Tagged: Japanese

What’s My Name? Revisited

This month’s Japan Blog Matsuri theme is The Language of Japan, and I’ve been scratching my head all month over what to write. I haven’t studied Japanese for years now, and although I have a few amusing stories of miscommunication, nothing worthy of an entire blog post.

So, I delved into the LongCountdown archives and submitted an article I wrote back in March 2007. It’s about the confusion that arises from having a foreign name in Japan. It’s just as appropriate today as it was when I wrote it. Enjoy: What’s My Name?

The deadline for this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri is this Saturday night, September 20th. Get your entries in quick! More info here.

Japanese Samurai Versus Medieval Knight

Knight versus SamuraiWould a Japanese samurai defeat a Medieval European knight? That’s a question John Clements attempts to answer in his essay titled ”The Medieval European Knight vs.
The Feudal Japanese Samurai?

In this “amusing historical diversion”, Clements uses over 7,000 words to explain the key elements of an encounter between the two warriors. While I recommend you read the essay, here’s my 300-word summary for those of you that grew up with MTV.

The Scenario

We’ll imagine that these warriors are both highly trained and experienced in the fighting skills of their age. Both fighters will have similar strength, speed, stamina, age, health and courage. They are meeting on the battle field in a fight to the death :shock:

The Armor and Shields

It has been said that while Europeans designed their armor to defeat swords, the Japanese designed their swords to defeat armor. Curiously, each warrior was highly skilled in using their respective armor-piercing daggers.

And while we know the katana was a powerful sword, Clements says, “thinking it could simply cleave through a stout Medieval shield is absurd.”

The Swords

The rounded Japanese katana was made for cutting and slicing. It could be used one or two-handed, on foot or on horseback, with or without armor. The Medieval sword was well-made, light and agile, capable of delivering dismembering cuts or cleaving deep into body cavities.

Those who think the Medieval sword and shield was and is just a “wham-bam, whack-whack” fight are as greatly misinformed as those who imagine the katana was handled in some mysterious and secret manner and can cut through anything as if it were a light-saber.

Nick vs Mami, Knight vs Samurai

Me and the missus in disguise. The knight image (before I paint shop pro’d it) came courtesy of KnightForHire.

So what can we really know?

Each warrior used weapons, armor and techniques necessary to overcome the enemies of their day and age. Therefore, we can’t say that either the knight or the samurai were universally greater under all conditions and against all opponents.

In the end though, my own answer to the question of who would win is that it is unanswerable…but would be an awesome experiment.

Yes, it would! So who cares that it’s an unanswerable question, who do you think would win?

Japan and the 13,000 Somethings

Quite often, you start searching the web for one thing, but end up with something far more interesting. That happened to me today when I randomly came across a number of Japan related stories based on the number 13,000. Here’s a summary with links to their sources.

World’s tallest building: The 13,000 ft, X-Seed 4000

This huge structure was proposed for Tokyo, Japan, and all construction plans were completed. At just over 13,000 feet (4,000m) tall, it would be larger than its inspiration, Mount Fuji. If built, construction would cost “somewhere between US$300-900 billion”, and it would house up to a million people. Sadly, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, it was only designed to earn the architects some recognition and was never intended to be built. [Sources: Inhabit.com, Wikipedia]

X-Seed 4000

13,000 Japanese poisoned after drinking contaminated milk

Despite its heavy criticism of China’s cardboard-bun scandal, Japan has been, and continues to be, rocked by food scandals of its own. Back in the year 2000, the most serious outbreak of food poisoning in Japan since the Second World War made almost 13,000 people ill after drinking contaminated milk. [Source: The Independent]

13,000 people expected to have lost jobs due to Niigata earthquake

The magnitude 6.6 quake that hit Niigata on July 16th, 2007 caused eleven deaths, a thousand injuries, and brought down 342 buildings. It was reported that almost 13,000 people would be out of work. [Source: Japan Today (expired article)]

