This is pretty much racism…

For crying out loud, I don’t want to write about political BS on my blog but this is just too ridiculous. Here’s a news article about a Korean textbook that had pictures of Japanese people in it. OH MY GOD! Somebody needs to go to jail for this!! The kids might think Japanese are like normal people with families and stuff!!!

OMG, real people!

OMG, are these guys like real people?!

I mean, seriously this article is pure racist garbage. The article uses words like “문제” (problem) and “실수” (mistake). Imagine if a textbook in the US had a picture of a German family instead of an American white family. Guess what, we won’t give a shit because WW2 is like a lifetime ago and most of the people involved are almost all dead from at least old age. On the other hand, Korean automatically take this is a “problem” and a “mistake”.

The last line in the article is pure gold. It’s some bullshit about how elementary school textbooks are for teaching a proper and happy lifestyle to 870,000 kids.

초등통합교과서는 기존의 바른 생활, 슬기로운 생활, 즐거운 생활 등 3개 과목을 합친 것으로 1, 2학년 87만 명이 사용한다.

What is this insinuating? That the Japanese are the devil that will somehow corrupt kids just by basically existing??

Korea, your obsession with hating Japan is ridiculous. If you weren’t personally harmed by the occupation, it’s time to let it go. (psst… by the way you have a slightly larger problem just slightly to the north)

PS I’m Korean.

Personality change by language?

Have you ever felt like your personality changes slightly depending on what language you speak? For example, in Japanese, I feel like I’m a little bit more polite. For example, I might say “shit” or “damn” sometimes in English but I have never felt like saying 「くそ」 or 「ちくしょう」. The kind of jokes I tell are different too. I’m a 天然ボケ in Japanese but a sarcastic wise-cracker in English. Do you think you control language or are you controlled by it?


Sound more Japanese with interjections

When I tutor Japanese, I try to correct non-Japanese interjections whenever possible, the most common one being “umm”. Even the most skilled speakers including native speakers sometimes need to fill the air with fillers to buy a little time to collect their thoughts. But it doesn’t sound very Japanese to say, 「私の趣味は umm サッカーです」. I also suspect it taps your English part of the brain and makes it difficult to stop thinking in English. That’s why I gently remind my student to say 「ええと」 instead of “umm”. It’s a simple change that can instantly make your Japanese sound more natural. Have you been saying “umm” while speaking Japanese? If so, a quick tip from me, replace it with 「ええと」.

Here are some other interjections to practice:

  1. ええと – Err, umm
  2. あのう – Umm (usually to get somebody’s attention)
  3. あれ? – huh?
  4. えっ – eh?
  5. あっ! – Oh!, Ah!
  6. こら! – hey!
  7. うーん – hmm (wondering/pondering)
  8. へえ – really? (surprised/impressed)
  9. いたっ – ouch
  10. よいしょ – when exerting effort such as picking up something heavy

What I’m reading today

So today, I read a pretty mundane article about the author’s attempt to gradually lose weight instead of making drastic weight changes.

Not super interesting but still good reading practice. Here’s a bit convoluted and kinda of confusing analogy between the author obsession with eating and a classmate that you like but try to ignore. Even my explanation sounds awkward.


In addition, it looks like the American stereotype that we all carry guns in a modern wild west is still well and alive in Japan.


It was almost comical to see the surprise on some of my Japanese friends when I told them I don’t own nor have ever fired a gun. That was many years ago but it doesn’t look like the stereotype has really changed in the last 10 years.

New vocab (for me): ドンパチ
Difficulty: 3/5

Ordering food in real Japanese part 2 (ramen)

The response to part 1 was very positive so as promised, here’s part 2 of ordering food in real Japanese. I imagine the first thing most people come up with when thinking about Japanese food is “sushi” but for me, I would definitely say it’s “ramen”. Ramen was definitely a big part of what got me interested in the Japanese culture very early on. Tampopo is still one of my favorite movies of all time. If you haven’t watched it yet, you’re seriously missing out.

tasty ramen


Ahh, the rich and complicated world of ramen. There’s so many things to cover but let’s just start with the basics. First of all, ramen is everywhere in Japan so finding it is like trying to find a Starbucks, not very difficult. However, Ikebukuro is perhaps one of the neighborhoods more famous for it’s ramen. There’s one I particularly liked whose name I can’t recall where you can crush your own fresh garlic (I love garlic).

