Japan is nothing if not a land of contradictions, where you can connect to the Internet via a high speed cellular connection while speeding on a fast shinkansen, and yet there are still fish-sellers who ride around on bicycles selling fish to households door-to-door, where technology is embraced while traditions, even stupid ones like the guy coming to each house in our neighborhood to collect our 2000 yen NHK fee every month, are preserved. I always enjoy making trips to Tokyo, where you can see an incredible range of on the train with you: the salaryman, the teenager rapidly thumbing her keitai (portable phone), high school girls talking in their own world…and then a gothic lolita, a cute girl wearing a 19th century maid uniform, staring out the window as she waits for her stop. I thought Japan was supposed to be famous for conformity? I guess I don’t have this place figured out yet…
If you ever want to learn a subject well, I recommend you try teaching it. When I came to Japan to teach English as a Second Language, I had no idea how much of my own language I didn’t understand, and yet in order to do right by my students I had to learn. For better or worse, the Japanese usually study English with a focus on grammar and vocabulary, since that’s what appears on university entrance exams (none of this namby-pamby “communicative” English for them, thanks). When a student asks why an infinitive verb (futeishi) is used in a particular sentence instead of a gerend (domeishi), you want to give him an answer more substantive than “it just sounds better that way.” One especially difficult part of English are two-word verbs like “take out” “take off” “take over” and so on. Why does “throw up” mean something different from “throw out”? My time as a teacher gave me a lot of respect for anyone who can tackle something as difficult as English, with its dizzying mix of cris- crossing rules and exceptions.
The Japanese have really embraced online culture, as seen by the grown of mammoth communities like famous 2ch BBS (pronounced “ni channel”). In addition to spawning the true story of Densha Otoko, in which an geeky otaku found love with a beautiful woman by asking for advice from readers of the BBS, 2ch is also a popular place for ASCII-art creation, the most famous being the Mona Neko cats. Mona Neko (whose name comes from the Japanese phrase Omae mo na! or “The same to you!” used in online flame wars on 2ch) and his friends have become such a popular symbol of Internet culture in Japan, we decided to make some wacky T-shirts as a tribute, which are on the site now: an image of the Mona Neko cats drinking their sake (they love sake), and a fun tribute to “panchira” (which all men love, whether they admit it or not) Be sure to check out the wacky Japanese Numa Numa video here, with attempts at matching the words with Japanese meanings, here. (It’s really cool, I watch this silly thing a few times a day.)
One of the most anticipated snack treats from Japan is finally here: the delicious winter-only Melty Kiss, delicious fudge cubes coated with cocoa powder that are heavenly to eat. The name is also one of the most bizarre and fun bits of wasei eigo (lit. “made in Japan English”), capturing the image of a warm stolen kiss with snow falling all around you. We’ve got all three flavors for 2005 in stock: Precious Cocoa, Matcha (Green Tea) and Strawberry!