Bradcat’s Guest Feature – Graphic Designer – Thom Baker

As a new feature on Bradcat’s Baka Blog, I’ll be taking the time to hunt people down who have experienced Japan first hand, from people who have visited, to people that live there. Hopefully this will give me an insight into how people view culture. My first guest is Thom Baker…

Tell us about yourself, who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, my name is Thom Baker, I am an independent graphic designer specialising in branding and typography.

Why did you visit Japan?

I was offered the opportunity to go to Tokyo with Staffordshire University on a cultural visit, which was great! I’ve always had an interest in the visual culture of the Far East, Japan especially – from the calligraphy and landscape paintings and Hokusai woodcuts to the manga, anime and modern graphic design. There’s this aesthetic prowess from Japan that I don’t think you find anywhere else.

How long did you spend there?

Just under a week with traveling. Actual time travel going on there, got in the plane Friday, got out on Sunday after traveling for 12 hours and then got back a couple of hours after we left (I may have exaggerated this slightly).

During your time, what was one thing which stood out the most to you?

The contrasts, between the very old and traditional and the very modern and mad. Near Harajuku one side of the street was crazy, neon lights, big screens cute characters and loads of people and colour. The other side was a massive park with a Shinto shrine and a tea house of the Empress. Both stunning in completely different ways and a two minute walk from each other.

What cultural differences surprised you the most?

The simple respect there seems to be there. There’s no litter anywhere and bikes left unlocked on really busy streets in the middle of the city. It felt extremely safe and relaxed despite how busy everywhere was.

What was your favourite place to visit?

Many places for different reasons. The cat cafe was just bizarre, none of the cats are actually interested in being pet, so to get their attention you buy a little tub of chicken – they’re all you’re friend then! Shibuya junction just blows your mind, there’s just so many people, the Shinto Shrine, the themed restaurants. They were all great but some of my favourite places were just being there, on a normal street, with people going about their daily lives. I’ve always wanted to see a tea ceremony too, just the thought and care taken in every act is beautiful, to see and take part in that was wonderful. I haven’t really answered your question! Tokyo was my favourite place when I visited Tokyo – does that count?

What was the best thing you ate or drank during your time there?

All the food was great. Two things really stood out.

We went to one of the older parts of Tokyo where it was more residential, really had a Bladerunner look about it with narrow streets and filled with neon signs and stuff. We went into a proper noodle bar which was full of locals – had some absolutely brilliant noodles, everyone was really helpful, with the staff and locals helping us order and explaining what things were.

Another one was a Bento box in this massive market, it had sushimi and miso and tempura. Really good stuff!

Would you go back, and why?

I would definitely go back! It would be great to live and work there for a bit, properly experience life there. It’s such a vibrant and colourful culture – but as I said, theres a quiet respectfulness that runs through everything. It truly is a beautiful place! I love Tokyo!

You can see Thom’s work on his website which can be found here. While he was in Tokyo, Thom was kind enough to bring some gifts back for me, including the last SCANDAL album, some green tea, and a few Yen coins! Thanks for the gifts Thom, and thank you for your time for this interview.

More guests on Bradcat’s Baka Blog soon…

Bradcat’s Personal Focus… Cultural Care Package

When I started learning Japanese in November last year, I signed up for a lot of language exchange websites. This was mainly to help my own learning, but found myself inundated with messages from Japanese people wanting to learn English on a causal basis. I only really stayed in contact with those who were willing to help me if I helped them. I needed someone who had a decent grasp on the English language, but also wouldn’t mind taking the time to explain the things I was learning.

This is how I met Mami! She was incredibly helpful in explaining phrases and defining key words for me. We’d also chat about cultural differences between England and Japan, such as education, food, and music. Whilst chatting one day, I suggested that I’d like to send her a “British care package” as a thank you for taking the time to help me out. This is what I sent to her…

Included in my package:

– Bone china tea cup and saucer
– Lots of Earl Grey tea
– Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Buttons
– Robinson’s jam
– Selection of sweets (Yes, I know Maoam aren’t British, but they’re very popular)
– A two pence coin from the 1930’s
– A CD of British musicians spanning 1970’s – present

Luckily the package made it to Mami chan in one piece. I was particularly worried about the tea cup! A week later I received a message from Mami on LINE to say she’d received her goodies and would like to send me a care package too. Incredibly flattered by her generosity I obliged, and she designed a package based around things I love. Sure enough, a week later, this arrived…

Inside the box I found a small note letting me know which songs Mami enjoyed the most from the CD I’d put together, along with an contents list:

– Instant ramen noodles
– Chocolate koala snacks
– Crisps
– A Steins;Gate plastic art sheet (You can read about Steins;Gate here)
– A bottle of Ramune (Because I’d mentioned I’d seen them in a YouTube video)
– Scandal’s latest single “Kagen no Tsuki” (Which I featured on my blog a few weeks ago) which came with a Haruna (my favourite member) art card

Hopefully there will be more of these packages in the future! Mami chan, hontou ni arigatou gozaimasu! (本当にありがとうございます)

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus…ONE OK ROCK

Formed in 2005, ONE OK ROCK are starting to generate a real buzz in the Japanese pop rock scene. While initially not having any major success in the Oricon charts, they have recently started to break into the top ten. To put it into perspective, their first album released in 2007 and sold around 26,000 copies, while their fifth album released in 2010 and sold 105,000 copies.

