I generally use the title of the puzzle as, to borrow a term from Click and Clack, obfuscation. The puzzle has nothing to do with farting. If you’d like to resubmit, please do.

The puzzle is here

What a Cool We Are!

I completely forgot to mention the meaning of めちゃx2イケテいる. イケテいる is a verb that means "cool." If something is in the state of being cool, it is イケテいる. めちゃめちゃ makes it stronger. Young people use it often either as めちゃ or めちゃめちゃ, for example めちゃ寒い – damn cold or maybe even fucking cold. The show translates this as "What a Cool We Are!" although "We are Damn Cool!" is much less Engrishy.

Mecha-ike YouTube Dregs

I have sifted through the YouTube offerings for you and found a decent selection of old Mecha-ike clips.

This guy, this guy, and this guy have a ton of videos. 

爆走数取団 – Counting Biker Gang

One game they don’t play anymore is called  爆走数取団 (ばくそうかずとりだん). This was my favorite game for a long, long time. The male members of the cast dress up like biker thugs and play a counting game. The first person says an object, for example "books," and the next person has to use the appropriate counter to count that object, so 一冊. He would then say a different object, say "CDs," and the following person would count that, 二枚. This continues until someone makes a mistake, at which point they have to fight a sumo wrestler. Sweet game. I remember seeing part of this episode where Akiko Wada cried: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

And here is the always unpredictable Ega-chan versus the sumo: 1, 2

色取り忍者 – Irotori Ninja

They have replaced 数取り with 色取り. Here are three clips I made introducing the  色取り忍者 (Irotori Ninja) Game and showing how it can be played at elementary school: 1, 2, 3. Also, a funny clip introducing the guest ninjas for that episode.

オッファー – Offers 

Once a year Okamura and Yabe both get "offers" where they do other jobs. Yabe has worked at an onsen, in a pastry shop, and as a manager for a fashion model among other things. Okamura has performed with SMAP and EXILE. In the fourth offer, he performed with a Chinese juggling troupe: 1, 2, 3 … this goes on to 13, so you can find the rest yourselves. And here’s are clips from Okamura’s offer with EXILE, which was hugely popular: 1, 2.

抜き打ちテスト – Pop Quiz

One of the other famous bits they do is the 抜き打ちテスト(ぬきうちテスト, pop quiz), where they surprise all the participants by giving them a test. Then they make fun of the stupid answers and crown the バカ of the group. They have played this game with numerous different groups, most recently with イケメン guys. Here is the first one they did: 1, 2, 3, 4.

もっとも受ける芸人は誰! – Who is the Funniest Comedian!? 

I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of episode live, but it’s called もっとも受ける芸人は誰!(もっともうけるげいにんはだれ!). All the members get a chance to make a target audience laugh. There are four different episodes, each divided into several videos:

1: 1, 2, 3, 4

2: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

3: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 

4: 1, 2, 3, 4


This game is making fun of a game played by the manzai group とんねるず on one of their shows. They invite two celebrities and have them eat several dishes, one of which they hate. The other celebrity then has to guess which one the other didn’t like. This is similar, but they have to guess which comedian they didn’t like: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

油谷さん – Mr. Oil-Valley 

Here is Yamamoto’s famous 油谷さん (Aburatani-san, Mr. Oil-Valley). He would grease himself up and surprise a male staff member on their birthday or near the birth of a child: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8(*), 9 (These clips are a little frightening knowing that he was kicked off the show in 2007 after being accused of statutory rape. The charges were dropped after reaching a settlement, but not before he lost all his regular appearances and contract with Yoshimoto Kogyo. I haven’t researched it at all, but I think they stopped playing the motorcycle counting game once he left. Ah, a quick check on wikipedia shows that I’m right.)

* I vividly remember learning the meaning of オギャー from this clip. オギャー is the sound a baby makes when it is born.


