Coronavirus in Japan and myths

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Coronavirus disease 2019, otherwise known as codvid-19 is already becoming the greatest world-wide emergency many of us have ever known. 

What is just as scary as the virus itself is surplux of information, given by almost anyone and everyone, regardless of who accurate or inaccurate it is. 

That’s why I’m going to join the frey and give my 2 cents about a lot of stuff I thought would be common sense. 

However, most of what I’m saying also isn’t “fact”. 


Don’t worry – it doesn’t have a death rate like SARS, so no big deal.

Wrong. The virus spreads much more easier than the SARS virus, so while the death rate is lower, the potential for death can be much higher. And SARS was a huge deal, anyway… 

So what? Influenza has killed far more people this year alone. 

Wrong. The damage of one virus doesn’t deminish the damage of another. Influenza has been around for a while and there are vaccines. The most dangerous thing about the corona virus is the potential it has. It’s still in it’s early days but it could take over the world and kill millions (potentially). 

Masks don’t work. 

Wrong. While there effect may be limited or may even have an inverse effect if used incorrectly, they surely have some – even if small –  protection against the virus. Even if it doesn’t, if everyone wears them, it is very likely to reduce the spread of the virus. 

This will all blow over when summer comes.

Wrong. There is no evidence, that like influenza, the hot weather will stop the spread of the virus. Don’t believe me? Ask Australia. 

Buy all the toilet roll you can – there is a world-wide shortage.

Wrong. Toilet roll is one of the less likely things to suddenly be in shortage. Toilet roll already has an extremely stable demand by virtually everyone. This means the amount of toilet roll being produced is already enough to supply the world. However, panic buying has caused a huge surge the purchace of neccesities such as toilet roll, meaning shops and stores soon run out of stock. The sudden demand is putting pressure on logistics rather than production. 

The desease is here because the Chinese eat bats. 

Wrong. It is currently unproved (although suspected by some) that the origin of the virus was from bats. It is also unknown if was passed onto or from bats from a different animal. 

Japan isn’t testing people so they can carry out the olympics. 

Wrong. While Japan has carried out less tests than other countries, they have still carried out tens of thousands of tests. Japan is currently only those who are considered to be possible infected (rather than just anyone with a fever). And while it is possible to keep down the number of recorded cases by doing fewer tests, it would be much harder to hide the number of deaths caused by the virus. 



When is 5G Technology Coming to Japan?

What actually is ‘5G’?

5G stands for ‘fifth generation’ (of mobile communications networks). 5G is rumoured to be 10-100 times faster than the current 4G networks that we use on our phones to browse the internet and watch online videos. Such a huge increase in speed is expected to lead to being able to load 4K videos on your phone, as well as paving the way for a potentially unlimited number of technological advancements such as automated cars.

While 4G works on the frequency spectrum ranging from 2–6Ghz, 5G
will work on the frequency spectrum of 30–300 GHz, creating much faster speeds for a much high number of devices.

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Is 5G safe?

From a health perspective, the long-term effects of constantly being exposed to such forms of radiation is unknown, but many consider such low frequencies to have little to no effect on the body.

From the perspective of a government, however, such huge amounts of data could lead to data leakages, spying, and a bunch of other problems. Which is why the USA and a bunch of other countries are outlawing HUAWEI 5G over concerns that the Chinese government could force the third largest mobile phone company to hand over sensitive data.

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When is it Coming and Will it Work?

Japan is considered to be one of the first countries to implement 5G technology on a country-wide basis. The country hopes to have implemented most of the systems by 2019 – just in time for the Olympic games, which would allow many people to watch the events in 4k (incredibly high-definition) TV.

Changing from 4G to 5G is no simple task. 5G runs on much higher frequencies than 4G, which means it is harder for 5G signals to pass through buildings. This means large upgrades to the current 4G structure will be required to provide a stable service for the whole country. Not only this, but the government is urging communication companies not to use Chinese equipment when rolling out the service. SoftBank, one of Japan’s top three phone companies currently has around 1/3 of it’s 4G network running on HUAWEI equipment.

Golden Week – When, How Long, and Why?

What is Golden Week?

If you’re living in Japan, there’s no doubt you’ve heard about the once-in-a-lifetime super 10-day Golden week holiday this year! For those who don’t know much about it, Golden week refers to the last week in April/first week in May where several national holidays are all lumped together. 

The term ‘Golden week’ was apparently coined by the film industry in the 1950s when revenues spiked due to most of the country having time off work and school. During this week, you should expect restaurants, museums, and other recreational activities to be crowded and full of customers. However, there’s no need to start stocking up on tinned goods – most of the service industry (hotels, convenience stores, supermarkets, etc.) will be open for some or even all of the duration of the holiday.

When is Golden Week and why is it Special this Year? 

This year’s ‘super’ golden week will be from the 27th of April until the 6th of May. Teachers, students, and office workers will likely get a whopping 10-days off, but you check with your company first. 

Why so Long?

As well as the usual national holidays (Showa Day, Greenery Day, Constitutional Memorial Day, Children’s Day), this year Japan also gets days off when the emperor abdicates the throne and when his son, the crown prince succeeds the throne. 

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How to Cope?

While the idea of 10 days of is the highlight of the year to many, for some people, it means a lower wage or even longer and busier work hours. To help counter this, the Japanese government is thinking about giving extra funding to daycare centers, as well as paying for some employees to have their days off compensated. The government is also considering what the best way to deal with services that cannot easily take days off, such as garbage collection/disposal, hospitals, and nursing homes, etc.

