Thursday, December 30, 2010

December Blog Matsuri!

Welcome to the December 2011 Japan Blog Matusri! I'm very pleased to be this month's host, and would just like to quickly thank Nick of Japan Soc for keeping it going, and all those who participated this month. The theme for this time was "Japan Firsts." All right, let's see what we have.

First off, this is a little unconventional, but it's the holidays so let's not be too nitpicky. Christina wrote in about her first Japan experience, so I'll host that right here:

"I first went to Japan when I was fourteen, and then again at fifteen. The second trip was the time I had...wait for it...ever participated in a giant group dance while wearing a turban. Seriously. I was living in Okinawa and my sister was doing a traditional Okinawan dance, Eisa, for her school festival and I got to be a part of it. It was insane. And I can still do the dance, 3+ years later."

Thanks, Christina!

My First Cooking Class...and It's in Japanese!
Next, a very delicious entry from QQ's Adventures in Japan. Her first cooking class, with a twist. If the pictures are any indication, she has a future in the culinary arts.

Hajimete Desu!
Rene over at Shoujiki Shindoi brings us a collection of her Japan firsts, from TV to JLPT. We wish you luck and safe travels in your trip next year, Rene!

J-RPG or My First Japan Experience
Blog Japon features a post about a topic near and dear to my heart - video games. They can indeed be a good tool (or incentive) for learning the language.

The Western Sentai Invasion of the 1990's
Sanjo-chan over at Centakume gives us a look at her gateway into the realm of J-Land - sentai (戦隊), which is a Japanese word roughly meaning "fighting force." Ah, Power Rangers was just coming into popularity when I was growing up. Meee-mories.

Japan Firsts
Haiku Girl reflects upon some of her own Japan Firsts, along with the reason why she came to be interested in Japan. Can you guess? Shenmue makes a guest appearance but turns out not to be the reason why Haiku Girl came to be fascinated by Japan.

The Purple Sumo of Naeba

Lee-san at LoneleePlanet shares his first time skiing with us. Skiing can indeed be a humbling experience for noobs (I myself have only gone once), but being in a beautiful place can certainly make for an enjoyable and memorable time.

Japan Firsts: Yakuza
 Proudly representing JADJ, Joe weaves a tale about his first (drunken) encounter with Japanese mobsters. The lesson I came away with? That all Yakuza want is your respect...and some beer.

Mt. Fuji Pictures
Finally, Xamuel's submission of his first trip to Mt. Fuji. Some beautiful pictures and some Enrish, too. I still have to get out there one of these days...

Well, that about does it. Another matsuri and another year successfully come and gone (never seen a year that hasn't). We hope you had a great 2010 and wish you a happy and healthy 2011. 良いお年を!Next month's matsuri will be hosted by MarieLo at A Bag of Sweet Delights. Our next matsuri will be held over at Lonelee Planet, by our one and old Reesan. よろしくお願いします!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let us entertain you!

As another year comes to a close, I've been thinking recently about not only what course my life will take in 2011, but what I can do to improve the blog. According to Google Analytics, we're getting quite a few readers on a regular basis these days. In business, it's often not that wise an idea to ask the customer what he wants, as he often doesn't know. Despite that, I'm going to give it a go.

What do you think? Is there anything you'd like to see more or less of? Any kind of new content that you'd like us to take a whack at? Please leave us a comment and let us know what you're thinking!

Also, please be encouraged to check out the poll on the right-hand sidebar and leave your feedback.

Oh, and for you procrastinators out there, don't forget about the Blog Matsuri deadline!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Healing waters

At my part-time school, there are three vice principals - each is in charge of a different shift. Just a couple hours ago, two of them walked into the lounge area. One of them set down a pail of water on the floor and walked away. The other one sat down, leaned over, and put his hands in the water. He continued to sit there, slumped over with his hands in the bucket. I kept reading my book and pretended not to notice.

A little while later, one of the teachers came by to retrieve a printout from the nearby printer. The following conversation ensued:

Teacher: Oh, did you hurt your hand?
VP: No, but I'm not feeling very well.
Teacher: Ah. I have some cold medicine at my desk - do you want some?
VP: I'm ok with this, thanks.
Teacher:, is that going to help?
VP: Yeah, it looks like it will.
Teacher: Ah...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds some of these unconventional healing methods a little less likely to help than just taking some medicine.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

And happy other holidays for those of you who celebrate them.

Japanese Firsts: Yakuza

I'm very excited to be able to contribute to the 2010 December Blog Matsuri. This is a first for me and coincidentally the topic of this month's Matsuri is Japanese Firsts. The Japanese First I'll be talking about is my run in with the Yakuza. I'm hoping this will be a Japanese Last as well. I'm going to give away the ending now and say I survived.

Everyone knows about the Yakuza. If you're an avid video game player or movie watcher and someone mentions Japan, you will picture the following things in this order: robots, ninja, samurai, and the Yakuza. And maybe also school girls. I'm not here to judge.

I knew very little about the Yakuza when I visited Tokyo with my friends a couple years ago. I knew that they still retained, or at least said they retained, the honor of the time of samurai. I knew they were famous for often missing part of their little finger, lost as punishment for some dishonor. I also heard that many have large tattoos across their back of carp and/or dragons. That was the extent of my knowledge. With just missing little fingers and back tattoos to go on, unless a Yakuza guy wanted to pinky swear or decided to walk around the streets of Tokyo without his shirt during the cold Japanese autumn, I'd never know he was Yakuza by just looking at him.

My friends and I had spent the night going to bars and singing karaoke in Tokyo's Shibuya district. I was having a great time, but my friends were falling asleep. Early in the AM they decided to catch the first train back to our hotel. This being my first time living it up in Tokyo I decided to see what sort of debauchery was going on very early on a Sunday morning. I wandered around trying to find someone else in the same state of mind as me, namely full of caffeine and alcohol. It seemed hopeless and I was preparing to catch the subway back when I spotted a group of about 7 or 8 young Japanese guys sitting in front of a convenience store drinking some beer. One of my favorite pastimes is randomly hanging out with strangers in Japan. I thought I might as well sit down and join them, though at this point I was new to Japan and my Japanese ability was nearly non-existent.

