Law and Language in Japan
26 Oct

Violist Nicholas Cords likes his Japanese soba noodles on the quiet side.

On public radio today, there was a segment on a woman who went to Japan to learn the craft of soba-making, only to return to the United States to find it difficult to locate suitable soba wheat.  In explaining the ideal soba, she used the term "nodogoshi" which is the noun form of "smooth-tasting."  It is usually used to describe beer, and Kirin has used it extensively in advertising.

喉越し【のどごし】 (n) (often of beer) feeling of food or drink going down one's throat; drinkability; the quality of being smooth-tasting

喉越しの良い【のどごしのいい】 (exp,adj-i) (esp. of beer) going down smoothly; tasting good going down; smooth-tasting

Radio Segment:

7 May

For Golden Week, I took a trip to Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, & Kyoto w/ a friend visiting from the United States. While we were in Takayama, Laura & I stopped in a nice restaurant recommended by one of the locals. At one point, my friend wanted a taste of my apple cider drink. It was kind of frothy, so I stirred it a bit, and then took the long spoon out of the drink so it wouldn't poke her in the eye.

Apparently, I didn't stir it enough because she proceeded to use the opposite end of her used chopstick to stir the drink, rather than ask me for the long spoon. My first reaction was to shout something like ***GAAAAAH***, then I sputtered something like "what are you doing?!? the spoon is right here! don't use your chopsticks for something like that...they're practically sacred!!" She didn't seem particularly fazed by it, and made it seem like I overreacted.

Well, maybe I did overreact, but it was a good exuse for me to do a little research into the terms used to describe the ways one can violate chopstick etiquette in Japan. If you ever commit a violation, it's good to know a few of these to have a conversation about chopstick-etiquette; my Japanese co-workers seemed to like trying to remember as many as they could.

Here are the ones I could find. I put a star next to the ones that seem to be the most common or at least widely recognized terms. (It seems that no one had even contemplated my friend's particular violation, so maybe I should invent a new one: 混ぜ箸 maze-bashi ("stirring chopsticks"). Otherwise, it's probably a combination of (3), (5) and (13).)

*(1) 迷い箸(惑い端) mayoi-bashi ("wavering chopsticks")
being indecisive about bringing food to one's mouth, that is, moving the tips of one's chopsticks over different plates before deciding which to choose

(2) 移り箸 utsuri-bashi ("transfering-chopsticks")
in spite of having touched food with one's chopsticks, changing one's mind and moving the chopsticks toward another dish.
also defined as: helping oneself to two side dishes successively (instead of eating rice in between)

(3) 涙箸 namida-bashi ("teardrop-chopsticks")
dripping liquid (soup, sauce, etc.) from the tips of one's chopsticks

*(4) 突き箸 tsuki-bashi or 刺し箸 sashi-bashi ("penetration/stabbing-chopsticks")
stabbing food with one's chopsticks

*(5) 探り箸 saguri-bashi ("searching-chopsticks")
using one's chopsticks to find a food one likes by rummaging in one's dish, pot, etc.

(6) 寄せ箸 yose-bashi ("drawing near-chopsticks")
using one's chopsticks to draw a bowl closer

(7) 空箸 sora-bashi ("empty-chopsticks")
touching food with one's chopsticks, then removing the chopsticks without having taken the food

(8) 重ね箸 kasane-bashi ("pile-chopsticks")
continuing to eat the same dish, i.e., not alternating between types of dishes

(9) 椀ぎ箸 mogi-bashi ("tearing off-chopsticks")
using chopsticks to tear food away from one's mouth

(10) 持ち箸 mochi-bashi ("holding-chopsticks")
taking hold of something (e.g., a bowl) while simultaneously holding one's chopsticks

*(11) 指し箸 sashi-bashi ("pointing-chopsticks")
pointing at something with one's chopsticks

*(12) 渡し箸 watashi-bashi ("traversing-chopsticks")
resting one's chopsticks across the top of one's bowl, like a bridge

(13) 洗い箸 arai-bashi ("washing-chopsticks")
sticking one's chopsticks into broth, etc., to clean them off

*(14) 舐り箸 neburi-bashi ("licking-chopsticks")
licking one's chopsticks

(15) 噛み箸 kami-bashi ("biting-chopsticks")
biting one's chopsticks

(16) 掻き箸 kaki-bashi ("scooping-chopsticks")
shoveling food into one's mouth
(17) 握り箸 nigiri-bashi ("grasping-chopsticks")holding two sticks together as one would grasp a knife to attack *(18) 仏箸Hotoke-bashi ("Buddha-chopsticks")
standing chopsticks up in a ricebowl (resembling joss sticks) *(19) 箸渡しhashi-watashi ("chopstick-transfer")transfering food to another person's chopsticks (apparently, the action is frowned upon because it resembles the rite of transfering a deceased family member's bones. Fair enough!)>>NB: Not to be confused with 橋渡し 【はしわたし】 (n,vs) bridge building; mediation; intermediary; through the good offices of, etc. Phew! That's a lot to remember! Did I miss any?
4 May
I was at a kaiten-sushi the other day and a friend visiting from NY asked what the "kappa" was in "kappa-maki" so I told her that the river imp in Japanese folklore, the kappa, likes to eat cucumber, which is the main ingredient in a kappa-maki.

However, I couldn't answer her question about the tekka-maki. I looked up tekka and the dictionary only had "red hot iron" so the etymology wasn't clear to me. I looked it up on wikipedia and here is the entry:

"Tekkamaki (鉄火巻き) is a kind of Hosomaki filled with raw tuna. Although some believe that the name "Tekka", meaning 'red hot iron', alludes to the color of the tuna flesh, it actually originated as a quick snack to eat in gambling dens called "Tekkaba (鉄火場)", much like the sandwich."

13 Apr
I saw a post on an English-language blog recently about how the the Tokyo Bureau of Sewerage spent a lot of cash to reorder badges after accidentally ordering ones that didn’t comply with its design manual, even though they were the same except for a blue swoosh under the kanji.

The article in Mainichi states that "Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara blasted the bureau's "moronic perfectionism," saying that the two managers who approved the design in the first place had been reprimanded." So I was wondering what the original phrase for "moronic perfectionism" is in Japanese.

Here it is in the headline: "kudaranee kanzen-shugi" (I like the yakuza-inflected "nee" ending instead of "nai"? I wonder if the Governor actually said it that way...). Here's the full headline:

東京都下水道局:内規違反とワッペン変更に3400万円 知事「くだらねえ完全主義」

東京都下水道局 【とうきょうと げすいどう きょく】 (n) Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Sewerage
内規 【ないき】 internal rules/regulations
違反 【いはん】 violation (of law)
ワッペン (n) badge (from German: Wappen!)
変更 【へんこう】 to change, modify

I'm so glad I happened upon that word "wappen" from German origin. Good excuse to create a new list: Japanese Words of German or Dutch Origin. Much more fun than doing my taxes.

I'm going to leave out the obscure ones and focus on the interesting ones. There are a lot of medical, scientific, musical and sports-related terms.

