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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Going to start the first of my new series of posts with an ending.

Last week was the 終業式(しゅうぎょうしき;closing ceremony)for the 2nd trimester at the school where I worked. For me, it marked more than just the end of a school term.

It was my final day as an ALT for the foreseeable future.

In future posts, I'll probably get into how I'm earning money now, or why the timing to walk away was right, but today I just want to talk about saying goodbye, and ways to go about it.

In Japan, employees for most large companies and for the government are used to getting shuffled around between posts. They move from store to store, office to office, sometimes accompanied by pretty big geographical moves too, so they have a lot of practice at saying "Welcome" to the new-comers and "Farewell" to the leavers.

Sometimes there are parties that accompany comings and goings:

歓迎会 (かんげいかい;kangeikai) for Welcome.
送別会(そうべつかい;soubetsukai) for So Long.
A lot of times, one party will actually serve both functions. Out with the old, in with the new in one fell alcohol-fueled swoop.

When there is no party, in the case of my school (where the students who I wanted to say goodbye to wouldn't have been allowed to attend anyhow,) you can do what they call


別れる means to separate, to part, or to divide. It's the same word used to describe break-ups from boyfriends or girlfriends. When you stick an honorific on the front of it, you can use it to refer to any kind of formal farewell moment.
And since the school was kind enough to work an お別れ into the school's closing ceremony, I was asked for

お別れの言葉 (ことば;kotoba) Parting words.
お別れの挨拶 (あいさつ:aisatsu) Farewell speech.
So, without writing out my whole farewell speech for you, I wanted to hit the key phrases and words that you should know how and when to use.

Meaning "You took care of me," with an "I am indebted to you," nuance.
Stick a 大変 on the front to add gravity.
Like よろしくお願いします、you can also use お世話になります in advance when you first meet someone who you hope to have a good relationship with. I think I first introduced お世話になる on this blog when talking about getting into a stranger's car.

Translating as "Thanks for everything up until this point," you might feel inclined to use this just like you would use "色々ありがとうございました," or "いつも、ありがとうございます," but you're gonna want to be careful with it, because the "今まで" makes it OH so FINAL. This is what you say at the end of a relationship, and it indicates that there won't be a continuation of the same relationship beyond this point. I used it in my speech because I wasn't going to be their teacher anymore. People use it for their interpersonal relationships too though, and if someone you're dating ever says it to you, it doesn't mean "I appreciate you." It means "It's over."

You can look up advice on how to give a farewell speech in Japanese online, and most of the sites will tell you that you don't want to dwell on sad stuff or how sorry you are to be leaving. Instead you should go with 前向き (まえむき;forward-looking; positive).

So I was sure to incorporate another staple of Japanese farewell speeches,

Let's meet again. You can change the formality level of this one to suit your needs. When I'm writing to a business contact, I'll say "またお会いできる日を楽しみにしております" to keep it humble. When I was saying it to the kids, I said "また会いましょう。"
For even less formal, "また会おう" works just fine.

If you're looking for how to say goodbye to your school, or your Japanese co-workers, but you're still a beginner, I'd recommend using those 3 key phrases just like that. Try tacking them onto the end of an English goodbye speech, and the Japanese listeners will be happy that you made the effort.

I wrestled with my speech for a handful of reasons. Most of the kids had never heard me speak Japanese, so I mixed in some local dialect to get their attention, and to lighten the mood a little bit. I also came close to tears (泣きそうになった), because these kinds of ceremonies are big on being "moving," so just getting the words out was rough.

It was an amazing school, and an amazing group of kids. I ended the speech by telling them that I WANTED to say keep working hard and studying English, but that I wasn't going to, because I knew they'd do it on their own anyway. Cheesy, I know, but I really meant it. I told them I was looking forward to coming back and seeing their 成長(せいちょう;growth, progress) and of course, the one thing that I was happiest to be able to say honestly:

I'll never forget the memories that we made together. I'll never forget you.

Thanks for reading!

Next time, TV!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A New Approach for a New Year

As I mentioned in the previous post, living with Japanese, day-in and day-out for four years has changed my relationship with it.

I'm a lot less interested in trivia, and more concerned with whatever I'm gonna be expected to know how to say on that particular day.

I think we've had some interesting posts and provided some good conversation material, but with the exception of the KN^4 series, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that we were not giving you extremely useful stuff.


Well, thank you for that. But please direct your attention here and here... and here.