For those planning to visit popular tourist areas, you should expect long delays and queues, and many companies to be closed or running on Sunday hours. For those visiting or leaving Japan, expect hotels and plane flights to be at peak prices (although flights into Japan during the start of Golden week may not be too bad since most of the people will be leaving, not returning at this point). 

Other than that, think ahead, make reservations where possible, and enjoy a whopping 10 days off! 



Manga Translation Battle Vol. 7 – Huge Prizes and A Trip to Japan

Manga Translation Battle Volume 7

Have you heard of the Manga Translation Battle? It’s a great competition that is completely free to enter and has huge prizes. You can choose one of three manga to translate (or you can even enter three times with each manga). The winner for each manga will win a 50,000 yen ($500) value prize of your choice and the grand winner will win a 100,000 yen ($1000) prize of their choice, plus a free trip to Japan! The deadline for entries is the 5th of November.

This year’s three chosen manga are as follows:

egg star

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A boy lives on a tiny planet with a flower as his only companion. He follows the flower’s advice and gets on a comet that takes him to Japan. He makes friends, finds work, and overall his life goes well. But one day, he hits a big wall. He doesn’t comprehend feelings that are normal to everyone else.


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Keiichi Osada is 26 years old and unemployed. Once, he spots his former boss in the street. He runs away from him and hides in a bar where he meets Miyako, a kimono-wearing Kyoto beauty. She likes ghost stories and is thrilled to hear strange accounts involving Keiichi’s ex-boss. Keiichi instantly falls in love with Miyako, but …?

Holmes of Kyoto (Light novel)

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The antique shop Kura can be found on Kyoto’s Teramachi Sanjo shopping street. High school girl Mashiro Aoi ends up with a part-time job at Kura after a chance meeting the owner’s grandson, Yagashira Kiyotaka. Together, she and Kiyotaka–the keen-minded “Holmes of Kyoto”–end up taking all kinds of strange requests that come to the shop!



Is It Worth Entering?

This year, I’m going to enter a translation for ‘egg star’. It’s the shortest and easiest to translate piece, meaning the competition for it will be pretty tough. I imagine the best odds would be to translate the light novel ‘Holmes of Kyoto’ since the difficulty and length will put a lot of people off.

Even with JLPT 1 and nearly a year’s worth of manga translating experience, I’m not entering to win – the level is just too high. If you imagine the number of manga translating groups (groups can enter) around the world who regularly translate new manga each week to amazing levels for free, plus all the professional translators who wish to put their name out there… as you can imagine, the level of translations is professional.

For me, simply getting past the initial screening and becoming a finalist would be a great achievement. But it’s not all about winning, why not enter as a way to improve your Japanese! When you translate, you look at the same sentence and try to figure out different meanings, nuances, and translations. This is actually a really great way to improve your Japanese (as well as translating skills).

This is only my second time entering and I am far from being a pro, but if I was to give some advice to someone trying it for the first time, it would be this:

The most difficult part of translating manga for the competition is finding a balance of loyalty to the manga while putting in enough of your own originality. If 100 applicants translate it exactly as is, and 1 applicant changes the nuance in one or two places but manages to put in his own originality – who do you think will win? Aim to stand out from the crowd while trying to capture the true essence of the manga, aiming for translations that aren’t only natural – but are also interesting to read.

For more information on the competition, click here and visit the website directly.

Japan vs Poland – A unique but disappointing game?

Today, group H’s Japan and Poland played their last match of the group stages. With Poland in last place, going through to the final 16 was already impossible. For Japan, however, it was a different story.

Ideally, a win or even a draw for Japan would have been good, since Japan’s spot on the group leaderboard relied heavily upon the Senegal vs Colombia game.

In the 59th minute, Poland’s Bednarik scored a goal. This put Japan in a difficult spot – they needed at least a draw to go through. Japan’s attempts always came up short, though.

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The Samurai Blue, although not playing great, got some luck. Colombia scored vs Senegal in the 74th minute. This put Japan just barely in second, ahead only due to a lower number of cards that Senegal. 

With Japan just scrapping into second place in group H, instead of trying to win back the game, Japan played around with the ball until the match was over. Winning by 1-0, Poland also played around with the ball. Neither team particularly aiming to score. This ended up being a bizarre last 10 minutes where both teams were content to pass the ball back and forth, with few attempts to score a goal. 

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What did the Japanese think of the Blue Samurai performance? 

While some are just thankful that Japan has made it to the last 16, other’s were not so impressed. 

The second half of the game wasn’t interesting. For the last part, I was watching the Colombia vs Senegal game where Senegal was desperetately trying to score but lost. All the while, Japan and Poland were passing the ball round in circles. Apologise to Senegal, team Japan. – たーくん via Twitter. 

Japan got carried away winning against a 10-man Colombia, thinking they could win the group. Instead, it didn’t look like any goals would be scored, so they bought time passing the ball about because Senegal was losing to Colombia. Are you happy about progressing by showing us such a pathetic match, team Japan? せなるーん via twitter.

Do you think that after this match, Japan’s teams are worthy of the name ‘Samurai Blue – or do you think all is fair love and war?


Return of the Mysterious Razor Clam?

