Friday, April 30, 2010

J-Word Play #10 (Answer)

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This round's kudos winners:

Z-one
Joe
Yoshie
Haf

Good work, guys.

So here was the riddle once more:

ピーターのお母さんは三人の息子がいました:

桃太郎
金太郎
・・・・

あと一人は誰でしょう?

Answer
ピーター

This one was a little tricky because it was a matter of not over-thinking the question. The riddle asks "Peter's mom has three sons: Momotaro, Kintaro, and...what's the name of the third son?" Well, the answer has to be Peter.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Frightening Banana Surprise

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If I were about to eat a tasty banana and some little guy inside the peel started singing to me, I think I would be quite taken aback.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poll closed: Me or Me

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Only 9 votes, but a clear winner emerged: seems 僕 is favored by a 2:1 margin here. If anyone has any further comments about 僕 and/or 俺, please feel free to comment or send me an email. I am still intrigued and not 100% clear on the complete nuance of each.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top Banana

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H/t to Japan Probe.

Don't know why, but I just can't get enough of these Japanese banana commercials.

Hiroshima

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This past Sunday I had a (not-so-secret?) rendezvous with my girlfriend in Hiroshima. It was my third time to visit the city, and each trip has been a very different experience. Hiroshima is one of my favorite places in Japan, and one that I actually requested when I applied to the JET Programme. It's the home of two world heritage sites - Hiroshima Peace Park and Itsukushima Shrine.

As an American, visiting Hiroshima, especially the Peace Park, stirs up complicated emotions. It's a very moving and peaceful place. It's strange how places where so many people died are often so peaceful. Be it rational or not, I always feel both guilty and ashamed when I visit Peace Park and the Genbaku Dome. It's not the kind of American self-loathing that some radicals back in the States display, but it's more a sadness that it was my that country killed this many civilians and was the first (and hopefully only) nation to unleash such devastating power. I have to consciously remind myself that it was a different generation, and that none of the Japanese I've encountered in Hiroshima have blamed America. Rather they view it as a mutual failing and as a great tragedy. Visiting Peace Park can be a rather heavy experience, so it's probably good that we didn't spend much time there.



The other site we visited is probably my favorite tourist attraction / cultural site in the world: Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. It is an old Shinto shrine that was constructed on an island off of Hiroshima City. You have probably seen pictures of it - when the tide comes in, the giant Torii gate built before it is largely swallowed up by the sea. The water comes all the way up to and partway into the shrine itself. Miyajima also offers the best grilled oysters I've ever had (though I didn't eat any this trip), and people dig for shellfish on the beach when the tide goes out. The only downside to Miyajima is the presence of my nemeses.






Hiroshima is also famous for its namesake style of okonomiyaki. Hiroshima style incorporates soba noodles. The restaurant we tried also had udon-okonomiyaki on the menu, but they were out of udon noodles when we arrived. It was a nice little joint - we chatted a little with a couple of the locals and the cook, who happened to be a big fan of divas like Carly Simon and Shania Twain. He also randomly spoke Spanish.



We also wanted to sample some Hiroshima 日本酒 (nihonshu), but as it was a Sunday night most places were closed. We wound up getting some low-quality conbini 日本酒 watching Slum Dog Millionaire. The good stuff will have to wait until next time!

日曜日は彼女と広島で待ち合わせた。広島に行って三回目だった、で毎回は違う経験だ。日本のところ中は、広島はすごく気に入る。

アメリカ人として、広島に行くのは複雑です。というか感情が複雑。やましさ、恥ずかしさ、悲しさ。アメリカ人にいるのは恥ずかしいって違う。アメリカは無罪の文民を殺しってそんな破壊的な武器を使ったのでです。アメリカは正当化されたかは関係ない。違う世代ってを念を押さなきゃ。広島平和記念公園はのどかなところだ。たくさんの人間死んだところはよくそういう感じだ。何でかな。あそこに行くのは重いから、今回あまり時間かからなくて良かったかも。

