That was a week

2016-May-11, Wednesday 10:41
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Thursday we had [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture over to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena, and then after she left I got a bit overwhelmed by my upcoming schedule and the fact that the pants I ordered arrived and didn't fit, and I ended up lying down in a dark room for fifteen minutes while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did some work in the kitchen.

The next day I sent back the pants and the replacements are in the mail, and then I got home from work, devoured dinner, and immediately turned around and headed out to Call of Cthulhu, which you can read about here. Then we came back home and went to bed.

Saturday was LARP and shopping day, taking up a large portion of the afternoon and all of the evening, but also the day where I received an email from my father with the subject "$" and then checked my bank and noticed a pending transaction for a substantial sum of money. Enough to pay for our upcoming trip to Japan multiple times over. When we called my mother for Mother's Day the next day and asked about it, their reasoning was basically that they're not getting any younger and who knows what might happen. So if you wonder why I'm all #doom all the time, well...

Sunday was the aforementioned phone call and the Beach Party of Hope, scheduled in February. Fortunately the weather cooperated, but those again took up a big chunk of the day. We also wrote a letter to Kaminaka-san, one of our old students from Chiyoda, since we're planning to visit Chiyoda on our upcoming trip to Japan and wanted to let him know! That took a bit of time mostly because I had to hand-write Japanese, which I'm not very good at and which always makes me nervous.

Monday was session six of Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom, which i haven't written about yet because over half of it was Small-time Peddlers of the Mushroom Kingdom, so I'll do a combined six + seven post next week and edit in a link here when it's written.

Tuesday was Japanese class again, which actually went pretty well. 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ is getting better now that they're getting into more characterization, and at least with the most recent chapter, I went into class thinking I had a lot of trouble with the reading and it turned out that I actually understood almost all of it. Aya-sensei mentioned that it's easy to get caught up in a couple small things you don't understand and assume it means that you don't understand the larger picture and that's simply not the case, and that's definitely true. I think at this point I'd keep reading the book even if I didn't have class anymore.

Tonight, I have nothing scheduled and I'm going to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and watch Aria with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and the only thing I have scheduled that is of any importance is that we're going to write another card to one of our students in Japan. And this Friday we're going out to eat at Travelle and then I don't have anything scheduled for the rest of the weekend. Other than beating Symphony of the Night and finishing up my Ender-kun costume for ACEN. Just need to do the grass block!
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
As part of the LARP I'm taking part in, I'm playing a descendant of Izanagi, and since I already know some Japanese, I took it on myself to translate some important game speeches into Japanese for my character to recite. One of them I wrote myself, in a mishmash of modern and classical Japanese that would probably look awful to anyone who knows either version of the language, but another I translated from text provided to me and it brought to mind some of the choices translators have to make.

The whole text might be spoilers (for any other participants who read this), but here's a line where I had to make some decisions:
Should I break this oath may all my victories become as ashes in my mouth
And here is the Japanese I came up with:
宣誓を破ると勝利が遺骨になるようにで
Sensei wo yaburu to shouri ga ikotsu ni naru you ni de
The first part is fairly straightfoward--"To break an oath," but the と there after the statement indicates a natural consequence. Like, 雨が降ると濡れる--"If it rains, [you'll] get wet." It's a situation where the second part is an obvious result of the first part with no question. If you turn off the light, it gets dark. If I break an oath, my victories will become as ashes.

The second part I took a couple liberties. I'm not entirely sure how to express hopes and wishes in Japanese. " といいです" is the way in normal conversation--the same と as above, implying that if X happens it will be good--but that just a set phrase that's the equivalent of "I hope that [something positive]" and doesn't apply here. I ended up choosing a phrase from the wishes offered at shrines. "ように" is the way that ema usually end with, and so here it's implying the speaker's own desire. Not only is this a natural consequence, it's what the speaker wants as part of their devotion to fulfilling the oath.

Also, the usual word for ash is just 灰 (hai), meaning ash from a fire or cigarette or something similar, but I went with a different nuance. 遺骨 are specifically the ashes of the dead after the body has been cremated, so I wanted to imply here that breaking the oath would have a cost in lives. The victories turning to ash is literally others dying because of the oathbreaker.

I'm taking this to my Japanese tutor later today, so we'll see what she thinks of it. But I'm pretty proud of at least that part!
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
(Bullet = dodged)

Background: Aya-sensei and I are reading 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ and got to a part where Sakutarō is being an idiot. He's angry at Aki because the other boys in his class are bullying him for spending time with her, so he writes in to a Christmas Eve radio show with a song request, talking about how they were going to play Romeo and Juliet in the Culture Festival (true) but she got sick with leukemia (false) and is probably listening from her hospital bed (false). Aki confronts him the next day, and says that she doesn't mind if he talks about her, but there are people out there who are really suffering and she hates it when people are mean to them.

This led to a discussion about how Aki is the ideal stereotype of Japanese womanhood (大和撫子 in Japanese): soft-spoken, self-effacing, beautiful, courteous, caring, with long black hair. Aya-sensei mentioned the pressure that Japanese women are under to conform to this ideal and how she--being raised in America--feels like a lumbering barbarian (not her exact words) when she's around other Japanese women.

Then she asked me if I liked that kind of personality.


I managed to deflect a bit by talking about [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, who has a lot of those traits. She's softer-spoken (except when advocating for students under her care), loves cooking for people, likes cute things, tends to think of others, dresses more feminine, and probably most importantly for the purposes of the question, Aya-sensei has met her. So we talked a bit about [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and then the conversation moved on.

