Learning Japanese by singing along

| May 25, 2014

Learning Japanese by singing along

Several years before I was taught to read and sing the traditional song 「さくら、さくら」(“Sakura, sakura“) in introductory Japanese class, I recall driving my father’s 1963 Ford Galaxie and humming along to the melody of Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki Song,” broadcast over WFAY AM radio in ...

Avoiding the crowds during Golden Week

| May 3, 2014

Avoiding the crowds during Golden Week

Let’s be sensible: During Golden Week, why on earth would any sane person choose to drive to a destination on the expressway only to spend a good part of their holiday ensnared in a 35-km-long traffic jam? Doing their part to ease the congestion, ...

Flipping kanji around for new meanings

| Apr 27, 2014

Flipping kanji around for new meanings

A number of Japanese compound words can be used to form other words when the order of their kanji is reversed. Take 平和 (heiwa, peace) for example, which can be reversed to read 和平 (wahei, which also means peace, but with a slightly different ...

The media get ready for open season on Tanaka

| Apr 19, 2014

The media get ready for open season on Tanaka

“In the Spring,” wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his famous poem “Locksley Hall,” “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” In Japan, men’s springtime fancies are equally likely to turn to thoughts of baseball. And if the frequency of articles about ...

The curious tale of the man who slapped Tojo

Apr 12, 2014

The curious tale of the man who slapped Tojo

On May 3, 1946, the indictments were read at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Among the defendants was a gangly, bespectacled, 59-year-old civilian named Shumei Okawa, who happened to be seated directly behind the former prime minister, army Gen. Hideki Tojo.

Taking a walk down felony lane

| Apr 5, 2014

Taking a walk down felony lane

As part of the commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the Metropolitan Police Department, monthly magazine Bungei Shunju polled some 50,000 active-duty policemen on the 100 most significant crimes, incidents and disasters since 1874. The magazine received approximately 45,000 responses, and published the results ...

Good and bad, for better or worse

| Mar 16, 2014

Good and bad, for better or worse

One approach to acquiring new vocabulary that I’ve always found effective is to seek out the 反対語 (hantai-go, antonyms) of words. To prove my point, how about looking at words that relate to “good” and “bad,” which are about as opposite as you can ...

Portrait of the assassin as a young man

Mar 15, 2014

Portrait of the assassin as a young man

Sometime in the 1970s, as more Americans began to rally against the Vietnam War, an unknown cynic parodied the U.S. Army’s promotional recruitment tagline with the slogan, “Join the Army! Travel to unusual places. Meet interesting people, and kill them.” The killing part, at ...