あと、宮島も行った。めっちゃ有名だよね。多分あの鳥居何回も写真で見たやろう。凄く美しい場所で上手い焼きかきある。でも僕の敵もいる・・・

広島は広島風お好み焼きでも有名です。そばで作ってるやつなんだ。僕らは行った店はうどん入ったお好み焼きも売ったけどそのときにうどんもうなかった。まあ、楽しかったですよ。地元の人とマスターと話した。よしえは広島弁が男らしって。ちょっと習うかな。んで、そのマスタは面白かった。カーリーサイモンとかシャナイ・トゥエインが好きでなんとなくスペイン語話せた。

広島の日本酒も飲んでみたかったけど日曜日だったから開いてる店は見つけにくかった。だからコンビ二で日本酒買ってSlum Dog Millionaireって映画を観た。いいお酒は今度にね。

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Break it down, Pizzahead

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Pizza-La is a big fast food pizza chain over here in Japan. One of these days I'll write a little bit about Japanese pizza, but for now...well, here's a little preview! Have a look at some of the toppings dancing around in the background.

Just another picture of the day 4/24/10

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 I suppose is it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Catholic Manga?

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Story from The American Papist:

Apparently a student at John Paul the Great University and an artist in Singapore have collaborated on a Catholic manga featuring St. Paul. The first volume is available now on Amazon.


(Image source: Amazon.com)

As a Catholic I'm intrigued, and I wish I could find something like this is Japanese. I think it's a good idea for making religion a little more...appealing(?) to youngsters. On the other hand, though it isn't really substantively important, I have to wonder whether something created by an American and a guy from Singapore is really manga. Sure, it's drawn in the traditional manga style, but does it have to be Japanese to be manga? Food for thought.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More beer

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I like the part where the snowman's head explodes.

J-Word Play #10

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Our 10th riddle! This one must be approached a little differently than the previous ones.
頑張れ!


ピーターのお母さんは三人の息子がいました:

桃太郎
金太郎
・・・・

あと一人は誰でしょう?

--
(ピーターのおかあさんはさんにんのむすこがいました:

ももたろう
きんたろう
・・・・

あとひとりはだれでしょう?)

(Source: 柚色の空へ向かって[Turn Towards the Yellow Sky?])


Edit: Sorry - I really should be mentioning this every time I write one of these: If you think you know the answer, please shoot me an email at ecyrus@gmail.com, along with your name (or alias) and your website or blog. If you're correct, I'll post your name and a plug to your site when I reveal the answer. Thanks! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let's enjoy Japanese: We all know a little

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I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and he pointed out something I had never realized before. Apparently there is a very well-known English expression of Japanese origin floating around out there, and I bet most people, like myself, never even suspected it was Japanese.

I'll give you a hint - 班長

The reading is はんちょう (hancho), and it means section leader. Yup, as in head hancho. So obscure - I'm really curious as to how that one found its way into the English lexicon. Anyway, there you go. If you thought you didn't know any Japanese (aside from sushi and sayonara), you were mistaken.

先日は友達と話してて勉強になった。よく知られている英語の表現のことなんだ。この表現は、(医原)根源が日本語です。全然知らなかった! 確かほぼ外国人の皆はこういうこと知らないと思う。

例の表現は "head hancho"だ。意味はボスだね。でも "hancho" = 班長ってこと・・・勉強になったなぁ。

Monday, April 19, 2010

Let's enjoy Japanese: Me, myself, and I, and I, and me...

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In English, when you want to refer to yourself, you don't have my choices. It's usually "I" or "me," depending on the word's grammatical function and whether or not you are an intellectually-challenged cartoon character (If me is a dumb enough character, me cannot use "I." Me also inclined to SMASH!). Not so in Japanese, which is just a thread in the tapestry that is a picture of why Japanese is a difficult language for native English-speakers.

In Japanese, there are a number of options depending on one's gender and desired level of politeness: わたくし、わたし、あたし、僕 (ぼく)、俺(おれ)、わし、うち、and more. Figuring out when to use what isn't too difficult, but understanding the nuance of each word can take some time. I'm still working on it.