I walked up to the group, which caused them to stop talking and look at me. I smiled, and used the little Japanese I knew to say good morning and introduce myself. They seemed to think this was pretty funny. I struck up a conversation with two of the guys who were sitting a little outside of the group. Before they could introduce themselves some other guy said their names were Hotdog and Ketchup. I'm doubting that was their real names but from then on, that's what they were known as. I ended up sitting down near them. They were being friendly but kept nervously glancing at one guy in the center of everyone else. I didn't get his name, actually no one told me their real names, but for this story I'll call the guy in the center Yoshi. Yoshi was the smallest guy in the group but for some reason everyone seemed a bit afraid of him. He appeared upset at me joining them. He kept talking quietly to the people around him, who nodded whenever he talked, all the while stealing glances at me. It was then that I first thought that this didn't seem like a normal group of guys. It was also then that I remembered hearing Yakuza don't always take too kindly to foreigners in Japan. Due to my poor Japanese I didn't understand what he was saying, but I got the distinct impression that he was talking about how they were going to jump me in a minute. Hotdog and Ketchup looked nervous. I asked them what was going on. Hotdog looked at me and said, "It would be a good idea to buy him a drink. Like, right now." I decided to take Hotdog's advice and went into the convenience store and got the best beer they had, a Sapporo. While in there I wondered what the heck I just got myself into.

I came out of the convenience store and gave Yoshi the beer. He looked at it, looked at me, cracked it open and took a swig. He smiled, not a very friendly smile but enough to make me think my offer was sufficient. Yoshi turned to the guy next to him and told him to get everyone drinks. The guy immediately obeyed. Yoshi asked me a couple questions such as what I thought about Tokyo and Japan and Japanese food and the like. I just said that Japan is the best, I love Japan, every country should be like Japan. Yoshi seemed to think these were acceptable answers. The guy came back with drinks and handed them out. He gave Yoshi another beer and a bottle of whiskey. Yoshi handed the bottle of whiskey to me and said how he heard foreigners can really handle their alcohol. Oh crap, I thought, he's going to make me drink this whole thing. Yoshi said "Kanpai!" and everyone took a drink. I took a little sip. Yoshi looked at me and said "More, more!" OK, I thought. I took a real swig. He seemed pleased about this. I noticed other guys secretly pouring out their beers on the ground. Genius, I thought, and poured out discreet amounts of whiskey whenever Yoshi wasn't looking.

I went back to sitting with Hotdog and Ketchup. The mood was significantly lighter now, and I no longer felt like I was about to suffer bodily injury. We talked for awhile, sometimes some random other guys of the group would ask me a couple questions. I was a complete shutterbug on that trip, so I thought that since we all seemed to be getting along, I should get a picture with everyone. I pulled out my mobile phone and asked if it would be OK to take a picture. Everyone said at once, "No, no, not of him. Not of him” referring to Yoshi. They said it was OK to get a picture of me, Hotdog, and Ketchup though, who I guess were low on the totem pole or not Yakuza at all. Here's that picture.

Hotdog is the one wielding the hot dog in a threatening manner and I'm the non-blurry white guy.

After another 20 or so minutes talking with Hotdog and Ketchup some of the other guys brought me into their conversation. They kept asking me a question which I didn't understand. Hotdog translated and said to me, "Do you respect him?" gesturing to Yoshi. I said yes. The guys asked again and Hotdog said, "Do you REALLY respect him?" I said that of course I did.

After awhile Yoshi decided it was time for everyone to go. Everyone stood. I said my goodbyes. Yoshi faced me and everyone quietly watched. He gave me a small bow. Everyone looked at me for my response. I got the feeling I was expected to be humble about this so I bowed back and said “Doumo arigatou gozaimashita," which is 'thank you very much'. Yoshi seemed pleased with that so he waved everyone to follow him and they left. I headed in the opposite direction in a bit of a round-about way to the station.

And there ends my experience with the Yakuza. You might be wondering how I KNOW they were Yakuza. Well, it's true I didn't ask them. I didn't notice any fingers missing or see any tattoos. But my powerful deductive reasoning tells me they were. Also, this story would be far less interesting if they were just some guys and Yoshi was the birthday boy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

J-Word Play #14 (Answer)

This month's special riddle was:



朱肉 or お金もち (red ink or money mochi)

I suppose this was a tricky one! The riddle can have two meanings depending on how you read it. ぎんこういん can be read as 銀行員(bank staff or banker) or 銀行印(bank stamp). If read the first way, bankers like お金もち, which is a pun that can be either money mochi or rich people. If read the second way, stamps need red ink in order to be of use. It just so happens that the kanji for red ink includes the kanji for meat. Ta-da!
Unfortunately there were no winners this time around. I'll carry the prize over 'til next time, so check back in!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New domain

Always wanted to own (or rent, as the case may be) one of these things. This blog can now also be accessed via [Fanfare]

Yup, today I'm toying with things a bit. this post wasn't a complete waste of your time, this just in: Japanese people love rice!

Interesting find

I was browsing this grocery-esque store the other day with a friend of mine, and we discovered quite a wide selection of alcohol in a corner of the store. I'm not exactly an alcohol fiend, but I do enjoy browsing the wares of liquor vendors. Anyhow, this place had some surprising products. Among which were:

Suntory rum. If you like ingesting poison and have spent a fair amount of time in Japan, you'll know that Japanese people are pretty big on whiskey, but not so much on rum. I've never seen or heard of a Japanese brand of rum before - didn't know the stuff existed.

Also this abomination. Has to be some kind of mistake. Pepperoni-flavored vodka? Blegh.

Speaking of firsts...

This is shaping up to be a month of firsts - theme of December's Blog Matsuri, first J-Word Play with a prize, first original keyboard composition...Yeah, yeah, so anything can be a first, really. Today was the first time I woke up on December 21st, 2010, har har. But I feel like we're making progress.

The other day I had kind of a strange experience. It was the first blatant, overt, and hostile display of racism I've encountered in Japan (or anywhere, I suppose), and it wasn't perpetrated by a Japanese person. Joe and I had just gotten some Indian food and were walking to the train station, when we noticed this guy crossing the street and walking towards us. His expression was...friendly? He looked like he recognized us. As soon as he got close, his face changed and he became really angry-looking. He walked right in front of us, gave us the finger, and said something in what I believe was Chinese. The only word I caught was "America." Then the angry dude continued past us in the opposite direction. He stopped and turned to watch him go. Near the end of the block he turned around and flipped us off again. Now I don't know how he "knew" we were Americans or what he has against America, but he's lucky the two of us aren't what he probably thinks most Americans are like. There were two of us and he wasn't a very big guy - we could have easily socked him in the face if we were violent men.

