Saturday, November 1, 2014

Two ways to define futamata (ふたまた)

I came upon this sign the other week.

I was slightly stunned at first.  Several years ago, one of my female friends taught me the word futamata as she related the story of when and why she broke up with her boyfriend.  She'd caught him with another girl, and instead of apologizing or begging forgiveness or promising repentance, he asked her to. . .she wasn't sure how to phrase it as she jumped back and forth between Japanese and English. . .he asked her to let him futamata, or be in a relationship with two girls at the same time.  She refused and resolved that he was scummy.

So when I saw this sign for the Ikebukuro Futamata Koban (koban, of course, being "police box") I wondered what the hell kind of koban it was.  When I got home I googled futamata and found the first of the two definitions that I now know:

Literally: “Double groin“. If you knew the parts of the word,you might be able to guess that it means “having relations with more than one lover.” Typically one of the relationships is illicit.
By extension, this word can also be used to describe someone who tries to satisfy two opposing sides of an issue.--from the website Nihon Shock, which I just discovered and quite like, from what I've seen. (url for its entry on futamata:

That excellent explanation is accompanied by the kanji, 二股、which is different from the 二又 on the sign.

When I looked up ふたまたin an online dictionary, it came up with one definition:  two ways.  That seems fit for a street sign, and for a police box.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

hisabisa (ひさびさ)

One of my students told me that hisabisa is a common variation of hisashiburi.  It'd be something like "Uo, hisabisa!", her accent on the second syllable.  Right after she told me that, her friend (standing next to her) said nobody actually says that.  When I checked it on the internet, it turned out that there are people who use it.

You can hear how it sounds as she says the word 9 seconds into the video.

ひさびさ is used just in  the title of this one; but I included it because I thought she came up with some impressive Japanese tongue-twisters.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

osoroi (お揃い,おそろい)

Osoroi (お揃い, おそろい) is the adjective form of sorou (そろう), a verb whose definitions range from "be complete" to "be equal; be the same."  Osoroi can simply be defined as "matching."

If two or more people are wearing matching shirts, their online photo might be captioned with "osoroi no fuku" (おそろいのふく) or "osoroi no shatsu" (おそろいのシャツ) to denote the matching clothes.

The friend who taught me this word likes to mix Japanese and English; her Facebook post read "We are おそろ today" and was punctuated with a purikura of her and her friend wearing matching outfits.  She also said that girls would be more likely to use the abbreviated form.  In her words, "All Japanese gals want to have おそろ things among friends or with their boyfriend."  Perhaps not surprisingly, search results show more おそろい/おそろ posts by females and couples; it seems less widespread for guys to post pictures of themselves wearing matching outfits and/or accessories. 

If you Google 「おそろいの友達」 (osoroi no tomodachi), the pictures that come up in the Images section will probably include a lot of friends wearing matching shirts, jackets, Mickey/Minnie Mouse head wear, etc.  

Below are some examples, both commerce and blog sites.

And this clip is from Waratte Iitomo! (笑っていいとも!).  You'll see the matching おそろいuniforms.  The model Rora (ロラ) who appears in this is insanely popular with my teenage and 20-something students, especially the female ones.

Friday, July 18, 2014

seishun (literally, "blue spring"), 青春

Today was our last day of school before summer break, and everyone was in fine spirits, anticipating what the coming month would bring.  I had an iced tea in my hand as I walked to the teacher staff room and the halls were chaotic.  Most students in our school are in clubs, and there are committees as well--the Culture Festival Committee, the Summer Camp Committee, the Student Council. . .They were manically running to and fro, and making me tired.  I wanted a moment's peace so I went out of the building and sat on the stone wall in front of our main entrance.

As I sat there people started to exit, their meetings finished.  Some of the seniors saw me with my iced tea and came over to say see you after the break.  They were talking a lot to each other, so hyped up as they were.  One of them said "Seishun!"  I didn't know why.  "Seishun!  How do I say 'seishun' in English?"

If it's the seishun that I'm thinking of, then adolescence would be the definition I learned some years ago.  I said, "Adolescence?" and no one reacted much.  "Do you mean like, your teen years?"

And then there was reaction.  They understood what I meant.  One of the girls told me that seishun can be one's teen years, but not necessarily so.  They went on to explain the kanji to me, which literally translates to "blue spring," aoi (青い) and haru (春)."  When I heard that, I thought they meant blue as in depressed, as in wedding blues, which is a common phrase in Japan (denoting the anxiety and regret that some newly married people feel after the ceremony).  But no, that wasn't what they meant.  They said that seishun
can be any time in your life that could be one of the best times in your life.

