Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I am from the midwest. Depending on who you talk to, the midwest stretches from Ohio to Kansas. Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, etc. are NOT the midwest. They are the Plains States or whatever.
The midwest is Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, hmm...and maybe Iowa.

Anyways. I've heard recently on the internets that we are supposed to be passive-aggressive. Now, I fully admit to leaving angry notes for my mom as a kid, or being pissed that someone had the audacity to ask me something that was A Big Deal while thinking it wasn't (are those really passive-aggressive actions?).

But, as much as I like to fancy myself a mind reader, I find it really annoying here in Japan. I don't like being blunt, but I also know that things that are obvious to Japanese people (who are local) are not going to be obvious to me. So, all they have to do is tell me and then they can go back to their style because I've been clued in on How Things Work and I should get it now.

This past week, I heard from a coworker than my kind of supervisor was annoyed with a "native check" I did. "Native checks" refer to materials that have been translated into another language, often English, and need a native speaker to read through them. 

Native checks are a crap shoot. If I change everything (and more times than not everything needs to be changed so that it doesn't sound like it was written by Google Thesaurus Translate), I get called to change it back because, "It doesn't match the Japanese." If I make minimal changes, I'm told later that the paper doesn't matter and I can use more natural-sounding English.

I never know what I'll get. But, there I am, going over a document that has a tight deadline and I make a few changes. Now, one of the biggest problems I have here is that my pay is low, I'm stressed, I haven't been back to the US in years and the weird English questions have finally gotten to me ("Should it be 'a' book or 'the' book?") 

I absolutely hate explaining my phrasing to Japanese people. I hate it. What they will do, is find another English speaker who will agree with how they've arranged the words and feel confident that they were picked over the native English speaker. They only want to hear opinions that agree with their own. No one watches English-language TV programs. No one has lived in an English-speaking country. No one reads English-language literature to know that there are countless ways to say the same thing. 

And that has left me feeling stressed and pissed because I don't have the energy to scour the internet looking for phrasing that matches mine. I don't have time to explain how pauses and stressing words can render a flat sentence into something inspiring. I don't have the motivation to talk about how the language has evolved over the past 60 years.

If you don't like the phrase, say so and let's find one that you do like. Just because a sentence or phrase is not cataloged in your mental dictionary, does not mean it's wrong. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Public Service Announcement

I was just watching the news and a segment about foreign tourists caught my attention. But, that isn't the reason for this post. This gesture is:

If you come to Japan, don't do this. This is NOT how Japanese people greet each other. Maybe you saw a picture of an Asian person online or something, I don't know. If you are travelling to South Asia or maybe Southeast Asia, it seems that there are people that do greet each other like this.

Feel free to do that there.

Not here.

You look ignorant when you do that shit. Ignant.

Oh, and don't even try to do this either:

There is usually a reason WHY people are bowing like this. Those reasons include: meeting someone from another company for the first time. Uh...and...hmm...yeah, that's basically it. Store staff bow to customers, it is neither polite nor appropriate to return the same level of bowing...unless perhaps you're an 80 year old Japanese woman with a lot of time on her hands. I know you're not an 80 year old Japanese woman, so stop frontin'. 

But what's the problem, you party pooper? I hear you cry. Well, let's look at this from a different angle. Since you can't differentiate between different Asian countries, it shouldn't come as a surprise that people in Japan can't really differentiate between different Western cultures.

Now, you're sitting in whatever state in the US it is that you're from, and newbie Tanaka-san comes over to greet you. It's his first time in the US, but he knows from TV that foreigners (ie, white people) love to greet by kissing each other on the cheek and giving hugs. So, he makes his way over an plants a juicy one right on your right cheek and another moist one on the left one. Then he gives you a long hug and crushes your hand with his Superman handshake. 

Sound like fun?
Then cut that shit out.

Friday, October 16, 2015

CoCo Ichi Doesn't Take Credit Cards

...alternate title would be "TIFU..." (today I fucked up).

I go to CoCo Ichi Curry for lunch about three days a week. I order the same thing everyday and pay with cash.

Today, I had only a few hundred yen, but went to CoCo Ichi as usual...assuming that I could pay with my credit card as I was sure I had before. 

Well. That wasn't the case. I tried to pay with my card and was met with "We don't take credit cards." I looked at the guy and he looked at me, and I said, "I don't have enough money. I could get some from the ATM."

I wasn't really sure what would happen. As it was, I had 15 minutes of my lunch break left and a long walk to my workplace. He asked for some ID and I passed him my gaijin card and gave him my phone number then took off running for the bank.
I get to the ATM and the line is long. I curse the fuckers and line and take off running for a conbini. Luckily, I was able to withdraw some cash and ran back to CoCo Ichi to pay and promptly ran back to work.

I don't know why a national chain restaurant is not set up to take credit card payments. Nearly shat myself right there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I sit in front of a computer and translate Japanese to English for about six hours a day. My pay is meh and will never rise, but the good part is that at least I'm doing something I have some knowledge in and my coworkers are good people.

I think that in general, Japanese people are good workers. The problem, however, is that everyone has to be a super uptight perfectionist. For what Japanese companies pay, they are making a killing. My coworkers will check and triple check documents that no one cares about. They will offer commentary on the most mundane points.

