Category Archives: FEATURED

Kanji Cheat Sheet: How to Navigate the Japanese Train System

Source: Gaijin Pot

My relationship with the Japanese train system has always been complicated. There are times when I’m able to navigate it well enough to feel almost like a Tokyo native and times where I feel like I can’t even read the English signs.

Coming from Manila, which only has three working train lines, terrible traffic, and barely any sidewalks, acclimating to the Japanese train system was like jumping into the deep end of a shark-infested swimming pool.

I couldn’t understand how one station could have over 30 exits (I’m looking at you Shinjuku Station).

I first visited Japan in the fall of 2016 and despite months of preparing, I still got lost. I couldn’t understand how one station could have over 30 exits (I’m looking at you Shinjuku Station). Sit down and buckle up kids, let’s get into the most commonly seen Kanji in Japanese train stations.

Do you want the express or local train?

English Japanese Romaji
Train 電車 densha
Subway 地下鉄 chikatetsu
(Train) Line sen
Express 急行 kyuukou
Semi-express 準特急 juntokkyuu
Limited Express 特急 tokyuu
Rapid 快速 kaisoku
Local Train 普通列車/各駅停車 futsuu-ressha/kakueikiteisha

Picture this, you’ve just arrived at Shinjuku Station and it’s as busy as ever. You fumble your way around the massive station trying to look for a way to get to your Airbnb/hostel and all you have on hand is the train line, station name, and station exit.

Read the full article on GaijinPot Study!

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Is it safe to visit Japan as the coronavirus cases increase?

Source: Gaijin Pot

By now, most travelers planning to visit Japan or greater Asia have heard of COVID-19 or the coronavirus. On Jan. 31st, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global emergency. Some restaurants in Tokyo have even gone so far as to ban non-Japanese patrons.

While that does sound scary—and a bit outrageous on the restaurant owner’s part—the fatality rate outside China and among non-elderly patients has been relatively low.

The Japan National Tourism Organization. has a multilingual coronavirus hotline for those who think they may be affected. Support is available in English, Chinese, and Korean 24 hours a day.

If you’re living in Japan or planning to visit, you may be wondering how safe it is. What can you do to protect yourself? What about the 2020 Olympics? Will the virus impact travel plans outside of Japan and greater Asia?

Here is the most up-to-date run-down we can give. It is worth noting, however, that because this is a new and fast-spreading virus, what we know now could change in the future.

What’s Japan’s infection rate?

As of Tues, Feb. 25, 851 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Japan. The majority of those cases were from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship on which passengers were quarantined for 14 days in Yokohama Bay. So far, four people in Japan have died due to the virus. In comparison, the total number of deaths in China is over 2,000 at present.

Will the Tokyo 2020 Olympics be canceled?

Photo: Heidi Sarol
The Olympic rings sit in Tokyo Bay.

There was speculation that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be canceled due to growing fears of the virus, but both the organizing committee and Government of Japan have denied …continue reading


Michelin Star Ramen at Tsuta – Worth the Hype?


In 2015, Tsuta (蔦) shook the culinary world, being the first ever ramen restaurant to receive a Michelin star. But is their ramen worth the hype?

Famous before Michelin

Before its Michelin star status, Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodles was already well recognized in Japan. But this popularity reached new heights after the big star in 2015. Tsuta’s lines naturally got longer.

So this brings us back to the question – is it worth the hype? Is it worth waiting in line for? Let’s objectively have a look at Tsuta’s famous ramen.

Ramen at Tsuta – Is It Special?

While they serve shio and miso ramen, the bowl to order is with shoyu (soy sauce) seasoning. Owner Onishi-san has handpicked the finest shoyu from Wakayama prefecture. This shoyu is barrel-aged for two whole years.

For the soup, THREE are separately prepared and comprised of 1) chicken and vegetables, 2) asari clam and kelp, and 3) niboshi and bonito fish flakes. Together, seasoning and soup form a gentle river of unbelievable umami.

Tsuta - Ramen

It doesn’t stop there. Truffle oil is drizzled on top, but with restraint. The shoyu seasoning is still boss. Fig compote adds a sweet bounciness and a dollop of balsamic vinegar a jolt of sourness. The vinegar is a more recent addition and I personally prefer the bowl without. But …continue reading


How To Curse In Japanese

You are planning to come to Japan, and you want to be completely and utterly prepared. You’ve learned all of the standard phrases, but what do you do when you need to curse at someone?

Most people generally avoid flinging out expletives willy-nilly, but it can’t be denied that there are some situations where cursing seems appropriate. In those situations, you’ll need some linguistic ammunition. That’s why I’ve prepared a list of words and phrases that you can use to curse, in Japanese. It’s true that Japanese curse words are not profanity in the same way that some English words are, but by forming sentences from the words and phrases below, you can nevertheless become a legitimate Japanese-speaking potty mouth.

We’ll start with “teme” (てめぇ). This word isn’t technically a curse word; it means “you”. I included this word because it is useful in conjunction with curse words, because it is so rough and informal. You’ll want to add this word to the others in this list in order to make a nice, happily insulting sentence. For example, “teme, nani shitendayo” (てめぇ、何してんだよ), or, “Hey you, what the hell are you doing?” is fluid, whereas adding more formal versions of “you” would be out of place.

Next up: “yaro” (バカ). This is not really a word that is used by itself; it’s attached to other words to add the meaning of “bastard”. It essentially increases the severity of a curse word. It’s incredibly useful, because you can tag it onto almost anything. For example, kusoyaro (くそやろ) means something like “shit bastard”, while “bakayaro” (バカヤロー) means something like “stupid bastard”.

Next, we have “kuso” (くそ). Kuso translates literally to “shit”. If used simply and by itself, “shit” is generally understood as the meaning, but in the case of strong emphasis, it is more like “fucking”. …continue reading


Secrets of a Japanese Ninja Warrior

If there was one group of warriors that produced more myth and exaggeration and shrouded in so much mystery, it would be the ninja. The word ninja(忍者, or its alternative name shinobi, appears throughout historical accounts in the context of secret intelligence gathering or stealthy assassinations carried out by martial-arts experts. Many opportune deaths may be a result of clandestine activities by ninjas but because they work in so much secrecy it is impossible to prove them. The ways of the ninja are an unavoidable part of samurai warfare, and no samurai can ignore the utility and fear that they represented. However, ninjas were despised because of how they contradicted the samurai code due to their use of secretive and underhanded methods.

In the mid 15th century onward, certain samurai families began to develop particular skills in intelligence gathering during feudal warfare. These were the ninja families. Like so many martial arts traditions in Japan, their skills were passed down from father to son or more usually from sensei (master) to chosen pupil, who may not always have been a relative.

The most celebrated “professional” ninjas were leaders of the provinces in Iga and Koga. They were minor landowners who, just like any daimyo of any size, emphasized the value of family and loyalty.

Ninja Training

Ninja Training (Photo Credit: Ninja by Stephen Turnbull)

1 – Learning to balance exceptionally well
2 – Breathing underwater using a bamboo tube. This technique will come in handy when hiding underwater for hours
3 – Practicing how to handle a sword
4 – Training to aim shuriken accurately
5 – Survival skills in the mountains
6 – A Shonin (ninja leader) evaluates the trainee before he is sent to his first mission
7 & 8 – Acrobatic skills that allow them the ability to “fly”
9 – Human pyramid technique
10 – Training in using …continue reading