Saturday, December 24, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

J-Word Play #22 (Answer)

Our last riddle was kind of a toughie. A few guesses, but no correct answers!


To those who submitted answers, thanks for trying and don't be discouraged!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Year's Cards: All About Nengajo

Every year around Christmas time in the US, the season's greetings cards make their rounds. Many families, individuals, or even businesses send out Christmas or holiday cards to friends, family, clients, etc. They can be nice, but I've never really been big on them. Though it's much the same thing, I was more into the Japanese version of this custom while I was living over there. Every year, people in Japan send out 年賀状, New Year's greeting cards.

My first year working in Japan, I decided that to improve my Japanese and blend in better (both at work and into the culture), I would send out cards to some of my coworkers. It was kind of hard work, but worth it I think. Got a lot of practice writing kanji, anyway!

One thing I really like about 年賀状 is their variety. I'm not really a big collector, but I enjoyed receiving and keeping all the different cards every year. The general theme of each year's cards depends upon the  animal of that year, derived from the Chinese zodiac (十二支). The years I was in Japan were those of the cow, tiger, and rabbit, so most of the cards I've collected show those animals. Some cards are custom-made and sport family pictures, much like a lot of Christmas cards in the U.S. 

In my experience, many foreigners in Japan don't bother with them and aren't really expected to. So if you do send some out, you may surprise your friends and coworkers. Doing so is a good way to get some back, too. Generally people start sending them a week or two before New Year's (the post office will hold them and wait until New Year's to deliver them), and then during the first week or two of the new year they will often send cards to people from whom they received but didn't originally send one. They often write "年賀状ありがとうございました!" (Thanks for the card) on the front as an acknowledgement.

If you're interested in trying to send some yourself or you've received a card and want to know the deal, here's an explanation for you.

The boxes at the top of the blank side are for the recipient's postal code and the space below that is for their name and address. The person should be addressed as 様 (さま). For example 田中様, 安田様, John Smith様, etc. さま is an honorific, much like さん, but is used to indicate even more respect and formality. Whether you write vertically or horizontally is a stylistic choice.

At the bottom, generally you write your name and address, though some people leave it blank or just write their name.

The  *'s at the bottom represent two numbers that can be found on every New Year's card. Every year the post office holds a lottery. There are big prizes like computers, vacations, and TV's, and smaller ones like free stamps. The larger prizes generally don't have many winners, but the cheaper ones do. The winning numbers (or digits) can be checked online or at your local post office after New Year's. Generally the number on the right is the one you need to look at, but apparently some prizes are restricted by the letter of the digits on the left (A, B, or C). I have won a few stamps in the past, but never bothered to claim them.

Here's an example of a filled-out card:

On the front of the card you don't need to write anything, but you can scribble some personalized message, write some English just for the novelty of it, or use a set phrase (決まり文句).

For New Year's, you'll generally see/hear:


Both basically mean "Happy New Year!"

Anyway, the New Year's cards are one thing I kind of miss about living in Japan. If you're over there but haven't bothered with them, it's your call...but I recommend giving it a shot.

Update (12/19/11): One thing several people have pointed out in the comments that's worth mentioning is that writing something by hand on the card is considered the "right" way to make up a 年賀状 for someone. I guess having everything printed on doesn't show the right level of effort.

Jen of Perogies and Gyoza dropped a link for a New Year's card commercial featured right now on the JP Post website. I had never seen any of these before, but apparently there are a number of these commercials from years past. Here's a previous one (maybe from 2008, which I think was the year of the rat):

Sunday, December 11, 2011

J-Word Play #22

I think this one is kind of cute.


If you think you know the answer, shoot me an email at: blueshoe [at]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rord of the Lings?

One thing that used to alternatingly amuse and annoy me was the way some of my students (and even teachers) would mis-translate one of my favorite book and movie series, The Lord of the Rings. As we all know, "l" and "r" can be problematic for Japanese, and the katakana form of this particular title don't really help matters. As a result, sometimes people would tell me that they liked "The Road of the Ring."

Now that I think about it, that title isn't too ridiculous given the story. The main characters do indeed travel a long road...of the ring.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shiina Ringo's Radiohead Cover

Paul has posted about Shiina Ringo before.

@goodandbadjapan posted a link to a cool Shiina Ringo cover of Radiohead's Creep. I love Radiohead and I love Shiina Ringo so this was right up my alley. The cover isn't the best but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Let's watch, won't we?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Japanese English

I don't know how often this occurs between other languages, but there can be a bit of confusion and a certain degree of frustration when communicating between (with?) Japanese and English. This particular occurrence is due to the existence of "Japanese English." I'm not the first one to blog about it (Orchid just put up a post about it and Daniel has written about examples of this in the past), but I've had my own frustrations and experiences with it, both as a student of Japanese and a teacher of English.

As you may know, the Japanese language contains a veritable hoard of loan words, many of which are borrowed from English. For us native Englisher speakers and for those Japanese studying our language, this is a mixed blessing.This is because a lot of these loan words have undergone some kind of metamorphosis and either their meaning or form has changed slightly (though sometimes this is also due to a discrepancy in the English language itself between countries).

For example: パンツ (pantsu) and "pants." Pants meaning "pants" would be nice, but...

When we Americans hear pants, we think of something like this:

However, Japanese people, when they hear パンツ, tend to think of something like this (yeah, sorry, that is a weird picture of underwear):

On more than one occasion I've lazily used パンツ in conversation with my girlfriend when I wanted to say "pants." I think she knows what I mean by now, but it's a bad habit I've gotten into. The Japanese word for pants (or slacks) is actually ズボン, which comes from French. I always get it mixed up with soft-shelled turtle...(すっぽん).

Ok, maybe not the best example since "pants" means something different depending on whether you use American or British English, I guess.

"Juice" is better example. In English, juice typically means a drink that comes from fruits and/or vegetables. The Japanese ジュース (jusu), however, means something closer to "soft drink," which includes soda or sports drinks.

I also mentioned that some loan words change their form. The best example I can think of is the word "challenge." In English, you can overcome a challenge, or you can challenge someone to a duel, or challenge yourself to do something, etc.

In Japanese, though, we have チャレンジする, which actually means "try." As a result, you have people (including Japanese English teachers) challenging things. Sometimes when I would ask my students a question, my Japanese partner would try to encourage them by telling them (in English) to challenge my question. While this makes total sense in Japanese (質問をチャレンジしてね - "Try to answer the question"), in English it either sounds like the student should be challenging me, or else it just doesn't make sense.

