How to Shinjuku Station – Director’s Commentary

I’ve been insanely busy on both the work front and the home front, so I won’t be releasing new posts in December. Instead, I’ll be building up material for 2010 and reposting the videos I’ve put together over the last year with some additional commentary. These will run through Christmas, and then I’ll be entertaining family. Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

How to Shinjuku Station from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:01 This opening sequence is great, right?! I’m really happy with how it came out. I took all of the videos on my digicam during my three years on the JET Program. The music is Ketsumeishi’s “人は.” Nice little song. Great lyrics.

The first scene is from Nebuta Matsuri up in Aomori. I highly recommend making the trip. I went on a 日帰り bus tour from Fukushima. We rode the bus all day with the occasional toilet stop, had an hour or two to see the Aomori Museum of Art (highly, highly recommended), watched the parade from 6pm to 9pm, and then got on the bus home. My most vivid memory from the trip? After picking up people in different towns along Highway 4 on the coast, we got on the expressway near Sendai, and all the old dudes busted out the alcohol, including one guy who had shochu in a milk-carton-sized container. I was jealous.

00:04 This is the Nozawa Matsuri in my JET hometown of Nishiaizu. In addition to my official homestay family, I was adopted by a local couple, and they invited me to carry the mikoshi with them. I’ve carried for four consecutive years. Always great fun. I wrote a bit about it last year.

00:08 The Aizu Aki Matsuri, known to local JETs as the “Samurai Festival.” It celebrates the region’s history of stubborn samurai with a parade and various reenactments. It reaffirmed my belief that the Aizu equivalent in the US is the deep, dirty South. Where else do people celebrate a long history of being assholes by dressing up and pretending to fight? I’m just saying…

00:12 Awa Odori in Tokushima City, Japan’s largest dance festival. I was lucky and had friends to stay with back in the summer of ’06. During the day, you’d never know that there are 1.3 million people in the city, but they all come out at night. So. Much. Fun. There are dances all over the city, but the ticketed seating every evening gives the groups a chance to show off in a more organized fashion. The International Association in Tokushima runs a dance troupe that requires no abilities or practice (I don’t think), and you can contact them to participate.

00:32 Music for the actual video is Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso,” one of my top five Monk songs. My top five list would have to be:

1. I Didn’t Know About You (Take 4), from Straight, No Chaser
2. Misterioso, any version (especially this one which is from The London Collection)
3. Functional, from Thelonious Himself
4. Monk’s Point, from Solo Monk
5. I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams (haven’t decided which take I like better of the two on the record…a relatively new addition to the list), from Monk Alone: The Complete Columbia Solo Studio Recordings

Man, that’s a hard list to make. Honorable mentions go to: any version of Straight, No Chaser, Blue Monk from Thelonious Alone in San Francisco, any version of Light Blue, any version of Crepuscule With Nellie, and the whole Brilliant Corners album (which has to be the Jazz equivalent of heavy metal).

00:46 Not sure if anyone noticed, but this whole video is a small ode to Monk’s unique style of dancing – the way he used to spin in circles. This shot spins around, and then cuts to each of the exits, moving counterclockwise around the station. A lot of my video ideas come specifically from hearing the song. I can’t remember if that was the case this time, but I think the song works well here.

02:01 The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office has to be the best free tourist attraction in Tokyo. There’s nothing like seeing the city from above.

02:47 I couldn’t believe this guy on the bike. I’d walked all the way through the tunnel, and then here’s this ridiculous old guy riding the squeaky-ass brake on his bike as a way to say, “Get out the way because I’m old and annoying!” Slap me if I’m ever an annoying old person.

04:24 Asking for help before you exit is critical in Shinjuku. It really pays to know where you’re heading before you arrive so that you don’t have to use any of these strategies. The other option is to avoid Shinjuku completely – when I first got to Tokyo I did a lot of my shopping there until I realized that I could find basically everything in Shinjuku within a ten minute walk of my apartment. I still go every now and then, but mostly for certain restaurants or bars, not shopping.

