Now Featuring 1級 Grammar, Everyday Japanese That You Won't Find in the Book, and Language and Cultural Trivia!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


いく どうおん
iku douon

Today's yo-ji jukugo is so straightforward and easy to understand that the only thing I can possibly do to make it more interesting/challenging is throw a bunch of synonymous 四字熟語 at you. Different phrases, but they're saying the same thing. How appropriate.

Before that though, while I'm still basking in how clever I am, let's check the definition.

1. In unison
2. Unanimously

The kanji make this one clear enough: different mouths, same sound.


異口同声 (いくどうせい;ikudousei) and 異口同辞 (いくどうじ; ikudouji) get away with just switching out the last kanji, to become "different mouths, same voice" and "different mouths, same language" respectively. But if you're a Rikai-chan user, you'll notice that these don't enjoy the same recognition that 異口同音 does, so don't expect them to work well in conversation.

Then there's 衆目一致 (しゅうもくいっち; shuumokuicchi) which is used to mean a consensus of opinion, or something widely agreed upon, or widely admitted.

And we'll finish out with 満場一致 (まんじょういっち;manjyouicchi) which also means "unanimous."

Things that I'm paying close attention to:

  • The reading of , which features in a handful of 1級 熟語.
  • , which also is important for 1級, in that it gets used a lot for things that are in the public arena, like politics and business, in which direction 1級 content tends to lean (you know, when they're not focused on video games).
  • 一致, appearing in two of the synonymous yo-ji, used to mean "agreement," or "union." And coincidence. Not the 偶然 style coincidence, but an act of coinciding.


Easily-fooled teacher: I thought you had homework to hand in, but if EVERYONE in class is saying that there wasn't any, I guess I forgot to assign it!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

表現 Break: 二足のわらじを履く

So every once in a while, the 1級 book will throw an expression at us that we ought to be aware of.

This is one of those.

Can you guess which grammar point it complements?

にそく の わらじ を はく

To wear two different pairs of straw sandals.

Now... I was initially confused about why you would ever wear sandals, or any shoes for that matter, on only ONE of your feet, but then someone pointed out that 足 is actually the counter for PAIRS of legs. 靴一足 is one pair of shoes, which makes much more sense.

My book explains that this is used for someone who's working two jobs at the same time, and gives the example, 「姉は日本人に英語を教えるかたわら、外国人に日本語を教える仕事もしている。」

But, when I looked into the origins of this weird little phrase, I found that it is actually should be used in cases where those two different occupations should be incompatible. 「二足に草鞋を履く」 was coined during the Edo Era, to talk about constables (捕吏) who moonlighted as professional gamblers or vice versa.
Click the pic on the right for some 江戸時代博打.

While it seems like this information might limit the ways that you can use this phrase, remember that Japanese society generally does not condone holding more than one job, so while being an eikaiwa teacher for two different companies probably wouldn't earn you a 「二足に草鞋」 admonition, being a teacher by day and a bartender by night would definitely qualify.

Teacher and a porn star? (Despite what the vast quantities of video evidence seem to suggest...) FROWNED UPON.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1級 Grammar 6-10

We're doing our best to prepare for, and hopefully, to help you prepare for the 日本語能力試験1級, but please remember: 1級, by its very nature, consists of grammar that is difficult, highly nuanced, and most of the time, rarely used in regular conversations. That's why it's important that you use our posts as references, to be compared with other study sources. Before you leave a comment, please check the message posted here.

Thanks, and 頑張って!

1級 Grammar 6-10:

6. ~かぎりだ
Very ~
Extremely ~
非常に~だ と感じる

Well, well, well, かぎり... we meet again. This time, though, we find it in probably its simplest form yet - tack it onto an い-type adjective (one that describes your emotions), and voila! While it's not a very common usage, it is very easy to use. There's nothing else to it.

Ex. 彼のお嫁さんはモデルとして、大成功して、お金持ちになりました。羨ましい限りです。

7. ~が最後...
If A happens, then B will definitely happen.

Even though you're literally saying "A is last," A actually starts things off in this chain of events. And once A's gotten rolling, B can't be stopped... and B is going to be something bad. While degrees of "badness" are relative (this expression works for "Once he starts talking about movies, he won't stop," as well as "Once I push this button, the lethal injection procedure will commence."), it's generally used for special emphasis. It gets tacked onto a verb in the past tense.

Ex. ダイエットしつつ、彼女は我慢強くなってきましたが、甘いものを食べだしたが最後、一日中食べ続けるから、最初から食べさせないほうがいい。

8. ~かたがた
while in the process of ~,

A very formal phrase used in letter writing or the most formal greetings. It's not that hard to understand in terms of usage, but everywhere you see it, it's bound to be surrounded by 敬語: 御 honorifics, like お世話、 ご相談、お礼、お詫び、and formal verbs like 伺う、参る、and 致す。 We're going to post book examples on this one, because, well... I'm not capable of coming up with one that's as good as the book's on my own. :(

かたがた follows a noun.

Ex. 先日はたいへん失礼いたしました。今日はお詫びかたがたご相談に伺いました。
Ex. この度はたいへんお世話になりました。来週にでもお礼かたがたご報告ぶまいります。

9. ~かたわら...
doing ... in addition to ~
doing ... while doing ~

Whatever you list first is the main activity, and the second part is...secondary. But in spite of that, BOTH things are done continuously - ie jobs, volunteering, studying, etc. You would not use this phrase to say "I bought some ice cream while walking around the park."

Use with a verb in the dictionary form, or with a noun and の, like so:

Ex. 日本で就職のかたわら、日本語を勉強しています。

10. ~がてら
While A, B.
When A, B.