Tokyo quake could kill 13,000

If a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit Shinjuku in Tokyo today, 13,000 people would likely be killed. That may sound a lot, but it is far less than the 140,000 victims of the last major quake to hit the capital, back in 1923. [Source: CNN]

13,000 Japanese students in China

In 2004, there were 70,000 Chinese students in Japan, and 13,000 Japanese students in China. I’m glad there are at least 13,000 Japanese that have a positive view of our neighbors! [Source: Glocom.org]

13,000 Japanese troops in Battle of Singapore banzai attack

On February 13th 1942, in the Battle of Singapore, 13,000 Japanese troops made an amphibious landing in the northwest part of Singapore. Along with existing troops in the country, they took control of the Pasir Panjang area. They faced strong resistance from Malay and British forces, who even defended against a formidable banzai attack. [Source: Wikipedia]

Japanese Versus European Feet

I remember looking through a Japanese ballroom dancing magazine during one of my lessons and seeing an interesting comparison of foreign and Japanese feet. Whether the article discussed how the different foot shapes affected shoe size or posture I can’t remember, but I found the examples used for this foot comparison quite fascinating. Here’s my attempt to recreate that long-lost comparison.

The Thinker versus a sumo wrestler

First you’ve got the characters. Representing “Team Europe” is Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

Though this statue is widely known as “The Thinker,” Rodin first called it The Poet. It was part of a commission by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to create a huge gate based on the epic poem The Divine Comedy of Dante. [Source: Wikipedia]

In the Japanese corner, we’ve got sumo wrestlers in a traditional woodblock print (ukiyoe).

Sumo prints from the 18th and 19th century prove the popularity of the sport in the past. Among the Japanese woodblock print artists are few that made no prints with subjects of sumo wrestlers. Ukiyo-e was a commercial art and was meant to sell. In the 18th and 19th century it was more the publisher who decided about the subjects than the artist. He gave the commissions, risked his money and therefore tended to publish popular themes. [Source: Artelino]

Let’s take a closer a look at these feet:

Comparison of European and Japanese feet

I’m no expert on tarsals and metatarsals, but you can see that the European foot is longer, flatter, less arched, and perhaps has longer toes than the Japanese foot. The Japanese foot is seemingly much thicker than its European counterpart.

Of course, we shouldn’t draw any conclusions by comparing feet from 19th century statues and woodblock prints. Instead, we need a real life example! Fortunately, my family agreed to participate in this scientific study (ahem) and remove their socks for the camera. In the pictures below, there are three feet. One is my very own British foot, one is my wife’s Japanese foot, and one is the foot of our Japanese-British, three-month-old baby, Rikuto. The question is, which foot belongs to who? Post your guesses in the comments!

Real life foot comparison

Now that you’ve seen some real feet, maybe the only conclusion we can draw is that foot shape is not based on nationality, but on whether you can do sumo or not. I mean, we already know that Rikuto is just a little sumo baby!

Study Kanji Like Tokyo Josh

I studied my backside off when I first came to Japan. I passed level 4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in my first year, level 3 the next, and then level 2 the year after that. Unfortunately, the jump from level 2 to level 1 is so great that I didn’t even try going for it. Instead, I let seven more years pass without once picking up a kanji book.

I have promised myself that one day I will go for level 1, and I’ll keep trying until I pass it. However, I feel I’m going to need some Rocky-style motivation to get me back into the books.

This is where Tokyo Josh comes in. I know nothing about the guy only that a) he’s got a very cool video blog about his life in Japan, and b) he studies hard. Check out this video, but turn your volume down a bit first because the music’s pretty loud.

The song is Taste Your Stuff by M-Flo with Bennie K. If you can’t see the video, watch it here on YouTube.

Japanese Beauties – Shaku Yumiko, Inoue Waka and Ayase Haruka

I don’t watch  a lot of Japanese TV, but every night when I get home from work, I sit down to eat dinner and watch whatever Japanese drama is on. This is a pattern I’ve followed for three years now, so I’m getting better at recognizing some of the actors and actresses that appear, reappear, and then appear again.