Monday Puzzle – Presidents – Answer – Updated

As many readers correctly answered, no U.S. President has ever visited Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I read an interesting article on how President Ford was advised by an aide to make a visit to Hiroshima and give a speech on peace and healing; it’s clear that the Cold War mindset prevailed. It’s stunning to me that no president has made the visit yet. No matter what your politics are, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki are incredible cities and deserve the respect and closure of a presidential visit. I choose to blame Ford for passing the buck and setting a precedent of putting the whole thing off. When a president finally does visit, it’s going to raise an awful stink, especially given the right wing reaction to a simple (awkwardly executed) bow.

(On a side note, Che Guevara famously stole away from his Osaka hotel in the middle of the night so that he could see Hiroshima.)

A couple of readers also noted (update) INCORRECTLY (update) that no presidents have visited Okinawa, and one guessed (correctly I think) that they haven’t visited Taiwan.

The winner this week by random number draw is George. Congrats. Claim your beer when you will.

The puzzle is going on break for the rest of the year. Feel free to send in any puzzle suggestions. If I use your idea, I’ll cite you and link your page.

In the comments, Durf corrects the mistake I made. I have no excuse for Clinton; I searched through the State Department lists but somehow failed to notice that the G8 Summit was held in Okinawa. Ike was news to me. Apparently he had planned a visit to Japan that was cancelled, but still made a one day visit to Okinawa 1960. He doesn’t go down as the first president to visit Japan because the US hadn’t yet returned the island to Japan. Here’s a link to the speech he gave upon arrival, and an interesting policy statement he made with Prime Minister Kishi three years earlier.

Game Lingo – 構える


Second game lingo for this week.

構える (かまえる) appears frequently in action games in the pattern <武器>を構える. The basic meaning is “ready a weapon,” but it’s important to check the context because it can sometimes take on a meaning similar to 狙う – “aim a weapon.” In either case it is the action that must be taken before firing.

It also gets used in these cool compound verbs:
待ち構える (まちかまえる) – wait ready for, lie in wait for, be on the watch for
身構える (みがまえる) – be on guard, stand ready, square off

Game Lingo – 同梱


Two quick pieces of game lingo this week.

The first is 同梱 (どうこん). 同 is easy – it means “the same.” 梱 was unfamiliar to me, but apparently means “pack,” “tie,” and possible “package.” Combine them and you have “packaged the same” or “packaged together,” which is the adverb + verb kanji category. (Or possibly the adjective + noun category? “same package”?)

同梱 refers to things that come “bundled” or “included” with something else. In the case of games, it’s often used on the sides of packaging to list something like a controller or a manual that gets included with the game. It’s more or less the opposite of 別売り (べつうり), which is another adverb + verb combination and means “sold separately.”

履歴書 – Japanese Résumés


Japanese résumés, unlike American résumés (and I assume other Western résumés), follow a rigid format. They sell special résumé paper here that is gridded into different categories. Applicants fill them out by hand in their prettiest handwriting and stick on a photograph of themselves.

If you have confidence in your kanji skills and a ton of free time, you might consider filling yours out by hand – that would have to be really impressive to anyone looking to hire. I myself couldn’t be asked, so I created a résumé in Word using tables. It covers all of the basic categories and was relatively easy to edit. I’ve edited it into a mock résumé for Lupin III and uploaded it here. Feel free to download it and adapt it for your own uses. I originally created the file in Word but have been editing it in Open Office, so I apologize if the formatting is a little finicky. If it comes in handy for you, send me your success story.

A couple of interesting differences with an American résumé:

– Japanese use photos on their résumés. You will go far if you are tall, dark, and handsome with striking sideburns.

– Japanese put their date of birth, age and sex on résumés. Too many X chromosomes, and you may be serving tea.

– A lot of people list their hometown and parents. I was encouraged to do this by a teacher I was working with. This could be especially effective for foreigners because katakana may help with the pronunciation of difficult city names.