The Ariake Sea is one of Japan’s largest tide-lands, located in Kyushu. It once was common to find a unique clam living here – the agemaki (Chinese razor clam). That was until 30-years ago, where huge numbers mysteriously died – wiping out the clam from the area. That was until now – for the first time in 22-years, the Chinese razor clam has been caught by fisherman of the area.


Queues out the door for razor clams?

As expected, the clams hitting the shelves for the first time in over 2 decades, the queues to buy the clam were over a 100 people long!


I often ate them as a child. It’s really nostalgic  (queing customer). 


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In Japanese, the name is taken from it’s long, thin shape that used to resemble the haircut of boys in ancient times. So ancient in the history of the razor clam, that there is evidence they were eaten up to 8000 years ago in Japan.

Despite such a long history, fishermen went from catching 100-700 tons per year – to almost none. The reason behind why such an incredible number of clams suddenly died is still unknown.

Actions are now being taken to make sure these clams stay for good. combined with new technology that allows for mass-farming. Could the Chinese razor clam be a new regular on the Japanese dinner table?


22-years later, razor clam fishing reopened

After over 2 decades, razor clam fishing started again this month. With over 60kg of clams caught be the fishermen pictured, it’s thought that more and more will set their eyes back on the razor clam.


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But it’s not all clear sailing for fishermen yet. The sudden return of the clams does not mean fisherman are allowed to freely fish. Nor that the clams will stick around and repopulate. In addition, from next month, the area will be a no-fishing zone.

How Japan Perfectly Predicted an Earthquake: “Slow Slip”

In the early hours of the morning (12th of June), Chiba prefecture was hit by a magnitude 4.9 (Shindo 3) earthquake. While this level of earthquake is not rare, the interesting thing is how Japan’s earthquake committee warned that an earthquake was imminent in that exact area the day before it occurred.  


“They predicted it!” – Twitter goes wild

At around 5 am in the morning, a magnitude 3 earthquake hit off the coast from Chiba prefecture. Soon after, Twitter users started tweeting about the prediction.

“It was an earthquake prediction.”

“It’s the first time I’ve known when an earthquake is going to come.” 

These tweets came flooding in when the earthquake committee predicted a larger than usual earthquake just off the coast of Chiba the very day before it occurred.


What is a “Slow Slip”?

How was an earthquake predicted a whole day before it occurred? The key to this is known as a ‘slow slip’. Japan’s ocean tectonic plate slowly slid below the plate above it where the majority of Japan is located – this phenomenon is known as the “slow slip”.

Because the movement causes no major quakes as the plates slowly move, it has become known as a “slow earthquake”. This month, there has been a large number of tiny earthquakes in Chiba that can’t be felt under normal circumstances.

Thanks to GPS, a movement of 1 cm between the two plates were noticed. This lead to the earthquake committee judging that this was, in fact, a “slow slip”.

These slow slips are recorded every few years in Chiba prefecture and almost always, a relatively large earthquake follows. It was these previous earthquakes that have allowed scientists to study the patterns to help earthquake prediction. 

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The truth behind the prediction

While many netizens claim the earthquake was predicted, the chairman of the earthquake committee stated that this was in no way a true prediction of an earthquake. It was simply the fact that within the last 60 years, 7 such “slow slips” have occurred, where a larger than usual earthquake follows between a few days to a week later. Therefore, the committee decided upon warning of a high possibility that an earthquake would hit Chiba.



Can animals predict earthquakes?

The incident sparked interest in netizens about whether animals can sense if an earthquake is near or not.

“When there are no mosquitos, does that mean an earthquake could come”?

“Do bears coming down from the mountain have anything to do with earthquakes?”

However, the chairman of the committee stated that “the behavior and movements of animals and insects depend largely on the climate, weather, and other various factors – so it is difficult to scientifically say if there is any truth in it.”


The 2011 major Tohoku earthquake showed signs of a “slow slip”?

It is not only in Chiba such earthquakes occur. The Tohoku earthquake that occurred 7 years ago that caused a tsunami that killed thousands also showed signs of a slow slip. It was reported that around 1 month before the earthquake occurred, there was a point where a “slow slip” occurred.

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What does this mean for the future of predicting earthquakes?

Unfortunately, just because a “slow slip” occurs, there will not necessarily be a large earthquake afterward. Furthermore, even in cases where a “slow slip” occurs, we do not always have the equipment to be able to detect them. While earthquake prediction is a difficult feat the human race has not yet accomplished – research as the “slow slip” could get us closer to that goal. Perhaps sometime soon, the amount of earthquake “predictions” will vastly increase.  

New Minpaku Law Will Allow Easier Stays in Traditional Japanese Houses

What is the Minpaku Law?

This new bit of legislation that comes into effect on the 15th of June and allows people to rent out houses for guests staying short-term much more easily than before (a maximum of 6 months). There will be no limitations on the type of housing that one can apply and there is no need for the owners to live on the premises to rent it out.


This may lead to small apartments being rented out throughout Tokyo and the rest of Japan that could compete with the hotel industry. With the Tokyo Olympics two years away, the new legislation is hoping to ease the hotel shortages that will surely occur when the games take place in 2020. While this is great news for those wanting to visit Japan, there are also concerns. There have been recent incidents where apartment rooms have been treated like hostels where foreigners have not respected the neighbourhood rules (such as how one should recycle household waste or when to keep the noise down). The last thing we need is to worsen the reputation we foreigners are often given when it comes to trying to rent in Japan. 


It’s Not Only Small Apartments!