The Daily Yo-ji will retain its name, because we already have a readership (at least I hope we still do) and because I like it. We'll also continue to make posts that are aimed to promote Japanese learning. But to reflect the changes in our lives, we'll be changing our focus.

To that end, let me reintroduce myself.

My name is Bobby Judo. I came to Japan in 2006 with the JET Programme as an ALT, assisting English teachers.

I recently retired from ALTing to pursue my passion: cooking and eating food. I pay the bills by doing translation, waiting tables, organizing cooking classes and events, and by appearing on TV and in magazines. That kind of work is primarily as a gourmet reporter or "food expert" of some kind. I'll also occasionally do modeling or commercials, which usually only require that I look foreign and am willing to make an ass of myself... which I'm kind of bad at.

The upshot is that all of this stuff requires me to do a lot of prep work in the studying department. In the past few months, I've been inundated with a variety of new sets of vocabulary, different speaking platforms which require different modes of speech, and a behind the scenes look at media in Japan.

I hope you'll let me use this blog as a place to post about what I'm doing, and the Japanese that I have to know in order to be able to do it.

I think that I'll end up with a lot of posts about food, because that's a large part of my life, but trust me, the variety of words related to food textures, smells, tastes, and appearance are just as complex and interesting as Yojijukugo.

It also might get complainy at times, because it's going to be much more autobiographical, opinionated and honest. And honestly, sometimes I need to vent.

If I've made you at all curious, please take some time to check out my videos on YouTube,
and my Japanese cooking blog (which has stolen my attention for a while).

Expect the first new post here soon.
Until then, in the spirit of revival, refresh yourself with this post from the archives.

Please accept my apologies for having been gone so long, and if any of our regular readers are still out there, please give us a よろしく in the comments!


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Honeymoon is Over

If any of you out there are still RSSed up, you will have noticed that we've been a little lax in our updating schedule as of late. To be more precise we have failed to post absolutely anything at all for over 6 months.

I want to talk to you about that some, if that's cool.

See, when I started this blog, I was absolutely smitten with everything about Japanese. Every day, I was discovering charming little quirks that only endeared me more, and I wanted to tell EVERYONE about it. I wanted to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, like

"OMG you guys, Japanese did the CUTEST thing the other day, you'll never believe it."

I was, for the most part, just happy being with Japanese.

Yeah, we had our squabbles. Some literally brought me to tears. But that's inevitable when you embark on a new life together. There are gonna be some bumps in the road. If you're stubborn and overly proud like me, sometimes you'll just straight up crash into a wall.

But I was in love, and I did everything I possibly could to make it work.

That was



years ago.

I'm here to tell you that the honeymoon is officially over.

Oh, I'm still happy. I still "love" Japanese and all, but it's a different kind of thing.

We've gotten used to each other. We've had years together, and those years have taken away some of our luster. Some of our passion.

I'm no longer at the point where I'm thrilled every time I discover some new little feature or detail. Japanese's dimples are starting to look like pockmarks.

No, it's more like I'm at the point where time has helped me learn the right approach to get Japanese to do what I want it to... sometimes.

I wouldn't say we're in a rut, but I've definitely got my share of pet peeves.

Like, even though I'm still fucking mystified when Japanese just suddenly turns on me, for seemingly no reason at all, somehow, it knows how to push all of my buttons, at all the wrong times.

And if I can confess something here, it's seriously starting to aggravate me that no matter how much time I spend on foreplay, I always seem to get shut down when I suggest that we try going for 1級。

The point I'm trying to make here is twofold:

One: learning Japanese is like having sex with the same person for a long time.
Two: I clearly don't know when to end poorly-constructed metaphors.

Oh, and I'm bringing the blog back.

So, I guess, threefold.

To be continued tomorrow....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

1級 Grammar: 11-15


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, and even more important that you CHECK THE COMMENTS after each post. We're lucky to receive corrections and clarifications from native speakers and other foreigners more knowledgeable than we, and they don't always make it back into the body of the post. Thanks, and 頑張って!

1級 Grammar 11-15:

Rerunning points 11-15, revised explanations and examples, hopefully less half-assed and more accurate than before.

11. ~が早いか
~ no sooner... than
~ as soon as

There are two things that seem to separate 「が早いか」 from similar 2級 points 「かと思うと」 and 「~か~ないかのうちに」. First, all of the book's examples for 「が早いか」 describe things that occur in an objectively short time span:

"As soon as she heard the news, she turned pale."
"As soon as the bell rang, the kids cleared their desks and left."
"As soon as my son had stuck his head in the door and said 「ただ今」, he dropped his backpack and ran off to play."

