My Five Must-Follow Japan Blogs

There are hella more than five cool Japan blogs out there, but I’m a lazy bastard. Here are my faves:

  1. i, cjw ~.::.~ hiking and climbing in japan. I guess I’ve got respect for bloggers that sit at their computers and blog all day, but I’ve got a lot more for badasses like this guy, who goes on epic mountain climbs in Japan, takes epic pictures, and writes epic prose to accompany them. > Looking out to Mt Takatsuma, N. Alps Japan

    There’s a right time and a wrong time to remember that you didn’t pack the fork. The right time is just as you leave the apartment, or maybe while standing outside a convenience store along the way. The wrong time is when your noodles come to the boil some 6,500 feet up a snowy mountain. But as Confucius said, man who has a pencil and a toothbrush also has a pair of chopsticks.

  2. Japan Probe. 6a00e5523d9daf8833011570536827970b-500wi
This guy falls squarely in the “blogs all day” category of bloggers, but he does it to win. Japan Probe is the source for Japan-related news, and 15,000-plus visitors a day agree.
3. Neojaponisme. NeojaponismeUnabashed, pretentious, scenesters write unabashed, pretentious, scenester awesomeness. A review from Japanzine does them better justice than I could:> Possibly the hippest cat on the block, this site is run by a group of cooler-than-thou arty types, mainly based in Tokyo. They certainly know their stuff, and hitting the site regularly enough leaves you with the satisfying feeling that you’re kinda hangin’ wid da in-crowd. Don’t get any big ideas, though. You’re still too dassai to approach them in reality.

I’m not sure whether I’ve met any of the other guys on staff, but Jean Snow’s pretty cool in person, and I suspect they’re pretty sociable once you break down the wall o’ hip.
4. Tofugu. An awesome blog by a Portlandian named Koichi about Japanese language and culture, with awesome tips and resources regarding the former.
Speaking Japanese starts with speaking like Yoda:

Shortening your Japanese from Tofugu:

5. The Waseda Ramen blog. A dude named Nate tries to eat at all the ramen shops in the Waseda/Takadanobaba area, reviewing them in great detail as he goes. This may be of limited interest to you if you don’t live in the area, but you should check it out anyway- more than a series of restaurant reviews, it’s a learning experience about how wonderful and different bowls of noodles can be. Before I read Nate’s blog, ramen was that soup with the noodles in it; it’s now an entire culinary world of its own. Excerpt from a post on Nanashi Ramen in Kichijoji (he sometimes ventures out of his home turf):> I took a gander at the glossy full-color photo menu and decided to go with my default of basic ramen with a soft-boiled egg. What I got was, thankfully, definitely ramen with some distinguishing characteristics. The thick tonkotsu broth is balanced out with two different kinds of tare (flavor essence) – a basic shôyû (soy sauce) and a special homebrew of ground up sesame and fresh garlic; and then you’ve got the generous helping of mâyû, the dark brown burnt garlic oil. Rather than the standard toppings of menma bamboo shoots and onions, you get crunchy green kuki wakame seaweed shoots and mysterious brown slivers that it took me a minute to realize are thick cuts of ginger.

Although it doesn’t say so anywhere, all signs point to Kumamoto ramen as the starting point for Nanashi’s menu. It’s definitely Kyushu-style tonkotsu, and the slightly thick noodles, generous helping of mâyû rather than fresh garlic, and the presence of seaweed put it out of the Hakata category. More than anything else, Nanashi’s ramen closely resembles that of Kumamoto-style standby Keika, if Keika’s noodles were being served by the corporate Kômen chain. I added a dash of the tableside red ginger (another Kyushu necessity) and dug in. So those are my top five, based on a combination of originality and badassness. There are a million other great Japan blogs out there, though, and most are listed at the Japan blogging community JapanSoc.org. As far as other J-blogs on my reading list, here are a few honorable mentions in no particular order:

  • Michael Downey- a charming, hardcore (ie passed JLPT 1) Brit about my age, with well-written articles on Japanese language, culture, and current events.
  • 7:10 to Tokyo. This guy has a cool writing style and a nice look at real life in the big city. I love his stories of nighttime escapades- honest and occasionally titillating, but classy.
  • Rocking in Hakata. Self-explanatory. JET program teacher that went to Waseda back in the day. Just kind of good all around.
  • CScout Japan, a trend-hunting agency I do part-time work for. They also have a corresponding blog for trends of a more, um, adult nature, called Kanojo Toys.

What are your favorite J-blogs? Let me know in the comments.