When does one's native language stop being native?

| Aug 25, 2013

When does one's native language stop being native?

A 71-year-old man in Gifu Prefecture made headlines recently when he attempted to initiate a lawsuit against broadcaster NHK. Through its excessive use of foreign derived words, the man claimed, NHK had caused him 精神的苦痛 (seishinteki kutsū, psychological pain). He demanded ¥1.41 million in ...

| Aug 24, 2013

Chilling tales are tops when trying to beat the heat

Perhaps stemming from the belief that hearing a scary story will send a chill down the spine and provide welcome relief from the summer heat, August is Japan’s favorite season for traditional tales of horror. At local festivals and in theme parks, the obake ...

Shock-and-awe art fills festival streets with fun

| Aug 17, 2013

Shock-and-awe art fills festival streets with fun

“Are you tourist?” asked the man seated beside me on the early afternoon flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Kochi in Shikoku. He spoke in hesitant English. “Not exactly. I’m on my way to cover the Ekin Matsuri,” I replied in Japanese. “Ah, Ekin. ...

'Haiku killings' recall infamous horror story

| Aug 10, 2013

'Haiku killings' recall infamous horror story

Mitake, a tiny mountain hamlet located in eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture, is administrated as part of the city of Shunan (pop. 150,000). The area is so remote, cell phones don’t always receive signals there. On the night of July 21, according to news reports, two ...

| Jul 27, 2013

Tight budgets, food safety and eel inflation

The future promise of Abenomics notwithstanding, Japan’s white-collar office workers are still being squeezed in terms of their discretionary spending. Results of the annual survey of salaryman kozukai (allowance), released June 28 by Shinsei Bank, noted that this year the average monthly spending money ...

Two alluring mysteries set in China

Jul 20, 2013

Two alluring mysteries set in China

Qiu Xiaolong’s police procedural novels, featuring Shanghai police inspector Chen Cao, have gradually shifted from the earlier themes dealing with the deep wounds left by the insanity of the 1960s’ Cultural Revolution, and have more recently focused on social issues more relevant to present-day ...

<em>Furigana</em>: read the fine print, decode the hidden meanings

| Jul 14, 2013

Furigana: read the fine print, decode the hidden meanings

Years ago, a colleague at a company where I worked had a surname written using a character so obscure, that when handing out his business card he used to joke apologetically, 名前の漢字、ほとんど誰も読めない (namae no kanji, hotondo dare mo yomenai, hardly anybody can read the ...

'Black' business tales cast shadow on candidate

| Jul 13, 2013

'Black' business tales cast shadow on candidate

Elections for the House of Councillors will be held a week from today. The election is being billed as historic in that candidates are permitted to appeal to voters via the Internet. To the near-exclusion of the other 120 seats in contention, however, the ...

| Jun 23, 2013

'Hate speech' in the media, but not the legal code

This writer, on previous occasions, has expressed irritation over the recent tendency for the vernacular media to rely heavily on English borrowings for neologisms with socially negative connotations, such as sexual harassment, stalking and domestic violence — to name three examples. As a case ...