It was a very odd experience, and I felt more perplexed than angry.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Witching Hour: An original composition

I've always considered myself to be somewhat artistic - I used to love to draw, I write short stories from time to time, and I've played piano on and off for years. But I've never really dedicated myself to anything...perhaps that's why I'm capable at so many things but not really outstanding at any one thing (in my mind, anyway). Well, here's another dabblance: my first original song.

Some months ago I bought this keyboard and mentioned I may upload a video or two in the future to let you know how it's going. Pretty well, I think. This short piece is called "The Witching Hour" or "真夜中". I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

On my Christmas wishlist

I've seen some pretty cute (read: nerdy) novelty chopsticks in the past, but these, I would really use these. H/t to Daily Bento.
Yes, those are Harry Potter wand chopsticks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Arigatou Gojaimasu

Saw this music video the other day, made by a couple of Korean guys singing "Arigatou Gozaimasu" with a Korean accent (that apparently turns "z" into "j"). Pretty catchy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

J-Word Play #14: With Prize!

It's been a while, but for December a special riddle with a special prize!

This is another original (kind of - got the inspiration from a friend's riddle, which I didn't think was very good). Here's how this'll work. I'm disabling comments, so send your answer(s) to You can send multiple answers, but I'll use my discretion in how many to accept - spamming me will get you nowhere.

The prize, unfortunately, is only good for people living in Japan, and it's worth 2000 yen. If you live outside of Japan you're still free to participate, but no prize for you (for this one, anyway). Sorry!

There's only one prize, so everyone who gets the correct answer will be entered into a lottery, from which a winner will be randomly chosen. I'll announce the answer and a winner on December 24th, Christmas Eve, so please submit your answers by then.

Finally, this one has two possible answers that I am aware of. You only need to give one. I will consider other answers that make sense. Here's the riddle it is:


Let's enjoy Japanese: Kind of

Here's an interesting grammar pattern that I've recently come across. So far as I can tell, it only works for い adjectives, and not all of them at that.

Take the adjective, drop the い and add め. And what does the resulting word mean? It means "Kind of~."
As in it's more than a little of something, but not that much. Someone I asked used the example of a skirt. If you said a skirt was 長い, maybe it would be down to a girl's calves. If you said it wasn't 長い, maybe it would be above her kneecaps. If you said it was 長め, maybe right below her kneecaps. Kind of long, but not that long.


For example:

長い - 長め - Kind of long
厚い - 厚め - Kind of thick
細い - 細め - Kind of thin
辛い - 辛め - Kind of spicy

Unfortunately, there are certain words that this pattern isn't used for. For example, 寒め (cold) and 暑め (hot) aren't commonly used. According to three teachers I consulted with, there aren't any set rules (at least not anymore), and certain words that don't use this pattern have begun to change in recent years. The example they cited was 難しめ, which isn't traditionally correct, but seems to have come into periodic used in recent years with younger people. 分かりにくめね。

This is the kind of grammar that I would recommend using cautiously if you want to be understood. If this one is new to you, I recommend listening for it now that you're equipped to understand what it means, and if you're so inclined to use it, do so with the words you're seen or heard used by those who are fluent or native.

If anyone has anything to add or knows some rule for this pattern, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Plight of North Korea

This isn't Japan-related, but North Korea is, uh...near Japan (a hop, skip, and a ballistic missile away, at any rate)? So I'm gonna stretch on this. I found this op-ed on the LA Times site to be very poignant: Save the North Koreans!

I can only speak for myself, but although I have felt some sympathy for the N. Korean people, mostly when I think of that country what comes to mind is an unstable regime with a crazy leader and a huge army. I'm not saying it would be a good idea for the U.S. to attack N. Korea and try to topple its government Iraq-style, but it did strike me that I have been rather thoughtless in discounting the suffering going on there. There are so many human rights violations going on there (and in China, too, for the record) that so many people are willing to dismiss or turn a blind eye to. This kind of thing is largely ignored, while Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere fill to the metaphorical brim with news and opinion about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Oh, what a world.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The aftermath

So a few thoughts on the JLPT Level 2:

I went into this thing not expecting to pass, and not really killing myself over it. I haven't seriously studied in over two weeks. My main goal was basically to see how much I could understand and answer so that I can prepare well for the one in the summer. That said, I was still a little nervous. Test is a test.

I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, but about 95% of the people in my room were Asian, probably Chinese or Korean. For some reason I was expecting more white/black/hispanic people.

I think I need to work almost exclusively on reading. While there were a decent amount of vocabulary and kanji that I didn't understand, I felt like I had most of the grammar under control. That said, I think the reading section was the toughest part, and kanji/vocab comprehension are just an extension of being able to read.

Surprisingly, I found the listening section to be a lot easier than the reading part. Although I wouldn't say I owned it, I felt a lot more confident in most of my answers. Though I don't like how they try to trick or misdirect you - some of the questions will give you like 2 minutes of dialogue and place the answer either at the very beginning or add it quickly to the end. It was frustrating that there were one or two problems where I understood 95% of what was said, but then missed a quickly spoken sentence or phrase and found myself unable to answer the question.

Well, the results will be delivered in February. Not sure why it takes so long - the test is scantron. Oh well. I think I'll be happy with a score in the 40s or 50s. Plenty of room for improvement for the next test, but also plenty of room to breathe. We'll see.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's kind of funny

Although maybe not funny "ha-ha." Maybe my mind is just in a different place right now, still somewhere in America. But I was just in the local ramen shop and heard this, and was somewhat struck by it. This is an actual (perhaps mundane) interaction:

[Someone spills something on the table]
Father: Ah, sorry!
Assistant Cook: Oh, I'm sorry!
Father: No, no, it was my fault.
Assistant Cook: Sorry, sorry.
Waitress: Sorry!
Mother: Sorry about that.

Friday, December 3, 2010

December Japan Blog Matsuri!

It's December, and this month the pleasure of hosting our Japan Blog Matsuri falls to yours truly. First off, a special thanks to Ashley of Surviving in Japan, the gracious host of November's Matsuri. If you haven't checked that out yet, please feel free - many mouth-watering entries to behold.

