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December 30, 2002

2002

Wow, the year 2002 is almost over. So, what has this year been like for you? Well, for me, it's been like...one of those years. No, not really. It's been a fairly good year both officially and privately. Kind of a busy year, and I feel the year has passed very fast. Talking of the Net things, it's been a blogging year. For the first time in my life, I started writing a journal in English. And thanks to it, I've made new good friends from various countries. That's great.

Just in case I can't blog tomorrow - Have a nice New Year's Eve, folks!

December 28, 2002

An Issue

Well, I usually try not to blog about international politics. So, this is gonna be one of the few such entries.

I'd be glad if you could take the time to read this page, and the ad (PDF) placed in the New York Times recently. Let me know if you have known about the matter and, if possible, what you think. Thanks.

This is what the Japanese in general are concerned about most about "the country" for now, tatroyer.

December 27, 2002

S-no Joke

I have an ambivalent feeling about snow. Snow is beautiful. It well produces a sweet atmosphere of winter. The scenery in the snow country is superb. I know how you like to see snow falling. Even a dog runs around in the garden with joy when it snows... uh, well, a Japanese song goes like this. But if you live in snow country, you have to "fight" with snow. You have to shovel away the snow piling up around your house. The lovely snow will change into a bitter enemy. It's no time to enjoy making a snowman; even if you do, the snow in the mid-winter around here is not wet enough to make one. If the town snowplow did a poor job and a heavy mass of snow was left piled up in front of your house, you would want to drag the driver out, and.... Ahem, also, snow creates natural skiing grounds and skating rinks here and there, causing a lot of accidents. Hey, don't tailgate me!

Now, I'd like you to read this joke posted by den4 which made me laugh a lot. It's hilarious, but, you know, it could happen to you. ;)

December 26, 2002

Cute Kids

1st and 2nd graders yesterday --

"Now, boys and girls, do you think there is a Santa Claus?"
"Yeees!"

"Where do you think he is?"
"America!!"
"Somewhere very far from here! Mom knows where it is!!"

"OK, how about you, Rex?"
"Well, it's too difficult to answer."

Uh huh. :)

December 25, 2002

ADSL 3

So, yesterday was the day. The phone company had said they would make my ADSL line enabled "in the morning" on the day, Christmas Eve. They were to give me a phone call just before working on it, so that I could set up my new ADSL router in unison. What a lovely present. I was like a kid who is, with great anticipation, waiting for a new toy to be delivered. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, kinda. But, wait, about what time do they mean is "in the morning"? Around 10? Well, I'm not sure. So I decided to wait doing some routine work - without blogging, because I wanted to blog about my ADSL connection on the day.

I waited, however, in vain until 11:50. The morning is almost over, as the world goes. What has happened? I called the company and the woman said, "I'm sorry, there is a delay in work operation." Uh, huh. Well, no problem. I know things go this way around here. Yeah. She said they would be able to work on my connection at 1:30. It's no wonder, you know, their "1:30" turned out to be "1:45". OK. That's a matter of course. I don't give it a damn. Anyway, I got an ADSL connection at last! The operation went quite smooth. The downlink speed is said to be 8Mbps, but the actual speed may be around 2.5 according to a test site. I don't feel it's real yet. I'll see gradually.

So, folks, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. :)

Merry Christmas

December 23, 2002

Holidays

Lazy weekend. ;) I'm in the holiday mode. It's nice to listen to good ol' music and read pleasant stories, here and there.

Today is the last day to "enjoy" the ISDN connection.

December 21, 2002

Search

Three-day weekend. :) The 23rd of this month is Emperor's Birthday (Tenno Tanjobi). I guess a lot of people will have Christmas parties on the day, or "Bonenkai" (Forget-the-year party). It would be funny -- If Emperor's Birthday happened to fall on the 24th or 25th, how would Japanese people celebrate the day? Celebrating his birthday with Christmas cake, singing Christmas songs? Well, for most of us, it's just one of the National Holidays we enjoy. We would thank him for making Christmas a holiday.

Since my entries are hard to categorize, I've added a "Search" feature on this page. I did it for my own good, but am glad if it could be of some help to you as well.

