Q&A with The Rising Wasabi – My Favourite Laugh-out-Loud Japan-Related Website



If you’ve ever spent time in Japan and if you follow me on Twitter/Facebook I’m sure you already know The Rising Wasabi and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re a big fan of their website. Every time you read one of their articles, I bet you burst out laughing just like I do because they perfectly capture, in the most hilarious way possible, everyday life in Japan but with a satirical twist.

If you don’t know much about Japan you might not fully grasp or understand why some of the articles are so clever and funny, especially if you’ve never lived in Japan or visited the country as a tourist, but I can assure you the more you learn about Japan and its culture the more you’re going to appreciate the brilliant satire, exaggeration and good humour that goes into every article on The Rising Wasabi.

I contacted The Rising Wasabi directly and asked them if they would answer some questions because I knew so many people would be interested in finding out more about their website and the people behind the scenes. I was delighted when they responded straight away and agreed to take part in this Q&A.

1. Please describe the purpose of your website and why you called it The Rising Wasabi.

We wanted to inform people in an entertaining style and what better way than satire. The name “The Rising Wasabi” was simply a play on “The Rising Sun” – and although we’re gaijin, we like wasabi.

2. When did you start The Rising Wasabi?

About 18 seasons ago.

3. How many people write for The Rising Wasabi? Are they male or female?

An unidentified number of gaijin/girljin write for The Rising Wasabi.

4. Are your writers based in Japan or all over the world?

Japan and possibly gaikoku

5. Can anyone contribute to The Rising Wasabi?

We don’t really take submissions; however, if someone has a hilarious idea for a headline we would be happy to hear from them.

6. What is your most popular segment and why do you think this segment is so popular?

In terms of categories, “Society”. Relatable daily-life stories are popular. Everyone loves seeing themselves in an article.

7. You have an English version and a Japanese (nihongo) version of The Rising Wasabi. Which one is more popular?

Our English website is our main focus. We translate some articles into nihongo.

8. How do Japanese people react to your articles? Do you have to be more careful about what you write about in your Japanese articles so you don’t offend certain people or groups of people?

Our audience mostly consists of gaijin – it’s rare to receive direct criticism from Japanese readers. Although recently one “academic” wasn’t pleased with our work. Of course. It’s a daily consideration for all articles. We try to make sure the target of our joke is appropriate.

9. Are there any topics you avoid or refuse to cover on The Rising Wasabi?

We try to avoid tragedies.

10. What can people buy from The Rising Wasabi Shop on the website?

At the moment we sell The Rising Wasabi Tote Bag

TRW-Bag-500-583

11. What kind of businesses can advertise with The Rising Wasabi?

We do advertising campaigns for socially responsible businesses.

12. What are some of your most popular articles?

Here’s one of the top articles on The Rising Wasabi:

…………………………………………..
MAN SURVIVES 78 DAYS ON WILD BERRIES LOOKING FOR SHINJUKU STATION EXIT 27K

Image: Flickr/DickThomasJohnson (edited TRW)

Image: Flickr/DickThomasJohnson (edited TRW)

“A man who arrived in Japan late last year has been surviving on wild berries for the past 78 days looking for exit 27K in Shinjuku Station.

Michael Leggart was confident heading from his Shinagawa hotel to Shinjuku Station that he would be able to find his desired exit with a cutting edge GPS tracking device and several maps of Tokyo.

Nearly three months later Leggart has yet to find his destination and is barely surviving on onigiri bought with his last yen and any wild fruits he can find growing in the less frequented parts of the station.

Last week, Leggart had his first taste of meat since December after crossing paths with a wild boar.

“I tracked ‘old piggy’ for several days before catching the beast and strangling it with my bare hands,” said Leggart.

Leggart set up camp complete with an open fire just outside train track number 22, spit roasting the hog to a medium-rare consistency.

“That was one of the good nights,” said Leggart.

Leggart has found exits J and F and feels his goal is within arms reach.

“I’m starting to really feel the pinch now with my tourist visa expiring in a couple of weeks,” said Leggart.”

……………………………………………..

Five more side-splitting articles by The Rising Wasabi for you to enjoy:

UNESCO Adds Whole Of Japan To World Heritage List To Save Time

First Petting Gaijin Café Opens In Harajuku

Entire Carriage Looks At Gaijin As Announcement Is Repeated In English

Foreign Residents In Japan Predominantly From Nation Of Gaikoku

Gaijin Tries Natto, Dead At 25

Stick Out Your Tongue in Secret — My Murakami-esque Short Story for Books on Asia

Stick out your tongue image

My latest short story pays homage to the genre of magical realism and Japan’s bestselling novelist Haruki Murakami. Read the full story for free on Books on Asia.

Stick Out Your Tongue in Secret – A Murakami-esque Short Story

It was the most traumatic night of my young life. A chilling experience for a thirteen-year-old girl. I’d always been a light sleeper but I knew it wasn’t the wind or an earthquake tremor that woke me in the wee hours of the morning. It must’ve been two or three o’clock. I’d sensed an intruder and my instincts rarely deceived me. I’d always been very intuitive and able to sense danger. A gift that would diminish each year as I grew older.

