Friday, May 31, 2013

love injection

A really drunk guy taught me this as we downed shots at a bar in Shinjuku.  I didn't know him, was meeting him for the first time, but once he heard me speaking English to some of my friends, he got in on the conversation.  I'm not sure what prompted him to teach me this little nugget, but here it is:

ラブ注入 rabu chuunyuu
 He said that it translates as "love injection."

Below is a video of a show on TV,They use ラブ注入 as a spark for a bit of comedy.  It looks like it's a couple of years old.  Those AKB girls looks so young.  This kind of "variety show" isn't exactly my cup of tea, but they're wildly popular in Japan. . .I don't think they seriously hurt anybody.

PS  When I first heard of this "love injection,"  I recalled this scene from The Breakfast Club, in which the character Bender uses the phrase "hot beef injection."  It's a bit crude, but I have to admit it made me laugh out loud.  I loved that movie.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

you reap what you sow

自業自得 (Jigou Jitoku)
This was the first Japanese proverb that I learned.  "You reap what you sow"; in more casual terms, "That's what you get. . ."  Also, "just desserts."  The basic sentiment: we get what we deserve, what we ourselves have earned.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

  living creatures (生き物)

living thing = 生き物 (いきもの)
One of my favorite Japanese words.

There's a band called Ikimono-gakari (いきものがかり)
They're quite popular with my high school and college students.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013


I'm not quite sure why, but I love this word.  Wakiga is like B.O., as in body odor. . .The online dictionary
also defines it as "abnormal underarm odor." 

 Please be careful not to confuse this with wakige, the word for underarm/armpit hair.

Just  out of curiosity, I YouTubed wakiga and a whole lotta videos came up.  Seems like they were all about surgical procedures to reduce B.O.  I couldn't bring myself to put them on this blog.  If you want to see them, though, maybe hiragana or katakan would bring the best results.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


愛 Ai

This song brings back memories.  Not long before I moved from Hawai'i to Japan, I saw a TV show called "Ai wo Kudasai," which translates literally to "Love, Please" or "Give Me Love."  It was a good story, I thought.  The main character (played by Kanno Miho) is an orphan who suffered terrible abuse in her childhood.  She sings the song "Zoo," whose climax is the line"Ai wo Kudasai." It might sound a little corny as I've explained it, but if you watch the series and listen to the song in context, I think you'll like it.

Here are a couple of videos:

There's a nice harmonica solo in the middle. And this is the song by the band that originally put it together.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

doyagao (どや顔)

I just learned this one at the end of last year.  Doyagao is, according to my high school students, a proud or even narcissistic facial expression.  (Kao, of course, means "face.")  After looking it up online I found out that the word came onto the scene in 2011--my bad for not having learned it back then.  But the fact that my students told me about it half a year ago suggests that, while being a slang word, it isn't yet obsolete.

Came across this great explanation of the word on YouTube:

Monday, May 20, 2013

geki ni (げきに)

The friend who taught me this phrase said it meant "Sugee niteiru ( すげぇーにている )."  I supposed some English equivalents would be "(someone's) double," "lookalike," doppleganger.

He taught it to me a few years ago, maybe four or five.  At the time, it seemed like a newer word; I guessed that it might have been a slang term created and used by younger people, as a lot of my older students and acquaintances had never heard it and didn't understand me when I tried to use it.  It didn't seem to offend anyone, as slang sometimes does. . .In fact, it brought some to laughter.  I never knew why.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

似る / 似ている ( にる / にている )

To say that A and B are niteiru (似ている, or にている) is to say that A and B are similar, that they look like each other or resemble each other.  I've only ever heard people here use the present progressive form, e.g. ゆにといきものがかりの吉岡 聖恵 はにている (Yuni looks like Kiyoe Yoshioka of Ikimono Gakari). 

*Ikimono Gakari is a Jpop /rock band, 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

for here or to go

Two of the most helpful phrases I learned my first month in Japan were koko de and omochi kaeri.  I needed to know them for fast food places and cafes.  In Japan, just as they do at McDonalds and Starbucks all around the world, cashiers start to close the transaction by asking if you'll be dining in or taking out.  

