School refurbishing for earthquake damage

Posted on March 23, 2006 | evankirby

School under construction

As you might know, Fukuoka suffered a fairly major earthquake in March of last year, its first in a long long time (and hopefully its last!). They finally got around to fixing our school building, which means that for the next month and a half, until the end of April, the view from our school windows is what you see above - plastic sheeting and scaffolding. We've asked them to try to keep construction sounds quiet during classes, so there shouldn't be too much disturbance. But for a little while at least, don't expect the outside of the school to look as beautiful as the inside does!

Japanese Names

Posted on March 23, 2006 | evankirby

One of the teachers at our school recently had a baby, prompting us to think about some of the unique aspects of choosing names for infants in Japan. This may be a long post, so get your study caps on...

First of all, unlike most Western countries, in Japan you are not free to choose any name you want. There is a list of 2232 approved kanji for names. If the kanji you chose for your child is not on that list, it's not allowed, and the birth registration will be denied! This made news a few years ago when a couple tried to name their child "akuma", or demon. As you might expect, this didn't go down too well at city hall (although the name was mistakenly accepted once), and they took the battle all the way to the courts. Eventually, though, they withdrew and renamed the child, which seems sensible...
In addition, the "v" sound, which sort of kind of exists in Japanese (it's a katakana "u" with two dots) is only allowed when one of the two parents of the child is foreign. This is probably because it's quite a hard sound for most Japanese to pronounce.

Fukuoka Olympics: follow-up

Posted on March 22, 2006 | evankirby

As a quick addition to our previous item about the Fukuoka 2016 Olympics bid, I thought I should post this photo, which tickled our collective funny-bone here. This is Fukuoka City Hall, in the middle of the city, showing the true force of spirit and willpower to pull the games to Fukuoka at all cost, no expense spared. If you look really really hard, right in the middle of that picture is a tiny tiny banner with the words "2016 Olympics to Fukuoka". It must have looked huge in someone's bedroom...

Fukuoka Olympics banner

Japanese compound verbs

Posted on March 19, 2006 | evankirby

One of the most interesting and flexible elements of Japanese is how verbs can be combined to create new words. In English, it's quite rare for two verbs to be stuck together, end to end, to have a single meaning. However, this is quite common in Japanese.
So, for example, in English we have the phrase "copy and paste", whereas in Japanese, this is shortened to "kopi-pe" - the two actions are run together as one. Perhaps the most common form of this is when the "root" form of verbs (what's left after "-masu" is removed from the polite form) is used to make a noun. For example, "Norikae" is a noun meaning to change trains. This word comes from the root forms of "noru" (to ride) plus "kaeru" (to change). In this way, two simple words can be combined to create a third word.

GenkiJACS New Year's Pledge: 5% of profit to UNICEF

Posted on March 14, 2006 | evankirby

The new year is almost a quarter of the way done, but we finally managed to get our new year's resolution done! GenkiJACS will donate 5% of all after-tax profit this year and hereafter to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. It may not be a huge amount of money this year, but we expect it to grow steadily. We feel it's important to recognise that while we are lucky enough to live and work in one of the richest countries in the world, the vast majority of people live in far harsher conditions. Giving a little back is the least we could do.
And don't worry, this doesn't mean our prices will go up by 5% to compensate!

Nippon versus Nihon versus Japan

Posted on March 11, 2006 | evankirby

It often takes foreigners in Japan a while to distinguish between the two ways of pronouncing the name of the country itself, "Nihon" and "Nippon". First of all, they are two different ways of reading the same kanji. So how do you know which to say when you see those kanji?

"Nihon" is the standard reading, and much more commonly used. It doesn't really have any overt nuance.
"Nippon", however, has that hard "p" sound in the middle, which makes it sound a lot stronger, and harder, than the somewhat breathy "Nihon". As a result, "Nippon" is used when you want to add emotion or strength to the name. So, for example, at sporting events people will chant "Nippon". It's used when people want to show their love or feeling for Japan. It can also have nationalistic overtones, when used by ultra-right wingers as they broadcast from their black vans.


Or, it can be used as in the image above, to remind people of an older Japan. The clever tagline on this poster for the film "Memoirs of a Geisha" (or, in Japan, "Sayuri"), is this:
(Japanese) Nippon ga shitto suru Japan
(Direct translation) Nippon [subject] jealous does Japan
(English) A Japan to make Nippon jealous

Hakata-ben kouza: "-ttai"

Posted on March 11, 2006 | evankirby

Hakata-ben kouza

What makes Fukuoka's local dialect, Hakata-ben, different from standard Japanese? The single part of speech that symbolizes Hakata-ben for most people is the word "ttai" (or sometimes just "tai"). This is a suffix that is added to the end of sentences, and generally is used almost the same as "yo", to tell the listener that this is new information. An example:
English: The Hawks (Fukuoka's local baseball team) won again today.
Standard Japanese: Kyou, Hookusu ga mata katta yo.
(Direct translation: Today, Hawks [subject] again won [new info marker].
Hakata-ben: Kyou, Hookusu ga mata kattattai.

There are of course small differences between "ttai" and "yo". "ttai" sounds as if the story will continue afterwards, more so than "yo", so if you stop talking after saying "ttai", there's a good chance the other person will say "sore de?" ("and...?"), expecting you to continue.

Just by adding this to the end of your sentences, you're halfway to sounding like a born-and-bred Fukuoka native!

Photos of GenkiJACS Class at ALT Meeting

Posted on March 01, 2006 | evankirby

ALT Meeting

GenkiJACS is proud to have been invited to present a class on Japanese gestures at the most recent Fukuoka JET ALT Meeting. Two teachers attended, and taught a 45-minute class on some of the more common and uncommon gestures seen in Japan. (A quick confession: much of the material for the classes was inspired by the book "70 Japanese Gestures: No Language Communication", by Hamiru-aqui. We just added photos from the class to our photo gallery, so please take a look! GenkiJACS is always happy to do out-lessons for special occasions or events, and if you ask nicely, we might even do them for free! All teachers are, of course, fully certified by the Ministry of Education. Call us for more details!