There are also a lot of Japanese phrases that are cobbled together from English words and don't really make any sense to us native speakers. A few examples are:

マイペース ("my pace"), which means at one's own pace or doing things at one's own time or schedule.

エコ ("eco"), which means (and is an abbreviation of) "ecological." Lately in English we say "green."

キャバ ("Cyaba"), which is kind of a shortened form of "cabaret" and means just that.

エヌジー ("NG"), used mainly in texting and on the internet, from the English "No good" and meaning the same. A native English speaker could probably figure this out by context, but it's not natural usage as far as  I'm aware.

リフォーム ("reform"), usually meaning "renovation."

This "Japanese English" is the downside to having a language that borrows many words from English. Love it or hate it, though, it is what it is.

As a Japanese learning English or an English speaker learning Japanese, has this pattern made learning difficult or frustrating for you? Or has it helped you in some way? I'm curious to know!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Just saw Yoshie off to the airport a couple hours ago, and now I need to catch up on some sleep. After that I'll need to catch up on some blogging! If you're reading this, thanks for checking in. More to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

War and corn soup

I know nothing gives me a hankering for corn soup like some Stallone directing a war movie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Netflix, Nico Nico, and some rambling

This post will jump around a little, so apologies in advance. 悪いな。

So first off, I just signed up for Netflix the other day. I'm a little disappointed that (a) they've distanced themselves from the DVD service, which apparently now costs extra (used to be their primary service as I understand it), and (b) their streaming movie selection isn't the greatest (licensing with studios is tough, I guess). Gobbler tells me that they used to have a lot of old streaming J-movies like Ikiru and Ran, but I guess their licensing expired. They still have an old samurai movie or two and a lot of (strange-looking) anime, though. I noticed some more recent J-movies that I'll also check out. Wish they had Japanese subs, but that would be a stretch.

Speaking of streaming and Japanese, that brings me to Nico Nico Douga, which I think I may have mentioned before. It's basically the Japanese You Tube, with what seem like fewer copyright restrictions and/or enforcement. I've used it to watch the Simpsons in Japanese (the dub is surprisingly very good, both voice and translation-wise), and I think they have some movies and stuff, as well. Just wanted to bring it up again for those of you who may be interested in watching TV shows and videos in Japanese.

Aside from the Japanese stuff and some job stuff which I'll not discuss right now, the other major thing going on right now is preparing/waiting for Yoshie to visit on the 21st. I'm psyched, but also now worried...she's been having some neck/back pains recently from an old episode of whiplash that apparently never healed properly. The doctors she was consulting gave her some medicine...and that was it. I have no medical training, but I was surprised they didn't treat it more aggressively, with a neck brace or something. Well, surprise surprise, the medicine didn't improve anything and the pain is getting worse. So now she has a neck brace and we'll see if it helps in the short term. She may have to travel here with it. I'll be really glad to see her either way, but I'm worried that she won't be very comfortable, especially on the flight. I just hope she can get past it and have a good time.

That's what's up here...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Every language is different

There is an important realization to be had for anyone who is serious about learning a second language. Each language is different. Sounds pretty "duh," doesn't it? But it's not as obvious as you might think. Or at least it wasn't for me.

In the earlier days of my Japanese education, I would try to communicate in English via Japanese, if that makes any sense. I would have in mind something that I wanted to say, and translate it, as best I could, literally into Japanese. I remember I would sometimes tell my Japanese teachers 「いい週末を過ごしてください。」(Have a nice weekend) and as kind of a joke with my friends, I would call things 「甘い」 (sweet) when I thought they were cool.

The problem is, telling someone to have a nice weekend isn't really natural Japanese. No one says that. And calling something "sweet" in that way is nonsensical. There are all kinds of expressions, phrases, and vocabulary that just aren't used, and somewhere along the line you have to change your way of thinking. Granted, in the beginning your vocabulary and knowledge of grammar will be pretty limited, and it's definitely preferable to do your best to communicate even when you sound strange or unnatural. Eventually, though, you'll start to pick up the natural "feel" of the language.

I'm not exactly sure when I made that change, but it is recently that I've begun to consciously take note of and analyze some of the similarities and differences of key ideas and expressions in English and Japanese.

One that comes to mind right away is the use of the word "bad" versus 「悪い」(わるい). In English, we can employ "bad" in a wide variety of situations and circumstances. Some examples:

- This food is pretty bad.
- What a bad movie.
- I'm really bad at French.
- You invited him to the party? That was a bad move.

While there's more than one way to express these ideas, here's how I would say these things in Japanese:


None of my Japanese renderings use the word "bad" as we foreigners learn it in Japanese. Conversely, Japanese seems to use 「悪い」a lot more often when expressing the idea of fault. For example:

(Oh, our meeting was at 2? I see. Sorry about that.)

(No, it's not your fault. It's mine.)

In the first case, 「悪いな」 expresses that yes, the speaker was bad and he's admitting that as an apology. In the second, the speaker is expressing that whoever he is addressing isn't "bad." It's his fault. In Japanese, 「悪い」or 「悪くない」are often used (along with せい) to talk about fault. The closest thing in English is the somewhat slangy expression "my bad."

There are tons more examples. If you're studying Japanese or another language and not yet at the point where you can break away from your native tongue in expressing your ideas, don't worry or rush it. It'll come with time. But being aware of the fact that you must change the way you think may help you get there quicker.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Losing at life?

So I stumbled upon a recent Japanarchist video that not only gave me a few chuckles but introduced me to a couple of J-words I was unfamiliar with. The video is about a Goo survey on what characteristics Japanese people identify with 非リア充.

リア充 is one of those Japanese words that uses bits of katakana (like ロリコン (lolicon) for example) and challenges the reader/listener to figure out what the hell it means. Luckily we have the internets. According to the survey:


In English, it means an enriched or full life. The 「リア」part is the "rea" of "real" and the 「充」belongs to 「充実」("fullness"). So the concept refers to someone who has his or her life together. Wikipedia corroborates! When we add the transformative, negative 非 kanji, we get the opposite of that. Japanarchist uses the term "loser." You could also go with "someone who sucks at life."

