Japanese Toilet Money

Japanese Toilet Money…

I thought that was an appropriate post title…

Someone is hiding money in toilets in the men’s rooms of city hall around Japan.

In true Japan spririt, get this.

Despite the fact that we’re talking about cash here… And the money has letters accompanying it instructing the lucky joe who finds it to, “Please make use of this money for your self-enrichment,” The Yahoo News article ends with this sentence.

“Packages turned over to police were to be kept for a time in case someone claimed them.”

Turned into the who?

Now… Don’t get me wrong. I’m a nice person. However, if I came across one of those envelopes, I really don’t think I would be brining it to the police station. Wait… Let me think… Nah. I wouldn’t.

Now, if only someone would return the chunk of gold that was stolen a while back…

Speaking of toilets, here’s a trip from JapanNewbie past and the gorgeous toilets post.

– Harvey

Pikes and Shields

The Japanese phrase for “contradiction” is 「矛盾」(mujyun).

For example, 「あなたがやっていることと言っていることが矛盾してる!」 The things you do contradict the things you say!

The Kanji 「矛」means “pike” and is pronounced “hoko”, and the Kanji 「盾」means “shield” and is pronounced “tate”.

Why do these two Kanji together mean contradiction?

Apparently the story comes from way back in China.

One street vendor selling pikes claimed that his halberds could penetrate any shield in existence. They were the super pike, and no customer would go wrong by purchasing from him.

Another street vendor was selling shields. Shields so powerful he claimed that no pike could penetrate them.

A clever customer brought the two vendors together and asked… “What would happen if I stabbed one of your shields with one of his pikes?”

The two vendors were confused… And could not answer.

The customer retorted, “Your customers are contradicting each other!”

Sometimes, Kanji is extremely interesting…

– Harvey

John B, who has spent extensive time in China has corrected my story!

The story’s close, but not quite. It comes from 《韩非子•难一》:

楚人有鬻盾与矛者,誉之曰:“吾盾之坚,物莫能陷也。”又誉其矛曰:“吾矛之利,于物无不陷也。”或曰:“以子之矛,陷子之盾,何?”其人弗能应也。夫不可陷之盾与无不陷之矛,不可同世而立。 There once a man from the Kingdom of Chu who sold shields and spears. Boasting of his shields, he says “my shields are so sturdy that nothing can pierce them.” Then, boasting of his spears, he says “my spears are so sharp that there is nothing they can’t pierce.” Someone asks him, “what if you strike your shield with your spear?” To this he had no answer. A shield that cannot be pierced and a spear that cannot be stopped cannot exist together.

Happens all the time

I learned a cool new Japanese phrase today.

「日常茶飯事」 (にちじょうさはんじ)

It means “everyday occurrence”.

For example, 「パリでデモは日常茶飯事だよ。」

Would mean, “In Paris protests (demonstrations) happen all the time!”

The Kanji literally mean (sort of), “everyday, tea and rice event”.

Fun phrase!

– Harvey

Totsukawa Village, Tamaki Mountain, Tamaki Shrine, Sasa Waterfall

Road trip time!

If you take a 3 hour drive out of Osaka, down to Nara-ken to a place called Yoshino-gun, you’ll find a village known as Totsukawa (十津川) way on the south side of the prefecture. From there, you can visit Tamaki mountain, Tamaki Shrine (玉置神社), Sasa Waterfall (笹の滝), an Onsen town, and of course, eat lots of great food.

The area is a UNESCO World Heratige site, and the mountain has some incredibly old Japanese cedar. One of the oldest, at 3000 years old, is right behind Tamaki shrine, one of the highlights of the area.

Fuji FinePix F10 and Harvey’s amateur 腕 workin’ out the Tamaki Shrine pictures. Really though, it is a cool looking Shrine high in the mountains. It seems to be covered by mist most of the time… I think it might be magical.

The Tamaki area is, after all, a tourist destination in Japan, but it didn’t have the overly in your face touristy feel that other areas do. It was very relaxed and quiet. We didn’t even run into many people at Sasa Waterfall, and the shrine, two of the major stops. Maybe it was off-season? Or, maybe we were just lost and in the wrong place?

The waterfall was very impressive. Apparently there is a waterfall ranking in Japan known as 日本の滝百選 (nihon no taki hyakusen, literally, Japan’s waterfalls, 100 selection). It is a big list of the top 100 waterfalls in the country that was created in 1990 by the Ministry of Environment, and Sasae Taki made the list! At number 64… But I don’t think the number has any significance. Congratulations Sasa Waterfall. Previously introduced Kegon waterfall in Nikko is also on the list by the way.

The sound of this waterfall was great. Maybe I’ve just been in the city too long staring at my computer screen, but I really enjoyed it. Also, unlike Kegon waterfall in Nikko, you could climb right up to this one and feel the mist on your face. I could have hung out there for hours.