But I realize that that's actually kind of a reasonable accomplishment--I extracted myself from a conversational land mine in another language. I mean, it wasn't really a trap, but it was structured as one, and I avoided it. Points to me!
dorchadas: (Do you speak Elvish)
I didn't have tutoring today since I have book group (theoretically...there may be technical difficulties that prevent it from occurring), so I asked Aya-sensei to give me another chapter of 世界の中心で、愛を叫ぶ to read since I'd have two weeks to read it. Since I'm getting the whole thing as a scanned-in PDF from her hardcopy, I figured I'd post a page so people can see what I'm reading:


Normally I'd have the page festooned with notes of questions I have about particular sentences, vocabulary words and their pronunciations so I don't have to keep looking things up, but I'm still doing an initial read-through to see how much I understand before I do any of that. This page is about how the protagonist and Aki, the perfect Yamato nadeshiko love interest, have been chosen as Romeo and Juliet for their class's performance in the school Culture Festival, and some of the other (male) students are teasing the protagonist over his enthusiasm during the balcony scene. I think.

But yeah, I'm reading a Japanese novel!
dorchadas: (Link with Shield)
Kind of like when I played Super Metroid, playing this makes me wonder if I'm really a "Zelda fan," whatever that means. I've played even fewer Zelda games than Metroid games, but in part, this is an attempt to remedy that. Since Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the original Legend of Zelda coming out, I wanted to go back and play some of the earlier Zelda games I missed as well as the good ones that I loved, so I thought why not start at the beginning? And, since I've never played it, why not start with the Japanese version like I did with 悪魔城伝説 and see what the differences are?

And that answer is...not that much, really. Other than being in Japanese--and that's not even entirely true, since the intro is in English--everything is pretty much the same. Most of the quotes are translated pretty literally, and the minor nuances in meaning don't affect what story there is. For example, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this," in Japanese is, "ヒトリデハキケンジャ コレヲ サズケヨウ," which is, "It's dangerous by yourself. I'll bestow this [to you]," though with a bit of an old man nuance that doesn't really translate into English and with some implied status differences--授ける is generally used from a higher-ranking person to a lower one, though here I think it's just that it's an old man giving the sword to a whippersnapper.

And yes, the katakana and spaces are in the game. I think it's the first time I've ever seen a ヲ in the wild.


Your powers are weak, old man.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Kirby sweatdrop)
Like I mentioned, I've been reading 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ and I'm pretty sure that it's helped me identify one of the problems I'm having in trying to learn Japanese--I compartmentalize too much. I have a tendency to want to look every word up I don't know, so I stop when I find something, make a note on the PDF I have of the book with the word and its reading and pronunciation, then go back to the text. But it means that sometimes I'm reading whole sentences, and sometimes I'm reading it one word at a time, which makes it pretty hard to draw meaning from it.

What I really need to do is to read everything through once first, not look anything up, and see how much I understand. Then read it through and note down all the words I don't know, then read it through again with the notes in case I can't remember something.

On the plus side, I've noticed that reading actual written Japanese is helping some vocab stick in my head because I have context for it. It's like how I'll always remember that アライグマ literally means "washing bear," which means "raccoon," because of Kazu trying to explain it with "洗濯ぐま" ("laundry bear").

As for the actual book, I'm enjoying it. I started off feeling like it was being crassly manipulative, but once it moved past the opening frame of sadness and taking someone's ashes far away and went back to the meet cute, it got better. Though it's pretty heavy-handed:
にもかかわらず少女の髪からは、シャンプーというかリンスというか、ほんのり甘い匂いが漂ってきた。

Translation:
But in spite of [walking with a distance between them], from the girl's hair the sweet scent of shampoo and condition hung faintly in the air.
Later, then come around a turn in the path and find a field of hydrangeas, and Aki turns to Sakutarō with sparkles in her eyes and exclaims how much she loves hydrangeas and asks him if he wants to go to hanami together. I can almost see the sweatdrop on his face when he says yes. But it's definitely good practice!
dorchadas: (Death Goth)
Kanji? Gasp!

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is one of the games I've had since I was a kid. The NES cart is actually in a box behind our TV right now, lacking only the means to actually play it. I managed to get pretty far through diligent practice, but I was never able to get to Dracula. I think the furthest I got was Frankenstein before I ran out of lives and continues. In the years since, though, I learned that I was going about it all wrong (about which more below) and came back to the game in my 20s and finally managed to beat it. So when I sat down today wanting to play some Castlevania, I figured I wouldn't play the game of my childhood since I'd already beaten it and moved on. But I wanted to play Castlevania III. How, then, to thread the needle?

Well:


8-bit kanji...

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Office Space)
So if you're at all interested in Harry Potter, or know people who are interested in Harry Potter, you've probbaly seen the news about the other wizarding schools. The Japanese one is called Mahoutokoro (魔法所), which literally means "magic place."

(Disclaimer: I've read all the books, but I wouldn't describe myself as a Potter fan)

First point of annoyance. Let's leave aside that if there's going to be one wizarding school in East Asia (there are four others whose locations haven't been revealed, so one of those might be there), it should be in China, which has been the cultural capital of East Asia for millennia pretty much continuously until the 20th century, and accept that it's in Japan. Calling it "magic place" is the laziest name you could possibly imagine for it. The European wizarding schools don't have regal names, but they do have whimsical ones. Durmstrang, Beauxbatons, and Hogwarts are a little cutesy, but they say something interesting about the places they're located. Mahoutokoro doesn't say anything. It's the blandest, most generic possible name.

Since it's in Japan, maybe, I don't know, something to do with the sun? 夕焼け屋敷? That means "Sunset House" (yuuyake yashiki) and also puns on お化け屋敷 (obakeyashiki, "Haunted House"). There, I came up with a better name after literally thirty seconds of thought and actually knowing a little bit about Japanese.

Also, the pronunciation guide is fucking insulting. "Mah - hoot - o - koh - ro"? Mah-hoot?