You can literally imagine all of these things happening in a matter of a few seconds, while the old examples for 「かと思うと」include "Christmas has just ended and it's already New Years." Or "As soon as I finish this job, the boss will give me another one." for 「~か~ないかのうちに.」 I get the sense that the old grammar points lend themselves better to subjective ideas of how fast time has passed. 「が早いか」 seems designed for things that can be objectively established as happening almost at once.

Second, according to the book sentences that include 「が早いか」 end, most often, with verbs in the past tense. The others are not so restricted.

You use it by adding it onto the dictionary form of a verb.

Ex. 散歩に行こうと決めるが早いか、雨が降ってきた。

12. ~からある
~ as many as
~ more than

「か らある」 gets defined as 「もある」, to be used especially in cases when you want to emphasize how large the number is, relatively of course. It seems straightforward enough.


13. ~きらいがある
~ to have a tendency to

I don't know whether or not it's related, but the fact that 「きらい」 is a part of this grammar point makes it easier to remember that it's only used to express a negative judgement about that tendency. Also, it's not used to talk about things like "a tendency to get sick," or a "tendency to miss work" (use ~がちだ for those), but for talking about the essential nature of a person.

Often used in the same sentence as phrases like 「ともとすると」 and 「とかく。」 Use it with the dictionary form of a verb, of following a noun + の.

Ex. インターネットで、簡単に仲間と連絡のやり取りはできるし、色んな情報をすぐ調べることもできるので、本当に便利なものだと思います。しかし僕みたいな若者は、ともするとインターネットに頼りすぎるきらいがあるでしょう。

14. ~極まる ・ ~極まりない
~ exceedingly
We've talked about 極める in our other posts. It means "to take something to the extreme," and can be used to talk about "mastering," or "perfecting" something. In this case, it only gets used negatively, and only shows up in writing, according to the book. It expresses a very STRONG judgement.

極まりない is like a stronger version of 「嫌だ,」 or 「不愉快だ.」 It expresses the same idea.

The format for it is : (な形容詞 ・ 名詞1)+極まる+名詞2

or:  (な形容詞 ・ 名詞1)+極まる ・ 極まりない (and you can end the clause here, or add another めいし).

This ones a bit hard, so here are some book examples.
I tried to read that book, but the story was so extremely cliche that I was disappointed.
Crossing the tracks while the train is approaching is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

And mine:


15. ~ごとき ・ ~ごとく
~ like
~ as

This is another one that is only used in writing, and is a very formal way of saying things. Besides that, it doesn't seem very difficult.

名詞 (with or withoutの)+ ごとき + 名詞


名詞 + ごとく +(形容詞・動詞)

Ex. 皆様のごとき日本人が私たちの変な日本語をいつも丁寧に訂正して下さることに感謝しています。

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Japan: The Strange Country

This is an awesome video that a student named Kenichi made as his final thesis project. Not only is it great on a graphic design level, but the content is pretty interesting. Check it out. English version available on Vimeo if you want it.

Japan - The Strange Country (Japanese ver.) from Kenichi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


san kan shi on

Pretty much everything about winter weather pisses me off, but nothing gets under my skin quite so much as the big Spring Tease we're suffering through in Japan this year.

It was a brutally cold winter and the first time in 4 years I've seen snow stick in Saga. And it didn't just stick, we had 13cms. And after that it started getting warm, I stopped wearing gloves and long underwear (お爺ちゃんパンツ, as my girlfriend calls them), then BAM! Snow again!

Then it jumped up into the 20s last week, but today and yesterday, I was back to using the はる ほっかいろ that keep me alive during the worst parts of winter.

Talking about this weather with my co-workers, I found out that not only is this weather an annually expected phenomenon, BUT there's a 四字熟語 for it.

Specific to the transition between winter and spring, cold weather that gets warm for a few days, then cold again.
Literally: 3 days of cold, 4 days of hot.

What's more, generally the cold days during a 三寒四温 period are characterized by clear sunny weather, and the warm days are gray and wet. Absolutely true of this week!

For your practical purposes, you can stop reading here. If you're a "knowing stuff" dork like me, please read on.

The original expression comes from China of course, by way of Korea, because the phenomenon is much more common there. This is due to what's called the "Siberian High," a collection of cold dry air. It goes through cycles of growing weak and strong, which are thought to cause the vascillation between warm and cold as winter ends and spring begins. However, Japan feels the effects of not only the Siberian High, but also the Pacific High, equally dry, but subtropical, so not cold.