– There is a lot of what they call 自己PR (literally “self public relations”) that goes on with résumés and also job hunting in general. It reminds me of the pep rallies at the junior high school where I taught. The teams lined up individually and the kids had to give a self-introduction. They go down the line one by one and say a little sentence about themselves: “Hello, I’m Taisuke in the second year. I will do my best at the tournament and run as fast as possible.” The kids all vary their statements slightly (“I will give my best effort.” “I won’t ever give up.” etc.), and I always felt bad for the last guy because all the good words had been taken! 自己PR is kind of like this, but you have to say what your strong points are. I always felt like it was a load of crap. To give you an idea, here’s what I use on my actual résumé: ひとつのことにこだわらずに、いろいろな角度で物事を考え、見て、行動できることです。そのときの状況を踏まえて行動できるからこそうまくいきます。Basically I have a short attention span and am good at extemporaneous bullshitting. And remember, those words are mine – you’re next in line, so get your own!

– While the document is two pages, Japanese résumés are double-sided, so this is actually a one-page résumé. Always print them on one page.


Cool Compound – 適当に


Blue Shoe over at Just Another Day in Japan has a nice little post about his experience with the word 適当に. It’s cool to read as he gets closer and closer to the meaning and then nails the definition almost without realizing it. It’s not his fault, though, since this word gets defined obscurely in just about every dictionary ever created.

He gives the standard dictionary definition of “appropriately” or “properly” when a yakitori chef says, 適当にしましょうか. At first Blue Shoe thinks it might refer to a set meal, but there is none on the menu. His second guess is right on the money:

Either that or he was offering to just let us buy whatever he felt like making. Sometimes the problem in these cases is that you really have no idea what “properly” or “appropriately” means.

There it is in bold – the chef was exercising his subjective choice when performing the action of choosing and cooking delicious chicken bits. Less eloquently, 適当に means “do something however the fuck you/I want to.” It’s not exactly that rough in every case – especially this one which is probably closer to “So should I just rustle up some stuff for y’all to grub on?” – but it’s definitely that arbitrary. A good comparison might be an お任せ course at a sushi place, although if お任せ is A level, then 適当に is like B- level.

One of the best examples is when someone delegates work but can’t be bothered to specify how that work should be done. They usually tell the person to 適当にやって or 適当にしてもいい. Something along those lines. Plug in my profane example and you get the extreme end of the spectrum (imagine an angry boss yelling this): “Do it however the fuck you want!” The other end of the spectrum is “Do it however you see fit” or “However you see suitable.” This is where the “appropriate” and “proper” come in to play.

In a Japanese dictionary, the first listing is “Done well so that the action meets certain conditions, goals or requirements. Something that fulfills something. Something appropriate. Something with those characteristics.” Because the decision-making is subjective, however, the word can also take on negative meanings if the doer happens to choose standards that are inappropriately low.

No matter how you look at it, it’s tough to gather the meaning from the words “appropriate” and “properly” alone. I definitely remember wrestling with the meaning of 適当に. This one takes some getting used to.

A Call for Puzzles

As you may or may not be able to tell, my puzzle engine is starting to run on fumes again, so I thought I’d make a call (plea!) for puzzle submissions. If you have a cool piece of trivia, wordplay, or something else that would make a good puzzle, please send it my way. If I use it, I’ll link your site and give you a shout out. And what the hell, a beer, too. You still have to track me down and arrange it!


Monday Puzzle – Presidents

President Obama was in Japan recently for a visit on his tour of Asia. The only effect on me was that I got a chance to see the Japanese police’s samurai-lookin’ body armor. Pretty sweet getup.

As for other presidential visitors, Ulysses S. Grant visited after his term was up. Taft came while he was Secretary of War. JFK visited as a congressman. The first president to visit Japan while in office was Gerald Ford. Every president after Ford has also made the trip. There’s a cool list of all the official visits on the State Department website.

Here is the puzzle this week: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all been to Japan, but where have none of them been? Perhaps kind of vague. I have a specific Japan-related response in mind.

