JapanShop Closeout on Canon G70 Electronic Dictionary

Quickie!

Just noticed that there is a Canon G70 Electronic Dictionary in the bargain bin over at the JapanShop.

Canon G70

It’s a return item, but it’s good as new, and there is only one. It’s going for $368.00 and the regular price is $410.00 so this is a pretty healthy discount.

CLOSEOUT: This was a return model, barely used and in perfect condition. It comes with our 1 year warranty.

It can be delivered in 3-8 days worldwide and has free shipping in case you’ve got an important language geek special someone you’ve yet to buy a present for!

– Harvey

Shaking Like a Poor Man

I have a bad habit of shaking my leg when I’m listening to someone speak about something, or when I get sleepy… or when it’s cold… or… anyway.

I think I do it to try to keep myself from falling asleep…

Anyway, this kind of nervous shaking is called bimbo yusuri 「貧乏揺すり」in Japanese.

Literally, bimbo yusuri means, “poor man shake”.

To be honest I have no idea what it’s called that.

Somebody explain it to me!

– Harvey

Reischauer on the Japanese Language

As I’m in school again I have been doing a lot of reading. Luckily for this blog a lot of that reading is about Japan!

What do you think of this passage?

“Japan’s cultural distinctiveness has perhaps been accentuated by her linguistic separateness. Although the Japanese writing system has been derived from that of China and innumerable Chinese words have been incorporated into Japanese in much the same way that English has borrowed thousands of Latin and Greek words, Japanese basically is as different from Chinese as it is from English. Its structure is strikingly like Korean, but even then it appears to be no more closely related to Korean than English is to the Sanskrit-derived languages of India.”[1]

I especially wanted to point out this part… he continues:

“Possessing a writing system more complex than any other in common use in the modern world and a language with no close relatives, the Japanese probably face a bigger language barrier between themselves and the rest of the world than does any other major national group.”[1]

This is passage is from Japan: The Story of A Nation by the late prominent Japan scholar Edwin Reischauer.

Makes Japanese sound right difficult doesn’t it? The passage is also is meant to show that Japan’s isolation is not simply geographical, but the language is a big factor as well. I know a lot of JapanNewbie readers are not newbies and have studied Japanese… how does it feel to be one of the few people able to break through the barrier the author is speaking of?

Just to put this into perspective, Reischauer was born and raised in Japan. He later went on to Harvard to earn a PhD, and went on to teach Japan Studies there for many years. The Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard bears his name today. He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1961 to 1966. If you’ve ever studied about Japan in an academic setting you have probably read some of his work. Reischauer is relatively old school, but the concepts in his book are all relevant today.

Just last week Joi Ito was at our school giving a talk about the Creative Commons and he mentioned how fascinating Japan is to people who study technology and its effect on society. As an aside, he said that Japan was like Galapagos to those who study technology. Lots of interesting things going on there so it’s a lot of fun to peek in and have a look from time to time. Japanese society is so isolated and unique however, that without considerable effort by the Japanese themselves or foreigners embedded into the Japanese culture it is unlikely that any of the trends ever leave Japan and become international phenomenon. This is exacerbated by the fact that so few leading Japan techies speak English.

Reading and hearing all this makes me think that I should be doing something more profound with my Japanese language abilities… Do any of you Japan-studying readers out there have any big dreams for your Japanese skills? Think big!

– Harvey

[1] Edwin Reischauer, Japan: The Story of A Nation, 8.

Exchange Journals with Native Speakers of your Target Language at lang-8

I just found out about this lang-8 website via Nihonhacks. It’s a service that hooks you up with native speakers of your target language so that you can exchange and correct each other’s journals.

One of the techniques I have used in the past with teachers is to write a journal, give it to the teacher, and the teacher hands it back with comments. This technique is great for language learning because you see what you have written twice, and the “exchange” aspect of it gives you motivation to never quit.

In fact, just the other day I was talking a Japanese friend at my school into trying this with me. She wanted to improve her English, and hey, why not improve my Japanese? We’ll see if we can actually get it going.

