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Kisaichi in Osaka – Hike to Kurondo Pond

If you’re looking for a low-key place to get some nature in the Osaka area you might consider a visit to Kisaichi to hike up to Kurondo Pond. The hike from Kisaichi Station to Kurondo Pond is about 1.5 hours. I hiked it with a seven year old and it took about 2 hours each way.

Kurondo Lake
Kurondo Lake (pond?) your destination

To get to the place we started at Kisaichi station, you can take the Keihan Line from Hirakata.

Getting to Kisaichi
Hirakata to Kisaichi, 210 yen (2020)

Once you get going you’ll find many helpful signs pointing the way to the pond, and others pointing the way back to the station. It’s easy to find your way even if you do not read Japanese. Just in case, Kurondo Pond is written くろんど池。

Signs to Kurondo Lake
Many of the signs are written in English
Trail to Kurondo Lake
Part of the trail between Kisaichi and Kurondo Pond

The hike itself was great. It’s got some hills, some stairs, and you’re often near water. It’s got a bit of gravel road, some dirt paths, and sometimes you’ll be climbing over rocks and stepping around tree roots. To be honest, I did the hike in flat Adidas because that’s all I had, but I saw many Japanese in hiking gear with backpacks and poles. I should add that my seven year old indoor kid made it and only complained four of five times, so it’s not actually that demanding — though you will be tired at the end. If you’re prone to get the munchies, pack a snack and bring some water.

We went in early summer and saw a ton of neat bugs. Caterpillars?

Insect near Kisaichi
Bugs! I guess it’s a caterpillar. There were a lot of them.

When you finally make it to Kurondo Pond you’ll find a few restaurants, and of course the pond.

Kurondo Lake
Kurondo Pond!

You can pay to ride a row boat or one of those pedal-driven swan boats. Many families with kids and couples are often out on the pond enjoying the peaceful waters. You can also buy some fish food and feed the large koi that hang out near the pier.

Koi in Kurondo Lake
Koi in Kurondo Pond

One protip. One shop near the pond sells honey collected locally from Ikoma in Nara. At time of writing it was 2000 yen per bottle, so it’s not cheap, but it is delicious. You can also buy this Ikoma honey online.

Ikoma Honey
Delicious honey collected in Ikoma

There is actually a very famous suspension bridge called Hoshi no Buranko in the area that is the reason that most people visit Kisaichi. However, when we visited it was still closed due to coronavirus concerns. We’ll have to get there next time! A local helpfully pointed us to Kurondo Pond upon learning that we were disappointed that the bridge was closed.

Map of Kisaichi Area

Get out there and get some fresh air! Might be fun!

River near Kisaichi

Some relevant links!

Kansai Scene: https://www.kansaiscene.com/2014/08/relax-refresh-explore/

Kurondo Area Website: http://kurondoso.jp/

Hoshi no Buranko: http://osaka-midori.jp/mori/hoshida/hoshinoburanko.html

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Gion Festival in Kyoto circa 2005

Summer 2005, I went to Gion Festival 祇園祭り in Kyoto.

Gion Matsuri 2005

Gion is one of the largest festivals held in Kansai. It is one of the three largest and most important festivals in Japan. Normally held in July, it is a treasured annual event that completely consumes all activity in downtown Kyoto.

Some Japanese phrases to describe Gion Matsuri could be…

人だらけ。 “hito darake” “nothing but freakin people everywhere”
満員電車状態。 “manindensha jyoutai” “freakin’ like a rush-hour train”
めっちゃ暑いねん。”meccya atsuinen” “It’s freakin’ hot”

I joke, it’s an amazing experience and if possible, I would recommend everyone at try to attend once if you can manage.

Gion Matsuri 2005 - A crowded float
Gion Festival 2005

Giant two-story, two-ton floats carrying dozens of people in festival wear are wheeled around the streets — manually dragged by what must be 40 men. At one of the most exciting moments of the festival they heave the float to turn their fixed-axel heavy wooden wheels across the pavement. It is truly a sight to see!

Gion Matsuri 2005 - float full view

They even float by McDonalds… For an… Ice Cream Float. [joke.]

Gion Matsuri 2005 rolls by McDonalds
Gion Festival 2005 – Floating by McDonalds

Visit Kyoto in the summer and check out Gion Festival if you can! More details can be found at Yasaka Shrine’s official site.

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Fishing for Koi – Tsuribori

Looking for some wholesome fun in Japan? See if you can locate a kiddy fishing place in your area — they’re called tsuribori 釣り堀 in Japanese. Not actually fishing koi — they’re goldfish.