Looking at the survey, here are the top 10 traits of a loser:

1. マイナスな発言が多い (Says a lot of negative things)
2. 友達が少ない (Has few friends)
3. 恋人がいない (Has no partner/mate/lover)
4. 一日中誰とも会話しない日がしゅうちゅうある (Frequently goes the whole day without conversing with anyone)
5. 周りに興味がない (Isn't interested in anything around them)
6. オシャレに興味ない(Isn't interesting in style/fashion)
7. 恋愛に消極的 (Is half-hearted in romance)
8. 急に人に話しかけられると「えっ、あ、あの、あの」としどもどるになる (Becomes flustered and sputters when suddenly approached and spoken to by someone)
9. 非恋愛体質 (Uninterested in romance?)
10. 「自分はこんなもんじゃない」と常に思ってる (Always thinks "It's not my fault")[?]

I find all of these pretty understandable, but #6 kind of stands out to me as very "Japanese." 「オシャレ」 is a little difficult to peg as precisely "style" or "fashion" but it is, I think, a fair generalization to say that Japanese people as a whole seem a lot more concerned with such things than many people of other nationalities. I can't say people don't care about style here in the U.S., for example, but I don't think I know many people who would place that in a top 10 list of "loser" characteristics. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

AKB they ain't: Ayaman Japan

I think I first heard of/saw this group on Salaryman's blog (he would feature a band like this). The three women form  あやまんJapan (Ayaman Japan), and they sing silly, kind of dirty songs.

Apparently they started off as a group of party organizers, made an appearance on Fuji TV, and then broke into the music scene. It looks like they only got started musically (professionally at least) in 2010, so they've only released a handful of songs.

Yoshie's father hates them and she thinks they're kind of annoying, but I choose to be amused by them. Sure, they're not producing the highest level of art here, but their songs are kind of fun and different, if not catchy. And at least they're not another cute, innocent, generic J-pop group.

Here are two videos of what I believe is their original breakout song, 「ぽいぽいぽいぽぽいぽぴー」("Poi Poi Poi Popoi Poi Popi"):

Here are the lyrics with an approximate translation. As you can see, mostly a mix of nonsense and sexual references; basically just making fun of pop songs.

Here's one of their later songs, which starts off more subtly but then gets quite kooky (and for those of you who know what AKB48 are, yes, I think they are making fun of them):

Update: AKB48 is a large, ever-changing girls pop group (pictured below). I have a lot of problems with AKB48, but that's a story for another post. Below are a picture and video for reference, so you can compare with the more Ayaman Japan parodic video above.


Update 2: This one is much more blatantly making fun of AKB (it seems this post has taken a turn in that direction):

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Snickers CM

Just wanted to share this video I saw over at Japan Probe - a Snickers "You're not you when you're hungry" commercial, a la Japan. Nice.

I'm not familiar with the actress, but I like the touch of English thrown in there. Adds to the flavor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Level 2; and the kanji for poo!

So my JLPT results never did arrive. I guess they got lost on some clerk's desk or wedged under a conveyor belt somewhere between here and Tokyo. None too eager to make an international call, I asked Yoshie to ring up the Test Center and find out what the deal was. The guy she spoke to said they mailed my test results out, but could remail them if they never arrived. So we had them sent to Yoshie's place and they arrived just last week.

I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I passed, and now I am officially JLPT N2, which I'm sure is more useful in terms of being able to put it on my resume than anything else. Now I must continue to battle to keep my Japanese up! Well, no other way than using it as much as I can...

I'm going to take this opportunity to transition into poop. Yup. I noticed today that Yahoo! Japan has an article up about pandas; specifically why they have the bowels of a carnivore yet 99% of their diet is bamboo and bamboo grass.

Aren't you glad I didn't go with a picture of poo?
Now I'm not a huge panda guy (nor dolphins nor penguins; so sorry) but this did pique my interest, so I had a look. And I'm glad I did. Not because I found out why they don't eat meat (ultimately the article says they don't know why), but because I got to see the kanji for feces, which I don't see all that often. It kind of strikes me as one of those kanji you and your buddies might try to learn as a freshman in college studying the language, because wouldn't it be funny to know the kanji for "shit."

As you may be aware, くそ is an oft-used expletive that's comparable to "crap," "shit," or "damn" in English. The more clinical ふん, "excrement" or "droppings," shares the same kanji:

糞 (くそ,ふん)

Apparently this is also the kanji for King Richard III? I guess because "third" rhymes with "turd?" Anyway, yes...the kanji for poop. Another grand offering to my readers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Understanding "Ore"

Recently we subscribed to TV Japan at my house so that I can try to keep up with my Japanese a little better (or combat the inevitable decline a little better, anyway). I don't watch TV a whole lot, but now when I do, I try to get a little J-語 in. Probably watch a lot more Japanese TV now than when I was living over there, ironically.

Anyway, a while ago I had this kids show on and had a realization about the use of the first person pronoun, which I've talked about in the past. I realized that I still don't completely get it, and I don't know if I ever will.

I refer to myself as 僕 (boku) in most circumstances, unless I'm trying to be especially polite or respectful. This strikes me as kind of a softer and maybe a little more...I dunno, sensitive (?) way of saying "I" or "me." I think doctors and professors and guys like that might be more likely to use 僕.

On the other hand you have 俺 (ore), which is the pronoun of choice for all your tough guys and your dudes who are trying to sound masculine. Despite being the more "masculine" of the two (Yoshie once called me 男らしい) for using it, I've also been told that lots of guys start using it when they're little boys. In other words, there are plenty of males who use it when they aren't that tough or masculine but just want to come across as such.

Oh yes, the kids show. So I was watching this show with a bunch of people dressed up like animal mascots, and noticed that the cow (who has the voice of a little boy) kept referring to himself as 俺 (ore).

Pretty dang far from badass.
So while I understand the basic feeling of each of these pronouns, I think there's still a lot of nuance that's escaping me. Maybe one day?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

J-Word Play #21 (Answer)

Has it been a week already? I need to get my post back on...

So last week's riddle was:


Special kudos this time to Xiaolin, Makoto, and Cocomino!
To the rest of you, keep trying!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

J-Word Play #21

I thought this one was kind of cute. Here goes:


For your free kudos, email me your answer at: blueshoe [at]

Friday, September 23, 2011

You smell like water!(?)

Sometimes I wonder how certain English expressions translate in Japanese and will look them up on ALC. The other day I came across an interesting one.