For a while now I've been a 僕 (ぼく) guy. 俺(おれ) has always struck me as a little too rough/"trying to be cool" and isn't appropriate for more formal situations. 私 (わたし in this case) is a too stiff for a guy to use in casual situations. 僕 is a good medium, so I've become accustomed to using it.

Recently I was talking to my friend Ben (who has lived in Japan and is currently dating a nice Japanese grad student in the States) and he suggested I try using 俺 with my girlfriend. So I did. The next time I texted her I used it, and her response was 「男らしくていいね」 - something like "Nice, it's pretty masculine." She liked it? Should I have been using it all along? The seeds of doubt were sown, so I decided to do some investigating.

The next time I spoke to her on the phone, I asked her about the difference between 僕 and 俺. I've learned that different people seem to have different takes on this. Her feelings are that おれ is perhaps more adolescent but can also be masculine, and is a (friendly?) familiar way of speaking with friends or girlfriend (or family, I suppose). ぼく can sound kind of childish, but is also a bit more polite, and perhaps...refined? I asked her which she thought I should use and she didn't really have a preference.

I also asked one of the English teachers I work with. She's in her mid-twenties, so her perspective should be comparable. She answered similarly. ぼく is usable when trying to be more polite, like when speaking with coworkers or (sometimes) superiors, though you should probably switch to the more formal わたし or わたくし if you're really trying to be polite. おれ is indeed more casual and more masculine, but Teacher also said it can sound a bit adolescent, like a teenage boy or something. She also said she doesn't care which one her boyfriend uses (I bet he uses おれ, though).

My friend Dylan has also been using ぼく for quite a while. He used to use おれ, but had trouble remembering to switch in polite settings, so he made the permanent change. He asked a couple of our female friends, who said that ぼく is 絶対いい (absolutely the way to go). According to them, ぼく seems to carry an air of sensitivity and perhaps intelligence. Plus it doesn't seem to be used as often among guys, so it can set one apart. Indeed, my girlfriend did mention that many 先生(doctors/teachers?) she knows tend to use ぼく.

Joe's girlfriend also prefers him to use 僕. I guess the 僕's have it?

For now I think I'll stick with 僕, but what do you think? If you're a guy in Japan, what do you use? If you're a gal, what do you prefer? And please vote in the little poll in the right sidebar!

英語で名乗ることがぜんぜん難しくない。自分のことの言葉が二つしかないから。"I" と "me"だね。でも日本語はいろいろあるので、英語の母語話者としてちょっと分かりにくいんです。

僕は「僕」タイプだと思う。以前から「僕」って使っている。別に失礼ではないしフレンドゥリなんだね。

最近Benと名の友達と話してて、彼は「ポールの彼女と話したら「俺」って使ってみたほうがいいね」って言った。だから、そうした。彼女の反応は「男らしくていいね」って言ったんだ。そうっか!でも僕は普段「僕」って使うね。「俺」の方がいいかな。って考えてた。

その後、いろんな人と話した。二十代の女性の英語先生とか友達とか。結果は、女性によって違うかな。僕の彼女は、どちでもいいって言った。英語の先生もそういう答え。他の日本女性は「僕って絶対いい」って言った。Joeの彼女も「僕」が好きだ。

違いやニュアンスはちょっと分かりにくいけど多分だいたいわかる。まあ、とりあえず「僕」続けようかね。難しい話題だから、コメントとか意見とかよかったら書いてください!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The early days of Japanese robots

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And why you should drink ultra-slimming Chaka tea.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Photo Contest at WIV

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Joshua over at the Wide Island View asked me if I wouldn't mind plugging their currently-running Spring Photo Contest. I took a peek at the winners from their winter contest and I must warn you that the competition looks pretty steep - some high quality cameras and photographers in the mix. But entry is free and there are some prizes to be won, so check it out if you like to take photos.

You can find the details here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There are still days

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Sometimes people ask me if I've gotten used to living in Japan or if there are still things that bother me. The answer to both questions is "yes." Life has gotten a lot smoother for me, but there are still things that really frustrate me.

