My fiancee made the (very valid) point that my post are too text heavy. I do prefer the feel of some of my older posts, so I’m going to try to apply more graphics to each article. I also have a dearth of photos from my time in the land of the rising sun. This will be first of several post where I display said photos, and tell whatever stories may be attached to them.
There is something about castles that rouses a child-like excitement in me. Youthful fantasies of knights, dragons, samurai, and ninja clashing in grand battles dance in my head. The dreams are something akin to Game of Thrones on LSD. I am constantly amazed at how amidst bustling, modern Japanese cities grand traditional structures like these castles rise out. The old and the new complementing each other more than contrasting. They balance each other out, and give each other space in a land where space is at a premium.
I visited Osaka Castle and Nijo Castle on my initial stay in Japan. When I returned, every one of my Japan faring friends asked if I visited Himeji Castle. I had not. Osaka Castle and Nijo Castle are marvelous in their own right, but it is difficult to compare them with Himeji Castle. One of the few castles to remain unscathed by the ravages of natural disaster or war (especially the second world one.) The interior is maintained just as it was in the castle’s prime, contrary to many castle that were converted into museums. It is also the largest and arguably most beautiful castle remaining in Japan.
On my next experience in Japan I set Himeji Castle at the top of my bucket list. On a warm summer’s day I set out from Kobe to the Himeji by rail. Exiting the station, I set off down the main road. At the road’s end stood Himeji Castle, ascending like some glorious statuesque mountain of white marble. The backdrop of the brilliant azure summer sky seemed almost dull in comparison. This is why they call the castle the White Crane.
Even on a week day this monument drew admirers. Passing through the outer gate I noted the children, the bohemians, and the fellow tourists. Greetings were made by an actor styled as a ninja. Photos were taken depicting my untimely demise. I entered the outer courtyard, ringed with cherry trees. Even out of bloom the trees painted a tranquil landscape in emerald and auburn. The courtyard was dotted with couples and pet owners. Dogs frolicked in the grass while one unique sight caught my eye.
A tall, young, Japanese man with a thin goatee, in khaki shorts, white polo, and fisherman’s hat stood excitedly encouraging his pet. “Banzai!” he would shout, throwing his arms in the air. “Ganbare!” he exclaimed as his little pet turtle trotted along carefree.
I don’t know why this man chose to bring his turtle to Himeji Castle. At the same time, I don’t know any reason he shouldn’t. Perhaps his turtle was lethargic at home. Maybe he feared his turtle grew depressed and needed inspiration. I like to believe that is the case. I like to believe he brought his turtle to the castle and said “Look at this my hard shelled friend. This castle has stood for hundreds of years. It is the jewel of our city. Just because you have a hard shell, does not mean you must have a hard heart.” Seeing this, the turtle elated. He saw a kindred spirit and a senpai in the castle.
He saw something to aspire toward.
If you’re reading this blog, it’s a safe assumption that you have some interest in Japan and it’s culture. While there are many books on Japan, most focus on history, politics, or special interests. There are countless books on kendo, the tea ceremony, ninjutsu, the Warring States Period, and the rotating turnstile of prime ministers. There aren’t terribly many that detail the day to day intricacies of life and the culture. Probably for the same reason there aren’t many on the day to day intricacies of American life. Who would want to read about something so ordinary and common sense? But what is common sense for some is fantastic for others. My previous post on Japanese dating culture received a bit of positive feedback, and I intend on writing more articles in that vein. Something along the lines of everything no one tells you about Japan.
However, it is always good to have multiple sources on any topic of interest. Don’t believe everything you read, as they say. Corroborating information strengthens any statement. So while I would like my readers to trust me, some cautious optimism is best applied. I’m human, I make mistakes and I sometimes misunderstand things. For that very reason I would encourage you to seek out more literature on Japanese culture.
21st Century Japan: A New Sun Rising by Trevor W. Harrison
An excellent account of Japan’s more recent history and the country’s growth into its current global role. His discussion of Japan’s military and geopolitical struggles are especially worthy of note.
Japanese Culture by H. Paul Varley
This book deals with Japanese cultural history, primarily in the realm of the arts. A bit dry but a very informative read. A good book for building a foundation of understanding on the culture.
A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony by Hector Garcia
Titles like this normally don’t lend themselves to books of such quality. I was surprised at how accurate, well thought out, and concise a writing on the cultures and sub-cultures detailed of Japan. This book supplies an excellent primer to the life style of your average Japanese student, office worker, and many more. While many similar writings try to define the culture by a Western perspective, Hector Garcia does an excellent job of objectively presenting the reality faced by each facet of the population.
For more current and interactive information, the Something Awful web forum has a Japan thread run by an active group of ex-pats in numerous careers throughout Japan that discuss the culture and their experiences. The individuals on the forum are generally well spoken and well informed, discussing a broad range of topics.
Written May 12th
I had an interview last Thursday. The interview was with a Japanese mobile gaming company that I will not name. The division I was interviewing for primarily develops romance and dating simulation games, targeting women. This is interesting to me for a number of reasons.
