The Kickstarter project that I am most proud of backing recently?

Tenra Bansho Zero!

When I first read the description of this it was like, this was made for me. with my love of all things Japan and gaming,  this was a perfect juxtaposition of my interests.

Almost a decade ago, Japanese artist and game designer Jun’ichi Inoue sat down to create a uniquely and unmistakably “Hyper Asian” (in his own words) Japanese world: A world of magic and technology, of samurai and Taoist sorcery, of powerful mecha and cultured geisha. The world was named Tenra, and the game was named Tenra Bansho, or “Everything in Heaven and Earth“. With a rulebook dripping cover-to-cover with high quality anime-style art, a setting rich in culture both real and fantastical, and a revised and simplified rules system that focused with precision on roleplaying and character drama, this game took the Japanese tabletop RPG market by storm and spearheaded both a renaissance and revolution in the Japanese gaming industry.


Now the project is fully funded, and I am eagerly awaiting this game.

The penchant of Japanese commercials to be as wacky as they can continues with these Dole banana commercials, yes he is blowing bananas out his nose onto the girl’s lap …


<a href="Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change since the 1980s (Blackwell History of the Contemporary World)"" “>My friend Jake Adelstein posted some very interesting excerpts from an early book detailing problems that Tepco had before the Fukushima disaster and how it was almost inevitable that a disaster involving the TEPCO Nuclear plants would occur. This book tracks previous incidents that were a direct result of the corner-cutting and willful negligence by the Company in the past.

There have been disasters in the past but obviously nothing on the scale that has happened after the tsunami and earthquake in North Japan. I am still of the opinion that the meltdown’s full extent has never been told and will be hushed up, much as people do not realize the full extent of the meltdown that occurred at Three Mile Island.

Adelstien also has an interesting op-ed piece exploring whether the incident would have occurred whether or not the tsunami hits, just on the effects of an earthquake, its an interesting speculation given the gross mismanagement.

When you keep running the same nuclear reactor for over forty years, ten years past the date it was supposed to be closed down—that’s insanity. Because any rational person would you tell you that the risk of a nuclear disaster taking place increases every year, with every unfixed problem, with every sloppy inspection, with the normal wear and tear on each part of a reactor that was never designed for an earthquake ridden Japan in the first place.




I picked up a copy of Matt Alt’s Yokai Attack! book recently, Folklore in general always interests me and since I picked up a copy of Reality Blur’s Iron Dynasty campaign setting to use for fantasy games set in old Japan with dark magic. Yokai Attack is an encyclopedia of monsters from Japanese superstition and tradition.

My favorite so far would be the neko-mata which are cats grown very old and which have gained paranormal powers. After a cat grows to a certain age its tail is said to split into two and the powers manifest. It is easy to imagine an random encounter for a group of adventurer’s in Iron Dynasty as meeting with a ferocious twin tailed cat who has the ability to raise and control the dead and has a taste for human flesh.

from the Wiki entry for bakeneko:

bakeneko (化け猫?, “monstercat“) is, in Japanese folklore, a cat with supernatural abilities akin to those of the fox or raccoon dog. A cat may become a bakeneko in a number of ways: it may reach a certain age, be kept for a certain number of years, grow to a certain size, or be allowed to keep a long tail. In the last case, the tail forks in two and the bakeneko is then called a nekomata (猫又?, or 猫股 “forked-cat”). This superstition may have some connection to the breeding of the Japanese Bobtail.

The connection between the folklore of the twin tailed monster cat and the Japanese bobtailed cats is one of those interesting crosses of superstition and reality.

ramen from Shinasoba KibiBrian from Ramen Adventures checks in to update on the ongoing Ramen Champion contest in Shinjuku.

Its still going despite the blackouts in Tokyo although it did not seem crowded from his pictures.

Lovely bowls of soup, visually my fav is the Sinasoba ‘version up’ pork ramen.

Interesting way of voting for your champion too, just drop your spoons in the bin corresponding to your choice, 4 spoons is 4 votes. Who will win the ramen championships?

I was reading my friend’s blog post “Tohuku disaster helps explain why I love Japan” and he struck a chord. If you are a Japan enthusiast and not reading Jamaipanese blog, then shame on you. To quote the relevant part

Japan itself isn’t perfect but seeing videos and pictures of Japanese citizens lining up for supplies, helping each other out and not looting and rioting says a lot about the people. In Japan from an early age you are taught to be considerate and to deter your personal interests for the betterment of the larger group.

One thing which has always fascinated me about the Japanese is their stoicism and efficiency; and the reaction in the aftermath of the tsunami was very uplifting to see, it was devoid of the panic and desperation that many recent disasters have sparked.

There also is the gaman effect. Living on an island prone to volcanoes, typhoons, earthquakes  has bred a resilience and perseverance into the Japanese that other people would do well to learn from.

Work together and help each other, do not panic and you will go on. There is more strength in yourself than you would ever have known possible.

Ganbaru Japan!

commercial break … showcasing weird, funny and just plain fun commercials from Japan. In the midst of all the heartbreak and tragedy sometimes you need a little levity…

Morning Rescue was my favorite to watch during the tsunami, and quake aftermath. Who wouldn’t want a rescue team rappeling into the room to save the day after an epic disaster….

Tepco is enduring plenty of criticism for the lack of redundant systems at the Fukushima no.1 Nuclear power plant, here is an old commercial for Tepco’s heaters/AC units with a Harry Potter look-a-like:

Moving to a new area, brings this young fella more than he bargained for:

Food time out!

Ochazuke is the green tea over rice dish that is beloved in Japan and steeped in tradition.. It is one of those foods that can be both beautifully simple and yet hard to master.

Basic ochazuke is a handful of rice with salmon flakes or or umeboshi on top, flavored with a bit of nori or daikon radish. Over this is poured hot green tea making a soup.

from the Wiki:

In Kyotoochazuke is known as bubuzuke. When a Kyoto native asks if a guest wants to eat bubuzuke, it really means that the person has overstayed and is being politely asked to leave.

Now, though, instant ochazuke mixes just use hot water, the tea and other ingredients are powder and freeze dried.

Ochazuke instant is one of my favorite lunches and I am going to have to try this in a traditional way with Salmon and hot tea.

One of the funniest videos I have seen lately from YouTube, the cat cracks me up:

Here is the post I have been needing to make for several days now, an 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The earthquake didn’t cause anywhere near the amount of damage as the resulting Tsunami that flooded the coast. Destroying everything in its path, up to six miles inland, whole towns and villages were wiped out.

One amazing thing in all the mess is the way the internet became the best resource for information. With virtually realtime commentary and news from Twitter feeds of various people living in Tokyo to the English broadcast of the NHK and Japanese TV. The link to the live UStream broadcast  of NHK World (English) is here NHK Ustream. Some really good folks to follow on Twitter with news and translations of press conferences are @gakuranman @kenmogi @HirokoTabuchi and @stevenagata.

The Japanese people are stoic and efficient but the scale of this is simply staggering and our hearts go out to the people of Japan.

Roaming through Flickr to find nice photos for Hanami, beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere.

Big thanks to those on Flickr who posted these pictures. Jasohill, Kyotonils, Blue Lotus, alfiegoodrich, jpellgen.

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