Alright, moving beyond the name. Here's the article on Pottermore. I was talking with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd about this, and we noticed that the workings of Mahoutokoro have nothing to do with the way the Japanese education system works. Like, Hogwarts is a parody/loving homage to British education, with houses headed by prefects, exit exams, and so on. So for Mahoutokoro, how come students are just selected to get in? They should have to take entrance exams like every other Japanese student does. The color-changing robes are kind of neat, but they should get different robes for each year they're in, or have the robes change color to signify the year as well (though having them change based on educational achievement does match the Japanese practice of publically posting exam grades). Instead of being sorted into houses, they should be sorted into classes, each of which has a unified course of study that all members undergo. Japanese wizards would almost certainly be more well-educated in Muggle practices because their studies would include a wide variety of information that's not strictly magically useful. I mean, we know someone who wanted to be a firefighter and the exams for that job were the general government exams, so they included Japanese history, English, mathematics, formal Japanese, and a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with putting out burning houses.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd specifically wonders if the Japanese Ministry of Magic--probably 魔法省 (mahoushou, literally "Ministry of Magic")--imports American, British, Australian, South Africa, and New Zealander wizards to teach Japanese wizards English.

And why is it on Iwo Jima? A friend pointed out that it's a deliberate World War II analogy, but Iwo Jima seems like an odd choice otherwise. Sure, I get that it's set there to be in an isolated place on top of a mountain...but the home islands are 80% uninhabitable mountains and there's a long tradition in Japan of 山伏 (yamabushi, [one who] bows to the mountain), mountain ascetics who are half sorcerers, half religious hermits. Putting Mahoutokoro on a mountain in the home islands could have easily tied into that tradition.

Basically, with a little more effort it could have been a distinctly Japanese school of magic the way Hogwarts is a British one, and instead it was just thrown out with minimal thought.
dorchadas: (Yui Studying)
We've mostly been discussing news articles, but last class my tutor had a different suggestion--reading a novel.

Not the 源氏物語 or anything like that. She said that when she was last in Japan, her roommate gave her a book called 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ (my translation: "I Shouted Out Love at the Heart of the World"), which google tells me has the English title of Socrates in Love. Google also says that was supposed to be the original title, and it does sound better in English. Anyway, my tutor mentioned that she never read it because it sounded like a bunch of sappy mush, but that it might make a good discussion topic.

I'm a bit apprehensive. Partially because while readying the NHK Easy Japanese articles isn't very hard for me, I've never tried to read a novel before. That and going to the Amazon page for the book, the reviews are...mixed. The one that shows up at the top for me starts with, "この本が、日本で一番売れた書籍、になってしまったことが何だかな," which means "Somehow this book has become the top-selling book in Japan..." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Especially when it goes on to say, "最後は読むのがつらくなってきてナナメ読み," which could mean either that the book became heartbreaking at the end or that it was painful to read because of the mood it was trying to evoke. Judging by the one-star review, I'm going to assume the latter.

Well, maybe I can practice complaining in Japanese!
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Some of these will be pretty similar to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's list, but you know, we're married. It kind of makes sense.

In no particular order:

  • Family Vacations!: We took two trips last year that I've been wanting to take for a while--one to Oregon, where I've spent over a year of my life when you count all the summer trips I took as a child, and to Philadelphia, where I lived when I was at university. Both of those were obviously huge parts of my life, and I'm really happy that I got the chance to share them with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. Now, maybe it's her turn. I hear she really likes New Orleans...

  • Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries: We did it. It was more like 60 weeks, counting the time that we had to take off and the few extra curries we threw in, which meant that it wasn't 50 curries either, but I was amazed by the response I got to my writing. Many people telling me that they looked forward to it every week, inviting themselves to dinner (jokingly or otherwise) and asking [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to make a particular food, asking what the next food project was going to be... It was really surprising for me, since I never realize how many people read my writing. Maybe we will do another food project! Any suggestions?

  • We Went to Alinea: That was something we were planning to do for years, but we never really made the time until a friend suggested it and we took her up on the offer. It lived up to the hype. If you can find a reason, go.

  • Japanese Lessons: This is something I've been putting off for the longest time, for financial reasons and because I was nervous about the process of learning. But I finally bit the bullet, started going to classes, and I think it's helped a lot. I can get practice reading anywhere on the internet, I can practice listening by watching anime or JDramas, but I can't practice speaking without a speaking partner. This was gearing up to the trip we're planning to take in 2016, but I think I'll keep going after that. I will be able to speak conversational Japanese by the time I die.

  • Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom: I worked on this, on and off, for about two years, from the initial idea to statting things up in Novus to switching to Exalted to really nailing everything down, and in 2015 I started running a brief test game to see if it all works. And it does! I have a bit of a difficult time balancing combat encounters, but my contention that mortal- or god-blooded level Exalted produces a fun game has some support now. My players actually asked for another game after the current one finishes, so I'll be running a longer game with different characters in the future. They may yet trample the jeweled thrones of Agarica under their sandaled feet!

  • Saving Money: I did it! I had a goal of every month, putting some money into savings, some money into investments, and some money into our retirement accounts, and I managed to do that every single month in 2015. Sometimes I couldn't put in as much as I wanted in one of those categories, but I'd always make up for it in subsequent months.

  • Writing: Throughout 2015, I wrote a review of every book I read and video game I beat, I kept up Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries, developed Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom into something workable and functional as a game, and wrote a bunch of other blog posts as well. Even though I didn't work more on The Lamplighters Guild, I still did a lot of writing work.

  • Fashion: I finally realized that maybe I should get rid of some of those old clothes and that, now that we have money, I can afford to dress the way that I've always wanted to rather than wearing clothes forever until they fall apart. Thanks to PlastikWrap, Demobaza, Zolnar, H2H, and a couple other places I can't remember. Sadly, trawling thrift shops is usually not that helpful for me--it's hard enough for me to find clothes from clothes shops. I wrote more about this here.


Traditionally, I post the lyrics to "Long December" on New Year's to express my hope for a good new year, but this year I have something a bit different. While looking around for something for a friend's birthday, I found a poem from the 小倉百人一首 that I think fits pretty well:
ながらへば
またこの頃や
しのばれむ
憂しと見し世ぞ
今は恋しき
And here's my translation of it:
If I should live long
will these days again
Be brought to mind?
That world that I grieved to see,
Now, it is dear to me
明けましておめでとう!今年もよろしく!

Happy New Year, everyone.
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
I realized I haven't talked about Japanese tutoring in a while, so here's an update!

