Sunday, May 10, 2015

POM Samurai

I just saw one of POM's latest commercials on TV and was pleasantly surprised to hear some Japanese!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A hollow victory!

Barring a sudden society-ending solar flare or other such cataclysm, I wager that my offspring will one day know the torments of Mario's parties, and the worth of their associated victories.

I've probably said it before, but one of the things I love about studying Japanese (though this probably applies more broadly to language study in general) is the discovery of similarities. Some English expressions are exactly or nearly the same as Japanese expressions, in literal construction.

Here's such a one:

むなしい勝利(しょうり), which means "hollow victory." むなしい has some interesting applications:

むなしい夢 - the futile dream of relying on your skill to achieve Mario Party victory.

Friday, April 10, 2015

DC Sakura Matsuri

I just wanted to write a few words on my recent, protracted silence. For a couple of years now I've been the volunteer chairman for  JETAADC. It's been a good experience; I've had fun and made friends, but now I need to recapture a little of my time and energy to redirect to other spheres of my life.

There have been a few loose ends for me to tie down (I have been expending all my writing juices on emails and other materials, thus no blog posts!), and my current role will be nearly finished after tomorrow, with the annual Sakura Matsuri Street Festival in DC. You see, this year the JET Program will finally have a formal presence. There are always a ton of JET alumni volunteering throughout the event, but now we'll have our own table, of which I've been one of the primary organizers. We're going to be disseminating promotional materials, and awarding prizes (while supplies last) in exchange for the answering of Japan-related trivia questions.

We're also going to have pins available for JET alumn, although I wish we had some way to "announce" their availability to all who qualify.

So if you're in the DC area, stop on by the Festival. And be sure to visit us for a JET sticker and some candy.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My first (book) translation credit

Forest Sprite David the Gnome

I'll admit, I tend to be a bit critical of TV programming these days. Sure, there are some great shows, but there's also a lot of crap. Thanks, reality TV. I also don't think very highly of kids' shows, and that's an opinion I've heard echoed by my peers. "They just don't make shows like they used to."

People my age reminisce about cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, GI Joe, He-Man, Doug, and Rugrats, to name a few. Just between us, I've done back and rewatched parts of some of those shows...and a big part of our feeling have to do with nostalgia. And when we were younger, we watched those shows through our children-eyes. If I were a kid growing up today, maybe I'd love SpongeBob.

Anyway, regardless of objective quality, one of the shows I remember most fondly from my early childhood is David the Gnome. From what I recall, it was a cartoon about this gnome who lived in the forest and would ride around on his pet fox, helping out gnomes, animals, and other creatures. There were trolls, talking beasts, and magic; pretty cool for a show aimed at little kids. A quick YouTube search shows that all of the episodes are actually available to watch there. If that's still the case when I have a family, my brood will without a doubt be getting a taste of my childhood.

Apparently the show was adapted from a book, and was originally created in Spain. The English version starred Tom Bosley, who some of you might remember as the dad from Happy Days.

According to Wikipedia, there was also a Japanese dub that ran on NHK briefly in 1991 and then on Sun Television in 2003. Unfortunately I can't find any clips of the Japanese version online, but that's still pretty cool.

FYI, the Japanese title is 「森の妖精ノーム」, which means something like "The Gnome-Sprite of the Forest."

Image Source

Thursday, March 19, 2015


This is a discussion we've had before, though long ago. Portlandia nailed a similar issue.

Please. Watch:

Don't call yourself an otaku.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

All this Candy

As you may well know, I like me a good mobile game. That said, I never got into Candy Crush Saga. Maybe I'm too much of a game snob? Perhaps that's it. Candy Crush is for casual gamers. "Cassies." Or maybe I just have very specific tastes when it comes to match-3's. If there are no swords or goblins, I'm probably out.

So it should come as no surprise that I haven't played the latest chapter, Candy Crush Soda. Well, that's not entirely true. I played it on Mint's phone for about two minutes on some nefarious mode with ever-expanding, evil chocolate. Needless to say the chocolate was no match for my wiles.

Anyway, I was watching some recent Japanese commercials on YouTube and discovered that Candy Crush seems to be a hit over in J-Land, too. At least enough so to warrant ads on TV, which I've never seen in the US.

