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Sister cities are cool. Lucky for me, Oakville, Ontario and Neyagawa, Osaka, Japan happen to be sister cities. So in high school I went on exchange to spend two weeks in Neyagawa, living with a family and learning the Osaka way- which is to drink and laugh a lot. Osaka and its Kansai-ben is the most fun to be had in Japan, in my humble opinion.

So yeah, I fell for the country and their ways. Years later, at the University of Waterloo, I was accepted into a co-op program to work for Epson-Kowa. I lived in the mountains of Ueda-shi near Nagano for eight months as a graphics software developer. If you want to get a sense of what Ueda is like, see Summer Wars, an anime that happens to be set in this town of 150,000.

In August 2016, I made my most recent trip to Japan with my wife, brother, sister-in-law and best friend. We explored Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara with a break in the onsen (hot springs) of Mount Hakone in between. This time, I found myself moved by the pleasure of their aesthetics and and attention to detail. Japanese experiences are created to instill a sense of calm and happiness; from the way a common onigiri (rice ball) is wrapped, to the presentation of fine dining, to a rock garden in a Zen temple.

Today’s apps make learning the language easier than it used to be. If you’re reading this far you may be into Japanese yourself, so try this Kanji Study app for an enjoyable way to get used to Kanji. Also, start watching some Japanese cinema. Kurosawa, Miyazaki, Ozu or some anime like Death Note, Psycho-Pass or Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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I am a dai-fan of owarai (Japanese comedy). If you’ve ever seen the Gaki no Tsukai 24-hour no laughing punishment game, you’ll know what I mean. A lot of innovative comedy actually stems from Japanese comedy culture and if Japan is any guide, Western culture will experience a surge of wacky friendship style humor around 2020.

Finally, here’s a photo of my brother and I during an epic best of seven tournament of Street Fighter 2 at Super Potato Arcade in Akihabara. It came down to game 7, round 3 and the final few hits.

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Send me a message on Twitter or Instagram if you’re planning a trip yourself.