Japanese

Katakana is cool: Designers take inspiration from Japan’s least popular writing system

Remember the Chinese character phase? Back in the early 2000s you could see Chinese characters everywhere from T-shirts to tattoos. While the trend still continues to some extent today, once people started realizing that you should probably double-check the meaning before going out in public, it has definitely slowed down.

Maybe Chinese symbols have a sort of stigma now, but that is not stopping major designers from branching out into the other styles of Japanese writing, namely katakana. This new trend is being used by brands all over the world, from Adidas to Stussy.

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Cat got your tongue? 10 unusual Japanese phrases that use the word ‘cat’

Cats. Where to begin? They’re cute, cunning, easily offended, happy with or without us and we could never imagine our lives without them. They are rich in mystery and surprise and it’s no wonder the Internet is flooded with pictures and videos of them.

Japan also has a long history of interactions with cats, from believing they can foresee natural disasters to being creatures of vengeance, out to kill humans. Because of this, there are some great Japanese words that use “neko” (猫), the word for “cat,” in combination with another character. Learn some Japanese, and fall even more in love with cats through our list of 10 “catty” Japanese words.

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Lonely diners discover an easy way to get handwritten confessions of love from Yoshinoya staff

Anyone who has watched even a handful of episodes of Japanese anime will have heard the words “suki” or “daisuki” at some point. Literally meaning “like” and “like very much” (daisuki is, after all, written with the characters 大 “big” and 好き “like”), these two words are used not just when describing one’s preference for a particular pokémon or pizza topping, but when declaring deep, “more-than-friends” feelings for someone.

It would seem, however, that staff at Japanese fast food chain Yoshinoya have recently been unwittingly handing declarations of love to especially peckish patrons following the arrival of a popular seasonal dish, with these handwritten love letters becoming the subject of great amusement online.

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10 misconceptions Japanese people think foreigners have about Japan

Unintentional cultural misunderstandings became the subject of great debate in Japan recently following a new round of commercials produced for cup noodle manufacturer Nissin. Although intended to be entirely tongue-in-cheek, some people have raised the issue that it is precisely these kinds of advertisements that compound incorrect notions about a country and lead to further stereotyping, which led to a survey being taken which asked Japanese to list the things that they perceive to be the most common stereotypes about their own culture.

Think you can guess what made the list? Keep reading after the jump to find out!

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18 Japanese words understood around the world

If you’re an enthusiastic linguaphile like myself, you probably spend a good part of each day A) Thinking up ways to make your friends groan yet again with all your linguistic knowledge (e.g. dressing up as a “dead language” for Halloween), and B) Getting super excited whenever you discover the etymology of a new word (also, C) Debating which flavor of ice cream to buy based solely on how witty its name is).

One of my favorite linguistically related topics to contemplate is the constant borrowing of words and shifts in meaning that takes place among the world’s languages. Students of Japanese are often surprised to discover the huge inventory of ‘loan words’ in Japanese that were borrowed from English which have often either changed drastically from their original pronunciations or are combined in different ways to create new, Japanese-made English terms.

But how about the flip side of that–Japanese words that have been imported into other languages? Join us after the jump for a look at some of them!

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New app helps you translate Japanese and Chinese offline using smartphone camera

With their complex writing systems, getting around in Japan or China can be stressful for even the most seasoned of tourists. Sure, you could carry a travel dictionary in your pocket while you go sightseeing, but how are you supposed to look up all those funny looking sticks and squiggles when you don’t even know how to pronounce them? Often the locals try to be helpful by providing an English translation, but there are reasons why that doesn’t always work out. If only there was a way to just wave your magic smartphone over some unintelligible text and have it provide a reliable translation on the spot. Well, as we discovered over at Shanghai Listthere’s an app for that.

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Nose songs, bug teeth and dirt sticks: 10 Japanese words translated way too literally

As anyone who has studied Japanese for any length of time will tell you, leaning lists of vocabulary can be tough. On some occasions, the very first time you’ll meet a word will be on paper; some abstract or complex term that’s almost impossible to remember as it’s so rarely used in the real world. Other times, you’ll have heard–or perhaps even used a word yourself–in conversation, but when encountering it on paper for the first time it may appear completely alien due to the characters with which it’s written.