Here are two from the series. I'm not sure if they've all been aired around the same time or have been staggered.

In the first one, the sitting dude asks the fairy dude what the difference is between Candy Crush and Candy Soda. He is met with silence.

In the second one, the sitting dude is like "You're the Candy Soda fairy, right?" The fairy dude confirms that to be the case. Dude 1 then follows up, "So then how come you can't tell me how to clear stage 40?" The fairy dude then apologizes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ogre up your heart!

One interesting byproduct of being multilingual (or perhaps of just being at a certain point in your language studies) is that sometimes you'll just hear or read something and matter of factly wonder how that translates into your other language(s). Not because it's of any consequence, and it may just be a passing ponderance. If you're anything like me, though, it's a fairly common thing.

I was in church the other day and the responsorial was "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

Harden not your hearts, eh? Pretty cool phrase. I wondered what it was in Japanese, but was in no position to look it up. So I forgot pretty quickly. But I have remembered! Providence?

First off, a little research reveals that the passage of interest is from Psalms 95:

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
    as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,

Righto. Let's look up the Japanese!

8 あなたがたは、メリバにいた時のように、また荒野のマッサにいた日のように、心をかたくなにしてはならない。

The Japanese uses a literal parallel - 「心をかたくなにする」。 But this appears not to be the only way to translate the expression. ALC, I summon thee!

One of these in particular is pretty interesting! 「心を鬼にする」

「鬼」is a somewhat versatile word that can mean anything from "goblin" to "ogre" to "demon." Here we have it in verb form, which I've never seen before. So this expression is literally something like "Make your heart ogrish." Ogre up that heart!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thank you, 10 Ants



10 Ants

十 = 「じゅう」; 「とお」

Thank you

Got it?

Image Source

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 5 People You'll Meet in Japan

Look at that - working on my click-bait titles! Maybe I've been seeing too many Tofugu headlines in my social media feeds (I kid).

Recently I've been reflecting a little on my JET time, and it occurred to me that there are certain types of people who you tend to run into a lot. I suppose these archetypes can be more broadly applied to anyone you meet in Japan, actually.

I know it can be unfair to generalize and place people into categories, but hey, let's do it anyway:

The Japan Nerd - This person was way into Japan before they arrived, whether their gateway drug was anime, manga, martial arts, or Japanese classes in school. Maybe they're not what some would call an "otaku," but there's a good chance their friends think of them as "the Japan guy/girl." It should be noted that the evolution of the Japan Nerd isn't so clear cut. Sometimes they travel to Japan and cocoon themselves in the culture they love so dearly; they may never want to leave. Other times they'll become jaded with less likable aspects of life in Japan. Often, I think, they achieve some healthy balance.

The World Citizen - This is the one who's been to at least a dozen other countries. During vacations they most likely won't travel around Japan. No, they'll be off to Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, China, or some other Asian country that they haven't checked off yet. I've found that the World Citizen tends to be either really interesting and fun or else super arrogant and borish. They won't be in Japan for more than two or three years, most likely.

The Casual Visitor - Japan, huh? That sounds like an interesting place. The Casual Visitor is the person who doesn't have a particularly strong connection to Japan, and perhaps didn't travel very much outside of their home country before arriving. Maybe they'll learn some Japanese; maybe they won't. They'll definitely visit every temple they can, though. The Casual Visitor is often just taking a year away from their real job to come teach English and expand their horizons.

The Lover - Their significant other is in Japan, so they are, too. Sometimes the object of their affection is a Japanese person who they met abroad, and they followed them home. On occasion, the Lover is a mutation of another form - perhaps a Casual Visitor who was planning to return home after a year but then met the love of their life and decided to stick around. And this person can also often be the spouse of someone who decided to embark on JET or who was sent to J-Land as an expat by their company/government.

The Plague Bearer - The yellow fever, it has taken hold! This guy (it's almost always a guy) is just in Japan because he loves the women, and his chances are so much higher of getting an Asian girlfriend in Asia. Maybe he doesn't even like Japan. But he likes Japanese women. Often this guy is a total creeper and a toolbox. Perhaps sometimes he is just the victim of forces beyond his control. Either way we pity him.

Many of the people you meet over in J-town will probably be amalgams of the above models, though some do seem to fall pretty neatly into one category. It probably works better if you don't look deep down at the real underneath.

