How to Make Miso Soup in an Instant Pot

The pandemic continues, and I find myself fighting of unpredictable waves of lethargy. My culinary experiments have plateaued, to a certain degree, so I’m relying on old regulars. Recipes that I can cook without having to think too much about them.

One of these is a miso soup recipe for the Instant Pot which I though I’d share as this month’s post. (I also needed something short and automatic that I could knock out due to said lethargy.)

I found the recipe on Cookpad, which is a fantastic website that you should definitely explore, and the title basically explains everything: 圧力鍋で加圧1分☆根菜の味噌汁

Miso soup in a minute! Obviously it’s not quite this easy. There’s a minute of pressurized cooking time, but it takes maybe 10 minutes to get to pressure, another 15 for the pressure to release, and then 10-15 minutes for prep. But all in all it’s not too much of a fuss. I’ll summarize how I do it:

1. Prep the ingredients.

The base to the soup is:

Water, 1L
Dashi powder, 2 tsp
Miso, 2 tbsp

That’s the basic recipe, and you can really experiment with what you add to it. The recipe at the link calls for:

Daikon, maybe half a small daikon chopped
Carrots, 1-2 chopped
Abura-age, 1 chopped

But you can use sato-imo, enoki mushrooms, regular tofu, konnyaku, all sorts of delicious things! I’d recommend trying out different combos and different misos.

2. Add water, ingredients and dashi to the Instant Pot.

The only ingredient you may not need to add to the pot would be regular tofu, although I’m not sure about this. I don’t think it will hurt, though. Stir up the dashi so that it dissolves, add the carrots and daikon, and then put on the lid.

3. Cook on Manual for 1 minute.

Use the manual setting, and let it cook.

4. Use a natural pressure release.

Wait 15 minutes or so and the pressure will naturally release. You can do a manual release, but it will fire a stream of piping hot, daikon-scented steam into the air, which will fill your house. So I recommend waiting.

5. Add the miso.

Use a ladle to dissolve the miso into the Instant Pot a tablespoon at a time. Hold the ladle in the soup and fill it, but don’t let the miso blob out yet. Stir the miso and hot soup with a spoon or chopsticks until it breaks apart and dissolves into the soup.

6. Eat! This is ready to go.

I’m not sure I ever learned how to make miso soup when I was living in Japan. I know I tried, but I only ever used miso. You really need the dashi to give it that fully realized flavor. And the daikon give it that big (farty) flavor and I’m sure are really healthy. I also love sato-imo, especially in the winter. They’re so hearty.

My only tip with this recipe is to not go overboard with the ingredients. Err on adding too few, otherwise you’ll end up with a miso stew instead of miso soup.

The only other thing of note is that this is the recipe that helped me learn the Japanese for “pressure cooker”: 圧力鍋 (atsuryoku nabe) – literally “pressurized nabe.” Love it.

How to Make Nattō in an Instant Pot

I’m in the Japan Times this week with a lesson about how to make nattō: “One man’s journey to perfect homemade nattō.”

A few weeks back I saw some folks discussing nattō on Twitter, which made me realize that I hadn’t made Japanese breakfast for a while. There was a stretch in 2019 after a business trip to Japan when I ate 和食 breakfast every day for about six months or so.

I had enough to put together miso soup and salmon pretty easily, and I realized that I probably had the equipment to make nattō. I started Googling around a little, and, sure enough, I found Japanese recipes for making nattō using the yogurt setting on an Instant Pot.

Like yogurt, nattō is fermented by bacteria and needs to be held at warm temperatures for enough time for the germs to do their thing. I’ve been brewing beer and making yogurt long enough to have a decent sense of how things work, so I decided to give it a shot. It’s not all that hard!

I found the soybeans pretty easily at one of the Asian market’s near me, but they didn’t have frozen nattō. I put my quest on pause until I saw Hiroko Tabuchi tweet out a picture of 納豆素 from Yuzo Takahashi Laboratory, which was conveniently available on Amazon at the time. The spores are currently sold out but worth looking out for, and there must be somewhere else to purchase them online.

