Japanese in Hawaii

I visited Hawaii for the first time this month and was blown away by the amount of Japanese around.

There were signs in Japanese, Japanese food, Japanese tourists, white people hawking goods to Japanese tourists in broken Japanese… the whole nine yards! There are countless Japanese restaurants and even an ultra-famous Japanese Shaved Ice Place (kakigouri かき氷) called Matsumoto’s. Some shops in Waikiki even accept payment in Japanese yen.

Here are some pics of some of the random Japanese I encountered. Click to ENLARGE!

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If you really want to immerse yourself in Japanese and don’t have the willpower to do it where you are now… consider moving to Honolulu!

BBQ Meat Day Explained

What do these people have in common?

Michael Jackson, birthday: August 29, 1958
Bae Yong Joon (Yon-sama), birthday: August 29, 1972
John McCain, birthday: August 29, 1936
Charlie Parker, birthday: August 29, 1920

Right! Their birthdays are the same!

But what about their birthdays is special and interesting to those of us studying Japanese language and culture?

Here’s a hint… it has something to do with Tsuruhashi in Osaka

Yes you got it! Korean BBQ!!! Let’s break it down. (Wut?)

Yakiniku - August 29th Diagram

The Japanese word for Korean BBQ is basically 焼き肉 (yakiniku).
“yaki” means to be cooked, and “niku” means meat.

Let’s jump to the birthday link.

The birthdate in question is August 29th.
In Japanese August 29th is 八月二十九日 (hachi gatsu nijyuukunichi).

The number 8 is “hachi” in Japanese, but the same character can also be read “ya” As in 八つ (yatsu). This “ya” sound matches up with the “ya” in the Japanese word for BBQ, 焼き肉 (*ya*kiniku).

The number 2 is “ni” in Japanese, and you hear it right there in “29” which is “nijyuuku.” This “ni” sound matches up with the first syllable in the Japanese word for “meat,” 肉 (*ni*ku.)

The number 9 in Japanese is “ku” or “kyuu.” You can hear it in “29” which is “nijyuuku,” or “nijyuukyuu” for that matter.

So now you can see that YAKINIKU has all the components to spell out August 29th in Japanese if your twist your mind around this crazy Kanji game.

Ever heard anyone say that if you have to explain a joke it isn’t funny? I guess I just destroyed that one…

I came across this Yakiniku thing again because I asked a new friend when her birthday was… and she responded, “yakinikunohi.” She was also then able to tell me that Yon-sama and Michael Jacksons also were Korean BBQ Birthday Boys. Awesome.(?)

Some Charlie Parker for you on the way out:

Somewhat Related:
Tsuruhashi for Korean BBQ

Japanese slang: Bacchiguu

Time to learn some 90s Japanese slang!!!


I can hardly even remember why I wanted to blog about this phrase…

Ah yes, I do remember now. So I’m slowly working my way through Devil Survivor, a sweet strategy RPG for DS, and there is one character that says this phrase over and over again.

Bacchiguu. It's ばっちり + Good.


The rough translation of this phrase is, “very good.”

Now, to be honest, this is not “cool” Japanese slang. In fact, it’s a little lame and outdated. Using it will be sure to score you a few laughs the first time around, and maybe even the second time too… But if you live in Kansai you might just earn yourself a slap upside the head for using this phrase. Consider yourself warned.

Let’s learn the phrase, and the background!

This phrase is a combination of two words. The first is ばっちり. The second word is “good,” which becomes グッド (guddo) in Katakana.

ばっちり is a legit Japanese word that means something is “perfect” or just “great.”

Here are some other words that may help you out when talking about バッチグー with your Japanese friends.

死語 (shigo) a dead word.
合成語 (gouseigo) a compound word.
ふるっ! (huru!!!) a way to strongly emphasize that something is OLD and 古い (hurui).
もういいから! (mou ii kara!) “OK OK, would you please quit saying that already!?”

I read on some Japanese blog that the character from this old cartoon called BONOBONO says バッチグー a lot…
Watch it for yourself though.


Related Posts:

Unbelievable! Old School Japanese Slang

Swearing in Japanese

Come on, admit it. The first time you started learning Japanese you wanted to learn all the swear words. There’s no shame in that, I did too. But now that you know a few, and you’re a bit more geek, you want to know what they really mean and where they came from, right!? Maybe you already know this stuff, but for the sake of writing a somewhat informative blog post, I’m gonna tell you again.

