Wednesday, July 28, 2010

J-Word Play #13

Hope this one doesn't bug you too much.


Think you know the answer? Send it to along with your website/blog/twitter for a free plug if you're right.

Japanese don't sweat or smell?

According to Amy Chavez, anyway. Add this to the pile of stereotypes I threw out long ago. While it's true that I haven't encountered as many smelly, sweaty people in this country as you might expect during a hot, humid, Japanese summer, to say that they don't sweat or smell is just absurd.

Anyone else care to weigh in?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just another picture of the day: 7/28/10

Content Warning (Shoo away the kiddies) 


You know, there are a variety of work-related skills. I consider myself a pretty good worker, but I tend to get rather unproductive during these summer months without classes (so I guess it's fair enough that I'm being sent all over the place to help at other schools this summer). When you're working in such an environment (usually an office), there is a skill that some are born with and some must learn: skipping out early. Leave too late and what's the point? Ooo, look at me, I left 5 minutes early. Exciting. Leave too early and not only do you run the risk of feeling bad for essentially stealing money, but you also run an increasingly large risk of getting caught.

Being that things can get around the interwebs, I don't think I'll tell a personal story. Perish the thought of leaving work early. Here's a close call that someone had yesterday. Someone called, huh...Peter.

Yesterday Pete decided he had been sitting at his desk reading that Earthsea novel long enough and decided to clock out about an hour early. Without actually clocking out, of course. A glance at the Vice Principals' desks (yeah, his school has 3 VPs; it's special): only one was there. Either the other two had clocked out or were off doing Vice Prinipaly things. Out the back door! Down the stairs, outside, almost home free, and...oh,  one of the VP's was walking towards the school. Seems he had hit up the convenience store. Pete waved, trying to be all natural. The VP stopped and half smiled. He knew. 「どこに行く?」("Where you going?")
A little off-guard, Peter feigned ignorance. "Hmmm?" 「もう帰る?」("Heading home?") The VP asked.

There was no going back now - they say that follow-through is the most important part of any sport it can be applied to. Pete nodded and smiled 「はい!」Luckily this was the VP that didn't really care to bust peoples' balls. 「じゃ、お疲れ様!」("Well then, good work today!"). Peter waved and headed home.

Close call for Pete. He'll have to be more careful next time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010




Saturday, July 24, 2010





Friday, July 23, 2010

Racism: Mini-update

Last month I briefly mentioned the current Arizona state law that is receiving a lot of bad press and how I believe it is being incorrectly interpreted. Apparently the (Democrat-appointed) judge presiding over the current federal lawsuit case read the law the same way I did. This quote is addressing the federal government's claim of preemption, but indirectly gets to the heart of the discrimination issue (in that people would not be racially profiled as they are in Japan, but only ID'ed in the case of criminal activity). She asks:


"How is there a preemption issue?" the judge asked. "I understand there may be other issues, but you're arguing preemption. Where is the preemption if everybody who is arrested for some crime has their immigration status checked?"

Good question. Also would like to add that Loco is currently running a very engaging series about racism on his blog, and I recommend checking it out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy shoes


As I may or may not have mentioned, Yoshie was here for the long weekend. As sappy as it sounds, it was quite heartwarming to see my usually man-shoe-filled 玄関 (Genkan, front area near the door) hosting some feminine footwear for a change.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let's Enjoy Japanese: As much as you want

Two of the first expressions most newcomers to Japan quickly learn are 食べ放題 (たべほうだい) and 飲み放題 (のみほうだい), which mean all you can eat and drink, respectively. Although these are by far the most commonly used constructions, it can be used to indicate other "unbound" acts.

 歌い放題 is all you can sing and 乗り放題 is unlimited riding.

やり放題 indicates a spree, but be careful as やりたい放題 means a fling (やる can mean "to do," like する, but unless you are in Kansai, it's more often used in a risque sense, like "doing it" in English).

It seems that it can be tacked onto a whole host of verbs. While reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets the other day, I came across a good example describing the Weasleys' yard:

Basically the grass was growing out of control and wherever it wanted.

Here's another example. That's some cheap parking.