Many tourists who come to Japan wish to experience authentic Japanese home/hotel. These hotels can often date back hundreds of years and are truly a great treat to stay in. One of the most common types in the ‘ryokan’, a Japanese-style hotel that has onsens hot springs, incredible food and amazing service. Unfortunately though, staying at a ryokan hotel can be incredibly expensive. A good one could set you back $200 per person per night.


One American company that introduces tourists to Japanese residences has started investing in Japanese houses that have been long since abandoned. One house in Fukuoka is over 150 years old and full of local culture that was simply being left to decay. The new minpaku law will allow these such old buildings to be converted and used as a short-term lodging, allowing tourists to experience real Japan at a price that could be much cheaper than a traditional ryokan and much less of a headache than long-term renting. 

Records Break as Foreigners Spend More in Japan – Bakugai?


Bakugai, Again?


There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the relatively new Japanese word known as ‘bakugai’ (爆買い).

Bakugai, translated literally means ‘explosive buying’ and refers to (in particular, Chinese foreigners) who buy huge amounts of Japanese products to take back to their country.

This phenomenon became so popular that in 2015, this newly coined word won the “word of the year” award – an annual contest that looks back on words that have been trending.


bakugai, 爆買い



Breaking Sales Records


Since 2015, I’d heard about a decrease in ‘bakugai’ – but the latest sales figures show that’s not the case at all.

According to the Japan Department Store Association, the amount of money foreigners spent in April of this year at department outlets was a whopping 1,600,000,000 yen (around 14.6 million USD) – a 42% increase of April last year.

The number of foreign shoppers in Japan broke records in March, and then again in April.

Make-up products and stylish handbags are some of the top selling items tourists are buying up. If you live in Japan, you’ve probably seen Chinese people buying baskets full of items in drug stores – that’s a perfect example of ‘bakugai’.


bakugai, 爆買い



Japan’s Economy Still Looks Gloomy?


Not all is good news though. The number of sales for permanent residents in Japan decreased 1.5%, which is a blow for an already stagnant economy. It’s no secret that Japanese people are holding on tight to their cash, causing the retail industry to suffer.

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approach, foreign sales are expected to keep on increasing. Could the Olympics be the kick-start Japan’s economy needs?


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Say Sayonara to the Skin Colour Pencil

The Disappearance of the ‘Skin Colour Pencil’

If you have a look at the different colours from a set of crayons in Japan, you can no longer find the skin colour pencil. What was known as ‘skin colour’ has now been changed to ‘pale orange’ due to concerns about discrimination.

“From when did the skin colour pencil become ‘pale orange’, I wonder?” – was a tweet from one mother.

The tweet soon got replies such as:

“I’ve been using the term ‘skin colour’ without any thought behind it, so I was quite shocked.”

“If you actually go to a kindergarten, you’ll see many people who don’t fall under the ‘skin colour’.”


Stationery Stores, Too

After a quick visit to a stationery store, there really are no skin colour pencils or crayons any more. They are all ‘pale orange’ or ‘weak orange’.

We asked around town to see if other people had noticed the change.


“You don’t call it skin colour? My parents and teachers always taught it as skin colour in kindergarten.” – A 20-year-old female student.

“I had no idea. I have a lot of skin colour underwear – I wonder what colour I am supposed to call them?” – A 70-year-old housewife.


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The Origins of the Skin Colour

The Japanese Colour Research Facility stated as such:

“If you look into it, the origin of skin colour is based on a colour known as ‘flesh colour’ that was around in the 8th-century. During the Meiji period (1869-1912), Japan started to interact with many different countries, so people started to become aware of a ‘skin colour’, and so it was named so.”


Comments From the Manufacturers

“In accordance to the wishes of customers, the ‘skin colour’ pencils and crayons were replaced with ‘pale orange’ in 2013. It’s important to be aware of such things as Japan becomes more and more diverse.”- Penteru Crayons


“We rode the changing wind and renamed the crayon in 2014, along with most other manufacturers. There are a lot of opinions about it, so it’s quite a difficult problem.”- Tonbo Pencils


It appears the reason for this change was because many customers considered it discrimination, so they took the matter to the unions. It was decided that the skin colour does not represent actual skin colour, but was customary of Japanese characteristics. Furthermore, it is had to unify the colour of the skin, so it was decided that the name would be changed to pale orange.



A Skin Colour Set?

One Italian manufacturer has collected 12 skin colour pencils from around the world. The pencils have proved popular and are selling well among teachers.


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Was it Necessary?

While it may be difficult to say having a skin colour pencil lead to discrimination – I’m sure for some people, it leads to uncomfortable or awkward situations. Either way, I’m all for Japan becoming more aware and tolerant.


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A New eSports Tournament Coming to Japan?


What is eSports all about?


I’m sure many people these days are well aware of eSports. Gaming is no longer just a hobby, but for some, it is a well-paid career. Some of the top players earn millions of dollars in a single competition – enough to rival the winnings of many top sports in the real world.

Games such as Fortnite that was released in 2017, have announced they will pay out over a hundred million dollars worth of prize money this year.


Yes, it’s no joke – gaming can make you richer than you’ll ever need to be.


It’s not only America that is going gaming mad, though. Gaming has been a huge business in South Korea for many years now. In South Korea, pro-gaming and e-sports competitions are considered a national past time with approximately 10 million regular viewers.


Have eSports come to Japan?


While Japan is well-known for being a revolutionary of technology, it hasn’t quite caught on to the eSports craze quite as much as the US… but could that be starting to change?

