Hokkaido Marimokkori

Thanks to a friend at school I was introduced to this interesting mascot from Hokkaido.


The name is a play on words. A Marimo, is a weird algae ball found in Hokkaido.

A mokkori, is another word for, well, a mound. However, it can also be used in a way described by our favorite dictionary, ALC. If you check that definition, you can understand why the figure is… shaped… the way it is.

It’s Hokkaido’s famous marimokkori! If you pull the mokkori, he’ll shake!

You can see the wonderful marimokkori and his round mokkori displayed over the Japanese homework.

Instead of studying Japanese, pull the makkori with your fingers. Upon release, marimokkori will vibrate as his mokkori slowly returns to its initial state.

Go Hokkaido!

– Harvey


Kansai-ben Lesson 9 – moute

Kansai-ben lesson Point 「〜もうて」
A-san is speaking standard Japanese
B-san is speaking Kansai Dialect

〜もうて Usage One (もらった)
A: 見てみて、これ母に作ってもらったの。
B: ええな、いろいろ作ってもうて。

A: Look at this, my mom made this for me.
B: Lucky, getting all that stuff made for you.

A: え!先輩がまたA子の宿題を手伝ってあげてる!
B: ずるい、あんなふうにまたやってもうて。

A: Hey! The the senior is helping A-ko out with her homework again!
B: That’s not fair, getting help again like that.

A: すごい、3000円だった?普段はもっとするじゃないの?
B: せやねん、普段はもっと高いで、これ負けてもうてん!

A: Wow, that was 3000 yen? Normally isn’t it more expensive?
B: Yeah, normally it’s more expensive, but they discounted this for me!

There is another way that this exact same grammar pattern can be used, with different meaning.

〜もうて (しまった)
A: 昨日のニュース見た?野球のこと書いてあった?
B: うん、書いてあったで、阪神がまた負けてもうてん。

A: Did you see the news yesterday? Was baseball in it?
B: Yeah, it was in it. Hanshin lost again…

A: 昨日のパーティは楽しかった?
B: パーティ自体は楽しかったけど、あの嫌なやつがまた来てもうてん。。。
A: あ〜、皆に嫌われている先輩のことか〜。
B: そうそう。あいつ!

A: Was the party yesterday fun?
B: The party itself was fun, but that jerk came again…
A: Ah, that senior who everyone hates huh…
B: Yup, that’s him.

A: あれ、アイスクリームを買いに行くって言ってなかった?
B: うん、行ってきたけど、帰り道で落としてしもうてん。
A: あ〜あ。なんてことするんだ〜。

A: Hey, didn’t you say you were gonna go buy some ice cream?
B: Yeah, I went… But on the way back I tripped and dropped it…
A: Ah… what are you doing?

B: あ!アイスクリームを落としてもうた!!!
B: Ah! I dropped my ice cream!!!

A: Cちゃんからもらった餅はもう食べた?
B: うん、もう食べたで、うまかったから全部一人で食べてもうた。

A: Did you already eat the mochi you got from C-chan?
B: Yeah, I already ate them, they were really good so I ate them all up by myself!

This Kansai dialect pattern is especially interesting because the same grammatical form can be used to express two entirely different situations.

The first usage of 〜もうて can be used to mean もらう (receive). In the case where you would say もらって in standard Japanese, you can say もうて in Kansai dialect. As in our example, いいな、いろいろ作ってもらって has become ええな、いろいろ作ってもうて。

The second usage of 〜もうて is the same as 〜しまった in standard Japanese. Remember 〜しまった is used after the て form of a verb to express regret of the action happening, OR, to emphasize that something has been done completely and throughly. In our example…

はい、行ってきたけど、帰り道でおとしてしまった。 Has become うん、行ってきたけど、帰り道で落としてしもうてん。The ん、at the end of もうてん emphasizes that the event has happened in the past.

Kansai dialect is not exactly the same in every location in west Japan. For example, Kyoto style Kansai dialect, is noticeably different from Osaka dialect, though not different to the point where the dialects cannot communicate with each other. Even within Osaka there are slightly different styles of Kansai dialect spoken. For example, “Kawachi-ben” which is spoken in southern Osaka and considered to be really tough, and rough sounding.

When I was verifying this particular pattern of もうて、I came across so many variations from native Japanese speakers that I have decided to list a few below. The meanings and nuance of the variations are the same as the original sentences.

