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March 27, 2003


It's been warm like spring for the last week. But as long as ryuhyo (drift ice) stays thick along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, it can't be real spring around here.

There is a saying from China that goes, "Shunmin akatsuki wo oboezu." That means the spring nights are so pleasant and nice that it's hard for you to wake up early in the morning. I'm sleepy.


March 25, 2003


Seems like Blogger has started making (or letting?) its users' blog entries ping automatically to Weblogs.com. I noticed this yesterday when tatroyer's site on my blogrolling links was showing the asterisk (*), which I'm using to know newly updated blogs. And I found today CC's and Leylop's links, both of whom are Blogger users, were also showing the symbol.

The feature itself is a welcome thing for me, since I can know exactly when my fellow bloggers' posts are updated. But the weird thing is, tatroyer says he didn't know about this change. That means Blogger has activated the automatic pinging feature without their users' consent? Hmmm, what's this all about?

March 22, 2003


So, are you guys fine? Well, I'm fine, sank you.

"So" is an interesting word. There is a word in Japanese that is similar to it both in pronunciation and meaning. So, this kind of conversation can take place in class:

"What is so in Japanese, Sensei?"

"It's so."

"So, what?"

"So, so."

Translate this dialog into Japanese, if you will. ;)

March 18, 2003


One of the good things in blogging is that you can be inspired to write about a certain topic by your fellow bloggers or visitors. Yesterday's entry was just that. And today, responding to bcj.'s request, I'll blog about Japanese honorific suffixes that are attached to people's names. Actually, I've been wondering about the use of them in the English context.

Basically in Japanese, you are supposed to use a certain honorific suffix to a person's name depending on how close you are to the person, what you think about him/her, or what position you are in. Not using one could mean either you are on very familiar terms with the person or look down on him/her.

Here are the frequently used suffixes:

-san is a universal one, and so the safest choice. It can show respect, politeness, and friendliness. It's a lot like Mr. or Mrs. in English, but can be used to first names as well. If you were "John Smith," you would almost certainly be called "John-san" or "Smith-san (Sumisu-san, more precisely)" at first in Japan.

-kun is used mainly for males. Typically by seniors to juniors, or girls to boys. When I was in high school, I was called "Hatano-kun" by girls.

-chan is mostly used for/among girls, and for kids. It denotes cuteness. Those who call me "Kiyo-chan" even now are my aunts, and, *cough*, my wife.

-sama is an extremely polite suffix to address people. Generally, it's used on business occasions, or addresses on mails. David Beckham, a star England footballer, is now called "Beckham-sama" by some fans in Japan.

So, have you got the picture?

In the Japanese sphere on the Net, it's a common practice to address someone's name using "-san", whether it's a handle or a real name. And it has been haunting me whether I should use this suffix when using English as well, especially to Japanese folks. Even though, say, I often address Eri as "Eri" on this blog, I'd never call her so when communicating in Japanese, or talking face to face. It's always "Eri-san" and should be so. Calling you folks by your first names here while addressing Japanese persons exclusively with "-san" sounds strange to me... but at the same time, that could not entirely be so, taking our cultural differences into consideration. Hey, I'm in a fix.

That said, for my part, I don't have any sense of discomfort being called as "Kiyo", whether the person addressing me is a Japanese or not. I prefer "Kiyo" to "Kiyoharu," which can sound awkward in speaking English. Actually, I often ask people from other countries to call me Kiyo when I get to know them.

So, feel free to call me Kiyo as always. And even if you are to talk to me in Japanese, if you think I'm a friend of yours, just call me this way. Yeah.

March 17, 2003


M, the traditional Japanese scarecrow looks like this:


Though I always think of this figure when hearing the word "kakashi (scarecrow)", I can't remember when I saw a real one last, or maybe I haven never seen one.

By the way, the picture of a scarecrow on M's site would scare me away rather than birds. It could be a kind of trauma -- when I was in the first grade, there was a rumor among kids that a ghost with the head of a cow would appear in a deserted house near the school!

March 16, 2003

No Leadership

I was going to blog about how d**b-ass Japan's Prime Minister is, but I decided not to. It's not worth blogging about the guy now.

So, Saturday Scruples.

1. You're the coach on a kid's soccer team. In the finals do you let the bad players get much field time?

It depends on the definition of "bad" in this context and how bad the players really are. Since we're in the finals, I want to let excellent players play in the field, unless that harms the teamwork terribly.

2. As a dental hygienist, you see the dentist fondling a patient who's "asleep" in the chair. the dentist doesn't see you. Do you tell the patient?

Sure. That's a crime. I'd rather warn the dentist first.

