Checking your Japanese-English Translations with Google Fight

Daily J is making great efforts to bring together the Japan blogger community.


Recently, picked up on and added to, the Learning with Google Images post we had a while back after hearing that Daily J had mentioned a NihonHacks and JapanNewbie connection. So I’m going to take the double-bait and respond to the NihonHacks post based on the JapanNewbie post that we were both made aware of via Daily J which interviewed nihonhacks recently and… – enough.

Google Fight is a website that will allow you to enter two search strings, and get back a comparison of the total number of Google search results from those searches.

Unfortunately, it apparently doesn’t work with Japanese text… But say you are translating something into English from Japanese, and are not sure of the proper way something should be said.

For example… is 遠赤外線カメラ “far infrared ray camera” or “far infrared camera?”

知るか! That was not on JLPT 1.

You can enter these terms into Google Fight to see which one appears more frequently in a Google search result (i.e. in the universe). Be sure to link words together with hyphens, not within quotes as is one on Google. (far-infrared-ray-camera and far-infrared-camera)

Of course, you could do all this manually just by searching twice in Google, but why? Plus, you get to watch a cool animated stick figure fight if you do it with Google Fight!

Anyone got any more language related Google tips?

– Harvey

Are you a dreadist?

Remember how I mentioned that down at Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri almost all of the participating girls had their hair braided?

Well, I also ran into this place in Kishiwada.

The Japan Extension Dreadist Society!

Their window was plastered with photos of their clients.

The girl in the upper right looks so young! I bet she’s eight. What a cutie!

Actually during the fesitval some random old dude stopped me and asked if I was from Jamaica. Is there some kind of Kishiwada-Jamaica bond that I’m missing here?

– Harvey

Good Couple Day in Japan 11/22

Well, it’s November 22nd, and you know what that means!

Okay so you probably don’t. I didn’t know either until my wife told me.

Today, 11/22, is “good couple day” in Japan.

11/22 is いい夫婦の日。(ii fuufuu no hi)

japanese wedding at meiji shrine

[click image for a blast from a JapanNewbie past]

Some of you language geeks might already have an understanding of where this is going…

In Japanese, the number 1 is pronounced ICHI, and sometimes it is pronounced HITOTSU.

Number 2 is pronounced NI, and sometimes it is pronounced FUTATSU.

Still doesn’t make sense. Stay with me here…

The word for “married couple” in Japanese, is 夫婦, and pronounced FUUFU (or huuhu, depending on how you want to do you romanization. Same thing.)

The word for “good” is いい, pronounced II. (long E sound)

Almost there! The の日 NO HI, on the end, is just “day” with the possessive NO.

Okay let’s put it together and solve this needlessly cryptic linguistic mystery!



See!? The sounds in the phrase いい夫婦の日 also appear in the numbers, 11/22! And even in that order OMG!!! This is too amazing!

Anyway. Have fun with it. It’s so minor most Japanese will probably say “NARUHODO” after you explain it. There are lots of number/word games in Japanese. Anyone have any they would like to share?

– Harvey

Got my Dictionary! The Casio XD-GW9600

Back in October I broke down and picked up what has become essential in my Japanese study and translation work. The Casio GW9600 electronic dictionary!

(Also available on TheJapanShop at 10%  off until the end of Dec 2007!)


Little coffee shop, 50 yen Botchan, monster dictionary, gotta love it.

The sheer volume of information available in this dictionary is incredible. It has Kenkyusha’s New Japanese English Dictionary (the Green Goddess), and the Oxford Dictionary of English. Enough said about that.

It has great functionally as well. If you can’t read a Kanji, you can write it into the dictionary by hand using the pen and search that way. Even if you mess up the stroke order (which I often do) it will manage to find what you’re looking for.

It also has a “super jump” feature that lets you use any word mentioned in a definition or encyclopedia entry as a link, and search for that same term in any of the other dictionaries available.