Thankfully, though, since kanji characters are based on meaning rather than speech sounds, it can be easy to decipher a written word even if you’re still not sure how to pronounce it. But sometimes, translating a word too literally can land you in all kinds of trouble, or at the very least leave you chuckling to yourself while native Japanese speakers are left wondering what’s so funny…

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Chinese university gets hot new Japanese teacher; internet goes crazy

Ask any group of students why they like a particular class and you’ll probably get a range of sincere-sounding answers professing love of learning and enthusiasm for the subject matter. While those things may well be true, in real life our reasons for making even the most crucial of life decisions aren’t always particularly noble or earnest.

When a beautiful young female teacher named Ms. Du took charge of Japanese language classes at one Chinese university this year, so many students turned up that she had to move to a larger classroom. Now, the stunning sensei at China’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics has even become an internet sensation after photos of her were posted online.

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“A pig that doesn’t fly is just a pig”: 8 of Japan’s favourite Ghibli movie quotes

Studio Ghibli movies are adored worldwide for their character and heart. When a contributor to a Japanese online message board asked users for the best, wisest, most famous lines from a Ghibli movie, the responses range from the beautiful to the bizarre.

Here, we bring you our pick of the best! Why not choose one and stick it on your wall above your desk next to your Totoro mug and your framed photo of Mr. Sato?

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“Office lady in heels walking on tatami”: The mysterious world of Japanese fetishism

When I left England for Japan in 2011, I received a card from four schoolfriends of mine. “Keep in touch!” the girls had written. “Have a great time!” The one guy in the group had a slightly different message for me: “Enjoy the tentacle rape porn!”

While for many, Japan evokes imagery of ancient temples, plates of sushi, and Shinkansen, it is also known as the land of crazy weird sex stuff.  (Tentacle erotica, by the way, is much older and, I might add, much rarer than you might think). So when we stumbled across (I know, right! I can’t remember what we were looking for in the first place, either!) a Japanese blog post about surprising sexual fetishes, we knew it was worth sharing.

What’s your fetish? An introduction to the fetishes you won’t believe exist” runs the title of the list, compiled by 26-year-old Japanese NEET Nura Hikaru. We bring you our top three, plus a few bonus ideas for good measure.

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Turns out women STILL don’t want to see men’s nipples through their shirt

Eighty-four percent, apparently, is the magic number. And there I was thinking it was three all this time.

When we brought you the news last year that 84 percent of Japanese women said that not wearing an undershirt to work was “totally gross and, like, we can see your nipples, ewwwwww…”, little did we expect that some eighteen months later, a completely separate survey – this time with seven times as many participants – would not only confirm a general freaking-out about male summer nipple protrusion, but also come up with – get this - exactly the same number of non-nipple-showage fans: 84 percent.

This time, though, there’s a but. We should’ve known! There’s always a but.

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Speak like a samurai with these four antiquated words

The age of the samurai makes one of the best thematic settings for any Japanese movie or TV show. There are so many great historical figures to profile, and even more fictional characters to imagine ourselves as! We might have the look, but how did they talk? What words did they use?

The Japanese language has a word for this “samurai language” called monofu-go. An accidental de gozaru (samurai for “to be”) and a parting katajikenai (samurai for “grateful” or “indebted”) is only the beginning of being “old school” cool. Well fear not, RocketNews24 brings you level two! Here are four more phrases and words that were used back in the day that will help you expand your monofu-go vocabulary!

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Be careful how you talk about “spaghetti” in Japanese — you may sound unhip

Although Italian in origin, the words pasta and spaghetti are now everyday words in English. Thanks to the foods’ proliferation around the world these words can also be found in Japanese, pronounced pasuta and supagettī respectively.

But in recent years, it seems as if the word “spaghetti” has been falling out of favor in Japan, being replaced by the word “pasta.” Although in English the distinction between “spaghetti” and “pasta” is pretty clear (pasta being the foodstuff, spaghetti one of its many varieties), it seems there is a whole other world of nuances when the words cross over into Japanese.

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Cuss like a pro with this handy guide for Japanese speakers

Everyone knows that there are certain nuances in every language that you just can’t learn from school. Humor, for instance, but also cursing. Sure, you might know the definitions of a few key words, but stringing them together is a task unlikely to be perfected except by those who have spent some time with folks who are native speakers.

