Japanese

Pre New Year’s Resolution

My resolution for the start of the new decade is to improve my Japanese. The husband suggested keeping a daily diary in a notebook, that bound thing full of paper. Which he will correct later. So we went to Family Mart and bought an adorable 100 yen Muji notebook.

Here’s my first sentence, timed for tomorrow night’s bounenkai with Green Eyed Geisha:

はい。ホストクラブでだまされないようにする。

(As preparation for the long anticipated trip to the heart of male vanity, I have been watching Suddenly Last Summer on Youtube. GEG, out of kimono, will be my Liz Taylor. I hope that our elaborately coiffed hosts do not consume me like the cannibals who “devoured” Liz’s cousin. Liz is not only gorgeous, but this role foreshadows her real life career as beard to Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, and Malcolm Forbes. Katherine Hepburn plays the perfectly in denial mother, and Liz truly “chews the drapes.”)

Wishes at major shrine

Wishes at major shrine

Visiting a major shrine in Tokyo, I decided to stop and read some of the wishes written on wooden placards. I had thought they would all be about love and world peace. Of course, many are, but some are hilarious. Not sure if it’s bad to read others’ wishes, but they are public and I could not help myself.

Wishes at major shrine

Here are some of the best ones in English. Above: “I want a BMW 3 Series with real leather seats and a Bose sounds system and a GPS nav. system with a cute Japanese girl voice and seat warmers so my butt stays warm in the winter.”

Wishes at major shrine

“Simon has clear direction in his life and is determined to be + stay debt free with a house that owns . . . . He understands that it is all down to him– go for it tree!!!”

Wishes at major shrine

“Wish my daughter Linting (?) come to her senses + break away from Dario completely and never see him again. Wish good health, safe . . . Heal me + let me live a long healthy happy life.”

Below is what all the cards called ema in Japanese look like underneath the giant tree.

Wishes at major shrine

More wish cards after the jump.

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Google Translate is horrible!

Mount Fuji, Hiroshige

My father-in-law and some friends climbed Mount Fuji last night. Recently a few hikers have died, and I heard the weather last night was poor. Fortunately, Docomo allows constant contact. Unfortunately, I used Google Translate to interpret my mother-in-law’s text message. Google Translate is incredibly BAD.

I have caused you worry. It arrived safely to the summit of Mount Fuji now. I’m fine with everyone safe. M**K* only start in the rain, climbed last year, this year, left the car and stop it. I’ll bet I can run in the car. When the rain started just after the long-GO来光in the clouds, so you could not see shit! To prepare future, they are likely to go down a mountain. Please be assured. Also Contact. Worry a lot, thank you. Everyone頑張RIMASHITA good! Thank you, mother –

Maybe Google Translate just wants to encourage me to learn Japanese faster and rely less on their service?

日本語はちょっと難しい、ね

Fancy shoes

It’s easy to make hideous mistakes when you are learning Japanese. Switch a vowel or add an extra syllable and you’re innocent remark has quickly turned unseemly. Here’s two examples.

A few months back, my sister-in-law, who loves shoes, was visiting. The expression on her face made it clear that what I thought was a complement had come out terribly wrong.

「けつはきれいです」 Ketsu wa kirei desu.

What I meant to say was, “I like your shoes.” 「靴はきれいです」Kutsu wa kirei desu. Unfortunately, ketsu means “ass.”

Another time, finishing ceramics class,  I cheerfully told my father-in-law, 「お触りました」Osawarimashita.

What I meant to say was, “I am done.” 「終わりました」Owarimashita. Both in-laws and my husband stared at me, and I realized I did it again. Fortunately, father-in-law has a sense of humor, and demonstrated “osawarimashita” (“touch” or “grope,” made strangely formal by the addition of “o”) by pinching my ass.

As I stumble my way learning Japanese, I am fortunate to have such a welcoming (and forgiving) family.

Nakano Broadway

Nakano Broadway

Ah, Nakano Broadway! You have your own mascot Pipi, just like the Police, the Post Office, and every other institution in this lucky nation. While your showing your age, more or less the same as this author’s, your low-ceilings, lack of windows, and hundreds of tiny shops catering to local, national and international otaku (nerds) make me happy to call Nakano home. You never fail to provide an abundance of shopping, from boy-band memoriabilia to fujoshi comics, costume shops, and the home-roasted coffee from the always immaculate sisters. And the crowds you attract make me feel down right understated.