So I just got back to Japan last night, as of this posting. I spent two weeks in America with my girlfriend, hanging out at home in Maryland, visiting the alma mater in Pennsylvania, and checking out my old backyard, the center of the universe, New York City. You know, I kind of didn't want to come back this time. It got me thinking about a lot of things, like how I felt the first time I came to Japan, and about that fact that this will be my first Christmas spent abroad without my family (they visited the previous two). A lot of stories came to mind. And that's the inspiration for this month's Matsuri Theme: Japan Firsts. The rules and guidelines for this month are the same as always, but let me break it down for any newcomers who may be interested, or those of you who just forgot (you gotta work on that memory!):

The Theme

Once again, this month's theme is Japan Firsts.
So for December, please share your memories and experiences about Japan-related first times. For example, your first time eating mochi, your first time visiting Japan, or maybe something a little more exciting, like your first time being arrested for international espionage (in or working for Japan, of course). I think this is a fairly broad topic, and I encourage anyone who's interested to make a submission. You don't even have to have ever been to Japan! You can write about the first time you met that creepy Japanese guy who lives across the hall from you. Damn you and your stinky natto, 1B!

No links back to your first J-blog post, please. That's really lame and I can't believe you even considered it. Shame on you!

The Rules

The official guidelines for the Japan Blog Matusri can be found here. In addition, please include at least one picture in your entry. The deadline for submission for this month is December 28th, so mark your calendars!


Anyone can submit an entry! All you need is a blog of some sort. There are three ways to submit your entry:

1) Post a link in the comments section of this post.
2) The handy Blog Carnival Submission widget.
3) Email me here.

At the end of the month, all the entries will be aggregated and showcased right here! Well, not right here, but on this blog. Anyhow, that's all there is to it! I'm looking forward to reading your submissions. Get to it, and have fun!

I Return!

Well, I just got back to Japan. Unfortunately, it seems my JLPT test voucher didn't arrive while I was away...the testing center doesn't accept emails and is closed on weekends. So guess I wasted my money on that registration.

I'll be back soon with an intro to this month's Blog Matsuri, and more!

Thanks for bearing with me.

Update: Found the voucher in the trash! Was mixed in with some junk mail. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking Leave

So in a a matter of hours I'll be heading out to the airport. Time to go home for a while! It should be a pretty exciting trip - Yoshie's coming, too, and it's her first time out of Japan. She'll be meeting my family, and after Thanksgiving we'll be driving up to New York so she can take in the NYC music scene.

Incidentally, today is her birthday. I have a surprise for her...I'll let you know how it goes when I get a chance to update.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This week high-ranking officials of the member countries of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) are meeting in Yokohama to discuss a free trade agreement that would eliminate the region's trade barriers, which artificially raise or lower prices in order to make domestic goods more appealing to consumers.

Recently there was a protest held in Tokyo against the FTA, which the Japanese government seems to be favoring. While it's quite natural for farmers and the agricultural lobby to resist such change, I think this would be a positive step forward for all countries involved. According to the Japan Times article I just linked, Japan's participation in this agreement would lower Japanese farm output by about 4.1 trillion yen and cut the nation's GDP by 7.9 trillion yen. That could hurt. Unfortunately, however, these numbers are being artificially propped up by tariffs. In a free market, Japanese consumers would be buying cheaper produce from other countries, so there's a good chance that such a change would make food even cheaper for most Japanese consumers. The downside is that farmers will have to either become more competitive or switch industries, which may not be possible for those who are advanced in years or heavily invested in agriculture. Still, in the long run, the principles of economics dictate that free trade is the most efficient and produces the most value for the consumer.

Who knows, though? While this FTA looks like it would eliminate tariffs, there's also the flip side of that coin. I don't know if it would impose any restrictions on subsidies, which the Japanese government could always sink more money into to keep farmers propped up. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Great Place to Live #1

When living abroad, I think sometimes it's too easy to be critical of one's host country. But it's important to remember that every place has good points as well as bad points. I think perhaps I need to spend a little more time on the nice things about living here, lest I lapse into a world of bitterness and resentment. 

The other day I was reminded of one of the things I find quite nice about people here in general. In America when you have a party, you're lucky if some of your good friends stick around afterwards to help you clean up. Back in college, my housemates and I would usually just go to sleep and clean up the next day. 

My kind of party.
In Japan, however, when it's time to wind things down, most people will pitch in and make the cleaning process a whole lot smoother and quicker. This year Dylan and I held a Halloween party on the second floor of a cafe near Awaji (in Osaka). We expected to end the party around 8 or 9ish and stay an extra hour or so to clean up. When we gave everyone the cue to filter out, however, they started cleaning up! Brilliant. I think that's something I'll miss when I go back home (though not too much, as my party throwing days may be limited).

Japan's 3G's

Sorry for all you technophiles - this isn't a post about internets or cellular networking or how many more G's America has than Japan or vice versa. I considered including this in my "Words I Dis/Like" series, but decided that this goes beyond mere "words" and into more conceptual and philosophical territory.

Now as I've stated before, I'm no Japan expert. I don't have a major in Asian or Japanese Cultural Studies, I don't have a Japanese spouse, and I haven't been living in Japan for as long as some other J Bloggers. Still, I think I have enough experience to give my opinions some degree of credibility. More, say, that many foreign journalists who write crappy articles about Japan as an exotic land of mystique where cars (and ninja) run on water and samurai-like sushi chefs can be found tending rustic restaurants on every major street corner.

Of course Japanese society, like any, is what it is because of any number of historical and cultural factors and influences. Generalizing can be dangerous, and I readily acknowledge this fact before someone points it out to me in the comments. However, there are three major social trends of modern Japan that I feel have played an important role in both its successes and its failings (and deterioration) as a country. I think of them as the three G's. Those of you who familiar with the language may see where I'm going with this. They are:

1. Genki
2. Gaman
3. Ganbaru

First, one of the first words that Japanese language neophytes learn - Genki (元気). Genki can be a little difficult to nail down precisely, but for our purposes genki means "energy," "drive," or "enthusiasm." From the time they're little, Japanese are encouraged to be genki. When my classes are too subdued, they are sometimes exhorted with the expression 「元気出して!」, literally something like "turn on the energy!" This genki is one of the main reasons Japan is so often lauded for its service and kindness. Genki isn't just an attitude, it's a policy. I saw a TV show once about how train station attendants must start off their day with 20 minutes of looking into a mirror and practicing ("exercising") their smile before beginning work. I'm not sure whether this was company wide or just one station's policy. But the longer you live here, it becomes more and more easy to believe this could be a widespread thing. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - there have been studies that show that smiling or frowning can influence how you feel. So perhaps this forced smiling actually makes Japanese people happier! If that's the case, it doesn't sound so bad. The trouble comes when genki becomes a standard. Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates, and in recent years depression has been the determined number one cause. This is in part because depression in Japan is less often acknowledged and treated than in the West. When one is supposed to be genki, depression becomes a social stigma to be largely ignored or hidden.

