2015 Resolutions from a Japan Fan

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2015 Resolutions from a Japan Fan

Last year, I made some typical resolutions–losing weight, saving money, reading 50 books, and completing 33 art projects–and I met some of them. I lost 15 pounds after July’s knee injury (no exercise, too) and read 55 books in 2014. I unfortunately didn’t finish 33 art projects nor save money, so I felt a little disappointed in myself. Still, I’ve battled the horse through injuries, failures, and burn-outs, and I’ve found one thing to be tried and true: I’m going to do accomplish many goals before I leave Japan this year.

Read more manga. I really want to read old manga. I feel like old manga had more meaning. If you look at my reading list for last year, I started reading older or re-released manga including Barefoot Gen, 47 Rounin, Doraemon, Sazae-san, Children of the Sea, Gundam Wing, and Evangelion. The reason why I’m looking at older manga and classics is because the newer stuff isn’t cutting it. I also read Assassination Classroom, Crimson Empire, Devils and Realist, Sankarea, Ultimo, and Zero’s Familiar Chevalier. This latter group just rubs me the wrong way. Every plot device in manga is glaringly obvious, so much so, I just dropped them off my reading lists–or ranted about them on the Anime3000 and Manga Corner podcasts. If you have any good recommendations for me with atypical plots and characters, please contact me right away.

Do more art projects. So I didn’t do 33 art projects last year, but I’m set on doing it this year. I’ve set a goal for myself on Anime3000’s Manga Corner: to do a motion comic per podcast. I can do it. I just need to buckle down…and get a Mac. ( ̄◇ ̄;)

Wean myself off the internet. Yes, yes, it’s a weird resolution, but I sit in front of a computer maybe 8 to 10 hours a day. That’s too many hours sitting down.

Post more manga artist stuff. If you’re an aspiring manga or comic book artist, I’ve got the section for you. Last year, I posted “Online Communities for Aspiring Manga Creators“, “Manga Pens for Manga Artists Outside of Japan“, “Deals and Savings for Manga Artists“, and “Manga, Comic Book, and Graphic Novel Courses for Aspiring Creators“. Got something you’re always looking for as a manga artist? Let me know in the comments section, and I’ll compile a list of resources for you and other artists.

I hope I can accomplish this stuff in a year. I’ll be leaving Japan, my second home, in July or August after 5 years, and I’ll have to adjust to American culture again.  \(^▽^@)ノ

How to Lose Weight According to Anime and Manga

After I got married, I gained 36 pounds. All my co-workers, even the ones with kids, were skinny. It made me wonder how Japanese people stayed thin without any effort. I’ve turned to anime and manga (and my Kinesiology background) to find the answers.

Anime/Manga Advice True or False?

cousin-l0Cousin (Unlicensed) Food and Baths

·         Eat brown rice instead of white rice.

·         Cook at home.

·         Avoid eating out.

·         Eat small portions.

·         Take 45-minute baths before going to sleep.

·Brown rice has more dietary fiber and fewer calories than white rice.

·Cooking at home will mean you won’t overeat or buy unnecessary food.

·Your body operates on an input-output cycle. Smaller portions mean smaller fat deposits.

·Steam may exfoliate the skin, but 45-minute baths do not cause weight loss. They only cause you to lose water weight, or weight that can easily be regained by drinking water. Sure, your heart rate goes up, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing—some people have heart problems or palpitations. Hot baths also dry out your skin. I would stick with a 20-minute bath for relaxation.

Real ClothesReal Clothes (Unlicensed) Exercise and Heartbreak··         Go running in the morning.

·         Get dumped by your lover and pine away by refusing meals.

·If you exercise in the morning, your metabolism will get a wake-up call greater than your cup of coffee. Plus, you get better sleep than people who exercise in the evening.

·Some people experience heartbreak–and quickly ditch their meals to dwell on the shards left by their lovers. I’m not an advocate for skipping meals because it’s counterproductive: you might actually gain more weight when you get your mojo and regular eating habits back. Results may vary.

High_School_Debut_volume_1High School Debut (Licensed by Viz) Exercise

·         Go running in winter gear.

· Heat will help you lose weight, but it is only temporary. You’re just sweating water weight, which will return once you drink water.

cromsonheroCrimson Hero (Licensed by Viz) Exercise

·         Play a sport.

·Tired of running past the same scenery? Devote yourself to a sport like basketball, boxing, soccer, or in Nobara’s case, volleyball.