One of many expressions that can be essentially boiled down to しながら, but here's are the elements that set this apart:
  • ~がてら is used for trivial things that are over and done with quickly, so it's the perfect choice for buying ice cream while walking around the park. You wouldn't use it for anything big or permanent.
  • It's used when the situation in A presents the opportunity for B, like watching a movie with subtitles is a chance to learn some new vocab, or going for a jog is a chance to remember the way to the post office...
  • Most of the time, A involves moving around: coming or going.

Ex. 今朝、会社に通いがてら、携帯でお母さんに誕生日のメールを入れました。

There's 5 more down. See you next time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

1級 Grammar 1-5:

We're doing our best to prepare for, and hopefully, to help you prepare for the 日本語能力試験1級, but please remember: 1級, by its very nature, consists of grammar that is difficult, highly nuanced, and most of the time, rarely used in regular conversations. That's why it's important that you use our posts as references, to be compared with other study sources. Before you leave a comment, please check the message posted here.

Thanks, and 頑張って!

1級 Grammar 1-5:

Technically we already posted 35 1級 grammar points a while ago, but we were kind of half-assing them. Now that we've got about another year of Japanese experience under our belts, and actually intend to take 1級 next year, we're going to start fresh. Bear with us while we get back up to speed.

1. ~あっての
... It's thanks to ~ that ... exists.
... would not be without ~.
... is nothing without ~.

This would be an excellent bit of grammar to incorporate into your going away speech since it is most commonly used in indicating appreciation or a indelible relationship between people or groups. "It's thanks to my family that I'm here today, I would be nothing without all of you helping me, etc." In AあってのB, B could not exist if A was removed from the equation.

Most of the examples I've come across use this to end sentences: 

The book does include one example where it's used to modify a subject, like so:

Ex. 読者の皆さんあってのデーリー四字である。ありがとうございます!また一緒に文法を勉強しましょう!

2. ~いかんだ ・ ~いかんによっては
based on ~,
depending on ~,
is up to ~ ~次第だ

You should recognize ~次第だ from 2級, and while these two points are very close in meaning, I think you use ~いかんだ to talk about specific results, not decisions. "Depending on the boss's evaluation, we may or may not adopt this policy." 'Depending on your test results, you may admitted to the hospital immediately." While it might be cool to use 次第 to say "Whether or not we go on a picnic next week depends on the weather," I don't think いかんだ or いかんによっては could be used there.

The book explains: in BはAいかんだ or AいかんによってはB sentences, B is a result that changes in accordance with the conditions of A.

In the picnic example, a picnic depends on the weather, but it's not a result of the weather. It's an independent entity. Adoption of a policy however, could not be done without the boss, or his or her evaluation. Admission to the hospital is one possible result of the medical test.

Ex. 面接の結果いかんによっては、転職はできるかもしれません。

3. ~いかんによらず ・ ~いかんにかかわらず
Regardless of ~,

This one is made a lot easier if you happen to remember that にかかわらず is a grammar point all by itself. See if you can remember what it means. If not, just click the link and browse around, but it should shed some light on this usage - in this case, it reverses いかん by itself. Also, as I imagine will be the case for a lot of 1級 grammar, it falls on the formal side of Japanese.

This was a grammar point I was told is so old and formal that today, it's pretty much only used used in a phrase that means "No refunds: 理由のいかんによらず、返金されない。" 

Ex. お父様の許可いかんによらず、結婚します。

4. ~うが ・ ~うが~まいが ・ ~うと~まいと
Even if A~, ...
Whether A or not A, ....

The ~う in the following few points means that you're using the volitional form of a verb there. In the case of ~うが, it means "Even if A happens," as in "Even if I get home late, I always pack my lunch for the next day before going to bed."
Whip out ~うが~まいが when the occurence or non-occurence of A is irrelevant to what comes next in the sentence. You can use it to say "We're gonna go to the movies, whether or not you come," but you can also use it to say things like "Whether you come or not, it doesn't matter to me."
What's tough about this point is the nuances of the construction: In the case of AうがAまいが, the first occurence of verb A will be the volitional form, whereas the second occurence will just be plain old dictionary form (like 行こうが行くまいが).

Also, do not confuse this with the extremely similar ~うか~まいか of 2級 past. The か one is used when you're wondering about whether A should or should not be done, whereas using が or と means that neither option is changes things.

Ex. どんなに遅くまで働こうが、部長は気づいてくれない。
Ex. 2 君は私のこと、愛してくれようがくれまいが、私は君のこと、ずっと愛する。

5. ~うにも~ない
can't do A even if you tried/wanted to do A.

For when there is something one would like to do, but can't since something is interfering. It has a pretty strong meaning, but seeing as one of the example sentences reflects on how a book is so difficult, you couldn't read it even if you tried, I'd say you can be a bit relaxed with it. Another note that Nirav reminded us of, the second occurence of the verb in this phrase should be in the potential form ( 食べられる、読める and the like).
FINALLY, it should be an external force that is preventing you from doing the thing you want to do.

Ex. (courtesy of Nirav!) 毎日新しい四字が書きたいけど、仕事やら学校やらで忙しいから書こうにも書けない。

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Message to Yoji Readers, Re: JLPT 1級

Hey everyone,

Thanks for always reading and checking out the site.

Starting soon, well be updating the site with new JLPT1級 Grammar Posts.

Sorry to have kept you waiting for so long.

Just like in the past, we'll be using the "日本語能力試験実力アップ" series as our textbook, and the grammar that we learn there, we'll turn into posts.

We're always excited to have your cooperation and your kind comments or correction, but when it comes to commenting on the 1級 grammar posts, we have a request.

We take our studies very seriously, so we will try as hard as we can to make sure we don't post any mistaken or misleading examples or explanations.

1級 grammar though, consists largely of expressions that the average person does not use. So if you're not a Japanese teacher or someone with special knowledge of either Japanese grammar or the format/contents of the JLPT, please refrain from offering corrections.

