Look at that - working on my click-bait titles! Maybe I've been seeing too many Tofugu headlines in my social media feeds (I kid).
Recently I've been reflecting a little on my JET time, and it occurred to me that there are certain types of people who you tend to run into a lot. I suppose these archetypes can be more broadly applied to anyone you meet in Japan, actually.
I know it can be unfair to generalize and place people into categories, but hey, let's do it anyway:
The Japan Nerd - This person was way into Japan before they arrived, whether their gateway drug was anime, manga, martial arts, or Japanese classes in school. Maybe they're not what some would call an "otaku," but there's a good chance their friends think of them as "the Japan guy/girl." It should be noted that the evolution of the Japan Nerd isn't so clear cut. Sometimes they travel to Japan and cocoon themselves in the culture they love so dearly; they may never want to leave. Other times they'll become jaded with less likable aspects of life in Japan. Often, I think, they achieve some healthy balance.
The World Citizen - This is the one who's been to at least a dozen other countries. During vacations they most likely won't travel around Japan. No, they'll be off to Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, China, or some other Asian country that they haven't checked off yet. I've found that the World Citizen tends to be either really interesting and fun or else super arrogant and borish. They won't be in Japan for more than two or three years, most likely.
The Casual Visitor - Japan, huh? That sounds like an interesting place. The Casual Visitor is the person who doesn't have a particularly strong connection to Japan, and perhaps didn't travel very much outside of their home country before arriving. Maybe they'll learn some Japanese; maybe they won't. They'll definitely visit every temple they can, though. The Casual Visitor is often just taking a year away from their real job to come teach English and expand their horizons.
The Lover - Their significant other is in Japan, so they are, too. Sometimes the object of their affection is a Japanese person who they met abroad, and they followed them home. On occasion, the Lover is a mutation of another form - perhaps a Casual Visitor who was planning to return home after a year but then met the love of their life and decided to stick around. And this person can also often be the spouse of someone who decided to embark on JET or who was sent to J-Land as an expat by their company/government.
The Plague Bearer - The yellow fever, it has taken hold! This guy (it's almost always a guy) is just in Japan because he loves the women, and his chances are so much higher of getting an Asian girlfriend in Asia. Maybe he doesn't even like Japan. But he likes Japanese women. Often this guy is a total creeper and a toolbox. Perhaps sometimes he is just the victim of forces beyond his control. Either way we pity him.
Many of the people you meet over in J-town will probably be amalgams of the above models, though some do seem to fall pretty neatly into one category. It probably works better if you don't look deep down at the real underneath.
I just learned a cool J-go turn of phrase from one of my colleagues, who came in from his smoking break to inform me that it was flurrying out:
Normally in Japanese, we say 「雪が降る」 (ゆきがふる) to express that white stuff is falling from the heavens. 「小雪」(こゆき), literally "small snow," apparently means "flurries."
And 舞う (まう), which means "to dance," can be somewhat poetically applied here. You can picture it, can't you? A beautiful little snowflake, dancing its way down from the sky. I was told that 「舞う」can also be used to describe falling flower blossoms. Elegant, huh?
This GIF doesn't particularly apply, but I like the Peanuts, so.
In the US, we've had some memorable marketing campaigns for certain generic foods or beverages."Got milk"" and "Behold, the power of cheese" come to mind. A comparable line of commercials in Japan uses the jingle 「牛乳に相談だ」, which is a little difficult to translate directly, but is probably something like "Milk can help."
They tend to advertise that milk can work to enhance attributes like your strength, beauty, or powers of concentration:
This one I saw recently uses its tagline a little more literally. The jingle can also be translated as "Consult with milk." So that is what this girl is doing:
She says that she's been dieting but isn't healthy. And she is told that the milk advises she...drink milk. Word.
Generally I get my J-gaming fix from Kairosoft mobile games, which pop out of the localization engine onto our shores every few months. I should do an update post to recap some of my favorites sometime soon... It's been about half a year since their last iOS release, though (this month they did just come out with an Android game, so at least it doesn't look like they're dead) Correction - they just came out with new Android and iOS games a day or two ago! And Papa needs to keep up his Japanese, preferably while gaming.
I'm a sucker for a good mobile game, though there are certain formulas that are more likely to rope me in. When you combine a match-3 with fantasy RPG elements (I'll pass on Candyland), you've got me. It really helps if the artwork is solid, which in this case it is.