One major reason is because there currently is no market for dating simulation games in the US. This could be taken one of two ways. One, this is an untapped niche market that nearly needs the right approach to be unleashed. Two, culturally the concept is incompatible and there is no interest (or not enough) to be economically viable to develop such games in the US. I’m leaning more towards the second, but I’m not 100% on that. My reasoning is that fan translations and imports of dating simulation games do exist, but they are a very small market and not one that pours a lot of money into their hobby (at least not to my knowledge.) These are primarily members of the otaku community, and primarily men.
The second portion of intrigue is who would be the target demographic. My fiancée is of the belief that given the rise of otaku culture in the US, the otaku community would be it. While I’m sure there would be some interest there, I’m convinced it’s still far too small to profit from. Those who are more than casually interested in otaku culture in the US are a small percentage, and it’s a small percentage within that group who are interested in dating simulation games. This is a very niche community.
I am of the opinion that targeting fans of Twilight will garner success. Twilight fans are sizable portion of the population. They are mostly female, primarily young teenagers, preteens, and a smattering of housewives. This demographic is very similar to the target audience in Japan. Additionally, these people have expendable income, enjoy romantic fantasies, and tend to enjoy pretty boys. They are social media conscious, but not in a social situation where they can live out their romantic fantasies, and thus seek out escapism. If the books are any indication, they also prefer a more passive role, and making choices about men who seek out them. I say this in contrast to the more active social mingling that relationships are otherwise formed from (meeting people at bars, parties, dances, etc.). Going back to the not being in a social situation to seek out their romantic fantasy (either due to being shy, rather young, married, or the fact dating can be complicated) being sought after may be more appealing to this demographic. I think they would love dating sims.
This brings me to my point of primary interest. Japanese dating culture functions very differently than Western dating culture. I asked about this in my interview, and how the company is accommodating for the cultural differences. I was given an off-hand “localization is handling that” response that leads me to believe that the company isn’t very aware of the differences. Not surprising and very forgivable as even people in cross cultural relationships aren’t always aware of the differences.
Actions aren’t much of an issue as they can be explained away. For example, kokuhaku (the confession of love made when seeking a relationship) can easily be adapted, and it isn’t terribly outside norms for American dating. That’s no problem. It’s more the unspoken rules, which so much Japanese culture rests upon. Applying them in such a game may seem like arbitrary punishment and frustrate the user. For Americans, maybe you like a person as more than a friend and you want to express that. So you kiss them, as it clearly defines you are interested in them as more than friends. That is normal. If you know your crush is spending time with a friend of the opposite gender, it might make you jealous. So long as they’re just friends, though, it’s okay. You have to have trust.
That isn’t the case with Japanese culture. Japanese couples don’t kiss until they’ve established the relationship as boyfriend – girlfriend. If you’re interested in someone, you don’t spend time with a different person of the opposite sex (even if you are just friends.) These would be very normal actions for an American man or woman. For Japanese these are the actions of a playboy, or player. Such a person is uncommitted and not to be trusted. How are the users to know about these cultural nuances? Should they be applied or modified for the American market? I believe this will have an impact on how well the games are received.
I, however, am not the target demographic. My perspective is one of an outsider and while I have no interest in such games I am interested in seeing how they are received. I’ll be keeping an eye on this matter, and seeing how it proceeds. I’m wishing all good fortune to the company.
Written May 3, 2013
I decided to move back to the US. Well, I decided to do that a while ago. I’ve already moved back to the US. My fiancée and I agreed it is better that I come here first and set up house before she comes over. Right, I’m engaged now, too. It really has been a long time since I last posted, hasn’t it?
I arrived in San Francisco last week. Being back in the US is so surreal. Like I’m in a dream on the verge of waking, brushed with a sense of déjà vu. Everything is familiar but strange. Kinda hazy.
American money still feels weird to me. Bills are all the same size, and so many coins of so little value. I keep trying to pay with quarters and then realize that would be kind of dickish. And it’s all so fragrant.
I keep forgetting tax isn’t included in prices. I’ll have the amount ready and then – oh, another eighteen cents? Hold on a moment. Well, okay, yeah. Just take it out of the five. Now I have another handful of quarters and pennies. At least I haven’t forgotten to tip yet.
Breasts. Of so many sizes and shapes. Well, really just variations on one shape. But they have heft and bounce and are partly exposed. I’m only now realize how much I’ve been starved for the sight of cleavage. Call me a chauvinist or a pervert, but I’m just realizing how conservative the clothing of Tokyo was, and scale of difference between the mammaries of Japan and the US. It warms my heart.
Lots more cars, far fewer trains. The cars with mustaches confused the hell out of me at first. I miss hopping on the train and just going anywhere. But taxis are reasonable option here, and many if my friends have cars and can give me a ride. There’s just more space out here for cars.
Oh and how there is space. I feel like I’ve been let out of a bodice three sizes to small. On the one hand, I feel like it takes longer to do small errands because everything is spread out. On the other hand, I don’t feel so agitated by the constant crowd of people.