エタン (n) ethane (ger: A"than)
エタノール (n) ethanol (ger: A"thanol)
エチル (n) ethyl (ger: A"thyl)]
エチルアルコール (n) ethanol (ger: A"thylalkohol); ethyl alcohol
アーベント (n) evening (ger: Abend)
プザイレン (n,vs) abseiling (ger: Abseilen); lowering on a rope
アレルギー (n,adj-no) allergy (ger: Allergie)
アルペンスキー (n) Alpine skiing (ger: Alpenski)
ンザイレン (n,vs) roping oneself up (ger: Anseilen)
アントロポロギー (n) anthropology (ger: Anthropologie)
アンチモニー; アンチモン (n,adj-no) antimony (Sb) (ger: Antimon)
アンチノミー (n) antinomy (ger: Antinomie)
アンチテーゼ (n) antithesis (ger: Antithese)
アーレ (n) measure of area (ger: Ar)
バイト (n,vs) (1) (See アルバイト) (abbr) work (esp. part time or casual) (ger: Arbeit)
アルバイト (n,vs) (1) (See パートタイム, パート) part-time job (ger: Arbeit); side job
アスピリン (n) aspirin (ger: Aspirin)
アテローム (n) atheroma (ger: atherom)
アトニー (n) (physiological) atony (ger: Atonie)
アウフヘーベン (n) lift (ger: aufheben); pick up
アウタルキー (n) autarchy (ger: Autarkie)
アウトバーン (n) highway (ger: Autobahn)
バチルス (n,adj-no) bacillus (ger: Bazillus)
ベンジン (n) gasoline (ger: Benzin); petrol
ベンゾール (n) benzene (ger: Benzol); benzole
ベルグ (n) mountain (ger: Berg)
ベルクシュルント (n) bergschrund (crevasse near the head of a glacier) (ger: Bergschrund)
ビンディング (n) foot fastening (ski) (ger: Bindung); binding
ビオトープ (n) biotope (ger: Biotop)
ビバーク (n,vs) bivouac (fre: bivouac, ger: Biwak)
ボーゲン (n) bow (in skiing) (ger: Bogen)
ボンベ (n) compressed gas cylinder (ger: Bombe)
ビューゲル (n) type of power contact on the top of electric trains (ger: Bugel); bow collector
ブンド (n) bond (ger: Bund)
カリスマ (n,adj-f) (1) charisma (ger: Charisma); (2) divinely conferred power or talent; (3) charismatic person
コールユーブンゲン (n) choir exercises (ger: Choruebungen)
クロム(P); クローム (n) chromium (Cr) (ger: Chrom, fre: chrome)
シトクロム; チトクロム (n) cytochrome (ger: Cytochrom)
デモーニッシュ (adj-na,n) devilish (ger: daemonisch)
ゼッケン (n) cloth bib with number or logo worn by athletes, etc. (e.g. over their shirts) (ger: Decken)
デリカテセン; デリカテッセン (n) delicatessen (ger: Delikatessen)
デマゴーグ (n) demagogue (ger: Demagog)
デマゴギー (n) demagogue (ger: Demagogie)
ジアスターゼ (n) diastase (ger: Diastase)
アンジッヒ (n) (See 即自) thing in itself (philosophy) (ger: Ding an sich)
ジオプトリー; ジオプタ (n) diopter (optical unit of refraction in lenses) (ger: Dioptrie)
ドーラン (n) greasepaint (ger: Dohran)
ドクター(P); ドクトル (n) doctor (dut: doctor, ger: Doktor)
ドリーネ; ドリネ (n) doline (sinkhole, in karst topography) (ger: Doline)
ラマツルギー (n) dramaturgy (ger: Dramaturgie)
エーデルワイス (n) alpine flower (ger: Edelweiss)
アイス (n) (1) ice (eng: ice, ger: Eis); (2) (See アイスクリーム) (abbr) ice cream; icecream
アイスバーン (n) ice skating place (ger: Eisbahn)
アイゼン (n) metal pins of climbing shoes (ger: Eisen); crampons; climbing irons
イスハーケン (n) ice piton (ger: Eishaken); ice screw
エネルギー (n) (See エナジー) energy (ger: Energie)
エネルギッシュ (adj-na) energetic (ger: Energisch)
エピゴーネン (n) epigone (ger: Epigonen)
リテマトーデス (n) (See 狼瘡) lupus erythematosus (esp. systemic lupus erythematosus) (ger: Erythematodes)
ッセン (n) meal (ger: Essen)
エトワス (exp) somewhat (ger: etwas)
イタナシー (n) euthanasia (ger: Euthanasie)
ユータナージー (n) euthanasia (ger: Euthanasie)
フロイライン (n) miss (ger: Fraeulein)
フラウ (n) woman (ger: Frau)
フューラー (n) fuhrer (ger: Fuhrer); fuehrer; leader
ガスボンベ (n) gas bomb (ger: Gasbombe);
ガストアルバイター (n) foreign worker (ger: Gastarbeiter)
ガーゼ (n) gauze (ger: Gaze)
ゲシュタポ (n) Gestapo (ger: Geheime Staatspolizei);
ガイスト (n) spirit (ger: Geist)
ゲル (n) (1) (See ゲルト) gel (ger: Gel); (2) money (ger: Geld);
ゲレンデ (n) ski slope (ger: Gelaende)
ゲルト (n) money (ger: Geld)
ゲルピン (n) (abbr) money-shortage crisis (ger: Geld, eng: pinch)
ゲン (n) gene (ger: Gen)
ゲネプロ (n) costume rehearsal (ger: Generalprobe)
ゲノム (n) genome (ger: Genom)
ゲバルト (n) (political) violence (ger: Gewalt); violent tactics used by political radicals
ギプス(P); ギブス (n) (1) gypsum (ger: Gips); plaster-of-paris; (2) plaster cast; cast
グーテンモルゲン (exp) good morning (ger: Guten Morgen)
ハーケン (n) (1) piton (metal support peg used when climbing) (ger: Haken); (2) hook
ハーケンクロイツ (n) (See 卍) swastika (45-degree clockwise swastika used by the Nazi party) (ger: Hakenkreuz)
ハルツ (n) resin (ger: Harz)
ヘゲモニー (n) hegemony (ger: Hegemonie)
ハイル (exp) Live Long! (ger: Heil)
ハイム (n) home (ger: Heim)
ハイマート (n) homeland (ger: Heimat)
ハイラート (n) marriage (ger: Heirat)
ハイラーテン (n) to marry (ger: heiraten)
ヘル (n) (1) hell; (2) Mr (ger: Herr)
ヘルツ (n) (1) Hz (Herz - unit of frequency); (2) heart (ger: Herz)
ヒエラルキー; ヒエラルヒー (n) hierarchy (ger: Hierachie)
ヒトラーユーゲント (n) Hitler Youth (ger: Hitler-Jugend)
ホーデン (n) testicles (ger: Hoden)
ホリゾント (n) horizon (ger: Horizont)
ホルモン (n,adj-no) hormone (ger: Hormon);
ヒュッテ (n) (mountain) hut (ger: Huette)
ヒポコンデリー (n) hypochondria (ger: Hypochondrie)
ヒステリー (n) hysteria (ger: Hysterie)
イッヒロマン (n) first-person novel (ger: Ich-Roman)
イデー (n) idea (ger: Idee)
イデオロギー(P); イデオロギ (n,adj-no) ideology (ger: Ideologie);
インポテンス; インポテンツ (n) impotence (ger: Impotenz)
アイロニー; アイアロニ; イロニー (n) irony (fre: ironie, ger: Ironie)
イソロイシン (n) isoleucine (ger: Isoleucin)
ヤッケ (n) jacket (ger: Jacke)
ヤンマ (n) lamenting (ger: Jammer);
ヨード (n) iodine (ger: Jod)
ヨードカリウム (n) (See ヨウ化カリウム) (obsc) potassium iodine (ger: Jodkalium)
ヨードチンキ (n) tincture of iodine (ger: Jodtinktur);
ヨーチン (n) (abbr) tincture of iodine (ger: Jodtinktur)
カデンツ (n) cadence (ger: Kadenz);
カリウム (n,adj-no) potassium (K) (ger: kalium);
カルキ (n) chalk (ger: Kalk, dut: kalk)
カミン (n) (See チムニー) chimney (narrow cleft used to climb a rock face) (ger: Kamin)
カンテ (n) border (ger: Kante)
カプセル (n,adj-no) capsule (ger: Kapsel);
カール (n,vs) (1) curl; (n) (2) cwm (ger: Kar); cirque; corrie;
カラビナ (n) carabiner (ger: Karabiner); snap ring
カリエス (n,adj-no) caries (ger: Karies)
カルスト (n,adj-no) karst (geologic formation of irregular limestone deposits) (ger: Karst)
カルテ (n) clinical records (ger: Karte)
カルテル (n) cartel (ger: Kartell)
カゼイン (n) casein (ger: Kasein)
カステン (n) cabinet, usu. containing medical instruments, medicines, etc. (ger: Kasten); case
加答児(ateji) 【カタル】 (n,adj-no) (uk) catarrh (dut: catarrhe, ger: Katarrh)
カテゴリー(P); カテゴリ (n) category (ger: Kategorie);
カテーテル (n) catheter (ger: Katheter)
クレンメ (n) clamp (ger: Klemme); forceps
ナップザック (n) knapsack (ger: Knappsack); rucksack; backpack
コボルト; コーボルト (n) kobold (evil spirit in German folklore) (ger: Kobolt); goblin
コッヘル (n) oven (ger: Kocher)
コークス (n) coke (ger: Koks)
コルヒチン (n) colchicine (ger: Kolchizin)
コラーゲン (n) collagen (ger: Kollagen)
コンメンタール (n) notes (ger: Kommentar); comments; annotations
コニーデ (n) Fujiyama-shaped volcano (ger: Konide)
コンツェルン (n) group of companies (ger: Konzern); combine
カラン (n) water outlet (ger: Kran, dut: kraan)
クランケ (n) diseased persons (ger: Kranke)
クレゾール (n) cresol (ger: Kresol)
クール (adj-na) (1) cool (temperature, color, etc.); (2) cool (i.e. calm and collected); (3) cool (i.e. fashionable, attractive, etc.); (n) (4) course (of medical treatment) (ger: Kur); (5) season (series) of a television program (usu. 13 installments over a 3-month period) (fre: cours)
クアハウス (n) multi-purpose health facility (ger: Kurhaus)
ラーゲ (n) sex position (ger: Lage)
ランタン (n) (1) lanthanum (La) (ger: lanthan); (2) lantern
ラテルネ (n) (See ランタン) lantern (for mountaineering) (ger: Laterne)
レーベンスフィロゾフィー (n) philosophy of life (ger: Lebensphilosophie)
レーエン (n) (obsc) fiefdom (ger: Lehen)
ロイシン (n) leucine (ger: Leucin)
リーベ (n) love (ger: Liebe); lover
リート (n) lied (German song, usu. for solo voice & piano) (ger: Lied)
リパーゼ (n) lipase (ger: Lipase)
ルンペン (n,adj-no) loafer (ger: Lumpen); free-loader; tramp; unemployed person [G][GI][S][A][W] ルンゲ (n) lung (ger: Lunge)
ルーペ (n) magnifying glass (ger: Lupe)
淋巴(ateji) 【リンパ(P); りんぱ】 (n) (uk) lymph (ger: Lymphe, dut: lympha)
マール (n) (1) maar (broad, shallow volcanic crater) (fre:, ger: Maar); (2) marc (brandy distilled from pomace wine); (3) (See 泥灰岩) marl (unconsolidated lime-rich rock) [G][GI][S][A][W] メッチェン (n) girl (ger: Maedchen) [G][GI][S][A] メルヘン (n) fairy-tale (ger: Maerchen); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] メルヘンチック; メルヘンティック (adj-na) having a fairy-tale atmosphere (ger: Maerchen, eng: tic) [Ex][G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] 俺は小学校の時見たんだ、人魚。でもそんなメルヘンチックな話じゃなくて。 [M] I saw one, a mermaid, when I was a primary schooler. But it wasn't that sort of fairy-tale atmosphere of a story.[Amend] マクロコスモス (n) macrocosm (ger: Makrokosmos) [G][GI][S][A] マルツ (n) malt (ger: Malz) [G][GI][S][A] 満俺(ateji) 【マンガン(P); まんがん】 (n,adj-no) (uk) manganese (Mn) (ger: Mangan); (P) [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] 馬克(ateji) 【マルク(P); まるく】 (n) (See ドイツマルク) mark (ger: Mark); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] モーゼル (n) Mauser (ger: Mausergewehr); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] マイスター (n) master (ger: Meister) [G][GI][S][A][W] メンス (n) menses (ger: Menstruation); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] メヌエット; ミニュエット (n) minuet (ger: Menuett) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] メルクマール (n) characteristic (ger: Merkmal); (P) [G][GI][S][A] メッセ (n) (1) trade fair (ger: Messe); (2) (See インスタントメッセンジャー) (sl) (abbr) instant messenger; (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] メスアップ (n,vs) (abbr) diluting in measuring cylinder to ~ ml total (ger: meszylinder) [G][GI][S][A] メチルアルコール (n) methyl alcohol (ger: Methylalkohol); methylated spirits; methanol [G][GI][S][A][W] メトリック (n) metric (ger: Metrik); (P) [G][GI][S][A] メトロノーム (n) metronome (ger: Metronom); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ミクロ (adj-na,n) micro (ger: Mikro, fre: micro); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ミクロコスモス (n) microcosm (ger: Mikrokosmos) [G][GI][S][A][W] ミンネ (n) love of a knight for a courtly lady (upon which he is unable to act) (ger: Minne) [G][GI][S][A][W] ミンネザング (n) minnesang (12th-14th century German love song) (ger: Minnesang) [G][GI][S][A][W] ミンネゼンガー; ミンネジンガー (n) (See ミンネザング) minnesinger (ger: Minnesanger) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] モリブデン; モリプデン(ik) (n) molybdenum (Mo) (ger: Molybdaen) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] モノポール (n) monopoly (ger: Monopol) [G][GI][S][A][W] ナトリウム(P); ソジウム (n) sodium (Na) (ger: Natrium); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] ナトリウムアマルガム (n) sodium amalgam (ger: Natriumamalgam) [G][GI][S][A] ナイン (n) (1) nine; (int) (2) no (ger: nein); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ネオジム (n) neodymium (Nd) (ger: Neodym) [G][GI][S][A][W] ネフローゼ (n) nephrosis (ger: Nephrose) [G][GI][S][A][W] ノイロン (n) neuron (ger: Neuron) [G][GI][S][A] ノイローゼ (n) neurosis (ger: Neurose); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 本物のノイローゼの奴がノイローゼだなんて自称するのかね? Do you think real neurotics really go and call themselves such?[Amend] ニオブ (n) niobium (Nb) (ger: Niob) [G][GI][S][A][W] ノギス (n) (pair of) vernier calipers (ger: Nonius); vernier micrometer [G][GI][S][A][W] ノスタルジー (n) nostalgia (ger: Nostalgie, fre: nostalgie); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] オブラート (n) oblate (dut: oblaat, ger: oblate); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] オナニー; オナニ (n) (X) (col) onanism (ger: Onanie); masturbation [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] オナカップ (n) artificial vagina (ger: Onanie, eng: cup) [G][GI][S][A][W] オントロギー (n) (See 存在論) (obsc) ontology (ger: Ontologie) [G][GI][S][A] オルガスム(P); オーガズム; オルガスムス (n) orgasm (ger: Orgasmus); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] オキシドール (n) (hydrogen) peroxide (solution) (ger: Oxydol) [G][GI][S][A][W] オキシゲナーゼ (n) oxygenase (ger: Oxygenase) [G][GI][S][A][W] パラチフス (n) paratyphoid (ger: Paratyphus) パルタイ (n) party (political) (ger: Partei) [G][GI][S][A][W] パトローネ (n) film cartridge (ger: Patrone) [G][GI][S][A] プルークボーゲン (n) snowplow (ger: Pflugbogen); snowplough; (P) [G][GI][S][A] ホスゲン; フォスゲン (n) phosgene (ger: Phosgen); carbonyl chloride [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] ピッケル (n) ice axe (ger: Pickel) [G][GI][S][A][W] ポリオワクチン (n) polio vaccine (ger: Poliovakzin); poliomyelitis vaccine [Ex][G][GI][S][A] ポリオワクチンは済んでいます。 She had a polio vaccine.