Once you have the soybeans, the spores, and an Instant Pot, you’re just about good to go. Here’s how I did it:

1. Soak the soybeans overnight.

I recommend starting with 100g. Most recipes will recommend 500g, which is far too much. 250g was enough for two weeks’ worth of breakfast. The soybeans will expand and soak up some of the water.

2. Cook the soybeans.

I used a steaming basket with 1.5 cups water in the bottom of the IP, but you could just as easily cook the beans directly in the IP container, in which case you’d need much more water.

If you’re using the steaming basket, you probably should cook on manual for 45-55 minutes, depending on how soft you want your beans. I haven’t perfected the softness yet. The first time I tried, I steamed them for 30 minutes and they were a little firm, so I had to add an additional 10 minutes. I think 55-60 minutes would work.

If you’re boiling the beans, then I think 30-40 minutes is probably fine in the IP.

3. Transfer cooked beans into a sanitized container.

Everything from this point onward needs to be totally sanitized so that you’re not at risk of growing anything other than the nattō bacteria.

You can rinse everything with a sanitizer of some sort like a diluted bleach solution (or StarSan or Iodophor if you happen to be a homebrewer like me). If you’re using a stainless steel container for the beans, you can alternatively give it a quick steam in the IP to nuke everything on it and make sure it’s totally sanitized.

Pot-in-pot stainless steel pots are useful for this. There are two pots in the picture because I made 250g the first time I made them and had to split them up so that the beans didn’t get too deep.

4. Add spores to sanitized water.

Microwave 10mL of water for a minute or so until it boils, and then let it cool until it’s warm to the touch but not uncomfortably so (around 100F/37C). Then add 0.1g of spores to the water using the special spoon included with the vial of spores. Swirl up the spores in the water.

5. Add the spore water to the soybeans.

Pour the water on the beans and give it a stir with a sanitized spoon.

6. Ferment the soybeans.

Put your container in the IP and set it to the yogurt setting for 24 hours. Now you just wait.

You can look in, but I’d suggest resisting until at least 12 hours in to ensure that the nattō bacteria have a good head start and can outcompete anything else that might sneak in when you’re taking a look.

By 12-16 hours you should see the whitish film developing and notice that pungent nattō aroma. The beans will be ready by 24 hours.

7. Refrigerate the nattō overnight.

Pour the nattō into a food-safe container, and refrigerate it overnight. It’s ready to serve!

S&B Oriental Mustard is relatively easy to find and makes really good karashi. Alternatively you can check out my nattō experiments video from ancient history for some other recipe options. I think I’ll have to try the avocado version again sometime soon…

Serenity Nowish

I was in the Japan Times twice late last month, and it’s taken me a little while to get around to posting the links here.

The first is a Bilingual piece: “Getting a party rolling in Japan.”

The origin of this piece is a little depressing…and may have caused the pandemic. I was preparing an MC script for an event in Japan in May. I wanted plenty of time to really familiarize myself with the pronunciation, so I had a full event planned out, and then *gestures vaguely at the universe*

The content actually came from the same place as my article in early March about “emergency Japanese.” Back in February I had already started planning the agenda for the May event and decided to just script out the whole thing and a bunch of emergency language to boot.

So of course the whole thing has been canceled.

I couldn’t fit all of the parenthetical language I was planning to use. In addition to the strict open and closing phrases I introduce in the piece, these are good to gather the troops before you get started and signal that the event is coming to an end:

まもなく、10時半より始まりますので、皆様お席でお待ちいただきますようお願い申し上げます (Mamonaku, jūji-han yori hajimarimasu no de, minasama oseki de omachi itadakimasu yō onegai mōshiagemasu,We will begin the program at 10:30, so we’d like to ask everyone to take their seats.)

そろそろお時間となりました。皆様、本日のコンフェレンス楽しんでいただけましたでしょうか? (Sorosoro ojikan to narimashita. Minasama, honjitsu no konferensu tanoshinde itadakemashita deshō ka? We will momentarily be at the end of our time. Did everyone enjoy today’s conference?)

Very useful phrases, and you can Frankenstein little bits of them to use in all sorts of other ways.

My other article is a review of Automatic Eve by Rokuro Inui: “‘Automatic Eve’ review: Familiar tropes reimagined with brilliant sci-fi originality.”

