December 29, 2010

A Couple TRICK CMs Starring Yukie

Two things remain constant: My love of the dorama TRICK and the willingness of Japanese celebrities to appear in commercials. These combine into the embedded videos below, two of which star Nakama Yukie.

First we have a tricky cup noodle CM, which came out in time to promote the new movies this year:

Here we see Yamada utter a variation on her famous line "I see what you did there!" (I may have changed the nuance on that line a bit ;-):
And no, I can't tell you how something made out of wheat and hops is different from beer.

And next an ad for the DS game. I need to get that.

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December 25, 2010

Japanese Horse Guy Buys Himself a Very Special Present

I am scheduling this post way ahead of time, so if I die or something and it shows up, know that I am not posting from beyond the grave. Yet.
Anyways this is technically a Christmas video in which a guy buys himself all the energy drinks and tries to drink/eat them.

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December 21, 2010

Karaoke: The City Lights Make One Yearn for Companionship

While perusing my copy of 常識として知っておきたい日本語 (Japanese Everyone Should Know), I ran across 巷の灯り (chimata no ikari, the lights of the streets). It refers to the glow of a city at night, and maybe worldly delights/the profane (I'm not always clear at what the author is getting at because he waxes poetic about phrases).

It's not a phrase that lends well to googling the nuance thereof, but I did discover an nice old song with a related title: 街の灯り (machi no akari, the lights of the streets). Yeah the titles are one kanji apart and the nuance I can only guess at, but the song makes me feel all good and lonesome, especially as I sit here trying to figure out what to do for Christmas break and lament the lack of blog readers that could fill me in on the nuances of 巷 vs 街. Make my linguistic Christmas dreams come true, Hopeless Readers.

So a karaoke vid is embedded below (my preferred singer is here in case you need to know how to sing it):

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December 13, 2010

Karaoke: The English version vs the Japanese

Check it: The English language version of Save the Last Dance for me:

Versus the Japanese:

A bit different. Sing those back to back for fun.

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November 28, 2010

Japanese Zombies Are the Standard

I used to think the plethora of anime out there represented the fact that the Japanese are creative. Then I taught their middle schoolers, who couldn't imagine their way outside of an... imaginary... box thing. After that I started to look at anime and Japanese culture a little more scrutibly. I scruted the heck out of it. My conclusion is that the culture stifles creative impulses. But such impulses are human nature, and so they will come to the fore in some way while still remaining true to the national idioms. I leave you with video evidence, but before I do, let me make it clear I still love living here. One friend of mine said something understandable on the subject: "I love living in Japan, but I hate the boring Japanese people I have to live in it with."

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November 13, 2010

About Being an Extra in Japan

The teeming masses of readership of this blog (my aunt) have been bugging me for a while to share my extraing experience. I've done only one gig so far. I didn't even get paid for (not) appearing in Zebraman II.
But here is the video:

And now some pics cause I just talk in my entertainingly quaint way in the vid:
A view of the track field and camerateers

A view of your protagonist getting ready for his big scene in the bleachers

In the train on the way home I spotted a Takashi Miike spot on a tabloid advertisement. As his film was the first thing I ever extra-ed on, I thought it a nice nod by the universe. Sup, Universe! I see what you did there.

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October 30, 2010

In Japanese, White People Have No Experience

What? The post title sounds like what-ism? Wait, I haven't even talked about the black people part. Hello? Did you just hang up in the middle of my blog post? How do you even do that?

This time I am going to talk about something that was one of those things where I turned to the J girl I was dating and was like, I bet x is true about the Japanese language. And she was like what are you talking about. And then I looked it up and was all, yeah I was right! Kind of. For the dumb luck reasons. And then she's like, huh.

See there is this word, 素人 (shirouto) that means beginner, and this other word, 玄人 (kurouto) that means expert and they are antonyms. Know that the 人 in both of them means person. Based on their pronunciation*, I figured that they were at one time written as the much more intuitive 白人 and 黒人. Of course, if you can read simple Japanese you know that 白人 and 黒人 mean white person and black person respectively, and these days they refer to races. But back in the day they referred to beginners and experts.

From the sources I looked into, it's not clear how 白 (white) became 素 (foundation) (I had just figured it was to avoid confusion once white dudes started visiting Japan, but don't see any support for or against that). 素 could refer to the baseness of the beginner. The character for white used back in the day referred to a white-painted performer (I would hazard they mean geisha-like performers).

