Sunday, December 23, 2012

Far Cry

I don't play a ton of FPS (first person shooter) games, but some of the reviews I was reading about Far Cry 3 sounded pretty interesting. Particularly I like games where there is a lot of progression and customization. In FC3, there are level-up and crafting systems. Plus the visuals are pretty amazing (again, not usually a reason why I buy games, though).

Anyhow, found a little Japanese! One of the cars is sporting some katakana on the dash, reading "Far Cry."

Never know where it's gonna crop up, apparently.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Obligatory Parties

I kind of miss going to 忘年会 (end of year parties, usually held by a company or workplace for its employees). Survey says, however, that most office workers in Japan don't really enjoy them.

According to a Metarika study, 62.6% of office workers regard company drinking parties (飲み会) as a pain in butt (37.4% saying they are fun)

■会社での飲み会は楽しいと思いますか? 面倒だと思いますか?


The second question there asks respondents how often their work holds these (obligatory) drinking parties. The responses from top to bottom are "1-4 times a month," "once or twice every half year," or "once or twice a year, almost never."

Maybe I enjoyed my schools' parties more than the typical employee because (a) I wasn't worked to the bone and spending almost every waking hour with my coworkers and (b) I didn't really feel obligated to attend; I just did most of the time because it was fun. Or maybe it's just because teachers are awesome and know how to throw a beastly party.

Monday, December 17, 2012



Lately there have been some pleasant changes. One of my best friends and his awesome (J) wife moved from Pennsylvania to a town about 40 minutes away. I've gotten used to being somewhat solitary, but it will be a nice change to have friends living nearby.

Things at work are improved a bit, I feel. I still need to get out of there and find something more fulfilling (and financially sustaining), but I've been working on improving my attitude. It's not that I felt I had a bad one before, but I've been trying to be more productive and quicker with my work. And I do feel like it's helped me feel a little better about it. 時々つまんないのに。

And I've been talking a lot with someone I met recently who is very...refreshing? Special, for sure. There are a lot of positive things I could say, but for now I won't.

I don't want to jump the gun on anything, but I just feel like things have been a lot brighter and more fun the past couple of weeks.

Tomorrow I'll be going to a 忘年会 party with Ben and Chika (the previously mentioned friends) after work. I really should start blogging about Japan-related activities and organizations in D.C...

Anyhow, that's it for now.

J-Word Play #31 (Answer)

Whoops - a sparse amount of posts this month, but there's been a lot going on. I'll need to redouble my efforts.

Kudos to Cocomino for solving the last riddle, which was:


Our answer is...

Friday, December 7, 2012

J-Word Play #31

It's been a bit, so here's a new one for you:


If you know the answer, shoot me a quick email (blueshoe[at]

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Funky Forest

I happened to stumble upon this clip of a Japanese movie on YouTube. "Weird" doesn't adequately describe it. The film's title is ナイスの森 (Funky Forest in English), and I'm a little surprised I've never heard of it before. Have any of you readers seen it?

Anyway, here is the clip. I don't really know the context, but I don't image that would really change much:

I'm thinking I may need to watch this.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

和製英語: T-Back

You might not think you'd come across this word very often, but believe it or not (and though I can't place any specific instances), this is one I've heard quite a few times. I swear it isn't part of my normal repertoire, though!

What the Japanese know as a "T-back" (Tバック) , we know as...

Yes, the noble thong. I guess the name is apt enough - not really much need to ponder the meaning of the Japanese for this one. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

(Married and) Unmarried Japanese Women

One of the social issues that Japan currently faces is a deflated birth rate. Combined with the country's aging population, this trend, if unaddressed, is going to cause some serious economic (and perhaps other) problems in the future. I'm not sure whether it's related to my own personal feelings and experiences, but for some reason I find myself very interested in this topic.

Recently I came across a couple of pages on Yahoo! Japan related to marriage in Japan. First off - a poll about how married couples met:

Honestly some of the results are a little depressing (as a single guy who'd like to get married at some point), but I don't know how these numbers compare to America. On the right side, the first question asks at what age you met your partner. For women, the average was 24.3 years old. For guys, 25.6. The number below that indicates what percentage of men and women met their partner in their 20's. 82.6% of women and 77.3% of men. The clock is ticking, I guess.

The chart on the left is pretty interesting, if only for #5. It lists the top 5 ways individuals met their partners. The answers are as follows:

#1. At work
#2. Introduced by a friend
#3. Met in school
#4. Gokon (these are kind of like group blind dates that have become a popular way to meet people)
#5. Social networking sites

Online, really? Japanese people have always struck me as very private about their personal information online. I'm pretty surprised that so many Japanese people have actually met in real life and gotten married after meeting online.

The second thing I wanted to share is an article about some findings on why unmarried women in Japan are unmarried. This article highlights the top two reasons why, the second of which strikes me as the larger issue:

#1. Don't have a partner (33.2%) [For example their workplace is filled with mostly women]
#2. Have a partner but "it's difficult" (24%) [Examples include "he isn't interested in marriage," "not enough income," and "don't like his parents."]

One revealing response matches up with something mentioned in a Sapio article I read a little while back (maybe one of these days I can get around to blogging about it, oi!). The respondent says that she wants someone who makes at least 6,000,000 yen per year. That's almost $73,000. Given today's economic climate and the earning potential of younger folk, that strikes me as a somewhat unrealistic expectation.

Not being able to find a boyfriend or girlfriend is a discouraging situation, and that seems to be the #1 case for unmarried J women. As for #2, there are definitely certain practical issues that should inform whether or not someone gets married. Money is a concern, certainly. But no situation is perfect, and personally I'd rather hitch my wagon to someone I love and who treats me well over someone making a couple figures more on her pay check. And although there are some who say "you marry the family," I also wouldn't let the prospect of bad in-laws deter me from being with someone I was otherwise crazy about. But well, each to his (or her) own, I suppose.