If you haven’t picked it up yet, this is a great time. I’ve devoured it twice now, and I’m sure I’ll read it again. It’s such a fun world to inhabit. I want to go there.

I was working on the sequel in Japanese but got sidetracked by some other books. The sequel is set in a fictional Chicago just before an exposition modeled on the Columbian Exposition. He’s clearly taken some inspiration from Devil in the White City (which I still haven’t read—I’m a lousy Chicagoan). The sequel is interesting, although maybe not quite as successful as the first book, both structurally, plot-wise, and writing wise. The first book works so well because structure as a set of short stories provides succinct, contained plots with a quick payoff, getting readers into the novel. Inui was able to kind of embed a larger plot within all of this. With the second book, he’s clearly building toward something, but I’ve found it more of a slog…and not just entirely because it’s in Japanese.

But I will admit that’s probably one of the reasons I haven’t picked it up during the pandemic. I just need easy right now. I’m moving some Murakami to the top of my to-read list because that feels accessible, do-able for me. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s his travel journal. Take me away. Serenity now!

How to Translate

I have a guest post over at “What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?” (which I’ll always think of in my mind as Shinpai Deshou, the site’s url): “Writing into a Career: Learning How to Write and Adult in Japan and the United States.”

It feels like I’ve come full circle. I learned about the site through my successor on the JET Program, and for a long time it was weekly reading. Paula, the author, came on the first season of the podcast and gave some excellent advice on pursuing graduate studies and teaching at the university level.

I didn’t follow the site as closely while I was in grad school until I finished and had no prospects of work in New Orleans and very limited freelance opportunities. Oh yeah, I thought, I should probably look for opportunities that fit my resume, and Shinpai is the best collection of job opportunities, scholarships, fellowships, and interesting Japanese links on the internet; it was the first place I thought of to check out, and my timing ended up being good: there was a position listed at the Japanese consulate in Miami.

Unfortunately they had just finished taking applications, but I did a quick check of the embassy and all the consulates in the U.S. and found openings in DC, Seattle, and Chicago. My brother was living in Chicago at the time, and I was offered a position there before my applications elsewhere were seriously considered. More than anything I think I had good timing, but my master’s degree also helped improve my chances and the amount that I was paid when I first started ($36,000).

The consulate wasn’t bad work. I was an administrative assistant in the political affairs section, and I spent the time research domestic U.S. politics in the Midwest, writing, and setting up appointments for diplomatic staff with local politicians. Working out the office politics between the MOFA staff was the most challenging part of the job.

We had great health insurance and very good vacation policy (20 days a year, 10 of which you could roll over; 7 days of sick leave), but no other benefits, and we were considered contractors, meaning we had to withhold taxes ourselves and pay them quarterly. For the most part it was a good experience, until it wasn’t.

I think that unless you’re working hard to develop your skills on the side, consulate work really won’t challenge you, and some of the workplace norms are toxic and can be scarring if you’re not careful. Many of the locally hired staff struggled with mental health issues during their time at the consulate. So I’m glad to have escaped, and I am still close with many of the MOFA staff I worked with. We stay in touch on Facebook, and I make time to see them when I’m in Japan.

Check out the post for a few more stories from the consulate and things that I’ve learned as a professional over the past 15 years.

After I submitted the post, I realized I probably could have added a section about learning how to translate, so I thought I’d add that here. I do feel like I’m still learning, to a certain extent, whereas with writing I started to feel more in control from around 2013-2014. So all of this comes with the caveat that I’m still honing my experience, but these are things that have been helpful for me.

Translation is not the same as understanding Japanese. Obviously you need to understand the Japanese in order to do translation, but that’s only one part of the equation. As you work toward a final product, you eventually need to divorce yourself from the Japanese original entirely and ask whether the English can stand on its own. When I first started trying to translate (in college, when I was working as a translation coordinator, and even when I was in grad school), I think I was too devoted to the original text at times.

Writing fluently is more important than having fluent Japanese. Again, obviously you need to understand the Japanese fully, but if you can’t render that in the correct English, then it’s meaningless. By “writing fluently” and “correct English,” I think I mean that you need to have a subconscious repository of language that you can draw from. Rhythms, little phrases, transitions, things that make English look and feel like English. And you need to be able to actively employ these. I’m so curious about how writers develop fluent active use, which is why I often ask translators what kind of writing they did growing up. I think my writing experience (especially writing fiction) was relatively sparse until I started blogging regularly. Do whatever you can to get those repetitions in early.

