Japanese language

Too hot during the blackout? Cool down with an electric fan, veteran newscaster suggests

Too hot during the blackout? Cool down with an electric fan, veteran newscaster suggests

With more than 25 years of working in broadcast journalism, Japanese newscaster Ichiro Furutachi has turned in plenty of fine on-air performances. Still, each time you go before the cameras you’re spinning that roulette wheel, and it’s only a matter of time until you end up with a flub or two.

Earlier this year, the 59-year-old Furutachi elicited chuckles with his comments that exposed his lack of understanding about PowerPoint. It wasn’t Furutachi’s lack of knowledge regarding the finer points of the ubiquitous presentation software that surprised the public, but rather his admission that he didn’t even know what PowerPoint was.

What’s more, if we take the words of Furutachi’s most recent gaffe literally, it would seem that he’s not just confused about computer programs, but how electricity works, when he suggested using a room fan to stay cool during a blackout…

Read More

The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

One of the most characteristic parts of communication in Japan is the frequency with which people dish out compliments. Travelers and expats, for example, quickly become accustomed to being praised when displaying even the most basic skills with chopsticks or the local language.

Japanese people don’t just have kind words for foreigners, though, but for each other, too. Modesty and empathy are considered virtues of the highest order, so when someone shows any sort of ability, good manners dictate that you should notice and appreciate whatever small trace of talent can be found, as well as the effort that went into acquiring it while leading what, courtesy says you should assume, is a busy life.

Of course, sometimes these compliments aren’t triggered by the speaker being genuinely impressed, but rather just polite, or in some extreme cases, irritated.

Read More

To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be “cute”

To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be “cute”

It’s no secret that Japan is seriously into cuteness. Accordingly, in most situations, deeming something kawaii, or cute, is seen as high praise.

This is especially true when it comes to women. Whereas in English-speaking countries some may take issue with what they perceive as a diminutive or demeaning connotation to the word “cute,” in Japan, calling a girl kawaii is almost universally considered a compliment. Even actresses and models who would ordinarily be described as “beautiful” by English speakers earn kawaii cred if they have a kind smile, or any other sort of soft warmth to the aura they project.

But while just about any Japanese woman is happy to be called kawaii, things aren’t quite so simple for men.

Read More

Pokeberu, Mr. Legs, and cho beri ba: Eight Japanese words young people can’t understand

Pokeberu, Mr. Legs, and cho beri ba: Eight Japanese words young people can’t understand

After spending a year in college studying in Tokyo, I moved back to Los Angeles for about two years before coming back to Japan for work. Having always prided myself on my familiarity with Japanese slang (partly to distract myself from my terrible penmanship when writing kanji characters), I was surprised to find out how many new terms had sprung up in just the 22 months I’d been away.

At the same time, it turned out that a few of the vocabulary words I’d picked up while studying abroad had since passed their expiration dates and become obsolete. This wasn’t a one-time transition, either, as language is constantly evolving, and today we bring you a list of eight words that’ll at best make you sound like a senior citizen, and at worst simply won’t be understood by anyone under the age of 25.

Read More

Tried-and-tested ways to learn Japanese while having fun!

Tried-and-tested ways to learn Japanese while having fun!

Everyone has their own studying methods, but no matter which one you choose, learning a language boils down to mastering four things; reading, writing, listening and speaking. I know people who study so hard they literally memorize words out of a dictionary. There are also the people who think that the best way to pick up a language is to live in the native country and speak the lingo as much as possible.

I believe in practicing over studying. And by “practicing”, I mostly mean “surfing the internet”. If you’re currently struggling with learning the Japanese language, or if you hate studying but would like to improve your Japanese, read on!

Read More

Compose your own cheese-tastic J-pop love songs with this handy lyric generator

Compose your own cheese-tastic J-pop love songs with this handy lyric generator

One of the very first Japanese words I learned was afuredasu, or “overflow.” This wasn’t because it showed up in a textbook or a teacher taught it to me, but because afuredasu seems to show up in roughly a third of every Japanese pop song ever produced.

It’s not the only phrase that’s a regular in J-pop lyrics though, as shown by this flow-chart that can turn anyone into a Japanese lyricist.

Read More

Japan’s Kinki University decides to change its naughty-sounding name

Japan’s Kinki University decides to change its naughty-sounding name

Sometimes, a name that’s perfectly normal in one language can sound funny, or maybe even offensive in another. One day in college, for example, my friend Gary and I volunteered to show some visiting Japanese students around campus. We met them in the student union, and as soon as Gary introduced himself, one of them couldn’t suppress a tiny chuckle.