First, let’s look at a particularly “bad” Japanese word, 畜生 (chikushou). This is normally translated as “DAMN!”

So where does this term come from? Let’s break down the characters first.

The first character 畜 means “beast” literally. As in, a bird, or some beast that crawls on the ground. It is used in some regular Japanese words, like 家畜 (kachiku) which basically means “cattle.”

The second character 生 literally means, “to be born.” This character is used in the verb 生きる (ikiru) “to live” (like the Kurosawa movie of the same name) and in 生まれる (umareru) to be born.

So, “beast” “born” … Hrm, curious, what is this about?

First of all, let’s talk about the afterlife.

In Buddhism there are basically six worlds that you can be born into in the afterlife. The term for these six paths is 六道 (rokudou). The six worlds are as follows: 天道 (tendou), 修羅道 (shuradou), 人間道 (ningendou), 畜生道 (chikushoudou), 餓鬼道 (gakidou), 地獄道 (jigokudou). I’m no scholar of religion, in fact I have never really studied it, so I’m not going to get into the details of each level. Just know that 天道 (tendou) is basically heaven which is the ultimate goal, and each place gets progressively worse as you go down the list – all the way to 地獄道 (jigokudou) which is hell.

The 5th stage, 餓鬼道 (gakidou), is pretty interesting so I’ll share what I know about that.

My chinese teacher told me that in this 餓鬼道 (gakidou) stage (pronounced eguidao in Mandarin), you are born as a hungry ghost. The ghost has a thin neck and a huge stomach. So even though it is always hungry due to its huge belly, it can’t eat much because its neck is so thin. To make matters worse, everything it puts into it’s mouth turns to ash. Sucks to be a hungry ghost.

Hungry Ghost image, originally found here: http://pds.exblog.jp/pds/1/200706/27/14/c0111414_17354552.jpg
Hungry Ghost

Here is another image from the hungry ghost world. I found this image on this Japanese blog. Apparently this image is unique because it shows the hungry ghosts acting in the same world as the humans, which is uncommon as they are supposed to be separate worlds.

Hungry Ghosts

But you know what, being born into 畜生, the animal realm, isn’t half as bad as it is to be born as a hungry ghost. Hungry ghost is level 5, only one step away from hell itself, and the beast world is level 4.

When I told my Chinese teacher about 畜生, she was surprised and said. “Wow! Japanese are relatively considerate!” This is because 畜生 isn’t even the worst of the six levels. Why not curse people to be a 餓鬼 (hungry ghost) or just go all the way and wish them straight to hell?

Good question! I don’t know the answer!

Here is a definition of 畜生 from the 大辞林 iPhone Application. Also available for iPad btw… Highly recommended.

From 大辞林 for iPhone
From 大辞林 for iPhone

Well, now you can swear in Japanese a bit more knowledgeably!

If anyone has any further information about this topic, please share in the comments!

If you’re not sure how to pronounce 畜生, you can watch the video below… over and over again.


Intensive Japanese at OSU – Interview with @curryisyummy

Time for another interview with a fellow Japan Head! This time we talk to David (@curryisyummy) who will tell us about the intensive summer Japanese program that he is doing in Ohio at the moment. He finishes the program on August 19th, so he’s really right in the thick of it. If you still have questions about the program after reading this interview, feel free to hit David (@curryisyummy) up on Twitter, he’s nice!

I was interested in doing this interview because I did a similar program at Indiana University back in the day. The program I did was called EASLI (East Asian Summer Language Institute), and it was basically a summer of nothing but Japanese with lots of Japanese learning geeks. Good times. Anyway, since EASLI no longer exists I was always wondering if similar programs were around, and this sort of seems close. Let’s take a look.

Thanks for offering to do this David! Could you give us a super quick description of the intensive Japanese summer program that you’re doing? Something so that lazy folks who don’t check the official program website can know what’s going on.

The Ohio State University SPEAC (Summer Programs East Asian Concentration) is a series of summer programs aimed at moving students through one year (about 30 weeks) of university Japanese or Chinese in nine weeks. For Japanese they offer first, second, and fourth year university Japanese, and for Chinese they offer first and second year. Although this year they offered those taking Chinese the opportunity to do their program in Qingdao.

