Just like a chocolate milkshake, only I can’t read it

I’m sure you’d all like to know that I’m eating healthily over here:

They’re not quite Coco Pops – they’re “Coco’s Chokowa”. As far as I can tell, “choko”, handily, is “chocolate”, but I haven’t yet worked out what that “wa” at the end is for.

The other interesting point this box shows is the Japanese fascination for baseball. Baseball is huge here. You often see boys throwing a baseball around on the backstreets, or like the guy I passed at the shops today practicing his pitching motion during a few idle moments.

In a move that most Western companies would kill for, baseball teams in the Japanese major league are often named for their corporate owners, like the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (the ones who make the citrus-y milky health drinks) or the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (a huge Japanese mobile phone company).

I haven’t yet watched more than a few minutes of baseball in electronics stores, since I am bereft of television still.  So, I currently can’t make a good comparison between baseball and Australian games, but everyone is still amazed when I explain “Cricket: The Game That Takes Fives Days To Play”.

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12 thoughts on “Just like a chocolate milkshake, only I can’t read it

  1. Yakult Swallows. Do Japanese pun in English? Was this intentional? Or just fortuitious. (In Oz, all you get in one container is a single shot swallow.) Does Japanese have words that are both nouns and verbs (like “fish”) – the essential building blocks of puns and Monty Python skits.

  2. I hadn’t even thought of that! I’m not sure if it’s a pun, but I think baseball might be too serious a business to make jokes about. Yakult is exactly the same here, but quite a bit cheaper (about $1.80 for 5 containers), which I guess makes sense when this is where it originates from.

    I get the impression that Japanese wordplay is popular, since there are lots of homophones and words that sounds similar. I haven’t quite got the hang of humour here yet, though. I was talking to some guys over lunch one day about Australian music, and one of them said he liked AC/DC and John Farnham. I said in broken Japanese, “Oh, they’re a little different, aren’t they?”. He looked at me, a bit puzzled, and said “No, they’re very different.” It was probably the delivery.

  3. Must have been the delivery, or they don’t get sarcasm. The way you deliver it. Have you tasted said Chokowa? Bet they don’t taste like coco pops. I didn’t get any pun from the swallows either. But then, I’m not big on puns. Unlike some people I used to work with. Or still work with.

  4. Hi, Chris.

    Sounds like you are enjoying Japan.

    I can tell you what “Wa” means for Chokowa.

    “Wa” describes the donut/ring shape (a circle with the hole in the middle). So I guess in OZ it will be called Choc rings or something.

  5. Ah-ha! Thank you Masako, mystery solved! I guess that makes sense. I’ll see where else I can use “wa” now. I’m guessing you can’t call a car tyre a “gomuwa”, even though it’s a rubber donut. Doesn’t matter though – I’ll try that tomorrow at work and see what reaction I get.

    Oh yes, and I tasted the Chokowa, and they tasted exactly like Coco-pops. Not only that, but I was bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day. Good times.

  6. So how does that work for wa-sa-bi?

    “Gomuwa”. That could work for some of the donuts you get from Woolies and Coles…

  7. Wa that is used for Wa-sa-bi is different.

    When we write Japanese in English, we only express them in term of phonetics. So there are many ‘wa’ that mean different thing.

    How did you go with gomu-wa, Chris? I don’t think it’s too bad.

    Wa that is used in Choco wa is ‘輪’. It has a character for the car ‘車’ in it. And 輪 not only describe the shape, donut, but also the number of the wheel (And pronounce as ‘rin’). . So bicycle (well, very old fashion way of calling it) is 2 輪 車 (ni-rin-sha).

    A few examples of word that contain ‘wa’ is

    chikuwa (it is a food that you get in Japan, a fish cake thing in the shape of tube/donut)

    uki-wa (uki(u): float and wa: donut, floating thing that you use to swim)

    There you go. Your lesson in Japanese for today!!

  8. ok .. so this “sha” thing sparked an argument .. one where the concept was struggled to explain, and I struggled to understand. *But* apparently, “sha” as in “車” is kinda like “vehicle”.

    So you can have a “car” “kuruma” (車) (yeah thats right the same kanji) but you can also have “yonrinsha” (四輪車) “4 wheel (drive) vehicle”. Also for a car like Masako’s 121, it would be called “keisha” (軽車) ”light vehicle” etc..

    But I bet you went to work and tried out “ni rin sha” instead of “jitensha” and impressed people .. now you should try “cha-rin-ko” (ちゃりんこ) when referring to your bicycle .. and I bet you are thinking .. cha rin? what wheels? .. I know I was .. (another argument sparked) ..and nope .. nothing todo with wheels, charin is the sound the bell makes .. this is a Tokyo dialect slang .. and the “ko”? I still haven’t got the answer to that one 🙂 But use that .. and amaze your colleagues by becoming a Tokyo native so quickly 😀

    This is why I am still despairing about actually learning this language..

  9. Ah, thanks for all the tips! I’m finding the Japanese language so interesting. I’ll have to write something about my learnings soon, but I just got “Remembering the Kanji” delivered tonight, so hopefully that will be a help.

    The word ending part particularly is so useful to know. I recently learned about the “ya” ending for shops. Instantly, you get about 10 new words in your vocab! “Honya” for bookstores, “kaguya” for furniture stores. So each little trick like this helps me get a “feel” for words – even if I don’t know it exactly, sometimes I can have a guess given the context.

    Ooh, I can have a guess at ‘ko’. I heard that this is sometimes used for something to do with children, so maybe it’s an affectionate ending?

    This sort of stuff is great, more please 🙂

  10. “ko”

    yeah .. I asked that to like “Masako” “ko” is child/daughter .. most commonly used for female children (eg; yukako, yoshiko, fumiko) .. however .. apparently (and this was part of the “discussion”) the answer was no .. nothing todo with it. If the “ko” part was used in that manner it would be represented as the kanji “子” as I’m sure you know .. and I was directed that it was purely a katakana or hiragana word .. 🙂 but it could still be affectionate as you say I have no idea 🙂

    Yes this is good, I am learning as you learn! Let me know how remembering the kanji goes .. I’ll be quite interested.

    Did you see the post about “the rolling stone gathers no moss” on japannewbie? A very telling example of the differences between Japanese and Westerners and how they approach life :).

  11. Pingback: A quantitative three year blog anniversary « 4000 Miles North

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