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Because of the holidays, there weren’t a whole lot of new posts on the blogs this week, but here’s what I could find. Also, this will be my last post on the Hills Learning blog, but it’s been a pleasure writing entries these past few months. I hope you’ve found our posts informative and entertaining. Jon and the rest of the Hills Learning crew will still be posting here, and some new and exciting changes are underway, so stay tuned. Thank you, and good luck with your language studies!
12/28/09: Pink Tentacle greatest hits – 2009
A summary of some of Pink Tentacles most popular blog posts over the past year, including a few I had missed the first time around. Highlights include Monster mummies of Japan, Pregnant dolls from Edo-period Japan, and the hilariously bizarre All-purpose tanuki testicles.
12/28/09: WIT Life #65: 福袋
An explanation of fukubukuro (福袋), or New Year’s “lucky bags” you can purchase at department stores in Japan. Each bag sells for a relatively low price, but the contents are usually a mystery. Will you get lucky, or be stuck with a dud?
12/26/09: The Pixar-Ghibli connection
A post discussing how Studio Ghibli anime movies like Spirited Away (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirited_Away) and My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) have influenced and inspired the animators at Pixar in America.
Recipe: Pretzels with Mascarpone Honey Dip
This post features a tasty-sounding and easy to make pretzel dip found in a men’s magazine in Japan. Or you can also get the scoop on 180 yen sneakers? Yikes. I can’t imagine those would hold up for long.
Oh, how I love the konbini (コンビニ: it’s short for “convenience store” in English). Whether it’s Lawson, 7 Eleven, AM/PM, or Family Mart, they’re a reliable place in Japan for late night snacks, booze, and even a full meal. Plus you can also pay your bills there! Items are packed just so, and potentially embarasing hygiene items are double and even triple-bagged using opaque brown paper so that no one will be the wiser. I now present to you a brief rundown of some of my favorite konbini foods. There are tons more, but these are some of the first things that popped into my head.
|12/23/09: WIT Life #64: Kit Kat comparisons
Japan has a huge selection of seasonal goods, with new candies and drinks hanging around for a only a few weeks, then disappearing as suddenly as they arrived. One such candy is Kit Kats, with many unusual flavors being released each year. Read this post for reviews of ginger ale, azuki (red bean), Uji maccha (green tea), jasmine, and yuzu (grapefruit) Kit Kats.
12/21/09: WIT Life #63: The Lonely People
A post about a recent talk given in New York about loneliness in contemporary Japan. Issues “include karo-jisatsu (suicide by overwork), sekkusu-resu (sexless marriage), kateinai-rikon (in-house divorce) and hikikomori (complete social withdrawal).” An article in the New York Times noted that sometimes those suffering from depression simply have no one to talk to about their problems, and turn to suicide as the answer.
|12/17/09: Japanese Special Attack Units training centre haikyo
A haunting photo essay of a visit to the abandoned Japanese Navy Torpedo Boat Training School in Kawatana, which dates to WWII. “Special Attack Units” in Japan referred to all manner of suicide soldiers, including Kamikaze (“Divine Wind”) pilots, Shinyo (“Sea Quake”) speed boats, Fukuryu (“Crouching Dragon”) divers, and Kaiten (“Change the World”) torpedoes. The last three were all trained at Kawatana in the late days of the war in a desperate effort to defend Japan from a potentially devastating invasion.
|12/18/09: Learn Japanese Kanji – Everyday Kanji (Japanese Vending Machines)
Ah, the ubiquitous Japanese vending machine. From hot coffee to tea, cigarettes to beer, and flowers to fresh eggs (yes, seriously), there are plenty of vending machines for whatever your desire. Need batteries late at night? There’s a machine for that. Need instant ramen? You can grab that, too. Check out this helpful kanji tutorial to learn what you need to know to get your item NOW.
12/21/09: Can tongue surgery improve English-speaking ability?
Really? Some parents in South Korea apparently think that their children have difficulty pronouncing English because their tongues are “too short,” so a surgery is offered called a lingual frenectomy. The post points out that the clinical claims of the surgery are dubious at best, and that the length of one’s tongue has nothing to do with what languages you can and cannot pronounce (well, unless your tongue is missing or cut terribly short). A later post talks about another surgery in South Korea that will alter the lines on your palms with lasers to make them more “auspicious.” Bizarre.
12/23/09: Joint History Review Can’t Agree on Nanjing
The Japan-China Joint History Research Committee, composed of scholars from both countries, cannot agree on the Nanjing Incident in terms of the number of victims, or even reasons for the Second Sino-Japanese War. Unsurprising, but it doesn’t make for a very useful report.
|12/17/09: New gazillion-yen Ibaraki Airport has only 1 flight a day
Coverage of an article in the Yomiuri about the new Ibaraki Airport that will have no domestic flights, and only one international round-trip flight to Seoul per day. Why was this airport even built? It has been unable to lure domestic airlines, and has become a huge expense for the prefecture. Though knowing the Japanese government, that construction money had to be spent somewhere, even if it was for a useless project. Well, at least it’s not another dam?