When I got home I Googled it and, along with the youth and adolescence definitions I also came across "the springtime of one's life."  I supposed that springtime is, naturally, the time of adolescence for many people, which is likely why those definitions come up so ubiquitously.  But I also appreciated that a group of teenagers today were reflective enough to say that, no, the springtime of a person's life can happen at any time.  

"Seishun" (also romanized as "Seisyun") was a 2007 single by the group Tokio.

Friday, July 11, 2014

netabare (ネタバレ)

netabare (ネタバレ) = spoiler

I saw Maleficent a couple of days ago; it came out in Japan a bit after much of the rest of the world.  There was a tremendous amount of anticipation for it here, as Disney is quite popular in these parts.  Most of my students can hardly wait to see it, and as its release here coincided with final exam week for many of them, most haven't seen it.

So after exams week, we resumed classes and I mentioned that I'd seen the movie.  They taught me the term netabare (ネタバレ), which I eventually understood to mean spoiler.  None of my students knew the word spoiler; it was simply the way they cried out "Netabare! Netabare!", with their hands held out to shield them, that I understood that they didn't want me to tell them about the story.  They then confirmed this intended meaning by saying to me, "Please don't tell me what happens!"

I liked how Angelina Jolie fit the part.  She uses her eyes so effectively.  Whenever she screamed out her curses and anti-curses in dramatic fashion I felt that things got a bit awkward, but on the whole I couldn't imagine another actress filling this part the way she did.  I don't think it a spoiler to say that I say that I liked the way Maleficent seemed always determined to be truthful with Aurora, even in situations in which it wasn't easy  to be so.

Sometimes students write about Walt Disney and how he's impacted the world as a first-rate imaginary and business visionary.  So far, they haven't brought up any charges of Hollywood blacklists and anti-Semitism, so I haven't had to deal with those sticky subjects. I won't avoid them, but at the same time I'm not rushed to bring them to the forefront.
The trailer in Japan. . .

and a press conference

Thursday, June 19, 2014

ダメよ~ダメダメ (dame yo! dame dame~)

This one is trending right now, I was told today.  The language itself isn't anything special; it's just a way of saying "That's no good" or "You can't do that," things of the like.  My friends tell me that what stands out about this clip is the tone and pitch of the speaker.


Update (July 10, 2015)
Unfortunately, You Tube took off the above video, I imagine for copyright reasons.  But people have been filling in the void with other clips.  Below are a duo who use the original audio recording and mime along with it:

I was surprised to find a bunch of SNSD videos dedicated to this phrase. Their Japanese has gotten so good. . .I'm jealous.


今でしょ!Ima desho!!

This was a popular phrase from last year. (But I think that its message is pretty much timeless.)

My friends tell me that I should say it without the final -u (ーう) that you usually see in deshou.  It gives it a more abrupt stop and sense of, I don't know, urgency maybe.

今でしょ!(Ima desho!!) = The time is now!  Now's the time!

And another interpretation is "Right now."  I liked these little clips.  Homemade imitations of commercials. 

And this one was pretty funny.  I don't know why so many of these "Ima desho" videos have kids in them.
"When you gonna study?"  
"We're studying now, man!"

 The "right now" translations reminded me of this Van Hagar classic.  Amazingly, it's now over twenty years old.   I really like a lot of the Van Halen catalogue, but this one was one of my least favorite of their singles.  I'm listening to it now to see if I have a different reaction than I did back then, since that sort of thing can happen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Love Is an Open Door (Japanese version)

As is the case in many corners of the internet, lip-syncing Frozen songs has become a widespread meme in Japan.  This is my favorite one.

I hope the kanji, romaji, and English lyrics are arranged in an easy-enough-to-read way. I've tried to arrange them by verse and chorus.  

A lot of the lyrics aren't direct translations, I should mention.  For example, the "Oshiete yo" at the beginning of verse 2 doesn't translate to Han's line "I mean it's crazy. . ."  I think that in general, when movie themes are redone in Japanese, the gist of the lyrics' meaning is kept intact, with some or much artistic license taken.