It would appear that Japan is also making progress in the world of pro-gaming as a new tournament has been announcedNext autumn (2019), there will be a national eSports tournament held in Japan’s Ibaraki prefecture.

Between February and July of next year, mini tournaments will be held to decide the representatives for each of Japan’s 47 prefectures (a prefecture is what Japan calls its counties/states).

This will total around 300 players who will compete to decide who the best players in all of Japan are!

The governor of Ibaraki announced the tournament as being part of a cultural program. Regardless of age, sex, or handicaps – anyone is free to participate.


It’s almost enough to make me want to clean the dust off my old controller. I must say, it does look like an incredible amount of pressure to play in a stadium like this one, though!

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Studio Ghibli Theme Park: The Five Main Areas

A Studio Ghibli Theme Park!


Studio Ghibli is a world-famous animation studio responsible for well-loved classics such as My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.

Now, the latest endeavour of the studio is a theme-park based on the many Studio Ghibli films we love and cherish.

So, where will the park be located? Japan’s beautiful and nature-rich Aichi prefecture.

The park is set to open in the year 2022, four years from now.

It will be built on a 200-acre park where a nature world fair previously was. According to a statement from Aichi prefecture, the park will be divided into 5 areas based on different Ghibli themes.

This will allow us to enter into the worlds of our favourite Studio Ghibli movies!


Area 1: Adolescence Hill (translation)


This area will be at the entrance of the park and will be full of props from Howl’s Moving Castle and Whisper of the Heart. It will be designed with a magical late 19th-century theme.

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Area 2: The Ghibli Warehouse (translation)


Towards the centre of the park, we have the Ghibli Warehouse that will feature heated pools. The warehouse will also be full of Ghibli memorabilia and activities for the kids.

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Area 3: Mononoke’s Area (translation)


To the north-east area of the park, they will have a beautiful area based on the Princess Mononoke animation. It will include several buildings and characters such as the legendary boars.

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Area 4: The Witch’s Valley (translation)


Towards the east of the park will be the Witch’s Valley.  It will have the castle from Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s house from Kiki’s Delivery Service

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Area 5: Dondoko Forest (translation)


This area will be based on the house from My Neighbour Totoro.

“Dondoko” is from the scene in the movie where Satsuki and Mei dance with Totoro to help the seeds they planted grow faster.

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A theme-park based on the amazing illustrations of Studio Ghibli that incorporates the beautiful nature of Japan just sounds fantastic to me.

But if you just can’t standing waiting for four long years, you could also try going to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo!

Click here for a link to the Studio Ghibli museum website.

Full-time work for Gaikokujin in Japan!

Work for Gaikokujin (Foreigners)

Have you ever thought about working in a company such as this one?

Industry: plastic
Wage: starting from 170,000 yen/month
Bonuses: 2 bonuses a year, social insurance, medical care, pension system
Company housing: yes

This job posting is actually aimed towards foreigners, and what’s more – it’s seisahin (a permanent employee position).

Nearly 20% of the employees are foreigners at this renowned manufacturer in Osaka, where 16 of the 90 employees are not Japanese. The company even states that it wouldn’t mind if half the company were foreigners.


Abuse of the Trainee System

Many foreign employees were originally taken in as “trainees”, who then make great employees.
However, there has been controversy over some companies taking in trainees as a way of acquiring cheap labour. Due to a trainee being unable to change job or find other employment, many foreigners (mainly from Asia) have been abused by the system. Some earning as little as 70,000 yen a month (closer to one-third of what you would expect).

Fortunately, Japan has created new laws and taken steps to stop the abuse to foreign trainee workers. However, Prime Minister Abe says that he will never change immigration laws to counter Japan’s decreasing population and worker shortages.


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Labour shortages in Japan

One major reason companies are looking outside of Japan for employees is a simple labour shortage. Especially for work with difficult conditions, such as the manufacturing of plastic that takes place between 200 and 300 degrees. There have even been instances of employees quitting within a couple of days.

While the number of companies looking abroad for employees is increasing, it is still a very difficult process. One of the reasons for this is because the company has to apply for a work visa. Documents such as the company’s profit statements must be handed into the immigration bureau. Furthermore, due to employees requiring more training, the costs are also higher.


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Hopefully, there will be more and more work for gaikokujin, with better and better conditions in the near future.

“My Child is a Game Addict!” – Game Addiction in Japan


Game Addiction

When people hear the phrase ‘game addiction’, many people think of online games such as World of Warcraft.

However, the game industry has been moving from consoles and computers to the mobile industry. So naturally, so is game addiction.

You can’t ride a train without seeing a few young Japanese people playing games on their mobile game. And with more and more games allowing real money purchases, game addiction is something to be concerned about.

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Comments from a mother

One parent tells us about how their son who has grown violent due to his game addiction. One time even resulted in having to call the ambulance.

“You wouldn’t know it by looking at him. But then you enter his room and see all the holes in the walls from when he lost his temper. He was such a nice child…”


The Young Person’s Addiction

While many people think “drugs”, “tobacco”, “alcohol” when they hear addiction, these are actually on the decline for the youth in Japan. The addiction of the twenty-first century is gaming and social media.

“I play 10 hours a day. In the end, my grades started dropping.”

“I wanted a limited edition character so much that I spent 200,000 yen in a single day (nearly 2000 dollars)”

These comments by young students show just how dangerous gaming addiction can get.