3. You gave the wrong directions to a tourist family. They've already walked two blocks. Do you chase after them?

Why not? I think I did it once or twice or....

March 15, 2003


Speaking of the difficulty of translation...

When I think of putting my blog entry into Japanese, I should say it would be difficult -- if I want to do it "correctly." Actually, I once did try for fun, but gave it up on the way. It may sound strange, but I found it interestingly hard to translate my own writing, because it's virtually impossible to make both entries identical. If I were to try a word-by-word translation, it would almost certainly be a disaster.

There's no such thing as perfect translation. All we can do is make a better substitution.

And this is where one of the problems lies in the English education in Japan. Translating English sentences into Japanese is (still) a popular way of teaching English at school. The trouble is, teachers tend to give only one fixed meaning to each English word, which could be an impossible practice depending on the word, and students take that for granted, which often results in awkward translations. In the "school English" sphere in Japan, there are a great number of English words whose corresponding Japanese meanings are traditionally "established," as if no other alternatives were forever permissible. Some stupid teachers (and there seem to be many) force their students to write exactly the same translations in exams that were taught at class. How could students grow their intuitive sense of the language in such settings?

Translation is, in my opinion, no bad way of learning a foreign language. What is needed is flexibility, and freedom.

And I'm sure M-san and Mieko-san will prove that.

March 14, 2003

My Diary

Newly added to my blogrolling links is Mieko-san's My Diary. She's a friend of Eri's and is starting an English school this spring. She's kept the web diary since last December. What makes me impressed is that she writes her entries both in Japanese and in English, and that almost every day! You know, keeping blogging daily in a single language alone is a hard job... oh yeah, at least for me. I think her diary will also be a good reference for learners of Japanese and English.

M has a bilingual blog too, and says she writes in Japanese first, and then translates it into English. It's a good way to learn the feel of Japanese. I'm curious to know in which language Mieko-san writes first.

March 13, 2003


If you are a regular visitor here, you may think I hate living in this small town in Hokkaido. Sure, I do. I hate the snow. I hate the cold. I hate the climate in winter. I even hate the Hokkaido dialect and accent (oops). Then why do I live here? Because it's my hometown. And bacause I teach English here.

I've been teaching English to the local children for 19 years now. When I started this tiny English school, one of my junior members of the university's English club said in disbelief, "What made you want to start business in such a rural town? That won't broaden your future career, I'm afraid." He might be right, I thought, but I had my own reason.

English was my favorite subject in school. I don't know why, but there was something exciting about learning it. I wanted to know more about the language, but there was nobody around to guide me to the right direction. I didn't feel like asking questions of my English teachers at school. (I don't think that has anything to do with this, but my generation was described as an apathetic one in those days.) Accordingly, I learned English on my own in effect, but the English I learned was far from a practical one. I didn't even know how to pronounce English words correctly; it was not until I was in college that I got to know "bus" and "bath" are pronounced differently!

Though there is a bit of a story behind how I inclined to start an English school and that was, in a sense, quite an accident, I wanted to teach English to kids in my hometown and let them not experience roundabout ways of learning as I had done.

I'm not sure if my initial motive has worked well in any way for the past years, but as long as there are a number of kids who need me, I think I'll keep on teaching here.

Why, there are a lot of good things in my town. I like the mild weather in summer. I like the beautiful natural settings. I like the broad, straight roads. I like the food (though I don't care very much for sushi and sashimi). I even like my English school (hm?).

And I like English. ;)

March 11, 2003


Tired of the pink color (so soon?) and snow shoveling (what relation?), I've put back the design to the KEC Journal Classic (who named it?). For those who are new to this site, this is the very design I originally started the blog with. That means the layout hasn't changed a bit from the beginning, simply because I'm scared to tweak it. Even now, I'm not all sure how and why this page looks like this! I mean, there must be a lot of useless tags and codes. But as long as the page happens to display things all right this way, it's all right anyway.

Oh, and Version 2.63 of Movable Type seems to have solved the comment counter display issue. So I've upgraded to it. It's always fun to have the newest one. Ha ha.... But since I don't know anything about the features newly added to the latest versions, I must study for a while. Hmmm...have I got time?

And, well, big news for KEC Journal! Leann's comment on the last entry was the 1000th one on this blog! Thanks, Leann! And thanks, folks!

March 10, 2003

Kinda Winter

Darn, it seems as if the Sakura wallpaper brought about a snow storm! It's snowing heavily now. Fact is, it was reported last Friday that it would snow a lot around here in the weekend, which turned out to be not the case yesterday. It's sometimes good for the weather forecast to prove wrong. So I placed the Sakura wallpaper with some relief yesterday, only to see the heavy snowfall today.