I also folk-etymologized myself into thinking that one gets a little dirty with experience. Nah, they just used the opposite kanji character than that of white.Gogen says that 玄 has "profoundly not plain" nuance, as opposed to 黒 (black). Even though Gogen wasn't sure about why they switched up the white kanji, it's cool with the reason for the black one.

白人 and 黒人 came along later, I guess, but it's amusing to this white boy to note that 白人 is still listed as being both a racial classification and a reference to beginners even to this day. Also, prostitutes. 黒人 is just a race. Or at least a skin color; I don't know if it implies geographical or anthropological concepts. Race is kinda silly and divisive concept anyways.

*: To summarize phonetic and kanji changes:
白人 shirohito -> 白人 shirauto -> 白人 shirouto -> 素人 shirouto
黒人 kurohito -> 玄人 kurouto

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Two Posts in a Month? Unheard of for This Blog (Etymology Post)

A short post this time. At least that's the plan. Never know when I am going to type up a bunch of stuff no one really cares about. Why just this morning I did a writeup of ways the Monster Manual monsters could be incorporated into Athasian cosmology. That is just one example of things I do all the time that-- hey, nice trick Claytonian, but we are getting to the meat of the post now! You sure? Yes I'm--D'oh! Stop that!

I was curious as to how 未曾有 (mizou, unprecedented) came about. So I looked it up on that Gogen site from the sidebar of this blog. Here's what I found. In the form of a breakdown, cause I love those.

未曾有 Breakdown
未 mi: heretofore
曾 zo: once
有 u: exist
gloss: not existing once before
origin: from the sanskrit adbhuta, via Chinese transcription, referring to the miracles and pious acts of the Bhudda. Towards the end of the Kamakura era of history, It became twisted to mean both good and bad unprecedented things.

I first noticed this word around the time former PM Aso Taro was mangling it. See, readings are hard sometimes for native speakers with elite educations too. I found an article about him and good breakdown for this word after typing the previous sentence. See, this post is not actually unprecidented at all. I leave you with a video of Asoisms:

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October 23, 2010

My Take on a Womb-a-Snatching Yoji

Did you ever watch a show and think, hey I've seen this plot before! Are all writers hacks these days or what? Well hack is an appropriate word as you will see when I dissect tonight's yoji in a macabre fashion just in time for halloween!

換骨奪胎 kannkotsudattai Breakdown:
換 kan: change
骨 kotsu: bones
奪 da(tsu): rob
胎 tai: womb (embryo)
gloss: adaptation of a previous creative work
part of speech: noun, suru verb

Change the bones, rob the womb? Yup. Make a frankensteinian monster and call it art! We only have so many ideas to go around anyways.

The recollection collection of a monk, one Eko of the Song dynasty, entitled 冷斎夜話 (reisaiyawa, Uncle Eko's Bathroom Reader of uh... Cold and Holy Trivia?) gave us this word's genesis about 1,000 years ago. It says,
Without changing the meaning, make that story. This is the bone-change way.

Using that meaning as your model, make a form. This is the steal-womb way.
[source] Well, thank goodness they spelled that out for us, or I wouldn't know what to steal and what to change.

Of course, examples of 換骨奪胎 are all around us. For instance, the American adaptation of Ringu may be considered one. A cool one I ran into recently is the GiantRobo remake, which in turn inspired The Big O (the ultimate 換骨奪胎 anime). Here's the intro:

If you are looking for more Halloween yoji, may I suggest the mountains of blood one. Also, I just added the Ancient Chinese Secrets tag to the blog. Check out those secrets to clean the blood out your clothes after you literally interpret this post.

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October 19, 2010

Bad Luck with the Ladies? Maybe You Should Consider Jewelry

I told you these old pic posts would fail to be daily. I took this pic with my cell in some magazine in a conbini. You need to click-zoom this one to see the guy's secret wrist magic, world-conquering laugh, and wonderful teeth.

Totally Awesome Product Literal Breakdown:
金も女も benjamins and hoes
自由になる will be freed up

次々と広がる one after another spreading out
幸運の good fortune's
連鎖爆発 chain of explosions
実現する realized
願望! dreams! 

巻き起こる swirling around
幸福の luck's
数々!! muchness!!