I'd be interested to see how these results compare with women from the U.S. and other countries.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Heat Tech / Touch Support

One of my coworkers went to Tokyo for business last week (いいな), and he kindly brought me back a souvenir. Pictured above is a pair of Heat Tech gloves with タッチパネル対応 (touch panel support). Apparently we have these in the U.S. too, though I wasn't aware of the existence of this textile technology. Normally when you use a smartphone or tablet, the screen won't respond to your finger if it's encased in some kind of glove or other accessory (chainmail gauntlet?). In this case, some kind of special material (I assume) allows you to use your device while rocking handwear. Thanks Mr. N!

As a side note, when I was living in Japan I bought some Heat Tech t-shirts from Uniqlo and couldn't really tell any difference. How about you? Do you think the Heat Tech is legit or just a scam?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Post: Grasping at Self Worth

The following is a guest post by Canadian author and comedian Bryan Maine. Bryan asked me if he could write a piece about his upcoming Kickstarter book, in which he taps into some intense experiences he had in Japan some years ago. Hats off to a writer and entrepreneur doing his best to make it happen. Good luck to you, Bryan!


Six years ago I was a Canadian university student in Tokyo for the summer with my then girlfriend and needed work.  My friend's father set up a job at a neighbourhood preschool for me within days.  I was weary, expecting to be the warden I rebelled against so strongly only years prior when I was an exchange student in a Japanese high school.  Preschool was completely different.  The children were bubbly and full of life.  I noticed if a child was crying or hurt that the teachers had no fear when  lifting the kid up and kissing the scratch on their arm to make it better.  It wasn't "inappropriate" the way it seems our western culture has made it out to be, it was providing general love and compassion to a child.  

The oddest experience was a particularly hot day that I was asked to assist with a large steal drum sitting a top cinder blocks in the centre of the play yard.  A hose was draped over the side pumping water as another teacher fanned a tiny fire beneath the barrel.  I asked what the set up was for and they explained that since it had been an extra hot week we were making a pool for the kids to take a dunk in.  On that note another teacher ushered out a parade of 30 small naked humans waiting for their turn, giggling.  I was shocked.  The entire 5 year old class was standing naked in the school yard and right at that moment an old woman road her bicycle past the gate and waved with a smile, completely unaffected by the sight.  With each dunk, the child would give a brief shiver before smiling back at their classmates to the cheers of excitement.  After the moment in the spotlight we hoisted the kid out and wrapped a towel around them on their way inside.  "Why are the kids all naked" I asked, lowering a fresh body into the makeshift hot tub.  "Because they don't have their swimsuits today" the other teacher responded matter of factly.  It wasn't odd that tiny kids were naked in sight of the public, it was odd to wonder why.  

As my time in Tokyo past the girl I was there to be with became more and more distant and as such I became very depressed.  She resented me for all the negativity of her family towards her for dating someone not Japanese.  Each day I arrived at the school in the morning to the joyful smiles of the kids with a level of excitement that expressed hours of anticipation.  One child in particular would run up and tug at my wrist, when I looked down he would laugh with pride that he had gotten my attention.  With a light peck on the back of my hand he turned his face up to grin at me before letting go and returning to the other children.  It was the type of appreciation and excitement I once had in my relationship.  The children of the school were the only thing that kept me sane.  They didn't judge me for being a foreigner but were constantly curious and happy.  Their joy was a reminder to me to try and hold onto mine.

The experiences listed above are all part of my new book Grasping at Self Worth.  The book is available by searching the title at or by clicking the link above. It expresses my experience of travelling to Tokyo with the girl I loved only to have her mother and older sister torture her because I wasn't Japanese and the sacrifice of my own sense of worth in an attempt to please them.

Thank you for your support!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Great Place to Live #2

You can check out Paul's A Great Place to Live #1 here.

Paul pointed out to me that I have written two posts on why Japan is a great place to visit but none on what makes it a great place to live. This is strange since I’ve lived in Japan a lot longer than I’ve been a visitor. I think I lost my visitor status the first time I chose a Japanese squat toilet over a western toilet. I wasn’t trying to get in touch with my Japanese roots or anything, since I don’t have any, but was trying to avoid a cold toilet seat in the middle of winter. Either way, that was the day I became a man. Not really, but whatever.

Today is the day I come of age.

I’ve lived in Japan for over four years. I didn’t always live here for over four years, in fact, there was a time about four years ago that I was new. The plan was to stay in Japan for a year, travel a bit, become perfectly fluent in the language (how naive I was), and get back to America in time for supper. Of course, as all great stories go, our protagonist met a girl, who might have been his antagonist, but she was cute, and continues to be. I got married and now I’m still here. In that way Japan can be a trap, but it’s a happy trap. Like a mosquito getting trapped in sweet, sweet amber and then being used to clone dinosaurs.

"This bug is smiling at me"

Instead of sharing what is great about Japan as a whole I think I’ll use my experience of living in three prefectures as a way to show how, like any place, Japan is different depending on where you go. I’ll give away the ending and say as far as I can tell every place in Japan is A Great Place to Live.

I started my journey in Hyogo prefecture where I lived and worked for three years. Hyogo is in the Kansai region, which is an amazing place to live. I was thirty minutes to both Osaka and Kobe and fifty to Kyoto by train. Of course when any band does a Japanese tour, or whenever there is some neat event, nine times out of ten they will go to Tokyo. Well, eight times out of ten they will then go to Osaka or Kobe. So in a way, you get the convenience of living in a cultural hub city and also the variety that comes with living in a trifecta of metropoli. I'm aware that ‘metropoli’ isn't a word but it sounds much better than ‘metropolises’. Each city is also completely distinct from the others, from their histories to their people to their style of dress. A famous Japanese dialect is the “Kansai dialect” but that’s a bit of a misnomer since it varies between cities and sometimes within the cities themselves. Living in Kansai I loved the fact that in one day I could take a boat tour around Kobe harbor, go to a festival at a shrine in Kyoto, and party the night away in Osaka. I’ve never actually done that in one day, but I could have.