[Amend] ポテンツ (n) potency (ger: Potenz) [G][GI][S][A] プレパラート (n) preparation (ger: Praeparat) [G][GI][S][A][W] プラセオジム (n) praseodymium (Pr) (ger: Praseodym) [G][GI][S][A][W] プロイセン (n) Prussia (ger: Preussen) [G][GI][S][A][W] プロレタリア (n) proletarian (ger: Proletarier); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] プロテイナーゼ (n) proteinase (ger: Proteinase) [G][GI][S][A] ランドセル (n) (possibly also nl: ransel) bag (ger: Raenzel); knapsack; satchel with back straps; (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ラーメン; ラーマン(ik) (n) rigid frame (ger: Rahmen) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] レセプト (n) (1) medical prescription (ger: Rezept); (2) medical practitioners' receipt for health insurance claim [G][GI][S][A][W] リューマチ(P); リウマチ; ロイマチス; リウマチス; リョーマチ (n,adj-no) rheumatism (ger: Rheumatismus); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] 医者によれば、彼女はリューマチをわずらっている。 The doctor says she suffers from rheumatism.[Amend] リス (n) (1) fracture (ger: Riss); (2) lithograph; (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] サブリュック (n) (See サブザック) small knapsack (eng: sub, ger: Rueck(sack)); small rucksack [G][GI][S][A] ルンゼ (n) (See ガリー) gully (ger: Runse) [G][GI][S][A] サブザック (n) (See サブリュック) small knacksack (eng: sub, ger: Sack) [G][GI][S][A] ザーメン (n) semen (ger: Samen); seed [G][GI][S][A][W] サポニン (n) active substance from plants used in manufacture of soap, detergents and medication (ger: Saponin) [G][GI][S][A][W] シャーレ (n) dish (i.e. Petri dish) (ger: Schale) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 「ちょっと・・・サンプル」シャーレに一部を保存した。 "Let me get a sample," and she transferred part to a petri dish.[Amend] シャンツェ (n) ski jump (Schanze) (ger: Schanze) [G][GI][S][A][W] シェーマ (n) scheme (ger: Schema); schema [G][GI][S][A] シュラフ; シュラーフ (n) (See シュラフザック) (abbr) sleeping bag (ger: Schlafsack) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] シュラフザック; シュラーフザック (n) sleeping bag (ger: Schlafsack) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] シュナップス (n) liquor (ger: Schnaps); (P) [G][GI][S][A] シャン (adj-na,n) beautiful (ger: schoen); (P) [G][GI][S][A] シヤン (n) beautiful woman (ger: schoen) [G][GI][S][A] シュルント (n) (See ベルクシュルント) schrund (crevasse, esp. a bergschrund, a crevasse near the head of a glacier) (ger: Schrund) [G][GI][S][A] ザイル (n) climbing rope (i.e. for mountaineering) (ger: Seil) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 登山者をザイルでつなぎ合わせる。 Rope the climbers together.[Amend] ザイン (n) existence (ger: Sein) [G][GI][S][A][W] セレン (n) selenium (Se) (ger: Selen) [G][GI][S][A][W] ジッヘル (n) (See ビレー) belaying (ger: Sicherung) [G][GI][S][A] シルミン (n) aluminium and sicilicum alloy (ger: Silumin) [G][GI][S][A][W] シーハイル (exp) skiers' greeting meaning "Good skiing!" (ger: Ski Heil); (P) [G][GI][S][A] ゾンデ (n) (1) (See ラジオゾンデ) sonde (ger: Sonde); balloon-borne radio instrument; (2) probe (medical); sound; (3) gavage; feeding through a tube [G][GI][S][A][W] スピッツ (n) pomeranian (dog) (ger: Spitz) [G][GI][S][A][W] シュプレヒコール(P); シュプレッヒコール (n) speaking in chorus, unison (ger: Sprechchor); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] シュプール (n) trace (e.g. from skis) (ger: Spur) [G][GI][S][A][W] シュテムボーゲン (n) stem turn in skiing (ger: Stemmbogen); (P) [G][GI][S][A] ジンテーゼ; シンセシス (n) (1) synthesis (ger: Synthese); (2) (usu. シンセシス) (See 論理合成) synthesis (in semiconductor technology) [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] タクト (n) baton (ger: Taktstock) [G][GI][S][A][W] タンポン (n) tampon (ger: Tampon) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] タンポンはどこにありますか。 Where are the tampons?[Amend] タンタル (n,adj-no) tantalum (Ta) (ger: Tantal) [G][GI][S][A][W] テルル (n) (abbr) tellurium (Te) (ger: Tellur) [G][GI][S][A][W] テロル (n) (See テロ) terrorism (ger: Terror) [G][GI][S][A][W] テーマ (n) topic (ger: Thema); theme; project; (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] このテーマに関するほとんどの研究では、立法府の介入が悪影響をもたらしたということが示されている。 It has been shown in most studies on this subject that intervention of the legislature had adverse effects.[Amend] テーゼ (n) thesis (ger: These); statement; トレオニン (n) threonine (ger: Threonin) [G][GI][S][A][W] チタン(P); チタニウム (n) titanium (Ti) (ger: Titan); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] この手作りのイタリア製チタン自転車は、恐ろしく軽い。 This handmade Italian-made titanium bicycle is terribly light.[Amend] ツベルクリン (n) tuberculin (ger: Tuberkulin) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] ツベルクリン反応は陽性でした。 The tuberculin reaction was positive.[Amend] 窒扶斯(ateji) 【チフス(P); チブス】 (n) typhoid fever (ger: Typhus, dut:); typhus; (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ウラニウム(P); ウラン(P) (n) uranium (U) (ger: Uran); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] ウラニウムは原子力製造に用いられる。 Uranium is used in the production of nuclear power.[Amend] ウレタン (n) (1) urethane foam (ger: Urethan); (2) polyurethane [G][GI][S][A][W] ウレタンゴム (n) (abbr) polyurethane rubber (ger: Urethan, dut: gom) [G][GI][S][A] ウバーレ (n) uvala (composite karst depression) (ger: Uvale) [G][GI][S][A] ワクチン (n,adj-no) vaccine (ger: Vakzin); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 流感の予防ワクチンの注射をした。 I was vaccinated against the flu.[Amend] ベクトル (n,adj-no) vector (ger: Vektor); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ワルキューレ (n) valkyrie (ger: Walkure) [G][GI][S][A][W] ワンゲル (n) (1) (abbr) migratory bird (ger: Wandervogel); (2) cost of maintaining a pet dog [G][GI][S][A][W] ワンダーフォーゲル (n) migratory bird (ger: Wandervogel) [G][GI][S][A][W] ワッペン (n) crest (ger: Wappen); coat of arms; (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ウエーデルン (n) wedeling (skiing term) (ger: Wedeln) [G][GI][S][A] ウインドヤッケ (n) windjacket (ger: Windjacke) [G][GI][S][A] ウォルフラム (n) (See タングステン) tungsten (ger: Wolfram); wolfram [G][GI][S][A] ツァイトガイスト (n) (See 時代精神) zeitgeist (ger: Zeitgeist) [G][GI][S][A] ツヴァイハンダー (n) two-handed sword (ger: zweihander) [G][GI][S][A][W] チアノーゼ (n) cyanosis (ger: Zyanose) [G][GI][S][A][W] チクルス; ツィクルス (n) cycle (e.g. of songs) (ger: Zyklus) [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] クリスチャニア (n) (1) Kristiania (ger:); (2) Christiania [G][GI][S][A][W] ウイルス(P); ウィルス(P); ビールス; バイラス; ヴィールス; ヴァイラス (n,adj-no) virus (lat:, ger:); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] ウィルスは人類が存在する限り存在するであろう。 Viruses will exist as long as man.[Amend] ケロイド (n,adj-no) keloid (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ゲルマン (n) germane (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] コラール (n) choral (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] コントラバス (n) contrabass (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] シュトゥルムウントドラング (exp) Sturm und Drang (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A] セレナーデ(P); セレナード(P) (n,vs) serenade (fre:, ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] テノール (n) tenor (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] バウムクーヘン (n) baumkuchen (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] パテ (n) (1) putty; (2) pate (ger:); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] (1) 彼は割れ目をパテでふさいだ。 He stopped up the crack with putty.[Amend] ビタミン(P); ヴィタミン; バイタミン (n,adj-no) vitamin (ger:); (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A] オレンジにはビタミンCが多く含まれている。 Oranges are rich in vitamin c.[Amend] ホルン (n) horn (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] マルターゼ (n) maltase (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] メチル(P); メチール (n) methyl- (ger:); (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] アルペンホルン (n) alpenhorn (ger:); alphorn [G][GI][S][A][W] アスピーテ (n) Aspite (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アデノウイルス (n) Adenovirus (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アナフィラキシー (n) Anaphylaxie (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アネクメーネ (n) Anoekumene (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アポクロマート (n) Apochromat (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アミラーゼ (n) amylase (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アルゴン (n) argon (Ar) (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ウムラウト (n) umlaut (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] エクメーネ (n) ecumenism (gre: Oekumene, ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] キッチュ (adj-na,n) kitsch (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ケラチン (n,adj-no) keratin (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ゲシュタルト (n) gestalt (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ゲルマニウム (n) germanium (Ge) (ger:) ザワークラウト; ザウアークラウト; ザワークラフト; ザウアクラウト (n) sauerkraut (i.e. pickled cabbage) (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A] トリッペル (n) Tripper (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] トロイデ (n) Tholoide (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] ナフタリン (n) Naphthalin (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] パラチオン (n) Parathion (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ヒーメン (n) hymen (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] ヒンターランド (n) hinterland (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] プロレタリアート (n) proletariat (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] マイスタージンガー (n) (Die) Meistersinger (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] メタモルフォーゼ (n) metamorphose (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] メントール (n) menthol (ger:) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 常に戦争の用意が出来ていることは戦争を避ける最も確実な道であるとメントールは言っている。 To be always ready for war, said Mentor, is the surest way to avoid it.[Amend] ライトモチーフ (n) Leitmotiv (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ラジオゾンデ (n) radiosonde (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ラングリメン (n) wraparound retaining straps worn with the old ski cable bindings (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] カイゼル; カイザー (n) Kaiser (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] ポルターガイスト (n) poltergeist (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アルペン (n) Alpen (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] アレルゲン (n) allergen (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] バーゼ (n) {chem} base (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] アンドロゲン (n) androgen (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] スタイン (n) stein (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ギムナジウム (n) gymnasium (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ダックスフント (n) dachshund (ger:) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 熱いダックスフント・ソーセージはいかが。 Get your hot dachshund sausages![Amend] シュテムクリスチャニア (n) Stemmkristiania (crystal) (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] チター (n) zither (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] プトマイン (n) ptomaine (ger:) [G][GI][S][A] シュタージ (n) Stasi (Staatssicherheitsdienst, state security service of East Germany) (ger:) [G][GI][S][A][W] ファンファール(P); ファンファーレ (n) (1) fanfare (ger:); flourish of trumpets; (2) fun fair; (P) [G][GI][S][A] [G][GI][S][A][W] ゲマインシャフト (n) (See ゲゼルシャフト) community (ger:); gemeinschaft [G][GI][S][A][W] ホルスタイン (n) Holstein (ger:); German cow race [G][GI][S][A][W] ゲゼルシャフト (n) society (ger:); gesellschaft [G][GI][S][A][W] リュック (n) (See リュックサック) (abbr) rucksack (ger:); knapsack; backpack [G][GI][S][A][W] リュックサック (n) rucksack (ger:); knapsack; backpack; (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 彼女は背中にリュックサックを背おっている。 She is carrying a backpack on her back.[Amend] メタノール (n) methanol (ger:); methyl alcohol; methylated spirits; (P) [G][GI][S][A][W] ナチ(P); ナチス (n) (abbr) Nazi (ger:); Nationalsozialist; (P) [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] [G][GI][S][A][W] アンネはナチスに捕まるのを恐れながら暮らした。 Anne lived in terror of capture by Nazis.[Amend] フィルハーモニー (n) philharmonie (ger:); philharmonic;
ザック (n) (See リュックサック) rucksack (ger:); sack [Ex][G][GI][S][A][W] 俺は家族全員に見送られながら、旅支度を整えたザックを担ぐ。 [M] Being seen off by my whole family I shouldered a rucksack, stocked with my trip supplies.[Amend] スペルマ (n) (col) sperm (ger:); semen; cum [G][GI][S][A][W] 疾風怒濤 【しっぷうどとう】 (n) Sturm und Drang (ger:); storm and stress [G][GI][S][A][W] スチロール (n) styrene (ger:); Styrol [G][GI][S][A][W] ヨーグルト(P); ヨーガート; ヨウグルト (n) yoghurt (ger:); yoghourt;
2 Apr