Second is Gaman (我慢), which means "tolerance" or "endurance." For all practical purposes, though, it means "shut up and deal with it." When it's about 40 degrees F in the classroom and there's no heat, the students (and teachers) are expected to practice a little gaman. Likewise, salarymen in the sweltering summer heat are allowed minimal reprieve with Cool Biz attire, and otherwise must sweat out the summer with gaman. Gaman can sometimes be a very positive quality, like when one needs to just buckle down and get something done, or hold one's tongue in a situation where losing one's cool would only exacerbate a situation. However too much gaman leads to resentment and/or fatigue. One example in my mind is how many people here will work later than they're supposed to, for free. Of course on occasion I'll stay later than usual to get some work done, but for some people it's a regular thing. At my girlfriend's work, everyone is supposed to finish at 12:30. But when they're done, they need to clean and lock up, so everyone stays an extra 30 or 45 minutes. She can't leave because everyone stays. But no one gets paid for it. I think this is also related to the fact that in Japan, work more often seems to spill over into one's personal life and time. I was talking to one of the English teachers at my part time school about this. I always enjoy talking to the English teachers about this kind of thing, because many of them are more...internationally minded? Their way of thinking often differs from what you might expect. Anyway, he told me "When I go home, I try to forget about work. My personal time is for me. I don't belong to the board of education, or to the principal, or to the school. I have a contract and that's it. I also take longer vacations than most Japanese. I think it's a problem here." He then told me that most Japanese people use less than half of their allowed vacation time. What a waste. Although an admirable quality when applied appropriated,  I think too much gaman is detrimental to the overall health of Japan.

Update: 11/10/10: Gaman makes a guest appearance in this article about the injustice of the Japanese government's refusal to deal with the problem of parental child abduction.

The last G is Ganbaru (頑張る). Ganbaru can be difficult to translate, as the nuance is lost in English, but it's often translated as "fight" or "do your best." There's an element of struggling to it, as in fighting against hardship. This one can be heard all the time, as it's used to encourage people to do their best. Sports, studying, love life, work - anything that requires effort can be ganbaru'ed. This G can also be pretty positive - after all, struggling against adversity is the foundation of a hardworking society. But again, when taken to excess, it leads to a people who focus too much on work and effort and ignore the other aspects of life. This could be why Japanese people seem to burn out younger these days. This one has gotten particularly irritating to me, because you hear it everywhere. And when I hear it, I can't help but think of the literal meaning - that call to try hard to the point of struggling. 

Because I think this was a bit more negative than positive, I just want to finish by saying that it's more easy (for most people, not those J-sycophants) to be overly critical of a foreign culture than one's own. I try to be mindful of that, and I realize that the "Japanese way" does have its merits. I just happen to think that Japan is running itself into the ground because some of its most prized attributes have been taken to the extreme and need to be adjusted. Hopefully the youth of Japan will try to affect a change before it's too late. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kanji Cameo

I just saw Scott Pilgrim vs the World  with Joe. It's a shame it didn't do better at the box office - though it wasn't perfect, it was jam-packed with nerdy references, had a good soundtrack, and was pretty funny (I thought) in its own right.

Anyhow, there's this one scene I wanted to point out to any of you who have seen or intent to see the movie - watch for this! During Scott's battle with two Japanese rockers, when it's time for them to get serious, they turn up the dial on their amps to 11. Great reference. Made even better by the fact that the dial's numerals are in kanji, so "11" is displayed as 十一.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Overworked, Yellow People

(Apologies for the post title change - I am horribly impatient and don't take the proper time to review my posts before hitting "publish"...I'll work on that)

The ALT I'm working with now at my part-time school is a guy named Maia from New Zealand (the "from New Zealand" isn't part of his name). I'm learning all kinds of things about that country now unrelated to kiwis or Lord of the Rings! That's kind of neither here nor there, but I told him I'd mention him in this post instead of just stealing his anecdote.

The other day Maia shared with me an English riddle that one of his students constructed. I think the cultural awareness of this kid is brilliant! The riddle is:

I am never angry.
I am overworked.
I am yellow.
What am I?

Can you guess the answer? I'll give you a hint - it ain't Big Bird.


There are many clever marketers in Japan - this much I know.

I don't know if this is unique to here or is practiced in other countries, but this year some company gave our school a free copy machine for the staff room. They also provide ink, paper, and maintenance. What do they get in return? All of the copies include color ads at the bottom of the page that teachers must cut off and discard.
Don't know if that's cost effective (probably not) but seemed to me like a pretty cool idea.

Yup, my handouts are rocking out Spiderman and Mr. Lego.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


The other day in class, the J teacher and I were doing a lesson on expressing amounts for countable and noncountable items. For example we say "many apples" but not "many waters." "How many oranges" as opposed to "how much meat?"

At one point I added that we can say something like "many breads" but instead of many pieces or loaves of bread, it means many different kinds of bread. In my head I was thinking of white bread, rye bread, various types of bagels, baguettes, raisin bread, sourdough, etc. When the teacher explained it to the students, though, he used the examples of "curry pan, anpan, and melon pan." Bread with curry inside, bread with red bean paste inside, and melon-flavored bread. All sugary or fatty and all very pastry-like.

One thing I miss about living in America is that in Japan, there just aren't as many types of bread available, and (as I believe Orchid pointed out in a comment to an earlier post) most here are packed with calories and sugar. I guess because rice is the prevalent "grain" in these parts, bread has been rather sorely neglected.

Monday, October 25, 2010

That's a lot of pudding...