I had a rather long period in September when a variety of things, like my tutor being unexpectedly out of town, stomach trouble, and Yom Kippur kept me from meeting for a month, but since then I've gotten back into the groove. I mentioned to Aya-sensei in the first class that I could study up on grammar and vocab on my own time, and what I really needed was someone to actually practice all those words and bits I use, so class is mostly just us talking about whatever comes to mind. She's been giving me articles from NHK's Easy Japanese News section, and sometimes we stick to the topic, and sometimes we don't.

For example, last week's article was about a robot that supposedly can read people's moods and provide recommendations about restaurants and so on and we didn't say two words about it. Instead we ended up talking about Shabbat and what [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I do for it--ろうそくを点けて、ワインを飲んで、パンを食べて、祈ります--how long it takes, why Jews go out to Chinese food on Christmas, etc. And I actually really like that we get sent off on tangents so easily, because in a real conversation I'm not going to be able to refer to a script or prepared materials most of the time, I'm going to have to think on my feet, and talking about totally random topics definitely does that.

My stomach still ties up in knots on the way to class every week and I'd rather be hit by a meteor than go, but when I get there it's fine. I mean, that's pretty much the story of my mind, right? Everything is terrible until it happens and things turn out better than expected.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
Yesterday was the third class I had with Aya-sensei, and the first one where we managed to hold a conversation for basically the entire class without long pauses and me staring out the window. I realized that in a one-on-one situation with someone who knows English natively, there's nothing to be gained from me trying to remember a word for longer than a few seconds. If I can't remember it after a moment's thought, or if I can't understand a word that she uses, I should just ask her about it, write the word down so I can practice it later, and move on.

We spent half an hour talking about food, which as I'm sure you know, dear reader, I can go on about at length even in a language that I'm not particularly good at. We actually talked about Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries, or at least about how [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd makes curry every Sunday and some of them are very weird. She definitely had no idea what to think about スイカのカレー, for example. She also said that a lot of Indian food tends to taste the same to her, but admitted that her major experience with Indian food was eating at Indian buffets as a child. I should have asked where she ate at, since she spent about half her childhood in Tokyo.

It was actually pretty nice, since the first lesson had a ton of pauses while I tried to say things in a probably overcomplicated way and this time we established a flow early and stuck to it pretty well. Maybe I can actually get good at this language!
dorchadas: (Kirby sweatdrop)
Yesterday was a team building day at work. As much as I complained about it, it was actually pretty well-run and inoffensive. No stupid trust fall exercises or silly games, the icebreaker was just "introduce yourself to a couple people you haven't met," and the majority of the day was talking about what it is exactly our department does--summary: we're the ones who make all the money--or discussing different communication styles through the lens of the DiSC, which I had never heard of before. You may be unsurprised to hear that I scored by far the highest on C, with S as the second-highest category.

And even with that low level of intrusiveness, by the end of the day I was still:


I love Introji.

And then tonight I have Japanese tutoring, which is also very well run and extremely helpful in providing a chance for me to actually speak Japanese instead of just reading it (which I'm pretty good at, though still not at newspaper level), but takes a lot of energy to deal with.

That's the eternal paradox of my mental state. Even things I am really looking forward to I often end up dreading at times, with my anticipation wildly careening around like a bat in a Castlevania level. I know it drives [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd crazy sometimes how I'll agree to go to an event, then a few days later act like going will literally lead to my death, then be excited again, all with unpredictable frequency and lengths of time.

I know a lot of people were annoyed about those introvert vs. extrovert articles going around last year and the year before since they painted all introverts as anxiety-ridden wrecks with a deep and fulfilling inner life ruined by those damn extroverts shitting their interactions all over everything, most memorably summed up in this tweet:


And reasonably so. I know plenty of introverts who love social interaction and just need a bit of alone time to recover from it. But not me.

I really am excited about your invitations and the vast majority of the time, when I arrive, I have a great time and I'm glad I came. But often my instinctual first response to any event is, "Uh, I have some forbidden alchemy to do that night..."
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
And I didn't spontaneously combust or have any of my exaggerated worries come to pass! Overcoming my anxiety like:

Sumo Dodge gif


I met Aya-san at a Starbucks in the Loop and after some brief English introductions, we spent most of the hour chatting in Japanese. That makes it sound much easier than it was, since I spent a lot of time trying to think of the right word or how specifically to phrase what I was trying to say, especially when I was explaining my favorite podcast to her--I said Revolutions, if you're curious--or telling about how [livejournal.com profile] jaiderai conspired to set [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd up with me. But even with pauses and my missteps, we managed to hold a conversation!

Afterward, she mentioned that my vocab is pretty good--which it should be with all the studying I do on the L every weekday--and I told her that I don't want to work on writing practice with her, since if I want writing practice there are plenty of Japanese-speakers I know that I can post to. We'll be working out of the venerable old げんき textbook, which [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd fortunately still has from her college days and going over grammar and its usage in conversation, and then the lessons will just be chatting, which is exactly what I need.

Next week, I undertake that most classic of Japanese experiences: the 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai, "self-introduction.") Better get working on that.
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
Shopping Center Thanks
Thanks was built back when the City University of New York had a branch in Chiyoda, and it managed to survive the closure of that university four years later by being the place where the surrounding even smaller towns, like Oasa or Geihoku, came to get goods. We went there a lot, because while it was primarily a grocery store, there were a ton of other smaller stores in there too. An alcohol shop, a bakery, a futon shop that later closed and was replaced with a travel agency (though fortunately after we had bought our futon), a stationary and book shop, a shoe shop, a hundred-yen store, two clothing stores, a pharmacy, a sushi stand...

We spent a lot of time at Thanks, though not as often as other people. While our fridge was around 2/3rds the size of an American fridge, we managed to buy a week's groceries at a time, instead of the two to three days' worth that's more common for Japanese families. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd got some stares due to our bulging shopping basket until people figured that out.

The sushi stand, called 亀家 (kameya), had sales at the end of every day. At 5 p.m., sushi was 20% off, and at 6 p.m., it was 50% off. If we got there in time, before the crush of obaachans picked the offerings clean, we could get a pretty tasty sushi dinner for the two of us for maybe $15.