December 19, 2002

Christmas

Another heavy snowfall. Come on! I don't need this tough exercise. Soooo I said thank you for the winter, no, I said I HATE winter.

With Christmas approaching, I see a lot of entries about it on other blog sites, and as a matter of course, I can't resist writing about it. It's undoubtedly a big occasion in Japan too.

Christmas has little, if any, religious meaning in this seemingly Shinto and Buddhist country. There are even no Christmas holidays. Then, what is all the fuss made here about? Never mind. We simply enjoy it. It is a joyous event in a year where we eat the Christmas cake, called "decoration cake" here, which ends up being left after the day, exchange presents without thinking about the reason why, and have parties simply because it's supposed to be "merry" anyway.

Well, don't get me wrong. I like Christmas. I feel like urging the government to make the day a holiday. There is always something exciting about it. Besides I have a lot of good memories. And I like the story of "Yes, Virginia, there is Santa Claus." Oh, but I wonder how the little Virginia really felt about the message.

It's always a white Christmas here, whether you're dreaming of it or not.

December 18, 2002

Writing

Sure enough, I have a muscle ache in my arms from the snow shoveling yesterday, but it means I'm still young, eh? It also proves, you know, my lack of exercise. But who cares? I'm supposed to do a lot of exercise during winter, whether I like it or not.

Thanks for all the comments regarding my "But" entry. I'm now encouraged to stick to my own writing style. I know, however, I have to be careful not to make my sentence sound like something "up with which you can't put." ;) Now I hope I'll ever be able to establish my own style of "Japanese English" through this blog.

Ever since I started writing on the Net, I've found it interesting that every one of you has your own "face" in spite of the fact that we communicate with each other only via written words. It may not always represent your real self, to be sure, but I often feel like I can recognize you as if we were talking face to face.

By the way, does the "every one of you has your" part sound strange? Teach me English. ;)

December 17, 2002

Snow, but...

Heavy snowfall. The whole town was blanketed with snow overnight. I'm tired from shoveling away the snow around my house. You know, I hate winter in Hokkaido, though I couldn't survive the super coldness in Canada.

Well, it is often said that in English writing you should not begin a sentence with "But." I do it often because I don't see the point not to, and want to write, whether it's English or Japanese, like talking. But if you say it's not good, I'm all ready to listen. What do you think? And if you have some writing tips you keep in mind, please share them with me.

Seems like I'll be getting a terrible charley horse tomorrow.

December 16, 2002

Sukiyaki

Have you noticed I took a day off yesterday? I did it on purpose because I thought it's about time for me to take a break and was a little curious to know how I would feel stopping my "winning" streak. Now I know I really enjoy blogging, so I can say it's become one of my "hobbies." ;)

Well, changing the subject, do you know there was a Japanese singer who once went to #1 on the US pop charts? The singer's name is Kyu Sakamoto. His song "Ue o Muite Aruko" (literally, "I'll walk looking up") made a smash hit in the US and UK in 1963. Later, around 1980, it was covered by A Taste of Honey. Whenever I hear his name mentioned, I'm reminded of his gentle face, always keeping smiling. He was killed in a plane crash in 1985.

I'm blogging about him because, in my message forum, den4 posted a question why "Ue o Muite Aruko" was called "Sukiyaki" in the West. Sukiyaki is a popular one-pot beef cuisine in Japan. I've wondered about it too because it has nothing to do with the song. I thought I'd heard that the song was so named simply because it sounded Japanese, but since I was not all sure, I asked some friends about it on the Net. Then, a friend found this link and another for me, saying it seems as if it would have been all right even if the name had been "Geisha" or "Fujiyama." Yeah. As it turned out, they say the song was renamed in the West so that it was "at once easily pronounceable and associated with Japan." And I found this page just now. The president of a British record company liked sukiyaki very much, so the name was given to the song?! Hmmm...in either way, the song title was decided regardless of the song itself.

It is often the case with song and movie titles that they are completely altered once in other countries, in Japan as well. But I still wonder if Kyu-chan (as he was called) was happy with it.

