Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Janken & Issei No Sei!

Normally I reserve “Game Focus” for the latest video game, however today I’m going a little old school… Very old school in fact. Today we’ll take a look at the most simplistic and one of the most popular games in Japan (and the rest of the world)… Janken! (じゃん拳)

In the West, we know “Janken” as “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and you must’ve been living under a rock if you don’t know how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Players make the shape of one of these three objects with their hand on the count of 3, with Rock beating Scissors, Scissors beating Paper, and Paper beating Rock.

janken01

However in Japan, it’s slightly different. The hand gestures remain the same, but obviously the names change. Rock is called “Guu” (ぐう). Scissors is called “Choki” (ちょき). Paper is called “Paa” (ぱあ).

Games typically begin with the chant of “Saisho guu… Janken pon!” (最初はぐう… じゃん拳ぽん) with players revealing their chosen object on “Pon!”

If it is a draw, then players instantly chant “Aiko sho!” (あいこでしょ) and try again, this time revealing their hand on “Sho!”

Sometimes you’ll have a joker who will pull out a random hand gesture such as “Fire” (Palm faced upwards with waving fingers) insistent that it trumps all other gestures.

Or sometimes players will have their own “unique” rules on this traditional format such as “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock”

Another popular game is “Issei no sei” (いっせい の せい ) however this game is a little more difficult.

“issei no sei” broken down, translates roughly to “いっせい”  issei = together and “せい” sei = voice

A group of people put their hands out with clenched fists next to each other. As a player calls “issei no sei…” they follow this up quickly with a random number between 1 and however many maximum thumbs are in play. For example, if three people are playing, the number called must be between 1 and 6.

As the number is called, players must raise however many thumbs they like (or keep them held down). If the person whom called the number guesses the correct number of thumbs up, then he/she is allowed to remove a single hand from play. The person to remove both their hands from play, wins.

Sounds complicated, but once you see it in action (or play for yourself) all becomes clear…

I hope you enjoy playing “janken” and “issei no sei” with your friends, or even playing it to help settle those age old arguments, such as “who gets the last chocolate in the box?”

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Video

Bradcat’s Personal Focus… Kyoto and Osaka Video

Music: BARBARS – おやすみなさいおつきさま

Following on from my previous video…

Between April 2nd – April 12th I was lucky enough to visit Kyoto and Osaka during the peak of Sakura. With Bob “Colddrago” Jones at my side, we had some great times in just some of the following places:

Gion
Kinkaku-ji
Ginkaku-ji
Arishiyama
Kamogawa River
Kyoto City
Osaka City
Kyobashi
Namba
Tennoji
Umeda
Yao

Artists / Musicians featured in the video:
Osaka Shunkashuto
Milkyhat
Halmi
BARBARS

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus…BABYMETAL

I first heard of BABYMETAL around this time last year when stumbling across their music video for メギツネ (MEGITSUNE) on YouTube. At this point it already had over 2 million views (It’s currently on over 5 Million) and BABYMETAL were already establishing a fan base across the globe virally via the internet.

So who are these three super kawaii maidens with a killer backing band throwing down catchy guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats?

Babymetal

BABYMETAL

In Japan, idol groups are huge. Imagine how most people are in the UK when it comes to football, well idol culture is equally as huge in Japan. So many kinds of people go to idol converts for different reasons; to join in with the dance moves, to sing along, to blow off steam after a long day at the office, to enjoy music with friends, to support their favourite idol, the list is endless. But trust me on this one, I’ve witnessed it first hand in Akihabara, it’s huge.

BABYMETAL – ド・キ・ド・キ☆モーニング (Doki Doki Morning)

With such a huge culture of idol groups forming on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. The general formula of an idol group consists of a small group of girls, dancing and singing, it’s that simple. We see it all the time in the West with huge shows like “America/Britain’s got talent” and “X-Factor” churning out pop groups year in, year out. But in Japan it’s a little different, there’s an independent scene of thousands of these groups trying to break it into the big time to join the ranks of groups such as Purfume or AKB48.

