Parental speed dating in Fukuoka

Posted on February 22, 2007 | evankirby

We caught a strange segment on the local TV news recently about a new trend in dating: parents attending group "dating" sessions for their unmarried kids. Basically, parents who are worried that their (adult) child won't be able to find a partner can attend meetings of other similar parents. Each parent brings a profile of their child, with photographs. Parents then talk to other parents to try to find someone who might be a good match. It goes without saying, but the children themselves are, of course, not present...

Parental dating
A father is bowing to the parents of another child. As the subtitles show, he is saying 年齢はいっしょ (nenrei ha issho, or "They're the same age (therefore, possibly a match)").

交渉成立!身上書と写真を交換 (koushou seiritsu! Shinjousho to shashin o koukan. ("Negotiations complete! Parents exchange profiles and photographs.")

Why is this important? Well, take a look at the next graph:

Population graph

This is a graph of Japan's population. As we learned previously, 億 (oku) means one hundred million. So, the population of Japan in 2005 was 127,800,000. And by 2055, that is expected to drop by almost 40 million, or 30%, to 89,983,000! So, looks like Japan needs all the babies it can get... As this insanely useful site mentions, the average age of women at first marriage in Japan is almost 27, and for men, 30. But more importantly, the total fertility rate is only 1.3 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world. While the Japanese welfare minister Yanagisawa's recent remarks on women were badly thought out and spoken, we understand his alarm about the problem itself.

No tattoos in the onsen in Japan!

Posted on February 21, 2007 | evankirby

No tattoos

Many onsen (public baths) in Japan have very strict rules about tattoos: nobody with a tattoo is allowed in. The picture above is from the onsen we often take students to, close to the school. The text above the evocative picture says 入れ墨禁止 (irezumi kinshi, or tattoos forbidden).

Tattoos forbidden in onsen
This picture was the only English text visible in the entrance of an onsen!

The original reason for this ban was to keep out ヤクザ (yakuza), or members of other 暴力団体 (violence groups). However, this obviously doesn't apply to most foreigners. While onsen employees obviously don't perform full-body checks before letting people in, there is still a chance that you would be asked to leave if another patron complained about your tattoo. In one case, a young, red-haired English girl we know was thrown out of an onsen because of a small tattoo on her lower back, despite her obviously not being a member of a violence group. If you have tattoos and you're coming to Japan, you may have to apply a band-aid before you go for a bath...

Microwave priorities

Posted on February 20, 2007 | evankirby

Just a quick post on the different priorities of cooks in Japan:

Microwave squid

This microwave has 2 buttons. The first is labelled あたためる (atatameru, to warm), with a picture of a bowl of rice. The lower one is labelled 生ものの解凍 (namamono no kaitou, or defrosting raw things). Look closely at the picture, though. That's right, the one thing they decided to use to represent all possible raw foods was: a squid!

Japanese vending machine attack!

Posted on February 19, 2007 | evankirby

No streetlights? No problem. Vending machines will light your way...

Vending machines

Stretching as far as the eye can see! In Japanese, vending machine is 自動販売機 which is another great example of kanji that can be understood even if you don't know how to say them. To break it down:
自: ji, meaning onself
動: dou, meaning to move
自動: jidou: to move by oneself - hence, automatic!
販: han, meaning marketing
売: bai, meaning to sell
販売: meaning sales
機: ki, meaning machine

So, a 自動販売機 is an automatic sales machine! There, wasn't that easy?

Ode to the 100-yen store

Posted on February 18, 2007 | evankirby

One of our favorite places to take new students is the 百均 (hyakkin, or 100 yen store). As you might guess from the name, this store is basically the equivalent of a dollar store in the States. However, the quality and range of items on sale is amazing - these stores are often huge, and have almost everything you could need for daily life. For example:

Ink refills

You may be able to tell just from the EPSON, but if not, these boxes are labelled 詰め替えインク (tsumekae inku, or ink refills)! That's right, for 100 yen (currently, about 80 cents) you can buy an ink refill pack that holds enough for about 4 refills!

Other things for sale:
Role-playing game
The imaginatively titled ロールプレイングゲーム (Role-Playing Game)

Why do GenkiJACS teachers speak English?

Posted on February 17, 2007 | evankirby

No English!

People thinking of applying to GenkiJACS sometimes ask us why teachers speak English, and how much English people speak in classes. This is a valid concern, and there are many different theories of language learning. At GenkiJACS, we practice the indirect teaching method, which means we use English as necessary to explain grammar points, and to deepen students' understanding. However, classes are still conducted mostly in Japanese. In general, more English is used at the lower levels, whereas at higher levels, classes are entirely in Japanese.
There are two reasons that we use the indirect method, and specifically English: because most of our students come from English-speaking countries, and because it saves a lot of time (time you are paying for!) in classes.
If your teachers understand your native language, they can understand the pitfalls, and the specific areas of difficulty for native speakers of English learning Japanese. For example, where the English word "sign" has at least two meanings, Japanese uses separate two words, 看板 (kanban, or billboard), and 標識 (hyoushiki, or road sign). If the teacher understands that native speakers of English will have difficulty distinguishing these two words in usage, the teacher can make sure to emphasize this in teaching, which leads to faster student understanding and fewer mistakes.