Yesterday I was cleaning my apartment, trying to clear out some junk that has been taking up space, and I filled a couple of non-burnable bags. In Japan, we sort our trash into burnable and non-burnable garbage, which are collected on different days. I can deal with that. But sometimes there will randomly be a day when the trash isn't collected. Today was such a day. So now I have four bags of non-burnables crowding my entranceway, and the next non-burnable collection won't be until next week!

There was probably a notice or something, but if so I didn't notice it anywhere. And of course the city website isn't updated with such information. So yes, there are still things that frustrate me.

時々「日本に慣れた?」とか「困ったことまだあるの?」と聞かれている。どちらにおいても、答えは「はい」です。生活はドンドンやさしくになったけど困ることあるよ。

昨日は、アパートを掃除してて、二つのゴミ袋いっぱい燃えないごみを詰めた。日本では、燃えるごみと燃えないごみを分けて、別の日に収集されてる。それは大丈夫だよ。でもさ、たまにどういうわけが収集・・・しない。今日はそいう日だったんだ。だから玄関に四つのゴミ袋あって、次の燃えないごみの日は来週やろう。

どこかにお知らせあったかもしらないけどあったら僕は気が付かなかった。で伊丹市のウェブサイトはそんな案内がないね。うん、困ったことまだあるんだ。

Learn English with SMAP

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These commercials are insane, what with the random bikinis and SMAP pelvic thrusts.





これは・・・ちょっとね。

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

J-Word Play #9 (Answer)

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Whoops - let this one get by me. Sorry about that, if anyone was waiting for the answer.
So the riddle was:

病気になったら行かない医者って何でしょう?

Answer
会社

Joe got this one right, but doubted himself because the answer seemed too obvious. So the question in this case means "What doctor don't you go to if you get sick?" The answer lies in the reading of 医者 (いしゃ;doctor). If you ignore the kanji and just think of words that incorporate いしゃ, you will no doubt eventually come up with 会社(かいしゃ), which means company. Again, doesn't translate so well into English, but there you have it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Those about to teach, we salute you

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This week (or somewhere there abouts), spring vacation will end and schools will begin the new term. For many expats living here, spring means sakura and ichinensei. Tomorrow I'll begin teaching classes again. As usual, I'm excited and a little apprehensive. Excited because there are new minds to be molded, and because I'm going to be team teaching a new kind of course this year called 総合英語, which is basically an integrated studies course. We'll be teaching the students other subjects in English. I'm apprehensive because as this is only my second year (although my third rotation of ichinensei), I haven't yet run full circle of the English department.

In many Japanese high schools, the teachers advance with their students. In other words, your English teacher, math teacher, history teacher, etc. moves with you and teaches you for 3 years, in most cases. So this is my first year working with a few of the teachers. Could be good, but it's just stressful readjusting my teaching/class style every year and not knowing exactly what to expect at first.

Anyway, to those who are beginning another new year, good luck and God speed to you. To those who are about to begin for the first time, just remember to be friendly and confident. Everyone makes mistakes and (nearly) everyone gets nervous from time to time, but if you maintain a sense of humor and own the classroom, all will be well with the world.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

You, me, and Pocky

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There are a lot of Pocky commercials out there, but here are a few from a series that I like. Most of them involve some bad mojo going down, followed by someone singing 「あなたもわたしもポッキ」, which I guess is literally "My and your Pocky." You know, sometimes there's nothing you can do but have a Pocky. And, uh, we're all connected together through the Pocky? I dunno, but the commercials are pretty amusing.











Mom: Here's a snack.



Creepy guy: Hey, you're young, huh!

I think my favorites are the first one and the one where the mom comes in. The expressions on all their faces are priceless. Which do you like?

僕は最初とお母さんのお邪魔のCMが好きだ。あなたは?

