Saturday, December 24, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
The riddle asks, "What creature is below here?" Not a lot to go on, I know, but if you focused on the idea of "below" (下), you may have thought about that kanji's 「か」reading, which may then have lead you to think of いか. This is also a play on words, as ｢以下｣ (いか; down, below, or under) has the same reading as the word for "squid."
To those who submitted answers, thanks for trying and don't be discouraged!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
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
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
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
@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
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.
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
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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
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
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?|
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
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.|
Thursday, October 6, 2011
So last week's riddle was:
The riddle asks, "What tiger is skilled with a musical instrument?" The answer I was thinking of here was オーケストラ. トラ means tiger, so in Japanese "tiger" is part of the word orchestra. Another good answer I received from a couple of folks was トランペット (trumpet), which also contains the word for tiger. Nice job, people!
Special kudos this time to Xiaolin, Makoto, and Cocomino!
To the rest of you, keep trying!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
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 flavor...it 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
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
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 faith...so 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
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
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...
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
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
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."|
|American food: cactus and liquor. Sounds about right.|
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.
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...
The riddle asks, "What creature has a lot of hair?" Ok, so we're thinking about hair words here. Yoshie answered with 毛虫 (けむし), which is a caterpillar. It combines the kanji for fur and bug, and so that's a pretty good answer, too. What we were looking for, however, was 狼 (おおかみ), wolf. This is because おお can be the reading for 多 (a lot) and 髪 (かみ) means hair. So "a lot of hair."
Thursday, August 18, 2011
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
Thursday, August 11, 2011
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
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...
The riddle asks, "what socks are made for traveling?" The word to focus on here is 旅行 (traveling). "Tabi" is a kind of footwear, but can also mean a trip or journey.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
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
Monday, August 1, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
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
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
Thursday, July 21, 2011
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
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Edit: Sorry, somehow mis-remembered the shipping price. Corrected.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
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!"
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.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
One phrase that kind of osmosed for me recently is 「あっという間に」, which means something like "all too soon" or "before you know it." More literally, in the time it takes to say 「あっ」 (Ah!).
"Before I knew it three years had passed."
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Anyway, apologies for my retarded posting pace recently. I have an (hopefully) interesting topic in mind for the next one. Just have to find a little time to write it up. Look forward to it!