The Quest for a Game

My current favourite video game is a sort of puzzle-rhythm game for the Nintendo DS called Elite Beat Agents. My brother introduced me to the game when we were home in the Philippines last December. It’s a good thing, too. I’ve been playing and enjoying the game since January while the game only got released in Australia just a few days ago.

The thing is, I’ve already played through the default level once and almost done playing the more difficult level. I just felt like it was getting a bit old. Although I still enjoy it, I want to be able to play new or different songs. I then realised that I should’ve also bought the original Japanese version of the game called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! while I was still in the Philippines. I was pretty sure it was available there as my brother had one.

Then, a few weeks ago, I felt fortunate that we were going to Japan. I could just buy the Japanese game when we get there. As a side note though, the sequel of the game will be released in Japan a week after we return to Melbourne! Damn. Anyway, I’ve placed Ouendan on my what-to-do-in-Japan list.

I only started to actively search for the game about mid-way into our stay in Japan. I thought that it would be very easy to find. Just go to the rack where all the other Nintendo DS games are and pick it out from there. But, no. I didn’t find it in the first electronics shop I went to. In the second shop, I decided to get help from one of the sales people on the floor.

I tried asking him: “Osu Tatakae Ouendan wa arimasu ka?” I hoped I said “Do you have Osu Tatakae Ouendan?” correctly. Right or wrong, he started talking to me. Here’s the problem: I may know how to ask the right question, but I’m not fluent enough in Nihongo to understand the reply. I tried reading his body language but there was nothing. His face was expressionless and he wasn’t making any hand gestures as he talked.

I clarified to him that I don’t really speak Japanese very well: “Nihongo ga hanasemasen.” Translation: “I don’t speak Japanese.” which is actually a bit ironic since I’m saying it in Japanese. He started talking again and he was moving his two index fingers and thumbs to form a rectangle in the air this time. The gesture didn’t help any as I still couldn’t understand what he was saying. He could still be speaking in Japanese or a heavily accented English. I can’t really tell. I finally gave up, apologised (“sumimasen”) and left the shop. They probably didn’t have the game, anyway. I was definitely regretting my failure to brush up on my Nihongo before we went to Japan.

On our last full day in Japan, we went to Akihabara, an area in Japan known for lots of electronics shops. I didn’t realise that the place also had lots of manga and anime shops! Anyway, I digress. If there was a place I’d find the game, it must be there at Akihabara. We also did our homework before hand. I had Raquel write down the kanji (Chinese characters) for the name of the game on a piece of paper so that I could just show the piece of paper to the sales person next time. That should avoid any further confusion as to which game I really wanted.

The good thing about Akihabara was that more employees at the shops speak English. They were able to tell me that the game was just sold out, at least. After going through several shops, I finally found a shop that has the game in stock! At last, my search was over. I promptly bought it, of course. Mission accomplished.

Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Comments (4)  

Language Barrier

Being a big anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese-word for comics) fan when I was young, I wanted to learn how to speak and read Japanese or Nihongo. I even took up Nihongo classes at the Japanese Embassy in Makati, Philippines in the 90’s. I was actually doing pretty good with me being fourth best in my class midway through. Unfortunately, I stopped taking the class due to other priorities and so my Nihongo never really improved beyond those I have already learned up to that point.

So, I’m not a total newbie when it comes to Nihongo. I could read hiragana and katakana (alphabet-like characters that make up Japanese words) just fine albeit slowly since I haven’t been practicing. That meant that if there is something written in Japanese that isn’t written with kanji (Chinese characters), I can read it out loud. Understanding what the words mean is a different thing entirely though.

That little skill actually helped us a little when we visited Japan last week. You see, the Japanese have borrowed a lot of words from English over the years and they write down these borrowed words in katakana. So, when I needed to know what’s on the menu, I scan for words written in katakana hoping they were borrowed English words. I was at least able to read hamburger, chicken, pork, beef, Coca-cola, Pepsi, ice-tea, katsu, curry and ramen off the menu.

In hindsight though, I should’ve been more prepared. I should have brushed up on my Nihongo prior to our flight to Japan. It would’ve have spared us a lot of misunderstandings.

I can say hello, thanks, excuse me, and other simple phrases. I can even ask basic questions. The problem was that I wasn’t fluent enough to understand the replies to my questions. Many times I had asked how much an item is and the salesperson would quote the price in Nihongo real fast. I had to ask him to write it down or enter it on the cash registry so I could see how much it was in numeric form. One time, I also asked where a particular place was. The person I asked replied but I couldn’t understand a word of what he said.

That said, if you have any plans of visiting Japan, I highly recommend you study basic Nihongo first. Unless you have friends there who can act as your guide, you’ll have a tough time trying to get your point across as most people you’ll come across there aren’t very fluent in English. Having a phrasebook without prior studying isn’t much of a help, too. I was able to say and ask what I want thanks to our phrasebook but I still couldn’t understand the replies of the person I was talking to.

Now that we’re back in Melbourne, I started learning Nihongo again. I know that it may seem like it’s a little too late for that, but I have another motivation now. I want to learn the language so I can read their books. Their art books, to be specific.

I was overjoyed to have found these various art instruction books in Japan. The only problem was that they were all written and Japanese and I couldn’t read any of it. Sure, I could still stare at the pretty pictures but the professional advice and instructions were lost to me. I actually bought two already and my aim is to be able to read them easily eventually.

I also wanted to learn Nihongo now so that next time we go to Japan, I’ll be ready. I loved it there. It’s already a few days since returning to Melbourne and I still daydream about Tokyo and Kyoto. Next time in there, I’ll be able to appreciate it a lot more than I did the last time.

Published in: on May 7, 2007 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Our Japan Photos

It took us a while to upload, sort and caption the photos we took from our trip in Japan but we’re finally done. We actually took more photos that shown in the photo albums but we a lot of the other photos were either blurry or just plain redundant anyway.

I recommend you read the captions on the photos themselves as they would tell the story of what was happening on the photos. We also added some details on our trip on those captions as well. This way, we won’t be doing a day by day blog account anymore. However, I will still probably write future blog posts about some of the more striking things about our trip later.

Day 1: Arrival

Day 2: Tokyo, Asakusa and Ueno

Day 3: Kyoto

Day 4: Himeji and Shibuya at night

Day 5: Kamakura and Harajuku

Day 6: Tsukiji, Tsukishima, Akihabara, Shinjuku and Ginza

Day 7: Going Home

Published in: on May 6, 2007 at 12:25 am  Comments (3)  

Back from Japan

We flew back in from Japan yesterday and spent the rest of the day, well, resting. I must say that I really enjoyed our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. There were some communication problems due to my very poor Japanese language skills, but it didn’t diminish the great experience I had there.

I specially love the food we were able to eat there, from Japanese crepe to curries, from katsudon to tendons, from sando to hambaagaa. I’ll tell you more about it later along with some photos of our trip. Right now, I just wanted to let you guys know that we’re back safe in good old Melbourne.

Published in: on May 3, 2007 at 8:26 pm  Comments (5)