Yet another Takoyaki party! But is it TENKASU or AGEDAMA?
Many Japanese people from the Kansai area in western Japan have a Takoyaki kit as part of their kitchenware items. If there’s a home gathering of Japanese expats takoyaki will probably make an appearance before long.
The rice crispies looking thing you see above is called Tenkasu in Kansai-dialect. Until recently, I thought tenkasu was the regular name.
天かす てんかす “Tenkasu” Used in Kansai. The name comes from the left over stuff when you make Tenpura. The “ten” from “tenpura” and “kasu” basically means trash or residue.
揚げ玉 あげだま “Agedama” Used in the rest of Japan, it seems. Age means to “fry up,” and “dama” is a ball.
If you’ve never heard of Takoyaki, google it up. There are countless explanations!
In 2002 I took a trip from Osaka to Awajishima. The trip was awesome and was suggested by a reader of my blog at the time. I was lucky enough to be hosted by an exchange student friend who was living on Awajishima, so I had a local host of sorts. The trip was a few hours one way. First we took a train to Sannomiya, and then grabbed a long distance bus for about an hour and a half. The last stop on the bus is a town called Fukura, which is where my friend was living. I’m not sure if that’s still the best way to get there, so check the Awajishima Access link below to plan your trip.
We arrived late Friday night so we would have Saturday and Sunday to enjoy. Due to the unbelievable whirlwind of activities that we did on Saturday, I think I can say that we did almost all of the main attractions that Awajishima has to offer. Here’s a summary of our tour.
#1 Nushima (Nu Island)
Nushima (沼島) is a small island about a 10 minute ferry ride from Nandan-cho, Nada. Nushima has a famous rock called Kamitate Gami Iwa 上立神岩。
It also has this cool area with hundreds of continuous Torii gates. Sort of like Fushimi Inari in Kyoto but with fewer tourists and a different style of torii gate. Apparently they give luck to the many fishermen in the area.
Also, here’s some trivia. Apparently in Nushima there is a story that explains how the island, and the rest of Japan were created. When god was creating Japan, he jabbed a sword into the earth. When he was pulling up the sword some of the stuff that was clinging to it dripped off. That first drip is Nushima. Kamitate Gami Iwa is the spot where the sword stuck. The other drips were Awajishima and the rest of Japan… So Nushima came first. Apparently there is a similar story in Awajishima with the names reversed. The ferry’s don’t leave Nushima back to Awajishima so often, so be sure to track the schedule carefully. If not, you might have to run up and down the hills of the island at break neck speeds to avoid screwing up the rest of your day. Then your muscles will be sore… Not that… it… happened to us or anything… Ha Ha Ha!（恥）
#2 Awajishima Monkey Center (モンキーセンター)
After Nushima we went to Awajishima Monkey Center. Awajishima Monkey Center was probably the second most famous thing in Awajishima next to the Uzushio (渦潮) at the time.
The monkey center was nice because the monkeys were just kind of walking around freely. There is a designated spot for feeding where the customers go behind a fence and give them peanuts. This is so the monkeys understand that random people are only going to give them food when they are behind the fence so they don’t ask for food other times.
#3 Nazo no Paradise(ナゾのパラダイス)
Nazo no Paradise is this erotic museum with other random mystery stuff like UFOs. It was freakin’ strange. Apparently the place tries to remain reasonably legit by keeping old school Japanese erotic prints. You know what I mean. They also though had strange statues…
That Kanji is difficult. It wouldn’t even come up on my cell phone on first try.
These dolls are famous and the performance is an art. It takes three people to control one doll. The right arm and head are controlled by one person, the left arm by another, and the feet by the last person. The doll’s hands can move, eyes can blink, head can turn, and all of the arm joints move freely.
During the performance there were two Japanese ladies on the side, one playing the shamisen, and one singing and reading the lyrics. It’s amazing how they all work together to bring the dolls to life. Pictures were not allowed during the performance. The men controlling the dolls wore all black and black hoods as to not distract from the action of the dolls.
