Tagged: japan blog matsuri

Make the Most of 2009

Bill Belew from the Rising Sun of Nihon is asking how we resolve to make the most of our stay in Japan this year. For most people, I’d imagine learning Japanese and visiting new places would be high on the list of things to do, but since I’ve been here for over ten years, the fact that I’m in Japan doesn’t weigh heavily in my plans for 2009.

Instead, I resolve to be a good parent and further my ability to provide for my family. While that doesn’t make for especially good blogging material, those are the things that top my 2009 agenda.

I’ve not always been a stay-at-home, family man, though. When I first came to Japan, I was very much the explorer, visiting dozens of places between Tokyo, Hiroshima and the Japan Sea. I often stayed out all night, opening doors to window-less cafes, bars and clubs, not knowing what to expect inside. For a long time, learning Japanese dominated my free time and I was excited to practice what I learned with as many new people as I could. Everything was new, everything was fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it.

To make the most out of your time in Japan, I advise newcomers to be courteous to the natives, respect Japanese customs, learn as much of the language as you can, and then completely let yourself go! Only you can make 2009 full of memories to cherish forever.

This was part of the January 2009 Japan Blog Matsuri.

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.

New Narita Express Coming 2009

I came to Japan in July 1997, arriving at Narita airport late in the afternoon, with the intention of getting to Nagoya by nightfall. The first challenge was to get to Tokyo so I could somehow board a Shinkansen bullet train and head west.

The NEX welcomes you to Tokyo

With signs in English, it wasn’t too hard getting a ticket and boarding the Tokyo-bound Narita Express. Although I was looking forward to riding the Shinkansen, I hadn’t given much thought to the train that would take me from the airport to the capital. Even in 1997, trains in my part of the U.K were rather primitive, so old, in fact, that to get off the train, you had to pull down the window, reach out and open the door from the outside! Not the Narita Express.

The N’EX was ever-so high tech, it had sliding doors, air conditioning, room to put your luggage, a map with flashing lights to show you where you were, and a news ticker streaming the latest world affairs. Peering out the window as I hurtled along at speeds that couldn’t explain the smoothness and quietness of the ride, I remember seeing pictures on the tunnel walls made of colorful little lights. The Narita Express tilted to its side as it weaved its way through the increasing number of buildings on its approach to Tokyo.

An even better welcome with the new N’EX

The Narita Express that whisked me into Tokyo on my first day in Japan is 17-years-old this year, and while that would probably be considered “new” in England, the Japanese are ready to retire the N’EX 253 series, and roll out an even flashier model in autumn, 2009.

The E259 series brings a number of improvements. There will be improved safety features, security cameras, and even lockers in the cargo area so someone whose luggage was left in Rome won’t be tempted to steal your suitcase. Other changes include more spacious “green” cars for first class passengers, toilet facilities with wheelchair access, better bilingual guidance and an even smoother and quieter ride, despite speeds of up to 130 km/hour.

Making a good first impression

Since the theme of this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri is “First Impressions of Tokyo“, I couldn’t think of a better first impression than that offered by Japan Rail’s Narita Express. Whether you ride the new or the old N’EX, I hope its an experience you’ll remember long after you step off the train and enter Tokyo station – another unforgettable experience, if a little less welcoming.

Reviving the Japan Blog Matsuri

I’ve been working behind the scenes with other members of JapanSoc to revive the old Japan Blog Matsuri. This is a monthly blog “carnival” where given a theme to write about, bloggers everywhere are invited to share their stories with everyone else. It’s a great opportunity to find new blogs and attract new readers to your own.

Organization and Announcements

The Japan Blog Matsuri Newsroom is where things are being organized, and I can now tell you that the first matsuri of the revival will be hosted in August at The Tokyo Traveler.

Shane has published a Japan Blog Matsuri announcement naming the theme and submission details, so if you’re interested, swing by her blog to learn more!

What’s my name?

In my post about choosing a name for our son, I said that one reason for giving him my wife’s family name, i.e. a Japanese name, is because it would be more convenient. In this post, I’m going to write about my experiences of having a non-Japanese name in Japan.

Nikuman - a meaty dumpling thing.Informally, my name Nick is pretty hard for Japanese people to pronounce. They tend to say Ni-koo, or nikku in romaji. Having been in Japan for ten years, I now introduce myself as Ni-koo, and to help people remember my name, I list a variety of meat dishes – yakiniku, nikujaga, and nikuman. Naturally, having a name similar to the Japanese word for ‘meat’ is funny enough to break the ice during an introduction.

Things get really awkward in formal situations, and I often struggle to remember what my own full name is. At least, I forget the order in which it should be written. Let me explain…

Last, First, Middle names - confusing to Japanese.Here’s a scan from my old passport. You can see that my surname is listed first, then below are my given names, Nicholas (first) and Hannant (middle – don’t laugh!).

The problem arose right at the beginning when immigration decided, based on my passport, that my name is officially Ramsay Nicholas Hannant, and City Hall put that on my alien registration card. Can you imagine how confusing it is to be recognised as Last name, First name, Middle name?

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to rewrite forms at banks and post offices because I got the order “wrong”. When we applied for a mortgage, I had to open a completely new bank account because my existing one was opened without using my middle name, and apparently this was impossible to rectify.

Everything must match my alien registration card: my driver’s licence, health insurance, pension, even our house is owned by Mr. Hannant. It’s a bit annoying that all my neighbors think I’m Ramsay Nicholas Hannant-san, but that was the name on the list at our recent neighborhood meeting.

Having a meaty nickname and a long-winded, scrambled full name is one thing, but the problems don’t stop there. When I applied for a credit card at a shopping center years ago, the staff promoting the cards and signing people up where young, part-timers who didn’t really know how the application form should be filled in. I asked one of the girls if I should write my name in English, romaji, or katakana, and she guessed at the latter. Clearly this was a mistake because when I eventually got my card, it had been converted into romaji, reading Ramusei Nikorasu Hananto.

I was able to use that card, without getting billed, for six months before the credit card company contacted me to say the name didn’t match that of my bank account, and I would need to fill in more forms to correct it!

I could go off at a tangent and talk about how I opened another bank account with the name “Nishi”, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Anyway, I hope from these experiences you can understand why our son Rikuto, will not be given a middle name, or my foreign surname. When something as simple as a name can cause so much hassle, why complicate things for the little fella?