Michizure
I'm not entirely sure what the rest of the building was for, but the bottom floor was a restaurant that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I would go to when we wanted to celebrate some event. It wasn't super high-end, but it was definitely more upscale than Funky Tonky or Iwata or Gusto. And while the internet at large is not too keen on it, we never had much to complain about. There are a lot of seafood-and-rice sets, some huge $100 sushi platters that we never got, noodle bowls, and really good appetizers. And basashi, which is amazing.

If you've heard me tell the story about ordering gekikara tantanmen and getting more than I bargained for, this is where it happened.

Coin Laundry
Yes, that's a raccoon on the sign. That's because the Japanese for raccoon is 洗熊 (araiguma), which literally means "washing bear," and the first kanji there is also the first kanji in 洗濯 (sentaku, "laundry")

We had a washing machine in our house that we washed all our clothes in, but we didn't have a dryer. That's not unusual for Japan, where hanging out the laundry to dry is very common, but during the winter hanging laundry outside is obviously out of the question so we hung it inside. And since our house was uninsulated and Japan is so humid, it would often take two to three days for it to dry completely. It was just awful all around.

It was [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's idea to start taking our clothes here, and while initially I was against it, I pretty soon came around when the benefits came through. We'd drop our clothes off, go shopping or go to dinner, change them, wait for 30 minutes, then take them home and they'd be done. Plus the laundry is heated, and the clothes are super warm when they come out. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd would dump them out on the futon and then just lay on them for a bit, soaking up the heat. I really don't blame her.

Hakkenden
This is another izakaya, though it's part of a chain and much more obviously a restaurant. The name comes from 八犬伝, the legend of the eight dog warriors, though they swap the middle character out for 剣, which is pronounced the same but means "sword." Because it's a chain, you can see their website here and their menu here. There's a ton of pictures, which is quite a change from Iwata, where the menu was just a solid block of kanji and kana in black on plain white paper.

I'm getting a lot of cravings looking at that menu. Hakkenden was the place where I learned about ochazuke and I always ordered that to finish off the meal, but there's a ton of other stuff there and now my mouth is watering. Kushiyaki, ramen and yakionigiri, gyoza and kara-age, spicy pickles and wasabi octopus, french fries and fried cheese, or--still a favorite--raw meat with raw egg and raw onions. Anyone who's seen me get grumpy when scanning the menu at a Japanese restaurant here in America, click those links and you'll understand.

We also ran into the owner of the local Poplar eating with some of his staff there once, and he bought us drinks for coming in and buying so many onigiri and cup noodles from them. That's service you can't pay for.

Town Hall and Community Center
That very uniquely-shaped building on the right is the town hall, where we only went a few times. We were there most at the beginning of our first year, when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had to go get all her various papers and so on sorted out. Since she was the one with a job waiting for her, everything was in her name, so she had to sign up for utilities, register us for tax and immigration purposes, sign up for car insurance, and so on. Later on, I went there to change my dependent visa to a work visa, and later to look for work in the schools nearby.

The building on the left is the community center where we had our biweekly English class. It caught us by surprise the first time we were asked to teach it, and originally I think we didn't do that great a job, but we taught it for three years. A few people left, a few more people came in, and we honed our teaching abilities. There were some great moments, like when we had to go to a different room and ended up practicing directions by laying zabuton down on the floor, having one person close their eyes, and having the other class members tell them which way to go, or when we had a fake restaurant to practice customer interactions, or when we instituted "What have you done since last class?" time at the beginning so that no matter what, everyone spoke some English during class time.

I wrote a blog post about the last enkai we went to with the group. There's still a passage that sticks out to me:
At the end of the party tonight, we all stood outside and looked up at the full moon, and one of the students said, "When you're in America, you will be looking at the same moon." With all the friends I'll be leaving when we leave Japan, it's a good thought to remember.
I still remember that, sometimes, when I'm looking up at the night sky.
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
Like the question says, really. I originally had the tags only in Japanese, and then I added the English translations later so that it'd be useful for most of my blog's readers, who don't speak Japanese (or don't speak it well). But are they still useful? It makes it harder for other people to find the tags, they aren't in alphabetical order or even kana-based order--く comes before アfor some reason, for example--and a lot of the time when I'm writing, I'm in a hurry to find the tags so I just skip past the Japanese and read the English straightaway. Thus, a poll:

[Poll #1972984]
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
So, I had a student named Moeko when I taught at Suzugamine. She was kind of attentive, and at least listened when people talked and tried at her work, but she hung out with a lot of people who absolutely weren't interested in learning English at all.

Well, apparently things changed a lot after I left. She got herself into the special English-focused class, went on a trip to England and stayed with a family for a few weeks, and found me on Facebook where she likes all my photos of food.

Anyway, I wished her a happy birthday a couple days ago, and we started a conversation, and after I told her I was taking a programming class, she said:
勉強以外は、本当に楽しいですっヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ
うぉおおおおおおお!!ブラピ凄いことをしているのですねっ!日本語を教えたりしないのですか??
Which, if I had to translate into English, I would render as:
Except for studying, [university] is really fun!
Wooooow!! You're doing amazing things! But aren't you teaching Japanese along with that?!
...I only wish.

When people ask me if I know Japanese, my response is never "yes," it's always, "I get by," because, well, that's a lot more accurate. I'm pretty good at reading and writing, but my vocabulary is still lower than I want it to be and I have a lot of trouble speaking because of that. When I'm writing, it's easy enough to look up words, but that's obviously not something I can reasonably do when I'm in the middle of talking to someone without completely breaking the flow of conversation.

I think the big problem is that I'm bad enough at conversation in English, much less in Japanese. I'm happy to sit in silence a lot of the time, and tend to let conversation threads drop, or go to a corner at parties and sit and watch the action--there's a reason I picked a job where I don't have to talk to anyone. :p Add in another language, and even if you take out the worry of making mistakes or looking stupid while searching for the right word, it's still difficult enough for me to find the words to keep the conversation flowing. Unless I were to learn the vocab for talking about RPGs or video games in Japanese, I guess...

