iPhone Kansai Dialect App Now Available!

Hey Everyone!

Our iPhone and iPhone Touch Kansai-ben application is finally available in the iTunes Store! The full application name is “Japanese 101: Kansai Dialect.” You can read more about the application here, and also in the iTunes Store. The direct link to the App in the iTunes Store via iTunes is here, careful, this link will launch iTunes for you.

Check it out! Let me know what you think!

I hope it brings a little it of Kansai-ben fun to everyone!

– Harvey

Movie: My Secret Cache

I recently saw the movie My Secret Cache (ひみつの花園).

To be frank, this was an extremely campy comedy with a completely ridiculous plot. The main character Sakiko, played by Naomi Nishida, is a girl who since childhood has only been able to get excited about money. When guys ask her out on a date, she checks to see if they are going to pay (それって、おごりですか? sore tte, ogori desu ka?), and if they are she asks them to call off the date and give her the money that would have been spent on her instead. Ouch!

As a young adult she gets a job at a bank (because she can get paid for counting money there) where she is unfortunate enough to get mixed up in a bank robbery. After the dust settles it turns out that she is the only living person who knows where the loot (the secret cache) the robbers failed to get away with is buried.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that the rest of the movie has her getting involved in all sorts of activities for the sole purpose of getting her hands on that cash.

The whole thing is really silly… But you know what… It’s still fun. If you’re looking for yet another Japanese movie to watch to keep your language skills from wasting away, you might want to check this one out. It’s no masterpiece, but it has its moments. The comedy is really campy and slapstick… Very Japanese. The scenes could be taken straight out of a manga or anime. You know the type.

By the way, Naomi Nishida later was in other movies like Happiness of the Katakuri’s, Swing Girls, and Densha Otoko. She lead a very successful acting career and has a huge following. This was one of her earliest films.

Quirky crazy Japanese comedy. Gotta love it.

Actually, this movie has really great reviews. I didn’t find it spectacular though… A fun watch yes, but not amazing. Has anyone else seen this? What did you think? Maybe I wasn’t in the right state of mind when I watched it…

P.S. In case you’re wondering about the Kansai-ben iPhone Application, the application has been approved by Apple, but I’m still waiting for them to approve my contracts. If you Google “iTunes connect contract pending” you’ll come up with tons of threads of people complaining about how long the process takes. I’ve been waiting about 2 weeks now… So I guess I can patiently wait another 2 or 3 weeks before my head explodes. Once the contracts are approved the app will magically appear in the iTunes store, so keep your eyes peeled!

– Harvey

JapanNewbie Reader Survey!

Hey everyone!

I put together a simple five question survey in an attempt to learn more about JapanNewbie readers and what you want from JapanNewbie.com. Please participate in it!

There are hundreds of you, some of you who have been reading for 5 years, and some who are new. I really only personally know a handful of you. Take just 5 minutes to answer this anonymous survey so that I can understand more about what you want out of JapanNewbie.com, and I’ll try to deliver!

So if you haven’t already… Click Here to take the survey on SurveyMonkey!


– Harvey

Marriage Hunting – Japanese Slang and Society

That says “konkatsu”. This word isn’t in your dictionary, but if you’ve been studying Kanji for quite some time and know a bit about Japanese society you can probably guess what it means. By the way, “konkatsu” was nominated for the 2008 流行語大賞, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ll explain this “konkatsu” slang phrase while sharing some information about modern Japanese society and teaching you the joy of Kanji.

If you’ve ever looked for a job in Japan or been around Japanese people doing the same, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “syusyoku katsudou”. This phrase means “job hunting”. More literally, it’s the activities that one engages in to find employment.

This “syusyoku katsudou” phrase is often shortened to simply, “syukatsu” (就活).

Now, to get back to this mysterious “konkatsu phrase.” This isn’t an official word or phrase, but it is popular in Japan at the moment (seems to have been around since late 2008). Especially with the “around 30” female crowd.

You can image that the following phrase would exist (it does, but it is also slang).

From what we know of the kanji in “syusyoku katsudou” this would be the activities that one engages in to get married. Or, to be more direct, to find a partner for marriage.

Now we shorten that, as Japanese love to do… and we get…

There it is! “konkatsu!” Another important related phrase is “konkatsucyuu” 婚活中 which refers to someone who is in the process of “konkatsu.”

Of course, 婚活 doesn’t only apply to women, but to men as well.

So let’s take a look at some “konkatsu” stuff in the wild.

This video explains that the “konkatsu” phrase came about because of the increasing number of young people who cannot get married. Note, these are not people who don’t want to get married, they’re people who want to get married but just can’t successfully seal the deal!

The main reasons for this, according to the video, are the high number of financially unstable young people, and a perception difference of what marriage should be all about among Japanese men and women.

A survey done with 135 single women between the ages of 25 and 35 revealed that almost 40% of them wanted to marry a guy with a salary of 6,000,000 yen a year (about 60,000 USD at 100 yen to 1 USD… which isn’t the case anymore, but I’m lazy). The reality is that only 3.5% of young men actually have salaries that exceed that amount! Come on ladies! Your standards are too high!

Also, many women want to become full-time housewives after tying the knot, but with the tough economy more and more men want their wives to work.

“Konkatsu”, the act of actively looking for a marriage partner, includes a variety of activities including…

Taking active steps to improve yourself (積極的な自分磨き)
– Like learning to walk and sit in a chair in an attractive way.

Meeting people (出会い)
– Like at a wine drinking club (after all, people who like wine seem rich).
– There is a singles bar in Roppongi where you go alone and ask the staff to invite someone you notice in the bar to come drink with you. You know, if you don’t have the guts to talk to them yourself.
– There is also a place that specializes in hooking バツイチ (people who have been divorced once) up together.

