Here are more pictures from Japan. Before Dec 31st you can have a "End of Year Party" (Bounen-kai, lit. "forget the past year party"), but after Jan 1st you have a New Year Party (Shinen-kai). I had a New Year party with a friend from college, and here are some pics.
The place is an "Izakaya" or a kind of traditional beer restaurant with good food. The food was great -- especially the fish, not an easy thing to say considering we're in the middle of Japan, far from the ocean. Below see my New Year's Beer, the first beer of 2005; a Grapefruit Sour, a drink with alcohol in it which you squeeze fresh grapefruit juice and pulp in to make a delicious drink; and a picture of a Beer Girl, the lovely girls who promote beer drinking in Japan.
Today's J-List post is below. You can also read it on the J-List website or the JBOX.com site.
The star of South Korean actor Bae Yong-joon, who appeared in the Korean drama Winter Sonata, just keeps on rising in Japan. The talented actor is on the way to becoming this year's "CM king" (the star appearing most in TV commercials), advertising everything from Lotte chocolate to mobile phones with cross-country calling features to small cars for women. The biggest group of fans of "Yon-sama" (as he's called these days) are middle-aged women in Japan, who apparently have lots of free time and excess income. When he arrived in Narita to promote his photobook, there were so many fans waiting for him that several people were hurt in the crush of bodies. The locations that appeared Winter Sonata are a popular tourist spot for Japanese women these days, with Korean Airlines offering special charter flights to handle the load of Japanese tourists. You can even make folded paper origami of Yon-sama with a book that's been released in Japan.
One word that comes up in anime a lot is gambaru (gahn-BAH-roo, alternately written ganbaru). A happy, cheerful word which means to do one's best, to work hard, to give one's all and so on, it seems to find its way into a variety of situations. Usually heard in its formal form gambarimasu (gahn-BAH-ri-mass, "[I will] do my best!"), or else as a request, e.g. gambatte or gambatte kudasai (gahn-BAH-tay koo-da-sai, "please try hard"), or alternatively in its "command" form, gambare (gahn-BAH-ray, "Do your best!"). Like Turkish, Finnish and some Native American languages, Japanese is an "agglutinating" language, which means it puts a lot of information (past tense, passive voice, polite language etc.) in the forms of the verb being used. The bad news is that students of Japanese have to memorize these forms (informal present, informal past tense, passive, and so on). The good news is that they're not hard to learn, and you never have to mess with confusing helping verbs like "he would have been able to come if he had received the call" in Japanese.
To successfully study a language, one thing you need to do beyond learning the grammar and vocabulary is to craft overall strategies for communication, even if it means using hand gestures or drawing pictures to show meaning. One strategy for communication that's probably used by all speakers of foreign languages is the non sequitur, a reply that can be used as a response to just about any question, whether you understood it or not. Back in my bachelor days, I went to a live orchestra performance and was surprised to hear that the organizers had "randomly" chosen three people from the audience to get up and conduct the musicians: a cute old woman, a little girl, and funny American, namely me. I got up on the conductors podium, trying to ignore the hundreds of people behind me, and lead the Maebashi Philharmonic Orchestra in the first few bars of Beethoven's 5th. When I was done, the MC asked me some questions about where I was from, how I liked my first time conducting an orchestra, and...something else, that I didn't happen to catch. Rather than embarrass myself in front of so many people by asking the MC to repeat herself, I gave her an answer that would fit just about anywhere in Japanese: so desu ne (literally "Yes, that's so"), which in Japanese usage can act as a neutral reply to just about any question.
Here are today's "really cool products" that I thought were especially noteworthy. Note: the J-List links below may be for adult products and should probably be considered "not safe for work." See the JBOX.com site if under 18 or offended by this kind of stuff.
Marugoto Yuko Ogura. Yuko Ogura is a cute teeny bop idol from Japan, popular on late night television (because she looks so sexy in a swimsuit) and also on variety shows as the "dumb cute girl in the background." Here's one of the best photobooks we've seen for her fans, featuring lots of stuff from various places. Marugoto means "eating the whole thinig all at once."
Dokodemo Issho Figure. This is cool -- the cute Dokodemo Issho figures from Sony's Playstation games (and character licensing division) in traditional Japanese tatami rooms that you can connect and make one big house. Cute. The "Issyo" (together) part of the name is slightly annoying to me becausae it should be romanized "Issho" (since that's how it's pronounced).
Sushi Plate. If you don't have enough sushi related things in your life, here's a cool little sushi plate that you can display, or eat sushi off of. It features all the sushi names in Japanese and English. Very, very cool, we live to find stuff like this.
Rikoteki - Rico Kawano. Rico Kawano (who has cleverly spelled her name with a C instead of a K) is one of those girls that makes you stop and stare, she's so beautiful. This is a glossy photobook, with very nice printing and hardcover binding. A fantastic girl, who I hope we'll be seeing more of in Japan.
Cute Honey Collector's Edition. Cutie Honey is a popular anime and manga by Go Nagai, the creator of such fun shows as Devilman and Mazinger Z. The live action version is now out on DVD, and this collector's box -- while expensive -- really rocks up a storm, with a cool figure, art book, the movie on DVD and more. I'd buy it.