One of the benefits to living the expat life is coming to value the things from home you used to take for granted. But if you ever live in a place with no Root Beer, no Peter Pan Peanut Butter, and no Rold Gold pretzels (or whatever happens to be dear to you), you will learn to appreciate them in a hurry. The other day I got a care package from my mother which contained our Thanksgiving stuff (since Japan can be quite pumpkin-pie-and-mashed-potato-challenged when it wants to be), and there was a general work stoppage while the J-List staff stopped to check out the various goodies that Mom had sent along. The gaijiin staff of J-List was especially happy with the Cheetos that were in the box, and we eagerly devoured them. Sometimes it’s the little things that mean a lot.
There’s a new type of crime in Japan. A few days ago, a small battery-powered wireless camera was discovered attached to the wall above an ATM machine in a UFJ Bank in Tokyo. The device was capable of broadcasting out to a receiver located outside the building, where a man watched with a small television, recording the passwords people used to access their bank accounts. Happily, the culprit — a 36 year old unemployed man — was caught by police before he could do any damage. There are other types of updated crimes in Japan, one of the most famous being ore ore sagi (“it’s me, it’s me!” fraud), where a con-man calls an elderly man or woman, pretending to be their grandson and asking them to send money right away because of some trouble they’re in. Then there’s the related furikome sagi (“pay up” fraud), in which, say, a female con-artist might call the wife of a doctor and say that she’d been touched inappropriately (chikan sareta, for owners of our “Beware of Perverts” T-shirt) by her husband, and that she was about to go to the police. However, she might reconsider if the wife sends 2 million yen to the following account right away.
Kanji may not be the easiest thing in the world to learn, especially those who don’t live in kanji-using countries, but neither is it the invention of the devil designed to confound students of Japanese. In fact, it’s actually quite logical and organized. When you need to look a character up in a kanji dictionary, you have several ways to go about it, including looking it up based on the total number of strokes (the number of lines it takes to write that character), or using its pronunciation. The most logical way, however, is to use the radical, which are quadrants on the left, right, top, etc. of kanji, which group them together based on meaning. One common type of radical are kanmuri, which means “crown” (aside: Toyota Camry gets its name from this word, based on a strange fixation the company has for making cars with names that mean crown in various languages). One type is take-kanmuri (tah-KAY KAN-moo-REE) or “bamboo crown,” and characters that contain radical this are often things made of bamboo, such as fude (writing brush) or hako (box). Similarly, the character for rain (ame, ah-MAY) appears as a radical in related words, such as snow, lightning, fog, cloud, and electricity. (The popular Wordtank electronic dictionaries that J-List sells have full kanji dictionary functions built into them.)
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