Do you have any new year’s resolutions? My number 1 resolution is to get fat. I’m also trying to improve my Japanese, learn some more about ceramics, and explore the many charms of Nakano.

Strange visitors in Kyoto

Uncle and neices at Kinkakuji

One of the pleasure of travel is not only the sites but seeing the other site-seers. In Kyoto, I could not resist taking photos of these two spectacles that nearly over-shadowed the historic sites.

Above at Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion made famous in the West by Mishima, my mother and I spotted this “uncle and neices” three-some. The unusually warm weather in December does not sufficiently explain the brevity of these skirts. My husband charitably claims that three-piece-suited gentleman could be the young ladies’ relative, although I suspect most ojisan in Japan or elsewhere would not enjoy escorting their siblings’ children in these outfits. On the other hand, if they are not relatives, what an odd choice of date location, no?

Below at Katsura Villa, this over-sized personality demanded the attentions and photo-capturing assistance of fellow tourists, tour guide, and even the gardeners. So demanding that we witnessed some fellow tour-goers loudly “excusing” themselves for getting in her way, and much eye-rolling from the Japanese tourists. I wonder if she used to be a show-girl. I was certainly captivated.

Former showgirl at Katsura Villa

“We’re both Japanese, let’s play it a little vague.”

Junjou Romantica "We're both Japanese, let's play it a little vague."

I am loving season two of Junjou Romantica. The characters’ passion, denial and misunderstandings continue to be “innocently romantic.” I love Misaki’s protest to his lover: “What’s the big deal. We’re both Japanese, let’s play it a little vague.”

Can denial make desire more passionate?

Junjou Romantica

Somehow this anime makes behavior that would seem stalker-like in other contexts seem sweetly romantic.

Junjou Romantica

The screenshots are great, but the voice actors are also super-talented. The younger Misaki is excitable, quick to anger, and innocent. The older Usagi is deep-voiced, authoritative, and passionate.

Quick trip to Taipei

Din Tai Fung window

I made a 44 hour trip to Taipei this week: the visit focused on eating, buildings and streets, contemporary art, and botany. The trip started at famous Din Tai Fung, with soup dumplings, hot and sour soup, shrimp and pork dumplings, and pea shoots. The place was mobbed, with many Japanese tourists.

Din Tai Fung soup dumpling

Other food highlights was the Japanese style onsen at Villa 32 in the northern suburbs, with indoor and outdoor hot spring pools and a delicious Italian restaurant. I took the combo public bath and lunch special, which was very relaxing and a chance to see the local upper class in action.

Villa 32 restaurant and onsen

Other culinary treats include beef noodle soup, pork chop noodle soup, Mister Donut (imported from Japan). I was amazed at how international Taiwan is, including my “Norwegian-style” budget chic Hotel Dandy.

Walking around Taipei, it’s striking just how many scooters fill the streets and sidewalks.

Taipei scooter traffic

They also occupy a majority of the sidewalks.

Taipei scooters on sidewalk

Vernacular architecture includes vertical commercial buildings and aging concrete, including this sublime corner building in a wave shape:

Vernacular Taipei architecture

The wonderfully tropical weather was a great change from fall in Tokyo. It also seemed in many places that the jungle would soon re-occupy the city without constant human vigilance.

Jungle reclaims Taipei building

Of course, I also saw and entered some spectacular buildings, including the Spot, formerly the American ambassador’s residence and now an art theater, bookstore and super-chic cafe. Also the 300 year old Longshan temple, full of worshipers, offerings, incense and candles.

Longshan temple in Taipei

And on my way back to the airport, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art and saw its show of young local artists called Super-Generation. The art was fun, as were the friendly art chicken docents. One of whom described how the building was constructed by the Japanese, who were “taking care” of the Taiwanese during the first half of the 20th century. An odd choice of words to describe an occupation.

Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei

Also on my last day, I strolled through the gorgeous Botanic Garden, which includes many palm trees, and sections based on “idiom plants” and “literary plants.” Lots of older people doing qi gong exercises and school children.

Taipei botanic garden