My favorite actor is Smap’s Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, but for this post I want to tell you about my favorite Japanese actresses, most of whom I like for reasons other than their acting, but aren’t we all guilty of that?

Shaku Yumiko

1. Shaku Yumiko

Shaku is 29 years old and, like most Japanese actresses, is also a model. I thought her role in Himitsu no Hanazono was the first time I had seen her, but apparently she co-hosted Eigo de Shabera Night, which I’ve seen a few times. This was a show asking famous people whether or not they can speak English, but unfortunately I can’t find a video clip showing Shaku speaking English, if indeed she can.

From JapanSugoi.com:

She’s most famous to overseas audiences for her role in the Godzilla movie Mega Godzilla, where she had extensive self-defense training and managed 300 sit-ups a day! She is a self described fan of anime and gaming and has played one of the characters in the 2003 Playstation 2 game Kidou Senshi Gundam Meguriai Uchuu.

Find Shaku Yumiko on Google Images and on Youtube.

Inoue Waka

2. Inoue Waka

This 27 year old Japanese idol is mostly known for her above average bust size, and she is sometimes referred to as the “Japanese Monroe”, due to her measurements being similar to Marilyn Monroe’s. Perhaps that’s how she got my attention when she was in the first season of Oniyome Nikki (Diary of Life with a Devil of a Wife ).

Since Oniyome, she’s been in a string of dramas whch I’ve mangaed to miss, but I did catch her naked in a Wood One commercial.

Waka was once the star of TV commercials for the loan company, Promise. Generally, people see these kind of companies as unethical, so it would be interesting to hear what she thinks about them. If you can read Japanese, you might want to take a look at her blog, but I don’t think she explores anything more controversial than her the best foods and desserts.

Find Inoue Waka on Google Images and on Youtube.

Ayase Haruka

3. Ayase Haruka

Ayase is the youngest of the three at only 22 years of age. Ayase is a singer, actress, and like the two before her, a bikini model. According to JDorama.com,

Pretty face and body to die for, it’s no wonder she was selected from 723 girls to play Aki in the unforgettable Sekai no Chuushin de Ai o Sakebu (04), for which she won best supporting actress. This led to major roles on the big screen and her award winning performance in the drama Byakuyakou. She was also one of the top 10 celebrities of 2004 by Yahoo Japan Entertainment Awards.

I’ve only seen Ayase once in a drama, and that was the recent Hotaru no Hikari, which has been my favorite Japanese drama of 2007.

Find Ayase Haruka on Google Images and on Youtube.

Those are my top three favorite actresses at the moment. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my rss feed.

Our 2-Way Japanese Fridge Door

Some of you know that all I need a fridge for is beer, cheese and chocolate. At least, that was until I married Mami and we moved into together. It wasn’t long before her mum bought us a new fridge for our wedding present, and Mami filled it up with everything I should eat.

As well as the lovely orangey colour, this fridge is extra special becuase its door opens in each direction. Take a look for yourself:

Japanese 2-Way Door Fridge Freezer 

The worst thing about Japanese fridges is the ridiculously small freezer compartment, even in modern ones. In the photo above, the only part for frozen food is the cabinet in the bottom-right corner. 

Are 2-way fridge doors the norm in other countries, or are they a Japanese luxury?

Rikuto Eats His Own Hands!

Next week, our son Rikuto will be three months old. I previously posted the video Is That My Hand? in which he realized that the hands flapping about his head were actually his own, and he could contol them! Now that he can control them, he does what every baby does - he tries to eat them. Thank goodness he doesn’t have teeth yet!

Rikuto, eating his own hand.

Me British, baby Japanese?

With Mami four months pregnant, we have been thinking about which nationality our child should be. It’s really not a hard decision to choose Japanese as Peanut‘s nationality since he or she will be born and raised in Japan and take Mami’s family name.

