A Brief Aside - Microsoft in Japan

I was wasting some time at work reading about different people's takes on this year's Tokyo Games Show (TGS) and something kept coming up. Probably because of Nintendo's (and the Wii's) absence from the event, Sony and Microsoft were scrutinized more closely. Many bloggers/reporters/etc said something similar to the following, but I will quote Jason Hill of "Screen Play," a blog hosted by Australian paper the Age because of his concise summary:

"Microsoft certainly now has a wide range of Japanese-centric titles...

...But if the Japanese continue to ignore the 360 even with such a strong line-up, it will be interesting to watch Microsoft's response.

Having Japanese developers create 360 games for the West (like Capcom's magnificent Dead Rising) is crucial, but perhaps Microsoft needs to accept that Japanese gamers will never embrace a Western console and invest their money elsewhere."

From a person living and gaming in Japan, let me tell you that his last comment couldn't be more true. Outside of any numbers or sales percentages my experience with both the youth and twenty-something market is that they just don't give a damn about Microsoft. Nobody I know personally owns an XBox or a 360. In every game store I've ever been to the section for Microsoft products is smaller than the Dreamcast section, a console which has been officially "dead" for many years now. I highly doubt that bringing the Japanese developers on board will be able to change this situation.

A bigger problem, as I see it, is that Microsoft isn't a face in that gamer's cathedral known as the video arcade. Most of the truly successful franchises outside of the RPG and adventure (aka, "dating sim") genres are huge names in the arcades, that or their parent companies are. I think that when doujin games like Melty Blood can become huge successes, ported from PC to Arcade and finally to PS2, this illustrates what Japanese consumers are really looking for in a game title.

It's surely not the "high" price which hurts Microsoft either! Japanese gamers I know are willing to throw down close to $100 for the "Special Edition" release of the newest PS2 RPG or adventure title, and all they get is some dinky PVC figure of the main character and a larger box. And how about the people paying nearly $300 for a Nintendo DS earlier this summer? No, if XBox was interesting or appealing to the Japanese gamers they would spend their money on it.

What we have is a case of a whole national market rejecting a product time and time again, and only because Microsoft has resources far beyond those of most other corporations have they been able to survive the battle this long, and this far away from home.

And it's not just the "console war" I see them losing. More and more I get comments from my co-workers and students on my iPod or my MacBook. They point and wail "kakkoii!" (cool) or "kawaii!" (cute), and these are the things that in the end truly matter to the Japanese consumer. As proven by the DS fiasco earlier this summer, when there is demand for a product in Japan there is demand for a product. As the art teacher who sits next to me shyly inquired, "Can I get MacBook with Japanese keyboard?"

Yes, yes you can. And if Microsoft (along with Fujitsu, Toshiba, and their other partners over here) starts losing the "notebook war" as well...well then I think things are going to get truly interesting.

I can't tell if this is actual specualtion or wishful thinking. Maybe a bit of both.


Hello People

I was gone the past two days on a field trip with my Kanagi Chuugakkou 1st Years. It was an outdoor ed sort of affair...we stayed in a nature retreat facility, we cooked out one night on an open fire, and we climbed the highest mountain in the area...Mt. Sanbe. It was a good chance to get closer to my kids and a few of my teachers. Good times were had by all. Expect pictures to trickle into my Flickr photostream sometime later today.

And in the news:

I've just been catching up on the UN Talks which have been going on this week. I have to say I'm glad that people are finally starting to stand up the the US/UK bullshit, even if they are Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Chavez on Bush: "The devil came here yesterday... It still smells of sulphur today." (BBC News)

Ahmadinejad on US/UK bullshit: "The question needs to be asked: if the governments of the United States, or the United Kingdom - who are permanent members of the Security Council - commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, which of the organs of the UN can hold them to account?" (BBC News)

Also, there's this. Isn't it bad enough that our country named an airport after him? Does Poland really need to erect an idol? I think this statue is going to have a cat nose and whiskers drawn on it before I die.