Image Sources:Black Nerd;Gadling;Nikkei; Japan Times; Quickmeme

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dance of the flurries

I just learned a cool J-go turn of phrase from one of my colleagues, who came in from his smoking break to inform me that it was flurrying out:


Normally in Japanese, we say 「雪が降る」 (ゆきがふる) to express that white stuff is falling from the heavens. 「小雪」(こゆき), literally "small snow," apparently means "flurries."

And 舞う (まう), which means "to dance," can be somewhat poetically applied here. You can picture it, can't you? A beautiful little snowflake, dancing its way down from the sky. I was told that 「舞う」can also be used to describe falling flower blossoms. Elegant, huh?

This GIF doesn't particularly apply, but I like the Peanuts, so.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Drink your milk

In the US, we've had some memorable marketing campaigns for certain generic foods or beverages."Got milk"" and "Behold, the power of cheese" come to mind. A comparable line of commercials in Japan uses the jingle 「牛乳に相談だ」, which is a little difficult to translate directly, but is probably something like "Milk can help."

They tend to advertise that milk can work to enhance attributes like your strength, beauty, or powers of concentration:

This one I saw recently uses its tagline a little more literally. The jingle can also be translated as "Consult with milk." So that is what this girl is doing:

She says that she's been dieting but isn't healthy. And she is told that the milk advises she...drink milk. Word.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More Mobile J-Gaming: Hero Emblems

Generally I get my J-gaming fix from Kairosoft mobile games, which pop out of the localization engine onto our shores every few months. I should do an update post to recap some of my favorites sometime soon... It's been about half a year since their last iOS release, though (this month they did just come out with an Android game, so at least it doesn't look like they're dead) Correction - they just came out with new Android and iOS games a day or two ago! And Papa needs to keep up his Japanese, preferably while gaming.

Enter Hero Emblems

I'm a sucker for a good mobile game, though there are certain formulas that are more likely to rope me in. When you combine a match-3 with fantasy RPG elements (I'll pass on Candyland), you've got me. It really helps if the artwork is solid, which in this case it is.

I'm not going to say too much else about Hero Emblems. The gameplay is simple enough to jump in and quickly feel comfortable with, yet layered enough that there can be a little bit of strategizing involved. I especially like how your party shares hp and armor, and kind of fights as a unit. Definitely an interesting concept!

There are also three language options, which is the main point of all this! The English version is bad, in a charming kind of way. Definitely playable. The Chinese, I have no idea - if you speak Chinese, feel free to give it a whirl and let me know. I imagine it's good, since it looks like the developer is Chinese. The Japanese localization feels a lot better than the English. Granted, I'm just a humble student of the language, but it seemed natural (or manga-ish) enough to me.

Anyway, if you're a fan of match-3 games, I definitely recommend you stop by the appropriate mobile shop and pick up this bad boy. And if you're looking for a little J practice while you're at it - bonus!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


They say a good sign of fluency is being able to read a newspaper in a foreign language. This might be more true in a language where reading doesn't require the acquirement of thousands of unique characters, but it's still a nice benchmark to use for your Japanese.

I must admit - when I was living in Japan, I didn't read Japanese newspapers. They were available where I worked, but they were just too much for my feeble comprehension level. These days I still don't read the papers so much, but I do read online articles now and then. That's a lot easier due to the magic of cut and paste plus the availability of online dictionaries. 

There is one section of one paper that frequently grabs my attention, however. Here at my office, we get a daily edition of the Nikkei (that is the Nihon Keizai Shinbun; 日本経済新聞). A lot of the articles are still beyond me, though I can generally understand what they're talking about. Every Saturday, however, there's a section called プラス1 (Plus 1), which usually contains tidbits about pop culture, food, fashion, etc. There are also often survey results, like the little piece I'm about to talk about.

Displaying IMG_0989.jpg

I was looking at an old paper from October of 2014 and saw this neat little piece about requests spouses have for their partners. The article starts off by saying that it can be difficult to ask some things of one's spouse, but understanding what's in each other's heart can help to build a stronger relationship. Heh, perhaps.