Lyrics in kanji / kana and below that, romaji

nee, chotto okashi na koto ittemo ii?
souiu no daisuki da!
[Anna:] Okay, can I just, say something crazy?  
[Hans:] I love crazy!
dokonimo deguchi no nai hibi ga
totsuzen ni kawarisou
boku mo onaji koto kangaeteta! datte,
dokonimo ibasho no nai hibi de
sagashi tsudzuketeita konna hito wo
kawaru (kimi to deaete) subete ga
hajimete no tokimeki da wa (hajimete no tokimeki da yo) 

[Anna:] All my life has been a series of doors in my face
And then suddenly I bump into you
[Hans:]  I was thinking the same thing! 'Cause like
I've been searching my whole life to find my own place
And maybe it's the party talking or the chocolate fondue
[Anna:] [giggles] [Anna:] But with you... [Hans:] But with you [Hans:] I found my place... [Anna:] I see your face... [Both:] And it's nothing like I've ever known before!

futari dakara
tobira akete
tobidaseru yo
ima (ima) mou (mou)
futari dakara 

Love is an open door!
Love is an open door!
Love is an open door! [Anna:] With you! [Hans:] With you! [Anna:] With you! [Hans:] With you! [Both:] Love is an open door...

oshiete te yo
nani ga suki ka?
boku to onaji janai ka!
watashitachi ha yoku niteru ne
a! mata sorotta!
kangaeteru koto
kanjiteiru koto
sou (hontou) ni
niteru ne
[Hans:] I mean it's crazy...  
[Anna:] What?  
[Hans:] We finish each other's-  
[Anna:] Sandwiches!  
[Hans:] That's what I was gonna say! 
 [Anna:] I've never met someone-  
[Both:]Who thinks so much like me!
Jinx! Jinx again!
Our mental synchronization
Can have but one explanation  

[Hans:] You-  
[Anna:] And I-  
[Hans:] Were-  
[Anna:] Just- 
 [Both:] Meant to be!

hitori (hitori) sabishii hibi ni
mou owakareshiyou

[Anna:] Say goodbye... [Hans:] Say goodbye... [Both:] To the pain of the past
We don't have to feel it anymore!

futari dakara
tobira akete
tobidaseru yo
ima (ima) mou (mou)
futari dakara 

Love is an open door!
Love is an open door!
Love is an open door!
[Anna:] With you! [Hans:] With you! [Anna:] With you! [Hans:] With you! [Both:] Love is an open door...

If you'd like to hear the original English version, this is one of many links:

It's one week later, and this video's gotten some serious views. . .
Someone wrote a short article about it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

follow up on pinchi (ピンチ)

Just a follow up on ピンチ--

As was noted in the entry for yabai, ピンチだ! can be used for "I'm in a pinch" / "I'm in trouble."  Additionally there's 
ピンチに立つ ( ピンチにたつ )

ピンチ is also the word for clothespin.

And of course, ピンチヒッター is pinch hitter.  For the movie The Sitter, when they renamed it for the Japanese market, they did a play on words, Pinch Sitter ( ピンチシッター ).


from "I'm in trouble" to "Oh, this is so good!!"...やばい!!!

Yabai (やばい) has been evolving over the past decade.  Formerly, it was an exclamation of distress, along the lines of "Oh, no," "I'm in trouble," "I'm f*cked."  A short while ago, I was sitting next to one of my fellow teachers when realized that she didn't have enough classes before exam week to finish teaching all of the content she needed to cover for the tests.  She cried out, "Pinchi (ピンチ)だ!", short for "I'm in a pinch"--which, of course, who really says that?  I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what she was saying, so I asked her, "Do you mean it like, 'I'm in a pinch?'" and she said yes; she's quite tolerant of  my language questions, and always helpful, God bless her.  She went on to say that younger people would probably say やばい instead.

While the original meaning of yabai still stands, it seems to be used just as often now to denote very positive feelings about something or someone.  The first time I heard it used in this way was at a summer camp.  As we walked back from the campfire to the hotel (but yes, we still call it a camp), an infinite multitude of stars shone above us, and students screamed out to the sky "Yabai kirei!"  Later that year, I recall hearing it at a concert.  Velvet Revolver was performing (co-headlining a show with Marilyn Manson, which looking back is a pretty amazing occurrence) and some girls next to me, drooling over a topless Scott Weiland, kept saying "Yabai!  Yabai kakko ii!" throughout the show.

Really, though, I think it feels quite similar to an "OMG" in English.  Or how, when experiencing or witnessing something overwhelmingly good, we might comment that we're done for.  Or we might say we're in trouble when we find someone attractive to an extreme degree.  There's something viscerally expressive in this word.

