NPR Documentary – Living While Black, In Japan

Living While Black, in Japan has its own challenges, but they don’t include fearing for your life. That’s how I would write a one-sentence synopsis of a recent NPR documentary about living in Japan as a black person. Though it is focused on the African-American experience it was still such an informative watch. To see people that look like me sharing their own relatable experiences in Japan has somewhat helped me to heal from my own bad experiences in the US and knowing I was targeted by police in Japan the last time I visited Tokyo. Check out the video below.

Black In Japan

The filmmakers interviewed three women and three men. They asked them how their encounters with police and racism in the U.S., played into the decision to leave the U.S.

Living While Black In Japan - Black Lives Matter Hiroshima
Black Lives Matter Hiroshima peaceful march

Leave a comment below or tweet me your thoughts @jamaipanese.

Pokémon Unite – Tips for casual players

Pokemon Unite has been so much fun to play lately. I am honestly surprised I am enjoying it because I decided to play it on a whim. My experience with MOBAs is limited. The only MOBAs I played for any extended time was League of Legends in the early days and Heroes of the Storm. My main issue with MOBAs in the past is that they are huge time sinks and though easy to get into, have a ceiling you will not be able to break through unless you dedicate a lot of time and sometimes you even need a dedicated group to play with. 5 years ago it was all about the nostalgia of Pokemon Go but Unite has me trapped now.

Pokemon Unite

Pokemon Unite – MOBA for casuals?

In comes Pokemon Unite, a MOBA that though far from perfect is very friendly to casuals like me, and for the last few weeks I have been playing almost daily. Being a casual player doesn’t mean you have to be a bad player though, so here are my casual-player friendly tips after a couple of dozen hours in the game.

Understand the rules – Pokemon Unite is not a fighting game or single-player battle arena. The goal is not to get the most kills. The goal is to score the most points and to do what is necessary to ensure you are not outscored by the other team. Speaking of a team no matter how good you are you cant take on the 5 enemy players on your home so teamwork is important.

Learn your role – Are you playing as a Defender? Attacker? Support? All-rounder? or Speedster? Take the time to understand what these roles mean in the context of matches. Defenders have high health and stay mostly close to their goals to prevent the enemy team from scoring. Attackers deal high damage and are important for taking down opposing players for a clear run on their goal. Support pokemon buff, heal, or shield friendly pokemon allowing them to stay around longer in fights. Personally, I feel like this is the most powerful role when played well in a synchronized team. All-rounders can usually fulfill multiple roles but generally aren’t good at any one role with player skill and chosen moves being very important. Speedsters are the fast-moving glass cannons who can zip around the battlefield but are not expected to take part in a long fight especially if they are not in an advantageous position.

Wild Pokemon are important – one of the last lessons I learned is just how important defeating wild pokemon are as the match is happening. XP is shared between you and your team so the more wild pokemon you defeat the higher your level will be. I think that after scoring points, defeating wild pokemon and preventing the enemy team from doing the same is the next important tactic in Pokemon Unite.

Concentrate extra during the 1st and last 2 minutes – Normal matches in Pokemon Unite take 10 minutes but getting a good start and ending strongly is so important. You can get a good start by defeating all the pokemon on your side of the map and maybe even poaching a few from the enemy team as well as ensuring your win those early skirmishes. In the final 2 minutes everyone should be fully evolved and powered up plus points are doubled. Most of the points in a typical match are scored at this time so try to play strategically and not just run off while your team could use you pushing for points or winning a big skirmish near Zapdos.

Adjust your settings – The default settings for Pokemon unite are okay but better players have adjusted a few settings to ensure they have the edge. Advance controls, lock-on icon, scoring controls, move aiming are the forward settings I recommend changing NOW, while sensitivity and other control options and settings can be fiddled with as needed. Advance aiming allows you to press A to attack opposing pokemon or B for wild pokemon. Lock-on icon puts a new UI element on the screen that allows you to flick the right stick to lock on to a specific pokemon during chaotic group skirmishes – perfect for focusing on that pesky Blissey. Scoring controls allow you to press the X button once instead of holding it down while trying to score and move aiming makes your pokemon do their moves or dash in the direction you are facing – honestly, I find this most useful when I trying to escape.

