You get used to seeing cute mascot characters everywhere in Tokyo. Every kind of business or product has one, including serious enterprises like Oil Companies and Banks. The first time I came to Tokyo I recall seeing the scene shown here, which was painted on a large roll-up garage door. Something about it struck me as somewhat subversive — they all look a bit too happy and who is the unseen godlike presence towering above them that they are all smiling at? I thought it might have even been graffiti.
After half a year of consistent, if not intense, Japanese study I’ve gotten to the point where I am starting to understand just how little I know. It’s similar to learning any new skill. At first you’re making rapid progress because going from knowing absolutely nothing to learning something is huge progress. But at some point your newfound skills are sufficient enough for you to understand the sheer enormity of the task ahead of you. Much like fighting zombies or playing Robotron 2084, that first victory just sets you up for understanding the effort required to survive the next million battles that await. Continue Reading
When last we visited our White Whale, the daily specials board at Lauderdale, we discovered that an octopus pasta dish was one of the choices. Prepare to wipe a tear or two, for today is graduation day. The day where we finally learn what the Daily Combo lunch special is…or rather was some time ago. Continue Reading
Welcome back to part 2 of a three-part post on a task that would take a Japanese 8-year old 12 seconds to perform. We find ourselves back at the fearsome Daily Specials Board at Lauderdale. So far we’ve managed to decode the Pasta A option, which is a Pasta containing both Bacon and Eggs. We press on in an act of complete optimism that anything else could be more enticing, soon to understand the heartbreak of the Taco That Wasn’t. Continue Reading
One of the local restaurants in my neighborhood is called Lauderdale — a wonderful breakfast/brunch place that specializes in soufflés. Like most places in my neighborhood, they are English-friendly and have an English menu. They have daily lunch specials which vary; however the specials board is only labeled in Japanese. Of course you can simply ask the waiters what today’s specials are, but why do that when you can spend 15 minutes painstakingly looking up unknown Kanji by radicals on your mobile phone? Continue Reading
I practice reading Japanese every day as I walk around the local streets. I look at every sign and try to make sense of them. It’s a pretty good way to measure my progress, as I can get the gist of more and more things every week. Most things still look completely foreign to me, but every once in a while I encounter something that looks like something I should be able to read but can’t. In these cases I take a picture and work at it at home. Continue Reading
Learning a foreign language is a lot of work. It’s enjoyable, but definitely requires a lot of time and effort. I had the idea of combining language learning with something fun to make it more interesting. So I picked up a copy of a Japanese video game to play through, thinking I could translate the text as I played. Six months later I’m nearly past the character creation screens and hope to actually be playing the game soon. So the plan didn’t quite work out as expected, but I learned some interesting things.
We took a weekend trip to a man-made island in Tokyo Bay called Odaiba recently. We were surprised to discover that there’s a replica of the Statue of Liberty there. While walking through a mall I saw the sign above and I snapped a picture of it because I liked the kanji. I recognized most of the characters, but wasn’t quite sure about a few of them. So I began doing some translation of the sign when I got home.
Among the many cultural offerings in Tokyo, the wonderful range of snack foods was a pleasant surprise. Convenience Stores (コンビニ) are everywhere and seem to be a daily part of the average Japanese life. One of my favorite snacks I discovered a 7-11 are the bags of delicious crunchy rice crackers shown above.