Why You Must Learn Kanji

For a lot of people, kanji is about on par with natto.   A huge sticky mess, difficult to consume, and not nearly as tasty as it is troublesome.  Plus it makes your breath smell like the wrong end of a dog, which is rarely a good thing.  I mean natto, that is.  Kanji does nothing for your breath.  Anyway, me personally, I never wanted to spend years studying kanji; I just wanted to speak well enough to communicate (read “drink beer”) with people.  Funny how things work out. Continue reading “Why You Must Learn Kanji”

How to Bow Like a Japanese

What could be more typically Japanese than bowing?  Every other book about Japan has something to say on the subject, so it must be important, right?  Certainly a lot of foreigners come to Japan and start bowing like crazy, so maybe they all read the same book.

It’s common knowledge, if not entirely correct, that bowing is a sign of respect, gratitude, or apology in Japanese society.  And there’s no shortage of information on how to do it properly, how deeply one should bow, or what to do with your hands.  There’s just one missing piece . . . Continue reading “How to Bow Like a Japanese”

Navigating a Japanese Starbucks

The first time I walked into a Japanese Starbucks, I thought I was ready.  It’s pretty easy, really.  “Large” translates to “Grande,” in some bizarro Italian-English-Japanese-word hybrid, and “coffee” is just a bastardized pronunciation of the same:  “ko-hee.”  Even “Hot” is, well, “Hotto.”  So it’s not rocket science.  Coffee’s just about all they sell, so they’ll definitely figure it out.  Anyway, that’s what I thought. Continue reading “Navigating a Japanese Starbucks”