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EDUCATION

A coalition of students, teachers, and lawyers submitted the petition to the Japanese Ministry of Education on March 26.

As you probably know by now, most Japanese junior and senior high schools require their students to wear a school uniform. The standard look of dress slacks or a pleated skirt with a button-up shirt, a tie or ribbon, and a blazer with the school logo has become such an ubiquitous part of Japanese school life that it would almost be wrong if students weren’t required to wear them.

But some disagree. A coalition of students, teachers, and lawyers created a petition to give students the right to choose whether they want to wear a uniform to school or not, and they managed to collect nearly 19,000 signatures in support of the cause.

The petition, which is titled, “Are you free to choose not to wear a uniform at your school?” was created by Hidemi Saito (not his real name), a school teacher in Gifu Prefecture, and is supported not only by students and other teachers, but also lawyers, local educational chairs, businesspeople, and activists.

Saito created the petition when he noticed that school uniforms don’t seem to affect student behavior. Since June 2020, students at Saito’s school have been allowed to wear either their uniform or their casual clothes to school because of the pandemic, to allow students to wash their uniforms in between wears to keep the virus from collecting on the fabric.

As a result, half of the students have been wearing their uniforms, and half their regular clothes. But Saito noticed that, even with the half not wearing the uniform, no new problems have arisen at his school. On the contrary, it …continue reading

    

From the downright obvious to the surprising yet amusing, Japanese Sign Language has it all.

If you’re learning Japanese, you’re already familiar with the basics such as arigatou or konnichiwa. But in order to be a true Japanese master, and to truly be able to communicate with everyone you meet in Japan, it might be nice to learn those phrases in Japanese Sign Language (JSL) as well.

JSL uses signs based on Japanese culture, and some of them may be pretty surprising to a non-Japanese person. While I’ve been studying JSL recreationally for a while now, I decided to enlist the help of someone much more experienced to help demonstrate them: my friend Kei, who holds a JSL qualification.

Here are a few examples of JSL with some pretty interesting reasoning behind them.

1. Arigatou — “Thank you”

In a society as notoriously polite as Japan, this phrase should be on the top of the list of things to learn. The Japanese Sign Language gesture for “thank you” originates from the gestures that sumo wrestlers do when they accept their winnings post-match.

▼ You can see it in action here at around the 0:55 mark.

2. Konnichiwa — “Good afternoon/hello”

While there are multiple ways to greet someone, this one is the easiest to understand, as bowing is so ingrained into Japanese everyday life that even the wildlife here is doing it. The sign for greeting someone imitates two people bowing to each other.

3. Conbini — “Convenience store”

Convenience stores in Japan really embody the spirit of the word “convenient.” Not only do they stock a plethora of delicious foods, they are also open twenty-four hours a day — useful if you get hungry in the middle of the night or just really …continue reading

    

Preparing Your Child to Walk to School in Japan Without You

No longer assumed to require around-the-clock supervision, her first step out alone will likely be the walk to school and home again. Although most kids are delighted by this sudden freedom, for most parents, and some children, it will take some time to come to terms with it.

When most soon-to-be first-year elementary school kids imagine walking to school by themselves they probably picture the sun shining, birds singing, friendly neighbors waving to them and many new friends and happy experiences along the way. Cautious children, however, may share the image that most parents see: a cold and cloudy day with speeding cars just around the corner and adults with dark thoughts lurking in wait. The real picture will usually be closer to the first image, but it’s the eternal possibility of an exception to the norm that makes parents worry. So what are parents to do? First, understand that it is rare for a child to meet with foul play on the way to and from schoolmillions of children commute safely every school day. Second, do what you can to prevent your child from meeting with danger. Let’s look at how to do that.

Practice makes confidence

Before the new school year starts in early April, walk the route to and from school with your child. As you do so, advise your child on how to safely cross roads and intersections and to navigate footpaths that may be heavily used by bicycles. If possible, walk the route together at the time that your child will walk itin order to arrive at school by 8:15 a.m.and ideally do it on a school day. That way both of you will get an idea of how much road and people traffic there is then and also whether there will be other students walking nearby …continue reading

    

Over 250 pictograms to support tourism in Japan from a visual design perspective are free to download to learn more about Japanese culture.

Nippon Design Center, in collaboration with Daikoku Design Institute, has released an ever-growing series of pictograms centered on diverse Japanese sightseeing, travel, and cultural experiences. These symbols were designed to provide visual support for tourists in Japan and to allow them to dig a little deeper into the stories behind common cultural artifacts. Even better, they’re perfectly free for anyone to download and use in personal projects.

Check out this small sampling of the currently available 250+ pictograms (which also include a few animated icons as well) that were crafted under the concepts of “universality” and “aesthetics.”

▼ Each pictogram captures the core essence of what it represents using simple, geometric shapes with accented curves.

The pictograms are separated into seven categories connected to common traveling experiences: Nature, Stay, Mobility, Food, History, Landmark, and Basic.

Each pictogram also comes with a detailed explanation available in both Japanese and English (note: the language selected in the upper-right of the screen displays the chosen language in gray, not black). We’ll take a look at a handful of the fun offerings below, but you could certainly go all out and spend the entire day clicking away!

Lovers of traditional Japanese culture will have no problem spotting the symbols representing some classical performing arts such as the face paint used in kabuki productions.

The section on food is particularly diverse with …continue reading

    

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?https://t.co/vYnpeeJdAM#theSOCIAL #ネット炎上 #カード #ディスる pic.twitter.com/DApSIa79bn

— 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?

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:

他の言語だと『花が枯れる』という表現はそんなに多くないと思うんだけど、日本語の『花が枯れるの表現多すぎ問題』に直面してラトビア人泣いてる。

桜⇒散る
梅⇒こぼれる
椿⇒落ちる
朝顔⇒しぼむ
菊⇒舞う
牡丹⇒崩れる

ま…待ってくれ…
日本人のみんな…
そなた達の語彙力は底なし沼か?

— 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