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Hobonichi’s plainspoken new haramaki: “I am wearing this.”

Haramakis are  belly warmers, a Japanese wardrobe staple that was once tossed into the cultural bin of “underwear garments that only old people wear.” In 2001 Shigesato Itoi’s company reimagined them as cute apparel that you’re allowed (and encouraged) to wear over your clothes.

This year’s models have this very Itoi-sounding slogan:

Itoi probably didn’t write this, since it started out as English, but it fits inside his copy-closet like a glove. Last year I wrote up an extensive look at his copywriting work, if you want to see for yourself.

If you know a little Japanese you can order your own haramaki at the Hobonichi Store, along with other quirky keep-warm gear. I bought a haramaki a few years back and wear it under my sweater every winter; belly warmers really do work!

The limited edition Bouillon haramaki I snagged featured Itoi’s photogenic dog.


Update on Magazine Translations

Thanks to generous MOTHER fan Nabeneko-san, I’ve acquired magazine scans for a large handful of retro gaming magazines. These interviews with Itoi and other MOTHER staff were the bulk of my NaNoTraMo work, but I decided to wait on posting these until I managed to get images for the articles.

Lo and behold, after much scanning and organization, our Japanese hero sent me the files to accompany the translations. It will be time consuming, but I will now be able to slowly edit and upload all those magazine interviews I slaved over last fall. Apologies for the mysterious lack of follow-up.

To start it off, I’ve provided a special full-page article translated as-is for you to essentially read straight from the magazine. This is one of the earliest interviews for Earthbound 64, as it is the November 1996 issue of The 64Dream (significant because it was the first official issue of the magazine, and Earthbound 64 was supposed to be one of the first games available for the console). Even though the translation was already posted, the graphics are a lot of fun (or radical, should I say), so even if you had read the original text, I recommend skimming through it again because I also made some edits in the translation. I do not plan to continue full-page editing like this; I’ll cut out all the images and paste them into text posts as I had done previously.

Weekly Famitsu – September 16, 1994

This week’s issue covers the MOTHER 2 Pre-release Party attended by all staff involved in the game. This time the article is not an interview, but a description of the event.

Read more…

Weekly Famitsu – September 9, 1994

This week’s issue introduces the MOTHER 2 Times: a weekly section in the magazine that ran for eight consecutive weeks. Its main feature was the walkthrough, but also included such things as interviews, comics, and behind-the-scenes peeks. I don’t plan on including the game walkthroughs, but I’ll continue to post any particularly interesting sections.

This week’s issue highlights an interview with the two main programmers for MOTHER 2, Kouji Malta from APE and Satoru Iwata from HAL.

EDIT 2/14/2012: I’ve fixed a mistranslation about “freedom”, which refers to post-programming putzing, not post-ending gameplay (see left of Iwata’s photo). A big thank you to Ice Sage for pointing it out!

Read more…

MOTHER 1 Review by Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri

In the late 1980’s, before founding Game Freak and hitting the jackpot with his sensational product of grueling labor, Satoshi Tajiri was a freelance writer for gaming magazine Famicom Hisshou Hon. He ran a column in the magazine and covered the newly-released MOTHER in its October 20, 1989 issue. His review offers some interesting criticisms of the game.

Read more…

Status Update

Just a quick note that while most of my NaNoTraMo translations are done (all old magazine interviews about the MOTHER series), I’m going to hold off on posting them until I follow through with a lead I have on magazine scans. It’d be better to post the interviews along with article pictures from the beginning, instead of editing it after everyone has already read the article and tucked it away.


In the meantime, it’s always a pleasant treat when Itoi’s interviews and works are already translated into English. Here’s a blog entry of an American marketing professional who recently interviewed Itoi via mail. There’s some interesting insight into how Itoi chooses to run his company and website.

Weekly Famitsu – January 31, 1997

This is a dialogue showcased in a section featured once every few months in Weekly Famitsu. One of the editors, Yasuhiro Nagata, conducted several interviews with Itoi during his time with the magazine. Nagata later went into freelancing for a few years before eventually working for Itoi’s company, where he is now.

This dialogue is different from other interviews in that it has a very casual tone to it and is less focused on the nitty gritty. It feels more like you’re eavesdropping on three Japanese men at the bar who just happen to be talking about Nintendo 64 games. The bolding of the text is preserved from that in the magazine article.

Before the dialogue segment comes a plethora of screenshots and character showcases. The article was one of the first to feature so much visual information on the game, so click to enlarge the screenshots and feast your eyes on the glory that never-be!

Read more…

The 64DREAM – November 1996

This is the first ever official issue of The 64DREAM (currently “Nindori”), but Volume #2 after an initial unofficial release in June. It treats us with a treasure trove of juicy insights into the creation of Earthbound 64. Itoi’s team had an impressive amount of the game finished even by 1996, which really accentuates the troubles they went through and how looong it had dragged on. (The editors from this interview got the impression it would be on sale by summer 1997.) It’s amazing to think about how the project was scrapped even after taking years and years of their time!

In interviews and statements over the past five years or so, it seems clear that Itoi thoroughly enjoyed his game-making experiences but sees it as a closed chapter of his life. We can see this in interviews like this one from 2009.

Itoi: […] Games demand many more lines of dialogue despite the fact that the main characters don’t talk, so I couldn’t keep making them. That’s why I felt deep down after making three of them, “Well, that was a neat experience.”

Shiraiwa: So you’re done with them?

