How to Bow Like a Japanese

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…

Read More »

Working for an Eikaiwa – What’s not to Like?

Working for an Eikaiwa – What’s not to Like?

The Land of the Rising Sun isn’t for everyone.   But like Sirens to a sailor, Japan exerts a pull on the naive to the point that any job, no matter how miserable, seems tolerable in exchange for a brief encounter.  I was among that number. Now, you can’t put the words “Japan, “miserable,” and…

Read More »

Navigating a Japanese Starbucks

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…

Read More »

Surprising Service in Japan

Surprising Service in Japan

I went to a small, ramshackle Japanese restaurant this evening, and the impossible happened.  Namely, I ordered, ate, paid, and left.  The food was great, as Japanese food always is, but the service . . . well, I was, as we say in Japan, shock-u. Specifically, the hostess seated me and handed me a menu. …

Read More »

The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo

The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo

At first, you might think the Japanese place great importance on addressing others properly.  After all, it’s a nation where even elephants get called Zou-san.  That’s Mr. Elephant to you. The reality is that this naming convention works flawlessly until someone who looks “foreign” enters the scene, at which point thousands of years of custom…

Read More »

The 4 Skills and Learning Japanese

The 4 Skills and Learning Japanese

When people think about the Japanese language–assuming they ever think about it at all–they often assume that speaking and listening are easiest, while reading and writing are hardest.  While that may seem obvious–since the Japanese writing system is clearly the work of insane monks like two thousand years ago–it’s actually not the case. The easiest…

Read More »

New Years in Japan

New Years in Japan

I hate the cold, so don’t ask me why I went to the snowiest possible place for New Years. New Years in Japan is like Christmas in the U.S., only without all the presents and with better food. So I went to Hokkaido, where there was a ton of snow and we mostly stayed inside…

Read More »

The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji

The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji

So you’ve set out to master Japanese and decided to learn kanji.  Well, before you march further into the ranks of people who have devoted their lives to learning this arcane form of communication, it might help to step back and take an overview of the entire process. Phase 1:  Learn the Individual Kanji Well,…

Read More »

I am a Japanese Farmer

I am a Japanese Farmer

Did you know that when you get a coffee from a convenience store in Japan, it comes in a can, not a styrofoam cup? For real, it does. My favorite brand is Black Boss, just because it sounds hilarious. For some odd reason, Tommy Lee Jones is the spokes-model for the coffee. They have his…

Read More »

The Great Tohoku Earthquake

The Great Tohoku Earthquake

When the Tohoku earthquake happened, I was sitting at my tiny Japanese desk, in the middle of a giant Japanese office, in the middle of Tokyo, just hating life.  I was working elbow to elbow with about a hundred people, facing a row of unsmiling coworkers across from me, crouched in front of my pc,…

Read More »
Scroll To Top