Hida-Takayama Sarubobo

A nice destination for short trip from Nagoya is Hida-Takayama, in Gifu prefecture. The town is well preserved in the old style. You can enjoy traditional architecture, rickshaws, and other local traditions. One of these traditions is the Sarubobo.

I have heard that mainly the Sarubobo is meant to be a good luck charm (omamori) to ensure that pregnant women are able to deliver their babies safely. The Wikipedia entry on Sarubobo adds extra on to that.

The Hida-Takayama area is literally overrun with Sarubobo. They are sold in almost every shop, and in a ridiculous ammout of sizes and shapes. There are Sarubobo the size of a regular omamori… There are giant-sized sarubobo, and even tiny sarubobo meant to be attached to cell phones as straps.

There is even a Doraemon posing as a sarubobo… Hello Kitty was on the scene as well, but I was too sarubobo’ed-out to take a picture.

Japanese lesson. “Uzai” 「うざい」。

If I post so many sarubobo pictures like this, you could say that the sarubobo pictures are “uzai”. Which means in this case, repetitive to the point of being annoying.

– Harvey

P.S. I went to Takayama in 2002 as well!

Japan Baka Map

This Japan Baka Map site, has a illustration of Japan with fun facts highlighting each area of the country. If you click on one of the areas, it takes you to a wiki which jokingly explains a bit about each place.

You need to read Japanese to enjoy more than the first image, but it’s worth it! Maybe even would be a good study tool.

If anyone has any questions or, wants help understanding anything let me know.

– Harvey

Ramenz – ラーメンズ

Remember the post a while back about the sushi culture introduction video from the comedy duo RAMENZ 「ラーメンズ」?

One of my friends from “the office” is a big RAMENZ fan, and has introduced me to even more RAMENZ clips! Look! His blog post even has my name in it! Some of these are flash animations overlaying the original RAMENZ routine. Be sure your PC volume is on when watching.
I like to call this one “SHINBASHI”, it is a language course for foreigners covering useful Japanese phrases. It starts off with “これは山手線ですか?” (is this yamanoto line?), and gets less useful from there.

『日本で役立つとっさの一言』 Nihon de yakudatsu tossa no hitogoto

I like to call this one “Mr. Suzuki”, though it is actually the French version of the above “useful Japanese phrases”. Key points include, 「そんなもの飲んでも、何も自慢になりませんよ、鈴木さん。」 (even if you drink something like that, it won’t give you anything to brag about, Suzuki-san…) At one point, an ascii image of a thing with unko on his head prances by to chants of “unko!”
『とっさの一言 フランス編』 tossa no hitogoto France-hen

And here is one, which 93% of my Japanese friends say is the funniest of all three, introducing the prefectures and cities of Japan. Education point… Kyoto. Nara. KYONARA. Sounds like, 巨大 (kyodai = large), おなら (onara = fart), large fart. So it’s funny. Also, CHIBA SHIGA SAGA just sounds funny when repeated in rapid succession. Names like Hokkaido! And GUNMA! Sound powerful when screamed, so those are funny too. Watch it, you’ll see.
『日本の素敵な都道府県』Nihon no suteki na todoufuken

Had enough? No? Good.

Here is another video in the series of the past sushi video, a video introducing DOGEZA. The traditional Japanese head to the floor incredibly humble bow!

This stuff is pretty deep Japanese comedy. If you watch it and laugh, pat yourself on the back. You’re a Japanese comedy maniac. If you watch them 5 times in one day, we should hang out! If there are any questions about why any of this is supposed to be funny, let me know and I’ll find the answer and get back to ya.
– Harvey

Gaijin Gifts

According to the variety store The Loft in Osaka, these happy yet powerful sumo figurines are now the number two gift to buy for friends not lucky enough to be living in Japan.

I just noticed these funny wooden sumo miniatures in Loft last week, but I have actually had one in my room in Iowa for more than 10 years now… A gift from my host family back when I was an exchange student with YFU. They’re still being produced… And people are still buying them. Amazing. Isn’t it?

Considering the fact that you’d probably exceed the luggage weight limit at the airport if you tried to bring back a real sumo, these figures are a nice alternative at 15$ a piece.
So sumo is number 2 huh? You must be wondering what number 1 was. Here it is.

The greatest gift anyone in Japan can bring back for their Japan-o-phile friends out in the gaikoku.

Flowery picture frame. いらねぇぇぇぇ〜よ!

So, what would you want someone to bring as a gift from Japan?

I would rather have a full set of Ramenz videos!
– Harvey

Mr Donut Choco Fashion

Mr. Donut is everywhere in Japan.

You can get free refills on coffee, and also on cafe au lait when you eat in, and you can also get noodles if you’re hungry for more than a donut. Recently Mr. Donut opened in Taiwan and is a smashing success as well. Apparently people would line up in the morning just to get their own fresh baked sugar ring.

Can someone tell me, in the states and other places, I know we have the “Old Fashioned” flavor donut as pictured below, but do we also have “Choco-Fashion”? Or is this some fun Engrish?

Donuts… Hrmmm…. I miss the Simpsons.

