How to Japanese Podcast – Episode 48 – The 1,000-yen Haircut and まとめる

On the podcast this month, I continued the conversation about value in Japan, specifically looking at the 1,000-yen men’s haircut, which I think is one of the worst values in Japan, and the 2,000-yen men’s haircut, which is one of the better values in Japan.

These are cuts that are available at what I call “value barbers” and “extreme value barbers.” I don’t have a good sense of anything outside these two establishments, other than that anything beyond these two seem to go up in price dramatically quite quickly; there doesn’t seem to be much in that 2,000-5,000 yen range, although I did have the my worst (non-self afflicted) haircut in Japan at what I might call a “value luxury barber” for around 4,000-5,000 yen.

Let me know what you think and whether I’ve missed anything. I was able to give some good advice for getting a men’s haircut in Japan, but I’m especially clueless about the salon experience for women. I’d be curious to know what the customs are like there.

The one kind of “set custom” that I may have forgotten to mention on the podcast is the kind of 義理マッサージ (obligatory massage) that barbers give customers: After applying hair tonic at the very end of a cut, the barber then will rub your shoulders, clamp your hands together, and then give you a quick bump on each side (and maybe the top of the head?). I sometimes feel a little awkward enjoying this.

And over on the newsletter I wrote about the verb まとめる (matomeru, bring things together). I talked about this at the end of the podcast as well. Give it a listen!

いろいろ December 2023

I ran out of space over at the newsletter this month, so I thought I’d share the いろいろ section on the blog instead. Podcast link at the bottom!

– The kanji of the year is 税 (zei, tax). Boring, but topical. Read more here. The only thing I could think of was Mizuki Ichiro yelling ゼーット! on Gaki no Tsukai’s 笑ってはいけない罰ゲーム. I believe his first appearance was the police-themed 2006 show, but he showed up in a number of seasons after that in increasingly unhinged situations. Check out the video on this tweet before it disappears.

– This is a solid article on the current state of homebrewing in the U.S. A lot of the details ring true based on my experience in Chicago participating in the odd club out in a city full of really well organized brewing clubs. You can make some really good friends through the hobby…which is one idea the article hints at but never really drives home. There’s a similar passion for craft beer here in Japan, but it seems to be dedication to a specific small brewery or bar, and I’m not sure it has the same level of community. I found a great little spot called Buckets in Musashi-Kosugi when I was studying there. It was small enough that when I asked the proprietors where I should go for beers in Osaka, I got a chorus of answers from the other customers. Still looking for the perfect spot in Osaka, but there are some good options.

– The numbers are in: I spent just over 600 hours playing video games this year. 25 whole days, which is a frightening thought to think. Almost an entire month. This is by far the biggest gaming year of my life. What memories stick with me? Spending 40 hours finally finishing the original Final Fantasy VII when I caught COVID in January, only to be disappointed by the remake when I finally got to it in October before my PS+ subscription expired. Floating down into the Depths for the first time in Tears of the Kingdom. Emerging from Stormveil Castle into the serenity of Liurnia of the Lakes. Spending an hour on the character creation screen in Baldur’s Gate 3. I think my gaming goal for 2024 will be to play more mindfully, but 2023 was an awfully good year for games. It’s difficult to hold it against anyone for playing a lot this year.


Week 23 in Osaka #japantok #osaka #osaka

♬ Oncle Jazz – Men I Trust

– What am I looking forward to cramming into the remaining two weeks? More Baldur’s Gate 3. Some co-op Elden Ring here and there, helping folks get by the big bads. Some time with Super Mario Wonder, which I haven’t really started yet, and working my way through Super Mario Brothers RPG. But I’m taking a train ride for New Year’s, and I’ve had this image of playing Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster on the ride. I’m looking forward to it.

– I have not had good 福袋 (fukubukuro, lucky bags) luck this season. I was not selected for Muji’s drawing, and I forgot to enter Kaldi’s. I may have to pick up one at Tully’s or Doutor, but for now I have entered the one at McDonald’s and will see how I fare on Christmas Day.

– I’m moving apartments in January, and I had to fax my contract cancelation notice to the property manager the other day. It cost a mere 50 yen at the closest convenience store. What an astounding deal. You could quadruple that price and I’d still think it was a good deal. I’m not sure where I’d send a fax in the U.S. or how much it would cost, but I’m sure it would be far less convenient than walking 50 meters and dropping a single coin into a machine. I was impressed. Although the other side of this story is that the property manager would not accept a scanned copy of the cancelation notice sent via email.

– I did a mediumish thread on preservation in Tokyo and New Orleans after David Marx shared the demolition of a Meiji-era brick warehouse that had been turned into a bar. Sad times for the preservation crowd in Japan.

– For the second year in a row, I visited Kiyomizu-dera on November 28 to see the fall leaves. It didn’t disappoint.

– This is a very funny TikTok.


Ichiro Suzuki was pitching gas!!!! Tour Dates: New York, NY 11/27 Springfield MA 12/8-9 New Brunswick, NJ 12/14-16 Bridgeport, CT 12/21-23 Boston, MA 1/12/24 tickets at Or link in bio #greenscreenvideo

♬ original sound – Che Durena

– The Thanksgiving 休日 alignment this year was incredible. I had to do it up. This is what my spread looked like. I don’t think I’d actively take a day off to celebrate, but when it comes around again I’ll be ready, and I can absolutely see putting some of these dishes together again for a special occasion.

– And don’t forget to check out this month’s podcast. I examined the phrase そうこうしているうちに by way of an examination of the state of social media in Japan and their usefulness as language corpora.

