In the event of non-fluency, panic

There’s an ad on the Tokyo subway for the well-known Berlitz language school that I love:


Paraphrased: “You’re in a meeting in English, you’re asked for an opposing opinion but all you can get out is a single word – ‘Yes'”.

I love this ad for two reasons.  The first is that this is largely expresses how I feel in a lot of meetings in Japanese. (Record meeting time to date: six hours).

Secondly: just look at those nasty-looking English speakers!  I can’t remember the last time I saw such a great collection of yuppie scum.

I am imagining the guy on the right saying any line from Patrick Bateman in American Psycho with utter authenticity: “Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark!”.  The guy next to him is even better, like a yuppie scum version of Dave Spade.  He looks like he’s just finished saying “That’s it non-English speaker, I’m going to go to my car, get my baseball bat and teach you to waste our precious company time once and for all.”

If any of the guys who were in this ad happen to be reading this, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that you look like yuppie scum.  Maybe it’s just a lighting thing.

I think I like the video version even more (with bonus visual metaphor!):


I am Giga Pudding, Destroyer of Worlds

You’re sitting on your couch one day, surrounded by your own filth and eating a crème caramel. “Wouldn’t it be great,” you think to yourself, “if I could perhaps compress the nutritional value of TWENTY crème caramels into a single, enormous bucket of crème caramel?”

Sir or madam, I believe this is your lucky day. Bear witness to the Giga Pudding and tremble:


The text along the right side reads: “Let’s make the enormous pudding of our dreams!”. I only wish my dreams were so exotic.

A Giga Pudding goes for a rather pricey $42 AUD (today, at least – thanks to exchange rate fluctuations, who knows what it might cost next week). Surprisingly, you’ll find them in toy shops rather than supermarkets. I was slightly disappointed to find out that although we now have Giga Pudding technology, you can’t yet buy a massive, ready-to-eat bucket of gelatinous goo – you have to make it from a powder and wait until it solidifies.

That someone actually decided to sell this as a product is second only to the advertisement. Somehow, this had me glued in front of the store display for ten minutes straight. I guess I had to keep watching until I had memorised all the lyrics.

Drinking under the light of the silvery bloom

Well, just when I thought I had run out of things to say about glorious cherry blossoms, along comes a new flavour.  Night cherry blossoms!


A friend very kindly invited me along to his Friday night work-do which involved sitting under the cherry blossoms and drinking large amounts of alcohol.  I’ve executive-ly summarised the agenda for you in the following photograph:

Cherry blossoms by night, Tokyo

Something a little confusing is that the Japanese word for going to view cherry blossoms during the day is hanami, which literally means “flower viewing”.  However, if you go and look at cherry blossoms at night, it’s not called “night flower viewing” – it’s called yozakura, “night cherry blossoms”.  A small distinction, but unless you know that’s specific word, you’ll forever being saying things like: “So what time shall we leave the the flower viewing that occurs at night?”.

Also, I’m hazy as to if this actually occurred, but I think I mistakenly called the event yozakana on several occasions.  Yozakana, however, is not actually a word that exists in the Japanese language.  Upon consideration, I can only imagine people were translating it as “night fish”.  Luckily, I was never asked what manner of entity a night fish might be.

Cherry blossoms by night, Tokyo

Cherry blossoms by night, Tokyo

The park in question was right next to Tokyo Tower too:

Cherry blossoms by night, Tokyo

If you’re in Tokyo in late March / early April, definitely try to wangle yourself a yozakura invite, and preferably with a big group – the parks are overflowing with people over the cherry blossom season, and there’s power in numbers!

Defeated on every technology front

Lately, I’ve been getting stuck into my study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level 2 in December.  It’s apparently much more challenging in terms of kanji and vocab than level 3, so I bought a textbook to help me.  Now, I’ve seen quite a few textbooks in my time (the covers of them, at least).  With all that study experience, why have I never seen something like this before?

Japanese textbook

That’s right – no more using your hand to cover the answers or shutting one eye!  Harnessing the mighty power of red cellophane and red ink, revision becomes a snap!

I showed this to a few of my co-workers, and they all said that this is a very standard feature of Japanese school textbooks.  I don’t remember ever seeing a textbook like this before – did I just not take the right classes? 

Honestly, I’m so disappointed in Western education technology that I feel like writing a letter to the editor.  I don’t say that lightly.