A short update about the state of the blog

You may have noticed that, despite my repeated promises to the contrary, articles have been very few and far between in recent weeks. To the few people reading this and the blog in general, I thought I should post a quick update about whats going on behind the scenes at Japanseikatsu HQ.

Regarding the lack of articles recently, I think the easiest explanation is that I have simply burned myself out. Writing up to three articles a week about “samey” topics has become stale to me. Going forward, I hope to be able to post more regular content again, but on a schedule of once a week. Instead, I hope to be able to promote the blog a bit more, getting more eyes on what I write would hopefully be a motivator again.

In the same vein, the “News” articles are going on an indefinite hiatus. Instead of posting weekly updates, I’ll simply post about it if something significant happens instead of forcing out an article even when nothing noteworthy has happened.

I am still new to the world of blogging and am mostly simply winging it. I hope that my few readers are not put off by the new direction and will stick with me until I find a style that suits me, as well as you lot (hopefully). Thanks for reading and take care!

Plugging my own YouTube channel

I’m a YouTuber too, I guess

No real article today, I just quickly wanted to plug my own YouTube channel, where I have started to create content fairly regularly recently. There will be some overlap between my videos and blog-articles, but I will still try my best to make sure to not simply regurgitate content from one platform on the other.

I may not have the biggest audience, but if just one of you would be so kind as to hop on over to my YouTube channel and leave a like, it would mean a lot to me. Just today, I’ve created a video talking about Japan. I have an article about that on the blog somewhere as well, but I go more in-depth in this video. Give it (or one of the other videos on my channel) a watch if you like!

If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like to see covered, either as a video or as an article, feel free to contact me anytime. Thanks for reading.

You can find my channel here.

Japanese Food

Thanks to anime and manga, among other things, Japanese culture is relatively known around the world. Food is an important part of any culture, and many people around the globe will swear that they absolutely love Japanese food. And while Ramen and Sushi are known and available in many countries around the globe, these are hardly every-day meals that a normal Japanese person is going to eat week-in week-out. 

Food is important to us humans and is a big part of our overall well-being, not only physically but also mentally. If you plan on spending some time in Japan, likely, you will not be able to eat foods that have been staples in your diet up until that point, especially if you are from the western hemisphere. When I lived in Germany, bread and cheese where foods that I ate every day but since coming to Japan my bread and cheese consumption has probably fallen by 95%. Sure, unhealthy processed white bread and sliced cheese are available cheaply everywhere even in Japan, but the “good” stuff (or what would be classified as normal in Germany) is only available at select stores and will cost you a small fortune. Sure, you will be able to treat yourself sometimes, but most imported foods are simply too expensive to be eaten daily (at least if you are stingy like me).

So, when going to Japan you will not only have to ask yourself whether you can fit in culturally but also culinarily. Will you be able to eat rice two or three times a day? Or will you simply start living of instant food and chicken from the nearest convenience store? If you’ve read my other articles (which you should :p), you will know that I advocate that you try your best to fit in by living a little as the Japanese do, e.g. learn the Language, observe the customs and so on. The same goes for food. If you adjust your eating habits to be closer to those of a Japanese person, you will find it much easier to find and buy ingredients and cook delicious food at home. In the end, you either like a specific food or you don’t, you can’t force yourself to eat like a Japanese if you don’t like the foods in the first place. I am not saying you should force yourself to eat Natto every day (though it is absolutely delicious and healthy), all I am trying to say is that you should try to keep an open mind when coming to Japan, be it food-related or otherwise. Have a nice weekend.

Learning Japanese

If you research options on living in Japan, you might sometimes find comments that go something like this “you do not need to know Japanese to live in Japan, just be an English teacher and you’ll be fine”. Sure, if you are coming to Japan as a tourist, you will probably be fine communicating in English or with your hands and feet, but if you want to LIVE in Japan, I cannot recommend learning the Language enough. When in Rome, talk as the Romans do and all that. Just even a basic greeting in Japanese will open many doors that would have otherwise been closed to you and it takes so little effort to learn a few basic phrases that there is no excuse.

Now, do not get me wrong, Japanese is a very, very difficult language, especially for people from the western hemisphere, and even being able to have daily conversations is considered a pretty big achievement. Becoming fluent is something that is going to take most people years of study and effort. The motivation for starting to study can be different, some people study so they can understand Anime or Japanese videogames, others do it because of their interest in Japanese history or love for Haruki Murakami books. But in my experience, this motivation is not enough to keep you going until you truly reach a fluent level, close to a native speaker. If you want to make it that far, more often than not you are going to have to put yourself in situations where you have to speak Japanese, force yourself to adapt to your surroundings and advance your language skills. There is a decently sized English community in Japan (especially Tokyo and Osaka), and it can be very tempting to always fall back on these communities for everything you need (be that simply making friends, or things like medical assistance, getting a haircut etc.). But by doing this, you are isolating yourself and denying yourself a chance to challenge yourself and grow as a person. I am not saying that everyone should be able to speak perfect Japanese, but you owe it to yourself and your surroundings to try to get to a conversational level at least. If you manage to do that, your time in Japan will most likely feel more fulfilling.

