Tonkatsu Update

I had a chance to revisit Maisen (see tonkatsu post) while my folks were in town. I can confirm that there is indeed karashi mustard provided in a jar and that the regular tonkatsu are just as tasty and significantly cheaper than the 黒豚 version (nearly half the price at around 1700 yen).

Also, there is a Maisen in both the Daimaru department store near the Yaesu North Exit of Tokyo Station and in GranSta, both of which I rave about in this post. Actually, at the GranSta store they sell a circular tonkatsu sandwich available only at the GranSta shop. Worth remembering if you’re hungry and happen to be catching a train at Tokyo Station.

Grossest Idiom Ever?

Last week at work I came across possibly the grossest idiom in existence – 爪(つめ)の垢(あか)を煎(せん)じて飲む. The first thing I did was turn to my trusty 慣用句 (かんようく) online dictionary. The interface could be better; the search engine is pretty good, but if that doesn’t find it, you have to narrow down the idiom by the first two kana via the menu on the left. Some of the idioms have their own pages, others are just given on a long page with other definitions. The best part is that the whole thing is in Japanese, which forces you to study and get a feel for how it works in Japanese, rather than learning a straight up translation.

This one has its own page, and the definition is: 優れた人の爪の垢を貰って薬として飲むという意味で、その人に肖(あやか)ろうとすること。

So, yes, you boil an awesome person’s fingernail crud and drink it as medicine so that you can be cool like them. Something like that. I had to look up 肖(あやか)ろう, and I think it means something like “be lucky.” Still getting used to the usage here, but I’m thinking it’s something like “I wanna be like Mike.” It can be put into basically any tense by changing 飲む – some of the frequently used tenses are 飲みたい, 飲ませる. The difference between these two is pretty drastic. With 飲みたい, the speaker thinks the person is so great, great enough that they’d drink their fingernail crud. With 飲ませる, someone is clearly lacking something that crud from fingernails of superlative person X could hopefully fix, and the person doing the causing thinks they should drink up. Gross.

Here’s a blog entry with actual usage. Always good practice to learn stuff.

It would be fun to write a fake article about the “recent boom” of Japanese “fingernail crud cafes.”

Wiener vs Vienna

Had Vienna coffee for the first time while I was away at Nozawa Onsen this past weekend. When I mentioned it to my roommates, one said that for a long time he thought Vienna coffee had a sausage in it. The katakana are close, and I think wiener can actually vary between the two. Vienna the city, however, is just ウィーン.

Cool Compound – ニコイチ


Randomly hopping around on Wikipedia yesterday I came across an amazing phrase – ニコイチ. I had a great time reading the entry and figuring out what it means. I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, so I won’t say what it means here. Go ahead and give it a read. It’s a good read for intermediate students…hopefully not too, too advanced.

On Flogging (Updated)

Also took the parents to the Yokohama Archives of History. Great exhibits, and I’m hopeless at history, so a refresher is always appreciated. In addition to the regular exhibits, they also had a special exhibit on missionaries. Samuel Robbins Brown, one of the missionaries, also wrote his own Japanese textbook titled:


The title went on for two whole pages, and I didn’t bother copying the rest, but it

equally disjointed

Several example pages were also displayed, one of which included this gem:

247. He deserves a flogging.
Ano okata wa tatakare nasarete mo yoroshiu gozarimasu.
アノ オカタ ハ タタカレ ナ井レテ モ ヨロシウ ゴザリマス。

You’ll have to ask Matt about the accuracy of the Japanese phrase (that seems to be the standard thing to do these days – in the comments), but to me it sounds more like the standard phrase ~てもいいです, where the ~ happens to be a passive keigo verb. For example, 電気を消されてもいいです。Or “I don’t mind if you turn off the lights." In the case of flogging, the sentence would be “I don’t mind if you flog that fellow.” I could see either of these phrases making the translational jump to "Go ahead and flog that fellow/turn off that light," but can it take that last step to “deserve”? This could be some Meiji Era madness I’m totally unprepared to understand. I mean, is 井 really supposed to be floating around in there? If so, cool. If not, Nelson laugh. (My initial theory was that this was some aggressive passive tense action. Like, 電気消されてもいいです. Literally "I don’t mind if the lights are turned off." But that would be just wrong…right?)

247 was followed in short order by these:

252. He is drunk every day.
253. His opinion and yours are the same.

What was going on in Yokohama in the Meiji Era?

Update: Adam found a link to the actual book on archive.orghere. You can get a PDF or text version or just flip through pages. Awesome. Check out Adam’s comment to see the ridiculous full title.

Man, I’ve looked through it just a little bit and found this great explanation: "Hashi, a bridge, is distinguished from hashi, chopsticks, by the suppression of the final i in the last, thus hash’, signifies chopsticks." That’s a really nice explanation. This book is going to be awesome.

More awesomeness as I discover it (page numbers refer to PDF):

Pg 18: "The oral language delights in courteous expressions, and one of the most remarkable features of the polished style of speech is the use of long words, and circumlocutions."

Pg 49-50: "The difference between wa and nga is scarcely translateable, but is to be expressed by the tone of the speaker’s voice, rather than by any corresponding words in English. The native ear at once perceives the difference, and a foreigner can acquire the use of these particles, only by practice and much familiarity with the Japanese usage."

Pg 81: After an extensive introduction, the first sentence in the book? "A bow-knot is easy to untie. Hi-za o-ri ni mu-sz-bu to to-ke ya-sz-u go za-ri-ma-s’." The only reason it’s here is because all the phrases are in alphabetical order, which explains 252 and 253 above. 

Cool Kanji – 繭


Took the parents to the Silk Museum in Yokohama. Highly underrated museum – lots of English translation, great depth of information, women can try on a kimono for free, and they have a display where real cocoons are being used to create actual silk thread. Very cool. It’s been empty the two times I’ve been.

I also learned an amazing kanji – 繭 (まゆ). It means cocoon. It’s got all the important parts: the grass radical for the mulberry bushes (草 – just that top bit), the thread radical for the silk (糸), and the insect radical for the worms (虫). Visually it expresses a lot of meaning as the insect and thread are held together tightly by that small matrix, and the plant sits on top, letting us know where it all starts.

Great kanji.

Updated: Changed bamboo to grass upon dope slap from Aak. Domo domo.