I was wondering what the most natural way to express "you know me better than that" would be. One of the listed translations caught my eye. 「水臭いなぁ」

Eh? Something about stinking of water? I did a little Googling and found an explanation. It's actually used more to mean that someone is being too formal or stiff. According to this website, the expression is said to have originated in Osaka. The reasoning is that cheap or unappetizing soup wouldn't have much would be light and watery. In preparing soup for someone, like a friend or guest, only a cold-hearted bastard would intentionally make soup like that. Thus "it tastes watery" or "it smells like water" came to mean that someone was being cold or unfriendly.

The more you know.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just another random thought: Like people like dog

I may or may not have mentioned that some months ago, while I was still in Japan, my sister bought a dog. A Shiba Inu, actually. These days she's out of the house a lot, either working or taking class or coaching her soccer team, so Ringo has become kind of a "family dog."

I was kind of resentful at first at coming home and having to help take care of this animal that I had no part in deciding to integrate into the family. Sometimes I still am resentful...I'm the only one home during the day since I work from home, meaning I have to take care of him. But I'm learning how to handle him better.

Anyway, one thing about him seems very Japanese. It's a topic that Orchid and Joe have both written about. He's not good at walking! Or at least he is an inconsiderate dog...When we're walking with this dog, he'll often be walking ahead, and then he'll just decide to stop in front of us. Sometimes for no apparent reason. This is kind of annoying, but at least it's not to the same degree as people stopping in front of you on a narrow street or escalator.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Language of the house

Recently Yoshie introduced me to a blog she's been reading called ジャパメリカンズ(Japamericans), which is authored and illustrated by a Japanese Tokyoite currently living in Colorado with her husband and kids.

It's always interesting to me to hear or read about children from multi-lingual households and how they grow up learning language. One of my best friends is from a Dominican family. His parents raised their first two kids by speaking Spanish to them at home, and they learned English at school. In my friend's case, for some reason I guess his English was a little slow to catch, so they got scared and started using English at home. As a result, his Spanish is pretty stunted.

I think about this and wonder...if I were to get married to a Japanese woman (say Yoshie) and settle down in the US and raise a family...would we speak Japanese at home? I find myself with somewhat mixed feelings.

On one hand, I'd like to be able to speak to my children in my native tongue. I'd have to improve my Japanese a lot to be able to convey everything I might want to say to them.

On the other, growing up bilingual would be such an advantage, and they kids would definitely be able to learn English at school. If my Japanese were inadequate, they could always speak it with Mommy while I crawled by with whatever fit at the moment. Although the idea of an exclusively Japanese household is a little daunting to me, that wouldn't necessarily be the case...especially when the kids would get older.

Plus I'm picky about living in America and raising my kids in accordance with my I guess language is somewhere that I should be willing to give ground.

Do any of you have thoughts on this? What's the best way to raise children to speak more than one language? I'm especially interested in hearing from parents current or future, or those who may come from or be close to multilingual families.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Some linkage

As I continue to sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of freelancing under a tight deadline, I've found I have time for little else. The other day I worked 9 am to 5 am, trying to get everything done in one last big push. Oh how naive I was at that time in my youth, 3 days ago, I realize as I continue working on the same Excel document several days later. I had to report to jury duty yesterday...I wasn't chosen for a case and we were luckily dismissed around lunch time. But then I got to come home and continue working...

Unfortunately, the fact that I hardly have time to run to the grocery or recreate means that it's been difficult to make any substantive posts, as you, my loyal and frequent readers have no-doubt noticed.

For now, I'd like to direct you to a few nice posts that I've recently come across on some other J-blogs I like to read. If you're not already following these blogs, you may want to reconsider!

First off, a post by Eryk of This Japanese Life on humor in Japan. Despite reading this piece, the topic continues to be somewhat of a mystery to me. I know every country probably has a different sense of humor, but damned if I know how people can laugh for hours at guys getting hit in the balls and physically abused in the name of comedy.

Next, a short but sweet little post by Alice over at SHAFT. I don't want to give it away, but it's cute.

Finally, Orchid at 1000 Things put up a nice post last week about how she wound up in Japan. It's particularly notable because she usually doesn't talk about her personal life, and this was an interesting insight into the background of one of my favorite J-bloggers. Also, she enabled comments for this post!

Check them out or live with the regret!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Watch out for chikans

ちかん (chikan) is a Japanese word that you'll hopefully never have to use in daily life (except maybe jokingly), but that it pays to know. It means "pervert" or "molester." Stories of train chikan abound in Japan.

Joe (who just recently returned to Japan from a stint in the States and honeymoon) spotted the sign above and sent it to me. I can't remember ever seeing any signs like this, but apparently they're around. It says 「ちかんに注意」, "Watch out for molesters." Not the most flattering sign to put up in your neighborhood. Kind of conjures up images of villains decked out in trench coats, shades, and fedoras, stalking around the neighborhood looking for people to molest. I think it's really meant more to warn parents about letting their kids wander around alone lest they get picked up by an unscrupulous stranger, but still...

I don't think I've ever seen the kanji for ちかん used anywhere, so I was curious and looked it up. Kind of strange combo. 痴漢.

痴 seems to mean foolish or idiotic. 漢 is a character often used to mean "Chinese" but that more basically means "man." The dictionary also says "honorable man." I just can't quite get the connection there. Molester = foolish honorable man? Hmmm...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fun Japanese on-the-go gaming

As with many expats who return from a stint abroad, I'm kind of fighting to retain as much of the language as I can. I've written before about how studying a language should be fun, an opinion I've encountered on plenty of other J-blogs. While I find reading enjoyable, it can be too much effort after a long day to sit down and read a book in Japanese when I just want to unwind. Movies and TV shows are good, but I don't have a stock readily available and I'm quite picky. So I've been using games when I can. I wrote a while ago about Radiant Historia, which I'm still inching along in. Good game, just too many cutscenes with a ton of dialogue.

I also wrote some time ago about a little game for the iPhone/ iPod Touch called Game Dev Story. Game Dev Story is a little sim game in which you take on the role of the owner of a startup video game development company.

I remember another title, Hot Springs Story (or ゆけむり温泉郷), also being available a few months ago, but I didn't download it until recently. Hot Springs Story is a bit different from Kairosoft's previous title. As might imagine, you have to manage an onsen in this game, but now you have no control over any of the people. Instead you choose which demographics to market to, what to research, and how you want to physically build your establishment.