Honestly, I'm not trying to promote this music, but here are a couple of examples of yabai's usage.  The first is a song entitled "Yabai," performed by the boy-group Arashi.  The guy pictured in the video is Jun Matsumoto, perhaps most well-known for his portrayal of Tsukasa Domyouji in Hana Yori Dango.


and this is a Morning Musume video.  The caption under the video,


is another usage, stating that something is too cool.  To tell the truth, I was surprised at the heaviness of the guitars at the start of this clip.  It wasn't what I expected from Morning Musume. 


 In the caption under this one, you can see another way to use the word.

. . .キレイ過ぎてヤバいwww 

by which the writer means that the actress, Kyoko Fukada, is just too pretty (!).


No new information in this video, but I liked it because she's going through the time and effort of posting herself dancing on You Tube, at the same time wearing a mask.  I had to smile at that.



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

suru (する) verbs, part 5

bunkatsu suru, 分割 (ぶんかつ) する--to divide, split

I thought this was a pretty cool example.  I'd never seen them separate the train cars before.  The splitting up starts at about 2 minutes into the video.

In the video below, someone is showing us how to split a PDF file.

I just think it's nice that people go through the trouble of videoing and posting stuff like this, which I'm sure is helpful to some.
bunseki suru, 分析 (ぶんせき) する--to analyze, break down


To tell the truth, I have no idea what he's talking about--I watched for about 20 seconds and moved on.  But even without comprehending his presentation,  I thought that the visual alone might help in remembering this word.

  chikoku suru, 遅刻 (ちこく) する--to be late, tardy

This one just made me laugh. Gorilla Man is definitely running behind schedule. . .

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


This was from last year's TV show, Hanzawa Naoki, the story of a good man trying to survive a corrupt banking world.  I only got around to watching it this year when it reached the internet with English subtitles.  I liked it quite a lot.

The series protagonist is not to be messed with.  His warning to people, his philosophy in business and in life, is embodied in the line "Yararetara yarikaesu. . .Baigaeshi da!"  (やられたらやり返す 倍返しだ!)  Yararetara is in the passive voice, so some of my friends' and students' attempts at direct translation come out something like "If it is done to you, do it back--double payback!"  A slightly less direct  translation would be "If someone screws you, give double the payback." Or if you want to go higher than double--Hanzawa Naoki goes up to jyuu at some point--then something like "If someone screws you, screw 'em back ten-fold.")

-bai (倍) is the suffix for times, as in nibai (二倍, 2 times), sanbai (三倍, 3 times), etc.    If you just say baigaeshi, it's apparently presumed to mean double the payback.  If you want to go higher, then you have to put a number, e.g. san (三), go (五), jyuu (十), etc. before the baigaeshi.

At the end of this video Naoki H. delivers the line:

This is a trailer.

 And this is a website where you can watch it with English subtitles.  To be honest, I don't think that the translators are native English speakers, but I'm not complaining--they did a good enough job that I could easily keep up with the story.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

よろびこ (yorobiko)

I don't think this is officially a word yet, and it may never be. . .I recently learned it from one of my high school students.  よろびこ (yorobiko) is a mutation of よろしく (yoroshiku) よろしくおねがいします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu).  It's one of those words that, right now, maybe only high school students would know.

When I mentioned this to other adults, they recalled that around ten years ago, よろぴく (yoropiku) was the word of the day.  Just a cute alteration of the very-important yoroshiku, I guess.  These adults tell me that yoropiku is "so old."

One of my fellow colleagues at school, when she heard me asking about yorobiko, looked on with some disdain.  I think it's an understatement to say that not everyone here likes the morphing of words and phrases that the younger generation is into.  Personally, though, I find it a bit impressive for its creativity.  As with many things in Japanese culture, the creativity manifests in doing new things with old things.

A couple of links of people using it on their blogs.  (I wanted to check around to make sure that it wasn't only my student using this expression. . .)

Monday, April 7, 2014


Today the new school year started in Japan.  In my two jobs, though, classes don't actually begin for a few days.  I went to one of the campuses, though, hoping to make all of the handouts and mentally run through what the first day of school would be. . .But it was hard.  After spending three weeks in Hawai'i, I'm not in a Tokyo state of mind.  I spent a lot of time today wandering about, having pleasant conversations that put off getting to work.  Just a little before 2pm my friend told me that the Japanese word for procrastinate is hikinobasu

Saturday, April 5, 2014

vocabulary of cherry blossoms

Anyone who spends a spring in Japan surely learns sakura, the word for cherry blossoms; and hanami  (or ohanami, more formally), which is defined as a "cherry blossom-viewing party."  I suppose it would be as accurate to define the hanami as a picnic under the blossoms, often a drunken gathering, for many.  The best time is when the cherry blossoms are mankai (満開, まんかい), or in full bloom.

