Spring Clean Your Wardrobe

My wardrobe is usually a chaotic sort of multicolored nightmare that would make an acid trip feel calm. Yet this hasn’t consistently been the case. I can recall a few times in my life where I haven’t cowered in fear at the thought of opening the cupboard door. What was I doing at those times versus others that made things more manageable? Well, I’m about to share them with you. While I may fall off the wagon at times, I definitely know how things should be done, and have felt first-hand the incredible flow-on effects of getting wardrobe woes sorted. Let’s begin.

Define Your Style

Before you even so much as glare at your cupboard let’s start with some time-out. I don’t personally believe in hard and fast rules when it comes to judging one’s wardrobe, such as the common “if you haven’t worn it in a year get rid of it” mantra. I have incredible vintage gowns that I love pulling out for weddings and special occasions but I can assure you they don’t always get worn every year. Instead, I prefer to really think about how I’ve changed over the past year (or few years) and assess items based on how they fit with my personality now.

I start by working out what style I’m aiming for and what represents how I want to dress today. Go nuts using Pinterest, looking through magazines, or even talking to friends about how they would sum up your style. I like to actually write down a few words, which could be colors I love, new trends I think would work on me, or people past and present who inspire me.

Get Real About Your Lifestyle

Now that you know which way your taste slants you need to understand how to integrate it into your current lifestyle. …continue reading


In the last blog (Flattening Accents), I wrote about the trend of flattening accents. I am going to list more language trends (トレンドtorendo) among Japanese young people in this blog.

Combine English words+ suffix ru 

  • バズる (buzz + ru) = to go viral
  • ディスるor disる (disrespect + ru) = to disrespect
  • ググる (google + ru) = to google
  • チキる(chicken + ru) = to chicken out
  • リバる(reverse + ru) = to throw up (because one drank too much)

あの音楽が海外でバズってるってほんと? (Is it true that music is buzzing overseas?)

いつも誰かをディスってばっかりじゃだめだよ。(Don’t be disrespectful to others all the time.)

ググってたら、あの噂(うわさuwasa)ほんとだった。(I googled and found that the rumor was true.)

チキって何にもできない大人にはなりたくない。(I don’t want to be an adult who is too chicken to do anything.)

飲みすぎて、リバりそう。(I drank too much, and I feel like throwing up.)

I was so surprised to see newscasters on commercial broadcasting channels use バズるディスるor disる on the news. バズる is not a new word. It has become recognized since 2013 on the internet, but the use was limited to (限られるkagirareru) “net slang.” So over years, the word has gained status enough to be used on the TV news. The Youtube video above is posted by a Japanese commercial TV broadcasting company. The program is a news show titled 「トレバズ」(torebazu), which I assume is the combination of “trend” and “buzz.” You can hear プチバズ(puchibazu)をする on the 0:58 point, a combination of “petit” and “buzz”, meaning “go viral a little bit.” You can also hear これはバズる!on 1:45 mark.

インターネットの“炎上”を体験する授業。カードであえてディスることで炎上を疑似体験。その目的は? #ネット炎上 #カード #ディスる

— 日テレNEWS (@news24ntv) July 5, 2018

(Dare to be disrespectful – a class at school teaching kids to be careful on the social network)

Make an adjective by adding “y” to English nouns

  • ボリューミー (volume + y)= voluminous, in a large amount
  • ポエミー (poem + y) = mainly poetic illustrations, or …continue reading

West Tokyo program is the first of its kind in Japan.

Keiko Ikeda, a city councilwoman for Tama City, one of the western districts of Tokyo, was startled by a recent survey showing that 20 percent of respondents are struggling with the cost of feminine hygiene products during the pandemic-caused economic downturn. Together with the eight other female members of the council, last week Ikeda submitted a request to Tama mayor Hiroyuki Abe asking for government action to help relieve such economic burdens for women. One of the requests was for schools to distribute products free of charge to students, and that’s what started happening the very next day.

On March 17, 26 public elementary and junior high schools in Tama began placing sanitary napkins in their girls’ restrooms, or distributing them on request from the nurse’s office. “Feminine hygiene products are necessities,” stressed Ikeda, “but there are children who can’t have their parents purchase them for them, and they need our support.”

In addition to financial concerns, the Tama board of education hopes that being able to obtain napkins anonymously, or at least directly from a nurse, will be of benefit to children who, for whatever reason, don’t feel uncomfortable discussing their menstruation status and cycles with their parents, yet are unable to buy the products they need on their own.