Wow. That video explains a lot!

Here we have a video of the “konkatsu bra.” Features include a konkatsu count down timer. An apron on the front to show that the lady can cook (important for marriage). A handkerchief with the important profile information of that lady, you know, blood type, age, stuff like that. A place to keep a pen so you can jot your info down at any time… and other things.

There you have it. More “konkatsu” that you’ll ever need. Anyone here “konkatsucyuu” 婚活中? Maybe we can set up a JapanNewbie 婚活クラブ。

– Harvey

A Trip to Yakushima

I realized about a week ago that I never blogged about my trip to Yakushima in October 2007. It’s a shame too, because Yakushima was one of the greatest trips that I took during my entire 6 years in Japan! I think blogging on it slipped my mind because I was a bit busy right after the trip.

It took me a while to finally travel to Yakushima because it’s a fairly out of the way place (though it still gets about 300,000 tourists every year, according to Wikipedia). First you must travel down to Kagoshima, and from there it is another boat ride before you arrive on the island.

People visit Yakushima for its natural beauty. The entire island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the old yakusugi trees found on the island are legendary. Miyazaki Hayao is said to have modeled the environment in the movie Princess Mononoke after Yakushima.

If I remember correctly, we stayed on Yakushima for 2 nights. Our main goal was to climb up to Miyanoura-dake, the highest point on the island (1,935 meters). We also went to some other areas on the island the next day after that major hike. We rented a car, which is pretty much the only way to get around the island.

We grabbed some essential supplies as soon as we arrived, including the famous shouchu brewed on Yakushima known as “Mitake” 三岳. Supplies were low at the time (maybe they’re always low?) so sales were limited to one bottle per customer. Mitake Shochu is 25%, so one bottle was plenty! Once we started seriously hiking the next day all we would drink was water anyway. The streams were so clean that we could refill our bottles right there.

After loading up we started on the trail to Miyanoura-dake. We hiked for just a few hours before darkness caught up with us and we reached Yodogawa Koya (淀川小屋), one of the first public cabins available for camping. The cabins are decent dry places where you can spread out your sleeping bag and get a nights rest. There are no lights so flashlights are a necessity. The cabin we stayed in was bunked. There was only one other older Japanese man in the cabin when we arrived, and he gave us some snacks and even more shochu as we pulled out our gear to start making dinner.

The rest of the hike was smooth. We left early in the morning even before sunrise, and we made it to the peak just about lunch time. There was a nice breeze on top and the view was spectacular. We were quickly joined by a huge group of older hiking ladies (obaasan) who befriended us (as obaasan usually do) and shared their food.

The hike back down was nice, and that night I believe we stayed in a pension back near the center of the city. The pension was basically just someones house with a couple of extra rooms, so it was a great environment.

We also went to a tiny Onsen in Yakushima that is connected to the sea. It was tiny. There was only a flimsy bamboo divider to separate the men from the women, it didn’t go down into the water and wasn’t very tall, so it was really easy to communicate back and forth across the barrier. Strange feeling. I had been to public baths and onsens a ton before, but this was kind of like taking off your clothes in the middle of no where and jumping into a hot bath with all your friends. Great bonding experience. Our group was the only one using the onsen when we arrived so we had a nice private bath by the ocean.

Another thing I remember about Yakushima was the star filled night sky from that first night at Yodogawa Cabin. It was absolutely incredible. I had never seen so many stars in my life. Especially having traveled from Osaka where the city lights are so bright you hardly ever get to see stars.

Yakushima is really a beautiful place. If you’ve been in Japan for a while and are looking for a new adventure, grab some friends and plan a trip to Yakushima! Highly recommended.

– Harvey

Kansai-ben iPhone App Audio Preview #2

Here is another sample from the upcoming Kansai-ben Application illustrating the difference in intonation used when speaking Kansai-ben when compared to standard Japanese.

In this audio sample both speakers are saying the exact same thing, but one person is speaking in the standard Japanese intonation and the other is a native of Osaka speaking with Kansai-ben intonation. See if you can notice the intonation difference.

Here is the typical standard Japanese intonation of someone saying “good morning,” おはようございます。

And here is the Kansai-ben intonation of someone saying “good morning,” おはようございます。

Could you catch the difference?

Notice that two different people are speaking each phrase. It’s pretty rare to find a native Japanese speaker who can speak both Kansai-ben and standard Japanese completely naturally. It would be kind of like an American trying to fake a British accent. It can be done, but it’s usually not as good as the real thing. Our Kansai-ben application uses a native from Osaka for all of the Kansai-ben audio so you’ll hear the authentic intonation.

Japanese is not a tonal language like Chinese or Thai or anything, but intonation does matter. This is why it’s important to have native audio to mimic when learning Japanese, whether its characters from your favorite Japanese movies, your Japanese friends, or some prerecorded tool like a CD that came with a textbook or this Kansai-ben iPhone application. Otherwise even if you’re saying all the correct syllables you may end up sounding like a strange foreigner!

Happy Kansai-ben’ing!

– Harvey

Study Abroad in Japan Tips from Joe in Japan

Just ran across a blog entry written by Joe who studied abroad in Japan for one year, returning to the states March 2009.

He has some good straight-forward advice on how to get the most out of a study abroad experience in Japan.

Even though I did my study abroad from 1999 to 2000, reading his comments really takes me back and makes me realize that little has changed in the world of study abroad! He has some good advice.

Anyone thinking about study abroad in Japan should check out Joe in Japan. It’s very down to earth and I think you can get a nice glimpse into what life might be like as a college student in Japan!


– Harvey

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