Ihounokyaku and Yoshie in Osaka

Yesterday Dylan and Sammy of 異邦の客 had a show in Osaka at a snazzy little place called Kobe Casablanca. They were joined by a drummer named Uchida, vocalist Aoife O'Donovan, and Yoshie on the keyboard(yay!). I recorded the 1st set and a couple of pieces Yoshie did solo - sorry for the low quality of the recording. If you like, have a look and listen:

By the way, kudos to anyone who identifies the origin of the Ihounokyaku theme song (heard in the first part).

Yoshie has another show tomorrow evening, so I'll be posting more videos or pictures. 'Til then.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let's enjoy Japanese: Don't judge me too harshly!

In a recent post I briefly introduced the kanji 中止, which means cancellation. In the comments, Ol' G Dawg pointed out an interesting expression that accompanied it on the big display. It's a little cut off, but you can read most of it - 悪しからずご了承ください。What does it mean? I had an inkling but was unfamiliar with this one, so I did a little research.

According to Yahoo, 悪しからず(あしからず):


So it's an expression that you use when you've gotten someone's hopes up or they have certain expectations and you let them down. Essentially it means "Don't think poorly of me" or "Please don't be too upset with me." If you tack a ご了承ください (ごりょうしょうください) to the end, it becomes a little nicer and more polite.

Someone on another Japanese site mentioned that this expression isn't casually used a lot, as it can come across as being 皮肉 (ひにく, sarcastic). So I suppose this is a good one to be able to understand and recognize, but probably not one you'll be throwing around in daily conversation. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kotoba!: More than just words

Ah, the electronic dictionary. One of the most, if not the most, important tools you can have while learning Japanese. The big problem is they're pretty pricey. An average one will set you back a couple of cool 10,000yen notes while a top of the line one will cost you the same as a lightly used scooter and a full tank of gas. Fortunately there are alternatives, like paper dictionaries. HA! Just kidding. But really, don't use them. They're heavy and slow and if one is light enough to carry around it will absolutely be lacking in information. Unfortunately it seems no matter what you do you're going to have to suck it up and lay down a year's worth of beer money on one of these mechanical wonders. Or get Kotoba! which is free. I suggest you go with the pro-beer option.

First, this is a silly question but I have to ask; Do you already have an iPhone or an iPod touch? What? You don't? That's weird. Well, go buy one. I'll wait.

OK. Good. Now install Kotoba!, the completely free Japanese dictionary. Yes, what follows is a review but I'm already telling you to get it. I admit I'm completely biased. I love this program. I might even be in love with it. I don't know how it feels about me. Most reviews give the good points first but I'm going to go backwards here and get the bad ones out of the way. Also, if I did the good points first the review would be top heavy and would fall over and break the internet.


- No definitions in Japanese. As you progress along your journey to learn Japanese you will begin to realize that definitions translated into English and other languages lack the finesse and nuance of a simple Japanese definition of a Japanese word. Many advanced students of Japanese prefer ordinary Japanese electronic dictionaries, the same dictionaries Japanese natives use, for that reason. If you are JLPT level N3-N5 this most likely doesn't apply to you and English only definitions would be fine, if not much, much better.

- Searching for a word sometimes brings up strangely prioritized results. This bad point will sound a lot worse than it is. Let's say I want to look up the English word "take" to find the Japanese translation. Let's make a guess at what would be the first definition to appear in order of most common usage. I would guess toru(取る): to take (something). You might guess the other toru(撮る): to take (a picture). Or maybe even motteiku(持って行く): to take (something to somewhere). But we're all wrong, the first definition we get is tsukau(使う): to use. What? Well, one of the definitions of tsukau they give is titled an "idiomatic expression" and is written as "to take (one's lunch)". The heck does that mean? Fortunately the word following tsukau is much better, kakaru(掛かる): to take (time or money). But after that we're back to weirdness, aogu(仰ぐ): to look up to/depend on. Aogu can also apparently be translated as "to drink, to take". Huh. OK. Following that we get our toru's, our motteiku, and ukeru(受ける) which is another good one. So out of the first seven words, five are good. You can always check if the word is what you're looking for by reading the example sentences which are in Japanese(Kanji and Romaji) as well as in your foreign language of choice. I know this part makes the dictionary sound terrible, but it's amazing how rarely it causes me problems. Usually I'm looking up Japanese words for English translations anyway.

- You need an iPhone or iPod Touch. You also need to eat to have energy to work the iPhone/iPod. You probably need a house to live in to keep it out of the rain too.