Had an interesting meeting today with a professor from University of Tokyo Graduate School of Law. During the meeting, he pulled out a book and asked me if recognized this haiku:

「古池や蛙飛び込む水の音」which translates roughly as:
Old pond
frog jumps in
sound of water

For some reason I didn't recognize it right away, even though I had discussed it with my Japanese teacher last year after seeing it here http://www.languagehat.com/archives/002900.php.

At first I was thinking it might be the haiku about the frog jumping in the water because I recalled the "sound of the water" part, but I got hung up because I was thinking for some reason that 蛙 was dragonfly instead of frog. I'm such an idiot! Anyway, before I could work it out, he explained what it was (although it still wasn't clear to me what the relevance was to the discussion we were having). So basically, I was made to look like the quintessental "dumb foreigner" even though I had seen it before and researched and discussed the meaning on various occasions. Oh well, I guess it's too late now, but it still sticks in my craw.

Anyway, for future reference, the interpretation I find most convincing is rooted in Buddhisim: basically that the old pond corresponds to an eternity of endless space, while the frog jumping in and causing the water to make a sound represents our very brief existence. So I imagine that we're supposed to reflect on the stillness of the water after the little splash is made to put our existence into a larger perspective, that the world will continue after our death and we will have made only a small ripple, if we're lucky. So I'll muse on that for the next few days instead of getting annoyed at how that little scene in the professor's office played out.

In that regard, I guess when I am going to be doing research under this professor later this year, I should expect to just shut up and let him do the talking. So here's an expression for that:

それは釈迦(shaka)に説法(setsuhou)というもの。= teaching something to someone who knows more than you; lit: lecturing to the Buddha

Here's another one. Not relevant at all, but interesting nonetheless:

[かくかく しかじか]: (exp) blah-blah yadda-yadda/expression used to replace part of conversation
31 Mar
I've been collecting a certain kind of neologism form lately that is getting too large to hold in my brain, so I figured I'd post it before it's gone completely (turning 40 in a few weeks...).

The following list consists of words that are made up of katakana with a hiragana る appended to make a new word, usually with a slang or sarcastic connotation. For example, take a katakana noun コピ, add る and voila: コピる = to copy!

According to my friend, some of these are used by teenagers and haven't entered standard lexicon, so I'm just using these when absolutely necessary (e.g., to be a dork).

1. From Katakana nouns or foreign languages

コピる = to copy
ググる = to Google
ブログる = to blog
ネグる = to neglect
メモる = to take notes
タクる = to take a taxi
ダブる = to overlap, to coincide (fall on the same day); to have two of something; to appear doubled; to repeat a school year after failing
サボる = (from "sabotage") to play hooky; to skip school; to be idle; to sabotage by slowness
アジる = (from "agitate") to stir up; to instigate; to foment
オケる = (from "karaoke") to go to a karaoke bar
トラブる = (from "trouble") to make trouble
スタンバる (from "standby") to be on standby; to be kept waiting
ナビる = (from "navigate") to navigate, use GPS
バグる (from "bug") to have a computer bug
ミスる (from "miss") to make a mistake; to mess up; to err
ハモる (from "harmony") = to harmonize; to harmonise; to be in harmony
パニクる; パニックる (from "panic") = to panic
バトル (from "battle") = to battle
ポニョる (from "Ponyo" cartoon character) = to get flabby, to get a gut/belly
   (I've been getting called Ponyo a lot lately...)

パクる (from German "packen" = to seize, grab, grasp) = (1) to steal; to rip off; (2) to arrest; to pinch; to nab

2. From Kanji

キョドウる = to act suspiciously (from 挙動不審 【きょどうふしん】 (n) suspicious behavior; acting suspiciously)

コクる = (from 告白する) to confess (one's love); to propose (marriage); to ask out (on a date)
キレる (v1) (sl) to get angry; to snap; to blow one's top (from 切れる 【きれる】 to cut into pieces, split, shred, burst, collapse, etc.

