One of the things any pop Japanoligist can tell you about are the Japanese traditions of tatemae and honne (TAH-tay-MAH-eh and HON-neh), two concepts which are woven into the fabric of Japan's society. Tatemae, meaning "facade," represents the the ideas expressed in public, or the way we pretend society is, while honne is the way we really feel, or the way the world really is. Ever since coming to Japan I've heard a lot about kokusai-ka, a word that means "internationalization" and which supposedly represents Japan's desire to open up to the rest of the world and experience other cultures and new ways of solving problems. Frankly, I've always felt that this was a prime example of tatemae in action -- something that sounds good in a newspaper article but is meaningless in practice -- since the average Japanese, just like the average American or Korean or Frenchman, has a natural tendency to believe that the way things are done in their country is intrinsically better than anywhere else. However, I was surprised to find a little honne after all, when my daughter told me the kinds of international foods they've been dishing up at lunchtime at her public elementary school: Korean bibinbap rice bowl, Indian kima curry with naan, Italian focaccio bread, French mille-feuille for dessert, and so on. The idea is to improve the kids' minds by exposing them to various foods from around the world, and I think it's a great one.
Sadly, one of the major economic themes of Japan today is the triumph of inefficiency. When you drive past road construction, there are sure to be several men whose job it is to stand by the road with orange flashlights, ostensibly directing traffic even though everyone ignores them. Then there are the ever-present "parking old men" who do nothing more than stand in parking lots and direct you to a parking spot that you could have easily found yourself. Japan is a very cash-centric country, and personal checks (or cheques, for our European readers -- internationalization!) don't exist here at all. When individuals or businesses need to send money to someone, they usually go to the bank and execute a manual bank transfer (furikomi), paying a $6 fee to the bank for this privilege. And just today I saw another classic example of inefficiency: people who are paid to sit by the side of the road and click a clicker as cars drive by, to count the numbers of cars using a given road at a set time. Japan is supposed to be a technically advanced country, so why don't they come up with a high-tech device that can do this?
Just a heads up: J-List stocks virtually every PC dating-sim game in English, including older classics like the Himeya games, Hobibox's Viper series and Love Love Show, and the collection of three classic games by G-Collections, DOR. Several games are close to selling out, so if you're a collector of Japan's unique H-games, you might consider picking them up before they go.
Pictures from my trip to Tokyo, hopefully with improved quality since I am using a camera now, not my phone. Thi sis the famous Yama-no-te loop line that goes around Tokyo.
Ad for Nova, the English school that promises you a "study abroad experience without leaving your local train station area."
Some parts of Tokyo are new and spiffy, like Shinjuku and Shibuya. Then there are the old places, which can't have changed that much in the past 50 years. Asakusa-bashi is one such place.
They've made a branch of the Yoyogi Animation School in Akihabra -- smart move.
Wanted!! Pinky Street...