Tsuribori in Osaka
Tsuribori Shop
A Typical Tsuribori Scene

This activity is family oriented. You’ll pay a fee to be able to fish for a set amount of time and you’ll be given a simple fishing rod and some bait.

The bait is made out of gluten. You pinch some off, roll it into a ball, and stick it on your hook. You’ll have a bucket with water inside next to you where you put the fish you have caught. At the end of your time staff will come by, count your fish, and likely ask you to select a cheap carnival prize as a gift. The fish are returned to the tank to be fished up again by an eager kiddo or his parents.

Tsuribori Gluten Bait
Bait made from gluten.

The environment is wholesome and fun, as customers will cheer each other on and it’s generally a good time.

The same shops often sell koi as their main business. In Japan you’ll often see beautiful koi in Japanese gardens. These fish can cost anywhere from 1000 yen (about $10) USD to $10,000 USD per fish! Koi can easily live 25-35 years (the oldest lived 226 years!) so raising them is a professional business.

If you’re in Japan with random time to burn, give tsuribori a shot! Might be fun!

Tsuribori Koi
Tsuribori! Catching fish in a… tank.
Tsuribori Bucket of Koi
In one hour I caught 6. My kid caught 21…

Clubhouse: Great tool for Japanese learners looking to improve fast

You can learn Japaense on Clubhouse!

Clubhouse can be a great tool for language learners. You can find clubs where people are casually speaking your target language, and you can find rooms that are set up to actively help people learn the language. Here are some Japanese-language clubs that I have found to be entertaining and useful.

Note, Clubhouse is still invite only, but most people have tons of invites. If you want to join and need an invite let me know your Twitter handle and I will hook you up.

朗読【日本昔ばなし】クラブ

朗読【日本昔ばなし】クラブ / Reading Japan Folk Tales Out-loud Club

This club has talented native Japanese speakers reading traditional Japanese folk tales. As many Japanese Folk Tales are very old, thus in the public domain, if you look you can probably find the text online to read along yourself.

J-E Translator’s Club

J-E Translator’s Club

The J-E Translator’s Club is just a bunch of people in the J-E translation industry chatting about translation. Most of the people who join are native Japanese speakers. They discuss interesting things on occasion. One time I heard that apparently in Japanese when you make a good shot in basketball someone may say ナイスシュート but in golf they would say ナイスショット. In English, we say “nice shot” for both.

にほんごではなそう

Nihongo de Hanasou / Let’s speak Japanese

This club is a bunch of Japanese, many of whom are Japanese teachers, who gather to speak about teaching Japanese online, and invite Japanese learners to practice their Japanese with them. They are all very generous and patient.

ENJOY 日本語発音 CLUB

Enjoy Nihongo Hatsuon Club / Enjoy Japanese Pronunciation Club

The title of this club is to enjoy Japanese pronunciation. In reality, sometimes the teacher does a reading from a text. Sometimes the “students” in the room talk about some topic in Japanese. Something that alway happens though, is that the host goes around the room and asks everyone to contribute something.

ARIGATO CLUB

Arigato Club

This club is a straight up teacher-led Japanese lesson. The teacher is @mrmonaka and he speaks carefully and slowly the first time through the lessons. He really is a professional, and sometimes I wonder why people take the time to run these lessons. I guess it’s for the love of the game. He works from a textbook, and will ask the audience to read along with him. Probably the most structured Clubhouse-based Japanese lesson I have mentioned on this page.

関西弁 話さへんか?!

関西弁 話さへんか?! / Won’t you speak Kansai-ben with us?

From what I have gathered, this club is just a bunch of people speaking Kansai-ben together. They love it when others from western Japan join and chat with them, and they welcome foreigners who are interested in Kansai dialect for any reason. I enjoy listening in on this one, even though they do not discuss any topic in particular.

That’s a wrap! Clubhouse really is a great too for language learners. You can pop into a room of people discussing whatever in your target language, and just hang out. It’s good stuff. Try it out, might be fun!

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Japanese Lesson from Games: てんやわや

The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Monster Hunter Rise, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

もう周辺はてんやわんや!

Japanese: もう周辺はてんやわんや!

Hiragana: もうしゅうへんはてんやわんや!

Romaji: mou shuuhen wa tenya wanya!

てんやわんや is a very fun, sort of old sounding expression that means that everything is topsy-turvy, chaotic, upside down and hectic. The word 周辺 just means this area, or “around here,” and もう technically means “already.” The friendly dango seller is just saying that “things are so crazy and hectic around here! (Because a Osaizuchi has appeared around the shrine ruins .)