It's a common phenomenon, but to cite a specific example, some time ago, when Daily Yoji contributor Brett wrote a post about the word "かぎり," as used to mean "very; extremely" he posted the example sentence "嬉しいかぎりだ."

In response to that, we received a comment explaining that かぎり doesn't mean "very" it means "during."

However, for the purpose of studying 1級, we are required to learn かぎり as "very" (かぎり as "during" is a usage covered in 2級), so I hate to say it but that comment, well-intentioned though it was, was actually counter-productive for us as well as our readership.

Along the same lines, the other day I was trying to make an example sentence using the point "いかんによらず" but when I consulted my Japanese friend studying at the desk next to me, I was told that "いかんによらず" is too old, and not commonly used, so I shouldn't try to use it in a sentence.

When dealing with those kinds of comments, you get confused, frustrated, and it's in no way encouraging. It actually has a negative effect on motivation.

Because of this, we hope that you'll recognize that we're trying to remember these grammar points, and even if there's something slightly awkward about our examples, if the meaning and the usage of the grammar point is not mistaken, we ask for your understanding, and your leniency.

Sincere apologies for going on at such length.

We look forward to our continued relations.



Friday, November 27, 2009


ikan senban

Do you guys know the word 後悔 (こうかい; koukai)? Or the verb phrase 後悔する? 後悔 is "regret" and as always, adding する verbs it into "to regret." So what about "regrettable?"

後悔的 doesn't really get used very commonly, so if you want to say that something was regrettable, like Brett's decision to sing Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" at Karaoke, you could use the first half of today's yo-ji、遺憾(な)to do the trick: ブレットさんの音域が狭すぎて、極めて遺憾な演奏でありました。

So, with 遺憾 as "regrettable" and 千万 stepping up to represent an extremely large quantity, we've got a yo-ji that means:

1. HIGHLY regrettable.
2. Deplorable.
3. Mortifying.

It's worth noting that while all of these translations could be applied equally to Brett's singing, you can use 遺憾千万 in lots of other situations as well. The Yoji Databank has a good example with: 「よかれと思い、君に忠告したつもりだったが、逆に恨みを買うとは遺憾千万だ。」 I particularly like the phrase 「よかれと思う: to have good intentions; to mean well.」

Sadly, I have a lot of memories that I look back on as 遺憾千万. Most recently, I was filling out an application at a job interview, and thanks to a combination of nerves and a really crappy clipboard, my 字 were coming out all 汚い. So to help correct that, I took a magazine off of the waiting room table, slipped it in between the clipboard and the paper, and finished filling it out. Unfortunately, when I was all done, I forgot to take it back out and 雑誌がはさんだまま返しました。The girl who was interviewing me noticed it, and noticed that everywhere I had pressed down hard in the attempt to write clearly, the 字のなぞりは雑誌の表紙に残っていました。

She was not pleased.

I like to think of this 四字熟語 as it compares to 言語道断.
Note though, that 遺憾千万 carries a connotation of うらみ (resentment) on someone's part.

Today's example will be a simple one, and hopefully easy for you to use.

It's beyond regrettable that you can't understand that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009



や is for 「やった!」 As in, 「やった!このや行シリーズがやっと終わるみたい!」

Today will be the last Yojijukugo post that starts with や、ゆ、or よ! Maybe not the last one FOREVER, but I think we've got enough to smack the smile off of any uppity bangumis that wanna tell us WE don't know Yojijukugo.

(Though, while we're still here, I'd personally like to request that Nirav make a KN^4 post on 余裕, cause seriously, that business is complicated!)

Today's entry is a great one to know as a foreigner in Japan, because I think it aptly describes the attitude that many of us are prone to adopting when we forget that we're not as awesome as Japan can make us feel.

Also, I found the PERFECT picture for this. BOOM!

1. Getting a big head about being a big fish in a small pond, while forgetting that the world is mostly ocean.
2. Using your strength to be the boss of your microcosm, in a way that fails to acknowledge your real worth in the macrocosm. (What's your worth in the macrocosm NOW, fish?)
3. Act with reckless arrogance.

自大, using the kanji for "oneself" and "big" are apparent enough. 夜郎, rather than being ateji for 野郎、is actually the name of a very tiny independent country that we call Yelang in what is now China. The king of Yelang, upon receiving an emissary from the Han Dynasty (yeah, THAT Han Dynasty) displayed remarkably poor judgement (as well of a lack of knowledge about what the Han Dynasty was) and made some unfortunate boasts.

I don't know how accurate this story is, as the accounts of said king also include a Taketori Monogatari-esque birth...

Use 夜郎自大 with になる。Or you can say of someone or something: 夜郎自類である。

This school's 6th graders are rough, huh? With no older students to keep them in line, they've gotten recklessly arrogant. It's like they've forgotten that they're gonna be middle school first years in just a year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:


Yeah, we're still rolling with the や行 over here, and today that means a great word to know for your Japanese traffic accidents, subway suicides, dolphin slaughterings, arsons... what else is morbidly entertaining?


Rubbernecker; Gawker;
Spectators of something not intended for spectating (see explanation below).

Baseball game: × Motocross rally: ×
House fire: ○ Car accident: ○
Indulge me by letting me give you a quick explanation of where this one comes from. The 野次 bit can be used on it's own to mean to heckle or to jeer (used like this: 野次を指す) but they're actually 当て字, chosen to fit the meaning of this phrase a little bit better.

The original phrase actually began as 親父馬 (おやじうま; old man horse) which was what you called a horse that was too old to be used for either riding or labor, but which, for some reason, you haven't yet shipped off to the 糊 factory.

An old useless horse, just standing around taking in the scenery then became a metaphor for people with no business being involved in something, loafing around, scoping it out anyway. It kind of connotes blowing off your own responsibilities (responsibilities like driving your car at a reasonable speed) to indulge in something undignified (gawking at a flipped k-car on the side of the road, for example).

