Saturday, December 21, 2013

浮かれる (うかれる)

浮かれる, ukareru    

According to my dictionary, it means "to be very happy, to be in high spirits, in top form. . .to be delighted, be tickled pink, to make merry. . ." This term came up the other day, when one of my friends and co-workers saw that I was wearing my "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" necktie, and she noted that I was in the Christmas spirit.  The connotation, she noted, was that being caught up in anticipation of something allows one to leave behind the drudgeries of reality.      

Saturday, December 14, 2013

やりそう (yarisou)

やる (yaru) means do, same as する。
そう (sou), in this situation, means something akin to "seems like".

So やりそう means "It seems like you'd do that,"  or "It seems like something you'd do.

To illustrate, there was a class in which one of my students said this, and it made me laugh uncontrollably.

We were discussing an article about child discipline.  I asked everyone how they felt about corporal punishment.  After some small group talking time, we went around the room for people's views.  One member of the class said, "I think it is okay, if it is on a soft part of the body."  I think we all understood what she meant: spanking a child's bottom was okay, but hitting him/her, bruising, etc. was not.  Striking bone onto bone was not okay.  (I would like to mention that this student is a very nice person, having known her for two years, and I would bet all the money I have in this world that she wouldn't abuse a child.)

But, just as a joke, I asked her, "So this is okay?"  and I mimed someone hitting another person in the stomach.

The student immediately shook her head no.  Her friend, sitting next to her, shouted out, "Yarisou!", meaning that she thought the student would do something like that.  Punch her kid in the gut.  Of course, the friend was kidding, and we all shared a nice laugh.

Friday, December 6, 2013

音姫 (オトヒメ, the Sound Princess)

Have you ever felt embarrassed by the natural gaseous and liquid sounds we all make while doing Number 2?  For anyone who has, the public restroom in Japan is the place to be.

Witness the Otohime:

The first time I saw one was in 2001 or 2002, at an Italian restaurant in Ochanomizu.  Back then you had to press a button to make it work.  Its function is to make a bit of noise so that others in the restroom can't hear yours.

Apparently, In the past, people who wanted to cover up their bathroom sounds used to flush and flush as they went.   This would obviously result in a tremendous waste of water.  Enter the otohime (音, or oto, means sound and 姫, hime, is princess, e.g. Mononoke-Hime, the Miyazaki Hayao movie), literally, "sound princess"  (or Princess Sound?), which has been said to save 20 liters per use.  One of my students taught me this term.  I asked why they thought the device included princess in its name, and they said probably to lend it some cuteness.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

紅葉 (こうよう、kouyou)

There's a single word in Japanese that describes the changing color of the leaves during autumn, 紅葉(kouyou).

Having grown up in Hawai'i, the fall leaves are kind of exciting for me.  I seem to remember seeing some Peanuts comic strips in which Charlie Brown and company would jump into piles of fallen leaves.  I yearned for the seasons sometimes, as a kid.  I like that there's a single word for it in Japanese.

These pictures are of Ikebukuro, from a little neighborhood park in the midst of what is mostly a concrete metropolis.  These little parks can really stand out--

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