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.

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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...