From the examples above…

A: 見てみて、これ母に作ってもらったの。
B: ええな、いろいろ作ってもうて。
B: ええな、いろいろ作ってもろて。

A: え!先輩がまたA子の宿題を手伝ってあげてる!
B: ずるい、あんなふうにまたやってもうて。
B: ずるい、あんなふうにまたやってもろて。

In these examples, you can see that the verb ending、もうて、can also be pronounced もろて。This seems to be closer to the standard dialect pronunciation of もらって。

〜もうて (しまった)
A: 昨日のニュース見た?野球のこと書いてあった?
B: ええ、書いてあったで、阪神がまた負けてもうてん。
B: ええ、書いてあったで、阪神がまたまけてしもてん。

A: Cちゃんからもらった餅はもう食べた?
B: ええ、もう食べてんで、うまかったから全部一人で食べてもうてん。
B: ええ、もう食べてんで、うまかったから全部一人でたべてしもてん。

In these examples, the verb conjugation has slightly changed. Instead of 負けてもうてん、The 「し」presumably from the standard dialect しまった has been preserved, and the dialect もうてん added to the end. So we get, 負けてしもうてん。In the same manner, 食べてもうてん becomes 食べてしもてん。Also note, that the long “mou” sound of the dialect もうてん has been dropped.

A: あれ、アイスクリームを買いに行くって言ってなかった?
B: うん、行ってきたけど、帰りの途中で落としてしもうてん。
A: あ〜あ。なんてことするんだ〜。
B: うん、行ってきたけど、帰りの途中で落としてしもてん。

B: あ!アイスクリームを落としてもうた!!!
B: Ah! I dropped my ice cream!!!
B: あ!アイスクリームを落としてしもた!

In these examples, the long “moo” sound of the dialect もうた has simply been shortened to もた.

That’s a mouth full.

[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 8 – I don’t mind

Kansai-ben Lesson 7 – Revival!

Kansai-ben Lesson 6 – with Bonus!

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

Skinny Girls

The first thing I notice when I get off the plane when returning to America is how large the people are on average when compared to Japan.

Japanese people are thin. Especially females.

Here is some interesting data collected from the World Health Organization.


This graph has the percentage of underweight females on the Y axis, and the a countries GDP on the X axis. Plotted on the graph are countries from around the world.

You would expect that as the GDP of a country increases, the percentage of underweight women would decrease. Generally this is true, but Japan is an exception.

According to this data, 12.24 percent of Japanese women are under weight, while countries in the same GDP range as Japan, such as Canada, Sweden, the UK, and Australia, are all under 5 percent. On the other end, Pakistan and Bangladesh have low GDP and an extremely high percentage, around 30%, of underweight women.

The definition of “abnormally thin” is when your BMI (Body Mass Index) is less than 18.5%. BMI is a calculation based on body weight and height.

The categories of BMI break down like this.

Starvation: less than 15
Underweight: less than 18.5
Ideal: from 18.5 to 25
Overweight: from 25 to 30
Obese: from 30 to 40
Morbidly Obese: greater than 40

For some more information about BMI in Japan check this graph which shows the BMI of male and female Japanese, broken down by age range and over time.

I don’t know anything about public health, but generally you would imagine that the average BMI would at least be on an upward trend when viewed over a long period of time.

You know, countries get richer, standard of living gets higher, work becomes less physically demanding so people eat better, move less, and get fatter. This holds true when you look at the data for the men (男) in all age categories.

If you look at the data for the women, especially in the 20’s, and 30’s age range you will see a heavy decline in BMI especially since the 1970’s.

Ummm….. Data.

They’re getting skinnier and skinner. The population is decreasing! Japan is gonna disappear!

– Harvey

Horse Racing in Tokyo

What’s going on in this picture?

If the title of the post didn’t give it away, this is a shot of the inside of the horse racing track at Fuchu Honmachi in Tokyo.

The people in the picture are watching the score board which shows live video of the races going on outside, supplemented with data on odds, for the gamblers. Everyone is studying the details on the horses and their riders, and decided where to place their money on the future races. The lowest bid at this G1 race was 10 yen, so it is easy to join in the fun even casually.

Outside, things are a little more lively. I have never been to horse racing anywhere else, so maybe there is nothing especially Japanese about this… (doubtful though) But the atmosphere reminded me of a baseball game. Beer, snacks, and chatty fans. Also, during the last race everyone rolls up their newspapers and claps with them in unison.

It only costs 200 yen to get into the stadium, and all of the stadium seating is the same price. Unless you arrive extremely early, it’s near impossible to get a seat during the big G1 event though. The good thing is, it doesn’t matter if you can get a seat or not. Down in front of the stands there is a wide paved area, where many viewers lay out newspapers and sit on the pavement, picnic style. When races they are interested in begin, they’ll stand up and hold on to their wallets.

Because the track is so wide, it’s impossible to get a view of the horses during the entire race, so there is a giant video screen on display so you can keep up with the race when the horses are out of sight.


The gambling process was pretty interesting.

In various places inside of the stadium you’ll find these tickets. (You can also find them all over the floor…) You pick up as many as you need, and you fill in the bubble sheet according to which horse, in which race, in which method, and for how much you want to bet.

There are many different ways to bet, for example 単勝 たんしょう “tanshou”, in which you bet on a single horse that you believe will get first place. Or you can bet 複勝 ふくしょう “fukusyou” in which you can bet that a horse will get first, second, or third place. Of course, the higher the probability that your horse will match your bet, the lower the pay out.

