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

| Oct 20, 2013

You may find mei mystifying

by Mark Schreiber

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 ...

| Sep 29, 2013

Good morning Miss Kita-Senju, konbanwa Japan

by Matthew Chozick

Perhaps there comes a day in many a man’s life when he squints and says to himself something like this: 「まずいなぁ、もう少し度の強いメガネがあったら良かった。この距離だと、あの方が女装している北野武さんなのか、ミス・インターナショナルなのか、分からないや」(“Mazui nā, mō sukoshi do no tsuyoi megane ga attara yokatta. Kono kyori da to, ano kata ga jyosō shiteiru Kitano Takeshi-san nanoka, Misu ...

Nadeshiko — adorable till they die

| Sep 15, 2013

Nadeshiko — adorable till they die

by Kaori Shoji

“France for food, Japan for wives.” That was basically the conclusion made by French journalist/novelist Pierre Loti, who dropped by our shores in 1885 and wrote a book about his stay called “Madame Chrysantheme.” Loti hadn’t exactly caught the Japan bug — he was ...

Smoking, now too uncool for school

| Sep 1, 2013

Smoking, now too uncool for school

by Minoru Matsutani

Kitsuen (喫煙, smoking) could become an obsolete habit in Japan in the near future, as youngsters apparently now consider smoking dasai (ダサい, uncool). A recent survey by the monkashō (文科省, an abbreviation of monbukagakushō, or the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) ...

When does one's native language stop being native?

| Aug 25, 2013

When does one's native language stop being native?

by Mark Schreiber

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 ...

Hyper, mega, ultra: talking in superlatives

| Jul 28, 2013

Hyper, mega, ultra: talking in superlatives

by Peter Backhaus

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, ...

Summer brings out the creepy crawlies

| Jul 21, 2013

Summer brings out the creepy crawlies

by Matt Alt

Now that the tsuyu (梅雨, rainy season) has ended and the dreaded heat has descended upon the city, most of us have taken refuge indoors, camped out in front of the eakon (エアコン, air-conditioning) in a desperate attempt to wick away some of summer’s ...