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Peter Backhaus

For Peter Backhaus's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

The sounds of everyday Japanese life

| Mar 30, 2014

The sounds of everyday Japanese life

Living in Japan can be quite a noisy experience. Even in my quiet little neighborhood, rarely a day passes without a great variety of sounds being heard. Four days a week the garbage truck fills the air with its most peculiar orugōru (オルゴール, music ...

Getting all mixed up with mixed kanji readings

| Mar 2, 2014

Getting all mixed up with mixed kanji readings

Gyūdon (牛丼, beef-over-rice bowl) and tonjiru (豚汁, miso soup with pork and vegetables) have much in common. Not only are they a nice combo for a quick lunch (and that it’s almost noon while I’m writing this), but on closer inspection both terms also ...

It's never too early to start <I>juken</I>

| Feb 2, 2014

It's never too early to start juken

It’s that time of year again, when hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be high school graduates are busy taking university entrance exams for the coming academic year. This activity is commonly known as juken (受験), and usually translated into English as “taking an examination.” The ...

So much for <I>nau: </I>What will we say next?

| Dec 29, 2013

So much for nau: What will we say next?

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on what is, was and will be. With regard to language, one of the most stimulating things I have recently read in this respect was from an article in the journal Nihongogaku ...

Hyper, mega, ultra: talking in superlatives

| Jul 28, 2013

Hyper, mega, ultra: talking in superlatives

One of the ultra-fascinating facets of Japanese is its super-large arsenal of intensifying prefixes that provide an otherwise neutral expression with some emphatic edge. The best-known (and least spectacular) of them is dai (大), which usually translates as “big.” When something went really well, ...

Even language has winners and losers

| Dec 31, 2012

Even language has winners and losers

If there’s one thing to be sure of in Japan these days, it’s that by the end of the year you will have a prime minister different from the one you started out with. This year was the sixth year in succession to follow ...

Politicians may <em>ru</em> the day their names became verbs

| Oct 22, 2012

Politicians may ru the day their names became verbs

“Which new words would you like to see added to the dictionary?” A couple of months ago the publishing house Taishukan put this generous question to Japanese high school and junior high school students. The students, among other oddities, suggested the terms nodaru (野田る), ...