A total of 1,664 napkins, sourced from the city’s disaster relief stockpile, are being distributed to schools. While free distribution of feminine hygiene products is also taking place at the ward offices of Tokyo’s Toshima and Adachi Wards this month, Tama’s program is the first in Japan to be carried out at children’s educational institutions. “This is the first, and most immediate, step we can take” said Abe, implying that other measures are also being considered and may be coming in …continue reading


Is “A-MOng Us” or “A-MAng Us” the victor?

When I first learned Japanese, I was shocked that my name “Scott” didn’t turn into “Su-KA-tto” but instead “Su-KO-tto” due to Japanese pronunciation. I felt like the first one was much closer to how it sounds in English, so I was confused about the vowel change.

Of course, that was only the beginning. Then I learned that “ball” is “bōru” instead of “bāru,” “cup” is “koppu” instead of “kappu,” “button” is “botan” instead of “batan,” and my brain broke.

And now the strangely translated English-to-Japanese vowel sounds have found a new challenger: the game Among Us.

▼ You can see here how the game title is kept in English not only in the YouTube title,
but also on the game’s main screen as well, despite everything else being in Japanese.

One of the reasons the title is kept in English is because there’s a disagreement on how “among” should be pronounced in Japanese: a-MOn-gu or a-MAn-gu.

For those who think it’s a small difference that doesn’t really matter… I have bad news. We’re going for a deep, deep dive into this small difference that doesn’t really matter!

▼ For everyone else though, strap on your goggles because we’re jumping
into the nitty gritty of Japanese and English phonology.

The first thing we need to do is break down the actual English pronunciation of the word “among.” English spelling is notoriously silly, and nowhere is it more ridiculous than its vowels.

English has between 14 and 20 vowel sounds depending on the dialect. Just for an example, the letter “a” pronounced wildly different in words like “apple,” “comma,” “father,” and “face.”

Because of this, linguists use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to spell out …continue reading


Would a rose by any other name be as dead?

“I’m going to learn the Japanese language!” You announce to yourself, bright-eyed and determined, a fire in your heart and a world of knowledge ahead of you. You studiously pore over hiragana tables, then drill each and every katakana into your head. You learn that Japanese is structured differently from English, that the verb tends to come after the subject and object rather than between them. You tackle a mountain of kanji. Maybe you even find some friends to talk in Japanese with and learn the ebbs and flows of conversation.

Feeling good about yourself, you gesture to a vase filled with ailing morning glories.Asagao ga kareta.” The morning glories have withered. Right?


Wrong! When you address morning glories, or asagao, the correct term to use is shibomu. It also means “to wither”, but has a shriveling, deflating nuance to it.

▼ Here’s a fully blooming morning glory to make you feel better.

As with many aspects of the Japanese language, many native speakers will be far too polite to correct you on the finer points of funereal flower terminology, especially as kareru (the catch-all verb for “wither” or “die” when applied to plants) makes perfect sense in context. But for perfectionists who wish to speak flawless, top-tier Japanese it’s yet another thorn in their side.

YouTuber Artur, who is Latvian but produces content primarily in Japanese, lamented the extent of his withering woes in the following tweet:




— アルトゥル?日本推しYouTuber? (@ArturGalata) March 12, 2021

“I feel that other languages don’t have anywhere near as many ways to say the …continue reading


Commonly used kanji’s components don’t make a lot of sense nowadays, but once upon a time…

The Japanese language has three types of writing, and kanji are by far the most difficult. There are more than 2,000 kanji characters to remember, and that huge number is a daunting goal not just for foreigners learning Japanese as a second language, but for kids growing up in Japan as well.

But while learning kanji is always going to be a challenge, there’re a few ways to make it more manageable, and one of the best is to look for ways to break a single kanji down into its component parts. For example, the kanji character for “rest,” seen here…

…becomes easier to remember if you already know that 木 is the kanji for “tree,” and the left portion of 休 represents a person. In other words, the kanji for “rest” is a picture of a person leaning against a tree, taking a break and relaxing in the shade.

So yeah, kanji can be tough, but the more you learn, the easier they get…at least that’s usually how it goes. However, you might find yourself scratching your head when you come to the kanji for “take…”

since the left half is pretty much the same as the kanji for ear.