Experiment with different pokemon – I am a huge fan of Charizard – he is the 1st pokemon a got and tried really hard to play him but the truth is he was just wasn’t the best pokemon for me. I then tried Slowbro and Snorlax and the defender playstyle really clicked with me. My point? Experiment with different pokemon in the practice arena, pay attention to their move descriptions and try them out to find the right fit for your playstyle then expand into new pokemon as you get comfortable. Experimenting with different pokemon also includes fiddling with pokemon you wouldn’t normally use but find yourself losing against in battles. Check out their moves to see how they fight so when you face off against them you know what to expect and how to counter as needed.

Send me your own tips!

That’s it, my tips for new players to Pokemon Unite. Got any more tips? tweet me @jamaipanese or leave a comment below – My Pokemon Legend Red Nendoroid will read them to me.

My Short Film debut as a reincarnated Japanese Emperor

Late last year I was invited to be part of a short film project. It was about Japanese Emperor Gotoba, who was exiled to Oki Islands after the Jōkyū Disturbance in 1221. The circumstances of his exile are so complicated that I honestly don’t quite understand all the finer details but I do know it was a significant event in Japan’s history. A website has been set up that will do a far better job explaining the significance of this event and the life and events surrounding Emperor Gotoba. Check it out – gotobain-kensyo.com

Emperor Gotoba arrived in Ama

The Short Film- Emperor Gotoba

It took multiple shoots on ferries, in the ocean, and at the shrine built in his honour that also houses his grave. There were fancy 3D image scanning, multiple drones, and voice recordings involved before people much more skilled than I stitched it all into the 2-minute short film below.

I have a new level of respect for the work needed to produce, record, and edit films. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful to have played a small part. What do you think of the film? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @jamaipanese. Also check out my own attempt at a shortfilm – Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer.

Lee (Scratch) Perry, Bob Marley Mentor and Reggae Innovator, Dies at 85

With a four-track tape recorder in his Jamaican home studio, he opened surreal sonic vistas and cultivated the image of a mad genius.

JLPT N4 failed – Yes, I do need a teacher…

More than two years since passing the JLPT N5 and realizing that the 3rd time wasn’t a charm, I… failed the JLPT N4 (again)?. The world is such a different place than it was in 2019 and mentally it has been a rollercoaster. However, I am low-key starting to get frustrated I can’t seem to pass. I have a love-hate relationship with the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and try my best to remind myself that I am doing it for myself but failing three four times now is starting to feel like increasingly painful punches to the gut. One thing I do know is that self-studying WILL NOT WORK for this or higher levels of this test so I need to find myself a teacher.

Why I can’t stop

I still live in Japan and would like to be able to function without being overly dependent on others to translate and explain everything. The need to be more independent, have more privacy, and not suffer crippling bouts of anxiety when doing everyday things is a great motivator. Love it or hate it, the JLPT is something I can use as a touching stone to my progress that will keep me trying to learn and improve.

JLPT N4 book

My terrible JLPT N4 Scores

From your feedback it seems many of you really liked me posting my detailed results after passing the JLPT N5, so here are the terrible results from my four attempts at the JLPT N4 after self-study. Feel free to tweet me any questions/tips/resources you have @Jamapanese or leave a comment below.

July 2019 Dec 2019 Dec 2020 July 2021
Overall Score
72/180 71/180 82/180 75/180
Language Knowledge
39/120 36/120 50/120 38/120
33/60 35/60 32/60 37/60

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Special Book

I preordered the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Special Edition book more than a year ago. After many delays and delivery updates, it finally arrived recently.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Special Book

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Special Book

This book offers a look into the creative process of George Lucas as well as interviews, comments, and behind-the-scenes looks into the making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back which was no easy task 40 years ago. The pictures are easily the best part of this hardcover book. Star Wars Fans who would like to see and read every detail will be satisfied with all the info packed into each page.