“I can’t live without games”

Why are young people getting addicted to games? According to one student, the reason for this was to make friends online and to escape from reality and bullying.

game addiction, japan game addiction

A Survey into Game Addiction

In one of Kanagawa Prefecture’s hospitals, there were 120 cases of game addiction last year. A survey of the effects of game addiction had the following results:

75% couldn’t get up in the morning
59% had absences from school.
50% skipped meals
48% had grades and work performance fall.

50% have been known to break things.
26% have been violent towards there family.
17% have stolen money from their family.

Game addiction can cause a family to go out of control. There are also many health problems related to spending too much time on games. This is no longer a problem just for the gaming world, but for society as a whole.


Hydrangea for Mother’s Day? – The True Meaning Behind Flowers in Japan (Hana Kotoba)


A Fickle Flower

The meaning behind the hydrangea flower can mean ‘love’ and ‘good health’, so you might think it would be the perfect flower for Mother’s Day.

However, the flower also represents fickleness and affairs.

Even so, hydrangea flowers are becoming more and more popular on Mother’s Day, as some florists completely sell out.

While the go-to Mother’s Day flowers are usually carnations, it seems the hydrangea is quickly gaining ranks.


Hana Kotoba – The Language of Flowers

In Japan, many flowers have something called ‘hana-kotoba’ (flower words). When you send flowers to someone, these hanakotoba often convey feelings along with it.

For carnations, the meanings are as follows.

Red carnations: Motherly love
Blue carnations: Passion and devotion
White carnations: A pure love.

Carnations encompass many different meanings, but the main theme is ‘love’, so these flowers are seen as perfect for Mother’s Day.

However, the hana kotoba for hydrangea are ‘fickle’ and ‘affairs’ in Japan. The reason for this is because the petals of the flower change colour as the seasons change.

hana kotoba, hana, mother's day japan, japanese flowers

Gaining on Carnations

If you go to a flower shop on Mother’s Day, it’s very likely you’ll see some hydrangea next to the carnations. According to one store, hydrangea are now about as half as popular as the traditional Mother’s Day flower. It seems this sudden increase of hydrangea used as a Mother’s Day flower started about four years ago.

One reason for hydrangea’s growing popularity is because of the petals that slowly change colour. It’s often described as ‘magical’.

So Why Hydrangea, The Flower of Affairs?

The hydrangea is a flower that welcomes the season. It’s a large, beautiful flower that catches the eye, and in recent years, there has been an increase in the different types that you can choose from.

The hana kotoba (flower words) for hydrangea are as follows.

Pink: For good health in a woman.
Blue: For everlasting feelings.
White: Generosity.

Now that you think about it, hydrangea also seem to be perfect for Mother’s Day!

Trouble for the Flower Industry

hana kotoba, flowers, japanese flowers, japanese mother's day

While on days like Mother’s Day, the flower industry booms, for much of the year, it’s left struggling. With the price of flowers decreasing, and the cost of production increasing each year, many flower makings are struggling to the point where they are considering packing it in.

Should increasing living expenses and an economy in stagnation be cause for concern in regards to the future of Japan’s flower industry?

Cheaper Flights in and Around Japan? – A New Airliner by 2020

A New Airliner by 2020?

Japan Air Lines (JAL), Japan’s national airline, have announced that they are preparing to create a new low-cost carrier airline.

JAL hopes to have the new airline in operation by 2020 – the year the Olympics come to Tokyo.

The airline will be based at Narita airport and will fly to locations around Japan and Asia. They are also considering having low-cost flights to Europe and America.

JAL is already working together with Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar, which flies to a number of airports around Japan and Australia.

All Nippon Airlines (ANA) are currently running two low-cost airlines, but have announced plans to merge the companies by March 2020.

While many low-cost carriers were originally meant for short domestic flights, many are now branching out to medium length flights, allowing for cheaper travel to a much larger number of countries.

Many airlines consider short-haul flights to be less than three hours, while medium-length flights are between three and six hours. Long-haul flights are between six and twelve hours, while anything above that is known as an ‘ultra long-haul flight’.


Increasing Competition Could Leader to Cheaper Flights

With many countries in recession or stagnation, low price flights are become ever more sought after, as the financial burden of taking holidays becomes greater. This had lead to fierce competition between airlines that could mean cheaper flights in and around Japan!

While increased competition will hopefully lower prices for those travelling around Japan, increases in fuel prices could make flights slightly more expensive.

With the 2020 Olympics coming up, and record numbers of tourists coming to Japan each year, Japan is undoubtedly becoming more and more of an accessible country that many people want to cross off their bucket list. But will Tokyo be able to deal with even greater numbers of tourists?

A “Hikikomori” Company – A New Way Forward For Japan’s Shut-ins?

A hikikomori is someone who has hidden away from society and often fears going outside. In the most severe cases, hikikomori will refuse to leave their house at all, often relying on family for money.

That being said, being a hikikomori shut-in is a psychological condition that disrupts lives. Even if hikikomori want to work, how can someone afraid of leaving the house ever find a job?


Comments From a Hikikomori

“If you want to shut yourself away, then do it” – is something I was told. But with my parents getting older, I’ve started to worry about how I should live from here-on-out. It would be pretty difficult for me to suddenly jump into full-time work, but I still want to do some kind of work. If that’s the case, isn’t there a job I can do while being a hikikomori?


Working as a Hikikomori

Just after 10 am, Hirano logs onto his computer to inform his boss how much he will work today through a web-based chat service. This is one of the company’s rules that ensures Hirano can work stress-free.

