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James Singleton
  • James Singleton 
  • By this author: 23 Latest posted: 2018.02.02
Translator and editor, Graduated from the University of Oregon in 1996 with a degree in Asian Studies. Came to Japan the same year and has lived here ever since, studying Japanese and traveling by train or foot in search of local history, culture, and dialects. Has also spent time as a kindergarten teacher and at-home dad. Began translating in 2008 and has worked both freelance and in-house at a major Japanese food and beverage manufacturer. Joined in 2014.
Froggy Goes A-Roaming in “Tabikaeru”: Makers of Hit “Nekoatsume” Have New Game2018.02.02

Japanese software company Hit-point, makers of the blockbuster cat collecting game Nekoatsume, have rolled out another adorable app for smartphones and tablets, this time based around the escapades of a traveling frog. But instead of cooing over cuddly creatures, players of Tabikaeru (travel/journey frog) vicariously follow a wayfaring amphibian as it visits famous sites around Japan, rambles thro…

How the Media Shaped Sumō’s Modern Traditions2018.01.12

Sumō boasts an impressive history that by some accounts stretches back 2,000 years. Nearly every aspect of the sport—from the dress and customs of wrestlers to the elaborate rituals performed at tournaments—appears to date from antiquity. However, many facets of sumō familiar to fans today emerged in modern times. Waseda University Professor Lee Thompson, during a recent talk at the Internation…

Buried by a Volcano: The Destructive Past of Japan’s Mount Asama2017.10.06

The residents of Kanbara, a tiny town tucked among rolling hills and fields in western Gunma Prefecture, know all too well the destructive potential of Mount Asama. The fitful volcano, towering 2,568 meters into the sky some 12 kilometers to the south, roared to life in the late eighteenth century, spewing ash, stone, and magma far across the landscape. The cataclysmic eruption, one of the most wi…

Tokyo’s Little Mount Fujis2017.02.11

Starting in the Edo period, syncretic religious groups known as Fujikō built small-scale replicas of Mount Fuji for adherents who could not make pilgrimages to the actual mountain. Many of these mounds, called fujizuka, still stand in neighborhoods around the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Soaring Dragons: Homemade Rockets Take Flight at Ryūsei Festival2015.12.12

Each year in early October the skies above the Muku Shrine in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, come to life with the fire, roars, and smoke of dragons. The appearance of these legendary creatures marks the climax of the Ryūsei Matsuri, a festival with roots stretching back over 400 years. The dragons are primitive rockets known as ryūsei, fashioned by hand from such materials as pine, bamboo, …

The Tightly Regulated “Independence” of Japanese Children2015.11.21

A spate of recent reports in the Western press (including a video documentary) have noted the independence of Japan’s youngest commuters—elementary-school students and even younger children. This independence is held up in contrast with the lack of similar freedom in many other nations, particularly the United States, which has been singled out as particularly unfriendly to the “free-range child.”…

Nurturing a Tradition with the Global Sushi Challenge2015.09.12

Enjoying sushi in Japan includes the luxury of knowing the meal is genuine. As the cuisine has spread overseas, however, authenticity is not always something diners can take for granted. To help promote sushi knowledge, Japan’s World Sushi Skills Institute and the Norwegian Seafood Council have teamed up to present the Global Sushi Challenge. Framed as the largest international competition for sus…

Wrap Your Lunch: Reinventing the Humble Rice Ball with “Onigirazu”2015.07.06

The onigiri (rice ball) is one of Japanese cuisine’s oldest traditions. But a new interpretation known as onigirazu is remaking the image of the centuries-old staple snack and garnering an increasing amount of lunchtime attention. Onigirazu is a hearty dish that is closer to a rice sandwich than a rice ball. It first began to grab attention online at popular cooking sites and with food bloggers…

Fill Your Phone with Cats: “Nekoatsume”2015.04.17

Mobile gaming is one of the few bright spots in Japan’s IT sphere. One of the bigger―and certainly the most adorable―hits to appear this year is Nekoatsume. The title, which can be loosely translated as “gathering cats,” sums up the entire game. Players place various items around a virtual garden to entice a cast of adorable feline callers and then check into the app periodically to watch them go …

The Sneeze Trees: Ridding Japanese Forests of Pollen2015.04.04

Japan is famed for its crowded cities, but much of the country is mountainous territory covered with thick stands of trees. While greenery is always welcome in a landscape, one common type of tree comes in for more hatred than appreciation: Cryptomeria japonica, the cryptomeria (sugi in Japanese, often called “Japanese cedar” in English) responsible for an annual allergy epidemic throughout the co…

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