Japanese Slang – arafou – Around 40

Japanese slang learning time.

Just before I left Tokyo I was introduced to the following katakana slang.

アラサー (arasaa).

“arafou” is an abbreviation for the phrase, アラフォー (the katakana rendition of “around fouty”), and refers to the age group of 35 to 44.

Like many things in Japanese pop culture, this phrase came from a TV Drama. The drama is called Around Forty – Women With Lots of Demands (my translation, the official title is “Around Forty – アラフォー?”. The other phrase, “arasaa” is not from the drama, but has become popular to refer to people who are around 30 years old. I assume it’s something like 25 to 35. That would include me.

The website for the Around Forty Drama describes the Around 40 generation as those women (yes, it only applies to women apparently) who grew up in the 80’s, and experienced the establishment of the Law for Equal Employment Opportunities Between Men and Women when they were in their teens. They graduated university and were looking for jobs right at the peek of Japan’s bubble economy, and after working hard thus delaying marriage they were labeled “負け犬” or, the beaten dog (refers to women who are 30 and still not married). They were also the generation in which it became possible for women to work, and raise kids.Women from this generation lead many different lifestyles, have varying values, and have many options available to them. These many options, however, also gives them many things to worry about.

I have never seen the drama, and probably never will. I’m not a fan! If you do want to see it though, check 10 pm on Fridays on TBS. Here is an Around 40 commercial on YouTube.

I do like the アラサー phrase though!

More on Around Thirty women and the fashion they chose on web-japan.org.

– Harvey

Kawagoe – 500 Statues of Rakan

I left Japan from Tokyo, so decided to take a trip to get out of the city before flying back to the United States.

I went to Kawagoe in Saitama prefecture. Kawagoe is only about a 40 minute train ride from Ikebukuro on the Seibu-Tojo Line, so it is possible to leave in the morning and return home by dark.One of the historical sites there is the 500 Statues of Rakan (五百羅漢) at the Kitain Temple (喜多院) site.

Though each statue is small, it was very impressive walking into this area and first seeing the multitude of statues. According to the sight-seeing flier, there are actually 540 of them!

Upon closer inspection it will be clear that each statue is completely different, and they all have expressions so detailed that they literally seem to come to life. The picture above is the most famous statues. The old men appear to be talking.

You can see what appears to be a rib cage coming through on a lot of the statues. Were the monks fasting? The statues are of disciples of Buddha, so I suppose that is the case.Rumor has it that if you feel each statue at night until you find one that is warm and then mark the spot, if you come back again in the daytime you will have found the statue that most resembles yourself.I didn’t stick around until darkness to find out…

I’m enjoying photography!

– Harvey

Tamil and Japanese

It wasn’t Hindi but Tamil that I was thinking of. Both are Indian languages. Susumu Ono seems to be the prominent champion of the Tamil-Japanese theory. The following paper explains the relationship between the language from a linguistic perspective. THE GENEALOGY OF THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE -Tamil and Japanese – Susumu OHNO.However, a page about Ono on Wikipedia doubts this theory.

The Hypothesis on a genetic link with the Tamil LanguageOver the last three decades, Ōno has won particular notoriety for his support of the hypothesis, first put forward by Susumu Shiba in 1970, and developed by Akira Fujiwara (藤原明), most notably in 1981 [1] that the Japanese and the Tamil languages share a common ancestry. [2]. His theory has been severely criticized by the greatest living Japanese indologist, Tokunaga Muneo (徳永宗雄), [3] who, unlike Ōno, is fluent in Tamil, and by other comparativists like Kazama Kiyozō (風間喜代三)[4]. Generally speaking, this, like many other amateur hypotheses about the origins of the Japanese language, collapses because the author, though a top-ranking scholar of Japanese, is not familiar with the intricate complexities of the comparative methodologies of philology. Ōno’s attempt to confront his critics, in the article cited here, is successful in disarming Roy Andrew Miller’s critique, but fails to answer the general charge, made much earlier on his previous theories about an Austronesian origin for the language,[5]. The argument for a similar word order in Tamil and Japanese, for example, also holds for Japanese and some Papuan languages.      