Also, you can search through all of the dictionaries and encyclopedias on the device at the same time using the multi-dictionary search feature. This means you can see the English translation of what you’re looking for, as well as an explanation of the term in Japanese. I often use the encylopedias in a Wikipedia fashion when I’m listening to lectures and need to get background information about a particular topic. For example I was at an ACLU talk about the new requirement for foreigners to be photographed and finger printed upon entering Japan (Japan-VISIT) a few weeks ago and I was able to look up the history of the Foreigner Registration Card that we all carry around here.

I have recently been studying Korean, so I got the add-on Korean-Japanese dictionary as well. Now when I search for things in Japanese in the multi-dictionary search, I can also glance at what the term is in Korean. I’m still not used to Korean keyboard input, but that doesn’t matter much because I can use the pen to write the Korean characters into the dictionary!

This dictionary also talks! The target market for this device is mainly a Japanese audience, so most of the speech is for English words, but it also speaks the Korean as well so I’m good to go. Frankly, any non-native Japanese speaker using this dictionary probably would have no need to have the Japanese spoken anyway.

Did I mention it has a technical terms dictionary for IT and business?

Of course, the instruction manual is all in Japanese… But you can get a concise Casio GW9600 manual in English as well over on White Rabbit Press.

The only negative to this dictionary would have to be it’s price and it’s size. It is one of the most expensive dictionaries out there, but that’s because it’s one of the best. It is a little large. Bigger than a Palm Pilot or iPod or digital camera. It has a great form factor though, it’s wide, but thin. Lots of screen space to make it easy to read large encyclopedia entries and what not.

If you purchase the GW9600, and are unsure how to take it out of the box… You can follow this GW9600 unboxing gallery. (Seriously though, have you guys noticed this “unboxing” trend? You can find step by step unboxing guides for all kinds of gear on the web now! It’s crazy!)

Anyway, that’s my new baby.

– Harvey

Other GW9600 Links:

GW9600 review at Tokyo Tsure Zure Gusa

GW9600 on the Official Casio Site

GW9600 usage tips and reviews on 1nichi1kai: Everything Japanese

Architecture in Osaka – The Church of the Light

I took a little field trip to The Church of the Light in Osaka a few weeks ago.

The church was designed by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who also has many works on the art island Naoshima (JapanNewbie on Naoshima).

The back wall of the church has a cross shaped hole in it; when the weather is nice you get this great effect of a glowing cross at the back of the church. The building itself is very small, but the effect is great.

You can learn more about the church and Tadao Ando from the links at the end of this page.

We were able to catch an organ performance going on in the chapel as well.

Other than the main chapel, the building does not especially stand out… In my humble non-architect opinion. Lots of concrete and sharp angles.

They randomly happened to be having a bazaar when we went. We bought some nikuman (steamed buns with pork) and browsed the fine selection of used items. I ended up getting a used copy of Natsume Soseki’s Botchan in Japanese for 50 yen, bargain!

Love them church folk.

– Harvey

Other Church of Light related links:

The Church of the Light on Wikipedia

Church of Light

Tadao Ando on Wikipedia

Tips on How to Drop Everything and Move Abroad

I’m going to publicly reply to a comment I got from a long-time reader via email because I think it might be useful to a lot of people.

The reader had the following question…

I’ve been reading your blog for about 2 years now and I was really
impressed with how you seamlessly went from Iowa to Japan. In 3 months
feb 11, 2008 I’ll be moving to shanghai for an undetermined amount of
time. What advise would you give someone in my position. I’m about 5
years older than you and I’m not leaving for china straight out of
school. I graduated college in ’01. So leaving my first cozy apt and
life long friends is a little un-nerving.

Tough question! I’m trying hard to keep this post to a reasonable length.