Ready to go shoveling.

Now I'm dreaming of spring.

March 9, 2003

Kinda Spring

Since the calendar says spring is just around the corner, I changed the wallpaper and mascot on this page that way. Sakura, or cherry blossoms/trees, represent the image of spring in Japan. It's funny, unlike in other parts of Japan, that they are in full bloom in mid or late May in Hokkaido.

The mascot is Musha Ningyo, a warrior doll. They are displayed at some homes where there's a boy, or boys, on May 5, Children's Day. Most boys don't seem to care about them, though.

Hope you like them. :)

March 7, 2003


Seems like I can't help making a feature of old food memories in childhood this week. Browsing through the Net, I came across an interesting site featuring good old "Dagashi." My definition of "Dagashi" is something like...

Dagashi: junk sweets that were, and have been, typically sold at old fashioned mom-and-pop sweet shops

Although the word itself implies something negative ("da" is "poor" or "cheap", and "gashi (kashi)" "confection"), you can't sniff at Dagashi. Actually, they are snacks of extremely low price and high quality (perhaps). They taste super. And more than anything else, they have given great childhood memories to people in Japan (maybe).

What I especially loved was "Mambo." It's powder-like sweet stuff stuck in a polyethylene tube. Like Ramune or Meron Pan, the name also was a mystery to me as a kid. An explanation puts it that it was so named because a song in mambo rhythm by a female singer happened to be very popular at the time. There are a lot of funny names in Dagashi.

There's something profound in the Japanese Dagashi culture, well, kind of.

March 6, 2003


Ramune. The name always comes with some nostalgia. I remember, when I was around six or seven, the big brother of a friend of mine bought me a bottle of Ramune. I don't know why he would want to do so. I don't even know why I still remember that tiny occasion of the remote past. All I can say is Ramune was, along with powdered juice, one of the few soft drinks that were available for the kids in the region, in those days.

Yes, Ramune is a kind of a sweet fizzy drink like soda pop. What makes it unique is the shape and the way of opening it. Ramune comes in a glass bottle. Like this:


Also I found a pic here.

On top of it is a glass marble placed tightly by the carbonic pressure (or something). To open the bottle, you have to press the marble down with an attached plastic device. Then the marble works as an automatic lid, kind of, going up and down while you're drinking. I bet you'll like the way and the taste as well.

The origin of the name is also a mystery. It's most likely that it came from "lemonade." To the ears of the people concerned in the past, it would sound like "ramune." If so, I think they did a good job, though nobody would think of "lemonade" when hearing "ramune." "Lemonade" is pronounced like "remonedo" in Japanese now, read by its spelling rather than the sound - a common practice done in adopting foreign words here - which can make the word far from its original sound.

Ramune is a drink of the past and hardly ever seen now. Oh, but I think I sometimes see the bottles at local supermarkets these days. A retro boom maybe? Anyway, without doubt, Ramune is a unique and lovable drink.

March 5, 2003

Melon Pan

Do you have any particular foods or drinks that remind you of your childfood, oops, childhood? For me, "meron pan" is one of them. Its direct translation is "melon bread." Sounds yummy? Yeah, it sure is, but probably not in the way you might imagine. If you have ever lived in Japan, you would know what it is. Actually, it doesn't have "melon" in it, nor is it melon flavored. It's just a sweet bread roll. When I was a kid, I always wondered why it's called "meron pan." From what I know now, the layer, which has a sugar cookie flavor, on the outer part of the bread looks like a melon and that could be where the name is from. Or maybe it was so called simply because it was as yummy as melon. "Meron pan" is still popular in Japan and sold at most bakeries. You can find a variety of them from this link.

By the way, do you have any funny named foods in your country?

March 3, 2003

The Two Towers

Oh, it's March. Spring! Yay! ...Well, not really. It's still winter in Hokkaido. But the thought that spring is not far away gives me a buoyant feeling.

We went to see "The Lord of the Rings" last Saturday. The cinema complex was crowded with people waiting in lines for tickets. But as it turned out, the theater we went in was not so packed as we had expected. Where the hell were they gone? To the dubbed version or "The Pianist," maybe. The film was, yeah, fun. But one year is a long time to retain the storyline.

Soon after the movie started, I heard a little babble of voices from our right side when something hit the back of my head. I looked around and saw a middle-aged lady walking with her handbag under her right arm, searching for her seat. She went on rubbing her bag neatly against a few more people. Apparently, she wasn't aware what she's doing to the folks in the front row.

She must have been a goblin, or one of Saruman's lethal army members.