The pressure to get things perfectly extends to all aspects of people's lives. When I tutor elementary and even kindergarten students, they will sometimes erase whole lines due to one mistake. On the one hand, there could be something said for writing something perfectly each time...perhaps the perfect way will burn itself into your mind. On the other hand, I can see kids tense up when they miss an apostrophe or a comma.

Anyways, back to work. What this means for me is that every word in the Japanese has to be reflected in the English and if it's not I have to explain why. I am constantly frustrated because it should be obvious as to why I left out certain words or phrases. I've lost count of the number of times I've translated clunky Japanese sentences only to have them cut later.

I've been here long enough to know that people aren't going to suddenly relax. However, for as much as they want to fit in every word "because...," I will continue to resist!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I am a Hero

If you speak Japanese and you've ever listened to Jpop song lyrics, you'll probably find that they sound very nice, but seem to make no sense. One genre of Jpop that I've noticed throughout the years is the "ganbaru" songs. These are songs where the artist sings about persevering through some difficulty to win the game or triumph in some way.

To be quite honest, I had always thought they were kind of lame. Especially ones that have lyrics that are, quite literally: "You can do it."

However, these "ganbaru" songs have started making their way into my playlist. Notably Superfly's Tamashii Revolution and B'z' Ultrasoul. Recently, I've been listening to Fukuyama Masaharu's I am a Hero. This was the theme to "Hanazaki Mai wa Damatte inai 2" (Hanazaki Mai Won't be Silent), a drama about an outspoken bank worker who has a knack for saying what needs to be said...despite being young.

When I listened to the lyrics, I thought they represented Japan pretty well. A young person, presumably in their 30s is sitting drinking with coworkers. While making the decision to better themselves in 10 years, they struggle with how to tell their boss/coworkers about their dedication to work and better themselves.

I made a rough translation which I'll post below the video. I'll try to explain the difficulties of translating in a later post. These are my translations and my romanizations, if you are going to use them, please credit :) The translations are also quite stiff/stilted for a reason...I'm trying to keep them line by line the same as the Japanese.Oh, and apologies for the bad formatting m(_ _)m

僕は出来る いやもっと出来る I can do it No, I can do more
boku wa dekiru iya motto dekiru

偉大な人とまでは言わない That's not to say I'm great
idai na hito to made wa iwanai

「頼れる人」くらいにはなれる I just want to be "someone counted on"
tayoreru hito kurai niwa nareru

言わせるなよ ここは通過点 Don't make me say it This is the checkpoint
iwaserunayo koko wa kyotsuten

聞いてる?もう酔ってんの? Are you listening? You're already drunk?
kiiteru? mou yowatten no?

何回めの乾杯だっけな How many times, this kampai
nankaime no kanpai dakke na

来たか!無限ループ Has it come?! An endless loop
kita ka! mugen loop

10年先の自分をイメージして Imagining myself 10 years from now
juunen saki no jibun wo image shite

虎視耽々と「積んできた」んだ I lay in wait to "acquire experience"
koshitantan to tsunde kita nda

どんなにいま辛くたって No matter how hard it is now
donnani ima tsuraku tte

いつかは本当の自分に変身するんだ I'll someday transform into my true self
itsuka wa hontou no jibun ni henshin surunda

I am a HERO 何笑ってるの? I am a Hero What are you laughing about?
I am a hero nani wara tteru no?

僕やってる 上も下にも I'm doing it The ups and the downs
boku yatteru ue mo shita nimo

誰に対しても平等です I treat everyone equally
dare ni taishite mo byoudou desu

どんな仕事だって逃げない I don't run away from any task
donna shigoto datte nigenai

きっと誰か僕を見てるよ I'm sure that someone's watching me
kitto dareka boku wo miteru yo

そんなの言うわきゃない I've got to say that
sonna no iwa nakya

でも言わなきゃわからない But, I don't know how to say it
demo iwa nakya wakara nai

自己アピール下手だし嫌だし… I'm not good at promoting myself, I hate it...
jiko appeal heta dashi iya dashi...

ジンジンジンジン人生のど真ん中で Right smack dab in the middle of life
jin jin jin jin jinsei no doman naka de

全然何者にもなってない I'm no one at all
zenzen nanimono nimo nattenai

「なんであいつなんだよ」 "Why that fucker?"
nannde aitsu nannda yo

って今日もやっかんでる I say again with envy today
tte kyou mo yakkan deru

でも嫉妬こそ 努力の根源さ But it's that jealously that's the root of effort
demo shitto koso douryoku no kongen sa

I am a HERO しつこくいこうぜ I am a Hero I'll persist
I am a hero shitsukoku ikou ze

ジンジンジンジン人生のど真ん中で Right smack dab in the middle of life
jin jin jin jin jinsei no doman naka de

いっぺんくらい調子に乗りたい I'd just once like to go wild
ippen kurai choushi ni nori tai

10年経ってまだこれ言ってるけど I'm still saying this 10 years later but,
juunen tatte mada kore itteru kedo

待たせたな本物に変身するんだ I'll change to the real me that's been waiting
mataseta na honmono ni henshin surunda

I am a HERO 何笑ってるの? I am a Hero What are you laughing about?
I am a hero nani watteru no?