So which level are you enrolled in?

I’m enrolled in second year Japanese. Before that I was taking OSU’s Individualized Instruction, so this summer program is my first formal class setting.

So you had never actually studied Japanese in a classroom before? Interesting! Is the instruction all in Japanese?

Yes and no. It is conducted in Japanese, but since it’s second year students there are many katakana-ized English words, and the patterns and words the teachers do use are limited. For example, I’ve not heard one instance of the conditional form (it hasn’t been covered in the course material). On the plus side, it’s easy to understand.

Get your Japanese on!

What textbooks or other materials do they use?

Japanese: The Spoken Language (JSL) and Japanese: The Written Language (JWL) are used. JSL is written using romanization with intonation and accent markers. However the real material is actually supposed to be the audio and videos that these books accompany. JSL is merely supposed to be there incase you need to confirm something you’ve heard. For reading and writing JWL is used.

Indiana University used JSL and JWL for their second year Japanese class when I was there in the late 1990s. I liked JWL a lot, but hated JSL because it was nothing but romaji. It makes sense that the real material is the stuff that accompanies the books.

Could you give us a quick profile of the students who tend to attend the program?

The students, as far as I’ve been able to tell are all students at OSU. The demographic of the class changed a bit after the first week because some people were dropping really quickly. From the start there were a few Chinese international students, but now there’s only one. As far as I know only one student in the group has gone to Japan. At OSU you need to have completed two years of university Japanese in order to do any kind of study abroad, so that might have something to do with it.

How would you describe your Japanese level before you started the program?

Awesome? Haha, I kid, I kid. Actually, before starting this class I could already read a fair amount of Japanese. I completed Remembering the Kanji vol. 1 in November 2008, and I’ve been chatting with friends on Skype in Japanese and watching Japanese dramas ever since (among other things like using an SRS and shadowing). So I’ve had plenty of time to internalize structural patterns, pronunciation, and vocabulary that have made this class somewhat easier than maybe it would be for someone who was coming to this class with only a year of university Japanese under their belt.

We took a Japanese skills assessment test at the start of the school term and I scored 100% in both listening and structure, and I got most of the points in reading. Considering that even the fourth year students were taking this same test, I’d say that’s pretty decent. We’re supposed to take the test again at the end of the term to gauge our progress. So hopefully I can manage to get full points on the reading this time around.

One thing I will say though is that I had a very poor understanding of what keigo (super polite, business Japanese) was before starting, and now I not only know more of what it is, but I can understand and use it to a much higher degree because the program really focuses on speech-styles (keigo, plain-polite, and direct/colloquial Japanese).

Wait, so doesn’t this mean that the program is too easy for you?

The material was easy, yes. It didn’t take me very long ever to prepare for class. However, this doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything. I got in a lot of practice using the basics in speech, and for me, this is priceless. It was speaking in a controlled environment, where I knew that if I said something wrong or with an incorrect accent pattern, I would be corrected. Plus, I *did* learn more about using keigo, which could be useful.

I imagine you’ve heard of Middlebury’s summer program, as far as you know, how is this program different?

I actually hadn’t heard of it before, but I looked it up. I’ll compare the two schedules so that it’s clear how things work.

Middlebury goes something like:

8:00 a.m. – Wake up, eat breakfast, and prep for class
9:00 a.m. – Morning classes (class time ranges from 3 to 5 hours in the morning, depending on the School)
1:00 p.m. – Lunch and rest
3:00 p.m. – Cocurricular activities, free time, homework, and class preparation
4:00 p.m. – Afternoon classes (afternoon class time varies, depending on the School)
5:00 p.m. – Films, lectures, or presentations
7:00 p.m. – Dinner
8:30 p.m. – Faculty office hours, cocurricular activities, homework, class preparation, dances
10:00 p.m. TV and . . . sleep (both in-language)

As for OSU’s SPEAC program it looks more like this:

8:00 a.m. – Wake up, run across campus to class while reviewing the model conversations and drills.
8:30 a.m. – Class begins. First ACT session.
9:30 a.m. – One hour self-study session
10:30 a.m. – FACT session. (A distinction is drawn between ACT sessions where the class is in Japanese and you’re using and performing in Japanese, and FACT where rules and culural information is taught in English)
11:30 a.m. – Second ACT session.
12:30 p.m. – Lunch
1:00 p.m. – One hour self-study session
2:00 p.m. – Third ACT session.
3:00 p.m. – Class ends.