#5 Awaji Farm Park England Hill (England no Oka, イングランドの丘)
Farm park was a sort of nature and farm inspired theme park. There is something similar in Osaka called Mother Farm. Check their website for some of the possible activities. I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Awajishima just to visit Farm Park, but if you’re already in Awajishima and have kids it can be a nice healthy diversion.
On our final day we went to do shiohigari, which is “clamming.” You go down to the beach when the tide is back, and dig for clams. Then you take them home and eat them up. Fun for the whole family!
(This article contains mild Octopath Traveler spoilers including images of the true final boss, and tips to defeat him.)
The true final boss in Octopath Traveler will not be easy for the casual, or even mildly fanatic, gamer. In fact, if you find it easy, you’re truly something and I am in awe at your gaming skillz.
It took me about 42 million tries to win, and I have bene playing turn-based RPGs since the original Final Fantasy on the NES. You don’t have to fight this hidden true final boss. If you can suppress your desire to do all there is to do in this game — just quit! Save your sanity! However, if you’re like me and just can’t stop, then I hope these tips help.
Thankfully, Octopath Traveler has such an interesting job and ability system that I didn’t mind the countless party reconfigurations and trial and error (and… OK… internet research…) that it took to finally win. I’m normally not a completionist… but I 100 percented this game. My tips on how to survive the final fight may not be optimal, but they worked for me.
Don’t Leave Home Without these Passive Skills Saving Grace / 回復限界突破 BP Eater / BPイーター Divine Aura / 天使の加減 Fortitude / 火事場の馬鹿力 Surpassing Power / ダメージ限界突破 Second Serving / おかわり Patience / ラストアクト Eye for an Eye / 反撃
Saving Grace allows your characters to be healed beyond their limits and have up to 9,999 HP. Everybody needs this. When a party member goes down revive them with an Olive of Life and they will pop back up with 9999 HP ready to go!
BP Eater will make your boosted BP attacks do extra damage. By extra I mean thousands of points of extra damage. Give this to whoever you plan to have use their divine skills to dish it out. For me, this was my Warmaster (Haaint), Thief (Therion), and Fighter (Olberic). I probably should have also given it to my Sorcerer, but I mainly used their magic for multiple hits to “break” the boss.
Divine Aura will give you a 25% chance to take no damage from an enemy’s attack. Since the boss is going to hit you a million times spread across four characters, that 1 in 4 chance will add up — no matter how unlucky you are in real life. Give it to as many characters as you can.
Fortitude will allow you deal more damage the lower your HP gets. If you can manage to line up your Warmaster with 1 HP, full BP, BP Eater, Fortitude, and Surpassing Power, you’re going to deal a ton of damage. This was my key to consistently defeating Galdera phase 1.
Surpassing Power allows you to deal more than 9999 damage. It should be paired with BP Eater like peanut butter and jelly, and you should put it on any character you expect to be dishing out heavy damage.
Second Serving will cause your character to attack twice 50% of the time when performing a regular attack. This should be on your characters that have the Double Hatchet. (There are two Double Hatchets to be found in the game.) If your BP is maxed out and you unleash with the Double Hatchet and Second Serving, there is a chance you’ll hit the enemy something like 12 times! Break that armor!
Patience will allow your character to act again at the end of the turn 25% of the time. Bonus round! Put this on as many characters as possible. You can use that extra turn to slip in that final attack to break, or to do housekeeping things like apply BP or SP potions.
Eye for an Eye let’s you counter attack when damaged by a physical attack 50% of the time, and pairs well with your characters that have the Double Hatchet. Sometimes those unplanned extra hits can trigger a “break” and get you out of a pinch.
Take the Time, Set it Up If you can get your WarMaster down to 1 HP, full BP, the Fortitude passive skill, and the enemy is broken, and you have reduced the enemies armor, then you’ve set yourself up for a big hit. All this may seem like chasing a unicorn, but getting the setup right will be the difference between a 10,000 damage attack and a 40,000 damage attack. Most of the time you’ll be able to get some mix or resemblance of this set up. Work for it, even if it means defending sometimes to delay your attackers turn until the time is right.
Attack when Broken for Maximum Damage When possible, save your big divine skill attacks for when the boss is broken. You’ll do much more damage than when they are not broken.