 I finally feel spiritually grounded. Now, to Hooters!

I loved it there but my wife’s company transferred her so I quit my job and moved south to Miyazaki Prefecture. Miyazaki’s current claim to fame is their fruit and meats, though recently they’ve had problems with foot and mouth disease. Thirty or so years ago Miyazaki was better known as a popular vacation and honeymoon spot, but when the yen became strong people started going overseas. A formerly famous place in Miyazaki was Sea Gaia. It was a huge indoor beach that would have been immensely popular had they built it near Tokyo or Dubai, but instead they built it next to the beach. Their target market was the people who want to go to the beach but hate being outside. You may have even seen pictures of this place since it made the rounds on the Internet a couple years back. Miyazaki was a great place to live, especially after all the busyness of being a near a big city. Everyone was laid back as they tend to be in warm places.

Amazing, those people look so lifelike.

I’m now on the newest leg of my journey. Last month my wife was transferred yet again, this time to Tokyo. I quit my job yet again, and followed her. At this moment I’m living it up in the world’s biggest metropolis. I’ve only been here for a week so I can’t pretend Tokyo and me are intimately familiar, but so far I like what I see. Everything I couldn’t get in Miyazaki I can get here, usually just by walking down the street. It’s a bit much sometimes. It was easy to choose a restaurant or bar in Miyazaki since the pickings were slim. Here you have the choice between that cool Thai restaurant, or that other cool Thai restaurant, or the five Indian restaurants, ten Italian and French places, or the fifteen Chinese restaurants, or the hundred Japanese Izakayas, or even an amazing Portuguese place that has quickly become my favorite. There was an event last night where you pay 3,000, go to four participating local restaurants or bars of your choosing, and get a drink and appetizer. All the places I went to were great and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

So yeah, Japan is A Great Place to Live. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t still be here. Of course I could go on and on about the friendly people, the world’s best customer service, clean streets, excellent public transportation, delicious and healthy food, etc., etc., but I'll have to save those for another post. That's the carrot on the stick. Hope to see you next time!

影響 (Influence)

Sometimes we really don't realize how much people influence who we are unless we stop to think about it. Sometimes that influence isn't even immediately apparent. I've been reflecting on this a bit recently. 

I remember when I was a kid, my dad used to watch a lot of old cowboy movies. He really liked John Wayne, in particular. I wasn't such a huge fan at the time. In the past couple years that's changed, though, and I've gained a new appreciation for Westerns. I can't help but think of my dad.

Another recent "pick-up" of mine was something I guess I got from Yoshie. When we were dating, her drink of choice was nihonshu (日本酒; traditionally known as "sake" to most foreigners). A bit before we broke up, she switched to whiskey (perhaps that was an ominous portend!), but for most of our time together I took a mild interest in acquiring a taste for her preferred poison. I remember stocking a bottle in my apartment, and it took me months to go through it. These days, though, the stuff has grown on me and I like to have a bottle on hand that I can slowly whittle away at.

As you might guess, it's hard to find a lot of different kinds of the stuff here, but there's very large beverage and liquor store nearby called Total Wine, and it stocks a few different kinds of nihonshu. A small number of them are imported from Japan; most of them are made in the U.S.

The other day I picked up a brand I hadn't tried before - Fu-ki Sake (富貴). 富貴 means wealth and high status, incidentally. I believe this brand is from Hokkaido.

I've been going through Total Wine's stock slowly, trying out each kind. There's an American brand called Mura Mura, which infuses its sake. It's definitely not bad, though it might not appeal to purists. 

Kind of makes me wonder about how I've influenced others and if any of my interests or likes have rubbed off onto them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012





Wednesday, November 7, 2012


If you live/have lived in Japan, have you picked up a local dialect (方言)? When I was living in Itami, Kansai-ben (関西弁)gradually became a part of how I spoke in Japanese. I never got to the point where I was splattering every sentence with localisms, but all of my *「超'」s (ちょう)were replaced with 「めっちゃ」's and 「やな」became a common sentence finisher for me.

Having returned to the States, it kind of goes without saying that my Japanese has been in decline, especially my conversational skills. Something else I've noticed, though, is that I've been losing my Kansai dialect. It's not that I don't understand it anymore, and sometimes a 「めっちゃ」or 「まじで」will slip unbidden into my speech, but for the most part when I have a chance to speak to people here, it's in standard, "Tokyo Japanese" (標準語/共通語). My coworkers use it, and a lot of the Japanese people I've met here are from the Kanto area originally.

While there's nothing wrong with the standard dialect, there's something kind of nice about picking up a bit of an accent. I guess it kind of serves to further connect you to the place you live(d). I'm a little sad to have that slipping away.

* 「超」 is a slang-ish word these days used around Tokyo that means "very."

例: 超かわいい、この猫!
(Example: This cat is super cute!)

「めっちゃ」 is kind of the Kansai-regional counterpart.

Friday, November 2, 2012

J-Word Play #30 (Answer)

I regret that I've been slow to post lately - what with the storm and a busy calendar I've been a little pressed to find the time. This weekend I'll be at a wedding in New Jersey, so I just wanted to bust out this overdue answer first.

A kudos to Cocomino (his wife this time, actually) for the correct answer.
Our riddle was:


Friday, October 26, 2012


No, I'm not talking about not some amazing new J-game involving cards and balls (though that actually sounds like it could be awesome). See, there's a Japanese word that has confounded me since I learned it years ago, and that is 「ダンボール」. "Cardboard," in English. Usually when you come across a katakana word drawn from English, you can tell fairly quickly what the base word is or at least guess what it's getting at. Even with 和製英語. With this one, I really had no idea.

So, I finally decided to Google it. 

The 「ダン」, as it turns out, is 「段」, which can mean tier(ed). This is most likely because cardboard is corrugated, and if you were to look at a cross-section, you would see two or more little layers kind of connected by ridges. Fair enough.