I'm not going to say too much else about Hero Emblems. The gameplay is simple enough to jump in and quickly feel comfortable with, yet layered enough that there can be a little bit of strategizing involved. I especially like how your party shares hp and armor, and kind of fights as a unit. Definitely an interesting concept!
There are also three language options, which is the main point of all this! The English version is bad, in a charming kind of way. Definitely playable. The Chinese, I have no idea - if you speak Chinese, feel free to give it a whirl and let me know. I imagine it's good, since it looks like the developer is Chinese. The Japanese localization feels a lot better than the English. Granted, I'm just a humble student of the language, but it seemed natural (or manga-ish) enough to me.
Anyway, if you're a fan of match-3 games, I definitely recommend you stop by the appropriate mobile shop and pick up this bad boy. And if you're looking for a little J practice while you're at it - bonus!
They say a good sign of fluency is being able to read a newspaper in a foreign language. This might be more true in a language where reading doesn't require the acquirement of thousands of unique characters, but it's still a nice benchmark to use for your Japanese.
I must admit - when I was living in Japan, I didn't read Japanese newspapers. They were available where I worked, but they were just too much for my feeble comprehension level. These days I still don't read the papers so much, but I do read online articles now and then. That's a lot easier due to the magic of cut and paste plus the availability of online dictionaries.
There is one section of one paper that frequently grabs my attention, however. Here at my office, we get a daily edition of the Nikkei (that is the Nihon Keizai Shinbun; 日本経済新聞). A lot of the articles are still beyond me, though I can generally understand what they're talking about. Every Saturday, however, there's a section called プラス1 (Plus 1), which usually contains tidbits about pop culture, food, fashion, etc. There are also often survey results, like the little piece I'm about to talk about.
I was looking at an old paper from October of 2014 and saw this neat little piece about requests spouses have for their partners. The article starts off by saying that it can be difficult to ask some things of one's spouse, but understanding what's in each other's heart can help to build a stronger relationship. Heh, perhaps.
With that in mind, a research arm of NTT conducted a survey asking married respondents what changes they would ask their spouses to make. The results are interesting, though perhaps some not so surprising. Let's have a look.
I feel the Japanness draining away, slowly. That's the way of things, I suppose. You come back home, you retain some connections, you keep up your language studies. If you're lucky, you work at a related job. You eat Japanese food. But it still slips away, by degrees.
One thing that has vexed me for some time is the lack of "Japanese things" around DC. Back when I lived in New York, I didn't venture into the city proper that often. Nor did I really have much reason to seek our Japanness. It's kind of ironic, though, that I now know Manhattan to be a hotbed of Japanese commercial activity. And not like "we sell some Japanese stuff" stores - I mean real chains from Japan, like Kinokuniya and Uniqlo. And Ippudo...mmmm.
Ok, so Japanese people are concentrated in NYC, and also in California and Hawaii. Fine.
You'd think DC would be a good market, though. There's a Japanese community, though everyone tells me it's not that large. Perhaps that's because a lot of the Japanese here are diplomats and representative office workers who are only here for a couple of years on a rotational basis. Still, that's a solid foundation. And Japanese is trendy, right? And DC is international, right? So why not open some J-stores in these parts?
I know not. I know that Kinokuniya has store locations in Washington state, Oregon, and Illinois. I know that Uniqlo has stores in Pennsylvania now; Connecticut, Massachusetts, and about 5 billion in New York and California. Neither one has a place near DC. Rage.
Though the selection pales to what you'll find in one of the aforementioned metropolitan hubs, there are some decent Japanese restaurants around these parts. My go-to used to be Nichi Bei Kai in Columbia, MD, but they closed down for relocation and never relocated.
There's some high class fare in DC, like Sushi Taro. That's for the high rollers, though.
Despite the horrible name, my current favorite is Sushi King, also in Columbia, MD. I believe the staff are all Chinese, but their chefs can make some tasty American Japanese food.
The other day I tried out Yuzu, in Bethesda, MD, with Mint. The occasion was her birthday. Although it hasn't supplanted Sushi King at the top of my list, they had a pretty interesting menu, and at least the manager appeared to be Japanese. I'd bet the chef was as well.