Yeah, I did it literally, but it still takes a lot of interpretation and the occasional making up of words to translate sales slogans.

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October 17, 2010

The Origins of Ika's Kanji (Exciting, But Keep Your Shirt on, Kids)

This vid (a vid not by me for once!) got me wondering about the kanji they use for ika, or squid, in Japan.

Thanks to the ol' Gogen, I found the information that I will provide in a breakdown.
烏賊 Breakdown!
烏 i= Crow
賊 ka=Enemy
Gloss: Squid
Why: An old Chinese legend claims that squid like to play possum on the surface of the water, hoping to lure in hungry black feathered carrion so that they can wrap them in in a tentaclely death grip. Thus the kanji for crow+enemy.

Now as to the verbal component of ika, nobody knows for sure, but some think it may have something to do with words like ikatsui (stern) or ikameshii (stern), or perhaps with word bits like i (expressing white)+ ka (expressing katai, or hard). All I know is ika wrestler is an awesome concept.

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October 14, 2010

The First of Many Daily Photos That Will Fail to Be Daily

Believe it or not, I haven't given up blogging. The pure exhastion that comes with teaching preschool (not English, but all subjects) has been keeping me down. But I have resolved to try and blog one picture each day at least. Because I have thousands. I'll just work my way up chronologically. Our first entry comes from a town in Nagasaki that borders my old haunt in south Saga-ken. I can't recall the town's name at the moment, but it had weird bus stands. Near the coast, they were all shaped like giant fruit, and in the mountains they had odd murals like the above one.  I can't explain what is happening. Do you know? In any case, this was kinda close to the random amusement park in the mountains with a herb theme and be-statued fountains that nobody but me ever visited. That's Japan for ya.

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October 9, 2010

All the Japanese You Need for a Visit

And don't worry, none of the tips I give in this video will make J peeps think you know Japanese and can be talked to in such a confusing tongue, due to the effect of the Foreigner Reality Displacement Field.

BTW, if you too want to own Cthulhuian tomes written in Japanese, I found one of them on for 1 yen used:
YIG〈1〉—美凶神 (カッパ・ノベルス)

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September 23, 2010

Pacman: Just a Coffee Bean Junky (Junky Will Be On THR 101 TEST)

After 30 years, Japan is ready to admit the truth about Pacman. Those little dots he eats are coffee beans. I held the proof in my hands today at a conbini. Behold the 僕らのコーヒー Pacman packaging.

Quite a nice way to celebrate an anniversary. It includes a QR code to a free game, but as I can't do QR on an iPhone, I'm outta luck. Like a ghost being chased by a giant yellow mouth that just had his morning coffee.

On the subject of coffee in Japan, all Japanese 101 students learn that coffee is pronounced kōhi in Japan (it makes for an easy katakana lesson). I've always found this strange, given coffee's ateji: 珈琲. Now you 101 students are probably scratching your head because your 101 kanji doesn't go up to rarely seen kanji like these. Prompting me to take a
C-c-cc-coffee Breakdown:
珈: ornamental hairpin (never used)
琲: string of many pearls (also never used)
gloss: coffee?!
These are truly ateji being used just for their sound. But that sound seems so off to my American ears in part because 珈 has a 力 in it's elements. Kanji with 力 inside them are usually pronounced ka. Kanji with a 非 in them are usually pronounced hi, so I'm cool with that one. So logically, it should be kahi, right? I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it seems that the spoken word came into Japan from Holland but the ateji seem to have been put together by one Udagawa Yōan, a scholar of the Dutch (Western) world that, in between creating new Japanese words for elements, decided that coffee (dutch: koffie) was 珈琲. There were a few other kanji/katakana tried out back in the day too: 可否, カウヒイ, and 哥非乙. These all suggest a ka sound too! My guess is that at the end of the day, Chinese's 咖啡 had the most influence on the choice of ateji. But even they pronounce it kāfēi. Hey, you may be thinking I just wrote the same kanji I've been ranting again. But look close. It's time... for my first ever
Ch-ch-chinese Breakdown:
咖: coffee
啡: coffee/morphine
gloss: really awesome coffee
So there you have it. Arabic word, Dutch/Japanese pronunciation, Chinese characters, but not the right ones. If you are in Japan, see if you can spot 珈琲 or a ghost on a can or carton of coffee. But if you spot a 啡, don't touch the can.