I'm not sure if rubbernecker, or rubberneck is an Americanism, but now that I've been in Japan, I can't ever hear it without thinking of the original rubbernecker, 轆轤首。

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Russel Series

Morning, yo-ji fans. Continuing on in the や行 vein, today we bring you three useful yo-jis that scholars (at least, one amateur scholar that I know of) like to refer to as "The Russel Series."


Pushing forward, without regard for difficulties or distress.

Think of this one as in the same league with 猪突猛進, but without the negative connotation. Use it with する。
(I found this tiger/Great wave picture and thought it was too awesome not to include it in this post. Look at that tiger, ignoring the fact that there's a giant wave coming and that tigers are not ocean creatures. He's gonna do his best anyway. The pic comes from this blog.)

yuujuu fudan

I'm not sexist or anything but, some sources also translate this yoji as: effeminacy. Hah. Use it as a な adjective.
youi shuutou
Thoroughly, completely prepared, having left nothing out.

Maybe you could think of this along the same lines as one of the two interpretations of 正々堂々? You can use it as a な adjective, or with に。A 用意周到な旦那 is not necessarily a 亭主関白, but a dude could be both, right? A 四角四面 guy on the other hand, would definitely like this 四字熟語。

Sunday, September 20, 2009


yuuyuu jiteki

Ahhh, yet another yo-ji that speaks to the me that I wish I was... (bonus points if you can remember some of the others). And it gets us one more や行 yo-ji, which is our goal for a little while.

1. Getting away from it all (as a way of life.)
2. Living life free from worldly troubles.

I like to think of this one as having to do with a hermetic lifestyle, going off to live in the mountains, a la Spider Jerusalem, and while it wouldn't necessarily HAVE to go hand in hand with 自給自足, they would look pretty nice together, don't you think?

Try attaching の afterwards to say things like 悠々自適の生活 or 悠々自適の人生. You can get away verbing it with に過ごす or する、 but both of those usages seem less common (とくに「する」).

I moved out to the country side to start living a quiet, peaceful life away from the annoyances of the world. But trying to raise your own vegetables in the garden is actually more of a pain in the ass than being a city drone ever was.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

ガンボ: ジェフの料理教室 1


I'm doing some Japanese YouTubing now, so that will show up here. I'm planning on talking language stuff and Yoji stuff, so if you're interested check them out. The other ones will be cooking and food related, so if you want to hear me talk about restaurants and recipes in broken Japanese, よろしく on those too.


Friday, September 18, 2009


ようしつ こひ
youshitsu kohi

I was watching a Quiz Bangumi on TV the other night, and anytime they're focused on either kanji or the Japanese language, you can guarantee a 四字熟語 question or two. Sometimes even a whole category. So I was psyched when they announced that the next game was for a team of contestants to name as many yo-jis as they could... that begin with a character from the や行.

I didn't know a single one. Stupid や行。 To my credit, the players couldn't think of more than two, but I can't get over the burning shame of such a poor showing, so I'm taking steps to revenge myself on that show.

Step one: Post a bunch of yoji that begin with や、ゆ、よ。
Step two: Consume my own bile.
Step three: Wage total warfare against their kingdom.

For a detailed explanation of why steps two and three are necessary, please see 会稽之恥/臥薪嘗胆.

So today we start with 羊質虎皮: The quality of a sheep, the skin of a tiger. Kind of like the complete opposite of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

1. Sheep in wolf's clothing.
2.All bark, no bite.
3. Looks great, but lacks substance.

We've covered all kinds of things that you can associate with 羊質虎皮. Do you remember any of them?

How about the extremely rarely used あだ花, that we included in our flower trivia?

Or what about some of the opposites in regard to 能ある鷹は爪を隠す?

This is a yo-ji that's hard to get into sentences, but when you do, try using it with になる、or very plainly. Like 「あの人よく言うけど、羊質虎皮だ。」

Don't you think that politician's just making a bunch of flowery, meaningless statements.
Yeah. Especially since he's in the middle of campaigning. He's really putting sheep into tigers over there*.

*A better translation might be "He's really putting on airs."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mr. James Madness

You might know about the Mr. James ad campaign going on in Japan right now, but I'll sum it up briefly: Mr. James is a foreigner as Japanese people imagine foreigners (the harmless, non-violent type anyhow). He's white, he's a Japan-loving dork, and he recites random non-sequitors in laughably bad katakana, demonstrating his basic inability to "get" the real Japan.

I've gotten tired of getting up in arms about this kind of stuff, but there are a lot of people who've been offended by it. You can reference the threads on JapanProbe.com or debito.org to get up to speed.

I couldn't help but think about how this commercial leaves McDonald's WIDE OPEN to a reversal of their own publicity, for the benefit of another fast food giant. So Brett and I made a silly little video. Below is the video, along with a copy of a letter that I've drafted to Mos Burger, and which long time friend of the Daily, Nirav, has translated into knock-you-on-your-ass Japanese.

Please forgive the quality of the video, but if you support the idea, comment away on the YouTube page. Maybe someone will notice it.


You are most likely familiar with the current advertising campaign for McDonald's in Japan, featuring "Mr. James." You may not be aware that the character of Mr. James is one that many foreigners, especially those residing in Japan, find to be very offensive. His katakana-Japanese pronunciation, and Nihon-otaku appearance have made many foreigners feel that they are at best, being portrayed in a poor light, and at the worst, being openly mocked. This advertising campaign contributes to the already widespread image of foreigners as goofy, hapless, and unable to connect to or understand Japan on any real level. It has instigated petitions and boycotts against McDonald's both domestically and internationally. I believe that these actions will probably have very little effect on either McDonald's financial situation, nor on the way of thinking that gave birth to these commercials. However, I do think that this situation presents a unique opportunity for the Mos Burger Corporation.

