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.
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.
– The way they put out a special edition of the newspaper (号外, “outside” the issue count) when a new Prime Minister is chosen.
– 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.”)
ONTV JAPAN is a great website to find out what’s on TV.