テンパる (v5r) to be about to blow one's fuse
This one seems to be from: 聴牌 【テンパイ】 (n,vs) "fishing" in mahjong (i.e. needing one more tile for completion) (chi: tingpai)

キョヒる  to refuse; to reject; to deny
This one is from 拒否 【きょひ】 (n,vs,adj-no) denial; veto; rejection; refusal

3. Apparently Mimetic

ポシャる = to fizzle, peter out, break down, fail, flop

てくる = to trudge (from てくてく (adv) trudgingly; going long way at steady pace)
13 Mar

I came across an interesting term in a Japanese blog:

官尊民卑 【かんそんみんぴ】 (n) respecting the authorities and denigrating ordinary citizens

Even though it was new to me, it was understandable because it had the same structure as

男尊女卑 【だんそんじょひ】 (n) male domination of women; male chauvinism; subjection of women

I looked for a clear definition to get a sense of the context, nuance, etc., and came across this sentence in Wikipedia:


My translation: "Just as a subordinate follows the orders of his/her superior within an organization, there is a theory that there is tendency in Japanese society toward authoritarianism in which the citizens are compelled to obey the Military and the Bureaucracy."

OK, so based on that, I think a close translation of 官尊民卑 is statism. Here's the Wikipedia entry for statism:

Statism (or Etatism) is a term that may refer to any of the following:
Government having a major role in the direction of the economy, both through state-owned enterprises and indirectly through the central planning of overall economy.[1]
The "concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government."[2] The Fascist concept of statism which holds that "basic concept that sovereignty is vested not in the people but in the national state, and that all individuals and associations exist only to enhance the power, the prestige, and the well-being of the state. The fascist concept of statism repudiates individualsm and exalts the nation as an organic body headed by the Supreme Leader and nurtured by unity, force, and discipline."

Sounds like 官尊民卑 to me!

NB: At first I thought "dirigism" might work, but that seems limited to economic planning. Here's Wiki:

"Dirigisme (from the French) (in English also "dirigism" although per the OED both spellings are used) is an economic term designating an economy where the government exerts strong directive influence. While the term has occasionally been applied to centrally planned economies, where the government effectively controls production and allocation of resources (in particular, to certain socialist economies where the national government owns the means of production), it originally had neither of these meanings when applied to France, and generally designates a mainly capitalist economy with strong economic participation by government. Most modern economies can be characterized as dirigiste to some degree – for instance, governmental action may be exercised through subsidizing research and developing new technologies, or through government procurement, especially military (i.e. a form of mixed economy)."
12 Mar
I went to a birthday party on Saturday and on my way there, I realized that I left the present back at my apartment. So I learned a new word, the sound of which I love so much I can't stand it: OCCHOKOCHOI

おっちょこちょい (adj-na,n) careless person; scatterbrain; birdbrain

This one will also work:

そそっかしい (adj-i) careless; thoughtless

I wonder whether it's related to this one:

そそくさ (adv-to) (on-mim) hurriedly; in haste
12 Mar
I came across an interesting article about how Japanese hospitals are starting to adopt a spreading practice in the United States whereby hospitals have instituted a practice of explaining medical mistakes quickly and clearly, and apologizing. (The result seems to be fewer malpractice suits.) According to the article, there is no practice of a doctor or hospital apologizing for mistakes.

This paragraph stood out:

"In a paper published in the September 2007 issue of the medical journal Iryo Anzen (Medical Safety), Yoshimitsu Yamazaki, a physician who has obtained a law degree and is preparing for the bar exam, cited 32 court rulings that referred to apologies made to patients by medical professionals. He categorized these apologies into two types: one he termed kyokan hyomei (an expression of empathy or regret for not meeting patients' expectations); and the other sekinin shonin, which includes an admission of oversight. Courts have excluded the first type as evidence of negligence — but not the other."

Interesting distinction!

Here are the kanji for the terms:

共感 【きょうかん】 (n,vs,adj-no) sympathy; empathy; response
表明 【ひょうめい】 (n,vs) declaration; indication; representation; manifestation; demonstration; expression; announcement; assertion

責任 【せきにん】 (n) duty; responsibility
承認 【しょうにん】 (n,vs) recognition; acknowledgement; acknowledgment; approval; consent; agreement
12 Mar
This one is from 河北新報社:

岩手知事土下座し再議 無床化予算減額修正案を可決

Governor of Iwate Prefecture Prostrates Himself (to Request) Reconsideration:
(seeks) Adoption of a Proposed Amendment to (Hospital) Budget Cuts

I love this one:
土下座 【どげざ】 (n,vs) kneeling down on the ground; prostrate oneself

And 無床化 is a new one for me: literally, "no-bed-ification" along the lines of:
少子化 【しょうしか】 (n,vs) declining birth rates; decrease in the number of children
高齢化社会 【こうれいかしゃかい】 (n) aging society; ageing society

Key words:

知事 【ちじ】 (n,adj-no) prefectural governor
土下座 【どげざ】 (n,vs) kneeling down on the ground; prostrate oneself
再議 【さいぎ】 (n,vs) reconsideration; redeliberation
予算 【よさん】 (n,vs,adj-no) estimate; budget; (P); EP
減額 【げんがく】 (n,vs) reduction; diminution; abatement; (P); EP
修正案 【しゅうせいあん】 (n) proposed amendment; ED
可決 【かけつ】 (n,vs) approval; adoption (e.g. motion, bill); passage; (P); EP

5 Mar
Here's a good word today that my supervisor used today to describe the multiple interpretations 解釈 (かいしゃく)of a phrase in a joint statement that was being drafted in conjunction with a foreign government. Because the phrase was so vague that it had 2 meanings that were polar opposites, he said that it was being left in to avoid confrontation on the issue. The word he used was 玉虫色 【たまむしいろ】 , which literally means "iridescent" (or "the color of a jewel beetle") but figuratively means something like "chameleonic" or "open to multiple interpretations."

Why they would choose to leave in a phrase that allows for a meaning that they know is directly contrary to the meaning intended by the other side, invariably setting up embarrassment and/or annoyance down the road when the other side realizes that what they understood to be the case is in fact not the case, is an issue that is beyond my abilities to explain.
3 Mar
A couple weeks ago, my co-worker was talking on the phone and I overheard him say "tondemo-gozaimasen." This seemed really odd at the time, but I couldn't figure out why it was wrong. I thought "tondemonai" was an adjective that meant "absurd" and was used for expressions like "don't be silly" or "of course not"...rather than the negative form of a verb (tondemu?!?). So I guess I had put it in the box in my brain with "kudaranai" and "abunai" and "mottainai" as words that end in "nai" but aren't really negative. Was I missing something?

I asked 3 of my Japanese friends about it, and they all said that it was strange but it didn't really seem ungrammatical per se. One of them suggested that maybe it was because "tondemonai" is inherently casual, so you would never use it in keigo form. Another did some digging and discovered that, yes, it is incorrect.

So I googled "tondemogozaimasen" and came across a really good explanation on a Japanese blog of why it's wrong. I translated the post here for anyone interested:


朝日新聞に載っていたのですが、『日本語力測定試験』なるものが10月25日に全国24ヶ所で行われるのだそうです。まあこの試験の趣旨はここでは割愛させ て頂くとして、掲載されていた問題例の中に興味を引くものがあったので、ちょっと触れてみたいと思います。


●次の文は、Aさんが年上の人にちょっとした贈り物を手渡したところ、その年長者が「(略)何かお返しを(略)」といい、それに対してAさんが口にした言葉で ある。そのなかで敬語の使い方としてまちがっているのはどれか。

①とんでもないことです。 ②とんでもありません。 ③とんでもございません。 ④とんでもない。

On October 25 in 24 places around the country, something called the "Japanese Diagnostic Test" was printed in the Asahi Shimbun. If you'll allow me to dispense with discussing the object of the test here, I think I'll mention something briefly regarding one of the questions included in the test that may be of some interest. I'll quote it here:

In the following sentence,
A has just given a small gift to someone older than him. The older person says "(omitted) how can I repay you{r kindness}? (omitted)", to which A replies _____.
Which of the following expressions is an incorrect usage of the keigo form?

① Tondemonai koto desu.
② Tondemo arimasen.
③ Tondemo gozaimasen.
④ Tondemonai.
(end quote)
 答えは当然の事ながら③の「とんでもございません。」ですが、これって何の抵抗もなく使っている人が多いのではないでしょうか? 新聞には解答だけで、解説 は何も載っていなかったので、お節介にもちょっとここで説明しておきますと、これは敬語として云々という問題ではなくて、こんな日本語は存在しないという根本 的な問題なんですよね。「とんでもない」というのは一語で形容詞ですから、この場合の「ない」は、「くだらない」とか「つまらない」とか「切ない」の「な い」と同じなわけです。つまり、「とんでもございません」というのは、「くだらございません」とか「つまらございません」とか「切なございません」というのと 同じレベルの事なのです。

The answer is of course (3) "tondemo gozaimasen" but aren't there lots of people who use this expression without raising an eyebrow? The newspaper only gave the solution, but didn't print any commentary to explain it. So even though it's being a bit officious, I'll give a brief explanation here, as this isn't just an issue of keigo usage, this is a fundamental issue about something that simply doesn't exist in Japanese. "Tondemonai" is a one-word adjective and, as such, the "-nai" at the end of the word is the same as in 切ない {【せつない】 (adj-i) (1) painful; heartrending; trying; (2) oppressive; suffocating; miserable} or 下らない 【くだらない】 {(adj-i) (uk) good-for-nothing; stupid; trivial; worthless}. That is, saying "tondemo-gozaimasen" would be on the same level as saying "kudara-gozaimasen" or "tsumara-gozaimasen" or "setsu-gozaimasen."

 「とんでもございません」はもちろん、文法的には「とんでもありません」も間違いです。先の問題例では「とんでもありません」は間違いではない事になってい ましたが、「敬語の使い方」で間違っているものを選ぶ問題だったからなのか、あるいは日常語として普通に使われる言い回しなので良しとしているのか分かりませ んが、厳密には間違いです。これも同様に形容詞ですし、しかも「とんでもない」の「ない」は否定・打ち消しの意味ではなくて「甚し(なし=はなはだしい)」の 意味ですからね。それが証拠に「とんでもない事」と「とんだ事」は同じ意味ですよね。
Of course ""tondemo-gozaimasen" is as gramatically wrong as "tondemo arimasen." In the question above "tondemo arimasen" is wrong, but it isn't an incorrect usage of keigo, as the question asked to be selected. In other words, although it's not clear whether it's an expression ordinarily used as a colloquialism, strictly speaking it's incorrect. By the same token, the "nai" in "tondemonai" is not a negative, but an intensifier. As evidence, compare the meaning of "tondemonai" with that of "tonda" とんだ (adj-pn) (1) unthinkable; unimaginable; inconceivable; unexpected; (2) terrible; awful; serious; (adv) (3) (arch) very.