Instead of focusing on foreigners as bizarre and unable to function normally in Japanese society, what about an advertising campaign featuring a foreigner who, as many of us are, is well-adjusted to daily life in Japan? Softbank, for example, has had great success with its foreign spokespeople. Japanese citizens and many foreign residents alike find the "White Family" advertisements amusing, and few complain that they are in poor taste. This is because they portray foreign characters no differently than Japanese characters. In the world of these commercials, Big Brother's race is not a focal point. He is merely a member of the family, and the fact that he lives, works, and functions in Japanese, in Japan, is treated as natural.

I've imagined, and created a rough draft of a potential advertisement for Mos Burger that works as both a light-hearted spoof of the "Mister James" campaign, and as a statement of affirmation to the foreign community in Japan. A character similar to Mr. James, excited about Japan but essentially clueless, is befriended by another foreigner who is a long term-resident of Japan. The second foreigner offers to show him an insider's view of Japan, which includes steering him away from the American-owned McDonald's, and into the Japanese-born Mos Burger. Within just a very short video segment, Mos Burger can assert its identity as an authentic "Japanese" Hamburger Shop, establish itself as willing to befriend Japan-savvy foreigners, and turn the publicity of the McDonald's campaign to its own advantage.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you'll consider this proposal seriously. I look forward to hearing from you.






Thursday, August 27, 2009


ikki tousen

Continuing with the "One/Multitude" theme we started with 八面六臂, let's take a look at another yoji that describes one person taking on a considerable amount of work, albeit in a slightly different vein.

1. Strong enough or skilled enough to take on an army.
2. Being extremely formidable in your field.

There are actually a number of other 四字熟語 that have the same meaning, so if you think you might be able to use this one, consider varying it up with yojis like 一人当千(いちにんとうせん)、蓋世不抜(かいせいふばつ), or 万夫不当(ばんぷふとう). But don't expect the average person to recognize all of them, necessarily. From what I can tell, 蓋世不抜 is pretty rare, and 一人当千 seems most common, but not most correct. A google search for it will bring up about 6 million results, but it will also bring up the "もしかして:" prompt which will ask you if maybe you meant... you guessed it, 一騎当千.

Also, I like to think of these alongside the family of 天下無〇 yojis that Brett posted on forever ago.

See what you can do with it.

(NOTE: One thing that you SHOULDN'T DO with it is a Google Image Search, on account of it seems to be the name of a manga that is either naturally pornographic, or lends itself to pornography of the 同人誌 variety.

熊さん: 一騎当千のアンドさんには適う訳ないやん!
アンドさん: それは確かにそうだよ。。。。 ペンペン。

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


hachimen roppi

I'm gonna skip the whole "OMG、 you've been gone forever stuff" and just... post a yo-ji. Enjoy.

We've discussed the various significances of the number 8 here before. But when it shows up in 四字熟語 like 四通八達 and 八方美人, you can usually assume it's being invoked to mean a multitude, or quantity that covers all possibilities. All directions.

So 八面 is eight faces, or all sides. But what about the other half of today's yo-ji? Six elbows, written with a rare kanji (elbow is most often written in kana, ひじ, and even when it's not, it's mostly written using this kanji: 肘) is a reference to six-armed Buddha statues, which, more often than not, wield a variety of instruments.

So what can you do with eight faces and six arms? Frickin' ANYTHING.

1. Good at everything.
2. Skilled in all fields.
3. Handling the workload of many by one's self.
4. Versatile.

I wouldn't reccommend saying it about yourself, unless you want to be accused of some 自画自賛, but if someone says it about you, try to work that lethal combo of Nihongo-skills and Japanese-modesty, like today's example sentence.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

Hey guys. I'm a little too drunk and naked for a full yo-ji post today, but I appreciate what Brett's trying to do in terms of resuscitating the cite, so... I guess I can manage something.

What? You're not happy about my intoxication? Or my nudity? WHAT? WHY? 裸になって何が悪い?

That's right, I'm talking about 草薙剛's infamous bout of public drunkenness a few weeks ago. Or like a month ago. Man, it has been a while since we posted. Anyway, one of the things that was most amusing to me about the whole SMAP star fiasco was the level of media attention it garnered, despite being ten times tamer than your average company 飲み会. If I had 20¥ for every time some Japanese person I knew got naked and rowdy while drunk, I'd have like 60¥.

But at least the media was willing to acknowledge the fact that the only reason it was a big deal was because 草薙 was famous. And that's how I learned today's bit of trivia, which is as simple as it is amusing:


Famous tax; (or more poetically) the price of fame.

If a salaryman had been stumbling around naked in the middle of the night, hollering for "Shingo," the police would've let him sleep it off, and sent him home. That would've been it. But the scandal, the loss of endorsements, the media frenzy that befell poor Kusanagi-san... hey, that's 有名税.

Also, as far as my answers to some of questions that have been posted in the comments:

Yes we know Lang-8 and love it. We've used it as a sounding board for some of our example sentences, mentioned it once or twice in posts, and we even have a Daily Yo-ji group on Lang-8 that's inching ever closer to 200 members strong!

I do want to take 1級 but I've set my sights on Summer 2010 for a few reasons. One is the same as Brett's: I'm extremely busy. But also, we just took 2級 last December, and even though we passed, it wasn't by much. Given the fact that there's a pretty big comprehension/kanji leap between 1 and 2, and the fact that the pass/fail percentage rises from 60 to 70%, I think I need a full year of study to be prepped. And since I haven't really STARTED studying... Summer 2009.

And thanks for the encouragement. We haven't given up our Japanese studies, or our interest in yo-jis. You can count on increased posting during down-times... like summer vacation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1級 Grammar 31-35

And lo, from a sea of darkness and nonpostings, he did bring unto them five grammar points most noble.