Double Hatchet The double hatchet hits twice with each attack. This is useful for quickly breaking enemies. The eye on phase 1 is weak to axe. Considering giving the Eye for an Eye ability and the Second Serving ability to the characters who have this equipped for some extra damage.
How should I split up my party? This is the set up that worked for me, but there can be many variations. Notes on effective passive skills are at the beginning of this article.
GalderaPhase 1: Main Strategy: Massive Area Damage – Reflective Veilto survive Galdera’s lightning attack
In this phase you need to destroy all of the souls at once to expose the eye, and then focus on keeping the eye broken as long as possible while dealing as much damage as possible. In this phase the boss has 500,000 hit points, versus only 150,000 in phase 2.
It will take a while to wear him down. If you unleash a big attack and one of those souls happens to survive, and god forbid if one regenerates, be sure to wear the healthy one down so you can finally wreck them all at the same time. The eyeball can unleash a lightning attack that will hit all of your characters at the same time. If you have a chance, apply Reflective Veil to bounce that crap back.
This is how I set up my party and what their main roles were:
H’aanit / Warmaster: Used the Warmaster’s divine skill to wreck everything.
Alfyn / Warrior: Used Double Tomahawk to break the eye. Used his concoctions to give everyone BP — this is hugely important. Used warrior divine skill to dish mega targeted damage to a single soul in case one got out of sync.
Ophelia / Thief: Used the thief divine skill for dealing damage to all of the souls simultaneously. Using cleric’s divine skill on the sorcerer was useful for repeating her magic to increase hits to make her breaks even more effective. Thief’s Armor Corrosive was also helpful, but the Full Enfeeblement NPC from Noblecourt duplicates that.
Primrose / Scholar: Her job was mainly buffing allies by boosting physical and magic attack power. The scholar’s magic was useful to help break. She also brought the NPC named Ogen who can heal your entire party for 9999 HP. Bring him!
Galdera Phase 2: Main Strategy: Just destroy everything and survive.The parts do not regenerate.Damage! Deal Damage!Survive to fight another day!
Therion / Cleric: His thief divine skill is powerful if you build him for speed. When you need, heal the party up and cast reflective veil.
Olberic / Allpoc: Fighting and healing. Nothing fancy. I gave him the Double Tomahawk to help break.
Cyrus / Runelord: Positive status effects can get canceled during this fight, but if you can slip in a hit with a rune boost every now and then it will help. Second Serving and rune magic go well together.
Teresa / Sorcerer: Magic to break! BP Passer to give Therion the juice he needs to use his divine skill.
That’s all I got! Good luck! If you need to level up near the end of the game you can do so in the Forest of Purgation.
Geesh that fight was rough… Might be fun though. Give it a shot!
When I was relatively new to Tokyo I visited Harajuku summer 2002. Here’s some photos and memories from that time.
Harajuku is just about a 20 minute stroll from Shibuya. If you plan to visit, just get to Shibuya and you can walk to Harajuku and through Omotesando as well on the same trip.
Harajuku used to be famous for clothing shops, crepe, and the extreme fashions of the people who hang out there. The vibe has changed a bit since 2002. Nearby Omotesando is a clean fancy street filled with high end shops and fancy restaurants. Harajuku station itself is scheduled to be remodeled and expanded and will no longer be a cute little station resembling a cabin of sorts. I haven’t been in a while, but I’m pretty sure that Takeshita street still gets super crowded. Some things will never change. Probably a much higher percentage of out of foreign tourists now though.
Back in 2002, as soon as I got to the station area I noticed the crazy fashion statements that were mentioned in every Tokyo guide book at the time. The pictures speak for themselves. The locals welcomed the photos, and posed and looked directly into the camera for me.
The gathering was organized and set around a specific time. Was it Sunday mornings? Local photographers came out to take pictures, and everyone came out with their suitcases filled with gear for their outfits.
Have you been to Harajuku recently? What’s changed? Is the vibe around the station area and entrance to the park generally the same? Now when I go to Japan I generally go to Osaka, so it’s been a while since I’ve been to Harajuku too see if these folks still come out!
