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Japanese Learning Center Starts Arabic

December 14, 2017

Japan Online readers, sorry if this article isn’t relevant to you but the founding school of this website, Hills Learning, has started Arabic.

I know you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with Japan? Well let me answer that quickly, not a lot, however learning Arabic and the trends of the language does have an implication on your Japanese language studies.

First of all Arabic has multiple dialects of the language, such as Levantine and Egyptian, as well as the Modern Standard Arabic. So learners who have to learn this language need to contend with likely learning two languages, both the “written and official language” of Modern Standard Arabic as well as a spoken dialect, such as Egyptian. So Japanese is starting to sound a whole lot easier, one standardized language, and one main mode of communication (I’m purposely forgetting the “bens” and Okinawan, as well as other languages).

However, Japanese fans, you’ll be interested to know that in Arabic basically in two semesters you become fluent in reading. This might also have a similar ring for you, you can learn Hiragana and Katakana in Japanese in two semesters. However anyone that has learned Japanese will know, you have the Kanji to contend with. So now Arabic is sounding easier than Japanese!

Hills Learning Center is located in New York, please check out Arabic Classes NYC or Arabic Classes Online for further information on the programs there. If you decide that Arabic isn’t for you that’s okay, you could instead take a Japanese class and then learn through osmosis listening to the classroom next door.


A Japanese School…Offers Spanish?!

December 13, 2017

Might seem like an odd article for JAPAN ONLINE but…Hills Learning, the school that sponsors this blog and website, has asked us to talk about their new language programs for 2018. While they have multiple classes and levels for Japanese, and some new programs to boot, surprisingly they’ve taken a turn off of the typical Asian language ladder and decided to offer Spanish.

Why Spanish you may ask? Good question, of which looking at their website it isn’t immediately apparent. Upon further reflection however, it seems that Spanish is such a widely spoken language (they’re located in NYC) that it’s probably almost a lingua franca for language centers in New York to offer Spanish. Why offer these unique Asian languages but give no opportunity to learn the second language of the city? (Estimated 25% of New Yorkers are native Spanish speakers, I read that somewhere).

Anyways please feel free to check out Spanish Classes NYC. Their programs are just starting but so far so good, after reading about their curriculum and checking out the Spanish professores on their site (sorry my Spanish is poor). Happy readings!

Japanese News and Culture Blog Roundup: 12/24/09-12/30/09

December 30, 2009

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!

Pink Tentacle

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?

Japan Probe

12/26/09: The Pixar-Ghibli connection
A post discussing how Studio Ghibli anime movies like Spirited Away ( and My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) have influenced and inspired the animators at Pixar in America.

Blue Lotus

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.

Konbini – Convenience Stores in Japan

December 29, 2009

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.

Nikuman (肉まん)
Often translated as “pork buns” in English, these are kept warm in a special heated box, usually located by the register. Other varieties include pizza-man (filled with marinara sauce and cheese), anman (filled with red bean paste), and karee-man (curry pork buns).
Onigiri (おにぎり)
Rice balls stuffed with a variety of items and wrapped in crispy nori seaweed. Fillings include fish, umeboshi (sour pickled plums), fish eggs, miso, and more. My personal favorite is the tuna filling mixed with mayonnaise. The triangular ones are usually packaged in a double layer of plastic so as to keep the nori fresh and dry until just before eating.
Purin (プリン)
Very similar to packaged Spanish flan, this thick yellow custard comes packed with a caramel-flavored brown layer at the bottom. They’re sometimes topped with whipped cream.
Milk tea (ミルク ティー)
Well, it’s just as the name implies. Sweet tea mixed with milk, and usually served chilled. I’m partial to the Royal Milk Tea variety (why is it called “royal?” I don’t know. Maybe because it’s English tea?).
Calpis (カルピス)
This unfortunately named drink is marketed as “Calpico” in the US, though I’ve never actually seen it sold anywhere except in Asian markets. It’s a kind of yogurt soda drink, but the taste is hard to describe. I also remember it fondly since I won a contest the company was holding last time I was in Japan. The prize was just a pair of t-shirts spouting nonsensical German (which roughly translated to “I am the eternal Milky Way”), but as it’s one of the few contests I’ve ever won, Calpis gets an “A” in my book.
Korokke (コロッケ)
A Japanese version of the French croquette, these are served warm or chilled, and stuffed with a diverse array of meats and vegetables. My favorites include mashed potato and curry korokke, and they’re usually served with worcestershire or tonkatsu sauce.
Cup Noodle (カップヌードル)
Basically just instant ramen in a styrofoam cup, but the huge number of flavors in Japan keeps boredom from setting in. My favorite is the Curry Noodle by far, with hunks of meat and spicy yellow curry broth.
Chuuhai (チューハイ)
A super-sweet canned drink with alcohol contents ranging from 5-8%. The liquor used is shouchuu (焼酎), which is made from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice. There are tons of flavors from the original lemon to lime, grapefruit, pineapple, kiwi, peach, and more. Since there’s no English on the can labeling it as alcohol, I’ve seen several hapless foreigners accidentally drink this, thinking that it’s regular soda. Last time I was in Japan, prices were around 100-150 yen per can ($1-2).
Jagariko (じゃがりこ)
Little hollow, crispy potato straws flavored like consumme, pizza, butter, nori, cheese, and more. My favorite though is the “salad” flavor, which tastes nothing like salad. Though that is probably a good thing.