First of all, China and Japan are very different.

china streets

Here’s an anecdote. I was in Beijing for one week a few years ago. In Beijing, while doing the tourist thing, I was stopped by some people I had never met. They had their cameras out and were asking things in Chinese that I did not understand. It turns out they wanted me to pose in a picture with them. I happily confusedly volunteered. They passed around their camera and took turns taking pictures with me as if I was some kind of celebrity or something. This happened 3 times before I left. Once at the Temple of Heaven, once on the Great Wall, and once some other place I don’t recall, but I do think it was at a sight-seeing location. On a side note, this also happened to me in Taiwan and India, but that’s another story.

I assume the requested-paparazzi-shot-joiners were Chinese coming from rural China to the “big city” for some tourism of their own, and were excited to see foreigners roaming around. But still, my point is, this doesn’t happen in Japan – At all. I was blown away. I had been living in Japan for more than three years before I made that trip, and I still had culture shock in China. So I’m no China expert.

But hey, they’re both East Asia, so there must be some similarities – right-right? Yeah-yeah? Especially when seen from the eyes of a Westerner. Can’t read the signs, clothes don’t fit, people stare, you know what I mean. I’m assuming the reader who posed the question is from the United States, or some other Western English speaking country. I’m also assuming he’s male… not that it matters, but it will make my pronoun management easier.

First of all, let me point out what I think are going to be the major differences in my Japan move and the readers upcoming China move.

great wall fo china

I moved to Japan pretty much a clean slate with no planned return.

I was coming straight from college (out-of-state student at that) so I didn’t have much any “baggage” to leave behind or take with me. Our reader seems to be very settled in, so he’ll have to deal with things like… furniture.

He also knows that his trip to China is temporary, even though the total duration is unknown. The knowledge that he won’t be there “forever”, and also that he is us unable to control how long he will be there is going to be a huge factor psychologically. In my case, I came because I wanted, and had no plans to leave. In addition, I knew that I could leave anytime I decided to.

I already spoke Japanese, and had been to Japan before.

I’m guessing here, but it sounds like maybe the reader has never been to China? Not sure… But whether or not one has visited the country they’re about to live in before moving there will make a big difference in the whole experience. And China! Wow.

I have only once had to go to a country where I had never been and didn’t speak the language and start living there, and that was France for a short 6 months. Needless to say, an American going to France versus an American going to China is like comparing apples and oranges. (Or should I say, baguettes and rice?) Anyway, even France was tricky at times. Simple things like, what are the major cell phone companies in this country? Where exactly in the city is this apartment that the company has arranged for me? Public transportation strikes? Huh? Even if you’re given country info packets and whatnot before departure, once you hit the ground it’s a whole new world. China is about as foreign as foreign countries get from a Western perspective.

Similarities? Going abroad for work.

That said, one thing we have in common is that it appears that the reader is heading over with a job already lined up, as I did.

This means that he will already have a type of social network available. People at work will take him for lunch, and show him the city after work. He’ll have people he can ask questions to, and also get help from. This is huge. These people will also likely speak English, unless the reader is already fluent in Chinese and that is the reason he is being sent over. If my going abroad for work theory is true, he he’ll also have a corporate safety net to help him through thick and thin.

3 Tips for your Move Abroad

Now to address the readers question. I’ve babbled on long enough.

1. Get up to speed on the expat community scene asap.

I can hear the hardcore ex-pats now moaning, “get up to speed on the ex-pat community?? Why go to China to hang out with a bunch of foreigners?!” You know me, I’m the last to endorse foreigner herding when one is trying to learn the culture and language and totally emerse oneself in the host countries culture… However this situation is different. Our reader might be in Shanghai for 3 years, or he might be there for 3 months, it’s totally undetermined. Getting in with a knowledgable ex-pat crowd will allow him to jump-start his ability to function in Shanghai and get his information flood gates wide open – and let me tell ya, information is the key to having fun in a foreign country.

Major cities abroad usually have some type of English language information magazine targeting ex-pats from around the world. In Japan we have things like Kansai Time Out and Metropolis. When I was in Beijing I noticed a great mag, I think it was called Beijing Now! (Xianxai Beijing). I’m sure Shanghai has one too.

