How to Write Japanese

You gotta love Anna. Seriously, because everyone loves Anna. She’s a busty, blonde Swiss-German who grew up playing the piano and speaking Swiss. And German. And English. And now she speaks perfect Japanese. God, I hate her.

Nah, just kidding. Anna’s okay. In high school, she “picked up” French, Spanish, and Italian. Well, they’re all like the same language, but still she deserves credit for one. Then in college, she majored in Japanese and ended up moving to Japan and becoming an interpreter. Not an English teacher like, um, some people. Okay, now I hate her again. Continue reading “How to Write Japanese”

Why Your Japanese Sucks

It’s not Romaji That’s Evil—-It’s Hiragana

I have a new co-worker, who just so happens to be white. It’s very exciting, finally speaking with a real foreigner. I really gotta practice the English more. I think she’s from some place like Kansas, probably because she reminds me of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, albeit minus the little dog and red shoes. Maybe it’s the pigtails, and the fact that her aunt is named Em. Or is that M? Whatever. On Thursday, apropos of nothing, she turned to me and announced,

“I’m heading over to Japanese class tonight.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s great.” Foreigners are always heading over to Japanese class. “How’s that going anyway?”

“Wonderful,” she replied, “we’re learning hiragana.” Continue reading “Why Your Japanese Sucks”

New Nihonjin? App Identifies Japanese Faces

If you’re a Japanese person (that is, real Japanese, not just like some Korean guy born in Japan), then you know how frustrating it is. Every day, you’re surrounded by crowds of people, in stores, elevators, and that small ramen shack behind the station. And everywhere you go, with every person you see, you have to constantly wonder “Is that person really Japanese?” Because, let’s face it—sometimes it’s hard to tell, even for you. And you’re, you know, Japanese.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a surefire way to quickly tell whether someone was Japanese, Chinese, Korean, gaijin, or one of those “half” people? Well, now there is! Introducing… Continue reading “New Nihonjin? App Identifies Japanese Faces”

Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?

A reader named mintyroll recently commented:

The “Japanese People Don’t Want you to Speak Japanese” part is one of those minor things I’ve always been afraid of whenever I think of how my first trip to Japan will be . . . Consequently, it’s made me want to reach at least fluent level of Japanese before I ever make the trip.

So mintyroll—-is that a Spanish name?—-well, I can’t say what Your Japan will be like, but I can tell you about My Japan. And maybe we can extrapolate a bit.

Life in Japan as a Foreigner

Take yesterday, for example. It was a hot, gray day, and I finished work early then hustled to the station. Running up the stairs, I found myself surrounded by school kids, who immediately began yelling, “Hello! Hello!” in English. That warms my heart. Or maybe it’s just the humidity, I never can tell. Continue reading “Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?”

Why no one Helps you Learn Japanese

I have a lot of great ideas. Really, just a ton. Oh sure, to the untrained eye, I’m kicking it on the balcony drinking Asahi beer and watching sardine trains packed with commuters ride into the sunset, but really, I’m thinking. Hard. Like about my tiny Japanese apartment, and how to make it more livable. So, first I bought a sofa-bed. It’s a little lumpy. Then a lamp. That came from Ikea, so actually it’s great. They really understand furniture, those Swedes. And meatballs. Then I thought, Hey, how about a little hydroelectric power plant? That’d be a nice addition.

Surprisingly, there aren’t many YouTube videos about doing this at home. But I figured, Well, how hard can it be? I mean, I’ve got a sink, and what am I gonna use it for? Washing dishes? Heh, that’d be the day. Continue reading “Why no one Helps you Learn Japanese”