Main Ramen Types

Before we get into all the crazy ingredients that can go into ramen, you should first become familiar with the major types of ramen. These types will be generally enough to get your ramen fix in most generic ramen shops. Of course, many restaurants try to come up with clever names but it’s usually just marketing for these basic types of ramen.

  • 醤油ラーメン (しょうゆラーメン) – The most common and generic type of ramen. Nothing much to comment on here except that it doesn’t really taste like soy-sauce at all. Sometimes 「醤油」 is written as 「正油」.
  • 塩ラーメン (しおラーメン) – A simple, refreshing salt-based flavor. (It works great for hangovers.)
  • 味噌ラーメン (みそラーメン) – As the name “miso ramen” implies, the soup’s flavor is based mainly off of miso. If you like miso, you’ll probably like miso-ramen.
  • 坦々麺 (タンタンメン) – A spicy soup with the taste of sesame seeds either black or white.
  • 豚骨ラーメン(とんこつラーメン) – Literally meaning “pork bone ramen”, the soup is flavored by boiling pork bones in water. This gives the soup a whiteish color. Personally my favorite type of ramen.
  • チャーシューメン – Most ramen come with a slice of pork flavored differently depending on the ramen called 「チャーシュー」. This ramen is for lovers of 「チャーシュー」 as it has several heaped on.
  • ねぎラーメン – For those who like 「ねぎ」 or green onion, this ramen is for you. It’s heaped with the stuff.
  • つけめん – In this variation, the noodles are dipped in the soup as you eat. I don’t really like it that much because it tends to get cold very quickly but I do enjoy a spicy one occasionally.

A typical ramen menu (among other things)

This is the main list but there are other types of ramen out there like 「カレーラーメン」, for example.

Noodle Types

In addition to the major types of ramen, sometimes the cook will ask you how hard you want your noodles. Personally, I prefer al dente as do many of the more hard-core ramen enthusiasts. You can even ask for soft but who likes soggy noodles? Another great trick for a really filling meal, if the option is available, is to save the soup and order an extra ball of noodles. This is called 「替え玉」(かえだま). It’s like an extra bowl of ramen often for as little as several hundred yen!

  1. めんの硬さ(めんのかたさ) – hardness of noodle
  2. 固めん(かためん) – hard noodle
  3. 普通(ふつう) – normal
  4. やわらかめ – on the soft side

Ramen Ingredients

Oh boy, this is going to be a doozy. A small number of ramen shops give you a list of ingredients, allowing you to choose each and every ingredient in your ramen (often charging you extra for each one). My wife usually picks miso, butter, and corn…. Ugh…

In Japanese, this is called 「具」(ぐ), which basically describes the solid stuff in any kind of soup or stew. There are a lot of ingredients so I’m only going to go over the major ones except for those we already look at in the major ramen types.

  1. のり – seaweed (you know the stuff)
  2. 煮玉子(にたまご) – boiled egg (my favorite), among other similar variations of egg including: 「半熟玉子」(はんじゅくたまご) and 「味玉子」(あじたまご)
  3. メンマ – bamboo shoots
  4. もやし – bean sprouts (pretty standard)
  5. ナルト – steamed fish-paste cake, you know the one with a pink swirl on it (impossible to find picture due to comic named after it)
  6. キクラゲ - some sort of mushroom, usually chopped up to look like black stringy things, pretty tasty

Also check out this the wikipedia ramen entry. There’s a lot more information about ramen as well, such as regional specialties. It’s all in Japanese but there’s also plenty of yummy pictures to feast your eyes on. Lovers of garlic and thick とんこつ soup like me will love 熊本ラーメン, though as I painfully learned first-hand, you probably don’t want to actually eat all the garlic chips.

