Japan on the Web 2010: Best Japan-Related Websites
anime & movies
Midnight Eye (midnighteye.com)
Midnight Eye claims to cover "The latest and best in Japanese cinema", and its authors (who are published and qualified) certainly know their stuff. Always up-to-date and with a solid database of excellent, in-depth reviews (in English) of Japanese movies, and with exclusive interviews and features on the side, this really is as good as it gets for English-speaking fans of Japanese eiga. The charming monochrome design is just an added bonus.
Anime News Network (animenewsnetwork.com)
Loads and loads of info about Japanese anime. Possibly too much…. There’s enough here to make an otaku completely freak out on the Yamanote Line, screaming "Moé!" while everyone sits there oblivious.
Gaijin Gamer (gaijingamer.jp)
The colorful side of gaming in Japan, from the perspective of, yes, a gaijin gamer. Not always the most up-to-date site, but focuses on the really Japanese stuff.
The (nihongo-only) web portal of Japan’s most famous videogames magazine, Weekly Famitsu. Hit this one up for the latest screenshots and info on modern Japanese blockbuster games.
Genuinely useful Japanese careers advice and an extensive database of jobs, mostly from big companies and established agencies. The pro’s choice.
Part-time jobs; freelance jobs; jobs where you get paid handsomely just for being a gaijin, jobs where you get paid squat and have to pay your own train fare; jobs worth applying for, jobs that aren’t. They’re all here…
Japan has been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to online banking, but at least there is now the excellent Ebank to show other Japanese banks how it should be done. Easy to use, full of great savings offers and bonus schemes and, best of all, online.
It might sound like what you suffer from after too many Vindaloos, but GoLloyds is actually a money-conscious gajiin‘s best online buddy. Here you can send money overseas from your Japanese account, make foreign currency deposits, and much more. Essential, really, if you care about looking after the pennies and cents.
ISG Japan (www.isgjapan.com)
Appropriately enough, International Solution Group Japan offers international solutions for foreign residents of Japan. Whether you’re looking for an international mortgage, life/health insurance, land and property investment opportunities, or any number of other things to make your life more comfortable and profitable, ISG Japan’s website is a must-visit.
Pitchfork for the Japanese music scene. And in English too! Unfortunately Keikaku hasn’t been getting much update love in recent months, but it’s still better than all of the pretenders put together.
Tokyo Gig Guide (tokyogigguide.com)
A wonderfully in-depth, user-driven guide to live events in the capital, kept bang up to date at all times. No real commentary here, but as a pure information resource it’s invaluable.
The Asahi Shimbun (www.asahi.com/english)
Not quite as right-leaning as certain other Japanese dailies, and comprehensively translated into English so that you can understand what the hell is going on in the country you’ve decided to call "jikka".
The Japan Times (www.japantimes.co.jp)
A solid all-rounder of an English-language news site: the online version of what is practically the only local paper still worth reading.
Japan Probe (japanprobe.com)
One of the funniest, bitterest, most engagingly disenchanted Japan commentary sites (read: daily collection of entertaining YouTube clips with snide comments on the side) on the web. If there’s something in the news to be smirked or snarled at – and hey, there invariably is – this is where you’ll find the elite cynics howling at the moon.
PhotoGuide Japan (photojpn.org)
Pretty photos of Japan. Bloody lots of them.
Bijin Tokei (bijint.com/jp)
An ingenious concept, this: beautiful Japanese women in the streets of Japan have been given a chalkboard with the time written on it, and asked to pose like "charming creatures" (© Terry-Thomas). It’s a clock like no other. There’s a photograph for every minute of every day, so if you log on at 13:07 the site will automatically display a woman holding up "13:07", and if you stick around for a minute you’ll see a new photo with another chick holding up "13:08". And so on.
The Gaijin Eye (tinyurl.com/ykhvlyv)
Well, yeah! You fine people produced the thing, after all. And damn good it is too.
Japan’s leading nationwide chain of real estate agents, on the web. At the time of writing Apamanshop has 773,714 properties available, with offices from Okinawa up to Hokkaido and everywhere in-between. All of that data is centralized on this easy-to-navigate site, which is backed up by an advanced search engine that makes it simple to specify your exact requirements. The only downside, for those who can’t read Japanese, is that Apamanshop.com has no English-language version. It does, however, boast a rather large map on its front page.
More Than Relocation (www.morethanrelo.com)
It’s hard to find a better choice than Apamanshop when you’re a) in Japan, b) know the language and c) know what you want, but for people outside of Japan who are tentatively looking to make their first move (not to mention the whole kanji-cursing, English-only crowd) the H&R Group’s More Than Relocation network represents one of the most helpful agencies out there. They can even sort out your Japanese driver’s license.