It looks like Kairosoft (or whoever does their localization) has been busy. I just checked in again on the iTunes store a couple of weeks ago and discovered a new game availabe: Pocket Academy. In this one you must successfully manage a prestigious senior high school. It's somewhat of a mix of the other two titles in that you build the campus but also can choose which teachers to hire. Once you do, however, they act autonomously, as do your students. One of the fun parts of this game is that you can decide to use various kinds of research points to either unlock new types of rooms and structures, level up teachers, or teach special classes to build up students' grades. You can also make and gain items to influence students' behavior by increasing their stats, persuading them to join a club, or advising them to pursue a particular career path.

As you can see, the Japanese title is 名門ポケット学院2, so I guess this must be a sequel. It looks like Kairosoft has a plethora of games out in Japan for normal cell phones, so it's no wonder.

The only complaint I have is that after a while the games just tend to slip into repetitiveness. Although there is a set period during which you can try to achieve a high score (meaningless to me), there are scripted events that are independent of this. Some events are triggered by things you do, though, and while that can be quite fun, it can also lead to periods where you're unsure if you've done everything there is to do or if you've missed something. There are no proper endings that I've seen.

All in all, these games are a good bit of fun, and if you like sim games they will probably keep you entertained for at least a few days. On top of that, they come with both English and Japanese versions, so you can play either one depending on your iPhone's settings. Definitely worth it in my book.

Update: Haf also mentioned in the comments section that a couple of these games if not all of them are also available on the Android. Excellent!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Get thee to Okinawa

I've intended to write about my trip to Okinawa for a while and wanted to include it in Loco's last summetime get-together, but things got away from me with moving, and I wanted to include some pictures from our snorkeling adventure, but the company hasn't gotten us any (working) photos...

But now that the time for this month's Japan Blog Matsuri has rolled around and our gracious host, Alice of SHAFT, has introduced the theme of Summer Lovin', well...time to show you some pictures, I guess.

Yoshie and I made the trip in early June, which is apparently right before or at the start of typhoon season. Luckily we had beautiful weather for the weekend we were there.

We visited the main island where most of the main attractions are to be found. After getting in, renting out car, and driving to and checking in at the hotel, we explored the main street area a bit and Yoshie shopped for a bathing suit. We had some awesome taco rice and posed with a big stringed instrument.

That night we went to a pretty nice Italian restaurant that was owned by a friend of Yoshie's boss.

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed to the beach for some snorkeling. The water was a little cold, but we warmed up after swimming around a bit. It was a cool experience, although for some reason the suit really seemed to chafe my armpits. When I took it off there wasn't any rash or redness, just hurt like hell when I was wearing it for some inexplicable reason. Anyone ever experience that while wearing a wetsuit?

Next we stopped by this famous confectionery and had some free cake. Our vacation was some package deal, so it came with coupons for free or discounted stuff at all these random places.

At some point we also stopped by the equivalent of a highway rest stop and I had some amazing Mexican food. Man, the Okinawans know how to make a taco.

Next stop was the famed aquarium, complete with 3 whale sharks (and a mess of other stuff) in the same giant tank.

They also had dolphin shows, of course.

Amazing how they still oo and ahh after the first dozen flips.

Oh, and a fish called オジサン. In English, that's kind of like saying "mister."

Not "Mister Fish." Just "Mister."
That night we found a cool Tex-Mex place near the main street area and I had a Mexican pizza, mmmm-mm. I'm telling you, all the good, reasonably-priced Mexican food restaurants in Japan are hiding in Okinawa.

American food: cactus and liquor. Sounds about right.
Our last day before heading out, we stopped by an A&W. Man, it was better than I expected. And the root beer was fantastic. Also the only place I can recall getting free refills in Japan.

Okinawa is definitely worth visiting during your time in Japan if you like beaches and hot weather. And the atmosphere was quite interesting. I felt halfway between Japan and America while I was there (I suppose due to the military influence). The roads and a lot of the foods reminded me of being back home in the States.

If you decide to plan a trip, feel free to drop me a comment or email if you think I might be able to offer some useful advice!

Also remember to check out the other entries in this month's Japan Blog Matsuri.

J-Word Play #20 (Answer)

Man, things are getting away from me here. It's already been a week since our last riddle?

Last week's was:


First a round of kudos to:

Cocomino's wife. Cocomino also received kudos last time, but feel free to check out his blog if you haven't yet (or even if you have). Some good stuff about life in Japan (as a Japanese, which is quite rare for an English blog).

Tokyo Five, an American living in Japan with his wife and three kids. Have a look for another cool blog for a wife variety of Japan-related content.

And now for the answer...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Soba Ale

There's this large liquor warehouse near where I'm living now that has all kinds of interesting drinks. The last time I was there, I saw a beer brewed in Oregon with a label entirely in Japanese...I wish I still had the photo, but it seems to have gotten lost in the void.

I went back  the other day to look for that beer and didn't have any luck, but I did see this other interesting one.

Morimoto Soba Ale. Note that it's not a Japanese product. I didn't try it this time, but perhaps I'll give it a go in the future. Always interesting to see kanji in the wild, though, especially outside of Japan.

Monday, August 15, 2011

J-Word Play #20

I have some ideas in the works, but for now here's another riddle!


As usual, feel free to email me your answer: blueshoe[at]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Radiant Historia

I've been wanting to post more, but I'm doing this freelance job at the moment that has been just eating all my time and energy, and on top of that my mom and sister are away in Colorado for the week so I'm watching the house and pets. I'm exhausted.

Anyhow, before they left, I had been using a little of my spare time now and then to play a DS game I picked up before I left Japan. It looks like there's an American version, as well, and both have gotten good reviews. It's called Radiant Historia (ラジアントヒストリア).

I'm only a couple hours in, and sometimes I'm slow because I need to look up unfamiliar kanji that are used often, but overall I'm getting the idea of most of the dialogue and plot points (I think... actually there was this one scene with an evil-seeming queen that just went over my head).

So far I'm quite pleased with it. I'm not very far into the story, but so far it reminds me of a somewhat darker Chrono Trigger. The animation style is very reminiscent of the latter SNES games and the music is easy on the ears. And it's a good way to keep up with my Japanese a bit. The only downside is that because it's in Japanese I need some mental energy to play it, and that's something I've been lacking recently.

