Journal

 

Wednesday
Feb142018

New URL

For the latest blog posts, articles, and other writing, check out my new website herehttps://www.aonghas-crowe.com/

Saturday
Oct142017

P.K.

Asked several groups of young women if they could give me some common and not so common Japanese abbreviations.

Old standards, of course, include OL (Office Lady), OB (Old Boy, as in an alumni network), and TPO (Time Place Occasion).

Recently popular ones are CA (Cabinet Attendant, i.e. stewardess) and KY (Kuki-o yomenai, referring to someone who can't read the mood of a situation; someone who just doesn't get it.) Not sure when flight attendants started being called CAs here. For the longest time they were called stewardesses, or "succhi" for short.

Newer abbreviations are rather funny. My favorite, though, is PK.

"PK?" I asked. "PK, as in penalty kick?"

The girl laughed and said, "Yes, penalty kick." I could tell though that she wasn't telling me the truth.

"C'mon, what does it really mean?"

"It's embarrassing."

"Yes, but, you brought it up."

"パンツ食い込み. (Pants kuikomi)"

"A~h so~~~."

I don't recommend googling that when you're at work.

Wednesday
Aug232017

I Luv FUK

Happy to say that this is now a thing. Check it out.

 

Friday
Aug112017

Kampai! is Out!

A very, very nice surprise this morning.

My latest work, Kampai, has managed to break the top ten in Japan. 

I'm not crazy about the cover, to be honest. And, the final product is very different from what I intended to write, but, but, but, there's still a lot of interesting information thrown in with anecdotes of my life in Japan. A Kampai! 2 is in the works, and may come out perhaps next year.

Lemme tell ya, this has been perhaps the most productive nine months of my life. In addition to the dozen or so articles I have written for a number of different sites, mags, and journals, I have pumped out:

a new novel (A Woman's Hand), rewritten another (Rokuban), gotten half done on a third (A Woman's Tears),

two works of nonfiction (Kampai, Boys Have Dingdongs),

a collection of essays and stories (🖤 FUK, due out soonish),

a photo collection (Covered), 

and, two textbooks (Speak Up!).

(Phew!)

I hope the next 12 months will be as productive or more.

 

For more on my writing go here.

 

Wednesday
Jun282017

Yasukuni, it ain't

During a long run in an unfamiliar corner of town this morning, I came upon a broad set of stone steps, flanked on either side by massive stone lanterns.

Thinking it was the entrance to a shrine, I climbed up the steps. To my surprise, I found a number of monuments dedicated to those who had died in modern Japan's wars and foreign engagements from the overthrow of the shogun and restoration of the Emperor to power, known as the Meiji Restoration (1886), to the Russo-Japan War (1904/5), the Manchurian Incident (1931), and on to the Pacific War which ended 72 years ago this summer. This sombre memorial to Japan's militaristic past is not listed on the map, nor were there any signs outside of the premises indicating what awaited visitors at the top of the stairs.

 

 

 

I will return in the summer during the Bon Festival to see if there are any special ceremonies taking place, like those which occur every year at Gokoku Jinja.

 

For more on "Tani Park", go here.


Wednesday
Jun282017

Month of No Water, indeed

Funny, but this year (2017) June truly has been the "Month of No Water" for Fukuoka. It has for the most part been nice and sunny since the start of the rainy season was announced on June 6th (aka. Roll Cake Day). Although we did get some rain last weekend--why is always Sunday--it looks like we are in for another dry spell.

Meanwhile, the dam level in Fukuoka prefecture is down to the mid 50s, or 30 to 40 percentage points lower than where it ought to be in a typical year. Some dams have fallen to as low as 18%.

If things don't improve anytime soon, we may find ourselves in a serious pickle. It won't be the first time, though. Back in the summer of '94, one year after one of the coolest and wettest summers that caused rice shortages throughout Japan (Remember that?), we had one of the driest summers. If memory serves me correctly, water had to be rationed for over a month.