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September 19, 2010

September 18, 2010

Narita's Interesting Station Architecture

I was sitting just outside Narita station, noting the shrine/temple style exterior.

Narita is quite far from Yokohama, but I'm here for my first payed acting gig in Japan: being an extra. Most of my fellow thespians seem to be Russian women. They are quite pretty and tall.
This has been a mobile post; click the pics to visit their album

August 31, 2010

Let's Yoji: Scholars and Wars

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I say them's fighting words! In this post, I'll cover 3 slightly related four character Japanese compounds that I found interesting which all came from war and philosophy-torn ancient China.

The first is 諸子百家. Let's break it down!
諸子百家 Breakdown:
諸 sho: many, various, all
子 shi: founder of a branch of philosophical thought (as seen in Koushi, Confucius)
諸子: Chinese sages and philosophers
百 hyak: 100
家 ka: ~er person
百家: many scholars
shoshihyakka gloss: The Hundred Schools of Thought

A list I've semi-translated below from yahoo dic says schools that participated in the great philosophy explosion that was this event included Confucianists(ConfuciousMencius), Taoists(Lao-tzu荘子), Mohismists(Mozi), Legalists(管仲商鞅(しょうおう)), Logicians(公孫竜)War Philosophers,(Sun Tzu呉子Diplomatists蘇秦(そしん)張儀), Ying-yangists, Complicatedists, farmwithinyourmeansists, and gossip/tale gatherers (there was actual office in ancient China for gossip gathering).

Okay, that doesn't work very well as a traditional idiomatic yojijukugo, but it helps one to understand 百家争鳴
百家争鳴 breakdown:
争 sou: dispute
鳴 mei: sound off
hyakkasoumei gloss: Many opinions freely being exchanged
Now, it's not so common but I did find it in an article post:
iPhone 4のRetinaをめぐり百家争鳴!誇大広告なの?
=Is the iPhone 4's Retina [display] being falsely advertised? The pundits are sounding off!

Anyways, this yoji comes out of the Hundred Schools of thought period and the wealth of different opinions that were floating around back then. Interestingly, the Chinese government used it in 1956 along with the phrase "Let a hundred flowers bloom" (Chinese:百花運動 Japanese:百花斉放) to encourage debate in the political arena. Some people think it was just to find political dissidents. Mao started it and then shut the sumbich down when people actually used their freedom of speech that he had so graciously given them. We'll talk a little more about a tyrannical ruler with the next yoji, 酒池肉林, below!
酒池肉林 breakdown:
酒 shu: libations
池 chi: pond
肉 niku: meat
林 rin: woods
shuchinikurin gloss: A banquet with rivers of beer and mountains of food, a decadent feast

This one is also from China, and had a debaucherous context. See ol' king Zhou of Shag (posthumously named King Crupper) liked to line his pool (池) with alcohol and canoe around in it while plucking meat from shish kebab trees (林) . Sometimes he watched his enemies fried alive to work up an appetite for a good orgy. He's known as the worst king that China ever had. I encountered him in a game I play called Dynasty Warriors and he utters his famous yoji every time you successfully and satisfyingly kill him.

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August 25, 2010

I Totally Taught These People Japanese

This is one of those posts where I show a video and then share some book links because the video just ain't enough. Here's the vid of me teaching Japanese:

And now here's the useful books that will not be all flippant when answering your queries.
Using Japanese Slang (US)(JP): All those fun dirty words

Common Japanese Phrases(US)(JP): Useful expressions for every occasion

Strange But True(US)(JP): A Reader that is super helpful for building literacy

How to Sound Intelligent in Japanese (US)(JP): A super vocabulary builder

Making Sense of Japanese(US)(JP): Learn the difference between は and が

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters(US)(JP): More like a guide to the origins of characters if you as me, but I dig it

Japanese Verbs (US)(JP): I haven't read this one, but I think I have read one from the same series

Also, check those links on the sidebar of this very blog. They will save your study soul.

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August 14, 2010

Words I Found Interesting from The Otaku Encyclopedia

Been reading The Otaku Encyclopedia recently (buy link US and JP). I met the author briefly once, though he was missing his Goku outfit.

Thought I would post a sample of some of the interesting words from the book. I did my own research on the meanings and origins of the words, because the book, being concise as possible, doesn't get into a lot of detail.