Because Japan deals with the two, 三寒四温 is not as regularly occurring as it is in China or Korea. It's more of a "Will it happen this year or not?" kind of thing.

Also of note, in recent years the phrase has started to be used to talk about the beginning of spring when the air pressure alternates between high and low, and warm weather starts. While you can't call this incorrect, it's not the original meaning.

As far as examples of use go, this one is pretty much a stand alone thing. Like if someone said "It's so cold today, but it was warm yesterday," I'd be all like "三寒四温。" The End.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Japanese Cultural Trivia of the Day:

So yesterday was Hina Matsuri in Japan.

Hina Matsuri, is referred to as both "Doll Festival" or "Girl's Day" in English, and no, not because of any sexist business about girls liking dolls. The festival is held to pray/hope for the healthy and happy upbringing of female children, and the dolls represent the Japanese Imperial Court, in traditional Heian dress.

The dolls are believed to be able to contain bad spirits, which leads us to today's bit of trivia.

Today many younger Japanese families don't keep up with this practice. About half of the female students in my classes report that their households don't set up the dolls. A handful find the dolls themselves creepy and weird.

But the families who do still have a set of dolls that they display, usually keep one set year round, putting them out for the festival, and taking them down soon after.

The original tradition, still practiced widely, is called "hina-nagashi," in which straw dolls were placed on a boat and set afloat on a river, carrying the bad spirits away with them. In modern cases where putting a bunch of straw and wood in a publicly or commercially used river is not a good idea, some shrines send the dolls out to sea, collect them, bring them back in, and burn them.

I suspect that the families who re-use the often expensive dolls instead of burning them or sending them away, hope that a year in the closet between use will give them time to digest the "troubles" that they are supposed to absorb. But the knowledge that you're NOT supposed to keep them around may live on in a popular superstition. It's one that I just learned about this year, and it inspired the entire post: If you don't put away your Hina Dolls in a timely manner, you won't be able to marry off your daughters!

The origins of this superstition seem pretty old, but from what I've found online, it seems like they have their roots in two places. The first is just what I said above. Moving your troubles into the dolls doesn't help you any if you keep them around after. The second is more interesting for fans of words.

It's kind of a play on the multiple meanings of the word 片付く(かたづく; katazuku), which can made into the transitive verb 片付ける、meaning "to clean up," or "put in order" which is what you have to do to the dolls. But it can also mean "to be married off," which is what you can do with your daughters, if you clean up the dolls on time!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day

As soon as I heard this at work today, I knew it had to go on this site. It's exactly the kind of language trivia that keeps me fascinated with Japanese, despite its unforgiving brutality.

(1級 studies are not progressing well)

きつね の よめいり
kitsune no yomeiri

Fox wedding; sun-shower

Looking at both the literal translation and the application of this expression side by side, you can imagine how quickly I went running to the internet to find out what was up with this. I got all kinds of folklore-y goodness.

Turns out that this is, as Japanese wikipedia calls it, a "strangeness" of a tale that has been handed down since at least the beginning of the Edo Period (1603) and is known all over Japan, with the exceptions of Okinawa and Hokkaido, where marriage between foxes has yet to be legalized.

On certain nights, just before you fall asleep, you might see a procession of red glowing, flickering lights in the woods, a phenomenon called 狐火 in Japanese: "fox fire." Similar to what we call St. Elmo's fire, or will-o-the-wisp, it can usually only be seen from far away.

Japanese people used to say that the lights were made by a procession of 提灯 (hanging lanterns) carried by foxes on the way to a wedding (except in Tokushima-ken, where they figured the somber atmosphere was more likely that of a funeral procession).

There's even an actually recorded (which is not to say true) incident of a wedding during the Edo Period, in which a ferry-master was paid a large sum of money to commission and prepare numerous boats to ferry guests, procession style, over to the wedding. Everything went of without a hitch, but the next day, he found that all of the money he received had turned into leaves. People said that the wedding had been between the families of two Inari-shrines, famous for employing tricksy foxes as spirit-messengers.

So there's all that.

And then the connection to weather? Well, according to the folklore, strange weather heralds fox nuptials. Depending on the region, the exact kind of weather can be different (rainbows in Kumamoto, hail in Aichi), but raining while the sun's out is mostly widely accepted as the sign, hence the expression.

What I want to know is, if the foxes have to get married when the sun's out, what's the deal with the lantern processions at night?