To you gamers out there - have you heard of or played this one? If you've played it, what were your impressions?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

J-Word Play #19 (Answer)

Last week's riddle was:


First, some kudos and link love to Six mats and Cocomino:

Six mats is one of my blogging sempai, an American who has been living in Japan for almost a decade now. If you're interested in photos of Japan or some posts about daily life, or in reading about his experience in Sendai (group zero of The Big Earthquake), check out his blog!

Coco is an English-blogging, photography-loving, well-traveled Japanese father based in Saitama. His blog is also a great way to read/see more about life in Japan, especially the domestic side of things. If you have some time, why don't you pop over?

Ok, and now for the answer...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Culture of Money (Part 2)

In the comments section of Part 1, Shaun mentioned that repatriating to England he was surprised at the dirty bills, being used to the largely crisp, clean yenners. I've also been experiencing some money-related reverse culture shock, but of a different nature.

The single dollar bill. I've grown to dislike it.

Japan, the UK, Europe, Canada - all have coins for their one-dollar-like denominations. It's not that we don't have $1 coins in the U.S., it's that they're not popular and thus don't stay in circulation for long. I regularly listen to an NPR podcast called Planet Money, and they sometimes talk about this. Apparently people just don't like the coins; they'd rather have light bills rather than heavy coins.

The solution, of course, is to just ignore public opinion and discontinue the single dollar bill. This is what happened in Canada, and it resulted in successful $1 and $2 coins.

As for me, I don't mind the extra weight so long as the coins aren't huge. $1 coins would be a lot more convenient for vending machines, and it's a lot easier to just quickly stick a few $1 coins in your pocket when you get change than to pull our your wallet and put them away.

In Japan, there are six types of coins: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen. I've written about how the 500 yen pieces are excellent for saving. Most people, even men, carry around personal bags in Japan, so weighing down your pockets rarely becomes and issue. Many wallets also have pouches for coins (which I don't believe is unique to Japan). And the 100 and 500 yen pieces are so easy to spend that they don't weigh you down long, anyway (the multitude of convenience stores and vending machines help see to that)!

Though I think the U.S. would do well to follow the lead of Japan and so many other countries, I'm not holding my breath. We're still holding on to Fahrenheit and resisting the metric system, after all.

What do you all say? Paper or metal?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Culture of Money (Part 1)

I was talking to my girlfriend Yoshie a little while ago and she mentioned that she had gotten annoyed just before coming home. I asked her what happened, and she told me about how a client had given her a nice 10,000 yen (~$130) tip tonight (she's a piano player). She then went to a convenience store and bought a few small items to get change. Unfortunately, the clerk gave her back dirty-looking 1,000 yen notes. I chuckled and when she asked me why, I could only say that in the U.S. most people don't really care about the condition of the cash we get as we're just going to spend it soon anyway.

True, there may be occasions that call for crisp bills in the U.S., but generally I've found the Japanese to be much more particular and conscious of their cash. There are special money envelopes that you can buy as you might buy Hallmark cards in another country, with ribbons and kanji to indicate different occasions, from weddings to funerals. And it is common custom to go to the bank and get fresh, crisp bills for such gifts, especially for weddings, as the fresh, new money is hoped to bring good luck upon the fresh, new couple. Though we do give cash gifts in the States, the Japanese are much more ceremonious about it, perhaps partly due to the fact that people don't use personal checks in Japan. I imagine it would be a little difficult to gussy up personal checks as gifts, but then I probably shouldn't underestimate the originators of tea ceremony and Hello Kitty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

J-Word Play #19

Haven't had one of these in a while. Here's another one from Nazo Nazo King. See if you can crack it!


As usual, send me an email if you think you know the answer: blueshoe[at]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Buyin' some books

Studying a language is ideally a fluid kind of process. Of course there are plateaus, peaks and valleys, but it can be difficult to measure your progress. One of the more rewarding metrics is your reading ability. Often this will climb gradually, so it can be difficult to notice your improvement. Then one day you're reading comics and books.

It's only in the past few months that I've started to undertake books with no furigana (little characters above kanji that tell you their reading). I think that's a landmark, that I can get by and understand most of what's being said without looking anything up. Still, at this point I have to be careful to choose books with topics that aren't beyond me. No astrophysics just quite yet.

Here are a couple books I picked up at the airports on the way home that I think are a reasonable representation of where I'm at.

This first, 「死ぬかと思った」(I Thought I Would Die) is a collection of short, embarrassing stories. To give you an idea, the first story is called 母とソープランドに入る (I go into a Soapland with my mother).

The second one, called 大阪ルール (Rules of Osaka) is from a series that lays down kind of inside jokes and funny qualities about the people and places from a particular region or city in Japan. It's kind of like a "You know you're from (insert place) if you (insert behavior)" kind of thing.

If you're studying or have studied Japanese, what is your experience with reading? Are there any particular books that you recommend or would warn against? I've heard good things about the native Murakami Haruki but haven't given it a go yet...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The comeback

Remember Mello Yello? Growing up I would rarely see it around and always considered it a Mountain Dew knockoff. In recent years I can't recall it being around in any of the places I've lived.

About a month or so ago, it started popping up at all the convenience stores in Japan. Just out of nowhere. Upon my return to the States, I noticed that it's also being sold in grocery stores here, too. Is Coca-Cola giving it another go?

I don't drink much soda, but I tried one a couple weeks ago and it was just as I remembered it: almost exactly the same as Mountain Dew. What are your thoughts on Mello Yello?

This post is an entry for the 2011 July Matsuri, hosted this month over at Nihongo Up.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Every last one

(Aside: I'll be getting back into the groove this week, but still a lot to do to settle in. Stay tuned!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here I am

Arrived back in the States safe and sound yesterday eve. Things were touch and go for a while because of the typhoon, but I made it without any major incidents.

This weekend I'll be groomsmanning it up at my friends' wedding, and then I'll be back and doing some more J-blogging. Thanks to everyone who wished me a safe and happy return!

P.S. Is Delta the only airline that doesn't have personal TVs for international flights? Bastards.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Creepy Dog

My first lesson of the year with the 一年生 (first year students), I asked them to draw a picture of something important to them and tell us about it. A lot of the kids wrote about their club activities or siblings, which was nice, but there were a few strange ones. This one made me laugh out loud. In case you're wondering, the kanji on the dog's body is 犬 ("inu," meaning dog).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Handful

I have to keep reminding myself about the good points of going back to the States (and there are many). Here is one.