A sliver of moonlight was breaking through the curtains, revealing a pair of fluorescent beady red eyes in front of me. They were as bright as the azaleas in our front garden. My eyes focused a little and I could just make out someone with a thick waist and slightly wider hips. A small, chubby girl was perched on the edge of the tatami in our living room which doubled as our bedroom. She looked from side to side before she placed one hand in front of the other and inched a little closer. I sat up and leaned both hands back against the futon. Reclining my back, I didn’t want to lean forward and get anywhere near this being in front of me. I blinked twice and my eyes focused even more in the dark. The girl with the strange, brightly-coloured red eyes began to slowly but ever so surely crawl towards me little by little on all fours. Her glowing pupils lit up her face as she approached and I realised I was staring at Saki-san, a student who had moved into a street not far from our home with her family two months earlier. Her first name was Sakiko but everyone called her Saki or Saki-san. She was in the same class as me at the local junior high school but she had no female friends and she’d made it very clear with her icy demeanour that she didn’t want any.

Saki had deliberately distanced herself from nearly everyone in our class except for a couple of boys who were known for skipping school and smoking cigarettes in the alley behind the local pachinko parlour. Her ears were slightly pointy, her eyebrows were pencil thin, the end of her nose was too big for her face, and her lips were barely there. Her complexion was pasty, her shoulder-length hair was limp, and she was too short and stumpy for her age, even by Japanese standards. She was from Ehime Prefecture and she spoke with a rough Shikoku accent that had made everyone giggle when she’d given a presentation about her hometown in front of the whole class in August. You could tell that life would not be kind to her and she would become frumpy and unsuccessful as the years progressed if she had no desire to change, improve her attitude, or circumstances. As Saki approached me ever so hesitantly, I wondered why she was in our bedroom but I was too afraid to talk to her. I also wondered why her eyes were so red. I’d never noticed this before. I was sure they were dark brown when I’d watched her give that presentation two weeks earlier.

Saki flicked out her tongue a couple of times and hissed. Her tongue looked sharp with a silver glint, not rounded as it should be, but I couldn’t tell for sure. She was no longer in the light and I couldn’t see her face as clearly now. She reached the end of my futon, hissed at me again and sucked in air. A shiver went up my spine like a snake slivering up the skin of my back. Her hands began pawing the comforter as if she were hungry and rummaging for food. I gasped as she yanked at the end of my duvet. I finally found the strength to reach over to my mother’s futon and shake her shoulder. She instantly sensed something was wrong. My mother knew I’d never wake her unless it was absolutely necessary. She turned her head, opened her eyes, caught sight of Saki, jumped up off the futon, and pulled at the light switch. Saki sped past us, scuttled through the kitchen and jumped onto and out of the balcony in a flash. I was amazed she could move so quickly. I did catch sight of her eyes as she passed me and I noticed they were no longer red. They’d returned to their natural flat brown colour in the artificial light.

Continue reading this short story on Books on Asia.

Books on Asia logo

*The title, “Stick Out Your Tongue in Secret” is adapted from the Japanese proverb: 内緒で舌を出す (Naishō de Shita wo Dasu)

“Stick Out Your Tongue in Secret” is entirely a work of fiction. This short story was written to pay homage to Haruki Murakami and the genre of magical realism. It is not fanfiction and it was not written to plagiarise Murakami’s writing in any way or form. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in this story are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.

This short story is copyright to Renae Lucas-Hall and Books on Asia in 2019. This story has been published subject to the conditions that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be sold or circulated without the author’s or publisher’s prior consent in any form.

20 Awe-Inspiring Quotes from Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

I recently read and reviewed Killing Commendatore for Books on Asia, a wonderful reference site that describes itself as a “guide to finding quality books on Japan and Asia from new releases to enduring classics, that deserve to be read, discovered and discussed.”

If you’re thinking about reading Murakami’s latest book and you want to know whether it’s worth your time or if you’ve already read it and you’re interested in an in-depth discussion on all the themes and symbolism in this epic novel then head on over to Books on Asia to read the review. While you’re there you’ll definitely find a lot of other Japan-related books to pique your interest.

KC coverBelow are 20 awe-inspiring quotes from Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami. Some of them are beautifully written similes, but I’ve also included some deeply philosophical quotes. I’m a writer so I tend to judge a book from a novelist’s point of view but it doesn’t matter whether you’re a reader or a writer like myself, I’m sure you’ll be equally impressed by Murakami’s clear and elegant prose and the way he makes us think more laterally, broadening our perceptions and perspectives on life and the people around us:

…………………………………………….