ONE OK ROCK – Clock Strikes

ONE OK ROCK comprises of four members, Taka (vocals), Toru (guitar), Ryota (bass), and Tomoya (drums) all hailing from the Osaka region, except for Taka who was born in Tokyo and was previously a vocalist in Japanese boy band “NEWS”.

The band’s name, ONE OK ROCK, comes from “one o’clock”, the time that the band used to practice on weekends. However, noticing that the Japanese language makes no real distinction between r’s and l’s, they changed “o’clock” to “o’crock” (or “o’krock”), which was then separated to become “ok rock”

While not being the biggest rock band in Japan, they have still recently announced a world tour and will be playing the UK in October (the show is unfortunately already sold out!)

Check out this great video in which ONE OK ROCK meet Western pop punk band Fall Out Boy. There are subtitles on the video (click the subtitles button on the video) if you’re not confident with your Japanese linguistic skills, don’t worry!

Bradcat’s Anime Focus… Steins;Gate

It’s going to be very difficult for me to talk about Steins;Gate without; A.) Giving too much away and spoiling the plot in some way, or B.) Not knowing when to shut up about how great it is.

The story follows self proclaimed mad scientist Rintarou Okabe who goes by his alias of Hououin Kyouma or “Okarin” to his friends (a nickname which he dislikes) and his struggle against the mysterious organisation known as… “The Organisation”. According to Okabe The Organisation are everywhere, they tap our phones, use our personal information for their own gains, and of course, are trying to steal his inventions. It’s safe to say Okabe is not only a “mad scientist” but also a conspiracy theory nut.

Okabe is joined by his two friends, the rotund computer hacker Itaru Hashida, and the lovable Mayuri Shiina (or Mayushii), who introduces herself, with a vocal fanfare of “Tuturu”. Confused? Watch this clip…

As the series progresses, he is joined by other characters who join his fight against “The Organisation” the main character who joins him in episode one is a red haired scientist called Kurisu Makise, whom Okabe takes great pleasure in referring to her as “Lab assistant number 2” or “Christina” in an attempt to make her feel slightly inferior despite her possibly being a better scientist than Okabe. It often leads to humorous confrontations like this…

The story really gets underway when Okabe realises in episode one, that he has potentially invented a time travel device by mistake. A large portion of the episodes after that, focus around him trying to understand how to control the time machine device; while the later episodes focus on the consequences of time travel itself.

The series also focuses on the story of John Titor. For those of you that don’t know this famous story, around 2001 a man appeared on a public forum claiming to be sent from the year 2036. His mission was to find an IBM computer which was made in the 1970’s, but was crucial to deciphering a piece of code in his time. When people questioned him about time travel, he was able to provide detailed information on how the machine worked, and even included diagrams. He then mysteriously vanished from the forums and no record of him was ever found. Obviously many people claim it to be a total hoax, while others still believe it to be true. You can read more about this story by clicking here.

I already feel I may have given too much of the plot away, so I’ll try to wrap up by saying that this anime is an incredible story about time travel and the lengths people will go for their friends and loved ones. With the series only being 25 episodes long (along with a film which was released this summer) it’s very easy to get into the story very quickly. Though I will warn you now, give this anime your full attention as the plot contains time travel, a concept of which people can lose track of very easily. Ask anyone that saw the movie “Looper”.

I’ll shut up about how great this show is now…

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Fukushima Disaster

Fukushima, which lies 130 miles north east of Tokyo, is home to The Fukushima I (Daiichi) Nuclear Power Plant which consists of six light water, boiling water reactors. The power plant is one of the 25 largest nuclear power plants in the world. 

 A natural gas storage facility in Chiba (south of Tokyo), 
which was affected by the Tōhoku earthquake

Fukushima Daiichi Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami damage

Following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi was the second closest power station to the epicentre of the earthquake, after Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant. During this time, the Fukushima incident was labeled with a “Level 7” on the International Nuclear Event Scale (The highest level which can be obtained) with the Chernobyl disaster being the only other “Level 7” in history.

A diagram showing the level of flooding during the tsunami

There were no deaths caused by radiation exposure, while approximately 18,500 people died due to the earthquake and tsunami. The local fishermen became suspicious of the possible leaking of radioactive water which was taking place after the incident, which was later confirmed in July 2013, over two years later.

On 20th August 2013, in a further incident, it was announced that 300 tonnes of heavily contaminated water had leaked from a storage tank. The water was radioactive enough to be hazardous to nearby staff, and the leak was assessed as Level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Masayuki Ono, general manager of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) which runs the plant, said: “We found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour.”