Hirano is 34 years old. It was when he was a high school student that his shut-in condition started. Last year, he was able to find remote work that allowed him to work from home.

Much of his work is creating and maintaining home pages for websites. Without ever commuting to work, he is able to work at his own pace.
“There are times when I want to talk to someone, and times when I don’t. By working at home, people can work at a pace that suits them”.
The pressure of exams.

The Cause

Hirano’s hikikomori condition started with the pressure of university entrance exams. His grades were top-class, and he was told he had a good chance to get into Japan’s top universities. But in his first year of high school, his mother passed away.

During his second year, where the studying for university exams becomes intense, Hirano broke under the pressure. When riding the train to school one day, he suddenly started feeling ill. After that, every time he went to the train station, he would start to feel ill. Eventually, this lead to him dropping out of high school.

Hirano enrolled in online university courses, but he struggled to find employment. “I honestly thought it wouldn’t be bad to continue as a hikikomori forever. Living with only my father, I started to worry about what would happen when he passed away, but I still didn’t have the motivation to take action yet.”

Last year in April, Hirano was becoming more and more worried about his future. After talking to another hikikomori, he heard about the company where he works now.

hikikomori, hikkikomori

Japan’s First Hikikomori Company

The Tokyo-based company where Hirano works has 10 employees who are all in similar situations. The company is called “MechaKoma” for short, which means “we are hard-workers with an eye for detail”.

The president of MechaKoma says one reason he set up this company was that one of his cousins are also a hikikomori. “I didn’t have any negative images about hikikomori. Sure, they may not be the best communicators, but they often have extremely high skills in other areas”.

The president, who used to run an online IT course, understood the lack of workers in the IT industry, and so came up with this idea.

Because many website designers, programmers, and app makers can work at home, this work is well suited for a hikikomori. At MechaKoma, workers can contact the company through web chat, and can freely take time off when they need it. The company makes sure the employees are healthy and can further advance their skills,

Hirano has recently become a full-time employee, Working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. While it can be physically tiring for him, he can still take breaks and lie down whenever he needs to.

With an estimated number of nearly a million hikikomori in Japan, could this be a new way forward?

hikikomori, shut-in


Cheaper Rice in Japan? A Change in the Law

Could new laws mean cheaper rice in Japan?

Japan has just headed into the rice season, however this year, there has been a large change in the law. In place for almost 50 years, the “rice cultivation reduction policy” has now been abolished. The policy was originally set up to prevent the over-production and waste of rice.

Now, this law has been abolished and farmers are free to produce more rice. Many believe this could lead to cheaper rice for consumers.

The policy, in place since 1971 was created in order to reduce the rice surplus. Under this system, the Japanese government buys all rice produced in Japan but also gives limits to how much a farmer can sell.

Now abolished, there is a free market that can now contend with imported rice. Farmers who wanted to produce more rice but weren’t allowed are now free to produce as much as they want.


But will rice production actually increase?

According to the ministry of agriculture, 36 of Japan’s 47 prefectures report they will produce the same as last year, while 7 prefectures aim to increase production. Of course, actual production amounts will also largely be influenced by this year’s weather and climate conditions.

cheaper rice, japanese rice

Farmers already at their limit.

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture reports it will produce similar amounts to last year. One large 33-acre farm says it would be difficult to increase production and are aiming to maintain current levels.

With only three members in his family, he often gets help from his local town. However, in just 10 years, the population of the town has decreased by over 20%, making it difficult to find new employees.

It’s not only Hokkaido that is suffering from a lack of workers, but many parts of the country are. A report last year discovered that the average age of farmers in Japan is 66.6 years old.

With a simultaneously ageing and decreasing population, finding new hands to work on farms is becoming ever more difficult.


So will prices actually change?

One of the main reasons for an increase in rice prices in recent times is due to much of the rice being bought for business purposes.

One bento meal shop in Tokyo says the price of rice has increased by 30% since last year, making it difficult to keep profits up.

Without the aid of the government’s rice buy-out system, coupled with the fact that farms around the country are struggling to keep production up, with businesses buying more and more rice, this could be a lose-lose situation for both farmers and consumers.

rice, japanese rice, cheaper rice

My Japanese Child is A Minority?! Japanese Kindergartens Struggle To Keep Up With Increase of Foreigners


With an increase in foreign students, Japanese kindergartens are struggling to adapt to changing Japan.


“You see a lot of foreigners around here lately” is something that until even just a few years ago, you wouldn’t have heard very very often.

But things are changing as some Japanese children find themselves a minority in kindergarten.


Japanese are the minority?!




In one Tokyo kindergarten, these words are becoming the norm as the number of non-Japanese students has risen from 0% to a whopping 60% in recent years.

Many parents think this is a great chance to have their children experience multiculturalism, However, for kindergarten staff, many problems are arising as they struggle to keep up with the changing times.


How do I explain Nanban Udon in English?!

One such problem for kindergartens struggling with the increase of foreign students (and parents) is communication. While many parents can speak to some extent, many still can’t read difficult Japanese characters.

In an attempt to prevent any incidents relating to food-based allergies, one kindergarten has written up a thorough menu and list of ingredients. The list, full of difficult to read Japanese characters is of little use to the parents who can’t read Japanese.

To make things harder, many of the ingredients don’t have proper English equivalents, making it very difficult for someone who doesn’t have a good understanding of English to translate such an important document.

