You know you’ve been in Japan too long when… From a Western Perspective

Those who enjoyed the previous post will likely enjoy this as well. You Know You’ve Been in Japan too Long… by Bill Mutranowski.

You Know You’ve Been in Japan too Long…

And here is another unpublished list of “You know you’ve been in Japan Too Long When…” jokes from a Western perspective.

A few gems…

– you no longer pay any attention to what anyone does when you sit down beside them on a train.
– when you accompany your “no” by the famous waving hand-in-front-of-nose.
– you find yourself bowing while you talk on the phone.

And there are plenty more where that came from…

More “Too Long in Japan” jokes:
Too long in Japan from AMPONTAN

– Harvey

You know you’ve been in America too long when… From a Japanese Perspective

You know those, “You know you’ve been in [place] for too long when…” jokes?

Kayo from Osaka Life found some “You know you’ve been in America for too long when…” jokes written by Japanese people.

These jokes are an excellent insight into the cultural differences between the United States and Japan. If you don’t understand why a Japanese person would associate these behaviors or ways of thinking with being in America too long, do ask in the comments, and we’ll get some explanation.

The original Japanese links are here, and here.

Kayo translated a bit of the first one.

You’ve been in the U.S. too long when…
…you wear a T-shirt even in winter.
…you blow your nose in public.
…you don’t wear skirts any more.
…you feel you’re lucky when the train has arrived 5 minutes late.
…you think it’s natural to say thank you to a cashier in a supermarket.
…you use paper napkins like water.
…you are not surprised when you see a very fat person, and you feel you are slim.
…you don’t mind using a dowdy umbrella.
…you don’t even carry an umbrella.
…you feel uncomfortable when a shop staff bows to you.
…you go across a street when the light is red but there are no cars.

Here I have translated those in the second link of “you know you’ve been in America too long” jokes. I left the Japanese in for those so inclined.

Disclaimer: I just blasted through these translations as fast as I could, I don’t think anything is wrong, but I didn’t go out of my way to make them production quality or anything. I’ve actually got a real translation job I’m supposed to be doing at the moment… This is how I procrastinate…

You don’t feel inconvenienced even if you don’t handle actual cash for an entire month.

When you’re able to drink blue or green colored soft drinks without hesitating at all.

When the fact that your waitress is wearing shocking pick nail polish doesn’t surprise you one bit.

When you’re watching a Japanese movie or television show, and for some reason you feel something isn’t quite right… After a while you realize that it’s because everyone is driving on the left side of the road.

When you receive compliments from others you’re not humble at all and just say “thanks”.

When you have your glasses or contact lenses prescription adjusted, and the strength of the new prescription doesn’t surprise you at all.

When you’re not excited or impressed at all when you see a real gun.

When you’re amazed at the cleanliness of the toilets in Narita Airport.

When you begin to think that you haven’t completely brushed your teeth unless you have also flossed.

When you start eating Oyakodon with a spoon.

When don’t think anything of young girls wearing camisoles that completely reveal their bra straps. To the contrary, when you let your guard down you find yourself doing the same as well.

When you’re back in Japan at a public toilet and realize that the people around you aren’t letting the water make a splashing sound when they’re peeing.

When find the the date format of, “2007/10/01” a little strange.

When you see a size 30 cm women’s shoe in the shoe store and you don’t even respond, “Geez that’s huge!”

When someone tells you that, “American food tastes bad”, you think, “really?”

When you’ve got pictures decorating your desk at work.

When, for the past 10 years or so, you’ve had no idea what year it is according to the Heisei calendar.

When you leave a space of about 50 cm between you and the person lining up in front of you at the supermarket.

When your “skirt to pants” ratio becomes 1:4 (meaning you own 4 times as many pants as you do skirts, for girls of course).

When you have completely lost the habit of dividing up your trash.


– Harvey

Read The Kanji – a JLPT Kanji study app

I just found out about Read The Kanji this morning. Guess how I found out about it? Via Twitter! Twitter is awesome, I’m telling you…

But, this post is about Read The Kanji (which is also awesome), not Twitter.

Learn JLPT 1 Kanji, or Start With Hiragana
In Read The Kanji you select what you want to learn, hiragana, katakana, or different sets of kanji from JLPT4 to JLPT1, and then jump right in and start reviewing.

Clean Interface
The fonts are big and beautiful and the interface is clean and easy to use. I got registered and was reviewing kanji in less than a couple of minutes.

(Note: the green below about 終日 is showing that I go the previous question correct.)

The first thing that I noticed about Read The kanji was that you can actually type the readings for the kanji in hiragana (as opposed to romaji, but it will also take the romaji if that’s what you prefer) and then click the “check” button to see if you were right.

The application doesn’t simply show you the answer and let you judge your correctness for yourself, but it actually checks what you input and keeps score for you. That’s a seemingly obvious but nice touch.

Learn the Kanji in Context
You get an example sentence and translation when the kanji is displayed, and if you click on the kanji compound in question it pops up a window that gives you details about the readings of each kanji, and better yet, examples of other kanji compounds that those kanji are used in. Good stuff.

I think that taking the time to read the example sentences is key to getting the most out of Reading the kanji. If you just fly through making sure you know how to read each kanji, without really understanding how the vocabulary is used, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The context is king!

You can also adjust all the settings to determine what is displayed while you are reviewing. You can turn romaji on or off, for example.