Sakura Gakuin さくら学院 – Song for Smiling

This is where the origins of BABYMETAL start. Sakura Gakuin (さくら学院) (Cherry Blossom Academy) is a Japanese idol girl group formed in 2010 by the Amuse talent agency. It is essentially a fake high school which runs along side the girl’s real studies. When a girl graduates from high school, they also graduate from Sakura Gakujin, and new members are inducted. It’s a great formula to keep the group fresh, and able to continually generate money. While at the school, all of the girls belong to “sub-groups” or “clubs” and these are as follows; Baton Club, Heavy Music Club, Cooking Club. Go Home Club, Newspaper Club, Tennis Club, Science Club. All of which have their sub groups, to which BABYMETAL belong to the Heavy Music Club.

BABYMETAL are; SU-METAL (16) (Suzuka Nakamoto), YUIMETAL (14) (Yui Mizuno), MOAMETAL (14) (Moa Kikuchi) with support from their “Kami Band” who are Takayoshi Ohmura (guitar), Leda (guitar), BOH (bass) and Aoyama Hideki (drums). If you’re under any doubt about their musicianship, please search YouTube for their names, watching BOH play the 6-string bass is a sight to behold.

BohBass player – BOH

So why have BABYMETAL become such a huge hit in such a short space of time since their formation, while other more established bands remain unknown outside of Japan? It’s basically because someone decided to fuse the huge idol culture with heavy metal. It’s that simple. It hadn’t been thought of, and someone put it together.

From there, two huge crowds of people are instantly merged into one, coming together for the appreciation for a J-Idol group, a heavy metal band, and of course the “quirky” Japanese novelty. You hear it all the time attached to sensationalist articles on the latest craze in Japan; “Oh Japan!” or “Only in Japan!” but not this time, as BABYMETAL are breaking out and have already announced a world tour…

When I saw that BABYMETAL were playing UK rock festival Sonisphere, I was a little concerned, as every year at UK festivals, there’s one “stand-out” artist which people love to berate and throw bottles at. We all remember Daphne and Celeste at Reading 2000 (Search YouTube if you don’t remember) and I was worried about any small minded idiots doing the same. So imagine my sheer amazement when I discovered BABYMETAL were actually playing Sonisphere by request, and then to top that, people weren’t happy with them being pushed onto the side-stage and campaigned to have them perform on the main stage!

I think it’s safe to say that there’s something in BABYMETAL for everyone. If you listen to their album you will find something from all genres. Besides the obvious J-Pop and Metal, there are lashings of Rap, Rap Metal, Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Trance, Dance and Reggae (Yes, you read the last one correctly)

You’ll often see the girls putting up an unusual hand sign, very similar to the “metal horns” you see at most rock concerts. But don’t be quick to mock the girls for not doing the sign correctly, this is their own sign. The sign of the fox god whom prophesied the birth of BABYMETAL… Yeah.

Their lyrical content ranges from serious to comical, with such tracks as ギミチョコ!! “Gimmi Choco!!” in which the girls have a desire to eat chocolate and worry about becoming fat (I’ve seen equally bizarre lyrics in System of a Down tracks) however there are tracks such as イジメ、ダメ、ゼッタイ ” IJIME, DAME, ZETTAI” which tell people to stop bullying.

How long this will last is really up in the air. People have a habit of latching on to the latest craze and then dropping it a few months later after becoming tired of the same material. You only have to look at Korean pop star PSY who had already established a fan base in Korea, and went on to worldwide success for a short while. However people soon grew tired of hearing the same track, and even the follow up track “Gentleman”. So will BABYMETAL suffer the same fate? It’s hard to say, but I think with them being such a young age and the group being new and exciting, they will only grow even more (Literally)… BABYMETAL! がんばって!

BABYMETAL Official Website

BABYMETAL on iTunes

Bradcat’s Japanese Word of the Week…Setsu

Bradcat’s Japanese phrase/word of the week (今週の言葉) is “setsu” (せつ) (節) which means “Save” or “Economise”. This links with my previous blog post about the word mottainai (もったいない)


It can be combined with the word “yaku” (やく) which means approximate, or roughly.

