Archive | August, 2014

Taiwanese sufferer of ALS critical of Ice Bucket Challenge

28 Aug

Study Japanese with the Japan Times

27 Aug

Occasionally the Japan Times newspaper has a Japanese language lesson.

Here is one of their recent lessons:


ii-yo! (Okay!)

Situation 1: Mitsuo is stopped by his mother as he is about to leave the house.

母: 光男、出かけるなら、この手紙、ポストに出して行ってくれる?

光男: いいよ!

Haha: Mitsuo, dekakeru-nara, kono tegami, posuto-ni dashite-itte-kureru?

Mitsuo: Ii-yo.

Mother: Mitsuo, if you’re going out, will you post this letter for me on the way?

Mitsuo: Okay!

Today, we will introduce the meanings and usage of the adjective いい (good). Its pitch-accent is high-low, so the pitch of the first い descends to the second い sharply, whether the sentence-end intonation is rising or falling. It expresses that something is good and is used with 給料 (きゅうりょう, salary), 頭 (あたま, brain), 性格 (せいかく, character) and いい男 (おとこ, man)/女 (おんな, woman) is a casual way to say a man is handsome or a woman is pretty. The negative form is よくない, which is based around よい the old form of いい.

Mitsuo uses いい to mean OK in Situation 1; in this usage the sentence-end particle よ is added, spoken with a rising intonation. Note that いいよ with the falling intonation means “No.” Also, いい and the more polite いいです are used to decline someone’s offer, e.g., when someone suggests you have another cup of coffee.

Situation 2: Mr. and Mrs. Okubo see a man in his late-40s weeping bitterly on TV.

妻: この人、ほんとに県会議員なの? いい大人が、まるで子どもみたいに泣いている。

夫: まったく、いい恥さらしだなあ。経費を何に使ったか、ちゃんと説明すればいいのに。

Tsuma: Kono hito, honto-ni kenkai-giin-nano? Ii otona-ga marude kodomo-mitai-ni naite-iru.

Otto: Mattaku, ii hajisarashi-da-nā. Keihi-wo nani tsukatta-ka, chanto setsumei-sureba ii-noni.

Wife: Is this man really a member of the prefectural assembly? He is weeping bitterly, like a child.

Husband: He has really embarrassed himself! He should clearly explain what he spent the money on.

いい is often used for sarcastically reproaching someone, as in the wife’s いい大人 (おとな) (a man old enough) or as in the husband’s いい恥(はじ)さらし (literally, wonderfully disgraceful). Here is another example of reproaching: いい歳(とし)をして、そんなに激(はげ)しい運動(うんどう)をするなんて! (Despite the fact that you are already quite old, you’re doing a difficult physical exercise like that [I don’t think you should!]).

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita asks why Mr. Sere looks a little down.

セレ: じつは、昨日(きのう)、ゆりとけんかしちゃったんだ。

三田: けんかの原因(げんいん)は?

セレ: ぼくたちの将来(しょうらい)のこと。ぼくが長男(ちょうなん)で、ゆりが一人(ひとり)っ子(こ)だから、いろいろむずかしい問題(もんだい)があって。

三田: ふうん、セレくんとゆりちゃんは、仲(なか)がいいから、けんかするんだな。

セレ: ぼくは、けんかなんかしたくないのに…。国(くに)の両親(りょうしん)のこととか、なにも考(かんが)えないで暮(く)らせたら、どんなにいいだろう!

三田: まあ、いい大人(おとな)が、そういうわけにもいかないだろう。結婚(けっこん)したら、問題があるのは当然(とうぜん)だ。ふたりで問題を乗り越(こ)えて、はじめて本当(ほんとう)のきずなができるんじゃないか。

セレ: ああ、ほんとだ! 三田(みた)くん、すごい。感動(かんどう)したよ。

三田: うん、ぼくも、自分(じぶん)のことばに感動している。でも、どうして、ぼくのことばに感動してくれる人(ひと)は、いつもセレくんだけなんだろう…?

Sere: Actually, I had a fight with Yuri last night.

Mita: What caused it?

Sere: It was about our future. I’m the eldest son in my family and Yuri is an only child. We seem to have a lot of problems.

Mita: I see; but you love each other, so that’s why you fight.

Sere: I don’t want to fight. I’d be so happy if we could live without thinking about things like our parents living in different countries.

Mita: Well, adults can’t live like that. After you marry her, like all marriages, naturally, there will be problems. After you get over them together, don’t you think you’ll be able to make a true connection?

Sere: Oh, you’re right! That’s great, Mita! It’s touching!

Mita: Yeah, I was impressed myself. But Sere, I wonder why you’re the only one who is ever impressed by what I have to say.

(This lesson is from the Japan Time online, here).


25 Aug

Yesterday we went to Kanagawa. The prefecture to the south of Tokyo.

