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W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most confusing Japanese counter words 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five most confusing Japanese counter words.

Japanese is a hard language to learn, but not for the reasons most people think it is. I did a previous W.T.F. Japan about the top five myths about learning Japanese, and I stand by that kanji is definitely not the hardest part of Japanese.

Maybe someday I’ll do a W.T.F. on the top five reasons Japanese is actually hard, but for now I just wanted to focus on one of the harder aspects of the language: counter words.

In English we say a “head” of lettuce and a “loaf” of bread, but in Japanese they have counter words for everything. No matter what you’re counting – people, computers, books, sheep – there’s a counter word that must be used. You can’t just say “three sheep” and be understood, you have to say the equivalent of “three heads of sheep.”

In this W.T.F. I go over some of the more ridiculous counter words, which have tripped me and my students up for years. Even if you’ve never studied Japanese before, I think it will be a fun read just to see how linguistically different (and crazy) Japanese can be sometimes.

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 budget Japanese Halloween costumes 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top budget Japanese Halloween costumes.

Halloween is becoming bigger in Japan every year. Even though trick-or-treating still isn’t really a thing, dressing up very much is, and there are some Japanese monsters that make for great costumes.

Unfortunately Japanese costumes can be a little hard to come by outside of Japan, so this week I worked together with my wife to show off how you can make your own for extremely cheap. Every costume is about $6 or less to make, and pretty much guaranteed to be unique.

So if you need a costume and you’re short on cash… I think you know what to do.

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 craziest Japanese certification exams 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five craziest Japanese certification exams.

When I worked as a Japanese tutor, I would often tell my students that Japan has a test for everything. They didn’t believe me when I told them about the “housewife certification exam,” so now was my chance to finally show them the hilarious truth!

Honestly, I’m not a fan of tests. A lot of my students expressed a desire to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Exam), but I advised against it. That may sound strange, hut here’s the truth: there’s nothing really to be gained from taking the test. Let’s say you pass Level 1… great! You’re exactly the same person with the same knowledge you were before you passed it! Let’s say you fail it instead… great! You’re still the same person!

I suppose the argument can be made that in studying for the exam you learned more about the subject, but most teachers agree that “teaching to the test” is horrible. I would have much preferred by students study manga, anime, books, or anything intended for native Japanese speakers, rather than the artificial Japanese created for the exam.

But hey, that’s just me. If you love tests, more power to you! Maybe you’ll find some great ones to take on this list.

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 Japanese autumn foods 【Well-Fed Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five Japanese autumn foods. I’ve been wanting to do a few articles about food here in Japan, but none of them really felt “weird” enough to be part of the “Weird Top Five” series.

My editor suggested I just change the “W” to stand for something else for a singe article, so after a lot of soul-searching and Google-searching, I came up with “Well-Fed” instead.

The article is still similar in tone to my previous articles, but it’s a little bit different, so we’ll see how it goes. Maybe there will be more Well-Fed Top Fives in the future, maybe there will be none – it all depends on those sweet, sweet clicks.

So if you want to know what autumn is all about in Japan, check it out!

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strangest kanji ever 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five strangest kanji ever. A few months ago I did the top five most difficult kanji ever, which resulted in an explosion of comments demanding more articles counting down the top [insert theme here] kanji.

I wanted to start writing more immediately, but unfortunately the resource that I’d used (the Morohashi kanji dictionary) was at UMass Amherst – not exactly nearby. But now that I’m back in Japan, my local library has a copy of the 10+ volume behemoth of a dictionary, so I was able to go back and do some kanji research!

My last article was all about the most difficult kanji, but I think this one might be more fun because it’s all about the strangest-looking ones. It was fun to look through the index of Morohashi and see which ones caught my eye. Whenever a kanji made me go “whoa!” I wrote it down as a possibility. After collecting several dozen “whoa!” kanji, I sorted them by craziness and the top five are what made this list.

There were so many ridiculous kanji that I found that I think there’s still plenty left over for another few more kanji articles. So long as people enjoy reading them, I’ll keep writing them!

Whether or not you know anything about Japanese or kanji, I think you might like this article. Enjoy!

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 ridiculous details of Japanese office tea 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five most ridiculous details of Japanese office tea. Office tea may not be the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Japanese businesses – formal meetings, bowing and business cards probably come before that – but it’s just as important.

Tea is basically lubrication for Japanese business like oil is lubrication for a car – it just doesn’t run without it. When I worked in a Japanese office, every meeting no matter how big or small had tea served to the guests. Whenever me or my coworkers went as guests to somewhere else, we were always served tea as well.

It may sound strange to the uninitiated, but it was kind of nice. Not only were you guaranteed a refreshing drink (cold in the summer hot in the winter) whenever you were going someplace, but it made you feel more welcome than if you just sat down and got right to business.

I don’t want to spoil too much more of the details of Japanese business tea, so go ahead and read the article before I accidentally spoil everything. Enjoy!

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most offensive Japanese swear words 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five most offensive Japanese swear words. As an armchair linguist, I find swear words fascinating for two reasons: (1) they’re the first words in a foreign language that any student wants to learn, and (2) I can’t believe that so many languages have words that are “forbidden” or “unclean.” I mean, they’re just words!

As far as (1) goes, I think a big reason students clamor to learn swear words is for two reasons: one, it gives them some “bad” vocabulary words to use that other people won’t understand, and two, it gives the language a grittier, more authentic feel. Rather than learning how to say “I’d like three apples please,” you’re actually learning some “real” words that people use when you learn swears.

I remember in high school one Spanish teacher told her class that the best way to pick out a dictionary (before the days of internet dictionaries and smartphones) was to look up the worst swear words you could possibly think of. If it had them, great! If it didn’t, move on to another. I can’t vouch for how effective that method really is, but it did make shopping for new dictionaries a lot more fun.

So if you’re a swear-lover like I am, maybe you’ll enjoy the article. And if not, well, maybe you can learn to love them after seeing how silly it is that certain sounds in another language are considered “taboo.” Enjoy!

Read the article here.

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.

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.

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.