– I think developing this passive repository of language is easier: Just read a bunch. Read all sorts of texts and as wide a range of writers from as wide a range of experiences as you can. This will grow your vocabulary and language familiarity.

Read other translators, too! From other languages and from Japanese.

You don’t always have to follow the Japanese sentence order. Sometimes it can help to go in the exact reverse order, actually. Often the most important information in a Japanese sentence comes at the end, and English doesn’t work that way.

When you don’t understand something, look for usage examples on Twitter using quotes to block off little pieces of phrases. I talked about using Google for this in the podcast, but recently I’ve found that Twitter also provides some excellent usage examples, and the results aren’t encumbered by the algorithm, so they often feel more natural. A phrase that I was able to check recently was 年次の近い. 年次 pops up as “annual,” but the way this phrase was being used in context was clearly closer to 入社年次, the year a worker entered a company, rather than something like 年次報告, an annual report.

Do look up the Japanese if you’re not sure. Otherwise you might play yourself. If I’d translated the above instance as annual meeting, for example, (and there was probably some context that could have led me to something like that) I would have been way off and ended up looking pretty silly.

I have some thoughts on translating a light novel from right after I finished. That was a fun experience. I hope I get another chance, but I’ll settle for smaller projects for now. This whole pandemic thing is stressful enough.

Fun Times

The last two weeks have been…interesting. I had been following the coronavirus developments in China through work and then in Japan through work, friends, and acquaintances. But it did seem like it might be contained to Asia for a minute.

It’s such a blur now—everything: the day job which has been busy and challenging and fulfilling, the writing I’ve been doing for the Japan Times, the hustle to stock up my apartment, trying to exercise and sleep and relax—that I can’t even remember when I started to sense the “cone of uncertainty,” as we say in New Orleans.

The cone is the graphic that meteorologists deploy when hurricanes start to approach the Gulf coast. They use a number of different storm models to create a wide path where the hurricane is likely to hit. Once that cone starts to point at New Orleans, you either get out or you prepare to hunker down and shelter in place.

My mom is a legendary evacuator, and my dad is a legendary hunker-downer/waiter-outer. So I am kind of wired for prep. Once I felt the cone, from news reports, from articles, I made a plan.

I think I’m in a good place. I can work from home for as long as I need to, and I don’t really need to leave my apartment if I don’t want to. (Obviously that much care is probably not required – I’m in a Chicago neighborhood, so the density is probably enough to take walks and get some air on the lake or in parks nearby, maybe even do some shopping if necessary.)

This is my monthly update to plug my Japan Times work, so it feels bizarre to me to line these two headlines up next to each other:

’Emergency’ Japanese can help build fluency
Your Japanese vocabulary can expand as the new coronavirus spreads

I didn’t mean “emergency” in that sense of the word. But that would make a good article, too. One that I’m not sure I feel comfortable writing without doing some research — I haven’t been in a Japanese clinic for a while.

The emergency article is a strategy that I thought up to develop more familiarity with complex phrases. I specifically wanted to prepare for a May conference that now may not end up happening. Or at the very least, I may not end up attending. The strategy itself feels sound, although the results will vary based on the repetitions you do with your document. (I just did a lap through right now after feeling bad for neglecting it over the past couple weeks.)

The coronavirus article came together quickly with some research, and I was a little surprised by what I found. The emphasis on 肺炎 (haien, pneumonia) is interesting and notable in Japanese. In English it’s just this vague virus, and lots of association with the flu, which feels like fever, chills, and a kind of generic run-down illness. Pneumonia, on the other hand, is much more specific, especially to someone like me who has had it before.

I got bacterial pneumonia during my first year on the JET Program. I remember it pretty vividly. It hit late on a Friday night, which was about the worst time for it to hit, especially since the following Tuesday was a holiday. I had a couple beers, watched “The Godfather” on NHK, and went to bed. I woke up drenched in sweat and feverish. I spent the weekend going in and out of fever as I went through my ibuprofen and tried to negotiate some sort of balance of warmth in my apartment using the kerosene heater. I drove into Aizu-Wakamatsu and had McDonalds, did some shopping in the city, and called in sick on Monday.