December 14, 2002

ADSL 2

I got a call from the telephone company two days ago telling me that my location has no problem with the ADSL connection. I have learned there is this distance problem with ADSL. Now it is officially made sure that ADSL can be available at my home and that was no joke. Cool. As I'm so used to accessing the Net with ISDN, I can't feel for sure what it is really like to be on the coming new internet connection speed. I take the ISDN performance for granted. Yeah, actually I have little stress with it, except that I stay away from heavy websites that take much time to load, avoid downloading big files, and give up watching streaming videos, and blah, blah, blah. Well, the gift is coming to my home on Christmas Eve.

Tell me, if you will, what internet connection you use, and how you feel about it.

* Personal note to MNW: My wife made me hazelnut coffee just now. I don't know if it's in any way like what the White Hen serves, but it tastes very good. :)

December 13, 2002

Manga

I'm surprised to know that Japan's most popular manga comic magazine, Shonen Jump, has hit the US. I haven't read manga comics for ages, but in high school, my friends and I would take turns reading several manga weeklies. The "Toiretto Hakase (Dr. Toilet)" was among the line-ups.

I wonder if it can sell well in the States as well. Probably it will, because there seem to be a lot of manga fans out there. Oh, but do you feel comfortable with reading manga in the Japanese way, I mean, the right-to-left Japanese-reading format?

December 12, 2002

Hobbies?

Jason has set foot again in the Land of the Rising Sun and started a new blog, "Japan Blog." Nice name. Ahem, on behalf of Japanese citizens, I would like to express a hearty welcome to .... uh, OK, OK, well, he has already posted several interesting entries on his encounters with things Japanese.

The "What are your Hobbies?" entry, among others, has got me thinking about the way Japanese people talk to strangers. He wonders why Japanese like to ask "What are your hobbies?", which I agree they (we?) actually do. I posted a comment there saying it's simply a handy question for Japanese who generally are not good at keeping conversation going when talking to people from other countries. However, after reading Kurt's comment in which he said he saw some Japanese TV talk show where the interviewee was asked "Shumi wa nan desu ka? (What are your hobbies?)", I began to wonder if this is a question that Japanese people really like to ask whatever the situation may be.

Come to think of it, this question is often heard in talks among Japanese as well. It must be a must-asked one at omiai (an arranged formal meeting where a man and a woman meet for the first time in the hope of marriage possibility), which I have never experienced in my life. ;) Oh, I remember when I was going to driving school in my college days, - uh, you know, you have to go to driving school for 1-2 months (!) to get a driver's license in Japan - the instructor asked me the question during a lesson, at which I was rather surprised because that was a totally unexpected one when practicing driving. Too bad the instructor was a man, huh?

Then, why? Hmm...why? It could be said that Japanese in general like to ask personal questions. And especially when talking to a person they see for the first time or don't know very well and want to be friendly with, they tend to ask such ones. You may sometimes find it annoying. Actually I sometimes do, though I'm Japanese. But they mean no offence; just want to know about you as much as possible. If they don't have any interest in you, they wouldn't ask such questions, maybe.

In this sense, among other personal topics that can be rude, "What are your hobbies?" would be a fairly good one. By asking this, which in Japanese sense is rather like "What do you like to do in your free time?", you can know what kind of person s/he is to some extent. Also, if the person has the same interests as you do, the talk will be an exciting one. Even if not, you can ask about it further, possibly making a familiar atmosphere among you.

Whether you will answer it seriously or not is up to you to decide, but when in Japan, I hope you won't frown at being asked "What are your hobbies?" frequently. No harm. Just get ready.

December 11, 2002

ADSL

Broadband has come to town. It turned out that ADSL is now available in my area - at... long... last. So I have ordered the service. Since I don't know anything about ADSL - yeah, why did I have to know about the stuff that didn't seem to be available here forever? -, *cough*, I'm now learning it. The biggest challenge would be how to build a wireless network at home. I'm learning, learning... oh, it's time for lunch.

December 10, 2002

7th Graders

I asked a 7th grade class yesterday what images they have of some English-speaking countries. Here are their random responses.