Doubt_volume_1_by_Kaneyoshi_IzumiDoubt!! (Licensed by Yen Press) Food and Exercise

·         Don’t eat sweets.

·         Use a treadmill or home exercise program.

·         Do a diet program.

· Ditch the processed sweets and pick up fruits, nuts, veggies, and yogurt.·         If you don’t have a treadmill or gym membership, I would suggest a home exercise program like FitnessBlender Youtube videos or Jilian Michaels’s DVDs.

· Diet programs may help you lose weight, but if you don’t make it your lifestyle, you’ll balloon into a state worse than your previous weight. Certain diet programs were created for specific types of bodies (ex. Atkins’ No-Carb Diet was made for obese people). My advice: re-create your eating habits and stick to it.

wallflowerThe Wallflower (Licensed by Tokyopop) Drink Water

·         Drink water as soon as you wake up.

·Nothing metabolizes fat better than water. Drink lots of it instead of sugary alternatives. Soda, energy drinks, and sports beverages all have exuberant amounts of sugar that’ll send your energy downhill when it hits 3 o’clock. If you don’t like plain water, squeeze a lemon into it. Also try green tea or black coffee for your energy fixes.

Anime and manga say that this idea of effortless thinness is not so effortless. On a daily basis, Japanese people are mindful of their eating habits, portions, and exercise regiments—something that the rest of us can do in a quest towards weight loss.

Jade’s Rant

I’ve tried all of these suggestions, and the one that has worked for me the most is my diet. Without exercise, I lost 15 pounds by revising my eating habits and sticking with it. I stopped eating meat and processed foods—chips, ketchup, soda—and replaced them with vegetables, fruits, and wheat. Our lunches are measured every day, and they usually include beans, rice, salad, vegetable soup, tofu, and pasta. This lifestyle of cooking most of our meals is a little tough, but we plan ahead.

Exercise won’t account for most of your weight loss. In some cases, exercisers will see increased weight. What exercise does is build muscle, and that muscle will help burn some fat but not all of it. Your waist might get smaller and your arms might get leaner, but the real fix for your fat is your diet. If you’re about to make an excuse for not losing weight—“It’s too hard”, “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have money”—I’m sure collapsed lungs (around $20,000), heart failure ($20,000-$93,000), diabetes ($7,000-$13,000 per year), and death ($3,000-$6,600 average cost) can convince you to re-think those excuses.

How to get started for free?

Change 1 meal out of your day. That meal can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Make sure that meal has lots of veggies, fiber, and lean protein such as grilled chicken or fish. When you’re ready to change another meal, do it! You’ll start to see changes in your body after 30 days.

Eat less processed food. They aren’t good for you. Did you know soda is used by police officers to wash blood off the streets? Did you know mechanics use soda to take the corrosion off car batteries? Imagine what it can do your stomach. Did you know most processed food is made up of sugars and salt? Next time, look at the label and find the nutritional value.

Cook at home. A restaurant isn’t going to understand your taste buds or weight struggles. Make your food at home and check out Youtube and websites for awesome and delicious recipes. My favorite is AllRecipes.com!

Try FitnessBlender’s (or any other Youtube channel’s) chair or low-impact cardio programs. They take 10 to 30 minutes, and they’re great for anyone who has leg or knee injuries (like myself).

Go walking with a friend or loved one. When my friend was learning English, we used to take walks twice a week around our neighborhood. If you want to burn more calories, add a 1-minute jogging interval to your walk, and you’ll burn triple the calories of walking.

Laugh those pounds away! Depending on the intensity of the laughter, you can trim 10 to 40 calories off with comedy. If you’re a comedy head like me, watch George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Steve Colbert, Kevin Hart, Patrice O’Neal, Sheryl Underwood, Sommore, and Loni Love.

Squat it out while watching TV or listening to a podcast. Every time I tune into my favorite shows, I do squats, pushups, and tricep dips. It’s better than being a couch potato…and later becoming a potato.

Why I’m a Literacy Advocate

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Happy International Literacy Day!

When I came home from school, my “friends” were always waiting for me. They dressed in primary colors—reds, blues, and greens—and stood at attention. As any old friend would do, they accepted me without judging me. Together, we smiled, laughed, and cried. I thought that they would stay with me forever. After I turned eleven, I never saw these friends again. We had to sell them to other children who needed them. I felt sad because we’d have to separate, but I accepted the fact that my best friends were books. There were more of them for me to find.

