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...