The thing is, I'm not sure how she got that impression. We've talked on Facebook, in Japanese or in English, but when I was actually teaching her I'm pretty sure I never spoke Japanese to her ever. She could tell that I understood it somewhat, because when the students asked me questions I'd answer in English whether they asked me in Japanese or English, but was that enough? Maybe she just thought that since I came to Japan to teach English, I'd go back to America and teach Japanese. If I wanted to be a teacher, I suppose it would be a reasonable assumption.

Really, this is just another of the incidents that renews my desire to keep studying Japanese.

Ow, my back…

2012-Sep-09, Sunday 14:15
dorchadas: (Arrow to the Knee)

This is dictated on my iPad so we'll see how well it works.

Last weekend, we had to go help my sister move in Madison. That wasn't so bad – after all my parents helped us move several times – but the problem was that my sister had about twice as much stuff as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and me combined. We took three car trips with my sister's and my father's cars and unloaded half of the U-Haul and still had an entire U-Haul worth of stuff to take back to store in my parents basement. I mean, my parents did store all of our stuff while we were in Japan, but even so, you'd think that a veterinary resident wouldn't need so much stuff because she's not in her apartment all the time anyway. That was actually the reason she had to move – her landlady was hoping for a replacement for the woman who lived near her for 30 years, and apparently didn't realize that a veterinary resident was not the best person to be a friend and to have barbecues with.

Anyway other than the couch, there wasn't actually that much that was heavy to move, so the actual moving wasn't bad. It was just that there was so much stuff.

So that was our Labor Day weekend. We really didn't do anything else after that because we had to spend the rest of it recovering from moving.

Weight- and food-related )

The JLPT registration just started. I'm not sure I'm ready for level III yet, but I'm going to take it anyway. I'll have to study a lot harder in these next four months if I want to pass. Well, translating more blog entries for our Rachel and Brian in Chicago blog should help with that also. I've really been letting those slip lately and I need to get on that.

Edit: I almost forgot! I'm on Goodreads now! If you're on there too and want to read my reviews or suggest books to me, add me! I'm pretty active there but most of the friends I have aren't, so more activity would be neat. (^_^)

If you're using LoseIt, you can add me too, though I'm not sure how to do that. I might as well be social if I'm using social networking...

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
The first weekend in December was the JLPT/日本語能力試験, which was filled with just as much bullshit as I expected it to be. [profile] schoolpsycherd and I took level 4, which we figured that living in Japan for three years would be able to prepare us for. And it...kind of was, in a sense. Our lack of formal schooling (well, mine, [profile] schoolpsycherd did take some classes at university) was a bit obvious. She thinks she passed, I think I failed, mainly because of the listening section. As part of the bullshit I mentioned, the listening section repeated absolutely nothing at all, requiring you to maintain laser-like focus for 35 minutes and preventing you from taking more than a few seconds to think about the answers. There was ample writing space provided, but I quickly learned that it was useless because if you took the time to use it you were already missing the next question (unfortunately, I learned this through experience). The rest of the test was also bullshit, but it's the bullshit inherent to language, like a bunch of words that have slight differences in meaning or all look the same, such as the difference between 料理, 科埋, 料埋, and 科理 (though that would be a better example if those were all real words, which they aren't. At least, not in Japanese. The first one is Japanese, the other three are Chinese).

We plan to take Level 3 next year whether we pass or fail this one. Even if I did fail, I was of an appropriate level where there wouldn't be much point in retaking it. That'll give me a year to study for the new level, too, which should hopefully be enough.

For Thanksgiving, [profile] schoolpsycherd and I took the train down to Kentucky to visit her family. We spent Thanksgiving Day with her father and his girlfriend, and the day after Thanksgiving with her mother and her fiance. Despite our initial misgivings, it actually went really well, and it gave me plenty of time to write (I think I banged out the last 7000 words of my NaNo while we were there). Both dinners were delicious. Dinner at her father's house was a more traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and her mother's fiance cooked a smaller one but made me a very rare filet mignon, which was incredibly tasty. Also, there were no awkward moments, shouting matches, or anything that we were worried about, though a big portion of that can probably trace back to her mother's refusal to enter her father's house, instead waiting for us out in the car. Still, it was what it was, and it worked out okay.

Last weekend, we went to visit [livejournal.com profile] melishus_b in Seattle! I had been to Seattle before, since my aunt and uncle live there, but [profile] schoolpsycherd had never been (except to the airport, which hardly counts), so we spent two days in Seattle, one day at [livejournal.com profile] melishus_b's house planning (and later throwing) a party, and then one day in the rainforest on the Olympian Peninsula. That last bit was probably my favorite, since I've never been to anything like it before. [profile] schoolpsycherd and I went to a tropical rainforest when we were in Singapore, but that's obvious not the same as a temperate one. Anyway, before we went to the rainforest we went to a little town called Poulsbo, which is the kind of place that the word "quaint" was invented to describe. Lots of little shops with tasty treats, including some of the best chocolate I've ever eaten, and some places where we stocked up on food before heading off to the rainforest. There's a ton of rainforest photos up on my Facebook.

In Seattle, we went to a little local bar the first night and did the tourist thing the second night, mostly around Pike's Market. We also went to the Museum of Glass on Saturday afternoon before the party. All in all, it was neat, and I'm looking forward to when [livejournal.com profile] melishus_b gets time off so we can show her around Chicago. (^_^)

And finally, something random, for those who've played Morrowind. The whole thing resolves around the Heart of Lorkhan--the disappearance of the Dwemer, Dagoth Ur's plans with Akulakhan, the Tribunal's power, the final battle takes place in the heart chamber, you spend a huge part of the game looking for the tools the Dwemer used to affect the heart, etc.

Now, listen to the Nerevar Rising, Morrowind's main theme. The theme that accompanies you throughout the entire game. Listen to the drums that kick in in the beginning and continue underneath the melody for the whole song.