伏せ字/伏字 fuseji (cover+letter): Those symbols that show up whenever someone swears in an anime. Though we are talking about Japanese here, a language with few swears, so what the book fails to mention is they are often used for many other things such as unintelligible utterances. Also used to mention the names and intellectual property of others, like the G○nd○m franchise, without fear of legal retaliation.
Bonus related term from uncle Claytonian: チョメチョメ/xx: A blankety-blank.

じょそこ jyosoko (from 女子, girl+ child, and 女装, girl+clothes): A dude that cross-dresses as his favorite anime girl characters. Oh no! I've summoned IT!

間 ma (physical, temporal, or metaphorical space):  A thing where the reader/viewer has to fill in what's happening. I think the book is talking about those beats where the camera pans to a bamboo garden pipe filling up, or a glass of ice and beverage, and they suddenly move due to being full or having an ice cube melt respectively. This is the biggest cliche in Japanese media, but it works well to let you know time is going on while seeming profound. Deeeeep.

漫符 manpu (cartoon+sign): Those wacky manga conventions like nosebleeds, big sweat drops, and pulsating angry vein lines that let us know what characters are thinking. One manpu I have never understood is Osamu Tezuka's little pig guy manpu. What is that?

ヲタク (w)otaku: I like this alternative spelling of otaku (seriously, I don't need to define this one for you, right?) a lot, because the older generations just don't get it. The hard core kids use this one. Maybe.

In the book, there is an interview with Okada Toshio, one of the otaku ledgends behind daikon. By his definition I am an otaku, studying Japanese culture and language. Yay?

オタ芸 otagei (otaku+performance art): Those dance moves and shouts that the audience performs during idoru shows. If you get a chance, check out the otagei at the end of the movie Kisaragi or the movie Densen Uta (both are awesome).

Look up the book! In the meantime, enjoy the Daikon IV video to get yourself in the right mindframe:

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One of America's First Teenage Heartthrobs was Japanese

Recently I heard from my older friends that an American orchestral group was touring Japan and playing the Tommy Polka. Puzzled, I looked further into the subject. Turns out Tommy was Tateishi Onojiro, a seventeen year old member of a delegation of besworded samurai that visited America in 1860. Tateishi soon got the attention, a nickname, and a polka titled after his new moniker. These days he would get a parody song and novelty ringtone, but they had class in those days. The New York Times has a good rundown of the the whole thing here. They say:
Tommy was sort of the Robert Pattinson of his day, a heartthrob who had women swooning. “From Washington Heights to East Broadway, Tommy is already a household word,” Vanity Fair gushed. Lapping up the adulation, the young man mugged for the crowds and blew kisses to them, in stark contrast to the iron faces who formed the rest of the Japanese delegation.

They also provided a Walt Witman poem made for the event (it's so long!):
The Errand-Bearers (1860)

Over sea, hither from Niphon,
Courteous, the Princes of Asia, swart-cheek’d
First-comers, guests, two-sworded princes,
Lesson-giving princes, leaning back in their open
barouches, bare-headed, impassive,
This day they ride through Manhattan.

I do not know whether others behold what I
behold pass, in the procession, along with the
Princes of Asia, the errand-bearers,
Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or
in the ranks marching;
But I will sing you a song of what I behold,

When million-footed Manhatten, unpent,
descends to its pavements,
When the thunder cracking guns arouse me with
the proud roar I love,
When the round-mouth’d guns, out of the smoke
and smell I love, spit their salutes,
When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me
—When heaven-clouds canopy my city with a
delicate thin haze,
When, gorgeous, the countless straight steams, the
forests at the wharves, thicken with colors,
When every ship is richly drest, and carrying her
flag at the peak,
When pennants trail, and festoons hang from the
When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-
passers and foot-standers—When the mass is
When the facades of the houses are alive with
people—When eyes gaze, riveted, thens of
thousands at a time,
When the guests, Asiatic, from the islands
advance—When the pageant moves forward,
When the summons is made—When the answer
that waited thousands of years, answers,
I too, arising, answering, descend to the pavements,
merge with the crowd, and gaze with them.