During my first year here, a good friend (a New Yorker and fellow Beastie Boy listener) once likened cherry blossom season in Japan to Christmas back home, at least in its effect on our temperaments.  People are friendly and sociable even to strangers, and the spirit of the season seems to prompt the expectation of this phenomenon.  The air warms, and so do we.  And people are generous; more than once have I been offered and given free drinks, beer and chu-hai mostly, by fellow hanami-ers who happen to be sitting next to me on the glorious earth under trees topped by an illuminated white canopy.  The giving inspires giving, and before long we find ourselves sharing and talking and laughing.  Whenever gusts of wind blow the petals into a shower falling on us, we let out Oohs and Aahs, as mesmerized by this vision of spring as we would be by any winter snowfall.

The sakura, I've been told, is symbolic of the fleeting essence of life and its beauty, something to be enjoyed and, ideally, grasped for what it is while it remains with us, a temporal wonder.  Sakura and Sakurako are popular names for girls.

Most of these pictures were taken at Yoyogi Park (Yoyogi Kooen, 代々木公園).



The majority of eople in Japan, in my experience, are really good about not littering


Lastly, a music video by Morning Musume with today's vocabulary.  Honestly not the kind of music I usually listen to, but there are obviously people who like it.  For those not yet indoctrinated in the world of Jpop, Morning Musume was a sort of precursor to today's AKB groups, over a decade ago.

Monday, March 17, 2014

suru (する) verbs, part 4

bougai suru (妨害する、ぼうがいする)= to barricade, disturb

In the two videos below, this verb is being used to describe people who get in the way of emergency vehicles.

boushi suru (防止する、ぼうしする) = to prevent, keep in check

 And the speaker in this video shows us how he prevents dehydration in his wonderful bird


boshuu suru ( 募集する、ぼしゅうする) = to recruit, collect

And this is a recruiting video for the group Morning Musume.  It's not my kind of music, but culturally I think they deserve recognition as being the precursor to AKB and all of its offshoots.

飲み放題 (nomihoudai)

Also important in the language of nomikai is nomihoudai, or All-You-Can-Drink.  The nomi- part of it means drink, while the -houdai is the all-you-can.  (Tabehoudai, All-You-Can-Eat, is the other essential to know in dining out.)  I sometimes hear people abbreviate nomihoudai as nomihou.

An average izakaya charges maybe ¥1200-1500 for two hours.  Western foreigners often go nuts over this in an "oh my God I can't believe it" kind of way, at least at first; I certainly did.  Every American I know here cannot fathom an American establishment implementing nomihoudai and staying in business for long; just the nearest college population alone would set off bankruptcy alarms.  But of course we probably exaggerate in our minds the extent to which our home country is alcoholic.  

I've seen a few blogs and vlogs about nomihoudai and I agree with them that generally the Japanese people I know don't go all out to get their money's worth in this situation.  It's just usually the more economical option if you're going to be drinking for a couple of hours.  And, being of Asian descent myself, I don't think I'm being unfairly stereotypical or a self-hating racist when I say that Asian people, on average, don't drink as much and probably can't tolerate as much alcohol as some of the larger-livered people from other parts of the world.  (I don't mean it disparagingly to anyone, and I know there are a lot of heavy, hard-slamming Asians in this world. . .)  Anyway, it is nice that the Japanese food and drink industry can offer this and continue to offer it.

Some videos about it--the first two are by a couple of fellow expats I've never met.

About the following video, I agree with almost all that's said. . .Only things that are different in my experience are:  1) the nomihoudai deals I encounter are a bit less than the $35 that he mentions early on in the video (but maybe it's because I usually go to less expensive places),  2) I don't see beer vending machines much any more, mostly only in hotel lobbies, and 3) in parts of Tokyo there seems to be a visible effort for the law to discourage underage drinking.  It's certainly not a "crackdown" or any such thing, and undoubtedly teenagers are drinking, but things don't seem to be as lax as they were ten years ago.  All that said, I'm not disagreeing with Moteki Texan in what he's saying, just saying that we encounter different things, have different experiences.