Also, one of the best China-related forums I have come across is modestly titled, Chinese-Forums. Tell everyone there your situation and I’m sure you’ll get tons of good advice. Also, there is a hardcore (as in, rather exclusive feeling) mailing list about deep China topics that would be good to lurk on for a while called oriental-list.

The point here is to start setting up your information sources. The more information you have available the less daunting the move will be.

2. Get excited about the move.

I would suggest getting excited about the move abroad. For example, start planning vacations. You’re not sure how long you will be in Shanghai right? This may be your first and only visit to China! When are you going to go visit the great wall? When are you going to take the train into Tibet? Japan is close now! Start marking up your calendar! The more things you have to look forward to in China the easier it’s going to be to pick up your suitcase and go.

3. Make the language decision early.

Going to spend time learning Mandarin in Mandarin and Shanghai-nese speaking Shanghai? It’s an important decision to make.

With a language like Chinese, I think it would be best if you make a conscious decision as to whether or not you’re going to try to learn the language at all before you get on the plane. Since your time is undetermined it’s even trickier. I think if you end up being in Shanghai for a full year and never attempt to seriously learn the language you’ll be missing out on a lot, and probably be kicking yourself for it later in life. That said, if you end up only being in Shanghai for 4 months, spending your time in the books trying to learn Mandarin might actually be, and I hate to say it, but a waste of time. Or, at least not worth the time. You could be spending that time wandering through the back streets of the city, or burning your tongue on baozi.

The reason that I put the language decision on this list, is that I have met many foreigners in Japan for whom the language thing has greatly impacted their experience in the country. For some, the daily successes they have in communicating with Japanese locals who do not speak English is motivation to continue and makes everyday fun… For others, the constant reminder that they are effectively illiterate after living in the country for 3 or 4 years is a constant drain on the self-esteem. Plus, if you give the language a shot, the locals will love you for it.

chinese playing igo on the streets

Make the decision of whether or not to study before you go, and if you decide that, yes, you want to give Mandarin a try… Get signed up for today! It’s freakin’ great. Actually… I think they’re based in Shanghai…

Personally… If I knew that I would be in Shanghai for at least six months, I would probably go all out and try to pick up as much Chinese as possible.

Here’s another anecdote. When I was in France for six months I went to night school at Alliance Francias to study French. It was one of the best decisions I made. It gave me a social group to hang out with (travel buddies too), and a way to learn things about France that I never would have learned between the office and my apartment.

That’s a wrap.

I asked a friend who recently dropped everything and moved from NYC to Tokyo what he would say in response to this question.

I have American friends living in Shanghai making a GREAT living and indicating no intention of moving back to the U.S. anytime soon. That said, these guys invested heavily in learning the language and don’t need any help to navigate their way around Chinese business. So, I don’t personally consider Shanghai a long term winner for a Westerner looking to live in another country, but if your interest is strictly business (say, 5 years or so) and you are willing to learn the language, Shanghai is probably the best place in China right now. Many people who know what they’re talking about call it the new Tokyo. I don’t agree, but I would feel guilty not relating what I’ve heard.

I’m sure that many JapanNewbie readers have been through similar situations. Let us know what advice you would give in the comments!

Ah… A few last pieces of advice.

It might be a good idea to buy the domain and start a blog. That would let you meet all sorts of other China ex-pats and learn from them while giving back a little as well! (I’m serious)

Also, you might want to start doing research into what steps you could take to extend your stay in Shanghai, just in case you end up loving it.

I’m totally serious. One of my friends, Kitty, who comments here occasionally was randomly sent to Japan from Georgia years ago. Didn’t want to go. Went kicking and screaming. Yet she ended up asking to have her stay extended. I think this actually happens quite frequently.

Living abroad is a ton of fun. I would jump at the chance to live in Shanghai for a while, you’re going to love it!

– Harvey

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