The application also keeps a tons of stats on your review. More than I’ll ever need I’m sure… After a lot of review it would be fun to check out what your “worst word” is… Right now my worst word is 「真っ二つ」. Argh! Who needs 真っ二つ anyway.

This is a nice clean and free app. Give Read The Kanji a look!

Update: Another Read The Kanji Review on Quirky Japan

– Harvey

JapanNewbie now on Twitter

Hey everyone!

I finally decided to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. I literally just signed up last night, so I really haven’t done anything yet, but if you’d like to “follow” me, look for me on Twitter as ‘JapanNewbie’.

I decided to go with the name ‘JapanNewbie’ because well, Harvey was taken, and I think I’ll keep all my twittering mostly Japan and Japanese-related anyway. I won’t bore you with tweets announcing my plans to remodel my bathroom or anything.

Does anyone have any recommendations of interesting people twittering in Japanese that I could follow?

Perhaps I’ll add something to JapanNewbie that will display my tweets on the blog in a sidebar or something. Let me know if you have a recommended way to get this done!

TwitterNewbie out.

– Harvey

Download 101 Common Japanese Idioms

The Japan Shop is offering a 52 mb download that includes text and audio explanations of 101 Common Japanese Idioms for the ridiculously low price of $2.50. This download will be $2.50 for a limited time only, after which the price will be $5.00.

As always with The Japan Shop downloads, you get your data in PDF, Flash, and MP3 formats.

In the near future an iPhone/iPod Touch application with the same content is going to be released, and if you purchase this PC/Mac version you’ll get a free download coupon for the iPhone/iPod Touch version as well.

This is good stuff. Idioms are fun and they really are useful in everyday conversation.

You can hear a sample of one audio file and see how the PDFs are formatted on the JapanShop product page.

Japanese Idioms

This is a seriously quality product. I can’t wait to get it for my iPod Touch!

– Harvey




I have been watching a lot of Japanese movies recently because my university library happens to be huge. I recently watched this movie: Maborosi (幻の光 in Japanese).

As I said, I have seen a lot of Japanese films, and I enjoy most of them. However, Maborosi was really, really, slow.

It’s beautiful… but slow. The cuts are like beautiful photos, and the whole atmosphere of the movie is dark, but wonderful and very convincing. Also, to my delight, it’s all in Kansai-ben.

Still though. It was slow!

The Amazon editorial review says that it is in the style of Yasujiro Ozu. I have seen quite a few Ozu films, including classics like Late Autumn, Late Spring, and Good Morning to name a few, but they didn’t remind me of Maborosi at all. I liked Ozu’s films a lot more.

Has anyone else seen Maborosi? What did you think?

– Harvey

[UPDATE] If you’re interested in Kansai-ben, check our our Kansai-ben iPhone Application! Japanese 101: Kansai Dialect

Japanese Grammar Quiz

Are you confident in your Japanese language skills? Try this pretty tough online grammar quiz and see what you still need to learn.

Japanese Grammar Quiz 文法クイズ

After you submit your answers it will tell you what you got wrong, and explain what the correct answer should be.

It’s all in Japanese, so this is only useful for intermediate to advanced learners.

I’m not gonna lie. I may have passed JLPT 1-kyuu, but I only average about 3 or 4 out of 5 on these quizzes! This is pretty tough stuff.

Some of the links to the クイズ解説 are broken though… But you can still see what the correct answers should have been! Then, if you have a good grammar dictionary you can look up the patterns and get other examples of how they are used.

I used this Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar” when I was in high school, and it probably saw more use than my regular vocabulary dictionary, no joke.

For example, if you want to know what,「医者がくれた薬を飲んだら、かえって病気がひどくなった。」means, you can look up all the nouns and verbs in a regular dictionary, like 医者 is doctor, くれた is to be given, 飲む is to drink/take medicine, 病気 is sickness, and ひどくなる is to become worse… but what in the world is かえって?

“I drank the medicine that the doctor gave me, but in fact (to the contrary of what the expected result would have been), my sickness got worse!”

My electronic dictionary lists かえって as “on the contrary”, which is correct, but this grammar dictionary not only tells you what it means, but gives you a ton of example sentences so that you can really figure out how this particular grammar point works… and in Japanese, there are a lot of grammar points. Personally, I think learning straight vocabulary is easy in comparison.

Here is a video explaining what this grammar dictionary is all about.

For the stuff in these quizzes I suspect that you’ll at least need the Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar, and maybe the Advanced Grammar Dictionary.

Three volumes of grammar dictionaries. Incredible. It’s funny to think that after all this time there are still grammar points that I need to learn!

On second thought. That’s not funny. It makes sense. You can get along very well speaking Japanese with the grammar of a 10 year old, and for a non-native that’s no small feat. However, if you want to sound smart when speaking Japanese, or if you want to be able to understand the news, literature, or other more advanced topics, you’ll have to step it up a notch.

Japanese language vs. Foreigner. The battle continues.

– Harvey

Cat Nabe

Silly cat videos. You can make cat nabe (鍋=hot pot) just by placing nabe on the ground and waiting for the cats to climb in.

It’s more effective if you line up a lot of nabe.

Man, cats are silly.

In case you want to know what Nabe are really supposed to be used for…

kimuchi nabe

Yum… kimuchi nabe

– Harvey

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