 And this video is for the dancing

Saturday, March 8, 2014

飲み会 (nomikai)

This was one of the early and important words when I moved here.  Nomikai (飲み会, のみかい ) is usually translated as "drinking party" among my Japanese friends.  There's a lot of drinking in Tokyo, but I don't know that more alcohol is drunk per capita than in, say, the state of Michigan or the city of Moscow.  I don't know statistics on this.  But I feel comfortable in saying that there's been drinking (of alcohol) at every get-together I've had with friends in restaurants, izakaya and, of course, bars.  

Having a pretty great  train/subway system helps a lot.  Whenever my friends from back home come to visit, they're always sort of giddy over the fact that they don't have to drive home.  To have the freedom to drink as much as one wants. . .

I do have friends here who don't drink.  Not all that many, but they live.  The nomikai system can be financially tough on non-drinkers because generally people here split the final bill equally.  This may be unfair to those who don't eat or drink much, but it's part of the group ethic, I think.  And it can be liberating, in more than one way.  But not everyone is into it.  One of my (Japanese) friends who doesn't partake in drinks of merriment regularly says to me "I paid a lot for my Oloong tea tonight" when others (especially girls) aren't listening.  Of course drinks generally drive up the bill, so I take his point.  Generally, a night out at an average izakaya or restaurant seems to cost me in the neighborhood of 3000-4000 yen; of course, at theme places or more extravagant settings it'll be more.  To the drunken, I guess this sits as par for the course or better.  But for teetotalers, I can see how it would seem expensive.  Heavy drinkers know that it's a bargain for them, and I've known a few who take advantage of the night.

My first year here I didn't want to rock the boat or cause ill feelings, but now when I'm at a nomikai where there's someone who doesn't drink, I don't mind coming out and saying (no doubt because I'm drunk, as I do drink) to everyone that the non-drinkers should pay a bit less.  It feels like the right thing to do.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

suru (する) verbs, part 3

bengo suru ( 弁護する、べんごする ) -- to defend, testify for

I like the word testify.  It reminds me of this now-classic RATM song.  Sweet that someone put Japanese subs on this version.

benkyou suru ( 勉強する、べんきょうする) -- to study

Today was the first time I've seen this lady (below) reciting Japanese on You Tube waves; she sure has a lot of viewers.  It's the video that came up at the top when I You Tubed the kanji for benkyou, I guess because of its title and number of hits.  As I started watching, at first I didn't know if I should continue till the end, but in the middle of it she breaks out a rather large slice of pizza.  I have to admit, it made me laugh.

 This is one of the verbs learned pretty early on by most people learning Japanese.  I'm sure I learned it in class, but I don't remember learning it.  I do remember hearing it in the anime below, though, because it was the first time I heard the word benkyou used outside of the classroom/textbook.  They used to air this show on the Japanese cable network back home, a long time ago, and I watched it once or twice.  It was back when I used to get really excited hearing a word I'd learned being spoken in the outside world.  I'd practically jump out of my seat, "I know that one!"

Anyway, this anime is about a boy named Kintaro who's cycling around Japan in search of new experiences.  He's a good-hearted guy but so uncool around women, especially beautiful women.  He loses control, although not in a dangerous way.  When he gets worked up, he'll cycle furiously repeating to himself "Benkyou benkyou benkyou!"  He often uses "Benkyou ni narimashita!", which basically means "I learned something," or "It was educational," etc.

Just to warn you, the humor is a little erotic.  It isn't a violent eroticism, but definitely at least PG-13.  (For those outside of America, PG-13 is one of the categories to which movies are assigned in the ratings system.  It means "Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13"; the PG originally meant Parental Guidance suggested.)  It's also unapologetically cheesy.  The Japanese I find somewhat easier to understand than a lot of other anime, perhaps because it's everyday life (instead of robots or pirates or some of the more otherworldly themes that populate much of Japan's animated realm).

benshou suru ( 弁償する、べんしょうする) --to compensate, repay for loss

Thursday, February 27, 2014

tenjikai (展示会)

Tenjikai ( 展示会、てんじかい ) is an exhibition, e.g. an art or fashion exhibit.  My friend just had one today for his new company.  It was held in Omotesando, one of the more upscale areas in Tokyo.  I had a hard time finding the place, so I was happy when I finally did. . .A lot of stores and businesses in Omotesando and Harajuku are housed in places that don't look like stores or businesses.  This was the front end of the exhibition, which I think could easily pass for a kids clubhouse.

