Archive for August, 2008

Hundreds of years ago, before even the birth of my home and native land, Francisco Xavier was getting the Japanese addicted to gambling. Well, not really.. but the Japanese know a good thing when they see it and just like baseball, card games (with a 48-card deck) caught on quickly. However, not only did gambling come to be seen as a problem, but foreigners in general just weren’t very well-liked and so Japan locked itself up and went ‘Brian Wilson’ (minus the cocaine) for a few hundred years. To get around this, cards were Asianified but the gambling problem still lingered and no matter how many new types of cards were created to get around the bans, they all suffered the same fate in the end. Because of this, other forms of entertainment and gambling flourished and most people gave up on playing cards. However, the government, always the concerned parent, finally realised the popularity of card games and allowed the production and use of hanafuda (flower cards).

48-card deck of hanafuda arranged by month

A hanafuda deck consists of 48 cards divided into 12 flower ‘suits’, one for each month of the year. Because they contain no words they were thought to be less favourable for gambling purposes.. but because playing cards had been beaten down and suppressed for so long, they weren’t really favourable for anything. Despite this, in 1889 Fusajiro Yamauchi founded a company to paint the cards on tree bark and in 1902 started producing them in Japan. The game caught on and in 1933 the company became a general partnership and then a ‘stock company’ in 1947. By 1953 they were starting to mass-produce plastic versions and playing cards were once again a ubiquitous form of gambling (surprise, surprise).
The company is called Nintendo… and to this day they still produce hanafuda.

I bought myself a deck today for the reasonable price of $8. Because they’re picture-based, they’re quite versatile… for instance in a game called ‘koi-koi’, you get points for combinations like ‘drinking while watching the moon’. Who knew gambling could be so poetic.
And if playing the ‘original’, old-school analog Nintendo wasn’t enough, it’s widely believed that the yakuza (Japanese mafia) got their name from hanafuda. In a game called Oicho-Kabu, the worst hand is 8-9-3, or, ‘ya-ku-sa’ in Japanese. In other words, hanafuda was flossin’ O.G. before Ice-T changed his name from Tracy.

After you buy a deck, you can check out www.hanafubuki.org for the rules of some of the more popular hanafuda games.


Read Full Post »

…but there’s just something cool about this song…
get it
my head

…and some more 8-bitty OMODAKA music videos…

Read Full Post »


Fireworks in Japan make a mockery of what we gather around to watch on Canada Day

Here, a ‘small’ fireworks display is something like 5000 fireworks over a span of 45min., while the bigger ones will spend 1hr+ illuminating everything around you.

After the annual festival, which is held practically in my backyard, was marred by a storm starting and ending about the same time as the fireworks display, I was able to take my first-ever fireworks photos on Miyajima (Island) in Hiroshima.

Miyajima is home to Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and location of one of the most popular fireworks displays in Japan. Every night the tide comes in and the shrine ‘floats’ on the water… and if that wasn’t enough, once a year they light fireworks from platforms on the sea.

Like every festival, there are butt-loads of people everywhere; so finding a nice spot to sit is nearly impossible… the photographers and fireworks fanatics arrived several hours ahead of us normal folk. Nevertheless, we had a surprisingly decent view and despite lots of fumbling in the dark, I was able to snap a few decent pics.

I used a digital SLR, and since I couldn’t see anything, everything was taken at an 8-sec. shutter speed. It was kinda fun but I realised that something more portable would be nice. So, as I started to entertain the idea of getting a small backup, I walked past a trendy-cool Holga display and ended up splurging on an $18 Baby Holga… no idea where I’m going to get 110 film developed, so we’ll see what happens :o)

Anyway, that’s it for the fireworks season in Japan. Maybe that means it won’t be oppressively humid for much longer…

Read Full Post »


I just heard a few confusing English abbreviations on TV and thought I’d post a few to show how confusing pseudo-English/etc. can be :o)
I never properly learned romanji and never will.. but anyway, I’ll do my best to write the Japanese words semi-phonetically…

Let’s start with Pokémon. I always just assumed it was that thing’s name… but it’s actually English! (kinda)
It means ‘pocket monster’… which immediately brings back memories of uncle Larry’s favourite game to play when my parents were away. Something tells me a name like that isn’t very marketable…

Now mayoraa, I could have used for Max. Dude would eat a family-size jar of mayonnaise within a few weeks. He was his own family when it came to mayo. ‘Raa’ means ‘rabaa’, which is Engrish for ‘lover’. That’s right.. mayonnaise lover.

Not to be sexist or anything but both men and women use the term OL (office lady) for a woman that works in a clerical position. Traditionally, if women worked in an office their job included pouring and serving tea to all the (typically male) employees in the office. Things have changed a lot since then but not completely. As far as I know, however, OL isn’t really seen as sexist, so I see it quite often. Men, by the way, are typically called ‘salaryman’ (it’s overkill to add [sic] but I should mention that words aren’t really pluralised in Japanese). At first I thought it was a joke, but just like OL, it’s pretty standard.

It took me a couple times to figure out what the hell my friends were talking about when they said they went out with their daa. Doll? Dog? Dad? It sounded like an old Monty Python skit where the writer dies mid-sentence… anyway, I soon solved the riddle and realized it’s an abbreviation of darling :o)
It’s like doing broken-record Zsa Zsa Gabor impressions…

If hearing loli-con conjures up images of a lollipop con artist, you wouldn’t be too far from its intended meaning. It’s actually Lolita complex haha.
You might then hear asscon and fall deeper into the gutter… but don’t worry, it’s just a shortened concatenation of asphalt and concrete… something even the dirtiest mind can’t pervert.

It also takes a while to hear autobai and not think someone’s trying to give you an automatic good-bye. But, it’s just an ‘automatic bike’… something we might call a motorcycle if we were familiar with the language known as English ;o)

In Japan, ‘byto’ is neither 8 bits nor is it something you do when eating. It’s from the German word arbeit and Japanese people use it to mean part-time job…

Some other abbreviations…

Ice –> ice cream
Comé –> comment
Puramo –> purasutiku moderu (meaning: plastic model)
Makudo –> MakuDonarudo (meaning: McDonalds)
Opé –> operation (medical)
Acogi –> acoustic guitar
Ana –> announcer
Amécomi –> American comic book
Nocan –> Not counting (meaning: nothing significant)
Digicamé –> digital camera
Mé-ado –> (e)meiru adoresu (meaning: email address)
Risuka –> risuto katto (meaning: wrist cutting)
Rimocon –> remote control
Rabu-rabu –> love-love (meaning: reciprocal love)
Famiresu –> family restaurant
Améfuto –> American football
Apo –> appointment
Departo –> department store
Donmai –> don’t mind (don’t worry about it)
Eroguro –> erotique and grotesque
Hansuto –> hanga sutoraiku (meaning: hunger strike)
Home –> (train) platform
Mazacon –> mother complex (meaning: Oedipus complex)
Puroresu –> professional wrestling
Sando –> sandwich
Sekuhara –> sexual harassment
Wa-puro –> word processor
Konbini –> convenience Store
Burapu –> Burado Pitto (Brad Pitt)
CM –> commercial (message)
Losu –> Los Angeles
Nanpuré –> number play (sudoku)

Not an abbreviation but just plain funny:
An all-you-can-eat buffet in Japanese is sometimes called a ‘Viking’.
Nothing like a buffet after a good pillaging haha

Read Full Post »