The cashier will most likely use keigo, the super-polite language that "inferiors" are expected to use toward their superiors, in the world of business and commerce.  In keigo, are you eating here usually translates as "Kochira de meshiagari desu ka?"  (kochira = here, meshiagaru = eat / drink) or "Tennai de meshiagari desu ka?" ( tennai = 店内 being "inside our shop")

Ai-chan, the assistant manager of my school when I first moved here, told me to say "Koko de" (lit. "here") for dining in and "Omochi kaeri' (lit. carry home) for takeout.  I used it and it worked.  That weekend I told my friend Ben about it and he used it a few days later.  For both of us it was one of the most exciting linguistic experiences we' had up to that point.  Actually saying something and seeing the dawn of comprehension in another's eyes.

I guess it'd be nice and polite to put in a "kudasai "at the end of the sentence.

More recently, I've been seeing "takeout" as a katakana phrase.


"takeout menu" in katakana

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


A lot of my students say "OHA" when they arrive at school.

OHA = Ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます)

Monday, May 13, 2013

One moment, please

Chotto matte kudasai (ちょっと待って下さい /  ちょっとまってください)is the most common term for "just a minute please."  It's also the name of a traditional Japanese children's song.

The keigo version is sho sho omachi kudasai (少々お待ち下さい、しょしょおまちください).

 Below is a link to a website that has on it a bunch of versions of the children's song.
(I love the name of the site, "songlust."  I can't imagining coming up with a word like that myself, but I think it's awesome.)

And, of course, there are tons of versions on YouTube.  I like this 'ukulele version, some nice playing:

 and here's a version by a an "idol girl group" called Smileage.  Not really my kind of music, but again, what a great word to create; and this is seriously a part of modern Japanese culture.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Woman's intuition = 女の直感

As in other cultures across the globe, women in Japan are perceived by many to have capable intuitive powers.  

woman's / women's intuition = onna no chokkan  (女の直感 、おんなのちょっかん)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

体育祭 (たいいくさい)

For a lot of schools in Japan, this is the season of the taiikusai, or Sports Day, or Sports festival.
It's much like a Field Day back home; a day of games, relays, of being outdoors.  Taiiku (体育) is the word for physical education or physical training.

My school also features an Endan performance, in which students tell a story through dance.  The Endan is a pretty fair-sized production for us, but my Japanese colleagues have told me most schools don't make such a big deal out of it.  It seems that in Japan as perhaps in any place, schools have their own cultures, so how much emphasis is placed on arts, academics, and physicality depends on the institution and its people.

Anyway, here are some pictures from yesterday's 体育祭.  This is all the Endan.

Friday, May 10, 2013

neba neba (ねばねば / ネバネバ)

Just a follow-up to the natto entry a few days ago.  Natto is one of the neba neba foods in Japanese cuisine.  I have friends here who specifically seek out neba neba-ness.  I myself like it too.
I know  a few people who believe that neba neba food is generally healthy.  I can't think of any counterexamples to that, but I don't know if there's any scientific study to affirm it.

A lot of my students who look up ねばねば in their dictionaries come up with sticky, and it is that--but not like a piece of hard candy (say, a Jolly Rancher) that just flew out of your mouth while you were talking.  ねばねば is like gooey sticky, strings of thick fluid that follow the mouthful of food that you bring to your mouth with a fork or pair of chopsticks.  Okra would be a prime example.  In Japan, popular examples are yamaimo / tororo. . .

There's a great entry on neba neba foods on this blog:

It has great pictures.

As with many other Japanese onomatopoetic expressions, neba neba is a word repeated and can be used as a suru verb (i.e. neba neba suru). . .

Monday, May 6, 2013

soba (そば)

Soba, or buckwheat noodles, is one of my favorite Japanese dishes.  It's very much due to the excellent sauce, but also to the texture of the noodles, which is pretty much like whole wheat spaghetti.  Soba can vary quite a bit in terms of price and quality.  The most inexpensive soba goes for a little over 200 yen; other places might charge in the neighborhood of 1000 yen.  The more expensive places are probably charging for atmosphere and for the fact that the noodles are fresh and handmade every day.  The cheaper places are fast-food versions where people pop in and out and don't linger much.  Ten or so years ago, I only ever saw salarymen in the cheaper soba shops, but now I see all kinds of people, men and women from whatever generations.