I know grammar is not the most exciting thing, but as jljzen88 (name drop!) mentioned recently, the test is only a month and change away. July 5th, to be exact. Even if we were to pump out grammar posts at a rate of 10/week, it wouldn't be enough to cover everything in the book. Complicating this is the fact that nobody here on the Yoji is taking 1kyuu this summer, so the "well we're gonna have to do it anyway" factor is nonexistent. We do appreciate the fact, however, that some of you are taking the test, and would benefit from a little extra study wherever you can get it. And do that end, we will endeavor as best we can to keep up with grammar until at least the day of the test.

Good luck, and godspeed!

31) ~っぱなし (っ放し)
just left ~ing.

Finally, another grammar point that is actually intended for conversational use! When something is just left passively in a certain condition, っぱなし is your man. Employ it with the ~ます form minus ます, and, mister, you have yourself a sentence.

Ex. 昨日の夜、僕は窓を開けっぱなしにしておいた。冬だったらそれしてもべつにいいけど、最近蚊がどんどん増えている。もう何匹もアパートに入ってしまった。。。

32) ~であれ ・ ~であれ~であれ
Even if ~
Whether ~ or not,

Aaannnddd we're already back to grammar that is better left on the page. At the very least, anybody who is endeavoring to pass 1kyuu will have no problem understanding this one. Although it's simple enough to use once, if you want to construct a "whether or not" sentence, make sure to insert "の" before each use of であれ, and you'll be sailing.

Ex. 豚インフルエンザのせいで日本が超恐慌している。旅行するのであれ、しないのであれ、そのウイルスが日本に来るから、そこまで激しく反発するの点は何だろう?

33) ~てからというもの
Ever since ~, x has persisted/happened

When something has occurred that is a long-lasting (though not necessarily permanent)

Ex. ジェフは常勤として働き始めてからというもの、デーリー四字をほとんど書かなくなった。俺も。。。

34) ~でなくてなんだろう
If that/this isn't ~, then what else could it be?

I've never used this one, but I have ALWAYS wanted to since learning it. It has a wonderfully simple construction with a fun, emphatic meaning... that is unfortunately hindered by the fact it most commonly appears in writing. Curses!

Ex. 昨日の記事はこのブログの一ヶ月ぶりぐらいだった。それは「四字熟語干ばつ」でなくてなんだろう。

35) ~ではあるまいし
Since it's no longer the case that ~, ...
~ no longer being true, ....
~ では ないのだから

As formal as most of its 1級 brethren, here is another to the long list of phrases slipping "あるまい" in there. I don't think we have managed to use these phrases in many sentences outside of examples, so those savvy on a bit of studying would be wise to just through "あるまい" into the search bar and go nuts.

Ex. ペンギンではあるまいし、問題を暴力で解けない。悔しいな~

Monday, May 25, 2009

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day

As things are warming up, we can begin to think about doing summery things. Visit the ocean, have barbecues... or, best of all, beat the heat with some うなぎ! Those of you who have been to a fancy eel restaurant may have already encountered the subject of today's post, but - as ever - the Yoji is here to provide you with all the "what"s and "why"s behind it. Without further ado...


This phrase, unlike a lot of what we post here, lends itself especially well to people in earlier stages of Japanese study. First, alternative (more standard) readings of the kanji and definitions.

- まつ - Pine tree. This kanji sneaks into a few Japanese names.
- たけ - Bamboo. This one will probably slip into the first 100 or so kanji you'll learn.
- うめ - Plum. Be careful, though - not the sweet plum Western readers identify with, but a much smaller, sour fruit sometimes called a Japanese Apricot abroad.

Remember all that? Good. Now pretend you walk into an うなぎ restaurant, ready to swallow about 10 eels, and this menu greets you:
Oh man - pine tree in my うなぎ?! Does it get any better than this?! (Also, remember this menu as "Exhibit A" for later in the post.)

Sure, throwing a bunch of random plants into your うなぎ might seem like a great idea - but it turns out most stores have yet to capitalize on this superb idea. Instead, they are just using an old ranking system that happens to make use of these plants: 松竹梅.

The phrase, like so many, originated in China, and bears with it the association to "歳寒三友", which in Japanese translates to "absolutely nothing at all." If you go through the trouble of breaking down the meaning of the individual characters, it scans as "The three friends of winter" When you think of the three plants, the reason behind this makes perfect sense: Pine and bamboo are both green year round, even through the frigid winter months. Plum trees might go bare, sure, but they begin to blossom in late January/early February, earning them a spot with the two "evergreens" as plants that keep on kicking regardless of season.

About 700-some years ago in China, the three plants were also imbued with individual meanings. The pine, being huge, long-lived, and particularly resilient, came to symbolize endurance and longevity, sometimes being compared to a wise old man. The bamboo, being hollow and flexible, is largely related to open-mindedness and strength. The plum tree, being fragrant and striking when all else is desolate, represents inner beauty and purity. The three linked together are an auspicious symbol, displayed in both art and gardening in hopes of encouraging all of these attributes.

That is a heck of a lot of information to still have no idea why there is a small forest growing out of your eel. While I'm having trouble finding out the exact time, shop owners of yore requisitioned the phrase to spice up their menus. Say you go to a restaurant, and see "normal, high quality, highest quality" marking the three different cuts of steak you can get. Sure, the highest quality looks great, but that's gonna hurt your wallet. On the other hand, you're going to feel like a sap eating "normal" steak when the fancy stuff is there right beside it. What better way to add to the mystique and elegance of your restaurant by instead instituting a ranking system that forgoes traditional nomenclature in favor of... well... fancy names?


Okay, so there is actual history here that makes the use of special titles a bit more prestigious than the stunts pulled by some Seattle-based coffee shop. And what's the problem if it's fairly simple to understand since, generally, it goes in order from highest ranked to lowest ranked as it's written: pine, bamboo, plum. 松竹梅. Done!