As for the 「ボール」part, which looks like "ball," I came across one explanation offered at Yahoo Answers-type websites, and one that Wikipedia kind of hinted at that I am going to proffer.

1) Whoever coined the Japanese word for "cardboard" misheard or had trouble pronouncing "board" and said 「ボール」(ball) instead. It caught on and spread, and voila. This was an answer I came across multiple times across the webiverse.

2) 「ボール」is actually short for 「ボールド」. I think this is plausible since so many words in Japanese can be and often are shortened. Wikipedia didn't explicity say this, but it did say the origin of 「段ボール」's 「ボール」 is the English word "board."

So there you have it. Man, now I wish "cardball" were an actual Japanese game.

(Source) If you drop it, you get smacked in the crotch.

Monday, October 22, 2012

J-Word Play #30


As always, send your answers to blueshoe[at] Happy riddling!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sweet smell of the fall - Kinmokusei (金木犀)

There aren't a lot of smells that I clearly/fondly remember, but there is one that I miss from Japan. That is the aroma of the 金木犀 tree; in English, sweet olive. I don't recall seeing or smelling them in Tokyo, but in Hyogo every autumn the orange flower clusters would blossom release their fragrance. Unknowingly I came to associate this fragrance with "fall."

I remember asking one of the JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) that I worked with about the trees and what they were called, and he told me they were「きんもくせい」. He then wrote some characters on the blackboard behind us as told me that these were its kanji: 「金目生」.  When I looked it up later, turned out he was wrong. Strange!

Lately I've been thinking about buying one, if I can find the right variety. There are different kinds of sweet olive, and the ones in Japan are aurantiacus. According to my research, a lot of the sweet olive trees from China bloom year-round but aren't as fragrant as the kind that only does so seasonally.

I've found a few vendors online that carry them, but they appear to be the white-flowered, original Chinese version. Hoping I can find the J-variety.

Update: Found it (Nurseries Carolininia)!

Update: Bought a Japanese one and a Chinese one, so I can compare. Also it seems the Japanese variety won't bloom until it grows to about 4', which could take a while, whereas the Chinese kind blossoms from around 6".

Update 10/22/2014: Has it really been two years since I bought these things? Unfortunately they don't seem to have grown very much, probably due to last year's severe winter. The late cold snaps couldn't have helped much. I don't think I'll be smelling that sweet fragrance for a while yet, but I still hunger for it! Remembering those early, mild Japanese autumns really takes me back. Fond memories, indeed. Some mornings I can practically smell the blossoms... Is there such a thing as a phantom smell, I wonder?

The little Japanese tree.
 Last year the Japanese one wasn't look too hot. He had to be trimmed a little bit, so now he's a little shorter. Still, that's some nice leafage coming in now.

The Chinese variety seems a little more vigorous.
The Chinese guy is doing well, too - even better than the Japanese one. I think that's because the Chinese one is closer to the house and thus less exposed to the cold wind in the winter. Hopefully not too many more years before these things start to bloom!

This post is part of the 2014's J-Bloggers' Carnival #3 (link live after 11/1), hosted by Sophelia. Be sure to check out the other entries!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

和製英語: Reform

Another Japenglish word I remember coming across now and then is 「リフォーム」. Although from the English "reform," it actually means "renovation" or "remodeling."

Often usually there seems to be some reason why the Japanese adopted these slightly off adaptations of English words (sometimes due to an old usage or a discrepancy between American and British English). So it's possible that in the U.K. people don't renovate their homes but actually "reform" them, I don't know. In American English, however, "reform" is most often used in the context of changing something bad about a person or an intangible (like a way of governing). You often hear about reforming healthcare laws or immigration policy.

In Japanese, however, you get something like: 

(I heard that shop will be under renovation from next week.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life Paths


These days I kind of feel like I am just drifting. It's not that I'm not trying; I've been job searching and applying, networking, trying to maintain my Japanese, meeting people gradually. But right now it feels as if there's really nothing more I can do but wait for something to happen. Keep trying until something is successful. I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but I'm just getting sick of feeling like I have no control over what's going on and where my life is going.

I went to a private elementary school, and from there I choose to go to a private high school on Long Island, arguably with the best academic reputation in the state. I got in. While in high school, I decided which college I wanted to attend. It was the only school I applied to; I got in early and went.

In college I chose to double major. I chose to study abroad in Japan, twice. I successfully worked my way through all that. When I was finishing up school, I applied to the JET Program and was accepted.

And I guess that's about where I lost my way. I've returned to the States and am kind of lost. I could probably be happy in a number of different fields, but the environment has gotten so competitive. I think what I'd really like is to go into public policy or international affairs, but without a graduate degree of some kind or related experience? I am just hanging here in the wind.

Recently I've been looking at a lot of different things. Military (reserves, at least)? Moving back to Japan? Out of curiosity I did a quick job search earlier, and there are plenty of English teaching jobs.

Would it really be so bad, I wonder? Go back, teach English for another 10 or 20 years. Get married over there and have kids, maybe. I can imagine worse lives. But nothing is a sure thing in life. I could also go over there and spend 10 years teaching English, only to find that I am no longer qualified to move into any other field.

And there's no guarantee life would be better in Japan, even if some of those ALT jobs pay more than what I'm making right now...

I wish I had the clear direction in my life that I used to have, the feeling that I have a wide variety of options. Right now everything just feels

Even if I were to move back to Japan, I don't know if I could regain what I feel like I've lost.

Well, I'm sure things aren't so grim as all that. I'm just thinking, and wondering what will happen and what I should do...

Friendship Friday: East Meets West Blog

I haven't done one of these in a while, but recently I've come across some blogs that have caught my interest. Today I'm highlighting East Meets West Blog!


About a year ago, Makoto, the blog's author, dropped an answer to a J-Word Play in my inbox. She had her website in her signature, and for some reason I only recently came back across it and checked it out. And I have to say, I really like her style.