What do you think the Japanese government should do to prevent the situation getting any worse? 

Will this lead to a total abandonment of Fukushima like Chernobyl?

Bradcat’s Japanese Word of the Week… Omiyage

Bradcat’s Japanese phrase/word of the week is: “Omiyage” (お土産) “Oh-me-ah-geh” which means “Gift” or “Souvenir.” It’s usually used when someone gives a gift to another.

For example if you’re in the middle of a Japanese zombie apocalypse and you wanted to share your supplies with other survivors, you could offer the gift and say “Omiyage desu” which means “This is a gift”

When the survivor thanks you with “Arigato gozaimasu” you can reply with Dōitashimashite (どういたしまして) “Doh-ee-tash-ee-mash-e-te” which means “You’re welcome!”

Picture Source

Bradcat’s Anime Focus… Sword Art Online

I’ve always been a fan of animes which have a finite end. You see them dotted around, usually lasting 12 episodes or 24-25 episodes. Sword Art Online falls into the latter category, however (without spoiling the series too much) half way through, there is a slight change up, which keeps the anime fresh.

Set in the not too distant future, Sword Art Online tells the tale of a young boy, named Kirigaya Kazuto (AKA Kirito) who is obsessed with video games. So much so, he was selected to be a part of a closed-Beta test for a new title “Sword Art Online”, a game in which the player can fight monsters, level up, and acquire new weapons and armour. The game utilises a piece of hardware , called NerveGear, which the user places over their head, to fully immerse themselves into the RPG world (very similar to the movie “The Matrix”)

The game is launched world wide and sure enough Kirito knows the best tactics and weapons to use as he was a part of the Beta test. However, his life is changed forever, when the GameMaster reveals himself, and removes the “Log Out” feature from the game. Similar to “The Matrix” if the user is forcibly removed from the game, their mind won’t cope with the trauma and the user will die. The only way to escape the game is to reach the maximum level. From here, Kirito is taken on an amazing quest in which he meets new friends and learns a lot about what is important in life.

If you’re a fan of video games, you will love this anime. I was captivated from start to finish, and was a little sad that it came to and end. The manga actually continues a lot further than the anime, so hopefully we will see a new series soon. Especially with this image which appeared recently advertising a TV special. Could we see a second series? Or something else entirely?

You can watch Sword Art Online online at Crunchyroll, here. Let me know if you decide to watch it, and what your thoughts are!

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Japanese Pro Wrestling – Emi Sakura

For those that know me, you will know I’m a big fan of pro wrestling. A few months ago at a local Alternative Wrestling World event, I was witness to female Japanese wrestling star Emi Sakura take on “Portugal’s Perfect Athlete” Shanna.

An amazing performance from both women which still holds my “match of the year” title. The bout was a last minute addition to the card, as one female wrestler had to pull out. Luckily Emi Sakura was in the middle of a UK tour and was free on that date. The match was totally unexpected and was incredible to watch. Later in the night, former WWE and TNA star Brian Kendrick would headline the event, but it seems people were still hyped up by this women’s match. I was able to meet Emi after her performance, and speak to her in my terrible broken Japanese.

Emi’s debut match was in August, 1995 at the age of 18 when she was accepted into the International Wrestling Association of Japan. She went on to win her first championship, the AWF’s World Women’s Championship against Luna Vachon. Since then, she’s gone on to win countless women’s titles, tag-team titles, and intercontinental titles from wrestling federations as AJW, IWA, JWP, NEO, and EVE. She currently lives in Thailand and has launched her own women’s wrestling school. You can follow Emi Sakura on Twitter, here.

Check out the video below, and have a look for other matches featuring Emi Sakura on YouTube.



Emi Sakura was kind enough to repost this blog post on her Twitter account. It seems as though she is happy with what I wrote. (^_^)

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Lightning Strikes!

The weather across Japan as of late has been very humid from what I’ve been told. In some areas it’s been reaching over 40 degrees. Here is a screen shot one person I know (who lives and teaches in Japan) took from her phone’s weather app:

As it shows, Tokyo was to be hit with thunder and lightning at the beginning of the week. This occurs when there is a temperature drop between the Earth’s surface and the air, often causing impressive forks of lightning in the sky. 

Yesterday in Tokyo, a bolt of lightning struck Tokyo’s Odakyu Electric Railway, which can be seen in the amazing footage below (at approximately 1:10). Amazingly no one was injured, though the famously punctual Japanese train service experienced delays.

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… The Ocean Dome

The man-made indoor water park known as the Ocean Dome, is located in Miyazaki, Kyushu Island. Inside you will find pure sandy beaches and tidal waves generated at random. There are various levels too, designed for expert surfers to toddlers. But that’s not all, the indoor water park is also home to restaurants, snack bars, and various shops which sell the latest in surfer designer clothing.

The Ocean Dome is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest indoor water park, measuring 300 meters in length, 100 meters in width. And the temperature is 30 degrees Celsius year-round.