Cool Compound – 発散

Television is a fantastic way to learn Japanese. My first year on JET, I spent two to three hours watching TV almost every evening and felt palpable improvement in my listening comprehension, which eventually spread to my speaking ability. I found a number of shows (mostly comedy) that I enjoyed and forced myself to watch the news twice a day.

The important thing is to channel surf and find something you enjoy watching.

My favorite show is Mecha-Mecha Iketeru! (めちゃ×2イケてるッ!). It’s a variety show led by the manzai combo of Takashi Okamura and Hiroyuki Yabe.

Here’s a clip where I learned a really cool compound. Listen for why Prime Minister Yabe likes to go out drinking (Excuse the poor subtitling. I did it a year ago for the Comedy portion of a Japanese pop culture presentation at JET Fukushima Orientation, and at the time I had little experience with iMovie.):

The phrase in question is 「ご発散(はっさん)みたいな感じ(かんじ)」, which is literally “A feeling like 発散.” 発散 means release, exude, vent, diffuse, exhale, et cetera. So a better translation is “Feels like blowing off some steam” or maybe “Feels nice to blow off some steam.” I took liberties to get it closer to something spoken and ended up with, “Blow off a little steam, ya know.”

I think a good usage of this term would be 発散として. So you could 発散として〜する。Do X to blow off a little steam. (The variable X, not the drug X, although I imagine that would exude all the steam you would ever want to exude.)

I also want to write a little about the bit itself, which is called 「矢部浩之の私が総理大臣になったら...秘書岡村」(Hiroyuki Yabe’s – If I Became Prime Minister… and Okamura Was My Secretary). Prime Minister Abe didn’t last very long, which is unfortunate because I really enjoyed this sketch. It was mainly a play on the similarity between names Yabe and Abe (Yabe even looks a little like Abe), but it is notable as one of the few political satires on Japanese TV.

It mocks:

– The way they put out a special edition of the newspaper (号外, “outside” the issue count) when a new Prime Minister is chosen.

そのまんま東 (Sonomanma Higashi), the comedian who was elected governor of Miyazaki Prefecture. The newspaper reads そのまんまバカ, referring to Yabe, of course.

– The way the newly inaugurated Prime Minister stands with his cabinet on the steps of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in matching suits and is assaulted by thirty minutes of camera flashes.

– The way Japanese Prime Ministers give press conferences.

– A variety of political hot topics. (Which in this case is 事務所費問題, じむしょひもんだい, the misuse of business administration fees.)

It also makes fun of Abe himself. He was infamous for using 外来語 (がいらいご, words of foreign origin) and, I think, long, complex Japanese phrases. The skit suggests that he might have been throwing out these words to impress without understanding their meaning. In this episode, he hears 事務所費問題 and thinks only of 事務所, administrative office. He starts talking about his own (Yabe’s own) offices at Yoshimoto Kogyo (吉本興業 is a Japanese media conglomerate that hires and manages a lot of Japanese comedians), gets sidetracked, and just rambles about a time when he went drinking.

Mecha-ike performed this skit eight times total over five different shows. Each ends with Yabe improvising (judging by Kato and Mitsuura’s laughter, which seems genuine) a way of saying “I have no idea.” In this episode he says 「アイドンノーやね」.

(In other episodes they have him answer the question but stupidly, the way a parody of Bush would. The topic in one of the episodes was 美しい国創り, one of PM Abe’s catch phrases, and when asked what that meant, Yabe replied, “Hakone is beautiful, right? Let’s make it all like Hakone.”)

Mecha-ike has one other sketch that is somewhat satirical. They dress up as police officers and pretend to arrest celebrities for stupid reasons, making fun of the ineptitude of the Japanese police.

ONTV JAPAN is a great website to find out what’s on TV.

Friday Puzzle – Somebody Farted

Today’s puzzle is the very first video puzzle. It features my ugly mug – you have been warned. Good luck:

(P.S. The quality is pretty bad, but if you go to the actual youtube site, you can opt to watch it in high quality, which looks much better.)