At first water service was cut off from, I believe, 10 in the evening until 10 in the morning. In those days, I worked from about 9am to 9pm--don't ask--meaning I had one hour to shower, do my "duty", wash clothes, cook, and clean up. It was hell. After several weeks, water service was expanded a bit. And when a big typhoon hit, all was back to normal again. So, hurray for typhoons!

 

For more on why June is called the "Month of No Water", go here.

Tuesday
May092017

1000 Words

 

Students going through a list of the 1000 most frequently used English words to check which ones they were unfamiliar with discovered that four words "eat", "nature", "then", and "through" had all been included in the list twice.

One of the students commented, "The person who made the list must have been really tired."

"And hungry," said another.

 

Sunday
May072017

Boys Have Dingdongs


 

Boys Have Dingdongs & Other Observations is a collection of about 150 mostly silly, occasionally moving conversations I had with my sons from the time they started speaking until the elder one graduated from kindergarten.

Although I originally intended to save this collection until the boys were twenty, after reviewing them during the spring break I decided that now was as good a time as ever to go ahead and publish it. The reaction from my son--he ended up sleeping with the book in his arms--told me that I had made the right choice.

Dingdongs is available as an ebook and paperback.

 

 

 

 

Friday
Jan132017

Soroban

How would you add up the following numbers?

29
58
72
+36
____


My son started soroban (abacus) lessons this week, so my wife and I have been talking a lot about arithmetic recently.

I told her that although I had been taught to tally up the ones first, I now add up the tens, or round, in order to get a ball park figure.

With rounding, you get:

29→30
58→60
72→70
+36→40
________
X < 200

With a multiple choice exam, this will help quickly eliminate answers.

A better way to round that requires a bit of note taking is:

29→30 (-1)
58→60 (-2)
72→70 (+2)
+36→40 (-4)
________
→200 (-5) = 195

I've heard this is the way the Indians are taught to do it. I think Common Core has also tried to introduce a similar method much to the dismay of parents who don't get it.

Adding the tens first you get X > 170.

I've always found this to be a much faster way to do addition and other simple math problems. Apparently, that is also what they do with the soroban. You get an instant "feel" for the answer--it should be about X--then you add in the ones with a few flicks of the beads and come up with the answer.

29→20 + 9
58→50 + 8
72→70 + 2
+36→30 + 6
________
→170 + 25 = 195

What surprised me, though, is learning how kids here are taught to do math. Apparently, they are instructed to add 29 + 58 first, then add that sum to the next number, 72, then add that to the last number, 36.

29 + 58 + 72 + 36 =
29 + 58 → X + 72 → Y + 36 = the final answer
29 + 58 → 87 + 72 → 159 + 36 = 195

This seems awfully time consuming and all those steps only insure that you're going to fuck up along the way.

Any thoughts?




 

Friday
Nov252016

Inhaling Water

I am often asked why I came to Japan. I usually reply: “It’s a long story." Here's part of that story.

"Inhaling Water", a prequel to A Woman's Nails, offers a look into how one might forsake the Devil ye know for one ye don't.

Wednesday
Nov022016

Ishiganto

  Walking down a cobbled slope in the Kinjō-chō neighborhood just south of Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa, I spotted a sign usually overlooked by tourists who can't read kanji: 敢當

  Ishigantō are ornamental tablets or engravings placed near or in buildings and other structures to exorcise or ward off evil spirits. Shí gǎn dāng, as they are called in Mandarin Chinese, are, according to Mr. Wiki, "often associated with Mount Tai [north of the city of Tai'an in Shandong province] and are often placed on street intersections or three-way junctions, especiallyin the crossing."

  Ishigantō were introduced to the Ryūkyū Kingdom from China and can be found throughout Okinawa Prefecture, where they are called Ishigantō or Ishigandō and to some extent in Kagoshima Prefecture, where they are called Sekkantō.