Another note on Monster Hunter Rise, in this version of Monster Hunter you can play with anyone worldwide. The previous Nintendo release of Monster Hunter, MH Generations and MH XX, were separate games so if you bought your game in the US it was only English and you couldn’t play with players in Japan. In Monster Hunter Rise lobby creators have an option to restrict their lobbies to people from the same “language” — which seems to really mean which country’s Nintendo Online subscription the person is on. Oh Japan… linking language with country again as if it is a worldwide phenomenon… But I digress. Enjoy playing international Monster Hunter!

Let’s find some tenyawanya in the wild!

Here is a movie from the 1950s called Tenyawanya.

てんやわんや」from 1950
Shizuko Kasagi – Listen at 0:25 「今日は朝から 私のお家はてんやわんやの 大騒ぎ」

Japanese Lesson from Games: Pearl Before Pig

Time for another language pick up from a Nintendo Switch game! This time it’s from GNOSIA, the single-player social deduction game modeled after the popular social game Werewolf.

豚に真珠ってことにならなきゃいいけどね

Japanese: 豚に真珠ってことにならなきゃいいけどね

Hiragana: ぶたにしんじゅうってことにならなきゃいいけどね

Romaji: buta ni shinjyu tte yatsu ni naranakya ii kedo ne

豚に真珠 (buta ni shinjyu) might be one of the first Japanese proverbs that a student of the Japanese language will learn. However, to see it in the wild is a rare treat so I made sure to grab this screen shot.

The expression is often translated as “pearl before pig,” and means to give a pearl to a pig. The meaning comes from the thought, what would a pig do with something as valuable as a pearl even if you gave it to it? The pearl is such a great thing, but in the pig’s hands it becomes useless — the pig does not understand its value. Kind of like if you gave me the greatest sashimi knife ever created… I don’t know how to prepare sushi, I don’t know anything about the value or quality of knives, so what would I do with it?

The later half of the sentence, ってことにならなきゃいいけどね can be broken down as… ってことis referring to the preceding 豚に真珠 pointing to it as the topic. にならなきゃ is short form of にならなければwhich is “if it doesn’t become that.” And finally, いいけどね “would be good.” So, the character is saying something like, “well it would be great if this doesn’t become a pearl before pig sort of situation…” The previous sentence is talking about how one of the other characters has a special ability of being an engineer in the game… and the character speaking is doubting their ability. That’s too much game mechanics to explain here though.

Good stuff! I really enjoyed this game. If you’re looking for a classically structured JRPG to play on your Switch, I can confidently recommend this one. It’s not a game you’re likely to sit down and play for an hour in one sitting, but it’s great in short bursts!

Remember, if you want to play this game in Japanese you have to get it on the Japanese eShop. The US eShop version of Gnosia does NOT have the Japanese text available, so if you want to play this in Japanese you’ll need to get the Japanese version. A lot of games for the Switch are truly region free and will switch languages based on your system settings, but Gnosia, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.

Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

Okonomiyaki THICC

Okonomiyaki is a staple food in Osaka. You can buy it any of the countless okonomiyaki shops, and most families have tried and true home recipes that they have used for years.

Homemade Okonomiyaki with rice
You can see the rice in this Okonomiyaki. Hefty.

The whole point of okonomiyaki is that you can put pretty much whatever you want inside. The Japanese word “okonomi” お好み means “as you like,” and that’s where the name comes from. I’ve seen okonomiyaki stores that allow you to insert mochi (rice cake), cheese, egg, as well as the usual stuff. Different regions of Japan are known for doing different things, like Hiroshima is famous for stuffing noodles inside of their okonomiyaki.

This was a homemade creation at my Kansai family’s home.

Homemade Okonomiyaki with rice
That’s a hefty Okonomiyaki

What’s the most surprising thing you have seen in an Okonomiyaki?

Try making it at home! Might be fun!

How to make Okonomiyaki (recipie)
How To Make Traditional Okonomiyaki Easily At Home

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Japanese Lesson from Games: One or two habits

The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Octopath Traveler, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

Octopath Traveler - hitokuse futakuse
hoka mo hito kuse futa kuse aru renchuu da!

Japanese: 一癖二癖ある

Hiragana: ひとくせふたくせある

Romaji: hito kuse futa kuse aru

It seems this is usually 一癖も二癖もある hito kuse mo futa kuse mo aru and means a person with a very unusual and quirky personality, normally used in a negative context.