How to Japanese Podcast – Episode 45 – コロケーション

I finally managed to see John Wick: Chapter 4. It only came out in Japan in September, six months after it’s initial release. In the newsletter this month, I give some impressions and analyze one specific subtitle that reminded me of the importance of collocations. Check out the newsletter for the definition of collocation in both English in Japanese and some good resources, although there is a spoiler warning because I spoil one major (minor?) aspect of the movie.

I have a spoiler warning on the podcast this month as well. But you can listen to the first part at least, which addresses other content. Including:

– The nerds have won. Congratulations.

– Was Sekiro inspired by Automatic Eve?

Send any questions for future episodes to howtojapanese at gmail dot com!

How to Japanese Podcast – Episode 44 – スミマセン

In the newsletter this month, I took a look at 非外来語のカタカナ表記 (non-gairaigo katakana notation), which is a complicated way of saying “katakana used to write words that are normally written in kanji or hiragana.” I found a very interesting paper on the phenomenon that’s worth a read if you’re interested.

The main idea is that the visual aspect of katakana can be used to provide extra-linguistic nuance to a sentence. I looked specifically at スミマセン, which is usually written as すみません.

This reminded me that there’s an even more casual alternative: ずびばぜん (zubibazen). This is the way that すみません would be pronounced if you were sobbing profusely. Searching on Twitter is one of the best ways to find examples.

Like this mother who is apologizing for breaking a promise to not drink until after her son’s sports festival at school.

I spoke about this and more on the podcast this month. Give it a listen!

How to Japanese Podcast – Episode 43 – それが

Ahoy! Here’s the podcast, kanjilubbers!

This month I’m talking about the message behind the message, inspired in part by my high school calculus teacher, Dr. Collins. Check out the newsletter for more detailed content about the excellent conjunction それが, which is a very efficient way to express the subversion of expectations.

And here are the tweets from Yuta that I mentioned in the podcast. Pretty interesting food for thought!

How to Japanese Podcast – Episode 42 – のだ

I remember vividly learning how to use んだ in Japanese. My third year teacher did a section on storytelling/explaining, and she had us tell different stories over and over again using んだ as a sort of emphasis/explanation when we were setting up some of the details of the story.

This んだ is actually のだ and it has its own dictionary definition. I wrote about it in the newsletter this month and discussed it on the podcast. I found some examples from Murakami (more of which I’ll be looking at during Murakami Fest next month).

These aren’t the best examples. I need to track down some examples from more argumentative/formal writing where the のだ really helps clearly present a conclusion based on a set of reasoning, but I think these examples will help get you into using this pattern both in written and spoken Japanese.

If you’re not already using んだ in your spoken Japanese, I think it’s one of the easier ways to sound natural, but knowing exactly when to deploy it and what exactly does can be very subtle at times. Let me know if this helps!

How to Japanese Podcast – Episode 41 – Kanji

I have such good memories of the Fourth of July 2021. It was a perfect day in Chicago. Clear and warm but not hot, and when the sun went down there was a crisp breeze off the lake. For dinner, I walked over to The Bar on Buena, a local restaurant with a mix of American food and Mexican food, a solid selection of local taps, and a surprisingly deep bourbon list for a neighborhood spot. I ordered a BLT and a Surly Helles, a seriously bitter Pilsner. Beer memories are always illusive, but for whatever reason I remember Surly Helles so clearly.

After the sun went down, I biked over to Montrose Harbor and then north along the lake, watching families grill and set off fireworks. I stopped around Foster, lay my bike in the grass, and sat down to watch the end of the big fireworks display someone was firing off.

Then I called it a day and biked home.

I didn’t really push it. I remember wanting to wake up refreshed the next day so I could start working on the new materials for the Japanese program I was starting. It was the start of the last school year I’ll ever have, and I had that same giddy excitement that I’ve had almost every year. So much potential. So much new. So much to learn.

This giddy energy is a helpful way to start projects like a new course of study, but they generally take more to sustain. Somehow I managed to keep this particular project going for nearly two years. I wrote about this in my newsletter this month, and talked about it on the podcast, which I’ll be trying to keep up monthly as an audio accompaniment (not a direct transcript of) that newsletter.

Give it a listen, like, and subscribe!

How to Japanese Podcast – S03E09 – Immediate Reactions to Murakami’s New Novel

Good God, that’s Murakami Haruki’s music!

街とその不確かな壁 (The City and Its Uncertain Walls/The Town and Its Uncertain Wall) launched today in Japan, and holy moly, it’s a wild one. I read the first two chapters and then rapped about it for 20 mins on the podcast in three sections: spoiler free, loose suggestions about content, and spoiler-palooza. Take a listen!

How to Japanese Podcast – S03E08 – Predictions for Murakami’s New Novel

It’s the final podcast before publication of the new Murakami novel! I go over some Murakami vocabulary, predictions I have for the novel, and some comments about potential connections with Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Here are the links I mention:

  • Episode 1 of this season of the podcast, in which I go over everything I know about the novella, 街と、その不確かな壁.
  • My appearance on Translation Chat with Jenn O’Donnell about translation choices made in Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the Word
  • Japan Times article examining Murakami’s language choices in Killing Commendatore
  • Murakami vocabulary:
    • うんざり – unzari – tedious, frustrated
    • 覆う – ōu – cover
    • やれやれ – yareyare – what the hell, oh brother
    • 備わっている – sonawatte iru – gifted with, endowed with, has/have (certain abilities)
    • 惹かれる – hikareru – drawn by, pulled by
    • 引き出し・抽斗 – hikidashi – drawer
    • 流れ – nagare – flow
    • 歪む – yugamu – distort/warp
    • 歪な – ibitsu – misshapen, distorted, warped

How to Japanese Podcast – S03E07 – Murakami Bibliography – 2006-2023

This week is the third part of my look at Murakami’s complete bibliography. See my Google Sheet version of all this information and follow along with the podcast at this link: