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.

How to Japanese Podcast – S01E08 – Kristi Fernandez – Translation Twitter, Light Novels and Manga, Translation Process

Kristi Fernandez has translated a number of light novels, manga, and drama. She’s also the creator of the group Japanese Translators of New York and a champion for translators on Twitter. We talked Japanese study and light novel translation for the eighth episode of the How to Japanese Podcast:

At the top, I talk briefly about some of the purchases I made on Amazon Japan during my time on JET and the strategy I used to make sure my package was delivered.

How to Japanese Podcast – S01E07 – Tamara Latham-Sprinkle – Professional Translation, Masters Programs, Translation Associations

Tamara Latham-Sprinkle has been a full-time Japanese-English freelance translator for a year. She talks about breaking into the world of translation, different translation associations, getting a masters in translation, and working as an interpreter at a manufacturing company in the latest episode of the How to Japanese Podcast:

At the top I talk about how Tamara and I first met (hint: over Twitter) and some of the organizations you can look to connect with if you’re interested in Japan-related events.

How to Japanese Podcast S01E06 – Brian Caster – Reading in Japanese, Self Study, Legal Work in Japan

Brian Caster is a practicing attorney in Japan working in compliance. He’s also one of the most voracious readers I’ve ever met (90+ English books so far in 2019 and counting!). He took some time to tell me about how he learned Japanese, job hunting, and how he brought the goodest dog from Chicago to Tokyo.

At the top I made some translation recommendations, including 夜のくもざる (Yoru no kumozaru, The Spider Monkey Comes at Night) by Haruki Murakami. If you’re looking for public domain material you can publish online, here’s a list of some 随筆 (zuihitsu, miscellanea/essays) that look promising:

Title: 表現論随筆
Author: 豊島与志雄

Title: 押入れ随筆
Author: 吉川英治

Title: 物売りの声
Author: 寺田寅彦

Title: 備忘録
Author: 寺田寅彦

Title: 寺田先生と銀座
Author: 中谷宇吉郎

Title: 京都の朝市
Author: 柳宗悦

Title: 新茶
Author: 岡本かの子

Title: 小学生のとき与へられた教訓
Author: 岡本かの子

Also, I was in the Japan Times a couple weeks back with a look at the podcast and what I learned after talking with everyone: “A podcast that talks to bilingual people about studying Japanese and working in Japan.”

How to Japanese Podcast S01E05 – Arline Lyons – JET Program, Translation Memory, Specializing as a Translator

I met Arline Lyons in 2008-2010 when I was working as a translation project manager. I’ve always been really impressed with her professionalism as a translator, so I wanted to talk to her about her study experience and her translation practice. You can find her recent work on sake at Taste Translation and Discover Sake.

  • What was your overall path to fluency in Japanese?
  • The importance of immersion in learning Japanese
  • What kind of language study did you do while working on JET?
  • What does it take to keep your language skills “alive”?
  • When and how did you become literate in Japanese?
    • Go, Kaneshiro Kazuki
  • How did you decide to get your masters?
  • The world of patent translation
  • What is translation memory and how does it work?
  • Translation groups
  • How and how much time do freelance translators market themselves?
  • What do translators need to pay attention to when adding a new client?
  • What strategies should new translators take when looking for clients?
    • Chris Durbin?
  • Subcontracting, direct clients, and machine translation
  • When and how did you decide to become more specialized as a translator?
  • When you study specialized terminology, do you study the Japanese terms concurrently with the English?

And at the top I talked about some Google search strategies, which I wrote about for the Japan Times back in April 2018.

How to Japanese Podcast S01E04 – Paula Curtis – Graduate Studies, Medieval Japanese, and How to “Do” History

On the podcast this week I talk with Paula Curtis. I learned about Paula through her writing over at What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies? (aka 心配でしょう), which helped me find a Japan-adjacent job after grad school. We talked about language study, grad school, and how to “do” history:

And at the top of the pod I talked about how I learned the phrase なんかの縁. I blogged about way back in 2008.

Tetsuya Ishida – “Self-Portrait of Other”

Wrightwood 659 has a new exhibit of Tetsuya Ishida’s art: “Self-Portrait of Other.” This is the first retrospective exhibition of his work in the United States.

The exhibit comes to Wrightwood from the Reina Sofia in Madrid where curator Teresa Velazquez and organizers were surprised by attendance numbers—350,000 people visited the exhibit.

Once you see Ishida’s paintings, however, his draw isn’t a surprise at all: his images are striking.

Ishida works at the same time in hyperrealist and surrealist modes. His paintings incorporate the vocabulary of everyday Japanese life: textbooks, cardboard boxes, phone booths, lamps, trains, street-corner traffic mirrors, brands of food. As well as uniquely Japanese situations: school desks, school buildings, passed out drunks, generic apartment buildings, gyudon restaurants.

The hyperrealistic pieces make up very clearly surrealistic images, clearly inspired by artists such as Magritte.

There’s clearly a lot of pain in his work, and he seems to have picked out the parts of Japanese society that seem to be “unusual” to outsiders, which isn’t always easy to do as a native. Velasquez calls it his work “stunning testimony of a turbulent decade in Japan—the 90’s.”

In a way, Japan went through the financial crisis 20 years before the U.S. did, and Ishida seems to reflect that—he worked two jobs to stay afloat (security and work at a printmaker) and gained recognition after his death when his work was shown on an NHK program (based on his official site).

This is the fifth exhibit at the Tadao Ando-designed gallery space, which itself is beautiful. Velasquez noted that the simplicity of the gallery helps viewers focus: “the experience of the work [at Wrightwood] is unique, and much more interesting than in Spain. … You concentrate more on the work.”

They are showing 70 of Ishida’s paintings, sketches, and notebooks, a massive selection from the artist who died at age 31 and only produced around 180 works in total.

Wrightwood is also reprising pieces of a past exhibit in a new form on the level below the Ishida exhibit: “Ando: Museums + Galleries.” On display are models of some of Ando’s art museums as well as a scale model of Naoshima.

Wrightwood releases free tickets for the week each Monday, so I recommended getting on their email list. You can also purchase tickets for specific days, if you’re here for a trip. Tickets are for a specific window of time. Wrightwood will also be open for Open House Chicago, but reservations are required.

Based on what I’ve seen at Wrightwood 659 so far, its exhibits are quickly becoming an appointment viewing. They don’t have a permanent collection, so they partner with groups like Reina Sofia, Alphawood Exhibitions, and the Smart Museum to bring in artwork, which gives them great flexibility and division of labor, and the exhibits they have brought in occupy a space between the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. They’ve had everyone from Ai Weiwei, Ando himself, Le Corbusier, contemporary LGBTQ artists, and now Ishida, who seems posed to become a singularly representative Japanese artist from the 1990s.