OK, me again. So how *do* you say "tondemonai" in keigo? According to the Kotoba Ojisan, you can say:

"tondemonai koto desu" or "tondemonai koto de gozaimasu."

24 Feb

OK, it's time for me to post another list to feed my OCD. Today I came across the word 悠然 【ゆうぜん】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) with an air of composure; calmly. So I got to thinking: what's the dealie-o with these -taru adjectives? I found out that 形容動詞 adjectives are pretty rare in comparison to the "-na" and "-i" adjectives (I'll do another post on "-nai" adjectives soon.). I did a little searching on line and learned that true -taru adjectives originate from the classical Japanese ending "-toari" which devolved into "-tari," which declines into what we now see as "-taru" adjectives. It seems that the "-taru" adjectives have an antiquated air, but several are still in common use. I couldn't find a comprehensive list on line for English-speaking students of Japanese, so here's my attempt, which I'll update periodically. (If anyone thinks of a word I've left off the list, let me know and I'll add it.)


堂々(P); 堂堂 【どうどう】 (adj-t) (1) magnificent; grand; impressive; dignified; majestic; imposing; stately; (2) fair; square; open; (adv-to) (3) grandly; boldly; confidently; (4) fairly; squarely; (5) unreservedly; without apology; without hesitation 悄悄; 悄々 【しおしお; しょうしょう; すごすご】 (adj-t,adv-to) (uk) in low spirits; dejected; sad昭昭; 昭々 【しょうしょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) (obsc) clear; bright; plain; obvious
粛粛; 粛々 【しゅくしゅく】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) silent; solemn; quiet 爛爛; 爛々 【らんらん】 (adj-t,adv-to) glaring; flaming; fiery; blazing 濛々; 濛濛; 朦朦; 朦々 【もうもう】 (adj-t,adv-to) (1) dense (e.g. fog, dust, etc.); thick; (2) vague (as in being unable to think clearly); dim 惻々 【そくそく】keenly; heartily 凛々; 凛凛 【りんりん】 (adj-t,adv-to) severe; intense; biting

B. TWO-KANJI -TARU ADJECTIVES惨憺; 惨澹 【さんたん】 (adj-t,adv-to) miserable; pitiful; tragic; wretched; horrible宛転 【えんてん】 (adj-t,adv-to) (1) moving smoothly; (2) (of eyebrows) shapely 忸怩 【じくじ】 (adj-t,adv-to) bashful; shameful

暗澹【あんたん】 (adj-t,adv-to) dark; gloomy; somber; depressing

荒涼; 荒寥 【こうりょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) desolate; dreary; bleak

索莫; 索漠; 索寞 【さくばく】 (adj-t,adv-to) dreary; bleak; desolate

蕭寥 【しょうりょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) (arch) desolate; lonely; barren

蕭索(oK) 【しょうさく】 (adj-t) lonely

蕭条 【しょうじょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) dreary; bleak; lonely

落莫 【らくばく】 (adj-t,adv-to) desolate; dreary; lonesome

溌剌 【はつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) lively; vigorous; sprightly; vivid C. TWO-KANJI -TARU ADJECTIVES ENDING IN -然 消然; 悄然 【しょうぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) dejected; dispirited昭然 【しょうぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) manifest; clear 呆然; 茫然; 惘然 【ぼうぜん; ボーゼン; もうぜん(惘然)】 (adj-t,adv-to) dumbfounded; overcome with surprise; in blank amazement; in a daze 燦然 【さんぜん】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) brilliance; radiance

悠然 【ゆうぜん】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) with an air of composure; calmly

泰然 【たいぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) calm; composed; self-possessed; firm

渾然; 混然 【こんぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) whole; entire; harmonious; well-roundedD. FOUR KANJI -TARU ADJECTIVES 曖昧模糊 【あいまいもこ(uK)】 (adj-na,adj-t,adv-to) obscure; vague; ambiguous 泰然自若 【たいぜんじじゃく(uK)】 (adj-t,adv-to) having presence of mind; self-possessed; imperturbable; calm and self-possessed
失意泰然 【しついたいぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) (arch) keeping calm and collected at times of disappointment; maintaining a serene state of mind in adversity
満目荒涼 【まんもくこうりょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) all nature being bleak and desolate; scene looking desolate and forlorn as far as the eye can see

荒涼落莫 【こうりょうらくばく(uK)】 (adj-na,adj-t,adv-to) (arch) scene looking desolate and forlorn 空空漠漠; 空々漠々 【くうくうばくばく(uK)】 (adj-no,adj-t,adv-to) (arch) vast; boundless; empty; vague生気溌剌 【せいきはつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) being full of vitality; being vivacious才気溌剌 【さいきはつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) resourceful and quick-witted; showing a flash of brilliance; have a keen (sparkling) intellect 生気溌剌 【せいきはつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) being full of vitality; being vivacious
E. ONE KANJI PRE-NOUN ADJECTIVALS (technically not -taru 形容動詞 adjectives, but I'm putting them here for reference b/c they are 連体詞 adjectives that end in -taru)眇たる 【びょうたる】 (adj-pn) small; minute; tiny; little; insignificant 最たる 【さいたる】 (adj-pn) prime; conspicuous主たる 【しゅたる】 (adj-pn) main; principal; majorF. TWO KANJI PRE-NOUN ADJECTIVALS名立たる 【なだたる】 (adj-pn) famous; notorious; noted
23 Feb
Here's a pic of an ad that is similar to a lot of ads I've been seeing on the subway lately. It's advertising the services of a 司法書士 【しほうしょし】, which I've seen translated on ads as "judicial scrivener," a term I haven't seen since I read a short story by Herman Melville. Basically, the guy doesn't have a law degree, but has apparently studied law and is offering 相談
"consultations" regarding debt relief, among other things.

Now, this ad brings to mind a few issues. First, are these "scriveners" certified to provide legal advice? My guess is that they are not, and I can't imagine that there is a "scrivener" exam and that there is a code of ethics that they must adhere to, such that they could be "disbarred" for a violation. If there's no regulation of these "scriveners", how are consumers protected?

Second, is there are a *market* for these legal consultations by non-lawyers? By the number of ads I'm seeing, it's a thriving business. It's no mystery to me why there's a need for these services. It's widely acknowledged that the number of lawyers in Japan is kept artificially low by an insanely difficult bar exam, which conveniently allows lawyers to charge high fees. The unfortunate consequences of this include (1) there are a lot of people who are unable to afford or even have access to a lawyer in some parts of the country and (2) a lot of people who have studied law but haven't taken/passed the bar exam are in jobs that in the States would be considered practicing law, like this non-lawyer fellow offering "legal consultations." Most of my co-workers have studied law but aren't "弁護士" even though they are doing things that on a daily basis that lawyers do: researching legal issues, drafting legal memos, interpreting regulations, etc.

Third, are people able to distinguish between a "scrivener" and a "lawyer"? Such a practice is prohibited by law in the United States (champerty), so an ad like this would raise hackles. Could you imagine an ad by a paralegal offering "legal consultations"? That paralegal would need to get a lawyer pretty quickly.

I was at lunch last week and a woman asked me "why is it so easy to become a lawyer in the United States?" After nearly choking on my 鯖 【さば】mackerel on this remarkable lack of tact (not the first instance), I turned the question back on her and asked whether she considered that maybe the number of "lawyers" in Japan is kept artificially low, and so now you have a lot of people providing quasi-legal services in an unregulated manner to people who can't afford or even have access to a real lawyer. Did she think this was a good thing? Did she not know that there were parts of Japan where there were no lawyers? This may sound like a good thing to Americans who see the excesses of too much litigation, but the consequences of not being able to assert ones rights fully undermines the justice system considerably, in my view.

Considering that she had studied law but did not pass the exam, I think she saw my point...but I got the sense that it wasn't a topic she wanted to delve into any further, so I left it at that.
8 Feb
(麻生首相and his disquieting への字smile)

Here's a list of the errors that Prime Minister Aso has made in speeches (so far) that everyone is jumping all over him about. I had been wondering what exactly the errors were, but few people I know could remember what they were, or what exactly he got wrong, so I tracked them down in case anyone is interested. Good excuse for learning some new words!

1. Rare beast!

Apparently, in describing Japan's "esteemed" or "valued" relationship with Russia, he meant to use the term 珍重 【ちんちょう】 (n,vs) prize; value highly...but instead said 珍獣 【ちんじゅう】 (n) rare (or peculiar) animal.

2. Choice of The Penis Generation

He meant to use the term 団塊世代 【だんかいせだい】 (n) the babyboomers; the baby boom generation (literally, the "lump/node generation")...but instead of saying "daikai" he said "daikon" which is the word for "phallus" 男根 【だんこん】. Freudian slip?

3. Unprecedunted!

In seeing the term 未曾有 meaning "unprecedented" or "unheard of" he read it as みそゆ...which sounds like "味噌" (miso) and "湯" (yu = hot water)... but it's supposed to be pronounced 【みそう】 or 【みぞう】. In my book, this one is an understandable slip, given that the yomi for 有 is rarely just う, but to a lot of my Japanese coworkers, this was unforgiveable. In fact, at the Administrative Training for Japanese bureaucrats that I attended a couple months ago, a speaker intentionally mispronounced this word, and got a big laugh from the audience (one of the only ones in 2 weeks...). It seems that the sentiment is that government officials are supposed to be highly educated, and slips like these undermine the public's confidence. But I suppose making fun of him for these slips is a proxy for critcizing him b/c he's so ineffectual in more important ways, thereby perpetuating his inability to be taken seriously.

4. So Complexificated!

He read the word 繁雑 meaning "complex; intricate" as 【ひんざつ】...but it's supposed to be pronounced【はんざつ】. As a result it wound up sounding like "frequent and complicated". I'm guessing that in his head, he inadvertently saw the kanji for 繁 and associated it with 頻繁 【ひんぱん】 (adj-na) frequent; incessant, and transposed the yomi. Who knows? I'm just glad b/c I learned a new word from his gaffe!

