Weird or Wonderful?: Japanese Foods

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By now, plenty of people are familiar with at least the names of certain odd-sounding, yet still reasonably common Japanese foods such as natto (fermented soybeans), fugu (pufferfish), or yuba (tofu skin). Today, I thought it might be interesting to go a step further with a post detailing some lesser-known foods in Japan – some specific to certain regions, others popular right across the country, but all of them still consumed in today’s society. Continue reading

Drinking in Japan: Part III

Taking a small break from talking about anime this week to instead continue my sporadically ongoing Japan drinks series. Despite being one of the largest consumers of coffee in Asia, Japan is still very much a tea kingdom – “the ultimate mental and medical remedy … to make one’s life more full and complete” according to Japan’s oldest tea specialty book, written by a Buddhist priest in 1191. Continue reading

Best J-Pop/J-Rock Albums of 2017

This year’s list is a little lighter than in 2016, when I listened to 18 Japanese studio albums total (in comparison to 13 this time around). However, I think that’s more of a reflection on my own time constraints as opposed to any particular dip in the Japanese music industry, and I managed to find a handful of albums that really stood out to me regardless. As always, the following list, arranged in order of release date, is comprised solely of full and original studio albums by a single artist or band – no covers, compilations, collaborations, EPs, or live albums. Continue reading

10 Japanese Superstitions

One of the most interesting aspects to me about visiting another country is hearing about common superstitions. No matter how logical people may seem, no matter how grounded or rational the culture, there are always things that people will do or not do, say or not say, that are rooted firmly in myth and folklore. Some, like seeing a black cat cross your path, are common to many countries, while others are much more location-specific. Continue reading

The Old, The New, The Frank, The Untrue: Changing Faces of Japan’s Sex Industry

Prostitution may be (technically) illegal in Japan – it has been since the 1950s – but the sex industry itself is very much alive and kicking. Want to be chatted to by beautiful women or pretty boys over some pricey drinks? The hostess and host clubs have you covered. Feel like being bathed by an attractive lady who uses her naked body to apply the soap? No problem, that’s what soaplands are for. Got a highly specific itch you want to scratch? Get your cosplay and setting fetish needs met down to the last detail at an image club. Some institutions are a bit odder or less infamous than others, however, and Japan’s sex industry is in many ways quite different than it was in the 80s, 90s, or even early 2000s. Continue reading

Dear Japan…

As many readers of Otaku Lounge may be aware, this is now my second stint living in Japan. I got my first full-time job here, lived completely alone for the first time here, and have basically come to think of it as my second home; I couldn’t possibly list every single thing I like about it. That said, no country is perfect, and there are definitely things about Japan that sometimes rub me the wrong way. Continue reading

Kawaii Minus Gender: Genderless Kei

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything on Japanese street fashion, and of all the fashion-focused articles I have posted here on Otaku Lounge, all but one of them have been concerned primarily with women. After all, the vast majority of Japanese street fashions and subcultures have traditionally been dominated by female-centric styles: lolita, gyaru, mori girl, and plenty of others. Genderless kei – whose male participants have been gaining the lion’s share of media and fan attention – is changing that landscape. Continue reading

Restaurants in Japan

One of the best things about travelling to a new place is the food. Sure, checking out the museums, art galleries, observatories, and other famous landmarks is cool, but food plays an equally significant role in the cultural landscape – particularly if you’re confident enough to try for some of the more locally known rather than tourist-heavy spots. Continue reading

Best J-Pop/J-Rock Albums of 2016

It’s been a whirlwind year in the Japanese music industry. Influential singer/songwriter Utada Hikaru released her first album in eight years; Boom Boom Satellites released their final (gorgeous) record before the passing away of vocalist Kawashima Michiyuki; iconic boy band SMAP disbanded after a run of nearly three decades; and BABYMETAL took one step closer to world domination when they opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers on their UK tour. To nobody’s surprise, fan-favourite idol groups such as Arashi and AKB48 continued to top many of the charts, but they were far from the only fare on offer in 2016. Continue reading

Top 3(ish) in Japan

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See that red dot down there in Ehime, aka the Love Princess? I’m not doing a category for top places in Japan overall but if I was, it would definitely make an appearance. Not that I’m biased or anything.

I’ve done plenty of top whatever lists here on Otaku Lounge before – usually anime-related – but particularly when it comes to Japan itself, my posts have mostly remained fairly impersonal. Not that I see writing about the personal on a blog such as this as being in any way a bad thing; experience helps shape everything people write about in one way or another, even when an article is largely factual in nature. Besides, I can only imagine that a blog post limited strictly to cold, hard fact would make for pretty dry reading – reading that people could probably do just as well on Wikipedia. However, for various reasons I tend to shy away from writing anything on here that could be deemed purely personal, and there have been only a couple of exceptions to that over the years.

Given that I recently came back from a 4-year stint in Japan though, and that one of the ways I like to process things is through writing, this would be one of those exceptions.

Needless to say, the following is confined to those things which I’ve seen or done first-hand. It in no way encompasses all of what Japan has to offer (though ticking off 35 out of 47 prefectures is pretty respectable if I do say so myself), and it’s all based completely on my own impressions. It’s not intended as any sort of guide or even as a recommendation list.

It’s a celebration. Continue reading