However, I’ve just been reading about birth registration on the British Embassy’s website and they point out that…

Under Japanese Nationality Law at the age of 20, but before the age of 22, dual Japanese/British children are required to choose which nationality they wish to retain. If they wish to retain Japanese nationality they may be asked to renounce British nationality by the Japanese authorities.

Well, I had heard that Japan was one of the few countries in which dual nationality is not allowed, but I didn’t realize that a child can have two nationalities until they are 20. So that’s a bonus for Peanut, but is there really any merit in registering our child with the embassy? I guess getting a British birth certificate could be handy…. erm… maybe.

I’m also interested in the wording used by the British Embassy when they say “they may be asked to renounce British nationality.” Could this mean that there’s a chance the law will be changed within 20 years and dual nationality will be allowed? Hmm.. if anyone reading this blog has had personal experience with choosing the nationality of their child, I’d love to hear from you.

It’s starting to feel a bit weird, you know, being British even though my life is Japanese. I was reading TV in Japan‘s post titled Man In Rabbit Suit Plays Giant Pinball Game with Bowling Balls, and even though Gavin described the show as completely absurd, I actually watched it when it aired on TV and thought it was… normal. So, perhaps Japan has become so familiar to me that what I now perceive as normal, my fellow foreigners think is absurd. Cripes!

When I retire, having spent my entire working life in Japan, I doubt I’ll have any connections with the U.K. at all, with the exception of my brother. So, as a 65-year old lifer in Japan, who by that time will probably have forgotten English, perhaps it would make sense to renounce my British nationality and become a Japanese citizen. Of course, I’ll need to choose a Japanese name, and I’ve been thinking quite hard about that:

Me: Hi. How are you? I’m Toshinobu.

Man: …

Me: Um…. but you can call me Nick?

Man: …Ah…Nikku-san! How do you do? Are you American? How you like Japan? Chopsticks, ok? Japanese food, ok?

I’m sure I’m thinking too much about this. Perhaps I’ll wait twenty years and let Peanut decide his or her own nationality, and I’ll just see which one works best for him or her.

Computer Translation

One of my students wanted to write an English translation  of an interview she found in a magazine, and not an easy one at that. Her final translation came to seven pages, and she asked me to check it. “Sure, no problem, let me have a look” I agreed.

Although this student’s English level is pretty high, when it came to translation, she threw her conversational ability out the window and reverted to the direct-translation method that all Japanese are taught in junior and high schools. The result was a stuttered and sometimes incomprehensible article.

The icing on the cake was that for a few of the most difficult paragraphs, she had used an online translation tool such as Babel Fish, and for those parts I was completely lost. Any sense I had made of the article so far was replaced by total confusion. Realizing she had used a translation tool, I asked her to come and look at the computer in the waiting room. I pulled up Babel Fish (http://babelfish.altavista.com/) and asked her to type any sentence in Japanese. She chose ‘mou aki desu’. I asked her to tell me what she thought that was in English and she said correctly, “It’s already autumn”. So then I asked her to type the Japanese into the translation box on the screen and when we converted it to English we saw “Already fall is”. Converting this back to Japanese resulted in a sentence similar to “Already there is falling.”

This little experiment was an eye-opener for her, and hopefully in the future she won’t be so dependant on such software. Before I wrap this post up, I thought I’d do a special experiment just for you longcountdown.com readers.

Here’s a paragraph from the ‘About’ page of this site:

I first came to Japan after finishing university in 1997. My first three months was a homestay-type arrangement with the family of a Japanese friend I had back in the U.K. The following year, after getting my teaching certification, I came back to Japan and have been here ever since.

If I put that paragraph into Babel Fish, convert it into Japanese, and then back to English, we get this. Enjoy!

I finished in 1997 and first came to Japan after the university. My first 3 months were the homestay type rearrangement to which series of the Japanese friend who in me has the back section in England has been attached. After obtaining the proof of my professor, the following year, I return to Japan, after that it was here.