Cool Kanji – 樽


This is a great kanji. It’s pronounced たる and means cask or barrel. 樽酒 (たるざけ) is a type of sake aged in cedar barrels, giving it a distinct woody flavor. The kanji has tree on the left and then the first part of 尊敬 (そんけい, respect) on the right. Respect the tree, it makes the cask!

This kanji can also mean keg, as in beer keg. Thankfully, good beer has started to boom in Japan. If you know where to look and have money to spend, there are a number of quality beer locations in Tokyo.

Dry Dock is a cozy little place under the Yamanote Line in Shimbashi. The bartender has a blog he updates just about every day. They have a “guest beer” every week, and if you look here, you can see he calls it a “guest keg.”

Popeye is the godfather of all beer bars in Japan. I don’t know the guy’s name that runs it, but he’s always there socializing with fans of big beer. All of the staff are extremely nice, and you can get free appetizers with certain beers from 5pm-8pm.

Tanakaya is the most impressive beer store I’ve ever been to at home or abroad. Beats the hell out of anything we have in New Orleans. Go to Mejiro Station, exit the station, walk left along the street, and it will be on your left before too long. Beers are kept at cellar temperature. They don’t take orders, but they will ship via takkyubin if you go to the store.

Chris Chuwy keeps track of everything on tap at most respectable bars on his boozelist. It’s an impressive collection of locations.

Bryan Harrell writes Brews News for It’s published every two months and is a good list of upcoming events / review of past ones.

Who the Fuck is Gustav?

Well, judging from the facebook status updates of many of my friends in New Orleans, he’s the next hurricane, and he’s making his way through the Caribbean. He just hit Haiti and is heading for Cuba. After that he might strengthen over the Gulf and roll into New Orleans or some other Gulf coast city. It’s always a gamble.

Typhoon (台風, たいふう), the Japanese cousin of the hurricane, have a boring naming convention. They get numbers followed by 号, which I have written about previously. So you have 1号, 2号, 3号, etc. As in America, they’re really only dangerous to areas in the south like Okinawa and Kyushu, as they take the brunt of the force. Once they make it to the Kansai or Kanto area, it’s mostly just heavy rain, especially for inland areas. Even down south, a lot of the damage seems to come from the rain and subsequent landslides rather than from wind.

I’m not exactly sure when Typhoon season is, but wikipedia lists twelve so far starting from April. Actually, the English translation of that site says the season has no bounds but that most typhoon occur between May and November. I always think of it as a September thing.

You can follow all weather information as well as earthquake information at the 気象庁 (きしょうちょう, Japanese Meteorological Agency) website. Their earthquake updates are impressive; they post the information about 10 to 15 minutes after an earthquake, so it’s always the first page I check when we have one. You can also tab back through all their earthquake records for the day and see exactly how shifty the plates are over here.

Cool Compound – 高温多湿


This is a phrase you can use to describe Tokyo (or New Orleans) in the summer. It’s a nice, little non-idiomatic four-character compound – high, hot, many, moisture: high temperatures, lots of moisture.

The pronunciation is こうおんたしつ.

The usage is simple. You can attach this onto other words with の, so 高温多湿の場所 or 高温多湿の国. Can’t think of much else you would describe with this phrase.

(Note: This was written before this tease-of-an-autumn "cold" spell. It will be above 30 again later this week.)

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*

Airbag Expressions 3

I’ve talked about how Airbag Expressions can be used to ask for something and also how they can be used to breach a topic. I also wrote about emailing with Japanese people and how stating your name is almost like an Airbag Expression. Here are a few more Airbag Expressions.

The following three Airbag Expressions are stronger that the rest I’ve introduced: 正直(しょうじき)に言うと, はっきり言えば, and 強いて(しいて)言えば. These all warn that you are about to state a frank and honest opinion, which is often frowned upon in Japan. You have been warned.

正直に is an adverb meaning “honestly,” and 言う is “to say,” so in English this is something like, “To be (perfectly) honest, ~ .” You might say something like 「正直に言うと、東京より田舎のほうが住みやすいと思います。」 “To be honest, I think it’s easier to live in the countryside than in Tokyo.”

はっきり means “clear” and 言えば is a conjugation of 言う, which you could translate as “If I were to say” or “When I say it.” If we make that into more Englishy English, we might use “To put it clearly” or “To say it straight.” I always remember this line from the movie Tampopo. The two drivers try Tampopo’s ramen at the beginning of the movie, and when she asks them what they think, the cowboy hems and haws, but Ken Watanabe comes straight out and says 「はっきり言えば、まずいです。」

The final phrase is the strongest of all. I’m sure many of you recognize the character 強 from the adjective つよい. Well, it’s also used in the verb しいる. This verb is used in its gerund form to modify 言う, just like はっきり and 正直に. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the verb 強いる means on its own, but it’s always perfectly clear what 強いて言えば means from context – 「強いて言えば、日本の英語教育が冗談(じょうだん)みたいです。」A quick Google search reveals this blog entry with the title 「強いて言えばココがヘンだよ!」

All of these phrases function grammatically in a very similar way to the previous Airbag Expressions, but they are warning people of something different and, depending on what kind of opinions you have, perhaps more shocking. Careful about which opinions you are revealing, but if you are going to reveal them, use one of these.

号外 – ♨

Isaac made a fantastic comment on my facebook feed for this post, so I thought I’d share it with everyone:

"try ゆうびん to get the 郵便マーク (〒)
はーと to get ♥ or ♡
おんせん(温泉)to get ♨"

The onsen mark! I’m so jealous I didn’t figure it out myself! It’s such a cool and distinctive mark. I think I’ll blow that shit up:


Further Experimentations with いい

Ever since I wrote this post, I’ve paid more attention to people’s reactions to my けっこうs and my いいs. To be honest, I started using more いいs than けっこうs and have noticed far less confusion on the part of the employees. I was generally using 「けっこうです」 or 「袋はけっこうです」- the most common situation where I have to refuse something – and often noticed that the person would respond with 「いいですか」I wrote that けっこう might be easier to understand from a non-native speaker, but I’ve started to think that might not be the case.

I’m using the same phrases just with いい. I’ll have to start mixing it up a little more to see the results. I’m still convinced it could be my intonation with けっこう – there are more syllables to mess up.

Cool Compound – 以上


以上 (いじょう) is a very useful phrase. It’s a short phrase you can use to signal that you’ve finished placing your order at a restaurant or that you’ve finished giving a speech or your portion of a presentation. (以上です。) I guess in that case it literally means, “(Everything I want to say or eat) is above.” Something like that. I guess there’s no satisfying 直訳 really. You could say something like, “That’s all.” or “And that concludes what I have to say.” Those are probably closer to the way it feels.

It’s also used to express “greater than or equal to.” So you can say things like 二人以上 (Two or more people), 10分以上 (Ten minutes or more), and other useful numerical expressions.

Recently it’s been used in a new statistic during weather reports that shows just how sick the Tokyo summer is – 30°以上の時間. Normal statistics like temperature and humidity can’t express exactly how miserable it is in this city during the summer, and since they don’t use heat index, they chart exactly how many hours during the day it is 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) or hotter. Today it was 30 degrees by 9am and it didn’t come down until after 5pm. Gross.

The two-shower-a-day policy is in full effect.

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.