There’s actually a lot of good Japanese in this screenshot. You’ll see the speaker is labeled as 客引き kyakuhiki which is often translated as a ‘tout’ but is basically someone who works to attract customers to buy their products, usually by calling out to them.

突如 totsujyo means ‘suddenly’, and isn’t a phrase I was familiar with.

連中 renchuu is a somewhat casual way to refer to a person or a group of people. It’s often used in a slightly negative context, but not always.

Good stuff! I really enjoyed this game. If you’re looking for a classically structured JRPG to play on your Switch, I can confidently recommend this one.

Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

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Monster Hunter Rise Ultra Basics

I am not a Monster Hunter expert by any means, but I have attempted to introduce many friends to the game. The action-packed epic battles, the nerdy customization, the cool aesthetic… and it’s multiplayer so I want people to play it with! Here are some answers to common questions I get about this somewhat obtuse game that I love so much.

Image of the many items in Monster Hunter
What do I do with all this stuff? Good thing the Item Box is bottomless!

What do I do with all these items???

You’ll collect dozens (dozens!) of items during your quests that will end up sitting in your supply box. Now what? The answer is that you let them sit there until you need them.

When it comes to many items, you won’t even know what they are for, or why you have them. Random monster fur? What’s that do? Eventually, you will need these to craft some armor, a weapon, or some other item to help you with a hunt. You do not need to consider selling off all your random items for money. In this game, money will rarely be the obstacle preventing you from getting what you need, but rare items are hard to come by! Hang on to your items and you’ll be thankful later when you’re off to craft new gear!

Monster Hunter View of Liolaeus from a Cliff
Monster Hunter View of Rathian from a Cliff

The quest is to hunt this monster, but there are so many other monsters on the map too, what do I do about them?

Your goal is to complete the main quest goal. If you don’t complete that goal in the allotted time then your quest will fail and most of your progress for that time will be lost.

So what about the other monsters? In short, if you have the time, you can hunt and carve them for items. That’s it. Nothing else that you do to them will count for anything. So either ignore them, or take them out and get the loot.

Monster Hunter Weaponsmith
He can make many weapons, but which one is for you?

Which weapon should I use?

It may help to think of Monster Hunter as a game like Street Fighter. They are both made by Capcom after all. In Street Fighter when you change your character your entire move set changes, and the strategy that you use to win should also change. Monster Hunter is like that in regards to weapons. Each weapon will dramatically change what the buttons do and how you play the game.

For example, with the long sword you get relatively close and slice and dice. A meter builds up and you can unleash a power attack. With the bow you stay back at a distance and try to line up power shots whenever possible. You’ll press and hold a button to charge up a shot. You also need to have coatings, that can make your arrows poison tipped or explosive, and you’ll change them on the fly in the field.

There is no right answer to which weapon one should use. They are all competitive and it’s up to you to decide which you enjoy the most. For something not as fiddly, try the hammer or long sword. For something more technical, try one of the bows or gunlance. The possibilities are endless!

Monster Hunter Rise Chat Menus
So many menus!

The menu maze is endless… what do I do with a ll these gestures and the camera and poses and fixed phrases and stuff?

You don’t need to do anything with them. It’s just for fun. Worry about it later!

Try Hunting! Might be fun!

Love this Zelda Boss Key Charm from Fandom Regalia – The Best Gamer Swag

Fandom Regalia is a company in Toronto that makes high-quality jewelry around geek themes ranging from Mario to Star Trek. I have started a small collection of sterling silver charms for my keychain. The stuff at Fandom Regalia is mainly meant for necklaces, but I’ll do me you do you.

Keychain
Added some bling to my keychain.

They have many attractive items. As someone who likes video games in particular, I was interested in the Mario Mushroom, the Zelda Boss Key, and the Mario Boo. I ended up going with the Large Zelda Boss Key, mainly because it is a larger size, and it is double-sided while many of the other designs have a flat back. It’s also one of those icons where, if ya know ya know — while if you don’t know, it still looks interesting.

Boss Key!

Ordering was easy and shipping was quick. When arrived it was more detailed than I had imagined. It was also smaller than I imagined, but that’s just silly because the measurements are on the website, and I checked them against a ruler before I ordered. Rest assured it’s sized as documented! The other charms that I have on my keychain are all larger, so it just looks small in comparison. If a double-sized XL Boss Key were ever created, I think I would jump on that.

Check out their stuff, might be fun!

Fandom Regalia on Facebook, and on their official website.