Inside, it looked like this

Lasonic--a boombox for the i-Pod.  It has a karaoke function

a table with built-in speakers, pretty good sound


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

suru (する) verbs, part 2

anshin suru (安心する, する) --to be relieved, to feel secure

antei suru (安定する, あんていする) --to be steady or stable

bakuhatsu suru (爆発する, ばくはつする) --to explode, burst, blow up

I looked around for some visual examples of these words.  For anshin suru, I was surprised at how many pet videos there were.  I guess people like to see their dogs relax.


Friday, February 21, 2014

K.Y. (kuuki ga yomenai)

K.Y. (kuuki ga yomenai) means that a person can't lit. "read the air," or can't tell what's happening with the people in the room.  For example, if the K.Y. person were a comedian and making jokes that no one is laughing at, s/he (the comedian) would have no idea that no one's laughing and might think that the comedy gig is going fine.

In an everyday life example, it might be someone at a party making offensive jokes.  But s/he wouldn't know that people were being offended, and so s/he would be K.Y.

The first time I heard this phrase, several years ago, it was at a nomikai (lit. a drinking party).  There was a guy telling stories about his trip to China, and he went on for a long time.  He thought everyone was fascinated with his tales and details, but when he went to the bathroom, someone said, "Kare kuuki ga yomenai ne. . ." and I asked for a translation.

Anyway, I don't think that K.Y. is ever intended as a compliment, in Japanese.  The closest that I could imagine it to being a compliment would be when used by someone who knows that KY is the abbreviation for Kentucky, if that person like Kentucky Fried Chicken (which here is abbreviated as "KEN-tah-kee," not KFC).

Anyway, some video examples.  From a drama:

 A video I didn't really understand, to tell the truth. . .

 And something else that I didn't understand, because the subtitles were in Spanish.  But I thought the video was visually interesting.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

suru (する) verbs, part 1

A long long time ago a friend gave me a list of suru verbs.  An American, he said that after he memorized this list he started to understand the (Japanese) news.  It's not a very sexy list, but I have faith that the vocabulary is practical.  I have yet to learn all the words, so getting them down visually in this blog is partly for my own sake.

Another friend taught me the Rule of 3, suggesting that it was a helpful thing to keep in mind when trying to remember something.  A former marine, he said that most human brains are wired to grasp concepts up to a limit of three at a time.  Of course, we can all focus on more than three things at once, but doing so compromises one's ability to properly concentrate on these things; in other words, going past three can spread us thin.  He told me that's why, in the military, when they send someone out into the field they try to limit the tasks to three.  He also said that it's an old rule, going back at least as far as the Roman Empire.  I've heard other versions of the Rule of 3 (e.g. in writing, advertising, etc.), but anyway. . .

The first three suru verbs:

aiyou suru ( 愛用する、あいようする ) --to use regularly, to give one's patronage

anji suru ( 暗示する, あんじする ) --to hint, suggest

annai suru ( 案内する、あんないする ) --to guide, lead

shareru / shareteiru ( しゃれる / しゃれている)

A followup on おしゃれ -- there are different verb forms.   

おしゃれ する is a way to say that someone is being おしゃれ.

Another verb, shareru ( しゃれる), can also be used for certain situations.  (Present progressive is shareteiru ( しゃれている ), past tense shareta ( しゃれた ).  My friend was trying to explain to me the nuance, the connotation, and it sounds like shareru would be used, for example, to describe a retro or vintage look. . .She said it can also be used ironically, like when you think that someone is being too ostentatious or blingy.  I have to ask around more about that one.  Nuance is one of the harder things for me to figure out, especially when different Japanese speakers have different conceptions of words.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

おしゃれ (oshare) and おしゃんてぃ (oshanti)

To some of my Japanese friends, this is the singly most important word in the lexicon:
Oshare (おしゃれ, オシャレ ) means fashionable, sharp, stylin, and the like.  It's used to describe clothes, accessories, shoes, handbags, etc. but can also be used to describe places, like cafes and restaurants.

A couple of years ago, my high school and college students taught me oshanti (おしゃんてぃ,  オシャンティー), a newer term meaning the same thing.  

If you YouTube おしゃれ, the results are so dominated by this TV show called おしゃれイズム which, although I haven't asked anybody about this, sounds like a katakana version of おしゃれ-ism.  Here are a couple of samples from the show.  The statuesque lady in the videos is Izumi Mori, a fashion model, actress, and talento.  I haven't seen much of her stuff, but I have quite a few friends (mostly women) who adore her.