In the end, the completed translation of the menu still lacks detail as words such as ‘nanban udon’ simply becomes ‘noodles’, while some ingredients had to be left in Japanese.

japanese kindergartens

Parents and staff equally worried.

Of course, it’s not just the staff who are struggling, but the parents, too.

One Nepalese student had to go home early due to being unwell. The staff struggled to fill in the report card to explain the details in a way the parent would understand.

With broken English and sections left blank, this will surely make any parent uneasy. It’s important for a parent to understand how much their child slept, ate, and behaved while they spent their time apart.

Many kindergarten teachers simply don’t have the English language skills to do this.


How should Japanese schools cope with the rise of foreign students?

It’s a very difficult situation and there is no immediate answer. It’s clear to me that the responsibility shouldn’t fall completely on the kindergarten, and action should be taken by the government, too. As the number of Japanese children continues to decrease and the number of foreigners increases, there’s no doubt that problems like this will continue to arise in the near future.

Increasing Demands in Japanese Seeds – And Here’s Why

“South Korea’s strawberries were delicious!” was one of the comments from Japan’s female curling team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. However, the seeds used to grow these strawberries were actually Japanese seeds.

This has caused a rise in interest in Japan’s ‘distribution of seeds abroad’ problem.

It’s actually said that Japan’s seed development for fruit and vegetables is one of the best in the world. Because of this, there has been a serious movement of Japanese seeds being taken out of the country.

Their target is the soft, Japanese cabbage.

cabbage, seeds, japanese seeds

The above image shows cabbage seeds and is part of a movement to try and sell Japanese seeds abroad.

You might think that all cabbages are just cabbages, but there are over a 100 different types. Spring cabbage, winter cabbage, purple cabbage – each one is a different product with different qualities.

The ones making these are known as ‘seed makers’. Colour, shape, softness – vegetables and fruits with many traits are developed and then sold to farmers.

The vegetable seeds developed in Japan are getting popular throughout the world. One of the main traits of the Japanese cabbage is the taste, as well as being soft, having disease resilience, and being suitable to eat raw.

Another trait they have is overall quality. For example, the rate of sprouting seeds is said to be much high than in other countries. The demand for seeds that sprout is fierce in Japan, while abroad, there are many seeds that won’t sprout even when planted.

Japanese Seed development goes way back.

In Tokyo, one specialist Japanese seed-maker has been operating since 1852.
While one seed maker in Ibaraki owns 400 shares in the cabbage industry and has over 1000 types in development.

With this, farmers can choose the seed that is perfect for them, whether it be taste, colour, size, or resiliency.

Trading with China and India

Working with China and India in cabbage and cucumber development, the company known as ‘Japan Vegetable Seeds’ has taken seeds to China and India and are testing and cultivating them. Aiming to cultivate enough seeds to start trading in Autumn.

If it’s seeds, then Japan can win!

Because much of the seed business (80%) is almost completely controlled by the super-corporation, Biomeasure, it is hard for small Japanese businesses to enter the market for wheat, soy, and corn seed development.

Due to the huge variety of vegetable seeds, however, there is still plenty of room for small Japanese businesses to enter the market.

And while Japan’s population is decreasing, the world population is steadily rising, increasing demand for seeds worldwide. And it’s not just the number of seeds either – with a rising amount of financially stability in the world, the demand for better and better seeds is also on the rise.

cabbage, japanese cabbages

Appeal for Tourists Visiting Japan to Follow the Country’s Customs.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

The amount of foreign tourists visiting Japan is overwhelmingly increasing, while the understanding of manners and customs in Japan is considerably lacking. In many areas throughout Japan, problems in regards to tourists are arising.

The key to being able to properly welcome and care for foreigners lies within deepening of the understanding of Japanese culture. With an unwavering increase of tourists each year, this has become the next topic in regards to Japan’s tourism.

In Kyoto, one of Japan’s largest tourist areas, leaflets written in English and Japanese about ‘things you shouldn’t do in Japan’ have been distributed.

The leaflet mentions things such as not taking pictures of maiko without permission, and taking your shoes off when walking on tatami mats. While this is common sense for Japanese people, these kinds of things are occurring resulting in complaints. With the distribution of the leaflet, the number of complaints decreased.

In Nara city’s park, many tourists have been irritating deer in order to take a picture with them, causing several incidents. In April, 4 signs written in English and Chinese that warn people not to tease the deer when feeding them have been put up.

Incidents regarding toilets have been occurring nationwide. In Shizuoka, where many foreigners go to climb Mt. Fuji, signs warning again flushing litter down the toilet have been put up.

Last year, 2,800,000 foreigners visited Japan, which is the highest number recorded. At the same time, an increase of “public nuisances” has also appeared.

Many people have seen foreigners talking in a loud voice on trains or talking up parts of the road walking in groups.

Much of the trouble is related to manners. Rather than tourist organisations and authorities warning tourists, it would be more effective if Japanese people kindly told tourists about the customs and manners of Japan. It is likely the majority of people would accept them.

The government says that in 2020 (when the Tokyo Olympic games are held), the number of tourists is expected to increase to 4 million. In June, the law banning private residential buildings from taking in temporary lodgers was lifted in an attempt to accommodate the increase in foreigners that will affect Japan nationwide.

What is most important is that Japanese and foreigners are able to understand each other and can enjoy their time in Japan. Japan aims to be a tourist capital that greets visitors with an open smile.