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

| Feb 2, 2014

It's never too early to start juken

by Peter Backhaus

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 ...

Healing words for a hospital stay

| Jan 26, 2014

Healing words for a hospital stay

by Wes Lang

One morning, you wake up feeling kibun ga warui (気分が悪い, under the weather) and slightly darui (怠い, lethargic). Rising out of bed, you take two steps forward when the world goes dark and you taoreru (倒れる, pass out). In a panic, your roommate calls ...

Marketers succeed by generating <I>hitto</I> products

| Jan 19, 2014

Marketers succeed by generating hitto products

by Mark Schreiber

Japanese consumers and marketers alike certainly love their ヒット商品 (hitto shōhin, hit products). To understand how this term came about, we need to look back to the decade following World War II. When living standards gradually began to improve from the early 1950s, Japanese ...

Impress your hosts with <I>osechi</I> meanings

| Jan 5, 2014

Impress your hosts with osechi meanings

by Minoru Matsutani

Shōgatsu (正月, New Year) is the time when most Japanese carry out certain religious rituals, though many of them may not realize what they do has religious significance. The ancient Japanese believed that toshigami-sama (年神様, year god) visited them in the shōgatsu period and ...

| Dec 22, 2013

This year's buzzwords show how Japanese is evolving

by Mark Schreiber

Last month I shelled out ¥2,980 for my 2014 edition of 現代用語の基礎知識 (“Gendai Yogo no Kiso Chishiki”, “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words”). It’s a 1,660-page monster that’s well worth the outlay, and this year publisher Jiyu Kokumin-sha, as an extra bonus, included a 74-page booklet ...

December: A last tango with soba

| Dec 15, 2013

December: A last tango with soba

by Kaori Shoji

Some men go out to buy that flaming red sportscar. Others embark on a messy but absorbing divorce process. Then there is of course, nirvana: the gorufujō (ゴルフ場, golf course). But in Japan, when men hit a certain age they have another option to ...

Some illuminations on the red lantern

| Dec 1, 2013

Some illuminations on the red lantern

by Minoru Matsutani

Last month, the chōchin (提灯, a Japanese traditional lantern) at Kaminarimon (雷門, the gate of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, in Tokyo’s Taito Ward) was replaced with a new one, the first time it has been renewed since 2003. The Kaminarimon chōchin is 3.9 meters ...