First we went to Kamakura. Kamakura has many temples and shrines…but is probably most famous for the 大仏 (Great Buddha) statue that is there. We didn’t visit the Great Buddha yesterday, but we’ve been to it many times before (Click here to see photo I took of the Great Buddha about six years ago.)

First we visited the 小町通り (Komachi Street).

Ghibli store

The “Iwata Coffee Shop”. It’s claim-to-fame is that John Lennon ate there when he visited Kamakura.

A toy store.

We ate breakfast at the well-known “Komeda Coffee” restaurant.

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We went to the famous 報国寺 (Hōkoku-ji Temple), also called 竹寺 (“Bamboo Temple”) because of it’s bamboo forest!

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After we left the “Bamboo Temple”, I saw this old Coke machine that sold the cola in glass bottles:

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Some turtles in a pond came out of the water looking for food hand-outs from the people. Including this スッポン (Chinese Soft-shelled Turtle):

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Kamakura has many local-brewed beers, including this 「大仏ビール」 (“Great Buddha Beer”) that I bought:

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After Kamakura, we went to Yokohama:

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「横浜中華街」 (Yokohama Chinatown)

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The Yokohama Chinatown 交番 (Police Box).

In Yokohama Chinatwon, we ate 担々麺 (spicy “Tan-tan-men” Ramen) for lunch.

A shopping mall had a dinosaur exhibit.


Yokohama skyline.

For dinner, we ate at an 居酒屋 (Japanese “izakaya” pub).

“Water Throwing Festival” 2014

18 Aug

Yesterday was one of Tokyo’s biggest festivals. The 深川八幡祭り (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival).


Were you there? I was there, but not as a spectator. I have been a member of a group in this festival for nine years. I’m one of the people carrying a 神輿 (portable shrine) in this festival.

This festival isn’t held annually like most festivals. It’s held every three years. So the next time will be in August 2017.

It’s often called 「水かけ祭り」 ( the “Water-throwing Festival” ) because spectators throw buckets of water on the participants. And even the Tokyo Fire Department sprays us with firehoses!

I wrote a post the last few times I’ve participated in this festival. The last time, the Emperor and Empress of Japan attended the festival!
Click here to see that post with photos. It was a rare opportunity that we were able to see the royal couple so close!

Here are a few of the excellent photos that my wife took.














Telegrams Are Still Sent In Japan

14 Aug

Read this article that tells about the enduring popularity of telegrams in Japan.

World-famous Japanese cat Maru gets a new pal, learns a cool new tail trick 【Video】

11 Aug

Retailer Delivers Harsh Ultimatum to Alleged Rare Toy Thief

8 Aug

Tokyo Desu

In the United States, the standard protocol when an employee catches a shoplifter in the act is to just let the crook go. It is, after all, better for the company to eat the loss for the item than to get involved in messy legal battles when the plucky high school-age cashier pursues the criminal and inevitably gets his ass kicked.

One Japanese retro toy retailer, though – faced with the loss of an exceedingly rare Tetsujin wind-up toy that was recently stolen – decided to strike back at the alleged thief with a sinister ultimatum.

Since the store – one of a chain called Mandarake – had captured the perfect money shot of the thief’s face on their security cameras, they took to their official site to post an edited capture from the security footage and a terse message:


“Return the toy within a week, or we will publicly release…

View original post 112 more words

Cigarette-selling shiba becomes internet sensation, leverages fame for cucumbers

7 Aug

I saw this dog on TV last year…

Reverse Culture Shock

4 Aug

I have been living in Japan since 1990. Most of my life now.
In that time I have only visited America three times. With a family of five, such a faraway vacation is too expensive.
Our most recent trip to America was to Florida in early August 2004…exactly ten years ago now.

It’s been so long since I’ve been to America, it feels more like a foreign country to me now. Japan has become home.

It was fun to visit America, but I’m not really used to it anymore, I guess. I experienced “reverse culture shock” when we went there in 2004!

First of all, the flight. We went there in August because my kids were on summer vacation from school. That is a peak travel time so airline jack their prices way up! So, I looked for airline that was one that had a good safety record but offered the lowest fare.
We decided to fly with the American airline “Continental Airlines“.
The flight itself was fine…they got us to America and back safely, on time, and with all of our luggage. But I guess I might be too used to Japanese customer service because the attitude of our cabin attendant was surprisingly bad.
I heard her audibly sigh when she was asked a question by another passenger.
And my kids (who were still elementary school students at that time) wanted more of the complimentary snacks that they gave passengers…so I asked her when she was passing by us if we could get some more – and she snapped “No!” and continued on her way without further explanation!

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal…and it isn’t, I know. But that would be unheard of behavior in Japan, so I was surprised.

