Japan-based Folks to Follow on Twitter

Looking for some interesting people to follow on Twitter who tweet about Japan and Japan related things? Here’s a random smattering of tweeps that I have found interesting over the years.

@hikosaemon tweets the news, to put it simply, and he’s all over it. He also as an active YouTube channel that is worth checking out.

@BuSensei Bret is a scholar and a gentleman. He is a true kanji nerd and has passed Kanji Kentei Level 1 to prove it. He hasn’t been as active on Twitter lately but is also on Facebook and he has an intense Kanji website at http://www.busensei.com/. He is more active on Instagram as BuSensei these days.

@wesinjapan is a JSPS Fellow at the famous university Ritsumeikan and he studies disasters.

@UnseenJapanSite Essays & news based on Japanese sources. They put out and share a lot of content. You will be entertained.

@nosword is a translator who has been on the Japan scene as long as I can remember. His blog, http://no-sword.jp/zoku/, has some of the heaviest Japan cultural and language content that I have come across.

@Cheesemeister3k is playing video games in Japan. Cheery guy. Good stuff.

@Mulboyne is a great source for news on Japan.

@makiwi writes about Japan and is quite active on Twitter.

It seems that more and more people are leaving Twitter for Instagram… I’m behind the curve. Not sure if Instagram will ever be my preferred platform. Guess I better catch up.

Any other Japan tweeps you’d want to add to this list?


Extending your Visa in Japan

In another bout of personal trouble caused by the coronavirus, I found myself “stuck” in Japan on a tourist visa in danger of exceeding the 90-day stay limit granted upon entry. I had to go to the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau to apply for an extension of my tourist visa status. Here’s how it went, I hope this is helpful to someone.

If you’re going to try something similar be sure to check the latest regulations and don’t just take my word for it — these processes can change at any time. This report is from an April 2020 visit.

Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau
This way to the Immigration Bureau! It’s the white building in the back.

This was my situation.

My wife and kids have Japanese passports, I don’t. We live and work outside of Japan and were just coming for a few months stay. While we were here the coronavirus situation heated up, and the country from which we departed closed its borders so we were unable to return. My 90-day tourist visa was starting to get close to the limit, and we still had no idea when we would be able to return, so I needed to get an extension. I could have applied to change status to a spousal visa, but we are not planning on staying that long so I didn’t think that was necessary.

Here’s how I did it.

The first step is to fill out the Application for Extension of Period of Stay form (在留期間更新許可申請書 zairyuu kikan koushin kyoka shinseisho). You can get the form online at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) website.

MOJ Website http://www.moj.go.jp/ONLINE/IMMIGRATION/16-3-1.html

Of course, you can also click the ENGLISH link above as well.

Print out the form and fill it out. (The forms are also available at the immigration office, but it’s much more convenient to fill it out ahead of time.)

The form has a space to include a 40mm x 30mm photo, but the photo is not necessary to extend a tourist visa.

You may be asked to provide evidence of your ability to fund your stay in Japan. You can do this by providing copies of bank statements. I had these bank statement copies prepared, but I was not asked to show any of this evidence.

Find your nearest Immigration Bureau office. I’m in Osaka, so I needed to go to the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau in Cosmo Square. It’s very close to the train station exit, which is on the Chuo Line. The area where I live is actually closer to the center of Kyoto, so I called the Osaka office and asked if they had a Kyoto location where I could apply. They said that if I was living in Osaka then I should go to the Osaka office.

The office is pretty well organized. Someone is seated near the entrance that you can explain your situation to, and they’ll point you in the right direction. The office employees will explain things and call out numbers in Japanese first before trying another language. I often heard them go from Japanese to English. Some of the staff were native Mandarin speakers.

Once you have turned in your application, if they are going to approve your extension you’ll be asked to pay for a 4,000 yen revenue stamp that is available on the premises. When I went in April 2020 payment was accepted in cash only.

Once everything is said and done you will leave the office with an additional stamp in your passport showing the extension. In my case I asked for an additional 90-day extension and it was granted.

I was probably in the building for about 1 hour.

Good luck! It won’t be fun visiting the office… but hopefully you’ll get your stuff done without much stress.


The website for the Osaka is here: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/soshiki/kikou/osaka.html

This video shows you how to get there from the station.
This shows the inside of the office and was taken recently. Dramatic title.

Japanese Craft Beer: Ginga Kougen Beer from Iwate prefecture

Whenever I’m in Japan (or anywhere for that matter) I try to drink craft brews when I get the opportunity. Here’s one of my consistent favorites, Ginga Kougen Beer from Iwate Prefecture.

The deep blue bottle stands out. The beer is tasty and refreshing. You can find it outside of Iwate frequently. I recently found it in Osaka. Quality stuff. Highly recommended. Run, do not walk, to a big super market in Japan and grab it.