1. “Look deep enough into any person and you will find something shining within. My job was to uncover this and, if the surface is fogged up (which was more often the case), polish it with a cloth to make it shine again.” (p. 15)

2. “Our lives really do seem strange and mysterious when you look back on them. Filled with unbelievably bizarre coincidences and unpredictable, zigzagging developments. While they are unfolding, it’s hard to see anything weird about them, no matter how closely you pay attention to your surroundings. In the midst of the everyday, these things may strike you as simply ordinary things, a matter of course. They might not be logical, but time has to pass before you can see if something is logical.” (p. 58)

3. “If he lived with someone he knew he would end up detesting them. Whether it was his parents, a wife, or children. He feared that above all. He wasn’t afraid of loving someone. What he feared was growing to hate someone. For all that, he had loved her very deeply. He’d never loved any other woman so deeply, and probably never would again. “Even now there’s a special spot inside me just for her,” Menshiki said. “A very real spot. You might even call it a shrine.”” (P.145)

4. “”Nirvana is found beyond life and death. You could see it as the idea that even if the flesh dies and disappears, the soul goes over to a place beyond life and death. Worldly flesh is nothing more than a temporary dwelling.”” (p. 165)

5. “Even after we broke up, it felt like my wife and I were still connected by a single living tube. An invisible tube, but one that was still beating slightly, sending something like hot blood traveling back and forth between our two souls. I still had that sort of organic sensation. But before long, that tube would be severed.” (p. 186)

6. “The longer I looked at the painting, the less clear was the threshold between reality and unreality, flat and solid, substance and image. Like Van Gogh’s mailman, who, the longer you looked, seemed to take on a life of his own. Same with the crows that he painted—nothing but rough black lines, but they really did seem to be soaring through the sky.” (p. 240)

7. “When people try to use a method other than the truth to follow along the path of understanding, it is like trying to use a sieve to hold water.” (p. 302)

8. “this woman, Yuzu, refused to love this man, me, and chose instead to be loved by someone else. It felt terribly absurd, a horribly ugly way to be treated. There wasn’t any anger involved (I think). I mean, what was I supposed to be angry with? What I was feeling was a fundamental numbness. The numbness your heart automatically activates to lessen the awful pain when you want somebody desperately and they reject you. A kind of emotional morphine.” (p. 315)

9. “I mean, it’s the first time I ever got divorced.” “What does it feel like?” “A bit bizarre, I guess. Like you’re walking along as always, sure you’re on the right path, when the path suddenly vanishes, and you’re facing an empty space, no sense of direction, no clue where to go, and you just keep trudging along. That’s what it feels like.”” (p. 326)

10. ““You’re saying there’s something similar in our eyes?”

“Maybe it’s because they reflect your true feelings. Curiosity, enthusiasm, surprise, suspicion, reluctance—I can see those subtle emotions in both your eyes and hers. Your faces aren’t all that expressive, but your eyes really are the windows to your hearts. Most people are the opposite. Their faces are expressive, but their eyes aren’t nearly so lively.”” (pp. 362–363)

11. “I had taken a nap, but my head was muddled. It felt like a ball of yarn had been crammed into the back of a narrow desk drawer, and now the drawer wouldn’t close properly.” (p. 364)

12. “Today we talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, but that phrase—even that concept—was unknown then. In that deeply militaristic society, people like my uncle were dismissed as lacking courage, or patriotism, or strength of character. In wartime Japan, such ‘weakness’ was neither understood nor accepted.” (p. 397)

13. “Mariye was silent, her eyes fixed on the teapot on the table. She looked like a lone night heron motionless on the shore, glaring at the water’s surface for hours on end.” (p. 410)

14. “Once Mariye made up her mind not to speak, trying to reach her was like ladling water onto a parched desert.” (p. 419)

15. “Yet the thought of the two of them together left me bereft. As if I were standing in a station watching a long, empty train pass by.” (p. 474)

16. “Perhaps time really had stopped. Then again, maybe it kept nudging forward despite the fact that evolution, or anything resembling it, had ended. Like a restaurant approaching closing time that has stopped taking orders. And I was the only one who hadn’t figured it out.” (p. 478)

17. ““Walls were originally erected to protect people. From external enemies, storms, and floods. Sometimes, though, they were used to keep people in. People are powerless before a sturdy, towering wall. Visually and psychologically. Some walls were constructed for that specific purpose.”” (p. 487)

18. “But it went without saying that his life was bounded by time, space, and probability. Like everyone else’s in this world. None of us could escape those constraints, as long as we lived. Each of us was enclosed by sturdy walls that stretched high in the air, surrounding us on all sides. Probably.” (p. 501)

19. “Yet what was time, when you got right down to it? We measured its passage with the hands of a clock for convenience’s sake. But was that appropriate? Did time really flow in such a steady and linear way? Couldn’t this be a mistaken way of thinking, an error of major proportions?” (p. 583)

20. “When it came down to it, though, could anything be completely correct, or completely incorrect? We lived in a world where rain might fall thirty percent, or seventy percent, of the time. Truth was probably no different. There could be thirty percent or seventy percent truth. Crows had it a lot easier. For them, it was either raining or not raining, one or the other. Percentages never crossed their minds.” (p. 609)

…………………………………………………….

I’d like to say a BIG thank you to Haruki Murakami’s publisher in the UK, Harvill Secker, for sending me a review copy of Killing Commendatore. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope my review on Books on Asia reflects this.

I’d also like to thank Amy Chavez, the Editor of Books on Asia, for including my review on her marvellous website.

………………………………………………….