Itoi: Yes, that’s right.

In the nineties, however, when Itoi was at the height of his video game endeavors, it was clear in interviews at the time that he was so passionate about making video games, he’d be brewing with ideas for new ones before his current game was even close to completion. (Earthbound 64 had been the same way; he was well into the brainstorming stage by the time they were still putting together the puzzle pieces of Earthbound programming.)

The fact that this interview takes place in the early stages of MOTHER 3 development means the game was still in the process of being programmed for the Nintendo 64DD.

Interesting points in the article include:

  • Itoi’s aversion to assigning “themes” to video games
  • Itoi’s original intent to make MOTHER 3 in 2-D
  • The extent of completion of MOTHER 3 even by the fall of 1996
  • Itoi’s inspiration for the story of MOTHER 3 and desire to make a detective novel in game form
  • A Mr. Saturn spinoff game!?
  • Itoi’s phone calls to his game designer about MOTHER 3 in the middle of the night–before MOTHER 2 was even done
  • The origin of the name of the Nintendo 64
  • Itoi’s personal relationship with Nintendo

This issue has some of the best and 90’s-est layouts I’ve ever seen, so to preserve this, I edited the page scans to allow you to read the article as-is. Just click on each page to enlarge the image. Read more…

Hippon Super! – November 3, 1994

Hippon Super is a gaming magazine with a slightly different tone than that of the more mainstream Weekly Famitsu. There are a couple adult games featured in the magazine, and even the interview with Shigesato Itoi has a different tone than usual. There isn’t much new information in this interview, but there are some really bizarre metaphors and confusing meta-speak.

I remember Itoi mentioning in another interview how he was careful with all the details, right down to the pauses in the script and text scrolling. In this interview, he states that the sound guy was so particular that he even had a fit about those small details. Perhaps Itoi wasn’t the only one polishing it up after all…?

This interview takes places soon after the release of MOTHER 2 and two months after the informative Weekly Famitsu interview.

Read more…

NaNoTraMo 2011

As someone who has all the inklings potential writers do regarding ideas floating around my head, I know I need to just jump onto them with a violent tackle and tame them onto paper. Floating isn’t doing anyone any good.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo last year, but only made it about a fourth of the way through and ran dry of ideas. Really dry. A barren desert of formless potential.

So my original story is back on the shelf. (Literally. I write better in notebooks.) I’ve always loved writing. I hear the cliched–but true–phrase being thrown around by artists that they’ve been drawing every since they could hold a pencil. Well I can apply that to my story-writing. I’ve been making stories ever since I could hold a pencil. (I didn’t use a pencil, I just, you know, had developed the motor skills to hold a pencil by that point.) I used to read stories to my younger sister, but she was two years younger than me and couldn’t read yet so I ignored all the words on the page and would make up stories to go with the pictures. She was none the wiser, but once she could read she’d yell at me to stick to the story on the pages. Then at night I’d recite stories aloud off the top of my head, but a few years later that got old to her too and I lost my audience. That’s about the time we got some ghetto IBM with a blue screen and white text and I dove into the new world of word processors. Which is unfortunate, because I have no record of any story I’d made/written in my active 15 year time span of a flourishing storytelling childhood.

But despite my vaguely antisocial self growing up completely engrossed in storytelling, once I hit college I stopped writing, and started studying Japanese. I completely lost my ability to come up with new, fresh material, and my bubbling imagination seemed to entirely fizzle out. Even now it’s incredibly vexing, but once I got into fiction translation, I rediscovered the passion I had for writing. Even if I lost my fountain of ideas, translating fiction is extremely difficult. Well, anyone with language ability can translate fiction; it takes a true writer to translate fiction well. To make it sound like it’s always been in English, and yet keep the nuances that the original novel based its story development on. Every novel translation is riddled with fine lines, and there’s something thrilling about walking that tightrope.

Recently, my translation projects have been collecting dust because I’ve been preoccupied with working towards publication. (As an end goal, I need to make sure not to lose sight of this while treading water in all my beloved volunteer projects.) This also includes the reason that I will not be posting my Shigesato Itoi short-shorts online, but details on this will come to light when all is said and done.

So with all my previous projects starting to face neglect, I’ve decided to go back to NaNoWriMo. But I beat up the novel-writing, punched it out big time, kicked its butt, bit its head off, spit in its eyes, and made it wet its pants. Then I replaced it with translation.

I’m sure that come 2012 I’ll have a full-on novel to devote to my newly-formed NaNoTraMo (National Novel Translating Month), but seeing as I already have a pile of things in my personal In-Box, I’m going to spend this November cleaning house.

So my plan is to finish the entirety of Let’s Meet in a Dream once and for all. But there are limitations to what I can post online from this, and surely it doesn’t fit NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 word count goal. So after that I’m going to turn to non-novels and focus on the collection of Shigesato Itoi interviews in gaming magazines; there are quite a lot. I’m a collector at heart, but I don’t actually collect anything; recently however I’ve found myself scavenging Japanese Geocities websites from 1997 and going to used bookstores to find old Japanese gaming magazines from the mid-90’s. I’ve got a good collection gathered, but now my queue of interview translations is pretty big. So now is the time to finally sit down and churn out English versions to post online.

I’m not good at word counts and I don’t know what 50,000 words is going to mean for any of this, but at least I have a goal thanks to the heart of the NaNoWriMo concept. Let’s see where this ends up in a month. 🙂