Japanese News and Culture Blog Roundup: 12/17/09-12/23/09

December 24, 2009

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.

Tokyo Times

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.

Japanese Pod 101

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.

Japan Probe

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.

F*cked Gaijin

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?

Murder in Japan: Suspect charged in the killing of Lindsay Hawker

December 23, 2009

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.”

Osechi – New Year’s Food in Japan

December 22, 2009

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.

Common Osechi:

Konbumaki (昆布巻)
Rolled kelp seaweed, often stuffed with salmon and tied with strips of kanpyou (干瓢 – dried shavings of the calabash gourd).
Kuro-mame (黒豆)
Black beans simmered in a sweet sauce of sugar, soy sauce, and salt. Mame also means “health” in Japanese, so these represent a wish for good health in the coming year.
Datemaki (伊達巻 or 伊達巻き)
A kind of rolled, sweet omelet containing white hanpen (半片) fish paste or mashed shrimp.
Kurikinton (栗きんとん)
Mashed sweet potatoes with chestnuts, often formed back into a chestnut shape.
Kinpira gobou (金平牛蒡)
Burdock root braised with sugar, sake, soy sauce, and mirin. It is often served with carrots and sesame seeds.
Tazukuri (田作り)
Candied dry-roasted sardines which you eat whole (head and all). The kanji in Japanese literally means “rice paddy maker” since tazukuri were used historically to fertilize rice fields. The symbolism is of an abundant harvest.
Namasu (膾)
Raw vegetables and sometimes seafood slightly pickled in rice vinegar. Often features daikon radish and carrot.
Nimono (煮物)
Simmered vegetables that often include gobou (burdock root), taro, renkon (lotus root), carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and pea pods.
Kazunoko (数の子)
Herring roe.  It clumps naturally, giving it its long shape. Kazunoko literally means “many children,” and it symbolizes fertility and family prosperity.
Ebi-no-saka mushi (えびのさかむし)
Sake steamed shrimp, served whole. You eat everything – head, legs, and all.  In this photo, it is being served with edamame.
Kamaboko (蒲鉾)
Processed fish cakes made from varieties of whitefish and additives like MSG. Spiral-shaped loaves are often called “naruto” after the Japanese city which has a well-known whirlpool. The white fish paste is called surimi (擂り身), and is also present in fake crab in the US. Red/pink and white cakes are often layered or arranged in a pattern on New Year’s. The half-circle shape is similar to that of the rising sun, and the food has a celebratory, festive meaning.
Tai-no-shioyaki (鯛の塩焼き)
Sea bream grilled with salt, and served whole. I’ve seen people eat the head, though it’s not required. But the fins and tail are fair game. The word tai (sea bream) is associated with the Japanese word medetai, indicating an auspicious event and present in the phrase omedetai gozaimasu (congratulations).
Daidai (橙)
A Japanese bitter orange. Daidai written in a different kanji is 代々, meaning “from generation to generation.” It symbolizes a wish for children in the new year.
Zouni (雑煮)
A soup made with mochi rice cakes either in a clear broth (mostly in eastern Japan, with rectangular mochi) or miso broth (in western Japan, with round mochi). Sometimes taro or tofu is used instead of mochi, usually in areas where rice isn’t abundant. Other ingredients include meatballs (often chicken or fish), komatsuna (コマツナ) or spinach greens, mitsuba (similar to parsley), kamaboko, carrot, and yuzu citrus peel (similar to grapefruit).
Toshi-koshi soba (年越し蕎麦)
“Year-crossing soba.” A traditional dish, but also a practical one in kitchens where special foods have been cooking for days. Soba is an easy meal during the hectic holidays, but it is considered unlucky by many to leave any toshi-koshi soba uneaten.