A thing of beauty

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A pleasant surprise - I had ordered this new (and expensive) keyboard a couple weeks ago. The vendor send me this email afterwards that they were out of stock and probably wouldn't send it to me until the end of April. Well, it came early. I just finished setting it up and playing around with it a little bit. It's a Korg SP-250, and man is it nice - weighted keys, beautiful sound quality, a damper pedal...makes me wish I had played more over the past few years. I took lessons for 7 years when I was a kid, then quit around high school and just kind of played every now and then with no real regularity (although I had a pretty nice keyboard in college that is waiting for me back home). Anyway, time to make up for lost time. If I get any good I'll try to post a recording or two!

ナイスサプライズだよ。二週間ぐらい前にこのキーボードを注文したんだ。その後でお店は品切れしてたから4月末に到着だってお知らせしました。さあ、早く来たよ!

僕は子供の時に七年間レッソン取って高校進学したとやめてしまった。あのところからただ所々弾いた。じゃあ、失った時間を取り戻す時だな。よっしゃ!もし十分に弾けたら、いつかブログで録音とか貼るね。

Tennis Insurance

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From the folks who brought you the commercial with the ninjas...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

All my shoes

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Japan has a shoe culture. I think most of us are at least vaguely aware that in Japan one's shoes are removed before entering someone's home. What many people may not know is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The practice of owning and wearing several different pairs of shoes for different occasions isn't uniquely Japanese - just ask any American women how many pairs she has in her closet. In Japan, however, there are cultural forces driving this practice. Specifically, the Japanese concern for cleanliness. While there are many instances where this concern is overlooked or ignored, it has become deeply rooted in many Japanese customs and daily practices - such as treatment of shoes.

日本は靴の文化がありますね。外国人は日本では家に入る前靴を脱ぐってことうすうす分かると思う。でもこれは氷山の一角って分からないと思う。いくつかのくつ(ごめん)があることは日本の慣行ではない。アメリカ女性に聞いてみて。しかし確か日本ではこの慣行の原因は文化的です。特に、日本人は清潔さを大事にする。もちろん時々日本人は清潔さが気にしないけどこの考え方はたくさんの慣習の根源にあると思う。例えば、靴。

Take my base school for example. I wear my work shoes only to walk or cycle over to the school building. I take them off at the inside entrance (玄関, げんかん) and put on my indoor slippers (which for some reason can also be worn outside, but only on school grounds). I usually wear these. If there's an event in the gym, though, I either have to take off my shoes and go it in socks, or wear a pair of sneakers I bought specifically to be worn indoors. That is, unless the tarp is laid out on the gym floor. In that case I can wear my indoor slippers (but not my outdoor shoes). Today was the entrance ceremony for the new 1st-year students, and I noticed that all the attending parents had brought their own slippers from home!

Lastly, let's not forget about bathroom slippers. Yup - the bathroom entrance also has slippers on the inside, which you must exchange for your indoor slippers.

It's a practice I've gotten used to, and I can understand the reasoning behind the custom. And hey, I like the idea of not wearing shoes in the house. I have to say, though, sometimes it is still frustrating - especially at work.

例えば、僕の本部の学校。仕事行くと正装の靴を履く。玄関で脱ぎで内のスリッパを履く(どうしてか分からないけどこのスリッパは外でも履けるが学校の構内だけで)。たいていこのスリッパを履いてる。でも体育館に行ったらダメだ。そこに入りたかったらサックスソックスでか内の用スニーカーで入らないとダメだ。でも床はタープがある場合は、スリッパを履く(外の靴はダメ)。今日は入学式だった。で両親は家からスリッパ持って来たのに気が付いたんだ!

最後は、トレイトイレのスリッパある。

この慣習を慣れまして、原因の理由というか考え方よく分かる。それに家に靴無しでいることを解する。でもたまにまだちょっと困ると思う(困るってちょっと強すぎかな・・・「不便だと思う」って感じの方がいいかな)。特に仕事で。

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Japanese and your dirty apartment

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The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State did a study of 63 different languages to discover which are the most difficult to learn for a native English speaker. Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean were the top five with Japanese being #1. I don't agree, but they forgot to ask me before they published their results. Because of that oversight, the world is stuck with this: a misleading and disheartening bit of paper and ink. Their claim is almost solely based on how it takes almost three times as long to learn Japanese than some other languages, such as Spanish. That sounds pretty damning, but it's all an illusion. I'll explain it to you in a way you'll understand, figure skating and your filthy apartment.