So there you have it. Welcome to the wonderful world of ramen! This post just barely scratching the surface so you haven’t seen nothing yet!

Ordering food in real Japanese (part 1)

Phrases won't help you if you can't read the menu

If you ever learned how to order food in a classroom and/or textbook, let me assure you that is not how it’s done. Because Japanese employs a relative system of politeness, as a customer of the food establishment, you are automatically on top of the societal ladder regardless of your actual social status. Of course, that also means you’re at the very bottom when you meet with customers in your own job.

This typically means you need the following skills for ordering food in Japan.

  1. Very little speaking skill: You’re not obligated to say much. Just grunt and point at what you want (I write this just in case but this is a joke as grunting is generally frowned upon). Ordering food in Japan typically involves as much grammar as saying the name of the dish and maybe 「と」 if you are ordering multiple things (and a period if you insist).
  2. Awesome listening skills: You do however need to understand a bunch of honorific language spoken very, very quickly by somebody who has to say the same thing over and over again
  3. Awesome reading skills: Unless you want to eat only in fast food or family restaurants, most restaurants have no pictures and can look like some sort of ancient Chinese poem as far as you know unless you’ve beefed up learning the names of various dishes in Kanji.
windows 7 whopper

Contrary to popular belief, you can eat big in Japan (at least for a limited time)

Let me tell you, I thought I was pretty good at Japanese when I first arrived in Japan but when I went to buy something for the first time at a convenience store, I didn’t understand a lick of what was being said. How embarrassing!

So in this multi-part series, we will look at various types of foods and what they are called so that you can easily order them like a pro! In this part, we’ll look at some phrases that should help you navigate your way through convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

Conbini and Fast Food

You don’t really need to learn menu items in advance for convenience stores (コンビニ) or fast food restaurants. Obviously, you just pick up what you want in convenience stores and pictures are plentiful in fast food restaurants including mostly food you’re already familiar with such as the standard burgers and fries. However, the employees are going to ask you all sorts of stuff such as whether to take out or if you want to order the combo. And if you’re new to this, chances are highly likely that it will sound like a bunch of gibberish.

Just try to catch a few key words from these phrases because it’s going to be really fast. And of course, the universal rule of learning languages is that asking people to repeat themselves will not slow it down one iota.

Conbini expressions

  1. お箸おつけしますか?
    Would you like chopsticks?
  2. 袋にお入れしますか?
    Shall I put (your items) in a bag for you ?
  3. このままでよろしいですか?
    Is it ok just like this (without a bag)?
  4. 温めますか?
    Shall I heat up your food?

Fast food expressions

  1. こちらでお召しあがりですか?
    Is it for here?
  2. 店内でお召しあがりでしょうか?
    Is it for here?
  3. お持ち帰りですか?
    Is it for take out?
  4. お飲み物はいかがですか。
    How about a drink?

The lists are pretty short but the whole process is pretty standardized (and probably in a manual and everything). It should be enough to get you out the door with your food at the very least but feel free to add other expressions you’ve frequently heard that I missed in the comments.

Finally, if you’re bored see if you can identify the various おでん ingredients. I’m not going to bother going over them because as I recall, it’s all self-service at the convenience store.

oden ingredients

A difficult reason for losing motivation

Reading articles like these really drains my motivation for learning Chinese.

Under Chinese law, carriers of hepatitis B cannot work as teachers, elevator operators, barbers or supermarket cashiers. In a recent survey of 113 colleges and universities, conducted by the Yi Ren Ping Center, 94 acknowledged that infected applicants, required to take blood tests, would be summarily rejected.

No, this is not an excerpt from a history book or an old newspaper article, this is a New York Times article published last week. This is just as ridiculous as the AIDS scare of the 80s in the US except umm… 30 years later and for a disease that’s been around far longer. At this rate of progress, maybe someday kids with hepatitis B may be able to attend kindergarten.

Chinese kindergartens and nurseries will shortly no longer be allowed to turn down children carrying hepatitis B who have normal liver function, says a draft government regulation.
The draft regulation, applying to all kindergartens and nurseries hosting children aged under six, also requires them to report to medical authorities and enforce strict sterilization measures if infected children are found.

