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Earth Celebration on Sado Island

In 2013 I went to the Earth Celebration festival on Sado Island. It was a wonderful experience and I hope I have a chance to do it again.

Sado Island Main State
People claiming their spots for the main show.

Attending the the Earth Celebration is a real adventure. It’s a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, a musical treat, and a cultural experience.

The main event at Earth Celebration is always a Taiko Drum performance by Kodo, who always deliver an absolutely earth-shaking show. They perform throughout the year in other locations and I would strongly recommend you catch them if you can. I don’t have photos from Kodo’s performance from Earth Celebration 2013 as they asked for no photography during the show… Plus it was dark and we were far from the stage and I didn’t have a zoom lens…

Before Kodo performs you can enjoy other music performances and a variety of food stalls of the usual Japanese festival fare.

"Oni Daiko" which is literally "demon drums."
This was called “Oni Daiko” which is literally “demon drums.”
The man wearing the demon mask was the main performer.
Sado Island Earth Celebration Logo - Warakudaiko groupFlag
Sado Island Earth Celebration Logo Flag
Earth Celebration on Sado Island (2013)
The main shopping strip of Sado.
The main street in town.

Even though Sado Island is off the beaten path, it’s not difficult to get to as Japan has public transport sorted out. The town itself is quaint, but during the Earth Festival there are plenty fo tourists, so many shops and restaurants are open. The town is small so you can walk around the main drag in a single day no problem.

This is a report from a visit in 2013, I’m sure the festival has changed in some way since then, but I’m sure it’s still great. Has anyone been recently? If so do share your experience!

Links:

Earth Celebration Official English Website

Kodo, Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble

Getting to Sado Island on VisitSado.com

Tottori Sand Dunes for an trip out-of-the-ordinary Japan Adventure

Looking for something different to do in Japan? Try Tottori Sand Dunes! Might be fun. This isn’t a location I would recommend to someone who is headed to Japan for the first time ever, but if you are already living in Japan and looking for something new to do, check it out.

People for scale.

The Tottori Sand Dunes (鳥取砂丘 tottori sakyuu) are the only place in Japan where you can see sand dunes. They are indeed natural, and have existed for 100,000 years.

The Tottori Sand Dunes are really the main tourist attraction in Tottori prefecture. Other than the dunes, you can find hot springs and ryokan as you can at most other tourist destinations in Japan.

At the time I went, which was 2006… there were several activities you could do. They had rental boards so you could try sand surfing. You could do paragliding, or ride a camel. There is also a sand museum.

Camel at Tottori Sand Dunes
Camel to ride! Must be lonely being a camel in Tottori…
Sand dune!
I guess parasailing isn’t the proper term, but this. It’s smaller.
Sand surfing!

Getting to Tottori Sand Dunes:

Once you’re in Tottori it’s easy to get to the dunes. They are such a major tourist attraction all the signs and anyone you ask will point you there.

From Tokyo: If you’re coming from Tokyo by train, it’s about 5 hours and 10 minutes. The trip will take you to Himeji on the Nozomi bullet train, and then from Himeji to Tottori station on the Super Hakuto train. From Tottori station you can get to the dunes by taxi or bus.

From Osaka: Coming from Osaka the trip is about two hours and 40 minutes on the Super Hakuto train. It’s a straight shot from Osaka to Tottori with no train exchanges. Easy! Then once you’re at Tottori you can get to the dunes by taxi or bus.

Japan’s Crazy Desert Revealed: Tottori Sand Dune Adventure ★ ONLY in JAPAN


There is even a classic song about Tottori Sakyuu that many Japanese know and love. It’s more popular with the older generation, but still a lot of people know it!

For best results, sing in a karaoke shop in Tottori.

Kaori Mizumori  sings Tottori Sakyu

Give it a shot!

Links:
Tottori Sand Dunes [Wikipedia]
Tottori Sand Dunes [Japan Guide]
Access to Tottori Sand Dunes [Official]

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Japanese Lesson from Games: 人の上に立つ者

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 - hito no ue ni tatsu mono
Octopath Traveler – hito no ue ni tatsu mono

Kanji: 人の上に立つ者

Romaji: ひとのうえにたつもの

English: To lead. A leader. Literally, to stand over others.

This phrase is often used in work situation to describe someone who managers others. In this scene H’aanit (my favorite character) is musing that about a leader’s preparedness 覚悟 and determination 決意.

人の上 is “over people.” に is a particle. And 立つ is “to stand.” 者 is the object here, and indicates a person.

I came across this page on 新R25 when I was researching this phrase. The article is titled 「人の上に立つ」なんて性根が腐っていて気持ち悪い。これからのリーダーは“円を描ける人”だ which roughly translates into, “The phrase ‘to stand over others as a leader’ has a rotten character and feels disgusting. Leaders should be “people who can draw a circle” from now on. In his article he claims that people are people, no one is above or below the other. He says that we should do away with a pyramid structure way of thinking, and use a circle as the base instead. He then goes on to say that new leaders should play more of a captain role. There are many instances of the 人の上に立つ者 phrase throughout the article if you want more context for your Japanese learning!