Makoto is a Nagasaki native who has lived in several countries and is currently settled in the U.S. with her American husband and children. Her blog is about her experience living abroad and reflections on life.

Why I like it

Makoto writes with an impressive degree of openness, and going through her entries I could tell how passionate she is about life and her family. The way she writes about her marriage, in particular...well, I hope I can achieve that kind of union someday.

Here's a blurb from a simple post in which she talks about her husband trying to make her happy and help her when she wasn't feeling well:

“Let me help you with forks”, my husband came in the kitchen while I was setting the table for dinner. I saw him opening a drawer and starting taking forks. He worried about me a bit because I came down with cold yesterday and I have not been feeling well. I have to admit my sickness has made me cranky yesterday and today. Without knowing why I was feeling this way until I realized that the cold virus was affecting me today, I was feeling guilty, too, for my crabby behaviors. [...]

[...] I looked at him in the kitchen and I loved the way he was picking forks. I truly appreciated his unconditional love to me. I went up to him and hugged him from behind. It was my way to show him my appreciation. We didn’t need words; I just wanted him to feel my love. I can picture our life together like this 10, 20, or 30 years from now. I will be wrapped by his love and so will he.

The warmth of her posts is refreshing. I've read a lot of blogs about frustrations, amusing anecdotes, and drama; that's fine. That's part of life. A lot of my posts have been of those varieties! But I haven't come across many bloggers writing about their love and their happy, successful relationships.

Here are another couple of posts that I especially liked and I recommend:

Losing an identity by living in a foreign country?

My love with my husband - there is always something that I can learn from

I think I also enjoy her blog because I haven't come across many Japanese women blogging in English from abroad (especially living in the U.S.). It's a unique perspective that I enjoy reading.

So happy Friday, and once again be sure to check out East Meets West Blog!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence!

Now and then I'll find a strange or interesting-looking Japanese movie on Netflix. Today I watched this 1983 Japanese/British film called Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (in Japanese, 戦場のメリークリスマス). Featuring David Bowie and Beat Takeshi, the film is about a Japanese prisoner of war camp and its (mostly) British inhabitants.

I'm kind of at a loss to describe it, actually. There's a lot of strangeness and violence, and the brutality of the Japanese soldiers is off-putting even if you've seen these kinds of movies before. Still, the relationships between the characters, particularly the British liaison officer (the titular Lawrence) and the Japanese sergeant (Beat Takeshi) are somewhat complex. 

This movie certainly won't appeal to everyone, but if you like war movies that are a bit deeper and don't mind the fact that this one is a bit violent (despite no firefights) and reflects pretty badly on the Japanese side, you may enjoy it. As a side note, there is a lot of spoken Japanese throughout.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


There's a grammar point I wanted to cover, so I figured I'd throw it in with some personal reflection.

Autumn is a pretty nostalgic time for me. All those school memories, maybe. When I went to work at Itami, I arrived at the end of July, so I guess a lot of my early experiences were in the fall, too. I'm finding myself recently kind of locked into this nostalgia, I suppose; it's not that I'm not doing anything, but there's just not a lot going on and I am looking more backwards than forwards. Reflecting, remembering, missing earlier days. I've heard that repatriation can be a difficult process, but it's just really been made all the harder by other circumstances. As I've talked about before, I tend to pretty highly prioritize and treasure my relationships, so when they end, I just have trouble recovering. Not unique, I know. But, it's something I need to break out of...just looking for a catalyst.

Nothing left to do but get back on that horse, I guess. Lots of things to be done. That brings me to the Japanese for this post. You may be familiar with the word 「直す」(なおす), which means "to fix." Well, when we tack it onto a verb stem, it means to "re"~.

Some examples:

やり直す - redo
見直す - look again or reexamine
考え直す - rethink, reconsider
書き直す - rewrite
立て直す - to rally or rebuild


Monday, October 1, 2012


You know, it occurs to me that I haven't done a post yet on what has become my favorite J-movie (along with my favorite soundtrack). Well, you may recall a post about Kintama Girls, from the movie Detroit Metal City, so I guess I've touched upon it.

Sometime soon I'll write something a bit fuller on DMC, but I wanted to quickly post a sample of the "other side" of the movie's soundtrack - 甘い恋人 (Sweet Love). This is the kind of music DMC's protagonist longs to play, despite becoming embroiled in metal.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ume no Hana

I haven't forgotten about that article, but need to find time...

For now I wanted to share these commercials for a restaurant called Ume no Hana (Plum Blossom). I don't think I've ever been to one, and these ads wouldn't exactly entice me to seek one out, but they are funny.

This first one features three office ladies singing about they left their wallets behind and then took their boss to the restaurant. I guess they're mooching a meal?

Next we have a salaryman singing about how he can't refuse going out with the guys. Well, he admits, he could refuse if he wanted to, but that's not the case, so...awesome?

Last are a bunch of guys singing about how (if they eat here) they don't have any dishes to wash when they're done. Inspiring.

Strange offerings, but I like the off-beat.

Edit: I had to make a couple revisions after realizing I was misunderstanding the nuance of these commercials.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The young vs the old...

...and why young Japanese aren't getting married these days.

There's an article in this month's Sapio magazine that caught my attention and that I've been reading through in my free time (it's about 12 pages long). So far I'm finding it quite interesting, and sometime soon, maybe this weekend, I want to write about what it's saying. I may break it into two or three posts because of the different issues the author talks about, but we'll see.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weird foot commercial

Studying, Motivation, Negativity

Motivation can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when studying a language. If you can't even get yourself to pick up a book or listen to a podcast or what-have-you, then you're dead in the water. Fortunately for me and my Japanese, I work at an office where like it or not I have to hear it on a daily basis (if not speak it, too).

I think I have a main problem with a number of roots feeding into it and consequences flowing from it. This post isn't to complain...I know I'm the only one who can fix things. But I wanted to vent and share my feelings. It's possible some of you have been in similar situations.