It's been a while, but I seem to recall blueberries being a lot cheaper than $3.75 for a handful. Seriously, that's like 10 cents per berry there. I'm going to enjoy eating them again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Keyboard Saga

You may or may not have noted a few stray posts about trying to send my keyboard home. Well, with much help from Yoshie, I was able to pack it up in bubble wrap inside of a soft case and lug it over to the post office across the street. And man was it a pain, weighing 29 kg and no usable handles on the case. It cost about 39,000 34,000 yen to send back...steep, almost what I originally paid for it. But considering this model costs $800 in the States and this was my cheapest option, I suppose it was acceptable. I hope it survives the trip, but at least the 40,000 of insurance barely cost anything.

Closing thought: If the keyboard doesn't make the trip, do I get back the 40,000 plus the cost of shipping or just the 40,000? If the latter, then I would have been better off just leaving it here.

Edit: Sorry, somehow mis-remembered the shipping price. Corrected.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Japan and My Tonsils: Under the Knifu

Read part 1, 2, and 3 here.

Part 4

Welcome to the exciting climax of my Japanese tonsillitis adventure. I had tried everything but the one thing that I knew would work, cutting those suckers out. At the hospital the doctor agreed and scheduled my surgery in two weeks time.

After my meeting with the doctor was finished he told me to go with the nurse who would explain what I should and shouldn't do prior to surgery. The first thing she told me was "don't get sick." Very good advice, I thought. After that she told me the week prior to surgery I couldn't drink any alcohol, caffeine, or take any medicine or vitamin supplements. She also told me not to eat any garlic. Garlic? I think that was more for the surgeon's benefit than mine.

The nurse sent me upstairs to get all my pre-op tests taken care of. First was the urine test. I was handed a cup and was a bit dismayed to see that I didn't get my own private room to take care of it. There was just a normal bathroom with nothing but two urinals at which two guys were taking care of their cups. I waited until they left. I guess I'm shy. Next they took some blood. The nurse noted that my hands were sweating and asked me if I was scared. I told her that my hands always sweat when I'm incredibly manly. Also it was 100 degrees in there and I was dressed for the wintry weather outside. After that I had to get my chest X-rayed to make sure I had the correct number of organs. Next was the final step: the heart and lung test. For the heart test I had to lie on a table and the nurse put sensors on my ankles and wrists. I was a little embarrassed about the ankles since it was a cold day, which means I was wearing two pairs of socks. Don't judge me! We don't have fancy heaters in Japanese classrooms like your bourgeoisie country. My heart appeared to be working. Next was the lung test. I had to exhale into a tube while a computer measured my breathing. The nurse said I had to exhale in a very specific way. I had always thought I was pretty good at breathing since I practice literally always, but she kept saying I was doing it wrong. In the end I don't know if I ever did it to her liking but she stamped the sheet and let me go anyway.

The next two weeks passed by quickly. One week before surgery I had a "last night I can drink beer for a month" dinner at my favorite okonomiyaki restaurant. I had a big mug of the dark draft. It was delicious. I think I shed a tear.

The day before my surgery I was admitted into the hospital. I had a meeting with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. My Japanese tutor, Mr. Ohta, and his wife were kind enough to come with me for this. My plan was to do this all myself relying only on my own Japanese ability, but then I realized I don't even understand everything English-speaking doctors say and it'd be safer to have a native speaker there with me so I don’t misunderstand something and end up with a kidney gone.

The anesthesiologist explained what would happen when I woke up. First they would ask me to open my eyes to make sure I'm conscious, then they would ask me to raise my hand and give the OK sign to make sure I can move, then they would look at me to make sure I'm not making an expression of excruciating pain. If everything looks good, only then will they take the breathing tube out of my throat.

I was shown to my hospital room. I was hoping for a private room, of course, though I knew that would be unlikely. The room was big, and held eight people who were all separated by curtains. It was actually not awful. Everyone had their own tiny fridge, a little safe for their wallet or watch, a desk, a closet, a TV, and of course the standard inclinable hospital bed.

That night I had my first Japanese hospital meal. It was spaghetti with meat sauce and it wasn’t bad. It was better than my own cooking at least.

I woke up early the next day, shaved, and brushed my teeth. I knew it would be the last time I would for awhile. I put on my hospital gown. A nurse came in and gave me a pill to help me "relax". I don't know what it was but I was suddenly drunk. I definitely didn't worry about the surgery any more though. It was more like "Woo! Surgery!"

"Woo! Toga!"

They wheeled me into the surgery room, which was huge and futuristic. The anesthesiologist hooked me up to the IV and began to reiterate the steps that would occur after surgery. I started to feel myself begin to pass out while he was talking and realized he was already giving me the anesthesia through the IV. I wasn't expecting that and wished he had let me know before. But whatever. Blackness.

I woke up and could have swore I'd been dreaming but I couldn't remember what. They made me open my eyes and give the OK sign. After that they took the breathing tube out of my throat. I was still out of it so I hadn't even noticed it was in there. I couldn't talk but for some reason I felt I had to thank them right then. So I gestured to a nurse and wrote "ありがとう" (thank you) with my finger. I don't know if she understood.

They wheeled me back to my room. I passed Mr. Ohta and his wife on the way but they weren't actually allowed to visit me then. I slept for two or three more hours. The nurse came and told me that if I needed to use the bathroom within the next two hours a nurse would have to go with me. Seeing as how I hadn't eaten or drank anything in the past 16 hours it wasn't an issue.

The first day and night were by far the worst. To coat the wounds my body deciding making gallons of saliva was the best way to go. I felt like I was drowning all day. I couldn't sleep for more than an hour or two because I'd have to wake up to spit. Also, I could constantly taste blood which they assured me was normal, as long as I wasn't bleeding profusely. But they said that I shouldn't swallow because the blood could make me throw up. Throwing up right after throat surgery sounded like the worst thing ever. Fortunately I was nausea-free. Also pain-free due to my constant companion, the IV.

The next day I was already much better. The saliva factory that was my mouth had calmed down. At 7AM my surgeon and a nurse came in. The nurse took my temperature and gave me a new IV. The surgeon looked in my mouth and declared that everything looked normal. I asked him (by way of a portable dry-erase board I brought) about when I could eat. He said lunchtime. I was looking forward to it.

