You’ve been in Japan too long when you pronounce the word “warehouse” as “wah-rey house.” Japanese pronunciation is extremely easy, once you get the hang of it and break it down into simple rules. First of all, Japanese is written with the two kana syllabaries (hiragana for Japanese words, katakana for foreign loan words), not an alphabet like English. There are just five vowels, the exact sounds found in languages like Spanish and Italian: A (ah), I (ee), U (oo), E (eh) and O (oh). Japanese words are expressed in consonant + vowel syllables (ka, ki, ku, ke, ko/sa, shi, su, se, so); vowels and the consonant ‘n’ can also be expressed alone. English grammar rules like silent e (or “magic e” as the Japanese call it) don’t exist: hence a name like Tomoe is pronounced TOH-MOH-eh and the family name Inoue is just EE + NO + OO + EH. There are long and short vowels, so that the short “o” in a word like “okane” (o-kah-nay, meaning money) sounds different from the longer “oh” sound in Osaka. Since there’s only one way to verbalize any syllable, there’s no need to debate how a word should be pronounced (as with, say, British and American pronunciations of the word “tomato”). Happily, Japanese uses almost no inflection when speaking, which makes it much easier for English speakers than some other Asian languages.
I’ve lived in Japan since 1991, and every time I return home, I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle, the man who went to sleep as a British colonist and woke up twenty years later, after the American Revolution had taken place. Back in the old days of the 80s, anime was something you watched once a month at an anime club on a university campus. You watched everything in Japanese, with a xeroxed sheet of paper that explained what was happening in the episodes, if you were lucky — almost nothing was available in English. The idea of going to a store and buying anime goods was also laughable, since no stores sold anime, except for a few comic shops that were ahead of the curve. Now, the level of acceptance of Japanese anime and manga is incredible, as people all over the world have come to embrace this fascinating alternative world culture. The wacky trivia show Fountain of Trivia that we watch every week is even being brought out in English, as Hey! Spring of Trivia, on Spike TV, so you can follow the adventures of cute model Megumi, Chairman Tamori and everyone else. Here’s some info on the show, including broadcast times: http://www.spiketv.com/shows/series/hey/
Well, our little Thanksgiving was a big success. Using a combination of American and Japanese methods, we managed to bake our turkey and prepare all the other fixings, although we had some confusion from our Japanese oven, which had various “fuzzy” settings intended to make food preparation easier for us but which only got in our way. We had fun blending tried-and-true American traditions with Japanese ones — our Japanese friends brought along sushi, and my kids asked for soy sauce while they ate their turkey with chopsticks. One thing about being an expat in Japan: it will make you appreciate your mother like nothing else. Thanks for everything you do, Mom.
Is there anything we can do for you for the holidays this year? J-List has a mind-boggling number of cool things from Japan, with something for everyone. Looking for a really unique gift? Browse our anime, snack and “wacky things from Japan” pages for a huge number of ideas. Want to keep it simple? Why not give our wacky Japanese T-shirts or hoodies, which stocked in San Diego for your shipping convenience. Don’t forget are incredible selection of 2005 anime, JPOP, swimsuit idol and other calendars, which are only available from Japan and are already starting to sell out
Remember that J-List sells hundreds of cool things from Japan, including the popular “Mononofu” detailed miniature weapons that are made of real die-cast metal and exactly replicate the armor, shields and weapons used in Japan and Europe in centuries past. They’re amazing miniature weapons that are great for displaying — each piece comes with a stand and information on the weapon or armor. We go out of our way to make full sets of these great toys available for you, so there’s no need to buy duplicates and throw them away.