Basically, at the moment I am stuck at this upper intermediate - lower advanced level of Japanese, right around JLPT N2. It's enough that I can hold my own in a pretty wide range of conversations and I can use it for basic jobs, but it's not good enough to make me eligible for employment that requires someone who is truly bilingual.

It was so much easier to study and be motivated when I (a) lived in Japan and needed it to live and (b) wanted to improve it to further improve my relationship with Yoshie. Now instead of those motivations, I have this language with few appealing job opportunities (a lot of the listings I see these days are for administrative assistants) that I don't really need to communicate with anyone in my life at the moment. And a lot of my favored tools (music, TV shows, etc) now have this... association. Even if they don't directly make me think of her, they make me think of my time in Japan. At the moment those memories are bittersweet. Someday, hopefully in the not too distant future, I will be able to fully enjoy my memories again. But for now they just evoke this negativity.

I'm not really happy with how my life is going right now and I'm trying to improve it, but I guess I've never really been the most patient guy. I don't like feeling like I have no control over things. These days people close to me say that I need to just stick things out, keep doing my best, and opportunities will present themselves. It's good advice, but difficult to live by. It can be too easy to be bitter.

Though time has helped me in some ways, this negativity is pervasive. I haven't been sleeping well lately - a lot of dreams about her. This is frustrating and something I'm trying to avoid, but I don't know how. I find that although I still harbor a lot of the same positive feelings that I used to, there is this slight anger and bitterness creeping in. This feeling of rejection. I don't want to be angry at her. But I guess at the moment it's just difficult for me to feel okay with the fact that I'm not an important part of her life anymore. And it also bothers me that she's probably been able to move past our breakup a lot easier than I have (probably by not thinking about it a lot and keeping busy). Selfish, I know. 

I want to change. I want my life to be more positive, and I want to let go of this bitterness and negativity I have been feeling towards so many aspects of life right now. But I just don't know how to break out. I keep looking for new jobs, I keep trying to get out there and meet new people. Is that all I can do for now? Keep going and keep waiting? Maybe so.

I want to be happy again. I want to be able to study Japanese again. And I want to stop writing these heavy and pouty blog posts. I'll work on that, I promise!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

They had earbuds in 1987?

J-Word Play #29 (Answer)

This one's out a little late - sorry!

Another kudos point to our riddle master, Cocomino, on this one.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Cup Noodle Post

I was never really a big instant noodles fan before living in Japan (and I guess I'm still not), which is good because they're not so healthy. One thing I kind of miss, though, is curry flavor Cup Noodle. Not really a great meal replacement, but sometimes when I couldn't be bothered to eat nutritiously or prepare a proper dish, I'd just boil some water and have one of these on hand. Of course, I used to buy the off-brand for like 10 yen cheaper, so the little pieces of "meat" and potato weren't the greatest.

When Yoshie visited me last year, she brought a couple cups with her. And then she gave me a couple more to take back when I went over there in May. Just ate my last one the other day. I guess that'll be all the curry Cup Noodle I get for some time (to be fair I may be able to find them at some Japanese market for like $3 each, but I don't miss them that much).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

J-Word Play #29

September already! Although it may be considered autumn in Japan, we still have a tad bit more summer left in the U.S. Make it count.

Our riddle for today is:


As usual, please send answers to blueshoe[at] Good luck!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I try not to talk about politics or religion much here, since this is a Japan blog, after all, and those are awfully sensitive topics for some. But they are a big part of life for many people, myself included.

I think it's safe to say that there are a lot of folks who don't pray until things get rough. They ask God for help or patience or strength, or maybe they pray for someone else who is having a difficult time. The same is probably true in my case. I've had my ups and downs over the years...didn't go to church in Japan as much as I'd like, and I've had trouble motivating myself to go these days, too. But I'm working on it, and I've always considered myself religious.

Religion was one of the big issues I had with dating in Japan, too. One of my potential deal breakers is that I have to be able to raise my kids to believe what I believe. If as adults they change their minds, so be it. But being that there are few Japanese Christians, it was a worry of mine - finding a woman who would defer to my beliefs in the case of our children.

Anyway, I'm getting off track here. If you're religious, prayer can be a good avenue for Japanese, as well as spiritual, enlightenment. One time when I visited Yoshie in Kyushu, we went to this Christian store in Fukuoka. They had all kinds of prayer books and religious literature in Japanese, and some interesting items like Bible manga. I bought this basic book of prayers and Catholic catechism, which I think is meant for children.

One prayer that isn't included in that book but that is probably my favorite, is the Prayer of Saint Francis. Sometimes when I'm in emotional turmoil or pain, I try remembering this prayer, and I find it helps balance me out a bit. This is also the prayer that was printed the prayer card for my father after he died. It's also been made into some beautiful songs.

Well, I've decided I'm going to memorize that prayer in Japanese. Here it is:


わたしに もたらさせてください……

And a video of the prayer in hymn form (in English...if there is a Japanese version out there, would love to see/hear it):

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Great App for Studying Japanese (that's not a Japanese study app)

A couple months ago my wife finally upgraded from her 6 year old (!!) cell phone to the iPhone 4s. As most people do, she went a bit app-download crazy and downloaded anything free which sounded remotely interesting. Out of the 40 or so pointless apps she got, there are some gems. One especially blew my mind. The app is called Discodeer. Play any song on your iPhone or Android phone and the app searches its database and displays the lyrics. That alone makes it a neat app, but what makes it amazing is just how many J-songs it has. It can find almost any J-band I throw at it. 

I listen to J-music exclusively. It's a lifestyle choice. It's good for learning Japanese but obviously only when you actually learn words from the songs you listen to. So while I'm on the bus or train and I don't feel like doing my Anki deck, I can just listen to a song I like while I read along to the lyrics.