What do they sound like?

(I <3 Elder Scrolls so much).

Why Japan?

2011-Jul-19, Tuesday 21:30
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
Something a friend asked me this weekend made me think a bit. We were playing the Lannister Drinking Game[1], and the statement to me was that my interest in Japan began in my early teens. This was, however, completely wrong.

The first time I saw any anime at all was when I was 19.[2]
The first time I tried sushi was when I was 21.
The first time I tried green tea was when I was 23 (or maybe 22). It was at [personal profile] fiendishfanfares's suggestion--I probably wouldn't have done it otherwise.
The first time I actually made a study of Japanese as a language was when I was 23.

So, why the interest?

I'm not sure. The main reason I liked watching anime so much early on wasn't necessarily that it was from Japan, but more because of the plots. Most of the anime I watched was fantasy, and it was easier to do all kinds of fantastical things and have them look good in a drawn medium than it was in a live action one, and much cheaper as well. My favorite fiction has always been fantasy, so it was probably just a logical extension of that--I don't tend to watch non-fantasy/SF anime either, other than slice-of-life high school anime (which are a lot funnier if you've actually worked with Japanese highschoolers).

As I grew more interested in the structure of the language, I started watching it in preference to non-Japanese series for extra exposure, though I can honestly say it didn't really do many any good at the time. I get much more out of it now that I actually have some knowledge of Japanese to go on and can make out whole sentences rather than just the odd individual word here and there.

I actually don't watch that much anime anymore. I think the main reason I watched more of it a while ago was back then, my main exposure to Japanese culture was 1) watching anime and 2) eating at Japanese restaurants. Living in Japan, my main exposure to Japanese culture starts when I wake up in the morning and ends when I fall asleep[3], so I don't really need any additional exposure. Nowadays, also, I have a lot more things to be interested in since I've experienced them firsthand--tea ceremony, onsen, kagura, hatsumōde, etc., etc.

We'll see how my habits change when I go back to America. I'd be great to figure out if I can get an NHK stream so I could have appropriate noise in the background while studying Japanese or just reading the web.

[1]: It probably has another name, but it goes like this--make a guess about someone. If you're right, they drink. If you're wrong, you drink.
[2]: It was Akira. Some days, I'm honestly surprised it wasn't also the last anime I ever saw.
[2]: I'd say "when I go to bed," but I sleep in a futon on a tatami floor so it doesn't end there either. :p
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
As the subject says. My parents and sister came over to visit, and we ended up traveling all over the place. Tokyo, Kamakura, Nara, Kyoto, Himeji, Matsue, Izumo, Hiroshima, Miyajima...it was a ton of traveling. I probably walked over 100 kilometers, even with the times that we took public transit, and that doesn't count the extra effort expended from carrying my bags all over the place. On the other hand, we got to go to a ton of places I've wanted to visit since we came to Japan but didn't really have the time. Most of them were the same places I've already written about multiple times--Kinkakuji, Meiji Jingu, Himeji Castle, etc., so I won't repeat them here. But, I'll talk about the one that I think my favorite--出雲大社 (Izumo Taisha) in the eponymous Izumo. It's a shrine to the god of marriage, and fittingly, we saw no fewer than five couples in various stages of their wedding while we were there.

Funny story--apparently it's bad luck for a couple to go through the main gate to Izumo. Of course, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I didn't know about this until after we had already gone through it. :p Then again, there was a rope that people were trying to toss coins into (as in, getting them to stick between the fibers of the rope. It was about a meter wide) and I managed to make my coin stick on the first toss, so hopefully that will counterbalance it.

The shrine also had a museum on the grounds that had swords forged by Muramasa and Masamune, which were in amazing condition for being 500+ years old, and a lacquer box made in 1150 that looked like it had been made yesterday. Not bad for a small museum curated by one guy.
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
Well, not all that much, really.

Yesterday, the Kaminakas invited us to a local kaiseki restaurant run out of someone's house nearby (within a kilometer or so). The food was quite tasty--mostly related to spring, including mountain greens, young bamboo, potatoes, fresh wakame, and so on. It was somewhat unexpected it (the last time we got a personal invitation was two years ago), but when we asked, they said it was to thank us for having taught the class for all this time, which was quite kind of them. There wasn't quite enough normal food, but we got a giant tub of 竹の子 (take no ko) rice, which was really, really tasty.

The main thing I was happy about was that, other than a couple times where we used English because we didn't know the Japanese word (like e. coli. Had to look that one up :p) or where we didn't understand something and Kaminaka-san defined it for us, the entire night was spent talking in Japanese. A minor achievement, but every bit counts.

My parents are coming to visit on Friday. That'll be fun.
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
Today was the usual Wednesday children's English class, as it has been for week upon week upon week, but because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's friend is here, it threw off our equilibrium, and we didn't remember until Ueda-san rode up on his bike to make sure that we were okay. We were originally supposed to have matcha and Japanese sweets, but Ueda-san's wife[1] was unable to come and since she was the one who was going to make the food, we didn't have any. Still, we taught them how to ask "how do you like?" and how to answer it, so they could at least ask us a bunch of questions. We've given them a solid English foundation (or at least I like to think so) for when they get to studying English in school. We still speak Japanese better than their English, but that's because we live here, which is a point I'll probably make on the last class we do.

One other thing I've noticed since coming here is that people rarely speak formally outside of work. I mean, sure, in a work situation people still use formal language, but even when meeting new people I haven't heard that much of it. When we met the 大川s, the husband (who I had never met) used casual Japanese when speaking to me, so I just copied him and used it back. I have a bit more practice at it than [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, who defaults to speaking more formally, but that's not really wrong (women tend to speak more formal Japanese than men in daily life). It makes me glad that I put in some extra effort to studying casual Japanese.

I've been working on an ORE conversion for Unhallowed Metropolis lately. I've always thought that UnMet was a great setting saddled with a somewhat odd and humdrum system--it's a bit confusing, and basically lacks anything special. ORE seems to be my go-to system for doing anything lately, so I've been using it to make a few conversions (plus some original stuff for extant ORE settings, but tinkering is something I'm fond of). Just need to finish up the social combat rules (it is neo-Victorian Britain, after all) and add the psychic and medium stuff and it'll be done.