Superb-faced Manhattan,
Comrade Americanos—to us, then, at last, the
orient comes.
[Read the rest here]

For a Japanese movie about a slightly similar event, wherein Japanese samurai travel to England to learn about Western technology despite the whole affair being illegal, Choushuu Five looks interesting:

In case you are curious about the Tommy Polka—we all love a good polka! no?—I have found a rendition here:


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August 13, 2010

Nostalgia I Shouldn't Feel: Japanese TRPG Books

Sometimes I feel lots of nostalgia for bygone days in Japan, though I was not even here. Books often bring that feeling to me. Used book store Book Off presented me with an awesome sale recently, and I could not resist. Vid:

So let's talk about some of the books I found. Note that I will be throwing out Amazon links to line my blogging coffers, but to be honest if you live in Japan you should just go out to your own local Book Off store and pick one up.

One series that I have now completed my collection of is the Ringu series. You may recall I reviewed a translation of one of Koji Suzuki's books a while back, and I'm eager to read the books that inspired one of my favorite movies (The Ring).
If you are down, here's the links for the books:
リング, らせん, ループ, and バースデイ
Or their respective translations on
Ring, Spiral, Loop, and Birthday
If you want a compelling review of the series, I recommend Sarudama's blog.

Then there are the TRPG and gaming books I've found under the Sneaker Bunko imprint of Kadokawa. Most of them are replays, or transcripts of tabletop (table talk in Japanese parlance) role playing sessions. The series that started this trend is Record of Lodos War. Here's the link to the first book. Unfortunately, the original sessions, based of OD&D were only in magazines AFAIK, and they decided to make an entirely new rules system so that they could more legally publish the series. So, basically the same, but the players are probably not all brilliant SF writers like in the original. Would love to get my hands on those original articles.

Another series that seems to be popular in the replays is GURPs. I've never played GURPs myself, but it's not that hard to follow the replays. Here's one of the books I picked up.

Interestingly, while searching A list of G Bunko Replays, I found a D&D 3rd edition replay. Guess they hashed out those legal problems.  

Finally, if you are somehow nerdy enough to have learned Japanese but still don't understand all this RPG business, I present you with テーブルトークRPGがよくわかる本.

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August 8, 2010

Karaoke: The Ventures Actually Are Perfect for This

I don't know if anybody follows the karaoke posts, but I love to entertain and challenge myself with them, while providing little discoveries about Japanese pop culture. In fact, I really like the karaoke posts the best of all the nonsense I put out on the interbone. For instance, remember the time I discovered The Nolans were big here? The freaking Nolans. And Webster! We've just pulled into awesome city.

For a long time, I've been wanting to find a way to tell y'all about how ridiculously popular The Ventures are over here in Japan. You probably don't know their name off the top of your head because they never sing in their songs and are thus easily forgotten, but you know this song even if you think you don't, Walk Don't Run:

They also do the Wipe Out! song. But alas, as The Ventures never have vocals in their songs, even when they do songs that should have them, I thought I would never be able to pull off a karaoke post on them. But Japan has foreseen my problem and taken care of it! I give you The Ventures... plus Chiyo Okumura in Kitaguni no Aoi Sora (titled Hokkaido Skies in English): EDIT youtube nerfs karaoke vids all the time, so I'm embedding a new one. It happens to have 3 songs instead of just the one originally told of in this post.

That's The Ventures playing along with her, but it feels pretty different from most of their hits here (maybe the band's instrumental, non-enkaized version will be better for some). Turns out that The Ventures's songs, which were actually catering to Japanese listeners, were sometimes released with Japanese vocals over here. Wikipedia has a bit to say about why:
The Ventures became one of the most popular groups worldwide thanks in large part to their instrumental approach—there were no language barriers to overcome. The Ventures are still the most popular American rock group in Japan, the world's second largest record market. One oft-quoted statistic is that the Ventures outsold The Beatles 2-to-1 in Japan.[1] They produced dozens of albums exclusively for the Japanese and European markets, and have regularly toured Japan from the 1960s through to the present. According to a January 1966 Billboard Magazine article, The Ventures had five of 1965's top 10 singles in Japan.
Note that Wikipedia's picture of The Ventures also has them in Japanese garb. From the J wiki, I learned that their song Ginza Lights was released with words as Futari no Ginza. Here it is:

Much more venturesish. Up for one more? Kyoto Doll became Kyoto no Koi in the hands of Yuko Nagisa. You can actually hear the announcer and the see credits both mention The Ventures in this vid:

The Ventures received the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun (an honor second only to that chrysanthemum prize thing) this year. Seeing as they've played their songs like a billion times by now I'd say that award is well earned.