Bonus recommendation: I recently got into The Pillows. Man, this song is catchy:

Monday, August 27, 2012

和製英語: High tension

I can't remember when I first heard this one, but I'm sure I must have been confused. In English, when we talk about "tension," it usually holds a more negative connotation (unless maybe you're talking about "sexual tension"). There's often a high degree of tension between two individuals who don't get along, for example, right?

In Japanese, "high tension" or 「ハイテンション」 has a positive meaning - to be excited or enthusiastic. I suppose this flows from the fact that when we talk about electricity, "high tension" means we're talking about a lot of energy.

An example from ALC:

(I strive to be bright and cheerful so as not to let my family worry.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Life After JET: Paul (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about what was going on in my life around the time I decided to return home from JET and leading up to my repatriation. Now I'm going to pick up and talk about what's been going on for the past year or so. First I'll say that a lot of the observations I'm going to make are probably going to sound kind of negative. Admittedly I'm not too thrilled with the way things have gone since I came back. I've been dealing with reverse culture shock, a crappy economy, a painful breakup, and a basically non-existent social life. But I should also acknowledge that I know thing are going better for me than for a lot of people right now. It's a tough time for entering (or returning to) the workforce. So even though it's a struggle sometimes, I am trying to be positive and recognize the fact that things aren't so grim. Anyway, here we go.

Work: I saved up a little vacation time to come home a few days before my contract ended so that I could attend my good friend Nate's wedding as a groomsman. I remember feeling kind of bad for myself because the typical practice is to stay in Japan for a couple extra weeks after JET and travel or hang out with friends. I would really have liked to spend some more time with Yoshie. But I'm glad I didn't miss my friend's wedding.

I should probably mention that before returning home, I hadn't really been looking for work, and so I didn't have any kind of job secured. But as luck would have it, not too long after the wedding I got an email from Nate that his aunt, the owner of a publishing company, was looking for someone to do some freelance work for her. It seems she was in some kind of a bind to meet a tight deadline and the team she had working on the project was shorthanded. I responded that I would be interested. Turns out she remembered me from the wedding; had a quick couple interviews over the phone and I had a job.

I can't go too deeply into what my work involved (nondisclosure agreement), but I can say that my title was Rights Reuse Analyst, which basically means I was part of a team that helped a client manage rights (as in copyright) data and determine what could be used in their titles and what would be questionable or unusable without legal liability. Originally I was signed on for one month, but when the work kept going I was asked to stay on another month. When we finally finished, I was told that I was welcome to stay on as long as there was work coming in.

I was really grateful to have had that job, but it was really a mixed bag. Everyone working on the project was working from home from different parts of the country (and one from France), which meant we communicated mostly via email and phone, though we also used Skype on occasion. The people I worked with were all really nice, but it was sometimes a high-pressure job, with somewhat unpredictable hours and tight deadlines. A couple times I wound up working from morning until the next morning (with some small breaks, granted), so there were a few 11 or 12 hour days. I remember being stressed out a lot because we were often waiting to receive material from our client. My first couple months the work was pretty consistent and I was logging around 40 hours per week, but then after that I would sometimes have 10 or 15 hour weeks (or less) depending on when we would receive new work/instructions. Waiting around for work and not making money is no fun.

I was making a pretty good per-hour wage, but as a freelancer I counted as "self employed." I didn't have any kind of benefits, and taxes work a little differently when you're your own employer. As my hours started to become erratic and then dwindle, I decided that I needed to find something more constant and stable.

One day I got a JETAA DC (JET Alumni Associate of Washington DC) newsletter mentioning an admin job opening at a Japanese telecommunications research office in the city. I wound up applying and somehow was offered the job (not to demean myself; I know I interview well, but I've since met one of the other guys who applied for the job and he is a nice guy and smart, and his Japanese is better than mine). Fortunately the job came with pretty good insurance. Unfortunately the salary and vacation days offered were...disappointing. I said upfront that I could be flexible but was asking for 40k a year. I think they offered me something like 29k. I declined their offer, and to my surprise they came back with a counteroffer. It wasn't a whole lot better, but I figured I needed to do I accepted, and that's where I am at the moment.

I've been here for about 5 months, and I am looking for another job. The other day I interviewed for a position as associate producer with TV Asahi in DC, but unfortunately I didn't make it past the first interview. The guys I work with here are nice, but it's a small office (4 J guys and me), so I don't really get to meet many people. As I said, my pay and vacation days are not so great. And I know this sounds snooty, but the work is just too menial. I do help with some telecom research, which wasn't included in the original job description, and that is interesting. But aside from that I am basically a secretary. That's a fine job, but I think more suited to a secondary income-earner, and not something that requires a bachelor's degree.

But the job market is a wreck right now. I am applying to federal jobs all the time and the automated rejection emails have just become background noise. I apply to private companies too, and usually don't even get a response. It's a discouraging time to be looking for work. Still, at least I am employed at the moment.

Bottom line here is that the main driver of my decision to return home hasn't panned out. I thought that it was time to come home and try to find a real career with advancement opportunities and a bigger salary. Well, not yet. Let's see what's behind door #2.

Finances: Oh, this is door #2? Not a whole lot different to say here. At my freelance job I was making less than on JET, if you take into account taxes and lack of insurance. Now I am making even less than that. The regression isn't very encouraging. On top of that, in order to take this job I had to buy a car, which at least I had wanted to do anyway. Basically I took a chunk of money I had saved from my freelancing and the tax refund I had from working in Japan (which if I remember correctly was around $5k or $6 originally, but kind of got whittled down over the months) plus a $2k loan from my mom (half paid back) and a 5-year $10k loan through a car dealership, and bought a new 2012 Toyota Yaris. Not a high-end car, but I paid what I could afford so that hopefully this thing will last me a good number of years. The extra car loan and insurance payments aren't helping my situation, but it's another step towards reachieving independence. And it has gets good mileage, too.