Therefore “setsuyaku” (せつやく) (節約) is a way of describing cutting corners, or to economise. 

Bradcat’s Personal Focus… Getting Around Japan – Places

I think it’s safe to say, that any topic I post about visiting Japan will be heavily biased, because I’d like you to see it all. However, with such a big place, and the average holiday only lasting two weeks, I’m here to share some of the best places I visited during my time in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. This way, if you ever have the opportunity to visit Japan, you know these places are the best of the bunch (That I visited at least)


Places

Khaosan Tokyo Ninja – Tokyo

Myself and Bob with the crazy staff of Tokyo Ninja

Khaosan Tokyo Ninja was by far, the best hostel we stayed in during our three weeks. They were incredibly helpful when our plans changed last minute when we needed to change a date of check out. While most hostels (and even some hotels) would find this a pain to arrange, these guys made sure we were looked after.

As you walk into the hostel you have to remove your shoes (as with all homes in Japan) and announce “TADAIMA!” (ただいま) (Not if it’s after 10pm though, as some people may be sleeping!) to which at least one member of staff will shout back “OKAERI!” (おかえり) The main desk is almost always manned except for early hours of the morning, so if you encounter any problems or need to request to borrow something (e.g. a towel, or washing powder) there is always someone there to help. There is also a suite of PCs that can be used at any time.


A spotless shared bathroom, four sinks and three showers
The entire hostel is exceptionally clean, as they offer an exchange of accommodation for cleaning. So they always have a team of five to six people on hand, to help tidy the place, which is great with the volume of travellers they have staying with them on a daily basis.

You can rent a number of items from reception, from the basics such as a towel, to the more advanced personal Wi-Fi hotspot, which is handy if you’re trying to navigate around Tokyo. The hostel is located just three minutes away from the JR Sobu line, so you’ll find yourself being able to access most of the big areas of Tokyo with ease.

The main team of Mi-ne, Erina, Hiroko, Rico, and Yutaka are genuinely interested in hearing about your exploits while in Japan. Each morning we were asked what we were doing that day, and on our return we’d bring them a small omiyage to which they were incredibly grateful. They showed us fantastic hospitality (Omotenashi) (おもてなし) for which we were insistent on returning the favour if any of them ever visit England (Which Yutaka will be in August, so let’s make him feel welcome!)
KHAOSAN TOKYO NINJA
2-5-1 Nihombashi Bakurocho,

Chuo-ku, Tokyo


Fuji Ramen – ラーメン藤 – Kyoto


Fuji Ramen is located in Kyoto on Gojo Dori. It’s a fairly small shop so it’s easily missed, however that doesn’t mean it’s not popular. Depending on the time of day, it’ll be either very quiet, or at capacity. It’s fantastic value for money because the chef is very generous with the portions. Speaking of which, the owners were very friendly and welcoming to gaijin (we were complimented on our Japanese speaking a few times)



I foolishly had eyes bigger than my stomach and ordered a large pork ramen and chicken karaage, which I couldn’t finish. It was easily one of the biggest meals I ate while in Japan! If you’re in Kyoto, be sure to visit this place.

ラーメン藤 (Fuji Ramen)
15-1 Gojobashihigashi 2-chome
Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0846
Website: Fuji Ramen


Chitose – ちとせ – Osaka


The award for the tastiest meal I ate in Japan, goes to Chitose restaurant in Osaka. The chef here serves some world class Okonomiyaki, as many Japanese celebrities have visited here over the years and signed his wall leaving messages of praise.

For those who are unfamiliar with Okonomiyaki, try to imagine all your favourite meat, and noodles, sandwiched between two giant omelettes, and topped with delicious sauces and seasoning. Also, leave those chopsticks at home, true Okonomiyaki is eaten straight from the hotplate using a small spatular and shovelled straight into your mouth.



Adding the seasoning…


Myself with the number one Osaka Okonomiyaki chef (spatular in hand of course)


I’m unsure if it’s just my Western expectation of portion sizes, but the chefs in Japan seem to be very generous for what you pay. This incredible meal set me back ¥750 which is roughly £4, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say it was one of the best meals I ate. Bob will back me up on this one, as he isn’t a fan of food with eggs, but he adored this meal.