And, that’s basically it. It’s up to you to prepare for the next day. The Middlebury seems to incorporate all these extra activities. This is my personal schedule when I get home as a means for making the most of these nine weeks:

3:30 p.m. – Get home. 10 minutes of shadowing.
3:40 p.m. – Free time. Check E-Mail, check the next day’s assignments, etc.
4:00 p.m. – 30 minutes of shadowing.
4:30 p.m. – Prepare material for the next day. Practice and memorize dialogs, run through the drills, do writing homework, etc. etc.
5:30 p.m. – Free time. Chatting in Japanese, watching Japanese movies, dramas, etc. Maybe a 100 or so SRS repetitions in the mean time. Reading Japanese books and manga, and so on. (Especially this July since it’s Tadoku ;) )
7:00 p.m. – Dinner. Listen to Japanese podcasts while I walk somewhere and eat or while I cook and eat.
8:00 p.m. – More Japanese movies, dramas, books, SRSing, and chatting.
12:00 a.m. ~ 2:00 a.m. – Whenever I get tired I call it a day, shower, and go to sleep.

Obviously most of the things I’m doing after I get home aren’t absolutely required for class or anything, but I have ridiculously high expectations for the word “intensive” so I make sure that even if the school doesn’t live up to it, I do.

One thing that isn’t included in this daily schedule is the Friday afternoon “Happy Hour.” From 4:00 p.m. to 5:00/5:30 p.m., some of my kouhai, senpai, teachers, and teachers in training come and we play games like しりとり (Shiritori), or just chat about our family, pets, interests, etc. all in Japanese.

Are the teachers at the program all local teachers from your
university? Or do they bring in ringers from elsewhere to teach the

As far as I know, they are all local teachers. But they are natives of Japanese. (Except the teacher for FACT sessions.) And, if I’m not mistaken, for first-year students, sometimes a Japanese teacher in-training (i.e. non-native speaker) will teach the class. But, they’re always fairly proficient from what I can tell at “Happy Hour.” It could be different for the Chinese program.

From what you have seen so far, what would you change about the program if you could change anything?

To be honest, I wouldn’t change anything. I didn’t expect a whole lot from this program, and it was merely a piece to the puzzle that makes up my intensive summer of Japanese. I’m afraid that if I get into what I would change about the program I would end up creating a completely different and unique system. But, I’ll try and read between the lines here and answer the question, “what do you not like about the program?” For that, I’d say the only thing I really don’t like is that I feel it’s not as challenging as I would like it to be, and I think I could do without the FACT class. After all, I just spend that time reading in Japanese or working on homework or something so I have more time for lunch. If I address the entire four-year program at OSU, however, I’d say they should probably stop underestimating the importance of literacy and actually get students to learn at least as many kanji as a middle-school student in Japan would know (about 1000).

Could you tell us about your plans for Japanese language study in the immediate future?

Sure thing! For the immediate future I’m working on developing my abilities in speaking by reading aloud, shadowing, and listening to and watching movies, dramas, and podcasts, as well as engaging in conversations with friends on Skype. Within the next couple of months I’ll be working towards learning to understand close to 100% of what I’m hearing in the dramas and movies that I watch. I’m doing this by SRSing transcripts of dramas taken from Drama-note.

Is this program open to anyone? Or do you already have to be a student at OSU? Would you recommend the program to other people looking to blast their Japanese abs over the summer?

I’m not exactly sure if it’s open to anyone. If I had to say, I would guess that if you aren’t a student already, you are likely planning on entering as a student if only temporarily.

To answer the second question, I’d probably say that if you really want to “blast your Japanese abs” take that tuition money and spend a summer in Japan instead.

But, in terms of a program, I think anyone that’s only had about a year of Japanese at the university level will make lots of progress, especially if they apply themselves and really take the time to make the new patterns automatic. In short, I’d say there’s no school, teacher, method, or study material that is going to “get you there” if you don’t actually do anything. So, don’t be like some of my classmates and say “I don’t have time” when it’s your only obligation for the summer. It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you’re not using the time you have.

