CHICAGO – I am in love with 東村アキコ (Akiko Higashimura).
She’s a manga artist and comedian, and I’ve never met her, but I know her voice from the hilarious podcast she hosts, I’ve read some of her comics about her backstory growing up in Miyazaki, and I’ve realized that falling in love is helpful, perhaps even necessary, if you want to maintain your Japanese study long term.
Love can provide the obsession and dedication that drives the 継続力 (keizoku-ryoku, ability to sustain efforts) necessary to overcome setbacks or difficulties. These obstacles sometimes aren’t even that high; reading a Japanese comic and listening to a Japanese podcast aren’t difficult tasks, but they are relatively more difficult than doing so in your native language. These microdifficulties might be keeping you away from your study.
I can attest that my love for Higashimura has helped me get past microdifficulties.
On the recommendation of a friend, I started listening to her podcast, which she co-hosts with comedian and actor 虹組キララ (Kirara Nijigumi), and I quickly found myself obsessed with her voice, her interactions with other タレント (tarento, media personalities, lit. “talent”), and even the staff laughing in the background of the recording.
The title of the podcast is “身も蓋もナイト” (“Mi mo Futa mo Naito“), a かけことば (kakekotoba, play on words) using the phrase 身も蓋もない (mi mo futa mo nai, blunt/frank) and ナイト (naito, night).
Listening week after week to a regular program is an amazing way to pick up Japanese through repetition. The podcast starts with an オープニングトーク (ōpuningu tōku, opening discussion) and wraps up with an エンディング (endingu, ending), which consist of Higashimura, Nijigumi and others talking or performing skits. The rest of the show is filled with different コーナー (kōnā, segments, lit. “corner”).
The main segment is a 相談解決番組 (sōdan kaiketsu bangumi, consultation program), in which Higashimura provides extremely blunt advice for お悩み (o-nayami, concerns) sent in by dedicated fans, which she has recently decided to punningly call オス蓋 (osubuta, male “futa” listeners/male pigs) and メス蓋 (mesubuta, female “futa” listeners/female pigs), using the “futa” in the show’s title.
The concerns vary from workplace issues to questions about relationships. Higashimura discusses them and then delivers her 身も蓋もないお言葉 (mi mo futa mo nai o-kotoba, blunt words).
For example, one listener says she has issues with coworkers: “後輩が全然言うことを聞きません” (“Kōhai ga zenzen iu koto o kikimasen,” “My junior coworkers don’t listen to me at all”).
Higashimura talks about how the listener could try to get them to follow proper work tasks, but in the end her “blunt words” blame someone else: “会社が悪い” (“Kaisha ga warui,” “The company is bad”). She goes on to explain: “ペナルティーがない会社が悪い” (“Penarutī ga nai kaisha ga warui,” “Companies without penalties are bad”). It shouldn’t be up to a single worker to get everyone on board with the company’s processes; appropriate penalties would help enforcement.
Another caller is looking for advice for his coworker “A子” (“A-ko,” lit., “child A,” but it’s a term commonly used to address someone who wishes to remain anonymous on the radio, etc. In this case it would mean “Ms. A”) who went on a 合コン (gōkon, group date): A子 liked the guy she was being set up with, but the date wasn’t a total hit, and he hasn’t asked her out privately. Higashimura declares that they have reached 凪の状態 (nagi no jōtai, a state of lull/inaction) and that “A子さんから誘うしかない” (“A-ko-san kara sasou shika nai,” “Ms. A will just have to ask him out”), either that or they have to employ some 裏工作 (urakōsaku, behind-the-scenes maneuvering) to get the guy to realize Ms. A wants to go out with him.
Many listeners clearly idolize Higashimura as I do: One wrote in to ask, “先生のような素敵な女性に成長するには何が必要ですか” (“Sensei no yō na suteki na josei ni seichō suru ni wa nani ga hitsuyō desu ka,” “What do I need to do to become an amazing woman like you?”). Her response: “習い事をしてください” (“Naraigoto o shite kudasai,” “Study something [as a hobby]”).
Higashimura says that as long as you have enough money, a successful life is about determining what to do with 余暇 (yoka, leisure time), and that it should be filled with at least some form of 教養 (kyōyō, cultivation/culture): “教養あるジャンルをつけないと、どうしようもねえただつまらんおばさんになりますよ” (“Kyōyō aru janru o tsukenai to, dōshiyō mo nē tada tsumaran obasan ni narimasu yo,” “If you don’t add something with culture [to your life], you’ll end up a boring, helpless old lady”).
Hilarious and helpful advice like this is what helped me fall in love and eventually made me want to explore Higashimura’s manga.
I’ve started with her autobiographical “かくかくしかじか” (“Kakukaku Shikajika,” “Blah-blah-blah”) about her growth into an artist, which I’m still working on. My love helps me get through the pages, makes me eager for each new episode, and excited for my next trip to Bookoff when I can load up on cheap used copies of her other works.
The best thing about this kind of language study love? Polyamory is not only accepted, it’s encouraged.