Please do not post your answer in the comments. Send it to me via email or facebook. My email address is るぱんさんせい (romanized) at-mark gmail dot com. 

Friday Puzzle – It’s Bridge, I Promise Answer

Junior year of college the chemistry of my Japanese class was a little poor. Maybe we were all too quiet or not confident with the language at that point, but eventually the professor started marking a participation grade each day. That definitely helped force us to talk. Looking back, I’m really glad she did that. She not only forced us to talk, she made us converse with each other, adding the appropriate 相づち (gestures, noises), which are actually quite important in Japanese. えっと, あのう, そうですね and あそうですか are all vital and will prevent a decent amount of discomfort on the part of your Japanese conversation partners. Part of learning any foreign language is learning these finer details. The hmming, ahhing, ohhing, mooing, and whawazzating.

Today I’ll be talking about the last of these today, which in Japanese is っけ.

It’s a conversational 文末 (sentence ending) expression that turns whatever comes before it into a self-addressed, monologue-y question. It’s beautifully efficient.

When I first learned it, I remember thinking that it was only ever used with the informal copula – だ and だった. But I catch myself using it with the formal copula (です, でした), and just recently heard a teacher use it with a regular old verb when he misplaced his chopsticks – 箸、どこに置いたっけ.

He had removed the saran wrap from his delivery katsudon, gotten up to fill up a mug of instant miso soup with hot water, and returned to his seat only to realize that he had misplaced his chopsticks. “Now where did I put those chopsticks…” he said to himself.

So, I guess you can attach っけ on to anything, really, but you most often hear it after the copula. 何だったっけ and 何だっけ are favorite phrases of Japanese students who can’t remember the answer to something (“Ah crap…what was it again?”).

In English, you could almost just translate it as “again”:

What was his/her name again?

When did the Taisho Era start again?

By far, the most frequently used expressions are 何だっけ and 何だったっけ.

The speaker has some vague idea about what he is asking, but can’t recall it at the moment. That’s what っけ expresses.

The winner this week is Aleisha with her answer: "where did I put those chopsticks that I set down."

I had only one other answer. It was from Thomas, who said: “okay, so, clearly this statement was made by a burgeoning civil engineer, mumbled to herself at her desk.”

But he didn’t leave it at that, he wrote a 450-word short story. Here’s a piece:

it was late at night, nearly 1:30am, and all of naomi’s classmates had gone home. two lights clipped to the corners of her workbench provided the only illumination, two bright spots of white shining on the drafting paper spread out before her. the light was oblique enough that the weight of the paper was apparent– the thick grain showing shadowy textures beneath the brightly colored legos she had scattered about.

While it addresses the wrong はし, the っけ usage is appropriate ("okay," she said, focusing on the legos, her determination piqued once more. "bridge, where did i put you?"), and I believe it calls for an effort beer.



I’m taking today off sick, and I’m mailing in today’s post the way that Peja Stojakovic mailed in Game 7 of the Spurs-Hornets series.

I’d like to point you to this post on the causative tense, a very useful way to ask for time off. 

Off to the town clinic to get some meds… 

Cool Kanji – 妙

This past weekend I drove the six-hour drive from Aizu up to Nyuto Onsen in Akita Prefecture. Tsurunoyu, the most famous onsen up there, was full, so we stayed in one called Taenoyu, written 妙乃湯.