Domestic Life: Well, for starters I had to move back in with my mom and sister here in Maryland. It definitely has its perks, like, lodging and utilities. I love my family, so it's not that I don't want to see them, but it can be hard to go from living independently to being back home again. My mom is probably one of the coolest around, so I can't complain about her. My sister and I get into a lot of scuffles, though. Especially because one of my biggest stressors has been her dog.

Towards the end of my time in Japan, I heard that my sister wanted a dog. She asked me for my input and I believe I said "Fine. But dogs are a lot of work, so don't ask me to take care of it." Well, that turned out how you might expect. My first half year back while I was working from home, it was my job to walk him (usually a couple times), feed him once, and let him be out of his cage for a while if my schedule permitted. One of the main problems is that he is a Shiba-Inu, which is a very energetic and stubborn breed. So he would be banging on his cage, wanting to come out. I would walk him and he would want to run around and grab sticks and leaves and wouldn't go to the bathroom. And when he was out inside the house he would bite at whatever he could reach (pillows, napkins, papers) at random and try to eat them.

When I took this job and also got pissed at her for always going out and dumping her dog on me or my mom, I stopped taking care of him most of the time. Recently, though, my sister has been doing all kinds of crap (coaching a soccer team, taking Japanese classes, seeing her new boyfriend) and my mom has been having problems with her knee and has a hard time handling the dog. So the thankless job once again falls to me.

Well, at least I have a car these days, so I can go out now and then if I want to. But...

Social Life: Stunted. Frustrating. In Japan and in college I had a lot of opportunities to go out with friends and meet new people. Unfortunately, though, I don't really know anyone here. I grew up in New York and my mom moved to Maryland less than a year before I went to Japan on JET. So I came home and was without a car for over half a year. My nearest friend lives in Pennsylvania (though he's moving to Maryland soon), and I was doing the long distance relationship thing. So most of my socializing was done online.

These days I've been trying to branch out and get more involved in meeting people, but it's slow going. I have been going to some JETAA DC networking events but haven't really connected with anyone enough to warrant anything beyond chatting at said event. I've also become a member of the Japan America Society of Washington DC and have attended a few of their events, and am taking a Japanese history class with them. But the events aren't regular enough for me to really make any friends, and the class I'm taking is small and mostly made up of folks older than myself. There is one former JET member in that class who is around my age and a pretty cool dude, though. So there's that at least.

Writing all this I know it sounds like I am just feeling sorry for myself, and sometimes I do. But I'm trying to improve my situation. It's just...very slow. For people who return to a home where they have a lot of friends and familiarity, repatriation might be easier, I suspect.

Romance: Crap, this one again...

Well, I've already written posts about what happened with Yoshie and me. I've also already written some mopey ramblings (mostly in Japanese though, maybe). But I'll give a brief recap.

I returned home and we did our best to keep things going over even longer distance than they had been. We missed each other a lot, and sometimes I thought things were harder for her than me because I had done the international thing before. She visited me for a couple weeks near the end of last year. It wasn't a perfect trip, but was a lot better than her first trip to America, I think. And it was awesome to see her after months of just Skype and Gchat.

After that, things started to decline. She started becoming busier with her music life (setting up shows and meeting new bands and artists to play with; tons of rehearsals and practices). In the past she had told me that she was considering moving to America. Maybe we wouldn't be together at first, but it would be a big step towards our future together. But now she started talking a little about how she was considering moving to Fukuoka (the big city near Saga where the majority of the music community lives). I knew that if she moved to Fukuoka, she wouldn't be making plans to leave Japan anytime soon.

Things started getting rough for me. Texts and Skype sessions became fewer as she got busier. I guess being busy also helped take her mind off of us not being together. I started feeling really stressed at work because sometimes days would go by with merely one or two messages between us, whereas in the past we had been back and forth throughout the day. I missed her a lot and I worried that she didn't care as much about the relationship as she used to.

I visited her at the end of April of this year. It was...not a good trip. I'm glad I went and got to see her in person one last time. But while I was there, she had a lot of practices and a couple of shows. I resented that she wasn't spending more time with me; after all, I had spent a lot of money and taken time off from work to visit, and who knows when we would see each other again? She was irritable sometimes, I think because she was feeling so conflicted. Our trip to Nagasaki to meet up with Joe and Lieko was uncomfortable.

One day I kind of broke down emotionally and poured out that I had been thinking about how I wanted to marry her and build a family together, but that these days it seemed more and more like that wouldn't happen. She listened but I don't remember what she told me. Nothing really to resolve anything.

Then about an hour before I was going to leave for the airport, she broke down and told me that she was going to move to Fukuoka. That she was going to remove her relationship status from Facebook and not make posts about it because it was unprofessional. She loved me but she decided that her music had to come first. I told her I understood, and that in light of that we probably wouldn't be able to make things work. When I was on the bus to the airport, she called me crying and asked if I would give her some more time to think. I said I would.

A week or two later I finally got a chance to talk to her on Skype again and I told her that if this was how things were going to be (we had barely talked since I returned to the States), that we had to break up. I could do long distance, but not indefinitely, and not knowing that I would barely get to talk to her because she would be too busy. God, breakups suck.

Since then we've exchanged one or two emails and we're still friends on Facebook, but I don't know how long all of that will last. I'm trying to get past her, but I'm not doing a good job. Maybe I won't be able to until I meet someone else who I can love.

At any rate, I know that you meet people when you least expect it, but I have a hard time picturing myself with anyone in the near future. Not just because of how I feel, but because of my dismal social life. =P

Conclusion: I'd like to just say that if you are abroad and considering coming home, think carefully and try not to make an emotional choice. But consider your emotions. My main reason for coming back was to get a better job. I thought with my experience and education it wouldn't be too much of a problem, even with the economy the way it is. But it seems having a bachelor's degree and living abroad aren't as strong on a resume as they used to be.

As the JET mantra goes, ESID. In my case, it's very possible things will pick up at some unexpected juncture and I will be better off for having decided to come home. But the sad truth for now is that I often regret my decision. I wish this post had a happier ending, so,'s a puppy: