Journal

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Saturday
May062017

Per Capita GDP by Prefecture

1. 東京都 692.60万円

Tokyo, $61,839

Tokyo’s economy is massive, almost as large as that of the Republic of Korea, the fifteenth largest economy in the world, and larger than Indonesia, Colombia, and many other countries.

2. 愛知県 426.96万円

Aichi, $38,121

3. 滋賀県 426.22万円

Shiga, $38,055

4. 静岡県 418.75万円

Shizuoka, $37,388

5. 大阪府 410.42万円

Osaka, $36,645

Osaka’s economy is about the same size of the U.A.E.’s.

6. 福井県 409.80万円

Fuki, $36,589

7. 富山県 399.82万円

Toyama, $35,698

8. 三重県 397.20万円

Mie, $35,464

9. 山口県 396.42万円

Yamaguchi, $35,395

10. 栃木県 388.84万円

Ibaraki, $34,718

11. 広島県 377.77万円

 Hiroshima

12. 茨城県 376.70万円

 Ibaraki

13. 長野県 372.86万円

 Nagano

14. 群馬県 369.92万円

 Gunma

15. 石川県 364.53万円

 Ishikawa

16. 岡山県 363.24万円

 Okayama

17. 新潟県 362.55万円

 Niigata

18. 山梨県 361.88万円

 Yamanashi

19. 徳島県 359.24万円

 Tokushima

20. 大分県 358.65万円

Oita

21. 香川県 358.53万円

 Kagawa

22. 福岡県 355.72万円

Fukuoka, $31,761

23. 京都府 355.58万円

 Kyoto

24. 福島県 351.21万円

 Fukushima

25. 和歌山県 349.60万円

 Wakayama

26. 宮城県 342.63万円

 Miyagi

27. 愛媛県 341.58万円

Aichi’s economy is slightly larger than Denmark’s, the 34th largest economy in the world.

28. 岐阜県 340.85万円

 Gifu 

29. 佐賀県 337.41万円

 Saga

30. 北海道 334.69万円

 Hokkaido

31. 神奈川県 328.88万円

Kanagawa’s economy is somewhat bigger than Singapore’s, the 36th largest economy in the world.

32. 兵庫県 328.31万円

Hyogo

33. 青森県 325.93万円

 Aomori

34. 秋田県 324.68万円

 Akita

35. 島根県 324.27万円

 Shimane

36. 山形県 319.85万円

 Yamagata

37. 鹿児島県 319.23万円

Kagoshima, $31,181

38. 鳥取県 311.71万円

Tottori, $27,831

39. 宮崎県 308.11万円

Miyazaki, $27,510

40. 岩手県 308.05万円

Iwate, $27,505

41. 長崎県 306.73万円

Nagasaki, $27,387

42. 熊本県 306.00万円

Kumamoto, $27,321

43. 千葉県 305.76万円

Chiba, $27,568

44. 高知県 282.46万円

Kochi, $25,220

45. 埼玉県 279.47万円

Saitama, $24,953

46. 沖縄県 267.48万円

Okinawa, $23,882

47. 奈良県 253.53万円

Nara, $22,637

Thursday
Apr272017

Japanese Literature Survey 2

Create your own user feedback survey

Friday
Apr212017

Japanese Literature Survey 1

  

Create your own user feedback survey  Create your own user feedback survey

 

Tuesday
Mar142017

Chodo Kono Takasa

    Six years ago, Tōhoku was hit by a massive earthquake which triggered tsunami up to 40.5 meters in height. To give people an idea of how high the seismic sea waves were, Yahoo! Japan had the above memorial banner hung on the Sony Building in Tōkyō's Ginza district. The red line, which reads chōdo kono takasa (ちょうどこの高さ, "exactly this height"), gives a powerful reminder of how high the destructive tsunami was.

Monday
Feb202017

Blasphemy

  My wife made an interesting observation after spending the day with an old friend from her work days: "Ideas about the proper way to raise children are like a religion. It's like I belong to this sect. My friend belongs to another sect. And just like you shouldn't say 'My God is the One True God and yours is a blasphemy.' it's hard to tell someone that their way of raising a child may be wrong."

  She was referring in particular to the Boob Tube and how some families have TV on all day long like BGM in their homes. "How can you talk to your children or read to them if you've got the TV on?"

  As with religion--you won't really know if you were right or completely wrong until you die (even then you still may not have an answer)--when it comes to kids, you won't know if your policies worked until the kids grow up and go out into the world.

  The other day, Cain and Abel were at their grandparents. (Heaven on earth!) I plopped down on the sofa and looked at the black screen of my TV. I thought about turning it on to watch the news, but the effort to get up and turn it on was too much. Inertia has a way of keeping you verring out of habit. It occurred to me that for many people the effort required to turn it off and open a book, instead, is often too much for many people.

 

 

Wednesday
Feb012017

How to say February in Japanese

   It's February again which makes me wonder if there are any songs dedicated to the coldest month of the year. I can't think of any off the top of my head.

   This time last year an honest to god blizzard hit Fukuoka which was a lot of fun. I cancelled my class at the uni and took my sons out to Dazaifu which tends to get two to four times as much snow as we do in the city. Keep it in mind, the next time the area is hit with a snow storm.

   Anyways, February, like the other months is known by a number of names in Japanese. Nigatsu (二月, "Second Month") is the most common. Kisaragi, also pronounced Jōgetsu (如月, ") is the old name for the month according to the lunar calendar, or inreki (陰暦, literally "cloudy/shadow + calendar"). The second month was also called 如月 in China, but apparently there is no connection to the kisaragi of Japan. 

   There are some theories for the origin of the name. One is that in the old lunar calendar, kisaragi was still cold--hey, it's still cold today--and people were encouraged to wear extra layers during the month. Kisaragi can also be written 衣更着, which means to put on (着) even more (更に) clothing (衣).

   Another theory is that plants and trees (草木, kusagi) put forth new buds (芽が張り出す, mi-o haridasu) during the month, so the month may have been known as kusakihariduki, which when abreviated became kisaragi.

   Reigetsu (麗月, "beautiful month") is another name for the second month because everything sparkles beautifully.

   Umemizuki (梅見月, "plum blossom viewing month")

   Hatsuhanatsuki (初花月, "first flower month")

   Yukigeduki (雪消月, "snow disappears month")

   Tangetsu (短月, "short month") due to the number of days in the month

 

 

 

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
Dec022016

Shh!! I'm recording!!

How many of you out there remember holding a microphone up to the speaker and recording the radio onto a cassette tape? I do.

 

In 1983, cassettes tapes accounted for 47.8% of music sales; vinyl 44.6%. The jump in casette sales was a result of the debut of the Sony Walkman in the early '80s. Although CDs overtook cassettes in 1991, their sales peaked barely a decade later in 2003. Downloads overtook CDs in 2012.

In 2013, CDs accounted for 30.4% of all music sales. Downloads, meanwhile, accounted for 40% (singles, 22.4%; albums, 17.6%) Sales of ringtones peaked at 11% in 2008.

iTunes was released in January 2001; the iTunes Store in April 2003. The first iPhone was released in 2007.

 

Thursday
Dec012016

Childhood Poverty in Japan

There has been much handwringing of late with regard to the childhood poverty rate in Japan. This is something I would like to address in future posts, but for now I want to share this graph I found which shows childhood poverty rates by prefecture.

Overall, Japan has a childhood poverty rate of 13.8%, considerably less than America's rate of 21%. But looking at individual prefectures, we find that the poverty rate of Okinawa, the nation's worst, is 37.5%. Ōsaka has the second highest childhood poverty rate at over 20%. Kagoshima is third and my prefecture of Fukuoka is fourth with just under 20%, meaning one in five kids is living in poverty. Sobering statistics, to say the least.

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.

Thursday
Nov242016

Curse of the Fire Horse

Painting by Uemura Shōen (1918)

Like me, Haruka was born in 1966. According the Chinese calendar, this was a once-in-six decades Year of the Horse, called the Hinoe Uma, or Fire Horse.[1] Superstition had it that people born in this year have “bad personalities” . . .

