Japan Life: How to exterminate cockroaches

You can find many kinds of insecticides in a drug store, but I think a bug bomb must work for cockroaches. Because I have exterminated all cockroaches in my room. Also, a bug bomb achieves results in one day. Plus, it can kill other kinds of noxious insects.

Today I will write about a Japanese bug bomb.

Vursan

The most famous product of bug bombs in Japan is Vursan (バルサン). Vursan is a longevity product. The launch date is 1954! It said that Vursan was named after Varcasan that was a popular organochlorine insecticide in the U.S. at that time.


There are other brands of bug bombs in Japan, but Vursan is stand out. Sometimes, Japanese people use “Vursan” as verb; “I will vursan this weekend.” or “I have vursaned two times.” Even if I use another brand, I can say “I will vursan…”

How to get Vursan?

You can buy Vursan in drug stores or convenient stores. You might find many kinds of Vursan because Vursan is now a brand name and has a wide variety of products.

You can buy any types because each Vursan is designed to exterminate cockroaches. But I recommend that you should check two keywords; “Water type” and “Fire alarm cover.”

“Water type” means pouring water activates Vursan. Find a Chinese character “水(water)” on a package like this. Water type has an average spec. It’s not too strong nor too weak. Too strong insecticides threatens your health, but too weak one cannot exterminate cockroaches. So I recommend water type.

“Fire alarm cover” is necessary because a bug bomb triggers a fire alarm which is located on a ceiling. Certain kinds of Vursan come with a fire alarm cover. Find this Japanese sentence “火災警報器カバー入り.” If a fire alarm is activated, it’s difficult to stop the alert.

How to use Vursan?

Make locked room by closing all windows and doors to fulfill the room with poisonous smokes of Vursan. Open cupboard, closet and drawer because cockroaches tend to hide inside of them.

Next, you should carry out things, which you or your family will touch later, from the room. The things are toys, dishes, PCs, phones, foods, and chairs. Or you have to cover them with a large garbage bag.

And then, find a fire alarm on a ceiling in your room and put the cover:


Even if you don’t use Vursan in a room having the alarm, you should put it just in case. After putting the cover, pour water into Vursan by following the manual and go outside for two hours.

When you go back at home, ventilate by opening doors and opening window. When you ventilate enough, remove the cover from the fire alarm.

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​ Kindle Unlimited was launched in Japan

Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited in Japan on August 3rd. In the U.S, this same service began in July 2014. We, Japanese had been waiting for a year.

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service. I pay 980 yen (about $10) per a month to get e-books unlimited times from specific lined-up titles. The service in Japan offers over 240 magazines, 120 thousand Japanese titles and 1.2 million English titles.

I don’t know how the U.S. people feel about Kindle Unlimited, but I found the article “Kindle Unlimited Isn’t Worth Your Money.” It describes that Kindle Unlimited offers a poor selection of books and doesn’t save customers’ money.

However, I think the Japanese version is a good deal for Japanese game developers till now because offering some popular magazines (e.g. CG World and MdN) which a lot of game developers buy every month. Both CG World and MdN are more expensive than the subscription price! I make sure that I can save money with the subscription until Kindle Unlimited stops offering the magazines.

I feel that the Japanese version could be valuable even if it doesn’t provide both CG World and MdN. Because the Japanese version offers other fascinating categories of books; comics, English education, and technology books.

Comics (manga) might be the most valuable content in the Japanese version. Amazon Unlimited doesn’t offer new books published recently, but it doesn’t no matter for comics because a value of comics doesn’t depend on newness, unlike technology books. I can get a lot of classic masterpieces drawn by famous cartoonists.

English education books in Kindle Unlimited are convenient for me. It said that Amazon Unlimited doesn’t offer popular and bestseller books, but I can find some popular books written about English test.

Few technology books are there in Amazon Unlimited, but not popular. However, I found it’s very useful for beginning new things. For example, I can’t get the books writing about Haskell programming language deeply on Amazon Unlimited but can get introductory books written for newcomers.

Lastly, Kindle Unlimited in Japan offers a lot of porn comics and porn novels. I make sure that the service is a good deal.

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Japan Life: The riding rate of a commuting train

At the end of July, Yuriko Koike won the Tokyo gubernatorial election by a wide margin. She is the first woman governor in Tokyo. Before the election, she set her goals in her speech; “no crowded trains” and “no overtime work.”

I think it’s impossible to reach the goals. But, the goals are not bad vision. If the new governor gets rid of a half amount of crowded trains and overtime work, it will be a historical milestone because the crowded trains in Tokyo give a huge impact to the quality of Tokyo life.

Do you know how horrible the crowded trains in Tokyo are? You can find some videos on YouTube by searching with the keywords; “crowded train Japan.”