We had to try the special corn tempura. It didn't look pretty, but it was surprisingly good. Beyond that, the spicy karage, sushi rolls, and chirashi were pleasant enough. Nothing to write home about, though. The sunomono had more seafood in it than I usually see, which was nice. But then again $8 is a little steep for sunomono.
Among the first CDs I owned as a kid was one of Weird Al's albums. I believe it was Bad Hair Day, but who knows? In a pretty short timespan I accumulated a number of his CDs, including Alapalooza, which featured a parody of "MacArthur Park." I actually never listed to the original song until now. Wow, Richard Harris did music?
Anyway, Weird Al's version was "Jurassic Park." Wasn't one of my favorites, and until recently I thought that song and those days were behind me. Until recently...
Someone discovered a Japanese version. I think it may have been Tofugu that started circulating it around the J-blogosphere.
I would embed the video here, but that feature has been disabled. You can check it out at this link, though. Weird Al's Japanese accent is actually pretty serviceable! But then I bet that guy watched a lot of anime...
Apologies in advance for my readers who aren't so tech-oriented - you may want to skip this one as it will mostly just be technobabble.
In my IT studies, I recently came across a term I was unfamiliar with - "WiMax." Basically described as Wi-Fi on steroids, WiMax is a comparable wireless communications technology with much greater range.
It seems that WiMax is presently being used as a fixed wireless access service (basically instead of running cables, you get signals like with Wi-Fi), although I can't find much information as to how widely deployed and available it is in the U.S. right now. WiMax suffers from interference and penetration issues due to where it's located on the spectrum band.
Sprint built out a WiMax network for its mobile service some years ago, but unfortunately the deployment dragged on for too long and competitors adopted LTE, which has now become the prevalent 4G technology. Sprint will shut down its WiMax operations this year, reportedly.
I was talking with one of my supervisors yesterday and he told me that KDDI in Japan is still building out and marketing WiMax. They may be the only carrier in the world to be doing so! I wonder if they're swimming upstream, though...
Well, since I haven't been very productive lately - mostly due to my resemblance to a wretched plague-bearer (this morning when I spoke to my mom, I told her that I was feeling a little better and her reply was something like "Really? You sound horrible."), here are two posts back to back!
Seeing as it's been about a month since I've actually written about Japanese, I wanted to come up with something super awesome and, if possible, totally badass. This naturally made me think of pirates. I've been on and off reading this book about pirates called The Republic of Pirates. It's about several famous pirates and the Golden Age of Piracy during the early 1700's, which largely contributed to our pop-cultural fascination with pirates. I've probably broken an unwritten "writing rule" here by repeating the word "pirates" so many times in such proximity, but that's okay - pirates are cool enough that I don't even care. Pirates pirates pirates.
Anyway, there are a lot of cool little tidbits and facts to know about pirates. Like did you know that merchant or navy vessels were actually much more brutal positions for sailors back during the Golden Age? Pirates could be ruthless, but generally pirate crews were better treated than those of "legitimate" ships.
If I were to ask you what you think of when I bring up pirates, you might mention a Disney movie or rum (yum), or peg-legged chaps with hook-hands. But I imagine a good amount of you would think of the Jolly Roger - the infamous pirate flag.
Here's another fun fact for you - though I'd wager many people don't know the distinction, the Jolly Roger isn't just the term used to refer to the oft-imagined skull and crossbones symbol over a black field. It's actually a catch-all term used to refer to all flags flown to identify a pirate ship. The skull and crossbones is no doubt the most famous, but there were a wide variety of designs. They often featured skulls, skeletons, demon-like figures stabbing hearts with spears, and terrifying imagery like that. They also seemed to mostly use the colors black, white, and sometimes red.
So in English, we call the pirate flag the "Jolly Roger." Any guess as to the Japanese? 「ジョーリーロージャー」 maybe? Perhaps something like 「黒死骨旗」(if I were to "invent" the Japanese word for "pirate flag," this would be it - literally "black death bone flag")?
Nope - it's actually quite straightforward, like so many Japanese words, which either seem to be super easy to remember and make total sense or else be incomprehensible. To be fair to Japanese, the straightforward ones are a lot more common.
The Japanese for "Jolly Roger" is actually 「海賊旗」(かいぞくき), which quite literally means "pirate flag." I know - kind of a letdown after all that buildup, but look on the bright side - at least I got to write about pirates.
Now that you are enlightened, go forth and converse about pirate flags in Japanese. You're welcome.