Those Chinese have certainly got your number!

Listen. The superstition is even less flattering for women born in that year: the Japanese believe that women born in the Year of the Fire Horse are so headstrong that they will end up driving their husbands to an early grave, a concern widespread enough that the birth rate actually plummeted in Japan in 1966.[2] Haruka used to tell me that thanks to the superstition, it was a breeze getting into the schools of her choice. There was never much competition. The same was true when she started job-hunting: no shortage of work for a cute, young woman with big tits. If only I . . .

Had large breasts?

If only I had been a Japanese girl born in 1966. Anyways, whether you want to believe it or not, Haruka fit that stereotypical image of the Fire Horse perfectly—stubborn, overbearing, selfish. I often joked that sooner or later she was going to kill me. So, it wasn’t all that surprising to me that she would one day decide she was going to take it easy and become “a housewife”. What did surprise me, though, was when she told me she was going to visit Mexico.

 


[1] Hinoe Uma (丙午、ひのえうま). In addition to the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar there are five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—bringing the total number of years in the Chinese calendar to sixty (12 animals x 5 elements = 60 years). Those of you familiar with Asian cultures may have heard that the sixtieth birthday is a special one. It signifies the completion of the cycle and a rebirth of sorts. In Japanese, where a baby is called akachan (赤ちゃん, lit. “Little Red”), those who become sixty are usually presented with something red.

   In the 20th century, 1906 and 1966 were Hinoe-Uma years. According to the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements, Hinoe and Uma are characterized as being on the Yin side of Fire. It was commonly believed that more fires occurred in those years than in other years. There was also a widespread belief that women born in Hinoe Uma year were unyielding, and henpecked their husbands to death. For more, go here.

[2] The number of births dropped some 25% in 1966. The figure was so low that it was not matched again until 1989 when the effects of Japan’s dwindling birthrate started to be felt. 50.9% of the children born in 1966 were, like Haruka, the first son or daughter, the highest rate ever. For more, go here.

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.

Wednesday
Oct122016

My Darling

  This morning, I came across the results of a survey conducted by the Fujiya Company, maker of Milky, a kind of milk-based taffy which the company has been selling for over sixty-five years.
  According to Fujiya’s survey the most common ways that Japanese women without children call their husband are:

By their name with -kun added, 31%
By a nickname, 29%
By their name without -kun or -san added, 14%
Another 11% call their husbands “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa
The remaining 15% call their husbands in other ways
 
  Once children are born, things change considerably:
    

The most popular way by far to call one’s husband is “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa”, at 50%.
The next most common way is by their name with -kun added, 18%.
Another 9% call their husbands by their given name, but without -kun or -san.
 14% call their man by a nickname.
And the remaining 9% call him in other ways.
  I conducted a quick survey of my own on 16 first year students between the ages of 18 and 24. The results were as follows:
  I have written in the past about the different ways Japanese men refer to their wives. I will try to write about how they call their wives in the coming days and post it below. 
Now, how do men call their wives in Japan?


If they haven’t got kids, 46% call their wife by her first name.
19% by her name plus -chan.
Another 19% by her nickname.
6% of “men” call their wife o-kā-san or mama (Ew)
10% in another way.
  When children come into the picture, things change as we saw above.
39% now call their wife o-kā-san or mama
 22% by her first name alone
13% by her name plus -chan
 9% by a nickname
17% in another way
  One reason for the change is that once a child is born, everyone’s role in the family shifts, from wife to mother, from father to grandfather, and so on. People are often called by a name reflecting their relationship to the child. This is especially true the first or an older child is a boy. He will be called o-nī-chan or o-nī-san even by his parents. A wife will call her husband o-tō-san or papa, her own parents o-bā-chan (Grandma) and o-jī-chan (Grandpa).
  Although we use our first names in our family—my younger son seldom if ever calls his brother o-nī-chan (“big brother”)—my wife now calls her own mother Grandma.
  Cosmetics maker Pola looked into this phenomenon and its unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, consequences.

 

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