Sunday
Oct022016

Deciphering the Lanterns of Kyoto

  The red lanterns hanging from the eves of machiya in Gion and neighboring areas of Kyōto indicate the five hanamachi (花街, lit. “flower town”) or geiko communities containing o-kiya (置き屋, geisha houses) and o-chaya (お茶屋, teahouses).

   Centurally located Gion Kōbu, through which the main thoroughfare Hanami Kōji Dōri runs, has red lanterns with a white kushi dangō design, i.e. linked circles in a horizontal line around middle of the lantern. The lanterns of Kami-Shichiken (上七軒), the oldest of Kyōto’s hanamachi and located near Kitano Tenmangū shrine in the northwestern part of the city, are the inverse: linked red circles on a white background. Across the Kamo River in Pontochō, the lanterns feature two red birds, and so on.

Gion Kōbu 祇園甲部

Gion Higashi 祇園東

 

Miyakawa-chō 宮川町

Ponto-chō 先斗町

Kami-Shichiken 上七軒

 


Hanamachi Map

Wednesday
Aug312016

Losing myself in Translation

For the past several weeks I have been translating the university's website into English. It's a thankless task and I slowly losing my mind over it.

One thing people who don't understand or read Japanese probably can't appreciate is how different the syntax of the two languages is. Where English is, of course, Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), Japanese is SOV, but more often than not O-V, with the subject "understood" from context (though not always). Independent clauses or descriptive phrases usually come afterwards in English ("the house across the street", "the man I work with"). In Japanese, they come first ("the street across the house"; "I with work the man"). Cause or reason is usually given first in Japanese. ("Because it is going to rain, I'll take an umbrella.") In English, the result or consequence is emphasized. ("I'll take an umbrella because it's going to rain.")

Anyways, check the following out:

 

 

Sample of Original Japanese text

「子ども発達学科は、子ども学の学問体系の元、キリスト教の教えに基づく幅広い教養と心理学をベースとした子ども発達の理解・人間理解によって保育技術や教育技術を習得することによって、子どもと豊かに接し援助することのできる幼稚園教諭・保育士・小学校教諭の育成を目指します。」

 

 

 

English written in Japanese Word Order

 

The Childhood Development department the study of children learning system of learning of originating Christianity of teaching upon based a wide learning and psychology base as child development of understanding human understanding through nursery technique and or education technique the acquisition of which through children abundantly contact and support can kindergarten teachers daycare workers and elementary school teachers of cultivation (we) aim.

 

 

Rough, direct translation:

 

The Childhood Development department . . . we aim to train/cultivate/educate kindergarten, nursery school and elementary school teachers . . . who can come into contact with and support/assist/attend to/give abundant and loving care to children by/through the acquisition/mastery of nursery school and educational technique/skills/arts by understanding child development and understanding humans with a broad education originating in the system of learning of the study of children and based on the teachings of Christ/Christianity and psychology as its base.

 

 

Original Japanese text

 

「子ども発達学科は、子ども学の学問体系の元、キリスト教の教えに基づく幅広い教養と心理学をベースとした子ども発達の理解・人間理解によって保育技術や教育技術を習得することによって、子どもと豊かに接し援助することのできる幼稚園教諭・保育士・小学校教諭の育成を目指します。」

 

 

Japanese rewritten in English Word Order

 

子ども発達学科は . . . 目指します  . . . 育成を . . . 幼稚園教諭・保育士・小学校教諭 . . .  できる . . .  豊かに接し援助することの . . . 子どもと . . . によって . . .  習得すること . . .  保育技術や教育技術を . . . によって  . . .  理解 . . .

子ども発達の . . . 人間 . . . 幅広い教養 . . . に基づく . . . 元 . . . 体系 . . . の学問 . . . 子ども学 . . . に . . .  教え. . . の . . .キリスト教 . . . と . . . 心理学 . . . とした . . . ベース.

Wednesday
Jul062016

Once Upon a Time in Edo

From ancient times in Japan, time was expressed by the duodecimal system introduced from China. The hour from eleven p.m. to one a.m. was the Hour of the Rat (子の刻, ne no koku). From one a.m. to three a.m. was The Hour of the Ox (丑の刻の刻, ushi no koku); three a.m. to five in the morning was The Hour of the Tiger (虎の刻, tora no koku); and so on.