My relationship with books from an early age filled the void of being friendless. For whatever reason, I was too different from the other kids, so I read. I went into the books and played with the characters in a playground where everyone was accepted. I didn’t feel lonely or get angry at my situation. It was because no matter where I went, books were waiting for me.

Now as an adult, I support literacy, and I think all readers should be advocates for reading. It’s important for children to understand that they aren’t alone in a world that wants them to look like perfect images. Without that support, children fall into bad habits, destructive behaviors, and limitations. I know that if I hadn’t read books, I would’ve been a problem child who would turn into a problematic adult. Studies show that people who lack basic literacy skills are more likely to face health, financial, employment, imprisonment, and social problems in their futures (ProLiteracy,  Conference Board of Canada).  Adult readers and adults who have participated in literacy programs are generally better at getting and keeping their jobs, being unemployed less, earning more money, understanding their health problems and treatment better, and are less likely to go to jail (Lume Institute, LiteracyConnects). People can find benefits in improving their literacy skills through anything that gets them reading.

I think literacy isn’t limited to conventional trade backs and children’s books. Graphic novels, comics, manhwa, and manga are part of the reading circle. They stimulate imaginations which leads to better creative problem-solving skills that can be used in daily life. I know I exercise my creativity every day, especially since I have to make materials for Japanese kids who don’t know English. Even though I’ve left my original friends behind, they’re still inspiring me in all aspects of my life now.

Women’s Equality in Japan

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Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Women’s equality in Japan has come a way–not so long, not so short–but Japanese women are still seen as servants in and outside of Japan.

You can see the inequality by how many women are in various areas of Japanese life. In politics, less than 30 percent of the Diet has female politicians, and only 2 out of 18 people on Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet are women. In business, only 1 percent of senior executives are women and the gender wage gap is around 28 percent. Even in daily life, women’s inequality is visible.

Living in Japan, I’ve seen many Japanese women who work full-time and still make 3 meals a day for their children and husbands as well as care for the elderly. Some people could say that lunch, cleaning, and familial duties are signs of love for women.  “OK, carry this human for 9 months, give birth, clean up, wake up, and raise that child into adulthood, make meals for the child and husband for 30 years, and work the same hours for only 72 percent of the pay.” Does that sound like love? It sounds like servitude. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t cook, clean, or take care of their families. I’m saying that there are other able-bodied persons in a family who can share the duties. Besides, learning how to cook, clean, and take care of others are skills every person should have to live–everybody eats.

Outside of Japan, the stereotype is Japanese women are subservient. When it comes down to Japanese women marrying non-Japanese men, that stereotype is untrue. Why do you think most single, average-looking foreign men who come to Japan marry beautiful Japanese wives? Many Japanese girls and women think foreign men will cook, clean, and take care of the family. Where this idea came from I’m not sure (my money’s on Hollywood). Even my students say to me, “I want to marry a foreigner.” The funny things is the illusion of subservient Japanese women helps Japanese women marry foreigners. Once the curtain falls away, most foreign men realize that Japanese women aren’t as mousy as they thought.

I may be against the way Japanese women are seen, but I greatly respect Japanese women. They raise their families, take care of their bodies, and help each other when help is needed. Even though I don’t have kids, as a married woman, I’m suddenly part of a community of women who trade recipes, talk about their problems, and go walking together. These women are responsible for fostering children’s imaginations while filling their tummies with nutritious foods. It’s better than some women who substitute healthy cooking with cheap blood-clotting burgers, have 3 to 5 children from different fathers, and can’t take care of their physical, mental, emotional, or financial well being. In this way, irresponsible women have a long way to go.

womens-equality-day-august-26

Lefties in Japan: Do Southpaws Get Little Love Here, Too?

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Happy International Left-handers’ Day!

Did you know I’m left-handed? My father, my grandfather, my aunt, and my husband are also left-handed. Imagine all the smear stains we’ve gotten on our cuffs, how many artful turns of a paper we did to avoid ruined sleeves, how many decisions we’d have to make–throw left or right?–in our entire lives. No matter how many left-handers there are in my family, there aren’t many in the world (only 10 percent!). Left-handers are just as rare in Japan as in the States, but unlike their American counterparts, they don’t have as much trouble dealing with a right-side world.