By Tuesday I still hadn’t slept off whatever it was I had, and I was alternating between burning up and terrible chills, so I got in touch with my supervisor to ask about how to go to the town clinic. The doctor there was a young guy with a full beard, and he was only able to diagnose the pneumonia with an x-ray. It was a mild enough case that he had trouble detecting it with a stethoscope.

This is all to say that pneumonia is terrible, and I can’t even imagine what an acute case would feel like. Stay indoors. Isolate yourself. Work from home. If you start to feel like your workplace is putting you in a dangerous position, make an executive decision and stand up for yourself. Sometimes all you have to do is ask—it doesn’t have to be confrontational or personal. You can be calm and professional and assertive at the same time.

Ugh. Fun times!

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On a separate note, I have two pieces in the new print edition of Neojaponisme.

The first is an excerpt from the massive look at the Top 50 Enka songs I did back in 2017. (19 of the 50 videos are still up on YouTube, which is a higher percentage than I expected! You can find the others [hopefully] with the PERMASEARCH links I cleverly left. Thank you, past Daniel!) I highly recommend listening through these songs. You’ll learn a TON of useful Japanese and perhaps even find a few tunes that you can use to impress the locals.

They also asked me to translate a conversation between Jacques Derrida and Japanese scholars Karatani Kōjin and Asada Akira about deconstruction. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure I understand what the English means, but I am confident that David and Matt helped me smooth over the language so that it is a decent representation of the Japanese.

I’m still digging through this volume, but Ian’s design is incredible, I’m hungry for the 洋食 (yōshoku, Japanese take on Western food) described within, and I can’t wait to check out Matt’s translations, including one from Tanizaki. Highly recommend picking up a copy.

Love

I was in the Japan Times last week with a confession of my love for Higashimura Akiko: “Look for love to overcome Japanese-language study difficulties.”

My obsession with her podcast 身も蓋もナイト has grown to dangerous levels, limited only by the limitations on the back log of episodes – for whatever reason Higashimura Productions caps the number of past episodes displayed on apps to 10. You can find past episodes on YouTube and their website.

I was a little sad that the staff at the JT decided to cut one word that I tried to introduce – スタッフ笑い (staffu warai, staff laugh track). I wondered whether there was a Japanese word for this, and I found this write-up over at the Wikpedia page for 録音笑い (rokuon warai, laugh track):

珍奇なところでは、平成初期のコント番組に盛んに使われた「スタッフ笑い」と呼ばれる音声がある。これは比較的少人数の男性の笑いを、こもり気味の音響で録音するもので、撮影スタジオで演じられるコントに対して、現場の製作スタッフが失笑しているように見せるものである。バラエティ番組では現在でも無観客のシーンでスタッフ笑いが多用されている。

You see it a lot on Japanese variety shows, my favorite of which was 99’s Mecha-ike. Sometimes you even saw Yabe providing some of this laughter (and excellent hype man clapping) on screen in addition to the staff off screen.

Once I decided to write on this topic I started hoarding episodes because I wanted to be able to transcribe any interesting phrases. I then went on to binge a bunch over a weekend and type up far more than I was actually able to use (1,700 words, to be exact…and the JT columns are supposed to be 800 lol). This was good language practice, though, I think.

Here are some of the favorite things I noticed:

Episode 78

Daniel McCalla (of H2J Podcast infame) was featured in one of the opening sessions! Apparently I’m not the only person he’s recommended Akiko-sensei’s podcast to—the staff translated a conversation on Twitter where he recommends the pod. Hear her read out Daniel’s tweets and give him a super sweet shout out! This is classic Akiko-sensei and

Episode 114

ラスイチ (rasuichi, last one) – This is a fun phrase I’d never heard before! It came in the segment 俺が言わねば (ore ga iwaneba, “I’ve gotta say this”), which is hilarious. The comedian Ninoniino-san gets angry in place of Japanese listeners, whom he jokes are too passive to get angry and blow off the steam they need to. This phrase comes up when listener Yoppei-san says it’s frustrating when people in the office won’t eat the last snack item left out.