But maybe things instantly make sense when you add in the right half of 取? Not really, since the right portion means “hand,” making 取 a visual representation of “holding an ear.”

And it’s not like the metaphor is “grab someone …continue reading


Sure, tennis and band are fun, but it’s hard to beat the appeal of kitaku.

Japan is often described as a group-oriented society, and that affects school life too. Especially in middle and high school, kids in Japan are strongly encouraged to sign up for extracurricular activities, and some schools even make joining a club or sports team mandatory.

Because Japanese extracurricular activities often have pretty intense practice/meeting schedules, doing more than one usually isn’t possible, so choosing what club to join is an important decision. Japanese smartphone text-entry app Simeji recently asked its users which school club they want to join, collecting 2,690 responses from users aged 10 to 19 and compiled a list of the top 10, so let’s look at the results.

10. Table tennis
9. Light music
8. Tennis
7. Badminton
6. Basketball

Racket sports had a strong showing in the 6-10 rankings, which also included the “light music” (or keion, to use the Japanese term) club, which specializes in modern/pop music, as opposed to classical or marching varieties.

5. Art
4. Concert band
3. Volleyball
2. Dance

The 2-5 group is where the traditional school concert band shows up. As for the dance club, in Japanese schools it’s usually a mix of jazz and hip hop styles, often performed as a group, not ballroom, ballet, or interpretive routines.

And finally, at the top of the list, the club the respondents most want to join is what’s referred to in Japanese as “kitaku-bu,” literally “going home club,” or, in laymen’s terms…

not being part of any extracurricular activity at all, and being free to go do what they want after …continue reading


Thanks to all at the University of Findlay and all of the webinar participants.

My friend and colleague, Mark Bookman, a Ph.D. Candidate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, also zoomed in to the presentation. He is close to finishing his dissertation on the history and politics of disability in Japanese and global contexts. Mark is an expert on the kinds of things I was talking about in Part Two of my lecture. He gave me some valuable feedback and I want to share it with the participants.

Click here to download Mark’s comments.

Again, I really appreciate Mark’s feedback. It is this kind of collaboration and dialogue (and frankly, good anthropology) that is important and valuable.

I welcome more feedback from anyone who is willing.

For more of this kind of collaboration and research, check out the Asian Ethnology “Disability and Japan in the Digital Age.”

Transcript available here:

You can also check out Mark Bookman’s work here:

…continue reading


I have been always interested in teenage vernacular (特有の言葉 tokuyu no kotoba). My senior thesis was on the teenage vernacular in Southern California. Teenagers are experts (専門家senmonka) in creating new words as they are not bound by rules. They are creative in any language.

Some new words are born and die, while others gain status to be used on TV even on the news, lose the hipness, and are abandoned by the young creators. One of the significant changes I noticed in the 1990s was a change in accent in some vocabularies. Note that the conventional accents described here are ones used in Tokyo. Young people have started to flatten accents. This trend is called “flattening accents” (アクセントの平板化 akusento no heibanka.) Some words added a new meaning by altering the traditional accents (Table 1).

Table 1

Vocabulary Original Accents Original Meaning(s) New Accents New Meaning
クラブ(club) ク\ラブ – an organization that is created by people with a common interest

– an expensive drinking venue catered to corporate executives
クラブ¯ a hip dance club popular among hip young people
ネット(net) ネ\ット a device to catch fish etc ネット¯ internet
ライン(line) ラ\イン a straight one- dimensional figure ライン¯ The largest SNS in Japan

While Table 2 shows vocabularies that young people simply changed the traditional accents without altering or adding meanings.

(Table 2)

Vocabulary Original Accents New Accents Meaning
ショップ(shoppu) ショ\ップ ショップ¯ shop
モデル(moderu) モ\デル モデル¯ model
グーグル(guuguru) グ\ーグル グーグル¯ google
彼氏(kareshi) か\れし かれし¯ boyfriend
図書館(toshokan) としょ\かん としょかん¯ library

NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, a research arm established by NHK (Japanese public broadcaster,) added acceptable accents of 3300 words in 2016 based on “appropriateness” in broadcasting instead of correct/incorrect.

Not surprisingly, the flattening accents are more prevailed and accepted among young people. As a former sociolinguistics student, I have no problem accepting changes in language especially the changes that involve more than accents as in Table 1. However, some changes in accents are hard even to say! レ\タス(lettus retasu) isレタス¯ and <span …continue reading