Cool Compound – 無濾過

Today’s compound is most excellent. First of all it has a prefix – 無 (む). 無 negates anything it precedes, as do 非 and 不. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember the difference between the three; whatever – just keep that in mind whenever you see one of those three, okay?

濾過 (ろか) gets most of our attention. I had no idea what the first kanji meant, but Mr. Jim Breen tells me it means filter. That makes sense, and it also made me realize what 過 is doing there. Is 通過 (つうか) familiar? 通過 is what happens when you’re standing on a train platform and one of those 通勤特急 trains comes howling by, making you wonder how many people bite it accidentally via train every year. 通 means pass and 過 means through or to exceed/go beyond. To pass through/beyond a point. So 濾過, which is a doozy on the 変換 system apparently, means filter through something or to pass through a filter. Add the 無, and this becomes not being passed through a filter or, in normal English, unfiltered.

What’s isn’t being filtered, you ask? Beer, of course! To be more specific, Kirin’s line of premium beers. They have a pale ale they sell regularly, a white beer that was limited edition I believe, and now the winter limited beer – Beer Chocolat.

It’s definitely dark.

Smells like a lager to me, which is disappointing, but it does have a little roastiness and no, I repeat, NO actual chocolate. It’s not one of those beers, it’s a real chocolate beer because it uses chocolate malt: チョコレート麦芽 (ばくが)一部使用, as it says on the bottle. Chocolate malt, as most respectable drinkers will know, is that malt roasted more than caramel malt and less than black patent malt; roastier flavor than caramel with more sugars intact (not burned away) than black patent.

And like all unfiltered beers, this beer is fresh (expires in 90 days) and has yeasties floating about. Brewer’s yeast is good for you, so drink up.

“No Boku” Diary – Day 1

Wednesday, December 10
lunch: kalbi sauté bento

So far, no self-referential personal pronouns used. Still, “No Boku” challenge – terrible idea. I’ve realized that I use an unfortunate amount of English at work and don’t talk with my roommates enough. Also have realized this challenge is far too easy – personal pronouns close to completely unnecessary. Unlikely to remember when I use the first personal pronoun as they are so few and far between. Maybe challenge will pick up on the weekend.

Present progressive form of 思う – extreme useful.

The “No Boku” Challenge!

I’ve wanted to do this for a while now. Starting today, I will attempt to go for as long as possible speaking Japanese without using a personal pronoun to refer to myself! No 私, no 僕, no 俺, no 自分, and definitely no あたし or おいら. I might make an exception for 家. Nah, none of that either.

I’ll call it the “No Boku” Challenge because boku is my current personal pronoun of choice, and it sounds better than the “No Personal Pronoun” Challenge. Feel free to join in and see how long you can hold out!

I think the three keys to this challenge will be:

1) constant vigilance

2) passive tense

3) giving and receiving verbs

I think this will be a great exercise, especially for students of the language in the intermediate / advanced-intermediate levels; that’s when you start to break free from the English grammar patterns that bar you from true Japanese phraseology.

I’ll do my best to log my progress. Boku will soon be my pink elephant, so I’m sure there will be many harrowing and hilarious tales of near self-referral. Ha ha. (Joke.)


お疲れ to all the JLPTers yesterday! Just remember that the ultimate goal is to be happy with your level and get used to the Japanese, not just to pass the test. Make sure you’re reading what you want to read and watching what you want to watch.

Just a small link today. Free online Japanese lessons here. (via No-Sword) Good for anyone out in the inaka or abroad. Sign up quick because they start soon.


My introductory Japanese classes are so far in the past now that all my memories feel like a blur. I do have a vague feeling that for whatever reason they never taught us the body parts in a single lesson. Maybe I was expecting something along the lines of my high school Spanish class where we had to label a poster or at least fill in the blanks around a mannequin on handouts and tests. We probably got bits and pieces here and there – お腹がすいている, 喉が渇いている, etc. – but never a full lesson with all the parts…I think.

So maybe that’s why I thought that 背中 (せなか) meant back for so long. I mean, I guess it does, but if you’re talking back pain, that’s 腰 (こし). 背中 feels more like that area around your shoulder bones, almost. The two basically mean upper back and lower back, but if you’re talking in general, 腰 might be the word you’re looking for.

If you’ve been sleeping on a too-thin futon for too long, the phrase you’re looking for is – 腰が痛い.

(Past body part entries: read about boobs here and here – both bring in fans from various search engines – and fingers here.)


One of the elementary schools I taught at for three years was deep in the mountains. Every Thursday I’d drive the beat-up red town car from the junior high school west along the river and then turn right, head into the mountains. The school only had about 30 kids total from 1st to 6th grade, so I taught sets of two grade years: 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th.

I thought it would be difficult at first, and it was a little when the kids rose a year and got matched with a different set of students, but the older kids always helped the younger ones along. I found that I could get the older kids to provide examples of different patterns and games.

Once I was teaching the 5th and 6th graders vowels. In Japanese the word for vowel is 母音 (ぼいん). [On an interesting side note, the word for consonant is 子音 (しいん)]. 母音 has an unusual pronunciation, so I wrote it on the board for the kids, but for some reason when I said it, the kids started laughing hysterically. I said it again, and they laughed even harder! One kid added, ダニエル先生、すごい! At one point the assistant principal, who was overseeing the class, had to tell kids to stop laughing. I still had no idea what was so funny. I could tell something I said was strange, but I just moved on with the lesson.

A couple weeks later I was teaching the same material to 3rd and 4th graders, and 母音 elicited the same response. This time, however, one of the little boys mimed a giant set of breasts. Ah ha! I thought, ボイン is the noise that boobs make when they move up and down! No wonder they were laughing so much. I had been standing up in front of the class saying, "Okay, guys, there are two types of boobs – long boobs and short boobs, and they make different sounds for each letter."

Laughter is an amazing warning sign. I love it when people laugh at my Japanese. It lets me know that my joke has worked or that I’ve said something incredibly incorrect and strange. Either way, it’s an easy way for people to reinforce better speaking without having to say, “Hey asshole, you messed up.”

If I get laughed at for a mistake, I don’t usually make that mistake again. On the internship I wrote about previously, I once brought omiyage for the group, announcing them by saying このお土産を京都から連れてきました。They all laughed, and the division head let me know that 連れる is only used for people; basically, I had just said, “I have accompanied this omiyage from Kyoto. Please enjoy.” 持ってきた is the correct pattern. Needless to say, I haven’t made that mistake again.

The point? Try not to take it personally if someone laughs at your Japanese, and feel free to laugh at strange English. You’re doing them a favor.

This isn’t really a puzzle, but I will beer the first person to explain the pun from and relevance of the title.

(I also wrote about laughter when I nearly killed a tanuki.)

Cool Kanji – 壷


More Irotori Ninja (色取り忍者) goodness! 1, 2.

Today’s kanji is つぼ (pot), basically an excuse to talk about Irotori Ninja some more.

I think I saw this episode when it aired but didn’t realize how funny the intro part is. The two guests were starring in some movie about 渋い-looking high school kids, which instantly gets associated with the old 数取団 (which I wrote about here). They give Koji Katō a hard time, asking why they don’t play the counting game anymore. (Keiichi Yamamoto, the other member of Katō’s manzai group Gokuraku Tombo, got kicked off the show and blacklisted.) Pretty bold to press a sensitive issue like that.

Another critical vocab word for Japanese comedy is ビンタ – a slap. Slapping and hitting is, for whatever reason, extremely funny in Japan. Watch the 1:45 and the 3:55 mark of the second video to see Shinji Takeda get slapped.