイートホーム)

A cute seinen (a genre aimed at adult men) series about a kitty cat? Sign me up! First appearing in anime form back in 2008, this title features many short sentences that are easy to pick up on so even beginner Japanese learners should be able to pick up valuable new words from this series.

© Doga Koba – Takayuki Mizushina

Lovely Muuuuuuuco! (ラブリームービー いとしのムーコ)

Not a cat person? Got you covered! This series is all about an adorable pet dog named Muco. Originally airing in 2013, this anime is similar to Chi’s Sweet Home in that it has a lot of simple, short dialogue.

© Nippon Animation – Momoko Sakura

Chibi Maruko-chan (ちびまる子ちゃん)

This slice of life comedy series has been running almost solidly since 1990! A family series, it follows the daily life of elementary school student Maruko-chan. Conversational Japanese is what you’re going to get from this series the most so be sure to jot down those notes with this one.


Non Non Biyori (のんのんびより)

Another relaxing slice of life series from recent history (it first started airing in 2013), this is a series that has become pretty popular among fans of the genre. Featuring a group of young girls of various ages who live far out in the country, this is another series to pick up light-hearted conversational Japanese.

©Toei Animation – Izumi Todo

Pretty Cure (Futari wa PreCure – ふたりはプリキュア)

No list is ever complete without at least one mahou shoujo (magical girl) series and this is one of the most popular in Japan! First airing in 2004, this series has spawned literally over a dozen sequels and movies. Aimed at young girls (though it’s famous for appealing to older fans as well), this might not provide you with tons of useful new vocabulary words (unless you plan on moving to Japan to become a crime-fighting magical girl. No judgment.) this is still a good series to pick up some basic conversation skills.

There you go, learners! Eight titles that you can go forth right now and check out for yourselves! Have a fantastic rest of your month everyone and join me again next month when I reveal even more anime titles that you can use to supplement your studies.

What Is Gachapon? Japan’s Totally Kawaii Capsule Toys!

What Is Gachapon? Japan’s Totally Kawaii Capsule Toys!

There’s nowhere like Japan for toys and collectables. This country has everything from your favourite cartoon character figurines to silly knick-knacks. If you’re wondering where the best and cheapest place to get them at is, the answer is: gachapon.

These capsule machines are popular nationwide. Now, its fame has spread overseas. People are intrigued by this idea of machines with cute toys in them, and only for pennies! Anime lovers and Japanophiles, you’re going to want to stick around. Everything you need to know about Japan’s one-of-a-kind capsule toys is just a scroll away!

What is gachapon?

Aisles of Gochapon!

So, what exactly is it? In short, gachapon is a coin-operated machine that dispenses a toy when a coin enters the machine. This word can also refer to the capsule toys themselves. The term actually comes from the sound that the dispenser makes when cranking the knob of the machine (“gasha”). Combine that with the sound of the thud when the capsule toy dispenses (“pon”). Gachapon is also sometimes known as gachapon. “Gasha” and “gacha” are both onomatopoeiae of the sound.

These capsule toys are usually ¥100 to ¥500. They’re not expensive at all! The catch is that you don’t get to choose what you get. It’s a surprise. You’ll be able to see a range of what each machine offers, though. There would be a picture at the front of the machine. If there are five options, your chances of getting the one you like are roughly 20%.

These toys that are in gachapon machines aren’t just silly toys that you’re going to throw away the next day. For both children and adults, these toys are high-quality and sometimes limited-edition goods. Collectors go crazy for them.

There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get what you want. Because of that, customers keep coming back until they complete their set.

Gachapon origins

Gachpon store!

The outlook of gachapons resembles the likes of gumball machines and vending machines in the West. One might assume that that’s where it came from. But that’s all the similarities between them. The gachapon we know and love is all thanks to Ryuzo Shigeta.

Back in the 60s, Shigeta wanted to improve a vending machine he got from the United States. He decided to put each item in a plastic container and tested it out. It was a huge hit! And the rest is history. Today, there are almost half a million gachapon in Japan alone, and the numbers are only rising.

Types of gachapon toys

Pokemon themes capsule toys

So, what kind of toys can you get from gachapon? I hate to break it to you, but the question should be, “what toys can’t we get?” You can quite literally get anything from one of these machines. The most common types of toys you’d find in gachapon machines are small figurines of anime characters and Japanese pop culture products. Magnets and keychains are really common, too. There are others that offer miniature versions of games like Crocodile Teeth (I have one myself).

Gochapon toys

Don’t be surprised if you find a gachapon that gives you underwear or something similarly weird. I’ve seen a couple that’s covered with black paper and has the red “over 18 only” sign. I didn’t bother finding out what that was…
You will also be able to find machines that offer miniature versions of everyday items like furniture and condiments. You can build your own miniature house! These machines offer limited run products and the stock changes quite frequently. Customers are always back to see what new things they can add to their collection.
Honestly, listing out every single gachapon toy is impossible. There’s always something new brewing. I have no doubt a new type of gachapon machine is in the works as we speak.

Where to find gachapon?

Gochapon machines

So where can you find these gachapons? You don’t really have to look for long to find one. Most of the time, you can find gachapons outside stores on random streets throughout the whole country. If you’re not in the mood to stroll around, arcades definitely have them. Stores that sell manga, anime, games and electronics would have them nearby as well.

If you’re really in pursuit of them, Japan’s capital city Tokyo is the best place to start. It’s basically the mecca of gachapons with rows and rows of those machines. Tokyo Station has Tokyo Gachapon Street, where there are more than 50 unique gachapon machines lined up. Here, there’s everything from anime and manga character figurines to random trinkets.

Akiharabara is another gachapon heaven. This neighbourhood is famous for its abundant anime and manga shops. Little do people know it’s also one of the best spots for gachapon. At Akiharabara Gachapon Kaikan, there are over 500 gachapon machines for your choosing. Every month, the stocks and designs change. This is the place that has the biggest variety of gachapon toys!

You could also pop by Akihabara Radio Kaikan. On the fifth floor, there’s a shop of one of the most well-known companies for anime figurines. Called Kaiyodo, it has over 60 capsule toy machines and have quite the range of toys. Look out for collaboration items that you can only get here!

Osaka’s go-to spot for gachapon is in the Nipponbashi area. In and amongst the other shopping attractions, you’ll find dozens of gachapon machines of the most popular types out there.

Long story short, gachapon machines are everywhere. You won’t leave Japan without coming across a few rows at least once a day for your entire trip.

Gachapon has quite the significance in Japanese culture. Getting capsule toys from these machines are not only a unique experience but they make great souvenirs. They’re cheap, high-quality and one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re an anime lover or just interested interested in all things Japan, be sure to include gachapon on your Japan to-do list!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Kaijuu Eiga

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Vocab Recap

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

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

Manga (漫画) — Japanese comic or graphic novels

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

onsen (温泉) — hot springs

Ryokan (旅館) — traditional Japanese inn

Sugoi (すごい) — great or amazing

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

Chanbara (チャンバラ) — sword fight films

Rōnin (浪人) — a samurai without a lord

Kaiju (怪獣) — films that feature giant monsters

Eiga (映画) — movie

Eigakan (映画館) — movie theatre

Tokusatsu (特撮) — films with special effects 

Kame (かめ) — turtle 

Yakuza (ヤクザ) — Japanese gangsters

Ninkyo (任侠) — chivalry

Giri (義理) — duty

Ninjo (人情) — empathy/emotions

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

Best Sports Anime

Best Sports Anime


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

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

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

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

1. Kuroko no Basuke

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

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

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

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

2. Haikyuu

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

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

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

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

3. Prince of Stride

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

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

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

4. Yuri!!! On Ice

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

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

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

5. Chihayafuru

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

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

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

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

6. Free!

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

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

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

7. Prince of Tennis

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

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

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

8. Yowamushi Pedal

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

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

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

9. Hajime-no Ippo

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

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

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

10. Captain Tsubasa

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

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

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


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

10 Common Japanese Reaction Phrases

10 Common Japanese Reaction Phrases


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

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

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

1. “Ehhhhhh?” (えーーーーー?)

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

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

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

2. Uwaa! (うわ〜!)

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

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

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

3. Uso? (うそー?)

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

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

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

4. Sugoi ne! (すごいね!)

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

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

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

5. Suge! (すげー!)

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

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

6. Maji?/Majide? (まじ?/まじで?)

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

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

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

7. Honto? (本当?)

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

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

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

8. A-! (あー!)

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

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

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

9. Sounano? (そうなの?)

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

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

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

10. Are? (あれ?)

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

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

The Wrap-up

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

Anime to Supplement Your Japanese Studies – Nov 2018

Anime to Supplement Your Japanese Studies – Nov 2018

Last month we published a list of eight different anime that you can use to help supplement your Japanese studies. And apparently, you loved it so we’re going to do it again! Here is a list of MORE anime you can use to supplement your Japanese language skills.


Soreike! Anpanman (それいけ!アンパンマン)

First appearing as a series of children’s books in 1973 (which ran all the way until the author’s death in 2013), Anpanman made his debut as an anime aimed at young children in 1988. Since that time, it has gone on to produce over a dozen movies with the most recent one, Soreike! Anpanman Kagayake! Kurun to Inochi no Hoshi, premiering in Japanese theaters on June 30, 2018. As with most of the other series that have appeared in this article series, you won’t be getting a masterpiece of the medium when you watch this but rather basic listening comprehension skills.


Chirubii (チルビー)

This is another children’s show, however, don’t expect a ton from this series. It has very simple animation (it’s more of a picture book that comes with audio) but will still aid you in your studies with very simple Japanese that even beginners can follow.


Sazae-san (サザエさん)

You want to talk about One Piece having lasting power? It’s got nothing compared to this series! First premiering in 1969, Sazae-san has been running steadily ever since with over 3,000 EPISODES to date! Based off a manga which ran from 1946 to 1974, this series follows a family’s daily lives in the suburbs of Japan.

Crayon Shin-chan

Crayon Shin-chan (クレヨンしんちゃん)

Another series based off a manga that has a long history, Shin-chan is about a troublesome youth who just wants to have fun but in the process creates nothing but trouble for his parents and teachers. Since it’s debut in 1992, the series has aired over 800 episodes and has launched 26 movies (the most recent of which premiered in Japanese theaters in April 2018). One word of warning: Shin-chan is a very rude little boy so you would be wise to NOT copy his speech exactly unless you want to come across like a major jerk.


K-ON! (けいおん!)

Finally, we come to a series that ISN’T aimed at children! Admittedly a lot of the vocab you’ll be picking up from this series is music based (it’s about a high school light music club after all) but you never know when those words are going to come in handy in daily conversation!

That’s it for this month! Do you have a favorite anime that helped you learn Japanese? Share them in the comments and let’s discuss!