That lunch was the first of many identical lunches. The only food they had for people like me was called kayu, which is just watery rice. Do you remember that scene in The Matrix when they're eating in the real world? Their food is described as both runny eggs and a big bowl of snot. I bet dollars to donuts that they were eating kayu. I ate juicy rice for three meals a day for seven days. Never had my taste buds been so underused. By the end I was surprised they hadn't atrophied and died. One time they gave me some kind of fruit paste for dessert. It was like a mini Christmas. That mashed up fruit was the best thing I had ever eaten. It was strange; my biggest craving the whole time I was in the hospital was bread. Just some bread. I would have killed for a piece of toast.

I guess I should have mentioned that Japanese hospitals work a bit different than the ones in America. Not only is the health care socialized but it's also much, much cheaper. This plus them being extremely cautious about their patients lead them to not kicking me out the next day like I would have been in America. I had seven days to kill. I passed my time in my little curtained room studying Japanese, reading manga, and playing my DS. My friends and my girlfriend were nice enough to visit me a couple times, and I appreciated the company. But also, to be honest, I didn't mind my alone time. I'm usually so busy with work it was nice to just have a whole week to myself where my only obligation was to rest and get better.

I was by far the youngest person in my room. I made friends with a guy named Mr. Fukayama who had been in and out of the hospital for a year fighting off lung cancer. He had the bed next to the window, which was prime real estate. We would sit and talk about random things. It was all harmless conversation until one time he inevitably started talking about the war. He didn’t fight in it since he was ten at the time, but he sure had a lot of opinions about it. He wasn’t very sympathetic to my gaijin ears and talked too fast for me to catch everything. Old people love to bring up the war, especially if you happen to be an American. Of course I was negative 40 years old when the bomb was dropped so my end of the conversation was mostly looking solemn. Despite the war conversation he claimed to love Americans. He had traveled all around America as well as many other countries. He just kept saying how great everybody was. “Spanish? I love the Spanish!” “French? I love the French!” “Russians? I f***ing hate Russians.” Yeah, he wasn’t a fan of the Ruskies.

You'd think being in a room with seven other people would have been loud and annoying. But everyone kept their voices down. Well, except for one guy. He had sleep apnea and snored louder than I have ever heard a person snore. He slept constantly all day long: a never-ending snorefest. Fortunately at night the nurses would come and wheel him out of the room. I wondered where they took him and imagined a soundproof room covered in that black foam they have in recording studios, or somewhere underground.

In the same wing of the hospital but in a different hallway were women and small children. There was one shower room to share with everyone. Because of this, for only two days a week us men had a four-hour window to take a shower. I was forbidden to use the shower after my surgery in case of... something. I was finally granted permission on day five of post-op. This was by far the longest I've ever gone without taking a shower. Entering the shower room I was not surprised to find it was a Japanese communal shower and bath similar to a sentou, a Japanese bathhouse. My high school didn't have communal showers, I've never been in the army, and so far I've kept out of prison so I never had the pleasure of having to shower with a bunch of naked guys. The idea never interested me, which is why I've never gone to an onsen, a Japanese hot spring, which some people find blasphemous. "You live in Japan and have never been to an onsen? They're TO DIE FOR!" That may be so, and you might think I'm shy, but I'm not. And maybe I will go someday, but I wouldn't want to go alone and hang out with a bunch of naked strangers. But also I can't imagine going up to my friends and saying, "hey bros, let's get naked and take a bath together because that is a normal thing that people actually do." I had one experience in a Japanese sentou while staying at a ryokan, a tradition Japanese inn. It was just me and a Texan named Woody who kept talking to me while I did my best to ignore the fact that I was talking to a naked Texan named Woody. Anyway, at the hospital, I was so happy to finally get a shower that I actually enjoyed making small talk with the extremely old naked guy at the shower next to me. It totally didn’t feel weird. Which was weird.

At one point during my stay I had just been given a new IV and was sitting on my bed. Suddenly everything seemed to sway and I felt a little nauseous. I thought the IV was making me sick but then I noticed the IV line was swaying as well. “Just a small quake,” I thought. That turned out to be the Great East Japan Earthquake, one of the five worst quakes ever recorded. It was over 450 miles away.

I have nothing but good things to say about my stay in that Japanese hospital. All the staff were extremely polite, friendly, and helpful. My surgeon was great and I recovered much quicker than the Internet would have led me to believe. I was never in any real pain and every day I felt drastically better than the one before. That being said, there was one issue I had which is more of a Japanese thing than a specific problem with the hospital. Payment. No matter where you go in Japan, money is the most inconvenient thing. It seems like they haven't completely figured out how it should work. For example places that accept credit cards are rare, banks close hours before you get off of work, and even ATMs close because for some reason even machines need a break. Also your own bank's ATM charges you a fee for using it after the bank is closed, as if you have a choice. These are minor quirks compared to the problem I ran into at the hospital. The rules are as follows: A, you aren't allowed to bring large amounts of money for fear of theft. B, there is no ATM on site. C, they don't take credit cards. D, you must pay when you leave. Meaning you're expected to pay the equivalent of thousands of dollars in cash with money you’re not allowed to have and which can only be gotten from a place you’re not allowed to go until you pay the thousands of dollars in cash. In the end Mr. Ohta was nice enough to pay up front then drive me to an ATM so I could immediately pay him back. But that's not a payment system. That's the complete lack of a system. And this happens with every patient?

But besides that, my experience with a Japanese hospital was nothing but good. At first I was worried about getting my tonsils out in Japan instead of America, but in the end it couldn't have gone better.

To sum up this four-blog-entry-long tale: from the time I first got sick I had felt a healthy dose of frustration, disappointment, and fear in dealing with Japanese doctors and health care. But in the end it all worked out. I feel so positive about the whole experience now that I forget that there was a time when I was cursing Japan and it's health care system. Now I can't help but praise it. To any foreigners living in Japan who are in need of surgery: you may be considering paying the extra money to fly to your home country and getting it done there. No need! Believe it or not their techniques and medicine are just as good as back home, and in some cases much better judging from the horror stories my friends have told me about getting their tonsils out in America. It's been three months since the surgery (I'm pretty bad at getting these blog entries out in a reasonable time, aren't I?). It's the longest I've been without strep throat in years and I think I can knock on wood and say that part of my life is over. Now I can go do karaoke without fear of getting sick the next day.

I also want to add a message to all those adults out there with tonsillitis because their parents didn't love them enough to get their tonsils out as a kid (just kidding Mom!): just get the dang surgery. And hey, might as well do it in Japan, right?

Good night, and good luck.