If you’re looking for a quality local craft beer from Osaka you must try Minoh Beer.
Minoh beer is probably the easiest Osaka-based craft beer to find. You might be able to find it in a restaurant or craft beer bar. You can certainly buy it online from their shop, and you can occasionally find it in a random grocery shop. You may also have luck finding it in large cities outside of Osaka as well.
Minoh is a town in Osaka famous for its waterfall and beautiful foliage in the fall. The first time I went to Minoh I didn’t know about Minoh Beer and was mainly going for a nature-filled getaway from the hustle and bustle of Osaka. Some links about Minoh follow this post.
Minoh beer has been around since 1997. It is unique in that it is owned by three sisters. They have a relatively large line of beers and have won many awards. There is a Minoh Beer Warehouse in Minoh where you can tour and buy souvenirs. I haven’t been there… yet.
Here is an image of the Minoh Beer pamphlet (as of Feb 2020). You’ll see a pilsner, a weizen, a pale ale, a stout, a double IPA for their main line. They also have several seasonal offerings, including a Yuzu White for the winter season that I have never tried! Good to see that their product line continues to grow. More images of the pamphlet are at the bottom of this post.
This time I tried this Billikin Beer from Minoh Beer that I had never had before. It’s a light fruity beer that I think would be delicious on a hot summer day. It’s also the first canned beer from Minoh that I have tried.
What else is going on in Minoh?
I was digging through the archives of my old blog and found these words that I wrote about Minoh when I visited in 2005.
One of the local foods available in Minoh is called Momiji Tempura.
As you probably know Tempura is a way of deep frying lightly breaded foods so that when they are done they have a light brown crust of tasty goodness around them. You can tempura anything from shrimp to ice cream.
In Minoh they push tempura to the limits and throw their famous maple leaves into the mix. Maybe they have too many and are trying to control the population? Beats raking them I guess. Crunch.
Momiji Tempura just tastes like an extra crunchy tempura snack. You can’t really taste the leaves… The Tempura coating is more crunchy than usual tempura. You can pop ’em like potato chips. Fun for the novelty I guess.
Hey. Japanese time. Did you know that the kanji for TEMPURA is really tough? Tough like “soy sauce” and “rose” are tough. Japanese usually write the PURA in Hiragana. 天麩羅！！！ Learn to write this, and dazzle your friends next time you go out for tempura.
On another note of randomness… Apparently momiji trees are normally red, and then when fall comes they turn green. Opposite of most trees. This explains why I could have red momiji leave tempura in April… Fact or fiction?
The area around Toudaiji and the Deer Park in Nara is constantly packed. If you’re looking for something that is less crowded, don’t skip the beautiful Isuien Gardens.
One creative feature in Isuien Gardens is their use of stones tied with rope to indicate areas that guests should not enter. This is great. The stones are aesthetically pleasing, blend in with nature and the parks scenery, and are still easy to spot.
Isuen Garden is a short walk from Kintetsu Nara station. You can easily do the garden, Todaiji, and the nearby famous deer park in the same afternoon or morning.
There is also a nice little tea house in the garden where you can take of your shoes, sit on tatami, and enjoy some tea and traditional Japanese sweets (or soft cream).
Visiting Isuien shocked me into really feeling like I was “in Japan” again. It’s amazing how much the environment can change once you enter the garden grounds. As there were hardly any tourists when we went, it was quiet, free of any litter, and seemed that everything was in place. We were there in the morning and could hear what sounded like a bullfrog, and there were small bugs suspending themselves on top of the pond. Really a great environment. If you’re in Nara, don’t miss it!
Board games are great. I have bought, sold, and traded for quite a few over the past few years. One thing to know about board games is that their prices can fluctuate wildly. It’s not uncommon to find relatively new games on sale for 30-40% off of the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) on major online shops like Target, Walmart, and Amazon.
Of course, it’s always best to support your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Shop) if they have the game you want. These local shops keep the hobby alive and build the community.