USA

freedom, New York, crimes, guns, Hollywood, Bush, Columbus, everything's big

Canada

cold climate, adjacent to the US, lakes, large area, wooden architecture, coniferous trees

UK

Queen Elizabeth, Beckham (football player), Union Jack, music, chimney sweeping

Australia

kangaroos, koalas, desertification, Ian Thorpe (swimmer), Sydney Olympics

December 9, 2002

Ofuroya

Last Saturday I was watching a news program on TV, where they were reporting that a Japanese-style public bath has gained much popularity in Melbourne. It was a surprise. Several local guys were soaking in the bathtub, looking comfortable. A Japanese reporter asked one of them how he felt, to which he answered it was very relaxing. Sure, there is no pleasure like a hot bath on a cold day. Wait, it's summer out there, isn't it? Ah, it feels great to soak in a bath and freshen up on a hot day, mate.

The Japanese bathhouse, Ofuro-ya, has a website. It started business in Melbourne in 1999! That must have been a challenge.

December 8, 2002

Blogging, blogged

My winning streak has still been going on. Now that I accomplished a perfect month in November, I'm relaxed. It's fun to look at the bold-faced numbers on the calendar. Oh, now it feels like I even understand how athletes who keep winning feel. A Japanese pro baseball pitcher would say in his winning interview, "I'd rather have a feeling of relief having my winning streak stopped." Hmmm, yeah, I know how you feel, man. So... what should I do? Blogging itself is not necessarily a hard task for me, since I enjoy blogging away as I like, posting one short entry a day. So nobody would take it strange even if I posted like "Hi. I have nothing to blog about today. Bye." Trouble is, even that kind of post can be counted as an entry. I wouldn't do that.

All right. I've now decided to skip today's post. By stopping the winning streak today, I will be able to blog with fresh spirit tomorrow. Good idea. It's Sunday. Good. Yeah. OK. ...huh?

December 7, 2002

Kids Talk

During a class yesterday, a 6th grade girl said in Japanese, "Hazui!" It sounded like Japanese, to be sure, but I didn't quite get what it meant, so I asked her what the hell the "Hazui" was. She answered, "It's 'hazukashii,' Sensei!" "Hey, is that what you're saying only among yourselves, the town kids here? Or has it become a common expression among kids all over Japan?" "Well, I have no idea. But everybody says so...."

"Hazukashii" means "ashamed" or "embarrassing." They, uh, at least the 6th graders in this town, have shortened the word to "hazui." Young people are good at inventing new lingo, like "Ko-gyaru go," or high-school-girl talk. One of the characteristics is abbreviation. "Muzui" for "muzukashii (difficult)" has long been used and seems to have established its position in the Japanese language. "Kimoi" for "kimochiwarui (disgusting, gross)" is also prevailing now. But "hazui" sounds uncool to me. It's rather kimoi, isn't it? And "kimoi" sounds also kimoi!

December 6, 2002

Self Introduction

Let me introduce myself. My name is Kiyoharu Hatano. I'm a freshman at Hokkai Gakuen University, and majoring in law. I'd like to be a good speaker of English, but I'm a beginner myself, blah, blah, blah...

This is what I was told to memorize by a senior member when I joined the English Speaking Society (ESS) of the university. I was to repeat the same lines at every occasion for a while after that. Memories. To my regret, I have forgotten the "blah, blah" part now. "I'm a beginner," oh yeah, good, so what? Someone, please think about some nice lines for new beginners.

I had learned "English for exams" until then, so, in a sense, that was the very first English that I had ever "spoken." Actually, I couldn't speak English for the first 7, 8 months, literally. I don't mean to say, however, the English I learned at high school was totally meaningless. It was largely because I had studied English at high school that I was able to acquire fairly good English communication skills in a short period of time in college.

I wonder, what would Kiyo the Freshman think about me, his twenty-something-year-after self?

December 5, 2002

E-Learning

26 students at Hitotsubashi University cheated on an exam using a cell phone e-mail service. Ken Loo has already blogged about it. Cell phone use has come this far, huh?