 

Moreover, in the Edo Period a bell was rung to announce the hour, so the hour of the day was also known by the number of times the bell was rung. At midnight and noon, the bell was rung nine times. The clock was struck every koku (刻), about once every two hours or so: nine times at noon (九つ, kokonotsu), eight times around two in the afternoon (八つ, yattsu), seven times around four-thirty in the afternoon (七つ, nanatsu), and six times at sunset (暮れ六つ, kuremutsu, lit. “twilight six”). An interesting vestige of this former system, snacks and snack time are still called o-yattsu (お八つ) and o-yattsu no jikan (お八つの時間) today. Around nine in the evening, the bell was rung five times (五つ, itsutsu); at about ten-thirty at night, it was rung four times (四つ, yottsu). And at midnight, the bell was run nine times again. In this way, the bell was rung every two hours or so, first nine times, then eight, seven, six, five, four, and then nine times again.

 

Another vestige of this the former system is the use of the kanji for “horse” in telling time today. Twelve noon is called shōgo (正午, lit. “exactly horse”) because eleven a.m. to 1 p.m. used to be the Hour of the Horse. Anti meridiem, or a.m., today is gozen (午前, lit. “before the horse”) and post meridiem, or p.m., is gogo (午後, “after the horse”).

 

Another peculiarity of the former time-telling system was that although night and day was divided into twelve koku or parts, with six always referring to the sunrise and sunset. The length of the koku or “hours” varied throughout the year, such that the daytime koku were longer in the summer months and shorter in the winter months.

 

Because one koku was on average two hours long, each koku was divided into quarters, lasting an average of thirty minutes (Ex.: 辰の一刻, tatsu no ikkoku; 丑の三つ, ushi no mitsu) or thirds (Ex.: 寅の上刻, tora no jōkoku; 卯の下刻, u no gekoku). Night and day was also divided into 100 koku. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, day and night were both 50 koku long. On the summer solstice, daytime measured 60 koku and night 40. On the winter solstice, the opposite was true.

 

One last interesting factoid: each domain kept its own time with noon being the time that the sun was highest in the sky. When trains were first introduced to Japan, it was not unusual for a train to leave a city in the east at say eight in the morning and arrive at a station in another prefecture in the west, say an hour later, but it was still eight in the morning. Trains not only helped industry spread throughout the nation of Japan, but also brought about the first standards in the way time was told.

Thursday
Jun232016

A month by any other name

Different names for the month of June:

水月 (Mina Zuki, lit. “water month”), the month during which rice fields are full of water.
水無月 (Mina Zuki, lit. “water without month”), the month during which rivers run dry because of the heat.
伏月 (Fuku Getsu) The month of sanpuku (三伏). There are three fukuShofuku (初伏) which is the third konoe (庚) after the summer solstice, Chūfuku, the fourth konoe (庚) following the solstice, and Mappuku, the first konoe (庚) after Risshū (立秋), the traditional start of Autumn which falls on about the eighth of August. These are all tied to the traditional Chinese calendar, which divided a year into 24 solar terms. 
青水無月 (Aomina Zuki, lit. “blue water without month”), the month in which trees grow thick and water becomes clean and healthy.
季月 (Ki getsu, lit. “season month”), the month the season ends.
鳴雷月 (Narukami Zuki, lit. “roll/strike thunder month), the month in which thunder increases. Also written 鳴神月 (lit. “Roaring gods month")
常夏月 (Tokonatsu Zuki, lit. “endless summer month”) Another name for kawaradenashiko (Dianthus chinensis or China pink) is tokonatsu, which blooms from spring to mid summer.
松風月 (Matsukaze Tsuki, lit. “pine wind month”), the month when a “comfortable pine wind” blows.
風待月 (Kazemachi Zuki, lit. “wind wait month”), the month one waits for a cool breeze.