After filling out your ticket you bring it to a automatic ticket machine, that looks like a train station ticket machine. You place your ticket into the machine, along with the money you plan to bet, and the machine gives you another ticket as shown above.

You hang on to that ticket, and after the race results are decided, you can bring this ticket to yet another automatic ticket machine, and it will give you your payout.

Pretty cool huh?

I bet 100 yen on the final race, fukusyou, and my horse got first…

The horse was a favorite however, so I only got 240 yen pay out… Didn’t even cover my train ticket cost back home!

On a cultural note, one of my Japanese friends mentioned that though gambling itself isn’t such a healthy hobby, horse racing is much more healthy than pachinko… Because you can go outside and watch the races, rather than sitting in smoke filled pachiko parlor.

– Harvey

Monjyayaki in Tsukishima

Monjyayaki. You can eat it in Tsukishima, as mentioned in a previous post.

It looks like… Well. I’ll leave that up to you.

When you order monjyayaki usually you’ll be given the prepared ingredients, and you’ll have to cook it and make the monjyayaki yourself. At the particular store we went to, we ordered three monjyayaki, and the staff made the first one for us while we watched… and took notes… and pictures.

The other two we were able to put together ourselves.

Regarding the ingredients, here is the menu from the restaurant we at at. Reading from the top left we’ve got… Monjya, egg monjya, buckwheet? monjya , green onion monjya, corn monjya, baby star monjya? Anyway… You get the picture. It’s basically the monjya plus whatever the menu item says.

I recommend mochi monjya, and the cheese monjya.

First off, you dump all the ingredients, EXCEPT FOR THE SOUP, onto the hot plate.

The soup is underneath the ingredients in the same bowl, so you have to be careful when dumping out the ingredients.

Chop up the ingredients with your spatula-looking-things as quickly as possible.

Once everything is chopped up, shape it into a large circle. It’s important that the circle has no breaks in it, and also that it is not too small.

Once your circle is made, pour the soup into the middle.

The key is not to let the soup escape the circle. Be sure that nothing escapes from the edges, or overflows across the top. Once it is poured in, stir it slowly with your spatula.

Once the soup gets a little thick, it’s done.

Once that’s done smash it all up and mix it together. Since the soup is thick, it should keep its general shape.

To eat it, scrape it up with your spatula! Some people like it better the more burnt it is.

Enjoy your life with Monjya!

– Harvey

Tsukishima home of Monjyayaki

Looking for cheap fun in Tokyo I went to Tsukishima with some friends.

Tsukishima (月島) is known for Monjyayaki (もんじゃ焼き), a Tokyo specialty food which loosely resembles an okonomiyaki attempt which became buddah.

Once you get to Tsukishima station you go to Tsukishima nishinaka doori syoutengai, and you’ll notice a Monjyayaki shop…

And another, and another, and another. In fact most all of the shops on this street are selling Monjyayaki. We did not do any research in advance regarding which shop was the most famous or whatnot, but most of the shops had long lines outside anyway, so I’m sure they’re all good!

This is what the Monjyayaki food actually looks like.

What happened to it? How did anything considered food, Japanese food at that, get to look so sloppy? It’s something like a fried soup vegetable monstrosity…

Tastes great though. Especially when it burns.

I’ll explain how to make Monjyayaki in a future post!
– Harvey

Parasite Museum in Meguro

I took a trip to the Meguro parasite museum! (目黒寄生中館)

The only parasite museum in the world, this place is a real gem for the Tokyo-ite looking for something different, or the Japan traveler with a “unique” idea of a good time.

Here you can see 8.8 meter tape worm specimens!

There are a wide variety of worms and other parasites on display at the museum, as well as tips on how to avoid getting infected yourself. Summary: Wash your hands, clean your room, and don’t eat uncooked pork.

Because everything on display was actually extracted from an animal or human, it’s really gross interesting staring at the pussy white bodies of these… bugs.

There are even handy diagrams on hand to show you exactly where these critters were pulled from.

Back to our 8.8 meter friend, here is a close up of the explanation of where the bug was found.

Sorry for the poor image quality. Here is my rough translation.

The parasite pulled out of a human being: 8.8 Meters in length.

This parasite was pulled out of the intestine of a person who ate an infected piece of trout sushi. Three months after eating the sushi, the worm was discovered when a piece of the body of the worm was discovered in the persons stool. (layman’s translation. Dude noticed he had a giant worm in his stomach when he noticed a piece of it in his doo-doo.) In august 1986, the person took some medicine, and the rest of the worm was ejected from his body. While infested with the parasite, the person was unable to feel a thing.

The train station attendant will give you this map to the parasite museum if you ask for directions.

The address to the museum is below.

Meguro – Parasite Museum
Parasite Museum
4-1-1 Shimo Meguro
Tel: +81 (03) 3716-1264
Meguro station (Namboku & other lines)
Open: daily (except Mon), 10am-5pm


– Harvey

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