Learning to revel in the odd with the Ig Nobel

| Nov 9, 2013

Learning to revel in the odd with the Ig Nobel

“I noticed there was a suspicious-looking email in my in box with the subject ‘Ig Nobel’ and ‘Congratulations.’ At first I thought it was some kind of spam. I was going to disregard it, but then I recalled the famous Ig Nobel awards,” relates ...

Taking count of the sufficiency of Japanese suffixes

| Oct 27, 2013

Taking count of the sufficiency of Japanese suffixes

One of the first things new learners of Japanese must struggle with is the amazing variety of classifiers for numbers. When counting books, for instance, the number is followed by 冊 (satsu, volumes, as in issatsu, nisatsu etc.); for thin, elongated objects such as ...

You may find <em>mei</em> mystifying

| Oct 20, 2013

You may find mei mystifying

It’s almost Halloween again, so before I set out my カボチャ提灯 (kabocha chōchin, jack-o’-lantern), I thought the time is right to take up the topic of 迷信 (meishin, superstition). The first character is 迷, meaning lost or puzzled, made by combining the phonetic 米 ...

Tabloids brimming with anti-Korea diatribes

| Oct 12, 2013

Tabloids brimming with anti-Korea diatribes

For 11 consecutive days from the start of this month, every front page of the Yukan Fuji, a nationally circulated evening tabloid published by the Sankei Shimbun, was embellished with at least one negative reference to South Korea. Some headline excerpts: “S. Korea blasts ...

Amateur sleuths pursue callous California killers

Sep 21, 2013

Amateur sleuths pursue callous California killers

In “You Only Live Twice” (1964), the 12th in Ian Fleming’s series of James Bond novels, a perplexed Tiger Tanaka, MI5’s Japanese secret police liaison, informs 007 he was unaware that ninjas still existed. JAPANTOWN, by Barry Lancet. Simon and Schuster, 2013, 416 pp., ...

What's the real story behind 'Emperor'?

| Sep 7, 2013

What's the real story behind 'Emperor'?

“Emperor,” a film directed by Peter Webber that takes up the subject of Emperor Showa and the postwar occupation period, has been showing at local theaters since July. The film’s protagonist is Gen. Bonner Frank Fellers, who served as a subordinate to Supreme Commander ...

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 ...