Monday, January 26, 2009

Culture Shock redux

Even after living in Japan for seven and a half years or so, little things can still surprise me. Sort of a culture aftershock, maybe? These little things are very different from the things that caused culture shock back when I first came, though.

Like spending an hour in conversation (in Japanese) with about ten people in a coffee shop, without a net (i.e. sans dictionary).

And after that, stopping at a bookstore on the way home to pick up the latest issue of アフタヌーン and reading through this month's chapter of ああっ女神さまっ (Ah! My Goddess), again without dictionary. (I'm gonna have to go through it again with the dictionary in hand, just to check, though.)

And, while at the bookstore, seeing at least four different collections of the speeches of Barack Obama, one or two with a CD, one with DVD, made for the purpose of helping people study English. (I've seen at least two or three different translations of "Yes We Can." 私たちは出来る? 我々は出来るはと?)

This isn't the first time all that "sans dictionary" stuff has happened to me before...but it's been a while since I've had opportunity to try, what with working nights and all. I'm pretty glad I can still do it, though I've gotten a little rusty. Alas, time to hit the books again.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

New vocabulary

Just came across a disturbing (to me) new concept on Music Station tonight.

On the internet, in places like the 'chans (don't don't wanna know), they have a derogatory term for Americans who wanna be Japanese -- Wapanese. You may already know the type. They consider themselves well versed in Japanese culture and language based solely on, say, the viewing of a small sampling of anime and/or manga, they...well, that's enough, isn't it?

On Music Station (a late-night pop music show, mixing song rankings, live performances and interviews), they just showed a story on an American, Kevin Kmetz, who has become expert on the shamisen (Japanese three-stringed lute). He has released albums with his band, God of Shamisen. They played several clips of his playing, and he's really good, having won honors at several Japanese shamisen festivals.

How did they refer to this guy on Japanese TV?


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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Future

Andy Dufresne: "You need it so you don't forget."
Red: "Forget?"
Andy: "Forget that... there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside... that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours."
Red: "What're you talking about?"
Andy: "Hope."

Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Angela Aki: 手紙〜拝啓 十五の君へ〜 (revised)

One of my favorite musicians, Angela Aki, appeared on NHK's Kohaku Uta Gassen for the third time this past New Year's Eve. The song she sang, 手紙〜拝啓 十五の君へ〜 (letter to your 15 year old self), was first released in September of last year, becoming her biggest hit and the theme song to the latest season of みんなのうた, as well as the image song for the 75th Annual Nationwide School Singing Contest, shown on NHK.

I happen to like this song a lot. As some of you may know, last year was...not the easiest for me, and many times I found myself seeking comfort in music.* This song's lyrics seemed rather meaningful, in my opinion.

EDIT: After it was first posted, I ran this translation by my friend Jamie, who's much better at this kind of thing than I am. She very kindly took the time to correct my more egregious errors, and offer a lot of good suggestions. Thanks, Jamie! (You can check out her LiveJournal here.) Anyway, the corrected version follows. Original version will be in the comments. Also, this probably won't be the final revision, either.

My amateurish translation of the song:

To you reading this letter, wherever you are, whatever you're doing
The fifteen-year-old-me has a source of sorrow that I can't tell anyone about
Since I address this letter to the future me
Surely you will understand exactly how I feel

Now I am about to lose, I am close to tears, it seems I am fading away
As I go forward, whose words can I believe in?

I have only one heart, and it's been broken many times over
Living for today is living in pain
Living for today

To you, thank you; I have something I want to tell the 15-year-old you
If you ask yourself which way you should turn, you will eventually understand:
The seas of a stormy youth are harsh
But we go forward on a ship of dreams to the shores of tomorrow

Now, don't give up, don't cry, when it seems it's time to fade away
You can believe in your own voice as you go forward

The adult me has also had sleepless nights from pain
Living for today is bitter, yet sweet

Your whole life has meaning, don't be afraid of dreaming big
Keep on believing

I am about to lose, I am close to tears, it seems that I'm fading away
As I go forward, whose words can I believe in?

Ah, don't give up, don't cry, though it seems it's time to fade away
You can believe in your own voice as you go forward

You can't avoid sadness, whatever age you are
So show your smiling face, and go on living for today
Live for today

To you reading this letter
I hope for happy things for you.

(Thanks again to Jamie for the help; any remaining mistakes are mine, of course)

*Other sources of comfort: food, movies, This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

McDonald's Japan tries their hand at viral marketing

Well, McDonald's Japan is looking to introduce a new kind of hamburger in 2009. In order to create some buzz about it, they opened up two special stores in November of 2008. These stores, in Omotesando and Shibuya, were decorated solely in black and red, with tasteful trendy furniture (sofas, even!) and absolutely no McDonald's logos anywhere. The menu consisted of two value sets; A single or a double burger, fries and either Coke or coffee.

What is this newfangled special burger?

More info here.
Pictures can be seen here.

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