Funny thing is, an instructor found the cheating because there were a significant number of identical answers and mistakes. Hey, college students need to develop creativity, don't they? And the still funnier thing is that the instructor reportedly told the suspected students that the university would not take disciplinary action against them if they honestly admitted cheating. No kidding?

According to a newspaper report, it's a common scene at university these days that students take lectures having a PDA, a cell phone, and a PET bottle on their desk. A PET bottle?! A professor says he turns a blind eye to his students using cell phone e-mail during class because it's better than being noisy. What the....?

December 4, 2002

Harsh Winter?

It's cold, eh? Forgive me for whining about the cold a number of times in this blog. It's a typical greeting in winter here in Hokkaido - Iyaa, samui desu ne! We have to get through a long tough winter every year. Yeah, we actually need to get through it. And through it, we learn perseverance. Oh, really? Well, don't ask any further about it. When I was a nice, likable young guy (no complaints accepted), I didn't wear any underwear except for briefs all through the year. But now, I can't get through a winter without a full set of warm underwear on. Iyaa, samui desu ne!

But the cold here seems to be no match for that of Canada! It's -20 C out there! Uh, it's -4 F, for your information. Can you believe it? It doesn't go under -10 C at the coldest even here at this time of year. Canadians are great! Oh, but I think I have to reconsider my future plan of living there.

December 3, 2002

Superstition

What do you think of when you hear the word "superstition"? I think of Stevie Wonder. No wonder?

Like in other cultures, there are a lot of superstitions in Japan. Some people take them seriously, others don't. Me? Well, not really. But I don't cut my nails at night. It would be one of the most widespread superstitions among Japanese that if you cut your nails at night, you will not be able to see your parents when they pass away. It's not that I really believe this superstition, but I've had a vague feeling of dread about it since I was a kid. Interestingly, my wife cuts her nails after dark saying, "A cat's nail, a cat's nail." It's a kind of charm practiced around Nagoya, I suppose.

There are also unlucky numbers. The unluckiest one is "4." The pronunciation of the number is "shi," which is a homonym for "death." That's why. In fact, most hospitals don't have a room numbered 4. In the same way, 9 is regarded as unlucky by many; its pronunciation "ku" evokes "agony" or "hardship."

By the way, my birthday is February 13th. Oh yeah, the eve of Valentine's Day! Cool, eh? Well, I'm not a Christian, nor am I religious, but I was born on Friday the 13th! Sounds cool? Haha....

December 2, 2002

Cats

TheRich's post reminded me of the cat my family used to have when I was around 6 years old. Her name was Mimiko. Well, I'm not sure whether the cat was male or female actually, but the name suggests it was probably a she-cat. It's a remote memory now, but she rubbed her cheeks against my legs whenever I got home from school, and in the mornings she came into my bed purring.

One day, she disappeared, all at once.

We had no clue where she had gone. I don't remember how many days had passed since then, but my friends and I happened to find a corpse of a cat lying by the railway on a grassy small hill. It was decaying, but was Mimiko's. She might have been run over by a train, or might not -- I've heard that cats will leave their owners when they know they are close to death. No proof, but that could be so.

It's always sad to hear about the losses of one's pets.

By the way, do you know when and why cats purr? I've thought they purr because they are happy. Yesterday, I watched an info-variety program on TV, and it was on cats' purring. They say cats purr 1. when they are relaxed, 2. when they are in poor health or injured, and 3. just before they pass away. Cats' purring has been a mystery so far, and even how they make the sound hasn't been made clear. They are cute, yet mysterious animals.

December 1, 2002

December

It's December. In the old Japanese calendar, this month was called "Shiwasu." "Shi" means teachers or priests, and "wasu" "to run." Things are so busy in December that even teachers and priests run around. I also run here and there and even fly. No, no, I'm joking. Well, business as usual, kinda. In fact, people hustle in December to bring the year to a fine end and greet the New Year with peace of mind. "Shiwasu" is a common term even now.

I have changed the look of this page a little for a winter version; the wallpaper and the snowman. I'm afraid it looks a little too kawaii (cute) for a blog of a middle-aged guy. Huh?