Not that I'm trying to promote the show, but if you're interested in it, the website is at

Oshanti brought up some. . .different results:


Thursday, January 23, 2014

よこばら (yokobara, 横腹)

よこばら (yokobara, 横腹)is the Japanese word for love handlesYoko (横) means side or width, and bara comes from hara (腹), the word for stomach.  So よこばら is like the sides of your stomach, or more accurately, the sides of your waist or core.

The word came up last week.  Back from winter vacation, at school we talked about the holidays, which quickly led to talking about what we did on Dec 31 and Jan 1--happens pretty much every year.  New Year traditions in Japan, the symbolic meanings of eating soba, osechi, and hatsumode.  Most years, someone in class will ask about Western traditions for celebrating the New Year.  I say drinkin' for some people, on New Year's Eve.  The countdown of course, which isn't exclusively in Western culture any more, if it ever was.  For millions of Americans the bowl games.  And, in Hawai'i, we set off firecrackers and fireworks to celebrate, more so on Dec 31 than July 4.  Twenty years ago New Year's Eve in Honolulu looked as smoky as a war zone in a war movie.  But that tradition is dying out as new and stricter laws curb the activities. 

And then we come to New Year resolutions.  Students get it immediately; my first example is the Smoker who lights up during the minutes prior to the Countdown and sucks it in before quitting. We go through a few more examples, then try setting resolutions ourselves.  Although this resolutions discussion can get repetitive for some teachers (I think especially for teachers in eikaiwa schools, but in high school and college English classes perhaps less so.  At least, for me.  Probably because when I was teaching in eikaiwa schools, I'd do it with all my classes, but in high school and college it only fits in with a few.  Also, it seems to be new to most high school and college students, young and newer to this world as they are).

(In teaching NY resolutions, one kind of extension that can make it more challenging and concrete is S.M.A.R.T., or something along those lines.  An example:)

Anyway, in one of my classes, we were doing resolutions.  This class has only one male student, almost a dozen females.  When we go around the room to share our goals, he says, "I want to rid of my yokobara."  Every girl laughs, affectionately.  "How do you say yokobara in English?" he asks me.  This is a teenager, not a middle-aged man, so it doesn't immediately hit me that he's self-conscious about his weight or amount of body fat.  Once he gestures to his love handles, though, I understand.  I try to assure him that No, man, you don't have to worry about that.  He sticks to his guns with his goal, so what can I say?  It's his resolution.  I said that I thought overall cardio activity and keeping track of saturated fat intake might help; and for strengthening and toning I like the Plank.

My goodness, there are a lot of You Tube videos about getting rid of よこばら.  Here are a few different exercises:


I think they all look pretty good, but I just do the Plank.

Monday, January 13, 2014

チャレンジする and チャレンジャー

The way that "challenge" is used in Japanese seems to have its roots in English, but in application can be a bit different. 

チャレンジする (charenji suru), which is generally a transitive verb in English (e.g. "I challenge you to a contest"), is often used as an intransitive verb in Japanese.  This can lead to problems in direct translations, since in English it would be awkward to say, "I'll challenge!"  A better translation, one closer to its intended meaning, would be to say, "I'll try something new" or "I'll do something I've never done before."

From this comes the word チャレンジャー, which describes a person who is willing to try new things.  The first time I came across this word was seven or eight years ago.  I saw a product in a hundred-yen store that, according the picture on the packaging, seemed to be a kitchen deodorizer.  It looked like I was supposed to put it in my drain, but I wasn't sure.  I asked someone at work what  I should do with it, and she explained its function to me.  That night, she emailed me to say that she was perplexed at why I didn't know what to do with this thing that I myself had bought.  "You bought it, didn't you?  Why didn't you know what it was?"  I replied that, from the picture on the packaging, I had an inclination that it was for my kitchen, but I wasn't quite sure what it was but wanted to try it.  She wrote back, "I understand.  You are チャレンジャー!"

I think that it's generally seen as a good thing to be a チャレンジャー.

Apparently it's the name of a video game, too. Interesting how people post themselves playing video games. You Tube has just about everything! The other day I met a guy who learned how to solve the Rubik's Cube on You Tube.

Reiwa , 令和, a new era

Reiwa , 令和 , is the name of the era just begun as Emperor Akihito abdicated to his son, Naruhito on May 1, 2019. It has stirred some cont...