I tweeted this as well! Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

Japanese YouTuber – 小豆島の漁師はまゆう Fisherman Hamayuu!

Well this is unique, and immensely popular.

Ever wanted to learn a ton of fishing vocabulary, see some amazing seafood, or maybe learn something about Shoudoshima? Check out this Japanese YouTuber’s channel – he is a fisherman named Hamayuu and his videos regularly get more than 500,000 views.

Learn about random sea creatures and eat them!

Eat a Huge Squid! Might be fun.

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Ways to move to Japan – International Job Far

If you’re reading this you probably do not need to be convinced that Japan is a great place to spend some time. If you’re thoroughly convinced and want to move to Japan, how should you go about it? One way is to get a job that will sponsor your visa to move to Japan.

Step 1. Get a job. Step 2. Go to Japan. Step 3. ??? Step 4. PROFIT!!!

One straightforward way to get to Japan is to attend a job fair and secure a job offer with a company that will sponsor your visa.

Of course getting a job offer is never easy, but it’s also never impossible — you just have to keep at it. If you’re about to graduate from a solid four-year university, have a practical major that is in demand, and also speak Japanese at a conversational level, you have a shot. A recommended international job fair to attend is the CFN Career Forum.

I attended the Career Forum in Boston in 1999 and got a job in Japan, but that was more than a decade ago, so my personal experience may not be relevant anymore. I see they still bill themselves as a “Career Site for Japanese-English Bilingual Job Seekers” so perhaps the fundamentals are still the same.

“International” Career Fair to Bring People to Japan

As you will see from their website, the CFN Career Forum holds “international” career fairs (they call them forums) several times a year mainly for companies specifically targeting bilingual English-Japanese speakers. Though it may not be explicitly stated, without a doubt most of the companies that attend the forums are looking to catch Japanese-native candidates who studied overseas and thus are now proficient in English.

Due to the typical hiring season in Japan being fixed to March each year, students who studied in the United States, for example, will not finish their studies until May and thus miss the job hunting rush. These job fairs give Japanese companies chance to interview these potential candidates.

If you’re not Japanese, do not be discouraged. Myself included, I know many non-Japanese that landed their first job in Japan through this job fair event. As you will have the opportunity to speak with someone in person, I am quite certain that it will be easier to make a good first impression than it would by submitting a resume to a hiring portal.

Career Forums in Several Cities

As you can see from their website, the Career Forum is held in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Osaka, London, Sydney and Shanghai. The first was held in Boston in 1987, so it has quite a history now. If I remember correctly, when I attended in 1999 the forum was only held in Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and London. They have expanded!

Yeah but What Kind of Job Could I Get?

You can find a list of companies that participate on their website, the current list is here. As you can see, a lot of large corporate companies attend. You’ll want to have your resume polished! This isn’t the place to find work if you are mainly looking to teach English. In fact, I do not believe any education companies or academic institutions recruit at these events. You’ll likely have the most luck if you are in business or STEM fields and can speak conversational Japanese.

Happy hunting!

Links:

CareerForum.net – https://careerforum.net/en/

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Japanese Lesson from Games: Wasn’t Even Human

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 - ore wa hito de wa nakatta...
ore wa hito de wa nakatta… 俺は人ではなかった…

Japanese: 俺は人ではなかった

Hiragana: おれはひとではなった

English: I wasn’t even human.

Romaji: ore ha hito deha nakatta

A more literal linguistic translation would be “I wasn’t even a person,” because the literal translation of “human” in Japanese is 人間 ningen.

This Japanese phrase has the same intention and feel as when we say, “he’s not even human” in English. The character is remembering his past deeds and saying that they were so heinous, that he wasn’t displaying human decency and so doesn’t even deserve the label of being called a human being.

There are cases where the Japanese language will use the more literal term 人間 in this sense of value as a person. Notably, in the title of the famous book Ningen Shikkaku by Dazai Osamu, which is translated to No Longer Human. (人間失格 Wikipedia) (The full text of Ningen Shikkaku on Aozora Bunko)

By the way, the English localization that appears in the game says “No, I wasn’t even human.” Thanks to underbuffed.com for making this English video available. I’d never play a long game like Octopath Traveler twice to try to capture both the English and Japanese lines, so I’m thankful the folks at underbuffed have documented this so I can compare.

Octopath - I wasn't even human
Octopath – I wasn’t even human [Via Underbuffed.com]

Enjoy!

Links:

Underbuffed.com: Again with Alaic – https://underbuffed.com/octopath-traveler-again-with-alaic/ – Underbuffed.com has a huge repository of Octopath Traveler side quest details. I never would have finished all the side quests without it.

Spoilers, but this includes the scene this language is from.

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

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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!