My New Favorite Blogger (for this week...)

I was peripherally aware of PZ Myers through simply being interested in the whole shitstorm in America over teaching creationism in schools, but I had never properly read his blog, Pharyngula, until today.

This guy lets things piss him off even better than I do, here is a prime example. Pay specific attention to the comments of Prof. Billy Wilbanks. I can't even believe they let him near a classroom...and neither can PZ.


A couple of things

1. The 70s Party went swimmingly. I (read "Donna" because she made my costume) won first place of the boys. You can see my sweet outfit here. Yes, I know I'm awesome.

2. I survived my first actual taifuu (typhoon for you westerners out there) last night. Basically it was just a lot of rain and wind. And it was pretty loud. But I slept through most of it. Can't wait for my first earthquake.

3. Here are some videos you need to watch. The first is a dude playing the third level of Ikaruga ambidextriously, this is obviously awesome. The second is a hilarious warning video about the Robocop game for XBox.

4. Lastly, you need to visit this website. This guy is a stencil artist from Canada and his stuff is really awesome. What makes it unique for me is that he posts a new stencil everyday, Mon-Fri, along with a photo of it's placement and a description of why he chose it and what it means. Real cool stuff, be sure to look at the one of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's bloody jacket.

Enjoy everything!


Sports Days

This weekend I had both my schools' Sports Days. It rained both days, and I had a cold, but I still had a great time.

You can see video of one of them here and pictures here.

Basically the kids are divided into teams and they play a bunch of silly games and do cheers and stuff to score points. The winner gets the Triwizard Cup or something like that. It's all very Harry Potter, and it's a fun time. My favorite event is the one where three kids hold up one kid and they try to grab eachother's hats. You can see this game in action on the video.

At Kanagi JH (the one in the video) I was made an honorary member of the Red Team and they won! However, most of my favorite kids were on the Blue Team so I felt a little bad. One of my favorite girls had to announce the winners and she almost started to cry...I felt so bad. But then the entire Blue Team jumped in the mud together and most people stopped crying.

I also had a welcome party after each sports festival, so I got to know my coworkers a lot better. A lot of them are really cool, really fun people. It makes being at work a little more comfortable now.

That's all for now...this weekend I'm going to a 70s themed party and my friend Donna is making me a special costume. Look forward to pictures of that.


I was going to take a nap...

BUT, one of my neighbors has decided it's a good time to weedwack, and the other has decided he'd like to use a band saw or something. Great...

So yeah, instead of napping I'm going to gush about some music. Here's what you need to be listening to:

Bomb The Music Industry! - Goodbye Cool World
This is the newest effort from Jeff Rosenstock and company, but mostly just Jeff Rosenstock and his computer. This rocks so hard your face has probably already started to melt off and you were wondering why and you didn't know why...well this album is why.
BTMI! takes the "post-ska" thing to a whole different level with excellent songs both lyrically and musically. Some favorites include "Side Projects Are Never Successful," a delightful mid-90s throwback with a catchy chorus, and "It's Official! We're Booorrrrrriiiiing!!!," an anthem which speaks to the decline in exciting punk rock in the past year or two.
Check this album out, you will not regret it. Oh, and it's free.

Pink Razors - Waiting to Wash Up
Pun(k) Rock at it's best. This band is hands down my new favorite pop-punk band. In my mind it's bands like Pink Razors who show what a shitty, washed up band NOFX is. NOFX has like one good song on every album these days, whereas on "Waiting to Wash Up" every single song is indispensable. Pop-punk shouldn't be that hard, but it can be impossible to get right. These guys do it with style.
Hot tracks include, well, pretty much everything. "Sew It Seems" stands out as the most well executed pun on the album, and the sewing imagery is carried throughout the song...never thought I'd say that about a punk rock song. Rock on Pink Razors.
My only criticism, move the hell off MySpace. I wanted to post a link to their music but I refuse to give MySpace any traffic. You can buy their CD from Robotic Empire.