Quick Thoughts on this Book

Personally, I think the book is a little overpriced for less than 150 pages. If you are planning to get this, check it out physically at a store or library to see if if it is something you would want to buy. Then again the only other similar Star Wars-related book I own (other than Tarkin, Lords of the Sith, and a few other novels) is the Star Wars Encyclopedia of Starfighters and Other Vehicles that has over 200 pages but costs less. This 40th Anniversary Special Book would also make a great gift for any Star Wars fan in your life.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Special BookWhy did I buy it?

I got this book because Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite of all the nine mainline Star Wars films. It really had an impression on me when I first saw it and it’s that one Star Wars film that I have re-watched more than all the others. Check out the book if it’s something you would like and tell me in a comment below or @Jamaipanese on Twitter your thoughts on Star Wars and if you have a favourite film or character.

Experimental Gunpla Diorama base complete

The craziness engulfing the world continues and I have been passing the time tuning into my hobbies and interests. One of these new interests is building dioramas. I already build my 1st diorama from a kit, acquired a model train, built a Leo gunpla, and bought a 7-ELEVEN convenience store. Like an evil villain, my plan is coming together nicely and the next phase was to experiment with building my own custom diorama base using all the things I have been learning.

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Building a diorama is not easy so kudos to those who enjoy this hobby because you have to enjoy it to do it! All the painting, sculpting, gluing, taping, brushing, folding, fixing, and adjusting needed will either make an acceptable piece or a work of art. So this is how my building my first gunpla diorama went and all the things I learned.

Thank you for reading and ask me any questions in a comment below or on Twitter @Jamaipanese.

Gunpla Diorama start
The setup. In hindsight, I don’t think I needed the circular bits for the gunpla to stand on
Gunpla Diorama clay
gluing the circular bits to the base and adding the clay
Gunpla Diorama paiting
painting the clay blue using a colour sample from a previous kit
Gunpla Diorama colour choices
figuring out the kind of surface I wanted by testing out all the colours and material I had. I was going for the surface of an alien planet
Gunpla Diorama surface gluing
gluing the material on the surface of the “alien planet” and using a couple of pins for structures that scaled well with the gunpla kit
Gunpla Diorama base surface
12 hours of drying then another layer now the surface gluing complete
Gunpla Diorama black tape
added tape around the base so it looks a little cleaner on display
Gunpla Diorama man Leo pose
Adding and posing the Leo it is spot and doing a little cleaning up
Gunpla Diorama Leo gun
Photo shoot time!
Gunpla Diorama feet and surface
I am most proud of the surface detail and can’t wait to experiment with the other colors
Gunpla Diorama beam saber
more posing this time with the beam saber and shield weapon loadout
Gunpla Diorama posing
Was hoping to be able to use the base at any angle and the little bump was by design
Gunpla Diorama pose
about 8 hours of work later across 2 days, it was complete
Gunpla Diorama complete
I already have so many ideas on how to improve and take the next project to the next level

Crayon Shin-chan summer-themed Nintendo Switch Game

I am currently enjoying playing a new Nintendo Switch game that I am using to practice my Japanese. “Kureyonshinchan “ora to hakase no natsuyasumi”~ owaranai nana-kakan no tabi ~” (クレヨンしんちゃん『オラと博士の夏休み』~おわらない七日間の旅~) follows Crayon Shin-chan and his family as they visit Kyushuu from Saitama during summer vacation to spend time with friends in a small town.

The main reasons why I got this game are:

  • It is right at the level to challenge my basic Japanese. Its made for kids so the simple vocabulary and furigana allows me to understand a lot of what is being done
  • I recently started watching the Crayon Shin-chan anime series and I am a huge fan of the humor, more so than Doraemon and other anime I have tried targeting Japanese children.