My next culture shock came in the airports in America.
We started our journey to America at Narita Airport in the Tokyo area.
In Japan, people don’t use their cellphones for talking so much. Emailing through the phones is much more common. And when people do talk with their phones, they do so somewhere away from other people and talk quietly.

I never gave that a second thought before. Even to me, that just seems like normal phone manners.

I came to Japan before cellphones were used by anyone, so I had never even seen a cellphone in America before my trip there ten years ago.

Before we boarded our plane in Japan, everyone in the airport who was using a cellphone was doing so quietly by just sending emails. And when we got off the plane at the airport in America, it was totally different!
There everyone was talking on their phones…loudly.

I don’t want to seem like we didn’t enjoy our vacation in Florida in 2004. It was a lot of fun…but it didn’t feel like “coming home” – but like visiting an interesting foreign country.
Probably because most of my life, and my entire adult life in Japan…I really only lived in America as a kid and teenager…so Japan feels like home.
In fact, after eating American food everyday for two weeks, everyone in my family (including me) starting actually dreaming about the food we wanted to eat once we returned to Japan!

I love ネギトロ丼 (“Negi-toro-don”).

On our drive to the hotel from the airport, I noticed a “Taco Bell” fast-food restaurant. It had been years since I’ve eaten at a “Taco Bell”, so I decided to go through their drive-thru window.
We ordered some tacos and five soft drinks…two medium and three small. The “small” size colas at were bigger than a “large” in Japan! And the U.S. “medium” drinks were too big to fit in the car’s cup holders!
If I had known they were that big, I would’ve ordered one medium for the five of us to share.

Similarly, the clothes in American stores were so big! It was difficult to find our sizes.

Also, I was never sure who to tip or how much. Tipping isn’t done in Japan so I’m not used to it.
I tried to tip everyone in America because I didn’t know who was and who wasn’t expecting one. Gas stations, the rental car place, the hotel cleaning lady, waitresses…
And I probably over-tipped them too because I wasn’t sure how much to give them.
It began to get stressful wondering “Am I supposed to leave a tip here?”

Another event that happened which surprised us because it would never happen in Japan:
We went to a small beach side restaurant for dessert. We each had a slice of cake.
The cakes came and looked good…but they were hard to finish. In fact, my kids couldn’t finish theirs. The cakes were so sweet! Way too sweet!
That was a bit shocking…how different the food tastes. But what was the real culture shock was when I went to pay the US$21.60 bill. I gave the cashier $22…and he told me that he doesn’t have enough coins in the register to give me my 40¢ change!
He said “It’s alright, isn’t it? It’s only 40 cents!”
I didn’t know what to say. Sure, it was only small change…but, in Japan, if a store didn’t have ¥40 in coins to make change, they’d give the customer a ¥50 or a ¥100 coin rather they just assuming they can “keep the change”!

Like I said, none of these events “ruined” our vacation. We still look back on them as “only-in-America” situations!

Book review & giveaway 2: Intermediate Japanese

3 Aug

As I mentioned last month, Tuttle Books sent me a couple books to review on my blog here.

And they also are kindly giving one free copy of each book to a random visitor to my blog.

Click here to read my review of the book about Japanese architecture (and to enter , by 2014 August 31st, for a chance to win a free copy of that book).

The book that I am reviewing here is titled “Intermediate Japanese by Michael L. Kluemper and Lisa Berkson.
(At the end of this post will be the details of the book giveaway.)


Are you studying Japanese? If so, this book and accompanying CD are an excellent tool!

All of the other Japanese study materials that I have were written by Japanese people, so I was at bit skeptical at first about this book because neither of the authors are native Japanese speakers.
But they both have studied Japanese for years and worked as translators and Japanese language teachers at high schools in America (that was a surprise to me too! Do high schools in America have Japanese language classes now?)…and their method of teaching the language is a bit differently than a Japanese teacher’s. I think that, as they learned Japanese as a second language too, they have an approach to teaching it that may be easier for non-Japanese to learn.

This book has a manga style story written in Japanese. New kanji is introduced using “furigana” the first time, but is written without it from then on.
It also has kanji study pages, vocabulary drills, and exercises to test the learner’s understanding.
It also has a CD of the new vocabulary words and the story dialogs. I copied the CD onto my phone and listen on the train during my work commute.

I have the “Intermediate Japanese” book. The book have little English and the CD has none. So it’s good for intermediate level learners…there are also beginner and advanced level books in this series.

As I said above, I like this book and think it’s a very good study tool.

If you’d like to purchase it, it’s available at this link.

Tuttle Books is giving (gave) one copy of this book to a random visitor of my blog.

Fill in this form by 2014 August 31st for a chance to win it:

***** Updated September 1st, 2014 *****

This special promo ended on 2014 August 31st. One random winner was selected and contacted directly by Tuttle Publishers (via email) with the details about the free book.

Thank you to all who entered, but only the winner was contacted.