And I really, really, really need to work on an outline for my NaNo so I'll be sure to finish it.

How did it get so late? Anyway, I'd better go to bed...

[1]: One thing I'm still unsure about is forms of address. Since honorifics aren't tied to gender, both Ueda-san and his wife are "Ueda-san." When addressing them specifically, I can use the formal words for husband and wife, but when talking about them to other people I'm not sure of the proper way to distinguish between them.

Zoo visit

2011-Mar-23, Wednesday 04:34
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Well, I mentioned the zoo in my last entry, so I might as well explain what I was doing there.

Like I said, we went there with the 大川s (that's "Ōkawa" for people who don't speak moon language). Mrs. 大川 is a P.E. teacher at Chiyoda High School with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. Her husband is also a teacher, as it turned out, though of Japanese. Anyway, we went to the Asa Zoo, which is Hiroshima's somewhat-small zoo. It was raining the whole day, but I bought new umbrellas for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, so it wasn't too bad. The main interesting part was talking to the 大川s' children. They had three: Ryoutarou, Hinata, and Kanata. Respectively, 8 years old, 5 years old, and 3 years old. Kanata obviously didn't say much, But both Ryou-chan and Hina-chan were able to talk to me, and I to them, with varying degrees of success. They're pretty good at English for their age--Ryou-chan could ask us our names, how old we are, our favorite colors and fruits, count to a hundred and tell us all those answers himself, and while Hina-chan lagged a bit behind, she was still better than some of the students I taught.

We did feel a bit bad, because they sprung a dinner on us without warning ([personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was under the impression that it was just going to be a visit to the zoo), which meant we went to their house without a house gift, and what's worse, they gave us one after making us dinner and buying a bottle of booze for me. That's massive 義理 we owe towards them, then, and I'm not sure we have a chance to repay it, since 大川さん is being transferred this year. Though we have her e-mail, so hopefully we are actually able to invite them over for dinner. We told them we'd make Mexican food for them. It's a popular choice, since it's not nearly as common in Japan as it is in America.

They made 手巻 for dinner, which, now that we've seen how it's made, we can buy supplies for to make ourselves pretty easily. The only difficult might be finding sashimi-grade fish in the States, since there's no standard for what exactly constitutes "sashimi-grade," but I'm sure we can figure it out. The meal also made me realize why the amount of water we're supposed to add to rice is so high. When it's just rice in a bowl I prefer it to be less glutinous, so to speak, but when it's part of 手巻 the stickiness really helps things out.

Someday I'm going to write a whole entry in Japanese, just to see if I can. I'm not sure if I'll make it private or not, or whether it matters in the end.

Maybe listening to 島唄 wasn't the best idea.
dorchadas: (That is not dead...)
But first, a poll!

[Poll #1678438]
It came to me in the shower. (^_^)'''

I think I eat too much. And not in the "I'm getting fat" sense, since while I did gain weight when I worked at Suzugamine, that was mostly attributed to stress and a sedentary lifestyle. I'm still pretty sedentary (more than I should be...), but all the stress weight is gone now. No, I think I eat too much because we spend a lot of money on snacks. One problem is that I eat way too fast, so I tend to eat more than I, strictly speaking, need to. The easily-implementable solution to that is to put the fork down every couple of bites to stretch things out and also to not let things go until I'm starving before I eat. I should also look into whether there's some vitamin or something I'm not getting enough of that's making me hungry.

I've been reading a manga called Addicted to Curry lately (in Japanese, 華麗なる食卓 karee naru shokutaku. Literally "The dinner table that becomes splendid," or more naturally, "The Splendid Table," but there's an obvious pun based on 華麗, which is pronounced exactly the same as カレー, the Japanese word for curry). It doesn't have an amazing plot (high school girl and young curry-obsessed chef try to save the girl's father's curry restaurant, and while the art is pretty good, the real reason I read it is because it's about curry. (^_^)''' I always answer "curry" whenever anyone asks those, "If you could only have one food for the rest of your life..." questions, and nearly every volume has a curry recipe in it. We haven't gotten a chance to make too many of them because it's hard to get ingredients for non-Japanese curry here, but I'm saving them for when we get back to America or whenever we go into Hiroshima and have a chance to pick up more ingredients.

I've been studying kanji for a while today. It gets pretty frustrating, but I try to remind myself that, for example, I can look at through, rough, though, aghast, light, cough, draught and ugh and instantly know how to pronounce the 'gh' in each of them. There are times in learning where there are no tricks or shortcuts and you just have to memorize a ton of things. This is one of them.

We had Chiharu (one of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's fellow teachers, but younger than her) over for dinner last night. Last time we had Mexican food (which she had never had. That's completely outside my experience, but I suppose Japan has fewer Mexican immigrants than America  photo emot-3.gif), and this time was Italian, mostly prepared by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd--I did the salad and bread pre-meal course, she did the pizza and pasta. Chiharu had never had olive oil with bread before. I guess I shouldn't really be surprised--bread as a cultural concept in Japan is a lot different than in America, being mostly composed of dessert breads, breads with filling, and so on--but it still caught me a bit off guard. Then again, I suppose people are going to be really surprised when we have gari as a side with our meals in America and eat a ton of stuff with chopsticks. :p

One random thing is that I really wish I had Chiharu's courage for speaking English. She doesn't speak it that well (for an English teacher--her English is far better than my Japanese), but when she comes over she brings a notebook so she can write down anything we say that she didn't previously know, and unlike my students used to, she writes it in English without trying to put in furigana for pronunciation. If we define something using Japanese, she writes the Japanese, but that's only natural, really. I have been studying a lot lately (at least an hour a day, usually more, not counting any time I spend out and about talking to actual people or reading signs), but I need to really buckle down if I ever want to learn it to conversational level.

Another sleepless night...I guess I'll try to nap when Rachel wakes up.

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