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It’s an existential problem, in the truest sense of the word: To be or not to be, as poor Hamlet famously mused.

What the Danish prince did not know (and likely didn’t care about too much at the time) is that Japanese ways of “being” make a categorical difference between animate and inanimate objects. The verb that is used to describe the existence of people and other animals is いる (iru), while for all other matter (radishes, ideas, drinking parties) ある (aru) is used.

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