A recent book written by MADSAKI and published by Transworld Japan is giving Japanese speakers the fine opportunity to learn how to creatively curse in American-English. Titled, How to use F*** Correctly: 99 Phrases Using F***, S***, D***, and H*** that Schools Won’t Teach You, Handle with Care, it promises 176 pages of illustrated cursing, with examples.

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Things Japanese girls do that make foreign guys run for the hills

Are you a Japanese girl? Are you terrified that your implausibly popular foreign boyfriend might run off after one of those other girls that are constantly throwing themselves at him? Japanese website Madame Riri has come up with a whistle-stop guide to things Japanese girls do that make foreign guys back off. Avoid these pitfalls, and you too can have a fairytale ending with your Price Charming… Apparently. Let’s see what they came up with!
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Learning Japanese? All you really need is this one word…

Japanese is not an easy language to learn. Though, we have to say, we’re not sure that any language is easy to learn when you’re a beginner! But for English speakers, Japanese is certainly one of the most difficult languages to pick up. Anyone who’s taken a class will surely remember the first time they opened their textbook and saw two massive charts full of squiggly lines and realized that they now had to learn two more alphabets! And then start on kanji…

However, it looks like one Japanese-speaking UK native has found the key to Japanese using just one word!

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Everyday Japanese names that make English speakers chuckle

Funny things, names. In Japan, I am lucky enough to share mine with a delicious kind of stick-chocolate treat, which not only means that I can introduce myself as such: “Fran – you know, like Pocky, but not as cheap”, but also means that I often get given chocolates with my name on the packet, which I can confirm is something of a win-win situation.

My family name, however, is a terrifying mix of Rs, Ls, Ys and Ws that tends to provoke confusion and mild panic here in Japan. I have a good stock line for accurately communicating its spelling and pronunciation in the UK (“Wrigley, like the chewing gum”), and another one for Americans and/or baseball fans (“like Wrigley Field”). I’ve never come up with a good line to use on Japanese people, though, except to awkwardly mutter “um… yeah, sorry, it’s kind of a difficult name. Don’t worry, people in England can’t pronounce it either.”

But what if your name means something embarrassing or just downright odd in another language? Today, we bring you five kinds of Japanese names that make English speakers do a double-take, or a little snort into their coffee.

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Put away your textbooks, kids – the key to learning Japanese is Minecraft

We’ve talked countless times about how to learn Japanese. Heck, we’ve even brought you lists of essential applications and resources to help you in your quest to master the language. But we’ve always maintained that the best way to learn Japanese, or any language for that matter, is to make practical use of it and make it relevant to your own life.

And what better way to use your newly acquired Japanese than making friends all over the world while avoiding being crushed to death by spiked ceilings or knocked into a bottomless pit?

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Nine celebrities who speak Japanese… or some variation of it

It’s no surprise that in the field of entertainment many talented individuals have found work in Japan and many more have expressed an interest in Japanese culture. But beyond those who stop by Japan and utter a simple “oishi” in a beer commercial or create a music video wearing a cupcake skirt, are a select few who have learnt or are well on their way to learning the Japanese language. Here are a few of them representing the fields of film, sports, and music.

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“But we’re speaking Japanese!”: Humorous video confronts lingering stereotypes in Japan

One of the most frustrating parts about living in Japan was when I would go out to dinner with my husband. No, it wasn’t because I wasn’t able to read the menu or because I don’t like Japanese food – it was because more often than not, the server wouldn’t speak to me.

Since my Vietnamese-American husband cannot speak or read Japanese, I would always do the ordering. What the servers saw was a woman with a caucasian face speaking Japanese and what appeared to be a Japanese man not ordering for himself. After placing my order in Japanese, the server would turn to my husband (who couldn’t understand anything she was saying) and ask follow up questions about our drink order or any add ons. I would in turn, translate for my husband in English, and then answer our server in Japanese, but any remaining questions would be directed once again to my husband. This language triangle would continue until all the ordering was completed.

Of course, this didn’t happen every time, but enough for both my husband and I to take notice. When relating the story to my friends, many would confirm that they have encountered a similar situation. Some would posit that the server thought my husband was letting me practice my Japanese and was looking to him to confirm that’s actually what I wanted. But no matter the reason, I was always left a little frustrated.

A recent video on YouTube titled, “But we’re speaking Japanese!” confronts this exact situation, bringing light to a lingering stereotype in Japan.

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