Episode 117

This is definitely worth a listen – very funny to hear Akiko and team go through the potential nicknames for listeners. They end up settling on オス蓋 and メス蓋.

Episode 119

Once I finished my binge, I noticed that there hadn’t been any new episodes in December and none in January. I was able to figure out via Twitter that they were taking a short hiatus, and episodes started up again in late January. This first episode of the year had an interesting call from a woman whose boyfriend is an aspiring writer. She asked him what they should do for New Year’s Eve, and he said he wanted to spend it alone writing. Akiko’s advice was right on and enlightening: 遊んで吸収できる人しか面白い小説書けないですよ (Asonde kyūshū dekiru hito shika omoshiroi shōsetu kakenai desu yo, Only people who can have fun and absorb things will be able to write interesting fiction).

It’s an interesting take, and important for those of us prone to stay indoors writing to remember to get out a bit and interact with the world every now and then.

Intuitions

I’ve been neglecting this update for too long – I’m not sure where the time went over the holidays. I was in the Japan Times twice recently, spanning the decades. First with a look at some random bits and pieces I had lying around: “Cleaning house (and head) at the end of the year.” And then with my 60th Bilingual page article and a look at the number 60: “Life begins at 60 (or at least it starts anew).”

It’s funny how you gain an intuition in a non-native language. There are times when I know something is incorrect, or not quite polite enough, and I’ll go Googling and find out that, of course, I was right.

This is a page I used to track down the right usage. 来られますか (koraremasuka, Are you able to come?) isn’t quite impolite, but it’s possible to be more polite.

This Mayonez piece has an interest look at keigo in general and a nice concise look at ら抜き (ranuki, potential verbs with the ら dropped from them – e.g. 食べれる, 来れる) verbs and how they are perceived.

My intuition was once again confirmed when I went looking to see whether or not women also celebrate 還暦 (kanreki, 60th birthday), and this Chiebukuro person was asking the same question that I was – do women also celebrate 還暦?

I think that’s because I’d only ever been exposed to men wearing the red getup. I’d only ever seen it on social media until September 2018 when, at a work conference, my Japanese colleagues surprised one of their group with a cake, candles, and the red clothing. Bizarrely enough, another member of the group had the same birthday and was also turning 60. It was fun to see in person.

It’s nice to know that this intuition is still around, despite having moved home from Japan 10 years ago this year. It helps that I’m in a position of being able to visit regularly. I’m booked for a work trip in May and may have a chance to go again. Unfortunately the May trip is just about fully accounted for, so I won’t have much time to myself, but it will be super busy. By the end of the weak I’ll be ready to pass out in my aisle seat and wake up at O’Hare.

On my list of things to bring home? Higashimura Akiko manga (this is a clue for my next Bilingual article) and some Evan Williams Red Label bourbon. Anyone have whiskey recommendations? Glad to hear them.

Expressing 自分 with 自分

I was in the Japan Times last week with a close look at some of the Japanese in the Queer Eye episodes on Netflix that were set in Japan: “Being your best self in spoken Japanese with the cast of ‘Queer Eye.’

I wish I’d had a little more space to talk about some other phrases (I took over 1,400 words of notes and the column was only like 750 lol), but I focused in on the prevalence of 自分 (jibun, self/myself) in a lot of phrases. If you can master this word you’ll be able to say a lot about yourself, and you should be using it instead of first-person pronouns quite often.

If you haven’t seen these episodes yet, I would highly recommend doing so!

I haven’t followed their reception too closely, but apparently people have been divided, with some (many?) criticizing the show of appropriation or misunderstanding Japanese culture.

I don’t think I agree with everything they tried to do. The approach to cooking, in particular, fell flat most of the time (the omuraisu was a serious culinary crime!) and didn’t really understand how to be creative in a Japanese kitchen.

But I do think the Fab Five helped in many of the situations. I think one long quote from the mother in episode three really helps provide some perspective.

When asked about the last time she told her daughter Kae that she loves her, the mother responds:

日本にはやっぱりI love you言ったり、ハグしたり、キスしたりという文化がないので、本当はやりたい気持ちものすごくあるんですけど、抑えている (Nihon ni wa yappari “I love you” ittari, hagu shitari, kisu shitari to iu bunka ga nai no de, hontō wa yaritai kimochi monosugoku arun desu kedo, osaete iru, In Japan we don’t really have a culture of saying I love you or hugging and kissing each other, so while I do strongly feel like I want to do and say these things, I suppress those feelings).