You see the name Gary sounds an awful lot like geri, which means “diarrhea” in Japanese. So when my classmate said “Watashi wa Gary desu,” they didn’t hear “I’m Gary;” they heard “I’ve got the runs.”

Of course, the same thing can happen in reverse, too. Just ask the students and faculty of one of Japan’s proudest institutions of higher learning, Kinki University.

Read More

Sucks to be sausupō: The trials and tribulations of Japanese lefties

Sucks to be sausupō: The trials and tribulations of Japanese lefties

I was born a lefty, but apparently somewhere along the way I decided that there must be something to this right-handedness thing, since 90 percent of the world was doing it. I made the switch to using my right hand for most things around the time I started kindergarten, and ever since, the unusual transition has been my go to excuse for never excelling at sports that favor precise dexterity over running into people as hard as you can.

Had I stuck with the cards life had dealt me, though, my daily life might have been different in a number of ways, as shown by this list of troubles left-handed people in Japan run into.

Read More

【TBT】10 common phrases that stump Japanese students of English

【TBT】10 common phrases that stump Japanese students of English

Learning a second language is never easy, especially when there are so many things like context, nuance, and cultural connotations standing in the way. The key to conquering these hurdles, though, usually lies outside the pages of a textbook, and the Japanese Government addresses this issue by employing thousands of foreigners to assist English teachers in its education system every year. So where would a foreigner start when correcting a student on the finer points of English as a second language? One of the easiest ways would be to take a look at this collection of commonly misused phrases and their simple fixes, put together by David Thayne, the head of AtoZ English.

Read More

Osaka criminal forgets the most important part of armed robbery: stay armed

Osaka criminal forgets the most important part of armed robbery: stay armed

In any endeavor, you can’t overstate the importance of making preparations in the proper order. For example, it’s best to plan out what you’ll say for your sales pitch prior to sitting down face-to-face with your customer. Likewise, even if you’ve made dinner reservations and meet your date at the exact time the two of you agreed upon, your courtesy and punctuality won’t be particularly appreciated if you neglected to put on a pair of pants before arriving at the restaurant.

Also, should you want to knock over a convenience store, you should actually secure a weapon before you threaten the clerk and ask for the money. Otherwise, your victim might not even realize she’s being robbed, which is what happened to one would-be criminal mastermind in Osaka.

Read More

The awesome artwork hiding in the Japanese word processor: sakura, dragons, and sake

The awesome artwork hiding in the Japanese word processor: sakura, dragons, and sake

With over 1,800 commonly-used kanji characters, plus two different sets of 46 phonetic characters each, typing on a word processor in Japanese works a little differently than in English. Many words in Japanese have the same pronunciation but are written differently, so first you have to type the word phonetically, then select the proper rendering from a list that pops up.

The cool thing is that sometimes the selections aren’t just written characters, but drawings of the object in question. Poking around in a Japanese word processor is like a linguistic treasure hunt, and our searches turned up illustrations of mythical creatures, delicious food, and famous landmarks of Japan.

Read More

What do Japanese people think of when they hear the word “otaku?”

What do Japanese people think of when they hear the word “otaku?”

Like with any language, the meanings of certain Japanese words change over time. Take the word “otaku,” which is originally a polite way of saying “you.” It’s so polite that overusing it can make a person sound a little wishy-washy, giving the impression that he’s not really comfortable with interpersonal relationships in general. Of course, if someone isn’t spending his time interacting with other people, then what does he fill his days with? Presumably, his solitary, or at least niche, hobbies such as watching anime. And so otaku picked up a second meaning of “obsessive nerd.” That was 30 years ago though, so a recent survey sought to answer this question: What do Japanese people imagine when they hear “otaku?”

Read More

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Recently, we talked about how Japanese, while a tough language to learn, isn’t quite as difficult as some horror stories make it out to be. Still, if English is your native language, certain Japanese grammar rules, like saying “wa” and “o” to mark the subject and object of your sentences, can seem like a major hassle.

With practice, though, these things start to become automatic. Even better, the Japanese language is filled with incredibly handy phrases that we’d love to import into English.

Read More

Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

It seems whenever a list of the most difficult languages to learn is released, Japanese sits near or at the top. We can see why, as the language does have quirks and peculiarities that can occasionally make you wonder how anyone, even native speakers, manage to communicate with each other in Japanese.