Here is interesting PDF reported by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). By the PDF, the average of the riding rate in Tokyo in rush hour is 165%. It’s average, not the maximum percentage. Different lines have different riding rates. The maximum is over 200%.

But, what do over 100% means? MILT classified the riding rate as the following;

  • 100%: Everybody can have a seat, hold a strap or hold a pole.
  • 150%: Everybody can open a newspaper to read.
  • 180%: Everybody can read a newspaper but cannot open it.
  • 200%: Everybody has a contact of other people, but they can manage to read their weekly magazine.
  • 250%: Everybody cannot move their limbs.

I don’t know why this report sticks with reading something. But, the figure illustrated why Japanese game market moved on mobile. Even if the riding rate is 180%, we can tap on the screen of our smartphone to play a game.

And, this is why Japanese work-life balance is not good. Also, the commuting time is not short because expensive rent in Tokyo let people far from the central of Tokyo. In the fact, when I worked in Tokyo, I lived in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture because rent was one-third from Tokyo’s rent. (But the commuting time was three hours in round trip.)

I can say that people working in Tokyo ride on a crowded train, which the riding rate is about 165%, in a long hour and then work overtime. The work-life balance is, of course, not good.

How to avoid the crowded train?

If you have a plan to work in Tokyo, I have three advises to reduce stresses from the crowded train.

At first, find a job which your work starts at 10 am or 11 am. The rush hour in Tokyo is from 7 am to 8 am because a lot of company starts working at 9 am. Even if your work starts at 11 am, it may be difficult to take a seat on the commuting train, but you can keep your personal space.

At second, to shorten your commuting time, live near your office. This advice is not to avoid the crowded train, but to reduce stress from the commuting time. (While you have to pay a lot of money for your micro apartment.)

At third, avoid the crowded line. It’s not easy to find non-crowded lines, but you can find “worst 10 lines” quickly.

Note: By the PDF, the riding rate 165% is the lowest rate in 40 years. The graph in the PDF shows that the average in the 1970s was 200%. It descended slightly and remains steady.

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Interview in Japan: Show your adaptability

This entry is so crazy, but I’m writing this for foreign people who want to get a job in Japan.

As you know, different countries have different cultures. Japanese companies have different cultures from foreign companies. The difference is based on Japanese culture and the law of Japan. Sometimes it does not make sense (for also Japanese) and is not productive. We, Japanese, need to change everything. However, changing is going slowly and never guaranteed. If you want to get a job in Japan now, you’d better know the difference.

Background

Keep in mind that almost all Japanese companies are based on collectivism (集団主義) and can not adopt to individualism (個人主義) well.

Here’s a fictional example.

George came to Japan from the U.S. with his dream of becoming an independent developer, but he needed a job to live in Japan. He hired as a game programmer and then he got a chance to achieve his true dream or found a job paying better than his current job. However, his company has been very busy recently because the company is facing a deadline. What should he do?

For his happiness, he should quit his job right now and move on the chance. He has a right to do that. The law of Japan supports his right. This situation is what a lot of Japanese companies are afraid when they hire foreign people.

His company unexpected he does that. There are two reasons. At first, many Japanese companies don’t have a system to frequency turnover. The basic hiring system of Japan has been a persistent employment (lifetime worker) for a long time, so their system promises that “an employee don’t quit my company easily and quickly,” even if George is a contract worker. Next, the Japanese companies rely on the loyalty of the employees. It means collectivism.

In other words, the Japanese companies had been insuring to hire people as a persistent employee and relying on the loyalty of their employees. Their system and rules have been optimized to these two elements.

Some Japanese companies hired foreign people, but some people leave the companies easily. Nowadays, such companies tend to avoid hiring foreign people. I think the companies understand it’s old-fashioned. On other hands, it’s the fact that their system and culture can not adapt individualism practically.

What should you do?

I know some foreign people are individualism, but others are not. If you are a collectivist or came from a country known as collectivism, you should appeal it in an interview. If you are an individualist or came from a country known as collectivism, you should emphasize your understanding and adaptability.

It’s a fight against prejudice. In the case of George who came from the U.S, he should emphasize adaptability with collectivism. But, somehow?

  • He should say that his wish is to work in Japan for a long-term.
  • He should share his true dream in an interview.
  • He should swear that you never leave the company quickly even if he gets a chance for his true dream.

Once he shared his dream or career plan with the company and swore to adapt to Japanese custom, the company may be on his side. And the company is not afraid to hire George.

Note: How to resign?

In general, a contract between an employer and an employee in Japan includes the agreement about retirement. (e.g. “The employee has to submit a request for retirement at least a month before retirement day.”) In the fact, the agreement is illegal. You can resign your job at one day. However, I repeat, you shouldn’t do that.