I’d like to direct you to the first character – 妙. This is used in a host of interesting compounds:

奇妙な(きみょうな)strange, mysterious

微妙な(びみょうな)subtle, delicate, sensitive    /   indifferent

妙な (みょうな)strange

On its own, 妙 is apparently used as 妙(たえ)なる and seems to mean ethereal, sublime or sweet or heavenly – something greater than human, specifically in relation to music. Apparently there is a Bodhisattva (ぼさつ in Japanese – 菩薩) called 妙見 (みょうけん), so the onsen named their northern-most bath 妙見湯, since that particular bodhisattva turned into a star in the Big Dipper, in Japanese 北斗(ほくと)七星(しちせい).
The chopstick-holder-together-paper-thingy at dinner looked like this:

Inworted Verds

I’ve already written a little about my first trip to Japan. I was one of four interns sent to various companies in Okayama. One of my friends was sent to a big conglomerate company, and one of the things they had was a museum with dinosaurs. One day she had something similar to the following conversation.

Anna: Umm. Excuse me. When will I receive this month’s dinosaur?
Supervisor: Dinosaur? Well, you can’t receive it, but we can show it to you today.
A: Today?
S: Yes, is that okay?
A: That is great!

They then proceeded to show her the dinosaur just as promised, much to her surprise. She was actually asking for her monthly paycheck. Paycheck (給料、きゅうりょう) and dinosaur (恐竜、きょうりゅう) are very close in pronunciation and very easy to confuse. They are inverts, which is easy to show if you romanize it – both look like this ky_ry_, but the former is kyuuryou and the latter is kyouryuu. Coworkers at a normal place of work could probably figure out what she meant, but she was unlucky enough to work at a place with dinosaurs on the premises.

The other invert that often messes me up is 給食 (きゅうしょく、school lunch) and 恐縮 (きょうしゅく、a word I know how to use but not how to translate concisely).

I find that the easiest way to keep track of inverts like this, is to really latch on to the meanings of one part of the compound. For example, I always think of しょく as food/eat, which makes it easy to distinguish. I also think of りゅう as lizard/dinosaur. I still hesitate before I say these words sometimes, but all I need is a second to get them straightened out.

Can you think up any inverts where only the small よ and ゆ are flipped?

REMINDER: I’ll post the answer to last week’s puzzle next Friday.

A まち is a 町 is a 街

I did a rewrite of my senior thesis and it has been published on Neojaponisme, a Japanese culture web journal. I wrote about the Haruki Murakami short story collection Dead Heat on a Merry-go-round (『回転木馬のデッド・ヒート』). Before it was a collection, it was serialized under the title Views of the City (『街の眺め』).

While I used the word “city” in the translation of that set of stories, the actual word is 街, which is pronounced まち and is loosely related to the other まち, 町.

町 can either be either a town (e.g. 西会津町) or a neighborhood within a city or ward (e.g. 門前仲町). It’s a geographic and bureaucratic term.

街 is used in 商店街 (しょうてんがい, shopping arcade), 繁華街 (はんかがい, downtown/entertainment district/center of town), and 住宅街 (じゅうたくがい, residential area). It refers to a less well-defined portion of geographical space but definitely a piece of the city. (China Bonus!: In Chinese it means street.) It can also be used to talk about a town in the broad sense, but unlike 町, it is never named.

Murakami uses 街 in nearly all of his novels between 1979 and 1983, always referring to the unnamed (*cough* Kobe *cough*) hometown of his unnamed boku narrator. Murakami contrasts this hometown with Tokyo, where the narrator has gone off to college; Tokyo is where he lives now, but all his memories and emotions are tied to the 街. Murakami takes this comparison to its most extreme limit in his book Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, in which he contrasts an ultra-modern Tokyo with a pre-modern, industrial town, the 街, in alternating chapters.

In Views of the City, however, Tokyo is the only 街 to be found. It feels like a casual reference to a familiar place. For example, you could say, “This is my part of town,” even in reference to a big city. It also shows how 街 is the "town" from the phrase "town and country."

While 街 is often used to refer to big cities, this is the first time Murakami uses the term in reference to Tokyo. It is also his first collection of realistic stories. The change in usage of this term mirrors the way Murakami turns his vision from the interior thoughts of his anonymous first-person narrator to the lives of people around him in Tokyo.