CamelCamelCamel.com: This website provides price history graphs for most products listed on Amazon. You can also specify a price point and receive an alert when the product price falls to that point or lower. If you’re not in a hurry to buy something you can set an alert and pick it up when it reaches an all-time low price. You can see in the screen capture below that Skull (awesome game) fluctuates between 25$ and 15$ quite frequently.
Reddit r/boardgamedeals : The r/boardgamedeals subreddit is full of board game enthusiasts who watch price swings like hawks. You will often see people mention “CCC all-time low” on this Reddit sub. This means that the current price is the lowest price ever recorded on CamelCamelCamel.com.
Here are some of my favorite Social Media Accounts the track Board game deals:
I was looking for a cheap tiny chess set to use with my kid while hanging out at the in-laws. Something that I could leave behind tucked away in a corner that wouldn’t take up much space. Something not heavy that I could bring on short overnight trips. Something so inexpensive that I wouldn’t cry if it got lost.
This is fine. It cost less than 550 yen when I got it in February 2020 in Osaka.
The fold up plastic board can store the pieces, and it comes with a trifold instruction manual. The manual is Japanese only and unnecessary if you know how to pay chess. You have to punch the pieces out from the plastic mold yourself, but it wasn’t difficult and I didn’t break any pieces in the process. I’ll probably get a small bag of some sort to put the pieces into before putting them inside of the board to prevent everything from rattling around like cheap a cheap baby rattle.
The pieces are easy enough to tell apart. They are extremely light hollow plastic. Not satisfying to move at all, but hey, didn’t buy this for that feeling anyway.
The board has indented plastic spaces to prevent the pieces from sliding around, but the spaces are circles that are much larger than the bases of the pieces.
As it was so cheap this was a worthwhile experiment since I’m trying to keep up my kid’s interest in chess. I mainly set up one move checkmate situations and other chess puzzles that I find online, and my kid enjoys solving them. Soon I think we’ll be able to play a game together! For that sort of training, this cheap set is worth it. If you’re looking for a permanent travel set that you enjoy playing games with, keep looking.
Do you want to really geek out on Japanese Shochu? Check out these two videos featuring Stephen Lyman, America’s leading expert on Japan’s national distilled spirit: shochu.
Shochu is a nice, distinctly Japanese drink. Like whisky, different shochu labels have memorably different tastes and qualities. You can drink shochu on the rocks, split with warm water, with seltzer water, you can even do hot water and put an umeboshi into the glass.
As you’ll learn in Stephen Lyman’s videos, shochu is almost exclusively produced and consumed in Japan. Most shochu is made in Kyushu, and much of it is from relatively small distileries. Exploring the world of shochu might be fun! Give it a shot.
Drinking in general is not good for your health. However, among all the possible alcoholic beverages you can consume, Shochu isn’t the worst. In fact, Stephen documented his weight lost results when switching to a “shochu diet.” Apparently shochu has far fewer calories than other drinks. Another plus of shochu is that it is normally cheaper than whiskey or sake. A nice bottle of shochu, in Japan, will rarely exceed 4000 or 5000 yen. Very good bottles can be had for about 3000 yen. Very reasonable.
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!
Romaji: kajiba no baka jikara
So first off, type 馬鹿力 you should type “bakadikara” if you’re typing in romaji. This is written with ぢ, not じ, the pronunciation of ぢ and じ are essentially the same.
My super literal yet fun translation of 火事場の馬鹿力 is, the ridiculously stupid strength you get when you are in the middle of a fire. A good way to translate it might be, an adrenaline rush, or a person’s fight or flight response. Great phrase isn’t it?
The description under this ability says that the character that has this equipped will deal an increasing amount of damage the lower their HP falls. I love the fun name of the ability matches the in game effect. When you’re on your last legs you’ll find that extra burst of strength and deal out more damage than you’ve ever dealt before. It also seems that this ability is a pretty good one for this game, allowing your characters to deal ridiculous amounts of damage.
They localized 火事場の馬鹿力 to “fortitude” in the English version. Not nearly as interesting in my opinion, but kudos to localizers, that’s not an easy job! They are not only limited by differences in language, but by screen real estate and character limitations as well.
Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.