The chef was very welcoming and spoke English very well, which is a sign he is accustomed to gaijins visiting him on a regular basis. The restaurant also has it’s regulars who will happily sit next to you and drink a beer. We encountered an elderly lady during our visit who announced herself as “Grandma” or “Obaasan” (お婆さん) and gave us some sweets, explaining that Grandmothers in Japan ALWAYS carry sweets.



The atmosphere was fantastic, using my broken Japanese I was able to ask if April was a busy time of year for him, with Sakura in full blossom and many people coming to see it. He laughed and said “Every time is busy for me!”

You may have a hard time finding this restaurant as it’s tucked down a few side alleys, however if you’re in Osaka, please take the time to find it!

ちとせ (Chitose)
Osaka City Nishinari Taishi 1-11-10
Website: Chitose


Rock Bar Cherry Bomb – Osaka


We had an awesome time in Osaka during the evening, many bars are open quite late including this gem which our friend Hana took us to; “Cherry Bomb”. It’s an American themed bar located on the fifth floor of a building just off of Europa Dori. It’s fairly small, it’s cozy, and most importantly, it’s awesome. Jesse and Monica, who are from California, set up this bar a few years ago, and it’s been going from strength to strength since with events like “Taco Tuesday” and “Fryday Fry Up” attracting lots of customers from around the world.

Because of it’s warm and friendly atmosphere, you’ll likely find yourself talking to a total stranger as though they’re your best friend. It’s like something ripped straight from the sitcom “Cheers”. You’ll find a mash of cultures in this bar, with Japanese people who want a taste of the American style bar, while at the same time, some Americans go here to feel at home. It’s a culture swap paradise, so there’s always someone to talk to.


Jesse and Monica


It might seem odd to some people to visit an American style bar when visiting Japan, however sometimes you just need a few hours break from the chaos of Osaka. The guys behind the bar are always asking if you’d like more drinks, so your glass is never empty. Because this bar is cash only, they will let you set up a tab and just pay at the end of your evening… providing you can still stand after all those White Russians…

Rock Bar Cherry Bomb
Chuo Ku Higashishinsaibashi 2-4-8 5f
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0083
Facebook: Rock Bar Cherry Bomb

King Emon – きんぐえもん (金久右衛門 阿倍野ルシアス店)


We visited this ramen shop twice during our stay in Osaka, both times we received a friendly welcome and excellent service. This is actually a part of a small chain of restaurants dotted around Osaka. Like most ramen restaurants you order your type of noodle, broth, and meat, however from there, you can pay a little extra for your extras. I opted for more pork, and the serving was quite substantial, not to mention delicious. The pork was very soft, so you could easily separate the larger pieces with your chopsticks with ease.

The member of staff on “pot wash” was sporting a Steins;Gate t-shirt!
The staff speak a little bit of English, and also understand my terrible Japanese, so you shouldn’t have a problem communicating. We caught the attention of the one member of staff when we mentioned popular anime Steins;Gate (click for my blog post on this anime) and I flashed my personalised business card featuring the logo from the opening credits.

The restaurant is fairly small, but not cramped, though during busy times, don’t be surprised if you can’t sit next to your friend. Due to where we sat (right in the middle of the bench) a small group of high school boys played a game of janken (じゃん拳) to determine who would sit next to their friends and who would sit next to the gaijins due to the lack of seats, quite amusing.


Look at that bowl of golden deliciousness

The food is really good value for money too, with two big bowls of ramen with extra pork setting us back only ¥1,800 which is roughly £10. As I already mentioned, the pork is delicious, and the broth is nice enough to drink at the end without being too sickly. 

1-5-1 Abenosuji, Abeno Ward, 
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 545-0052
Website: King Emon

So there you have it, just a small selection of my favourite places I visited during my three week stay in Japan. If you’ve visited Japan and would like to share your favourite place, please leave a comment below. Have you visited one of these places? If so, please share your experience!