5. Down in the Dumps

Instead of pronouncing 低迷 meaning sluggish as 【ていめい】, he said 【ていまい】. I guess that he was thinking of the 迷 in 迷子 【まいご】 (n) lost (stray) child. This one really surprised one of my coworkers b/c she said it's not an uncommon word at all. Either way: new word for Mikey!

6. Shaking the Foundations

The last one I found is when he pronounced 基盤 meaning "foundation; basis; base" as【きはん】 instead of 【きばん】. This is interesting because the "ban" doesn't seem to be a pronunciation born of necessity (like an "n" shifting to "m" before a consonant as in "nanboku" > "namboku"). There are words in Japanese that are pronounced "kihan":

軌範(P); 規範(P) 【きはん】 (n) model; standard; pattern; norm; criterion; example
羈絆 【きはん】 (n) fetters; shackles; bond; connection
帰阪 【きはん】 (n) returning to Osaka
帰帆 【きはん】 (n,vs) returning sailboat; setting sail for home port

All great words...especially "returning to Osaka"! So instead of criticizing Aso for his screw-ups, as my Japanese coworkers like to do, I should thank him for the vocabulary building!

(Apparently, his blunders have revived an interest in kanji, and a book about commonly mispronounced kanji is flying off the shelves.)


Here's the latest gaffe:

Apparently, instead of pronouncing 踏襲 as【とうしゅう】 (meaning following (e.g. suit, in someone's footsteps, etc.)), he pronounced it as "ふしゅう," which sounds a lot like 腐臭 【ふしゅう】 (n) smell of something rotten; rotten smell. I'm guessing that he forgot the onyomi for 踏 ("tou") and remembered only the kunyomi, which is "fumu" (to step). I had never seen the word 踏襲 before, so thanks again, PM Aso!

(You'd think that by now he'd start reading his speeches before reading them in public, or at least have his staff put furigana on the teleprompter!)
8 Feb
(seen in a shop in Osaka...eeg)

Found a few really good words this past week, but I've been adjusting to my new job so I haven't gotten around to posting them:

1. 手酌 【てじゃく】 (n) pouring one's own drink

Useful, in a metaphoric sense!

2. 頭打ちに成る 【あたまうち に なる】 (v) to plateau

This is one I've been looking for! I wanted to express how my Japanese improved quickly when I first got here, but it seems to have leveled off (and may even be getting worse!), so this seems to do the trick. I literally "bumped my head"...

3. 十把一絡げ; 十把一絡 【じっぱひとからげ; じゅっぱひとからげ】 (n,adj-no) lumping together all sorts of things; making sweeping generalizations; dealing with various things under one head

I love this one! Literally, "bundle ten sticks into one." I'm sick of saying "一般化" all the time b/c it lacks punch when I'm disagreeing with someone who has just made an insanely broad-brush statement. Unfortunately, the few people I've tried it out on didn't recognize it, so I imagine it's not in current usage. Still, it's another arrow 矢【や】 to add to my quiver 箙【えびら】.

On a side note, a friend of mine says that when he was a kid, he thought the expression was "十羽ひと空揚げ” or: "taking ten birds and making one fried chicken dish." Hah! Reminds me of how, when I was a kid and heard someone say "shut the window, or you'll catch a draft," that it was "catch a giraffe," which made no sense but was still plausible, at least to my 8-y/o mind.

4. 権限を付与する = to grant authority

権限 【けんげん】 (n) power; authority; jurisdiction
付与 【ふよ】 (n,vs) grant; allowance; endowment; bestowal; assignment; conferment

付与 sounds much better than "ataeru," I think.

5. 相関関係 【そうかんかんけい】 (n) correlation; interrelation

6. 迂回; 迂廻 【うかい】 (n) (1) detour; (vs) (2) to detour; to circumvent

(and saving the best for last...)

7. 鑑みる 【かんがみる】 (v1,vt) to heed; to take into account; to learn from; to take warning from

I saw this one in adverb form: Xに鑑みて in view of X; in the light of X; taking X into account. Much more precise than について、に関して、etc. for when you want to get across the idea that you're building on things that have been established.

A bonus is that the kanji is used to get across the idea of "to discern" or "to discriminate" so we see it in all sorts of interesting combinations:

a. 印鑑 【いんかん】 (n) stamp; seal
(the kanji finally makes sense to me now: the impression that one uses to distinguish oneself from others!)

b. 鑑賞 【かんしょう】 (n,vs) appreciation (e.g. of art); aesthetic sense

...so for "film festival" is 映画鑑賞会 【えいがかんしょうかい】

c. 鑑定 【かんてい】 (n,vs,adj-no) judgment

So then we get:

鑑定書 【かんていしょ】 (n) expert's written opinion or report
精神鑑定 【せいしんかんてい】 (n,vs) psychiatric examination
DNA鑑定 【ディーエヌエーかんてい】 (n) DNA test

d. 鑑別 【かんべつ】 (n,vs,adj-no) discrimination; judgment; distinction

from which we get: 雌雄鑑別 【しゆうかんべつ】 (n) sexing (of chickens, silkworms, etc.)
(literally: female/male distinguish)
8 Jan
I was taught a good expression yesterday:

旅の恥は掻き捨て 【たびのはじはかきすて】

旅 【たび】 (n,vs) travel; trip; journey
恥 【はじ】 (n) shame; embarrassment
掻く 【かく】 (v5k,vt) (1) (uk) to scratch; (2) (See 汗をかく) to perspire; (3) to shovel; to paddle;
捨てる 【すてる】 (v1,vt) to throw away; to cast aside; to abandon; to resign; to break up with (someone)

Literally: "trip embarrassments, shovel and toss"

I guess you could translate this more smoothly as "Embarrassments that happen abroad can be discounted."

This is the sage advice that was given to me by my Deputy Section Chief when I expressed concern that I have to give a speech in Japanese in only 30 minutes (when the original speech was an hour), and my Japanese isn't good enough to speak that quickly. He used this expression to mean that no matter how poorly I do, it'll be ok because I'm abroad and it won't have any real effect on my career. This is the closest equivalent to "gaijin pass" that I can think of! Basically, we can get away with making mistakes, etc., because we're foreigners and not expected to know all the ins and outs of how things work here. So in a way it can be a relief, but it's a double-edged sword because it's also a reminder that we will never fit in. (I'm reminded of how nice it is when I'm just treated as a human being instead of a curiousity, like when I go to the dentist's and they just speak to me in Japanese normally, instead of freaking out that a foreigner is speaking Japanese, even if ineptly.)

He intended to be supportive, but in a way, it can be even more disconcerting. I hope that my work at the Ministry has been helpful in some way, and I don't want to be seen as just something entertaining. Speaking of entertainment, I was using a phrase with my fellow fellows before we came to Japan. We recognized that there was a likelihood we would be seen just as "dancing poodles" in that to some colleagues, it would be merely entertaining that there was a foreigner in the office, and that we would be lucky if we were given real work to do. (as in: sure, dancing poodles don't dance particularly well, but it's a wonder that they dance at all.) We eventually came to the conclusion that in some cases, it made sense not to fight being held up as cheap entertainment, so instead of making the most of things by "going whole hog" we would be "going whole poodle."

As it turned out, I've been given reasonably substantive work, even if I haven't been incorporated entirely into the daily goings-on in my Section, so I am very thankful. I'm also thankful that I've been able to learn so much about trade treaties, etc. So I guess in the end, I should just suck it up on the occasions that I'm seen by some people as a curiosity....and enjoy the ride.

So, really, maybe the Expression of the Day should be:

着眼大局 【ちゃくがんたいきょく】 (n) having an eye to the big picture; being aware of the general situation
5 Jan
According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's Justice Ministry 法務省(Houmushou) announced that it would soon be launching a study group 検討会(kentoukai) to deliberate whether to extend 延長 (enchou) or abolish 撤廃 (teppai) the statute of limitations for certain felonies 重大事件 (juudai-jiken). Here's the first paragraph of the article:


On the third (of January), the Justice Ministry will launch a study group aimed at reconsidering the statute of limitations for prosecution of felonies including murder. The study will also address whether to extend or abolish the statute of limitations, which the Criminal Procedure Code sets at 25 years for capital punishment crimes.

Vocabulary List:

刑事訴訟法 【けいじそしょうほう】 (n) Criminal Procedure Code
殺人 【さつじん】 (n,adj-no) murder
死刑 【しけい】 (n) death penalty; capital punishment
時効期間 【じこうきかん】 limitation period; period of limitation; period of prescription; prescription period
期間の延長 【きかんのえんちょう】 extension of period
時効 【じこう】 (n) (1) statute of limitations; lapse of rights after a period of time; prescription; (2) ageing; aging
撤廃 【てっぱい】 (n,vs) annulment; abolition; repeal; rescission
検討する 【けんとうする】 (n,vs) consideration; examination; investigation; study; scrutiny; discussion
3 Jan
On the Metropolitan Police's web site, there is a notice that, according to 【道路交通法第71条の5・第2項】, Road Traffic Law, Section 71, Clause 2:


= Drivers over the age of 75 must display on the front and back of the vehicle the "Autumn Leaf" sticker signifying "elderly driver" when operating common passenger vehicles.

(I hope there aren't drivers over 75 operating commercial trucks!)