Now, as for how to study the language, in the digital age, there are hundreds of different options available. If you have the time, then attending university classes or a language school is a good idea, especially if you are a total beginner. If that is not an option, there are countless books, YouTube channels, websites and apps that teach Japanese (of note here is, that most of the available options will most likely be English/Japanese). One big trap that many people fall into, is the search for the one-stop learning solution. That ONE book, ONE channel, ONE app that teaches you everything from basics to fluency simply does not exist. Studying is an ongoing process, and that includes the continuous search for appropriate study material. Another mistake is not using the language skills that you acquire during your studies. Japanese is not a language that is as widely studied as English, therefor a lot less study material targeting language learners exists (e.g. novels aimed at non-native speakers with a side-by-side translation etc.). Material is available, but you might have to search for a while. I recommend getting a SRS (spaced repetition) application such as Anki, which is really just a fancy name for digital flashcards and using that as you study. Other recommendations would be WaniKani for Kanji and NHK Easy News to get used to reading in Japanese. 

Accept that this is going to be a struggle, but it is going to enrich your life, grant you access to a completely different culture. At the same time, it is also going to make your life in Japan (if you want that) a lot easier and make you more attractive on the Japanese job market as well. A more detailed guide on studying might come in the future, for now, I am going to leave you with this rant

The J-League and Football in Japan

Sports are a big part of Japanese culture. In many countries, there is often one sport that is the undisputed top dog and everything else has to fight over the scrap that is left over (for example 80.000 people show up regularly in Germany to watch football matches, but on average only 5000 people turn up to watch basketball matches). In Japan, from a competitive viewpoint baseball has traditionally been the top dog, but other sports are played recreationally as well. Especially at high-school and university levels, competition is fierce, and it is not uncommon for some people to devote more time to their sports club than to their studies, no matter how minuscule actual viewer numbers might be. The annual high-school baseball tournament Koushien is shown on national TV and is a good opportunity for schools to boost their prestige. Universities that are seen as having a rivalry, such as Keio and Waseda Universities in Tokyo, will battle it out on the baseball pitch to the chants and dances of the cheerleaders (male and female), who take their role in the team’s performance as serious as the players on the pitch.

However, recently, there has been a challenger to the popularity of baseball in Japan. Football, obviously a hugely popular sport in other parts of the world, did not even have a fully professional league in Japan until 1992 when the J-League was founded. Forward to 2020, and now there are different league tiers, called J-1, J-2 and so on, with J-1 being the top flight and if people refer to “the J-League” they are usually talking about J-1. The league’s most successful teams are the Kashima Antlers, the Yokohama F. Marinos and the Urawa Red Diamonds, with the former two being successful domestically, while the Urawa Reds are the most successful Japanese team internationally, winning the Asian Champions League twice and finishing second once. Although professional soccer is still young in Japan, there are still stories aplenty, such as Nagoya Grampus being coached by Arsene Wenger for a short while, Cerezo Osaka being the club that manga hero Captain Tsubasa plays at, or, maybe most amazingly, the story of Kazuyoshi “King Kazu” Miura, who still plays professional football for Yokohama F.C. at the ripe age of 53 years young.

With talents such as Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, or more recently Takumi Minamino, there is certainly quality available in the league, though many talents are scouted and transfer to a European league, so if you expect the J-League to be on the same level competitively as the European leagues you will be disappointed. For a while, Japan was a popular destination for ageing European footballers to play their last few seasons, with even stars like Andres Iniesta or Lukas Podolski heading east for their final (or not so final) paychecks. But neither of them set the league on fire, so it might be said that the competitiveness of the J-League is not too far off the big European leagues, maybe akin to second-tier leagues in the big 5 (Germany, England, Spain, Italy, France).

With all that being said, the J-League is an interesting league with different clubs, different philosophies and playstyles. There is virtually no hooliganism, so going to the games is a pleasure for everyone involved and whole families go together regularly. If you are in Japan and even slightly interested in football, I recommend you give the J-League a try. The Kanto area, including greater Tokyo, has the highest concentration of clubs, but you can find stadiums were J-league games are played all over eastern and western Japan. Only the north has a somewhat sparse representation in the league, with the Tohoku region only being represented by Vegalta Sendai and Hokkaido only sporting Consadole Sapporo in the top flight of Japanese football. If you do not have time to go to the games in person, you can watch them on NHK or DAZN, with the latter offering either match highlights or full-length games.

I hope that you enjoyed this quick write-up about the J-league. I am still relatively new to watching the league, so if I got anything wrong please feel free to correct me. If you have a favourite club, tell me which it is and why you support it (I like Saitama prefecture, so I am inclined to support the Urawa Reds, as they are the local boys).