In Japan, left-handedness isn’t seen as a conspiracy to make do with the Devil as it is in Western and Catholic countries. Sure, there was a time when Japanese viewed southpaws as impractical because of traditional calligraphy writing. Even though Japanese people still write from left to right when they make banners, the taboo of being left-handed, or giccho, is considered old news.

In recent times, Japanese students use regular notebooks or genkou youshi (原稿用紙), a Japanese manuscript paper for writing essays. This kind of paper has little boxes, each box for one character, and they’re read from right to left. Because traditional Japanese is read from the top downwards, essays are written the same way, top to down. It makes it easier for us lefties to write an essay in Japan, even if they’re apology or detention essays (you’ll see it in manga, anime, or in the discipline office in Japanese schools).

houkyo

Poor Houtarou from Hyouka has to re-write an essay he forgot at home.

Of course, left-handers in Japan still face problems in the right-hander world. In contrast to manuscript paper, writing calligraphy on horizontal banners is oriented for right-handers.  I wonder if famous calligraphers like Michiko ImaiShinjo Ito, or Shingai Tanaka ever had trouble writing Japanese characters.

Oh, Flanders, you'll only get orders from Japan. Go online!

Oh, Flanders, the Simpsons and the Leftorium are washed up. Get your butt online, man!

Looking for your real Leftorium? Here are some shops that can help you with your left-handed needs on this fine International Left-handers Day:

1. Lefty’s – https://www.leftyslefthanded.com/ (Special discounts on International Left-handers’ Day)

2. Anything Left-Handed – http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/

3. RU-Lefthanded – http://ru-lefthanded.co.uk/ocart/

4. Left-hand N.Z. – http://www.lefthandnz.com/

Happy International Beer Day!

intlbeerday

Happy International Beer Day!

How’s beer in Japan? The good news is Japanese beer is cheaper than any Western beers like Budweiser and Guinness ranging from 80 yen a can to 320 yen for a bottle. The bad news is Japanese beers all taste alike. “The nail that sticks up must be hammered down” is a proverb that explains both Japanese culture and the sameness between the top beer brands in Japan. I don’t know if it’s Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, or Orion’s faults for making these beers. Maybe it’s just the people who’ve learned not deviate from the tastes of their peers and try something new, and so, the companies cater to their flavors.

I would recommend going to a liquor store, local brewery, import wine shop, or a good bar that sells import drinks for different beer tastes. My favorite place is the import wine shop in Chatan that carries imported German, Austrian, and Italian lagers and alcohol. Just watch out for the price tag–imports are very expensive.

7 Useful Websites to Survive in Japan

 

Imagine getting an invitation to your welcome party and a co-worker hands you a map to the location. You don’t think to ask about the place or what do all the squiggly lines mean–not like you can if you don’t know Japanese–so when the time comes to go to the welcome party, you realize that you don’t know the way. But that’s only one worry from living in Japan. Japanese language resources, English books, organic products, and even emoticons are different in the Land of the Rising Sun. Thanks to the internet, you can simplify your needs while living in Japan.

 googlemapsGoogle Maps: In Japan, you can easily get lost. There are no street names, and multiple routes with the same number make finding a certain business nearly impossible. Good thing all businesses must print their ads with a map to their shop…right? If everyone relied on those 5-centimeter sized maps, no one in Japan would use Google Maps. My advice: stick to landmarks!

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Japanese Emoticons: Western emoticons are great, but Japanese ones are easier to read and have more pizzazz. Plus, each emoticon conveys the exact emotion I’m looking for in a tweet or email. \(^▽^)/

freejapanesefont

Japanese Fonts: If you’re learning Japanese or you make anything with text in Japan, this website is the best! You can download and install the fonts that actually write Japanese, not the gibberish you find on Fontspace. Just be on the look out for the fine print. Some fonts are licensed for non-commercial uses, which means you can only use them for unpaid projects.

bookdepository

Book Depository: Japan has a severe lack of English books that aren’t condensed readers for English exam takers. Some Japanese English-reading residents are fine with the scant choices of English literature at Toda Books and Book Off (they mostly have YA and best sellers). For those who want books without the expensive shipping fee from Ebay, Amazon, Abebooks, Book Depository is the best. They ship books worldwide for free. Are the books cheaper than Ebay or Amazon? No, they’re full price, but they’re brand new books.

iherb

iHerb: If you’re missing your beloved African soap bars or certain organic cookie mixes and you can’t get them from home, iHerb is the next best option. They have a flat $4 shipping rate to Japan and they sell organic and vegan household products.

weblio

Weblio: Japanese is hard. Even Google Translate has a hard time making Japanese understandable. Weblio is another translation website that offers a literal translation of the English and example sentences using the main verb.