I just started trying this lang-8 web-based version, and so far I’m impressed. Whenever I publish a journal in Japanese I immediately get people offering corrections and comments. The system is also set up so it is easy to break up someones journal into sentences, and give color coded corrections as necessary.

One thing though, since all the correctors are just the native-speaker average joe (or should I say, average Taro?) sometimes I get conflicting correction suggestions from different people. It’s alright though, just shows that there is more than one way to say something that will sound correct to a native speaker.

I think I’m going to keep this up.

Someone on Nihonhacks also mentioned Livemocha, a similar site for language exchange. Anyone tried it?

– Harvey

Catching Loaches どじょうすくい


This dojyousukui (どじょうすくい), literally “loach scooping”, is a traditional Japanese folk dance about catching loaches (どじょう). Loaches are a small tadpole looking fish creature that is frankly pretty gross to look at… but edible when fried. I have eaten them in Nagoya!

The type of music that this dance is done to is called yasugibushi (安来節).

The lyrics in the song, and my translation are…

おやじどこへ行く腰(こし)に籠(かご)下(さ)げて
前(まえ)の小川(こがわ)へどじょう取(と)りに

Hey man where are you going with that basket hanging from your waist
Going to the small river up there to catch loaches

わしが生まれは浜佐陀(はまさだ)生(う)まれ
朝(あさ)まとうからどじょやどじょ

I was born in Hamasada
First thing in the morning, loaches it is, loaches

唄(うた)に千両(せんりょう)の値ぶみがあれば
どじょうは万両(まんりょう)の味(あじ)がある

If a song is worth 1000 silvers
Then a loach has a flavor worth 10,000 silvers

(The Japanese in this song is so old that even my wife wasn’t familiar with some of the phrases, so if anyone notices any translation mistake do let me know!)

Notice how he uses his finger to act as if he’s trying to grab hold of a loach. Great!

This dojyousukui is actually a huge part of Japanese culture. There is hardly a Japanese person who has not heard of this activity and dance. It’s sort of a custom for drunken salarymen to demand that someone at their table do the dance during their night out drinking at a local izakaya. I have never actually been to a drinking event where this happened, but maybe the crowd I was hanging with was just too young.

This video shows something… similar… but the unfortunately the dojyoutsukui dancer is not a drunken salaryman, but just a hapless kid instead.

Poor kid.

This last video shows a kid at some sort of children’ical
s event, actually catching dojyou out of a pool. You can see what the critters look like in this video.

You might ask… What do they do with them after they catch them?

Fry them up and eat them with beer, that’s what!

dojyou

Memorize the dance. Put a video on youtube of yourself doing it. Thanks.

– Harvey

UPDATE:

Reader Yvette sent in this great example of the loach scooping dance in Japanese culture! Check the video at 2:50. The scene is some super elegant girls school, where some sort of talent show begins. When one of the girls is doing dojyoutsukui at first the girls are surprised she would be so into doing such a low-class dance, but at the end they all enjoy it along with her.

Great find!

Doddodo Touring Europe


Doddodo ドッドド from Franck Stofer on Vimeo.

Read her bio and listen to clips of her album over on HearJapan.

Doddodo is a musician from Osaka. Her story is pretty amazing. She works completely alone, and has been so successful that she is currently touring Europe. Her music style is quite extreme, break beats with all kinds of sounds and samples thrown in. Frankly, it takes some getting used to, but I think this could grow on me. Anyway, she’s from Osaka, so she’s gotta be cool!

For all the JapanNewbies in Europe, here is where you can catch her show.

December 9 (Tue.) – Nijmegen (NETHERLANDS) @ Extrapool

December 12 (Fri.) – Lausanne (SWITZERLAND) @ Le Bourg

December 13 (Sat.) – Freiburg (SWITZERLAND) @ Bad Bonn / Fr Katz Festival

December 14 (Sun.) – Lyon (FRANCE) @ Grrrnd Zero

December 16 (Tue.) – London (UK) @ The Luminaire

December 17 (Wed.) – Leeds (UK) @ Santiago

December 18 (Thu.) – Liverpool (UK) @ Class A Audio

December 19 (Fri.) – Limoges (FRANCE) @ Woodstock Boogie Bar

– Harvey

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