I wonder what strict sterilization measures would be required? Tell the kids don’t have sex or share needles?

There’s really no way I would ever consider living in China or even staying for any decent length of time. This really was the final straw after continuously hearing bad news from China including internet censorship, political persecution, tampered baby formula, and dogs dying from contaminated food. Now, I know it’s not fair to judge a country I have never visited with no first-hand knowledge. But why would I want to go a country that well… I no longer want to go to? Sure, I can sign up for a tour and check out the tourist traps but it’s hard to justify the huge amount of resources needed to learn a language just for a vacation. I might as well just bring a travel phrase book and be done with it.

I’m still thinking I might want to check out Taiwan though. Only problem is, now I need to start getting used to the traditional characters.

Am I over-reacting here? In particular, this blog post about trust and the comments really made me nervous about going to China. Interested in hearing thoughts from those who have experienced China first-hand.

Japanese TV

Here’s a funny blog post about Japanese TV:

Looks like Japanese TV has remained pretty much the same since I’ve been there.

I actually like Japanese variety shows, or to be more specific, the segments they show during it. It’s fun to watch a Japanese dude staying with some tribe in Africa hunting lions or cute, newly-wed housewives around the world cooking their husband a home-style breakfast in their cuisine.

One particular interesting bit I remember was when they compared the total monetary value of gifts (called 貢ぎ物) given to Shinjuku’s top host and hostess. It looked like the top host would win with a luxury car when at the very end the hostess remembers, “Oh yeah, that condo I’m living in was also a gift.”

What I CANNOT STAND in variety TV is watching the reactions and discussions by celebrities after they watch the segments. WHY AM I WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE WATCHING TV?? Maybe I should gather some friends and make a video of us watching celebrities watching TV. Then I can make a video of us again watching that video. Geesh.

Still, in my opinion, Japanese TV is way better than US programming. Also, I think they were doing reality shows before they really took off in the US and it never seemed to descend to the level of trash like “Flavor of Love”. For instance, 「あいのり」 started over 6 months before the first season of Survivor (ugh).

By the way, my wife LOVES London Hearts.

The opposite of polite… rude? Not really.

As most of you know, Japanese has a separate way of speaking to show politeness. This way of speaking is called 「敬語」 as a whole and is split into two levels: 1) Polite – 丁寧語, and 2) Honorific/Humble – 尊敬語/謙譲語. However, I’ve never really seen a neat term to describe the non-polite way of speaking in English or Japanese. Some might think that the opposite of polite is rude but the level I’m looking for is between the two. Slang is a little different too. What I’m referring to is a neutral way of speaking with equals. I’ve usually just called it “casual” or “dictionary form”. However, 「普通の話し方」 is rather unwieldy and 「辞書形」 is a term for conjugation, not a politeness level. I’m not aware of any formal term in Japanese which is a pain when making Japanese lessons so I looked up 「丁寧語の反対」 in Google and found my exact question on Yahoo!知恵袋. Say what you want about Yahoo and it’s past blunders with Microsoft but Yahoo Answers is really cool and turns up useful answers all the time.

I’ve decided to use the term 「タメ口」 based on this rather confident answer.


Any native speakers have any reservations with that term? Here’s a list of terms I tried to sort in order of politeness. Any additions, suggestions, or corrections appreciated.


By the way, I hope to use a screen sharing app during my lessons to show how to do this type of research using Japanese and the internet on your own.

Holidays get deadly with Death Note

Life continues to be hectic and updates to this blog will be sparse probably till the end of this year.

I had wanted to write a post with a comprehensive review of the Death Note comic book series with transcribed excerpts but since that takes time, I’ll just leave you with a hilarious comic strip from VG Cats. Lots of funny stuff there including references to どうぶつの森.

In any case, the short version of my review is to definitely check it out as a resource for studying Japanese. There’s a lot of text compared to most comic books and the story is very complex. Definitely a good read for people at an intermediate to advanced levels.

Image from VG Cats:
Santa's Death List