Wunderground: Between June and October, Japan is plagued with typhoons and stormy weather. Reliable English-language weather forecast sites like Wunderground are few in total, considering that many are in Japanese. Still, Wunderground is a good place to watch any severe weather changes in the Western-Pacific region.

Square Enix and Humble Bundle offering “Pay What You Want” Games for Charity

Like PC games? Into recent hits Deus Ex, Hitman, Silent Assassin, or Lara Croft? For the next 13 days, Square Enix is teaming up with digital bundle master Humble Bundle, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and GamesAid to offer popular games for any amount you want to pay for them.

“Pay $1 or more for Thief GoldMini NinjasDaikatanaHitman: Codename 47Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Anachronox,” the Humble Bundle website says. “If you pay more than the average price, you’ll also get Deus Ex: Invisible WarDeus Ex: The FallHitman: Absolution,Battlestations Midway and the Nosgoth Veteran Pack. Those who pay $14.99 or more will receive all of the above, plus Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut,Just Cause 2Lara Croft and the Guardian of LightDeus Ex: Game of the Year Edition and Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days.”

Your contribution can go to Humble Bundle, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, or GamesAid, a UK video games charity for disabled people.

For more information go to Humble Bundle’s website here.

Stop Saying Japanese Students are Obedient!

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During orientation for a trip to an American high school, I told the students, “If you fall asleep in class, you’ll get kicked out. If you talk during class, you’ll get kicked out. If you misbehave, you’ll get punished.” My Japanese students were shocked. Their eyebrows lifted and their mouths opened after they processed my words.

“Huh?”

I’ve worked at seven junior high schools and two senior high schools in Japan, and 95% of the classes are the same. Kids fall asleep, chat, and read books during class. They destroy the stereotype that Japanese students are obedient students.

When I told my high school students that they couldn’t do those things, they couldn’t imagine what class was like, especially when an immediate punishment followed their behavior. Disruptive and sleeping students don’t get punished right away, that is, if they get punished at all. Teachers wait until the end of the day to lecture students or send them to the discipline committee for punishment (writing an apology essay, cleaning early in the morning or after school, parent-student conference). So far, the best schools I’ve taught at had swift punishments for troublesome students. I’ve seen one junior high school student sit on his knees in traditional Japanese style for thirty minutes listening to three teachers yell at him about his disruptive behavior. In the end, he cried, and I never saw him near the teachers’ office again.

Where does this “obedient Japanese student” come from? My guess is what silence means to a Westerner versus a Japanese person. In the West, silence means that you’re listening and being well behaved. In Japan, silence can mean anything. My students will sit and stare at the clock without feeling bothered. When the test rolls around, students leave nearly half of their tests blank, including multiple choice questions. It’s my students’ way of protesting school.

The culprits of such a bad system? Japanese culture. Learning is not designed to be from Person A to Person B and that’s it. Learning is about taking the new information, reshaping it in certain situations, and applying it. In Japan, the direct approach does not exist except in English class (on a varying level). Ask, “What’s ‘cat’ in Japanese?” and 40 pairs of eyes blink at you as if they don’t know what a cat had two pointy ears and said, “Meow”. English is hard to learn–and so is Japanese–but when administrators just want students to parrot words and sentences, how much of that is learning?

Aside from the classroom setting, Japanese culture has one thing that hovers on the shoulders of all Japanese people: wa (和), meaning peace, or “Don’t rock the boat”. There are over 157 million people in Japan, which is the size of California. That’s a lot of people, and that’s not a lot of space. With so many people breathing down your throat, wa is a way for Japanese people to stay sane. Instead of giving your opinion (from Point A to Point B), you say your opinion in a round-about way (from Point A to Point D to Point C to Point B). What you really feel is hidden beneath a guise called honne (本音) while what you say is seen as tatemae (建前). English has an opposite design–I’m going to give it to you straight. Westerners want to be understood regardless of things such as feelings. We don’t have physical space to worry about. But Japan has a space crisis and overpopulation, and this system of wa permeates all of Japanese life, including school.

Even if my students pretended to be obedient Japanese students in the American school they visited, I know it’s just a front.