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August 6, 2010

Lately I have been doing the Vlog Every Day in August thing. Youtuber TheHill88 inspired me to do it. I've respected her opinion ever since she listed me in The Hot Guys of YouTube video she made. That vid was taken down, but it totally happened.

Anyways, there is some minor Japan content in these, so I feel comfortable posting them on this, my was once a brooding artist blog turned Japan blog. Enjoy tales of interviews and orange drinks with orange cheese flavor. Leave questions like everyone else has been spontaneously doing. Wonder about the meaning of life. In Japan.

Orange cheese drink:

Job in Japan, let's getting:

Bad Japanese, Let's Saying:

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August 3, 2010

Avocado Pasta and Umami

Not too long ago in Motomachi, Tokyo, I and the girlfriendal unit discovered a pasta restaurant called Goemon (五右衛門*), where they call pasta 洋麺 (yomen, an industry word from western+noodle). I highly recommend the chain. We had some green pasta with avocados mixed in, and it was awesome.

Since then, I have made my own avocado pasta a couple times. I simply make a basil-based noodle dish and add avocado bits.

I'm not the only one out there experimenting with green pastas. Here we can see a YouTuber, Megwin, try out his own recipe which involves a lot of shiso leaves:


Megwin complains in Japanese that the result lacks umami. Umami is technically an English word because we haven't been able to come up with a better one than umami, which is a distinct taste discovered by a Japanese dude in 1908. He went on to the company Ajinomoto, which has an eponymous seasoning product that you probably know as MSG. Maybe if Megwin had used a little more MSG, he could have brought out the umami of his dish.

Anyways, I recommend green pasta sometime to you guys.
*I cannot figure out why Go-e-mon is spelled with four kanji characters but the sounds seem to be one too few. That's not how Japanese usually works. But an alternative spelling offered by wikichan is 五衛門, so I guess that extra character is silent. EDIT: Googled my way to this answer soon after publishing this article.
Bonus vid: Me trying Shiso Pepsi

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July 22, 2010

Jazzy Yokohama Bar

Here's some scenes from a live Jazz event I stumbled across in a small bar near the Yokohama city library.

This pic shows the artworks of Sogi that adorn the walls. He's back!

Mr. Grillman on giant sax:

And video. Less shaking than usual cause I actually used my gorilla pod! You may enjoy the HD if that kicks in...

The story of how this jazzy bar revealed my spoiled self is here.

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July 20, 2010

A Japanese Riddle: When is a Verb Not a Verb?

Answer: When it's not.

When I first came to Japan, I had forgotten most of what I'd learned in my two college Japanese courses, which had been separated from each other by about a year and separated from my arrival in J Land by another couple years. When I touched down, I could pretty much only say はい (affirmative!).

I didn't have much to do during that first summer as a JET, so I stayed in the Board of Education in the town hall and tried to study the language. One of the first mistakes I made was saying あらん (aran) or あらない (aranai). It was my simple attempt to state the verb of existence (aru) in the negative. But unlike every other verb in Japanese, there is no negative conjugation of aru. My giggling bosses told me that the proper word was ない (nai).

Well, college only taught me the polite conjugations of verbs, so I knew you could say arimasen as an opposite of the polite arimasu. I had no idea that the masu ending itself is a type of verb, thus rendering arimasu and aru as two different words with the same meaning. It thought the same rules would apply to both words. So yeah, I was also confused when I was told to say nai because nai is an adjective. If you want the technical terms, aru is a doushi (動詞) and nai is a keiyoushi (形容詞). Course, adjectives have verbal natures in Japanese, but that's a whole different post.

Over the years, I came to accept this odd substitute-an-adjective-for-this-verb-instead-of-conjugating-it rule, but I never really got why things are this way. But I think I have found some good theories by asking and googling over the years:
  1. Aru means "does exist" and nai means "does not exist", so they are perfectly opposed concepts
  2. If negative conjugations of aru once existed, they were replaced
  3. Furthermore, aranai may have been shortened to just nai
  4. In older Japanese we more often may have heard 有り(ari, noun meaning existence) and 無し(nashi, noun meaning without existence) that may have been merely replaced by their modern colloquial equivalents.
Does the real explanation exist in this list? Well, I'm not in a position to say.

