Sunday, May 20, 2018

TKG, 卵かけご飯 (たまごかけごはん)

卵(tamago) = egg
ご飯 (gohan) = rice
Kake (かけ, full form かける) means you're putting or pouring egg onto rice, preferably hot steaming rice. Most people here would add shoyu to the raw egg. Almost all of my Japanese friends seem to trust and eat without fear raw eggs produced and sold in Japan.  When traveling abroad, most of them would be more cautious, which I think speaks to the level of trust that many, perhaps most, Japanese people have in Japanese products.  I'm letting myself generalize here, with no judgment intended...  

Below are a few old school TKG examples:


There's now a TKG machine.  I don't know when it came out, but these videos appeared last year.  The machine separates the yolk (黄身, kimi) from the egg white (白身, shiromi). The first one shows three different dishes: a simple TKG, one with natto (fermented soybeans) and shirasu (whitebait fish), and one using instant ramen instead of rice.  All include negi (green onions).


And this caught my attention because I believe they're speaking Chinese, and yet TKG is part of their vocabulary.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

jukensei (受験生) and rōnin (浪人)


A jukensei (受験生) is a student preparing for a school's entrance exams.  Most typically, this means someone in his/her final year of high school.  (Junior high school students studying to enter high school are also jukensei.)  Although many students begin studying in earnest at the start of senior year (or even earlier), probably most of my own students focus on their 受験生 lives from after summer break.  These studies are in addition to their already existing daily school demands, which can be considerable.

While some students will have the chance to take entrance exams at the end of the calendar year, most will participate in January and February admissions.

The 受験生 life seems hard.  However, many seem to find time to enjoy a bit of each day during this period, to which their Instagram stories would attest.  Small, ordinary pleasures often take greater meaning in times of adversity and fatigue.

When I was in junior high school, in Hawai'i, I used to hear stories about (some) Japanese students committing suicide when they failed to get into the universities of their choice.  As a child growing up in the islands, what I knew about Japan was often unnoticed and unconscious, many Japanese things not even thought of as Japanese, in our local culture.  I guess my favorite example is something my auntie said when she visited me in Tokyo; she asked my friend, "Do you think we can find omiyage in Japan?", not recognizing that omiyage is a Japanese word.  A lot of our words are like that--they come from faraway lands and blend seamlessly with the English that was imported and naturalized and which has evolved in the islands for more than two centuries.  (For humorous examples, see the book Pidgin to the Max.)

Hearing about Japan's young suicides happened at the start of my adolescence.  It may have been my introduction to a grownup version of pressure for success, and to an unadulterated consequence of failure.  It colored my perception of modern Japanese culture and many of my peers of the time would make a similar claim.  We imagined across an ocean a society in the midst of great success--this was during the Bubble Economy--that  bestowed an intense burden on its people.  It was a simplistic interpretation based on a few articles in the newspaper, but perhaps not necessarily entirely wrong.

I can't speak to that time in Japan's recent history; I arrived a few years after the Bubble had burst.  Sometimes I hear stories from colleagues who grew up during the era.  My students certainly know about it from their parents and teachers but, thankfully, much seems to have changed.  My third-year students (called seniors back home) are stressed, and most of them go through to four or more months of hellish existence, room and time in their lives for little more than studying a curriculum designed to pass university entrance exams. 

A high school student who has failed to enter his/her intended college may have, depending on familial, financial, and other circumstances, the option of becoming a rōnin (浪人).  As books and movies and comics have taught us, the original meaning of rōnin is masterless samurai.  (See Frank Miller's Rōnin for his groundbreaking example of Dystopian ficiton.)  The definition used in my students' lives is a graduate from high school who spends the following year in preparation for a second crack at entrance exams.  These rōnin may study independently at home or, if the family can afford it, at a cram school most probably specializing in entrance exams. 

I'm not clear on how many chances a rōnin has--this may depend on the rōnin and his/her family--but having at least a second one takes off some of the pressure.  This month brings the end to an arduous journey for many a teenager in Japan.  Some will continue into March.

Below is a sample from the Frank Miller series mentioned above.  I think lot of his writing is great...I would add that this particular story probably shouldn't be interpreted as a literal account of Japanese culture, but rather as science fiction and fantasy influenced by Miller's interest in Japanese culture.  (He spent some time in Japan.)  Someone was nice enough to make a video of the first issue.

And here, someone posted a short documentary about the 47 Rōnin legend:

And someone else posted about the historical site:

Finally, I did a search on "rōnin (浪人) jukensei (受験生)" and this video came up on top:
rōnin (浪人) jukensei (受験生)

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...