We did this as a day trip, and didn’t leave so early in the morning so we were only really able to do the mountain, the shrine, and the waterfall. In addition to these locations, there is also a 吊り橋, or suspension bridge, hanging across the valley. The unique thing is that the bridge is super long, done with rope, and made for pedestrians only. There is also a hot springs called Kakenagashi (かけ流し温泉) Onsen, which I didn’t get a chance to visit this time. There is a picture of the bridge on the Japanese wikipedia entry for Totsukawa.

If you’ve got some free time in the Kansai region, give it a shot! It’s a great trip.

The villages are waiting! So are all the trees. Hope you’re not allergic to cedar!

– Harvey

The Japanese Adjective Shuffle

Some 「い」adjectives can also be 「な」adjectives.

In fact three of them can.

「大きい」、「小さい」、and 「おかしい」can become…

「大きな」、「小さな」、and 「おかしな」respectively.

Apparently, these are the only 「い」adjectives you can do this to.

When the form is changed in this way, the meaning is not effected at all.

I have heard from one teacher, that using the 「な」form of these adjectives can make the speaker (or writer) sound a bit more formal than if the 「い」form were used. Generally though, if you are trying to sound “formal” in Japanese more complex adjectives should be used in place of these anyway…


– Harvey

Firework season is coming

Firework season is coming!

Here is a Japanese blogger who has given a list of the Firework Events in Kanto coming up.

【神奈川】2007久里浜ペリー祭 花火大会 ビームスペクタルINハーバー

【神奈川】横浜開港記念みなと祭 第52回国際花火大会



【栃木】おやまサマーフェスティバル2007 第56回小山の花火


【東京・千葉】エキサイティング花火2007 第32回江戸川区花火大会、第23回市川市民納涼花火大会
【神奈川】2007年よこすか開国祭 開国花火大会


【埼玉】あついぞ!熊谷 第58回熊谷花火大会


【東京】日刊スポーツ主催2007 神宮外苑花火大会

I gotta find a Kansai list! I should get a jinbei this year…
Let me know if anyone needs help reading the locations, a web dictionary should get you through it though!

– Harvey

Life on the Bases

In Japanese class a while ago an especially perceptive student gave a very interesting presentation relating his day visit to a US military base in Japan.

First, some background information about the military bases. The military bases in Japan are like little oasises of “American-ness”. The bases are designed so that the cultural differences of Japan, or other aspects of the foreign environment will not hinder the crews or their families ability to perform their duties, or live abroad for extended periods of time. This makes sense, as you could imagine the protest if an American service man had to tell his wife and three kids that they were leaving their two-story town house to go live in a cramped Japanese apartment.

The military is of course funded by the government, so they have ample budget to make things just right. The bases are so molded to perfection that they have large American sized houses, big front lawns, driveways, shops that sell large shoe sizes, and even fast food shops that are not found anywhere else in Japan. Supermarkets with hugs isles and cereal, Cheese Nips, and even Vanilla Wafers are readily at hand. The illusion of a “generic” America is recreated as authentically as humanly possible. I have heard that it would be entirely possible to spend all of your time on the base, without really noticing that the base was in Japan.

The real point of my friends presentation however, was that as many Americans who have traveled around the States know, America is very different from state to state. Even though the base was modeled after “the United States”, it apparently felt artificially plastic phsyically, and gave him a feeling of uneasiness. Rather than the expected familiarity with the “American” surroundings, instead he felt like he had left Japan, only to visit another, strangely familiar yet strangely foreign country.

Not only the base itself, but the people he met there, according to my friend, had a very different feel from most of the other foreigners he knows in Japan… Which would be largely the students at IUC. Personally I feel this goes without saying however. The students at IUC are mostly graduate students, have chosen to live in Japan, and study Japanese. The people on the base are usually younger, likely are just on tour and had no say in which country they would be sent to, and either are not studying Japanese, or only studying it as part of their assignment. Of course, on both sides of the fence there are bound to be exceptions.

I wonder what it is like to live on the bases as a military person. I heard from one military guy I met on a train, that they literally are not told where they are going until they hit land. Then it’s off the boat, and onto the base. Of course they are allowed to leave the base and explore Japan on their own, though I have no idea what restrictions they have, if any.

I also wonder if the US military bases around the wold are all pretty much modeled in the same way. Do the military personel have a strong feeling of the identity of the nation they are in as they hop from Disney-fied base to Disney-fied base?

I dunno. I guess I will have to make an excuse to get down and visit a base sometime before I leave Japan. It’s almost amazing that I have been here for almost 5 years now and never experienced it for myself.

Anyway, any thoughts on this?

– Harvey

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