...except we're not. It turns out different stores have different interpretations of how to use this ranking system, meaning that you cannot always depend on 松 being the best bang for your buck. I refer you back to Exhibit A (aren't you glad you were paying attention?). The prices here ascend exactly as you'd expect: 梅 is cheapest at 1700 yen, 竹 takes the middle ground at 2700 yen, and 松 shames them both with 3200 yen. Now, gaze (or squint at) Exhibit B, and know despair:

The order has been magically reversed, with 松 clawing at the bottom and 梅 lording at the top. So why the discrepancy? It's hard to say. Many Japanese people assume that whenever 松 is cheaper, as is the case in Exhibit B, that just means you get a lot less, but it's higher quality. Unfortunately, this theory doesn't seem to hold a lot of water. I haven't been to hundreds of unagi restaurants, but I've found the most consistent dividing factor is quantity of food, and nothing more. It may have been true a long time ago - or to a few select restaurants - that the difference in quality remain was the key factor in the system, but the addition of 重 on Exhibit A, a kanji that is often encountered in 重い - heavy - seems to signify that mass is all that will change when you switch plants.

How do you stay savvy when there is no universal system for ranking portions? The restaurants may have dropped the ball, but you're the one who has to pick it up. While you can generally assume that whichever is higher priced will be a lot more of the same quality eel, just ask your server. You will not be the first or last to do so.

Wikipedia has a formidable list of songs and other areas of pop culture in which the phrase appears. Although it's not listed here, this ranking can be applied to almost any situation in which there are three menus of ascending quality. As a final note of scientific interest, these three are apparently representative of each of their plant types, though that's more of a coincidental footnote than the origin story.

This site answered a lot of my questions, as did this one, although both are limited in scope.

Also...大変お待たせしました! Sorry to make you all wait so long. We started drinking this, and just couldn't stop.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


しつう はったつ
shitsuu hattatsu

4 and 8 both get used in Japanese to convey totality: on all sides (四面楚歌) or in all directions (八方美人). Using them together increases this effect.

1. Accessible from everywhere/providing access to everywhere.
2. At the center of a comprehensive traffic network.

Like how the definition includes another yo-ji that makes use of the same 4/8 effect?

Note: Don't confuse the 4/8 in 四苦八苦 to mean "suffering from all sides." In this case, it actually refers to a specific number of pains and sufferings. See our post on it for more information.

From up here, looking at the way Osaka sprawls out below us, the roads run in all directions and the people coming and going are as small as ants.

Monday, April 27, 2009


しかく しめん
shikaku shimen

Back this week, with what we hope will be a full week of posts. What with Golden Week coming up, we're gonna try to get our study licks in now, before the beach and the road start calling. So, at least for the yo-jis, lets try to go with numbers this week.

The kanji here are easy enough. 四角 is the Japanese word for a rectangle. I'm not clear on the exact definitions, but it means "four angles." 正方形 (せいほうけい; seihoukei) is the term for something that is geometrically perfectly square, and 長方形 (ちょうほうけい;
chouhoukei) is the one for a rectangle. The way I figure it, they're both 四角.

四面, which shows up in THIS other famous 四字熟語, means "four sides," which, in many cases, is ALL sides.

For today's purposes, something with four sides and four angles is, well...

1. Square.
2. Overly formal.
3. Serious/Dilligent/Straight-laced to the point of being inflexible.

The wording of the definition is worth noting: 融通がきかない: inflexible. I've been stuck for too long with 気楽 to mean "easy-going" when often I've wanted to say 融通が利く, to be flexible.

Today's post reminds me of 杓子定規.

If your way of thinking is too rigid, you're guaranteed to come into conflict with the opinions of those around you.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Let's hit the は行 for a look at words related to interest that might help make your 言い回し a bit more 日本人ぽい. We've got three for you today:


to get into (something in a big way); to fall into; to be addicted to; to
be deep into; to plunge into; to be deceived.
As you can see by the wide range of translations, 嵌る is all about something that TRAPS you. It can be as something that catches and holds your interest, in a 興味津々 way, like me and the song Paper Planes by M.I.A, or Brett and black tar heroin. Yes, 嵌る is the verb you use for drug or tobacco addictions as well.

to come into fashion; to be trendy; to be popular.

"What's popular?" is a really common question in Japan. I always felt that there was a paradoxical tendency for the popular to be unpopular in America. I can't imagine the word "trendy" having a positive context. But kids in class will ask me, アメリカで、何が流行っていますか? What's all the rage in America? And when some of my old students stopped by my house to say hi, they got into a conversation with Yuri who asked them which stars were popular among kids these days. Those kinds of topics come up a lot, and while me and my 調子乗っている, 考えすぎ ilk would never want to seem like our interests were pretty much the same as the national interest, I get the sense that this is no problem in Japan.

Another good word to associate with 流行っている、is ブーム。 As in "Dude, those butt toning sandals are so ブーム right now."

Confusing Example Sentence and Explanatory Video:


to fall in love; to be charmed with; to lose one's heart to.

You can use 嵌る with 首っ丈, but 惚れる is a better choice. I actually only learned this word a few days ago, when my new students asked me if I had a girlfriend. When I said yes, they asked the same question Japanese people always ask: どちから?Which one of you was the pursuer? I said it was mutual, and they said "惚れている?" which I replied "Yes" to, after figuring out what it meant. Then they asked "やっている?" and I turned bright red.
The most common usage I've come across on the webs is in describing someone as a 惚れる男 or a 惚れる女 (although men are much more prominent). It's basically the kind of person you could fall in love with.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


きょうみ さくぜん
kyoumi sakuzen

As promised, Wednesday's yo-ji stands in stark opposition to Monday's. Whereas 興味津々 is about something that grabs your attention and refuses to let go, 興味索然 lets go pretty fast, cause it never really had you all that interested to begin with.