When I first got to Japan, I was puzzled as to why the sticker indicating "Learner" 初心者was a green arrow, but now I realize it's a green, sprouting leaf, which makes more sense: 若葉マーク (although it still looks like an arrow to me)
The "elderly driver" sticker 紅葉マーク looks like a dried up leaf about to fall from the tree, which is a pretty depressing reminder for the elderly drivers. (This reminds me of an article I read about slang terms used by doctors in the UK; apparently, "CTD" on a patient's chart stood for "circling the drain"...ack!)
At least the name is better than the one used before for drivers over 70: 枯れ葉マーク "areha maaku," which is literally "withered leaf" sticker. I think I'd refuse to put that on my car too, if I were in their shoes.
Although the site indicates that it's an "obligation" 義務, according to the Japan Times, the provisions relating to fines 反則金 【はんそくきん】(lit. "against + rule + money) of 4000 Yen for failure to comply 遵守 【じゅんしゅ】 will not be enforced 実施【じっし】されていない. (The police web site, however, still has the fine listed with a notice in red saying "現在は指導期間としています" or something like "The Period of Instruction is currently in effect."
According to the article, the requirement is supposedly being downgraded by the National Police Authority (NPA) to an "obligation to make an effort" because approximately 75% of drivers over 75 already use the stickers. In my opinion, it would seem that the ones who refuse to use the stickers are precisely the ones whose operation of a vehicle would require a warning to other drivers.
According to the web site, there are other stickers, which I haven't noticed on the streets yet.
A butterfly for 聴覚障害者標識 = Symbol for Hearing & Vision Impaired Drivers:

A four-leaf clover for 身体障害者標識 = Symbol for Physically Impaired Drivers:

Both of these are truly puzzling. I don't know what a butterfly has to do with hearing/vision impairment. It also seems like the internationally-recognized symbol for "disabled" would have done just fine, and I'm not sure what a clover has to do with physical impairment. (Maybe soon someone will tell me that it's actually four heart-tadpoles or something...)
Speaking of which, I'm seeing the use of "身体不自由" all over. Apparently because the term 障害者 is disfavored because it has connotations of "injury," organizations are using "身体不自由" which is closer to "physically challenged." 

25 Dec

I was looking for a way to say aftershock or after-effect, and my 首席 came to the rescue:余波 (よは)、which is literally "the wave that remains (after the winds have subsided)." Great word!
Here's an example from Mainichi Shimbun:
毎日新聞社の英語版ニュースサイト「Mainichi Daily News」(MDN)が掲載した記事が「低俗すぎる」などと批判され、同社が記事を削除するなどした問題をめぐり、ネット上で余波が広がっている.
Here's my rough translation:
The fallout from Mainichi Shimbun's deletion of articles published on its English language news site "Mainichi Daily News (MDN") that had been criticised for being "excessively vulgar" is spreading on the Internet.
Vocabulary list:
掲載した 【けいさいした】 (n) (1) publication (e.g. article in paper); appearance; insertion; (vs) (2) to insert (e.g. an article); to run (e.g. in a newspaper)低俗 【ていぞく】 (adj-na,n) vulgar
批判される 【ひはんされる】 be criticized for; get rubbished; get stoned
削除する 【さくじょする】 (n,vs,adj-no) elimination; cancellation; deletion; erasure; DEL (key)
余波 【よは】 (n) (1) waves that remain after the wind has subsided; (2) after-effect; aftermat広がっている 【ひろがっている】 (vi) to range; have sprawled

24 Dec

Yesterday's expression about a colt coming from a gourd reminded me of another 4-character expression in Japanese that I love:

盲亀浮木 【もうきふぼく】 unlikely event; rare occurence (lit. "blind turtle, floating log")

This reminds me of an incident I'll never forget that happened a few years ago when I went to Argentina for a summer internship. I was kicking myself because I had forgotten to take the phone number of a good friend Juan Ignacio whom I had met in Buenos Aires a few years earlier and gradually fell out of contact. On the second day after I arrived, I was apartment hunting and accidentally missed the subway stop where I was supposed to get off. While I was on the subway, feeling depressed and lonely, someone suddenly called out my name and grabbed my shoulder! It was my friend JuanIg, who just happened to be on the same subway car and didn't even know I was in Argentina. (He said he never takes that line but for some reason I can't remember he wound up on it.) Everyone else was looking, I think, as we excitedly reconnected and expressed our surprise, but it was a great moment. I remember thinking of the chances of that happening: going to a foreign country, taking a random subway, missing my stop, and bumping into the one person in that city you know, etc. Pretty slim! Definitely rates a 盲亀浮木 in my book!

Anyway, this expression is apparently based upon a Buddhist quasi-parable used to demonstrate the slim chances of being born in a life in which there is possibility of attaining enlightment. The metaphor involves a blind turtle surfacing a countless number of times and the chances of that turtle one day hitting upon a floating log in such a way as to go right up into it. Or something like that. There are a lot of interpretations that I've come across on the Internet but the way I see it (admittedly reflecting a way of thinking that is distorted by the 70s and far removed from that of the Boddhisatvas...), it's a good reminder to appreciate the opportunities we have been given in our lifetime.

I recently saw a video of a guy from New Zealand who was born without limbs and he spoke about how, even though he would rather have limbs if given the choice (he gets credit for being honest), he is thankful for the doors that his condition has opened for him in life and forced him to focus on what's really important, i.e., connections with other people, etc. Very heartfelt and moving.
Last weekend, I met a deaf guy here in Tokyo and I've been learning a lot of Japanese Sign Language from him during our conversations. My rudimentary ASL is helpful but only gets me so far, and he has been amazingly patient and we've been able to communicate much better than I had expected. (The fingerspelling 指文字 itself was a formidable challenge, but I found a good site on line and finally succeeded in getting the entire syllabary down.) It was great to be able to listen to what he had to say about growing up deaf in Japan. I was surprised that his parents who are both hearing didn't learn sign language. I had met another deaf Japanese guy in NY a couple years ago and he told me that his parents wouldn't let him sign in public because they were embarrassed...but according to the guy I just met, that mentality still exists but is thankfully getting rarer, at least in the cities and with younger generations. As we were signing on the subway, we were getting a lot of stares, so I was imagining how that must be to experience that on a daily basis growing up. (He drew the picture attached to this post, btw.)

So now that I'm looking back on 2008, I'm thankful for the opportunity to come to Japan and be able to learn so many new things every day, meet interesting people, eat amazing food, and visit places I've always wanted to go. So even though life isn't "perfect" by any stretch, the rarity of a life that affords such wonderful opportunities and the ability to connect (and reconnect) with such great people is something I definitely have come to appreciate these past few years. So thanks, New Zealand guy; thanks, JuanIg, and thanks, blind turtle!
23 Dec

Today I was talking to some co-workers about how something was unexpected and I was searching for a phrase that meant "out of the blue."

I knew 藪蛇 【やぶへび】but that wouldn't work because it has a negative connotation; it is literally translated as "snake from the thicket/bush," and means something like "stirring up a "hornet's nest" or "bringing unnecessary trouble upon oneself."

(Another good expression using "yabu" is 藪の中 【やぶのなか】 which is "the inability to discern the truth due to conflicting testimony," which is derived from the Akutagawa Ryuunosuke story "In A Grove," upon which the movie Rashomon is based in part. Another good expression is 藪医者, which is literally "doctor from the bush" and means "quack (doctor)"; I have no idea whether this is in common use, but I like it!)

The only other expression that I could think of was 亀毛兎角 【きもうとかく】(lit. "fur on turtles and horns on rabbits"), but she said she had never heard of it. In any event, it probably wouldn't work because it's apparently used as a metaphor for things that do not exist, or to express absurdity.

She then suggested the following, which she assured me was commonly used, or at least readily recognized:

瓢箪から駒 【ひょうたんからこま】 (exp) something very unexpected; something said as a joke actually happening (lit: a colt/chesspiece/spool comes from a gourd)

I like it...and I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to use it, whenever that may be!
23 Dec
I learned a couple really useful litigation-related words today:

立証 【りっしょう】 (n,vs) establishing proof; demonstration; substantiation

反証 【はんしょう】 (n,vs) proof to the contrary; disproof; counter-evidence

Example One:


Due to difficulties in establishing injury, the motion/petition was continued/postponed.

Example Two:


The presiding judge ruled that a video submitted the prosecution was admissible and could be shown in court to disprove "distracted driving" as a cause of the accident.

Key words:

被害 【ひがい】 (n) damage
立証 【りっしょう】 (n,vs) establishing proof; demonstration; substantiation
困難な 【こんなんな】 (adj-na,n) difficulty; distress
申請 【しんせい】 (n,vs) application; request; petition
見送る 【みおくる】 (v5r,vt) (1) to see off (e.g. to the station, an airport, etc.); to escort (e.g. home); to farewell; (2) to see out; to send off; (3) to let pass; to wait and see; (4) to let a pitch go by (baseball); to watch a batted ball go into the stands

裁判長 【さいばんちょう】 (n) presiding judge
事故原因 【じこげんいん】 (n) source, cause of an accident
脇見運転 【わきみうんてん】 (n,vs) looking aside while driving; taking one's eyes off the road ahead while driving
反証 【はんしょう】 (n,vs) proof to the contrary; disproof; counter-evidence
検察側 【けんさつがわ】 prosecution
提出した 【ていしゅつした】 (vs) (1) to present; to submit (e.g. a report or a thesis); to hand in; to file; to turn in; (n) (2) presentation; submission; filing; (P)
動画 【どうが】 (n,adj-no,vs) (1) animation; motion picture; moving image; video; (2) in-betweening (in anime)
証拠 【しょうこ】 (n) evidence; proof
採用 【さいよう】 (n,vs) (1) use; adoption; acceptance; (2) appointment; employment
法廷で 【ほうていで】 at the bar of justice; in facie curiae
上映した 【じょうえいした】 (n) (1) screening (a movie); showing; (vs) (2) to screen a movie
22 Dec

While discussing the enforcement of certain environmental statutes today, a co-worker said that, in practice, many companies are able to circumvent some of the strictures/provisions. I knew that loophole is 抜け穴 "nukeana," which literally is like a secret door, apparently.

I wondered whether there was any way to refer in Japanese to the law itself, though. I guess I was looking for something akin to "toothless law." It turns out there's a great term for this: 笊法 【ざるほう】 (n) (uk) law full of loopholes. I love this one because 笊 literally is a "porous basket." Very expressive!
19 Dec

I learned a slang word today that is probably no longer in current use in Japan, but is relevant longer in current use in Japan, but is relevant to what the US is experiencing right now. According to an article I read on http://www.reason.com/, "Twenty years ago, Japan's economy was plagued by struggling markets, liquidity concerns, and frozen credit. In response, Japan tried bailing out its banks, investing in infrastructure, and propping up "zombie businesses," firms that would have failed without government intervention."

Perfectly conveys the idea!
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