Share you career plan, update it periodically and consult your boss. In my case, I had been sharing my dream, which is to work abroad, with my previous company. All my colleagues and my boss had been recognizing that I will go abroad someday. When I got a job in a branch of a Western developer, I said it to my boss five months before retirement day because I needed five months to finish all of my projects in the company. It was a typically amicable resignation in Japan.

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Soft Vendor TAKERU: The world’s first App Store

Soft Vendor TAKERU was the world’s first PC software vendor machine developed by Brother Industries, Ltd. In 1986. It is a page in the Japanese PC history books. It also made a big contribution to Japanese early indie games. But there are few web pages which describe TAKERU. Today I’m writing about this revolutionary machine.

Brother-TAKERU-full.png

As its name suggests, Soft Vendor TAKERU was a software vendor machine launched 30 years ago. It has a touch-paneled display to order software. I’m explaining how I bought software from TAKERU. At first, I choose PC system (in that time, there was no Windows and no Mac, but many kinds of PC systems there; PC-98, PC-88, MSX, X68000, etc.) and PC software which I wanted to buy. I was X68000 owner, and my model had 5-inch floppy disk drives, so I choose “X68000” and “5-inch.” on the touched-panel.

Next, I needed to insert cash to pay for it. Credit cards were unacceptable, and I didn’t have it because I was a kid.

After payment, the TAKERU gave me some blank floppy disks. I received the disks from a disk outlet and inserted them into an embedded floppy disk drive on the left side. It means TAKERU didn’t have something like auto disk changer. (Such a equipment was so expensive!)

And then TAKERU started receiving software data from the server via a telephone network, formatting the disk and writing data into the disk. In general, PC software consisted of many floppy disks, so I needed to repeat it several times.

How was manual? TAKERU had a laser printer in its body (under the monitor) and printed out manuals on the fly. The printer could print only text. That was simple.

Finally, a box outlet gave me a box to contain the floppy disks and the manual with label seals. I needed to write down the title of software on the labels myself and stuck them on the floppy disks and the box.

A lot of PC shop located TAKERU. It was very convenient for me. 30 years ago, buying PC software/games was tough, especially for minor PC system users. PC-9801 or PC-8801 was major PC system in Japan. PC shops have a lot of software for PC-9801 and 8801. But I was MSX and X68000 users. These PC systems were good for gaming and learning game programming, but minor. However, TAKERU provided MSX games and X68000 games. It made me happy.

TAKERU made a big contribution to Japanese early indie game developers. TAKERU dealt in indie game developers! It needs following steps. Indie developers, Japanese called them Do-Jin (同人) game developers, sent a copy of their game with the manual to Brother Industries, Ltd. They checked the quality of games and added their catalog if the quality was not bad. Developers relieved 70% of sales revenue. That’s interesting. The rate is the same as AppStore!

I loved TAKERU, as a gamer and then a developer. Until I met TAKERU, PC magazines were the only way to publish my game. I had sent the source code of my game to a magazine, and the magazine listed my source code on the magazine. TAKERU changed everything! I got to deal with binary data directly(*). It means I draw graphics, made music and sound and then saved them as binary data on a floppy disk to load later.

(*) In a case of sending the source code to a magazine, I needed to serialize data and embedded them in the source code or make data on runtime like a kind of procedural technology.

By TAKERU, I could earn money from my game. It made me feel confident. This confidence was an illusion, but I left the university and went to Tokyo to find a job in the entertainment industry.

TAKERU stopped all of their services by 1997. The business of TAKERU was in the red, but Brother Industries, Ltd. reused their infrastructure and technologies for JOYSOUND, which is the most popular KARAOKE system in Japan. It has been supporting our entertainment life.

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Kings Glaive Final Fantasy XV

I watched a movie, Kings Glaive Final Fantasy XV, last weekend. Have you heard of this title? This film is a computer-animated film made in Japan. The story and the world is based on Final Fantasy XV (FFXV) which is the latest title in the Final Fantasy franchise which is one of the most popular video game franchises in Japan. Kings Glaive is the 3rd film of the franchise.


When Square Enix Co, Ltd. announced the film, I was not interested in that. Their first Final Fantasy film, The Spirits Within (IMDb), was notorious for the quality. The second film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (IMDb), was not bad, but it required the experience of playing Final Fantasy VII.

To be honest, I was biased against recently Final Fantasy franchise. Early titles of the franchise was a pretty good fantasy RPG, but recently titles introduced Sci-Fi and changed the design concept for teenagers. Heroes look like a J-pop or K-pop singer, not a warrior or magicians. They speak difficult words, and their motivation is a little difficult to sympathize.

But my friends who watched Kings Glaive praised the film. And my Twitter timeline was filled with positive comments about the film. So I changed my mind and decided to try watching it.