Crayon Shin-chan NIntendo Switch Box

Simple and calming

Ten hours in and I am so glad I got it. Shinchan is hilarious and the gameplay mechanics though simple are so calming. No stats to stress over, no bosses to fight; just exploration, mischief, and dinosaur battles. The last few games I played for similar reasons with the same qualities were the Sumikko Gurashi game set in a school and Doraemon: Story of Seasons.

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The game is in Japanese and I don’t understand every word of dialogue but because it is made for kids I can generally follow what is happening. I understand about half of the vocabulary and even more when I whip out my dictionary app to help decider unfamiliar words. All in all, I don’t stress about it.

Crayon Shin-chan – Summer in rural Japan

I live in a very rural town as well many of the topics and scenes are so relatable. I am happy the humour of the anime was carried over into the game and I can see myself casually playing this for a long time. I am thinking about how I can talk about some of the vocabulary I have been picking up playing this game, I am very open to suggestions via Twitter @Jamaipanese. Are you a fan of Shinosuke and friends? let me know in a comment below

Crayon Shin-chan

Crayon Shin-chan morning workout
Crayon Shin-chan nintendo switch
Crayon Shin-chan

Fujifilm Instax SQ6 has me loving photography again

Something interesting has been happening in the last weeks/months I have been using the Fujifilm Instax SQ6 – I have fallen back in love with photography. There is something exciting but at the same time soothing about taking your camera out knowing you have limited shots and equipment not introducing unnecessary complexities. I have often heard old-school photographers speak about this but I can now say I honestly understand 100 percent.

loving photography again - Fujifilm Instax Pictures

photography – digital vs film

With digital photography, you can take dozens of photos in a short space of time – very useful for getting the shot right, making multiple attempts and also fixing any issues, and refining things in post-processing. While I won’t turn into the type that turns my nose up at modern digital photography I love how I am forced to get everything right in the camera with “film”. I love how there aren’t a million settings, toggles, and buttons – I love how each shot feels more personal and memorable. I love how more of the control is transferred back to the photographer to move their body, frame the shots, and experiment – often with surprising results. My shots with the SQ6 have improved as I have spent more time shooting with it and given it the respect it deserves.

The Fujifilm Instax SQ6 is no old-school film camera. There are no darkrooms needed to develop stills, working with crazy chemicals and fragile equipment. Instead, it’s somewhere in the middle – the best of both worlds in a way – added complexities that make you work for the shot but that dopamine shot when you realize you got the shot after waiting for the instant film to develop after a few minutes. I took the SQ6 along with me when I was shooting clips with the DJI Pocket 2 for my recent “Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer” video project and it’s the perfect companion camera.

loving photography again

I feel like I am new to photography again trekking through mountains and searching for hidden waterfalls like I did once upon a time with the Flickr Jamaica group to places like the Rio Grande Valley, Climbing the Blue Mountains and touring the Port Royal Marine Lab. Leave a comment below or tweet me @jamaipanese with your thoughts of on digital vs film photography.

loving photography again

STAR WARS: VISIONS – Japanese anime studios about to light things up!

September 22, 2021, will be a huuuuge day. Why? That’s when nine shorts set in the Star Wars universe from seven Japanese studios dubbed “STAR WARS: VISIONS” go live on Disney+.

Surprise paternity revelations but better?

Star Wars, like any franchise, has story elements, happenings, and overall rules that need to be present in order for it to be true to its self. The Sith, the Jedi, Tatooine, Tie Fighters, lightsabers, Alderaan exploding, Shore Troopers, surprise paternity revelations, and all that. What if we bent the rules a little, give a couple of talented animation studios the keys to the Star Wars bus, and tell them to go crazy! That’s what I hope this series of shorts will be. I’m excited! Are you? Tell me in a comment below or tweet me @jamaipanese.


Seven Japanese anime studios bring their unique talent and perspective to Star Wars: Visions, a collection of animated Original Short Films, streaming September 22 on Disney+.


The anime studios revealed were Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production IG. Each studio will use their signature animation and storytelling styles to realize their own visions of the galaxy far, far away.