I’m no linguist, and know nothing of Tamil, but it’s interesting to know that the origins of the Japanese language are still debated!

Sewa – Hindi and Japanese

Hey everyone.

I heard that SEWA means “service” in Hindi.

In Japanese, they have the phrase 世話する sewa suru which can translate into, “to give assistance to”. Very similar.

In Hindi the phrase namaste is a type of greeting. Literally, according to Wikipedia, namaste means “I bow to you”. In Japanese, 名前 namae means “name”... Which, if you twist your head around a bit,  you could maybe link it back to meaning “you” or something like that. Though, of course, you might be wrong.

Anyway, what is the link here. Is there one? Or is this just a random coincidence? Conspiracy?

Somebody in the know clue me in.

– Harvey

Men at Work in Shibuya

Men at work in Shibuya on the Tokyu Department Store in front of the Hachiko area.

It was cool seeing them unroll this advertisement. I almost saluted.

Gucci in the house!

For the record, from this distance I can’t be sure that the workers are actually men – but hey.

– Harvey

JapanNewbie Leaves Japan

Big news everybody.

After 5 years of eating rice and miso soup, the JapanNewbie, who is no longer a  newbie anymore mind you, is leaving Japan.

That’s right, I got a nice fellowship for graduate school so I’m going to be a student
again for the next two years. I’ll be in Boston, so I’ve got my eyes peeled for a
BostonNewbie website… Let me know if you know of any. After graduating I’ll most
likely be back in Japan for another few years before hopping off to some other country again.

I just found this out in March, so things have happened really quickly! I’m in the airport on my way out this very minute.

As for JapanNewbie, I’ve decided to keep it going. There are plenty of Japan blogs
run by people who are not in Japan… and besides, with my continued study of
the language, Japanese friends, wife, relatives, and constant influx of questions
from JapanNewbies around the world, I’m sure I’ll always have something to blog about. I’ve got a bit of a post and picture backlog anyway, so I think I can keep going with tidbits straight out of Japan until probably July or so.

My guess is that for the next two years my posts will become more and more
culture and language focused, rather than the frequent “Look what I saw!
Look where I went! Look what I ate!” posts that are so easy to do while living
in the country. Hopefully this new angle will be just as enjoyable for all of you!

It’s been an amazing 5 years here in Japan. Really. I came, I passed JLPT 1, I started a blog and stuck with it, I established myself as a professional translator, and even got married (even though I said I wouldn’t). I think I’ve accomplished quite a bit and gotten a lot out of the gaijin experience. I’ve lived in Kanto and Kansai for approximately 2 years each, and yes, I like Kansai (specifically Osaka) the best.
Hope all the JapanNewbie readers will continue to stop by! And hopefully I’ll be able to continue feeding your curiosity about Japan!korekaramo, yoroshikuonegaishimasu  – Harvey

Traditional Japanese Home in the City

Here is a large (for Japanese standards) Japanese home right in Osaka. I usually don’t see houses of this style unless I get away from the city.

Nice isn’t it?

Garden, wall, tiled roof, woody, classic.

And they’ve got a guard-cat.

– Harvey

Sanzenin in Kyoto

I’ve been to Kyoto countless times, but due to friends from out of town visiting back in March, we rented car and decided to stretch our legs a little. We went to Sanzenin (三千院) in Ohara in Kyoto.

There a Wikipedia article on sanzenin in Japanese, but actually I’m not having much luck finding information on it in English… Ah, here’s some good Sanzenin stuff on Japan-Guide.com. They’ve done a good job on the write up, so I’ll leave you with some pictures.

A picture is worth 1000 words huh?

After wading through the crowd at the more famous Kyoto temple and shrine locations, the sparsely occupied Sanzenin area was a great change. I could sit and look at that garden for hours…

– Harvey

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