If we’re being completely honest, we’d love to use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for our Japanese/English bilingual capabilities, while using the other to pat ourselves for surviving in what some are calling the most dangerous country on earth. But that would tie up both hands and we’d be unable to write this article. So instead, today we’re going to explain four ways learning Japanese isn’t nearly as bad as some other languages.

Read More

Japan now has so many 30-year-old virgins its language needs a new slang term for them

Japan now has so many 30-year-old virgins its language needs a new slang term for them

Japan’s birth rate has been dropping for decades now, and while it’s possible the demographic shift is a result of couples just getting that much better at using contraceptives, you have to allow for the possibility that fewer babies is due to fewer couples doing the deed.

Lending further credibility to this explanation is the fact that the proportion of Japanese men in their 30s who still have their virginity has gotten so high that society has coined a new slang term to describe them: yaramiso.

Read More

Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

In many English-speaking countries, it’s common to name children after a parent or relative. My dad, oldest brother, and nephew all share the same first name, for example, which provides a link through the generations, plus makes it easy for my mom to simultaneously call them for dinner.

This isn’t really done in Japan, though, and not being tethered to the past means that baby name trends can gather or lose momentum quickly. Recently, Japan is seeing more and more kirakira names. Kirakira literally means “sparkly,” and usually either the combination of kanji characters used to write the name, or the pronunciation itself, is flowery and unique.

But as a list of the top 20 for girls shows, kirakira names aren’t always just flashy, sometimes they’re downright sweet.

Read More

Senpai Club, Swedish-made, anime-inspired, Japanese-speaking animation, is back! 【Video】

Senpai Club, Swedish-made, anime-inspired, Japanese-speaking animation, is back! 【Video】

Last month we laughed along with the Swedish animators Olivia Bergstrom and Eric Bradford as we watched the first scenes of their anime-inspired creation Senpai Club. Now the pair, collectively known as makebabi.es, is back for another round of parody featuring dangerously pointy anime chins, ostensibly handsome upperclassmen, and just maybe even more stealthy bilingual gags with Senpai Club Episode 1 Part 2.

Read More

Changing attitudes about remarriage help create a new Japanese word: maru ni

Changing attitudes about remarriage help create a new Japanese word: maru ni

Wedding planning is a big deal in Japan, where it often involves a ceremony, formal reception with coworkers (including your boss, who’s expected to make a speech), an informal after-party after the reception winds down, and in many cases a second after-party that may stretch on until the next morning when the trains start running. Putting the whole thing together can be costly and require a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when everything goes smoothly. And besides, getting married is a once-in-a-lifetime event, right?

Well, actually, that’s not always the case. As in many modern, economically prosperous societies, the divorce rate has been rising in Japan, and along with it the potential number of remarriage candidates. In an attempt to keep up with these changing cultural norms and values, one of Japan’s largest wedding planners has gone so far as to coin a new term for those who remarry: maru ni.

Read More

Super-explicit Evangelion fan translation leaves Japanese fan scratching his head

Super-explicit Evangelion fan translation leaves Japanese fan scratching his head

Part of what makes the anime Evangelion such an enduring hit is the series’ subtleness. The classic is riddled with lines of dialogue that have multiple meanings and possible interpretations. Sometimes the speaker’s true intent becomes clearer after revelations that occur in subsequent installments of the franchise, whereas other times repeat viewings only serve to muddy the waters even further.

But while this ambiguousness delights fans who have taken pleasure in discussing and dissecting Eva for close to 20 years now, the same lack of concrete answers can be unfathomably frustrating to some viewers. Can’t the characters just say what they mean, in a way that anyone can understand?

They can in at least one amateur translation, in which major character Misato makes no bones about her desire to bone.

Read More

Learn Japanese with us and this website of nothing but swimsuit model selfies

Learn Japanese with us and this website of nothing but swimsuit model selfies

So today, we’d like to talk about a website called Jigadoribu. We won’t beat around the bush, it’s a site full of pictures of swimsuit models. And to all those of you who haven’t immediately skipped to the photos after reading that last sentence, thank you. Your display of self-restraint is an inspiration to us all, especially if you’re in the office, as this isn’t the sort of thing you want to be reading at work.

Sadly, our bosses won’t pay us for features that consist entirely of the phrase “And check this girl out!” repeated a dozen times. Likewise, we imagine you’d have some explaining to do should someone peek over your shoulder and see you perusing this article. So, as we did before, we’re going to mix appreciation of the female form with a little Japanese language lesson.

Let’s start with vocabulary word number one: jigadori, or selfie.

Read More

  1. 1
  2. 2