America has a reputation for being the country with all the unhealthy food. Forget France with its famously tantalizing desserts or its fatty croissants and cheeses - American food is either too greasy, too fatty, or too sugary. While it's true that there's plenty of unhealthy foods to be found in America, such consumables are bound to crop up wherever the demand develops. And though demand for such things may not be so great in Japan, it's on the rise. Don't try to deny it. If it weren't, you wouldn't see stuff like this for sale at Japanese convenience stores:

That's a 480-gram cup of pudding. That's about 17 ounces. For those without a basic grasp of amount, that's approximately a friggin lot of pudding. One cup of Jello pudding is about 1.15 ounces, the internet tells me. And look - it's not like this Japanese one is resealable. Who's being a pig now?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Great Place to Visit #3: My Four Biggest Aggravations of Japan

The best part of visiting Japan versus living here is you never have to deal with the culture shock that comes from overexposure to crazy. When you come for your two week stay, you'll visit Shibuya in Tokyo, take the Shinkansen to Kyoto to see the shrines and temples, and do some other quirky touristy things. Then you go back to your home country with funny stories about toilets. What I will strive to show you today is that toilets are just the peak of a somewhat aggravating iceberg.

Before I moved here I had to attend a couple of random seminars on living in Japan. One of those was how to deal with culture shock, or culture fatigue (as they call it now because scientists always have to change the names for things that have been around forever so it looks like they're doing something). They warned us about how things would be very different here. That you'd have to take your shoes off inside, you'd HAVE to say "good morning" every morning to all your co-workers or be shunned, you can buy hot coffee in cans from vending machines in Winter but in Summer you can only buy cold. Crazy, I know, right? I guess I don't blame them for their choice of topics. Those are obvious differences. You could hold up those up next to your own country and say "yes, Japan is indeed different from my country in some ways." What follows may sound like ridiculous complaints compared to the solid factual differences discussed in seminars, but these are truly My Four Biggest Aggravations of Japan. These pet peeves have caused me to question my own sanity, where the only way I've found to silence the voices is to close the blinds and watch hours of Futurama.

4. Nobody Pays Attention While Walking

Before I moved to Japan, I had this idea that Japan would be a crowded country, and I was right. But along with that idea I made the assumption that due to this, these people must have developed an amazing sense of how to move in small public spaces without colliding. I was actually worried I wouldn't be able to adapt to this new way of moving, whatever it may be. For my first couple months here I believed my fears had been proven true. It seemed that no matter what I did I was always in someone's way. What was I doing wrong? At first I tried walking on the left since the Japanese drive on the left. In the USA we walk on the right, the same as we drive, so I thought that would be a good way to start off. That didn't work so I walked on the right, to no avail. I was stumped at that point and it took me awhile to realize that the reason I always found myself in someone's way was because I actually noticed that I was. The prefered way to walk in Japan is with your head down. Some people may carry a prop, such as a mobile phone, to appear as if they have suddenly become distracted by an important email. Possibly one from the Prime Minister. Others use parasols to simply cover their eyes, in the guise of protecting themselves from the harmful effects of the late afternoon sun. Others distract themselves by staring intently at passing shop windows, fiddling with the contents of their bag, or anything else to keep themselves from having to look forward where they would inevitibly have to move out of the way of someone not paying attention. Because of this you get silly situations such as two people trying to walk past each other on an empty street, easily four car widths wide, and failing. When I see this I can't help but shake my head. And then get out of their way.

3. People Steal Your Umbrella

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode where George asked Jerry why he would buy an umbrella when you can just take them for free from the umbrella stands outside of stores? Now imagine that it wasn't a joke and everyone is George. I've lost count of the number of umbrellas that I've had stolen. In reality I stopped counting after seven. That number is not an exaggeration. I tried my best to get them back. I went to the police station and reported my seven umbrellas missing. I told them my theories on serial umbrella bandits. I gave detailed descriptions of each one (all cheap clear plastic, worth about $3.50 each). I haven't received a call back yet, and I'm starting to give up hope. Most likely they've already been taken apart and sold as umbrella scrap to some underground umbrella cartel. I should add that whenever something is stolen in Japan, everyone swears it must have been some Chinese or Korean person. Apparently that 0.5% of the population does 99% of the crimes. Which brings me to my next Aggravation.

2. Generic, Old-school Racism

Japan is a peaceful country so you're unlikely to be the victim of a hate crime, besides getting targeted for umbrella theft. What you will get instead is distrust due to an overall ignorance of the outside world. Twice I've had old women change seats after I sat next to them. One I sat next to for 3 or 4 stops before she noticed I was a foreigner and then decided a seat further down the train would be much safer. There's nothing we can do in this situation except not shoot or rob them, because then we'd just be playing into their stereotype. I still glare at their quickly retreating backs though. My angry face hides the hurt inside. This type of racism is mostly limited to the older generation. Younger people don't worry too much about meeting foreigners in Japan, since they see us as more of an entertaining novelty. Yet they still have the belief that the outside world is dangerous. Before going back to America to visit, my Japanese coworkers told me to be careful. They said this while looking in my eyes just a little too long, as if trying to remember that moment since it would be the last time they would see me alive. When I came back without a knife or bullet wound, they were very happy for me, like I won the Surviving a Trip to America lottery. It's nice to know they care.

See, they don't hate us. They just don't understand how similar we really are. This is why getting complimented in Japan is so darn insulting. If I take the compliments I'm given at face value I'd belive that my Japanese is incredible and the way I use chopsticks makes women swoon. Every time I open my mouth to speak Japanese, or open my mouth to put some Japanese food in it, I inevitably get a compliment about how dang great I am. You're thinking this doesn't sound like something to complain about. Well, you know those fingerpaintings you made as a kid? Maybe you made a turkey out of your handprint or something. Those were absolutely awful. You were like an anti-art savant. Now imagine if you made one of those paintings now and everyone told you it was incredible. And they were being completely honest. It's like, hey! I know this turkey sucks! Don't patronize me and my turkey.