The prize if you win? One can of 100% barley malt beer – e.g. Ebisu, Suntory Malts, Asahi Premium. (New rule: you must physically track me down and demand your beer to redeem it.)

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.

Monday Puzzle – Identify This – Answer

As many of you were able to correctly guess, this:


Is an extreme close-up of this:


The official name is 視覚障害者誘導用ブロック (しかくしょうがいしゃゆうどうようぶろっく). They are also known as 点字ブロック (てんじぶろっく, literally “Braille Blocks”), but Wikipedia notes that they do not actually use Braille as the name suggests.

They do, however, have meaning. This website does a great job of illustrating how the blocks with grooved lines (in Japanese, 誘導ブロック or 線状ブロック) mean walk forward but the dotted blocks (警告ブロック or 点状ブロック) signify a stop or a turn – somewhere that requires caution like a train platform or a big street.

It’s always amazes me how ubiquitous these are. They have been installed just about everywhere in Japan in an attempt to create the most バリアフリー country ever. Oh, and if you were wondering, バリアフリー ≠ “barrier-free” (or at least I don’t think it should in translation unless you are talking specifically about Japanese efforts to promote accessibility). バリアフリー = “handicapped accessible” or whatever the appropriate PC term is in English.

Julian, Doug, Jerry, Thomas, and William all get Google Wave invites, and Thomas gets the beer. Nice work, guys! It should take a few days for the invites to go through, but I’ve put your names in. Julian also let me know that the term 点字タイル is used by the Nankai Railway. Very cool – I like the alliteration, and “tile” is probably more accurate than “block.”

Encounter Two – No Way Jose

I live with two Japanese girls and three Japanese guys. We were sitting around our kitchen at some point in the last couple of months, and I told everyone about a beer event – I think the IPA event at Towers back in August. I’m always trying to get them to come along, but they’re usually uninterested, often busy. One of the girls has been trying to be more social and outgoing. She still hasn’t come to any beer events, but she at leasts feigns interest initially. She also a thing for Korean guys, so she asked me if any Korean guys would be at the beer event. I said 来ないかもしれません.

One of my other roommates almost choked on his beer and was like, What the hell are you talking about? 来ないだろう! (Yes, those kana are italicized. No, I was not able to put 傍点. Boo.) There aren’t going to be any Korean guys at an IPA event!

This is the standard usage of だろう・でしょう. The intonation was emphatic, but mostly because the guy was straightening out my ambiguous answer – Korean guys will not be going to an IPA event in Tokyo. Generally the intonation is flat like most Japanese words.

This is what I like to call the “Weatherman でしょう.” Whenever the forecaster gives the weather on Japanese news, he/she uses the set form 明日_でしょう, where you can insert 雨, 晴れ, 曇り, or a number of other possibilities into the blank. Tomorrow it will rain. Tomorrow it will be sunny. Tomorrow Korean guys will not go to cozy but awesome beer bars near Tokyo Station and drink super hoppy beer.

I think it’s relatively safe to equate this with the future tense and a high level of certainty. It’s not 100% certainty (as my 日本語文型辞典 tells me – no Japanese weatherman would make the mistake of giving a guaranteed weather report), but it’s more certain than かもしれない.

The main reason this pattern was so confusing to me early on is the wide range of meaning でしょう・だろう can have based on intonation alone. As a beginner, it was hard to differentiate the ですね, ですよ and ですか aspects of the phrase – no matter how many times I read the textbook explanation, 雨でしょう sounded like, “Will it rain?” until I got used to it by watching enough Japanese TV and hearing my roommate laugh at my かもしれない.

(I tried desperately to put Japanese emphasis dots on the だろう up there but failed epicly. Readers of Japanese are probably familiar with these. They go by the name of 圏点 (けんてん), 傍点 (ぼうてん), or 脇点 (わきてん), and they are the little dots above/beside (depending on the direction of the text) characters that emphasize certain words. They are roughly equivalent to italics in English, and they are definitely necessary to express the emphasis my roommate put on だろう. Beer to anyone who can tell me how to get the dots in WordPress.)