As a result, Kings Glaive was purely one of incredible fantasy action films. The computer-animation quality was sophisticated. I can’t believe this computer-animated film is made in Japan. The film is located as a prequel of FFXV, but the film didn’t require the knowledge of Final Fantasy. The story of the film ends up in the film. The hero in the film was middle age. His motivation was understandable and sympathizable. He sweat, injured and struggled like other action films’ heroes. Unfortunately, the official trailer doesn’t tell it to you.

Unbelievably, the film was made as one of the FFXV advertisement campaign. Square Enix need to boost the exposure of FFXV until its release day because they spent about ten years to build this latest game and will launch it at the end of September. But I feel that the film was not limited by the advertisement campaign.

Maybe Kings Glaive will be available in your country as a retail disk or stream (maybe PSN). You should watch it, even if the first Final Fantasy film and the second one had let you down, or even if you are not interested in the Final Fantasy franchise.

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I wrote a Unreal Engine 4 book

A year ago I published Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) book in Japan. The title was “Unreal Engine 4 De Kiwameru Game Kaihatsu” (Unreal Engine 4 で極めるゲーム開発”). The direct translation of that might be “Game Development Master Course with UE4.”

UE4Book_Jacket

Overview

The book covers both the Western game development process and practice of simple 3D action game development. The process described is based on Epic Games’ one and used by my previous UE game project. The practice of game development goes through this process.

This book is intended to serve as the text for a boot camp in Unreal Engine 4 game projects. It can also be used by students, amateur game developers, hobbyists, self-taught game developers alike. In Japan, some game colleges and some game courses in universities adopted the book as a textbook.

The readers shouldn’t be familiar with programming because the book doesn’t require C++. The game development in the book uses only Blueprint, which is a visual script language in UE4. If Blueprint is hard for a reader, s/he can skip chapters handling Blueprint. Every chapter shows Disciplines Icons indicating what discipline should read the chapter. Even engineers should read the book to understand who works on what in UE4 game development.

FIRST PART “BEGINNING”

  • The first part of the book explains game industry disciplines and an effective game development process (Western style) and how to operate Unreal Engine 4. If the reader had only an experience of Japanese game development process, which is notorious for its ineffective, s/he can renew what an effective process is.
  • The book tries to go through a real game development process. But the book sometimes had to put easier/essential chapters before harder/application ones. So chapter 3 shows a difference between a real process and book’s one.

SECOND PART “PROTOTYPING”

  • The second part start with a graybox methodology. Graybox means a draft level design consisted of simple meshes; boxes, sphere, pre-designed stair meshes and so on. Gray-box methodology makes level designing rapid and iterative. (Sometimes Graybox is called as Whitebox.) UE4 supports BSP features for a gray-box. The readers learn how to use BSP and design their first level.
  • Like this, the readers are supposed to learn knowledge and then operate UE4 to implement it on their game in all chapters.
  • After designing a gray-boxed level, the readers import game assets from downloadable source assets, set up the assets, convert grayboxes to invisible collisions and put static meshes within the collisions for the final version. (Meshing shortly after grayboxing is not right way, but chapter 3 and text warn this disorder as I said.)
  • The book is going into a Blueprint part. Blueprint is a visual script language for game designers and artists. The readers try to implement small game mechanics with Blueprint because a real game development process starts from prototyping phase. My book recommends that the readers prepare difference test levels for difference mechanics. They are learning various UE4 features (trigger, event, physics, collision, AI and so on) and hooking up them to her/his game with Blueprint.

THIRD PART “PREPRODUCTION & PRODUCTION”

  • By the end of the book, the readers add contents on their game having fixed level design and fixed game mechanics and polish the contents. They work on animations, materials, lighting, VFX and SFX.

RICH APPENDICES

  • The readers can download source assets for a practice of importing, projects for each chapter and final project data.
  • Video tutorials replay all operation steps described in the book.
  • Six Appendix PDFs have totally over 160 pages and the same quality as the book. The PDFs handle more deeply topics; Character Movement, Construction Script, Camera, UI and Build. Like the book, the readers can learn knowledge and operations and then integrate them into their sample game.
  • (In a fact, these PDFs were written for the books. But the publisher didn’t have much paper to print them, so they and I decided to serve them as PDF.)

RECEPTION

  • Amazon.co.jp Review 4.4 (14 reviews)
  • When the 3rd impression of the book published, it got official text authorized by Epic Games Japan, a Japanese branch of UE4 developer.
  • Some game schools and game courses in universities use the book as a textbook.
  • It had been translated into the Korean language and published in South Korea.

THANKS

A structure of the book follows “Game Development with Unity.” It’s a good book written by Michel Menard and translated into Japanese in 2011 by my previous colleagues and me. Good points of her book are to teach readers correct step to developing a game. I respected the concept of her book, so I polished her ideas and wrote my book.

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