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

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.