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July 19, 2010

Japanese Slang: I Like a Little Meat on My Grass

This post's title had so much potential for naughty puns, but I'm avoiding that for grandma's sake, who still writes to ask when I'm getting back from Japan. Recently, Invisiblegaijin told me that if I make it to 7 years, I'm here for life. He would know, he's been here long enough to be my Japanese grandma.

So, right, some kind of intro that actually has something to do with the slang terms today. Okay, before I introduce today's actual slang term, I have to cover two older ones that you may know, so bear with me. Last year everyone was running around yelling about the invasion of the herbivorous men (草食系男子 soushoku-kei danshi) and annoyingly translating the term as grass-eating men on their so totally non-hack blogs (I luv you guyssss!). Here is a herbivorous man:

When I see the sun I think of the rising sun flag and by extension all the uncomfortable comfort women...

Herbivorous men reportedly just want to talk about episodes of Trading Spaces. On the other side of the manliness spectrum, we have the meat eaters (肉食系男子 nikushoku-kei danshi), who actively pursue women, but not in the way of the safe guy you will eventually settle for and I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY ABOUT THAT, STACIE, BECAUSE YOU BROKE THE HOPELESS ROMANTIC'S HEART AND HE WILL NEED TIME BEFORE HE CAN FORGIVE. I'm sorry... I didn't mean that. Please come back! Please?

Oh, so here is a meat eater guys pic:

Ve are so manly that ve will never regret these stupid sketches nor our insensitive comfort women jokes.

Right, you have the picture. Then this year we have our word of the day: omnivorous man (雑食系男子 zasshoku-kei danshi). What's his deal? Well, he's just kinda not either extreme. He may be kind enough to wash your car, but he will be making rude innuendos the whole time he's washing the headlights. Also, sans-the man bit, this term existed as a slang word before 2010, and meant person of various hobbies. This means it is a doubly safe word to describe yourself as on a date.

Okay, post over, girly internet boys. I am off to find a 肉食系熟女.

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July 18, 2010

Evangelion Rocks Fuji

You kids don't know how good you have it. In my day, we had just two of those funny Japanese cartoons in our Midwestern, supermarket-based video store. One was a Yuyu Hakusho movie, and the other was a random episode of Evangelion in which this whiny boy was hanging out in a robot's womb or something and then the robot woke up and ate another robot and creeped 16 year old me out.

So much to my chagrin as a Japanoblogger, I never have seen the entirety of Evangelion. These days, it's just too mainstream for me to bring myself to watch it. So I don't know if this Evangelion exhibition from the news has anything to do with the plot of the series in the sense that I don't quite get the location of said exhibition.

Yoshida City— At the foot of Mt. Fuji, starting on the 25th,there is a giant robot head waiting for you. At 9 meters by 16 meters, this thing would likely send me back on a bad VHS trip as I imagined the robot coming to life and eating my flesh. I really hate robots in Japan.

You can see horrifying robo-video by clicking the picture.

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July 11, 2010

Heidi Trance Music Brings Back Tokyo Club History

First off, if you don't know the Heidi (ハイジ) Nissan commercials, go here. And if you don't recognize the animation as being from the same studio that did Golden Eggs, well... we can't be friends.

Today's post is about a song from a discotheque established in Tokyo in the decadent 90s. Wikichan says,

Juliana's, also known as Juliana's Tokyo, was a Japanese discothèque that operated in Shibaura, Minato, Tokyo[1] in the early 1990s. It was famous for its dance platforms, on which office ladies dressed in "bodycon" (abbr. (wasei-eigo): "body conscious" (ボディコン bodikon?, "sexually flattering clothing")[2][3]) clubwear would congregate, as amateur go-go dancers (professionals were also employed).[4]

Apparently, Juliana's had a techno mix that was so overused it remains locked in the Japanese consciousness to this day. It's kinda the Japanese equivalent, in terms of moronic techno that we can easily recall, of the Mortal Combat song. Here 'tis (I recommend only about 30 seconds of this stuff):

And here is a Heidi commercial featuring it:

The word they use in the CMs is 低燃費 (low fuel consumption). If you aren't technoed out, DJ Ozma has a pretty funny take on the song too that you can see here.

Hat tip for this post goes at to Mayu.

EDIT: A Twitterer has the title figured out.

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