Oyster Day!

Note: I wrote most of this before Gustav was even close to New Orleans.

In America (New Orleans?), we say you should only eat oysters in months that have an ‘R’ in them. That doesn’t stop us from eating dozens when we watch the basketball playoffs at Cooter Browns. Or from ordering the Peacemaker at Domilise’s in the middle of the summer. The real places (Casamento’s), however, are closed when it’s hot and raw oysters are more dangerous than they usually are.

Oysters in Japan are more of a December to February type food, but to hell with it, I declare today Oyster Day! September is the first month with an ‘R’ in it after May, June, July and August (incredible how that works, eh?), and today is the first day of September, so let’s go get oysters!

There’s a famous tongue twister about oysters in Japanese: 隣の客は、よくカキ食う客。(となりのきゃくは、よくかきくうきゃく。Tonari no kyaku wa, yoku kaki kuu kyaku. Translating tongue twisters is one of the most useless linguistic exercises that you can perform, but to hell with it, it means, “The customer next to us is a customer that eats a lotta oysters.” I guess that last bit sounds pretty cool – “ Eat a lotta oysters.” Oh, and the kanji for oysters, used mostly by restaurants with discriminating taste, are 牡蠣.)

Someone taught me that one the first time I came to Japan. It must’ve been at that point where they had exhausted my, at the time limited, range of conversation topics and had nothing better to do than make me say funny stuff for their own amusement. Shame on them. Actually, I should really be thanking them.

When you’re first starting to study a language, tongue twisters are a great way to exercise the muscles in your mouth. The muscles you use to speak Japanese are different from the English muscles, and they need training just like your pecs and gluts. Even if you don’t understand the meaning, the pronunciation practice will help you down the line.

Revisiting tongue twisters is a good way to test your progress. I heard this oyster one again recently but this time understood what was being said. It was a strange sensation. The sounds were no longer just sounds; there were specific meanings tied to all of them, and it wasn’t even that hard to say.

I haven’t decided where I’m going yet, but I’m debating between a place near Tokyo Station and another near Shinagawa Station. The former sells itself as a “gumbo and oyster” restaurant, whereas the latter is more convenient but is more like a New York oyster bar. If you’re in Tokyo and want to get oysters, get in touch!

Cool Kanji – 冠


I’d be remiss if I didn’t write something about the Olympics, so you get a cool kanji. Do you recognize it? You might’ve seen it if you watched Kosuke Kitajima take gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. In the upper right corner of the screen, most channels had this 「2冠 (にかん)」 Well, he won gold for both of those events in Athens, so you can guess the meaning from context – two in a row.

But the kanji itself has a different meaning. It’s also used in this compound – 王冠 (おうかん). It means crown, so literally he has two crowns in a row. Hmm, now that I think about it, I’m not sure that it has that “in a row” connotation, but it definitely means that he’s won two.

Kitajima’s feats have lead many to consider him perhaps the greatest breaststroker ever. *snicker*

Further Experimentations in 変換

I wrote previously about how こめ can be switched to ※ with Japanese input systems. Well, I’ve discovered through a friend at work that there are a number of other tricks you can do with 変換.

Arrows – Type in やじるし and you can get these: →, ←, ↑, ↓.

Circles – Type in まる and you can make these: ○, ●, ◎, ◯, ◉. (The third is called a にじゅうまる, maybe the fifth as well.)

Triangles – Type in さんかく and you can get: △, ▲, ▽, ▼.

Squares – Type in しかく and you can get: □, ■, ◇, ◆.

Anyone know of any others? I’m using Kotoeri, the default Japanese input for OSX. Apparently it has some bugs. "kernel panic" is going to be my new catch phrase when shit goes wrong.

Friday Puzzle – A Boy Named Who?

This week I’m channeling my inner Will Shortz.

Today’s puzzle is all about the romanization. There is a type of Japanese cat such that when you romanize the Japanese word, you get a common boy’s name in English. What is the cat and what is the boy’s name?

The prize if you win? One can of 100% barley malt beer – e.g. Ebisu, Suntory Malts, Asahi Premium.

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.


A man moves from the prefectures to Tokyo and the ensuing madness…uh…ensues. Me and all my stuff are in Tokyo, but things haven’t calmed down enough to resume serious writing duties, so you get another pun. This one I thought up in the shower the other day.

If someone asks you, 「おしっこしてきたの?」, you can always reply, "I don’t 尿" and shrug your shoulders.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Hope you all had a nice Marine Day weekend. See you here on Friday.


This week’s final pun is one of my own invention. I was at the Aizu Festival last year with some Japanese friends, and when some samurai on horses came by, I said 「馬、うまそう!」

My Japanese friends were only amused enough to mutter 「おやじギャッグ」

This pun only works if you are within pointing distance of this:


Or this:


This gag works better in Aizu, which is famous for its 馬刺 (ばさし) – yep, horse sashimi. They eat it with soy sauce and a bit of miso instead of wasabi. It’s surprisingly tender.


Today’s pun is a legendary elementary school pun:

「I’m sorry. 小泉総理。安倍総理。福田総理。ひげ剃り。」

Little kids turn English they don’t understand into Japanese they know and "sorry" is close enough to 総理(そうり), that when they hear it, they’ll repeat "I’m sorry," and then go into a list of Japanese Prime Ministers that either starts or ends with ひげ剃り(そり)- a shave.


I’m down to my last week in Nishiaizu. With 送別会 every night and packing and cleaning to worry about, How to Japanese takes a back seat. I’ll give you guys three puns this week, and regularly scheduled programming will return next week.

One of the new English teachers at the junior high school uses some ridiculous puns in the classroom to get the kids to laugh. Recently they learned the word Asian, and his pun for this was, 「なかなかええじゃん」

ええ = いい

じゃん = じゃない

But together it sounds a little like Asian.

Friday Puzzle – You Little Pun(k) Answer

Yes, it’s a pun. 用がない or 用なし (ようなし) and 洋梨 (ようなし) or pear. And puns are funny.

Before kids enter the staff room, they have to stand at the door and say, 「X年生のYです。Z先生に用があってきました。」(Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me. Correct me if I’m wrong.) In English, "I’m Y from the X Grade. I need to see Z-sensei."

I’ve translated it as "need to see Z-sensei," but it’s actually the word 用 (よう), which means reason – so it’s almost like "I have a certain need/reason to see Z-sensei." It’s also used in the very similar 用事 but not in 予定. Watch your long vowels.

(In the original puzzle I translated it as "and I’m here to see Z-sensei," which I think is even more natural in the English.)

Aleisha and Robin both provided correct answers, and the winner by coin flip is Aleisha.