With that in mind, a research arm of NTT conducted a survey asking married respondents what changes they would ask their spouses to make. The results are interesting, though perhaps some not so surprising. Let's have a look.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Japanese venues abroad; eats near DC

I feel the Japanness draining away, slowly. That's the way of things, I suppose. You come back home, you retain some connections, you keep up your language studies. If you're lucky, you work at a related job. You eat Japanese food. But it still slips away, by degrees.

One thing that has vexed me for some time is the lack of "Japanese things" around DC. Back when I lived in New York, I didn't venture into the city proper that often. Nor did I really have much reason to seek our Japanness. It's kind of ironic, though, that I now know Manhattan to be a hotbed of Japanese commercial activity. And not like "we sell some Japanese stuff" stores - I mean real chains from Japan, like Kinokuniya and Uniqlo. And Ippudo...mmmm.

Ok, so Japanese people are concentrated in NYC, and also in California and Hawaii. Fine.

You'd think DC would be a good market, though. There's a Japanese community, though everyone tells me it's not that large. Perhaps that's because a lot of the Japanese here are diplomats and representative office workers who are only here for a couple of years on a rotational basis. Still, that's a solid foundation. And Japanese is trendy, right? And DC is international, right? So why not open some J-stores in these parts?

I know not. I know that Kinokuniya has store locations in Washington state, Oregon, and Illinois. I know that Uniqlo has stores in Pennsylvania now; Connecticut, Massachusetts, and about 5 billion in New York and California. Neither one has a place near DC. Rage.

Though the selection pales to what you'll find in one of the aforementioned  metropolitan hubs, there are some decent Japanese restaurants around these parts. My go-to used to be Nichi Bei Kai in Columbia, MD, but they closed down for relocation and never relocated.

There's some high class fare in DC, like Sushi Taro. That's for the high rollers, though.

Despite the horrible name, my current favorite is Sushi King, also in Columbia, MD. I believe the staff are all Chinese, but their chefs can make some tasty American Japanese food.

The other day I tried out Yuzu, in Bethesda, MD, with Mint. The occasion was her birthday. Although it hasn't supplanted Sushi King at the top of my list, they had a pretty interesting menu, and at least the manager appeared to be Japanese. I'd bet the chef was as well.

We had to try the special corn tempura. It didn't look pretty, but it was surprisingly good. Beyond that, the spicy karage, sushi rolls, and chirashi were pleasant enough. Nothing to write home about, though. The sunomono had more seafood in it than I usually see, which was nice. But then again $8 is a little steep for sunomono.

(J?)-Music and Me: Jurassic Park

Among the first CDs I owned as a kid was one of Weird Al's albums. I believe it was Bad Hair Day, but who knows? In a pretty short timespan I accumulated a number of his CDs, including Alapalooza, which featured a parody of "MacArthur Park." I actually never listed to the original song until now. Wow, Richard Harris did music?

Front cover of the Alapalooza album. A skeletal tyrannosaurs with the head of "Weird Al" Yankovic is framed by a yellow circle with a shadowy jungle and a red border across the entire scene. The name of the artist and the album appear in white letters above a pure black background.
My childhood.

Anyway, Weird Al's version was "Jurassic Park." Wasn't one of my favorites, and until recently I thought that song and those days were behind me. Until recently...

Someone discovered a Japanese version. I think it may have been Tofugu that started circulating it around the J-blogosphere.

I would embed the video here, but that feature has been disabled. You can check it out at this link, though. Weird Al's Japanese accent is actually pretty serviceable! But then I bet that guy watched a lot of anime...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Apologies in advance for my readers who aren't so tech-oriented - you may want to skip this one as it will mostly just be technobabble.

In my IT studies, I recently came across a term I was unfamiliar with - "WiMax." Basically described as Wi-Fi on steroids, WiMax is a comparable wireless communications technology with much greater range.

It seems that WiMax is presently being used as a fixed wireless access service (basically instead of running cables, you get signals like with Wi-Fi), although I can't find much information as to how widely deployed and available it is in the U.S. right now. WiMax suffers from interference and penetration issues due to where it's located on the spectrum band.

Sprint built out a WiMax network for its mobile service some years ago, but unfortunately the deployment dragged on for too long and competitors adopted LTE, which has now become the prevalent 4G technology. Sprint will shut down its WiMax operations this year, reportedly.

