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Month: September 2016

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 crazy things about Japanese supermarkets 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote the top five crazy things about Japanese supermarkets. Having recently returned to living in Japan after being in the U.S. for several years, I was shocked by all the things I had forgotten about the Japanese way of food shopping.

Whenever we think about different cultures, we tend to focus on stereotypical differences: temples/shrines in Japan, kangaroos in Australia, wine and cheese with every meal in France. But when you actually go to the country itself, usually it’s the smaller things that really make it feel foreign.

Like grocery stores, for example.

I’m always glad when I can do an article that hones in on those smaller differences and brings them to light. There’s little chunks of juicy cultural tidbits hidden in those small differences, and exploring them is always a lot of fun.

I don’t want to spoil any of the items on the list here, so be sure to read the article if you want to see what’s different about buying food in Japan. Enjoy!

Read the article here.

Masterpiece Monday: Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express

Of all the things I miss about living in the U.S., it’s not having libraries around that hurts the most.

Don’t get me wrong – Japan has plenty of libraries, but their English book selection is pretty limited. It’s not like I blame them though; the foreign language sections in American libraries usually aren’t a huge priority either.

But I’ve got to work with what I have, and my local library has copies of all the Harry Potter books in English, so that’s what I’m currently reading. It’s been a lot of fun re-reading The Sorcerer’s Stone for the, uh, three-hundredth time.

Now I’m reading them through more of a writer’s lens, and each week I’d like to share some passages that I think were extremely well-written, so that  we can all try to get one step closer to god-tier J.K. Rowling. Here’s a single paragraph from when Harry passes through the barrier at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters:

Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every color wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to one another in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and scraping of heavy trunks.

What I like about this short passage is that every word is chock full of meaning, helping to paint the scene of a idling train engine with just a hint of magic. Cats weaving through legs, owls hooting “in a disgruntled” way, and then the “scraping of heavy trunks” that is probably either great nostalgia or horrible PTSD for anyone who has traveled with lots of luggage before.

One thing that I struggle with is writing too generically. If I’d written the above scene, it probably would’ve just been Harry making his way through a crowd of people, and that’s it. I would’ve missed out on all the little details that help bring it to life.

When I do my writing today (and hopefully tomorrow too, and the day after – if I remember!) I’ll try to crack open my scenes a little bit more and let the juicy details spill out. How about you?

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)

Kana Kinyobi: Hiragana あ (“a”)

Hooray, it’s kinyobi (Friday)! That means it’s time to do something that alliterates with kinyobi and learn some Japanese kana!

Even though I’ve retired my Learn Japanese through Ridiculous Manga series on RocketNews24, I still had a lot of fun making the kana mnemonic pictures, and I’d like to keep posting them here until I’ve completed all of the hiragana and katakana.

Hiragana and katakana are the two Japanese alphabets (or “syllabaries” if you want to be technical, and we always want to be technical here). Once you’ve learned to read them you’ll find that you can read a surprising amount of things in Japanese.

So to start, let’s take a look at the first hiragana: あ (pronounced “a” as in “father”)

little-hiragana-a

This guy is easy to remember because there’s an actual “A” inside of it. It’s like those ancient Japanese scribes wanted to give us English speakers a break. Take a look at my horrible attempt to illustrate this idea below:

hiragana-a

Got it? Awesome! You’ve taken your first step to learning how to read Japanese. Come back for next week’s Kana Kinyobi when we’ll take a look at the next hiragana: い (“i”).

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 creepiest Japanese insects 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five creepiest Japanese insects. When I researched my article about the top five creepiest Japanese animals, I made the decision not to include bugs because I knew that they would dominate the list. I decided to do non-insect animals first, then only-insects later.

As expected, most of the comments on the article were “WHAT ABOUT COCKROACHES AND CENTIPEDES AND HORNETS?!”

Now, hopefully I can satiate those caps-lock voices with this article. It was really fun to research and write; I learned a ton about Japanese insects and insects in general. Of course, having recently moved back to Japan, writing it made me a little paranoid about checking my shoes and pillows and futon and toilet bowl and- well, if you watch the video about the huntsman spider, I think you’ll understand. Enjoy!

Read the article here.

Tips-y Tuesday: Writing Warmup

So I’ve been writing for a whole bunch of years now (some years better than others…) and I’ve accumulated a bunch of crazy ideas that I use myself and have shared with others at writing groups. Since they work well for me and some other similarly crazy people, I’ve decided why not share them with the internet as well.

I’ll do my best not to advise you to burn down your house, but I make no promises.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most perfectly translated Pokémon names 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five most perfectly translated Pokémon names. I always like it when I can write about translation, since there are surprisingly few articles out there about the topic. When it comes to gaming in particular, there are tons of articles and videos on game design, graphics, user interface, and everything else, but translation is one aspect that’s always lacking.

When you think about it, that’s kind of crazy since translation is one of the most important steps when it comes to introducing media to a new country. You could have the best book, movie, or video game ever, but if it’s translated/localized poorly into the new language/culture, then it’s going to flop.

All throughout my time in college, I was interested in historic translation. Yeah sure, learning about the politics and economics of the West coming to Japan and China for the first time was fine, but I wanted to know who was doing the translation between the languages, and even more importantly, how on Earth were they doing it? My professors never had satisfactory answers, and my own research never led anywhere, but I’m still hopeful that someday I can bring to light these important translators.

But for now, I’ll settle for just showing off how awesome the translators for the original Pokémon games were, because they were a huge part in how successful the franchise still is even today.

Read the article here.