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What better way to use your hard earned Japanese skills than making friends all over the world while avoiding being crushed to death by spiked ceilings or knocked into a bottomless pit? Japan-based educator and PhD student James York knows a thing or two about learning a language. As well as having passed the toughest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, he’s also an assistant professor at a Japanese university where he teaches English.


 
 
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A ball-kicking game was played at a shrine in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto to pray for the country's success at the World Cup soccer finals that begin in Brazil next month. A group of people working to preserve the traditional kemari game, and former Japanese soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata, offered prayers at Shimogamo Shrine. They wore colorful costumes from the Heian era that lasted from the 8th century to the 12th century.


 
 
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It is the familiar background music of every Japanese shopping street: a cacophony of mechanical bleeps and rattles, disgorged along with a plume of cigarette smoke each time the doors of a pachinko parlor open to admit a new punter. Yet the archetypical salary man pastime is dying, in spite of its apparent ubiquity. Even as Japan looks ahead to its first western- style casinos, pachinko, the modified version of pinball played since the 1930s - itself a quasi-legal form of gambling - has been all but abandoned by younger Japanese.


 
 
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There is big money to be made on games and other apps for mobile devices around the world. There has been a change at the top of the most profitable countries for apps with Japan taking the top spot. Previously, the top country for mobile app revenues was the US. Japanese consumers spent 10% more on apps than consumers in the US did in October.


 
 
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In a country that has no shortage of vending machines, Google Japan has decided to join the fray. The company has announced three dedicated Google Play machines that will each sell 18 different gaming titles, which are a mix of free-to-play and paid-for titles. To use the machines, you'll need a smartphone running Android 4.0 and NFC -- and that's about it. 


 
 
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Over the last decade, people’s behavior during their daily train ride has completely changed. In the past, Japanese were known to be avid readers of paperbacks (bunko) and manga magazines, and would do so even on Tokyo’s notoriously crowded trains. Now, however, it is rare to spot someone on the train who is not staring into their cellphone. A large amount of them are playing social games. 


 
 
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Sony's PlayStation Vita may still be brand new, and Nintendo's Wii U has yet to even hit store shelves, but Japanese developer/publisher/social platform GREE doesn't need a new console. Or any console, for that matter. Its platform is virtual, and its growth strategy is extremely aggressive. "We're hiring more than 30 people a month," GREE's US CEO (and international CFO) Naoki Aoyagi told us in an E3 2012 interview.


 
 
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Non-traditional methods of controlling games are all the rage in Japan these days. Sega made headlines last year with "Toirettsu" or "Toylet," a game that drunken male patrons can play in the men’s room, since it's entirely controlled via one's urine stream. Meanwhile, a just-unveiled project by researchers at The University of Electro-Communications near Tokyo will soon have players using their tongues on the Kinect.


 
 
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_The first arcades in Japan weren't video arcades, and they weren't even in game centres. In the decades following the second world war, gamers played electro-magnetic games in bowling alleys and on department store rooftops. Families would take shopping breaks, playing carnival-style shooting games or riding rinky-dink kiddy trains.


 
 
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Sony's long-awaited PlayStation Vita portable game machine hit stores in Japan on Saturday as thousands of game enthusiasts lined up early in the morning to be among the first to buy it. Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. is predicting brisk sales, even though the launch may have missed some holiday shoppers. A successful debut would help the company offset the rest of its struggling business. Sony projects a loss of more than $1 billion for the fiscal year through March 2012, which would be its fourth straight annual loss.