Friday, March 28, 2008
Do you know the story of the "homeless junior high school student"? When Hiroshi Tamura was was just ten, his mother died of an illness, which was a terrible shock to his family. A bigger surprise was in store five years later, however, when Hiroshi and his older brother and sister arrived home to find their house repossessed. Their father appeared soon after, explaining the situation: the family was penniless and had lost everything. "So we'll all go our separate ways now. Family, dismissed!" Determined not to drop out of school, he moved to a nearby park where he lived, sleeping on a sliding board for several months, eating rice when he could get it and cardboard boxes when he couldn't and washing himself with rain water. Through hard work, he was eventually able to graduate from high schoo, and now he's part of a successful Japanese comedian duo called Kirin. When he mentioned his sad experiences on the air once, an editor saw it and suggested he write a book about it. Homuresu Chugakusei became a huge hit, selling more than 2 million copies in Japan and spawning a movie deal. The story of a young person who's able to be thankful for something that we all take for granted -- the availability of hot water -- really struck a chord with modern Japanese readers.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Languages overlap each other in interesting ways, and it's always fun to observe these accidental similarities, like how casa means "house" in Spanish but "umbrella" in Japanese. It's even possible to pick up some useful phrases by focusing on the words you already know, not unlike the way "Don't touch my moustache" happens to sound similar to doh-itashimashite, or "you're welcome" in Japanese. Here are some ready-to-use phrases of Japanese that happen to sound like English words you already know:
|Cheek show!||Damn! (chikusho)|
|Psycho!||That's great! (saiko)|
|Bimbo||Poor, no money (binbo)|
|Ohio||Good morning (ohayo)|
|Show you||soy sauce (shoyu)|
|Oh, you||hot water (o-yu)|
|Never never||sticky (like natto, fermented soybeans)|
|"E"||good, ok (ii)|
Amaze your friends!
Spring vacation is finally here, and all through Japan children are getting ready to enjoy a well deserved two week holiday. This year is special for our family, because my son will be entering Junior High School in April, which is a big change. First of all, all Junior High students are compelled to join a school club like baseball club, karate club, art club and so on, and engage in bukatsu ("club activities") for several hours a day. My son likes music and has decided to join the school's wind orchestra club, which will be practicing into the evening three days a week. After spending time with club members, many students will then go to juku, evening school where students study for 2-3 more hours. While a lot of students attend these night schools because their friends are there, those who want to go to a good university start their power-studying at this time, attending a night school until 10 pm or so then coming home for a spot of dinner before studying even more. We're having a family debate right now over which course we want to pursue for my son. My wife is sure he'll need to attend night school every evening just to keep up with his studies and to prepare for his upcoming entrance exams for high school, since there's a lot of competition for the school he wants to go to. I'm of the opinion that family should come before cramming useless knowledge into the brain for a test that's three years off, but that's just me...
(This is an ad for a juku that promises to get you into your university of choice.)