1. People Only Speak English to Foreigners

"But Joe! You speak English! Why are you complaining about something so clearly convenient??" I will answer that imagined question with an anecdote. I was at the airport a couple weeks ago and found what appeared to be an old man's hat on the ground. Being the incredible human being I am, I took it to an airport employee and said in Japanese, "Excuse me, somebody dropped this." His reply to me was, "thankyu berry muchy." Could you even imagine this happening where you're from? If someone replied to any random black person in Afrikaans, or any random Asian person in Mandarin, they'd get a well-deserved punch in the face. I'm sure that the airport guy had nothing but good intentions. He saw me at the airport and didn't know I live a half hour away. He wanted to show off his English as well as how international Japan is. But by replying to my white skin instead of my words, what he actually said was "you are foreign and you always will be." Also he might have added "I don't know foreigners speak other languages besides English."

This concludes My 4 Biggest Aggravations of Japan. Of course this list doesn't cover everything. I skipped how English is used in non-Englishy ways ("Challenge the ice cream!"). Also I didn't mention the strangely widely held belief that Japan is the only country with four seasons. Now that you know, you can skip Spring cleaning this year.

The customer is not king in Japan

Saw this link tweeted by Gakuranman.


In Japan, “The customer is God” is a common customer service phrase drilled into waiters and waitresses and presented in just about every training session given to a new employee. On the surface, this seems to result in great customer service that is the talking point of many a tourist who visits the country. However, as a long-term foreign resident in Japan, I have been frustrated time and again by Japanese service, and now find it hard to believe that Japan will ever be a world-leading customer service nation.

Really resonates. While it's true that Japanese customer service is great as far as manners and politeness go, it's true that many places, especially the more corporate and cookie-cutter you get, don't have much concept of "the customer is always right."

Makes a teacher proud

I've mentioned previously that I work as an ALT at two different high schools - one normal and one a special part-time school. The students at the part-time school range from handicapped, to victims of bad family situations, to lazy, to extremely bright. One reason I sometimes prefer working at the part-time school is that there are a decent amount of students who will try to participate, even if their level isn't that high. All in all, though, students at either school will usually participate if prompted and certain special individuals may raise their hand or chime in from time to time, but Japanese students are not very pro-active.

Which is why I was very pleasantly surprised yesterday. The Japanese teacher and I were doing a lesson on past  tense verbs for a small, well-behaved, but generally reserved class. After we finished one exercise, though, one boy who is pretty bright but usually quiet unless directly asked something, raised his hand and asked not one, not two, but three questions about the problems we had just checked together. There were some grammar points that he didn't understand, like why "got married" has two verbs "got" and "married." It felt like a moment of triumph that he cared enough to ask! I commended him for asking good questions. Those are the moments it feels good to be a teacher.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Foiled again!

Man, iTunes is a pain. So yesterday I went to Costco to snag some iTunes giftcards as prizes for the contest(s) I'd like to get rolling. Unfortunately, they only had 3000 yen cards, which is a little more than I want to be giving away in one lump sum at the moment. Well, got it anyway. Long story short, apparently you can't use a giftcard to buy a giftcard, so I can't use it to buy smaller ones to give as prizes. Lame.

I suppose I'll have to fish around for some smaller cards. Maybe I'll check out the Apple store in Osaka one of these days...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's coming

This weekend I'm going to be heading to Costco to get some iTunes Japan giftcards, which means that probably sometime next week I'll be posting a new J-Word Play, but this time with the chance to win a prize. I'd also like to hold some kind of contest that won't preclude those readers who can't speak Japanese.

But anyway, keep checking it! It's coming.

Words I Dis/Like #2

Last year I blogged about the word [適当]. It's certainly an interesting one, and it and I have a love/hate relationship. The cool thing / problem about it is that, much like the rest of the language, it's pretty ambiguous. Often that's not a problem, when the context is apparent. In fact, that means often it's really easy to use. But sometimes...sometimes it's a pain in the ass.

適当(てきとう ) means "appropriate" (Edit: "adequate", as Tokyo Five suggests, may be a better translation). It also means something like "half-assed." It seems to me that lately it's used more often in the negative sense. There have been times when I've tried to bust it out and have been misunderstood, and the problem in this case is that it means pretty much means two opposite things. So if you say 「じゃあ、適当にしようね」 (Well then, let's do this right), it could also be interpreted as "Well, let's do this half-assedly (and just finish)."

I suppose this could be avoided by using a different word or making sure your inflection also hints towards your meaning, but sometimes it's just a big hassle.

Edit: Daniel points out that "however the f*%^ you want" is a good alternative translation for 適当.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Words I Dis/Like #1

Occasionally someone (usually Japanese) will ask me what Japanese words I like. Even though I think it's kind of an asinine question, it's one I have seriously entertained. Maybe because I like studying Japanese; maybe because I like language in general. Well in this post, I wanted to tell you a word that I dislike. But first I'll give you a freebie. Here's a Japanese word I like:


Here, have a look at the ACL entry. 「びみょう」is one of those words with a lot of applicability that doesn't translate well into English, as there are a ton of situations where it can be used and no single English word covers it all. The printer's acting up and sometimes doesn't work? That's pretty 微妙. Looks like it might rain tomorrow, even though you have a baseball game to go to? Ah, 微妙. Encounter a Japanese expression that's hard to understand (because of some subtle meaning or nuance)? 微妙. And that's just a taste. Use it often, use it well.

Now for the word that I don't like. This is one that Loco mentioned in a couple blog posts somewhat recently. That would be:


「えらいひと」usually means something like "VIP" or "bigshot." Someone who gets a lot of respect and (supposedly) deserves it. Why do I dislike this one? I'm not quite sure. Got nothing against 「ひと」or 「えらい」 separately. I guess I just have some kind of (unexplored) resentment towards the meaning. In Japanese society, there seem to me to be a lot of big cheeses who just kind of toss their weight around and are highly respected regardless of how they act. Sometimes this is because they hold a well-respected position, and often it's because they (also) have a lot of cash. Money buys respect. Of course there are people like this in any country, but in Japan often these folk not only feel like they have some kind of entitlement, but other people seem to feel so, too. These are people who are used to having their asses kissed. Now I'm sure there are plenty of えらいひと who have worked hard to be where they are, but whether it be some kind of jealous resentment or good old fashioned classism, I just can't help but feel somewhat irked when I hear someone talking about one of these big fish. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let's Enjoy Japanese: The JLPT!

December is that time of the year again - the most wonderful time. Christmas? Oh yeah, uh...that, too.

Photo taken with my new phone!