What is the most difficult figure skating jump? Quad Salchow, right? As if I had to tell you. That is truly difficult. That's defending gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko level difficult. In the FSI way of thinking, it's not that much different from cleaning your disgusting hovel. They both take time to accomplish, right? The difference is cleaning your sticky two-room pad takes time because you're cleaning a bunch of small things which all add up. First the grimy kitchen sink, then your strangely sooty bathroom, then you have to find your bed and hose it down. No one part is difficult though. That means the whole can't be difficult. Same as Japanese. It takes a long time because in addition to all the vocab and grammar you get with any language, you're also spending time memorizing kanji and Japanese's 3+ spoken languages (normal, polite, and super polite). It adds up to a lot of time, but no one part is difficult. Unlike the Quad Salchow, where you just practice the Salchow for like 9 years, and then you only get a silver because the judges are biased jerks.


The feeling you should have after reading this is motivation. Yes, you can learn Japanese! All you have to do is dedicate 4 years of your life to it. And, you'll probably want to move to Japan. Maybe take some classes as well. It'd be a good idea to get a private tutor too... And that's it! I regret nothing!

PC Load Letter?!

1 comments
Doesn't matter what the f$&% that means, because you're taking it.


Monster Parents

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Via Japan Soc, a small article about the release of a new handbook by Tokyo authorities. Its aim is to give teachers tips on how to deal with "monster parents."

More than 60,000 teachers and workers in Tokyo's public schools will receive a copy of the new handbook by the end of the month as part of a £74,000 (10 million yen) project to curb the influence of pushy parents.

Examples of bad behaviour by those dubbed "monster parents" in the Japanese media include demands that teachers prepare lunch boxes for excursions, reprint school yearbooks with more photographs of their offspring and drop children off at home after class.

Full article here.

This is a real concern in Japan - these parents who bully teachers into meeting unreasonable expectations. I remember there was a story a few weeks back about a young teacher (if I recall correctly) in northern Japan who committed suicide, her family blaming her school for not working to relieve some of the immense pressure she was incurring from parents.

I've personally known some teachers who have had to take health leave due to the pressures of this job. It's not always monster parents, but teachers in this country have enough on their plates without the added burden.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Let's enjoy Japanese: Thankfully

2 comments
Happy Easter, to those who celebrate it. Today's Japanese will be short and sweet. Sometimes, like when writing a reflective blog entry about being grateful to someone, you may be searching for just the right kanji to express your thankfulness. Well, look no further.

Introducing, 感謝 (かんしゃ)。

感謝 is one of those nouns that can be easily verbified by simply adding する to the end. So 感謝する is to thank or be thankful.

For example:

「英語の先生にとても感謝してる。」
"I'm very grateful to my English teacher."

I hear this one often at mass:

「神に感謝」(かみにかんしゃ)
"Thanks be to God."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thanks for stopping by

2 comments
I don't normally write much about my personal life. I figure there's a niche for that kind of thing, and it's not what I'm aiming for right now. But from time to time I do like to share little insights into what's going on in my life, for those who may be interested.

Life is full of ups and downs. Living in another country doesn't change that. I've had my share of both suffering and happiness here. And I'm grateful. Certainly to many of the people I've met here, but also to my friends and family back home for being so supportive. Thank you all.

And also to those who have been reading Just Another Day. Readership has been picking up, and the comments and support are most welcome and most appreciated. I've discovered that I find blogging to be both very enjoyable and rewarding, and the Japan-related blog-o-sphere is full of interesting and friendly people. So to those who are reading, to my fellow J-bloggers - thank you very much! I'll continue doing my best to provide both entertaining and informative Japan-related material.

