Waiting for Grandma to Die


Every grave in Japan is a family’s grave. There are no individuals existing on their own islands.


Dark, but that’s the kind of place Japan can be sometimes. Continue reading

No Post This Week

Unless you count this, which I’ve been told some people do. So, I guess here it is: a post!

Two sentences really isn’t enough, even for a non-post, so why not a few more?

I’m going to Japan in less than two weeks! Exciting! It’ll be nice to go back and enjoy the Japanese spring, which is probably the best season over there. Summer and fall are both nice, but spring is where it’s at.

Also, Persona 5 may go down in my mind as the most intense game I’ve played, new words wise. Already my personal dictionary has 359 words logged, including such recent gems as 書斎(しょさい), “a study”, such as お父さんは書斎に閉じこもっている, “My father has locked himself up in his study.” I wasn’t aware that 斎 was used in any other word than the family name 斎藤. Guess I was wrong.

I have to stop looking up new words or I’ll never finish this game before I go back to Japan. Guess we’ll see what aspect of my life I decide to forfeit for the sake of the game.

とんとん! Let’s Try Entering the Staff Room!

Another mini-post today. This one about entering the staff room at the elementary school.

Unlike America, the staff room (職員室) is very accessible. Countless times throughout the day, students knock on the door, ask to see a teacher or do something, and then leave. And, like many Japanese things, there’s a process to it.


The fabled door to the staff room. You can see the 職員室 sign to the top left.

On the door are two different papers, each letting people know how to use the door. They’re actually both the same message, but the one on the right is newer. Last year, because of the setup of the staff room, using the left door was more common. This year, with desks in slightly different places, the right door has gotten more use.

Let’s look at the left door.


A translation:

*knock knock* “Excuse me.” (Bow)
“Grade __ , {your name}.”
“I’ve come looking for Mr./Mrs. {teacher’s name}.”
“Excuse me.” (Bow)

The new and updated poster says much the same, but…


It comes with a few more clarifications at the top. Specifically:

  • Put your backpack down.
  • Take off your hat, jacket*, scarf, and gloves.
  • Only the person looking for a teacher comes in.

It’s not too complicated. Most students understand within the first month of being a first grader. The most common mistake is actually saying the wrong grade when a new year starts.

And that’s it. I hope you’ve found this tiny look into Japanese school life valuable. 🙂


* = The word used for jacket here is ジャンバー, which is technically incorrect. The correct word is ジャンパー. It’s basically the Japanese equivalent of saying “nip it in the butt” instead of “nip it in the bud”, or “peak one’s interest” instead of “pique one’s interest”. It’s wrong, but so many people say it that you’re kind of a pompous dick for pointing it out.

A Thought On Localization and Censorship


Funny how my last post was about inaction. And here I am, a week late. But at last some action came together, for this collection of words is now a thing!

Regardless of what circles you happen to be in, most people agree that censorship is a bad thing. The idea that conversation can be halted because some party doesn’t like what the other is saying. And for those involved in video games, the topic of censorship seems to come up every day.

But I’m going to make a simple point that is worth thinking about:

All localization is censorship.

It can’t be helped. This isn’t just about how some words and phrases can’t be translated directly. It’s about how the act of localization is entirely about making sure something from a different culture and cultural biases fits into your culture and cultural biases.

People say things like, “but they’re removing something from the original,” even when the original creator approved the change. And yet, that statement will always be true. Once you take out all of the original language, the game is no longer going to bring the exact same message.

Ironically, for those who don’t speak Japanese and don’t deeply understand Japanese culture, playing a game in Japanese without some of these understandings can lead to a experience the developer didn’t intend. The developer wants you to play and understand the game. By going through with a localization, you’re getting closer to the heart of the experience than by playing the original. Even if you don’t pick up all the references and allusions in Okami or Persona.

You might say: I’m fine with the localization if they’re just changing the words. I don’t want them to change the images. I don’t want them to remove features and activities and scenes altogether. And that’s fair, in a sense. I would love to have the option to buy the game legitimately outside Japan with as few changes as possible. But in most cases, it doesn’t make business sense.

So, my recommendation: come to Japan, learn Japanese, delve into Japanese culture, and play the game as it was intended to be played. It’s a little legwork, but if you really care about experiencing the original, that’s what it takes. Otherwise, are you really respecting the original?

Family, Games, and Inaction

Thank God for having a schedule, and needing to get a post out every Friday, barring exceptions (like last week when I was in Taiwan, or, unfortunately, next week when I’ll be in Osaka). It keeps me creating. While I can’t say I’m happy with what I write in the moment, I’m usually happy with it when I look back at it. And even if I’m not happy with it, perhaps it is useful for someone else out there. Hopefully, that someone is you.

On Tuesday, my family arrived from back home. It’s been great having them around, and with only a few days under our belt, we’ve already had some pretty big and serious discussions on topics ranging from government regulation of businesses to abortion. I forgot how easily political topics can pop up and how easily it is to debate them without anger in my family, in spite of some very opposing viewpoints.

Yesterday, my family came to the elementary school and spent more than half the day with the kids. It’s always a good experience for the students in this tiny town to be exposed to people from the other side of the world. Even though I’m also a foreigner, I’ve been in Japan long enough that my existence is essentially normalized. My family, on the other hand, was something new and different, and hopefully an experience that they’ll remember.

Next week we head out to Osaka. In order to go, I’ve had to use the rest of my vacation time. That means, from now until August, no vacation for me. Still, for most people, vacation is a rare privilege. When I think about that, I feel blessed that I had as much as I did to begin with.

I’m struggling to put the finishing touches on Shichikashuku II. I mean, it’s basically 99.95% done. I just need to play though the game once or twice more to make sure it feels even better. Then, I’ll write a postmortem on the game and what worked and didn’t with my students.

More than that game, though, is game development in general, and that fear that I won’t have enough skills in enough time. I’m really looking to push a premium game by the end of the year, but with less than 7 months to go, I feel as if that’s not really achievable. Regardless, I’ll keep trying.

My time in Japan is coming to an end, at least for now. There’s so much I still have left to do. Sometimes that list paralyzes me.

But I’ll probably be back. And that keeps me moving, because knowing I don’t need to do everything in the next two months means I can just take things as they come.

Don’t stop. Keep moving.

But, sleep when you can. Sleep is pretty sweet.