I kid, I kid. December is time for the winter sitting of the JLPT, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or 日本語能力試験. Many of you are quite familiar with it, I'm sure, but for those who aren't, it's basically the test you take to prove your Japanese ability level. There was also a business Japanese test, but I heard somewhere that it's being discontinued...

The JLPT was recently changed. It used to be 4 levels, with 1 being the most proficient (fluent) and 4 being the most basic (beginner). In 2007, I think it was, I passed the old level 3, which was lower intermediate, I suppose. The brand-spanking new version has 5 levels, with N1 and N2 being mostly the same as before. The old 3 and 4 were bumped back to N4 and N5, and they added a new level, which is the new N3. Apparently the jump from 3 to 2 was considerable.

Anyhoo, I'm taking the N2 in early December. I'm not uber confident, but if I hit the books for the next couple months I think I have a shot. After all, I've come a long way since passing the old 3 (by the skin of my teeth). I mean a long, long way. Anyway, enough about me. For those of you who may also be preparing, here are some resources (I haven't really explored them all thoroughly, but they look good, anyway):

The JLPT Study Page - Because it's official. The lists don't seem very useful to me, but has some free sample questions you can check out.

The JLPT Study Forum - All manner of links, advice, and FAQ to be found, like gems waiting to be excavated from a quarry of, uh...Japanese...uh...language rocks?

For your viewing and listening pleasure:

My Soju - Ignore all the other stuff - the J-dramas and movies are what you want to work on your listening skills.

As for something more practical, probably best for those studying for the N1, some news sites with streaming videos might serve well:

Channel J

And for those of you who don't want to be chained to a screen, I believe these stories can be downloaded to an mp3 player:

Japanese Log

Update (10/6/10): AJATT also looks to have a good Japanese study resource list.

Last, this isn't exactly JLPT-related, but looks like it could be an interesting thing to participate in. Perhaps pique your kanji interest a bit: KRAE. Saw the link originally on beNippon, so a hat-tip to David. Hopefully the registration link will be up one of these days!

So that's it for now. Have any advice, questions, or anecdotes about the JLPT? Sound off in the comments

Update: I may want to resurface this post from time to time with updates to the listed resources. Anyone know if there's a way to keep Blogger posts near the top of the page without reposting or adjusting the post date?

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I was just at Joshin (Japanese electronics store of sorts) and saw some 3D TVs for sale. I checked out one display and used the 3D looked crisp, but I actually couldn't tell that it was 3D.

Are these things for sale already in the US, too?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mrs. Three Hundred Rice Fields

This morning I thought a little about a woman I met about two years ago. Not sure why; I just do from time to time. It was one of my first days teaching at my visit school. At the time, I wasn't used to rude students and their antics, so it was a somewhat disheartening and rather draining day. That night I took a couple of trains, as I have for a long time now, and instead of walking home from the station, I took the bus. At that time I wasn't very familiar with the geography of my town, so I couldn't walk it. Anyway, I slumped onto the bench at the bus stop. There was an elderly woman sitting next to me. "You look tired!" she exclaimed, and handed me a little hard candy to suck on. Somewhat surprised, I accepted the losange. We talked for a few minutes while we waited for the bus. She was a retired teacher living in the same neighborhood as I was. She told me that she had a somewhat long and unusual name: 三百田 (Sanbyakuda)。Three hundred rice fields. On the bus we parted ways. She gave me her address on a piece of paper and told me that if I had any problems, I should let her know. That piece of paper is, unfortunately, long gone - carelessly misplaced and lost soon after receiving it.

A few days later, a red tupperware container appeared in my mailbox. On top was a small note - "Please eat this. - Sanbyakuda". Inside were about a million little dead fish mixed with seaweed or something. Now I'm not a very picky eater and am usually up for trying new thing, but the smell and appearance of this thing was just too much...I stuck it in the freezer for some reason (hoping it would turn into ice cream?) and then later that week, when no magic happened, I tossed it in the trash. 

That was the last I heard from Mrs. Sanbyakuda. Sometimes I wonder how she's doing, and I feel a little bad about throwing out her stinky little fish after she went to the trouble of tracking me down and preparing that for me, and about never trying to contact her. Though I remember her name, I don't really remember what she looks like - just another little old Japanese lady. Perhaps the saddest part is that I may have seen her or sat next to her at the bus stop since then, and I wouldn't even know...

Take me out to the (J) ball game

The other day I finally got to go to Koshien and watch a Hanshin Tigers game. I had previously been to a couple Yakult Swallows games in Tokyo, so I had the general idea about Japanese baseball, but I did encounter a couple new things. In this post I'll point out a few differences between American and Japanese baseball games. It may be the same sport, but spectating is pretty different here.

I was able to go to this game because one of the teachers at my base school is a big fan and invited some of the other teachers to come along with him, and he set up the tickets and everything. You rock, Mr. N!

Some lady teachers.

Guy teachers.
Oh, so that Tigers jacket (happi coat) I'm wearing was a gift by the guy sitting next to me in the picture. Man, people are so generous here...I hate it. I hate feeling obligated to get them back. It was all the worse because even though this teacher and I always smile and greet each other very nicely, we have never really talked. I think our first semi-conversation was  "Here, this coat is for you!" "Oh, wow, really? Crap, thanks!"

Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked. Where were we? Oh yes, interesting differences. One good one is that while there are dudes roaming around selling ice cream and stuff, there are also beer girls. They're usually high schoolers or college girls (actually we saw one of my students who graduated last year - bought a popcorn from her), and many of them lug around kegs, backpack style.

Also, the fans are really hardcore, but in a (mostly) positive way. Not like back in the States, where if you go to a Phillies game wearing a Braves hat you should be surprised if someone doesn't dump soda on your head. Fans bring flags and instruments and make up all kinds of chants. At this game there were drums and horns. The Hiroshima Carp fans were especially dapper - I guess only the hardest of the hardcore traveled from Hiroshima to watch them play.

They also have these bat-looking things called メガホン (megaphone) because, uh, that's basically what they are - little classic bat-shaped megaphones that you hit together to cheer with.

The cheering is kind of cool for a while, but it gets tiresome, for me anyway. Come the 7th inning I was pretty tired of cheering nonstop for each hitter until they got on base or struck out and it was time for the next cheer. There is pretty much no downtime from the cheering while your team is batting. Luckily the 7th inning was phallic balloon time.

Don't ask 'cuz I don't know.