It was a dreadful night on March 24, 2007. Lindsay Hawker was an English teacher at Nova, a well known language school in Japan. She had met Tatsuya Ichihashi by chance in a café a few days earlier, and that night had agreed to go up to his room. The next day she was found dead in his apartment.
The evidence was overwhelming against Tatsuya Ichihashi. Lindsay’s body had been found in a bathtub on the balcony filled with sand and other materials, which Ichiro had been purchasing from the local hardware store. The taxi cab driver had been told to wait for Lindsay to come back down from Ichiro’s apartment, but she never returned. He also fled the scene once police officers arrived.
Ichiro had evaded arrest until late November 2009 when police finally caught up with him in Osaka. Today the newspapers reported the official “charges” being brought by the court against Tatsuya Ichihashi.
Asahi “The Chiba District Attorney charges Hayashi with Rape Killing” On December 23rd the district attorney’s office in Chiba prefecture charged Tatsuya Ichihashi (originally brought up abandoning a corpse charges) with rape killing. The decision was based on the fact that Hayashi had an intent to kill when he raped Lindsay on the evening of March 24, 2007.
The Chiba Court claims that Ichihashi bound her hands together, hit her many times in the face, and killed her by suffocation. Ichihashi has yet to enter a plea, according to the Asahi.
Nikkei “Hayashi is charged again, this time with Rape Killing. The court is to include a Citizen Jury System” The clear difference between the Nikkei and the Asahi’s account of the incident is the Nikkei commented on the trial being decided by Japan’s “Citizen Jury System.” This would be a ground breaking case, as the Japanese jury system was just introduced this past year.
The Nikkei also mentioned Ichihashi’s defense, claiming “Lindsay cried out very loudly. I put my arms around her from behind to hug her, not to kill her.”
Special dishes known as osechi-ryouri (御節料理 or お節料理) are served on New Year’s in Japan. Large stackable boxes known as juubako (重箱) hold the food, and the dishes can stay good for several days since osechi are traditionally eaten through January 3rd. Cooking was finished by New Year’s Eve since long ago it was forbidden to cook during the first three days of the new year. These days, many people purchase osechi in stores since the cooking process is long and difficult, and waiting lists for some of the most popular or well-made kinds begin in October. Each osechi dish has a special meaning for the new year, whether it be for long life or a good harvest. More information can be found here.
It was just another day at the Harmon Cove Outlet Center in Secaucus, NJ, on the weekend before Christmas. There had been the typical Christmas events previously at the mall, such as Santa coming to sit with kids, and a magic show. Most stores and shoppers were just getting prepared to have one more day of weekend shopping before the big holiday on Friday of this week. But once they entered the mall they were surprised to find a new kind of show, with a different language and culture that didn’t seem quite so familiar, the Japanese Christmas Show!
The Japanese Christmas show used entertainment to attract the holiday masses. Performers who attracted crowds were acts such as the Amazing Amy, who used Yoga and her love of Anime to create a unique show called “Yoganime.” Crowds watched as Amy twisted and turned her body in ways that were quite painful to watch. Then cute holiday performers grabbed kids attention, such as Reni the Cosplay Singer, who sang some original songs along with some very familiar holiday tunes. The girl group “Promise” performed a cute and amazing set, considering how most members were not above 13 years old and had memorized 4 songs all in Japanese.
But it wasn’t just entertainment that grabbed the show but also the educational component. Hills Learning (www.hillslearning.com), a language school in New York City, sponsored all the activities done throughout the day (bingo, raffles, and rock paper scissors). The activities of course were not done without having the audience learn some Japanese in the process. The numbers 1-5 were taught to both children and adults alike, and they used their new found knowledge to play Bingo in Japanese! (A – shi (4 in English), M – san (3 in English) were typical combinations that were being called out by the Japanese cosplay singer Reni. The show also ended with a Rock, Paper, Scissors game, in Japanese style, which brought all the audience members together to battle it out for Japanese t-shirts.
All in all, an interesting event for shoppers at the Harmon Cove Outlet Center. Although possibly in time the names Hills Learning or Reni might fade from shoppers minds, what hopefully was accomplished was producing an interest in what’s new and different. Hills Learning uses multiple avenues to reach potential audiences who might be interested in learning a new language, other events can be found at http://hillslearning.com/NewsandEventsNYC.aspx The demographic at the Japanese Christmas Show was generally hispanic or chinese, both cultures that understand the importance of bilingual education, and appreciating other cultures beyond your own. We hopefully piqued some interest for the Japanese language and culture, and also gave shoppers a fun experience in the process!