- Based on Jim Breen's excellent JMdict dictionary. You might be using this already. Or maybe you use Rikaichan which is based on Jim Breen's work. Basically I'd be shocked if you didn't already know and use these resources daily. If you don't and want to learn more about them (as you absolutely should) googleして.

- Size and convenience. Normal electronic dictionaries are a bit smaller than a stack of B6 papers. They are definitely not pocket-sized unless you still wear your JNCO jeans from 1995. If you live in Japan and want to learn Japanese it is imperative you have a dictionary within easy reach at all times so you can study when your not studying. With a dictionary always at your fingertips you can take a second here and there during the day to look up Kanji you see on a sign or check out a word you overhear. We're all lazy. No one wants to root through their bag, unzip their dictionary from it's sheath, only to look up something they're just a little bit curious about. Instead we'd all just half wonder what that word means and forget about it. But with Kotoba! it's on your phone or your mp3 player, which is always right there for you. Like a good friend. In your pocket.

- Multiple ways to search for Kanji. There are tons of ways to find that Kanji that you always see but can't seem to remember. Of course you can search by the reading, if you know it. You can draw the Kanji yourself by activating "simplified Chinese" in the iPhone/iPod's keyboard settings. You can use the SKIP system which is what many popular paper Kanji dictionaries use. You can search by JLPT level. You can even search by Japanese school grades. This is incredibly handy if you want to feel superior to a 6 year-old, yet inferior to a 7 year-old. By far the best way I've found to search though, which goes back to one of my previous blog entries, is by multi-radical. You don't have to know what the arbitrary base radical of the Kanji is. Just select the radicals which make up the Kanji and your Kanji will appear, like magic. Having this system always at my side has drastically improved my kanji reading ability since now I can quickly look up any Kanji I run into.

- *******Word lists.******* To me, this is the most important part of Kotoba!, so it gets asterisks. This has nothing to do with it being a dictionary, but everything to do with how it is an incredible study aid. When you look up a word and decide this is a word worth remembering, just click the star in the top right corner. This will add it to your word list. You can have multiple word lists broken up into verbs, adjectives, nouns, or whatever. As for me, I break them into groups of 50 or so miscellaneous words. When I have a bunch, I make a new list. That in itself is kind of cool. I mean, this is supposed to just be a dictionary. It's nice that I can save words I want to remember. Although a list of words isn't really useful for studying. What would be great is if Kotoba!, this free dictionary software, could export your word lists into a flash card program like Anki. That way you wouldn't have to retype all your Kanji, readings, meanings, and tags. Oh wait, IT CAN DO THAT. In Kotoba! just click "E-Mail CSV" and send it to your computer. CSV stands for comma-separated values and it's one of the formats that Anki can import, perfectly, without any fiddling to get it to work right. If you use Anki already you might already realize how powerful this makes Kotoba!. Typing new Kanji, meanings, readings, and tags into Anki is time consuming and a pain. When you carry around and use Kotoba! you are always building your list of useful words to study. Anytime you look up something new and interesting just click on that star. One plus of studying words this way is that you learn common Japanese words used in daily life, not only the ones a textbook designer thought you should know (though, you should be studying them too). So Kotoba!(free) + Anki(free) + common words you run into(free) = an excellant way to learn new vocabulary.

- Miscellaneous good stuff.

>Has a good amount of colloquial terms.

>Has stroke order for Kanji.

>Has the Katakana equivalent of most English words, which has randomly come in handy for me.

>In addition to English, Kotoba! supports French, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.


I conclude that it is awesome. It's super awesome. What more do you want for free? It might even be worth picking up an iPhone or iPod Touch for, though that would make it drastically less free. I say save those yennies. I know I can't live without it.

If you give the app a shot, let us know what you think in those comments down there.

My first Hanshin Tigers game...

...was a waste of three and a half hours. But I will try to salvage what I can by pointing out some important kanji a little further down.

The field was in bad shape. Don't know why they couldn't do us the courtesy of canceling the game more than 30 minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

Here are two of the teachers I went with. We were sad.

The cheering section didn't want to pack it in, so like 8 guys and a chick with trumpets started leading the leftover crowd in a few cheers for a victory tomorrow.

And here's our lesson for the day, good to know if you plan on attending some event that's contingent upon the weather or other uncontrollable factors. The message displayed in white says that today's game is cancelled. The yellow kanji, 中止 (ちゅうし) are what you want to keep your eyes peeled for. 中止 - cancellation.

Ah well, I guess it could have been worse. They could have played and lost to the Giants.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ticking people off


There are a few of these videos floating around, but I like this one the best. I imagine this would be a rather effective (if not comical in its absurdity) way of alienating someone you just met.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Just another picture of the day 7/12/10: English


You know, most J-blogs at least periodically feature photos of "Engrish" found around Japan. This one is no exception. But you know, as prevalent as it is, "Engrish" is a lot lesson common than perfectly fine, plain old understandable English. Of course no one blogs about it because that's boring. But I just thought it was worth noting. Here's a sign that I saw in a bar I visited in Saga recently. I liked the English.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Let's Enjoy Japanese: To an extent

The other day I was talking to Yoshie about something and didn't know the Japanese expression for "to an extent." So I looked it up, used it, and promptly forgot. Today I was studying some kanji and came across 程 (ほど, てい), which means extent or degree, and is used in said expression. Then at lunch I was talking with another teacher about sports in Japan and I think I asked if rugby were popular in high school (since we have a decent-sized team at ours), and he replied, "Ahh...well, to some extent."

Weird how that always happens - once you learn a word, you notice it everywhere. Anyway, I'll stop beating around the bush. "To some extent" is ある程度 (ていど). If you look at these examples, you'll also see that if you stick の at the end, it is used to indicate a certain amount or degree of something.


ある程度の成功 - a degree of success (limited success)
ある程度の時間 - a certain amount of time
ある程度の技術 - a certain degree of skill


J-Word Play #12 (Answer)

No takers this time. Well, here's the riddle once more, and the answer:



The riddle asks what place has a thousand leaves. The answer is the Japanese prefecture Chiba, because its kanji (千葉) mean thousand and leaf, respectively.
Source: NazoNazoYama

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New vending machine!

Beverages: check
Ice cream: check
Soup: check
Eggs(?!): check
Liquor: check
Porn & condoms: check
...the list goes on.

But now, behold!

Bananas: ...check-a-roo!

Hope we get one over here in Kansai. You know what a banana fan I am.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Noodle Tricks


Kinda reminds me of those trick basketball shot videos...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Final Fantasy VI Opera


Man, what a bang-up job Uematsu did with Final Fantasy VI. This really takes me back. I'd love to attend something like this while I'm in Japan.

Broken Wear


Nice train.

Thanks to Dylan for the link.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

J Girl Adventures

My good friend Paul asked me to write for his blog, so here I am. You might have seen me making less than constructive comments in the comboxes from time to time. If you haven't you aren't missing much. I currently live in the USA but I've spent about a year and change in Japan (not consecutively) and make my way back there from time to time. My Japanese is excellent if you are only interested in talking with people under the age of 4, but I think that's just cause they don't catch on to the fact that I really don't know what they are saying.

At this point if you haven't given up you might be asking yourself a few questions:

1.If he doesn't even live in Japan why is he writing for a blog about days in Japan?
2. Why is the post called "J Girl Adventures?"
3. Why don't they sell Cheez-Its and Goldfish in Japan? They are delicious.

The answers to 1&2 I'll get to shortly. The answer to number 3 is &$%*!

The reason this post is called J Girl Adventures is due to the short black haired girl (she's in her 20's, don't call the police) sitting next to me while I type this, singing a song consisting only of the words (?) "chuck" "tock" and "cluck." I don't know what it means. She is Japanese (though I'm pretty sure her song is not). If I gave you her name she would kill me so I'll just refer to her as "Chibi." I promise she does exist. She does lots of crazy/funny/mind-searingly frightening things and because she comes from the land of the rising sun I get to write about them here.

Here is an example:

Picture a strikingly handsome man with chiseled features sprawled out on a futon watching the epic drama of "Deal Or No Deal." Enter Chibi.

Chibi: What are you doing?
Me: Watching TV.
Chibi: OK.
Chibi then proceeds to make her way over to me and begins poking me with her fingers in my stomach rather firmly with an inquisitive look on her face.

Me: What are you doing?
Chibi: ....

Continues to poke me

Me: Are you checking for something?
Chibi: Yeah checking to see if you are benpi or not.
Me: ??
Chibi: Seeing if you are constipated.
Me: Do I look constipated?
Chibi: No.

Chibi gets up and leaves.

I learn new words every day.