– Harvey

551 Nikuman

Osaka in Kansai Japan is famous for many things, such as Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Hanshin Tigers baseball team, fun Kansai dialect, previously mentioned only oblong ferris wheel in the entire known universe, and others… It is also known for the company 551 Horai (known to Japanese as simply “go go ichi”) which makes nikuman, gyoza, and also ice cream. Chinese food.
This chain of stores is so popular that often I see salary-men on the Shinkansen heading out of Osaka to Tokyo with 551 bags in tote, apparently to give them to loved ones as souvenirs (omiyage). I’m not sure what they are buying, if it is the nikuman (beef inside of a steamed bun shown below on left)… Wow. Meat as a gift is awesome.

When asked to describe 551 Horai, my Japanese friend known as Babie said, and I quote.


I see. Translation. “The Nikuman are freakin delicious.”

(Note: This particular form of the adjective, うまい, has not yet been covered in the JapanNewbie Kansai-ben Lesson series… and probably never will be.)

I may add, you can buy one nikuman for about 200 yen. The price is right.

There is a large 551 restaurant in Namba, out on the Nankai side in downtown. Usually though, you will find 551 being sold in mini-shop (kiosks really) around town. Often in Osaka, as you get off the train, there will be two in the trainsation on the platform, one for each side.

They’re everywhere.

You can order Nikuman from 551 by saying, “Give me 3 551 please.” 「551 3三個!」 This is fun.

I have to admit, the Nikuman are great. And YOU have to admit, that having good eats of real taste can’t be all that bad.

3 cheers for 551! (that’s, go-go-ichi)

– Harvey

Kansai-ben Lesson 6 with Bonus!

Kansai-ben lesson Point 「〜とちゃう?」
A-san is speaking standard Japanese
B-san is speaking Kansai Dialect

A: あれ、Cちゃんはどうなったの?最近学校で見ないけど。
B: また転校したんとちがう?

A: Eh? What happened to C-san? I haven’t seen her in school recently…
B: She probably changed schools again….

A: え、なんだよこれ。また服が縮んだ。
B: また洗濯機の水が熱すぎたんとちゃう?

A: Eh? What is this? My clothes shrunk again!
B: The water in the laundry machine was set too hot again probably huh?

A: あれは、何の犬だっけ?
B: あらはチャウチャウとちゃうん?

A: いや、チャウチャウちゃうんちゃう?
B: なるほど。

A: What kinda dog is that?
B: That’s probably a Chow-Chow isn’t it?

A: No, I think it’s probably not a Chow-Chow.
B: I see…

※ This is a classic, gag-like example of Kansai-ben. If you use it you’ll either get a laugh, or get punched.

A: 咳が止まらないんだよ。
B: 風邪引いたんとちゃう?

A: I just can’t get over this cough…
B: You probably caught a cold or something.

A: あ、このパスタ!すっぱい!
B: コックさんは新人とちゃう?

A: Wow this pasta is sour!
B: The cook is probably a new guy or something.

「とちがいますか?」in standard Japanese becomes 「とちゃう?」 in Kansai dialect. However, the sentence structure of 「と違いますか?」is not so frequently used in standard Japanese.  In terms of usage, the Kansai 「ちゃう?」 is closer to the more commonly used 「じゃない?」, though the grammatical roots seem to be unrelated.

For example.

風邪引いたんとちゃう? Would be expressed as, 風邪引いたんじゃない? in standard Japanese.

This special advanced fever round of ちゃう is provdied by authentic Kansai-jin, ばびぃさん!
関西弁 Kansai-ben
A:あれチャウチャウちゃう? (チャウ is a Chinese type of dog)
標準語 Standard Japanese




Now you got it! You’re the ちゃう master! Thanks to Babie for that special bonus exercise!

[UPDATE] If you’re interested in Kansai-ben, check out our Kansai-ben iPhone Application! Japanese 101: Kansai Dialect.

– Harvey

Check out these other Kansai-ben Lessons!

Kansai-ben Lesson 9 – Moute

Kansai-ben Lesson 8 – I don’t mind

Kansai-ben Lesson 7 – Revival!

Kansai-ben Lesson 5 – Honma

Kansai-ben Lesson 4 – Toke

Kansai-ben Lesson 3 – Oru

Kansai-ben Lesson 2 – eeyarouka?

Kansai-ben Lesson 1 – Sora

You can be Takoyaki

This may be the first time I have ever mentioned takoyaki on this site. Maybe… Or, maybe not.

Anyhow, there is an amazing attraction in Osaka near Doutonbori in Namba which will allow you to transform yourself into a takoyaki.

There is even room for a friend.

This brings new meaning to the phrase “be the ball”. Or should I say, “Be the Fried Octopus Ball.”

In other not-quite news, Osaka is home to the ONLY OBLONG FERRIS WHEEL IN THE WORLD. This is a fact. Or so I’ve heard.

The store Donkihote is all over Japan, but only the one in Osaka has a giant oblong ferris wheel attached to it.

I’ve never ridden it.

I need to do that.

– Harvey

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