Home’s – with that irritatingly out-of-place apostrophe – has almost double the amount of properties you can find on Apamanshop.com, though this site isn’t quite as easy to get around as that of its main rival. Going some way toward compensating for the messy layout of its website is the fact that Home’s has recently launched a free iPhone app called, yes, Home’s, which enables you to search for and browse through properties for sale/rent – with photos! – from the comfort of your train/workplace/toilet seat.
2channel, or "2chan" (ni-chan), remains one of the pillars of the Japanese internet. It’s so primitive it’s retro, yet the text-only message boards covering virtually every topic imaginable are populated with so many users that it’s as though half of Japan is on 2chan at any given moment. Pure text conversation about anything, all neatly categorized for easy browsing, and with some truly amazing examples of ASCII art. Naturally it’s almost entirely in Japanese, so you may need to call on Rikaichan to make sense of the banter.
"Mixi is sucks," to quote our very own Kazuhide. But he’s wrong. Mixi isn’t, er, sucks. It is in fact a very personalized spin on Facebook, with even more emphasis on self-contained communities and friend-finding. It looks pretty nice and there are now "applis" – bits of Mixi-integrated web software – to play or play with. You can find plenty of expats on Mixi who insist on chatting LOUDLY in English, so all in all it’s a pretty accurate representation, in microcosm, of real-life Japanese-and-gaijin society.
Nico Nico Douga (nicovideo.jp)
Japan’s own YouTube-beater, chock full of all sorts of copyright-violating material and endless Japanese obscurities. Downer? Members-only, and take your shoes off at the entrance.
sports & leisure
Snow Japan (snowjapan.com)
This is the Best Website Ever for winter sports enthusiasts in Japan. There’s a great community of skiers and ‘boarders here, all contributing up-to-the-minute weather reports and snow reviews that probably mean an awful lot to people who are au fait with this kind of thing. Absolutely essential if you’re planning to hit the slopes anywhere in Japan anytime soon. (Also check out the Snow Japan video site at snowjapan.tv, where the picture quite literally is "snowy".)
Outdoor Japan (outdoorjapan.com)
The website of the magazine of the same name, this one spreads itself to cover all outdoor pursuits in Japan, so chances are you can find something that appeals to you somewhere inside this labyrinthine site. Whether you’ll have energy left after that for some actual outdoorsy action is another matter.
Akihabara News (akihabaranews.com)
Seems to be written by French technology enthusiasts who flunked their English exams at school, but at least it’s updated several times a day with stories on the very latest Japanese tech and gadgets. There’s also a weekly "Asian Babe Fight" photo feature, which is totally gratuitous but arguably perfect for the site’s bespectacled global audience…
Japan Trends (japantrends.com)
The classiest Japanese tech/gadget site, Japan Trends also features relevant stories on innovation in other areas of modern Japanese culture (i.e., new fashions at the conbini) and is built around a layout that is guaranteed NOT to hurt your eyes. Very pleasant indeed.
Just input your starting point and your destination, both of which can be anywhere in Japan, and Hyperdia will propose a selection of routes involving train journeys, bus rides and, when necessary, short walks (nooooo!). Each inventory is spelt out with itemized costs and exact timings, so you know precisely how your journey can be completed successfully. You can do all of this in English, too, so if you stick with Hyperdia you should never again find yourself lost in the middle of inaka at midnight being mercilessly harangued by a yopparai wielding an uchiwa. Excellent!
No.1 Travel (www.no1-travel.com)
If you’re in Japan and are looking for flights back home or to pretty much anywhere else in the world, No.1 Travel is (and always has been) the cheapest, most straightforward option. Not only do No.1 Travel’s staff speak English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog between them (it’s a wonder how they decide whose turn it is to pick up the lunchtime bento), but the company’s site is also viewable in English, Chinese and Korean formats.
Warp Ticket (www.warp-air.com)
The kechi part of me is reluctant to publicize Warp Ticket, because a) it’s a site I use a lot and b) it’s the very cheapest of its kind, a little-known portal to the mother lode of heavily discounted tickets for domestic Japanese flights. By its nature, it’s not possible to book that far in advance, but if you don’t mind getting your tickets at the last minute, there are massive savings to be made using Warp Ticket. The site and its telephone operators are strictly nihongo-only, however.
how to make sense of japanese sites
Rikaichan (available for free from polarcloud.com) is either an indispensable Firefox plug-in that makes the Japanese corner of the web a whole lot easier to understand, OR a shame-inflicting download used only by cheating bastards who are too lazy to learn all the kanji in the world. Whichever way you look at it, this is a powerful piece of software. Just hover your cursor over Japanese text and up pops a translation, followed by a list of possible alternatives and related terms. Even if you don’t need to use it very often, it’s still a great fallback for those times when you’re too intoxicated to recall the meaning of 鬱 or 麤.
To download a PDF of this story as it appears in the magazine,