1. Uninteresting.
2. Something that actually deters interest.
3. Taking the fun/pleasure out of...
4. Raining on the blanket parade...
(Get it? Wet blanket? Hilarious.)

This one is pretty easy to use by adding です, but you can also attach 的 and use it like an adjective.

And forgive the video for the fact that its only relevancy is its title. I was blown away that I found this while researching this yo-ji.

The first season of Heroes was really engaging, but recently it's completely uninteresting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

This week, it looks like we're gonna be working off of a general theme of "interest."

Yesterday's 興味津々 leads us nicely into the idea of today's Language Trivia, albeit with a slightly different twist.



up to the neck

This one is useful when you want to talk about an overwhelming interest that borders on devotion, ESPECIALLY when that interest is in a person of the opposite sex.

Used often (even, defined often) with 夢中, which I'm pretty sure we've covered before.

Saying 「誰か」or 「何かに夢中」 is to say that you are "infatuated" and gets employed when translating what we label, in English, "a crush."

首っ丈, on the other hand, also used with に, does carry the weight of "devotion," so it might be better translated as "to only have eyes for..."

I'm willing to bet you'll get major points when you use it on your significant other, and, if you do have a significant other, try using it as a response to those people who ask about your モテモテ status, like so:

Random Japanese person: ブレットさんはモテモテだろう。
Brett, you must be fighting the ladies off with a stick, right?
Brett: まあ。彼女に首っ丈だから。。。
Actually... I only have eyes for my girl. (so... yes. It's a heavy stick.)

(Artist's rendering of Brett. Pretty faithful.)

Monday, April 13, 2009


きょうみ しんしん
kyoumi shinshin

We've discussed the kanji 津 before, when we did 津々浦々. It means "port," or "harbor," but remember: we also discussed how referring to multiple ports (津津) in an island nation lends itself to an idea all-encompassing "everywhere-ness." Maybe that has something to do with why 津津 can be defined as "being full," or "brimming," as it is here.

興味, as you probably know, is "interest," as in 「四字熟語に興味あります:I'm interested in Yojijukugo.」

1. highly interested
2. being immensely curious
3. with inexhaustible interest

The Japanese definition above specifies an interest that becomes more and more engaging the more you get into it, in a way that seems like it might never end.

Another good word to know in this case is 興味深い (きょうみぶかい;kyoumi bukai): of deep interest. So, "very interesting."

We'll have more in the way of antonyms next time!

There's intense curiousity about how the world of television dramas will develop from here on out.

Monday, March 30, 2009


きき いっぱつ
kiki ippatsu

Though I can't keep up the 1-a-day schedule we normally have when three people are posting, I do think that I'd like to take advantage of the fact that I have total control over TDY for the next few days to do a few more simple yoji's that are in fairly common use and would be good for you to know. Do remember, though, that I'm really just doing these as they come to mind and not really in any particular order, so you shouldn't consider any one necessarily more important that the other.

Let's start off with the characters themselves:
危 is one you may know, meaning dangerous (あぶない is the most common reading, though there is also my personal favorite, あやうい). 機, which you might remember from 機会, or the ever-forthcoming 機嫌, is a little harder to translate, but you might think of it as a chance or a situation. A dangerous situation, therefore, is a 危機, or a crisis. In fact, you can link this word to the last yoji to form 絶体絶命の危機! 一髪 combines 一, which is "one," and 髪, which you might recognize from 髪の毛, or hair (from the top of your head). "One hair" here is used to emphasize the tightness of the situation - the width of a single hair. Which brings us to our:


1. Between a rock and a hard place
2. A critical, delicate situation
3. Close call

It's five minutes to deadline! If TDY isn't updated, it's finished! I, the great Nirav, shall save it in its moment of peril!

All joking aside, the Bruce Lee film known alternatively as "Fists of Fury" and "The Big Boss" in the US was titled in Japan as, ドラゴン、危機一髪! Quite possibly my favorite yo-ji in a movie title EVAR!

Friday, March 27, 2009


zettai zetsumei

Yes, I know, today is Friday, and I promised a KN^4 post, but 1) those take a long time and 2) since I am facing something of a 絶体絶命 situation myself right now (ok, that's a little bit of an exaggeration), you'll have to do with another topical yoji. As an added bonus to make up for the lack of KN^4, this is actually a useful yoji that will likely make your 言い回し more 日本人ぽい, instead of the normal ones that really only serve to make it 語学オタクっぽい.

This yoji derives much of its meaning from the individual characters, so, as always, that is a good place to start.

絶, which appears twice, means to end, to suppress, or to be cut off. 体 is body; 命 is one's life. Note about 命: Japanese has a number of characters/words that can be translated into English as "life." Though this is a Japanese Language Trivia Post/KN^4 post of its own, just be aware here that "life" what we might think of as the quality of being alive, as opposed to the quality of being dead. Hence, you get such phrases as 命ある限り "as long as I am alive," etc., etc. Note also that although 絶体絶命's first two characters are pronounced as 絶対, they are NOT the same. Hence, 絶対絶命 is wrong. Some cursory research has revealed that 絶体 and 絶命 were also the names of "evil stars" in a specific kind of Chinese astrology (九星占い, for those of you interested in firing up those google skills).

So you can think of 絶体絶命 as a situation that is so difficult to deal with that both your 体 and your 命 end up 絶-ing. Which brings us to our:


1) to have one's back to the wall
2) to be between a rock and a hard place
3) to be in serious trouble

Example Sentence:
Tomorrow is the deadline for my paper, and then the day after tomorrow I have an important interview, and on top of all that today my teacher asked me to help with his research until late tonight. I've really got my back to the wall over here!

[None of the above is true, so don't worry about me!]

Now this is a movie that exemplifies 絶体絶命.