It would be a good idea to go into the program with the mentality that it’s only a mere piece to the puzzle. When class is over, don’t go back to English. Set yourself up for success by making every waking moment in Japanese. This means to go home, watch Japanese movies, dramas, or anime, read Japanese manga, books, and websites, and chat with Japanese friends on Skype or around your neighborhood.

What got you interested in Japanese in the first place? And, what changed to make you get so hardcore about Japanese?

I always find difficulty in answering this question because I kind of just decided one day that learning Japanese was something I wanted to do. One thing I can say, though, is that I’ve always been attracted to Chinese characters. So you might ask, “why aren’t you learning Chinese instead?” Well, I suppose that choosing Japanese over Chinese at first was because I liked things like Final Fantasy, Dragonball, Gundam, Pokemon, and Rockman/Megaman growing up. I don’t watch much anime nor do I play many games these days, but I do watch quite a lot of dramas, movies, and such. After starting down the path of Japanese I developed an interest in the language itself. And, it’s also brought me to a point where I want to learn other languages, too, like Mandarin, Cantonese, and Korean.

To answer the last question, I’d say what changed to make me get hardcore this summer was the fact that I actually had the opportunity to spend every moment, day and night, working on Japanese. I like the idea of a 24/7 effort, and since this kind of opportunity doesn’t happen too often, I’m making the most of it before Autumn classes start again and my classes go back to being mostly in English. :(

Thanks for sharing all that! I can tell you’re well on your way to joining the ranks of the next generation of Japanese-mastering gaijin. I hope you’ll come to our OB parties and pretend to listen to the war stories from “back in the day” when the time comes.

Related Links:
OSU Japanese Summer Program Website

Japanese Program PDF

Other JapanNewbie Interviews:
Interview with Durf the Translator

Interview with @jyemenai, after his first trip to Japan

Interview with @sandkatt

Unbelievable! Old School Japanese Slang

Today I attended a wine tasting party and there happened to be tons of old-school Japan hands there along with their respective Japanese wives. It was a little awkward being the youngest dude in the room by an entire generation, but it was cool to hear their stories.

One man had lived in Japan in the 70s, and he shared many interesting stories. One of the stories that he introduced included this really cool Japanese slang term.

This is a real word. This Japanese is REAL. WHY would I make this up!?


Did you hear that??

信じられない (shinjirarenai) is I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. In Japanese.
Combine that with UNBELIEVABLE. And you get the barely pronounceable アン信じられラブル. OMG. I can hardly contain myself. This is SO COOL.

If you don’t believe me, click here to see アン信じられラブル in the wild.

That’s so awesome. Work with me. Let’s bring アン信じられラブル back.

A Poem by Misuzu Kaneko

Kaneko Misuzu

One of my good friends told me to check out this poem by Kaneko Misuzu [wiki] quite some time ago, and I finally got around to it. The poem is short and sweet, and not too difficult, so you can use it as a study tool as well. I have provided a simple translation below.





My weak translation. I have paid little attention to style. I have no skill in poetry, that’s my excuse.

Even if I spread wide both my arms
I cannot fly in the sky at all
but, that little bird that can fly
cannot run quickly on the ground like I can.

Even if I shake my body,
I cannot make it produce a pretty sound.
But that ringing bell
doesn’t know a lot of songs like I do.

The bell, the little bird, and then me.
We’re all different, but we’re all wonderful.

Japanese Calendar Converter for iPhone

I’ve had this app for a while now. It’s simple, but useful, and free!

The title is, “Gengou Free” By Masayuki Akamatsu.

It converts the year counting system you’re used to, like 2011, into the Japanese system which is like 平成 (Heisei) 23.

You know how when you’re filling out some form at a service counter Japan, you’re doing alright filling out your 名前 and your 住所 like a rock star, the staff are complimenting your awesome Japanese skills, and then suddenly the form asks for the year you first moved to Japan or something using the Japanese emperor system? And you’re all like… what?! 知るかそんな!It’s 2001 but I dunno what that is in 平成! But you’re too embarrassed to ask… cause you know, you’re rock star. So then you star sweatin’.

No more! Just whip out this app and you’re good to go!

Convert Years!

Good stuff!

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