I suddenly realized this morning that this time a couple of years ago, I was studying at 京都精華大学 (Kyoto Seika University). I’m in the midst of reading more books for review, so I thought I would take a pleasant stroll down memory lane. When I talk about shopping, I don’t mean shopping in a mall or an arcade (though I assure you, I did plenty of that) — I’m talking about having my lunch at the college cafeteria and then rushing out to the quad. On sunny days, many students will tote about a plastic picnic blanket and spread their very gently used clothes, CDs, and other fun things. And so my friends and I would rejoice more than usual when the sun was shining. We’d stuff curry and karaage and udon in our faces quickly, and then march outside before the other students could look at the items.
Archive for April, 2012
Not until arriving in Japan did I ever consciously acknowledge the existence of a concept concerning proper escalator etiquette. Besides not raising one’s feet before the teeth of the platform, riding it via the synchronous handrail on the side, or being that goon who tries to run in the opposite direction of the automated motion, I thought anything was more or less fair game. Should someone be in another’s person’s way, a mere cordial interaction politely indicating that someone needs to step aside is all that’s needed to maintain peace in the restless black-stepped valley between floors. Well homie, the rest of the world doesn’t play that way. Especially good ol’ 日本。
Now before you pounce on me, this isn’t a post dissing the way Japanese names sound, or any part of their culture. In fact I think quite the opposite – I’ve always wanted a Japanese name and a while ago I picked one out for myself: 夜神理在 (やがみ リア). The full name means “God of the night (last name), existing in truth (first name).” The name itself sounds cool, and the meaning is pretty neat too, but how in the heck would you guess how to pronounce it?
Taxes! Repaying Virtues! Sontoku!
In spirit of Tax Day here in America, let’s learn about houtoku, or repaying virtues, from our good friend Ninomiya Sontoku (二宮 尊徳, 1787-1856). Chances are, you haven’t heard about this fascinating fellow. First and foremost, don’t associate him right away with taxes! He’s not a bad guy! In fact, he’s so amazing that he’s one of the few people who have a Shinto shrine named for them (rather than a mythical deity). Ninomiya Jinja, founded during the Meiji period in 1894, is located very close to Odawara Castle in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture.
This week in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the warm weather has managed to stand its ground against the weakening cold. It reminds me of something one ought to know about Japanese culture, that provides a little better understanding of why people here think about the natural world in the way they do. From top to bottom, Japan boasts rather steady weather cycles. The north is a bit on the cooler side, while the south stays a bit warmer with other variations here and there, but overall, the nation enjoys four distinct weather seasons that last for significant lengths. This consistent change of the weather according to the Earth’s tilt can be argued as a cornerstone of Japanese culture. So much so that many here project a level of appreciation that borders on outright pride. After being here for a full year or few, one will realize why so many people are head over heals about the luxury of enjoying four seasons.
This post is going to be a combination of a grammatical lesson and a vocabulary list. Why, you ask? Because understanding verb grammar will help you understand the difference between two types of verbs – transitive and intransitive.
“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” – The Beatles, “Norwegian Wood”
Thanks to my work schedule, today is my Monday, so to me, it’s Murakami Monday (this won’t last long, will it?)! Here’s something a little more modern for all you readers out there — Haruki Murakami’s 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood. I am not well-versed in the weirdness of Murakami’s novels. In fact, I started with 1Q84, which is probably not the best book to start with when you’re jumping into this pool. Norwegian Wood, from what I understand (seeing as I have not read the entirety of this author’s works yet), is probably a safe bet when you’re going to introduce someone to Murakami’s books. It has its own quirks, yes, but the level of said quirks is nowhere near as high as the others. This book, titled after a Beatles’ song of the same name, is seen as a coming-of-age story that deals with love and loss.
As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, most people know Japan because of its infectious pop culture, infamous inner-city nightlife, its delectable eating habits, and a sense of unity to the land and its people. There is a wonderful sense of community in most places in Japan, especially in those locations where you don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of never-ending traffic and fast food. Yes, the sense of togetherness in Japan can truly be a sight to behold. So much so, that one of the most popular activities in Japan is for people to get together, strip their clothes down to the absolutely bare nothing, and get into a hot spring. If that doesn’t scream community and togetherness, I don’t know what does.
All right. So imagine that you are of working age and have entered the Japanese workforce in some way shape or form. It doesn’t matter if you are a run of the mill office worker or juggling a number of part time gigs. As long as you like to have a drink (or too many), identifying with this post will be easy for you. When residing in the United Kingdom, you may find yourself heading toward the local pub or tavern, while making your way over to some sort of bar in the States. Well, now you will have a rough introduction to one of the most common post shift drinking experiences in Japan.
As you can see from the photo above, one of my most recent purchases was Koushun Takami’s (高見 広春) Battle Royale complete collection. Okay, so before any crazy ideas start bubbling up, this is NOT going to be a comparison of Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale. There are plenty of other resources and articles for that, especially since it’s getting out of hand. Let us gather together and see these two amazing series (which is, yes! An opinion!) for what they are. Yes, BR may have come first, but so did Theseus and the story of the Minotaur. Please fasten your seatbelts and acknowledge that many things these days are no longer “original”. All good? Crazy fans and hipsters at bay? Good. Let’s proceed.