Years ago, I read in a travel guide that soba was for the poorer mountain people who couldn't grow or afford rice.  White rice was considered a luxury.

Below is sansai soba (sansai means "mountain vegetables"). You can buy it in pre-sealed packs at the supermarket.

Friday, May 3, 2013

納豆 (なっとう )


One of Japan's many soy products to be experienced, nattō is fermented soybeans.  I think there's much to be said about it.  It generally isn't restaurant food.  It's quite economical, about a hundred yen for a three-pack (sometimes four).  It's gooey.  It's unpleasant to wash dishes that are coated in nattō remnants--at least for me it is.  It's an excellent source of lean protein.  It feels gross to some people to have nattō's texture in their mouth.  Above all, above all else, first and foremost and most predominantly, at least in terms of first impressions, is its horrid and wretched smell.  Well, maybe I'm exaggerating about the smell.  

Actually, I like nattō.  I eat it.  I don't like the smell, but I enjoy its taste and don't really mind its texture (in my mouth, at least.  Getting it on my hands is something else).  But the part about not wanting to wash nattō-coated dishes will probably not change in this lifetime.  The first time I ate it was in curry, which was quite a mistake.  The second time was simply over hot rice, which was quite good.  It's called nattō gohan.  You put yellow mustard on it and pour the sauce on.  Much less commonly, the yellow mustard can be replaced with wasabi, Japan's horseradish. (I've only seen this once, in a supermarket.)  A lot of people will mix a raw egg with the nattō.  (I find that just about all of my friends who grew up in Japan have an unshakable trust in the eggs produced here and will eat them raw anytime, any place, without fear of salmonella.)  You can also put on top of it okra, shirasu (tiny, tiny fish), or strips of nori (dry roasted seaweed).  You can eat it as sushi (the nori maki, or makizushi version); 7-11 usually sells it.  I know some who eat it on toast, and one of my students eats it plain and cold, just out of the fridge.

The Wikipedia article on nattō goes on to detail some of its health benefits, as promoted by the industry and other proponents of nattō.  It contains a compound known as pyrazine, which is supposed to deter blood clots.  It’s said to be rich in Vitamin K and calcium, both helpful in maintaining bone strength and preventing osteoperosis.  I like that the article states that nattō "may be an acquired taste."  In fact, I do know a fair number of Westerners (and foreigners from the East, as well) who eat it willingly.  My friends who can't stand it watch me consume with disbelief.  One of them, one of my best friends here, always felt that Japanese people who like nattō do so with a measure of pride, as they expect most foreigners to find it unendurable.  I remember this one time he had a little taste.  As he slowly chewed, savored, contemplated, he said, "No.  No.  Usually, even if I don't like a food, I can kind of imagine what someone else would like about it.  But no, not with this."  It was a wall that he would not be climbing, though he wished otherwise.  "I want to like it.  I wish I liked it.  I just. . .can't!"  As I tried to assure him that things would be okay, that it was no big deal, he eyed me with caution.  He said that he suspected I carried a bit of pride myself in being a foreigner able to eat fermented beans.   So far as I can tell, to the extent that I am aware of myself, I don't.  In the company of foreigners, I actually feel a tad embarrassed to be eating these stinky beans, but—oh well!  I gotta think it’s okay to like healthy, inexpensive, bad-smelling food.  

Some pictures of an eatery that serves nattō, and the dish called nattō gohan:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

文化的多元主義 (ぶんかてきたげんしゅぎ)

I hope I have the right kanji; to tell the truth, after the bun, this one's far beyond my reading abilities. I'm trying to write bunkatekitagenshugi, which is a mouthful that means multiculturalism, to the best of my knowledge.  The bunka means culture, and shugi is the word for -ism.  I'll have to learn the other syllables.  This is one of those words that I don't often have a chance to use, but I remember it because I like the concept.

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