Milemarker - Ominosity
I became familiar with Milemarker years ago through DVP's use of a sample from "Frigid Forms Sell" on their hott track "Assassination." I also saw their album "Anaesthetic" in a bargain bin once in NYC and picked it up. They impressed me back then, but nothing prepared me for the awesomeness that is "Ominosity."
This album is almost a year old by now, so I'm kind of coming to it late. The band has been through a lot of changes, but what they retain is an approach to punk rock that is refreshing and exciting. They push the boundaries of drone, sludge, hardcore, electronic, industrial, punk, folk, everything...this is some ill shit. Imagine Sonic Youth has sex with the Blood Brothers and they are snorting Mass Movement of the Moth off eachother. It's like that, only weirder.
Favorite cuts from this one include the ethereal "Food Chain" and the earth-y sounding "The Rambler." But they're all good. Seriously...I mean it. Listen to this album. I think it's on Eyeball Records.

The Catalyst - Anything by this band
Last but not least, the Catalyst. These guys eat, breathe and smoke rock. They are the ultimate stoner punk band. Sometimes they play with two drumkits. They always rule live. I had the privilege of touring with them briefly when I drove the Max Levine peeps around. I don't think I would have got into them if I hadn't seen them live...so if you're in America, your challenge is to catch this band live. Shouldn't be too hard, they tour like crazy.

That's all for now. Music is sweet.


My First Few Days of School

So I've been to school a couple of times by now.

School is pretty awesome. There are clearly the parts that suck, first and foremost being that there is little for me to do on the days when the kids don't have English. However, when the kids do have English it's quite a lot of fun.

Maybe I should give a quick rundown of Japanese school first, for the people who aren't familiar with it. The main points are:

1. There are five "classes" in my school. One class of 1st Years, and two classes each of Second and Third Years. Japanese students do not change classes each period for different subjects, they stay in their "homeroom" and the teachers change classes. Teachers live in the teacher's room when not otherwise occupied.

2. In Japan school is a right, not a privilege like in the States. There is no detention, and you pretty much cannot fail. This being said, kids in Japanese schools are either extremely well behaved or extremely poorly behaved, there is no middle ground. They either decide they really want to learn, and do things like seek out teachers between every period to check their homework, or they decide they don't care and do things like talk during class and shout things out at inappropriate times. Teachers pretty much don't care either way and they just teach at the students regardless of what they're doing.

3. In Japanese school the kids do things like serve the lunch and clean the school. The teachers look at this as being as valuable as classroom learning. Each student also belongs to a club, and they pretty much don't have a choice. I mean they have a choice of what club, but joining one is mandatory. This is seen as part of their education as well. In addition there are things like "Sports Day," a day when the whole school gets together to, not play sports as one might think, but to do elaborate cheers, chants, and dances. Time is taken out of the school day to practice for this event. Right now my school is in the thick of practicing for Sports Day.

So yeah, those are some basic points of difference between US schools and Japanese schools. Also Japanese schools, like most Japanese buildings, are not air-conditioned in the summer or heated in the winter. Actually the rooms are heated in the winter...but the halls and gym and stuff aren't.

I actually go to two schools, Kanagi Junior High and Asahi Junior High. I rotate each week, so I haven't been to Asahi yet. Kanagi is pretty cool though. There are a lot of kids who seem genuinely interested in English, which makes my job a lot easier. There are a group of girls who pretty much talk to me in English whenever they get a chance. The guys just like to shout "Hello" at me really loud and then giggle.

In the classroom I'm pretty much a glorified tape-recorder, but I think I can change that. My English teacher has told me to come up with ideas for lessons...so I guess I'll just have to impress her.

That's about it so far. No pics from school yet, sorry Mom. I keep forgetting because I get really nervous right before I have to teach. I'll be sure to get some soon, and I'll get some pics of "Sports Day."

Talk to you guys later. Peace.