On a related note, I would also like to thank Shadow (though he hasn't touched pen to paper in some time) and Joe for their help and their well-written contributions. Two (or three or four, as the case may be) heads are better than one, as they say, and I'm glad to have contributors who can provide differing views and insights.

(And don't be surprised if you see more more contributors in the future - I am always striving to improve the content here).

Right now life is pretty good. Work is satisfying, I have good friends both here and abroad, and I just started dating an awesome girl who isn't afraid to call me on my Japanese mistakes - thanks, Yoshie! =) Recently I've been pretty lucky.

So everyone, thank you very much. Keep reading and I'll keep doing my best!

普通は僕の私生活についてあまり書きません。そんなブログインタネットにあるけど今のところ私の目的ではないんです。でもたまに、興味あるひといる場合備えて、ちょっと教えるのがいいと思います。

もちろん人生は山あり谷ありですね。外国に住んでもそうです。僕は日本に住んでるまま苦痛も幸せもである。で感謝してる。確かに日本に出会った方に、でもアメリカにいる友達と家族にも。本当にありがとう。

そしてブログを読んでる方にも。読者増えてて、コメントとサポートがすごくありがたいです。ブログは楽しいしやりがいがあると見つけて、日本に関係のあるブログスフィアは面白くて優しい方がいっぱいいる。読者にも仲間のブロガーにもありがとう!私は頑張り続けますよ。

でShadowとJoeにも、ありがとう!上手な寄稿者いってよっかたですよね。

今のところに人生は結構いいと思います。仕事は一般的に満足です。日本にもアメリカにも仲良い友達います。凄く素敵な女の子と付き合い始めたばかりで、彼女は僕が日本語間違っているときに遠慮なく指摘くれる子です。ありがとう、よしえ!=) 最近僕は結構ラッキーだと思いますね。

で、皆さん、ありがとうございます。読み続けてくれまして、僕は頑張り続けますよ!

Kuri on the brain

2 comments


Girl: ...Chestnut. (くり。)

Sushi chef: Urchin. (うに。)

Girl ...Chestnut.  (くり。)

Sushi chef: (...Wtf)  ((-_-;))

Friday, April 2, 2010

Just another obligatory sakura photo

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life in Japan as an AET

6 comments
In recent years the role of AET, or Assistant English Teacher, has become a highly coveted job. While there are many programs geared towards teaching English in non-English-speaking countries, probably none are so famous as JIT - the Japan Interchange Teaching Programmme. And it's no wonder. It's a pretty romantic thought - flying over to the land of the rising sun, spending your mornings staring blissfully at Mr. Fuji (visible from anywhere in Japan), trading manga with students while dodging kancho attacks. As a current resident of Japan and AET, I felt it my duty to share my experience with you, and hopefully provide some useful advice to those considering applying to JIT.


Getting in

Getting in can be tough. Almost everyone who applies to JIT has studied Japanese for at least a few years and has read all of the Naruto manga (it's important preparation for encountering ninja once you get here). I didn't have much manga experience, but I did write a pretty impressive personal statement about the Tokugawa Shogunate and it's impact on the present-day samurai class, and then I aced the interview by wooing the panel with my knowledge of sushi. A little insider's tip: bring Japanese beer (Asahi, Sapporo, Kirin) to the interview and share a kanpai (cheers) with the panelists when they're finished asking you questions. The kanpai is very important part of Japanese culture, and they will appreciate your knowledge and sensitivity.

Getting in, in summary:
  • Speak the language.
  • Naruto.
  • Ninja / Samurai.
  • Sushi.
  • Drink.

The flight

For many AET's, the first flight to Japan is the longest they've ever taken. Anticipation of this trip can be both exciting and anxiety-inducing. Fear not - I am going to tell you how not only to weather the flight, but to enjoy it. There's a common misconception that drinking on long flights is a bad idea because it dehydrates you. Wrong. Dehydration is your friend up there. With about 100 passengers per bathroom, spare yourself the waiting in line. Besides, drunk people don't notice or care about being dehydrated (until the next morning), so have at those little bottles of rum. Stay away from the beer, though. Remember - potency, not volume.

The flight, in summary:
  • Drink.
  • Quality over quantity.

Settling in

When you first arrive, you will probably be feeling a bit lonely, and this is natural. But trust me on this - don't make Japanese friends right away. You're in Japan - there are Japanese people everywhere. You'll have plenty of time and opportunities. For now, just stay aloof and play hard to get. Be that cool foreigner who always answers monosyllabically. You're better off finding the one or two other foreigners who live in your area (and good luck - there's about 1 foreigner per 50 square miles on average) and clinging to them like an otaku to his gunpla (if you're unfamiliar with those words, you haven't been accepted by JIT - try again next year). Only by spending time with other foreigners will you be able preserve your cultural identity and ward of culture shock. That, and alcohol.

Also, remember - you're in Japan now. No more of that Western food bullshit. You're here now, so do it right. Get a rice cooker and use it at least 3 times a day. Rice is your new bread. But Japanese people don't eat bread, so nevermind that expression. And McDonald's? McDonald's is for Americans living in America, or Japanese people living in Japan. You don't need to pollute your body with that crap. Go eat some ramen instead.

You may be worrying about stuff like furnishing your apartment, paying your bills, getting paid...well, don't. Japan is a super high-tech society. That means that like the United Federation of Planets, the Japanese have evolved beyond the need for money. It's great until you decide to go home with no money. And no, you can't stay - they will kick you out.

Settling in, in summary:
  • Cling to foreigner friends like that dude to his pillow...er, wife.
  • Drink.
  • If it's not written with hiragana, don't eat it.
  • What the hell is a yen?

Work

What work? You speak English, right? So speak English at some kids, then pop a tab with your fellow English teachers.

Work, in summary:
  • Talk.
  • Drink.

Play

I could have included this under work, but I didn't want to confuse you. Drinking in Japan is obligatory, especially at company parties. I knew a guy who gave a pitcher of beer the stink eye at a work party (actually I think he was trying to stifle a burp) and was transferred to Hokkaido the next week. No amount of head-slamming floor bows could save him. If you really don't want to drink, tell them you're allergic to alcohol and pray that they leave it at that. If they don't...well, I hear the ice in Hokkaido is lovely this time of year.

Get a Japanese boyfriend/girlfriend. The best places to go to find a suitable partner are usually located in vibrant urban locations, like Tokyo's Roppongi. You should look for bars and clubs where lots of foreigners hang out - that means the Japanese patrons you'll meet there are very open-minded and cosmopolitan. Maid cafes are also good spots for guys to meet cute Japanese girls. You may be paying her, but trust me - she really wants to talk to you.

Devour the media. You're in Japan, the birthplace of the greatest cartoons in the world. Ever. Many AETs study Japanese at work so that they can go home and read manga or watch anime. Or read manga while watching anime. Take advantage of the gift you've been given.

Compartmentalize your life. Remember how you made those foreign friends? Well, chances are eventually you will also start hanging out with Japanese. When this happens, do not cross the steams! I mean, when you're hanging out with your Japanese friends, doing your foreigner thing, the last thing you need is another Non-Japanese coming in and stealing your mojo! If you do happen to accidentally wind up in the situation where there's another foreigner around, give him the eye. If he speaks to you in English, speak Japanese back. If he uses Japanese, use English. Soon he'll know what's up. If all else fails you can just stab him and leave him in a gutter. Since there's no crime in Japan, Japanese police never have to deal with homicides. Chances are you'll get off scot-free.

Play, in summary:
  • Drink.
  • Foreigner bars, maid cafes.
  • Naruto.
  • There can only be one.

Well, I think that about covers it. We each have to find our own path, and if you do come to Japan on the JIT Programmme, I'm sure your experience will be very different from mine. Just remember, as an AET you are not only a teacher, but you are an ambassador for your country. So if you meet one of your countrymen who is also here through JIT, that guy is a fucking impostor and needs to be sent packing. This is your Japan.