While the United States has some amazing history under its belt, something about being from a relatively “young” country has always made me appreciate the greater depth of history in a country as old as Japan. If I want, I can get on a train and visit the Yogen-in temple in Kyoto, home to the famous “blood ceilings” which originated from the Siege of Fushimi Castle if 1600, in which 380 samurai loyal to Tokugawa Ieyasu committed ritual suicide after their lord was slain. The boards of the keep where the suicides occurred were removed and lovingly incorporated as ceilings in this temple, a permanent tribute to history that we can gaze up at. (All this was taking place seven years before the founding of the first permanent settlement in North America.) Not all Japan’s history is so far in the past, of course. Today (March 10) marks the 70th anniversary of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, the single most destructive attack of the war, in which 334 B-29s dropped incendiary bombs, leveling 15 square miles and killing 100,000 civilians in Tokyo. The air raids of March 1945 are documented in the excellent film Grave of the Fireflies, which follows two children as they fight to stay alive during the tribulations of war.
Sometimes it’s fun to take a look at how concepts like beauty work in Japan, and compare these ideas to the West. First, to be considered truly beautiful according to most Japanese, a woman should be tall, and proportioned as 八頭身 hattou-shin, or a body that’s “eight heads high.” Another measurement of beauty here is related the eyes, specifically to the number of creases in a persons eyelid when their eyes are open. People with one crease are called 一重 hitoe (hee-toe-eh), indicating slender, Asian-looking eyes, while eyes with two creases are 二重 futae (fu-tah-eh), for a larger European-style appearance. Getting plastic surgery to change the appearance of your eyes is quite popular among TV stars, and my wife will regularly report on which television personalities have had facial surgery. Then there’s 鼻が高い hana ga takai or “possessing a high nose,” an important feature for anyone who wants to be considered one of the Beautiful People in Japan. The rule is, if you can touch your chin and the tip of your nose with one extended finger without contacting your lips, you’ve got a “high nose.” Japanese females are also big on maintaining perfectly white skin, and whenever my wife and I take a vacation somewhere, I know she’ll spend her time by the pool bundled up in towels to keep from getting any sun at all.
Great news for fans of the amazing dramatic stories that are made possible through the medium of visual novels: the long-awaited Hanachirasu [newly launched official site] is now in stock and shipping! This is an outstanding story of swordplay and revenge an alternate Japan in which the U.S. and the Soviet Union both occupied part of the Japanese islands after WWII, and it’s one of the best titles Nitroplus has ever created. Now you can buy the game via shrinkwrapped DVD-ROM or DRM-free Internet download. Get your order in now!