I was talking with one of my supervisors yesterday and he told me that KDDI in Japan is still building out and marketing WiMax. They may be the only carrier in the world to be doing so! I wonder if they're swimming upstream, though...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The not-so-interesting, but straightforward and easy-to-remember pirate flag, in Japanese

Well, since I haven't been very productive lately - mostly due to my resemblance to a wretched plague-bearer (this morning when I spoke to my mom, I told her that I was feeling a little better and her reply was something like "Really? You sound horrible."), here are two posts back to back!

Seeing as it's been about a month since I've actually written about Japanese, I wanted to come up with something super awesome and, if possible, totally badass. This naturally made me think of pirates. I've been on and off reading this book about pirates called The Republic of Pirates. It's about several famous pirates and the Golden Age of Piracy during the early 1700's, which largely contributed to our pop-cultural fascination with pirates. I've probably broken an unwritten "writing rule" here by repeating the word "pirates" so many times in such proximity, but that's okay - pirates are cool enough that I don't even care. Pirates pirates pirates.

Anyway, there are a lot of cool little tidbits and facts to know about pirates. Like did you know that merchant or navy vessels were actually much more brutal positions for sailors back during the Golden Age? Pirates could be ruthless, but generally pirate crews were better treated than those of "legitimate" ships.

If I were to ask you what you think of when I bring up pirates, you might mention a Disney movie or rum (yum), or peg-legged chaps with hook-hands. But I imagine a good amount of you would think of the Jolly Roger - the infamous pirate flag.

Here's another fun fact for you - though I'd wager many people don't know the distinction, the Jolly Roger isn't just the term used to refer to the oft-imagined skull and crossbones symbol over a black field. It's actually a catch-all term used to refer to all flags flown to identify a pirate ship. The skull and crossbones is no doubt the most famous, but there were a wide variety of designs. They often featured skulls, skeletons, demon-like figures stabbing hearts with spears, and terrifying imagery like that. They also seemed to mostly use the colors black, white, and sometimes red.

So in English, we call the pirate flag the "Jolly Roger." Any guess as to the Japanese? 「ジョーリーロージャー」 maybe? Perhaps something like 「黒死骨旗」(if I were to "invent" the Japanese word for "pirate flag," this would be it - literally "black death bone flag")?

Nope - it's actually quite straightforward, like so many Japanese words, which either seem to be super easy to remember and make total sense or else be incomprehensible. To be fair to Japanese, the straightforward ones are a lot more common.

The Japanese for "Jolly Roger" is actually 「海賊旗」(かいぞくき), which quite literally means "pirate flag." I know - kind of a letdown after all that buildup, but look on the bright side - at least I got to write about pirates.

Now that you are enlightened, go forth and converse about pirate flags in Japanese. You're welcome.

Image Source

Akeome 2015


As predicted, it's been a while since my last post (though for different reasons). I hope all you readers had pleasant holidays. Mine were...stressful, but I'm still breathing.

Just last weekend I was over at Mint's place. She's been fighting a cold, and I joked that it would be okay if I caught it since I don't have to go back to work until January 5th. Little did I know that I was already incubating some dread bug, which has been plaguing me since then. No fever, but it's really knocked me on my posterior. Seriously, almost this entire week was spent staring at screens and being unproductive. At least I'm getting my money's worth out of Netflix. I expect I'll be recovered enough to drag myself into work on Monday, but blegh. Blegh, I say! Also, think I've drunk more tea in the past five days than during all of my time in Japan.

I scored some excellent electronics-goodies for Christmas - among them the new Dragon Age iteration and Fantasy Life, as predicted. Those have gotten some time. I finally unfogged enough that I can actually focus somewhat on reading and deciphering things like computer component specs, so I also cracked open my trusty PC today, I think for the first time since putting it together 3 years ago. The occasion was the (successful) installation of a new Western Digital 1TB HDD. I'm glad HDDs are relatively easy to install. I've been doing so much nothing over the past few days that it was nice to feel like I've accomplished something.

I also got some very nice cologne and high quality matcha powder (ゲット!) and a few other goodies that will be enjoyed when I'm in a better condition.

And I haven't forgotten about that Ambition of the Slimes update I promised! I even have the screenshots ready...