It was easy for the Fab Five to provide some openings to these four people precisely because they’re not suppressing those feelings.

There are aspects and expectations of different cultures in the U.S. that also suppress these feelings at times in similar ways, perhaps to different degrees than in Japan, and it can be incredibly liberating to finally realize that you can safely express these feelings without fear of being hurt.

And sometimes it’s not even a cultural issue, I don’t think. Japan does provide avenues for people to express their feelings clearly, so sometimes it’s an individual’s experience. They’ve somehow convinced themselves that they need to live with their feelings kind of shut down. It’s incredible to see what happens when they get a little help becoming more comfortable expressing them.

It definitely got a little dusty in my apartment while I was watching!

How to Japanese Podcast S01E10 – Adam Evanko – McDonald’s in Japan, Translation Project Management, Video Game Production, Monster Hunter

Adam Evanko is the creative mind behind the Gaijinhunter YouTube account where he’s built up over 280,000 subscribers. He’s also an incredibly lucid communicator and diligent student. We discuss his early time studying Japanese, his work at McDonald’s and a hotel in Japan, and how a job at a translation company helped prepare him for a career in video game production:

  • Had you studied Japanese before you moved to Japan?
  • Once you were in Japan, were you taking classes or doing self-study?
  • Did you have any strategies to help you with the reading section of the JLPT?
  • Were there any big milestones in terms of a first game, manga, or novel you completed in Japanese?
  • What were your job hunting strategies in Japan? Are there any strategies you would recommend people looking for work?
  • Did McDonald’s or the hotel where you worked have any guidance for 敬語 (keigo, polite speech)? How did you learn 敬語?
  • What was your experience like as a translation project manager?
    • The word my coworker helped me learn was 必殺技 (hissatsuwaza, special move), not whatever it is I said on the pod.
  • Did you do any coding, writing, or game creation when you were growing up?
  • What is it like to work as a video game producer? What advice would you give people interested going into video game production?
  • What drew you to Monster Hunter and what has kept you interested for so long?
  • What was it about Monster Hunter: World that took the series to an international level?
  • What are you excited to see in Iceborne?
  • Do you think anything about Monster Hunter reflects Japanese culture or values?
  • How has it been to raise a daughter in Japan? Did you make a conscious effort to include her in your gaming? Do you monitor screen time?

At the top, I talk about being mindful of the difficulty of your Japanese study – sometimes you need to actively choose to do difficult things when you study Japanese.

How to Japanese Podcast – S01E09 – Shaun McKenna – JET Program, Journalism in Japan, The Art of the Pitch

Shaun McKenna is the Deputy Manager of the Life & Culture Division of the Japan Times. He came on the How to Japanese Podcast to talk about his experience studying Japanese while teaching on JET and the transition to journalism. He also has some great recommendations on how to pitch an editor at a publication like the JT:

  • How has it been to edit the Bilingual page?
  • Did you study Japanese before you visited? And was JET the first time you visited the country?
  • Did you have success with Japanese for Busy People?
  • After you finished the textbook, what self-study techniques were helpful?
  • Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
  • Are a lot of Japan Times writers come to Japan without much training in the language?
  • What language milestones were important for you?
  • How did you find your Japanese teacher?
  • Where did you find free Japanese lessons in Yokohama?
  • After you returned to Canada, did you start job hunting in Japan?
  • Was journalism a long-term goal for you coming out of college?
  • What was your job hunting process in Japan?
  • How is the workplace culture at the Japan Times?
  • What naming conventions are used in Japanese workplaces?
  • Are you able to write for the Japan Times now that you’ve transitioned to editor?
  • Are you taking pitches from new writers?
  • Have you found new writers on Twitter?
  • What’s an ideal pitch? And what kind of web presence do you need?
  • Are you able to follow the music scene as much now that you’re not Music Editor?
  • Are there any venues you’d recommend in Japan?

At the top, I tell the story of crashing a car in Japan and discuss facing setbacks during language study.