Ginga Kougen Beer from Iwate Prefecture

Ginga Kougen Beer has an English website where you can read up on some of the history. There, you’ll see that this beer was established in 1996, which was also the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kenji Miyazawa, a famous Japanese author. One of Kenji Miyazawa’s most famous works is called 銀河鉄道の夜 (Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru, Night on the Galactic Railroad), which is where this beer takes part of its name. According to the Ginga Kougen Beer official website, the actual name of the beer means means Galaxy (ginga) and Plateau (kougen). Galaxy indicates “dream and roman” (I think they mean romance) and plateau indicates “famous natural water.”

It’s not often that one gets the chance to visit Iwate if you do not live or work there. Iwate is far from Tokyo, and isn’t on the way to much. I have been lucky enough to visit a few times and always enjoyed myself. The most famous cultural site must be Hiraizumi and Chusonji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The capital, Morioka, has famous noodle dishes such as wanko soba, jajamen, and morioka ramen (a cold noodle dish). If you find yourself in northern Japan, please try to fit in a visit to Iwate! Might be fun!

What’s your favorite Japanese Craft beer? Let me know in the comments!


Ginga Kougen Beer from Iwate Prefecture
Ginga Kougen Beer Label (Front)
Ginga Kougen Beer from Iwate Prefecture
Ginga Kougen Beer Label (Back)

Into the Breach for Nintendo Switch

Into the Breach for Nintendo Switch is great. If you’re like me and enjoy turn-based games, retro graphics, and sci-fi themes, then you’ll probably love Into the Breach. Yes, this game came out years ago, but my backlog is waist deep so this is where I’m at and this is what you get.

Into the Breach - Switch Version

At the beginning of the game you’ll select a team of three mechs with unique weapons and a unique pilot. You’ll then begin by selecting missions in which you’ll need to survive a preset number of rounds while completing objectives like preventing key infrastructure from being destroyed and/or defending a city from a violent alien infestation. Along the way you may find and purchase new weapons and upgrades to outfit your mechs, your pilots will level up, and you’ll find new pilots who will give your mechs stat boosts or new abilities. After each set of missions (which are grouped on islands) you’ll have an opportunity to spend credits to buy gear or repair the power grid, which is basically your life gauge. After setting your mechs up again you’ll head to the next area to select another mission. Once you have completed a minimum number of islands you can challenge the final mission. When you die, you’ll be able to select one of your pilots to survive and join you on your next run, stats in tact. It’s not easy.

Into the Breach - Switch Version
Select which mission you want to attempt.

Some call Into the Breach a roguelike game. I hesitate to use that term, because it invites debates about what a roguelike really is, maybe this is a roguelite rather than a roguelike. I don’t know what the proper term is, but the aspect about this game that persists across gaming sessions is that you’ll unlock new mechs, and you’ll be able to save one pilot after each game so that he can start with you next time around. You can save him because… time travel. I joke, but actually the time travel element of this story works pretty well.

Into the Breach is done by the same designers who did FTL (Faster Than Light). I loved FTL. If you’ve played FTL I’m sure you loved it too. If you haven’t played it, look it up and check it out. This game does not resemble FTL at all if you ask me, but it’s just as good!

Into the Breach - Switch Version
Water rushes in from the top right of this map each turn, destroying landscape and any non-flying units in its wake.
Assign pilots and configure and power your mech’s weapons.

Why this game is great for me, a working dad:

  • Turn-based. Take a turn, change a diaper, dive back in.
  • One battle can be finished in 10 minutes or less.
  • Waiting a day or two between battles doesn’t diminish the experience.
  • It’s really a puzzle that will make you feel smart when you solve it.
  • There are so many achievements and team combinations that gives the game high replayability. Also, it’s hard.

I’m no pro gamer, but here’s some tips that might help you survive.

  • Block new Vek from surfacing whenever you can. You only take one damage when you do, and they’re much harder to kill once they have reached the surface!
  • The Swap Mech is surprisingly useful. Swap enemies into water. Upgrade the range to move your own units just a few squares closer so they can get the job done.
  • The Storm Generator coupled with weapons that create smoke can be devastating. I won my first normal difficultly run largely because I was able to generate tons of damage-dealing attack-nullifying clouds of smoke. The Jet Mech also played a key role.
Into the Breach - Switch Version

Verdict: If you like turn-based strategy games that can be played in short gaming sessions I’m certain sure you’ll love Into the Breach. Yes, it’s a port of an old game, but if you missed it the first time around like I did, I recommend Into the Breach without hesitation! And it’s inexpensive!

Other Reviews:

Into the Breach - Switch Version
Failure! You can’t win them all…